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Title: All That Earthly Remains
Author: MacApp, C.C.
Language: English
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                       ALL THAT EARTHLY REMAINS

                            BY C. C. MACAPP

                 Rumor said devils lived in the cave.
                  The truth was even more appalling!

           [Transcriber's Note: This etext was produced from
               Worlds of If Science Fiction, July 1962.
         Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that
         the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed.]


Breathing a little heavily in the Andean air, and still dazed at the
urgency with which he had been whisked southward (via jet bomber),
Dr. Luis Craig walked across packed earth toward a powerful-looking
helicopter which, he had just been told, was to take him on the last
leg of his trip. He listened tiredly to the unctuous words of his
escort, a Lieutenant Rabar who wore the uniform of this Latin American
nation's Air Force and who was to fly the helicopter.

Shouts erupted behind them, at the edge of the field. Something snarled
at his left ear. The sound was familiar, though not recently so: the
crack of a rifle. He hit the dirt.

Another bullet came searching, but now the shouts got themselves
organized into crisp Spanish. Sidearms and at least two automatic
weapons blatted. There were no more rifle shots. Cautiously, he raised
his head to look at the knot of uniformed men where the sniper had been.

Rabar stepped forward, offering a hand. "Are you all right, Doctor?"

Craig ignored the hand and got up without help. "Quite, thank you." He
had disliked Rabar from the moment of introduction; and now it was in
his mind that Rabar had stepped carefully away from him _before_ the
first bullet came.

As casually as he could, he walked to the aluminum ladder hung upon
the helicopter's side and hauled himself up. He stopped in the hatch,
dignity forgotten, startled at the disparity of the three men already
in the ship.

       *       *       *       *       *

Directly across the cabin sat a gaunt scarecrow of a man in a black
priest's cassock. An oxygen mask dangled on his thin chest, suggesting
a bloated crucifix. The long, swarthy face was pockmarked, dour and
without animation at the moment, except for fierce black eyes that
burned steadily into Craig's own. Craig thought of a condor, perched
near some nearly ready meal. He was immediately ashamed of the thought.

Forward of the priest sat a brown Indian. His face mirrored dignified
resignation to being carried in this hellish contraption to horrible
death, or worse.

Occupying the only seat on the hatch side was a tautly uniformed man
who eyed Craig coldly.

The priest spoke. His voice was deep and gently strong, caressing the
Spanish syllables like a great soft bell. "We are abject, Doctor. We
had tried very hard ... but there are fanatics."

"Eh?" said Craig. "Oh. Well, I am unhurt, as you can see."

"For which, thanks to the Almighty. Our humblest apologies. You speak
Spanish exceptionally well, Doctor."

Wondering if there were a question behind the compliment, Craig said,
"My mother was Mexican." He did not think it necessary to add that he'd
grown up near the border, and had once spent two years as an exchange
Professor of Physics at the Mexican university.

The priest nodded once. "I see. It was thoughtful of your government
to choose you. And more than kind of you to come. But, forgive me;
the shooting has made me forget my manners. This--" indicating the
uniformed man--"is General Noriega." He laid a hand on the shoulder of
the Indian. "And this one prefers to answer to the name Dientes."

Craig looked at the brown face with interest. Archeology was one of his
hobbies, and in this part of the world ... 'Dientes' was Spanish for
'teeth,' he mused. Abruptly, under his gaze, the immobile face split
into a wide nervous smile revealing the source of the nickname. They
were large, even and very white.

"And I," the priest was saying, "am called Father Brulieres. Won't you
seat yourself?"

Craig tensed in surprise. The name Brulieres had been very much in the
news of late. A priest by that name had led the movement which put the
present government in power--and was still reputedly, the man who
actually ran it.

Craig realized he was still perched awkwardly halfway into the cabin.
Mumbling something, he squeezed his bulky mountain gear through the
hatch and took the empty seat beside the priest.

       *       *       *       *       *

Rabar came in, closing the hatch behind him, and went forward to the
pilot's seat. He glanced around at his passengers.

It seemed to Craig that he was more interested in faces than in the
condition of seat belts. Rabar worked at switches and buttons. Engines
coughed, then roared. From overhead came the rising "whoosh" of the
vanes. The craft shivered and lifted.

