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Secret of the Ring


Great storms and quakes threaten civilization. Science is baffled
until Terry Marsden uncovers an incredible mystery in the Sahara

Extreme Measures

BENEATH a sky darkened to twilight gloom with lowering, scudding clouds, battling into the teeth of blinding rain, Elsa Dallaway made her way across the broad, pool ridden expanse of tarmac to the Receiving Station of the Dallaway Stratosphere Corporation.

The whirling of the wind whipped her heavily mackintoshed figure along relentlessly, slammed her breathless against the door of the building. A shower of drops and a triumphant screech of wind, then she was inside, dripping water onto the spotless wooden floor.

"Whew!" she gasped, tearing off her sou'-wester and patting disturbed masses of black hair into place. "Another glorious day, Terry!"

Terry Marsden did not look round, or answer. Surprised, the girl glanced at his broad, gray shirted back and blond head. The sight of clamped earphones explained the reason. A brown hand was skillfully operating the radio apparatus.

The girl waited, pulled off her mackintosh and wandered across to the bench where he was working. Terry became aware of her presence as the solitary electric light caught the huge, queer stone of the ring on her right hand. Somehow one always became conscious of Elsa Dallaway by that ring before coming to look at the girl herself. It picked up light in startling chromatism.

"Oh, it's you!" Terry tugged off the phones and threw them down, smiled up at the girl. "I was just listening to the record of disasters coming through..." He paused, his deep blue eyes serious. "Elsa, do you realize that it has been raining now' for twelve days and nights without ceasing?" he asked ominously.

"It does seem a longtime since I had a sunshade out," the girl admitted, reflecting.

"It's getting darned serious! First the great Chinese earthquake which upset the atmosphere so badly that the weather fell to pieces. Then the eruption of Vesuvius; and on top of that the complete explosion of Stromboli's crater. Thousands of lives wiped out, oceans heaving up, land sliding down— Tempests and tornados... and the rain..."

Terry stared at the gloomy window as the screaming wind hurled the deluge against it.

"The Mississippi overflowing and the Hudson rising hourly," the girl finished with a sigh. "Yes, Terry, it is all very terrible— But it'll stop!" she added brightly. "It always does. Just a disturbed spell, that's all."

"Hope so...." Terry glanced up at her quickly. "Incidentally, what brought the wealthy owner of the Dallaway Corporation to see her ace pilot? Not the weather, surely?"

"No. I dropped in to tell you that you're liable to be without relief during the lunch hour and will have to hang on here. We just got the news that Carlton was involved in an auto accident this morning— So bang goes your chance of relief man."

"You could have phoned that news to me."

"Oh, sure—but I couldn't have phoned you your lunch." Elsa smiled naively. "Besides, this seemed as good an opportunity as any to have a few moments with you."

Terry chuckled, got to his feet and held the girl in his arms. Steadily he looked into her clear gray eyes.

"You know, you're the living proof of the fact that business and pleasure can mix," he said at Past. "Gosh, Elsa, if anything were to happen to you I'd go nuts!"

"Why wait for something to happen to me?" she smiled.

"Ouch! But on the level, I—"

Terry broke off, immediately businesslike again as the short wave radio, directly contacted with the Department of Public Safety at Washington, burst into life. Quickly he switched from headphones to loudspeaker.

"Attention all air pilots and stratosphere fliers! Orders from the President! All heavy type storm airplanes will prepare for take off in sixty minutes, will leave fully equipped with storm recording apparatus. You will travel from New York to Los Angeles and back again, determining as you go exactly what air currents and velocities are in force. Detailed analysis of abnormal weather conditions must begin immediately...

"Stratosphere Corporation pilots! You will ascend to the hundred mile limit and take a detailed survey of conditions, together with full recording of cosmic wave intensity in an endeavor to discover if cosmic waves are in any way responsible for the present conditions. Your findings, when made, will be immediately forwarded to the Science Analysis Department of Public Safety. That is all."

Elsa glanced at Terry in startled wonderment as the order ended.

"Say, things must be pretty bad to demand such measures!" she exclaimed. "And from the President himself, too!"

"Of course they're bad! If rain and tidal waves don't let up soon the whole of civilization is going to be inundated—believe me!" Terry paused, rubbed his chin worriedly. "This is going to be awkward. I'll have to go up, of course, but now Carlton's out of action I'm without a relief assistant.... Maybe Davies will do."

He moved to the headquarters telephone, then turned surprisedly as Elsa caught his arm.

"Reporting for duty, sir!" she said with mock stiffness, saluting.

"Huh? Hang it all, Elsa—"

"Oh, break down!" she expostulated. "Haven't I been told every thing there is to know about our stratosphere globes? Didn't dad drill it all into me before he died? I'll make a better flight assistant than anybody—and nobody can say anything when I'm the head of the entire Corporation."

Terry hesitated a moment, then nodded quickly and patted her arm.

"Good girl! Nobody I'd rather go with, of course. I'll have Davies come here to the radio instead. Hang on here while I tell the boys they'll be wanted."

He hurried into his flying kit, went out into the raging storm with a shower of raindrops and slamming door.


THE STRATOSPHERE CORPORATION, founded in 1950 by Douglas Dallaway, himself the creator of the first practicable stratosphere globe, had in its fifteen years of progress produced an army of scientific pilots whose motto was—progress and obedience.

The huge organization, maintaining a constant air service in the higher levels of the atmosphere, together with a perpetual Government contract for the carrying of express mails, entirely respected the orders of Elsa Dallaway as chief of the concern. Terry, for his part, as the ace pilot, was undisputed boss of the engineering and flying side of the business.

His orders to the pilots in the mess rooms were accepted without questions, even though the danger of flying in such weather was pretty considerable, Though it was mid-day, the gloom outside resembled that of late evening, clouds hanging low, rain sweeping down in torrents, into the midst of which gradually moved the huge globes of the stratosphere machines from their hangars.

Terry used his own machine, equipped with the new Hawkins-Wilson firing cylinders, and thereby able to ascend into the higher levels of the atmosphere at enormous speed.... By the time the sixty minutes were up he and the girl were seated in the small, circular control chamber, their scientific instruments grouped around them. At Terry's radio signal the other globes of the squadron began to rise into the midst of the howling storm.

Terry watched them critically for a moment, then turned to his own controls, released the electric circuit which fired the undertubes. Instantly the globe swept smoothly upward in a straight line, held firmly by a master hand on the controls amidst the buffetings of the tempest, increasing every foot of the way.

Rain swamped against the windows as Terry and the girl stared fixedly out on the approaching ceiling of angry nimbus. Wind screamed wildly in every tiny crevice of the globe... Then they went through the midst of the nimbus and the rain changed to dense, writhing mist.

Up and up.... The clouds seemed unending.

"Sure is plenty of upset in the atmosphere to make clouds this dense," Elsa said briefly, getting up from her chair and moving to the recording machinery.

"Umph," Terry acknowledged, his entire concentration devoted to the task of controlling the vessel.

The globe left the clouds at last, plunged up steadily through the troposphere into the stratosphere. Here at last the sun came into view, searingly brilliant in a purple sky, its prominences and corona plainly visible.

Terry slowed the vessel climbing, began to move forward with gathering speed in the rarefied heights. His floor reflectors gave a view of the earth below shrouded from end to end in whirling gray clouds. Somberly he studied them.

"Guess I never saw sky like that before," he sighed; then swinging round, "Anything queer registering in the instruments?"

Elsa. shrugged her slim shoulders. She was standing before the main window in the glare of the sunshine, fingering her apparatus and peering at their various recording meters. The ring on her right hand shone with a gleaming blood red fire in the savage brilliance. Unconsciously Terry found his gaze drawn to it.

"Say, you'd better keep your head away from the window," he warned her suddenly. "The globe's walls are insulated to cosmic rays and the sun's radiation, but the windows aren't. If cosmic rays strike through the glass onto the nerve centers of your brain anything might happen. I once saw a guy go raving mad through that."

Elsa smiled faintly. "Guess my brain won't be affected much, anyhow...." None the less she straightened up and sought the protection of the wall. Only her hands, slender and white, were in line with the window.

"Cosmic rays one hundred per cent," she observed at length. "That's normal for this height. Sunspots down to minimum. Wind velocity zero. No other radiations. So I guess the weather troubles are not connected with anything up here. The earth itself must be responsible."

"You're probably right. We'll finish the course anyway and see if there's anything else...."

Terry turned back to his indicator-map, guided the globe entirely by the automatic pointer connected by radio stations on the earth below. By its aid he knew exactly what part of the world he was over.... For two hours he drove steadily onwards, came over hidden Los Angeles at last, swung round and started to return home to New York. Below, the scudding mass of gray was unchanged.

Elsa relaxed from her instruments, sat in the padded chair before them and yawned.

"Most unexciting," she sighed. "I'd expected much more!"

Terry slipped the automatic pilot into position and came to her side, sat down. She looked at him in surprise as he raised her right hand gently and stared at the ring on her finger.

"Something wrong?" she questioned.

"Not a thing—But, ever since I first met you this ring of yours has fascinated me. Funnily enough, this is the first time I've really had time or opportunity to see it properly. The brilliant sunshine sets it off amazingly."

She regarded it critically, turned it slowly so that it flickered lambent, hidden fires.

