The hatch of the ship clanged shut. The bolts fell into place. Hendricks made his way back. The inner door was being sealed. He raised the pistol unsteadily.
There was a shattering roar. The ship burst up from its metal cage, fusing the mesh behind it. Hendricks cringed, pulling back. The ship shot up into the rolling clouds of ash, disappearing into the sky.
Hendricks stood watching a long time, until even the streamer had dissipated. Nothing stirred. The morning air was chill and silent. He began to walk aimlessly back the way they had come. Better to keep moving around. It would be a long time before help came--if it came at all.
He searched his pockets until he found a package of cigarettes. He lit one grimly. They had all wanted cigarettes from him. But cigarettes were scarce.
A lizard slithered by him, through the ash. He halted, rigid. The lizard disappeared. Above, the sun rose higher in the sky. Some flies landed on a flat rock to one side of him. Hendricks kicked at them with his foot.
It was getting hot. Sweat trickled down his face, into his collar. His mouth was dry.
Presently he stopped walking and sat down on some debris. He unfastened his medicine kit and swallowed a few narcotic capsules. He looked around him. Where was he?
Something lay ahead. Stretched out on the ground. Silent and unmoving.
Hendricks drew his gun quickly. It looked like a man. Then he remembered. It was the remains of Klaus. The Second Variety. Where Tasso had blasted him. He could see wheels and relays and metal parts, strewn around on the ash. Glittering and sparkling in the sunlight.
Hendricks got to his feet and walked over. He nudged the inert form with his foot, turning it over a little. He could see the metal hull, the aluminum ribs and struts. More wiring fell out. Like viscera. Heaps of wiring, switches and relays. Endless motors and rods.
He bent down. The brain cage had been smashed by the fall. The artificial brain was visible. He gazed at it. A maze of circuits. Miniature tubes. Wires as fine as hair. He touched the brain cage. It swung aside. The type plate was visible. Hendricks studied the plate.
For a long time he stared at the plate. Fourth Variety. Not the Second. They had been wrong. There were more types. Not just three. Many more, perhaps. At least four. And Klaus wasn't the Second Variety.
But if Klaus wasn't the Second Variety-- Suddenly he tensed. Something was coming, walking through the ash beyond the hill. What was it? He strained to see. Figures. Figures coming slowly along, making their way through the ash.
Coming toward him.
Hendricks crouched quickly, raising his gun. Sweat dripped down into his eyes. He fought down rising panic, as the figures neared.
The first was a David. The David saw him and increased its pace. The others hurried behind it. A second David. A third. Three Davids, all alike, coming toward him silently, without expression, their thin legs rising and falling. Clutching their teddy bears.
He aimed and fired. The first two Davids dissolved into particles. The third came on. And the figure behind it. Climbing silently toward him across the gray ash. A Wounded Soldier, towering over the David. And-- * * * * *
And behind the Wounded Soldier came two Tassos, walking side by side. Heavy belt, Russian army pants, shirt, long hair. The familiar figure, as he had seen her only a little while before. Sitting in the pressure seat of the ship. Two slim, silent figures, both identical.
They were very near. The David bent down suddenly, dropping its teddy bear. The bear raced across the ground. Automatically, Hendricks' fingers tightened around the trigger. The bear was gone, dissolved into mist. The two Tasso Types moved on, expressionless, walking side by side, through the gray ash.
When they were almost to him, Hendricks raised the pistol waist high and fired.
The two Tassos dissolved. But already a new group was starting up the rise, five or six Tassos, all identical, a line of them coming rapidly toward him.
And he had given her the ship and the signal code. Because of him she was on her way to the moon, to the Moon Base. He had made it possible.
He had been right about the bomb, after all. It had been designed with knowledge of the other types, the David Type and the Wounded Soldier Type. And the Klaus Type. Not designed by human beings. It had been designed by one of the underground factories, apart from all human contact.
The line of Tassos came up to him. Hendricks braced himself, watching them calmly. The familiar face, the belt, the heavy shirt, the bomb carefully in place.
The bomb-- As the Tassos reached for him, a last ironic thought drifted through Hendricks' mind. He felt a little better, thinking about it. The bomb. Made by the Second Variety to destroy the other varieties. Made for that end alone.
They were already beginning to design weapons to use against each other.
