Friday, February 5, 2010

Lord Of the Earthquake - Leigh Brackett




IT WAS stiflingly hot in the submarine's tiny cabin. The steady pound of the screws was a throbbing ache. Coh Langham, his scarred hawk face set in lines of restless boredom, stared out the port at the featureless muck that rolled endlessly away under the searchlight,
"Krim," he said abruptly, "you're crazy"
Simon Krim, hunched like a shaggy black bull over the tiny control panel, spoke without taking his eyes from the sea-floor. "What's the matter, Langham? Has the thrill petered out?"
"Thrill!" Langham's strong brown body, stripped to dungarees, hitched angrily lower in the seat. Yes, he had expected a thrill. He had hated seeing Krim again; it took him back to a time he wanted to forget. But Krim had asked him, and he, at a loose end and restless as always, had accepted. Hunting a sunken continent with a submarine was something he hadn't done before. It looked exciting.
The excitement had resolved itself into three weeks of hellish monotony, heat, and inactivity, and utter boredom.
Simon Krim grunted. "That's all you think about, isn't it? Thrills. Your father was a hard-working archeologist, my best friend. And you spend your life crashing planes and climbing mountains, having adventures.
There was an edge to his voice; his hairy body gleamed with sweat, and there were tight lines around his mouth.
Coh Langham's blue eyes went hard under the scarlet cloth that held back his damp fair hair. "My life's my own, Krim. My father certainly never got much out of his!"
He locked his hands suddenly behind his head. The motion, in the dim greenish light that seeped through the ports, made a ripple of color up his arms and across his muscular chest. Kukulcan, the Feathered Serpent, writhed in blue-and-crimson splendor upward from each hand, to meet crest to crest on his breast.
"I still say you're crazy, Krim," Langham said. "You spend your life mucking, like my father did, in God-forsaken holes, tracking down the Murian legend – that damned Murian legend, that I had rammed down my throat daily until I was twenty-three! Now you put every cent you own into this submarine, and go poking along the bottom of the Pacific trying to find proof that Mu really existed. What does it get you?"
Simon Krim turned to look at him, stubby fingers raking at his tangled black hair. "I don't know," he said slowly. "I don't think I ever stopped to figure it out – except that I'm happy; and I wouldn't be happy doing anything else."
Coh Langham laughed. It was an ugly little laugh, and it turned Krim's stubbled face into a thundercloud.
"That's the trouble with you, Langham," he blurted. "You don't I. How what happiness is. You're too damned selfish. You say your fat father never got anything out of life. Well, he died happy, and several people regretted his death – which is more than they'd do if you I broke your fool neck!"
Krim's words waked something in Coh Langham; a loneliness, a dissatisfaction, a sense of lack. Then, as always, a blind anger surged up and drowned the fleeting vision. He came erect, his hands resting lightly on his belt – a heavy belt with a massive silver buckle, curiously scarred and dented.
"I saw my father die," he said with dangerous softness. "Fever, in a swamp in Yucatan. All his precious archeology never brought him anything. I le died poor, a young man. He was cheated, Krim! Well, you can plod and plug and dig in kitchen middens, and 'die happy'. And you can shut up!"
Still Krim stared at him, forehead wrinkled in groping thought. "It looks to me," he said slowly, "as though you're running away from something. I don't know. But I wish to God I had the brain you're wasting!"
Again that truth nagged at Coh Langham's soul. He beat it back, and his hands tightened on his belt. Krim's face enraged him. What right did the plodding fool have to question him?
Then, over Krim's shoulder, rising out of the murky water, he saw something that sent a great wild emotion surging through him, a feeling unbidden and strange.
"Simon!" he cried. "A pyramid!"
Krim stared. His stubbled jaw worked, but no words came. Then he sent the submarine shooting toward the majestic, water-worn pile that reared from the muck, split here by a great fissure running down from low, flat hills.
Langham, stirred in spite of himself, watched out the port. Suddenly he gripped the fixtures, so that the twin serpents writhed convulsively. "Turn!" he shouted. "Turn!"
Krim stared, uncomprehending. Langham threw himself bodily at the controls. Then he was drowned, blinded, deafened, in roaring darkness that was like no darkness he had ever known.
He felt the submarine shudder, a strange, silent quiver as though its very atoms were shifting; felt his own body twisted by great impalpable forces, heard himself cry out in wild terror. Then there was only darkness and a horrible rushing as though the little ship was hurtling to the outer ends of space.



COH LANGHAM woke to coppery light streaming through canted ports. Climbing across the tilted deck, he looked out onto low hills alternately tilled and forested, sloping to a green plain. The roofs of what seemed to he him buildings were visible across the first ridge, and just within the range of Langham's vision to the right was a bulking outline that made him stare with a queer sense of vertigo:
A pyramid, flat topped and terraced, worn by centuries but still clear and sharp of outline, the carvings plain — a lot plainer, Coh Langham thought, than when he had seen it a few minutes ago, at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean.
Whirling, he shook Simon Krim to his feet, silently because all he might have said was too wild for utterance. Then he wrenched the hatch open and climbed out, his keen, scarred face alert.
For the first time, he regretted that they carried no weapons on the submarine, and his hands hovered near the massive buckle on his belt.
Nothing stirred. There was stifling heat and a faint hint of sulphur on the air, and an ugly yellow tinge to the murky sun. Here and there were cracks in the plain's turf and falls of loose rock that Coh Langham knew meant recent earthquakes. The low hills and the plain looked familiar; here was where the fissure had run, and there was the pyramid.
The pyramid, now untouched by twelve thousand years of ocean burial. A thought spoke in Langham's mind — a thought so fantastic, so incredible that he shook it angrily away.
Krim was staring about with blank amazement. He saw the pyramid. A look almost of reverent worship came over him, and he whispered:
"Older than the Temple of Sacred Mysteries at Uxmal! God, Coh, what happened?"
Langham's scarlet headcloth shook. "I saw something queer about the water near the pyramid; a sort of hole that seemed to be sucking the water in. I tried to turn...."
"And we got caught." Krim scratched his unkempt head in something like panic. "Where in hell are we?"
"I don't know" said Langham, admitting to himself that he was almost afraid to think. "We'll find somebody and ask."
The submarine was jammed fast in the narrow channel of a stream that flowed deep and swift away from the low side of the canting deck. Langham looked over the other side, and clutched dizzily at Krim.
