The expression on his face scared them even more than the pounding of the worms, and they hurried to obey.
Dick jumped into the nearest ground car. He couldn't be bothered traveling on the railroads. This happened to belong to the assistant head of the dome, whom he dispossessed. It jerked crazily across streets and parks, while he learned to handle the controls.
An hour later Dick was back at the powerhouse in the big dome. Every city was ready. In several places the hammering heads had broken through the outer layers, and were banging at the translucent inner ceiling. The creatures had learned how to break through.
The first worm that attacked, while the space ship was away, either took its time or didn't realize what was beneath the heavy metal. These creatures were working in earnest.
Heavy insulated cables ran from the powerhouse to the nearest metal pillars, where McCarthy and Martin were working desperately to fasten them in place. The booming voice of the Irishman had kept the natives back, although they crowded as close as they dared. They were really afraid, when the hammering grew plainer with each passing minute.
When the cables were fastened, John shouted to Dick, who was waiting in the powerhouse. He pulled a heavy switch, at the end of the wires.
The city was suddenly in complete darkness, then it flashed bright again as power flowed back into the thousands of coils in the ceiling material. Twice more it darkened, when the giant switch was thrown, and the lights came on again. This time it stayed bright.
Dick ran to the doorway, and gazed at the dome above. It was silent! The people were frightened, and moved restlessly about. Twice more he turned the power into the metal, and after one long darkened period, the city remained bright. No sound came from the dome! Either the worms were dead--or frightened away!
Within a week the doors to the deserted city were opened, and the earthmen passed through. When they glimpsed the interior, they stopped in consternation, then started to laugh.
Huge worms covered the ground, and smaller editions of the same species, crawled around them. They were using the dome for a hatching place!
They had only entered it to bring forth their young! It was not brains that tempted them to attack the city, but the instinct to find a protected place for their eggs. Since they had broken in, many of the young had hatched, and were crawling around the ground.
Sight of the earthmen seemed to excite their feelings, and several of the creatures started toward them. The men fired carefully, and the forms squirmed on the ground. The ones that came behind stopped, and some of the young tried to feed on the remains of their companions.
The sight was so sickening that the earthmen fired at every living thing they could see. Several of the wounded creatures crawled up the huge pillars, to disappear through the opening above, while the men shot at their disappearing forms. When the last caterpillar lay dead, the entire area appeared like a battlefield.
Three days later the gas had been expelled, and the hole in the dome repaired. The population was returning to their homes, burying the carcasses in the fields. The city was livable again, and they knew electric current would stop any future attack of the strange creatures.
Ten years later, Dick Barrow sat on the balcony before his apartment. His son John, eight years old, was playing with Dick McCarthy. While he watched the boys, his mind swung back to the earth the little group had left so many years before.
For three years they had talked of returning to their home planet, and the evening before the conversation reached a climax. They were starting in two months.
It no longer required years to manufacture fuel for one trip. All machinery was working at top efficiency, and they could turn out enough of the liquid in a month, to drive the ship back and forth several times. Crews of workmen had been trained to care for all mechanical equipment, and there was no longer need for the engineers from the earth.
The day the little party (it now consisted of eighteen with the four children), entered the space ship tears rolled down the cheeks of many of the crowd. The dome people had learned to almost worship these members of an alien race, and thought they would never leave. But when they realized that their leaders were dissatisfied, and wanted to return to their native planet, they aided in every way they knew how.
The ship was out of port for less than a week when the people became restless. They hardly spoke, even at meal time, and for the first time in ten years there were petty quarrels.
When Barrow called them to the main cabin, they came grudgingly, then slowly the expressions changed. Smiles appeared on their faces, and their heads moved with sheepish nods of assent.
"We're fools, and you all know it. We were happy in the domes, happier than we ever were in our lives before. We didn't appreciate it and longed to return to the earth. We wanted to leave, yet had everything there to live for. We had comfort, every pleasure, and more friends than we can possibly have on our own world. I feel ashamed!
"Right now we wish that we were back in our own apartments, and might as well admit it. The earth is not what we want, we want the domes! They are home!!!
"The best thing for us to do, now that we are on the way to the earth, is establish commerce.
