Authors: Edmond Hamilton
Tags: #Sci-Fi & Fantasy
A weird shape had just leaped onto the balcony. It was a manlike figure, but one whose body was rubbery, boneless-looking, blank-white in color. He wore a metal harness, and his long, slitted green unhuman eyes peered brightly out of an alien white face.
Following this rubbery android, or synthetic man, came another figure, equally as strange — a great metal robot who strode across the balcony on padded feet. He towered seven feet high. In his bulbous metal head gleamed a pair of photoelectric eyes.
The robot’s left hand carried the handle of a square transparent box. Inside it a living brain was housed. In the front of the case were the Brain’s two glittering glass lens-eyes. Even now they were moving on their flexible metal stalks to look at the President.
“You know my assistants,” Curt Newton said shortly. “Grag the robot, Otho the android, and Simon Wright, the living Brain. We came from the moon full speed when I saw your signal. What’s wrong?”
“We’ve need of you, Captain Future — dire need.” James Carthew said haggardly. “You’ll have to leave for Jupiter, at once.”
“Jupiter?” The handsome young man’s brows drew together. “Has something popped out there?”
“A terror is growing out there!” the President cried. “A black horror that you must stop, immediately. Listen —”
THE name of Captain Future, the supreme foe of all evil and evildoers, was known to every inhabitant of the Solar-System.
That tall, cheerful, red-haired young adventurer of the ready laugh and flying fists was the implacable Nemesis of all oppressors and exploiters of the System’s human and planetary races. Combining a gay audacity with an unswervable purposefulness and an unparalleled mastery of science, he had blazed a brilliant trail across the nine worlds in defense of the right.
He and his three unhuman comrades, the living Brain, the metal robot and the synthetic man, were the talk of the System. Everyone knew that the scientific wizards’ home was in some obscure crater on the desolate moon. People looked up at the lunar orb at night and felt safer because they knew that Captain Future was there, watching and ready. They knew that should any sinister catastrophe threaten the System, he would come forth to combat it.
Captain Future? What had been the origin of his trio of unhuman comrades? And how had he come to achieve his super-scientific powers?
That was a story that only the President knew. And it was perhaps the strangest story in the history of the Solar System.
Twenty-five years before, a young Earth biologist named Roger Newton had dreamed a great dream. His dream was to create life — artificial, intelligent living creatures who would be able to think and work to serve humanity. He had already made great strides toward that goal, and felt on the verge of success.
But a certain unscrupulous politician with sinister ambitions had heard of Roger Newton’s potent discoveries. He had made several daring attempts to steal them. There was danger to humanity if those discoveries passed into such hands. So Newton decided to seek a safe refuge in which he could work secretly.
On a night in that June of 1990, the young biologist communicated his decision to his only intimates, his young wife Elaine, and his loyal co-worker, Simon Wright.
Restlessly pacing the big, crowded laboratory of their secluded Adirondack farm, his red hair disordered and his lean, sensitive young face and blue eyes worried, Roger Newton addressed them.
“Victor Corvo’s agents will find us here sooner or later,” he asserted. “Think of my discoveries in Corvo’s hands! We must leave Earth — go to a place where he’ll never find us.”
“But where can we go, Roger?” appealed Elaine Newton anxiously, her soft gray eyes fretful, her small hand grasping his sleeve.
“Yes, where can we go?” echoed Simon Wright in his metallic, unhuman voice. “To one of the colonized planets?”
“No, Corvo’s agents would be sure to find us in any of the planetary colonies, sooner or later,” Newton replied.
“Then where is this refuge you speak of, if it’s not on Earth or any of the planets?” demanded Simon Wright, his lenslike artificial eyes boring questionably into Newton’s face.
Simon Wright was not a man. He had once been a man. He had once been a famous, aging scientist whose body was racked by an incurable disease. To save his brilliant brain from death, Newton had acceded to the old man’s plea and had removed Wright’s living brain from his body and had encased it in a serum-case in which it could live indefinitely.
THE case stood now on a table beside Newton and his wife. It was a transparent metal box a foot square. Made of a secret alloy, it was insulated against shock, heat and cold, and contained a tiny battery that could operate its compact perfusion pump and serum purifier for a year.
Set in its sides were the microphones that were Simon Wright’s ears. In front was the resonator by which he spoke, and his artificial lens-eyes, mounted on little flexible metal stalks he could turn at will. In that box lived the greatest brain in scientific history.
“Where can we find refuge, if not on Earth or any of the planets?” Wright repeated in his rasping, metallic voice.
Newton went to a window and drew aside the curtain. Outside lay the peaceful, nighted hills, washed with silver by the effulgent rays of the full moon that was rising in glorious majesty.
The white disc of the great satellite, mottled by its dark mountain ranges and plains, shone starkly clear in the heavens. Newton pointed up
it, as girl and brain watched wondering.
“There is our refuge,” Roger Newton said. “Up there, on the moon.”
“On the moon?” cried Elaine Newton, her hand going to her throat. “Oh, no, Roger — it’s impossible!”
“Why impossible?” he countered. “A good interplanetary rocket can make the trip easily. We have enough money from my father’s estate, to buy such a rocket.”
“But the moon!” Elaine exclaimed, deep repulsion shadowing her eyes. “That barren, airless globe that no one ever visits! How could anyone live there?”
“We can live there quite easily, dear,” her young husband replied earnestly. “We shall take with us tools and equipment capable of excavating an underground home, with a glassite ceiling open to the sun and stars. Atomic energy will enable us to heat or cool it as we need, and to transmute rock into hydrogen and oxygen and nitrogen for air and water. We can take sufficient concentrated food with us to last us for a lifetime.”
