The Flying City by H. Thompson Rich
From Space came Cor's disc-city of Vada—its mighty,
age-old engines weakening—its horde of dwarfs hungry for the Earth!
n the burning solitude of the great Arizona desert, some two miles
south of Ajo, a young scientist was about to perform an experiment
that might have far-reaching results for humanity.
The scientist was Gordon Kendrick—a tall, tanned, robust chap who
looked more like a prospector in search of gold than a professor of
physics from the State University of Tucson.
Indeed, he was in a way, a prospector, since it was gold he
sought—some practical method of tapping the vast radio-energetic
treasure of the sun—and it was an apparatus designed to accomplish
just this that he was about to test.
The primary unit of the mechanism comprised a spheroidal vacuum-tube
measuring a little over a foot across its long axis, mounted in a
steel bracket that held it horizontal with the ground. Down through
its short axis ran a shaft on which was centered a light cross of
aluminum wire, carrying four vanes of mica, one face of each coated
with lampblack. A flexible cable led from the bottom of this shaft to
the base of the bracket, where it was geared to a small electric motor
driven by two dry cells. A rheostat-switch for delivering and
controlling the current was mounted nearby.
At the wide arc of the egg-shaped tube was a concave platinum cathode,
at the narrow arc a nib of some sort, ending in a socket. From this
socket, two heavy insulated wires extended sixty feet or so across the
sand to the secondary unit of the mechanism, which was roughly a
series of resistance coils, resembling those in an ordinary electric
s Kendrick prepared to test this delicate apparatus that represented
so much of his time and thought, held so much of his hope locked up in
it, a turmoil was in his heart, though his brown face was calm.
If his theories were right, that revolving cross would tap and draw
into its vanes radio-energetic waves of force, much as the whirling
armature of a dynamo draws into its coils electro-magnetic waves of
force. For the blackened sides of the vanes, absorbing more radiation
than the bright sides, would cause the molecules to rebound from the
warmer surfaces with greater velocity, setting up an alternate
pressure and bringing the rays to a focus on the cathode, where they
would be reflected to the nib as waves of heatricity, to use the
word he had coined.
Those were Kendrick's theories, and now he moved to put them to the
supreme test. Switching on the current, he set the motor going. In
response, the cross began to revolve, slowly at first—then faster,
faster, as he opened the rheostat wider.
Eyes fixed on his resistance coils, he gave a sudden cry of triumph.
Yes, there was no doubt about it! They were growing red, glowing
brightly, whitely, above the intense desert sunlight.
Here was a means of convening solar radiation into heat, then, that
offered tremendous commercial possibilities!
But even as he exulted, there came a blinding flash—and the overtaxed
coils burst into flame.
hielding his eyes from the glare, he reached for the rheostat, shut
off the current, rushed to his secondary unit—where he beheld an
amazing sight. Not only had this part of the apparatus completely
disintegrated, but the sand of the desert floor under it as well. On
the spot quivered a miniature lake of molten glass!
As Kendrick stood ruefully beside that fiery pool, meditating on the
spectacular but not altogether gratifying results of his experiment, a
peculiar low humming sound reached his ears. Rushing back to his
primary unit, with the thought that perhaps by some chance he had not
fully closed the rheostat, he looked at the cross. But no, the vanes
The humming increased, however—grew into a vibration that made his
Puzzled, he looked around. What on earth could it be? Had his unruly
experiment called into play some tremendous, unsuspected force of the
universe. Was he to bring the world to ruin, as a result of his blind
groping after this new giant of power?
Such predictions had often been made by the ignorant, to be dismissed
by scientists as the veriest nonsense. But was there some truth in the
universal fear, after all? Was he to be the Prometheus who stole fire
from Olympus, the Samson who toppled down the temple?
Chilled, dizzied with the pain of the ever-increasing vibration, he
gritted his teeth, awaiting he knew not what.
Then it came—a spectacle so staggering that he went rigid with awe as
he regarded it, all power of motion utterly numbed for the moment. The
vibration ceased. The thing appeared.
It was a city—a city in the air—a flying city!
s Kendrick stood staring at this phenomenon, he could scarcely credit
Had the magic carpet of Bagdad suddenly materialized before him, he
would not have been more astounded. And indeed, it was in a way a
magic carpet—a great disclike affair, several miles in diameter, its
myriad towers and spires glinting like gold under the noonday sun,
while its vast shadow fell athwart the desert like the pall of an
The lower portion, he noted, was in the main flat, though a number of
wartish protuberances jutted down from it, ejecting a pale violet
emanation. Whatever this was it seemed to have the effect of holding
the thing motionless in the air, for it hovered there quite easily, a
hundred yards or so above the ground.
But what was it? Where was it from? What had brought it?
Those were the questions he wanted answered; and they were to be,
sooner than he knew.
As he stood there speculating, a device like a trap-door opened in the
base of the disc, and creatures resembling human beings began
descending. Began floating down, rather.
Whereupon Kendrick did what any sensible man would have done, under
similar circumstances. He reacted into motion. In short, he ran.
lancing back over his shoulder after a minute or two, however, he
drew up sheepishly. Of that strange apparition and those who had
descended from it there was not a trace, not a shadow!
But the peculiar humming had recommenced, he realized in the next
breath—and at the same instant he felt himself seized by invisible
There was a struggle, but it was brief and futile. When it was over
his captors became visible once more. They were singular little beings
about four feet tall, with strange, wise, leathery faces, their heads
The humming had ceased again. The disc, too, was once more visible.
What happened next was something even more astounding, if there could
be any further degrees of wonder possible for the utterly baffled
young scientist. He felt himself lifted up, leaving the desert floor,
whirling away toward that incredible phenomenon hovering there.
Another moment or two and he had been borne up through its trap-door
opening, was standing in a dark space bounded by solid metal walls.
Then he was thrust into a cylinder with several of his tiny guards,
shot swiftly upward.
door opened as they came to rest, and he was led out into a vast
court of gleaming amber crystal. Something like a taxi slid up, with
irridescent planes, and he was bundled into it, whirled away again.
Down broad, gleaming avenues they passed, where similar traffic flowed
densely, but under marvelous control. Towering skyscrapers loomed to
right and left. Tier on tier of upper and lower boulevards revealed
themselves, all crowded with automotive and pedestrian activity.