He was looking down into illimitable emptiness — a hole, like the hole that had been beside the sunken pyramid, with a rim that wasn't a normal, solid rim, but one that wavered and shifted. Up to ground level there was nothing. Then, exactly parallel with the earth, there was water, flowing in a steady stream, salt water, bearing an occasional deep-sea creature that promptly exploded with the release of pressure.
Coh Langham rubbed his scarred chin, and his first mad thought came back with battering-ram force. Turning, he leaped the short distance to the stream's bank, and started toward the buildings that showed over the first little hill.
And then he stopped, because there was a shadow across the sun, and he saw that the roofs were burning.
Simon Krim, lumbering up beside him like a shaggy black bull, cocked his head. "Sounds like a fight. I'll bet no accident started that fire!"
Kukulcan writhed as Coh Langham shrugged his shoulders. "We've got to find out where we are, and that's the only place I see. Anyway, the fight's none of ours. They'll let us alone." He strode off through the hot, dingy sunshine. Krim swore under his breath and followed.
THE picture was clear when they topped the hill. Low rambling buildings built of stone were being gutted by the fire, buildings much finer than a common farm. Loot was piled in jumbled heaps on the trampled grass, and a mob of yelling men had four people cornered under the sod roof of a cow-byre.
Four people; a man like an oak tree, grey and stalwart, two fair-haired striplings whom Langham guessed to be twins, and a thin, dark young man whose free hand pressed a bleeding wound. They fought desperately, but the end was clear. And Coh Langham's gorge rose as he saw how the leader of the mob, a paunchy, great-shouldered man covered all over his swarthy body with ornaments, held his men off so that the sport should be prolonged.
One of the fair-haired lads fell with an axe-blade through his brain. The other cried out "Helva!", and Langham knew that it was no boy, but a woman.

Coh Langham had little use for women, but he couldn't help admiring that splendid girl. She was something new to him. Excitement poured along his veins; in a second his belt was off, wrapped around his tattooed right hand, the great buckle swinging free, and he was striding down the slope.
Krim caught him. "You damned fool, you'll only get us killed!" Langham shook him off. "Start running, if you think you can beat them. They've seen us already."
There was nothing for it but to fight. They stood back to back, seeing in the mad-dog faces of the running men the hopelessness of peaceful advances, even if they could make themselves understood.
Over the attackers' heads, Langham saw that the three still standing under the sod roof were taken and being bound. Then men were rushing at him with drawn swords and heavy scythes, and he knew he was going to die without even knowing where he was.
A squat yellow man cried out, and then a negro, passing it on to others, white and brown and indiscriminate. The ranks split, flowing by the two at bay. Brutish faces stared, filthy paws pointed, weapons fell away into a wary but not deadly circle.
Coh Langham realized abruptly that they were looking at Kukulcan, blue and crimson on his arms and breast.
He realized something else, feeling Krim start as he, too, understood. Both men spoke Quichua and Polynesian and several other dialects, with a smattering of Quanlan. These men spoke a sort of mongrel combination, which Langham found later was a lingua franca spoken everywhere, and which was nearly as clear to the strangers as English.
A man came shouldering through the press; the paunchy, ornamented man who led them. Coh Langham had seen his type before, in a hundred native quarters where crime slinks down the black alleys and carouses in the wine-shops of nights. Very quickly he replaced his belt, and prayed that his weapon had not been noticed.
"Look, Itzan," whispered a one-eyed cutthroat. "He bears the sign of the Creator two-fold on his breast!"
Itzan studied the two, his vast shoulders bowed over his bloody sword, his coarse, cross-breed's face shining with sweat. Little blood-shot eyes traced the twin serpents up Langham's arms, and just for an instant Langham fancied he saw a flicker of fear.Then Itzan shrugged and straightened.
"We take the two of them to Xacul," he said. "Then if they be demons from Naga the Creator, why, the blame will be on Xacul's head, not mine." And he laughed, his belly shaking with the press of mirth that was silent save for a wheezing in his throat.
They were herded to where the three captives stood, the young man white and swaying, the girl like a leashed tigress, the old man with a bitter calm. Itzan laughed again, his ornaments clanking as he walked, and said softly:
"Xacul's commands have been carried out, except for one thing. The old wolf was to die before his cubs were taken to the Master."
He placed the point of his sword at the base of the old man's throat and pressed. Itzan gave a sudden practised twist; the old man fell and was still, and Itzan's laughter wheezed and whistled in his throat.
Coh Langham saw the girl's face. It was like white marble, still and set and terrible.
Past the gutted buildings they were led, Krim and Langham shackled now like the others, and to a meadow where long gleaming metal cars rested on the grass. The cars had no wheels, and there were curving shells at the forward end. Langham, looking, saw Simon Krim's unshaven face as amazed as he knew his own must be.
He had read, in ancient Naga temples in India, of just such ships that flew thirty thousand years before the flood. But he had not quite believed.
THE loot-laden mob split, most of them going off across the meadows to, Langham supposed, other homes waiting to be gutted. Some forty were left, and these were divided between the two cars —Simon Krim and the wounded man in one, Langham and the girl with Itzan in the other. As they were parted, the girl cried "Sigri!" and struggled to break free. Itzan's hand caught her, held her as though she were chained to a post, although Langham was astonished at her strength.

Sigri, swaying against the wide eyed, unbelieving Krim, stained with blood from his wounded side, turned a thin face set with wildly burning eyes, and cried:
"Don't be afraid, Helva. We've already escaped them, and what's happened, has happened!"
"Crazy," thought Langham. And Sigri looked it, his scarlet kilt in ribbons, dark hair streaming from a fillet of gold wire, his thin body quivering like a nervous horse. But suddenly, looking fair into those feverish dark eyes, Langham knew that he was seeing a sane and brilliant man driven by an awful fear, and that his cry to Helva was more a cry of hope than a statement of fact.
Sigri's hand, held tight over the bleeding wound, dropped quickly to his girdle, felt something hidden there, and returned. Only Langham, looking intently, saw the slight movement.
They went into the cars. Globes of clear quartz enclosing intricate prisms were raised just aft of the curving windscreens, covered with shields of what looked like lead, but appeared to be heavier and different in texture. These shields were cranked aside. Slowly a swirling, coruscating brilliance was born in the globes, flashing from facet to facet of the prism, boiling in a splendor of living light. Langham felt a thrumming of power through the body of the ship, and saw the ground dropping away beneath it.