“I believe your plan is good, Roger,” said Simon Wright’s metallic voice slowly. “Corvo is not likely
think of looking for us on the moon. We will be able
work in peace, and I feel sure we’ll succeed there in creating a living being. Then we can return and give humanity a new race of artificial servants.”
Elaine smiled bravely.
“Very well, Roger,” she told her husband. “We’ll go there, and maybe we’ll be as happy on the moon as we have been here on Earth.”
echoed the young biologist astoundedly. “But you can’t go, Elaine. When I said ‘we’ I meant Simon and myself. You could not possibly live on that wild, lonely world.”
“Do you think I would let you go there without me?” she cried. “No, if you go, I’m going with you.”
“But our child —” he objected, a frown on his face.
“Our child can be born on the moon as well as on the Earth,” she declared. And as he hesitated, she added, “If you left me here, Victor Corvo would find me and force me to tell where you had gone.”
“That is true, Roger,” interjected the Brain’s cold, incisive voice. “We must take Elaine with us.”
“If we must, we must,” Newton said resignedly, his face deeply troubled. “But it’s a terrible place to take anyone you love — a terrible place for our baby to be born —”
Ten weeks later, Newton, Elaine and Simon Wright — man, woman and Brain — sailed secretly for the moon in a big rocket crammed with scientific equipment and supplies.
Upon the moon, beneath the surface of Tycho crater, they built their underground home. There a son was soon born to the man and woman — a red-haired baby boy they named Curtis.
And there in the laboratory of the lonely moon home, a little later, Newton and Simon Wright created their first artificial living creature — a great metal robot.
GRAG, as they named the robot, stood seven feet high, a massive, man-shaped metal figure with limbs of incredible strength. He had supersensitive photoelectric eyes and hearing, and a brain of metal neurons which gave him sufficient intelligence to speak and work, to think and to feel primitive emotions.
But though Grag the robot proved an utterly loyal, faithful servant, he was not of high enough mentality to satisfy Newton. The biologist saw that to create more manlike life he must create it of flesh, not of metal. After more weeks of work, they produced a second artificial creature, an android of synthetic flesh.
This synthetic man they named Otho. He was a rubbery, manlike creature whose dead-white synthetic flesh had been molded into human resemblance, but whose hairless white head and face, long, slitted green eyes, and wonderful quickness of physical and mental reactions, were quite unhuman. They soon found that Otho, the synthetic man, learned more quickly than had Grag, the robot.
“Otho’s training is complete,” Newton declared finally. His eyes shone with triumph as he continued, “Now we’ll go back to Earth and show what we’ve done. Otho will be the first of a whole race of androids that soon will be serving mankind.”
Elaine’s face lit with pure happiness.
“Back to Earth! But dare we go back, when Victor Corvo is there?”
“Corvo won’t dare bother us, when we return as supreme benefactors of humanity,” her husband said confidently.
He turned to the two unhuman beings.
“Grag,” he ordered, “you and Otho go out and remove the rock camouflage from the rocket, so that we can begin to make it ready for the return trip.”
When the huge metal robot and the rubbery android had gone out through the airlock chamber to the lunar surface, Elaine Newton brought her infant son into the big laboratory.
She pointed up through the glassite ceiling which framed a great circle of starry space. There amid the stars bulked the huge, cloudy blue sphere of Earth, half in shadow.
“See, Curtis,” she told the baby happily. “That is where’ we’re going — back to the Earth you’ve never seen.”
Little Curtis Newton looked up with wise gray baby eyes at the great sphere and stretched his chubby arms.
Newton heard the airlock door slam. He turned surprisedly. “Grag and Otho — are you back so soon?” the voice of Simon Wright rasped with sudden alarm.
“That’s not Grag and Otho — I know their steps,” the living Brain cried. “It’s men!”
Elaine uttered a cry, and Newton paled. Four men in space suits, carrying long flare-pistols, stood in the doorway.
The face of their leader was revealed as they took off their helmets. It was a hawklike face, darkly handsome.
“Victor Corvo!” Newton cried appalledly, recognizing the ruthless man who had coveted his scientific discoveries.
“Yes, Newton, we meet again,” said Corvo exultantly. “You thought I’d never find you here, but I finally tracked you down!”
Newton read death in the man’s triumphant black eyes.
And the sight of his wife’s bloodless face and horrified eyes galvanized the young biologist into desperate action.
He sprang toward a locker in the corner in which his own flare-guns were stored. But he never reached it. Jets of fire from the pistols of Corvo’s men hit him in mid-air and tumbled him into a scorched, lifeless heap.
Elaine Newton screamed, and thrust her baby onto a table, out of range of the guns. Then she leaped to the side of her husband.
“Elaine, look out!” cried the Brain.
She did not turn. The flare from Corvo’s pistol struck her side, and she toppled to the floor beside her husband.
Little Curtis Newton, upon the table, began to whimper. Corvo ignored him and strode past the two still forms toward the square metal serum-case that held Simon Wright’s living brain. He looked triumphantly into the glittering lens-eyes.
“Now to finish you, Wright,” he laughed, “and then all the powers gathered in this laboratory belong to me.”
“Corvo, you are a dead man now,” answered the Brain in cold, metallic accents. “Vengeance is coming — I hear it entering now — terrible vengeance —”
“Don’t try to threaten me, you miserable bodiless brain!” Corvo jeered. “I’ll soon silence you —”
Two figures burst into the laboratory at that moment. Corvo and his men spun, appalled, unable to believe their eyes as they stared at the two incredible shapes who had entered.
The huge metal robot and the rubbery android! They stood, their unhuman eyes surveying the scene of death.
“Grag! Otho! Kill!” screamed the Brain’s metallic voice. “They have slain your master. Kill them! Kill them!”
With a booming roar of rage from the robot, a fierce, hissing cry from the synthetic man, the two leaped forward.