They went on oxygen at once, and Craig, under the eyes of the other
passengers, was glad to put the breather over at least part of his
face. Imitating the others he pulled down the earflaps of his helmet.
It seemed to have built-in radio, as he could hear Rabar advising
them to strap in. A moment later, clearing his throat, he discovered
that his breather contained a mike. He was surprised at such advanced
electronics here.

They were quickly closed in by mighty cliffs. Below them, a river
tumbled wildly. Where it could find root-holds, fantastic greenery
burgeoned, but it did little to disguise the menacing rock. The
cabin's plastic windows gave all too clear a view.

Turning from the window beside him, Craig found his eyes wandering to
the insignia pinned to the priest's cassock. Of elegantly wrought gold,
it was the same emblem he'd noticed on buildings, vehicles and other
government property here. It looked like a set of football goalposts
with the uprights moved in close together, leaving the crossbar
extending to the sides.

The priest caught his look and gave him what might be intended for a
smile. "You wonder about our emblem? It represents the Church and State
standing--what is the expression in your own language?--'four-square'
together."

"Oh." Craig realized that the symbol was simply a cross with two
posts instead of one. He felt a little annoyed. His own government
had told him enough to make him eager to come on this job, but they'd
also warned him emphatically not to discuss politics or religion.
He supposed the United States needed friends wherever they could be
found, but a dictatorship wasn't his notion of a good alternative to
Bolshevism.

He realized that the warning had point. He didn't know how ruthless
these people might be, but the shooting back at the airfield hadn't
been any game of marbles. For that matter, the whole country, or what
he'd seen of it, had an armed-camp air.

He decided the thing to do was to concentrate on the scientific reason
for his visit, and now was as good a time to start as any. He leaned
toward Brulieres, then realized that wasn't necessary. "Er--are you at
liberty to tell me anything about the explosion?"

Brulieres eyed him for a moment, and again there was the hint of a
smile. "We could hardly be secretive with _you_, Doctor. You are the
expert. How much were you told?"

"Just that there'd been a nuclear explosion of unknown origin. They
said there was something spectacular about it."

"Spectacular? _Si!_ Your government was gracious enough to accept
our request for technical help without demanding details. Security
is very difficult, as you comprehend." Brulieres looked absent for
a moment. "The explosion occurred at a spot famous in pre-Christian
legends, which is why friend Dientes accompanies us. He is considered
_experto_." The intense eyes turned upon the Indian, with a hint of
mischief. "Not that he fails to be a good Christian as well."

The Indian crossed himself nervously.

"The explosion," Brulieres went on, "seems to have uncovered some very
ancient tunnels. We wish to explore them, but we felt we needed a
nuclear physicist along. Especially since there appears the possibility
that the explosion originated from the tunnels."

Craig heard Noriega clear his throat. Brulieres glanced at Noriega. "It
has also been suggested," the priest said, "that the uncovering of the
tunnels is coincidental, and that the explosion was of foreign origin."

Craig thought that over, and was annoyed. "That does not seem likely,"
he said, a little stiffly. "Nobody is tossing live warheads around."

Noriega spoke for the first time. His voice was crisp and rather high.
"You can perhaps speak for your own nation, Doctor Craig; but others
too possess missiles."

Brulieres interposed, "You no doubt know, Doctor, that a communist
putsch very nearly took over this country. The present government has
been compelled to very strict measures against a further attempt.
Therefore we are not popular with the communist nations."

Craig waved a hand impatiently. "Yes, I know that, but...." He realized
he was being careless. "I only wish to approach my investigation with
an open mind. You say the tunnels were ancient? Incan, perhaps?"

Brulieres shook his head slowly. "They were hardly capable of anything
on this scale. One cannot speak so surely of those who preceded the
Incas in this place."

Craig pondered, and felt his pulse move faster. "How much have you
learned so far?"

"What can be seen from the air. We will be the first to land, if you
decide it is safe."


                                  II

They rose with the canyon, and its upper ramparts began to display
patches of snow. Ahead loomed solid whiteness. They strained upward
and emerged over a snowfield glaring white in the sun, its jagged
peaks casting crisp blue shadows. The copter's own shadow danced along
beneath them like a crazy gnat.

They aimed for a cluster of five or six peaks dominating everything
else. Dientes, twisting nervously in his seat, mumbled something about
"_puesto de los demonios_." They flew between two of the peaks and were
in a basin formed by the roughly circular cluster.