"We can create friendship between the planets, but we are natives of Jupiter! Our interests will always be with the dome people. We have almost become part of that race, and they have given us everything in return. They even gave us our freedom when we wanted it. We belong there!"
Ten years more passed, and John Barrow was beginning to help with his father's work. Vacationing in Jupiter's domes had become so popular on the earth that they were building another city to accommodate the tourist trade. It was the third to be added to the original six. Merchant ships were constantly discharging goods from the earth, and carrying back rare metals.
Space ships from the earth, designed after the original Jupiter ship, were searching the little known planets for minerals. Domes were being built on three of the smaller globes, and pioneering humans migrated to new worlds. There was danger, yes, but also fame and fortune for the hardy people who would inhabit them.
The earth had changed a lot, since the visit of the space ship. They had adopted the principle of controlling gravity, and tremendous structures were the result. New buildings were several times as large as the greatest structure of ten years before. Both planets had benefited from the friendship, and both were happier as a result.
As Dick Barrow's mind ran over these facts, he smiled and spoke aloud to himself. "And all of this in twenty years--it seems incredible!"
"What did you say, dear?" asked Dolores.
Dick smiled as he glanced at her. "It's nothing. I was just thinking. Remember the night you fell in front of my table in the hotel? And I thought it was accidental--you scheming gold-digger!"
The ruler of the domes ducked when his wife threw her book--but she didn't throw it very hard.
 This gravity power was derived from huge weights swung on an axis that could be faced toward any point in the universe, and the slightest pull resulted in force that was exerted on the fuel. The explosive mixture remained at constant pressure, creating a smooth driving medium. Discharge of the fuel under high compression resulted in greater power than could be obtained in any other way.
When the fuel shot through the tubes, it exerted force on the gas cloud that was far above the actual speed of the explosion. The heat of combustion was reduced, and the ship operated without effect from the blasts. The tubes were small, yet the power expended was beyond anything ever accomplished on earth.--Author.
EQUATION OF DOOM.
by GERALD VANCE "Your name ith Jathon Ramthey?" the Port Security Officer lisped politely.
Jason Ramsey, who wore the uniform of Interstellar Transfer Service and was the only Earthman in the Service here on Irwadi, smiled and said: "Take three guesses. You know darn well I'm Ramsey." He was a big man even by Earth standards, which meant he towered over the Irwadian's green, scaly head. He was fair of skin and had hair the color of copper. It was rumored on Irwadi and elsewhere that he couldn't return to Earth because of some crime he had committed.
"Alwayth the chip on the shoulder," the Port Security Officer said. "Won't you Earthmen ever learn?" The splay-tongued reptile-humanoids of Irwadi always spoke Interstellar Coine with a pronounced lisp which Ramsey found annoying, especially since it went so well with the officious and underhanded behavior for which the Irwadians were famous the galaxy over.
"Get to the point," Ramsey said harshly. "I have a ship to take through hyper-space."
"No. You have no ship."
"No? Then what's this?" His irritation mounting, Ramsey pulled out the Interstellar Transfer Service authorization form and showed it to the Security Officer. "A tip-sheet for the weightless races at Fomalhaut VI?"
The Security Officer said: "Ha, ha, ha." He could not laugh; he merely uttered the phonetic equivalent of laughter. On harsh Irwadi, laughter would have been a cultural anomaly. "You make joketh. Well, nevertheleth, you have no ship." He expanded his scaly green barrel chest and declaimed: "At 0400 hours thith morning, the government of Irwadi hath planetarithed the Irwadi Tranthfer Thervith."
"Planetarized the Transfer Service!" gasped Ramsey in surprise. He knew the Irwadians had been contemplating the move in theory for many years, but he also knew that transferring a starship from normal space through hyper-space back to normal space again was a tremendously difficult and technical task. He doubted if half a dozen Irwadians had mastered it, yet the Irwadi branch of Interstellar Transfer Service was made up of seventy-five hyper-space pilots of divers planetalities.
"Ecthactly," said the Security Officer, as amused as an Irwadian could be by the amazement in Ramsey's frank green eyes. "Tho if you will kindly thurrender your permit?"
