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12: The Last of the Intelligence

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Author Topic: 12: The Last of the Intelligence  (Read 24 times)
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« on: January 28, 2023, 12:38:55 am »

“SO YOU say there is no further information from Mars?” Dr. Soone enquired of the Intelligence.

The monster aroused himself from a deep concentration and looked at the surgeon. An expression, the closest to anxiety Soone had ever seen on that emotionless visage, was upon the Intelligence’s face.

“No,” he answered tonelessly. “For a reason which my mind cannot fathom all communication between me and the man Elton and his companion has been cut off. I saw them land safely on Mars; I saw them walking across a desert of red sand—but now, just a blank! I cannot learn anything about them or the planet. I confess I am puzzled.”

“But surely nothing is a puzzle to such a mind as yours?” Soone explained. “Perhaps—perhaps they are dead?”

“That would not hinder me viewing the planet,” the Intelligence responded. “No, there is some force at work deliberately interfering with my attempts to connect with the planet. It may be—a mind greater than my own!” and the face set into hard lines.

Soone did not answer that question, for it had been put in such a tone as to preclude interrogation. Instead he said, “Since communication is impossible, and you know those two arrived on the planet, and cannot therefore get back, why bother at all? We have enough trouble of our own to contend with. Sanders gave me a report to-day on the solar business. It is quite true. The sun will collapse in three years’ time. What are you going to do about it?”

“I have already answered that question, Soone. We—that is, myself, you, Eri, and a group of experts on synthetic men—will wait until the disaster is about to happen. Then we will make for the void which lies beyond our own solar system, find a suitable planet, and finally commence to create a race akin to myself—intellectual giants.”

“And leave the human race to destruction?” Soone asked.

“There is no other way. The lesser must ever fall before the greater. To tell them of our plans would endanger our chances—to tell them of the solar disaster that is to come would make an immediate demand for shelters of some kind. No, the best way is a secret departure, when it is too late for them to realize the danger. I have had reports circulated to the effect that any rumours of solar disturbance are to be ignored as pure gossip.”

Soone shrugged. “Well, you know best,” he said indifferently.

“After all, I’m not particularly concerned in what happens to them. I have given instructions to the projectile works to have a very large projectile complete with all controls made as soon as possible,” the Intelligence continued. “So soon as that is done I shall have the ship put in a secure place, where it cannot be tampered with—in readiness for instant departure. And, so soon as that ship is built, I personally shall destroy the plans so that no other machine can be built and pursue us.”

“Who is in charge of the plans?” Soone enquired.

“Eri. They could not be in safer hands,” the Intelligence replied.

“I agree with you there. I just thought how fatal it would be for us, if the news or plans got to other ears.”

“No news will leak out,” the Intelligence responded. “The plans I lay are always perfect . . .”

And so the days passed on—days which lengthened into months, and months into years. The steady, organized precision of New London went on apace. Hints and vague suggestions of impending solar disaster had reached the workers, despite the belief of the Intelligence that every avenue of information had been effectively closed up. The workers paid but little heed, however. One or two thought about it, but did not act. Everybody was content, believing that the information was false. The Intelligence himself was at his post, and he surely would be the first to remark if anything untoward were threatened . . .

The workers only began to wonder if there was anything behind it all, when terrific electrical storms began to sweep the earth from end to end, the overture to the eventual collapse of the seriously unstable sun. Yet what danger could there be? Again came the thought—the Intelligence himself was at his post.

On the night of March 16th, 1944, the Intelligence called Soone, Eri, and six picked men into his chambers.

“My friends,” he said, “six weeks will see the collapse of the sun. Already indeed the first titanic storms preceding the actual collapse are ravaging the earth. It is no longer safe to stay. I will not waste time on words. Come with me, to where the private underground workshop is situated.”

“Why?” asked Eri.

“To enter the projectile of course,” the Intelligence responded. “What else did you think?”

Eri smiled slyly. “A good plan, Intelligence,” he commented, “but not quite good enough. What are you going to say when I tell you that I have had a dummy ship built and destroyed all the plans?”

“You . . . what?” Soone gasped incredulously.

Eri smiled again, venomously. “So you thought I’d follow out your orders to the last, eh, Intelligence? You inhuman swine! Do you think I forget the way you’ve treated me all through the years? Do you think I’m afraid to turn the tables on you? Not I! I’ve got you into a jam from which you can’t get out—and, above all, it was I who spread the rumours among the people, and they want—you!

“You traitor!” the Intelligence snarled. “You traitor! You know the penalty for this?”

“I don’t mind,” Eri returned languidly. “Kill me if you want. I shall die in any case soon, so it might as well be now. I’ve yearned for years to be revenged upon you, and now I’ve done it! So you can go to hell, and——” He ceased to speak. He crumpled up gently and silently before the death ray instrument of the Intelligence.

“Now to the workshop!” the Intelligence commanded in a voice of steel. “If Eri spoke the truth, we are trapped. There is a chance it was bluff. Come!”

They filed out hastily, but at the door of the underground workshop they were met by two men armed with paralysers.

“What is this?” the Intelligence demanded. “I gave no permission for you to stand here. Out of the way!”

