Roy Glashan's Library
Non sibi sed omnibus
Go to Home Page
This work is out of copyright in countries with a copyright
period of 70 years or less, after the year of the author's death.
If it is under copyright in your country of residence,
do not download or redistribute this file.
Original content added by RGL (e.g., introductions, notes,
RGL covers) is proprietary and protected by copyright.



Cover Image

RGL e-Book Cover
Based on an image generated with Microsoft Bing

Ex Libris

First published in Astounding Science Fiction, January 1939

This e-book edition: Roy Glashan's Library, 2024
Version Date: 2024-02-02

Produced by Matthias Kaether and Roy Glashan

All original content added by RGL is protected by copyright

Click here for more books by this author


Astounding Science Fiction, January 1939,
with "Mill of the Gods"


A small job of grinding—about a hundred miles of solid steel to
be removed—for a grindstone of appropriate size and power!

"WELL, what have you been doing out there?" The windows rattled at Jed Andrews' bellow. The towering, red-faced old metal magnate glared belligerently from under bushy eyebrows at his quaking employee. They were both standing, for there were no chairs for visitors in Jed Andrews' office. Interviews with him were too short for need of them. "Say something, damn it! What about Phoebe? You've been there long enough—and spent enough!"

Asa Nutworth was really a quite promising young mining engineer—on paper, but he lacked experience and the toughness of character to cope with the hard-boiled, self-made kind like old man Andrews. The master of Saturnine Metals Corporation did nothing to make it easier for him. Bluff and bluster made him rich, and he stayed faithful to a technique that had served him well.

"The core of Phoebe is solid C32, super-diamond, the hardest isotope of carbon. It is in the form of a single crystal, over five miles in diameter. To be exact, twenty-nine thousand, two hun—"

"Never mind the inches," snorted Jed Andrews, bringing his fist down on the table. A stack of books, topped by the elephantine edition of "Ores of the Saturn System" leaped an inch into the air, then crashed to the floor. "How do you know it?"

Asa Nutworth gulped uneasily, and his eyes shifted unhappily, then went on with his speech, like a frightened schoolboy reciting. "The Engelsburg X-13 inferometer readings indicated its presence and size. We sank test borings in six places, along three different diameters at right angles to each other. In that way we checked the dimensions exactly. The cores we brought up were all pure super-diamond."

"I'll say they were super-diamond," growled Andrews, caustically, snatching up a handful of monthly reports. "Chewed up seventy-four ordinary diamond cutting heads. Lord! Six holes, one hundred and eight miles deep, each—through solid meteoric iron—at twelve and a half sols a lineal foot! What a survey! And how do you propose to get my money back?"

"Well, sir, I was thinking—"

"Thinking be damned! What have you done?"

"Why-er-nothing, yet. You see—"

Jed Andrews' eyes bulged; no apparatus was needed to read the blood pressure—anybody looking could guess: two hundred ten, two hundred twenty, two hundred thirty— "Get out of here before I lose my temper!" managed the mining trillionaire, half choking, hanging onto his desk with both hands.

With the vague feeling that somehow he had offended, and sensing that he was no longer wanted, Asa Nutworth edged slowly, hesitantly, as he had come in, out of the office. Ever since he had been sent to Titan by the Dean of Terrestrial Tech in response to Jed Andrews' requisition for the "smartest damn engineer you got," he had had the feeling of fighting uphill against his employer's prejudice against college men. Yet he had done a good job on Phoebe, and he knew it. Andrews had told him to survey it and learn its composition "from skin to gizzard, and damn the expense." Today's reception was all the more unreasonable because the old mining magnate had O.K.'d all the bills so far with-out a whimper.

AN hour later, at the time when Andrews' chief clerk was paying off the rattled and mystified young engineer (but sugar-coating the dismissal with a handsome bonus check), Dingbat Warren was parking his runabout gravicopter on the sun-deck of Saturnine's main office building. Around, spread out for ten miles in every direction, lay the shops and yards of Andrews' vast industry. Over against the ragged sierra of the Prometheus Range were the smelters and foundries. To the south, cut by the great scintillating arch of the Rings, were the hulls of scores of spaceships of every type taking shape. To the east and west were machine shops, drafting rooms, laboratories, and the other many accessories of a highly integrated industry.

