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Strange Destination







From: Wanted 7 Fearless Engineers

When Dick opened his eyes, there was a feeling of motion to the bed. The
strangeness of the ceiling overhead drew his attention. It was not
canvas, but shiny metal, almost purple in tint.

Suddenly he sat up. Dolores lay beside him. As his eyes cleared of the
lingering mist, objects in the room became plainer. They were in a
luxuriously equipped cabin.

Dolores slowly opened her eyes. A moment later she sat up beside him.
Glancing through the porthole, beyond the bed, she turned away with a
groan.


"We are under water! And deep! I can't see a thing but strange blue
light."

When Dick joined her, his forehead puckered in a frown. "No, Dolores. It
doesn't look like water, it looks more like--No! It can't be!"

For several minutes there was silence while he gazed through the
opening. Dolores had lost interest in the outside and was examining the
fittings of the cabin. It had everything that could be desired in a
first class hotel room, and many little toilet articles besides.

Suddenly Dick turned away. "It's true! We're in the air--or above
it! Dolores, this ship is an aircraft!"

"Never mind, Dick, this room is beautiful! Whether we're flying or
swimming, this is the nicest room I ever had. It has everything, and
look at the dressing table!"

Dick sat down in amazement, a smile slowly spreading over his face.
Dolores was happy--wherever they were. The room was all that mattered.
But he couldn't understand why Morquil had gassed them, and put them on
board unconscious. He would have enjoyed seeing the new ship.

When a knock sounded at the door, Dolores was unpacking her clothes for
the first time since they left the Primrose. Turning the knob, Morquil
stepped in.

"I'm sorry, Dick, that I had to use gas, but I knew the people would be
afraid of boarding this ship. John McCarthy is down in the power room
already, examining the machines, but some of the others are upset about
the transfer from the island. I hope you don't feel resentful?"

"No, Morquil. We're satisfied. If you don't believe it--look at Dolores.
She decided to like this room the minute she saw it, and is unpacking
already."

The worried expression disappeared from the strange man's face. "I had
the cabins equipped for women, as I know they are particular about such
things."

"Would you like to see the ship? It will be your home for a long time,
and you might as well get acquainted. I'm sorry that no one but myself
understands English, but you will have ample time to learn our language
during the voyage. You must speak it fluently by the time we arrive."

As they started out, Dolores dropped the dress she was holding, to join
them. Curiosity overcame the desire to straighten out her clothes.

Entering a wide passage, they turned to the right. It ended abruptly in
a room with several comfortable chairs. Three tables occupied the center
in uneven positions, the underparts filled with metal-covered books.
Two men of Morquil's race looked up at their approach.

Dick returned their friendly smile. When Dolores smiled they appeared
embarrassed; but truly greatly pleased. Barrow noticed that one of them
was examining a book in English; the illustrations seemed to fascinate
him.

A narrow passage, beyond the main cabin, led to the control room where
three men sat in swivel chairs. The instrument board was a marvel to
Dick, and he watched for several minutes. It would require months to
understand even a small portion of the gauges.

The ship was built with two decks, and a large hold beneath the lower
floor which contained the machinery. The strange men were quartered on
the lower level, with the exception of Morquil. His cabin was next to
the one occupied by the Barrows. The McCarthys were on the opposite side
of the passage, in a room slightly smaller than the one allotted to Dick
and his wife.

The quarters of the remainder of the party were smaller, but still quite
comfortable; all located farther back on the same passage.

* * * * *

Morquil was proud of the ship, and displayed each section with pride. He
opened every cupboard door, and showed them through all of the cabins.
They were stopped for a while, when they met Mrs. Yarbro, trying to
dispel her fear of the strange craft. The others appeared to be taking
their new quarters for granted, and settling down for the trip.

The main cabin was toward the front of the ship, while the dining room
was at the rear; the staterooms on the passage between. One stairway led
to the lower level, from just back of the control room, another from the
dining saloon. A ramp beneath the rear stairway led to the hold of the
ship. When they started down, Dolores returned to her cabin. Her
interest ended on the upper decks.

Dick spotted John, bending over one of the machines, so engrossed that
he didn't hear their approach. One of the crew stood nearby, watching.

When McCarthy saw Barrow, he nearly burst with enthusiasm. "This is the
greatest thing I've ever seen! Why, it almost talks! Do you know, this
little machine actually picks up the orders from the control room, and
adjusts every machine down here! Darned if I don't think it's got a
brain!"

When Morquil led the way toward the front of the hold, John was still
engrossed in the apparatus. "He will be a valuable man to you, Dick, and
can solve many problems that you would otherwise have to do yourself. He
will make an able assistant."

Passing by the heavy machinery, they approached an enclosed section,
which appeared to be of recent installation. Stepping through the
doorway, Morquil threw a switch which lighted every corner, then watched
expectantly as Dick examined the strange objects. It appeared to be a
colony of metal beehives, with covered passages between.

"It is our home, Dick. This room contains everything in miniature that
you will see when we arrive. Each of the smaller domes house thirty
thousand people, the large one three times that number. We are born,
live our lives, and die beneath these metal ceilings. It will be your
job to care for them.

"Everything beneath these domes is exactly as it is in our cities,
except that the machines are dummies. This model room was installed so
you could study our civilization during the trip. When you arrive you
will be ready to start work.

"You, and you only will have a key. You may bring any member of your
party here that you desire, but it is not necessary for them to
understand the entire civilization. There are only six cities, including
the large one, where you and John McCarthy will be located. The other
men will each have one dome under their control.

"It is easy to travel back and forth, and you may gather together at any
time, although each of you will have duties in different sections. While
you are overseeing the work in the smaller cities John can look after
the capital. Upon your arrival in Yorpun you will take complete charge
of all mechanical work. It will be your responsibility from then on."

As Dick slipped the key in his pocket, he felt the weight of a country
settle slowly on his shoulders. Two hundred and ten thousand
people--entirely dependent upon his control of the machines.

Where could this settlement be? They had sailed darn near to the end of
the world in the Primrose, and now they were going even farther. From
the way the metal domes covered the cities, it might be at the south
pole, and still be habitable.

By the time they returned to the main cabin, it was dinner time. It was
past mid-day when he regained consciousness, and Dick was hungry.

Mrs. McCarthy was knitting a sweater for her husband, while three of the
strange men watched in amazement. Her knitting needles seemed to hold
them spellbound. The other members of Dick's party were sitting around
trying to decide what to do. But the sound of the dinner gong, made them
forget their worries.

Dick had to go down to the hold and call John, who was still watching
the master machine. If he hadn't been dragged away, he would have spent
the night examining the strange device.

The meal was simple, but they all enjoyed it. It seemed to dispel the
gloom from the party, and they appreciated McCarthy's jokes. There were
fifteen of Morquil's race in the crew, and all but the men at the
controls joined them.

Knives and forks stood at the places set for the passengers, brought
from the supplies on the Primrose, but the crew ate with long narrow
spoons. Table silver was evidently unknown to this race of people.

After dinner Morquil called them to the main cabin, and for the first
time told about the destination. All that had kept them from losing hope
long before, was his promise of greater comfort and luxury than they
could hope for in their native land.

"I know that some of you resent the fact that you were unconscious while
put aboard this ship. But I know you would hesitate to come of your own
accord. One woman said that she wouldn't go on an undersea ship, and
she would be more afraid of this.

"You will be amazed to know that we are now leaving the atmosphere of
the earth that you have always known. Our destination is on a different
planet!"





Next: Morquil's Story

Previous: Out To Sea



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