The Forgotten Planet
by Sewell Peaslee Wright
The authentic account of why cosmic man damned an outlaw
world to be, forever, a leper of Space.
I have been asked to record, plainly and without prejudice, a brief
history of the Forgotten Planet.
That this record, when completed, will be sealed in the archives of the
Interplanetary Alliance and remain there, a secret and rather dreadful
bit of history, is no concern of mine. I am an old man, well past the
century mark, and what disposal is made of my work is of little
importance to me. I grow weary of life and living, which is good. The
fear of death was lost when our scientists showed us how to live until
we grew weary of life. But I am digressing—an old man's failing.
"It's nothing. Close the exit; we depart at once."
The Forgotten Planet was not always so named. The name that it once bore
had been, as every child knows, stricken from the records, actual and
mental, of the Universe. It is well that evil should not be remembered.
But in order that this history may be clear in the centuries to come, my
record should go back to beginnings.
So far as the Universe is concerned, the history of the Forgotten Planet
begins with the visit of the first craft ever to span the space between
the worlds: the crude, adventuresome Edorn, whose name, as well as
the names of the nine Zenians who manned her, occupy the highest places
in the roll of honor of the Universe.
Ame Baove, the commander and historian of the Edorn, made but brief
comment on his stop at the Forgotten Planet. I shall record it in full:
"We came to rest upon the surface of this, the fourth of the
planets visited during the first trip of the Edorn
spaces before the height of the sun. We found ourselves surrounded
immediately by vast numbers of creatures very different from
ourselves, and from their expressions and gestures, we gathered
that they were both curious and unfriendly.
"Careful analysis of the atmosphere proved it to be sufficiently
similar to our own to make it possible for us to again stretch our
legs outside the rather cramped quarters of the Edorn, and tread
the soil of still another world.
"No sooner had we emerged, however, than we were angrily beset by
the people of this unfriendly planet, and rather than do them
injury, we retired immediately, and concluded our brief
observations through our ports.
"The topography of this planet is similar to our own, save that
there are no mountains, and the flora is highly colored almost
without exception, and apparently quite largely parasitical in
nature. The people are rather short in stature, with hairless heads
and high foreheads. Instead of being round or oval, however, the
heads of these people rise to a rounded ridge which runs back from
a point between and just above the eyes, nearly to the nape of the
neck behind. They give evidence of a fair order of intelligence,
but are suspicious and unfriendly. From the number and size of the
cities we saw, this planet is evidently thickly populated.
"We left about sixteen spaces before the height of the sun, and
continued towards the fifth and last planet before our return to
This report, quite naturally, caused other explorers in space to
hesitate. There were so many friendly, eager worlds to visit, during the
years that relations between the planets were being established, that an
unfriendly people were ignored.
However, from time to time, as space-ships became perfected and more
common, parties from many of the more progressive planets did call. Each
of them met with the same hostile reception, and at last, shortly after
the second War of the Planets, the victorious Alliance sent a fleet of
the small but terrible Deuber Spheres, convoyed by four of the largest
of the disintegrator ray-ships, to subjugate the Forgotten Planet.
Five great cities were destroyed, and the Control City, the seat of the
government, was menaced before the surly inhabitants conceded allegiance
to the Alliance. Parties of scientists, fabricators, and workmen were
then landed, and a dictator was appointed.
From all the worlds of the Alliance, instruments and equipment were
brought to the Forgotten Planet. A great educational system was planned
and executed, the benign and kindly influence of the Alliance made every
effort to improve the conditions existing on the Forgotten Planet, and
to win the friendship and allegiance of these people.
For two centuries the work went on. Two centuries of bloodshed, strife,
hate and disturbance. No where else within the known Universe was there
ill feeling. The second awful War of the Planets had at last succeeded
in teaching the lesson of peace.
Two centuries of effort—wasted effort. It was near the end of the
second century that my own story begins.
Commander at that time of the super-cruiser Tamon, a Special Patrol
ship of the Alliance, I was not at all surprised to receive orders from
the Central Council to report at emergency speed. Special Patrol work in
those days, before the advent of the present de-centralized system, was
a succession of false starts, hurried recalls, and urgent, emergency
I obeyed at once. In the Special Patrol service, there is no questioning
orders. The planet Earth, from which I sprang, is and always has been
proud of the fact that from the very beginning, her men have been picked
to command the ships of the Special Patrol. No matter how dangerous, how
forlorn and hopeless the mission given to a commander of a Special
Patrol ship, history has never recorded that any commander has ever
hesitated. That is why our uniform of blue and silver commands the
respect that it does even in this day and age of softening and
decadence, when men—but again an old man digresses. And perhaps it is
not for me to judge.
I pointed the blunt nose of the Tamon at Zenia, seat of the Central
Council, and in four hours, Earth time, the great craft swept over the
gleaming city of the Central Council and settled swiftly to the court
before the mighty, columned Hall of the Planets.
Four pages of the Council, in their white and scarlet livery, met me and
conducted me instantly to a little anteroom behind the great council
There were three men awaiting me there; three men whose faces, at that
time, were familiar to every person in the known Universe.
Kellen, the oldest of the three, and the spokesman, rose as I entered
the room. The others did likewise, as the pages closed the heavy doors
"You are prompt, and that is good," thought Kellen. "I welcome you.
