by H. L. NICHOLS
[Transcriber’s Note: This etext was produced from
Comet January 41.
Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that
the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed.]
War! Years and decades of slaughter and hate and retrogression, of men against men, machines against machines, machines against men, in an ever quickening tempo of destruction. The World War, the War of the Wings, the War of the Rockets, the Pacifist War, the World Revolution drowning in the sea of its own blood, and at last peace, the Peace of Fear.
And in this Peace cities rose again on the surface of the earth, roads found new ways across the blasted continents, great ships again safely plied the seas, the skies were burdened with commerce and everywhere the mighty deserts slowly shrank before the verdancy of nature and the genius of man.
But the ground was soaked with blood of the lost generations marching in endless columns to their sacrifice to hate. The vibrations of the hate were in the very ground beneath the cities. There was bitter hate in the hearts of the men who toiled to build the forms of civilization without its spirit, urged on by the lash, the torture chamber and the purge. And the focus of all this hatred was the Master, Protector of the Peace, betrayer and dictator of a world.
Once he had been the idol of the war-weary millions as he sent the robots of the Pacifist Democrats to victory after brilliant victory; as the regimented subjects of the brigand nations had broken their chains to fight under the banners of the great League of Scientists who promised peace and freedom and security; and as the League itself gave him complete control over the mighty armaments contrived for man’s salvation.
By the time the last stubborn flame-fort had surrendered, he stood upon a dazzling pinnacle of glory such as men had only dreamed before, and he would not descend to be again a man among men. He refused to return his dread powers to the League. When they insisted, he imprisoned them, and they escaped to raise his armies and all peoples against him, shouting the war cries of freedom, so that the whole world seemed to batter against his citadel like a sea of thunder and flame. Yet he alone controlled the robots, and the robots went forth bringing darkness to the sky and fire to the earth. The armies of the people were defeated and scattered, only to fight again from buried strongholds and mountain fastnesses. Then again and again the robots went forth, until the continents were shattered deserts and the underground cities great smoking craters open to the sky.
While the Master’s vengeance still flickered through the wastelands, his rebuilding had begun, and now he sat high and secure in his great Room of Power, that seemed to float as a miraculous campanulet of silver above the half mile peak of the Serene Tower. There was no sound in this room save the Master’s breathing, but against its outer walls of glass lapped the purr and whisper and whine of millions of horsepower performing their appointed tasks. From the Southern Port came the drone of a great liner beating its way into the stratosphere, from where the thunder of its released rockets would come to him only as a faint orange streak is a dazzling sky. Through the air also came the hum of hovering taxicopters far below, the muted rumbling of the great moving streets and freightways and the mutter and crash and clang of building machines, all dying against this shell of glass. Through the mighty frame of the building itself quivered the vibrations of the giant factories, endlessly fabricating materials for more factories, more cities, more ships of the sky and sea, mere power and glory for the Master. But these vibrations, too, died in the protections of that tower top.
Here, the Master assured himself, he was safe, safe alike in his life and in his power. For here were the telepathic controls of the ingenious and terrible robots, that kept the world securely his. Here also were some of the robots themselves, resembling neither machines nor men as they waited in everlasting patience and vigilance for his activating thought. And lest some danger creep upon him unaware, there were the Guard, faithful in their unleashed cruelty and mindless worship; there were the ray screens and thought detectors; and primitive but reassuring, there was the electric lock upon the elevator that was the sole entrance to this room. Only the vibrations of hate beat in, beat past locks and screens and rays, beat through glass and steel and plastic, beat gently, tirelessly, like ripples on a rock.
Safe indeed was the Master, and powerful beyond all telling, but the Master was afraid.
On the Master’s desk the visiscreen glowed softly into life, and from it his secretary spoke. “Technician Heidkamp, special director Capitol Mecho-lab 43, desires an audience in the Room of Power to demonstrate the Time Visor to your Excellency.”
“Has it been inspected by the Director of Precautions?” The Master’s fingers drummed nervously on his desk and he cast a sidelong glance behind him, although he knew that no human being could penetrate the Room of Power without his orders.
