Dick sat down in amazement, a smile slowly spreading over his face. Dolores was happy--wherever they were. The room was all that mattered. But he couldn't understand why Morquil had gassed them, and put them on board unconscious. He would have enjoyed seeing the new ship.
When a knock sounded at the door, Dolores was unpacking her clothes for the first time since they left the Primrose. Turning the knob, Morquil stepped in.
"I'm sorry, Dick, that I had to use gas, but I knew the people would be afraid of boarding this ship. John McCarthy is down in the power room already, examining the machines, but some of the others are upset about the transfer from the island. I hope you don't feel resentful?"
"No, Morquil. We're satisfied. If you don't believe it--look at Dolores. She decided to like this room the minute she saw it, and is unpacking already."
The worried expression disappeared from the strange man's face. "I had the cabins equipped for women, as I know they are particular about such things."
"Would you like to see the ship? It will be your home for a long time, and you might as well get acquainted. I'm sorry that no one but myself understands English, but you will have ample time to learn our language during the voyage. You must speak it fluently by the time we arrive."
As they started out, Dolores dropped the dress she was holding, to join them. Curiosity overcame the desire to straighten out her clothes.
Entering a wide passage, they turned to the right. It ended abruptly in a room with several comfortable chairs. Three tables occupied the center in uneven positions, the underparts filled with metal-covered books. Two men of Morquil's race looked up at their approach.
Dick returned their friendly smile. When Dolores smiled they appeared embarrassed; but truly greatly pleased. Barrow noticed that one of them was examining a book in English; the illustrations seemed to fascinate him.
A narrow passage, beyond the main cabin, led to the control room where three men sat in swivel chairs. The instrument board was a marvel to Dick, and he watched for several minutes. It would require months to understand even a small portion of the gauges.
The ship was built with two decks, and a large hold beneath the lower floor which contained the machinery. The strange men were quartered on the lower level, with the exception of Morquil. His cabin was next to the one occupied by the Barrows. The McCarthys were on the opposite side of the passage, in a room slightly smaller than the one allotted to Dick and his wife.
The quarters of the remainder of the party were smaller, but still quite comfortable; all located farther back on the same passage.
Morquil was proud of the ship, and displayed each section with pride. He opened every cupboard door, and showed them through all of the cabins. They were stopped for a while, when they met Mrs. Yarbro, trying to dispel her fear of the strange craft. The others appeared to be taking their new quarters for granted, and settling down for the trip.
The main cabin was toward the front of the ship, while the dining room was at the rear; the staterooms on the passage between. One stairway led to the lower level, from just back of the control room, another from the dining saloon. A ramp beneath the rear stairway led to the hold of the ship. When they started down, Dolores returned to her cabin. Her interest ended on the upper decks.
Dick spotted John, bending over one of the machines, so engrossed that he didn't hear their approach. One of the crew stood nearby, watching.
When McCarthy saw Barrow, he nearly burst with enthusiasm. "This is the greatest thing I've ever seen! Why, it almost talks! Do you know, this little machine actually picks up the orders from the control room, and adjusts every machine down here! Darned if I don't think it's got a brain!"
When Morquil led the way toward the front of the hold, John was still engrossed in the apparatus. "He will be a valuable man to you, Dick, and can solve many problems that you would otherwise have to do yourself. He will make an able assistant."
Passing by the heavy machinery, they approached an enclosed section, which appeared to be of recent installation. Stepping through the doorway, Morquil threw a switch which lighted every corner, then watched expectantly as Dick examined the strange objects. It appeared to be a colony of metal beehives, with covered passages between.
"It is our home, Dick. This room contains everything in miniature that you will see when we arrive. Each of the smaller domes house thirty thousand people, the large one three times that number. We are born, live our lives, and die beneath these metal ceilings. It will be your job to care for them.
"Everything beneath these domes is exactly as it is in our cities, except that the machines are dummies. This model room was installed so you could study our civilization during the trip. When you arrive you will be ready to start work.
"You, and you only will have a key. You may bring any member of your party here that you desire, but it is not necessary for them to understand the entire civilization. There are only six cities, including the large one, where you and John McCarthy will be located. The other men will each have one dome under their control.
"It is easy to travel back and forth, and you may gather together at any time, although each of you will have duties in different sections. While you are overseeing the work in the smaller cities John can look after the capital. Upon your arrival in Yorpun you will take complete charge of all mechanical work. It will be your responsibility from then on."