Remove now thy menore."
I glanced up at him swiftly. This must surely be an important matter,
that I was asked to remove my menore band.
It will, of course, be understood that at that time we had but a bulky
and clumsy instrument to enable us to convey and receive thought; a
device consisting of a heavy band of metal, in which were imbedded the
necessary instruments and a tiny atomic energy generator, the whole
being worn as a circlet or crown upon the head.
Wonderingly, I removed my menore, placed it upon the long, dark table
around which the three men were standing, and bowed. Each of the three,
in turn, lifted their gleaming circlets from their heads, and placed
them likewise upon the table before them.
You wonder," said Kellen, speaking of course, in the soft and liquid
universal language, which is, I understand, still disseminated in our
schools, as it should be. "I shall explain as quickly and as briefly as
"We have called you here on a dangerous mission. A mission that will
require tact and quickness of mind as well as bravery. We have selected
you, have called you, because we are agreed that you possess the
qualities required. Is it not so?" He glanced at his two companions, and
they nodded gravely, solemnly, without speaking.
"You are a young man, John Hanson," continued Kellen, "but your record
in your service is one of which you can be proud. We trust you—with
knowledge that is so secret, so precious, that we must revert to speech
in order to convey it; we dare not trust it, even in this protected and
guarded place, to the menore's quicker but less discreet communication."
He paused for a moment, frowning thoughtfully as though dreading to
begin. I waited silently, and at last he spoke again.
"There is a world"—and he named a name which I shall not repeat, the
name of the Forgotten Planet—"that is a festering sore upon the body of
the Universe. As you know, for two centuries we have tried to pass on to
these people an understanding of peace and friendship. I believe that
nothing has been left undone. The Council and the forces behind it have
done everything within their power. And now—"
He stopped again, and there was an expression of deepest pain written
upon his wise and kindly face. The pause was for but an instant.
"And now," he went on firmly, "it is at an end. Our work has been
undone. Two centuries of effort—undone. They have risen in revolt, they
have killed all those sent by the Alliance of which this Council is the
governing body and the mouthpiece, and they have sent us an ultimatum—a
threat of war!"
Kellen nodded his magnificent old head gravely.
"I do not wonder that you start," he said heavily. "War! It must not be.
It cannot be! And yet, war is what they threaten."
"But, sir!" I put in eagerly. I was young and rash in those days. "Who
are they, to make war against a united Universe?"
"I have visited your planet, Earth," said Kellen, smiling very faintly.
"You have a tiny winged insect you call bee. Is it not so?"
"The bee is a tiny thing, of little strength. A man, a little child,
might crush one to death between a thumb and finger. But the bee may
sting before he is crushed, and the sting may linger on for days, a
painful and unpleasant thing. Is that not so?"
"I see, sir," I replied, somewhat abashed before the tolerant, kindly
wisdom of this great man. "They cannot hope to wage successful war, but
they may bring much suffering to others."
"Much suffering," nodded Kellen, still gently smiling. "And we are
determined that this thing shall not be. Not"—and his face grew gray
with a terrible and bitter resolve—"not if we have to bring to bear
upon that dark and unwilling world the disintegrating rays of every ship
of the Alliance, so that the very shell of the planet shall disappear,
and no life ever again shall move upon its surface.
"But this," and he seemed to shudder at the thought, "is a terrible and
a ruthless thing to even contemplate. We must first try once again to
point out to them the folly of their ways. It is with this mission that
we would burden you, John Hanson."
It is no burden, but an honor, sir," I said quietly.
"Youth! Youth!" Kellen chided me gently. "Foolish, yet rather glorious.
Let me tell you the rest, and then we shall ask for your reply again.
"The news came to us by a small scout ship attached to that unhappy
world. It barely made the journey to Jaron, the nearest planet, and
crashed so badly, from lack of power, that all save one man were killed.
"He, luckily, tore off his menore, and insisted in speech that he be
brought here. He was obeyed, and, in a dying condition, was brought to
this very chamber." Kellen glanced swiftly, sadly, around the room, as
though he could still visualize that scene.
"Every agent of the Alliance upon that hateful planet was set upon and
killed, following the working out of some gigantic and perfectly
executed plan—all save the crew of this one tiny scout ship, which was
spared to act as a messenger.
"'Tell your great Council,' was the message these people sent to us,
'that here is rebellion. We do not want, nor will we tolerate, your
peace. We have learned now that upon other worlds than ours there are
great riches. These we shall take. If there is resistance, we have a
new and a terrible death to deal. A death that your great scientists
will be helpless against; a horrible and irresistable death that will
make desolate and devoid of intelligent life any world where we are
forced to sow the seeds of ultimate disaster.
"'We are not yet ready. If we were, we would not move, for we prefer
that your Council have time to think about what is surely to come. If
you doubt that we have the power to do what we have threatened to do,
send one ship, commanded by a man whose word you will trust, and we will
prove to him that these are no empty words.'"
That, as nearly as I can remember it," concluded Kellen, "is the
message. The man who brought it died almost before he had finished.
