A World of Wonders!
moment, as the hundreds of spheres drove up
toward us, Darrell and I stared transfixed with horror. Long before we
could turn, could win back up to the shaft’s opening, they would be
upon us with their blasting yellow rays.
In an instant, it seemed, they were beneath
us, whirling straight up, and then suddenly they had changed their
formation a little, spreading out and swerving to one side. Before I
could comprehend what had happened they were flashing up past us up
toward the molten curving roof far overhead!
“The shaft!” Darrell was exclaiming. “They’ve
gone to the shaft, another hundred spheres—but why?”
“I think I know,” I said. “It must be that
this hundred spheres have gone up to relieve the hundred guarding the
shaft’s mouththey have been guarding it now for more than a day.”
He nodded. “That must be it,” he said, “but
for the moment it seemed all up with us.”
We turned our attention back toward the great
strange world beneath, toward which we were still dropping in our
humming sphere. I gradually decreased our speed until, when we shot
down among the swarms of spheres that came and went above the
transparent streets and structures of this world, we were moving at a
All about us the spheres were swarming and
through their control section windows we could glimpse the great white
flesh monsters inside at the controls. We took care to crouch as low as
possible over the controls of our own great globe and, moving as we
were, there seemed small possibility that any of the creatures in the
flying spheres about us would recognize us as different from themselves.
As we shot among them Darrell and I surveyed
with intense interest the features of the world beneath. The streets
beneath us were swarming with masses of the great flesh monsters. Their
great forms were hurrying to and fro with a speed far greater than that
of their clumsy movements on earth’s surface. We realized that it was
the lesser gravitational attraction of this smaller world that
accounted for their clumsiness and greater weight upon earth’s surface.
Darrell was clutching my arm as we sped on
across this strange teeming world. “What about Kelsall and Fenton?” he
said. “How are we ever to find them here?”
“It seems impossible,” I admitted, “but we
He was viewing keenly the swarming scene
beneath us as we shot on. “I think, Vance,” he said, “that if Kelsall
and Fenton are still living, are being held here by these flesh-things,
it would be on one of the lower levels if only for safety’s sake.”
“But we can’t explore the lower levels!” I
pointed out. “Even here we may be discovered at any moment. To venture
inside on foot would be suicide!”
“But there’s another way we can try,” Darrell
said swiftly. “In the sphere we can get to those wells that sink down
through the different levels—and perhaps get some clue to their
I realized that Darrell’s plan was the only
hope of finding our two friends. So I sent the sphere heading across
the great transparent mass of structures and swarming streets, through
the crowds of spheres that flashed to and fro above it, until there
appeared ahead a great circular opening.
It was one of the great wells that we had seen
from above, a shaft that sank down through the various transparent
levels of this mighty world city. As we neared it we saw that into it
and from it was pouring a ceaseless stream of spheres like our own. We
were quickly among them, hanging over the great well’s depths. As I
turned the control wheels our sphere began to sink downward.
A MOMENT more and we had sunk beneath the
topmost level. Beside us stretched away the vast and swarming scene of
the second level. A full hundred feet or more in height it was, from
its floor to the transparent streets and structures of the topmost
level, which formed its roof.
Down through it beat almost unabated the
glowing light and heat that fell upon this world! In this second level
though were no structures such as rose upon the first. Being completely
under cover as it was, it formed in effect one gigantic room which
stretched like the levels beneath and above it completely around this
It held a scene of strange activity that
rivaled that of the top level. As we gazed far across it we all but
forgot the object of our quest in the unparalleled interest of the
scene. For about us was such a great melange of mighty mechanisms and
busy flesh things, such a babel of clanking and humming of machines and
whistling of strange speech-sounds, that almost were we stunned by it.
And as we bung there, gazing from our sphere
in fascination while other spheres from above and beneath us in the
great well sped into this level or sped out of it, we could make out
dimly the purpose of some of the great mechanisms we saw before us,
could half comprehend the true wonders on which our eyes rested.
Near us was one of the mightiest of the great
mechanisms, a tremendous squat cylindrical affair constructed for the
most part of transparent metal, for the purpose of impeding as little
as possible the light and heat that fell to the lower levels.
A great chain lift contrivance rose just
beside it, an endless chain upon each few feet of which were great
shallow cups or scoops filled with broken rock, rising up through the
levels beneath by means of round openings in their floors. These masses
of broken rock were automatically dumped into the uppermost section of
the great transparent cylinder.
There was played upon them from all sides a
lambent green light of force that was conveyed to the cylinder by thick
cable connections. Beneath this green force the masses of rock were
disintegrated instantly into a fine dust. As such they swirled down
into the second section of the cylinder.
