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of smoke from the erupting volcanoes
filled the air. Winds were shrieking like fiends, and
the sickening heave and fall of the solid ground
beneath them continued.
T
Choking and gasping as he breathed the
superheated, sulphurous fumes, Curt Newton
struggled to the side of Joan.
"Lie down!" he yelled to her over the tumult.
"This will soon pass."
Grag's tremendous voice shouted through the
infernal uproar. "Chief, the ship's framework is
going to break loose!"
A new and appalling sound had entered the
symphony of destruction. It was the heavy rumbling
and thumping of a great mass rocking on the
ground.
The heavy metal framewrk of the Phoenix was
rocking wildly in its rough cradle as the quakes
continued. It threatened to roll free entirely, to roll
down the knoll and crush out their camp and
themselves.
"Get away!" shrieked a scared mutineer. "She'll
58
THE FACE OF THE DEEP
come loose on us any minute!"
"No!" blared Captain Future's voice. "We've got
to pin her dow ! Grag, get the sledges and some of
the smaller beams for stakes! Otho, grab those
sledge-cables and bring them!"
Not even the terrifying nature of their situation
could temper the instant loyalty and obedience of
the Futuremen. They sprang to obey.
And Curt found big Kim Ivan beside him as he
ran to help Otho unfasten the tough, strong cables
by which they had drawn the ore-sledges.
"If she goes when we're beside her, we'll never
see the Moon again!" gasped Otho as they ran
toward the ship with the cables.
Clang! Clang! Grag towered like an incredible
metal giant in the storm, using the heaviest of the
sledges to drive small, straight metal beams deep
into the ground beside the Phoenix.
The torpedo-shape:d framework, upon which
they had expended such tremendous toil and
thought, was leaning toward them threateningly
with each new heave of the quake. If it broke loose,
it would smash itself and them, too.
Curt and Otho fumbled furiously in the darkness
to tie their cables to the stakes and then to the lower
beams of the frame. Kim Ivan had found a sledge
and was helping Grag drive more stakes, while
George McClinton had groped his way to them to
help.
"Tighten those cables! Put two more on each
side!" Curt shouted.
The framework was securely lashed down to the
stakes. Now the tremors seemed subsiding a little.
But now the buffeting winds were rising to a gale
of hurricane force.
For two hours, they all lay flat upon the ground
while the raging gale swept over them. By the end
of that time, the quakes had ceased except for an
occasional quiver. The disastrophic roar of shifting
rock beneath had stopped, and the eruption of the
volcanoes seemed lessening.
AWN came as the gale died down. The
feeble, murky light disclosed a scene of
destruction in their camp. The grimed, haggard
castaways surveyed it in mute dismay.
D
The framework of the Phoenix was undamaged,
except for a bent beam which could soon be
straightened. The huge barrel-like cacti still
towered unharmed at the high central point of the
clearing. But nearly everything else was wrecked.
Most of the stockade was down, all the huts but one
had collapsed, and their cyclotrons, tools and
supplies were covered with debris.
Captain Future discovered that none of them had
been seriously injured, though there were many
bruises and minor hurts.
"By the Sun, I never thought I'd see another
day," declared Kim Ivan feelingly. "I sure thought
the cursed planetoid was cracking up."
"This is a warning," Curt told them urgently.
"We can expect more and heavier cataclysms as
Astarfall draws nearer the System. This unstable
little world is starting to respond to the
gravitational perturbations that in a couple of weeks
will shatter it completely."
"Can we finish the Phoenix in time?" Joan asked
breathlessly.
"We've got to," Curt said tightly. "And we've got
to find the calcium which will enable us to operate
it."
He detailed a small number of the men to clear
up the battered camp. The rest he drove throughout
the day with unremitting energy.
Grag and George McClinton straightened the
few bent beams of the ship-frame, by softening the
metal with atomic welders and exerting pressure
upon it with improvised jacks. Meanwhile, Captain
Future and Otho supervised the ceaseless operation
of the big smelters.
They toiled all through that day casting the big
beryllium alloy plates for the hull. The work parties
of the mutineers brought constant new loads of ore
upon their makeshift sledges. There was a quality
of scared desperation in the way the convicts
worked this day. They had been thoroughly
impressed by the catastrophic outbreak of the night.
The Brain, returning that evening from his
ceaseless search for calcium, reported that the
whole volcanic area was in violent activity.
"New craters have broken out in the eastern
section, and the Canyon of Chaos has partly
collapsed on itself and is now a large lake of lava, "
he stated.
Curt nodded grimly. "The increasing shocks are
allowing the radioactive hellfire at Astarfall's core
to gush to the surface. It'll get rapidly worse. But
what about the calcium?"
"Curtis, I haven't seen a sign of the element,"
Simon Wright confessed. "It and certain related
elements like potassium and scandium just do not
seem to exist upon this world."
59
THE FACE OF THE DEEP
"If we can only find a few pounds of the stuff,
it'll be enough," Captain Future sweated. "Even a
pound or so would at least allow us to use the cycs
long enough to take off."
That night Grag stood watch over the camp. But
since the tireless robot could not alone keep watch
over all the sleepers, young Rih Quili shared his
guard.
But the next morning Rih Quili himself was
missing. It was tragically obvious that the [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]




 

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