[ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]
.In that time, the S9000 could have reached the safety of the velocity of light.Alarkane pressed the second button when they were still several miles from the coast.He did not expect anything to happen then, assuming that the machine could not stop between stations.It seemed too good to be true when, a few minutes later, the machine’s slight vibration died away and they came to a halt.The door slid silently apart.Even before they were fully open, the three had left the compartment.They were taking no more chances.Before them a long tunnel stretched into the distance, rising slowly out of sight.They were starting along it when suddenly Alveron’s voice called from the communicators.‘Stay where you are! We’re going to blast!’The ground shuddered once, and far ahead there came the rumble of falling rock.Again the earth shook—and a hundred yards ahead the passageway vanished abruptly.A tremendous vertical shaft had been cut clean through it.The party hurried forward again until they came to the end of the corridor and stood waiting on its lip.The shaft in which it ended was a full thousand feet across and descended into the earth as far as the torches could throw their beams.Overhead, the storm clouds fled beneath a moon that no man would have recognised, so luridly brilliant was its disc.And, most glorious of all sights, the S9000 floated high above, the great projectors that had drilled this enormous pit still glowing cherry red.A dark shape detached itself from the mother ship and dropped swiftly towards the ground.Torkalee was returning to collect his friends.A little later, Alveron greeted them in the control room.He waved to the great vision screen and said quietly, ‘See, we were barely in time.’The continent below them was slowly settling beneath the mile-high waves that were attacking its coasts.The last that anyone was ever to see of Earth was a great plain, bathed with the silver light of the abnormally brilliant moon.Across its face the waters were pouring in a glittering flood toward a distant range of mountains.The sea had won its final victory, but its triumph would be short-lived for soon sea and land would be no more.Even as the silent party in the control room watched the destruction below, the infinitely greater catastrophe to which this was only the prelude came swiftly upon them.It was as though dawn had broken suddenly over this moonlit landscape.But it was not dawn: it was only the moon, shining with the brilliance of a second sun.For perhaps thirty seconds that awesome, unnatural light burnt fiercely on the doomed land beneath.Then there came a sudden flashing of indicator lights across the control board.The main drive was on.For a second Alveron glanced at the indicators and checked their information.When he looked again at the screen, Earth was gone.The magnificent, desperately overstrained generators quietly died when the S9000 was passing the orbit of Persephone.It did not matter, the sun could never harm them now, and although the ship was speeding helplessly out into the lonely night of interstellar space, it would only be a matter of days before rescue came.There was irony in that.A day ago, they had been the rescuers, going to the aid of a race that now no longer existed.Not for the first time Alveron wondered about the world that had just perished.He tried, in vain, to picture it as it had been in its glory, the streets of its cities thronged with life.Primitive though its people had been, they might have offered much to the Universe.If only they could have made contact! Regret was useless; long before their coming, the people of this world must have buried themselves in its iron heart.And now they and their civilisation would remain a mystery for the rest of time.Alveron was glad when his thoughts were interrupted by Rugon’s entrance.The chief of communications had been very busy ever since the take-off, trying to analyse the programmes radiated by the transmitter Orostron had discovered.The problem was not a difficult one, but it demanded the construction of special equipment, and that had taken time.‘Well, what have you found?’ asked Alveron.‘Quite a lot,’ replied his friend.‘There’s something mysterious here, and I don’t understand it.‘It didn’t take long to find how the vision transmissions were built up, and we’ve been able to convert them to suit our own equipment.It seems that there were cameras all over the planet, surveying points of interest.Some of them were apparently in cities, on the tops of very high buildings.The cameras were rotating continuously to give panoramic views.In the programmes we’ve recorded there are about twenty different scenes [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]