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I Remember Lemuria, by Richard S. Shaver, [1948], at

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A Novel of the Revolt of
Evil Against the Gods.

—By Richard S. Shaver

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Quest of the Darkome

"Satan, with vast and hauty strides advanced,
Came towering, armed in adamant and gold."
                                         —John Milton

The pursuit needle indicated a dizzy succession of zigs and zags in front of my straining eyes. The huge dread-nor, the Darkome, slewed in sickening curves as my hand on the swivel-jet stick tried to follow the crazily dancing needle. Was it—or was it not—the erratic ion trail of a dodging ship?

"Are we following one ship or a dozen?" asked Lt. Tyron, tightening the straining straps of the co-pilot's chair beside me.

"I don't know—but sure as the God's vengeance we're following something with plenty of reason to want to escape. And we will follow as long as the fool's drivers leave us a trail.

"Too much trail right now. A few more of those sudden jerks and either the Darkome or me is going off in two directions at once—and the Darkome is tough."

"There's no question we can catch the ship or ships on this trail, but, what I am wondering . . . what has me worried . . . is, will our quarry be a big enough fish to be important, or some expandable decoy of Sathanas?"

I turned from my inspection of the dials and looked at my first officer. Tyron was a good man, but too impatient for action and too continually worried that he wouldn't see any. But he was intelligent and, in the two centuries he'd been in my command, there had never been a question of his reliability. He had the familiar look of fearing that action was going to get away from him again. I couldn't help laughing down at him.

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"Well, Tyron, before this is over you'll have a chance to catch a lot of those devils—and when we do you may get those hands you're so proud of, singed. Carry on!"

I settled myself in my seat before the universal view screen 1, thinking, "There's nothing to do now until we catch sight of whatever is making this trail." I, myself, was as impatient for action as Tyron, but in the long years since I left the culture farms of Mother Mu, I had learned to restrain my desire for adventure until the opportunity came to unleash my energies into effective action.

The irritation I felt at being forced to stay on duty was just another score I had to settle with the fugitive fleeing through space somewhere ahead of us. Here, aboard ship, I have my duty, and when it is performed, the course checked and affirmed, the log set to rights, and my officers assigned to their special duties, my time is my own. And woe betide the unfortunate who unnecessarily disturbs my meditations and experiments in my own ship-board laboratory. It is a well equipped laboratory—befitting the ennobled station the Gods of Nor have seen fit to bestow upon their humble servant and brother. Only in the capital cities of the God race are there comparable laboratories. I have spent years and many a long voyage in some of the

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less frequented reaches of space to equip it for the work I do when I am not on the errands of the Gods. Full of apparatus picked up in the strange ports of a thousand far off planets—perhaps a little evil-smelling at times, but it is my life, and in it is life—little lives whose efforts are at times vastly more successful than man's own . . . poor doomed mankind whose glorious ancestors are the immortal gods themselves.

On most of the assignments that I took my ship, the Darkome, I had plenty of time for my own experiments, far from the distracting social activities of my own adorable Arl. But this trip would not allow me any time to myself—this trip was ordered by the great Elders of Nor themselves. I was to capture and bring to trial that unwise but accomplished fiend, Sathanas, Ruler of the planet Satana. Sathanas, though a younger member of the God Race, had started his own private revolt against all authority—and the dicta of the Elders are not so lightly flaunted by any upstarts a few score centuries old. He had violated the Elder laws designed to protect and foster life and growth—it seemed that he could not get enough victims for his orgies of cruelty under the existing laws and had set out to make a few laws of his own. But, as I said, the laws laid down by the myriad Lords of Nor in Council are not easily broken—even by a powerful and cunning master of sin like this Sathanas—and thus it was that I sat on the bridge of the war vessel, Darkome—the crew alerted for battle action—its glistening hull plunging toward the general area of the planetary system that gave me birth long years ago.