Silently they rose, until the keel made safe clearance of the low hills. Then a second, smaller globe was raised at the stern, so that the ship maintained a steady level, and the cover of the small globe removed. Again Langham saw the birth of light in the prism, felt a surge of power, and the ground was streaming away beneath them.
The two ships fled together under the ugly, shrouded sun. A sulphurous wind snarled around the shield, whipping the girl Helva's long fair hair into Langham's face, catching at the scarlet cloth that bound his own. Coh Langham's square, scarred jaw was set, his eyes eagle-bright above his Roman nose.
"If I'm going to die," he said aloud, "I'm damned if I won't find out where and why first! You, girl, tell me, while that ape-faced butcher is busy up in front."
The girl Helva looked at him, and for the first time, she really saw
Her sea-colored eyes took him in, the dungarees and rubber-soled shoes, strong brown body and scarred brown face, coming at last to rest on Kukulcan. Her hand went to a silver amulet at her throat, and she whispered:
"Who are you, in such strange clothing, with the Creator's symbol on your body?"
"Coh Langham," he said, "from...."
"From Mayax?" interrupted the girl, and something of the awe left her. "A prince of the house of Coh?"
Well, Langham thought, that's who I was named for, and he said, "Yes." Mayax meant Central America, and the Feathered Serpent was the Mayan version of Naga the Creator. Langham wondered whether that whim of decoration was going to do him good or evil. It had saved his life once, but might it yet kill him through giving religious offence?
Then, as the full meaning of Helva's words percolated through his head, the knowledge that he had been fighting off since he first landed struck him squarely between the eyes. Gripping the girl's shoulders in crushing fingers, he demanded:
"What land is this, and what year?"
There was fear in the girl's eyes, fear that he was mad, but she didn't flinch. "This is the Northern Kingdom of Mu, and the year of the Sun is two hundred thousand and six."
Langham's hands fell away. "According to ancient reckoning," he said in a fiat voice, "Mu was that old when she sank. Mu God! I've traveled twelve thousand years in time!"



HELVA caught him fiercely. "What do you know of the sinking of Mu? Are you as mad as Sigri? Or are you a demon, or a godling come to doom Xacul and his butchers?"
Langham shook his head dazedly. "I hardly know myself, Helva."
Her face was clear and lovely, her body strong and full and gracious in tunic. Her loss was in her eyes; the sorrow of them hurt him. Caught in a quite unfamiliar emotional surge, he took her hands in his, the chains of both of them clashing, and said:
"But I want to be your friend. Perhaps we can help each other."
Helva shook her head. "Only God can help us now. We are being taken to Manoa for judgment, and with Xacul, that means death."
"You'll have to tell me what's going on. So much has happened since we came through the hole, and I don't...."
"The Hole!" Helva's fingers sank into his arm. "What do you know about the Hole?"
"Nothing. Only Krim and I were dragged through it somehow in our submarine. That's how we got here."
"Then...then Sigri is right!" whispered Helva, and Langham was startled at the look that came over her face. Not even when she was captured had she shown fear, but it was there now, stark and icy "Sigri is right. But it's mad! Mad!"
There was silence there in the hot wind, with Coh Langham staring into Helva's eyes, that looked beyond at something terrible.
A voice asked, "How goes it, demon?" Coh Langham glared up into Itzan's coarse dark face. He came to his feet, fingers instinctively at his belt, but the girl forestalled him. She sprang like a tigress, silent and blazing eyed, swinging clenched hands weighted with metal cuffs and chain.
Itzan twisted, taking the blow on one great shoulder. His left hand caught Helva's wrists, his right swung open-palmed to her head. Langham caught her as she sagged back, and Itzan, looking down at her, laughed wheezingly until his paunch shook with it.
"Spitfire!" he said. "Xacul will give us rare sport with her!"
There was a red, animal rage surging in Langham, but he fought it down, realizing the futility of violence.
"Who is Xacul?" he demanded. "And why are butchers like you turned loose on the people?"
Itzan's ornaments clashed as he sat down, well out of reach and ready with his sword. He opened his mouth, then grinned and pointed over the side.
"There's the reason. If you are a demon, you should know. If you're not, well, there it is."
"Don't you care?" asked Langham, and Itzan shrugged.
"That's for Xacul to worry about."
Langham looked over the side. For a second he thought the motion of the ship had made him dizzy; the ground was wavering like a badly focussed film. Then he realized that he was watching an earthquake. More as concussion than sound he heard its roar, and saw green meadows slashed as though by a great sword with smoking fingers.
Itzan chuckled. "There won't be any more of those when Xacul and I have killed all you Naga-worshippers."
"Why?" asked Langham incredulously
"You're stupid for a demon," said Itzan. "Xacul tells us that the Creator either never was, or has deserted us, and that those who worship him bring evil on us instead of good. It's very simple. All we have to do is kill everybody, mostly people like the little spitcat with much land and loot, who refuses to deny Naga, or Kukulcan, or the Almighty, or whatever name you choose to call Him. Then with no one to call down evil, the quakes and the fire-spoutings stop:'
"Who is this Xacul?"
"He says he's God." Itzan rose, yawning, stretching his wide, squat body "I don't care. As long as he gives me sport and loot and the wine-shops afterward, he can call himself what he likes:'
Laughing, he added, "Take care of the pretty hell-cat. She mustn't die yet!"
He lumbered away, up forward. Coh Langham's scarred face was murderous. Then Langham said, "Helva! Helva!" and lifted the dazed girl.
THERE was much he wanted to ask her; about Xacul, about the Hole and Sigri, and about this crazy revolution. But Itzan's blow had done something. Langham was glad it had, knowing that emotion too long dammed has ugly ways of breaking out. Helva cried, sitting hunched with her hair over her like a veil; sobbed over her father and her brother and her home until she was cried out. Then she swayed against him like a tired child, and Langham cradled her in his shackled arms.
Looking down at her, feeling the young vitality of her so close, Coh Langham felt again that stirring of unhappiness in him, far stronger than when Krim's words had waked it. He had lost something, what he didn't know. The search had prodded him on during the ten years since his father's fruitless death, and left him as empty handed as when he started.
As always, an impatient anger rose in him, shaking off the mood. But his eyes, as the ship raced through the sulphurous sky, were drawn often to Helva's face.
The low sun was tingeing the coppery murk with red when Coh Langham began to see farms and roads below, with smoke from burning homesteads and groups of men fighting and running. The revolution, he thought, must be very new Presently he saw the walls and terraced buildings of a city rising ahead, and knew that it was Manoa.