His companion joined him on the ramp. Dainty, cute, utterly feminine, the first glance at her was apt to be deceptive. A second one would discover the square chin and challenging eyes of Jed Andrews, for Alicia Andrews was a fair copy of her dad. She was defiantly carrying a heavy two-foot bar of polished metal, one end of which was roughened and covered with chalk marks. He tried to relieve her of her burden, but, making a little face, she drew back.

"No, I want to grind it myself." She smiled and added, with a childlike smile. "I like to watch the sparks fly."

"Have it your way," he shrugged, knowing she would anyway. As they passed the door of Andrews père's office, they grinned at each other. A thunderous torrent of profanity was welling through the open transom into the hall.

"You trot along and do your fireworks," said Dingbat. "I want to speak to the Old Man. He doesn't seem any worse than normal."

Her eyes flashed angrily, but she was smiling. "Go on in—and you'll deserve all you get in there, only don't come crawling to me afterward and ask me to patch it up."

He threw back his head, laughing, as she stalked haughtily down the hall, lugging her bar of manganese steel to the machine shop. A moment later, he heard his name announced within, to Andrews, and the answering roar, "Hell, I'm busy. Find out what he wants and tell him no! Hold on! Did you say Dingbat Warren? Bring him in. I want a bucket of his blood!"

"Mornin', pop. What's hot?" remarked Dingbat, casually, when he was in the presence.

"Don't 'pop' me! Save that until you rate it, which will be a long time, if I have anything to do with it." Jed Andrews waggled a finger at Dingbat. "But I do want to talk business with you, young man. What kind of hop did you slip my traffic manager to wangle that terminal contract out of him? It's the rankest piece of piracy anybody ever put over on me?"

"Hop?" echoed Dingbat, innocently. "Oh, I get it. If one of your employees does a sensible thing, he must be hopped up. Well, my little service is going to cut your turn-around on the Plutonian run by a trifling sixty per cent, that's all."

"Rats and rubbish! Never heard of such a thing."

"How could you?" challenged Dingbat, audaciously, "It's hard to get new ideas when all you'll listen to is 'yes, sir.'" He knew that the tough old industrialist whom he hoped soon to have for father-in-law had a worse bark than bite, and likewise that he secretly admired men that stood up to his bluster.

That is, if they were not on his own pay roll.

Jed Andrews glared, sputtering. He jabbed a button on his desk.

"Send Tolliver in!" he bellowed into a microphone.

In a couple of minutes, Tolliver, traffic manager for the far-flung lines of Saturnine Metals, stood in the sanctum.

"Why did you take on the tug contracts? Speak up. I want this impudent spud to hear it."

"Why, sir, as you know, all our ore-carriers are low-powered ships, for economy, and slow. If we could lift one off the loading dock by a powerful tug, take it up to speed, then kick it ahead, it would coast the rest of the way as fast as a super-liner. At the destination, another tug would have to meet it, brake it down and dock it. This contract does that. It is the equivalent of trebling the motive power of all our ore-carriers. For the same operating costs, we can carry twice as much ore as heretofore."

"Har-rumph," commented Jed Andrews, sourly. "Who thought that up?"

"Why, Mr. Warren, sir. He approached me about it. I thought it was a good idea, and accepted it."

"Good work, Tolliver," said Andrews, gruffly. "That's all."

For a moment after Tolliver had faded from the room, Andrews regarded Dingbat thoughtfully. At bottom, he respected this breezy young man who was courting his daughter. Himself a successful industrialist, he had watched with approbation the aggressive way in which Warren had built up his little fleet of planetary tugs and salvage vessels until it had already become a factor in the world of industry. At the same time, Jed Andrews had no intention of approving the love match with his daughter. He could only think in big terms. In his eyes, anything less than millions was mere chicken feed.

