|There was something uncanny in the air. A feeling that
stole over Helena Russell and ran icy fingers up and
down her back. She shuddered and moved involuntarily
closer to Professor Victor Bergman. The yellow light of
their flashlamps reflected wanly from the wet walls of the
tunnel that yawned before them.
"Must we gon on, Victor? I don't like this one little bit!"
It was several seconds before Bergman replied. In his
own mind, he felt as nervous as Helena, but he was a
scientist, and the scratchy, primitive drawings on the walls
of rock at the very entrance to the tunnel had intrigued
"Just a little bit farther, Helena. Look--it's opening out
into some kind of cave. . ."
They had been on this planet some two hours. A planet
that had loomed up in the path of the runaway Moon. A
planet that had exhibited all the right signs. Gravity,
atmosphere, vegetation. In what had become a routine
pattern, the Eagles had left Moonbase Alpha, bringing
Commander Koenig, Alan Carter, David Kano, Bergman
and Helena down to make their investigations. Two
Eagles--and Controller Paul Morrow had been left with
them. Helena shuddered again and wished she was up
there with him--on watch in the damp, misty atmosphere
that John Koenig had jokingly compared to England in
November. "Don't worry," he'd said. "The climate's
probably as variable as ours was. Look at the vegetation!
Come a month or two by our time-standards, and this
place'll probably be as hot as the French Riviera!"
"You're thinking of John's enthusiasm?" It was as
though Bergman had read her thoughts. "You can't blame
him, Helena. He's been leading us on this crazy flight
through space for so long now that he's ready to believe in
the law of averages. Sooner or later, we have to reach a
world where we'll find our peace. And this could be it!"
Helena nodded. "It's just--just this awful premonition,
Victor. Like--what do they call it? The smell of death!"
Helena Russell couldn't have described it better! And,
|as the pair of them rounded a bend in the tunnel and
came out into a vast, vaulted cave, they saw it! The heart-
stopping tableau of human forms grouped round a flat
stone table! Human forms? They were skeletons! And their
grinning skulls seemed to leer and grin in the flickering
glow of the lamps!
"To blazes with this!" For the umpteenth time,
Commander John Koenig pulled his foot out of a soft,
soggy patch of swamp, caught his ears against the low,
bare branches of a tree and peered around him into the all-
pervading mist. He thumbed the switch of the comlock in
his hand and turned to face the direction of the waiting
Eagles as indicated on the minute screen. He couldn't see
them, of course, but he knew, reassuringly, that they were
there. "Paul--I'm coming back. Maybe the others have
found something a bit higher and drier on this crazy
Paul Morrow acknowledged, and dimly, away to his
left, Koenig could hear the purring of the engine of the
|buggy they'd brought down with them. The buggy in
which Carter and Kano were making a wider exploratory
sweep. "Alan, this is Koenig." The Commander switched
to direct transmission. "How've you made out?"
Carter's voice came back, heavy with sarcastic humour.
"Wetly, sir. Lucky this thing floats. Might I suggest we
take off and move our centre of search? There's got to be
sunshine and light somewhere!"
"We'll do just that. I'll re-call Victor and Helena to
rendezvous at base. Maybe you'd get in touch with
Moonbase and tell them what we're doing?"
"I copy, Commander. Leave it to me."
Koenig picked his way over mossy hummocks, irritated
despite the fact that this planet was--although so
inhospitable in its present mood--so similar to Earth.
"Victor. Helena. Can you hear me?"
There was no answer.
"Come in, Victor! Helena. . ?"
A chill beyond the chill of the atmosphere stole over
Koenig, and he halted. Ahead of him, through the mist, he
could see already the reassuring shapes of the Eagles, but
|they hardly registered. "Victor! Helena! Come in!"|
Then the crackle of Alan Carter's voice! "Commander--
we've got Professor Bergman right here! And he's in
shock !" Out of the gloom in front of the buggy had
stepped their scientist colleague--and neither Kano nor
Carter could get the slightest sense of response out of him!
"Where's Helena? Where is she? What happened ?"
Koenig had covered the distance between himself and the
buggy in ten minutes. Oblivious of the whipping twigs,
the roots that had caught at his feet and tumbled him
headlong a dozen time! Now he had Bergman by the
shoulders, shaking him--but the Professor could only
gape and talk in a whisper, his eyes staring!
"Cave drawings, John! Like the pre-historic things we
had on Earth! And the skeletons . . . I knew they were
beings who'd done them . . . dead and ancient. The skulls
were calcified. . ."
"But Helena, hang it! What made you leave her. . ?"
"I--I didn't! Suddenly, mu mind went blank. I remember
|beginning to run. Calling for her to follow. She did, John,|
she did! She was right behind me! And then I was here . . .
in front of Carter and Kano!"
"She's fallen somewhere! She's fallen and knocked
herself out!" Koenig knew he was snarling. Was aware
that Carter and Kano were looking at him worriedly. The
Australian said, "Take it easy, Commander."
"Paul." Now Koenig pulled himself together and set his
comlock to contact their Eagle guard. "Put out a magnetic
sweep. Locate Helena's comlock and give us a cross-
bearing so's we can find her! And make it quick! If she's
fallen face-down in one of these swamp-holes, she could
A moment's pause. Then "Sorry, Commander! I can't
get a fix. She's disappeared. She's not on the surface. . ."
"She can't have come out of the caves," breathed
"So get us there, Victor--but fast!"
Bergman shook his head. "I can't remember, John. I
don't know which way they were. . ."
At that moment, there came a shrill, harsh scream,
somewhere away to the left. And before they could stop
him, Koenig had bounded away into the clinging fog, to
disappear from sight! The scream had been human--there
was no doubt of that. There was equally no doubt of the
fact that it had not been a scream of terror. More a scream
of triumph. And it hadn't been Helena Russell's voice!