This section was divided into several
transparent compartments, in each of which played an unceasing yellow
ray like the electron stream ray used by the flesh monsters to
annihilate matter. As the fine rock dust entered these compartments it
was annihilated instantly, was changed to a cloud of shining particles,
rushing down into the third section of the cylinder, into similarly
divided compartments, where another yellow ray played upon each.
Beneath this second yellow beam or force half
glimpsed shining clouds of particles changed back swiftly into visible
matter, different in each compartment. In one it became a fine gray
powder, in another a milky white liquid, in still another a thin
And these poured down in turn from the vivid
compartments into the cylinder’s lowest section, where they mixed
together instantly under the force of powerful vibrators to form a
thick dark liquid. This was conveyed away by great pipelines of
transparent metal to vast tanks visible in the distance.
This great mechanism, humming in unceasing
operation, puzzled me for a moment. But then, as Darrell and I glimpsed
small flexible tubes and nozzles projecting here and there from the
pipelines, saw flesh creatures now and then seizing the tubes and
inserting the ends in their mouth apertures, we remembered the same
action on the part of the flesh things above.
This dark liquid was their food. We realized
that the giant cylindrical mechanism before us was one of countless
similar mechanisms we could glimpse that were making that food directly
from the rock brought up from beneath!
ELECTRONS and protons were acted upon again in
separate compartments by different yellow rays, were built up by those
rays into the desired substances by causing each proton to join the
desired number of electrons, thus forming any element desired.
With the desired elements formed thus in each
of the compartments it was needed only to let them mix together in the
fourth section of the cylinder to form into the complex compound that
was their synthetic food substance. This much of the process I could
fathom, as did Darrell, from what we could see before us, though we
knew that in reality it must be much more complicated than that.
Far across this second level Darrell and I
could see scores of great cylinder mechanisms like the one before us,
each served by a chain lift that brought ceaseless supplies of rock up
to it from beneath. Each swiftly converted these rock masses into the
dark liquid that flowed away to the great reservoir tanks located here
From the tanks it was piped away in all
directions, carrying the dark synthetic food-liquid by force of gravity
down through a great pipe system to all of this strange world-city’s
lower levels, the whole countless hordes of the flesh creatures being
able thus at any moment to obtain the necessary amount of food liquid
from the nearest tube and nozzle.
Across all this second level extended the
great cylinder machines and tanks, humming with activity and swarming
with the flesh things who watched and regulated the operation of the
vast machines. But there was no sign of our two friends.
So, with a last glance across the level, I
sent the sphere downward again in the great well. Spheres were crowding
thickly about us still, halting here and there as they reached the
level they desired and speeding away inside it. But all seemed so
intent upon their own courses that their occupants gave no attention to
our own globe.
So, when we reached the third great level, a
hundred feet farther down, we hung motionless again, gazing with eager
eyes through it as we had through the one above in the hope of
glimpsing some trace of our friends.
Here the glow of light was perceptibly weaker
and here the great mechanisms ranged about were of a visibly different
nature. For though they were cylindrical in shape and much like those
food making mechanisms on the level above in appearance, it was not the
dark food-liquid that these were busy in producing.
Instead the electrons and protons that they
made of the rock masses fed into them were formed by successive
treatments of the yellow force into white hot streams of molten metal,
which cooled swiftly into great ingots. These were conveyed from
beneath the great cylinders by moving belts or platforms of metal.
The great new formed ingots, in turn, were
transferred to giant automatic presses, which in one motion changed
them to great flat or curving plates of metal. What interested me most
was the next step of the process, in which most of the plates and
sections thus formed were carried along by their moving belts and
between great tubes from which glowed a green force through which they
As they passed beneath the power of that green
force we saw the great sections of metal becoming transparent before
our eyes! It was apparent that the green force was one that in some way
altered the molecular or crystalline structure of the metal, making it
as transparent as glass itself without impairing the strength in any
And as we gazed thus with fascinated eyes at
this mighty clanging workshop there came to me the answer to another
thing that for some time had puzzled both Darrell and myself. We had,
in all the vast swarming scenes that we had passed over and through so
far on this strange world, seen none of the fleshcreatures sleeping or
Even the hundred spheres that had patrolled
the shaft’s mouth on earth far above had been relieved, we guessed,
because of the need to replenish the power of their mechanisms rather
than to give their occupants a rest. And since there was no night,
could be no night, in this hidden world, why was it that none of the
creatures we saw seemed ever to sleep or rest?
We saw the answer to that question in a single
creature, who seemed to be moving slowly among the masses of the other
busy flesh creatures, stopping for a moment at each. As he came nearer
to where our sphere hung we saw that he held in his grasp a transparent
metal container of some thin bright crimson fluid.
With an apparatus very much like a long
hypodermic needle he was injecting a swift shot of this fluid into each
of the busy workers, a little below and to one side of the single great
eye. For the moment the thing puzzled me but then I realized that this
crimson fluid was one which neutralized in their bodies the toxins that
caused the need of sleep.