OUT OF THE EARTH.
By George Edrich
Offences against the State meant elimination in the Black Passage. Death. And these people were to die!
First Awake, 2 Juli, 2207 We have walked much this awake and have stopped now for sleep. Last City is far behind us. Except for the two lamps we keep lighted to frighten away the Groles, there is nothing but blackness in the passage. The others are sleeping, and close beside me, Nina sleeps also. The sound of her breathing is all I have in the darkness.
Thoughts are not clear when the body is so tired, and the things that have happened seem unreal, like something dreamed. The arrest--the State Guards in their black uniforms--coming to our cubicle in the middle of the sleep hours--frightening Nina.
Ten awakes and sleeps of not knowing why. Then the trial--"Jon Farmer 8267, we show you a copy of The Mushroom Farmers' Journal of 21 January 2204. We call your attention to the article Experiments With Red Lake Mushrooms in Rock Soil. This article discusses with favor some policies of the Dictatorium of President Charles 27, an Enemy of the State. Do you admit to writing this treason?"
You are not permitted to answer the Judges in a State trial because they know the answers to everything they ask you. But while they were talking together, I thought how different things became with time. I remembered the fine letter from the Secretary of Agriculture of the Dictatorium, and the two extra free days they had given me. But there was a new Dictatorium now. President Charles and General William had been lowered into Copper Pit and metallized. Now they were mounted in the Historical Museum in Central City. The others of the Dictatorium had been eliminated in Black Passage.
"--Jon Farmer 8267. You have written with favor about Enemies of the State. You are therefore yourself declared an Enemy of the State. By order of the Supreme Council of the Dictatorium of President Joseph 28, you are hereby sentenced to elimination in Black Passage."
Then Nina--"Nina Farmerswife 8267, you have mated with an Enemy of the State. By condescension of the Supreme Council of the Dictatorium of President Joseph 28, you are to be permitted to take an oath of renunciation and separation."
It is not too difficult for the heart to be strong when there is no decision for the mind to make. But what strength of heart Nina must have had then. I was terribly proud and terribly frightened when she walked over and stood with me.
"Please, Nina--" I said, but she shook her head, and her eyes told me I could say nothing more.
The Judges were angry. "Nina Farmerswife 8267, you are hereby declared an Enemy of the State. By order of ..."
There was no one else in the guard cubicle when they locked us in. When the May trials were over, five awakes later, there were seven of us. Doctor Dorn 394 was brought in the awake after we were. He had read the forbidden books in the Chambers of the Dead at the Historical Museum. He was almost thirty-five years old, and had been third assistant physician to the Supreme Council. This was a very strong office and only something as terrible as reading the forbidden books could have made him an Enemy of the State.
Ralf Fishcatcher and his wife, Mari, came from Red Lake. They were Enemies of the State because they had not reported all of the fish they had caught.
Except for Nina, the youngest one of us was Theodor Cook 3044. He was very frightened. He told how he had stolen mushroom bread from the Central City Ration Station where he worked, and how his wife had reported him so she wouldn't become an Enemy of the State also.
The last one to be brought in was Bruno Oreminer 2139. He had killed his foreman by hitting him in the head with a rock. He was a very big man, and very strong. But he talked very little and there was a cold and dangerous look in his eyes.
Early on the sixth awake, the guards came for us. The march was long, almost seven awakes. We passed through many cities--Big City, Power City, and Red Lake; then Iron City, Deep Pit, and Last City. There was only a ten-lamp-per-mile passage from Big Pit to Last City. We passed few people. At Last City, we were taken to the State Guard Station and given small shoulder packs with the food, water, and lamps the law says we may have.
Out of Last City the passage was narrow and poorly lighted, only five lamps per mile. After a few miles the guards became silent, and then just up ahead we saw what looked like a solid iron wall. We had come to the gate to Black Passage.
One of the guards took a paper from his pocket and read it very quickly so that it was hard to understand most of the words. But every little while we could hear "Enemies of the State." When he finished reading, all three of the guards put their fingers in some notches in the gate and pulled with all their strength, and the gate slid into the side of the wall.
Black Passage was before us!
Mari Fishcatcherswife gave a little scream, and Nina pressed up against me and held my arm tightly. Lying on the floor of the passage were many dead bones.