“No, your Excellency, it bears a waiver with your signature.”
“No matter, have it inspected and report back at once.”
The visiscreen faded into lifelessness, and the Master returned to his musing. “No one in all the history of the world has ever been so powerful as I,” he muttered, and yet he knew that in his heart there was fear, a fear which he had not the courage to face.
Again the visiscreen glowed, this time with the image of the Director of Precautions, who reported, “I, Melsit, have inspected the Time Visor, Experimental Permit No. 445,826, and find it to contain no dangerous elements.”
“It is well,” said the Master, releasing the elevator lock, “Technician Heidkamp may bring it to my Presence, accompanied by two of the Guard. Remain in communication.”
A bell rang softly as the elevator rose into view. Technician Heidkamp, a man whose gray, lined face and desolate eyes belied his middle-age, gave the salute, then entered wheeling before him a cabinet whose glass panels revealed an intricacy of tubes and wiring in interlacing spirals. Behind him came the giant Guards, watchful and impassive.
The Master watched, smiling secretly as he exulted in his power over Heidkamp. It was small pleasure to have the right of life and death over the workers who toiled in the depths of the city, but here was one of the great minds of all time, whom the Master could crush out of existence like an insect. The Master’s eyes sparkled as he acknowledged the salute of the Technician.
From the top of the cabinet Heidkamp lifted the separate eyepiece, its control buttons showing white against the ruby case, and laid it on the Master’s desk. Again he saluted.
“Your Excellency, a year ago you commanded me to construct a machine through which, for your amusement, you could view the past. Night and day I have labored, and now I offer to you the Time Visor through which you may view one small segment of the past—that time when the world, long tottering on the brink of disaster, spread too late the wings of war, and hurled itself to its long ruin. From this high place you may see the towers of Manhattan once more piled against the southern sky, in the midst of that vast ancient web of bridges, highways and villages, with its great harbor filled with the shipping that the War of the Wings has since destroyed. Look downward, and you may follow hour by hour the simple life of the old village of Nyack where our city now stands. Or you may carry it to the ends of the earth, and view the whole crowded world of those other days.
“The instrument is adjusted to your Excellency’s eyes. The lower button regulates the magnification, now set at three diameters. Your Excellency, you have long possessed the present and the future. It is my honor now to offer you the past.” Heidkamp paused, his face glowing with the impersonal exultation of the born scientist.
The Master lifted the instrument toward his eyes, and as he did so, saw on the southern horizon a small cloud, intensely black, and from some forgotten saying there flashed uneasily through his mind the phrase “no larger than a man’s hand.” But through the eye piece there was no cloud, but a dawn-cleared sky into which the haphazard towers of the now almost legendary Manhattan lifted their pinnacles, softened by plumes of drifting smoke and flattered by slanting bars of golden sunlight. Long the Master looked, and at length turned the visor directly downward, to look through half a mile of empty space at a village sprawled toylike on a green hill sloping upward from the river.
Interested in the town which had once occupied the land where the Serene Tower now soared aloft, the Master increased the magnification. He had a nightmare sensation of falling with rocket speed, snatched his eyes away, and saw that in the south the cloud towered over a third of the horizon, black and ominous. He barked to the watchful image in the visiscreen, “Tell those fools in the weather department to stop that storm!” and again looked down thru the visor. He seemed now to be a few feet above a green lawn fronting a trim white house, roofed with wooden shingles. On the gravel path stood a girl whose pure young beauty made him catch his breath. She threw back her golden hair and looked directly toward him, her blue eyes wide and fearless.
But suddenly the Master was jerked back to the present as the floor swayed beneath him, and a fearful crash of thunder entered his eyrie, where no outside sound had ever come unbidden. He looked up and saw the great cloud, now overhead, pouring forth torrents of rain which made the campanulet seem like a diving bell in a cataract. On the outer surface of the glass was an incessant race of lightning, flashing over the surface in zigzags and spirals, seeking angrily to penetrate the Room of Power. The visiscreen was blank and rimmed with fire, blue flames and crackling sparks flickered from the machines and the robots, and it seemed to the Master that at last his defenses had failed.