He came near to forgetting his own danger. In spite of himself, he was living the dream that archeologists have and never realize; the chance to go back and see how the ruins looked when they were whole and peopled, how men lived and loved and died in the buried cities before they were buried. In this field the fountainhead was lost, and only cryptic hints were scattered throughout the world; hints that were laughed to scorn by most scientists. Now, through some miracle he couldn't understand, he was in Mu, the land whence, if you believed what the ruins and the carvings told you, the ten tribes descended from Adam and Eve had gone out to colonize the world, black, white, brown, and yellow.
The girl asleep in his arms was pure Norse, speaking the Quanlan of ancient Norway. King Quetzal had led his fair-haired people from Mayax to Cimmeria, leaving legends of blond Indians all through Central America. Itzan was mixed swarthy white, the Latin forerunners, and Negro, with a streak of brown thrown in. Brown that had gone from Hiranypura in Mu to India, taking the Naga symbol with them.
Now, just ahead, rose the towering majesty of a pyramid, which had gone with the Murians to Central America, on to lost Atlantis, and from there with a priest's son named Thoth to Sais in Egypt.
The other ship, bearing Krim and Sigri, drew in closer. Langham saw his partner's shaggy head thrust over the side, avidly examining everything, and grinned. Apparently nothing worried him but seeing as much of Mu as he could. Irrationally, Langham was suddenly envious.
Looking at the glowing balls of crystal, he wondered for the hundredth time what raised the ships and made them go. It was not until much later that he learned that the Murians had for centuries had the secret of the cosmic ray, catching the boundless power in the prisms and using it to change the molecular vibration patterns of metals so that a repulsion field was created. Here in Mu, thousands of years before the Tertiary Era, when the world was flat because the mountains had not yet been born, the secret of anti-gravity was in everyday use.
In that way the great slabs of Baalbek, the images of Easter Island had been lifted and set in place. Just a network of metal set around the vast dressed blocks, the cosmic-ray globes unshielded, and the stones floated weightless as toy balloons.
The ships passed the city walls; there were fine stone buildings and paved streets black with people, and here and there fighting and looting still going on. The vast pyramid loomed above everything. Built around its base was the carven magnificence of a palace. The ships headed straight for the broad flat top of the pyramid, settled down.
Helva woke, sliding out of his arms with a look of silent gratitude.
Pushing back her golden mane of hair, she said quietly, "Because of this day, we might have been comrades. I'm sorry, Coh, that we must die — and without vengeance!"
Her sea-eyes were on Itzan's bejeweled ungainliness, and Langham remembered seeing the same look in the eyes of a wounded she-leopard. Then the cross-breed's great shoulders were bent above them, and he said:
"Come and meet God, and celebrate the end of earthquakes! At least, we'll celebrate. Xacul is inclined to be too quick and unimaginative; he spoils our sport if we don't take care."
As they were herded out of the car to be joined with Krim and Sigri, Langham asked for the third time, "Who is Xacul?"
Helva shook her head. "He came out of the southern forests; men say he was a hunter. My father said he was mad, but the people are driven mad too, with fear of the quakes, and they follow him. He has been preaching to them for a long time. Two days ago there was a quake that destroyed many towns and many people, and he said it was a sign for them to rise and destroy us. You have seen."
Coh Langham nodded. He had seen. And he hated Xacul as he hated the devil, before he ever saw him.
Simon Krim was as eagerly watchful as a child at a circus. He had bound Sigri's wound with strips from his undershirt, and the slender, feverish man seemed to have caught a little strength. Langham ached to question him, but Itzan forbade further speech.
The four and their guards, headed by Itzan, marched down a ramp that spiraled toward the ground, passing level after level of rooms in which Langham glimpsed parchments and maps and instruments, priceless records of a lost world. Simon Krim saw them too; Langham heard him swear as though the heart was being ripped out of him, and smiled. It would be nice to care as much as that about anything.
The ramp widened to a vast hall covered with magnificent murals and roofed with beams of gilded cedar. Ahead there were bronze doors twenty feet high, with the symbols of the Sacred Four and the flat Uighur Lahun set in jewels upon them. Itzan stopped to speak with the gilt-armored guards before the doors, and Langham felt a body sag close against him.
It was Sigri. At first he thought the man had fainted. Then he heard his urgent whisper, and knew that he was shamming. "Prophesy to Xacul!" Sigri's nervous vitality was like electricity to
Langham. "Prophesy the destruction of Mu! It may win us time." Langham had a sudden horrible premonition. "Destruction?" "At dawn. I know!"
Sigri staggered away as the guards moved in. The great bronze doors swung open to a wild thrumming of harps, and they marched into Xacul's judgment chamber.



COH LANGHAM'S gaze swept across the floor inlaid with the lotus symbol of Mu, past two harpers alone in silent splendor, up seven steps of black basalt to the throne, which was a lotus flower cut from a single block of chrysoprase. There it stopped, seeing the hunter from the southern forests who called himself God.
Dull-gleaming ebony against the pale green lotus, with no stitch nor ornament on him but a leather clout, his body a towering symmetry of muscle and sinew striped across the breast with the five great scars of a leopard's claws; straight black hair unbound, framing a face of Grecian purity, the face of a Tamil prince; sombre dark eyes that held still, far flames in their depths, and a little marmoset nestled against the curve of his columned neck; this was Xacul, who would stop the earthquake.
He looked at them like a man surfeited with wine.
"Today," he murmured, "I have killed a king. No lesser blood shall wash away the taste of that killing, until I have savored it."
Itzan swore under his breath. "But, Lord, these two are demons," he said hopefully. "The tall one bears the Snake on his breast. He says they have come from the Eternal to punish you."
Xacul, sunk and dazed in his vaulting dream, stroked the tiny marmoset and said softly:
"There is no Eternal, and I am Lord. My word goes through the land, even to the place of the Sun himself. In five moons I will rule all Mu, having the Colonies at my feet. Take these traitors below to the dungeons; tomorrow I will kill them. But today, I have spilled the blood of a king!"
Itzan's vast shoulders shrugged resignedly. Coh Langham, looking back as they were led out, saw those dark eyes still fixed on some mad and splendid distance, the marmoset like a grey puff-ball on an ebon shoulder.
"Get torches," said Itzan, and turned to his prisoners. "The regular
prison is full, so you must go into the old pits. And you may stay there a week, Xacul has so many piled up ahead of you. There's a fine crop; it'll take me some time to get through them."