"Let's see it in writing, huh?"
The Security Officer complied. Ramsey read the official document, scowled, and handed over his Irwadi pilot license. "What about the Polaris?" he wanted to know. The Polaris was a Centaurian ship he'd been scheduled to take through hyper-space on the run from Irwadi to Centauri III.
"Temporarily grounded, captain. Or should I thay, ecth-captain?"
"Temporarily my foot," said Ramsey. "It'll be months before you Irwadians can get even a fraction of the ships into hyper. You must be out of your minds."
"Our problem, captain. Not yourth."
That was true enough. Ramsey shrugged.
"Your problem," the Security Officer went on blandly, "will be to find a meanth of thelf-thupport until you and all other ecthra-planetarieth can be removed from Irwadi. We owe you ecthra-planetarieth nothing. Ethpect no charity from uth."
Ramsey shrugged. Like all extra-planetaries on a bleak, friendless world like Irwadi, he'd regularly gambled away and drank away his monthly paycheck in the interstellar settlement which the Irwadians had established in the Old Quarter of Irwadi City. But last month he'd managed to come out even at the gaming tables, so he had a few hundred credits to his name. That would be enough, he told himself, to tide him over until Interstellar Transfer Service came to the rescue of its stranded pilots.
Ramsey went up the gangway and got his gear from the Polaris. When he returned down the gangway, the late afternoon wind was blowing across the spacefield tarmac, a wet, bone-chilling wind which only the reptile-humanoid Irwadians didn't seem to mind.
Ramsey fastened the toggles of his cold-weather cape, put his head down and hunched his shoulders, and walked into the teeth of the wind. He did not look back at the Polaris, marooned indefinitely on Irwadi despite anything the Centaurian owners or anyone else for that matter could do about it.
The Irwadi Security Officer, whose name was Chind Ramar, walked up the gangway and ordered the ship's Centaurian first officer to assemble his crew and passengers. Chind Ramar allowed himself the rare luxury of a fleeting smile. He could imagine this scene being duplicated on fifty ships here on his native planet today, fifty outworld ships which had no business at all on Irwadi. Of course, Irwadi was an important planet-of-call in the Galactic Federation because the vital metal titanium was found as abundantly in Irwadian soil as aluminum is found in the soil of an Earth-style planet. Titanium, in alloy with steel and manganese, was the only element which could withstand the tremendous heat generated in the drive-chambers of interstellar ships during transfer. In the future, Chind Ramar told himself with a kind of cold pride, only Irwadian pilots, piloting Irwadian ships through hyper-space, would bring titanium to the waiting galaxy. At Irwadi prices.
With great relish, Chind Ramar announced the facts of planetarization and told the Centaurians and their passengers that they would be stranded for an indefinite period on Irwadi. Amazement, anger, bluster, debate, and finally resignation--the reactions were the expected ones, in the expected order. It was easy, Chind Ramar thought, with all but the interstellar soldiers of fortune like Jason Ramsey. Ramsey, of course, would need watching. As for these others....
One of the others, an Earthgirl whose beauty was entirely missed by Chind Ramar, left the Polaris in a hurry. She either had no luggage or left her luggage aboard. Jason Ramsey, she thought. She had read Chind Ramar's mind; a feat growing less rare although by no means common yet among the offspring of those who had spent a great deal of time bombarded by cosmic radiation between the stars. She hurried through the chilling wind toward the Old Quarter of Irwadi City. Panic, she thought. You've got to avoid panic. If you panic, you're finished....
"So that's about the size of it," Ramsey finished.
Stu Englander nodded. Like Ramsey he was a hyper-space pilot, but although he had an Earth-style name and had been born of Earth parents, he was not an Earthman. He had been born on Capella VII, and had spent most of his life on that tropical planet. The result was not an uncommon one for outworlders who spent any amount of time on Irwadi: Stu Englander had a nagging bronchial condition which had kept him off the pilot-bridge for some months now.
Englander nodded again, dourly. He was a short, very slender man a few years older than Ramsey, who was thirty-one. He said: "That ties it. And I mean ties it, brother. You're looking at the brokest Capellan-earthman who ever got himself stuck on an outworld."