"Yes, it is rather beautiful," she confessed. "Mother gave it to me just before she died six years ago. She had it from her own mother, and so on right down the scale of ancestors. Lord knows when it first came into being. No jeweler so far has even been able to tell what the stone is. Looks like a mixture of ruby, diamond and opal..."

She gave it a little tug and pulled it off her finger, handed it over. Terry studied it curiously and with a shrug finally handed it back.

"Makes the engagement ring I gave you look mighty sick by comparison," he sighed. "In fact I— Anything the matter?" he asked sharply, as he saw the girl was rubbing her finger rather vigorously.

"Nothing at all. Finger feels a bit cramped, that's all. Maybe I tugged too hard getting the ring off...." She forced it back over her knuckle. "Ah! That's better..." But she still scratched her finger lazily for quite a time afterwards, relapsed into thought as she did so. Quietness fell on the cabin save for the dull droning of engines.

"Terry," she said at length, slowly, "did you ever feel that the life you are living is just superfluous? That you're really intended for something else?"

He grinned a little. "Well, privately, I always wanted to be an engine driver—but since I ?nished as a pilot I suppose you might consider my flying superfluous. I missed my real calling—"

"No—no, I'm serious!" she insisted, her eyes earnest. "It's something so much deeper than that! I often feel that somehow I don't really belong to this..." She paused, shrugged her shoulders. "Oh, skip it! I'm going moody, or something."

She got to her feet, walked slowly round the little room as Terry returned to his controls. Presently she spoke again.

"Doesn't it strike you as rather stuffy in here?"

"Dunno; is it?" He glanced at the gauges: they registered normal. Puzzled, he turned just in time to see the girl sink slowly into her padded chair and pass a limp hand over her forehead. He could see it was glistening with a sudden dewy perspiration. Her face had gone curiously pale.

"Elsa! What's wrong?" He scrambled out of his chair, seized her arms tensely and stared into her drawn face.

"It's—it's nothing...." Her voice was low, almost fearful. "Just—just that I feel a bit faint, that's all...."

"Faint, eh? This won't do! You've got a touch of radiation sure as fate. I warned you about that window... Just leave this to me."

He raised her in his powerful arms, kicked down the emergency bed and laid her gently upon it, bunched up the pillow under her dark head. Then he got to work with sal volatile and oxygen cylinder. The girl revived a little under the combined influence, began to show signs of rising from the near-faint that had seized her.

Terry smiled at her gently. "You'll be okay," he murmured; then turned back to his controls. He permitted none of the anxiety he felt to be registered on his face. Cosmic ray prostration, or even paralysis from unwise soaking in the sun's unmitigated radiation, could produce horrible effects as he had reason to know. But after all she had only had 'her head near the window for about two minutes. Surely not enough—?

He gave the globe full power, sent it hurtling at maximum capacity through the nearly airless heights, watched anxiously as the pointer changed position on the map. Ever and again he shot a glance at the girl as she lay watching him—was rewarded with a curiously tired smile that gave him an inward pang.

Her change from active, jesting energy to languid weariness in so short a time was something he could not properly understand. His relief was unbounded as the pointer hovered at last over the New York headquarters. Swiftly he shifted the controls and began to dive through the gray murk....

In fifteen minutes he had dropped through the whirling clouds into the shattering fury of the storm once more. The globe reeled crazily under the onslaught, was mastered once more by flawless controls, dropped swiftly to the tarmac outside the hangars. Here and there other machines had already landed.

"How now?" Terry leapt to the girl as she lay still.

A trace of her old smile curved her lips. "I—I don't quite know," she whispered. "Funny thing is.... I can't feel anything!"

"What!" Terry's effort to disguise alarm was futile. He seized her hand tightly. "Can't you even feel this?"

Her dark head shook. Her gray eyes seemed unnaturally large in her pale face.

"No—not a thing.... Oh, Terry, I'm getting scared...."

He caught her behind the shoulders, held her close to him for a moment.

"No need to get scared, sweetheart," he breathed gently. "Just a touch of radiation gotten into you; that's all. I'll have you fixed in no time...."

He laid her down again, swung round to the radio and snapped it on.

"Attention, ambulance quarters!" he barked. "Send ambulance immediately to Globe 47H outside Hangar 92. Emergency case Miss Dallaway. Hurry!"

He returned to the girl's side, breathed gentle reassurances to her as she lay limply on the bed, then he got to his feet at the approaching scream of a siren. Swiftly he unclamped the airlock, stood aside as two heavily oil-skinned ambulance men came in with a stretcher. Behind them trailed Dr. Arthur Fletcher, the efficient chief physician and surgeon to the Corporation.

"Trouble, eh?" he asked laconically, snatching out a watch and seizing the girl's wrist at the same time. He said nothing when he had finished, merely motioned his men to take the girl out, watched with impassive eyes as she was lifted gently onto the stretcher and taken out under transparent mackintosh.

Terry followed as far as the ambulance, leaned inside it with his anxious face a few inches from the girl's.

"See you later, honey," he smiled. "I've work to finish. Keep your chin up..."

"I'll try..." Her voice was so low he could hardly hear it. Heedless oi the driving min he watched the doors close, then turned as Fletcher came hurrying past to climb up beside the driver.

Terry caught his arm. "Doc, what is it? Prostration?"

"Guess so..." Fletcher shrugged narrow shoulders. "Slow pulse, feeble respiration, partial paralysis. All the symptoms. She'll be all right in a week or two..." He paused and narrowed his piercing eyes. "You had no damn right to permit her to go into the stratosphere anyway! She may know globes backwards but she doesn't know the tricks to keep out of danger. Well, see you later. She'll be in the private ward; I'll take care of her personally."

"Yeah—yeah; thanks...."

Terry moodily watched the ambulance back round then go moving off through the rain and wind to the hospital wing of the vast building. At last he turned and strode away toward his own office quarters.

For the remainder of the day Terry was kept fully occupied. Once he had despatched his reports to the Scientific Analysis Department he was kept busy giving orders for the answering of distress calls endlessly pouring in.

Planes were being lost, vast portions of the country being inundated with flood waters, humanity was being trapped in areas where only storm planes and stratosphere globes could reach them. Hour after hour the tale of rising woe ?owed in to him from various sources—nor did the intoned weather reports, given hourly during the existent climatic crisis, give much hope—

"Ceiling zero; wind 86 m.p.h., increasing. Continuous rain all areas. Advise caution to aircraft. Treacherous triple wind currents near all mountain ranges. Visibility 3 to 5 yards."

Several times Terry made fast trips himself to rescue stranded people and bring them to the comparative safety of New York.

By six o'clock, what should have been a normal spring evening, was a chaotic darkness of rain—rain and cyclonic wind that snatched away his breath and pounded him unmercifully as he at last found a spare moment to visit the hospital wing.

Immediately he arrived in the hall the starch bosomed matron telephoned Fletcher. In a moment or two he appeared down the main passage, grave faced and tight lipped.

"Glad you came, Terry," he said quietly. "I was going to ring you.... Miss Dallaway is much worse. No use in trying to disguise it."

"Worse?" Terry repeated bleakly. "But—but Doc, what is the matter with her?" He kept pace with the active surgeon along the white enameled corridor. "She was taken ill so suddenly... so strangely..."

Fletcher paused suddenly. "Frankly, Terry, I don't know what's wrong. It isn't cosmic wave prostration at all. It's something that's utterly beyond me; and beyond our instruments too..." He bit his underlip, said slowly, "She's dying, boy.... I've got to tell you that. Her heart beats and respiration are getting feebler all the time——"

"She can't be dying!" Terry exploded frantically. "In God's name, Fletcher, you can't stand there and calmly tell me that! A young girl like her, full of life and vigor, just dying for no reason— You've got to do something! Do something!"

"I'm doing all I can." The specialist tried to look calm. "You know I am—"

"Where is she?" Terry glared hungrily round and Fletcher silently opened the door of a private room. Slowly Terry went forward to the silent figure in the bed, glanced in fearful horror at the signi?cant screen and oxygen cylinder standing by the bedside.

In the moment that he stood gazing down on the girl he knew Fletcher was right. Elsa was waxen looking, motionless, her long lashes lying on her ashy cheeks with scarcely a quiver.

"Elsa—dearest...." Terry took her white, cool hand, looked down briefly as his fingers encountered that blazing ring.

"Elsa, it's me—Terry...."

Very slowly her eyes opened. Their gray depths seemed misted, clouded by the unknown. Slowly her lips moved.

"Floating, over stormy waters," she whispered softly. "Terrible landslides—volcanic eruptions.... And the wind—I Merciful Heaven, the wind..." She shifted uneasily, her eyes staring into vacancy.

"Elsa!" Terry implored brokenly. "Please speak to me!"

He glanced up haggardly as Fletcher shook his head quietly.

"Delirium," he murmured. "Been like this for two hours now. She doesn't know you; doesn't even know herself. Keeps on talking about sand and floods and wind...."

"... A city, so beautiful..." she whispered. "So beautiful, and yet—It crumbles. Down it goes...." She stopped speaking, made a sudden writhing movement and clutched her throat. Instantly Fletcher was by her side, holding the oxygen cone over her mouth. She gasped noisily, struggled with a fierceness that made Terry wince to behold it.