Zero ground of the explosion was as obvious as an ugly dark blotch
on white cloth. Snow had been melted away from an oblong area on the
inner slope of one peak, leaving naked rock. Craig stared at what lay
revealed. A plateau was carved out of the mountainside, so flat and
so precisely oval that there wasn't an instant's doubt that it was
artificial. The uphill wall was vertical, following exactly the curve
of the ellipse. The wall was in shadow, but Craig could make out the
five black tunnel mouths, all of a shape and evenly spaced.

He let out his breath in a grunt as he remembered that this was a blast
area and that they were getting close. Hastily, he unhooded one of the
instruments, his fingers awkward with excitement. He watched the dial.
No serious radiation yet. Rabar looked at him, and he nodded his head
to indicate they could go closer.

The radiation increased a little but was still mild. He pondered. The
blast had been very clean, and of a low order, melting the snow without
even scarring the rock. Apparently it had occurred not far above the
surface and over the center of the plateau. He didn't know of any
existing warheads that fit the explosion, nor could he believe that
either intent or coincidence had placed the blast so exactly.

The copter was hovering now, the other passengers watching him
silently. He met Rabar's eyes, and glanced away, uncomfortable. If the
priest's eyes reminded him of a vulture's, then Rabar's made him think
of a wolf's. They had an odd yellowish tinge, and were at one time
alert and devoid of expression. Craig couldn't know where the man fit
into things, but he didn't ring true as a simple pilot.

Craig needed no diagrams drawn for him, so far as his own position
went. In the first place, the opposition might assassinate him simply
to embarrass the government. On the other hand, if he seemed to
stand in the way of Noriega's project of making political capital of
the explosion, and if Noriega represented a strong faction in the
government, that faction might think it worth while to let something
happen to him and blame it on the communists.

But the hottest potato of all would be whatever he learned at the spot
of the explosion. He could imagine all sorts of fabulous things. So
would others, and some of them would go to considerable lengths to know.

       *       *       *       *       *

An instrument, dangled at the end of a line, showed no bad radiation,
so Craig said they could land.

When he stood on the plateau the tunnel mouths seemed like converging
black stares. Nevertheless he itched to explore. Impatiently, he led
the unloading and stacking of his equipment.

When that was done the group stood for a minute, evidently all feeling
the awe Craig did. Dientes was first to break the silence, muttering
something under his breath.

Brulieres fixed the Indian with a look that was not entirely severe.
"_Christian_ prayers, _hijo_, if you please." He turned to Craig.
"What can be learned where we stand?"

"I should be able to determine the type of explosion. I will have to
take rock samples, and set up some apparatus."

"How long will that require?"

"Less than an hour, with luck."

Brulieres was thoughtful for a while. "In that case, I believe we shall
begin reconnoitering the tunnels while you work. But first, let us hear
from our expert in demonology."

Dientes squirmed guiltily in his mountain clothing. "I know only what
the old tales say, Padre."

"Tell us, if you please. We will decide later whether you have been
guilty of _paganismo_."

"Si, Padre. This place is the home of the Fire Devils. There is no
question of the fact. It is precisely as described when I was a small
boy sitting at the feet of _los viejos_."

"Well, then. What manner of devils were they?"

"Creatures of fire, Padre, such that the eye could not behold without
being blinded. Brighter than the sun."

"Did they make war upon your people?"

"Those who approached this place were punished with spears of fire. It
is told that in ancient times, they were often seen flying through the
sky, trailing long tails of white feathers. Sometimes they visited the
villages, demanding strange things and frightening the people."

"Do the stories mention these tunnels?"

"No, Padre. The Fire Devils lived beneath the snow. They were seen to
vanish into it."

"Without melting it?"

"They could turn off their fire, perhaps. In any event, Padre, who
knows what is possible with demons?"

       *       *       *       *       *

"I know that you need and will receive many hours of strict Christian
instruction. How is it that men returned to tell of these things if the
devils pursued them with spears of fire?"

"Some escaped."

"Is it definitely told of individuals who were killed?"

Dientes looked thoughtful, and disappointed. "I do not recall the names
of any who were slain."

"Bah. Why have there been no reports in recent years?"

Dientes shrugged. "_Quien sabe?_ Perhaps the arrival of the true
religion has driven away the devils."

"Perhaps," said Brulieres, the corners of his mouth lifting slightly.
He turned toward the tunnels. "I think, General, that I will ask you
and the lieutenant to explore a little way into one of the tunnels.
Come out at once if you see anything that might be dangerous."