Now the secret fear which lay hidden at the Master’s heart grew in power, and he shrank back into his chair, while the great Negro guards stood like statues of fear, their hair erect and snapping. The elements, then, were not wholly under control of the Master’s mighty science! Nature had broken the chains with which he had thought to bind her. And if the weather control could fail, could not something go wrong, too, with all the Master’s power and authority?
Heidkamp, immobile, watched the Master and seemed to guess at his thoughts. Only his eyes betrayed his exultation at the fury of the storm. Only a flicker of the lids, when he looked at the Master, shadowed forth a hatred of the man in whose war his only brother had fallen, the man who had negligently said to Heidkamp, “Well, give her to him, man! What’s a brown-haired girl?” when the Master’s current favorite had coveted Heidkamp’s only daughter. The favorite was dead now, executed at one of the Master’s whims, and the daughter too was dead, refusing to survive her shame and perishing by her own hand.
But soon the torrent of rain ceased, the dancing fires vanished, and the lightning thinned and waned. The cloud was breaking under the impact of great rays that lashed out from below, boiling away in harmless beaten puffs, dissolving into the upper air or blowing north like fragments of a vanquished fleet. Belatedly the weather control operators had reasserted their mastery.
Now the Master’s fear changed to fury. As the visiscreen came on again, he shouted, “Intelligence Department, at once! Zadol, how did that storm get past our guard screens? Broke them with electric overload? Who calculated the safety factor? Have them executed at once! One of them a woman?—no matter. Put the execution on visiscreen where I can enjoy it. Ho, you Heidkamp, stand by and see the mildest penalty you technicians can expect when you fail me.”
On the visiscreen appeared the figures of the shrinking victims, instantly electrocuted by the Master’s new device, which galvanized every separate cell of the human body into a tiny inferno. As the despot’s petulant order was executed, he smiled, while the Guards stood impassive and the murmur of the drenched city drifted thru the broken sound screens.
“Now, Technician Heidkamp, opener of windows and resurrector of the shattered and the dead, it is your task to prove to me that I saw the real past, not clever trickery. Burdened with the cares of the world, I have forgotten your theories. Explain.”
“With pleasure, your Excellency. Upon graduation from Midland Technical, I was assigned to vibro-chemical work with the London Archaeological Expedition. In block 44 south, Section 33, we excavated a partially demolished laboratory and library, in which we found records of extensive calculations and experiments by which one Dr. Louis Foster had demonstrated that time is spiral in nature, and that the loops of present and past are pressed so closely together that vision and travel from one to the other are theoretically possible. Foster published his findings in 1941, by which time his country was so deep in the agony of the War of the Wings that it was interested in nothing except military science. Dr. Foster had hoped to make a time travelling device to escape the rising tide of slaughter, but before he completed it, cellulate bombs put an end to him and his work.”
“Your Excellency generously condescended to supply me with facilities to investigate these theories. After finding Foster’s mechanism to be ineffectual I experimented with Ronferth rays, until I found that the A and F output, interlaced at dissonant frequencies and reflected from thionite crystals in Madderhern tubes, would actually pierce the veil between us and the past. The case upon your desk throws a hollow beam of these dissonances, which it absorbs from the cabinet relays, and within this beam, light rays from the adjacent part of the next loop of the time spiral penetrate to the visor, subject to the same laws of optics that hold in our present time. The core of the visor is an ordinary electrically magnifying binocular, with stabilizers. The period of the time coil is sixty-six years, one hundred five days, and nine hours. Therefore, your Excellency, some minutes ago you were seeing the world as it was at seven o’clock, May 18th, 1940. For proof that this is indeed so, and not a deception, I can but trust to your Excellency’s own acumen.”
“You speak only of the past, Heidkamp. Can you not show me the loop beyond—the future?”
“The future is not visible, your Excellency, and I do not believe it yet exists. Through eternity time stretches backward, and as our instruments grow stronger, it shall yield its secrets. But you are the point at which the spiral builds, and the future waits for your shaping.”