As Dick slipped the key in his pocket, he felt the weight of a country settle slowly on his shoulders. Two hundred and ten thousand people--entirely dependent upon his control of the machines.
Where could this settlement be? They had sailed darn near to the end of the world in the Primrose, and now they were going even farther. From the way the metal domes covered the cities, it might be at the south pole, and still be habitable.
By the time they returned to the main cabin, it was dinner time. It was past mid-day when he regained consciousness, and Dick was hungry.
Mrs. McCarthy was knitting a sweater for her husband, while three of the strange men watched in amazement. Her knitting needles seemed to hold them spellbound. The other members of Dick's party were sitting around trying to decide what to do. But the sound of the dinner gong, made them forget their worries.
Dick had to go down to the hold and call John, who was still watching the master machine. If he hadn't been dragged away, he would have spent the night examining the strange device.
The meal was simple, but they all enjoyed it. It seemed to dispel the gloom from the party, and they appreciated McCarthy's jokes. There were fifteen of Morquil's race in the crew, and all but the men at the controls joined them.
Knives and forks stood at the places set for the passengers, brought from the supplies on the Primrose, but the crew ate with long narrow spoons. Table silver was evidently unknown to this race of people.
After dinner Morquil called them to the main cabin, and for the first time told about the destination. All that had kept them from losing hope long before, was his promise of greater comfort and luxury than they could hope for in their native land.
"I know that some of you resent the fact that you were unconscious while put aboard this ship. But I know you would hesitate to come of your own accord. One woman said that she wouldn't go on an undersea ship, and she would be more afraid of this.
"You will be amazed to know that we are now leaving the atmosphere of the earth that you have always known. Our destination is on a different planet!"
Morquil's Story For a long time there was silence, then Mrs. Jones fainted. McCarthy took it without flinching, and his wife was satisfied if he was. Dick had suspected something almost as strange, and did not seem surprised. Dolores looked at him for guidance. He nodded reassuringly. The others shut their lips tight, feeling that they had been taken prisoner without hope of escape.
After a pause, Morquil continued. Mrs. Jones had recovered her composure and was staring at him with undisguised dislike. "I'm sorry it had to happen this way, but I would not have been able to take sufficient people if you had known where we were going. Some of you might have come, but I treated every one alike.
"I also was unconscious from the gas, but the crew revived me. I had to look after the loading of the supplies, and have the cabins prepared for you. It was much nicer that way than if you had resisted, and were put on board by force.
"I shall start at the beginning of my story, and let you judge for yourselves as to whether we have done wrong.
"The existence of my world depends on the perfect operation of machines. Even our atmosphere is manufactured and kept at proper temperature within sealed domes, to protect us from the natural gases of the planet. We live on this planet through necessity--not desire!
"Our race landed there very long ago after escaping from a planet that was falling into the sun. Their space ship ran short of fuel within the gravity pull of our present habitation. It was difficult, but they succeeded in constructing gas-proof shelters, and slowly improved conditions for living.
"We never knew what happened to the other space ships from our original planet, but they may be distributed throughout the universe. Your own ancestors may be of the same origin as ours. The similarity of our forms tends to prove it.
"Eventually metal domes were built, and the race prospered within. But our lives depend on their being kept in perfect repair. Machines were built which do practically all of the work in caring for our wants, and from the first we have adjusted our own gravity; to live normally under the gigantic pull of the new planet, which to you is Jupiter.
"Through the ages our lives became easier, and required less manual work. Machinery did everything we desired. Most of them were automatically repaired and serviced, while the permanent machines ran on through the ages without care. As generation after generation lived and died, under these conditions, we lost most of our former knowledge.
"When one of the atmospheric machines ceased to operate--we could not repair it! Instead, one of the other machines had to be speeded up, and the atmosphere pumped into the extra dome.
"At the height of our mechanical development this space ship was built. Then the race lost interest and were content to live in ease, without attempting to reach another planet. Three generations ago our people discovered the danger. Even our bodies had deteriorated until we could not stand hard work. The machines had begun to break down--we were headed for extinction!
"When I was a young man they succeeded in finishing the equipment on this ship. Three generations had been required to create enough fuel for only two voyages!
"I was selected as the man to explore the strange world, which we had been studying with the instruments of our ancestors. We had determined your exact mechanical development, and knew that you were capable of furnishing the engineers which meant life or death to our race.
