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DAVID WRIGHT O'BRIEN
(WRITING AS DUNCAN FARNSWORTH)

THE OUTSIDERS

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RGL e-Book Cover 2019

First published in Fantastic Adventures, February 1942

This e-book edition: Roy Glashan's Library, 2019
Version Date: 2019-07-06
Produced by Paul Sandery and Roy Glashan

All original content added by RGL is protected by copyright.

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Fantastic Adventures, February 1942, with "The Outsiders"


TABLE OF CONTENTS


Illustration

"The time has come to strike!" she said, "No matter what the outcome."


CHAPTER I. — [UNTITLED]

"NO!" the voice bleated. "No, you can't send me there. I won't stand it. I'll kill myself. Oh, God, I'll kill myself, do you hear me? I've done nothing wrong. I loved my dear precious wife. It was rage that made me kill her, do you hear me? No-oh-ohhhhh, God!"

"Shuddup, yuh little slob!" another voice suddenly bellowed. "Shuddup, d'yuh hear me?"

Jon Vance looked up and into the tier directly across from him, where a huge, freckled, red-headed giant stood gripping the bars and glaring fiercely into the cell from which the sobbing came. The big fellow, Jon knew, was a space outlaw named Brannigan.

The sniffling in the cell beside Jon subsided suddenly.

"I'll see to it that yuh kill yerself," Brannigan growled. "Yuh little wife-murdering skunk!"

"Ohhhhhh, God!" the whimpering broke forth again. "They can't send me there. They can't I tell you!"

The name of the prisoner in the duralloy confinement tier beside him was, Jon Vance knew, Parkerton, a short, incredibly fat, bald headed little man who had butchered his wife and tried to escape to the Far Planetoid reaches with another woman.

"My dear, loving, precious little wife," Parkerton was sobbing softly now. "My dear, dead wife..."

"Why doncha knock a hole through that duralloy and get in an' kill that little louse?" Brannigan suggested to Jon.

"Is he getting on your nerves?" Jon answered with cynical concern.

The big fellow suddenly relaxed.

"Nah, he's just a pain in my skull, that's all. Don't get me wrong, Vance, this place and what's gonna happen to us don't bother me none. I kin take it, y'unnerstand?"

"You don't fear the unknown?" Jon replied, still sarcastically. "You haven't any dread of a life sentence in a living death? You don't get shaky at the thought of a hell-world prison which you nor I and damn near nobody in this universe knows anything about? The thought of The Door doesn't make your back sweat cold?"

"Yeah," Brannigan snorted contemptuously, "The Door don't bother me none. I ain't afraid of nothing. Whatever is waiting for us Outside* is waiting; worrying about it ain't gonna change it."

[* Discovered by Professor Alexis Champen, in the year 2000 A.D., The Outside, was the term given to a hitherto unknown world existing in the fourth dimension. The Outside, in the research devoted to it, and the explorations made through it, in the next hundred and fifty years, was finally deemed to be utterly desolate wasteland. Every effort made to exploit this fourth dimensional world commercially was a failure, until in the year 2200 A.D. it was finally decided to turn it into a penal colony for all major lawbreakers and undesirables of the three dimensional world. Since there was but one door to the Outside, the Federation governments took this over, and arranged a system whereby it would be impossible for those banned to that world ever to get back to the old one. In this fashion, civilization began to rid itself of those undesirable to society about the year 2300, when the Outside was closed for the last time, to be used from then on only as a penal world. The year in which this story takes place is 2330 A.D. —Ed.]


Parkerton suddenly squealed hysterically.

"Damn you, damn you both! Stop talking about it! Stop, I tell you! For the love of God, stop!"

Brannigan laughed harshly.

"Shuddup, yuh little skunk!" Then to Jon, he said: "I been wondering about you, Vance. You don't look lousy like the rest of us. What're you in here for? Whodja burn?"

Jon Vance's gray eyes met Brannigan's levelly for an instant, then he answered.

"Someone who needed it very badly."

"Howdja do it?" Brannigan seemed professionally interested.

"Disintegrator pistol," Jon answered.

Brannigan shook his big red head distastefully.

"Sloppy job. Me, I did it different." His voice took on pride. "I wiped out a whole damn space patrol-ship with atomic cannons."

"Thorough," Jon said in sarcastic tribute, "very thorough."

"Yeah," Brannigan seemed pleased. "Yeah, wasn't it? But they caught me in a Venusian dump three periods later. Never shouldda got so damn drunk."

Parkerton began to moan again.

"I wish they'd hurry up," Brannigan said. "This little stinker's driving me nuts."

There was a humming at the far end of the confinement tier corridor, and a door opened by atomic eye mechanism.

"Ask and you shall receive," Vance mocked cynically. "Here they are now."


THERE was a sudden horrible scream from Parkerton's tier, then the thud of a body thumping to the metal flooring. Brannigan looked into that tier, grinned at Jon Vance.

"Passed out, fainted dead away," he chortled.

Steps were coming down the corridor, and peering out of his tier Jon Vance could see blue-tuniced guards, four of them, marching toward the section, in which he, Brannigan, and Parkerton were quartered.

The guards stopped before Jon's tier. An atomic eye hummed, and the barred door slid open. Jon rose from his metal bench and stepped into the corridor. One of the guards covered him with a disintegrator pistol. Brannigan, too, was out in the corridor now, and he took his place beside Jon.

"This is the start of the Last Stroll," Brannigan whispered. "It'll be a relief to have it done with."

There was trouble in Parkerton's tier, and Jon heard the sloshing of water poured from a sanitary durnoid bucket. Then there was spluttering, a few moans, and Parkerton was dragged gasping from his tier.

"Walk!" one of the guards commanded Parkerton, but the fat little man moaned slightly, his legs buckling grotesquely. "Drag him," the guard told another. Then, filing out in this queer procession, the little party started down the corridor....


JON VANCE and his two fellow prisoners stood in a bleak gray duralloy vaulted room. Behind them was a small door, through which they had been pushed some two minutes previously. In front of them was another thicker and larger door; and directly above this, centered on the gray bleak wall was a large vizascreen. The vizascreen was crackling blue. Now its electrical emanations turned to crimson.

The screen turned pale yellow, and a face appeared on it. The stern, gray moustached visage of the warden of Federation Prisons. He wore the blue uniform of a Federation officer. Now he spoke.

"This is the beginning of your trip to the Outside," the warden said quietly. "You all know why the Federation courts have deemed it necessary that society mete out this supreme punishment to you."

It was Brannigan who broke in harshly.

"Get on with it. Send us along and get it over with!"

Then the warden, looking more stern than before, continued.

"You three have been sentenced for the rest of your natural lives to the 'Outside.' The door in front of you leads to the first of our fourth dimensional locks. When you step through this, it closes on you forever. You will find in the first lock, enough rations and equipment to enable you to endure the rigors of the fourth dimensional world for a certain period of time. What happens to you, once you are 'Outside' will no longer be of our concern."

Parkerton was sobbing hysterical again.

"There will be a second door at the end of the first lock. When you have donned your equipment you will proceed through this second door—which opens to the 'Outside.' That is all."

The vizascreen suddenly crackled pale orange, then faded to a gray that blended with the wall. The warden's face was gone from the screen.

The lights in the gray room seemed suddenly to pale, and a vast ominous humming began. Jon Vance could feel the vibration of it through the duralloy floor. Parkerton lay trembling on the chamber floor now, and Brannigan bent over, fastening one huge paw on the scruff of the rotund fellow's neck, lifting him to his feet.

