Darkness and Dawn Book I: The Vacant World - Cover

Darkness and Dawn Book I: The Vacant World

Public Domain

Chapter 13: The Great Experiment

The idea that there might possibly be others of their kind in far-distant parts of the earth worked strongly on the mind of the girl. Next day she broached the subject again to her companion.

“Suppose,” theorized she, “there might be a few score of others, maybe a few hundred, scattered here and there? They might awaken one by one, only to die, if less favorably situated than we happen to be. Perhaps thousands may have slept, like us, only to wake up to starvation!”

“There’s no telling, of course,” he answered seriously. “Undoubtedly that may be very possible. Some may have escaped the great death, on high altitudes--on the Eiffel Tower, for instance, or on certain mountains or lofty plateaus. The most we can do for the moment is just to guess at the probabilities. And--”

“But if there are people elsewhere?” she interrupted eagerly, her eyes glowing with hope, “isn’t there any way to get in touch with them? Why don’t we hunt? Suppose only one or two in each country should have survived; if we could get them all together again in a single colony--don’t you see?”

“You mean the different languages and arts and all the rest might still be preserved? The colony might grow and flourish, and mankind again take possession of the earth and conquer it, in a few decades? Yes, of course. But even though there shouldn’t be anybody else, there’s no cause for despair. Of that, however, we won’t speak now.”

“But why don’t we try to find out about it?” she persisted. “If there were only the remotest chance--”

“By Jove, I will try it!” exclaimed the engineer, fired with a new thought, a fresh ambition. “How? I don’t know just yet, but I’ll see. There’ll be a way, right enough, if I can only think it out!”

That afternoon he made his way down Broadway, past the copper-shop, to the remains of the telegraph office opposite the Flatiron.

Into it he penetrated with some difficulty. A mournful sight it was, this one-time busy ganglion of the nation’s nerve-system. Benches and counters were quite gone, instruments corroded past recognition, everything in hideous disorder.

But in a rear room Stern found a large quantity of copper wire. The wooden drums on which it had been wound were gone; the insulation had vanished, but the coils of wire still remained.

“Fine!” said the explorer, gathering together several coils. “Now when I get this over to the Metropolitan, I think the first step toward success will have been taken.”

By nightfall he had accumulated enough wire for his tentative experiments. Next day he and the girl explored the remains of the old wireless station on the roof of the building, overlooking Madison Avenue.

They reached the roof by climbing out of a window on the east side of the tower and descending a fifteen-foot ladder that Stern had built for the purpose out of rough branches.

“You see it’s fairly intact as yet,” remarked the engineer, gesturing at the bread expanse. “Only, falling stones have made holes here and there. See how they yawn down into the rooms below! Well, come on, follow me. I’ll tap with the ax, and if the roof holds me you’ll be safe.”

Thus, after a little while, they found a secure path to the little station.

This diminutive building, fortunately constructed of concrete, still stood almost unharmed. Into it they penetrated through the crumbling door. The winds of heaven had centuries ago swept away all trace of the ashes of the operator.

But there still stood the apparatus, rusted and sagging and disordered, yet to Stern’s practiced eye showing signs of promise. An hour’s careful overhauling convinced the engineer that something might yet be accomplished.

And thus they set to work in earnest.

First, with the girl’s help, he strung his copper-wire antennae from the tiled platform of the tower to the roof of the wireless station. Rough work this was, but answering the purpose as well as though of the utmost finish.

He connected up the repaired apparatus with these antennae, and made sure all was well. Then he dropped the wires over the side of the building to connect with one of the dynamos in the sub-basement.

The source of this story is SciFi-Stories

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