Craig opened his mouth to protest, but held back the words. He did ache
to get into the tunnels, but he wasn't a free agent here. He watched
as the two uniformed men disappeared into the middle tunnel. Their
flashlights were quickly lost as they rounded some turn in the tunnel.

Brulieres said to Dientes, "The doctor and I must take some samples
of the rock. Will you be good enough to remain here and guard the
helicopter?" He laid his hand on the Indian's shoulder. "I see that you
are not comfortable in your helmet. You may remove it if you wish. We
will call to you if we need you."

Craig realized Brulieres wanted to talk to him alone. He went with the
priest. The Indian squatted, apparently quite comfortable without his
oxygen. "He is used to high altitudes," Brulieres remarked. "You or I
could hardly remain conscious here. I wished to talk to you, Doctor."

"About what, Padre?" Craig felt a little awkward with the title.

"About certain things in our country of which you do not approve."

Craig hesitated. "I ... am here on a scientific mission."

"Nevertheless, you have ideas in the field of politics? I hope we can
be frank with each other."

"Well ... I have no intention of being critical. As you know, we--that
is, in the United States the Church is separate from the government."

The corners of Brulieres' mouth quirked. "What you mean, perhaps, is
that you do not understand how the Church can support a totalitarian
government. Oh, do not protest; the facts are obvious. We have been
called worse names than 'totalitarian.' You do not think it right that
the Church should take up actual arms."

"I--yes. Since you put it into words. We have a different concept of
religion."

       *       *       *       *       *

The priest nodded slowly. "_Si._ Once I visited your land. In a way,
I envied the priests there. Here, we have had more to contend with
than the christening of fat babies and listening to trifling sins of
appetite. We are in the front line of battle."

Craig said stiffly, "Do you mean a spiritual battle, or an ideological
one?"

This time Brulieres nearly smiled. "Are you so certain, then, that they
are not the same battle?"

Damn it, thought Craig, I know better than to argue with a priest. He
did not answer for a minute.

Brulieres said gently, "Please forgive me if I am too direct. You do
not believe that Evil is a real force?"

Craig could not meet the penetrating eyes. The old doubt edged into his
mind: what if he's right and I am wrong? What if there _is_ a personal
God? He pushed the thought away, telling himself as he always did that
it was just the exposure he'd suffered before he was old enough to
think for himself. He said, "I'm a scientist, Padre."

"But not, unless I misjudge you, an atheist?"

"I call myself an agnostic, if you must classify me. I recognize the
possibility of some force behind life and mind. I do not believe in a
God who is a man with a beard. Nor do I believe in a Devil with hooves
and horns."

Brulieres nodded again. "We are not so far apart as you may suppose,
Doctor. Myself, I have always thought that one who claimed perfect
faith without the trace of a doubt, was either an idiot or a liar.
God surely has his reasons for not removing all doubt. In any case I
wish to make my position clear to you. It was not happily that I took
up what weapons were at hand. Had I the choice, I would choose quite
differently." He eyed Craig directly for a moment. "The battle is very
real and very clear to me, Doctor. I have done what I must. I hope you
will believe that."

Craig's skeptical mind told him that this was just a play for a good
press when Craig got home.

His emotions though, wouldn't go along. They cried out that he was
looking upon sincerity.


                                  III

The first tests confirmed what Craig had already presumed; that the
explosion had been absolutely clean. What radiation existed had
originated from molecules in the rock itself or in the vaporized snow.

There was no way of guessing at the type of blast; he only knew that
mass had been transformed virtually one hundred per cent into energy in
a very short period of time. No process Craig knew even approached it.

He stared again at the tunnel mouths. He was sure now that something
had come out of them, risen about seven hundred feet above the plateau
and released the blast. He trembled with eagerness to get inside,
danger or no.

He had turned impatiently to Brulieres, when somewhere deep in the
tunnels, shouting broke out. Two pistol shots echoed hollowly. There
was a clatter of running footsteps. Craig found his right hand fumbling
at his hip, and felt foolish. He hadn't carried a sidearm since Korea.

Lieutenant Rabar burst through the tunnel, stumbling in the sunlight,
his face contorted. He ran straight across the plateau and threw
himself over the edge. Dientes, who had jumped to his feet, was only a
step behind him. Craig, eyes fastened on the tunnel, realized vaguely
that the two must have landed in deep snow, since there was no sound of
their falling.