"That is the message. You are the man we have picked to accept their
challenge. Remember, though, that there are but the four of us in this
room. There are but four of us who know these things. If you for any
reason do not wish to accept this mission, there will be none to judge
you, least of all, any one of us, who know best of all the perils."
"You say, sir," I said quietly, although my heart was pounding in my
throat, and roaring in my ears, "that there would be none to judge me.
"Sir, there would be myself. There could be no more merciless judge. I
am honored that I have been selected for this task, and I accept the
responsibility willingly, gladly. When is it your wish that we should
The three presiding members of the Council glanced at each other,
faintly smiling, as though they would say, as Kellen had said a short
time before: "Youth! Youth!" Yet I believe they were glad and somewhat
proud that I had replied as I did.
"You may start," said Kellen, "as soon as you can complete the necessary
preparations. Detailed instructions will be given you later."
He bowed to me, and the others did likewise. Then Kellen picked up his
menore and adjusted it.
The interview was over.
What do you make it?" I asked the observer. He glanced up from his
"Jaron, sir. Three degrees to port; elevation between five and six
degrees. Approximate only, of course, sir."
"Good enough. Please ask Mr. Barry to hold to his present course. We
shall not stop at Jaron."
The observer glanced at me curiously, but he was too well disciplined to
hesitate or ask questions.
"Yes, sir!" he said crisply, and spoke into the microphone beside him.
None of us wore menores when on duty, for several reasons. Our
instruments were not nearly as perfect as those in use to-day, and
verbal orders were clearer and carried more authority than mental
instructions. The delicate and powerful electrical and atomic mechanism
of our ship interfered with the functioning of the menores, and at that
time the old habit of speech was far more firmly entrenched, due to
hereditary influence, than it is now.
I nodded to the man, and made my way to my own quarters. I wished most
heartily that I could talk over my plans with someone, but this had been
"I realize that you trust your men, and more particularly your
officers," Kellen had told me during the course of his parting
conversation with me. "I trust them also—yet we must remember that the
peace of mind of the Universe is concerned. If news, even a rumor, of
this threatened disaster should become known, it is impossible to
predict the disturbance it might create.
"Say nothing to anyone. It is your problem. You alone should leave the
ship when you land; you alone shall hear or see the evidence they have
to present, and you alone shall bring word of it to us. That is the wish
of the Council."
"Then it is my wish," I had said, and so it had been settled.
Aft, in the crew's quarters, a gong sounded sharply: the signal for
changing watches, and the beginning of a sleep period. I glanced at the
remote control dials that glowed behind their glass panel on one side of
my room. From the registered attraction of Jaron, at our present speed,
we should be passing her within, according to Earth time, about two
hours. That meant that their outer patrols might be seeking our
business, and I touched Barry's attention button, and spoke into the
microphone beside my bunk.
"Mr. Barry? I am turning in for a little sleep. Before you turn over the
watch to Eitel, will you see that the nose rays are set for the Special
Patrol code signal for this enar. We shall be close to Jaron shortly."
"Yes, sir! Any other orders?"
"No. Keep her on her present course. I shall take the watch from Mr.
Since there have been changes since those days, and will undoubtedly be
others in the future, it might be well to make clear, in a document such
is this, that at this period, all ships of the Special Patrol Service
identified themselves by means of invisible rays flashed in certain
sequences, from the two nose, or forward, projectors. These code signals
were changed every enar, a period of time arbitrarily set by the
Council; about eighteen days, as time is measured on the Earth, and
divided into ten periods, as at present, known as enarens. These were
further divided into enaros, thus giving us a time-reckoning system for
use in space, corresponding roughly to the months, days and hours of the
I retired, but not to sleep. Sleep would not come. I knew, of course,
that if curious outer patrol ships from Jaron did investigate us, they
would be able to detect our invisible ray code signal, and thus satisfy
themselves that we were on the Council's business. There would be no
difficulty on that score. But what I should do after landing upon the
rebellious sphere, I had not the slightest idea.
Be stern, indifferent to their threats," Kellen, had counseled me, "but
do everything within your power to make them see the folly of their
attitude. Do not threaten them, for they are a surly people and you
might precipitate matters. Swallow your pride if you must; remember that
yours is a gigantic responsibility, and upon the information you bring
us may depend the salvation of millions. I am convinced that they are
not—you have a word in your language that fits exactly. Not pretending
... what is the word?"
"Bluffing?" I had supplied in English, smiling.
"Right! Bluffing. It is a very descriptive word. I am sure they are not
I was sure of it also. They knew the power of the Alliance; they had
been made to feel it more than once. A bluff would have been a foolish
thing, and these people were not fools. In some lines of research they
were extraordinarily brilliant.
But what could their new, terrible weapon be? Rays we had; at least half
a dozen rays of destruction; the terrible dehydrating ray of the Deuber
Spheres, the disintegrating ray that dated back before Ame Baove and his
first voyage into space, the concentrated ultra-violet ray that struck
men down in fiery torment.... No, it could hardly be a new ray that was
their boasted weapon.
What, then? Electricity had even then been exhausted of its
possibilities. Atomic energy had been released, harnessed, and directed.
Yet it would take fabulous time and expense to make these machines of
destruction do what they claimed they would do.