The door before them opened.

Jon Vance stepped forward, Brannigan beside him, half-dragging Parkerton. In this manner, they filed through the second door. It closed behind them as quickly as it had opened. Now Jon Vance looked around the final chamber.

It was smaller than the first, but of the same peculiar gray coloring as the other. And at the end of it, massive and bolted, waited the door to the Outside!

For the first time in many hours, Jon Vance felt his throat constricting dryly. His voice was hoarse as he spoke to his big companion.

"This is it, Brannigan. This is our exit."

Brannigan, too, seemed suddenly less confident. He nodded slowly. Parker-ton was now like a man in a trance; his small pig eyes were glazed and lifeless, and although he seemed likely to collapse at any instant, he no longer needed support.

Jon moved over to the side of the chamber. The equipment the warden had told them about was piled there. Three disintegrator pistols, three packsacks of capsulized food supplies, three electric knives—nothing else.

"Here," Jon said, his voice still husky. "The climate is evidently fine on the Outside. All they think we need are these." He picked up the equipment.

Brannigan buckled a disintegrator pistol to his big waist and pushed one huge arm through the packsack Jon handed him. He placed the electric knife in his sack, and Jon distributed his own equipment about his body in the same way.

"What about Parkerton?" Brannigan asked. The fat little man still stood there lifelessly, spittle drooling from the corner of his half-opened mouth. "Think he's gone daffy?"

"We'll keep his gear. I don't think he'll be safe with it for a while." Jon handed Brannigan one of the sacks, and the big fellow threw it unprotestingly across his Other shoulder.

"How about his pistol?" Brannigan demanded. Jon buckled the extra disintegrator weapon to his waist in answer, handed the electric knife to the huge redhead.

There was a vast ominous humming again, and the door to the Outside began to open. Jon cleared his throat.

"Come on," he said.


CHAPTER II. — OUTSIDE!

IT might have been minutes, or merely seconds in which Jon Vance found himself immersed in a whirling vortex of blackness. He wasn't certain. All he recalled was crossing the threshold of the door. Then a vast wave of swirling irresistible forces lifted him bodily and hurled him through an ebon torrent of air.

Now, groggily, he realized that he was in a heavy gray mist, staggering blindly this way and that in an effort to regain his balance. Somewhere a voice was shouting his name.

"Vance, Jon Vance, where in the hell are you, Vance?"

Jon recognized the voice as belonging to Brannigan, and as his vision began to return to him, was able to discern a bulky shape outlined against the vaporous clouds that were everywhere around him.

"Brannigan," Jon managed to call, "Brannigan!"

A large hand seized his arm, and a voice bellowed into his ear.

"Here, Vance. Beside yuh!"

The vaporous mists were clearing. Jon could see Brannigan's face now, and for the first time there was the tautness of fear at the edges of his wide mouth.

Visibility was possible for a radius of perhaps fifty yards now, and Jon gazed grimly at the bleak, gray, muddy terrain on which they stood. Unconsciously, he shivered, watching the vapors dissipate themselves as they rose from the warm gray mud.

"Where's Parkerton?" Brannigan asked in sudden recollection. A soft whimpering behind them answered his question.

Jon and Brannigan wheeled at the same instant. Wheeled to see the fat, slug-like body of the wife-killer inching along toward them on hands and knees!

A sudden wave of revulsion swept over Jon Vance. The expression on Parkerton's round face was one of sheer drooling imbecility.

"Batty!" Brannigan gasped. "Crazy as a comet!"

Slowly, Jon stepped up to the fellow, Brannigan, behind him, stood where he was.

"Parkerton!" Vance snapped.

Parkerton paused in his all-four crawling, looking uncomprehendingly up at Jon Vance.

"Parkerton," Jon repeated, "snap out of it—do you understand?" He reached down and slapped the little man across the face.

Parkerton cringed, the look of imbecilic confusion still on his face.

"It's all over, Parkerton," Jon repeated. "Snap out of it!" He caught him across the face again. He bent over and shook the little man. But Parkerton reacted like a limp sack of wheat. Jon let him drop back to the wet gray mud.


BRANNIGAN drew a disintegrator pistol. Now he pointed it unerringly at Parkerton's skull.

"Step aside," the big fellow ordered Jon, "and I'll let him have it. His mind is gone. We can't keep him with us. We're going to have tough enough going as it is."

Jon looked up in astonishment at Brannigan.

"You can't do that!"

"The hell yuh say," Brannigan snarled. "Step aside. The louse'll be better off." He waved his weapon menacingly.

"Lower that gun," Jon said levelly, his hand started with studied carelessness to the guns strapped at his waist.

"Don't get any ideas, Vance," Brannigan warned, eyes flicking down at Jon's gesture.

The momentary clash between Brannigan and himself had occupied all Jon's concentration until this instant. And now, glancing over his antagonist's shoulder for a flickering instant, he saw that the vaporous mists had almost cleared entirely, and that several miles of the muddy terrain on which they stood were now completely visible.

But this was not what made him start suddenly.

"Brannigan," Jon gasped, "good Lord, man, look!" He pointed over Brannigan's shoulder.

Brannigan's lips moved in a smirk.

"That's got whiskers, Vance. Step aside while I burn that guy!"

Jon's jaw tightened in sudden anger.

"You damned fool." And with a lightning swift gesture, both his hands dropped to the guns at his waist, whipped them forth, and threw them to the mud!

Startled, Brannigan had only time to swing his gun directly on Jon. But in that interval, Jon's guns had already plunked into the soft gray mud. Brannigan started at them in amazement, jaw slack.

"Now, damn you," Jon snarled. "Take a look. It's no trick."

Brannigan, compelled by a will greater than his own, swung around automatically. His gasp of astonishment was loud and profane. Then he turned excitedly to Jon.

"Good God, Vance. Are we both crazy, or are those really humans off in the distance?" Brannigan seemed shaken.

"They look like it," Jon answered briefly. "So I imagine they are." He was squinting through the heavy gray atmosphere toward a slight knoll in the distance, toward a swiftly advancing knot of men. The strange group was growing larger, and now Jon bent over, retrieving his guns.

"We might need these," he told Brannigan, holding both ready. "Until we know what's what."

Brannigan looked with wordless respect at the disintegrator pistols in Jon's hands. It was clear that his somewhat slow mind was grappling with the enigma of this Jon Vance, and how it was that he drew faster than Brannigan himself had ever seen even the most skilled space pirates draw. Brannigan shook his head in bewilderment. Then suddenly something struck him as funny. He threw back his big red head and burst into guffaws.

"It's rich," he chortled. "Just think, I was pushing yuh around, threatening to burn a hole in yuh, when alia time yuh could easily have cindered me before I blinked twice!"

Jon smiled mirthlessly.

"You have a strange sense of humor, Brannigan," he said.

"You're pretty strange yourself," Brannigan answered. "Plenty strange, I'm thinking."


THEN, wordlessly, the two stood watching the nearing group of crimson-clad figures in the distance. Behind them, Parkerton lay in an inert heap on the wet gray mud.

"I've often wondered," Jon said quietly in the silence, "if anyone ever survived on the 'Outside.' This seems to be my answer."

"Yeah," said Brannigan. "Maybe this won't be so bad after all. The red tunics on them don't make it look like they're from our group of thirty."

"That," answered Jon, softly, "is just what I've been thinking." His brows knit in speculation. "Those red tunics, if my memory doesn't fail me, were once used as the uniform of the Federation Army."