A glow appeared in the tunnel. Craig fought the panic that seized
him; stood his ground and was aware of Brulieres beside him. The glow
brightened.

Its source came into sight--a ball of dazzling brilliance, oval and
about the size of a man's torso. It emerged into sunlight and Craig saw
that it was solid. It looked like incandescent metal, but he somehow
felt that it wasn't hot. It seemed to move at will and to hover without
support.

It acted alive.

It moved a little way toward Craig and Brulieres, then stopped.
A tentative rumble came from it, like the beginning of thunder.
Something like a tentacle lifted, clutching an object that resembled a
flashlight. A blinding lance of heat shot from the object and struck
the rock a few yards in front of the two men. A sound came from the
rock like ice pressed upon a hot stove. Smoke puffed upward. The beam
lasted only an instant, but it left a long curved scar in the rock.

The thing rumbled again, and flashed so brightly Craig threw an arm
over his eyes, and heard his own voice cry out wordlessly. His legs
tensed to run, but something about the behavior of the thing held him
where he was. It seemed unsure of itself, and not really threatening.

When he looked up again, it was moving laterally and up the face of
the wall. He saw the flashlight-like object on the ground where it had
evidently been dropped.

       *       *       *       *       *

The oval thing, no longer glowing, lifted fast toward the mountain top.
He saw that it _was_ metal, not rusted or corroded but dull with age,
and he saw the two ragged holes near the middle of it. He strained his
eyes for more detail but it grew tiny in the distance and he saw no
joints and no protuberances other than the one tentacle. He lost it in
the shadows of the mountain's brow, then saw it flash momentarily in
the sun as it curved up and over.

After a moment he turned dazedly toward Brulieres. But before he could
say anything there was a sun-dimming flash of light from beyond the
mountain. The ground danced. Sound, echoing from the other peaks and
battering its way through the solid rock of the mountain, beat about
them like monstrous punishing wings.

As the vast thunder dwindled away, Craig, squinting, saw a tenuous,
rapidly dimming mushroom cloud tower above the peak. He flinched, but
knew that this would be another clean explosion. Most of the cloud was
steam. He was sure they were seeing a re-enactment of the blast which
had cleared this plateau.

His mind worked in simple patterns: the thing was destroyed; it had
dropped its weapon.

He started toward the tunnel mouth, but he had hesitated too long.
Brulieres, moving very agilely, was ahead of him.

The priest picked up the weapon and turned toward Craig. Craig, still
befuddled, wondered mildly at his own detached state of mind: is
he going to kill me; I'd love to get that weapon home to the labs;
so that's how he keeps warm. (The latter in reference to the heavy
underwear he'd glimpsed beneath the priest's cassock as the padre bent
over).

But Brulieres' voice was mild. "Please forgive me for taking possession
of this, Doctor. Later, I hope, you will be able to examine it; but I
must think first of my own responsibilities." He looked at the thing
briefly, started to stow it in some fold of his gown, then hesitated.
As if unable to resist the temptation, he aimed it at the rock wall and
put his thumb on something.

The incandescence squirted out. The rock cried out and yielded up a
curl of smoke. Brulieres turned the thing off at once and turned back
to Craig with an expression half guilty, half delighted, like a child
with a forbidden toy. Then he sighed and put the weapon away.

Craig had observed what details he could. The thing was an inch or
a little more in diameter, perhaps ten inches long. All except one
tip was dull and apparently knurled to give a good grip. The tip
looked like quartz or some crystal, translucent except the end, which
was darkly transparent when not emitting the beam. The trigger was
apparently a spot of different color on the body, over which the thumb
could be pressed.

Craig thought of the energy stored in that slender cylinder, the
necessary insulation, the efficiency of whatever system was used to
direct and control the beam. He felt a chill shiver of awe. Then
another thought struck him and he looked wide-eyed at Brulieres. "A
flaming sword!"

Brulieres gave him a quick glance, and nodded. "Primitives might
describe it so."

       *       *       *       *       *

Rabar climbed back into sight at the edge of the plateau, looking pale.
A moment later Dientes poked his head into view.

"Where is the general?" Brulieres demanded.

"_Muerto_," said Rabar shakily, "in the tunnel. The creature killed
him."

The priest's face twitched. "Who shot at it?"

"The general, Padre. He had the only gun."

Brulieres sighed. "Then that is why he is dead. The creature would not
have harmed him."