Still pondering the problem, I did fall at last into a fitful travesty
I was glad when the soft clamor of the bell aft announced the next
change of watch. I rose, cleared the cobwebs from my brain with an icy
shower, and made my way directly to the navigating room.
"Everything tidy, sir," said Eitel, my second officer, and a Zenian. He
was thin and very dark, like all Zenians, and had the high, effeminate
voice of that people. But he was cool and fearless and had the uncanny
cerebration of his kind; I trusted him as completely as I trusted Barry,
my first officer, who, like myself, was a native of Earth. "Will you
"Yes," I nodded, glancing at the twin charts beneath the ground glass
top of the control table. "Get what sleep you can the next few enaros.
Presently I shall want every man on duty and at his station."
He glanced at me curiously, as the observer had done, but saluted and
left with only a brief, "Yes, sir!" I returned the salute and turned my
attention again to the charts.
The navigating room of an interplanetary ship is without doubt
unfamiliar ground to most, so it might be well for me to say that such
ships have, for the most part, twin charts, showing progress in two
dimensions; to use land terms, lateral and vertical. These charts are
really no more than large sheets of ground glass, ruled in both
directions with fine black lines, representing all relatively close
heavenly bodies by green lights of varying sizes. The ship itself is
represented by a red spark and the whole is, of course, entirely
automatic in action, the instruments comprising the chart being operated
by super-radio reflexes.
Jaron, the charts showed me at a glance, was now far behind. Almost
directly above—it is necessary to resort to these unscientific terms to
make my meaning clear—was the tiny world Elon, home of the friendly but
impossibly dull winged people, the only ones in the known Universe. I
was there but once, and found them almost laughably like our common
dragon-flies on Earth; dragon-flies that grow some seven feet long, and
with gauzy wings of amazing strength.
Directly ahead, on both charts, was a brilliantly glowing sphere of
green—our destination. I made some rapid mental calculations, studying
the few fine black lines between the red spark that was our ship, and
the nearest edge of the great green sphere. I glanced at our speed
indicator and the attraction meter. The little red slide that moved
around the rim of the attraction meter was squarely at the top, showing
that the attraction was from straight ahead; the great black hand was
nearly a third of the way around the face.
We were very close; two hours would bring us into the atmospheric
envelope. In less than two hours and a half, we would be in the Control
City of what is now called the Forgotten Planet!
I glanced forward, through the thick glass partitions, into the
operating room. Three men stood there, watching intently; they too, were
wondering why we visited the unfriendly world.
The planet itself loomed up straight ahead, a great half-circle, its
curved rim sharp and bright against the empty blackness of space; the
chord ragged and blurred. In two hours ... I turned away and began a
An hour went by; an hour and a half. I pressed the attention button to
the operating room, and gave orders to reduce our speed by half. We were
very close to the outer fringe of the atmospheric envelope. Then,
keeping my eye on the big surface-temperature gauge, with its stubby red
hand, I resumed my nervous pacing.
Slowly the thick red hand of the surface-temperature gauge began to
move; slowly, and then more rapidly, until the eyes could catch its
"Reduce to atmospheric speed," I ordered curtly, and glanced down
through a side port at one end of the long navigating room.
We were, at the moment, directly above the twilight belt. To my right,
as I looked down, I could see a portion of the glistening antarctic ice
cap. Here and there were the great flat lakes, almost seas, of the
Our geographies of the Universe to-day do not show the topography of
the Forgotten Planet: I might say, therefore, that the entire sphere was
land area, with numerous great lakes embedded in its surface, together
with many broad, very crooked rivers. As Ame Baove had reported, there
were no mountains, and no high land.
"Altitude constant," I ordered. "Port three degrees. Stand by for
The earth seemed to whirl slowly beneath us. Great cities drifted
astern, and I compared the scene below me with the great maps I took
from our chart-case. The Control City should be just beyond the visible
rim; well in the daylight area.
"Port five degrees," I said, and pressed the attention button to Barry's
"Mr. Barry, please call all men to quarters, including the off-duty
watch, and then report to the navigating room. Mr. Eitel will be under
my direct orders. We shall descend within the next few minutes."
"Very well, sir."
I pressed the attention button to Eitel's room.
"Mr. Eitel, please pick ten of your best men and have them report at the
forward exit. Await me, with the men, at that place. I shall be with you
as soon as I turn the command over to Mr. Barry. We are descending
"Right, sir!" said Eitel.
I turned from the microphone to find that Barry had just entered the
"We will descend into the Great Court of the Control City, Mr. Barry,"
I said. "I have a mission here. I am sorry, but these are the only
instructions I can leave you.
"I do not know how long I shall be gone from the ship, but if I do not
return within three hours, depart without me, and report directly to
Kellen of the Council. To him, and no other. Tell him, verbally, what
took place. Should there be any concerted action against the Tamon,
use your own judgment as to the action to be taken, remembering that the
safety of the ship and its crew, and the report of the Council, are
infinitely more important than my personal welfare. Is that clear?"
"Yes, sir. Too damned clear."
I smiled and shook my head.
"Don't worry," I said lightly. "I'll be back well within the appointed
"I hope so. But there's something wrong as hell here. I'm talking now as
man to man; not to my commanding officer. I've been watching below, and
I have seen at least two spots where large numbers of our ships have
been destroyed. The remaining ships bear their own damned emblem where
the crest of the Alliance should be—and was. What does it mean?"