"You?" asked Langham. "Do you execute them all?"
"Only the strongest men. The rest the common butcher handles. The thing is, Xacul wants them killed quickly. I like a little sport. I let them fight me, man to man. Of course, I can't take too many chances, so their arms aren't as good as mine, but at least, they have a sporting chance."
Langham grunted. The torches were brought, and the guards turned off down a side corridor that presently went down and down without a break. Langham saw Sigri's face in the torchlight, thin and wild-eyed, and frightened. And once more there was that furtive movement to something hidden in his girdle.
"It was no use to prophesy," whispered Langham. "Xacul is quite mad. It either would have made no impression on him, or would have angered him to killing us out of hand."
Sigri nodded. "But it's true. We must escape before dawn!"
They came into a stone corridor that reeked of moldy dampness, where phosphorescent fungi held the torchlight after it was past. And twice on that descent Langham felt the earth heave and groan under him. The quakes hadn't yet obeyed Xacul.
Itzan stopped at last before the first of a row of rusty metal doors. "I'll put you together, because I don't want you going mad or committing suicide before your turn comes. The two demons should fight well; and I may even give the pretty spitcat a chance, by way of variety!"
Langham would have beaten Itzan's head in if he could have reached him. But the spears prodded them into the cell and the door clanged shut. Langharn heard Itzan's wheezing laughter mingling with the retreating sandal-scuffs. Then there were darkness and silence.
The earth rolled and shivered and was still. Langham heard Helva's quick-drawn breath, and then her voice, saying:
"Sigri! These men came through the Hole!"

"I know; the one called Krim told me. Again Langham sensed the driving nerve force in Sigir. He was like a taut wire, pulled almost to the breaking point. "Listen to me. You too, Helva, for I've never told you everything. I've hoped I was wrong, but the quakes and the fire-spoutings leave no doubt.
"You know the pyramid beside the Hole.When I was a small boy, it fascinated me so that I spent all my time there, while the others were playing. Krim will understand; it was the ancient things that drew me, the carvings on the walls. Seven thousand years old, and the secret has been lost. It's taken me all my life to decipher those carvings, but I've done it. And I wish I had never seen them!"
SIGRI'S voice shook. Then it went on again, calm over a depth of near hysteria. "No, I don't mean that. I was happy, working over those carvings, making them give up their secret. It's the secret that terrifies me!
"Tomorrow at dawn, the carvings say, this land, this beautiful land of mine will be destroyed. All the palaces, the temples, the farmlands, the great cities and the quiet places, all destroyed! Krim says it is true, that Mu will sink.That alone would be enough. But..."
His voice broke off weakly. Langham heard a rustle, a groan, a soft thud. Sigri had sat down, and his voice came again, stronger.
"The carvings say something else, something so strange that I thought for a long time I must be wrong in my translation. But the Hole has always been there. You know that now! The carvings explain it. There is much I don't understand; I'm no scientist, only a lover of the past, But I'll try and tell you. You must understand! It means your lives."
There was a pause. Langham waited, feeling Helva taut beside him, sensing Simon Krim's methodical intentness. Sigri began again, slowly, choosing his words with care.
"The universe, according to the carvings, is something like a spool, winding the ribbon of time around it. The axis of the spool is the fourth dimension. By tapping it, you can go to any spot in happened time. So much I can grasp. But the rest is incredible!
"The man who built the pyramid and made the carvings must have been myself! Because he, who found the way to tap the fourth dimension by twisting the warp of time and space as an augur bores wood, did so in order to escape the destruction of Mu! On the very dawn of Mu's sinking, he escaped to the past, seven thousand years.
"Now the cycle has been relived. I am again at the starting point. If Helva and I don't repeat the first action — the man took his sister with him — we'll not only be destroyed with Mu, but we'll cause some horrible disruption in the time-stream. Happened time cannot be altered!"
There was silence for some time. Then Krim said, "But the Hole only sucks one way. How can you go back through it?"
"You don't understand." Sigri's voice was ragged with urgency. "The Hole was first made when Mu was as she is now. You came upon it as Mu is in your time, which hadn't happened when — when I went through first. Dawn tomorrow ends the cycle. The revolving time-factors will close the Hole as the time of its first boring approaches. I'll have to bore it again, using the time machine that is also in the pyramid.
"There will be a moment, before the closing, when the field will be neutralized, so that you can escape back to your own time. You can't come with us, because you didn't come the first time, and we can't alter what's happened. If you stay, it means destruction."
Langham was silent, thinking hard. Once he would have said Sigri was mad. But there was no doubt that the Hole existed.
"I don't understand," he said at length. "You say that happened time may not be altered. Yet this time you copy the secret from a carven wall, not discover it yourself. We weren't here the first time. Xacul must have been, but were you captured?"
Sigri said slowly, "I don't know. Some of the carvings have been destroyed by quakes. That has puzzled me too, but the best I can figure is that some things may be fitted into the time-stream without disturbing it, if the place is wisely chosen, so that men can travel in time if they know how. Other things would conflict with happened things that were important, or leave a gap in time. In other words, although the method of approach may differ, the things that have happened must happen again."

Langham grunted. "Perhaps. But escape isn't going to be easy. It's a long Hight back, and it was sundown when we came into Manoa."
"There was a far-off roaring, coming closer. The stones leaped under them, rocked for two solid minutes, and were still. From the sound and feel, Coh Langham, who knew earthquakes, decided that the palace was built directly over a fault. If Sigri was right, if the convulsion that had plunged the continent to her death was starting, the palace would be first to go down.
He thought of the immeasurable tons of stone above them and shuddered. Yes, they must get out. Even if Sigri was crazy as a loon, there were Xacul and his butcher Itzan, waiting.



"THERE'S one thing more," said Sigri. It was almost a groan. "I don't know how the time-machine works. Alone, I haven't been able to decipher the carvings." There was a rustle as he drew something from his girdle; the thing, Langham knew, that he had been terrified of losing. "I was afraid another quake might destroy them, so I copied them on a strip of linen. You, Krim; you love the old things, like I do. Can you help me?"
Memories rose in Langham; things taught him in boyhood by his father, things learned from crumbling walls and cracked clay tablets. He stepped forward. "I'll help."