"Yeah?" Brannigan scratched his head.

"Yeah," Jon's words were clipped, "precisely two hundred years ago, however."

"But—" Brannigan began.

"That's what I was wondering," Jon finished for him.

Brannigan's answer was choked off by the sudden cry that came from a crimson-clad figure at the head of the advancing party. The cry seemed to be caught and muffled to indistinctness by the vaporish fog in the atmosphere.

"What was that?" Brannigan demanded. "What did they shout?"

Jon Vance shook his head.

"I didn't catch it. Sounded vaguely like 'haloooo,' but I'm not sure."

The party was within fifty yards now, and Jon could at last make out the features of the tall, heavily built leader who strode before them. He was a brutish looking fellow, with dark, tangled hair, a thin mouth, and a nose that had been smashed into almost utter flatness against his face.

"Lay down your weapons," a voice thundered, and Jon knew that it came from the leader of the group—the flat nosed person. "We advance in friendliness, and wish to be sure that you are meeting us in the same fashion."

Brannigan bared his big white teeth in a snarl.

"Sounds like a dodge of some sort. Don't do it."

Jon figured rapidly. There seemed to be close to twenty of the crimson-clad strangers. He and Brannigan were only two.

"We'll do as they ask," he said.

Brannigan grunted.

"What the hell, we—"

"Do as I say," Jon Vance repeated. And in spite of himself, Brannigan found he was dropping his disintegrator pistol to the mud.

The party had halted, watching Jon and Brannigan. As they saw the two drop their weapons, they came forward.

Jon Vance was watching their approach narrowly, noting many things, one of which was that same distinct similarity between the tunics these strangers wore and the ancient uniforms that had once been worn by the forces of the Federation Army two centuries before.

Jon Vance was watching this and wondering, and calculating, when the flat-nosed leader of the group brought his hand up in a sudden unexcepted gesture—hurling a tiny object directly at the feet of Vance and Brannigan.

Jon shouted too late, for even as he tried to reach downward for his disintegrator pistols, a nauseous stinking black smoke swept up and around him. He felt his sense of balance leaving, the ground reeled. He could hear Brannigan's choking coughing as if from a distance, and realized that his own lungs were filling with the same burning gas that poured from the object that had been unexpectedly tossed at their feet. Jon knew he was falling, and that blackness was swimming everywhere around him. But there was nothing he could do, nothing he could—


CHAPTER III. — KING KANE

JON VANCE realized that someone was shaking him roughly, and then, groggily, he opened his eyes and shook his head in an effort to clear the ache from it. His first desire was to cough, and then he remembered what had happened.

"Come. Up on your feet!"

Jon looked up into the face of the speaker, the person who had roused him. He was a gray-bearded fellow in a somewhat worn red tunic. Jon could make out little of his features except for the uppermost wrinkled parchment of skin above the beard. But the eyes were what made Jon Vance suddenly chill. There was something in the eyes of this old man that was indescribably horrible; a stinking, malignant evil!

It was instinctively that Jon's hand flew to his tunic belt. But even before he felt the emptiness where his disintegrator pistols had been, he realized that all his weapons had been taken from him.

Now his eyes flew around the tiny room in which he lay. It was a small, cubicle-like structure of a metal unfamiliar to him. He had been sleeping on a makeshift bed of thorny wood.

"Up," the old man repeated, and Jon realized that the voice was as unpleasantly evil as the eyes of the creature.

Jon rose to his feet, wondering what had happened to Brannigan and Parkerton. They were both probably in similar confinements. Jon saw that the old man held an atomic pistol in his right hand, and that there was a surprising steadiness to the manner in which he held it.

"Where to?" Jon demanded. "I'm anxious to find out what in the hell this is all about."

"You will," the old man said laconically. "Move in front of me." Jon suddenly found the business end of the atomic pistol pressed into the small of his back. He felt certain that the fetidness in the air was from the old fellow's breath as he moved behind him.

"Just march along," the old fellow ordered. "If you head the wrong way, this pistol will navigate you correctly."

Jon Vance marched...


IT was an utterly dumbfounded Jon Vance who, still guarded by the crimson-tuniced old man, walked into a vast, noisy, huge-domed room some three minutes later. For in his carefully guarded walk from the tiny metal cubicle to this place, he had seen astonishing wonders on every side of him. Jon Vance had become aware that he was in a city, a strange, crudely magnificent city of surprisingly large proportions.

And this strange city was peopled by even stranger citizenry. Human beings, yes, but human beings all similar in one respect to the old man who guarded him—in that they had an incredible evil to them!

Jon was certain now, that this was the "Outside." He had been sure of it from the very first, of course. But lacking any concept of what a fourth dimensional world would be like, he had been slow to adjust his physical processes to his mental realizations. And since this was the "Outside," he knew that the people in this strange metropolis were, like himself, former dwellers in the three-dimensional world, banned by the society of that world.

But the thought that these people would have found survival, and such a survival at that, was hard for Jon to realize. He could not imagine in what manner, for example, they had taken the metal which made their buildings from the gray mud that seemed to be the only type of terrain present.

He wondered, a little grimly, what the reaction would be in the Federation if it were realized that the undesirables had not only managed to maintain life in their banishment, but had also started a civilization such as this. And at the thought of these outcasts living together and forging a new civilization, Jon was instantly jarred back to the uneasy realization that the keynote of this new odd order was not man living in harmony with man, not human relinquishing rights for the betterment of other humans, but that very violent evil force which he read in the eyes of each and every one of them!

The old man, on noting Jon's amazement, chuckled evilly:

"It surprises you, doesn't it? Yes, it is incredible to all the newcomers. But you will learn our history, if you are here long enough."

And now Jon was being ushered through a throng of these crimson-tuniced outsiders, up toward the front of the vast hall to which he had been taken.

Jon could feel the eyes of all those in the hall boring into his back. And now he was able to see that a huge sort of dais was situated at the front of the place.

A huge, black-haired, richly-robed figure sat enthroned on this dais. His head was bent slightly forward, making it impossible for Jon to see his features clearly.

The crowds were giving way as the old fellow pushed Jon along ahead of him. At last, when Jon and his captor were but a scant ten yards from the great throne, the huge black-haired figure looked up. Now, for the first time since entering the hall, Jon was able to see the face of the man on the dais.

Jon's footsteps halted. Shock, white and taut, twisted his features. He felt his fists clenching and unclenching, while a thousand trip hammers pounded furiously where his heart should have been.


TIME, in the breathless interval that Jon gazed into the features of the person on the dais, hung suspended. Then blindingly, a wild, furious red blanket of rage swept over Jon Vance.

An animal snarl choked in his throat, and heedless of the weapon that had been pressed against his back, he lunged forward at the dais. Crimson-tuniced Outsiders were everywhere around him as he broke, and with maniacal strength, Jon threw them aside, pressing still closer to the figure on the dais.

"Damn you," Jon was screaming wildly, "damn your dirty stinking black hide!"

Instinctively, the man on the dais had risen, backing away from Jon's maddened charge. His handsome, sharp features were twisted in a mixture of astonishment and fear.

Blows rained down on Jon's head and shoulders from every side as his hands found and clawed at the edges of the dais.

And an instant later the entire hall was rocked by a vast thundering explosion of orange flame. Simultaneously, Jon had a blurred vision of a great metal screen rising as if from nowhere to surround the man on the dais.