He caught her hand, was suddenly aware that She had ceased making a noise, that the hand was deathly still. Dumbly he stared down on her. The cone had been removed now. Her lips were slightly parted, her eyes closed.

It seemed to Terry in that moment that the whole world turned inside out. Blinding tears obscured his vision. The sheet rising over the girl's face, the scream of the wind, the drumming of rain on the windows-

"Dead!" he screamed suddenly, pounding the bed rail. "Oh, God, no—! No, Fletcher! No, she can't be dead... mustn't be!"

The specialist's face seemed to dance in mist. His powerful hand closed on Terry's shoulder.

"She is dead, Terry," he said gently. "Please, I beg of you, try and control yourself—These things have to be faced."

"Without reason? Without cause? Don't hand me that!"

Things went blank for Terry thereafter. He did not faint, he did not scream. Subconsciously he had hold of himself again, but grief had deadened him to all external happenings. He had a hazy recollection that he went out of the hospital and walked and walked until he was soaked to the skin through his leather clothes....

He walked and walked interminably, and the hurricane seemed to bear in its moaning breath the spirit of the girl who had died but a few short hours before.

Mystery in the Sahara

TERRY could not piece anything together for days afterwards. He remembered that it seemed to rain eternally, that clouds constantly scudded over the sky. All thought of work was dashed from his mind.... His chief recollections were bitter ones—were those of following a great funeral cortege behind the mourners from the Corporation, of seeing the coffin carried amidst blinding rain into the Dallaway mausoleum on the hill top ground which marked the boundary of the immense Dallaway estate. The stone sarcophagi of the girl's ancestors; her own tomb—It was more than he could stand.

Died from heart failure, Fletcher certified. Heart failure? In a girl so strong and active? Terry's mind revolted at that...

The day after her burial in the mausoleum the rain ceased. Drenched landscapes and flooded cities lay under scudding clouds through which a. weak sun was trying to shine. Terry began to rise out of the miasma into which he had been plunged. Little by little he took a hold on himself again, faced once more the battle of life. But with Elsa gone nothing really mattered.

The proving of her will, rushed through at express speed because of the countless things contingent on it, revealed that Terry was the new owner of the Corporation, a thought which pleased him, though he extracted no happiness from it. All he could do was try and guide its destinies in the way the girl would have wished.

As days drifted by and Terry took up his new post in the girl's former office as chief of staff, there came fresh news of disaster—of terrific volcanic eruptions by Vesuvius and Krakatoa, together with tremendous earthquakes in other zones, followed by another unceasing downpour of rain in nearly every part of the world. As he heard the news Terry could not help but remember Elsa's dying words—

"Terrible landslides—volcanic eruption..."

A vision of the future perhaps as she was near death? He shook his head bitterly; went back over her strange words in the stratosphere globe, her feeling of superticiality. Was there any conceivable link between these happenings and—?

"Hallo there, Terry!"

He looked up with a start, his chain of thought broken. It was Boyd Conway, his burly successor as chief pilot, who clumped into the office. With a sigh of relief he pulled off his helmet and released a wiry mass of ginger hair.

"Things pretty bad," he commented, perching on the desk and looking at Terry with serious brown eyes. "We've just had reports through from the Analysis Department on our findings a few weeks back. Seems the chances of sunspots or anything like that causing the present upheavals is most improbable. Whatever it is it's in the earth itself."

Terry nodded idly. "So I figured. What about Munro? What's his angle?"

Conway grinned at the mention of the Corporations master scientist.

"Oh, he's having the time of his life—and he's doped out a pretty reasonable theory too. He says that every four thousand years or—probably less—the Earth undergoes immense inner changes in its structure—pressures change, stresses alter.... You know, the idea worked out by Soddy several years ago. Well, most of the pressure being sealed inside the Earth, it has to have an outlet sometime. During the four thousand year period certain parts oi the pressure dribble off through volcanoes and so forth, but there comes a time finally when this is not enough and the pressure inside gets really tough. Then things happen.1

1: Munro's theory is undoubtedly correct. Geological data shows this has happened before; the earth went through such a period about the time of the last Deluge. Whole continents went down and others went up in the struggle by the Earth to release its inner forces. A balance was reached, at the expense of huge geological changes.—Ed.

"But that wouldn't cause all this rain," Terry objected.

"No, but it causes the landslides and earthquakes. The rain is the direct outcome oi enormous quantities of hot vapor from volcanic blasts striking the cooler levels of the upper atmosphere and thereby producing condensation."

Terry nodded moodily. "I get it, And if it goes on much longer where are we all going to be?"

"Drowned, I guess...." Conway smiled twistedly at the thought; then he glanced up expectantly as the radio speaker gave its warning signal.

"Attention, Stratosphere Corporation! Despatch one hundred globes immediately to western Africa and remove all possible people to nearest zone of safety. Severe earthquake has caused the Mediterranean Sea to overflow Libya and it is now sweeping over the Southern Sahara to Nigeria. Settlers and new colonists are in great danger. Ordinary planes unable to cross storm areas raging in the Atlantic. Depart immediately. Message ends."

Conway sighed and stood erect, pulled on his helmet again.

"More trouble! I'll be seeing you, Terry."

"O.K. Keep in touch with me over the radio."

The door closed behind Conway and Terry turned to stare again at the great windows as the rain washed inexorably against them.

IN the two days of rain which followed, it became more and more evident that disaster was creeping over the world—disaster so wholesale that scientists found themselves hard put to it to explain the reason.

The report of Whitaker Munro, chief scientist, was generally accepted as the correct one. Inner earthly pressures, pent up through ages except in unsatisfactory escapes through volcanoes and geysers, could no longer be denied. Vastly superheated gas in the earth's core was expanding relentlessly, and in consequence something had got to go. The shift in the earth's rind was, by comparison with the main pressure, almost infinitesimal—but it was quite sufficient to cause unparalleled havoc. The merest rise or drop in supposedly solid land, when it takes place in an instant, can shatter man's creations entirely.

Hour after hour, day and night, reports screamed through the tortured ether, filled earth's peoples with horror. Already South America's greatest cities lay in ruins; thousands of people were fleeing before the greatest floods in history as Atlantic strove to meet Pacific across the quaking, crumbling country.

The same upheaval sent titanic tidal waves crashing inward on all the western coasts of the States, produced an inevitable flood which roared inland as far as Nevada and Idaho. The Bering Sea was advancing inexorably into Siberia; Greenland was subsiding hour by hour. Far out in the middle of the Pacific a new and tremendous tableland was forming. All earth's geological formation was altering, sweeping untold thousands to doom, smashing away the creations over which mankind had labored for generations.

So far New York was untouched. Most of the eastern American seaboard had escaped, beyond the incessant rain which flooded the streets and made it next to impossible for the sewers to carry away the weight of water. Inevitably they would finally block themselves up, then indeed serious trouble would begin.

Terry, in the Corporation building, was not in such a bad position. His quarters were in the building itself; everything he needed was supplied by the vast place. And further, the great walls around the building, together with the solid gates, were sufficient to keep any flood waters at bay for many days if necessary.

Most of the time he was kept constantly occupied in arranging for rescue work. In the few quiet intervals he wondered how Conway was faring on the African job, a wonder which deepened to genuine alarm by the third day and there was still no news. Then around 2:00 o'clock Conway's clipped voice came over the short wave radio.


"Speaking," Terry answered, fingering the dials. "What's the matter? Where've you been all this time? Moving the people?"

"Got rid of them a long time ago; the rest of the squadron will be home any time now. I got separated from them in the storm and went over the Northern Sahara—Right now I'm in the middle of the desert and it's raining like hell. In fact I shouldn't be at all surprised if the whole desert goes down one of these days and forms the bed of an ocean."

Terry frowned at the instruments. "Well, what the devil are you taking such a risk for? Come on back!"

"Not yet. Give me time to finish, can't you? Truth is, I've found something queer—it's been revealed by the earthquakes and unexpected flooding around these parts. I've found a metal dome in the sand, some sort of metal that's tougher than anything I ever struck. I guess only a flame gun would go through it. This dome's about forty feet across and the base goes down into the sand. Must have been buried for centuries. Seems to me it ought to interest Munro, and you too. How about it? Can you come and bring equipment with you?"

"Well, I don't know what you're rambling about, but I'll come," Terry answered. "I'll drive a globe over myself. I'm about the only one to handle it in this storm. Munro's no pilot."

"O.K. Radio me when you're near Africa; I'll direct you."

Terry switched off and puzzled to himself for a moment. Dome in the Sahara? He shrugged, switched over to the science department and contacted Munro. Ten minutes later he arrived, accompanied by Dawlish, his assistant, carrying various small but efficient scientific instruments.

The six foot four, bald headed scientist was in ecstacies. He rubbed his long clawlike hands together eagerly.

"Dome in the desert, eh?" he breathed gleefully, his pale gray eyes losing something of their frigidity. "Is that something!"

"Probably a mirage," growled Dawlish, his round, fleshy face anything but pleased. "The idea smells if you ask me."

Terry grinned faintly. "So far as I know, Munro, Conway really thinks he's found something. We'd better go and look."

"Most decidedly!" Munro struggled into oilskins, flatted down a sou'wester over his dome. He looked oddly like a lamppost wrapped in cellophane as he swung to the door.

"Well?" he demanded, toothbrush black eyebrows shooting up. "What are we waiting for? Come along...."