At length a stupendous concourse was reached. Thousands of these taxis
and similar vehicles were parked along its broad flanks, while literal
swarms of diminutive individuals circulated to and fro.
Assisted from the vehicle that had brought him to this obvious center
of the disc's activities. Kendrick was led into a monumental structure
of jade-green stone that towered a full hundred, stories above the
street level. There he was escorted into another of those
projectilelike elevators, shot up, up—till at length it came to rest.
The door opened and he was led out into a small lobby of the same
amber crystal he had observed before.
By now his guards had diminished to two, but he no longer made any
effort to escape. Wherever this amazing adventure might lead, he was
resolved to follow it through.
One of the guards had advanced to a jewelled door and was pressing a
button. In response, the door opened. A golden-robed, regal creature
hough dwarfed to four feet, like his fellow, he was obviously their
mental superior to a prodigious degree. Not only was his symmetrical
bald head of large brain content, but the finely-cut features of his
parchment face bore the unmistakable stamp of a powerful intellect.
"Ao-chaa!" commanded this evident monarch of the disc, addressing
They bowed and departed, abruptly.
"My dear Kendrick!" the regal personage now said, in thin, precise
English. "It is indeed a pleasure to welcome you to my humble
quarters. Pray enter and make yourself comfortable."
Whereupon he ushered him into a dazzling apartment that was one vast
mosaic of precious gems, indicated a richly carved chair, into which
the young scientist dropped wonderingly.
"Now then, Professor," continued the mighty little dwarf, when he was
seated in a chair even more sumptuous, "suppose we have a friendly
little discussion. I have been much interested in your experiments on
heat radiation. What you demonstrated this morning, in particular, was
most absorbing. You have hit upon a rather profound scientific
"Possibly," Kendrick admitted, quite conscious that he was being
"Oh, don't be modest, my dear fellow!" smiled the dwarf. "I am the
last one to belittle your achievement. Indeed, it is because of it
that I have invited you here to-day. Permit me to introduce myself,
and to make clear one or two possibly perplexing matters. Then I am
sure we shall have a most agreeable chat."
is name was Cor, he said, and he was in truth the monarch of this
strange realm. His people had come from the one-time planet of Vada,
far distant in the universe. A thousand years ago, this planet had
been doomed by the approach of an alien star. Their great scientist,
Ravv, had met the emergency by inventing the disc, into whose
construction they had poured all their resources. The pick of their
populace had been salvaged on this giant life-raft. The rest had
perished when that destroying star had crashed down on the doomed
Since then these survivors and their descendants had been voyaging
through space on their marvelous disc. For hundreds of years they had
given no thought to the future, content to drift on and on in the
interstellar void, breathing an atmosphere produced artificially. But
at length the inevitable had happened. This superb piece of mechanism
devised by their super-genius, Ravv, was beginning to show signs of
wear. Some of its mighty engines were nearing the exhaustion point.
Either they must soon find a planet comparable with the one they had
once known, where they could pause and rehabilitate their machinery,
or they must disintegrate and pass into oblivion.
Faced with that crisis, Cor had long been seeking such a planet. He
had found it, at last, in the earth—and had resolved that this was
where they were going to alight and transplant the civilization of
ancient Vada, pending such time as they could take to space again.
or some months now they had been hovering over various portions of
the earth, studying its geography and its peoples, with the result
that they had concluded the United States offered the most logical
point for launching the attack. Once this country was subdued, they
were in possession of the richest and most advanced section of the
planet. The conquest of the rest of it could await their leisure.
With such an invasion in view, their scientists had mastered the
language of the country. This had been accomplished very easily, since
in addition to their power of mingling with the populace in an
invisible form, they had the principles of radio developed to a high
degree and were able to tune in on any station they wanted.
Kendrick sat there, stunned, as Cor followed his astounding revelation
of their origin with this calm plan for the conquest of America, of
the world. Why, of all people on earth, had he alone been singled out
for this disclosure?
He asked the question now.
"My dear Professor, can't you really guess?" replied Cor, with that
leathery smile. "Hasn't it dawned that you were a little too near our
own field with that machine of yours? A trifle more research, a
slightly different application—and you would have become a dangerous
"I mean there isn't a great deal of difference between the experiments
you have been making and those our great Ravv once made. For instance,
had you broadcast your heatricity, as you call it, instead of trying
to transmit it on wires—well, picture a receiving apparatus in each
home of the land, like your commercial radio sets. You would have
become a billionaire, don't you see?"
endrick saw indeed. It was simple, so simple! Fool—why hadn't he
thought of it?
"But your invention will never make you wealthy now, my dear fellow,"
Cor went on, tauntingly. "You will be our guest, here, until we have
taken over your interesting country. After that, if there is any need
for the broadcasting of heat, we will furnish it ourselves. We have
those facilities, among others, fully developed. Would you care to see
Kendrick naturally admitted that he would, so the dwarf led him
through a rear door and up a winding flight of stairs. They emerged
presently into a great laboratory housed in the glass-roofed pinnacle
of the tower.
There he beheld a sight that left him breathless. Never before had he
seen such an assemblage of scientific apparatus. Its vastness and
strangeness were fairly overpowering, even to a man as well versed in
physio-chemical paraphernalia as he was.
Before his eyes could take in a tenth part of the spectacle, Cor had
led him to the left wall.
"There," he said, "you will observe a development of your heat
Kendrick looked—to see a long bank of large vacuum-tubes, each about
three feet high and a foot wide, connected by a central shaft that
caused series of little vanes in each of them to revolve at lightning
Around the apparatus moved numerous small attendants, oiling, wiping,
adjusting its many delicate parts.
"Well, what do you think now?" asked Cor.
Kendrick made no reply, though he was thinking plenty.
"You see, it is your invention, my dear Professor," the dwarf went on
in his taunting voice, "only anteceded by a thousand years—and rather
more perfected, you must admit."
e walked now to the center of the laboratory, where stood a huge dial
of white crystal, ranked with many levers and switches, all capped
with the same material.
"Behold!" he said, throwing over one.