At that moment, however, Jed Andrews was not appraising the young man before him as a possible son-in-law, but as a resourceful business man who might be of use to him. Andrews was struggling with a problem, and had not been able so solve it—an unusual situation for him. For the first time in many years he was ready to accept advice.

"You win," he said, more calmly. "Since you're so all-fired smart, let me put something up to you, and see if you can think of an answer to it."

Dingbat Warren listened attentively while Jed Andrews told him the story of Phoebe and his operations there.

SATURN'S outermost, satellite, Phoebe, had been the subject of controversy for generations. Since it revolved around its primary in an opposite directions to all the other moons, many thought it came originally from outer space. Some thought it might contain rare and valuable minerals. The Saturn System Geologic Survey had explored it to some extent, but its bulk of pure iron had defied extensive probing. Three years before, they had reluctantly given Jed Andrews the concession of surveying and mining it. The terms of the charter provided that if he succeeded in bringing in to trade a reasonable quantity of valuable minerals within that period, he might buy the satellite at a nominal price. If no actual mining were done, it was to revert to the government.

The period was about to expire, and since no mining had been done, the option would lapse. The government had refused to renew it, and junior had it that the Martian syndicate, having learned of the immensely valuable core, had already induced the members of the council to award the satellite to them. Bribery was suspected.

"So you see, I'm out on a limb. They gave me three years, and the whole dag-blasted term of it has been frittered away by that guy Nitwit I hired. All right, he did find one diamond, and what a diamond! But it's all in one piece, five miles across, and a hundred miles down—under pure iron! I've done some fast digging in my time, but this option expires in three weeks. Three weeks! Think of that."

"You must have known all that for at least a year," observed Dingbat, shrewdly. "What have you been waiting for?"

Andrews winced inwardly. Dingbat had put his finger on the spot that was aching him, but he laughed a little. "I was hoping, I guess, that I would think of something, or the Nitwit would, or maybe get an extension of time. If the worst came to the worst, I meant to wire these test holes with Bragwyn circuits and shoot the juice to her. Blasting is mining, under any law. Then, ten days ago, one of the Martian gang got an injunction against me. They claim if I blow Phoebe up, it will fill the space-ways with bad fragments—menace to navigation, and all that stuff. Well, that sunk me. What makes me sorest of all is that I can't find the answer—me that's never been licked!"

"I could tow Phoebe in for you, as is, if you had a place to park her," suggested Dingbat. "That would take care of your option. Stuff laid down at the smelter is mined, surely."

"Oh, I thought of that," objected Andrews. "It's not practical. Did you ever try to drag a moon contrariwise through a mess of stuff like that runs around the planets? Even if you ducked actual collisions, you'd set up perturbations that'd make the inner satellites wander to hell-and-gone all over the place. I've got mines on those, too, you know."

"Why?" asked Dingbat, cheerfully. "I can drag that little lump of iron in here, and those others won't so much as wiggle. The plane of her orbit leans way away from the others, and what's more, she's riding high right now. You're way up north here, and so is she. All I have to do is break her out of her orbit and lead her in here in a nice, easy curve, and lay her down."

Jed Andrews took only two seconds to make his decision. The plateau beyond the Prometheus Range he had bought years before, to take care of future expansion. It was of continental proportions and could hold Phoebe easily. If Dingbat could do it, having the diamond alongside his plant would solve everything, even if it was encrusted with two hundred miles of useless iron. It might cause some quakes here on Titan, but—

"Done, boy! But I tell you right now, if you knock any of my chimneys clown when you come spiraling in here, I'm going to be hard to live with!"

The price was discussed and settled, and it was a good one. Success would not make Dingbat rich, but it meant he could buy a couple more tugs. A contract was quickly drawn and signed.

DINGBAT WARREN found Alicia in the machine shop. She had finished polishing the piece she had carried there—a part of her own gravicopter bumper that she had broken in a bad landing, and wanted to smooth off. She had played around the shops as a kid, and was half a machinist. When he found her, she was sitting on a pile of half-finished parts, watching a swarthy grinder polish a crankshaft. The squat Titanian tending the grinding machine stood squarely in the midst of a cascade of flame and sparks. Titanians made excellent grinders, for their skin was unbelievably tough, and their crystalline eye-plates impervious to fire. Jed Andrews always employed them. It kept his compensation costs down.