Terry waited only long enough to hand over his work to the capable Davies, then followed the scientist and Dawlish onto the rain swept expanse of tarmac outside.

The vast winds and vortices raging in the tortured atmosphere more than once nearly defeated Terry's efforts. The stratosphere globe rolled and pitched wildly under the impacts, gained and lost altitude constantly—but very slowly, due to superb airmanship, it finally began to climb gradually over the storm areas, higher and higher into the angry gray that was the afternoon sky. Up and up to the calmer heights, until at last the wind dropped and Terry felt safe to drive forward. He gave the machine maximum power, hurtled through the nearly airless spaces to the east, right out across the Atlantic, hidden under its boiling scum of storm clouds, guiding the course entirely by the map's directional pointer. Half way across the ocean a squadron of globes hove out of the distance—the rescue fliers returning from the African excursion. Briefly they flashed a signal of greeting, then continued on their way.

One hour, two hours, three hours—and the three thousand mile trip over the Atlantic began to near its end. Terry drove down into the murk, staring anxiously at the pointer, then through the rain smeared windows. The wind here was not so strong, nor the deluge as severe. None the less the old North African aspect of blazing sunshine had gone—the whole landscape lay under scudding storm clouds as the globe dropped below them and swept at decreased speed over the vast wastes of the Northern Sahara.

Terry snapped on the radio. In a few moments he was speaking to Conway and following his directions. In half an hour his lone stratosphere globe loomed up in the distance, seemingly unusually small by comparison with the massive dome standing in the background against the stormy sky.

"What the Sam Hill is it?" breathed Dawlish in amazement, squinting between the raindrops on the window. "Looks like the dome of a buried city, or something."

The lofty Munro shook his head. "Not very likely. No city has been unearthed in the Sahara in all its existence."

"Soon find out anyhow," Terry remarked, bringing the vessel to a standstill.

He scrambled into his oilskins, opened the lock and walked across to where Conway was standing by his own globe. Munro followed up in the wet, sloppy sand, his pale eyes narrowed with interest under his dripping hat brim, Dawlish, carrying the well covered equipment, regarded the towering metal dome in some disgust.

"Meteor, I'd say," he growled. "Been buried under the sand all this time."

"Did you ever see a meteor with rivets in it?" asked Conway significantly, then seeing the looks of amazement he went on, "I investigated further after radioing you. Just under the sand, at the base of the dome, is a complete line of rivets. This top dome is just the end of a huge metal ship of some sort. Maybe even—even a space ship...." He wound up as though he wasn't at all sure of himself.

"Certainly nobody could ever have transported a thing like this into the Sahara," Munro commented, moving toward it. "It must have dropped from the skies, if anywhere."

He studied the metal of the thing closely for a time, finally shrugged his narrow shoulders. "No idea what it is -neither steel nor iron."

"What'll you have, chief?" Dawlish asked briefly. "Flame gun?"

Munro nodded abstractedly, rubbed his pointed chin.

"If the total length of the ship—granting this is part of one—can be judged from this, it must go a tremendous distance under the sand.... O.K., Dawlish, get busy."

Dawlish uncovered the gleaming tube of the flame gun and pressed the contact switch. Instantly the internal motor sent a withering line of fire against the metal, set it glowing to white heat in a moment. The men watched through half closed eyes, Dawlish himself staring through the gun's blue shield.

Far swifter than the old fashioned oxyacetylene welder, it carved a large circle out of the metal within twenty minutes, destroying the atoms thereof and convening them into energy. Finally a powerful kick sent the piece of metal tumbling inwards, wherein it clanged noisily and seemed to fall for a tremendous distance.

The men glanced at each other uneasily for a moment.

"Hollow all right," Munro commented. "Hope we didn't break anything."

Turning suddenly he leaned through the gap and flashed his torch around. He withdrew with a puzzled face.

"Looks like some sort of a shaft," he said. "Or the hollow inside of a long cylinder. Take care in coming through the opening, else you'll drop Heaven knows how far. There's a small ledge just below the gap we've made, part of the join in the metal where the rivets are fitted. Wide enough to stand on, with care. Follow me."

He went inside the opening and vanished presently from sight. Terry followed him up, found he was indeed standing on a narrow ledge, some interior binding ring of the perpendicular ship.

Cautiously he tugged out his own torch and flashed the beam below. At perhaps two hundred feet depth, where the light hardly reached, it was reflected back to him with a faint glitter.

"Glass?" he asked Munro—but the lanky scientist had found a metal ladder in the wall and was already clambering down it, his torch waving erratically. Half way down the abyss he stopped and shouted, his voice echoing weirdly.

"Say, there's a manhole lock right here. Must be about a hundred feet below desert level...." Silence for a moment, then, "It must be locked on the outside; no sign of a clamp or screw here—only a sort of automatic device."

He continued the downward climb again, Terry now following suit. Immediately above him, treading warily, were Dawlish and Conway.

Terry stopped at last as he alighted on a curved wall of transparency that was clearly glass. For a long time he and the others ?ashed their torches round, studying the massive gyroscopical bearings in which the entire internal glass globe was supported, so designed that it swung upright no matter how the outer' case twisted and turned.

"Look down there..." murmured Munro, and his beam passed through the glass under his feet to train on a neat and orderly control room, a mass of machinery grouped at one end and connected to a switchboard, before which stood two metal chairs.

"It's a space ship all right," he went on pensively. "I wonder if it is possible for—" He stopped abruptly as Terry's torch beam flashed idly down. Suddenly he gasped out, "Say, what's that? A little more to the left—There!"

Silent, utterly dumbfounded, the quartet stared down. To the left of their position, lying on the floor of the globe, was a motionless figure—the figure of a girl, bare arms outflung, her slender form draped in the briefest of garments, her feet encased in dainty sandals. Black hair lay draped around her shapely head.

"A woman!" Munro looked up in blank amazement—then recovering himself he hit the glass forcibly below him with his heavy boot. It made not the least impression. Irritated he swung to Dawlish.

"Flame gun, man—quick! The glass is as tough as the metal. Come on."

"O.K.," Dawlish grunted. "But I don't see a few minutes longer will make much difference to the dame. She must have been here since the Sahara was born, anyway." He angled the gun and released the switch.

The glass was by no means easy to break even under the blasting power of the flame gun, but it did finally fuse and begin to splinter, melted queerly and dropped huge globules of boiling substance below. Air sighed into the hole.

During the operation Terry glanced further along the dome—beheld the piece of metal they had smashed out oi the ship's wall. The glass had not even cracked under the impact.

"Right!" breathed Munro suddenly, and slid through the gap in the glass, dropped the twelve feet to the floor below—likewise glass. One by one the others followed him, stood at some little distance in the stuffy, circular chamber, gazing at the motionless girl.

"What do we do now?" asked Dawlish uneasily. "I'm all for getting out of here. It's giving me the jitters."

Nobody spoke. Terry went slowly forward, torch firmly clamped in his hand—But long before he reached the sprawling girl he stopped in frozen wonderment, the circle of the beam playing on her outflung right hand. On the second finger was a ring, its stone blazing with sullen fires! He'd know that ring anywhere. Elsa Dallaway had been placed in the mausoleum with it on her hand...!

Mistaking Terry's motionlessness for uncertainty, Munro strode, forward, gently caught the girl under the shoulders and turned her over so that her face fell in the area of light. Immediately he dropped her, even his scientific calmness shattered.

"My God!" he whispered hoarsely. "My God...."

"It's--it's Elsa!" Terry screamed suddenly, twisting round from staring at that dead white face and closed eyes. "Oh, Heaven, it's Elsa! I can't stand this place, Munro; I'm getting—"

"Take it easy, Terry!" Conway came up grimly from the shadows, seized Terry's arm in a grip of iron. "Don't go off half cocked!" he snapped. "This can't be Elsa; all reason's against it. She's in the mausoleum. Relax, I tell you!"

Quivering with emotion, Terry made a terrific effort to master himself. He turned back dumbly to the still, beautiful figure on the floor, let his torch rays play on the face. The girl resembled Elsa to the last detail, looking just as she had in her tomb. The only difference lay in the clothing. Gingerly he touched the slender bare arm—then he recoiled with a sudden gulp of horror as the girl shivered momentarily, trembled, then collapsed into a mass of dust which swirled in the wet wind blowing down through the two holes from the exterior....

A tinkling noise, and the ring fell from where the hand had been to lie in blazing solemnity.

Stunned, the four men stared fixedly at the spot from which the girl had utterly disappeared.

The Meaning of the Jewel

AT last Dawlish spoke.

"Chief, we're seeing things!" he cried dismally. "Please let's get out of here!"

"Four perfectly sane men can't see things," Munro retorted, his pale eyes contracted in thought. "Use your brains, man! This space machine has been sealed under the desert sands for Lord knows how long. No air has been able to get inside this double shell. That girl probably died in the first instance from suffocation, after which she just lay where she'd fallen for thousands of years. She couldn't decay visibly because of lack of air—but the instant air surged in normalcy reasserted itself. Long extinction passed suddenly to its normal state and she just collapsed to dust, her clothes going with her. Other things will start to deteriorate rapidly as well, but of course machinery is tougher than flesh and blood and fabric."

He bent down and picked up the ring, turned it over musingly under the torch beam.

