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Beyond the thunder, p.1
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       Beyond The Thunder, p.1

           H. B. Hickey
 
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Beyond The Thunder


  Produced by Greg Weeks, Mary Meehan and the OnlineDistributed Proofreading Team at https://www.pgdp.net

  BEYOND THE THUNDER

  By H. B. Hickey

  [Transcriber Note: This etext was produced from Amazing Stories December1948. Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that the U.S.copyright on this publication was renewed.]

  [Sidenote: What was this blinding force that came out of a hole in thesky, and was powerful enough to destroy an entire city? Case thought heknew....]

  Ten thousand persons in New York looked skyward at the first rumble ofsound. The flash caught them that way, seared them to cinder, liquefiedtheir eyeballs, brought their vitals boiling out of the fissures oftheir bodies. They were the lucky ones. The rest died slowly, theirmonument the rubble which had once been a city.

  Of all that, Case Damon knew nothing. Rocketing up in the self-serviceelevator to his new cloud-reaching apartment in San Francisco, histhoughts were all on the girl who would be waiting for him.

  "She loves me, she loves me not," he said to himself. They were orchidpetals, not those of daisies, that drifted to the floor of the car.

  "She loves me." The last one touched the floor softly, and Case laughed.

  Then the doors were opening and he was racing down the hall. No morelonely nights for him, no more hours wasted thumbing through the pagesof his little black book wondering which girl to call. Case Damon,rocket-jockey, space-explorer, was now a married man, married to themost beautiful girl in the world.

  He scooped Karin off her feet and hugged her to him. Her lips were redvelvet on his, her spun gold hair drifted around his shoulders.

  "Box seats for the best show in town, honey," he gloated in her ear.

  He fished around in his pockets with one hand while he held her againsthim with the other. They'd said you couldn't get tickets for that show.But what "they" said never stopped Case Damon, whether it was a matterof theatre tickets, or of opening a new field on a distant airlessplanet.

  "Turn off that telecast," he said. "I'm not interested in Interplan newsthese days. From now on, Case Damon keeps his feet on terra firma."

  And that was the way it was going to be. His interest in the uranium onTrehos alone should keep him and Karin in clover for the rest of theirlives. They'd have fun, they'd have kids, they'd live like normalmarried people. The rest of the universe could go hang.

  "If you'd stop raving, I might get a word in edgewise," Karin begged.

  "The floor is yours. Also the walls, the building, the whole darned cityif you want it," Case laughed.

  "That telecast is ticking for you. Washington calling Case Damon.Washington calling Case Damon. Since you left an hour ago it's beencalling you."

  "Let it call. It's my constitutional right not to answer."

  But his mood was changing to match Karin's. His lean, firm-jawedfeatures were turning serious. Tension tightened his powerful body.

  "It must be important, Case," Karin said. "They're using your code call.They wouldn't do that unless it was urgent."

  He listened to the tick of the machine. Unless you knew, it sounded onlylike the regular ticking that told the machine was in operation. Butthere were little breaks here and there. It _was_ for him.

  Three long strides took him to the machine. His deft fingers flickedswitches, brought a glow to the video tubes.

  "Case Damon," he said softly. "Come in, Washington."

  It was Cranly's face that filled the screen. But a Cranly Case barelyrecognized. The man had aged ten years in the last three days. His voicewas desperate.

  "Good grief, man! Where've you been? Get down here fast. But fast!"

  "Listen, Cranly. I'm on my honeymoon. Or have you forgotten? Rememberthree days ago you were best man at a wedding? Well, the fellow at thealtar was Case Damon."

  That should have gotten a smile out of Cranly. But it didn't. He waseven a little angry now.

  "This is an order, Case! I'm giving you the honor of being the firstnon-official person to know about it. Supreme Emergency Mobilization andEvacuation Order. New York was blasted out of existence an hour ago!"

  * * * * *

  All flights grounded, the skyport in a turmoil, but that little silvercard got him and Karin through. Nobody knew yet what was going on. Theywere readying for something big, but they didn't know what as yet.

  Case hurried Karin to his own hangar, bustled her into the smallspeeder.

  "The fishing cabin on the Columbia, honey. Stay there! And don't worryif you don't hear from me."

  He didn't even wait to see her take off. Karin would be safe enough. Thecabin was a hundred miles from any possible military objective. All hehad to do was sit tight until things were straightened out. New Yorkblasted! That could have been an accident. It _must_ have been anaccident. The only alternative would be war. And there were no morewars. Somebody at Supreme Council must have lost his head to issue theE.M.E. order.

  Sure, that was it. Leave it to the politicos to get excited and jump outof their skins. Below him the glistening towers of Kansas City flashedand faded and were replaced minutes later by the towers of St. Louis.Chicago was batting out a "clear the sky order."

  All three of those cities would have been gone by now if there werereally a war, Case told himself. But Cranly was no politician. And hewasn't the kind that scared easily.

  It was Cranly who met him at Washington skyport. Cranly was scared, allright. He was more frightened than he'd been the time their ship hadstarted to tear loose from their mooring on that moon of Jupiter. Hisface was gray.

  "I'll fill you in as we go," he said. The official car jerked into highspeed and Cranly talked. "It was no accident. Get that straight. NewYork was hit from the outside."

  "But how? By what? Under the Unified Council there's no one who'd haveanything to gain by war. There isn't even anyone on Earth with the powerto make war."

  "That's why we wanted you here. It figures to be an enemy from anotherplanet."

  "That doesn't make sense." Case swivelled around to face Cranly. "Youand I know our system as well as anyone alive. Cut out the guessing andgive me the facts."

  "All right. Enough people saw the thing from Jersey so that we know whathappened. They say there was a rumble like thunder. Out of a clear sky,mind you. Then--get this--the sky seemed to open! There was a blast oflight. That's all. New York was gone."

  "Atom blast?"

  "Hardly. No mushroom cloud. Accident? No, and you'll learn why I'm sosure shortly."

  * * * * *

  Case Damon had met some of these men before. A few others he recognizedfrom their pictures. The Supreme Council. They were plenty worried.Strogoff was chewing his mustache; Vargas drummed nervously with thickfingers. Cunningham and Osborn were pacing the floor.

  "Thank heaven for one thing," Osborn said. Vargas looked up at himquickly, his dark eyes slits in his swarthy face.

  "For what?" Vargas asked bitterly.

  "That there has been no panic. Urban evacuations are proceedingquietly."

  "I still think it could have been some natural phenomenon," Caseinterrupted. "Even a terrific bolt of lightning."

  Cranly's big shoulders lifted as a recorder was wheeled into the room.He indicated where the machine was to be set down.

  "We've wasted a little time in letting you make these guesses," he toldCase. "All for a reason. We want you to realize fully what sort ofweapon we are up against. Now listen to this message that was beamedonto the Council's private line a few minutes after the blast."

  He went to the recorder and tripped a lever. The instrument settled to alow whine that soon disappeared as the recording tape entered theconvert
er. The voice might have been in the room with them.

  "To the Supreme Council of the Planet Earth: What happened to New Yorkwas only a token of what can be done to your entire planet. Our termsare complete and unconditional surrender, to be telecast within oneweek. To hasten your decision, there will be other tokens at twelve-hourintervals."

  "Now you know," Cranly said heavily. "Either give up or be destroyed.And that ultimatum from an enemy which has no compunction aboutmurdering ten million people to prove its power."

  A thousand questions jumped to Case Damon's mind. The horror of thething stilled most of them. He checked over possibilities quickly.

  "You say many people outside of New York saw the flash.
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