Wanted-7 Fearless Engineers! - Cover

Wanted-7 Fearless Engineers!

Public Domain

Chapter IV: Morquil's Story

For a long time there was silence, then Mrs. Jones fainted. McCarthy took it without flinching, and his wife was satisfied if he was. Dick had suspected something almost as strange, and did not seem surprised. Dolores looked at him for guidance. He nodded reassuringly. The others shut their lips tight, feeling that they had been taken prisoner without hope of escape.

After a pause, Morquil continued. Mrs. Jones had recovered her composure and was staring at him with undisguised dislike. “I’m sorry it had to happen this way, but I would not have been able to take sufficient people if you had known where we were going. Some of you might have come, but I treated every one alike.

“I also was unconscious from the gas, but the crew revived me. I had to look after the loading of the supplies, and have the cabins prepared for you. It was much nicer that way than if you had resisted, and were put on board by force.

“I shall start at the beginning of my story, and let you judge for yourselves as to whether we have done wrong.

“The existence of my world depends on the perfect operation of machines. Even our atmosphere is manufactured and kept at proper temperature within sealed domes, to protect us from the natural gases of the planet. We live on this planet through necessity--not desire!

“Our race landed there very long ago after escaping from a planet that was falling into the sun. Their space ship ran short of fuel within the gravity pull of our present habitation. It was difficult, but they succeeded in constructing gas-proof shelters, and slowly improved conditions for living.

“We never knew what happened to the other space ships from our original planet, but they may be distributed throughout the universe. Your own ancestors may be of the same origin as ours. The similarity of our forms tends to prove it.

“Eventually metal domes were built, and the race prospered within. But our lives depend on their being kept in perfect repair. Machines were built which do practically all of the work in caring for our wants, and from the first we have adjusted our own gravity; to live normally under the gigantic pull of the new planet, which to you is Jupiter.

“Through the ages our lives became easier, and required less manual work. Machinery did everything we desired. Most of them were automatically repaired and serviced, while the permanent machines ran on through the ages without care. As generation after generation lived and died, under these conditions, we lost most of our former knowledge.

“When one of the atmospheric machines ceased to operate--we could not repair it! Instead, one of the other machines had to be speeded up, and the atmosphere pumped into the extra dome.

“At the height of our mechanical development this space ship was built. Then the race lost interest and were content to live in ease, without attempting to reach another planet. Three generations ago our people discovered the danger. Even our bodies had deteriorated until we could not stand hard work. The machines had begun to break down--we were headed for extinction!

“When I was a young man they succeeded in finishing the equipment on this ship. Three generations had been required to create enough fuel for only two voyages!

“I was selected as the man to explore the strange world, which we had been studying with the instruments of our ancestors. We had determined your exact mechanical development, and knew that you were capable of furnishing the engineers which meant life or death to our race.

“It is twenty years since I was left on the small island, and the ship returned to Jupiter. At that time we decided the date for this trip, to bring me back. In the meantime I traveled half way around the world in a small metal boat, before being picked up by a tramp steamer, as I dared not land near any civilized country. After I reached a settlement I had to learn your customs and language, and many other things about a completely alien people.

“I was furnished with an ample supply of gold, as we knew it was the metal that you valued highest. This purchased many things that would otherwise have been impossible to obtain, and also brought me a great deal of trouble. I was robbed of most of the wealth before I had been in civilization a year. The fact that a great deal was left on the small island is all that made my venture possible.

“I spent three years in an institution before they decided that I was a normal human being, and could take care of myself. I dared not tell them that I came from a different planet, or I would have failed in every way. I learned many things about the people of your world, but mainly that gold could buy almost anything.

“I lived for several years, by working at anything that I could obtain, trying to find someone who would finance an expedition to the island. No one would believe me when I said that I knew of a great fortune in gold. I finally found a man who did believe me, and he received one half of the gold as reward. It was not until then that I could begin the work that I started out to do, and nearly ten years had passed.

“I planned for several years before I dared try to obtain the people I needed. I studied everything I could about your engineering, and found that it was not of the same type as our own. For this reason I did not want a graduate engineer, as he would have to learn everything all over again in my cities.

“When I advertised for men, and told you of the wonderful mechanical development, it was the truth. I did mislead you to a small extent, in obtaining your promise to come with me, but the existence of my race depended on your work. My people will give you anything you desire if you will help them.

“When we left our cities, we didn’t know whether we could even escape from the planet in this ship. There was no opportunity of testing it, until we started on the journey. Even the men at the controls had never handled it. All of their knowledge was obtained by years of practice, sitting in a stationary ship.

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