Seeing she was sitting, fascinated by the rain of sparkling light from the gritty cutting wheel, and pretended to ignore him, Dingbat did not speak, but stood patiently nearby. Idly he surveyed the busy shop, listening to the screams of the tools cutting the hard alloys used in spaceship construction. Like Alicia, he let his gaze drift to the cataract of fire, and fell to planning how he was to maneuver Phoebe.

Of a sudden, something clicked inside his brain. Abruptly he snapped out of his reverie and began watching the operations of the flame-bathed Uranian with avid interest. The germ of an idea that flitted into his mind flowered into a full-fledged plan. Flinging "I'll be right back" to the preoccupied Alicia, he dashed out of the machine shop.

Back in Andrews' office, he found the old man staring savagely out the window toward the Prometheus Range.

"That's going to be a hell of a lot of iron to get rid of," he shot at Dingbat, thinking of the two-hundred mile sphere if iron that would loom there, if Dingbat did not get tangled up with the inner satellites.

"Oh, the diamond core is all you want, is it?" asked Dingbat, mildly.

"Yes, you damn fool! Why should I want iron?" bristled Andrews. "But, boy, the diamond! It will be worth trillions. The army and space-force alone—"

"That's what I thought," interrupted Dingbat. "Please sign this additional clause I've had inserted."

Jed Andrews glanced at him sharply, and seeing he meant it, puckered his brow and read, "and for delivery within the agreed time of the central core only of the said Phoebe, consisting of one super-diamond, the compensation shall be, in lieu of moneys stipulated elsewhere, one-third the value of the said diamond."

"Why, you four-flushing young whippersnapper!" exploded Andrews. "So you're getting high and want to show off? Well, if that's a bluff, you're called. Emily! Bring your notebook!"

A fluttering stenographer slid into the room.

"Change this to read," he grunted.

"'in addition to' where it says 'in lieu of,' and change 'one-third' to read 'one-half.' That's pouring it on you, boy. Now put up, or shut up!"

"Thanks," grinned Dingbat, picking up the signed paper. At the door, he turned and asked, "and if I do, can I call you 'pop'?"

"You can call me anything. Get out of here!"

Bound back to the machine shop, Dingbat bumped full tilt into Nutworth, just emerging from the cashier's office, still dazed at the manhandling he had received from the cantankerous Jed Andrews. Hastily apologizing, he was about to dash on, when he recognized the unhappy engineer who had made the survey of Phoebe.

"You're just the man I'm looking for. Want a job?"

"Well, I haven't one, but—"

"You have! Dingbat Warren's Sky Wrestlers, Inc. That a sky-tug outfit."

"But I don't know anything about tugboats."

"You're going to." Dingbat shoved a card into the surprised young man's hand, and telling him to meet him there in an hour, rushed away. By now, he figured, Alicia had tired of watching the manganese sparks and was probably steaming up to spit some of her own.

ON board the super-tug Thor, hurtling outward from Titan with all her stern jets spewing fire, Dingbat clung to the grips of the starboard observation port, intently studying the play of light from the iridescent Rings below. No matter how often he passed them, he always did that. There was more than the strange beauty of the multicolored whirling bands to appeal to him; there was the intellectual interest in the superb precision with which the myriads of tiny globes kept station in the endless procession around Saturn.

He did not care whether the Rings were the unused parts of a planet never built, or the debris of one that fell apart. But he did know that that planet, if it ever existed, was all of quartz. The rainbow hues of the dizzily sweeping disks were due to the helter-skelter mixture of amethyst, clear, rose and smoky quartzes, jasper and agates, mingled and ceaselessly succeeding one another in their race to nowhere. They flowed along, some spheroids five or ten miles in diameter, most somewhat smaller, the interstices partially filled with clouds of smaller particles, ranging from boulders on down through sand and gravel to the merest dust. Due to its speed, the Ring looked solid, a polished sheet of opalescent glass, but Dingbat knew its real composition. He had spent a vacation prowling through its interior.