“It is well.” Responding to Heidkamp’s subtle flattery, the Master’s thin lips curled with pleasure as he thought of a future shaped to his will. His hands twisted and twitched as he contemplated his own endless power. “Heidkamp, it is well. The Guards will accompany you to the reception chamber. You may go.”
As the elevator silently started downward, the Master returned to the visor, impatiently turning the controls until he again found the white house with the gravel path, in the long-forgotten village of Nyack. Long he waited until he could see again the girl to whom he felt so strangely drawn. Darkness fell, and the city became a glory of colored lights around him, but he did not heed, as he steadily watched a path that lay sleeping in the afternoon of a beautiful spring day.
At last his vigilance was rewarded. A shining four-wheeled roadster stopped before the gravel path, and from it alighted the girl and a man, a man who was as tall and blonde and sleepy as the Master was small and dark and intense, a man with whom she laughed and talked as they went up the path and into the house. This time she did not look toward the Master at all.
The sun of that forgotten day sank behind banks of purple cloud, and as lights glowed throughout the village and from the windows of the house, the watcher from the future remembered from old stories the comfort and intimacy that would be within its walls. He thought of the radiant golden girl whose eyes caressed her companion, the girl whose bearing had the freedom and intelligence which now had almost passed from the women of the world, because like the men they knew themselves absolute slaves of the despot in the tower. The Master felt an irrational surge of rage toward the girl, long since dead, whose living body he could behold in the time screen. What right had she to look like that, with open, fearless eyes, oblivious of his power?
He slammed the visor down on his desk with a vicious curse. “Technician Heidkamp, at once,” he snarled. In a moment Heidkamp, gravely saluting, appeared on the visiscreen.
“Heidkamp, you spoke of a time travelling machine. Can you build me one?”
“That is a far more complex and difficult matter than the building of the visor, your Excellency. The formulae are not yet complete….”
“In thirty days you must build me a conveyance to bring a woman to me from 1940, alive and unharmed.”
“But your Excellency! The formulae, the experiments, the safety factors!” Heidkamp’s imperturbability for once was shaken at the Master’s preposterous demand.
The Master’s breath came fast with rage. “Have you forgotten your lesson of this afternoon? If you cannot carry out my instructions, the execution of the weather experts will prove child’s play compared to the tortures I shall devise for you. Report at thirteen tomorrow.” He touched the screen into darkness, and slept at his desk until the morning sun was high over the city.
The rest of the morning he devoted to conferences with his captains in various parts of the world, in regard to their keeping of the Peace. His secret police were everywhere, and were themselves watched by spies, who underwent periodic hypnotic examinations in the Master’s presence, lest they should be disloyal. So perfect was the organization that nowhere could a man say a word against the Master or his Peace and be safe from his vengeance.
But of late that vengeance had been withheld as its wielder watched the growth of a revolutionary society, the New Day, whose hope spread among his subjects swift as fungus thru rotting wood. They were building power for his overthrow and for establishment of the democratic world state which he had so falsely promised, and the Master was aware that they were the most brilliant and determined antagonists he had known since the establishment of his Peace. They had found ways to screen their thoughts against his detectors, but no way to keep his agents out of their organization, so that his spies sat in their high councils and betrayed them.
So the Master deemed himself safe from them, since he would know before they struck, and he leisurely prepared cruel traps for their undoing. And he promised himself that he would make their punishment so fearful that he could count himself safe against another revolt for a generation. But for the while he held his hand.
When noon was an hour past, Heidkamp was ushered into the Room of Power by the Guards. He dared make no further protests, but the muscles of his jaws twitched when the Master reiterated his harsh order that the time traveller must be ready within a month, and added, “This visor has revealed to me a woman whose beauty is worthy of my recognition, and I propose to bring her here for my enjoyment. Mount the instrument on this range finder, so that I may indicate to you the location of her dwelling.”