"It is twenty years since I was left on the small island, and the ship returned to Jupiter. At that time we decided the date for this trip, to bring me back. In the meantime I traveled half way around the world in a small metal boat, before being picked up by a tramp steamer, as I dared not land near any civilized country. After I reached a settlement I had to learn your customs and language, and many other things about a completely alien people.
"I was furnished with an ample supply of gold, as we knew it was the metal that you valued highest. This purchased many things that would otherwise have been impossible to obtain, and also brought me a great deal of trouble. I was robbed of most of the wealth before I had been in civilization a year. The fact that a great deal was left on the small island is all that made my venture possible.
"I spent three years in an institution before they decided that I was a normal human being, and could take care of myself. I dared not tell them that I came from a different planet, or I would have failed in every way. I learned many things about the people of your world, but mainly that gold could buy almost anything.
"I lived for several years, by working at anything that I could obtain, trying to find someone who would finance an expedition to the island. No one would believe me when I said that I knew of a great fortune in gold. I finally found a man who did believe me, and he received one half of the gold as reward. It was not until then that I could begin the work that I started out to do, and nearly ten years had passed.
"I planned for several years before I dared try to obtain the people I needed. I studied everything I could about your engineering, and found that it was not of the same type as our own. For this reason I did not want a graduate engineer, as he would have to learn everything all over again in my cities.
"When I advertised for men, and told you of the wonderful mechanical development, it was the truth. I did mislead you to a small extent, in obtaining your promise to come with me, but the existence of my race depended on your work. My people will give you anything you desire if you will help them.
"When we left our cities, we didn't know whether we could even escape from the planet in this ship. There was no opportunity of testing it, until we started on the journey. Even the men at the controls had never handled it. All of their knowledge was obtained by years of practice, sitting in a stationary ship.
"When they left me on the island and returned to the planet, they hoped I could accomplish my purpose, but the chance of success was pitifully small.
"I have never enjoyed the comforts of other members of my race, but have spent my life in an alien universe, carrying around my big head; without friends or companionship. The gravity within our enclosed cities is lower than on your planet, making it easy for us to walk.
"After several years of study and planning, I knew there was only one way of accomplishing what I went after. It is the way I have done it. No one would have believed that I came from a strange planet; they would have thought me out of my mind. If I had persuaded them, I could have found no recruits for the work, no matter what I offered. I know how anyone feels about leaving their own planet, where they were born and brought up.
"You will find that the machines need work badly. Some of them are running only because we use several times the normal power to turn them. Our mining machines have not worked for more than a generation, and the mines remain idle. The metal supply is running short.
"The equipment which overcomes gravity, also furnishes us with power. When weights are lifted, with gravity almost eliminated, then allowed to sink with the full pull of Jupiter, it creates enormous amounts of energy for every use.
"It will be months before we reach our cities, and I hope that by that time you will feel satisfied with your forced migration. To my race, it was the only course which would avoid annihilation within a few generations.
"At first it will seem terrible to be shut in beneath a metal cover. But when you become accustomed to it, that feeling disappears. You depend just as much on a ship at sea or a plane in the air, but never think of it in the same way. We must trust you, as we will not know whether you are repairing or destroying our machines until we see the results.
"You will be given complete power and can draw upon my people for all of the help you need. You will be even more powerful than the rulers of the domes. My people decided that you deserved this position, long before we attempted to reach the earth and bring you back.
"I came to your country because the mechanical development is greater than in any other nation. You have greater love for engineering, and more of you are employed that way.
"I have told you everything about my home and my people, and leave it up to you as to the way you will act. We have only done what was necessary for the survival of our race, and hope that you will forgive us for stealing you from your own planet.
"You have complete freedom of the ship, to come and go as you please at any time. You are now considered part of our own population, and we both have the same interests. We hope you enjoy it."
For a moment Morquil gazed into the faces of the small gathering of people, then slowly walked from the room. There was complete silence, broken occasionally by a sigh as some thought of home exerted itself. An hour passed and they still had not moved. Each seemed to be waiting for one of the others to break the silence.
Finally Dick got to his feet. His words came slow, as if carefully weighed before using; the others listened intently.