"It means," I said slowly, "that I shall have to rely upon every man and
officer to forget himself and myself, and obey orders without hesitation
and without flinching. The orders are not mine, but direct from the
Council itself." I held out my hand to him—an ancient Earth gesture of
greeting, good-will and farewell—and he shook it vigorously.
"God go with you," he said softly, and with a little nod of thanks I
turned and quickly left the room.
Eitel, with his ten men, were waiting for me at the forward exit. The
men fell back a few paces and came to attention; Eitel saluted smartly.
"We are ready, sir. What are your orders?"
"You are to guard this opening. Under no circumstances is anyone to
enter save myself. I shall be gone not longer than three hours; if I am
not back within that time, Mr. Barry has his orders. The exit will be
sealed, and the Tamon will depart immediately, without me."
"Yes, sir. You will pardon me, but I gather that your mission is a
dangerous one. May I not accompany you?"
I shook my head.
"I shall need you here."
"But, sir, they are very excited and angry; I have been watching them
from the observation ports. And there is a vast crowd of them around the
"I had expected that. I thank you for your concern, but I must go alone.
Those are the orders. Will you unseal the exit?"
His "Yes, sir!" was brisk and efficient, but there was a worried frown
on his features as he unlocked and released the switch that opened the
The huge plug of metal, some ten feet in diameter, revolved swiftly and
noiselessly, backing slowly in its fine threads into the interior of the
ship, gripped by the ponderous gimbals which, as the last threads
disengaged, swung the mighty disc to one side, like the door of some
"Remember your orders," I smiled, and with a little gesture to convey an
assurance which I certainly did not feel, I strode through the circular
opening out into the crowd. The heavy glass secondary door shot down
behind me, and I was in the hands of the enemy.
The first thing I observed was that my menore, which I had picked up on
my way to the exit, was not functioning. Not a person in all that vast
multitude wore a menore; the five black-robed dignitaries who marched to
meet me wore none.
Nothing could have showed more clearly that I was in for trouble. To
invite a visitor, as Kellen had done, to remove his menore first, was,
of course, a polite and courteous thing to do if one wished to
communicate by speech; to remove the menore before greeting a visitor
wearing one, was a tacit admission of rank enmity; a confession that
one's thoughts were to be concealed.
My first impulse was to snatch off my own instrument and fling it in the
solemn, ugly faces of the nearest of the five dignataries; I remembered
Kellen's warning just in time. Quietly, I removed the metal circlet and
tucked it under my arm, bowing slightly to the committee of five as I
"I am Ja Ben," said the first of the five, with an evil grin. "You are
the representative of the Council that we commanded to appear?"
"I am John Hanson, commander of the ship Tamon of the Special Patrol
Service. I am here to represent the Central Council," I replied with
"As we commanded," grinned Ja Ben. "That is good. Follow us and you
shall have the evidence you were promised."
Ja Ben led the way with two of his black-robed followers. The other two
fell in behind me. A virtual prisoner, I marched between them, through
the vast crowd that made way grudgingly to let us pass.
I have seen the people of most of the planets of the known Universe.
Many of them, to Earth notions, are odd. But these people, so much like
us in many respects, were strangely repulsive.
Their heads, as Ame Baove had recorded, were not round like ours, but
possessed a high bony crest that ran from between their lashless,
browless eyes, down to the very nape of their necks. Their skin, even
that covering their hairless heads, was a dull and papery white, like
parchment, and their eyes were abnormally small, and nearly round. A
hateful, ugly people, perpetually scowling, snarling; their very voices
resembled more the growl of wild beasts than the speech of intelligent
Ja Ben led the way straight to the low but vast building of dun-colored
stone that I knew was the administration building of the Control City.
We marched up the broad, crowded steps, through the muttering, jeering
multitude into the building itself. The guards at the doors stood aside
to let us through and the crowd at last was left behind.
A swift, cylindrical elevator shot us upward, into a great glass-walled
laboratory, built like a sort of penthouse on the roof. Ja Ben walked
quickly across the room towards a long, glass-topped table; the other
four closed in on me silently but suggestively.
"That is unnecessary," I said quietly. "See, I am unarmed and completely
in your power. I am here as an ambassador of the Central Council, not as
"Which is as well for you," grinned Ja Ben. "What I have to show you,
you can see quickly, and then depart."
From a great cabinet in one corner of the room he took a shining
cylinder of dark red metal, and held it up before him, stroking its
sleek sides with an affectionate hand.
Here it is," he said, chuckling. "The secret of our power. In here,
safely imprisoned now, but capable of being released at our command, is
death for every living thing upon any planet we choose to destroy." He
replaced the great cylinder in the cabinet, and picked up in its stead a
tiny vial of the same metal, no larger than my little finger, and not so
long. "Here," he said, turning again towards me, "is the means of
proving our power to you. Come closer!"
With my bodyguard of four watching every move, I approached.
Ja Ben selected a large hollow hemisphere of crystal glass and placed it
upon a smooth sheet of flat glass. Next he picked a few blossoms from a
bowl that stood, incongruously enough, on the table, and threw them
under the glass hemisphere.