Then something hit him a sickening blow at the base of his skull, and as lights, flame and noise pinwheeled madly through his dimming consciousness, Jon was vaguely, fuzzily, aware that the Outsiders in the hall were shouting, that pistols were spatting furiously above it all. After that, he knew nothing...


CHAPTER IV. — THE WOLVES

GENTLY, very softly, waves washed over Jon Vance's face. Groggily, he tried to rise, realizing vaguely that he was stretched out flat on a hard sort of bench. The pinwheels, for the first few minutes in which he endeavored to bring his eyes into focus, still whirled giddily.

Finally the whirling ceased, and at the same instant Jon found the strength to lift himself to one elbow. The waves that had been lapping over his face were, in reality, a wet soft rag. A hand was holding the rag, had been mopping Jon's face. An incredibly slim and velvetly beautiful hand, Jon found out as he reached forth and seized it.

"Wha—" Jon began, holding firmly to the soft wrist; his eyes brought the rest of the scene suddenly into focus; he gasped.

He held the wrist of an incredibly lovely girl, a brunette, who gazed solemnly down at him. She wore a soft, flowing gray domino, and the cowl was back over her shoulders.

"You are better now, Jon Vance," she said. "Do not try to talk until your strength has returned."

Jon released his grasp on her wrist in amazement.

"What, that is, who are you? Where—" he faltered.

"You are in one of the caves of the wolves," the girl said gravely. "We brought you from the throne hall of King Kane."

Jon sat up now, gingerly, looking at the girl with grim suspicion.

"Kane," he hissed, "that damnable swine. I was just about to—" he broke off, shaken by the anger of his emotions.

"So were we," the girl said. "We were just about to kill King Kane. Your unexpected attempt to assault him spoiled our very carefully laid plans."

"The explosion," Jon began. "The orange flame that followed it, were they a signal, a—"

The girl cut Jon off this time.

"They signaled our attack. The raid of a wolf pack. We might have gotten to Kane. We would have, in fact, if the screen hadn't surrounded him as you attempted to get to him."

Jon put his head in his hands, trying to drive away the fuzziness that still wrapped his efforts to think clearly. He looked up again.

"Who are you? What are the wolves? Are we still 'Outside?'" he demanded suddenly. Then, as a sudden afterthought, "How do you know my name?"

The girl was still gravely unsmiling as she answered.

"I will try to answer your questions one at a time. The first, about my name. I am Maydo, Maydo Melory. You will learn of the wolves in a very short time. You are, of course, 'Outside.' There is no way out from this fourth dimensional world. I know it all too well. I have been here since I was a very small child." She paused. "We learned your identity from spies of ours in Kane's city. A certain Parkerton, who was sent here with you, revealed that to Kane's questioners when you were first captured."

Jon sat up a little straighter. Things were becoming a bit more coherent. Now at least he knew what had happened to Parkerton.

"And the other," he found himself saying unconsciously, "the big strapping red-headed fellow; was he taken by Kane's men also?"

Maydo Melory nodded.

"He is a prisoner, just as you were before they took you for questioning."

"But the wolves," Jon insisted. "Who are you?"

"In this kingdom of evil," the girl replied, "not all are of the same caliber as King Kane and his lot. There are those who were condemned to the 'Outside' unjustly."

Jon Vance rubbed his hard jaw.

"I know," he answered laconically. "And the wolves comprise those who can't live in the same world as Kane's."

Maydo nodded.

"We are fugitives, a scant minority compared to the thousands of criminal beings who live under Kane's rule. We live in caves, sheltered and unknown to Kane. We do our best to fight against the horrible domination he holds over this world."

"Kane has been here how long?" Jon demanded.

"Twenty years. And in that time he has organized the forces of evil into the malignant civilization you saw but a few hours ago."


TAUTNESS came to Jon's features again as he said with soft deadliness.

"Then I was right. I knew I was right. Twenty years!"

The girl looked puzzled.

"I do not understand."

Jon brushed her half query aside.

"It's not immediately important, to you. Tell me," he said suddenly, "why did they bring me here? Why didn't they kill me, or leave me there with Kane's crowd?"

The girl seemed quite bland as she said:

"We may kill you yet, if we find it is necessary. We suspected, however, that your rage against King Kane marked you as not one of his satanical brood. We have all too few additions to our pack. Kane usually seizes all new arrivals to the 'Outside'—as he did in your case—and kills those whom he doesn't consider adaptable to his evil civilization."

Jon rubbed his jaw again.

"I see," he said with grim humor, "if I fit, you'll keep me around. If not, you'll kill me. Is that it?"

The girl nodded.

"After all, it was your unwitting assault on Kane that ruined our plans to assassinate him." She paused. "You might have been killed. But I instructed the pack to seize you and bring you along."

Jon blinked in astonishment.

"You instructed them?"

The girl nodded.

"Naturally, I was leading the raiding party."

Jon looked at the slim, delicate loveliness of the girl, unable to visualize her at the head of a raiding party.

"Who heads the entire aggregation of wolves?" he asked.

Again the girl was calmly assured.

"I am the leader," she asserted. "I took charge when Kane captured my father."

Jon frowned.

"Your father is Kane's captive at this moment?"

The girl bit her lower lip.

"He is Professor Melory. Kane is forcing him to work out a solution to his devilish dream of world conquest."

Jon was still frowning.

"Melory, Melory, Good God, girl—not the Professor Melory who was head consultant for the Federation Science Academy some eighteen years ago!"

The girl nodded gravely.

"The same Professor Melory." There was obvious pride in her voice. "The man who gave the Federation its most valuable scientific advancements in the past two centuries."

"But he was supposed to have been killed, a space liner disaster. His wife, his daughter—" Jon faltered.

"The Federations learned that. But it was not true. My father, my mother, and I were sent here, into the 'Outside,' by jealous politicians of the Corbae regime. It was never known. The space liner disaster was arranged to cover it up."

"And you were just a child, a mere kid," Jon said, aghast.

"My mother was killed by the severe climate, the terrible hardships," the girl said.

"You mentioned a design, a plan, of Kane's to rule the world," Jon sharply changed tack. "What did you mean?" The girl's voice grew slightly grim.

"He is frantically searching for a way back to the three- dimensional universe. He plans some sort of a concerted barrage on the Door. Should he succeed, his hellish legions would be unleashed against all decency in the world."

"He'll never live to accomplish that," Jon said quietly. "I didn't get to him this time, but I've been waiting a long time for this chance. I'll not miss on the next."

"You knew Kane before?" the girl asked. "Previous to the time when he was sentenced to the 'Outside?'"

"When I was six years old," Jon said grimly, "I watched Kane kill my father and mother while his dirty swine looted our space outpost. I never forgot it. I'll never be able to." Suddenly his jaws shut. "But that's my affair."

"Please," the girl put her hand on his arm. "It is important to both of us that you tell me the rest. We must know your past. Did you come here seeking Kane?"


THERE was cynical bitterness in Jon's eyes as he smiled humorlessly at the girl.

"I suppose it can't make any difference. No—I didn't come here after Kane. I never knew what had happened to him. I didn't know that he'd been sent to the 'Outside.' Maybe it was some form of fate that led to my being sent here for—murder."

Maydo looked surprised.

"Murder—but you didn't, did you?"

Jon nodded.

"I killed a man who needed killing. He was one of Kane's band at the time that my father and mother were killed. I tracked down most of that band in the years that followed. It was my one purpose in life—squaring that account."

"But to kill an outlaw," Maydo protested, puzzled.