Once his defection 2 had been fully exposed, Sathanas escaped our avenging fleet by the barest seconds. The ships in his fleet—several hundreds in numbers—had blasted

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up in the very face of our fleet—jockeyed into position in the center of the 'zone of weightlessness' 3 between the planet Satana and her satellite Feon—then disappeared in that fierce burst of full acceleration into light speeds that is only possible in the precise center of such zones of weightlessness. To make the maneuver more untraceable, every ship in the enemy fleet disappeared in a different direction. Perhaps we could have followed a few of them, but never would we find all of those divergent trails at many light speeds into the depths of space.

Of course, they must have had some pre-arranged rendezvous. But where? Our only hope for their capture lay in attempting to follow some of them, and then, by keeping the various observed courses plotted on the space charts, eventually figuring out where, approximately, that rendezvous lay in all the infinite reaches of space. That blasting off in a variety of directions was a clever maneuver—one they had accomplished smoothly and at inimitable speed—and a precision that bespoke much dangerous practice in the zones of weightlessness.

I had flung the Darkome into that center of neutralized gravities between two spatial bodies and pushed the lever controlling the dis-flows to the driver plates. Rammed it home to the last notch, swinging the ship with short side bursts, jockeying the craft to conform with the zig-zag swings of the pursuit needle, following the crooked trail of the gas ions left hanging in the ether by the force flows from the driver-plates of the Satanists’ ships.

Somewhere ahead, the enemy flung himself deeper into the evernight of space. My ionic-indicator—a device to

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pick up the most tenuous of ion trails (standard equipment on all the battle ships of Nor) had finally stopped its wild gyrations and held steady on what was an ionic trail dead ahead. This was it! No more of the excitement and doubt if we would get a trail that wasn't just a decoy—this was heavy with the exhaust of a large craft—steady enough to indicate that the ship or ships just ahead were actually going some place. And, if the speed that we were making was any indication of just how fast the enemy was going, he was really racing through space at close to the top acceleration of the Darkome—the Darkome that I had worked and studied over and had the crew tune until it had the reputation as one of the fastest ships in the Nortan fleet. But, then, it should be—the best mechanical minds in my planet had been building it for three centuries.

Like the thoroughbred that she was, the Darkome settled down to the chase . . . the scent of the quarry was in her mechanical nostrils—and her powerful drivers were capable of hurtling her to the infinity of spatial boundaries if need be. We would catch whatever was ahead of us if it took years at this terrific speed.

Somewhere ahead that enemy crew bored a hole ever deeper into speed blackened space, their drivers heating as those of the Darkome were heating. Where would the chase lead?


112:1 This "universal viewer" is a device which assembles and coordinates the images resulting from a large number of penetray beams and their accompanying televisor—or direct-view screens. These beams point to every direction in space and the screen images are reprojected upon tiny mental vision (telaug) beams directly into the brain of the pilot of the ship. (Telaug beams carry mental messages in a large part of the communication system of the Nor-tans.) The result was a complete mental view in all directions disturbing to a man used to seeing in but one direction at a time. But to a pilot accustomed to the device, it was a vastly superior method to the older devices—which gave a single view of the space directly ahead. They were standard equipment on all Nortan war-craft of any size. With it, an experienced pilot is continuously conscious of the contents of space in every direction simultaneously—and could at the same time use his exterior vision for other purposes, to write a report—or a letter home.—Author.

113:2 DEFECTION: Note the persistence of this word—WITH the meaning INTACT—"dis-integrant energy infection," is shortened to DEfection, and STILL means—"to fall into evil; err on a job."—Author.

114:3 ZONE OF WEIGHTLESSNESS: In a place where no thing has weight, infinite acceleration can be achieved with every slight impetus—no inertia drag would crush the occupants. The acceleration would have no effect onthe bodies of the passengers.

A 'zone of weightlessness'—neutralized gravity—exists between any two bodies in space. These zones would be used by space ships as starting points for all long, fast voyages.—Author.

Next: Chapter II. Whence Came Sathanas?