Page:Weird Tales volume 30 number 01.djvu/65

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over its eyes, protecting them from the glare. Beyond the reach of the monster Kenworth put Thona down, anxiously felt for her pulse.

She was unhurt. The soft soil had broken the force of her fall. In a moment she sat up, terror in her eyes.

"We're safe, Thona," Kenworth said, conscious of the bitter irony of the words. And, echoing him, came the sound of a flat, metallic laugh.

"Quite safe. And thanks for the light. I'd never have found you otherwise."

Kenworth wheeled, just as the great bulk of the collection ship grounded near by. Framed in the open portal was the Raider, his dark face immobile. In his hand was a ray-tube.

"Don't move," he said quietly. "I can paralyze you in a moment."

Thona whispered, "The Patrol ship——"

"I destroyed it. Come!"

Thona and Kenworth exchanged hopeless glances. Then, shrugging, Kenworth moved forward. Satisfaction gleamed in the Raider's eyes.

There came a swift rustle of movement from behind him. He staggered, nearly fell. Racing out of the ship came the octan, shrilling its thin cry.

It scuttled past Kenworth and went flashing away. Kenworth clicked off his light-tube, and, thrusting it in his pocket, leaped for the Raider. He stumbled over the threshold of the ship's portal. Light flared.

The Raider stood almost beside him, a light-tube in one hand, a ray-tube in the other. He jumped back, keeping the ray-tube leveled. Kenworth, tensed to spring, realized the futility of such an attempt.

"Get in the ship," the Raider said coldly.

Vakko, the Martian, came to the portal. He fluted a question at the Raider, who gestured into the surrounding gloom, said something in his flat voice. The Martian hesitated—and turned his head slowly, listening. Then he, too, took a step forward, another step—and raced away in the track of the octan!

"Vakko!" The Raider's voice was peremptory, menacing. He swung the ray-tube away from Kenworth, paused.

The Martian was lost in the shadows.

Arn came out of the ship. He paid no attention to the others, but simply walked off into the gloom, his pace steadily increasing.

Thona turned. She began to follow him.

The Raider was behaving oddly. He, too, stood in an attitude of listening. And throbbing within Kenworth's brain came that curious sense of movement that he had already experienced. And this time it summoned.

It called—beckoned! He felt himself swaying toward the shadows where the others had vanished. He saw the Raider's face, astonishment in the black eyes, saw light-tube and ray-tube drop from the pirate's hands. What had the plant-thing said? "Thoughts . . . command . . . drags you to thought-giver."

Like a great wave, blackness engulfed him!

Thud . . . thud . . . rhythmic thudding . . . of racing feet . . . slowly Kenworth fought back to consciousness. He saw bobbing figures outlined against a strangely blue glow before him, heard hoarse breathing. At his side was the Raider, gaunt face expressionless, running easily. But why were they running?

Realization struck home to him. The darkness that had shrouded his mind lifted. He saw his surroundings.