"Ironically enough," Jon interrupted, "by the time I found this particular pig, he had changed his identity and was hiding out in, of all places, the Space Patrol. So I was nabbed for slaying a Federation officer."

"But you could have proved—" Maydo began again.

"Proved hell," Jon snapped. "No one would have believed me. Besides, with the exception of Kane, this fellow was the last of the bunch on whom I'd sworn vengeance. Kane, from all I could learn, had disappeared for good. I cleaned the slate as best I could. There was nothing left to live for really, and the 'Outside' would at least be something new."

"And you had no idea Kane was here," Maydo said reflectively.

"Not until I saw him in that huge hall, up on the dais," Jon answered. "I'd have known that face in a million miles of Hell. I guess the shock was too much. I went out of my head in rage. If I'd had sense I'd have held my tongue and waited my chance."

"Perhaps you'll have your chance," Maydo promised.

The girl stood up now, looking gravely down at Jon.

"You will rest again. Your wounds are not serious. In a few more hours you should be able to move around."

"And am I a prisoner?" Jon asked. The girl looked at Jon for a moment, and he noticed again the cool level beauty in her gray eyes, the delicate oval loveliness of her features.

"No," she said after a moment, "no, you are not a prisoner. I believe what you have told me."

She turned and walked to the door of the little cell-like room. There, she faced him once more.

"This door is unlocked. It leads to the corridor of our great wolf cave. When you have rested, join us in the cave."

Then she was gone, and Jon—looking at the door which she had closed behind her—found himself engaged in a speculation strange to him....


CHAPTER V. — TWO MORE

IT was several hours later when Jon woke again and found himself on the hard little cot in the small cell. For an instant he had difficulty in recalling where he was and how he had gotten here. But his brain was clear, now, and as soon as his memory satisfied itself, he rose and began dressing.

When he had donned his tunic, Jon hesitated a moment, then stepped out the door of the tiny cell and into a long, damp corridor.

The walls of the corridor seemed to have been hewn out of rock and clay substance, and were slick and shiny with moisture. The floor, however, was firm and dry, made of some metallic composition unfamiliar to him.

Jon had little difficulty in finding his way along the corridor, for it was well lighted. Several hundred yards away, at the end of the corridor, there was a blaze of light that unmistakably marked the central wolf cave.

And two minutes later, Jon stood at the entrance to this vast underground meeting place, looking curiously at the scene going on in there.

The place was approximately a hundred yards wide and the same distance long. The walls, unlike those of the corridor, were covered with a gray metallic cloth of some sort which extended to the floor from a ceiling that was at least a hundred feet high.

The floors were of the same metallic substance as the floors in the corridor, but were tinted a deep rich red. And there were at least a hundred, gray-cowled figures grouped at the far end of the vast hall. Faintly, their voices came to him, and Jon realized that the lack of volume and echo in the place was due to the heavy wall drapes.

Jon saw that these figures were grouped around an elevated platform, on which a slim, gray-cowled girl was standing. Also on the platform were several other hooded figures, and two ragged creatures in red tunics.

One glance told Jon that the first of the ragged, red-tuniced figures on the platform was Brannigan!

Jon gasped in surprise, and then in exultation, for he felt a sense of relief in knowing that the big redheaded fellow was free, had escaped from Kane's kingdom. Jon moved rapidly across the hall, and a minute later was pushing his way through the fringes of the gray hooded wolves around the platform.

It was Brannigan, all right, and the slim girl on the platform with him was Maydo Melory.

The hooded gray-shrouded wolves around the platform gave way as Jon pushed through them, looking curiously at him as he moved. The girl Maydo saw him then. And so did Brannigan at the same instant.

"Vance!" Brannigan shouted. He seemed intensely relieved at seeing Jon.

"I am glad you are here, Jon Vance,"

Maydo said.

And now, for the first time, Jon realized that the other ragged figure standing beside Brannigan was the fat, trembling little Parkerton!


VANCE ascended the platform and moved over to the girl.

"What's this?" he asked. "How did they get here?"

"They were picked up by one of our wolf patrols," Maydo answered.

"They claim to have escaped from Kane's cells."

"It's the truth, Vance," Brannigan's deep basso insisted. "So help me!"

"It is practically impossible to escape from Kane's hands without aid of some sort," Maydo said.

Parkerton spoke for the first time, and Jon noticed that—except for the expected quavering fear of his loose lips—he seemed to have regained some degree of normalcy.

"I had a chance. I took a disintegrator pistol and hid it under my tunic," he said shakily. "When the moment was ripe, I slipped it to Brannigan. We blasted our way out." His face was streaked with sweat, and there was a smear of blood on his left temple.

"It's true, Vance," Brannigan insisted. "I guess I fried six of 'em in getting away. Wouldn't have brought this little mutt, except that he snatched the disintegrator gun for me."

Maydo looked at Jon uncertainly.

"I think we should kill them to be on the safe side," she said.

Jon returned her stare.

"Brannigan's a good man to have with us," he said. "And Parkerton, as long as he's done what he has, deserves to live."

"Your reasoning," the girl said after a moment, "is sound, and fair." She turned to the cowled figures standing beside the red headed giant and the trembling, little fat man. "We'll let them live," she declared.

Then she turned to Jon.

"You, and this Brannigan person, come with me," she commanded. "The little fat man evidently needs rest from the strain he's been under. We must talk to Dorne, my most trusted lieutenant."

Brannigan grabbed Jon's arm as they turned to follow the girl down the platform steps.

"Thanks," he muttered huskily.


JON sat with Brannigan and the girl Maydo Melory in a small, bleak, severe little room which was somewhere near the corridor cell cave Jon had first occupied. In the middle of the room was a table, behind which sat a slim, wiry, pale young man wearing the long flowing gray shroud of the wolves.

His cowl was thrown back, and his dark hair was tousled as he ran his hand through it to emphasize his statements.

"It is imperative, Maydo," he said, "that we strike within the next twenty-four hours. Kane has already assembled the great battering ray equipment before the Door. I'm certain he means to begin the assault very soon."

"But my father would not have given Kane the information to—" the girl began.

"In all respect to your father, Maydo, there is only so much that any man can stand. Kane's torture methods are effective," her young lieutenant insisted.

Jon saw the girl's face go pale. She bit her underlip.

"They have held him captive for two years now. Surely, in that time we would have—"

"Would have known precisely what was going on? Would have known how much and what sort of information your father was supplying them with?" the young man said. He shook his head. "No, Maydo. Even our spies have been unable to learn that much. They have learned only that your father is still alive, and that for the past eighteen months Kane has had him working feverishly in the laboratories for him."

The girl was silent for a moment, as if weighing the situation mentally. Then she said:

"Very well, Dorne. We will go ahead with the plans you have formulated."

The slim, wiry, handsome young lieutenant stood up and moved over to the girl. He put his hand gently on her arm.

"It is a chance we have to take, Maydo," he said softly. "I don't want to go over your command in this, but I'm certain this is the best strategy." He paused, "Had our attempt to assassinate Kane succeeded," his eyes flicked momentarily to Jon's, "we might have been able to wait, to let the turmoil within their ranks break forth. But now we've no other course."

Jon found himself on his feet.

"I don't know what your plans are, although I understand the situation well enough to realize that Kane plans to barrage the Door back to the three dimensional world, and that you want to prevent it. I imagine that Brannigan and I were called here to be assigned some part in this undertaking." He halted, as if surprised that he had spoken, then barged onward. "All I ask, for my own part in all this, is a chance to trade my life for Kane's. And you can count on my succeeding, if you'll give me the chance!"

