Wanted-7 Fearless Engineers! - Cover

Wanted-7 Fearless Engineers!

Public Domain

Chapter I: Opportunity

From where Dick Barrow sat, hundreds of men were visible, occupying benches in every manner of position. Some stretched at full length, sleeping in the morning sun after a night in the park. Others sat with heads hanging; thinking thoughts of their own.

Depression or recession, it meant the same to all of them. Some didn’t care, but others tried to find any kind of work that would fill their stomachs with food.

For three days Dick hadn’t eaten a good meal, and felt almost as low as the derelicts whom he had for companions. He would have enjoyed a smoke, but turned away as two men dove for a cigarette-butt; discarded by a passerby.

Anyone who could afford to buy a newspaper was an aristocrat, and Dick watched until he saw one discarded. For three days he had been reading them secondhand, but the only jobs were too far to walk and apply for.

His eyes stopped at one item in the column and a puzzled frown slowly puckered his forehead.

Wanted: An Engineer. Young man with love for electrical and mechanical work, who is not afraid of isolation. Have some knowledge of engineering, but general experience more desirable than specialized training. Must be willing to leave country, never to return; for which he will be well remunerated. Have no close family ties, and willing to submit to certain amount of danger. Will be isolated with few members of own race, but will have great opportunity to develop mastery of huge machines. Come prepared to leave for post immediately, without preparation. Every want will be taken care of by employers. This position is for lifetime, without opportunity of turning back after having accepted responsibility. GREAT OPPORTUNITY! Room 36, 18 W. Morgan Ave., City.

For a long time Dick Barrow gazed at the ad, mentally comparing his own qualifications for the position--and they seemed to fit! He was not a graduate engineer, being forced to quit school after two years of study. Three years later his father died, then Dick lost the job that had kept them eating regularly. His love of mechanics remained insatiable, and he constantly hoped for work which would allow him to use his knowledge and ability.

He had no relations, and the only girl had forgotten him, when he left school. He heard that she married a classmate!

Dick was twenty-seven. Five years had slipped by since he quit school, and he couldn’t remember where they had gone. It was only six months after his father died that he lost his last regular job. He tried selling and was a failure. He had been carpenter’s helper, plumber’s helper, porter, counter-man and busboy as the months passed, but nothing steady. For the past two months he had been hunting for work, while his few dollars dwindled to where he no longer had room rent. Then it was the park.

His feet were sore and blistered from holes in his shoes, and he limped with every step. It took so long to reach the address that there was little chance of finding the job still open. It was not the first time he had missed--for the same reason.

He found that 18 Morgan Avenue was a dreary structure, appearing as if it had been standing twenty years too long. The wooden stairs creaked as he rested his weight on first one sore foot and then the other. Room 36 was at the top of the five-story building, and it seemed ages before he reached the doorway. The only sign of furnishing in the room was a hard bench, occupied by three men. Dick had to stand while his feet tortured him, but it was hopeful to see men waiting--the job wasn’t filled!

Suddenly a door at the opposite side of the room jerked open and a man dashed through.

“Get out of here! The man’s insane!”

Two of the men followed, but the man who remained on the bench glanced at Dick, grinned, shrugged his shoulders and entered the door. A moment later his booming voice could be heard through the thin partition, although his words were not clear.

An hour passed while Dick waited. When the man came out, with a smile on his face, he wished Dick luck and headed for the stairway.

Barrow felt a queer sensation as he stepped through the inner doorway. A man faced him in a huge leather chair across the room. At least Dick thought he was a man. Grotesque in every way, his body was small while his head was twice as large as normal. He was light complexioned, with almost white hair thinly covering the top of his enormous head. His features were finely cut, with large aquiline nose. He was not repulsive, and smiled in welcome as Dick hesitated at the threshold. When he spoke his tone was soft and musical.

“Welcome, stranger. You have come in answer to my advertisement and I will explain without wasting time. But first tell me about yourself.”

Going over his complete life history, including the two years in college, Dick came to the lean years when his father died. He hesitated slightly not proud of this period.

“Go on, Mr. Barrow. It is not important to have been a success in business, and I will not consider that in your applications. It isn’t what you have done, but what you want to do, that interests me.”

He spoke with a strange accent, that Dick didn’t recognize. But he was pleasant and made it easy to talk.

When Barrow finished, by relating the finding of the newspaper and the long walk to the office, the queer man was smiling.

“I like your frankness and will tell you about the position, although I can’t reveal the location of your work. It is not on any map, and you will work among a race such as myself, with no opportunity of leaving after reaching the destination.

“You will be given every comfort and advantage among my people, and be required to work hard in return. There are several machines out of commission which must be repaired and put to work again. After a few months your work will be easier, although you must constantly watch all machinery to see that it is in perfect condition, and does not stop work for even a moment.

“My people use mechanics of greater size and development than anything you have ever seen, and our lives depend on its perfect operation. In order to accept this position you must be married. Your wife must come with you, and be willing to accept the same living conditions which are offered to you.

“The man who left this office as you entered has a fiancee and has gone to talk it over with her. In your instance I must select your wife! You will be the leader of the workmen whom I take back. There will be only a few people such as yourself, and you can never again see others of your race.

“You will have power and wealth among my people, and every type of entertainment that you desire. But remember that you leave your race forever, with no possibility of return! If you accept my offer you must trust entirely in what I say about the future.”

When the man finished speaking Dick was quiet for a long time. Everything seemed so unreal, so different from what he had expected. He must be willing to leave everything that he had always known--to enter an existence which he didn’t understand--without chance of return! Yet he believed every word this man spoke, impossible as it seemed. But marriage ... with a girl he had never seen!

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