Instantly there came again that peculiar low humming that had so
puzzled him a few minutes before—and the entire room, its engines,
its attendants, Cor himself, leapt into invisibility. Only Kendrick
remained, facing the faintly visible crystal dial.
Then he saw a switch move, as though automatically. But no, for the
dwarf's hand was on it now. Visibility had returned. The vibration
"That is the central control," said Cor. "Our city and all its
inhabitants become invisible when that switch is thrown. Only the dial
remains, for the guidance of the operator, and even that cannot be
seen at a distance of more than fifty feet. But now behold!"
He raised his hand, touched a watch-like device strapped to his
wrist—and was instantly invisible. But the laboratory and every
machine and person in it remained in plain view. Nor was there any
he next moment, having touched that curious little device again, Cor
"That is the local control," he said. "Every one of our inhabitants,
except those under discipline, has one of these little mechanisms. It
enables us to make ourselves invisible at will. A convenience at
times, you must admit."
"Decidedly," Kendrick agreed. "And the principle?"
"Quite simple. One of those, in fact, that lies behind your
researches. Doubtless you would have hit upon it yourself in time.
Your own scientist, Faraday, you may recall, held the opinion that the
various forms under which the forces of matter manifest themselves
have a common origin. We of the disc, thanks to our great Ravv, have
found that common origin."
It was the origin of matter itself, Cor said, which lay in the ether
of interstellar space—energy, raw, cosmic—vibrations, rays.
By harnessing and controlling these various rays, his people had been
able to accomplish their seeming miracles—miracles that the people of
earth, too, were beginning to achieve—as in electricity, for
instance, and its further application, radio.
But the people of Vada had long since mastered such simple rays, and
now, in possession of vastly more powerful ones, had the elemental
forces of the universe at their disposal.
he disc was propelled through space by short rays of tremendously
high frequency, up above the ultra-violet. The same rays, directed
downward instead of outward, enabled them to overcome the pull of
gravity when in a planet's influence, as at present. And the escalator
rays, by which they could proceed to and from the disc, were also of
high frequency, as were their invisibility rays.
"But you, Professor, are more interested in low frequency rays, the
long ones down below infra-red," continued Cor. "You have seen our
development of the heat-dynamo principle. It utilizes, I might add,
not only solar radiation but that of the stars as well. There being a
billion and a half of these in the universe, many of them a thousand
times or more as large as your own sun, we naturally have quite an
efficient little heating plant here. It provides us with our weapon of
warfare, as well as keeping us warm. Permit me to demonstrate."
He led the way to a gleaming circle of glass like an inverted
telescope, about a yard in diameter, mounted in the floor.
"Look!" said the dwarf.
Kendrick did so—and there, spread below him, lay the floor of the
desert. His camp, his apparatus, were just as he had left them.
Cor now moved toward the dial.
"Behold!" he said, pulling a lever.
Instantly the scene below was an inferno. Stricken by a blast of
stupendous heat, the whole area went molten, lay quivering like a lake
of lava in the crater of an active volcano.
"Suppose, my dear Professor," smiled the dwarf, strolling back from
the dial, "just suppose, for instance, that instead of the lonely
camp of an obscure scientist, your proud city of New York had been
Well he knew now the terrible power, the appalling menace of this
"I would prefer not to make such a supposition," he said, quietly,
with a last thoughtful glance at that witches' caldron below.
"Then let us think of pleasanter things. You are my guest of honor,
sir—America's foremost scientist, though she may never realize it,"
with a piping chuckle. "To-night there will be a great banquet in your
honor. Meanwhile, suppose I show you to your quarters."
Nettled, fuming, though outwardly calm, Kendrick permitted himself to
be escorted from the laboratory to an ornate apartment on one of the
There Cor left him, with the polite hint that he would find plenty of
attendants handy should he require anything.
Alone now, in the midst of this vast, nightmarish metropolis, he paced
back and forth, back and forth—knowing the hideous fate that
threatened the world but powerless to issue one word of warning, much
less avert it.
endrick was still thinking and brooding along these lines when he saw
the door of the apartment swiftly open and close again.
Someone had entered, invisible!
Backing away, he waited, tense. Then, suddenly, his visitor
materialized. With a gasp, he saw standing before him a beautiful
She was a young woman, rather, in her early twenties. Not one of these
pigmies of the disc either, but a tall, slender creature of his own
Her hair was dark, modishly bobbed. Her eyes were a deep, clear brown,
her skin a warm olive. And she was dressed as though she had just
stepped off Fifth Avenue—which indeed she had, not so long ago, as
he was soon to learn.
"I hope I haven't startled you too much, Mr. Kendrick," she said, in a
rich, husky murmur, "but—well, there wasn't any other way."
"Oh, I guess I'll get over it," he replied with a smile. "But you have
the advantage of me, since you know my name."
Hers was Marjorie Blake, she told him then.
"Not the daughter of Henderson Blake?" he gasped.
"Yes," with a tremor, "his only daughter."
Whereupon Kendrick knew the solution of a mystery that had baffled the
police for weeks. The newspapers had been full of it at the time. This
beautiful girl, whose father was one of America's richest men and
president of its largest bank, had disappeared as though the earth had
swallowed her. She had left their summer estate at Great Neck, Long
Island, on a bright June morning, bound for New York on a shopping
tour—and had simply vanished.
uicide had been hinted by some of the papers, but had not been taken
seriously, since she had no apparent motive for ending her life.
Abduction seemed to be the more logical explanation, and huge rewards
had been offered by her frantic parents—all to no avail.
What had happened was, she now explained, that after visiting several
shops and making a number of purchases, she had stepped into Central
Park at the Plaza for a breath of fresh air before lunching at the
Sherry-Netherlands, where she planned to meet some friends.
But before advancing a hundred yards along the secluded path, she had
been seized by invisible hands—had felt something strapped to her
wrist, before anyone came in sight—and then, invisible too, had been
lifted up, whirled away into a vast, humming vibration that sounded
through the air.
Once on the disc, it had swept off into space at incredible speed,
pausing only when some hundreds of miles above the earth and invisible
from below without mechanical aid. When its vibration finally ceased
that amazing city had leapt before her eyes.