"At least that's Elsa's ring!" Terry whispered, staring at it. "I'd know it anywhere."

Munro laughed shortly. "Then your powers of observance are mighty poor. I had occasion many times to see Miss Dallaway's ring at close quarters before she died—and it differed in one degree from this one. The claw on this stone has six prongs; hers had only four, like a massive solitaire. Identical stone, certainly, and just as unclassifiable as hers. Another thing, her ring was a trifle too large; this one is a tight fit—or rather was."

"Then—then the girl?" Conway asked in bewilderment. "I'd swear anywhere that it was Elsa Dallaway."

"An uncanny likeness, I admit...." Munro frowned. "For a moment I was completely deceived myself— But consider!" he went on impressively. "Forgive the gruesome details; they're necessary. Miss Dallaway, by this time, will be in a state of visible decomposition in the mausoleum. Even if by some mad fluke we admitted that she could have been transported here, nothing so ordinary as fresh air could have accellerated her decomposition so much as to make her vanish into mere dust. Besides, I repeat, the clothes were not the same. The girl who vanished was not wearing a shroud—No, no, the girl was not Miss Dallaway, but practically her twin, wearing a similar ring. Mystery—profound mystery, and somewhere it had a solution. What's more, we're going to find it."

He tugged off his oilskins actively, rubbed his hands.

"Dawlish, throw down a couple of light extensions from the globes on the surface, then we'll be able to see what we're doing. We're going to solve the mystery of this ship if we stop here for eternity. We've food enough in tabloids to last for a month, and there's no time like the present. Let's get started!"

Munro went to work with the air of a master mind, turned all his ruthlessly analytical faculties to bear upon the mystery oi the machine. Terry was filled with complete bewilderment, not unmixed with horror. This sudden and incredible happening had only served to stir up the unhappy memories he had been trying to outgrow.

Dawlish and Conway, having no emotions to overcome, went about their part of the business with relentless thoroughness. They made their headquarters inside the vessel, had meals there, slept there, spent all the time piecing the problem together, entirely oblivious to whatever grim happenings were taking place in the world outside. Their only contact with external events was the radio and the incessant howling of the wind down the shaft they had made. Corporation headquarters had been advised that they were busy on an important investigation, and there the matter finished.

One thing soon became evident. The glass globe control room was beautifully poised in the center of the ship itself, swung so perfectly even yet that it tilted gently when the men gathered in a group at one end of the place. The airlock of the glass globe was so perfectly let into the glass, so much a part of it in its sealed efficiency, that it took a surprising time to find it.

Even then it could not he opened—nor would ordinary blows splinter the glass. Only the flame gun did that, and once underneath the globe in the lower part of the perpendicular ship the four made the surprising discovery that the glass door had been locked on the outside—just as had the airlock on the outer shell. Somebody had gone out of the ship, bolting the doors on the way, and had never returned. The girl, shut inside, had died horribly. The discovery of empty oxygen tanks inside the globe were proof in themselves of the effort the girl had made to preserve her life, until at last the supply had run out.

In the very nose—the bottom—of the upended ship was a strange contrivance of electrical machines, all cupped in the very core of the nose and attached to a cable leading back through fused terminals in the globe to the internal switchboard. Munro's cold eyes followed the cable steadily, became thoughtful.

"This machinery can't surely be for motive power?" he muttered. "If it were, they'd surely have put it on the floor of the ship instead of in the nose? Wonder why the devil they tilted it on end like this—"

"Say, do you hear something, chief?" Dawlish broke in tensely, and the four Of them stood in absolute silence in the reflected light from the illumined glass globe above.

Presently they detected the noise to which Dawlish had referred—a deep, far distant roaring noise seeming an incredible distance down in the earth itself. There was something frightening about it—a suggestion of colossal power, or wind, hemmed in by unknown forces and striving for an outlet. It sounded oddly like a gale blowing through a subway tunnel.

"I don't like it," Conway muttered with an uneasy glance. "It sounds just as though something is going to blow up!"

"In the present state of the earth's interior anything may be causing that sound," Munro answered. "Internal upheavals beyond doubt, the sound being conducted through the ground. It does sound weird, I admit.

"But what puzzles me is this confounded machinery. The more I look at it the less it resembles motive power. Looks for all the world like apparatus for relaying radio waves, though I don't see how the devil that applies."

He studied it again, shrugged his narrow shoulders, then returned to the glass control room and became absorbed in thought before the switchboard. For a long time he studied an object like a camera, its entire squat bulk tapering to an unlensed nozzle. With painstaking care he measured its distance to the two chairs before the control board, sat in the chairs themselves and studied the straps on the arms and back, straps that were already showing signs of rotting now the air had gotten in.

When he had completed his notes on the switchboard he set about the projector again, examined the complex system of dockwork like devices inside it. Apparently satisfied he then took the girl's ring and subjected it to an exhaustive series of tests with the scientific apparatus he had on hand from the stratosphere globe at the surface.

What line his reasoning took none of the others could guess. They only noticed that his work needed the flame gun several times; that at one period he seemed lost in a daze, almost as though he were intoxicated—then, recovering, he went to work again, tight lipped, non-informative, driving to the root of the puzzle with all the cold incisive reasoning of a detective solving a murder.

For two days he continued his prowling, thinking, and examining, only emerging from his pensiveness when Terry, by the sheerest accident, happened to discover a hitherto unnoticed inlet cupboard which formerly had been mistaken for a small pillar by the switchboard. Surprised, he stared at the thin metal rolls that tumbled out.

Instantly Munro pounced on them, took them eagerly to the experimental table and stretched them out, stared down on them with the others gazing eagerly round him.

"Hieroglyphics—not unlike Ancient Egyptian," breathed Conway. "Looks as thought they've been done with a stylus, or something. Metal instead of parchment."

Munro's bald head was nodding slowly. "Hieroglyphics that may explain the whole knotty problem," he muttered. "I guess the only person likely to solve them is Wade, back at the Corporation. Dead languages and codes are his only delight in life—Hallo, what's this?"

He had turned to the next metal sheet and frowned over the diagram thereon. It represented a perfectly drawn, rather pointed ellipse with a circle in the center, poised perpendicularly over something that resembled a cylinder, at the base of which was another, smaller ellipse around which were grouped objects that might be machinery. At the base of the cylinder were wavy lines.

"Say, it's this very space ship!" Terry exclaimed suddenly. "Look, this round thing in the center of the perpendicular ellipse is this globe we're in right now. The ellipse is the ship, and the cylinder it fits in is tapered all the way down so that the ship is wedged at the top. Guess I'm stumped, 'specially the wavy lines."

"Given time I can probably work it out," Munro said briefly. "You, Conway, had better take this hieroglyphic message back to headquarters and get Wade to work on it right away.

Radio to us the minute you know anything. Now get going."

"Right!" Conway took the metal sheets and departed swiftly, leaving Terry and Dawlish watching intently as Munro turned to the next metal sheet—the last one. It had engraven upon it the unmistakable formation of a city. Munro Stroked his chin; Terry stared at it fixedly, a memory of words drifting like a forlorn echo across his mind.

"A city so beautiful. It crumbles... down it goes!"

A city? Elsa Dallaway? The woman who had crumbled to dust? Two rings.... He shook his head wearily, wandered off across the room as Munro settled down to another long spell of concentration.

Munro brooded throughout the remainder of that day, was still tireless when Terry and Dawlish made up their makeshift beds and gratefully lay down. Only one solitary globe illumined Munro as he sat in thought, his bald dome shining like a great egg, his eyes mere chilly marbles as he stared into space.

Terry closed his eyes, listened to the eternal whining of the wind down the great shaft and, below it, subdued yet insistent, the muffled, thundering mystery that lay beneath the space ship's nose. He began to doze, began to dream—

Then he was suddenly and violently awakened. Wincing in the light of the solitary globe he stared up into Munro's face. For once the scientist was actually eager, shaken out of his dispassionate calm. Dawlish still slept heavily, emitting the snores of one at peace with the flesh.

Munro squatted down, tugged out a foul pipe and lit it. Solemnly he said, "Terry, I think I have it—at least part of it."

"You have!" Terry sat up wakefully, silently forgave the violence of his departure from slumber.

"Right now," Munro said slowly, "we're sitting over a shaft some five miles deep, up which are trying to escape Earth's inner forces in all their fury. Only they can't because a gigantic valve of metal—probably the same incredibly tough metal of which this ship is made-holds them back. Only an atom smasher can fuse this metal, not mere pressure alone, no matter how strong."

Terry stared blankly. "You sit there so calmly and tell me that!" he gasped. "What the hell are we doing risking it? And anyhow, how do you know all this? Who'd be nuts enough to sink a five mile shaft anyway, even if they could?"

"When you've disentangled your anything but clear remarks I'll continue...." Munro had the cold iciness now that always came to him when he was dead sure of himself. "The measurements on the diagram we found show, that by comparison with the ship, the tapering 'cylinder' below its nose—which is actually intended to represent a shaft—is all of five miles depth. The wavy lines are earth strata. It's simple enough to see that the shaft has direct access to the inner furies boiling up from Earth's very core through innumerable seams and natural tunnels. Gases, lava, inconceivable pressures—some of them escaping, but a vast majority held back by a gigantic valve. That is this—" and he stabbed the metal diagram with his pipe to show the small ellipse in the bottom of the "cylinder."

