The Metal Monster - Otis Adelbert Kline - ebook

The Metal Monster ebook

Otis Adelbert Kline



Originally published in 1931, „The Metal Monster” is a classic science-fiction novel by Otis Adelbert Kline (1891-1946), best known for his interplanetary adventure novels set on Venus and Mar. When the most powerful artillery, deadly bacteria and explosives known, and the most destructive methods available fail to be effective against some enemy’s unknown weapon of war, it is time, very frequently, to turn to some simple means of combat and attack. Paradoxically, though, it is the simple thing that is so difficult to hit upon. In fact, like some of the greatest discoveries and inventions, the most destructive chemical solutions are often discovered by sheer accident. For instance, who could ever have thought purposefully of the chemical that was finally adopted by the hero of this story?

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“HOOVER,” I shouted through the control room phone, and my pilot, Art Reeves, skillfully banked, returning the Blettendorf electroplane almost to the exact spot and holding it there suspended with helicopters whirring.

We were directly above the crater of Coseguina. But six months had passed since its eruption, the most spectacular and destructive in the history of the world, yet it had not only ceased to smoke, but the hot lava, which had bubbled and seethed for some months in this immense cauldron of Mother Nature, had suddenly receded, and there remained a yawning black shaft, the bottom of which was sunk so far into the bowels of the earth as to be invisible.

It was to investigate this singular and previously unheard of phenomenon that my chief, the secretary of the American Geographic Association, had sent me from Chicago in the Blettendorf, together with Pat Higgins, my photographer and assistant, and Pilot Reeves.

“Descend,” I said, and we began swiftly and smoothly to drop toward the yawning blackness beneath us.

Pat flashed on his keel and side lights and started his automatic cameras clicking. Four of them, like the lights, were trained on the crater walls, and the fifth was pointed straight down through the floor.

The top of the crater was fully a mile in diameter, but as we descended, the walls gradually drew closer together. Presently, when our magnetic altimeter showed that we were nearly five thousand feet below sea level, the shaft assumed a uniform diameter of about two hundred feet.

“Faith,” said Pat with a grin, “this must be where the bottom dropped out of the kettle. If this keeps up, we’ll be having tea with the devil in a couple of hours.” I mopped the perspiration from my brow. The air in the cabin had grown uncomfortably warm. A glance at the thermometer showed a temperature of 120 degrees.

“I’m afraid we won’t be able to get much closer to His Plutonic Majesty without asbestos suits,” I replied. “Besides, the heat will thin our oil until its lubricating value will be nil. If we burn out a couple of helicopter bearings, we’re due for a long, hard drop.

“Sure, we’d be old and gray by the time we hit the bottom,” said Pat.

Watching the thermometer and magnetic altimeter, I saw that the heat was increasing at the rate of about one degree to every hundred feet of descent. When it reached 135 degrees I ordered Reeves to hover.

“We’ve come as far as we dare in this machine,” I told Pat. “I’ll take a look through the binoculars before we ascend.”

I pointed my 50X Zeiss glasses downward in an effort to see the bottom of the shaft. But adjust them as I would, I could see only a tiny black speck where the seemingly converging walls–due to perspective–of the pit ended. I did notice something else, however, which caused me to utter an involuntary exclamation of surprise. The walls of the pit beneath us were of gleaming, silvery looking metal, and winding up around them was a railed metal stairway. On this stairway there was a movement–a constant flow of shiny metal globes rolling upward.

Rapidly shifting the focus for a nearer view I looked for the top of the metal wall. I found it in a moment, and the powerful glasses brought every detail so close that it seemed as if I could almost reach out and touch the gleaming railing of the spiral stairway. Never, so long as I live, will I forget the strange, almost unbelievable sight that greeted my eyes.

Standing along the railing near the end of the stairway, were four grotesque creatures, somewhat man-like in form. Their bodies were glistening metal globes, like Osage oranges, from which, in lieu of arms and legs, there projected four tentacles, apparently constructed of many little globes strung together like beads. Perched on similar but shorter tentacles above the body spheres were smaller globes, evidently the heads of the creatures. They had enormous goggling eyes, literally like headlights, both in shape, and from the fact that they cast their own rays before them.

The first three of these strange beings carried long pipes slightly curved at the upper ends. The lower ends were attached to flexible tubes greatly resembling conduit, which trailed down the stairway. The fourth held a straight cylinder about three inches in diameter and four feet in length.

The first three individuals were exceedingly busy. In fact they seemed to be the sole structural workers on the stupendous metal shaft that was swiftly rising from the bowels of the earth. The metal globes which were rolling up the stairway were of three sizes, and appeared to be living creatures, for when they reached the ends of their respective lines, all sprouted the queer tentacle-like arms and legs of the four larger creatures, and projected globular heads from their round interiors. Then those of the largest size sprang up, one by one, to the top of the unfinished wall, where they retracted their heads and limbs and rolled closely together.

AS soon as each new globe was in position, the foremost of the three large workers cemented it in place with a stream of gleaming liquid resembling quicksilver, that poured from the tube he carried, and filled in the interstices until a glistening, pebble-grained wall resulted.