So the observations were made and subsequently checked against plans of the Serene Tower, and it was found that the house and path lay within the impenetrable wall of a vault. In the vault itself Heidkamp set up his laboratory, trusting that chance or stratagem would lure the victim to the trap he planned.
Here Heidkamp labored by day and night, seldom stopping even for food. His lean, worn body brought new reserves of strength to the monumental task. It was not fear that drove him on; Heidkamp was not afraid of death or torture, and after the fate which had befallen his brother and child he had nothing more to live for. Heidkamp was driven by hate; hate of the Master. For deep in his brain there was a hidden hope that the Master, secure and omnipotent beyond the reach of mortal hands or minds in his Serene Tower, might somehow be vulnerable to contact with the free and dynamic ancient world revealed in the Time Visor. Had not the storm which had arisen when the Master first looked into the visor been, perhaps, an omen of some ill to befall him through this tampering with time?
So the days crept past, while Heidkamp in his dungeon laboratory worked among the giant tubes and shimmering radiances that should open the backward facing door, and while the Master in his eyrie brooded darkly over the romance that developed beyond that door while he waited impotently for the key. For it was Spring in Nyack, and the girl he sought was clearly and increasingly in love with her virile escort. Hand in hand they walked the streets of the village, or sped beyond the visor’s range in the sleek roadster, while in the high and dreamlike tower, surrounded by miracles of science and of beauty, the Master yearned wickedly for the girl who had long been dust, and furiously hated her companion. When but half of the allotted thirty days were past, he summoned Heidkamp to the Room of Power for an accounting.
“Your Excellency, I am pleased to report that I have developed some new plastics in the beryl-nickeloid series, which can be charged with the Ronferth-Madderhern dissonances so heavily that the rays form a tangible structure in themselves, which takes the shape of the plastic, and can be forced into the next loop of time and drawn back again. A cage or cell so composed and charged can be used to entrap your desire, and transport her to us, but the apparatus is still primitive, and has proved fatal to life and destructive to material, that has been tested. I am working without rest with my assistants to correct the difficulties, but the field is new, and progress necessarily slow. We are in hourly hope of finding the right path to success, and hope that your Excellency will not lose patience with our efforts.”
“Will you be able to move this cage of rays in space as well as time, so as to pick her up wherever she may be?”
“No, your Excellency. We must set up the plastic mold in our space so as to project the vibration screen to some point upon her lawn. This screen should have no palpable existence in her time, but if she steps within it, we can draw her to us.”
And now, suddenly, a cunning idea uncoiled itself like a snake in the depths of Heidkamp’s mind. His tone was colorless and submissive as he asked, “Perhaps your Excellency himself would care to enter the cage and go backward through time, in order to invite this woman to enter your world of wonders as your favorite?”
The Master started and the cords on his forehead bulged with rage. “Heidkamp! Are you a traitor or are you a fool? You would pay dearly for this treacherous proposal if I did not need your brain to carry forward this work!”
Heidkamp’s bow was humble. “But, your Excellency, forgive me—I do not understand.”
“Stupid!” shrilled the Master. “Can you not see that in that old time, where all my power is undreamed of, I would be cut off from my robots, my Guard, my police and my armies? In that village all my power would be naught, and even the mention of it would close me in a madhouse!” At the mere thought the Master’s voice grew high and thin with terror. Almost he abandoned the whole project; yet the thought of the girl with golden hair and fearless eyes returned to him, filling him with eagerness and desire which, jaded by absolute power, he had thought never to feel again. “Lure her to the trap!” he cried. “But if she comes to any harm, you shall repent it in the longest, keenest agony my torturers can devise.”
Yet the nameless, growing fear grew stronger within the Master as the days crept on and Heidkamp’s experiments progressed. The future could not be foreseen … who could know that the past might not somehow reach darkly toward the Master, and destroy him? Yet the mad passion inspired by the girl in the Time Visor gave him no rest; it grew too, waxing stronger as Heidkamp’s science gradually placed her nearer to his grasp, and finally this passion outstripped even the Master’s fear. Daily he summoned Heidkamp to the visiscreen, threatened him anew with endless torture if he should fail, and heard with satisfaction Heidkamp’s story of progress. For the genius of the Technician, rising to the monstrous demands made upon it by the Master, was actually bringing to pass the miracle which he had commanded.