"I know what each of you must be thinking; because I've been thinking the same thoughts. We are all in the same boat, without chance of leaving--headed for Jupiter! We have seen the last of the world where we were born. Either we take up our lives in this new existence, or die out here in space--destroying Morquil's race as well as ourselves.
"He says they can not survive without our aid. Our own world did not need us, or give us much for our efforts. If it had we would not be on this strange space ship. Morquil hired only people who were willing to leave their homes and friends--and we applied for the work. There really is not much that we can complain about.
"For one, I intend to do all that I can to make our future home the greatest civilization in the universe. Perhaps in the future years it will be possible for us to pay a short visit to our former planet. Perhaps our children will follow in our footsteps; enjoying greater honor, comfort, and luxury than they could possibly have had in our own world. I received little from my fellow men, and have already received more from Morquil than I ever had before."
As Dick sat down, John McCarthy's voice boomed out. "I'll follow Dick! He's the boss of this party, and if he's satisfied, I am. Boy! We sure do go places when we get started!"
The general laugh broke the tension, and each one spoke after a little hesitation. Each man slowly grasped the gigantic task that was facing them, and felt honored as a result.
It was a new world, farther advanced than their former habitation--which needed them to care for it. It was a big bite to chew--but they would do it!
Dick remained in his chair long after the others had gone to their cabins. His mind dwelled on the complete happiness and satisfaction that lighted Morquil's face, when informed of their decision. In that moment he was repaid for a lifetime in a strange world, amongst alien people. His return to Jupiter would be triumphal, with the earth people as his friends; come to save his race from extinction!
Barrow's mind wandered on, to the gigantic task that faced them. His would be the greatest responsibility, as head of all the domes. The other men would have a single city to care for. The thought of McCarthy as his assistant was comforting; he would be a great help.
The strange race of beings were putting every trust in the earthmen--putting themselves at the mercy of the seven strangers--and Dick knew the men would earn that faith!
He jumped when a hand touched his shoulder.
"Dick, won't you take your wife to her room--she feels sleepy!"
Voyaging to Another World During each waking period, Barrow spent many hours in the room with the miniature domes. They were beautiful models, which could be opened or moved as desired, by small levers on the foundation. Wires as fine as hairs were strung from one spot to another, while metal the size of thread represented heavy cables.
Slowly, an understanding of the strange civilization formed in Dick's mind, and he drew sectional maps of the location of all mechanical equipment. Other maps pictured the streets, so that it would be easy to reach any desired destination. When this was done, Morquil sent one of his men down to make as many copies as desired. Each engineer was to have a complete set.
The earthmen had learned to keep track of the time according to the system on the ship. Each "lix" included the time spent in sleep as well as one waking period. It was twenty-seven hours in length, but they all thought of it as a day.
Each lix was divided into thirty-six "migs." Each mig being just forty-five minutes in length. They were able to keep track of each mig, by their watches, although the time pieces were useless for any other purpose.
One lix, Dick returned the friendly smile of a member of the crew, and to his amazement the man spoke. "Chickiboo." For a moment Barrow was stumped, then realized that it must be a greeting.
When he was greeted the same way, by a second and then a third man, he tried to imitate the words. The man from Jupiter was so pleased that he almost danced, then spoke again. "Gootmording."
Dick's jaw almost dropped open; the man was trying to speak English!
Suddenly Barrow laughed. Morquil had been instructing his crew in the strange language, as well as telling them to greet the earthmen in their own tongue. He must speak about holding classes to learn the language. They would have to understand it, and the sooner they started the easier it would be.
The following lix, Dick stopped on the ramp to the machinery hold to listen. McCarthy was humming the tune of a song that had been the rage at home, but the words were "chicki-boo--chicki-boo--chicki-boo."
Barrow smiled as he approached, but the big Irishman didn't realize the reason. He was almost bursting with news.
"I've got it, Dick! I've found the key! Don't laugh, but I've discovered the working principle of this little machine, and it will lead to the secret of all others. In a month I'll know how this crate runs."
"Don't worry, I'm not laughing, John. I think it's great that you've got this far. I only wish the others would show as much interest. Not one of them has been down here for more than a few minutes, and they know little more than when we started."
"Aw! Don't take it that way, Dick. It isn't their fault. Didn't you ever see their wives? Those women won't let the men out of their sight for three minutes. Your wife and mine are different--they trust us! If we tell 'em the ship's okay, it's okay; but them--say, they can't tell their wives anything. The women in their families do all of the talking."