Then, her own visibility restored, she had been led into the presence
of that mighty little monarch, Cor, who explained that she had been
seized as a hostage and would be held as an ace in the hole, pending
conquest of her country. Since when she had been a prisoner aboard the
earning of Kendrick's capture, from gossip among the women, she had
taken the first opportunity of coming to him, in the hope that between
them they might devise some means of escape.
Indeed, that was his own fondest hope—their imperative need, if the
people of America and of the earth were to be saved from this
appalling menace. But what basis was there for such a fantastic hope?
Just one, that he could see.
"That thing on your wrist," he said, voicing it. "I'm surprised they
let you wear one of those."
"They don't," she smiled. "I stole it!—from one of the maids in my
apartment. It was the only way I could get here without being seen. I
felt I must see you at once. We've got to do something, soon, or it'll
be too late. I felt that, as a scientist, you might have some idea how
we could get off."
"How do the people themselves get off?" he asked. "That escalator
ray—do you know how they use it?"
"No, I've never been able to find out. They don't let me go near that
part of the city."
Kendrick reflected a moment.
"Let's have a look at that invisibility affair," he said.
She removed it from her wrist, handed it to him. Somewhat in awe, he
he mechanism portion, which was linked in a strap of elastic metal,
resembled only superficially a watch, he now saw. Rather it had the
appearance of some delicate electric switch. Rectangular in shape, it
was divided into two halves by a band of white crystal. In each of
these halves were two little buttons of the same material, those on
one side round, on the other square.
"Which buttons control the invisibility?" he asked.
"The square ones," she replied. "One's pushed in now, you see. If you
should push the other, the first would come out—and you'd pass out of
the picture, so to speak."
Kendrick was half tempted to try the thing then and there, but
deferred the impulse.
"What are the round buttons for?" he inquired instead.
Marjorie didn't know, but thought they were probably an emergency
pair, in case something went wrong with the square ones. In any event,
nothing happened when you pushed them.
Kendrick pushed one, just to see. It was true. Nothing happened—but
he seemed to sense a faint, peculiar vibration and a wave of giddiness
swept over him. On pushing the other, which released the first, it
e handed the device back to Marjorie.
"There's your bracelet. Now, if I can just get one like it, I think
we'll get down to earth all right."
"Oh, Mr. Kendrick!" Her eyes lit up eagerly. "Then you've thought of a
"Not exactly. I think I've discovered their own way. I can't be
certain, but I'm willing to gamble on it, if you are."
"Then you—you think those round buttons are connected with the
"Exactly! I think they control individual descent and ascent, just as
the square ones control individual visibility and invisibility. At
any rate, it's the hunch I'm going to act on right now, if you're with
"Oh, I'm with, you!" she breathed. "Anything, death almost, would be
preferable to this."
"Then stand by, invisible. I'm going to get one of my jailors in here
and relieve him of his wrist-watch."
Marjorie touched that little square button on her own. She instantly
Kendrick touched a button too, a button he had noticed beside the
door. As he had supposed, it brought one of the Vadans.
Shutting the door quietly, he seized the fellow before he could move
his hand to his wrist. Thwarted in his attempt to vanish from sight,
the diminutive guard attempted an outcry. But Kendrick promptly
arjorie had reappeared by now and together they bound him to a chair
with a gilded cord torn from the drapery.
Removing the precious mechanism from his wrist, Kendrick slipped it on
"Now let's go!" he said, pressing the protruding square button of the
device. "We haven't a minute to—my golly, what a peculiar sensation!"
"It is rather odd, isn't it?" she laughed, pressing her own and
joining him in that invisible realm.
"Feels like a combination electric massage and cold shower! Where are
you, anyway? I can't see you."
"Of course you can't!" came an unseen tinkle. "Here!"
He felt her brush him.
"Better hold hands," he suggested, then gave an invisible flush he was
glad she couldn't see.
"All right. A good idea."
Her delicate hand came into his, soft, warm. Heart vibrating even
faster than his body, his whole being a-quiver with a strange
exaltation, Kendrick opened the door, and they left the apartment.
he next half-hour was the tensest either of then had ever
experienced. Every foot of the way was fraught with peril.
Not only did they have to carefully avoid the visible swarms of little
people who hurried everywhere, but had to be on their guard as well
against any who might be moving about like themselves under cover of
Nor could they use any elevator or public conveyances, but were
obliged to make their way down to the concourse by heaven knew how
many flights of stairs, and cross heaven knew how many teeming streets
on foot, before they reached the amber court, below which the
trap-door and their hope of freedom.
They got there at last, however, descended, and peered down from that
yawning brink upon the desert floor—to draw back with gasps of
dismay. For the area still gleamed semi-molten from the stupendous
blast that had wiped out Kendrick's camp.
"W-what is it?" she gasped.
Swiftly he told her.
"But isn't there any way around it? Look, over there to the left. One
edge of the crater seems to end almost underneath us."
It was true that the center of the caldron was far to the right of
where they stood, and that its left rim was only a little within their
direct line of descent. But to land even one foot inside that inferno
would be as fatal as to alight in its very midst.
endrick was thinking fast.
"There's just a chance," he said. "It all depends upon how wide the
zone of these escalator rays is, and whether we can tune in on them.
At least, I can probably answer the latter question."
Pushing the protrudent round button on his mysterious bracelet as he
spoke, he leaned over the edge of the trap-door and awaited results.
They were not long in coming. The vibration he was already under from
the invisibility rays seemed to double. Alternate waves of giddiness
and depression, of push and pull, swept over him.
A minute of it was enough. He pressed the round button that now
protruded, ending this influence, and faced Marjorie, stating:
"I'm positive now that these things control descent and ascent. As
nearly as I can figure, the rays work on the principle of an endless
belt. If you're up here, you get carried down, and vice versa. As to
how wide the belt is, and whether you can move sideways on it, remains
to be seen. Anyway, I'm going to take a chance. I'll go first. If my
guess is wrong, you—well, needn't follow."
"No, I'm going with you!" she declared resolutely. "We've come this
far together. I shan't be left alone now. Let's go!"
And again her soft, warm hand was in his.
Lord, what a girl! How many would be brave enough to take a gamble
like that, on a fellow's mere supposition?
"All right—go it is!" he said. "Push your round button, like this."