When on the 28th day of the allotted thirty Heidkamp reported that all was in readiness, the Master prepared to leave his lofty haven for the first time in many months. For this expedition he chose to be accompanied by the robots, rather than by the brutal Guard; and lest a half mile of steel and glass and air should too much intervene between his thoughts and the telepathic amplifier-converter, he had two of the robots carry it between them. These two went into the elevator, but before following them, the Master walked slowly around his eyrie, appraising what he saw, and beyond that, the distances unseen.
He had taken over from the Pacifist Democrats their plans for the rebirth of a world destroyed by war, and he congratulated himself that he had achieved beyond their dreams. Fair indeed was this great city, rising in miles of mighty windowed ramparts along the western bank of the purple Hudson, and fair indeed were a thousand lesser cities, set like jewels around the healing earth. And the vast fruitful farms and terraced orchards, dotted with placid lakes and webbed by shining canals, stretching to the north to break at last against the desolate shell torn slopes of the Highlands, and to the west into the cauldron of the sunset, these were things of wonder and beauty too. But for all his building and possession of this vast achievement, the Master knew that nowhere beneath that darkening sky could he count a single friend, or any person loyal except thru fear or greed. And as he turned away, he saw the crimson of the west spread over the whole dome of the heavens like a great flame, and the city and the landscape seemed to flow with blood. With a deep foreboding he shuddered into the elevator, bidding two more robots after him, and rocket-like they plummeted into the depths of the great building, in the safe and familiar light of the phosphene ceiling.
Soft as a breath the swift car came to rest at the level of the upper vaults, and into the blue lighted corridor issued the strange procession—four strange creatures beyond any man’s imaginings, whose very presence made the air electric with menace; two of them bearing the glittering thing that gave them life, the irreplaceable telepath whose structure was known to the Master and to no other living man, and within the shelter of their square walked the puissant owner of the world, quick with desire for the woman he hoped to resurrect from the forgotten dead, but still fearful in the memory of the bright flame of the sky and the city drenched in blood. He remembered now that as he had first seen the girl, the heavens had unleashed upon him that great storm, quivering with a concentration of the hate that always subtly beat upon him, and he wondered whether the old gods still lived, and had shown him then a sign and now another sign.
“Perhaps,” he thought, “I should turn back, lest I and my great destiny should be trapped and lost in the dimness of these vaults and the enticements of the past, so that I might never again look forth upon the planet that lies crushed beneath my will, or behold the great cold space of twinkling suns that yet may feel my power. But no, this is weakness, for the past is mine as well as the future, and this woman shall be but the first tribute I shall exact.”
Thus fixed in his determination, he came to the laboratory, where Heidkamp stood alone and tense among the fantastic trappings of his science. In the center of the room was a great cylinder of softly glowing orange, on the warm surface of which danced flecks of silver light. This was the mold into which the whining generators, banked tier on tier in the further shadows, were pouring dissonances to be flung across the incredible emptiness of timelessness to snatch back a living prize. Upon its side an insulated handle stood out sharp and black, and around it a faint suggestion of a door showed thru the radiance.
No spark of hatred showed in Heidkamp’s eyes as he saluted. “Your Excellency has arrived within three minutes of the time when the Ronferth potential will be at maximum. You will observe on the right a visiscreen connected thru a time visor so as to show the house and its surroundings. Upon the steps sits the girl whom you desire. She is waiting for her escort. I have drawn this black circle upon the screen itself, to show where the trap will be sprung.”
“And how will you lure her to the trap?”
“I have taken advantage of your Excellency’s authority to obtain from the museums diamonds and other gems that were highly esteemed in her time. Upon the floor of this cylinder I have placed a heap of these, which will be carried backward with the force screen and appear upon her lawn as the trap is set. Unless women were far different then than now, she will come to this glittering bait, penetrating the force screen that will be invisible and harmless while at rest, and then we shall pull the screen and the woman back together, so that she shall await the Master’s pleasure within this glowing cell.”