The guard who had read the paper said we must now go into Black Passage. For a long time no one moved. It is hard to be the first into a darkness where, no matter how far the eye searches, there is not the faintest light. Then Doctor Dorn struck the flint on his oil lamp and walked through the gate. With the light of his lamp ahead of us, the fear became less and we turned on our own lamps and followed after him.
The iron wall slid closed behind us. We could hear the steps of the guards as they walked back toward Last City. After a while we couldn't hear them any longer.
Bruno Oreminer tried to move the gate, but the iron was smooth on this side and nothing happened. Theodor Cook had put his face in his hands so he would not have to look at the dead bones, but he stepped on one, and when it cracked, he gave a little cry.
Doctor Dorn started to walk down the passage. I took Nina's hand and we followed after him. It would do no good to stay there by the gate which would never again open for us. If we remained, we would just become dead bones like the rest. The others came along a little way behind.
After we had walked through the passage far enough away from the dead bones so we could not see them, Doctor Dorn stopped. He said we should rest awhile and eat a little of the food, and then we would talk.
Theodor Cook was the first one to ask him the question we were all thinking about. "When will we die?" he asked.
Doctor Dorn said he didn't know. The food and water we had been given was supposed to last for ten awakes and sleeps. If we were very, very careful, it might last for much longer. The oil would probably become used up first, and when there was no more light, then probably the Groles would get us.
Theodor asked whether the dead bones we had seen were people who had been killed by the Groles.
Doctor Dorn said he didn't know, but he didn't think so. When the Groles found someone, there were not supposed to be even dead bones left. No one had ever seen a Grole because they came only when there was no light at all.
Doctor Dorn said he was sorry he had to say such frightening things. But he wanted us to know and understand the worst before he told us things that might give us hope.
There was the smallest chance, Doctor Dorn said, that Black Passage might go to some other State where there was life, the way Copper Passage from Deep City went to the State of the Savages. Our hope was terribly small though, because even if the passage did go to such a place, it would probably be many more awakes and sleeps away than we had oil for; and also, the life there might be wild the way it was in the State of the Savages.
It is strange though how even a hope so small as to be almost nothing can give new strength to the heart.
Doctor Dorn talked more, telling us how we would have to learn to live with less and less light so that the oil would last as long as possible. In the beginning we would burn four lamps. Because the passage was not wide enough for more than two people to walk together, one of us would have to walk alone. But whoever walked alone would always carry one of the lighted lamps, and would never be first or last. When we became used to four lamps, we would turn one off and try walking with only three. After a while another lamp would be turned off and only two lamps would be kept lighted, one at the beginning and one at the end of the column. During sleeps we would keep two lamps on. One would be enough to frighten away the Groles, but there was always the danger it might go out, so it was safer to use two.
Theodor asked wouldn't we get the Black Fear, with so little light.
Doctor Dorn said he didn't know. It was to prevent the Black Fear that we would turn off the lamps gradually instead of all at once. But anyway, it was better to get the Black Fear for a few hours than to use up all of the oil and have the Groles come.
When we started walking again, Doctor Dorn and Bruno went first, then Ralf and Mari, then Theodor. Nina and I walked last. It is frightening to be last with the blackness behind. Later, we will have a different position, and others will take our place.
We have walked for many hours. Now we have stopped for sleep and only the two guard lamps are burning. The light they make is hardly enough to write by. When I look up and see the terrible blackness in the passage before and behind us, a strange and awful feeling seems to form inside. This may be the beginning of Black Fear. I think it is better that I stop writing now. I want to hold Nina in my arms and sleep with the warmth of her life close to me.
Second Awake, 3 Juli 2207 Since last sleep, the hours have been slow and the walk long, but Black Passage remains the same. Doctor Dorn thinks there may be no change for many awakes and sleeps.
To walk in silence except for the sound of our steps becomes a fearsome thing, so we talk much. Doctor Dorn tells us interesting things that have happened while he was Physician to the Supreme Council. When he does this, we do not think so much of what may be ahead for us.
There is something of a strangeness about Bruno, the ore-miner who killed his foreman. Although he rests when we rest, and sleeps when we sleep, the feeling comes that he is not with us. He walks always first with Doctor Dorn, and says nothing.