Craig had the same idea. It had used the weapon more as if in bluff,
and had apparently carefully gone beyond the mountain to die. He
wondered if the two bullet-holes had killed it.

But how many more of the creatures (or machines) waited in the tunnels?

He looked at Brulieres. "Are we going in?"

"By all means. Unless we are stopped." The priest looked thoughtful.
"They may be coming out of hibernation or something like it. Can you
tell how old this plateau is?"

"Not without taking samples to a geological laboratory. Perhaps not
even then, with accuracy. But I would say, some thousands of years."

Rabar was not happy at re-entering the tunnel, but set his jaw and
came. Craig stood aside to let the lieutenant go ahead of him. Rabar
hesitated, then stepped by. Dientes, crossing himself and muttering,
evidently preferred coming along to being left alone outside. He
followed Craig.

Brulieres swept his flashlight along the tunnel walls, revealing a turn
ahead. They rounded it. After a little way it seemed to Craig that the
flashlight dimmed. Then he realized that there was other light in the
tunnel; the arched ceiling was aglow. It got brighter and Brulieres
turned off his flashlight.

"Evidently," he said, "we are expected. Have you noticed the air?"

Craig had not, but he did now; it was warm and the pressure was higher
than outside. "One moment," he said, puzzled. He went back to the mouth
of the tunnel. As he stepped outside, he felt a gentle resistance as if
some force were pushing him into the tunnel. He re-entered, and felt
warmth radiating from the ceiling. He rejoined the others.

       *       *       *       *       *

The floor of the tunnel sloped up gently for a while, then leveled,
then turned downward. The walls were vertical and perfect, with a
smooth glazed look. The ceiling curved from wall to wall in a perfect
arc. There was room for two men to walk side by side by crowding. Craig
walked a little behind Dientes.

Soon he took off his oxygen mask and breathed normally. He would have
liked to remove his jacket, but there were too many things in the
pockets to spill out.

He had counted one hundred seven paces when the tunnel turned again. It
was just beyond the turn that they found Noriega's body.

The tunnel branched here; or at least, a narrower tunnel angled up and
off from each side. These tunnels were dark, and, Craig found, cold and
with low air pressure. The same mild resistance guarded their mouths.
The General lay sprawled loosely just inside the right-hand branch, his
head and torso in shadow. He looked simply and peacefully dead.

"Will you lend me a hand, Lieutenant?" Brulieres said. The two of them
dragged Noriega into the light.

Craig could see no burns nor any other kind of wound except an abrasion
on one cheek which might have resulted from a fall. He started to ask
Rabar exactly what had happened, but checked himself. Better not appear
suspicious.

He wondered what had happened to the general's pistol, and began to
look around for it. But again Brulieres was ahead of him. The priest
was eighteen or twenty yards farther into the tunnel, picking up
something. It was the pistol. It went into the cloak as the heat-weapon
had.

Craig was watching Rabar and he thought the man looked disconcerted.
Craig thought, How's this for a theory: Rabar killed Noriega, took his
pistol and started up the tunnel. Maybe he just wanted to learn for
himself what was in the mountain, or maybe he planned to murder the
rest of the party and make it look like an accident. He met the glowing
creature, panicked, put two bullets into it, then dropped the gun and
ran.

Craig wondered if the priest shared his doubts about Rabar; but if he
did, he didn't show it. The priest was already starting on.

Craig lost count of his steps, but judged they'd gone over a quarter of
a mile when the tunnel took a final right-angle turn and opened into a
great high-domed chamber.


                                  IV

Immediately all question as to the nature of this place vanished. It
could only be a military base.

There's something recognizable about weapons, Craig mused, no matter
how unfamiliar. Here were gathered great vehicles of war, bristling
with the outsize cousins of the heat-tube Brulieres carried and with
a myriad other menacing shapes. Yawning black tunnels led away at
angles--probably, Craig thought, to hidden exits. Repair machines,
some with their work partly finished, were scattered everywhere,
silent and with a long-unused air about them. Nearly all of the aerial
dreadnaughts (Craig was sure they were that) showed terrible wounds.

The group stared about the chamber in silent awe.

At one place, beneath a trio of round tunnels that aimed steeply
upward, was what Craig took to be the main launching area, with ramps
for loading ... what? The litter showed clearly where great ships had
rested, and that the departure had been hasty. Craig drew in deep
trembling breaths and imagined the vast alien argosies lifting upon
their mysterious legs of force.