"It is pretty evident that whoever built the shaft knew that it would directly connect with a great natural inner fault extending maybe thousands of miles into the earth—and thereby the main outlet for inner pressures. How this fact was discovered we don't yet know. Now, the machinery sunk in the nose of the ship is of radio design; that we know already. It's operated from the switchboard inside the globe here. In the small power plant is a bar of copper. It's pretty certain the genius who built this ship had solved the secret of atomic energy's inexhaustible power. Using this energy, the switchboard transferred it to the radio machinery, waves were generated, and they in turn reacted on the giant valve at the bottom of the shaft. Under the influence the valve would turn aside into an inlet. See this drawing again.... There's distinct evidence of some kind of machinery round the valve. Anyway, that's the way I figure it."

"But," Terry pondered, "if that happened the ship would go up like a rocket before the blast from the shaft!"

"It would go out into space far beyond the pull of Earth's gravity field," the scientist nodded complacently. "Now do you see?"

Terry frowned. "So far as I can make out some master mind planned to use the earth's natural forces to fire this space ship into the void. He had no motive power of his own so created a vast cannon of natural power. But why, Munro? What good would it do to just get fired into space?"

Munro debated. "As yet we don't know the reason for this desire to leave earth," he murmured. "One or two facts are clear. The people responsible were definitely Earthlings and not, as I at first thought, inhabitants of another world sojourning here. Nobody from another world could be so like Earthlings as that woman we found. Again, there was once a city around here which finally became buried under sand. Lastly, the people were far ahead of us in scientific knowledge, but even so actual space travel was one thing they had still to solve. The point I stumbled over was the matter of strain on being fired from this shaft. They would hurtle outwards at such a terrific pace that living flesh and blood could not stand it. That's where the ring comes in."

Terry gazed wondering as Munro showed the dissected ring in his palm.

"I tried everything I could think of to get some reaction out of this ring, but I got nothing until I tried it in the range of the flame gun. With the flame gun I smashed up a piece of metal, and since the gun works on the principle of forcing electron and proton into contact in order to destroy atoms, it of course produces cosmic waves in the process—a small scale replica of the vast radiation floods going on eternally in outer space. The instant the cosmic waves radiating from the smashed metal reached the stone, a tiny needle actuated by a spring shot out of the ring circlet and just as quickly went back again. After that, I took the ring to pieces.

"Actually, Terry, the stone of the ring is a beautifully made prismatic device, gathering cosmic rays and concentrating them on a mechanism which releases a spring. The spring thrusts out the 5 needle just once into the wearer's finger, then snaps back. Once I had the ring in pieces I saw that the needle was really coated with some fluidlike stuff—in truth an enormously powerful drug."

"What!" Terry gasped blankly. "How do you know that?"

"Remember a period a little while back when it looked as though I was drunk? That was after trying an infinitely small percentage of the needle's contents. Had I taken the whole lot I'd have been utterly paralyzed, I guess. From chemical analysis it is quite obvious the drug is a brilliant combination of chemicals for producing suspended animation—No, wait a minute! Let me finish. The drug lies in one-half of the ring—but in the other half is an antidote and a second spring. That second spring is released not by cosmic waves, but radio waves. The stone can deal with either."

"But—but why all this planning and arranging with a ring?" Terry demanded.

"Quite simple. Let us assume that this plan for firing the ship had succeeded. What would have happened? The occupant is sat in the chair by the switchboard there, presuming for a moment there is only one person present. The pressure is weighing him down as he hurtles through Earth's atmosphere—he can't lift a finger to help himself, can hardly even breathe. The straps are secure round his limbs—So, out into space!

"Instantly cosmic waves surge through the ship, react on the ring stone. Needle stabs, drug fills body and suspends all its faculties, destroys breathing and heart beats—makes it possible for that inanimate mass of flesh to move at frightful speed without any injury to organs. Then what?

"Gradually the ship's speed becomes constant. In that projector by the switchboard is clockwork radio machinery. Without doubt it would be set in action before the start of the journey, timed to release a switch when, by calculation, the ship would have reached a constant velocity and acceleration would have ceased. A radio wave from the nozzle like end of the thing strikes dead on those chairs before the switchboard—strikes the ring on our figurative traveler. The antidote works and he revives, none the worse, sets about his plans for a landing and guiding the ship.

"That too could be done easily enough by recoiling radio beams, exerting sufficient pressure in striking a planet to easily swing the ship as desired and break the fall when the desired world is reached. The mightiest difficulty—pulling against gravity from Earth—has been overcome. Now do you understand?"

Terry was nodding slowly, a multitude of thoughts chasing through his brain.

"You've—you've definitely proved the antidote works with radio wave reaction?" he asked slowly.

"Beyond question—but as yet I don't know the wavelength."

"Then the whole thing was really a gigantic effort to leave the earth by automatic means?"

"Exactly. And there were probably two people here—the girl and somebody else. At the last minute something went wrong and the journey was never made. The girl was left to die, and—"

Munro broke off in surprise as Terry gripped his arm tightly.

"Munro, do you begin to realize the truth?" he whispered, his eyes bright with anxiety. "Do you understand what you have found? Elsa is not dead!"

The scientist's cold eyes stared back levelly. "Take it easy, Terry! After all—"

"I mean it!" he cried hoarsely. "I remember now! When she came with me on that stratosphere trip she was testing cosmic waves. Her ringed hand couldn't fail to be in the path of them because it was right before the window. Cosmic waves won't go through a stratosphere globe's walls, but they will through the window. Her ring must have been like this one. She got the benefit of the drug——" He broke off, breathing hard. "She did not really die! She only went into suspended animation.... Oh, my God, we've got to do something quick! Give her antidote—anything! Smash her ring open and give it to her—"

"What the hell's going on here?" Dawlish stirred among his blankets and looked around blearily. "Let a guy get some sleep, can't you?"

"Never mind sleeping; come here and listen!" Munro snapped; then he turned back to Terry. "Guess you're right about Elsa, Terry. I didn't know the real circumstances about her actions in the stratosphere. Certainly she'd get the full blast of cosmic waves on that ring. We've got to think this out carefully. Can't rush at it. One slip up, and she's dead forever. Can't use the antidote from this ring; I used it all up making experiments."

"Then smash the ring she was buried with!" Terry implored. "Can't you see what it means—"

"Of course I can, but your idea's too impetuous. Smashing her ring may lose the antidote utterly. No; the only thing to do is to analyze that radio projector there and find the exact wavelengths it generates. Then we can either take that projector with us, or else know enough about it to duplicate it. With that idea we can turn the waves on Elsa's ring from the mausoleum itself and, we hope, revive her. Let me see now? In her tomb she has no air—Hmm, not that it matters. To all intents and purposes she is dead. Yes, only thing to do is to find the wavelength."

"What's all this about?" Dawlish demanded.

"Terry will tell you that." Munro scrambled to his feet, tireless as ever. Then he paused suddenly. "Say, we've gotten this far," he mused, "but how the devil did Elsa get hold of a second ring anyhow?"

He turned, shrugging, to the projector and Terry turned to explain matters to Dawlish. He explained very sketchily. One thought alone was drumming through his brain—Elsa Dallaway was alive! Locked in a tomb through some odd twist of time and circumstance which had still to be unraveled.

A Race Against Doom

TOWARDS dawn, as Munro still labored over the analysis of the radio projector, the normal portable short wave apparatus suddenly came into action. Immediately, Dawlish crossed to it, clamped on the headphone and began to write steadily. He continued for twenty minutes, then broke the contact and turned.

"Conway, Chief," he announced briefly. "Seems Wade can't solve the puzzle entirely, but he's managed part of it. It is mainly in very old Egyptian and Arabian language, intermingled. He's substituted modern terms for ancient numbers and distances."

Munro took the notes from him and read them aloud:

"'...our city is falling into ruins. Few of our people can survive. The three thousand year (?) cycle of surface change is here.... Hurricanes sweep by, driving the sand before them—the sand of an ocean bed, the waters of which have receded to smother a vast but fortunately deserted continent.... Sand.... Our city will perish beneath it. The people do not believe.... Thensla and I can escape perhaps—The second planet (Venus?) is a possible world. Yes, we can escape, take a chosen few with us. The few who still do believe....'"

Munro turned the page avidly, went on to the next one.

"'...I believe I can accomplish a double purpose. The problem of leaving Earth can be overcome. X-rays (?) reveal fault leading to core of disturbances—five mile (?) division of earth and rock between core shaft and surface.... Shaft of five miles (?) could be sunk with valve of drulux (some kind of metal? Wade) at its base, operated by radio control.... Blast would fire ship into space and release Earth's inner pressure to such an extent that the upheavals would cease. Some of our race would perhaps survive. Three or four thousand (?) years will elapse before it comes again. Thensla, myself, and those who believe will travel to this second world; radio beams will land us safely. Our friends we shall place in suspended animation to commence with. We ourseves will use the rings. I cannot—'"

The message ended abruptly. In wonderment the three men stared at each other.

"So there definitely was a city here three or four thousand years ago," Munro breathed. "Buried under the Sahara sands, which were brought hither by hurricanes blowing over the sea bottom of a receded ocean. The people belonged to Earth, were an ancient civilization oi tremendous knowledge. And why not? Time and again science has proven the ancients to be far cleverer than we. It is even possible that this race was the basic cause of all past mysteries and miracles. Science, of enormous power, was lost when upheaval swept over the world.