The girl Maydo looked at young Dorne.

"You know of his hatred for Kane," she said. "You know the reason."

Young Dorne nodded.

"I knew that, of course," he declared. "And as a consequence, I held just such a part for him, knowing that he'd ask for it."

Jon's mouth tightened to a thin line.

"I'm asking for it," he declared.

"It means the end, Jon Vance," the girl reminded him. "You'll face Kane alone, with no returning."

"I couldn't ask for more," Jon answered, "than to die after seeing him die."


YOUNG Dorne now turned to Brannigan.

"You're capable with atomic cannons, aren't you?" he asked.

Brannigan seemed surprised.

"Atomic cannons?" he growled. "Here in the 'outside'?"

"We have six of them," Dorne said. "Maydo's father developed them for the wolves before Kane captured him. They're comparatively crude affairs, Brannigan, but workable. Like to take charge of a nest of them?"

Brannigan stood up, licking his lips. His face was working queerly.

"It's likely to be another suicide post," Dorne warned him.

Brannigan shook his big touseled red head.

"That ain't what I'm thinking," he said. "It's that yuh'd trust me—like that—without knowing nothing about me. I'm a no good space skunk," he ended confusedly.

"But we're taking a chance on you, Brannigan," the girl said. "And we're sure it isn't a big one. Frankly, the man who was to command the post we're offering was killed in our last raid."

Suddenly a mile wide grin split Brannigan's face.

"That's better," he said huskily. "I kin understand that kind of talk. You're stuck, and I come along outta a clear strata to fill in a spot. I feel easier taking yuh up on that proposition." He made an effort at clearing his throat. "Yuh're on," he grinned.

Maydo Melory and Dorne smiled at the same time.

"Fine," Dorne said. "Now to get down to business while I explain our plans to you both." He went back behind the table, and from his tunic shroud pulled forth a thick sheaf of papers. He placed these on the table, and with one hand indicated that Jon and Brannigan should come closer. Maydo moved forward with them. But for the first few minutes, while Dorne spoke, Jon gazed down at the charts on the table, aware that he wasn't conscious of the words tumbling from the young lieutenant's lips. Jon Vance had seen Maydo Melory smile. And that smile was causing a curious pounding in his long embittered heart.


CHAPTER VI. — PARKERTON'S POST

SOMEONE shook Jon roughly by the shoulder, and blinking his eyes, he rose to one elbow and looked sleepily at Brannigan standing there in the half darkness of their small cave room.

Brannigan was wearing a flowing gray shroud, but he hadn't pulled the cowl over his mop of red hair as yet. Twin disintegrator pistols were strapped to his thick waist.

"Here," Brannigan said. He held another gray domino out to Jon. "Climb inta this. The wolves is getting ready to move."

Jon rubbed the sleep from his eyes and stood up. He stretched, and sighed, then took the flowing gray robe.

"They woke you?" Jon asked, voice muffled as he slipped the soft robe over his head.

"Hell," Brannigan said, "I been up and prowling around fer the last two hours. I looked at them atomic cannons. They're dazzlers."

Jon was in his gray shroud like costume, now, and he picked up a twin set of disintegrator pistols lying on a table by his cot. He strapped them securely to his waist.

"You got a tough job," Brannigan said suddenly.

Jon shrugged.

"With a big payoff. That's all I'm interested in."

"What about the girl?" Brannigan's question cracked like a whip, catching Jon unprepared.

"Maydo Melory?"

"You know I mean her." Brannigan said. "You won't be coming back, if what they say is true."

"So?" Jon had pulled a disintegrator pistol from his metalleath holster and was inspecting it casually, too casually.

"I got eyes," Brannigan persisted stubbornly. "You've fallen for her."

Jon laughed harshly, but kept his gaze from the big redhead's.

"What I'm going to do is more important," he evaded. "Besides, there's young Dorne. He's a handsome lad."

"You never been messed up with wenches," Brannigan said reflectively. "Until now." He shook his head. "It's easy to tell."

"We can forget that, Brannigan," Jon snapped. He thrust his disintegrator pistol savagely back into its metalleath holster.

Brannigan turned to the door.

"Come on," he said. "They're all out in the big central cave." Jon followed him out into the corridor, and all the while he sought to keep the hated face of Kane before his mind. It wasn't easy, for a girl in a gray cowl kept returning...


THE central wolf cave was crowded when Jon and Brannigan arrived there. Apparently the total strength of the wolves had been amassed here for zero hour instructions, for on the platform at the far end, Maydo Melory, young Dorne, and several others waited silently for the last of their group to enter the crude hall.

Finally, Dorne was speaking.

"The hour is at hand," he began. "Aside from our sentry posts, every last one of us is assembled here for final instructions. We all know the parts we are expected to perform. I am certain none of us shall fail." He paused. "Kane has massed thousands before the Door, and they wait the signal for the barrage. We are outnumbered ten to one, perhaps more. But we have the advantage in superior cunning, surprise, and courage. They shall pull us through."

There was a swelling murmur from the crowd.

"Half of our strength," Dorne went on, "will be thrown to prevent the assault of the Door. The other half will be hurled against Kane's city. There are many of our prisoners there. Women, children, and some of the old men." He paused. "The safety of these last depend on the swiftness of the assault on the city."

Silence fell over the group while Dorne paused again.

"As for the rest of it," Dorne concluded, "we all know the plans and our part in the plans. May God give us strength, and luck, and courage!"

Tumultuous cheering broke forth at this, holding for fully five minutes, while Dorne stepped back and Maydo Melory took the front of the platform. Then the girl raised her arms, and in a moment there was silence again.

Jon, watching her from where he stood at the fringes of the crowd, felt a peculiar catch in his throat as the beauty and fire of the girl seemed to reach out and dominate the breathless silence.

"The prospects of death should not terrify any of us here," she said suddenly. "All of us have once been doomed. It is only the shadow of defeat, the terror of failure, we should fear. Let us look to the hours ahead with determination, and faith. We shall wipe out the cancer that is Kane and his kingdom!"

This time the cheering was doubled in volume, and the waves of it swept back and forth across the caves like a powerful living force. Jon turned his head, while icy fingers of excitement ran up and down his spine, and saw that Brannigan was wetting his lips while his big fists tightened on the disintegrator pistols strapped to his sides.

Dorne, Maydo, and the others on the platform were going down into the crowds, and the wolves were beginning to break into orderly ranks, filing through the four side doors of the huge cave and out into the corridors that led to the ground above.


MAYDO was advancing to where Jon and Brannigan stood. Dorne was behind her.

"You are ready?" Maydo asked, her gray eyes meeting Jon's.

"All set," Jon answered.

"Ready," Brannigan asserted, "and raring to go."

"Good," Dorne broke in. "Let us get on. We'll—"

"Dorne! Maydo!" The voice broke in sharply behind the group, and all whirled to see a breathless, gray-robed sentry rushing up to them. He carried an atomic rifle in one hand, and a strange sort of horn was slung in a sheath over his left shoulder.

"What is it?" Dorne stepped up to him.

"The little one, the fat fellow!" The sentry gasped.

"Parkerton!" Jon grated under his breath.

"He's gone," the sentry gasped, "vanished from his cell. It was unlocked, according to your orders. He must have slipped through our sentry posts sometime this night. How, we haven't—"

Dorne broke in.