“Just a moment!” commanded the foremost man. “Take a good look at me, Intelligence—you too, Dr. Soone. Who am I?”

Soone stared and then jumped back as though he had been struck. “My God, David Elton!” he gasped out huskily.

“A bit of a surprise, eh?” Dave asked pleasantly. “Just try and think out how I have come back from Mars. This ‘man’ here is Nan. It may interest you to know that Eri made a dummy vessel, not by the dictates of his own mind, but by the dictates of the master-mind which transported us across space back to this planet. Intelligence, you have met your master in a being known as Kal of U-Kotar, and——”

He stopped short as the Intelligence whipped out his death ray. The button shot into position and Dave waited stoically for the end he was not to find. For some strange reason nothing happened. With a face of iron the Intelligence examined the control and then flung the instrument to the floor.

“Jammed!” he said in an icy voice. “Men, seize these two and have them put in prison . . .”

The men hesitated; the paralyzers were levelled at them.

“So the paralyzers scare you?” the Intelligence asked them. “I will do it myself, then,” and he threw himself into a spell of enormous concentration. As time passed, however, and his mental powers seemed completely without effect, he came as near to impatience as his unemotional body could be.

“Get out of my way! Time is precious!”

“I’ve no objection,” Dave answered, “but you know your space machine is useless. And the workers are looking for you, too! You’re cornered, and you may as well realize it! So what are you going to do?”

Before Dave could grasp what was happening, the Intelligence and Dr. Soone had both turned on their heels and were fleeing down the passage-way as fast as their legs could carry them.

“Why the devil don’t you put us in the fourth dimension?” Soone panted desperately, as he tore alongside his superior.

“I cannot! I cannot!” the Intelligence muttered. “Something has happened somewhere. My mental powers seem useless. Make for the machine-room . . . we’ll turn a brain machine on this rabble.”

Behind them, Dave and the guards followed like the wind, up passages, clambering up stairways, through rooms, down aisles, between machines, and at last into the great machine room, the nerve centre of New London.

Panting hard, the Intelligence jumped to his brain machine, Soone by his side. He flung over the power lever breathlessly.

Not a sound. The machine refused to operate . . .

“For God’s sake!” Soone panted hoarsely. “Turn it on! The whole lot of them will be on us in a minute!”

“The mechanism’s jammed!” the Intelligence returned savagely. “My machinery seems to be all out of order. Good God, Soone, I do believe I’m sinking down to the level of an ordinary human being. I have human emotions coming over me—fear, hate—I have lost my former enormous mental range. I can think no higher than you can. Listen! I’ve become an ordinary man!”

“It’s a fact!” Soone breathed in awe, looking dazedly at the now wild and furious Intelligence. “You’re like us—you are a human being—no longer synthetic . . . They’re coming! Quick! Up to the roof out of the way.”

At full speed they rushed along the aisle and commenced the ascent of the refractor telescope.

At that moment a babbling roar commenced to fill the edifice. Voices shouted in furious anger, resonant thumps, and the thunder of running feet. At the same moment a sea of dark blue figures surged into the immense machine room, bawling at the top of their voices.

“The workers!” the Intelligence panted. “Get on, Soone—quick—or we’re done!”

Soone turned to continue, then to his astonishment an iron grip seized his shoulder. He was amazed to find that the Intelligence was gripping him, a wild light suddenly flaming in his strange eyes.

“Listen, Soone!” rasped that metallic voice; “you were the man who made my brain, who moulded me—and it is you also who are responsible for my inevitable destruction! Somewhere you made an error; you made my brain capable of collapse under extreme strain. Every moment I become less intelligent—I am sinking through the scale of de-evolution, back to the primitive . . . am descending to the beast. But, by Heaven, if I am sinking, you shall go too!”

“Have you gone mad?” the surgeon panted, fighting to free himself.

It seemed possible that the Intelligence had indeed relapsed into insanity. The mighty mind was no longer the master; it was the slave. The Intelligence was no more; he was naught but a fighting, screaming savage, blind to all sense of reason; a struggling maniac amidst the ruins of a shattered mind . . .

Soone fought mightily against the ruthless arms that held him. He punched, and wrestled, and kicked. All to no avail. The intelligence was as mighty in ape-like strength as he had been in mind. Soone screamed hoarsely as he slipped over the edge of the girder upon which he was standing and hung for a moment in mid-air.

“Pull me up! Pull me up!” he shouted desperately.

The Intelligence returned the plea with a snarling grunt.

Soone sank lower and lower, then quite suddenly the Intelligence overbalanced and he and Soone toppled through the air—a sheer hundred foot drop.

On the ground floor Dave and Nan, surrounded by the fascinated workers, saw the two forms hurtle downwards straight on to the gleaming copper wound cylinders of electrical generators . . . At that moment of impact there came a dazzling blue flash and a sharp hissing noise. An immense short circuit passed throughout the entire mass of machinery, and it whined to a standstill.

It seemed like a silence promoted in gratitude to the passing of a giant intelligence and its creator.

Upon one of the giant cylinders lay two piles of grey dust, which stirred in the gentle breeze through the open doors . . .

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