He showed her the way he thought was right, pushed his own. "Ready?"
heir voices were grave. It was a grim prospect, stepping off into
space like that, with only a guess between them and death.
They jumped, gripping each other's hands tightly—and instead of
dropping like plummets were caught in a powerful field of force and
whirled gently downward.
"Oh, you were right!" gasped Marjorie, awed. "See, we—"
Then she paused, horror-stricken, for it was obvious that they were to
descend within that lake of molten glass, unless they could change
their course at once.
"Quick!" he called. "Hold fast! Now—run!"
Breathless, they raced to the left, across that invisible descending
Too far, Kendrick knew, and they would plunge outside its zone, fall
crushed and mangled. Not far enough, and they would meet cremation. It
was a fearful hazard, either way, but it had to be taken.
They were almost down, now, and still not quite far enough to the
left. The heat of that yawning crater rose toward them.
"Faster—faster!" he cried, fairly dragging her along with him.
A last dash—a breathless instant—and they stood there on the ground,
not three feet from the edge of doom.
Swooning with the heat, Marjorie swayed against him, murmured an
"Take heart!" he whispered, lifting her bodily and bearing her some
yards away. "We're down—safe!"
heir safety was but relative, however, Kendrick well knew. Until they
could put miles between them and this monstrous disc, they were not
really safe. No telling how soon their escape might be discovered. No
telling what terrible means Cor might take of curbing their flight.
So as soon as Marjorie had recovered sufficiently to proceed, they
headed off across the desert at a fast walk toward Ajo, where he hoped
to catch the afternoon train for Gila Bend. From there, they could
board the limited for Tucson and points east, when it came through
from Yuma that night.
They had tuned out on the escalator rays, but continued on still
invisible—for the disc hung above them in plain view and it would
have been suicide to let themselves be seen.
Even so, Kendrick soon began to have an uneasy feeling of being
followed. He looked around from time to time, but could see nothing.
Were some of those invisible little creatures on their trail?
He said nothing to Marjorie of his anxiety, but presently she too
began glancing backward uneasily, every few steps.
"They are near us!" she said at length, in a whisper. "I can sense
It was more than sense, they soon discovered. Little paddings became
quite audible, and once or twice they saw the sand scuffed up, not
twenty feet away, as though by a foot passing over it.
eanwhile they were climbing a rise of ground, broken by many small
hummocks and dotted with thorny shrubs. On the other side, at the foot
of a long down-slope, lay Ajo.
Once they reached the summit, Kendrick felt sure they could
outdistance their pursuers on the descent. Already, if his watch was
right, the train was preparing to pull out. It would be a breathless
dash, but he was confident they could make it.
So he reassured Marjorie as best he could, and helped her on up the
They were practically on the summit and already in view of the little
railroad station and huddle of shacks below—when suddenly he felt
himself tripped and flung violently to the ground. At the same
instant, his companion emitted a scream, as she felt herself seized by
Leaping to his feet, Kendrick flailed out with solid fists at their
attackers. Groans answered the impacts and he knew his blows were
ree for a moment he dashed to Marjorie, felt for the midgets who
swarmed around her. Seizing one of the invisible forms, he lifted it
and flung it crashing to the ground. Another, likewise, and another.
Then he threshed his legs, where two of the creatures clung, trying to
drag him down again. They flew through the air, with cries of fright.
"Well, so far, so good!" he exclaimed. "We won't wait to see if there
are any more. Come on—let's go!"
Reaching for each other's hands, they raced down the slope.
Halfway there they saw a warning blast of steam rise from the engine,
followed by a whistle.
"They'll be pulling out in a minute now!" he gasped, increasing speed.
"We've got to make it!—our only chance!"
"We will make it!" she sobbed through clenched teeth, meeting his
Glancing over his shoulder, after another fifteen seconds, Kendrick
saw that the disc was no longer visible. Since there was no vibration
he realized with relief that it was now hidden behind the slope they
"Quick—push your button!" he said, pushing his own.
They came out of the influence of the invisibility rays, raced
breathless on down the slope—gained the station platform just as the
train was getting under way.
Helping the exhausted girl aboard, he mounted the steps himself, led
her through the vestibule into its single passenger coach.
Dropping into a seat, they sat there panting as the train gathered
y the time the decrepit but life-saving little local drew into Gila
Bend they had somewhat recovered from their harrowing experience.
Marjorie was still pale, however, as Kendrick helped her from the
"I may recover," she said with a wan smile, "but I'll never look the
same! An old saying, but I know what it means now."
He thought better of a sudden impulse to tell her she looked quite all
right to him. Instead, he said grimly:
"I know now what a lot of things mean!"
The Tucson limited would not be through for over an hour, they
learned. That would give them time to hunt up the authorities and
sound a warning of the ominous invader that was in the vicinity.
Perhaps, by prompt military action, it might be destroyed, or at least
But first they went to the telegraph office, where Marjorie got off a
message that would bring joy to her grieved family.
While standing there outside the barred window, odors of food wafting
to them from a nearby lunch-room.
"Um-m!" she sniffed. "That smells good to me! I haven't tasted any
earthly cooking for ages. Everything on that horrible disc was
"Then I suggest we have ham and eggs, at once," he said. "Or would you
prefer a steak?"
"I think I'll have both!"
s they walked into the lunch-room, Kendrick told her of the banquet
in his honor Cor had promised for that night.
"I guess I didn't miss much," he ended.
"You certainly didn't!" she assured him, with a smile. "It would have
opened with a purée of split-molecule soup, continued with an entrée
of breaded electrons, and closed with an ionic café."
"I'm just as well satisfied. I was unable to attend! Humble as it is,
I think this will prove to be much more wholesome food."
Night had fallen by the time they left the lunch-room. Glancing at his
watch, Kendrick saw that they still had better than a half-hour before
the limited was due, so they betook themselves to the police station.
It was only a block away and in consequence they weren't long reaching
The chief had gone home, the officer at the desk informed them, but if
there was anything they cared to report, he would be glad to make note
A big raw-boned westerner, he shifted his quid as he spoke and spat
resoundingly in a cuspidor at his feet.
"All right, then—get your pencil ready!" said Kendrick with a smile.