"You mean it?"
"Dead broke, Jase."
"What about Sally and the kids?"
Englander had an Arcturan-earthian wife and twin boys four years old. "I don't know what about Sally and the kids," he told Ramsey glumly. "I guess I'll go over to the New Quarter and try to get some kind of a job."
"They wouldn't hire an outworlder to shine their shoes with his own spit, Stu. They have got the planetarization bug, and they've got it bad."
Sally Englander called from the kitchen of the small flat: "Will Jase be staying for supper?"
Englander stared at Ramsey, who shook his head. "Not today, Sally," Englander said, looking at Ramsey gratefully.
"Listen," Ramsey lied, "I've been lucky as all get out the last couple of months."
"You old pro!" grinned Englander.
"So I've got a few hundred credits just burning a hole in my pocket," Ramsey went on. "How's about taking them?"
"But I haven't the slightest idea when I could pay back."
"I didn't say anything about paying me back."
"I couldn't accept charity, Jase."
"O.K. Pay me back when you get a chance. There are plenty of hyper-space jobs waiting for us all over the galaxy, you know that."
"Yeah, all we have to do is get off Irwadi and go after them. But the Irwadians are keeping us right here."
"Sure, but it won't last. Not when the folks back in Capella and Deneb and Sol System hear about it."
"Six months," said Englander bleakly. "It'll take at least that long."
"Six months I can wait. What d'you say?"
Englander coughed wrackingly, his eyes watering. He got off the bed and shook Ramsey's hand solemnly. Ramsey gave him three hundred and seventy-five credits and said: "Just see you make that go a long way supporting Sally and the kids. I don't want to see you dropping any of it at the gaming tables. I'll knock your block off if I see you there."
"I'll knock my own block off if I see me there. Jase, I don't know how to thank--"
"Don't is right. Forget it."
"Do you have enough--"
"Me? Plenty. Don't worry about old Jase." Ramsey went to the door. "Well, see you."
Englander walked quickly to him and shook his hand again. On the way out, Ramsey played for a moment or two with the twins, who were rolling a couple of toy spaceships marked hyper-one and hyper-two across the floor and making anachronistic machine-gun noises with their lips. Sally Englander, a plump, young-home-maker type, beamed at Ramsey from the kitchen. Then he went out into the gathering dusk.
As usual on Irwadi, and particularly with the coming of night, it was bitterly cold. Sucker, Ramsey told himself. But he grinned. He felt good about what he'd done. With Stu sick, and with Sally and the kids, he'd done the only thing he could do. He still had almost twenty-five credits left. Maybe he really would have a lucky night at the tables. Maybe ... heck, he'd been down-and-out before. A fugitive from Earth didn't have much choice sometimes....
"Red sixteen," the croupier said indifferently. He was a short, heavy-set Sirian with a shock of scarlet hair, albino skin, and red eyes.
Ramsey watched his money being raked across the table. It wasn't his night, he told himself with a grim smile. He had only three credits left. If he risked them now, there wouldn't even be the temporary physical relief and release of a bottle of Irwadian brandy before hitting the sack.
Which was another thing, Ramsey thought. Hitting the sack. Ah yes, you filthy outworlder capitalist, hitting the sack. You owe that fish-eyed, scale-skinned Irwadian landlady the rent money, so you'd better wait until later, until much later, before sneaking back to your room.
He watched the gambling for another hour or so without risking his few remaining credits. After a while a well-dressed Irwadian, drunk and obviously slumming here in the Old Quarter, made his way over to the table. His body scales were a glossy dark green and he wore glittering, be-jeweled straps across his chest and an equally glittering, be-jeweled weapons belt. Aside from these, in the approved Irwadian fashion, he was quite naked. An anthropologist friend had once told Ramsey that once the Irwadians had worn clothing, but since the coming in great number of the outworlders they had stripped down, as though to prove how tough they were in being able to withstand the freezing climate of their native world. Actually, the Irwadian body-scales were superb insulation, whether from heat or from cold.
"... Earthman watching me," the Irwadian in the be-jeweled straps said arrogantly, placing a fat roll of credits on the table.