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"No, but if I pull this switch, elec­tricity will flow through the floor, and electrocute whatever’s inside. We’ve never had to use this before, so you had probably forgotten about it." He jerked the switch hard over. Blue fire flashed from the metal, and a bank of fuses above his head exploded with a single hang.

That wrecked the audios, too." Smith said: "If he could interfere with the electric lock, enough to open the door, then he probably probed every possible danger and was ready to inter­fere when you threw that switch." "At least, it proves he’s vulnerable to our energies!" Morton smiled grimly. The important thing is, we’ve got him behind four inches of the toughest of metal. At the worst we can open the door and ray him to death. But first, I think we’ll try to use the telefluor power cable—" A COMMOTION from inside the cage interrupted his words. A heavy body crashed against a wall, followed by a dull thump. "He knows what we were trying to do!" Smith grunted to Morton. What a fool he was to go back into that cage and does he realize it!" The tension was relaxing; men were smiling nervously, and there was even a ripple of humorless laughter at the picture Smith drew of the monster’s discomfiture. "What I’d like to know," said Pen­nons, the engineer, "is, why did the tele­fluor meter dial jump and waver at full power when pussy made that noise?

It’s right under my nose here, and the dial jumped like a house afire!" There was silence both without and within the cage, then Morton said: "It may mean he’s coming out. Pussy was a fool to think he could conquer a hundred men, but he’s by far the most formidable creature in the galactic sys­tem. He may come out of that door, rather than die like a rat in a trap. And he’s just tough enough to take some of us with him—if we’re not careful." The men backed slowly in a solid body; and somebody said: "That’s funny. I thought I heard the elevator." "Elevator!" Morton echoed. "Arc you sure, man?" "Just for a moment I was!" The man, a member of the crew, hesitated. "We were all shuffling our feet—" "Take somebody with you, and go look. Bring whoever dared to run off back here—" There was a jar, a horrible jerk, as the whole gigantic body of the ship ca­reened under them. Morton was flung to the floor with a violence that stunned him. He fought back to consciousness, aware of the other men lying all around him. He shouted: "Who the devil started those engines!" The agonizing acceleration continued; his feet dragged with awful exertion, as he fumbled with the nearest audioscope, and punched the engine-room number. The picture that flooded onto the screen brought a deep bellow to his lips: "It’s pussy! He’s in the engine room —and we’re heading straight out into space." The screen went black even as he spoke, and he could see no more. IT WAS Morton who first staggered across the salon floor to the supply room where the spacesuits were kept. After fumbling almost blindly into his own suit, he cut the effects of the body-tor­turing acceleration, and brought suits to the semiconscious men on the floor. In a few moments, other men were as­sisting him; and then it was only a matter of minutes before everybody was clad in metalite, with anti-acceleration motors running at half power. It was Morton then who, after first looking into the cage, opened the door and stood, silent as the others crowded about him, to stare at the gaping hole in the rear wall. The hole was a fright­ful thing of jagged edges and horribly bent metal, and it opened upon another corridor. "I’ll swear," whispered Pennons, "that it’s impossible. The ten-ton ham­mer in the machine shops couldn’t more than dent four inches of micro with one blow—and we only heard one. It would take at least a minute for an atomic disintegrator to do the job. Morton, this is a super-being." Morton saw that Smith was examin­ing the break in the wall.

A piece crumbled in his finger and slithered away in a fine shower of dust to the floor. Morton noticed for the first time that there was a little pile of metallic debris and dust. The monster merely used his special powers to interfere with the electronic tensions holding the metal together. That would account, too, for the drain on the tele­fluor power cable that Pennons noticed. The thing used the power with his body as a transforming medium, smashed through the wall, ran down the corri­dor to the elevator shaft, and so down to the engine room." "In the meantime, commander," Kent said quietly, "we are faced with a super-being in control of the ship, completely dominating the engine room, and its al­most unlimited power, and in possession of the best part of the machine shops." Morton felt the silence, while the men pondered the chemist’s words. Their anxiety was a tangible thing that lay heavily upon their faces: in every ex­pression was the growing realization that here was the ultimate situation in their lives; their very existence was at stake, and perhaps much more. Mor­ton voiced the thought in everybody’s mind: "Suppose he wins. He’s utterly ruthless, and he probably sees galactic power within his grasp." "Kent is wrong," harked the chief navigator.

We’ve still got the control room, and that gives us first control of all the machines.


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