There was a sudden burst of light in the blackness as Simon Krim's cigarette lighter crackled, The tiny flame showed his face, heavy and dark-stubbled under his tangled hair, his eyes very steady
"You had the makings of an archeologist when you were a boy, Coh," he said slowly "You wasted them. If Sigri, with his years of work, couldn't crack those carvings, you wouldn't be any more help than — than Itzan." He stopped, studying Coh Langham in the feeble glimmer of the flame.
"You're like Itzan, Coh," he said abruptly. "Sensation is all you live for. I imagine you're getting a great kick out of this. No, you can't help us, unless you can figure out some way to get us out of here. Which I doubt."
He squatted down beside Sigri, bending over the strip of cloth, and in a second he and the Murian were off in a world of their own. Langham glared at them a moment, stung, furious. Then he turned to pacing restlessly up and down the cell, purposely keeping his eyes from the dull glint of gold that was Helva's hair. He knew that she was studying him from where she sat against the wall, and wished suddenly that she wouldn't.
Escape. He had to think out some way to escape. Somehow the thoughts wouldn't come, and his gaze kept going unbidden to the corner where the two men labored in the feeble light.
Up and down, up and down, with Kukulcan rippling to his impatient movements, his scarred hawk face catching bronze glints from the lighter-flame. Krim's words rang in his mind, pricking him to a blind anger. Like Itzan, was he, living only for sensation? Far better than living like a grub, sweating his life away like his father had, for nothing.
And yet, was it?
He stopped, standing tigerishly over the two men, lean hands at his belt. The old anger was hot in him, and suddenly he recognized it for what it was; a defense, a wall he had built against truth. It cooled away, leaving an ash of bitter loneliness. For ten years he had chased excitement, trying to drown the longing in him that he hadn't admitted even to himself. Now he was facing the ultimate thrill, death, and he had nothing to show for the days he had lived.
Krim and Sigri would have their monuments; small and unimportant, perhaps, but the fruits of work they had done because they loved it. His father had had that, too. He himself would have nothing.
Looking at those two, lost even to fear, Coh Langham realized the bitterest thing of all. He didn't belong. There was no one he could call friend, no group to which he was drawn. It wasn't just archeology. It would have been the same in any line of work. He was nothing, like Itzan, a creature living solely for its own pleasure.
He wanted to help, and he was barred. His strength, his courage, were useless here. And he had nothing else to offer. He was merely a body, following a lone and aimless track, wasting soul and brain –and life.
He turned suddenly and went down beside the girl; he couldn't have said why. He took her hands in his and bent his head over them, and whispered:
"I've been a fool, Helva. A fool, a fool!"
How long he stayed that way he never knew Quakes slid down the fault, shook them, roared on. Krim and Sigri labored on. Helva never spoke, but her hands were strong and comradely in his. They calmed him, brought back his confidence, so that hope began to rise again. And they brought something else, a dim something he didn't understand.
Krim stirred, stretching cramped muscles. "We've cracked it! Now all we need is time."
Helva's fingers tightened suddenly. Langham listened, then sprang up. "Hide the linen!" he whispered. "Someone's coming!"
Footsteps and torchlight; many men, armed. The door grated open, and Itzan stood grinning at them, jeweled arms folded above his paunch.
"God wants to see you," he said. "These quakes you're making upset his dinner, demon, and I'm to punish you by death, right in the Lotus Hall.Yes, all of you; but the tall demon first!"The
Lotus Hall was crowded with men, sitting at long trestle tables down both sides of the vast room. The air was heavy with wine and the rich odors of food, and the harpers, over against the dais, played wild, throbbing music. In the cleared space between the tables a man danced near-naked with shining swords.
There were no women. And above the feasting and the dancer, a tower of ebony rising from a pale green base, Xacul sat and brooded, fondling the marmoset.
The music broke, the dancer stopped, the feasters were silent. Xacul's eyes, dark-veiled flames set in a Grecian mask of jet, dwelt on Coh Langham and the writhing splendor of Kukulcan.
"Demon," he said softly, "you dare too much.You mock me with these quakes. It is only because they fear me more than the earth-shock that my people stay at this feast; and I must show them that no demon is mightier than I.
"Slay him, Itzan!"
Coh Langham leaped forward. "Why Itzan?" he cried. "Why not you, Xacul?"
A gasp ran around the room. Xacul smiled and held out his right Langham saw that it was splashed to the elbow with dried blood.
"This was the blood of a king," murmured Xacul. "Three are left; the Southern and the Middle Kings, and the King of Kings, the Sun of Mu himself. To these three only will I bend my hand:'
"Then I will prophesy!" cried Langham. A chance, perhaps; anything to gain time. "These little quakes are only the forerunners. Mu dies with the morning sun, and you with it, Xacul. The Eternal has sent me to warn you. Let us go, and perhaps He will have mercy."
Xacul's eyes were veiled. He stroked the marmoset, and whispered, "Slay him, Itzan!"
Coh Langham saw Helva's face, saw reflected in it what was in his own heart. He knew then that he loved her. Now that he knew his mistake, now that he could live, he couldn't die! Xacul was mad, and the only way to break him was to break his godship, to show his crazed mind a greater power. And Langham groaned. Even if Itzan didn't kill him, he couldn't see a way to win freedom from Xacul.
The harps struck a wild chord as Itzan strode forward, and in the same instant the ground roared and shook beneath them. The harps were abruptly silent, though the player's hands still plucked the strings, save for a weird, scattered disharmony.
Langham felt a shivering inside his ears and staggered dizzily. All over the room men swayed for a split second. Then the earth was silent and the dizziness was gone.
"The earthquake," Langham thought. Then he looked at the harps and a fierce light burst in his scarred hawk face.
He smiled as he whipped off his belt and stood to meet Itzan, thong around his tattooed hand, the great buckle swinging free. If he could win this fight, there as a way, perhaps.
Itzan came, vast shoulders hunched, sword swinging. Langham took a deep breath. Everything he had learned of fighting out there on the edges of the world he was going to need now.
They were alone between the tables, ringed with staring, nervous faces, the floor jarring under them and a rolling of thunder in the distance — thunder that Langham recognized as a volcano in eruption.The time was growing desperately short.
Itzan's sword swung high, to end the fight with a single stroke. Langham crouched under it like a cat, sprang aside and leaped past, aiming a slashing blow that took Itzan under the ear.The cross-breed staggered and swore. He hadn't realized the portent of that heavy buckle. He came in again more warily, but Langham, vastly quicker of foot, cut him twice about the face before his next blow was aimed.