When the Ring had slid out of sight under the quarter, and Mimas hung glimmering below, Dingbat turned away and began considering the details of what he had to do. The mining engineer, Nutworth, was disconsolately pacing the cabin. He regretted coming on this expedition, for there appeared nothing for him to do. No one had told him yet what he had been hired for. Violent and unaccountable people, these Titanian colonists, he was thinking. In a single afternoon he had been summarily dismissed by one whose orders he had carried out implicitly, and as promptly hired by another who seemed to have nothing for him to do. Nutworth was a conscientious fellow, and he felt he should be doing something to earn his pay.

"Tell me all about the big diamond inside Phoebe," demanded Dingbat, noticing him for the first time.

NUTWORTH brightened. Eagerly he told all he knew. It did not take long. The diamond was a special form of carbon. It had no known melting point, was of tremendous hardness, was probably a crystal of many million faces, probably nearly spherical. The fact that it was combustible gave Dingbat a moment's worry, until he remembered that oxygen is needed to let something burn.

"Thanks," said Dingbat, and left Nutworth to his own devices. On the quarter, following the Thor, were two other powerful tugs, the Kwasind and the Hercules. Dingbat called their captains to the televisor and outlined what they were to do. Jed Andrews had said that all men and equipment had been withdrawn from Phoebe and the moonlet was deserted. This was well, for there was little time to spare. They could hook right on.

A week later, Phoebe was rolling inward, well on her way to Titan. Her course led around Saturn in a great arc, and out, then, to Titan. Clinging to her, spaced equally about her on a great circle, were the three tugs, all pushing. By varying their jet velocities, Dingbat could manipulate his tow as he chose. He was utilizing all her own momentum, coming in on a spiral counter to the revolution of the other satellites.

Saturnward and down lay the bright plain of the Ring. From the Thor it appeared as a glittering continent stretching almost limitlessly to starboard. Its near edge was racing toward them, Dingbat knew, at tremendous speed. It looked as thin as cardboard at his distance, despite its forty miles of thickness. Now, if at all, he must launch his daring experiment.

He had no great misgivings. He had confidence in his theory—even if the idea was impromptu. But there was never any certainty in the outcome when colossal forces of nature are brought into play in a novel way. Unforeseen factors could easily make the difference between triumph and ruin. But it was do or die now. After what Andrews had said in the office, Dingbat would not draw back. He reached for the televisor control.

At his curt order, the tugs turned the helpless Phoebe downward. Dingbat turned his attention to the Ring, which now appeared to be tilting slowly up toward him. When it had risen until it was edgewise to him, he gave another signal and the tug masters leveled off, heading their tow toward a point on the edge of the Ring far ahead. Self-reliant and cool as he usually was, Dingbat felt gooseflesh rise as his calculations showed him his zero hour was but a few minutes off. When once he had let go of Phoebe, the matter would be out of his hands. Nature would have charge. Time only could tell whether she would handle it as he had visualized it. "Stand-by!" he ordered, grimly, squinting at the chronometer; then, "Give her the works!"

His other tugs cast off, flaring their bow tubes to deliver a parting kick to the doomed Phoebe. Dingbat himself clung to the satellite a couple of minutes longer, surging forward with all his power to start the moonlet spinning. Then he, too, administered a final kick and backed away. The released Phoebe shot forward like a gigantic bowling ball sent down the black alley of space by some vast giant. Dingbat sighted over the fast receding sphere. His calculations had been perfect; she was heading squarely for the edge of the Ring. His work, for the moment, was done. The urgent need was to find a safe place. The Thor shot upward, climbing frantically, followed by the other two.

AT the instant when he felt high enough to be secure, Dingbat leveled off again. Well above the plane of the Ring, he could look ahead and down to the speeding iron ball. Phoebe was very near to the periphery of the Ring now, approaching at a small angle. Shortly she must collide with it. Their directions of movement were opposite, and Dingbat involuntarily shuddered at the speed of impact—it would be at least sixty miles per second!