"Flora," he grinned.
Hurrying to the other end of the room, he reached into a large flat
metal cage and brought forth three small rodent like animals, natives of
that world. These he also tossed carelessly under the glass.
"Fauna," he grunted, and picked up the tiny metal vial.
One end of the vial unscrewed. He turned the cap gently, carefully, a
strained, anxious look upon his face. My four guards watched him
The cap came loose at last, disclosing the end of the tube, sealed with
a grayish substance that looked like wax. Very quickly Ja Ben rolled the
little cylinder under the glass hemisphere, and picked up a beaker that
had been bubbling gently on an electric plate close by. Swiftly he
poured the thick contents of the beaker around the base of the glass
bell. The stuff hardened almost instantly, forming an air-tight seal
between the glass hemisphere and the flat plate of glass upon which it
rested. Then, with an evil, triumphant smile, Ja Ben looked up.
"Flora," he repeated. "Fauna. And death. Watch! The little metal
cylinder is plugged still, but in a moment that plug will
disappear—simply a volatile solid, you understand. It is going rapidly
... rapidly ... it is almost gone now! Watch ... In an instant now ...
I saw the gray substance that stopped the entrance of the little metal
vial disappear. The rodents ran around and over it, trying to find a
crevice by which they might escape. The flowers, bright and beautiful,
lay untidily on the bottom of the glass prison.
Then, just as the last vestige of the gray plug vanished; an amazing, a
terrible thing happened. At the mouth of the tiny metal vial a greenish
cloud appeared. I call it a cloud, but it was not that. It was solid,
and it spread in every direction, sending out little needles that lashed
about and ran together into a solid mass while millions of little
needles reached out swiftly.
One of these little needles touched a scurrying animal. Instantly the
tiny brute stiffened, and from his entire body the greenish needles
spread swiftly. One of the flowers turned suddenly thick and pulpy with
the soft green mass, then another, another of the rodents ... God!
In the space of two heart beats, the entire hemisphere was filled with
the green mass, that still moved and writhed and seemed to press against
the glass sides as though the urge to expand was insistent,
What is it?" I whispered, still staring at the thing.
"Death!" grunted Ja Ben, thrusting his hateful face close to mine, his
tiny round eyes, with their lashless lids glinting. "Death, my friend.
Go and tell your great Council of this death that we have created for
every planet that will not obey us.
"We have gone back into the history of dealing death and have come back
with a death such as the Universe has never known before!
"Here is a rapacious, deadly fungus we have been two centuries in
developing. The spores contained in that tiny metal tube would be
invisible to the naked eye—and yet given but a little time to grow,
with air and vegetation and flesh to feed upon, and even that small
capsule would wipe out a world. And in the cabinet,"—he pointed
grinning triumphantly—"we have, ready for instant use, enough of the
spores of this deadly fungas to wipe out all the worlds of your great
"To wipe them out utterly!" he repeated, his voice shaking with a sort
of frenzy now. "Every living thing upon their faces, wrapped in that
thin, hungry green stuff you see there under that glass. All life wiped
out; made uninhabitable so long as the Universe shall endure. And
we—we shall be rulers, unquestioned, of that Universe. Tell your
doddering Council that!" He leaned back against the table, panting
"I shall tell them all I have seen; all you have said," I nodded.
"You believe we have the power to do all this?"
"I do—God help me, and the Universe," I said solemnly.
There was no doubt in my mind. I could see all too clearly how well
their plans had been laid; how quickly this hellish growth would
strangle all life, once its spores began to develop.
The only possible chance was to get back to the Council and make my
report, with all possible speed, so that every available armed ship of
the universe might concentrate here, and wipe out these people before
they had time to—
"I know what you are thinking, my friend," broke in Ja Ben mockingly.
"You might as well have worn the menore! You would have the ships of the
Alliance destroy us before we have time to act. We had foreseen that,
and have provided for the possibility.
"As soon as you leave here, ships, provided with many tubes like the one
just used for our little demonstration, will be dispersed in every
direction. We shall be in constant communication with those ships, and
at the least sign of hostility, they will be ordered to depart and
spread their death upon every world they can reach. Some of them you may
be able to locate and eliminate; a number of them are certain to elude
capture in infinite space—and if only one, one lone ship, should
escape, the doom of the Alliance and millions upon millions of people
will be pronounced.
"I warn you, it will be better, much better, to bow to our wishes, and
pay us the tribute we shall demand. Any attempt at resistance will
precipitate certain disaster for your Council and all the worlds the
"At least, we would wipe you out first," I said hoarsely.
"True," nodded Ja Ben. "But the vengeance of our ships would be a
terrible thing! You would not dare to take the chance!"
I stood there, staring at him in a sort of daze. What he had said was so
true; terribly, damnably true.
There was but one chance I could see, and desperate as it was, I took
it. Whirling the heavy metal ring of my menore in my hand, I sprang
towards the table.
If I could break the sealed glass hemisphere, and loose the fungus upon
its creators; deal to them the doom they had planned for the universe,
then perhaps all might yet be well.
Ja Ben understood instantly what was in my mind. He and his four aides
leaped between me and the table, their tiny round eyes blazing with
anger. I struck one of the four viciously with the menore, and with a
gasp he fell back and slumped to the floor.