"This is Miss Marjorie Blake, daughter of Henderson Blake, of New
York. Perhaps you read of her disappearance, a few weeks ago. And
As he introduced himself and told briefly of their astounding
experience, the officer's eyes bulged with amazement.
"Say, what yuh-all tryin' to hand me?" he snorted finally. "D'yuh
think I was born simple?"
"Press your button!" whispered Marjorie. "Show him how the
invisibility ray works. It'll save a lot of argument."
e held up his wrist.
"See this? Now watch!"
Whereupon he pressed the button. But to their dismay, nothing
"Wa-al. I'm still watchin'!" drawled the officer. "Who's loony now?"
Kendrick examined the mechanism in impatience, pressed that little
button repeatedly: but still nothing happened.
"Try yours!" he told Marjorie finally.
She did so, with similar results—or lack of them, rather.
"Something's wrong," he said at length. "The ray isn't working."
"Wrong is right!" declared the officer with a contemptuous flood of
tobacco juice. "Yuh folks better go catch yuhr train 'fore yuh ferget
where it is."
Chagrined, embarrassed, they took their leave, headed back toward the
"Of all the utterly silly things!" declared Marjorie, as they walked
along. "Why do you suppose it didn't work?"
Kendrick didn't reply at once. When he did, his voice was grave.
"Because the disc has gone!" he said. "We are outside its zone of
influence. That's my hunch, at least, and I think we'd better act on
"I mean our escape has probably caused them to hurry their plans.
They're probably over New York right now. I think we'd better get
there the quickest possible way."
he result was that when the train came, they remained on it only to
Tucson. There they chartered a fast plane and started east at once.
At sunset the following day the plane swooped out of the sky and slid
to rest on the broad grounds of the Blake estate at Great Neck.
As Kendrick stepped from the cabin and helped Marjorie down, a tall,
distinguished-looking man with graying hair and close-cropped mustache
came hurrying toward them.
"Daddy!" she cried, rushing into his arms. "Oh, Daddy—Daddy!"
Even without this demonstration. Kendrick would have recognized
Henderson Blake from pictures he had seen recently in the papers.
Now he was introduced, and Blake was gripping his hand warmly.
"I don't quite know what this is all about, Professor," he heard the
great financier say. "Marjorie's telegram last night was as cryptic as
it was over-joying. But I do know that I owe you a deep debt of
"Yes, and you owe our pilot about a thousand dollars, too!" put in the
daughter of the house, clinging to her father's arm. "Please give him
a check—then we'll go inside and I'll explain all about it."
"A matter very much easier dispatched than my debt to Professor
Kendrick," said Blake, complying.
The check was for two thousand, not one, the pilot saw when he
"Thank you very much, sir!" he said, saluting.
"Don't mention it. Good night—and good luck to you!"
he pilot returned to his plane, it lifted from the lawn, droned off
into the twilight.
Then they approached the cool white villa that stood invitingly a
hundred yards or so away beyond sunken gardens.
As they neared it, a handsome, well-preserved woman whose face
reflected Marjorie's own beauty came toward them. Lines of suffering
were still evident around her sensitive mouth, but her dark eyes were
"My poor darling!"
They rushed into each other's arms, clung, sobbing and laughing.
Kendrick was glad when these intimate greetings were over and he had
met Mrs. Blake.
They were in the drawing-room now, listening to a somewhat more lucid
account of their daughter's experiences and those of her rescuer.
Marjorie was doing most of the talking, but every now and again she
would turn to Kendrick for verification.
"Heavens!" gasped Mrs. Blake, finally. "Can such things be possible?"
"Almost anything seems possible nowadays, my dear," her husband told
her. "And you say, Professor, that you have brought back samples of
this invisibility device?"
"Yes, we have, but I can't promise they'll work. I'll try, however."
Whereupon, sceptically, he pressed that little square button—and
instantly faded out of sight.
"Good Lord!" cried Blake, leaping to his feet. "That proves it! Why,
this is positively—"
is remarks were cut short by a scream of terror from his wife.
"Marjorie—Marjorie!" she shrieked.
Wheeling, he faced the chair where his daughter had sat. It was empty,
so far as human eyes could see.
"Don't worry Mother—Daddy!" came a calm voice from it. "I'm quite all
And back she came, as did Kendrick, from the empty chair beside her.
His face was grave. The success of the demonstration, which had proved
their story to practical-minded Henderson Blake, had proved to him
something altogether more significant. The disc, as he had surmised,
had rushed eastward immediately on learning of their escape, and was
now probably hovering right over New York.
"Marvelous—marvelous!" declared Blake. "But that heat ray, Professor.
That sounds bad. You are convinced it is as powerful as they make
"Positively! That blast they let go in the desert would have utterly
destroyed New York."
"Hm! Yes, no doubt you're right. I fully realize how the fearful
menace of this thing. Do you think the military authorities will be
able to cope with it?"
"I don't know. Perhaps, if they are prompt enough."
"And is there no other way—no scientific way?"
endrick grew thoughtful.
"I wonder," he said at last. "There's just a possibility—something
running through my mind—an experiment I'd like to make, if I had the
facilities of some large electrical laboratory."
"You shall have them to-morrow!" Blake promised. "I'm one of the
directors of Consolidated Electric. Their experimental laboratory in
Brooklyn is the finest of its kind in America. I'll see that you have
the run of it."
"That will be very kind," said Kendrick. "But don't expect anything to
come from it, necessarily. It's just a theory I want to work out."
A butler entered at this moment and announced dinner.
"Well, theories are mighty these days!" beamed Blake, as they rose,
clapping the younger man on the shoulder. "You go ahead with your
theories—and I'll bring a few facts to bear. To-morrow noon I'll
escore some military men and others of my friends over to the
laboratory to hear and see something of this menace direct. Meanwhile,
and during this crisis, it will honor me to have you as my guest."
"Our guest!" amended Marjorie, with a warm smile.
ext morning Blake motored Kendrick out to the Brooklyn Laboratory of
the Consolidated Electric Utilities Corporation and installed him
Then he left—to return at noon with the promised delegation of
generals, admirals, statesmen and financiers.
They were all frankly sceptical, though realizing that Henderson Blake
was not a man given to exaggeration. Nor did their scepticism
altogether vanish when Kendrick had ended his bizarre story with a
demonstration of the invisibility device.
