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The Great Dome on Mercury   By: (1896-1949)

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This etext was produced from Astounding Stories April 1932. Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed.

[Illustration: " Once more! Will you give me the recognition signal?" ]

The Great Dome on Mercury

By Arthur L. Zagat

[Sidenote: Trapped in the great dome, Darl valiantly defends Earth's outpost against the bird man of Mars and his horde of pigmy henchmen.]

Darl Thomas mopped the streams of perspiration from his bronzed face and lean flanked, wiry body, nude save for clinging shorts and fiber sandals. "By the whirling rings of Saturn," he growled as he gazed disconsolately at his paper strewn desk. "I'd like to have those directors of ITA here on Mercury for just one Earth month. I'll bet they wouldn't be so particular about their quarterly reports after they'd sweated a half ton or so of fat off their greasy bellies. 'Fuel consumption per man hour.': Now what in blazes does that mean? Hey, Jim!" He swiveled his chair around to the serried bank of gauge dials that was Jim Holcomb's especial charge, then sprang to his feet with a startled, "What's the matter?"

The chunky, red haired control man was tugging at a lever, his muscles bulging on arms and back, his face white drawn and tense. "Look!" he grunted, and jerked a grim jaw at one of the dials. The long needle was moving rapidly to the right. "I can't hold the air pressure!"

"Wow, what a leak!" Darl started forward. "How's it below, in the mine?"

"Normal. It's the Dome air that's going!"

"Shoot on the smoke and I'll spot the hole. Quick, man!"


Thomas' long legs shot him out of the headquarters tent. Just beyond the entrance flap was one of the two gyrocopters used for flying within the Dome. He leaped into the cockpit and drove home the starter piston. The flier buzzed straight up, shooting for the misted roof.

The Earthman fought to steady his craft against the hurricane wind, while his gray eyes swept the three mile circle of the vault's base. He paled as he noted the fierce speed with which the white smoke jets were being torn from the pipe provided for just such emergencies. His glance followed the terrific rush of the vapor. Big as a man's head, a hole glared high up on the Dome's inner surface. Feathered wisps of tell tale vapor whisked through it at blurring speed.

"God, but the air's going fast," Darl groaned. The accident he had feared through all the months he had captained Earth's outpost on Mercury had come at last. The Dome's shell was pierced! A half mile high, a mile across its circling base, the great inverted bowl was all that made it possible for man to defy the white hell of Mercury's surface. Outside was an airless vacuum, a waste quivering under the heat of a sun thrice the size it appears from Earth. The silvered exterior of the hemisphere shot back the terrific blaze; its quartz covered network of latticed steel inclosed the air that all beings need to sustain life.

Darl tugged desperately at the control stick, thrust the throttle over full measure. A little more of this swift outrush and the precious air would be gone. He caught a glimpse of the Dome floor beneath him and the shaft door that gave entrance to the mine below. Down there, in underground tunnels whose steel armored end walls continued the Dome's protection below the surface, a horde of friendly Venusians were laboring. If the leak were not stopped in a few minutes that shaft door would blow in, and the mine air would whisk through the hole in its turn. Only the Dome would remain, a vast, rounded sepulcher, hiding beneath its curve the dead bodies of three Earthmen and the silent forms of their Venusian charges.

Darl's great chest labored as he strove to reach the danger spot... Continue reading book >>

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