"You blundering asses, were you asleep?"

The sentry crimsoned. But Maydo said,

"There is nothing that can be done about this now. It is too late for that. If he's gone to Kane's kingdom, it's with complete information concerning our plans. We must think, and quickly!"

Brannigan's jaws grated angrily.

"The dirty, stinking little skunk!" he thundered. "I should have known there was something queer about his grabbing them disintegrators. Kane probably put him up to it, and had him let me out to make it look on the level!"

Jon looked at the girl.

"You have a right to suspect us," he said evenly. "Do you?"

Maydo dismissed this idea with a sentence.

"You both would be gone also, if that were true," she said.

"We'll have to completely revise our plans," Dorne said despairingly.

"Wait!" Jon snapped. "That's probably what Kane will expect you to do."

Dorne looked curiously at him.

"What make you think so?"

"He'll know that you'll spot Parker-ton's disappearance, won't he?" Jon demanded.

"Of course," It was Maydo who spoke.

"And he'll also know that you'll realize Parkerton has gone to him with all the information about your plans, won't he?" Jon rushed on.

Dorne nodded slowly.

"All of which would throw you off, make you devise hasty, ill- conceived spur of the moment plans to supplement them," Jon declared. "This would be playing right into Kane's hands!"

"It is logical," Maydo admitted.

"Then proceed as you originally intended to," Jon advised eagerly. "It will be the last thing in the world that Kane would expect."

Dorne spoke up.

"I think you're right," he snapped. "It's our best out, even though it's risky."

Maydo looked at Jon, then turned to Dorne.

"I agree," she said evenly. "We'll have to carry on."

"Let's get up above, then," Dorne said, and to the sentry, he added. "None of this to anyone, you understand?"

The sentry nodded, and Jon, Brannigan, Maydo, and Dorne started toward the corridor exit at the far end of the great cave.


CHAPTER VII. — ATTACK!

THE little group emerged from the last of the labyrinthine corridors of the caves some ten minutes later, and Jon found himself surrounded by the foggy mists and vapors that blanketed the upper areas of the Outside.

He turned to Maydo.

"It is difficult to see. Have the others already deployed for attack?"

The girl smiled.

"They are still here. A scant fifty yards away from you. The material of the wolf shrouds has been treated chemically, making them almost indiscernible in the gray vapors that rise from the ground. They provide an excellent camouflage. If I were to move more than fifteen feet away from you it would be difficult to see me any longer."

And then Jon heard the voices coming from the ranks of the wolves, faint and muffled, and he realized the girl was right.

Jon frowned.

"It'll be tough work finding my way to Kane's city."

Dorne extended a small, glittering object.

"Here is a berko-compass. On its face, reduced almost a thousand times to a miniature, you will see most of the fourth dimensional terrain marked. A small, faint, red line moves back and forth along it. That line represents you—the course you're traveling. It's an infallible guide. Strap it to your wrist."

Jon took the berko-compass. It was square, its surface being two inches in each direction. It was indeed, a small map of the Outside, or at least of the known sections.

"My father," Maydo explained, "was the inventor of the berko- compass."

"Which of you," Jon said suddenly, "will lead the assault against the Door barrage?"

"I shall," Maydo said.

"But—" Jon began, and Dorne, reading his thoughts, broke in with, "It's not as dangerous as the other post, Vance. Maydo can take care of herself very well."

Jon noticed Brannigan grinning at him, and red-faced, he said.

"Then your wolves will be the ones to follow me into Kane's city, eh Dorne?"

"We will give you time to get to Kane," Dorne said. "Then on your signal, we'll strike."

Maydo turned to Jon, extending her soft hand.

"Goodbye, Jon Vance. And good luck. Perhaps we shall see each other again."

Jon fought back the lump in his throat, taking her hand briefly, then turned quickly back to Dorne.

"I'll set out now," he snapped. "You can watch for my signal as agreed."

Brannigan was beside Jon, and stuck out his big paw.

"So long, Vance," he said. "Keep yuhr nose clean, and good luck." Then, bending close to Jon's ear, he whispered, "I'm with Maydo's bunch. I'll look out fer her. Just in case yuh come back."

Jon gripped his hand.

"Thanks," he said.

"Good luck, Vance," Dorne added.

Jon nodded, grinning tightly.

"Well, this is what I've been waiting for," he said. Then he turned, and watching his berko-compass, he set out through the heavy gray vapors. The tiny red line on the face of the map-like compass showed him that he was headed correctly for Kane's city....


IT was amazing to Jon how close the secret wolf caves were located to Kane's city. Inside of an hour, the tiny red line showed him to be in the vicinity of the metropolis, and remembering his instructions, Jon began a wide circle that would bring him to the rear of Kane's crude citadel.

According to what the spies of the wolf pack had learned, Kane was to remain in his city until the attack against the Door had started. Most of his personal guards, and several of his underlings would remain with him, while the actual assault against the Door would be begun by his brigand troops.

Kane's personal guards would be depleted to a great extent, however, when they took the vacated positions of the regular troops in guarding the prisoners in Kane's subterranean vaults.

Dorne's strategy was sound. On a signal from Jon—indicating that he'd made his way safely into the almost deserted city itself—Dorne and his brigade of wolves would attack. This would mean that the prisoner's guards, and Kane's personal guards and underlings, would be forced into a defense of the city.

It was then that Jon was to find Kane. Find Kane and trade his life for that of the ruthless leader's.

Jon was close enough to the city, now, to see its low, gray metallic walls. And he dropped to the mud, inching his way closer and closer to the point where he knew one of the gates to be.

A vast, searching yellow beam of light suddenly swung down from one of the walls, its penetrating finger slicing through the mist and vapors as it swept across the terrain outside. Jon halted, digging his fingers into the mud and cursing. Dorne had forgotten to tell him of this.

The beam swept over him, then on, and Jon gasped with relief that he'd not been seen. Jon raised his head slightly—he'd pulled the cowl over it long before—and at that instant the beam of yellow light swept back in his direction. Jon's head dropped to the gray mud, and he stayed there breathless. He could feel the heat of the light playing across his body.

Then it went away. The coloring of the gray shroud had saved him apparently. Cautiously, Jon waited, counting off seconds as the beam swept on far to the right. Raising his head ever so slightly, he could see the beam halt, and the finger of it start back in his direction once more. Again he dropped his head. Again he counted off seconds, felt the heat of the beam as it passed over him. This time it didn't linger. This happened four more times. And each time Jon counted off seconds. Now he had it, and the instant the beam swept over him and onward on the next occasion, he began inching forward, still counting to himself.

Alternately now, Jon inched forward and stopped precisely two seconds before the beam found him again. He had its timing down perfectly. At last he was inside its range, and less than a hundred feet from the wall of the city itself.

There was a long, unused sewer extension, exactly where Dorne had said it would be. And Jon slipped down into this a moment later. It was close, fetid, and inky black as he squirmed his way along. Gradually, it straightened out, and Jon saw a patch of murky light at its far end. Jon made this three minutes later, and emerged inside a deserted street in Kane's city!


THE sound of footsteps along the metallic walks made Jon step quickly into a darkened alley alcove. Guards passed by, two of them, talking softly to one another.

Jon held his breath, and when they had gone, he reached into his gray shroud and pulled forth a small, wrinkled sheet of paper. Dorne had mapped out the city on this. After studying it a moment, Jon found his location. Slowly then, taking occasional refuge in concealing doorways, Jon made his way toward the center of the city. It was here that Kane had his palace. And it was within four hundred yards of here, that the great atomic dynamos of the city were housed.