Sometimes Mari and Nina walk together and talk about woman things. Mari is twenty-two, three years older than Nina, and even though she has been married to Ralf for only five years, she has almost borne life once. Nina said it must be wonderful to bear life, and Doctor Dorn heard her and said she had the look of one who might bear life herself some day, perhaps even before she was twenty-five. Nina was very thrilled.
But it is strange to talk of a time so far ahead. The mind forgets sometimes there may be only a few awakes and sleeps left to all our lives.
One feels a great sorrow for Theodor. He does not have someone who is a part of him the way I have Nina and Ralf has Mari, and he does not have the strength of heart of Doctor Dorn or Bruno. Fear seems to hold his mind more than any of us. Many times Nina or Mari, or Ralf or I, walk beside him so he will not have to walk alone always. But when we speak to him he almost never answers.
Third Awake, 4 Juli 2207 Another sleep has come and our tiredness is greater. Doctor Dorn thinks we are about twenty-five miles from Lost City.
After an hour of the walk, we turned off one of the lamps, leaving only three on, and the blackness of the passage seemed to jump in toward us. It is like a live and evil thing, the blackness, running in fear from the light before us, yet following so closely behind. Sometimes I cannot help feeling that, like the Groles, it is just waiting for our last lamp to go out so it can rush in and kill us. In one thing we have been fortunate. Even with only three lamps lighted no one has had the Black Fear. But after this sleep we will burn only two lamps and again the blackness will move closer. It is not a pleasant thought to sleep with.
Fourth Awake, 5 Juli 2207 Except for the greater darkness because of only two lamps, all is the same. It is strange not to have the City Signals to tell us when to sleep and when to awake. Because we have only our tiredness to measure awakes and sleeps, I am no longer sure the date I write above is the right one.
We do not talk as much now. All of our strength must be used for walking.
Fifth Awake, 6 Juli 2207 One of the lamps went out while we were walking, this awake. Although we were able to light it again in a few seconds, we could not help thinking how the Groles might have come if the other lamp hadn't been burning.
Doctor Dorn says our tiredness is so great because we eat so little of the food. It is very hard to be careful when one remains so hungry; yet not knowing how many days are before us in Black Passage makes the mind fearful and the will strong.
Seventh Awake, 8 Juli 2207 This awake, Theodor had the Black Fear. We had to hold one of the lamps in front of his eyes for more than an hour before he was able to stop trembling. Then it was almost another hour before he was able to go on.
Eleventh Awake, 12 Juli 2207 Sleep follows sleep and nothing changes. Sometimes I feel that we have not moved at all, that we are still just outside Last City. Yet Doctor Dorn says we have come almost one hundred miles.
Twelfth Awake, 13 Juli 2207 Just before this sleep we emptied our shoulder packs to see how much food and water we have used. Most of us have used about one-fourth of what we have been given. Doctor Dorn says this is not bad, but we must learn to use even less. Theodor has much more food left than any of us. This is not surprising, because during rests he eats almost nothing.
It is the little oil we have left that worries Doctor Dorn. He does not believe there will be enough for even ten more awakes and sleeps. We would use less oil if we burned only one lamp, but it would be a terrible chance. We remember how a lamp went out several awakes ago.
Fourteenth Awake, 15 Juli 2207 There was much trouble during our last sleep. Soon after sleep had come, a terrible cry awoke us again. My mind first had the thought that the lamps had gone out and the Groles had come. But both lamps were still burning, and near one of them, we could see Bruno and Theodor struggling together on the floor of the passage. Bruno's hands were around Theodor's throat, and Theodor was no longer able to make any sounds. Bruno is terribly strong, and Ralf and I and Doctor Dorn had to use all of our own strength to force his hands away. Doctor Dorn asked Bruno why he had done this, and Bruno pointed to where his shoulder pack was lying open, and said, "He was stealing." These were the only words he had said for a long time. When Theodor stopped choking and was able to speak again, Doctor Dorn asked him if what Bruno had said was true. Theodor said no, and Doctor Dorn said he should look directly into his eyes and answer again. Theodor said he was sleepy and his throat hurt and he didn't want to talk any more. Doctor Dorn gave a big sigh, and said he understood. He said Theodor must promise never to steal again. If he didn't promise, or if he broke his promise, then perhaps the next time Bruno tried to kill him, we might not hear him in time. Theodor became very frightened, and said all right, he promised.