"Too bad," commiserated Nutworth, who was also looking out the port. "Got away from you, didn't she?"

"Put these on," commanded Dingbat, shortly, handing out space goggles.

Phoebe struck. A dazzling green flame shot out, straight as an arrow, flaring back thousands of miles along her wake. The region from which the tugs had just escaped was sheer flame. About the buffeted sphere that had been Phoebe, a corona of incandescent iron vapor was pluming, streaked with beads of molten iron bursting into sparkling rosettes, while ricocheting quartz spheroids bombarded space above and below the Ring. Instinctively, Dingbat shut his ears with his hands to shut out the screech he expected to hear, forgetting that in the void there is no sound.

"What on Earth!" stammered the frightened Nutworth. The crew members looked at Dingbat in awe.

"Cosmic grindstone," tersely explained Dingbat, "a little job of diamond polishing."

Now that he saw the limits of the danger zone, Dingbat pushed his ships ahead. He wanted to get as close as the spurting flames and wildly leaping quartz, particles would permit, for when Phoebe had spent her momentum, he still had the tricky job of diving in to salvage the diamond. He could plainly see by this time one hemisphere of Phoebe sticking up through the upper surface of the Ring, and it was white hot. The hurricane of sand and gravel impinging against the iron moonlet was abraiding it away, and the friction was heating the iron as it was torn from its base. Now and then, a blinding burst told of the collision with one of the larger quartz spheroids. Dingbat thrilled, thinking what the spectacle must be, viewed from Saturn.

His first reaction had been one of elation. His idea was working! His main fear had been that Phoebe would lose her velocity before the sandblast of the Ring could strip her clean, and he would have to lug home a misshapen thing. But when he looked again, his complacency left him. There was something wrong down there. He had used foresight, but not enough. In giving Phoebe his last push, he had set her spinning, so that when she was in the rushing Ring stream, she would roll over and over, allowing it to gnaw her evenly on all sides. With a gasp of dismay he realized that this was not happening. Instead, Phoebe was spinning madly about an axis vertical to the Ring! In striking the Ring, the impact of the edge had applied a torque that had started a violent rotation about the wrong axis.

Dingbat's first impulse was to dive and risk another push. But as he approached he saw too clearly that the searing envelope of lurid iron vapor and the flying gobs of fused quartz made that certain death. Even if he could penetrate that barrage, it was questionable whether the glowing sphere was solid enough to receive the thrust. There was nothing to do but hover and watch. The blast of Ring material was slotting Phoebe through the middle. The moonlet was over two hundred miles in diameter, the disk but forty thick. The battered satellite was being severed like an apple being fed into a buzz saw. Its core was a priceless diamond, and would soon be reached, and swept away.

DINGBAT had hardly realized the inevitable effect, when the thing he dreaded happened under his direct gaze. With a final outpouring of flame, the white-hot nucleus of Phoebe was swept out from under its polar dome, and away in a swarm of struggling quartz globules. The white-hot domes, no longer held apart by the center, now collapsed into the Ring, and in their turn began to be eroded. Dingbat sprang into swift action, for he knew that to lose sight of the diamond meant to lose it. Once cool, and mingled with the tens of millions of similar quartz spheroids, it would circle perpetually with them about Saturn. There would be no finding it, short of a miracle. He must turn and pursue it now!

Desperately the tugs tried to kill their momentum in the direction Phoebe had originally started. Enveloped in flames from the flaring jets bucking space, observation from the Thor was impossible for a time. When she and her sisters had managed to turn and had begun to pick up speed in the direction of motion of the Ring, Dingbat's anxious scanning of the curving plain ahead showed him nothing. The diamond, last seen welt within the Ring, had disappeared. Now there was no sign. Savagely, he ordered every ounce of speed crowded on.