Itzan grinned suddenly. His head sank like a boxer's between his shoulders. His left arm, shielded with broad bracelets, came up to protect his face, and his long blade whistled as it swung. Langham's only target now was the thick ridge of muscle that ran across his shoulders. His only choice was to fall back before that murderous sword.
Back and back, leaping and dodging, seeking desperately for an opening, while the palace-pyramid groaned and shuddered almost with the regularity of a man's heartbeats and the tense-faced watchers drew closer to panic. Xacul, on his lotus throne, neither moved nor spoke.
Langham tripped suddenly, went to one knee and crouched there, panting as though spent, and Itzan, sure now of victory, paused for one instant with his sword upraised for the death-stroke, while his laughter wheezed and bubbled in his throat. And Langham's right arm swung like a striking snake.
The heavy buckle caught Itzan's heaving belly fair, stopping his laughter in a grunt of pain. His sword rang on the rock, but Langham was not beneath it. His lithe body shot in against Itzan's knees, crashing him backward to the floor, and in the instant that he lay half-stunned, Langham's belt was around his throat, Langham's knees were crushing his chest, and the iron muscles were straining across Langham's back.
FOR the space of three long breaths, the Lotus Hall was silent.Then there sounded a snap like a twig breaking, and Coh Langham rose laughing from the body of Itzan, with Kukulcan sweat-shining on his heaving chest.
"I've killed your butcher, Xacul," he cried. "Naga protects me. Now is my blood worth your spilling?"
Xacul's answer whispered across the nervous quiet. "I was a hunter, and in the hot green forests I learned my strength. I am master of the trees, for I cut down the mightiest to build my shelter. I am master of men, for I have broken the strongest in my hands. I am master even of the beasts, for —" and he touched the five great scars on his breast — "I have killed the black leopard alone and weaponless. And one day I stood on a spur of rock while a mountain burst and fires flowed around me and the ground was shaken and split, and I was not harmed. And I knew then that I was master of all things. I am God!"
"Yet," said Langham, "I will show you a greater power, And any man who touches me to prevent me, shall die as Itzan died!" He swung about, crying, "Helva!"
She came, straight and unafraid across the shuddering stone, her hair a golden banner in the torch-flames. Coh Langham gripped her shoulders, and she paled before the urgency in his face.
"I don't know whether you play the harp," he said. "But go and play it, girl! Wait for the earthquakes and strike only the low notes. Strike them hard!" Taking his handkerchief, he ripped it apart and thrust half of it into her hand. "Stuff your ears with this. If you feel dizzy, hang onto something or lie on the floor. But don't stop hitting those strings!"
She went, and the harpers fled before Langham's imperious gesture. Langham yelled in English, "Krim! Stuff your ears with cloth, and make Sigri do it too. Watch yourselves!"
There was a sudden roaring shock that nearly threw him.
Great cracks opened in the walls and floor, and there was sound outside as of heavy things bounding and falling. Panic, hovering over the men at the tables, caught them now by the throat. God or no God, Xacul's authority, already weakened by Langham's unpunished challenge, lost its grip on them. They surged out like maddened cattle for the streets, leaving only trampled wreckage.
For an instant Langham thought he saw the way clear to escape; probably the soldiers that filled the halls had already run away. Then Xacul strode by him like a black colossus, and before Langham could gather his party and break for the door, it was barred and Xacul stood before it, arms folded across his scarred chest, the marmoset hugging his shoulder.
Langham gasped. He had not realized Xacul's size. Now, standing straight and on a level with him, he saw that Xacul's height was close to seven feet and that his shoulders were broader by four hands' breadth than burly Simon Krim's. To this giant, who had killed a black leopard unarmed, physical assault such as he and Krim could offer would be merely the slappings of children,
"Play, Helva!" he shouted. "Play!"
Low thunder drummed in the distance where volcanoes burst. The earthquakes boomed along the fault beneath them. And Helva's fingers swept the harp-strings into thrumming life.
The low notes met and mingled. And Xacul said softly:
"You are strong, demon.You are worthy of death at my hands."
Langham said, "The Snake protects me! Without arms I'll overthrow you, make you helpless as a babe to stand erect! You are no god, Xacul, and I'll prove it!"
IN HIS heart Coh Langham prayed — prayed desperately that what had happened once might happen again.
Back and back he went before Xacul's slow advance, across the cracked and rocking lotus floor. Krim stood white-faced in the shadows with Sigri leaning against him. Helva bent across the harp-strings. And the muted thunder, the earth-deep drumroll surged and echoed against the music.
Back back, praying that the harp would not be drowned, praying that the palace would not be thrown down, praying that Helva should strike the right chord before Xacul's hand took his throat and crushed it.
"Louder, Helva! Louder and deeper!" He didn't know whether she could hear him; the sounds were dim in his muffled ears.
Back and back he went across the shuddering stones, until the steps of the dais caught his heels and tripped him, so that he lay against them, watching Xacul's black face bend over him. And suddenly Helva's hands found a chord, a chord that met and silenced the low, dull thunder and was itself silenced. From the harp-strings broke a wild disharmony, so close to the two men that even through the cloth in his ears Langham heard it, and felt the vast shuddering of silent noise in the air.
Again and again, under Helva's strong brown hands that voiceless chord surged out. Great eddies of tortured air whirled about them, silent echoes were flung thundering from the walls and ceiling. Langham's head was filled with a rushing dizziness, a sense of sound beating its wings to be heard. He saw Helva's body sag against the harp, but her hands never faltered on the strings.
Xacul stopped, his eyes wide and burning, and the marmoset shrieked on his shoulder. His hands went to his head, and he swayed.
"You're beaten, Xacul!" shouted Langham. "I have overthrown you.You are no God, only a man. A man, Xacul, a man!"
Xacul fell, sprawling on the riven stones. He tried to rise, and fell again, helpless as a baby. Langham saw his face. There was terror in it, but most of all a great crushing despair.
Coh Langham rose and stood over him, fighting for balance, and somehow there was no joy in his triumph. He looked at Xacul's mighty body thrown in useless beauty on the stones, at his eyes that were blank and cold and fixed on a black and hideous distance.
"I am no god," Xacul whispered. "I am no god. I am no god!"
Helva fell beside the harp. The horrible compression, the shuddering of leashed sound was gone, leaving only the muttering of the earth and the far volcanoes. Langham picked her up, carried her toward the door. A shock stronger than any before struck as the four went out, and Langham, looking back through the veil of dust that fell from cracking walls, saw Xacul still lying on the broken lotus paving, with the little marmoset huddled at his throat.