The rolling globes of the middle size leaped from the end of their line to make the stairway in the same manner, cemented in place by the second tube- bearer, while those of the smallest size formed the railing and its supporting bars, and were fused into place by the third large worker.

I was dumbfounded. The idea of a race of metal beings building a structure with their own bodies, cheerfully and willingly, was almost unthinkable for me. It was something quite beyond my point of view. But then, a coral polyp’s viewpoint as it fuses its body in with millions of others to form an atoll of a reef is also far from the understanding of individualistic men.

“Haven’t seen a banshee, have you, chief?” asked Pat. who had noticed my startled expression.

“Take a look for yourself,” I responded. “I want to know if you can see what I see.”

Focusing his own binoculars he looked, then exclaimed: “Holy smokes! And I thought all the fairies were in Ireland! It’s the Little People, sure as my name’s Pat Higgins!”

I was looking at the fourth of the larger individuals, the one that carried the tube, wondering what his function was. Suddenly, as if attracted by the intensity of my gaze, he flashed his great goggle eyes upward. For an instant he gazed at the electroplane. Then he pointed his cylinder upward, and there was a crash of broken glass as a projectile struck the floor window.

As we were without weapons, I shouted an order to Reeves:

“Ascend! Full speed!”

“Sure, that one must have been a guard,” said Pat, shutting off his clicking cameras. “Wonder what that was he fired at us.”

The floor lurched as our craft shot swiftly upward. Something rolled against my foot. It was a shiny metal globe about two inches in diameter–evidently the missile which had been fired from the cylinder.

“Here it is, Pat,” I said, and picked it up.

But scarcely had I done so, when it shot out segmented, tentacle-like arms and legs, and- a head that was a tiny, goggle-eyed miniature of the creature which had fired it. One of the metal tentacles whipped down on the back of my hand with a stinging blow, so startling me that I dropped the thing. It instantly scurried for the broken floor window, but Pat with a “No you don’t!” scooped it up in his empty binocular case and fastened down the lid.

“My grandfather once caught a fairy,” said Pat, “and devil a bit of good luck did he have after that. It brought him to an early grave in his ninety-seventh year.”

We emerged into the light of day, and Pat shut off his lights.

“Back to Leon,” I ordered, and Reeves started the three propellers roaring as he pointed the nose of our craft up over the crater rim.

For our powerful electroplane, capable of a speed of five hundred miles an hour, the sixty-mile trip back to Leon would only have been a matter of a few minutes. But we were not destined to complete it, for scarcely had we passed over the ruins of Viejo, a little more than half the distance, ere Pat, who had been looking backward toward Coseguina, called my attention to the fact that an immense metal globe had shot up out of the crater and was following us through the air at a pace so much swifter than our own that we seemed, by comparison, to be standing still.

I focused my glasses on the big globe as it hurtled swiftly toward us. It was about a hundred and fifty feet in diameter, and constructed of the same gleaming metal that we had noted in the shaft. A minute, and it loomed, immense and menacing, almost upon us.

“Drop,” I ordered Reeves.

He shut off the forward propellers, set the wings at perpendicular, and reversed the helicopters. We dropped, just in time, the immense globe hurtling over us with terrific speed. Its momentum must have carried it at least five miles ahead of us before it could turn to come back. In the meantime, we had descended to within a thousand feet of the earth.

“Hover,” I shouted to Reeves, but scarcely had he checked our downward progress, less than five hundred feet from the ground, when the globe returned, plunging straight at us.

Reeves managed to swerve slightly to one side before it struck, but our left wing was torn off, and we spun crazily beneath the supporting helicopters. Then a blade broke, and we went into a swift nose dive.

I caught a fleeting glimpse of the ash-covered ruins of a great hacienda rushing up to meet us. Then there was a terrific crash–and darkness.


AN immense cloud of volcanic dust arose as we crashed through the tile-less frame of the hacienda roof. Our second helicopter had retarded our fall sufficiently to prevent fatalities, but we were badly shaken up.

The dust was so thick that I could scarcely see my hand before my eyes. The helicopter had ceased to whirl as we struck. The motor was dead.

“All right, Pat?” I asked.

“Safe and sound, chief,” he replied.

“And you, Reeves?”

“Not hurt a bit.”

“Good. We’d better get out of here at once and try to find a place to hide. That globe will be right back after us, I’m afraid.”

Scarcely had I spoken, ere something ground against the roof, and there was a metallic clank as if a chain had been tossed to the floor.

“Follow me,” I called, softly, and leaping out of the side door, groped my way through the dust cloud which was beginning to settle a little. The floor was covered to depth of more than a foot with fluffy volcanic ash, making the going difficult.

Presently my outstretched hands encountered a wall, and I followed this to a doorway. Stumbling through, I entered a large room that was in semi-darkness. I felt a hand on my arm. Then Pat whispered:

“They’re after us! Hear ‘em clanking around in the next room?”

“Where’s Reeves?” I asked.

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