Ten minutes later, far ahead, there was a momentary burst of white light, followed by a fanlike eruption of greenish flame. That indicated the diamond still had a little velocity left in their direction, and had just had a collision with a quartz sphere. Dingbat snatched a little hope. As long as the diamond was fighting upstream, as it were, signs could be expected. Cursing helplessly because there was no more reserves of speed, Dingbat paced the cabin until the Thor had built up to Ring velocity. The sight of the glimmering ten-thousand-mile width of the Ring added to his dejection; systematic search of it was an impossibility.

When the moment came that the tug was traveling exactly at the speed of the Ring fragments, all hands peered below. As by magic, the Ring ceased to be a solid. Below, as if hanging motionless in space, were bodies, millions of them, of every size and color. The spaces between them were large, comparatively. A space-ship, handled with care, could safely be taken in.

As he gave the order, he noted for the first time that in the excitement of the day, he had forgotten the passage of time. In scanning the part of the Ring ahead, where he thought he had last seen the diamond, his heart sank when he observed that that spot would shortly pass into the shadow of Saturn. His search would have to be made in the dark. What had seemed to be difficult enough was about to turn into an impossibility. Unless he sighted the diamond before dark, it was lost forever!

At that moment, in the very edge of the penumbra, a dazzling beam of purest blue, changing instantly to a gorgeous crimson, shot forth. It vanished as quickly as it came, as its source went into the shadow. The diamond! It could be nothing else. A groan went up from the crew. Everybody recognized now that with another hour of sunlight, there might be a chance of securing the gem. But now?

THE three ships groped through the packed recesses of the Ring, their lights creating an eerie scene. Nowhere in all space is there another such area. All about them were the ghostly spheres, each reflecting the light differently, depending on its color and crystal form. Hour after hour they tested one big quartz globule after another, hoping to get back the answering flash of the superb jewel. False hopes were raised—and dashed. Men grew tired and sleepy.

"Titan calling," announced the televisor man.

"Don't answer," replied Dingbat, glumly.

"If it's any help, sir," ventured Nutworth, "I just remembered—diamonds phosphoresce under the impact of an electric discharge."

"No good," said Dingbat, gloomily, "these are tugs, not war cruisers."

Nutworth relapsed for a moment into his ordinary state of worried abstraction, then brightened and added; "And under ultra-violet light, too."

"Now you're talking," cried Dingbat, coming to life again. Orders rang out and the crew of the Thor swarmed all over the place, rigging transformers.

The scene outside, if bizarre before, was absolutely weird now. The flood of violet light made the strange particles in the neighborhood look like the embellishments of a fever dream, glimmering in the ghostly light. Many pieces were discovered that gave off a mild fluorescence. These were successively examined and rejected. The ships went on, casting their invisible light ahead. Presently, back from the black void ahead came the glorious brilliance of the answering flame of the diamond.

"Phoebe, come to papa!" half sobbed Dingbat, delirious with relief. The crew needed no orders. They did what was to do. Dingbat danced round and round. Grabbing the amazed Nutworth, he pumped his hand up and down.

"Nutworth, old boy, I apologize!"

"For what?" asked the bewildered engineer.

"Never mind," said Dingbat, sobering, "but you get a bonus, too."

The Thor had hooked onto the diamond, and it was not yet dawn.

"Saturnine Works," Dingbat ordered, crisply, "and mind the chimneys."

He went to the televisor and switched it on. In a couple of minutes he was looking into Jed Andrews' office. Before he could say a word, the old man started roaring.

"What in Hell! Every astronomer in the Solar System has gone crazy!"

"Tell 'em everything's under control," and Dingbat switched off. The old man could wait. He was looking for Alicia and the glimpse of the office showed him she was not there. Now he called the Andrews mansion on Tethys Heights. Ah! There she was.

"Hy'a, hon! Listen—there's an old Earth custom that when the boy friend brings in a big diamond, the girl sets the date. I'm on the way!"


Roy Glashan's Library
Non sibi sed omnibus
Go to Home Page
This work is out of copyright in countries with a copyright
period of 70 years or less, after the year of the author's death.
If it is under copyright in your country of residence,
do not download or redistribute this file.
Original content added by RGL (e.g., introductions, notes,
RGL covers) is proprietary and protected by copyright.