Murmurs of amazement ran around the laboratory, it is true, but the
more hard-headed of his spectators charged him with having invented
the apparatus himself. Though they didn't come right out and say so,
they seemed to imply that he was seeking publicity.
Annoyedly, Kendrick tried to refute their charges. But even as he was
summoning words, refutation utter and complete came from the air.
A low, humming vibration sounded, grew in volume till it filled the
room—and as suddenly ceased: The light of midday faded to twilight.
"The disc!" gasped Kendrick, rushing to the west windows.
They followed, tense with awe. And there, between earth and sun, its
myriad towers and spires refracting a weird radiance, hovered that
vast flying city.
"My God!" muttered a famous general, staring as though he had seen a
A great statesman opened his lips, but no words came.
"Appalling! Incredible!" burst from others of that stunned assemblage.
heir comments were cut short by a broadcast voice, thin and clear,
tremendously amplified, a voice Kendrick recognized at once as that of
"People of America!" it said. "We of the planet Vada have come to
conquer your country. You will be given forty-eight hours to lay down
your arms. If complete surrender has not been made by high noon, two
days from now, New York will be destroyed."
The voice ceased. The humming recommenced—waned in volume till it
died away. Twilight turned once more to midday.
Peering fixedly through the west windows of the laboratory, the little
assemblage saw the disc swallowed up in the clear blue sky.
Then they turned, faced one another gravely.
Outside, on the streets, confusion reigned. In newspaper plants,
presses were whirling. In telegraph and cable offices, keys were
ticking. From radio towers, waves were speeding.
Within an hour, the nation and the world knew of this planetary
invader and its staggering ultimatum.
Naturally, the government at Washington refused to meet these shameful
terms. Military and naval forces were rushed to the threatened
metropolis. The Atlantic Fleet steamed up from Hampton Roads under
forced draught and assembled in the outer harbor. Thousands of planes
gathered at Mitchell Field and other nearby aerodromes.
ut where was the enemy? He must be miles up in space, Kendrick knew,
as he toiled feverishly in the laboratory over his experiment after a
sleepless night. For had that flying city been nearer earth, it could
not have maintained invisibility without that peculiar humming
Scout planes urged on by impatient squadron commanders, climbed till
they reached their ceilings, searching in vain. They could encounter
nothing, see nothing of the invader.
Thus passed a morning of growing tension.
But by noon of that day, with a bare twenty-four hours left before
the expiration of the ultimatum, the disc came down, showed itself
There followed stunning disasters.
One salvo, and the ray shot down—the Atlantic Fleet, the pride of
America, burst and melted in flaming hell. Squadrons of planes,
carrying tons of bombs, frizzled like moths in the air. Mighty
projectiles hurled by land batteries were deflected off on wild
Appalled, the nation and the world followed in lurid extras these
By nightfall of that day, all seemed lost. All opposition had been
obliterated. America must capitulate or perish. It had until the next
noon to decide which.
eanwhile, in that great Brooklyn laboratory, Kendrick was working
against time, besieged by frantic delegations of the nation's leaders.
They knew now that their one hope lay in him. Was he succeeding? Was
there even any hope?
Face haggard, eyes bloodshot from lack of sleep, he waved them away,
went on with his work.
"I will tell you—as soon as I know."
That was all he would say.
Followed a night that was the blackest in all history, though the
myriad stars of heaven shone tauntingly brilliant in the summer sky.
At length, as dawn was breaking. Kendrick paused in his labors.
"There!" he said, grimly, surveying an apparatus that seemed to
involve the entire facilities of the laboratory. "It is done! Now
then—will it work?"
The delegation were called to witness the test.
Henderson Blake was among them, as was Marjorie. She stepped forward,
as he prepared to make the demonstration.
"I know, somehow, you're going to be successful!" she murmured,
pressing his hand, meeting his eyes with a smile of confidence.
"I hope you're right—Marjorie!" he replied, letting slip the last
word almost unconsciously.
Her face colored warmly as the stepped back and rejoined her father.
Kendrick's heart was beating fast as he turned to his instruments. How
could he fail, with faith like that behind him?—love, even, perhaps!
He mustn't fail—nor would he, if his theories were sound.
ddressing the assemblage, he explained briefly the complicated
"These towers," he said, pointing to four steel structures about ten
feet high, arranged at the corners of a square roughly twenty feet
across, "are miniature radio masts. The area enclosed by them, we will
assume, is the city of New York. That metal disc suspended above the
area represents the invader. It contains a miniature heat-generator
such as I was experimenting with recently in the Arizona desert."
He paused, threw a switch. Somewhere in the laboratory a dynamo began
"I am now sending electro-magnetic waves from the four towers," he
resumed. "But instead of broadcasting them in every direction. I am
bending them in concave cathode of force over the city. You may
picture this cathode as an invisible shield, if you choose, but it is
more than that. It it a reflector. If my theories are right, the
radio-energetic ray I am about to project upon it from my miniature
disc will be flung back to its source as though it had been a ray of
light falling on a mirror. The success of the experiment depends upon
what the result will be."
endrick ceased, moved toward a rheostat.
As he made ready to touch it, a breathless tension settled upon the
assemblage. Upon the outcome of what was now to happen rested the fate
of America—and the world.
Calmly, though every fiber of his being was at breaking stress, the
young scientist opened the rheostat.
For an instant, the ray seared down—then, as it boomeranged back, the
disc burst into flame, dissolved, disintegrated. A thin dust, like
carbon, slowly settled to the laboratory floor.
Cutting off the current from the radio towers, Kendrick faced them, a
light of triumph in his tired eyes.
"You see—it works," he said.
They saw. Beyond a doubt, it worked!
And what Kendrick saw, as his eyes met Marjorie's, made him forget his
he rest was a mad scramble of preparation. Only a few brief hours
remained, and much was to be done.
The application of the principle that had just been demonstrated
involved a hook-up from the Consolidated Electric laboratory with
every broadcasting station in the metropolitan area, power being
supplied by commandeering every generating plant within a radius of
The city, moreover, had to be evacuated of all but the few brave
hundreds who volunteered to stand by their posts at radio stations and
As for Kendrick, it was the busiest, most hectic morning he had ever
experienced. Only the realization of a girl's love and a nation's
trust enabled him to overcome the exhaustion of two sleepless nights.