Before I could break through the opening, however, Ja Ben struck me full
in the face with his mighty fist; a blow that sent me, dazed and
reeling, into a corner of the room. I brought up with a crash against
the cabinet there, groped wildly in an effort to steady myself, and fell
to the floor. Almost before I struck, all four of them were upon me.
They hammered me viciously, shouted at me, cursed me in the universal
tongue, but I paid no heed. I pretended to be unconscious, but my heart
was beating high with sudden, glorious hope, and in my brain a terrible,
merciless plan was forming.
When I had groped against the cabinet in an effort to regain my balance,
my fingers had closed upon one of the little metal vials. As I fell, I
covered that hand with my body and hastily hid the tiny tube in a deep
pocket of my blue and silver Service uniform.
Slowly, after a few seconds, I opened my eyes and looked up at them,
"Go, now!" snarled Ja Ben, dragging me to my feet. "Go, and tell your
Council we are more than a match for you—and for them." He thrust me,
reeling, towards his three assistants. "Take him to his ship, and send
aid for Ife Rance, here." He glanced at the still unconscious figure of
the victim of my menore, and then turned to me with a last warning.
"Remember, one thing more, my friend: you have disintegrator ray
equipment upon your ship. You have the little atomic bombs that won for
the Alliance the Second War of the Planets. I know that. But if you make
the slightest effort to use them, I shall dispatch a supply of the green
death to our ships, and they will depart upon their missions at once.
You would take upon yourself a terrible responsibility by making the
smallest hostile move.
"Go, now—and when you return, bring with you members of your great
Council who will have the power to hear our demands, and see that they
are obeyed. And do not keep us waiting over long, for we are an
impatient race." He bowed, mockingly, and passed his left hand swiftly
before his face, his people's sign of parting.
I nodded, not trusting myself to speak, and, hemmed in by my three
black-robed conductors, was hurried down the elevator and back through
the jeering mob to my ship.
The glass secondary door shot up to permit me to enter, and Eitel
gripped my shoulder anxiously, his eyes smoldering angrily.
"You're hurt, sir!" he said in his odd, high-pitched voice, staring into
my bruised face. "What—"
"It's nothing," I assured him. "Close the exit immediately; we depart at
"Yes, sir!" He closed the switch, and the great threaded plug swung
gently on its gimbals and began to revolve, swiftly and silently. A
little bell sounded sharply, and the great door ceased its motion. Eitel
locked the switch and returned the key to his pocket.
"Good. All men are at their stations?" I asked briskly.
"Yes, sir! All except these ten, detailed to guard the exit."
"Have them report to their regular stations. Issue orders to the ray
operators that they are to instantly, and without further orders,
destroy any ship that may leave the surface of this planet. Have every
atomic bomb crew ready for an instant and concentrated offensive
directed at the Control City, but command them not to act under any
circumstances unless I give the order. Is that clear, Mr. Eitel?"
I nodded, and turned away, making my way immediately to the navigating
"Mr. Barry," I said quickly and gravely, "I believe that the fate of the
known Universe depends upon us at this moment. We will ascend
vertically, at once—slowly—until we are just outside the envelope,
maintaining only sufficient horizontal motion to keep us directly over
the Control City. Will you give the necessary orders?"
"Immediately, sir!" He pressed the attention button to the operating
room and spoke swiftly into the microphone; before he completed the
order I had left.
We were already ascending when I reached the port forward atomic bomb
station. The man in charge, a Zenian, saluted with automatic precision
and awaited orders.
"You have a bomb in readiness?" I asked, returning the salute.
"Those were my orders, sir."
"Correct. Remove it, please."
I waited impatiently while the crew removed the bomb from the releasing
trap. It was withdrawn at last; a fish-shaped affair, very much like the
ancient airplane bombs save that it was no larger than my two fists,
placed one upon the other, and that it had four silvery wires running
along its sides, from rounded nose to pointed tail, held at a distance
from the body by a series of insulating struts.
"Now," I said, "how quickly can you put another object in the trap,
re-seal the opening, and release the object?"
"While the Commander counts ten with reasonable speed," said the Zenian
with pride. "We won first honors in the Special Patrol Service contests
at the last Examination, the Commander may remember."
"I do remember. That is why I selected you for this duty."
With hands that trembled a little, I think, I drew forth the little vial
of gleaming red metal, while the bombing crew watched me curiously.
"I shall unscrew the cap from this little vial," I explained, "and drop
it immediately into the releasing trap. Re-seal the trap and release
this object as quickly as it is possible to do so. If you can better the
time you made to win the honors at the Examination—in God's name, do
"Yes, sir!" replied the Zenian. He gave brisk orders to his crew, and
each of the three men sprang alertly into position.
As quickly as I could, I turned off the cap of the little metal vial and
dropped it into the trap. The heavy plug, a tiny duplicate of the exit
door, clicked shut upon it and spun, whining gently, into the opening.
Something clicked sharply, and one of the crew dropped a bar into place.
As it shot home, the Zenian in command of the crew pulled the release
"Done, sir!" he said proudly.
I did not reply. My eye fixed upon the observation tube that was
following the tiny missile to the ground.