Two minutes later, in the vapory murk, Jon couched beside the great metal building in which the dynamos were situated. From the flowing folds of his robe, Jon brought forth a small white box. He bent over, scraping the slime away from the base of the wall before him. He found a slight indentation in the metal wall, and squeezed the tiny box into that.

Jon moved swiftly away, now, across the murky narrow street, taking refuge two or three hundred yards on in the shelter of an alleyway. Then, from his gray robe, he drew forth another box, almost identical to the first except for a small switch on its surface. Jon looked up at the dynamo plant several hundred yards off, then he pulled the switch on the box in his hands.

A split second later, with a thunderous detonation and a vast magnificent blazing burst of orange flame, the metallic dynamo plant exploded!

Dorne, waiting out there with his pack beyond the walls, had his signal!

The confusion was terrible. Crimson-clad guards rushed out of doors and down the tiny streets. Jon, from his darkened point of concealment, watched the turmoil with grim satisfaction. But his eyes were fixed on the great metal structure less than a hundred yards away—Kane's palace.

Men were swarming out the doors of the palace now, Kane's personal guards and underlings. The echoes of the tremendous explosion were still reverberating in the air, and the orange flame was spreading sheet-like over the adjoining buildings to the atomic plant.

And then, in the inky murk above, the first shell from Dorne's two atomic cannons burst deafeningly, followed by the sound of wild yelling, and the splatting of atomic rifles from the walls!

It had been almost a minute since the last of the guards had dashed from Kane's palace. And now Jon started across the street, after having divested himself of the encumbering folds of the thick gray shroud. His disintegrator pistols were in his hands, and he was sprinting up the steps of the palace, as a guard, crimson-clad and sleepy-eyed, burst through the door. Jon fired once, and on the run. The guard grabbed at his seared chest and tottered headlong down to Jon's feet. Then Jon was through the door, and into the palace....


CHAPTER VIII. — KANE AGAIN

JON raced along the smooth metallic floors of the wide first floor corridor of the palace. There was a huge door at the end of the corridor, in front of which stood a startled, crimson-tunicked sentry.

The fellow had only time to decide to halt Jon, and to raise his atomic rifle to his shoulder, before twin blasts from Jon's disintegrator pistols sent him screaming in death agony to the floor.

Jon threw a big shoulder against the door, wrenching hard on the thick knob, and an instant later almost hurtled into the room from the momentum of his entry.

There were two men there. One, garbed in a rich purple tunic, sat behind a large glassicade desk. The other, crimson-clad, but bespangled, had been standing in front of him. The latter whirled, lips drawn back in astonishment.

Jon's disintegrator pistols burned him to the floor.

The man in the rich purple tunic behind the desk shouted something and rose to his feet. His huge body and cruelly handsome features marked him as no one but King Kane!

"What in the hell is—" thundered Kane wrathful, shaken.

"Shut up, Kane," Jon snarled. He waved his disintegrator pistols ominously. "Move out from behind that desk, you murdering swine!"

Slowly, face white with rage and shock, Kane did as he was told. His big hands, hanging at his sides, knotted into fists of fury. His mouth worked as he fought for words.

"You're going to die, Kane!" Jon spat the words. And Kane's eyes flicked in terror to the pistols Jon held.

"But not with these," Jon snarled. Suddenly he hurled the two pistols from him, through the corridor door which was still ajar. Then cat-like, he leaped to the door and slammed it, locking it before his adversary was aware of what he had done.

"Now!" Jon snarled, moving in toward Kane.

Suddenly the huge killer grinned.

"You damned fool," he grated. "You damned fool. I'll make you regret this!" He moved slowly forward.

Jon drove in suddenly and with whirlwind speed, his shoulder crashing into Kane's great thighs with piston-like power, spilling his opponent back to the floor.

Atop Kane now, Jon wrenched hard on the huge killer's right arm, bending it back with all his strength. But Kane's resistance stiffened, and his big body suddenly came to life as he forced his arm back toward Jon with incredible strength.


ONE foot came up suddenly, catching Jon in the groin and hurling him sickeningly backward from his opponent. Then Kane was on his feet, and Jon was sickly trying to come up from the corner where he'd been hurled by the driving blow.

Kane moved warily in on Jon, now, and suddenly launched his tremendous bulk in a dive at his floored opponent. Jon had time to twist swiftly to one side, slightly out of the path of Kane's body. And in an instant, his arm was wrapped around the killer king's head, twisting savagely as Kane rained blows furiously against his sides.

Slowly now, gritting his teeth against the pain and effort it was costing, Jon was working his way to his feet. He kept his grip around Kane's head and neck, biting deep into his underlip as one of his ribs snapped beneath Kane's blows.

Then Jon was standing almost straight. And suddenly, he jerked savagely in the opposite direction to which Kane's neck resistance had been applied. The result was a sudden horrible scream from Kane, and the sound of a neck bone breaking clean!

Kane's scream gurgled bloodily to an end. And his huge hulk went limp in death, as Jon stepped aside letting Kane's body slide to the floor.

Jon had been oblivious to everything save the struggle. And now, he realized that heavy blows were raining on the thick door of the room. Jon wiped the sweat from his eyes, dazed by the exertion and the pain of his crushed ribs.

Kane's men were battling to get in at him. Jon grinned savagely, twistedly, and wiped a hand across his wet mouth. His hand came away bloody. Suddenly Jon stepped forward, then pitched headlong to the floor. As blackness engulfed him, Jon realized with his last ebbing consciousness that Maydo was right, that this was a suicidal task. He wouldn't return. Kane's men were almost in the room. He had his vengeance—but he'd never have Maydo.


DORNE, from where he'd been kneeling beside the small cot, turned to Maydo.

"He'll pull through," he said. "Lungs not punctured by his ribs. Can be mended. He has incredible strength, and an amazing will to live."

The lovely dark-haired girl, wearing a silver tunic instead of the gray cowl shroud she'd doffed hours before, moved over beside the heavily bandaged figure on the cot. Her gray eyes were moist.

"You're all right, Jon Vance," she said softly. "We succeeded. Dorne's men found you in Kane's palace."

Jon Vance blinked his eyes.

"Does he understand me?" Maydo asked Dorne.

Jon Vance, with what little strength he had left, reached out and found Maydo's hand.

Dorne smiled.

"Obviously, he does," he answered.

"They didn't get through the door, Jon," Maydo said, putting her free hand to his forehead. "Father had tricked Kane. He'd constructed a battering ray machine that blew up on Kane's mobs and annihilated them almost completely. It was easy for us to mop up. We came here, then, and threw in our strength with Dorne."

Brannigan had just tiptoed into the room with elephantine quiet.

"Did you tell him?" the big redhead hissed at Maydo.

Maydo didn't look up. She kept her eyes on Jon's.

"Our women and children and old are free. And more than that, Jon, father has found a way out of this fourth dimensional universe. He's been working on it all the time Kane thought he was devising a battering ray machine. He's discovered another Door—the door to a fifth dimensional world, Jon! It's a place of grassy meadows, glorious sunshine, incredibly beautiful—"

Brannigan cut in again.

"Hell," he hissed, "he can find out that later. Tell him what counts!"

Maydo smiled up at the hulking redhead. Then down at Jon. She blushed faintly, then said:

"It will be a beautiful place to begin a new life, Jon, with the girl you want."


THE END


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