At length, a little before eleven, all was in readiness. Just two
questions troubled the young scientist's mind. Had the people of the
disc learned of their preparations to counter the attack? And would
the improvised broadcasting apparatus of the area stand the stupendous
strain that would be placed upon it if the ray came down?
The first of these questions was answered, staggeringly, at a quarter
"Kendrick—oh, my God!" cried Blake, bursting into the laboratory.
"Marjorie—they've got her again! Look! Read this!"
He thrust out a piece of paper. Kendrick took it, read:
Your daughter will be my queen, after this noon.
"Where'd you get it?" he gasped.
"One of the invisible devils thrust it into my hand right out in the
street, not five minutes ago," Blake explained, trembling with
anguish. "Do you realize what this means, Kendrick? She's on the disc
now—and in a scant three-quarters of an hour...."
"Yes, I realize!" his voice came grimly. "And I realize, too, that
they don't know their fate. They'll stay. There's forty-five minutes
yet. We can't abandon our defense against the ray, not even for
Marjorie. But I'll go, I'll rescue her—or die with her!"
And even as Blake mutely reached out his hand to grip that of the
determined young man who stood before him. Kendrick touched his wrist
mechanism and went invisible.
nce on the street, he pressed the escalator button as well—and by
the strength of the vibrations that followed, he knew he must be very
close within that mysterious lifting zone.
Running west a block, he found it growing stronger.
Fairly racing now, he continued on toward the river, progress
unhampered in the deserted streets. Suddenly, with a thrill of
exultation, he felt himself swept up, whirled away toward that great
shimmering hulk against the sun.
"What hope?" he was thinking. "What possible hope?" And the answer
Reaching the disc, he switched out the escalator influence and
hastened across the city to that monumental structure of jade-green
The mighty little dwarf would be up there in his glittering mosaic
apartment, or in his pinnacle laboratory, perhaps, ready to pull the
lever that would release that stupendous blast of heat.
Gaining the jewelled door of the monarch's quarters at last, after
escaping detection by a hair's breadth more than once, he pressed the
button outside, just as the guard had done that first time.
In response, the door opened—and there stood Cor.
e stood there an instant, that is, while the expression on his
leathery face went from inquiry to alarm. Then, as Kendrick burst into
the room and shut the door, he went invisible.
In that same instant, the young scientist's eyes beheld a sight that
caused his heart to leap. There sat Marjorie, bound in a chair, an
expression half of hope, half of dejection, on her face.
"It's I—Gordon!" he called. "Take courage!"
"Oh, I prayed so you'd come—and you came!" she murmured as her face
lighted. Then, tensely, she added, "The door—look out!"
Kendrick wheeled, and just in time. The door was opening.
"Not so fast!" he called, lunging.
His hands gripped the dwarf, yanked him back, throttled him before he
could emit a cry, pushed the door shut.
Cor struggled like a madman, but it was futile. Kendrick's hands cut
into his throat like a vice. After a moment or two, he gasped,
Releasing his grip then, Kendrick felt for his wrist, stripped off his
bracelet—whereupon the dwarf became visible. His face was
putty-white. He was either dead or unconscious.
Restoring his own visibility then, he advanced to Marjorie, swiftly
"Take this!" he said, handing her Cor's bracelet.
She slipped it on.
"Now let's tie him and get out of here. He may be dead, but we can't
take any chances."
he dwarf wasn't dead, however, for he groaned and opened his eyes as
they lifted him into the chair.
"You win, Professor—but it avails you nothing!" He smiled
maliciously. "My capture, my death even, will not prevent the ray. The
orders have been given. It will be projected sharp at twelve. You but
go to your doom!"
"That," said Kendrick, "is a matter of opinion."
Swiftly they bound him, gagged him.
"And now," he added, "we wish you good day—and such fate as you
Then, turning to Marjorie:
"Your hand again!"
There was a new tenderness in its soft warmth that thrilled him.
They touched their buttons, went invisible.
Silently, then, they stole from the apartment. Swiftly they made their
way down to the concourse, raced across the city to the amber court,
descended to the trap-door.
It must be nearly twelve, Kendrick knew. He couldn't look at his
watch, for it as well as himself was invisible. Indeed, even as they
stood there, poised for the plunge, a faint whistle rose from below.
"Steady!" he spoke. "Some of them always blow a minute or two before.
Are you ready?"
"Then press your button—jump!"
Even as they leapt, the sickening thought came that perhaps the
escalator ray was no longer running. But the fear was unwarranted.
They were caught up, whirled gently downward.
Moving along laterally, as they descended, they were able to land
without difficulty in the middle of a deserted street near the
Consolidated Electric laboratory.
"Thank heaven!" she sighed, as their feet touched solid ground. They
pressed off both buttons, becoming visible once more.
"Echo!" he agreed. "So let's—"
ut Kendrick never completed that sentence—for now whistles all over
the metropolitan area, rising from the generating plants, announced
the ominous hour.
It was high noon. The ultimatum had expired.
Lifting tense faces to the disc, they waited. Would that stupendous
ray be hurled back upon itself? Or would it sear through their
makeshift defense, plunging them and the whole great metropolis into
Suddenly, cataclysmically, the answer came.
There burst a withering whirlwind from the disc. It struck that mighty
concave cathode of interlaced waves above the city. There followed an
instant's clash of titanic forces. Then the cathode triumphed, hurled
Rocked by a concussion as of two worlds in impact, blinded by a glare
that made the sunlight seem feeble in comparison. Marjorie and
Kendrick clung together, while the disc grew into a satellite of
calcium fire in the sky.
Presently, as the conflagration waned, they opened their eyes.
Gravely, but with deep thanksgiving, they searched each other's faces.
In them they read deep understanding, too, and a new hope.
"I think we'd better go and find father," she said at length, quietly.
"I think so too!" he agreed.
As they headed toward the laboratory, a fine, powdery dust, like
volcanic ash was falling.
It continued to fall until the city streets were covered to a depth of
an inch or more.
Thus passed the menace of Vada.