The Control City was directly below us. I lost sight of the vial almost
instantly, but the indicating cross-hairs showed me exactly where the
vial would strike; at a point approximately half way between the edge of
the city and the great squat pile of the administrating building, with
its gleaming glass penthouse—the laboratory in which, only a few
minutes before, I had witnessed the demonstration of the death which
awaited the Universe.
"Excellent!" I exclaimed. "Smartly done, men!" I turned and hurried to
the navigating room, where the most powerful of our television discs was
The disc was not as perfect as those we have to-day; it was hooded to
keep out exterior light, which is not necessary with the later
instruments, and it was more unwieldy. However, it did its work, and did
it well, in the hands of an experienced operator.
With only a nod to Barry, I turned the range band to maximum, and
brought it swiftly to bear upon that portion of the city in which the
little vial had fallen. As I drew the focusing lever towards me, the
scene leaped at me through the clear, glowing glass disc.
Froth! Green, billowing froth that grew and boiled and spread
unceasingly. In places it reached high into the air, and it moved with
an eager, inner life that was somehow terrible and revolting. I moved
the range hand back, and the view seemed to drop away from me swiftly.
I could see the whole city now. All one side of it was covered with the
spreading green stain that moved and flowed so swiftly. Thousands of
tiny black figures were running in the streets, crowding away from the
awful danger that menaced them.
The green patch spread more swiftly always. When I had first seen it,
the edges were advancing as rapidly as a man could run; now they were
fairly racing, and the speed grew constantly.
A ship, two of them, three of them came darting from somewhere, towards
the administration building, with its glass cupola. I held my breath as
the deep, sudden humming from the Tamon told me that our rays were
busy. Would they—
One of the enemy ships disappeared suddenly in a little cloud of dirty,
heavy dust that settled swiftly. Another ... and the third. Three little
streaks of dust, falling, falling....
A fourth ship, and a fifth came rushing up, their sides faintly glowing
from the speed they had made. The green flood, thick and insistent, was
racing up and over the administration building now. It reached the roof,
The fourth ship shattered into dust. The fifth settled swiftly—and then
that ship also disappeared, together with a corner of the building. Then
the thick green stuff flowed over the whole building and there was
nothing to be seen there but a mound of soft, flowing, gray-green stuff
that rushed on now with the swiftness of the wind.
I looked up, into Barry's face.
"You're ill!" he said quickly. "Is there anything I can do, sir?"
"Yes," I said, forming the words with difficulty. "Give orders to ascend
at emergency speed!"
For once my first officer hesitated. He glanced at the attraction meter
and then turned to me again, wondering.
"At this height, sir, emergency speed will mean dangerous heating of the
"I want it white hot, Mr. Barry. She is built to stand it. Emergency
"Right, sir!" he said briskly, and gave the order.
I felt my weight increase as the order was obeyed; gradually the
familiar, uncomfortable feeling left me. Silently, Barry and I watched
the big surface temperature gauge as it started to move. The heat inside
became uncomfortable, grew intense. The sweat poured from us. In the
operating room forward, I could see the men casting quick, wondering
glances up at us through the heavy glass partition that lay between.
The thick, stubby red hand of the surface temperature gauge moved slowly
but steadily towards the heavy red line that marked the temperature at
which the outer shell of our hull would become incandescent. The hand
was within three or four degrees of that mark when I gave Barry the
order to arrest our motion.
When he had given the order, I turned to him and motioned towards the
"Look," I said.
He looked, and when at last he tore his face away from the hood, he
seemed ten years older.
"What is it?" he asked in a choked whisper. "Why—they're being wiped
out; the whole of that world—"
"True. And some of the seeds of that terrible death might have drifted
upward, and found a lodging place upon the surface of our ship. That is
why I ordered the emergency speed while we were still within the
atmospheric envelope, Barry. To burn away that contamination, if it
existed. Now we are safe, unless—"
I pressed the attention button to the station of the chief of the ray
"Your report," I ordered.
"Nine ships disintegrated, sir," he replied instantly. "Five before the
city was destroyed, four later."
"You are certain that none escaped?"
I turned to Barry, smiling.
"Point her nose for Zenia, Mr. Barry," I said. "As soon as it is
feasible, resume emergency speed. There are some very anxious gentlemen
there awaiting our report, and I dare not convey it except in person."
"Yes, sir!" said Barry crisply.
This, then, is the history of the Forgotten Planet. On the charts of the
Universe it appears as an unnamed world. No ship is permitted to pass
close enough to it so that its attraction is greater than that of the
nearest other mass. A permanent outpost of fixed-station ships, with
headquarters upon Jaron, the closest world, is maintained by the
There are millions of people who might be greatly disturbed if they knew
of this potential menace that lurks in the midst of our Universe, but
they do not know. The wisdom of the Council made certain of that.
But, in order that in the ages to come there might be a record of this
matter, I have been asked to prepare this document for the sealed
archives of the Alliance. It has been a pleasant task; I have relived,
for a little time, a part of my youth.
The work is done, now, and that is well. I am an old man, and weary.
Sometimes I wish I might live to see the wonders that the next
generation or so will witness, but my years are heavy upon me.
My work is done.