Page:Weird Tales volume 36 number 01.djvu/17

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we can die trying to escape. And a slower speed will give us more time—"

"Yes, sir," said Todd, and moved toward the audio. But he had barely reached out his hand toward it when sharp speech rasped from its black throat in remembered tones.

"Stop, Todd! Don't give that order, Skipper!"

It was the voice of Lancelot Biggs!

Captain hanson had subdued his rage once. But now his face crimsoned, his great hands clenched, and fury was a ponderable vigor in his voice.

"You! Where are you, sir!"

"In the life-skiff," replied Biggs imperturbably.

Almost insolently, I thought. As if he knew he were speaking from the only place of possible security in a doomed ship. "Todd, do as I say and do it fast! There's no time to lose! Tell Chief Garrity to turn the verniers of my V-I unit all the way to the red line on the extreme right! Understand?"

Once again Hanson's roar interrupted.

"Come back here, you coward, and die with your fellow-officers like the man you once pretended to be! What do you mean by skulking in a hideaway, giving orders aboard my ship?"

"Shut up!" bellowed Biggs. And it was not just his audacity in speaking thus to a space commander that shocked me, it was the razor-edged intensity of his voice.

"Todd—give that order immediately! For God's sake, act! We've no time to lose!"

Todd's eyes sought mine. He knew, as well as I did, that the skipper was too furious to give an intelligent command.

"That—that's the limiting velocity, Sparks!" Todd choked. "Biggs must be insane. We'll be translated again into the negative universe. And no way to get back—ever!"

I didn't have to answer. Biggs answered.

"I've taken care of that, Todd! Now, do as I say! Hurry, hurry!"

And—well, am I a fool? After all, Lancelot Biggs and I are old buddies. Once we were bunkmates, even. There came back to me a measure of the confidence I had once had in him. And I nodded to Todd.

"Try it, Dick. We've got nothing to lose and everything to gain. Give the order."

He did. Chief Garrity must have been startled but he was too good a spaceman to argue an order from the bridge. He said, succinctly, "Aye, sirr!" And then—

I felt the rocking plunge. The moment of brief, incredible dizziness of frightful speed being intensified to the limiting velocity of light. My head whirled, but somehow I managed to turn, stare at that ominous viewpane. And what I saw there brought a shocked cry from my lips!

White—white—dazzling white—then grayness! No other scene than dim and vacant void, gray, infinite, inpenetrable. A glimpse of the lost universe—the matrix negative wherein are flung such mad things as attain a speed beyond that of the limiting velocity.

Then crackling across the room agonizedly, "We're clear, Todd? We're through?"

And Todd replying dazedly, "I—I don't know what you mean?"

"The chronometer, man! Has it touched 9.14?"

"Yes, sir. But—but we're slipping into the negative, Lanse! We've escaped one death to find another!"

But there was infinite sadness to Lancelot Biggs' denial.

"No you're not, Todd. You're going back to your own universe—now. When you feel the ship lurch, turn the V-I unit dial back to where it was before. Ready? Now!"

And there came, inexplicably, a swift