"Who wrote this record? Was he the father, the husband or the lover of the girl Thensla? We will call him the Recorder, for convenience. And why is Elsa so much like the vanished Thensla? Only Elsa herself can perhaps provide the solution."

"No question of it!" Terry exclaimed. "Even as she lay apparently dying in the hospital she spoke of things exactly matching up with the events described in this record."

Munro debated for a time, said thoughtfully, "Most amazing! May have something to do with Time itself." He shrugged. "However, that we'll know later. What we know now is that the Recorder hit on the sublime idea of saving the earth and blasting himself and those dearest to him into space at the same time. It didn't work for reasons still unknown. But this time.... Good Heavens, don't you see?"

"You mean that if we release the valve we blow this unwanted ship into the void and expend all—or at least nearly all—of Earth's internal tumults at one go?" Terry asked quickly.

"Of course—even as a locomotive's excess steam escapes by the safety valve. In truth this shaft is the Earth's safety valve because it has direct path to the core. The Recorder's X-ray showed that. On the last occasion the valve was not moved through an unknown mistake and the havoc went on until the pressure escaped through volcanoes and constant earthquake. This time no such thing will happen because we'll release the pressure. At one terrific blast the entire mass of inner gas and steam will go off, hurl this ship into space in the process. What happens to it is, of course, immaterial."

"But we'll have to control it from inside here," Dawlish objected.

"Not necessarily. The Recorder wanted it that way, of course, but there's nothing to stop radio waves operating from a considerable distance, provided they're directed properly. We can, if necessary, shift that valve from as far away as New York. In fact, for safety, that's what we'd better do. The shock of the uprush will be felt the world over."

Munro wasted no further time on words. He turned back actively to the completion of his analysis.

Six more hours brought Munro to the end of his analysis of wires, coils, tubes and controls—an analysis that had filled a comfortably thick notebook. He made no immediate observations on his conclusions, simply fell asleep exhausted. When he awoke again it was late afternoon.

"Well, did you get everything?" was Terry's anxious demand.

"Yes, I got it." Munro rubbed his unshaven chin. "But we'll have to make the apparatus. That stuff there is beginning to fall to pieces. Thing to do is to head for New York right now."

Neither Terry nor Dawlish needed a second invitation. They had their equipment already packed and ready. Quickly they moved to the ladder outside the globe and climbed up to the gray hole giving egress to the surface. The moment they poked their heads up the cyclonic force of the wind thundered into their faces, filled with driving rain and stinging sand grains. Battling against it they gained their stratosphere globe and tumbled inside.

Instantly, Terry moved to the controls, slammed them home the moment Munro had closed the airlock. Tugging and pulling, the globe struggled into the upper reaches, battled through the midst of the clouds to the quieter regions, and onwards in a westerly direction.

The view was unchanged. Below swirled the eternal boiling scum of clouds. When, three hours later, they dropped once more they were met with a vision of rolling waters entirely inundating vast portions of America's eastern seaboard. The sea, driven with hurricane force and turmoiled by the upset of earthquake and tremors, had spilled over into New York itself, marooning the towering buildings, obliterating the storm-lashed harbors. Presumably the same conditions existed all along the coast.

"We've got to step on it!" Munro cried in anxiety. "It looks as though the whole continent is slowly going down. If only we have the time to release that safety valve we can still save a greater part of it. Get all you can out of her, Terry!"

Terry did not answer. He was already hurling the globe at maximum speed between the towers of Manhattan, staring below on streets that had become rivers, at edifices gleaming with the lashing deluge, on numberless windows through which stared countless faces.

Twisting and turning, he made for the Corporation grounds, beheld them at last with a tumbling lake where the tarmac should have been, the walls standing up in lonely isolation.

"Guess we'll have to float," he snapped out. "Water's through the walls at last. Stand by for a bump."

He brought the ship down with a resounding smacking splash: it reeled wildly, finished on even keel by the weight of its floor engines. A boat started out from the marooned Corporation building, presently gained the vessel's side. It was Conway's rain smeared face that appeared in the opened airlock.

"Been watching for you coming," he explained. "Why didn't you radio—?"

"No time," interrupted Munro briefly. "How are things going?"

"Pretty bad. Practically all the western states have subsided under the Pacific, and—Well, I guess we're isolated here completely, with food fast running low." He stopped, smiled faintly. "Find anything worth while in Africa?" "Probably the answer to everything," Munro responded. "Let's get across to the building; there's work to be done. How about the laboratories? Still above water?"

"Yeah—but I can't say for how long."

Munro climbed purposefully through the airlock, the others following up behind him.

For days afterwards Munro was a tornado of energy, working now with frantic desperation against time. Fortunately, the laboratories were on the upper floor and, as yet, safe from the flood. The huge self contained building still provided all the necessities of life, but there was no guarantee how long they would last.

Terry fretted around in helpless anxiety, watching Munro urging his radio engineers onward in the construction of two projectors—one a small affair no larger than a good sized valise, and the other an almost exact replica of the apparatus he had studied aboard the sunken space ship. Hour by hour coils were wound with precise number of turns, condensers fashioned, banks of tubes arranged, special long storage batteries manufactured.

Terry wandered from room to room of the building, gazing through the windows onto the surging flood waters, listened over the radio to the events transpiring in other parts of the world. They were reports that carried the news of death and suffering.

In the United States in particular havoc was abroad. Overflowing rivers and tempest driven seas were twin enemies, sweeping out entire states with ever spreading waters. Farms, outlying districts, villages and cities were all being cut off from one another. Whole cliffs were collapsing, mountains crumbling under the force of incessant earthquakes, dams cracking under the weight of waters and releasing boiling cataracts into valleys below, before which nothing could stand.

Hour in, hour out, tens of thousands of people were fleeing for whatever safety they could find. America, England, Europe; everywhere it was the same. Doom was fast stalking the bursting, groaning world.

Deeply though the news moved him, Terry's thoughts were mainly on the Dallaway mausoleum. Suppose the flood had reached it, had even drowned the girl as she lay in her tomb? That was the thought that anguished his mind. Of course, the mausoleum was on the Dallaway estate outside New York, situated at the top of rising ground. It was just possible that it might so far have escaped.

For three days he wandered round moodily, then at last Munro burst into the headquarters office, his pale eyes gleaming with satisfaction.

"All set!" he announced crisply. "It's been a hell of a job, but we've made it. One beam radio projector is fixed right here in the building, can easily be trained and guided so that its waves will affect the machinery in the Sahara. Range is well over seven thousand miles, and that's ample. The waves of course will affect anything else they impact on the way, but that doesn't matter since, so far as we know, the Sahara machinery is the only apparatus likely to react to that particular periodicity.

"Our own set is smaller, and portable. Can't take any chances: to be dead certain we've got to be within inches of Miss Dallaway. Well, are you ready?"

"Ready and waiting!" Terry followed the scientist eagerly from the office, wrapped himself in oilskins then went down to the Waiting motor boat, Dawlish carrying the small transmitter. Conway had stopped behind to release the giant transmitter on the stroke of three o'clock—two hours hence.

Terry switched on the boat's engine, sent the craft chugging actively through the streaming, muddy waters. Steadily they went on through the tumult, rain pouring remorselessly into their faces. Once they had left the confines of the flooded Corporation grounds they headed out city by way of the river-streets, pushed onwards through a natural stormbound Venice across a flooded park, until at last in the somber light of the wild afternoon Terry gave a shout.

"There, Munro! There's the hill! Thank God the waters haven't risen that far yet!"

The scientist gazed at the rising ground in the near distance, the huge granite mausoleum standing in lonely majesty against the storm sky. Further down the slope, the Dallaway residence was flooded to the upper windows, entirely empty of staff. Trees pushed out forlornly from the racing waters.

At last the boat grounded, but some seconds before that happened Terry was out of it and plunging ankle deep in sloshing mud up the slope, bending against the screaming wind and rain, only stopping in breathless anxiety against the sodden heavy oak doors.

"They're locked! " he cried hoarsely, swinging round. "That's something we didn't reckon with—The steward'll have the keys—"

"Be damned to the steward! " Munro retorted, gazing under his dripping hat. "I'm ready for this. Dawlish—the flame gun!"

"Right, chief!" Dawlish tugged the instrument out of his oilskins and fired it—The lock on the great doors went out in a blast of blue fire.

Terry strode through the dispersing smoke into the dank, musty interior, tugged his torch out of his pocket and walked with an unconsciously reverent tread between the massive stone sarcophagi grouped around him. He had eyes for only one of them, paused as he came to it and stared at the inscription—

Elsa Judith Dallaway. Born 1940. Died 1965.

"Ready?" Munro asked, coming up with crackling oilskins.

"Suppose," Terry whispered, as Dawlish set down the apparatus, "that we're wrong? That Elsa really did die? I couldn't bear the sight of..."

He stopped, stared round the ghostly shadows and shivered a little. The wind howled round the smashed and creaking doors. Through the gray opening yawned the waste of tumbling waters.

"I get it," Munro said sympathetically. "We'll look first. Come on, Dawlish—here we go!"