He could see the avarice in Rabar's eyes, and edged closer to the
lieutenant. He wasn't going to let the man overpower Brulieres and take
the weapons, nor was he going to let him pick up any that might be
lying around. Not that Brulieres was being careless. Craig noticed that
he kept his distance from everybody, and did not turn his back for long.

They must have stared at the alien machines for quite a while before
the priest's deep voice echoed in the chamber. "Come. Another tunnel
beckons."

Craig looked where the priest pointed. He saw a tunnel like the one
they'd left, about a quarter of the way around the chamber. It glowed
with light. All the rest were dark.

He looked again at Brulieres, and was startled at the man's face. It
wore a look of glory. Craig shivered. Why, he thought, the man thinks
God arranged this for _him_.

Apparently _someone_ was arranging things, unless the tunnels and the
lights were completely robotic. Craig, ignoring the edge of panic that
cut at him, followed the priest toward the entrance to the lighted
tunnel.

It was short, with two bends in it (probably, Craig thought, to contain
possible explosions). It opened into a smaller, lower-ceilinged chamber
which had evidently been an assembly hall for troops, or possibly a
mess hall. Dark openings led off it which might lead to barracks. In
the far end, a single tunnel glowed with light.

They entered that tunnel, which was another short one, and found that
they were indeed in the living quarters. These, if the analogies
applied, had been the officers'. There was a small assembly hall, and
upon one wall of that were the pictures.

       *       *       *       *       *

The lighting was arranged to fall mostly upon that side of the chamber.
The rock had been smoothed to take the murals. The first glimpse shook
Craig so that he walked mechanically toward that wall, momentarily
forgetting his companions.

A part of his mind admired the basic technique. Outlines in low
relief had been cut into the rock, details delicately etched in and
colors brought up, apparently, by altering the composition of the
rock itself. As for the style it was somewhere between realism and
impressionism. Craig was no expert, but he thought the hand was defter,
the viewpoint more penetrating, than any he'd ever seen. The slight
alien air only increased the charm of the work.

Whatever sort of beings the aliens had been, they hadn't been an
unfeeling race. Emotion leaped from every line of the murals.

The first few told concisely of the establishment on Earth of this
outpost, of the local defeat and abandonment. There were some heroic
scenes there, but Craig hurried through them, drawn to the next series
of paintings, yet unwilling to turn his eyes to them.

They were Biblical and as stunningly familiar as if he'd lived with
them all his life.

Feeling churned at his insides again.

One of the first immortalized Noah, or whoever had been the actual
hero of the first version of the Flood story. The painting of the
sea and the dark doomsday clouds over it was so real that Craig took
a step backward. Mountainous wave masses were battered white by an
incredible rain. Heaved aslant, decks tumbling water, dwarfed by the
seas, was the wooden ship. A few half-drowned domestic animals stared
in terror, lashed to their pens on deck. The bearded man who stood on
wide-planted giant's legs, rope-like fingers gripping a tiller that
strained to escape, was bedraggled but staunch and muscled to meet the
sea. A woman clung to one arm. She had been painted not delicately, but
with a strong beauty that spoke in thunder of the artist's piercing
compassion.

There was the crossing of the Red Sea, and the painting showed clearly
how some force held aside the water. The artist had evidently been
fascinated by the still-puddled seabottom.

There were more, but Craig passed them, drawn like a fish on a line to
the painting of the man on the cross. The body, more cruelly punished
than the Bible recorded, strained in an agony that communicated itself
to Craig's own. The face, twisted with pain, sagging with exhaustion,
the tortured soft brown eyes, held no bitterness, no accusation.

The accusation was the painting itself. The bitterness and rage (and
remorse?) was the painter's own.

       *       *       *       *       *

Craig, frightened and miserable, looked at the others. Dientes showed
only awe and humility. Rabar was holding himself tautly, but terror
showed in his eyes. Brulieres shook with overflowing emotions, his
face mirroring worship, glory, worry and doubt. He met Craig's eyes.
His voice higher-pitched and cracked with feeling, he said, "Have you
noticed--this?"

He was standing before a vertical slab of rough stone which had
obviously been used to close up a tunnel. The sealing had been done
with melted rock, roughly, leaving a groove around the edge. The job
suggested haste. Craig's insides writhed at what might lie behind the
slab.