The Master licked his lips as he watched through the screen the lovely, oblivious face of the girl from bygone ages. Yet there remained a doubt. “Heidkamp”, he said abruptly, “you have planned well and built skillfully, but I fear that all is not well, and that we perhaps tamper with forces that may rise up and destroy me. If you have any faint doubt of the safety of all this strange machinery, that Director Melsit himself cannot entirely vouch for, speak now, and you may have more time to make sure. But if you are sure, and carry me forward to success, you shall share my power and be heir to all of it. Think well, for this is a price that malice or disloyalty cannot offer.”
The master licked his lips as he watched through the screen the lovely face of the girl from ages past. Yet there remained a doubt.
“Your Excellency, I am your loyal and careful servant, the potential is at its peak, the bait is within the trap, and I await your word to close the switch that begins your conquest of time itself. Shall I proceed?”
“Close the switch.”
The whine of the generators died to a whisper, the orange and the silver light sank slowly into the plastics of the cage, as if receding into a measureless depth of water to vanish at last, leaving the surface blank and sombre.
On the screen appeared clearly the image of the beautiful girl from the America of 1940. She was dressed in blue; she rested her chin on her hand as she waited for her lover to appear, and she seemed to be lost in some vague dream. For a minute she did not look up as, through the magic of Heidkamp’s science, there materialized on the lawn the glittering jewels which were to bait the trap. Then she saw them. Her eyes widened. With a smile which bespoke childlike pleasure rather than greed she jumped up and ran toward the treasure. She came to the edge of the fateful circle, hesitated as if some mystic warning made her pause, and finally stepped within.
In the laboratory Heidkamp and the Master watched intently, and as soon as she was well within the trap, Heidkamp swiftly opened the master switch and closed two others. The coruscations of light appeared deep within the cage and expanded until the room was again alive with their radiance. Through the time visor there appeared upon the screen the house and path and lawn, but the jewels and the girl had vanished, swept forward into Time.
Heidkamp, hands shaking as he realized that the miraculous experiment had succeeded, turned the great black handle of the Time Trap and flung wide the door. Within the cell the girl huddled against the far wall, hardly knowing what had befallen her, conscious only of the dizzying sickening shock she had sustained from her transportation into the future.
An inarticulate cry of joy burst from the lips of the Master. Now his passion for the girl became an avalanche of madness, sweeping away all his fears and cautions. He hurled himself forward into the cage of the Time Trap, reached blindly for the girl, twisted one hand in her golden hair and pulled her toward him. Blanched and shaking, she held up her hands with a pathetic gesture of pleading horror. “Beauty from past ages!” cried the Master hoarsely, and bore down her resistance.
He had forgotten Heidkamp.
Quietly, almost reverently, Heidkamp stepped forward, laid his hand upon the door, and closed it. He fingered the master switch, and as he did so, remembered the forces of the New Day, ready to take over power and build at last a true democracy, including all the mechanical glories of the civilization which the Master had erected, with the added crown of peace and freedom and happiness for every man on earth. This he remembered, and he closed the switch.
The light died back within the cage, and in the circle on the time screen appeared the Master, so forgetful of all else in his struggles to win the lips of the girl that he was not even aware that he was trapped by Time. In his arms the girl struggled desperately, her feet scattering the wondrous gems upon the grass. A roadster stopped before the house with an abrupt jerk, and the girl’s giant lover hurled himself from the driver’s seat and laid a violent hand upon the shoulder of the Master.
For one long, ecstatic instant Heidkamp could see in the time visor the eyes of the Master, stark with his abrupt, dreadful realization.
Slowly Heidkamp picked up a long bar of heavy iron, and methodically destroyed the time traveler—first the long spirals of glowing tubes, then the frail and lifeless structure of the empty cage and last the idling generators, their whispers crashing into silence.
He ignored the robots, waiting in vigilance for the commands of the Master, commands that now would never come, their frantic urgency lost in Time