THE pyramid was rocking dangerously as they fled up the ramp to where the flying ships were kept. The end was near. Langham held Helva until she found her feet. She whispered, "What did we do?"
Langham told her, jerkily and without pride, as they struggled upward through a hell of cracking walls and falling rock and dust.
"You remember how the harps sounded when Itzan came out to fight me, and how the low notes were blanked out when the quake struck? Everyone in the hall was dizzy for a minute. I thought it was the quake. Then I realized that the noise of the earth, which wasn't very strong, had neutralized...look out!"
He held her as a mass of rock fell from the ceiling, almost blocking the passageway. They climbed over, Krim helping the feverish Sigri, and Langham went on.
"It neutralized the sound of the harp-strings, as any two notes in the same phase will neutralize each other. The vibrations didn't quite match; the disharmony we heard was the sum of the difference between the notes. But between the 'different notes' and the tremendous silent vibrations, the air in the hall was set in motion in a freakish way. The vibrations in the air apparently transmitted themselves to the lymph in the utriculus of the ear. That's the fluid that presses on the balance hairs and tells us which way is up. The balance centers were so confused that we nearly fell.
"I thought that what happened — God! Feel that jar! We've got to hurry! — might happen again, so I sent you to the harp and prayed. You finally hit it right. Xacul's balance centers were completely deranged. Of course, when he fell as I told him he would, and he saw me standing, his faith in himself was broken." Lang-ham's mouth made a grim line above his scarred chin. "He was mad, and deadly. I had to do it. But I can't help feeling..."
They came out onto the flat top, under a moon as veiled and turgid as the sun had been, and stopped involuntarily. From west to east the northern sky was filled with flame where volcanoes burst, a vast leaping glare that flooded the whole country. In its light the land shook like a troubled sea, filled with the crash of falling buildings and the shrieks of little beings that ran and were swallowed up. Deep in the earth there were great drums booming, answered with thunder and dry lightning from low-scudding clouds, and from somewhere, far off, came a great rushing of water as the sea engulfed the lowlands.
Coh Langham thought of the age-old symbol of the lotus drowned, and was filled with a longing and a tight-throated pity.
The parapet broke away with part of the roof. Langham leaped for the nearest ship, giving Krim a hand with Sigri while Helva cranked furiously at the anti-gravity globe. The car shot upward, and Langham, looking back, saw the pyramid collapse onto the ruins of the palace like a child's castle of pebbles undermined by the sea.
Hot, sulphurous wind tore at him as he raised the directional globe. Krim and Sigri were lost again in their private world, huddled over the linen in the light of the larger globe. Langham smiled, but he was no longer bitter. He knew now what he wanted.
He took Helva in his arms, down on the floor of the pitching ship; his scarred hawk face was gentle, and the restlessness was gone from his eyes. "Helva," he said, "I can't leave you."
Her wind-whipped hair caressed him. "You must. There is no other way." Her hands tightened suddenly on his wrists, and her face was hidden.
"There may be a way," he whispered. "Kiss me, and let me think."
On westward, they went, above the deathbed of a continent, over toppling hills and riven fields and lakes of sudden fire. Dawn was pale through the sprouting flames when they sighted the pyramid, miles away but still standing.
Krim raised his shaggy head, and said wearily, "We've done it. We can run the time machine."
"Will it hold four, Sigri?" asked Langham.
Sigri's dark eyes went wide in his white face. "Easily. Why?"
"Well," said Coh Langham slowly, "it seems I've made a mess of my life in one time. I'd like to try righting it in another. You see, I've just discovered I was born to be an archeologist, and it's seldom one can go back to his ruins when they were new! I think I know Krim well enough to know he won't pass up the chance either. I hope not, because I'm going to need him, to teach me the things I need to know. Later, perhaps, when we've written a book about Mu that'll knock the greybeards out of their complacency, we'll go back to our own time. I'd like Helva to see London and the Rhine and Switzerland...."
He stopped at the sight of Krim's face, and laughed. Then he held out his hand. Krim took it and crushed it without speaking.
Helva's hands were tight on Langham's shoulders. "What are you saying? You can't come with us. Sigri says it would mean destruction, for us and everyone!"
"Sigri's theory has too many holes in it. He says that the large, the important things must not be altered. Who can judge what an 'important' thing is? Sometimes the smallest things change continents. And surely if the big things happened, the little things did too, and can't be changed by so much as the cutting of a fingernail.
"He says that he and Helva must go through the Hole again, because it was done before, or suffer dire consequences. I don't think so, except that they'd surely be killed with the rest of the Murians if they stayed. I don't think so because no other part of their lives has exactly coincided with the lives of the first two who made the Hole. Therefore, if some things could be altered on the 'ribbon of time,' so could others."
DAWN brightened where the land burned itself out. The pyramid loomed closer. Langham went on.
"I think this is nearer right, Sigri. I think that instead of one ribbon wound on the spool of the universe, there are many, existing in different space-time continuums as people exist in different room's, without conflict. I think that each given time has a problematical future, a 'might-have-happened; and that if one goes back in time, one simply starts another ribbon winding on the cosmic spool toward another future, without disturbing the one, or the many, that already exist.
"In other words, Sigri, instead of reliving happened time, you have simply come to a similar point on the new ribbon that the first Sigri started.Your future hasn't already been lived; it's as problematical as mine or Krim's.
"How about it, Sigri? Does it appeal to your sense of logic?"
"Yes," answered the Murian thoughtfully. "Yes, it does. As I say, I'm no scientist. But I'm willing to take the chance." His brilliant dark eyes went to Helva. The girl's smile was glorious. Sigri held out a hesitant hand.
"This means friendship, doesn't it? After what you saved us from, Coh, I could be nothing but your friend. You, Krim; we are friends already!"
Langham felt, for the first time in his life, almost insanely happy as he sent the ship plunging down.
The ground groaned and split about them as they dashed for the doorway. White, staggering, Sigri led them to a strange machine in the dark interior; a circular platform surmounted by a vast corkscrew spiral of metal.
"On the platform!" he shouted, and threw a switch on a complex control-board, A prism began to whirl within the coil.
Helva's upturned face smiled at him in the coruscating brilliance. Langham had a fleeting glimpse of stone walls split and falling beyond a swirl of alien light. Then he was flying through blind, whirling space to start another ribbon winding on the cosmic spool.

3.5 out of 5

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