He gripped himself, walked over beside the priest. He could make out
only a few of the characters of the inscription burned into the slab.
He heard his own voice asking, as if from far away, "Do ... you read
Hebrew?"

Brulieres let out a trembling sigh. "With difficulty." He moved slowly
closer to the slab, put his fingers to the inscription like a blind man
feeling for Braille. Craig saw that his eyes were full of tears. The
thin lips mumbled inaudibly.

After a long time Brulieres quit reading and stood there, unmoving.
Then he started to speak. His voice was lifeless now, a low uncaring
monotone. "Scholars will translate it better, but here is the gist of
it."

    TO THE DESCENDANTS OF THOSE WITH WHOSE DESTINY I HAVE BRIEFLY
    MEDDLED: WHEN YOU READ THIS, YOU WILL HAVE ATTAINED A TECHNOLOGY
    OF YOUR OWN WHICH WILL BE ABLE TO MAKE USE OF THE DEVICES LEFT
    HERE. ASIDE FROM THEM I LEAVE YOU MY GOOD WISHES, MY APOLOGIES,
    AND MY LOVE.

    WHEN MY RACE ABANDONED THIS PLACE I HID FROM THEM AND STAYED BEHIND
    BECAUSE I HAD FALLEN IN LOVE WITH YOUR PLANET AND YOUR RACE. I HAVE
    TRIED TO HELP YOU. I AM NOT SURE I HAVE DONE WELL.

    LOOK UPON MY REMAINS IF YOU WILL.

Craig gripped the priest's arm, heard his own words tumbling out: "It
proves nothing, Padre! There can still be a God!" He found that he
meant it desperately.

The priest turned, stared at him, then looked faintly amused.
"Conviction? _Now?_ You are a more fortunate man than I."

"No, Padre! Your work! Religion is deeper than...."

Brulieres' eyes flashed with some of their old vitality. "My work? This
is the God in whose name I have schemed and, Heaven help me, killed."
Slowly, mechanically, Brulieres drew the heat-weapon from his garments.
He aimed it at the groove around the slab and thumbed the trigger. The
rock skirled, and ran to solidify in waxlike lumps. The smoke was acrid
in Craig's nostrils.

When the slab was mostly cut around, some inner seal gave way and air
sucked loudly into the crack. With a wrenching sound, the slab tore
loose. It tilted under some power of its own, and lowered itself to the
floor.

Lights, harshly angled and dramatic, flashed on in the small room
beyond. It was bare except for the stone platform on the floor, and
what rested upon it.

Mechanically, Craig stepped in and moved aside to make room for the
others. Brulieres went to the opposite side of the platform and Dientes
crouched beside him. Rabar stood hesitantly in the doorway.

       *       *       *       *       *

The creature was larger than a man and like nothing earthly;
many-limbed, built as if for a higher gravity. There was no apparent
decomposition or dessication. The atmosphere of the chamber had
evidently been chosen to preserve.

There was still a pungent, half-unpleasant smell, being rapidly drawn
away through ducts in the ceiling. There was a face of a sort, and two
closed eyes. The face was recognizably strong. The thing might have
been called ugly, but Craig found a handsomeness about it too. He
recognized the drama with which the body was arranged and lighted, and
somehow for this last small vanity he loved the creature even more.

Dientes clutched at the priest's robe. "It is a lie, Padre!" And, as
the priest remained silent, Dientes turned desperate eyes to Craig.
"Mother of God! Will no one say it is a lie?"

Craig felt emotionally depleted. Inside him were a sick regret and a
hollowness where something had died, but cold reason remained. If there
is no God, he thought, we're just intelligent animals, and we're free
to live by our wits. If there is no God, then there is no Devil either.

He pondered that ... and decided with grim amusement that there was
Devil enough.

And, in any event, there were needs and desires, friends and enemies.
He stepped swiftly around the alien and took the heat-weapon from the
priest's limp fingers. He turned toward Rabar, who was (beyond any
worthwhile doubt) an enemy, and who was standing in the doorway with an
annoying mockery in his eyes. Of _course_ he's happy, Craig thought;
he's a Bolshevik agent and an atheist. There'll be damned little
religion anywhere, now.

He raised the weapon calmly, every nerve and muscle alert, like an
animal ready for action. He watched the triumph fade from Rabar's eyes.
As his thumb felt unhesitatingly for the trigger, he watched the growth
of fear.





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