They both eased their shoulders under the sarcophagus' lid. Gradually it began to rise, slid gently to one side under the effort of steady heaving. At last it dropped off the edge with a shattering crash. Terry waited, not daring to look—then he heard Munro's whispered voice—

"By all the saints, she does live! Terry! Look, man!"

Shaking, he stared into the oblong space. There the girl lay, untouched by the slightest sign of decomposition, her shroud draped on her slender figure, white hands across her breast. The ring caught the blaze of the torch and blazed enigmatically. In the time that had elapsed there was no trace of decay in that silent, beautiful figure.

Terry suddenly came to life, looked up quickly.

"Well, what are we waiting for?" he demanded fiercely. "Let's get busy with that radio! Come on!"

Munro took no offense at the sharp demand. Calmly he took the tarpaulin from the small transmitter, Switched on the batteries. Not a sound proceeded from the instrument, but a quivering needle on its dial testified to the surge of power emanating from it.

Only the scream of the wind disturbed the men in those moments. Munro's pale eyes never left the instrument; Terry stared in dumb anguish, which turned to slow awe as presently he saw the girl's eyelashes flicker ever so slightly. A few more minutes and her bosom began to rise and fall gently; she drew in air through parted lips.

"She's coming back!" Dawlish breathed tensely. "No doubt of it now!"

Terry was incapable of speech or movement. He clung to the edge of the sarcophagus with a clutch of iron.


It was Elsa herself who spoke, in a tired, faraway voice.

"Father... Where are you? It's so suffocating in here...."

The men glanced at one another. Munro switched off the machine and raised a hand for silence. Rigid, they listened. The girl was not yet conscious, was talking like one rising from anaesthesia.

"...yes, I know, father. We can take those who believe. But the others; they may try and destroy. They..."

The girl sighed deeply, was silent for a while—then with a sudden spasmodic effort she started again.

"Father, why are you so long? The doors—they won't open. Father—I'm choking! I'm cho—"

Her voice broke off abruptly and at that same instant her eyes suddenly opened, big gray eyes that stared in utter bewilderment in the reflected glare from the torch as Terry turned it from blazing into her face.

"What...?" she whispered weakly. "Where—where am I? Who are you....?"

"Elsa, it's me—Terry." He bent down, raised her thinly clad shoulders. Gently he raised her bodily out of the dank tomb and laid her on the blanket Dawlish had brought along. For several minutes she was silent, warmly wrapped up, taking the restorative forced to her lips.

"Oh—Terry," she muttered at last. "What—whatever happened? How did I get here...? I dreamed the most amazing things—"

"We'll tell you our story later," Munro interjected quickly. "The main point at the moment is to get a story from you—if you're strong enough to tell it, that is?"

The girl nodded slowly. "I'm getting stronger every minute. What do you want to know?"

"Well, just before you recovered consciousness you spoke of your 'father,' and remarked that you were choking—dying. What did you mean P"

"I hardly know...." Elsa pondered for a while. "Just a silly dream, I guess," she said finally. "I had the strangest conviction that I was a girl belonging to a highly scientific race, owning a great city which was being overwhelmed by storms and earthquakes. My father hit on the idea of saving the world and trying to reach Venus at the same time, by sinking a shaft into the earth which had direct contact with the earth's core. There were rings somewhere; rings like...." She stopped, stared at the ring on her finger, looked up sharply into Munro's face.

"Mr. Munro, what's happened?" she asked sharply.

"Never mind that for the moment, please. What more have you to tell?" "Very little; I'm almost forgetting it all now. Oh, yes—I remember! We had everything ready. I was in the space ship, and we were waiting for the few people who were loyal to us to come and join us. They didn't arrive, so father went out to find them. He locked the doors as he went out in case any of our enemies might try to get at me and destroy the machinery. The doors were controlled with a radio key, you understand, and could be opened from either inside or outside—but there was only one key, and father had it.

"I remember I seemed to wait for him an interminable time, so long indeed that the air supply began to give out. I tried to break open the walls that hemmed me in, did all I could to escape. But I failed. I had the idea I was choking—"

Elsa broke off, shuddered. "It was horrible. The worst dream I have ever known."

"Was your name Thensla?' asked Munro very quietly.

The girl looked up in stunned amazement. "Yes—now I come to remember, it was! But Mr. Munro, how could you possibly—"

"Listen, my dear...." The scientist leaned forward, laid a lean hand on the girl's blanketed shoulder. Quietly, with his usual impassivity, he told the whole story, throughout which Elsa sat in motionless silence, too astounded to interrupt. When at last it was over she cried,

"Good Heavens, you mean I was actually thought dead? That's why I'm in this horrible place?"


"Then—then this Thensla? Was it me? An astral projection or something?"

"No, nothing like that. You are Thensla, yes, living again. Call it reincarnation, if you wish. We know now why so many scientific things existed in early times. They had their roots with your race, but the storms scattered your people so much that each succeeding generation of children knew less than their ancestors. One girl alone, after untold generations, was born with a clear memory of the pastalmost an actual link—and that girl is you, Elsa."

"But—but how? I don't understand!"

"Is it so difficult? Science today almost universally accepts the belief that death does not end the entity of an individual. The entity lives on eternally, is manifested again in other bodies, and continues in such a way until, perhaps, it comes back to the starting point—that is if we accept time as a circle.

"At one period you spoke to Terry of your feeling of detachment from your normal existence. A psychoanalyst would have placed your condition as the influence of events early in this life, or in some other past existence. There are, as we know, many people in the world such as you—who can remember things that have no part in their natural existence, who know oi places they have never visited. What else but a memory link with a past state? Which one of us, indeed, has not at some time in his life said—'I have been here before!'?"

Munro paused for a moment, and frowned, went on again slowly.

"The original strain of a past life was so strong in you, my dear, that you even carried your physical appearance across the interval of death. You never had any idea of the real cause of your superficial feelings until certain events repeated themselves. The ring, as I have told you, reacted. The moment you passed into unconsciousness you lost all remembrance of Elsa Dallaway; your mind reverted to a time generations before in another life where the ring had figured so prominently. You described in detail events you had experienced in another form.

"Freud, for instance, has said that dreams of a fixed design can be induced by stimulating a sleeper to certain sound or sensations. What is false death—your experience—but a particularly vivid dream, wherein all the circumstances exactly matched up to induce in you the memory of a past event?"

"Now I begin to understand," the girl whispered slowly. "The memory of myself as Thensla, the memory of a great feat to be accomplished, that had ended in failure, has remained with me through the generations...." She stopped, looked up slowly. "But how did I ever come to get hold of this second ring?" she demanded.

The scientist shrugged. "That we can never really know—but we can form two guesses. One is that it was originally worn by your father. He left the space ship, never to return—was lost by some unknown cataclysm, killed probably. His ring was found eventually by somebody, and they wore it. So it was handed down through ages upon ages, until at length, it came to you. That is one theory. The other is that ii, as Eddington once said, we move in a Time circle, and must eventually repeat certain predominant actions all over again in sequence, the ring was bound by mathematical law to finally reach you and complete the purpose of the events for which it was intended. Not the same ring, of course, but the experience bound up with it were identical. Call it either chance or unerring inevitability—the fact remains it did come to you, by producing false death, led you back to that other life.

"Last of all, do not forget that in the interval no man until your father—Douglas Dallaway, that is—found a way to get high enough into the stratosphere in order to allow cosmic rays to reach him. At any rate the ring never had cosmic rays upon it until you went up with Terry. From that moment events started to repeat. As is so often said, history repeats itself...."

He broke off in sudden alarm and glanced round anxiously at a sudden violent shaking of the mausoleum. A distinct ripple went through the ground; loose chunks of masonry came clattering down. The wind seemed to scream the louder for a split second.

"Nothing to worry about," Munro said briefly, glancing at his watch. "It's just three o'clock. The shock was the shaft being opened by radio waves—"

"The Sahara shaft!" Elsa cried.

"Exactly; just as I told you. I'd have given anything to see that fountain of fire go into space. The intensity of the explosion can be imagined when we can feel it even at this distance."

"I guess we'd better be getting out of here," Terry said quickly. "I'll carry you, Elsa. We'll see what's happened." By ten o'clock that night the whole world knew what had happened.

By radio across the earth the news was flashed. Eye witnesses spoke of having seen that living column of incredible fire leap from Africa. The whole world felt the stunning concussion of the explosion, experienced the increase in hurricane created by the superheated wind.

But by ten o'clock the raging winds were abating. A calmer, more settled appearance was over the face of the earth. The incessant earth tremorings of the past weeks were subsiding; volcanic eruptions gradually ceasing— The inner pressure had gone. Nothing of course could return the lands already sunken, but those that had survived were safe, at least for another three or four thousand years.

"And by that time," Terry murmured', staring over the flood from the headquarters' windows, "we ought to have gotten sense enough to tame Earth's periodic illnesses."

Elsa, lying in the heavy easy chair beside him, smiled a little.

"I'm not interested in the future, Terry; nor for that matter am I interested any longer in the past. All I want is the present—to see again the blue skies, sunshine, fields of corn."

"You will," Terry promised. "We'll take up where we left off—"

Terry smiled a little, turned to the girl and gently pulled the ring from her right hand.

"What's that for?"

"Just this." He flung the window wide, hurled the ring out into space with all his strength.

For a long time they both sat in the cool, reviving breeze staring at the spot in the flood waters where it had disappeared.