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Flame Jewel of the Ancients & The Seven Jewels of Chamar [Planets of Adventure #2] [MultiFormat]
eBook by Erik Fennel & Jean Marie Stine

eBook Category: Science Fiction/Classic Literature
eBook Description: Two classic, colorful novels of the spaceways from the pages of the supreme magazine of space opera, Planet Stories. In Flame Jewel of the Ancients, proud Terra and the 1000 suns would be drifting embers if Bro-Donal won the Flame-Jewel of the Ancients. The tiny golden sphere, blazing with terrible energy spelled Galactic Empire at last to his outlaw horde, once they had tapped its limitless power. They were grimly amused therefore when Captain Glayne of the Stellar Guardians dropped innocently out of subspace to view their mighty prize. Glayne's only hope was the laughing, green-eyed Niala, who betrayed men with a heart colder than the blue vapors of Jupiter. And In The Seven Jewels of Chamar the the seven gems were scattered, yet they still flamed like distant suns, maddening the beholder. United, held in a grasping palm, they bestowed a godlike power that could rule the Solar System. But, the Jewels' flame-lances still white-hot from killing, young Ormondy and the fabulous Firebird learned the terrible price of that power.

eBook Publisher: Renaissance E Books/PageTurner Editions
Fictionwise Release Date: April 2010




FLAME-JEWEL OF THE ANCIENTS

A Novel of Outlaw Worlds
By
EDWIN L. GRABER
* * * *

Proud Terra and the 1000 suns would be drifting embers if Bro-Donal won the Flame-Jewel of the Ancients. The tiny golden sphere, blazing with terrible energy spelled Galactic Empire at last to his outlaw horde, once they had tapped its limitless power. They were grimly amused therefore when Captain Glayne of the Stellar Guardians dropped innocently out of subspace to view their mighty prize. Glayne's only hope was the laughing, green-eyed Niala, who betrayed men with a heart colder than the blue vapors of Jupiter.

* * * *

CHAPTER I

TWO TERRAN SUPER Galactics glided side by side in the immensity of the interstellar void. Secure in the knowledge that they were the mightiest battleships ever built in the known galaxy, they didn't bother to raise their anti-energy shields. They knew, absolutely, that no other warcraft in the universe could equal their strength.

Jukes, the third pilot, lounged carelessly in his gimbal-slung shock seat, idly watching the screen before him. Aside from his sister ship, there was nothing to be seen but the harsh points of starlight. Cautiously he looked over his shoulder to see if the executive officer was nearby, then, apparently satisfied, lit a cigarette and blew an expansive plume of smoke at the serried banks of instruments that were terraced a 'bout him.

Suddenly the intermittent glowing of a red blinker aroused him. Throwing the butt to the deck, he bent forward squinting into the screen. Far down in one corner he detected an irregularly sparkling mote moving slowly across the blazing points of the distant stars. With a single motion of his arm he swept the Call to Quarters alarm studs and began to speak rapidly into his throat transmitter. As the muffled vibrating thunder of his ship's drivers rose, he could make out his sister ship gradually swinging into an approach orbit.

A double tap on his shoulder informed him that the first pilot was there to take over. Smoothly he slipped from the shock seat and took up his station with the other two pilots near the auxiliary controlboards. Everywhere about him was excited orderly confusion as the huge warship stripped for possible action. The orbit calculators at his left took up the excited jabbering chorus and somewhere above the third pilot was aware of the massive charge accumulators for the Kellander miatron blasters whining up the scale.

"It's a Delban," he muttered to his fellow pilots. "Just a pipsqueak, too, blast his miserable, trespassing soul. A light cruiser, from what I saw of him."

The younger one looked at him eagerly. "Do you think he'll fight?"

The third pilot snorted. "One Stellar class cruiser against two Terran Galactics? He'd be out of his mind." Just then the battle screen lit up and a babbling group of gunnery officers crowded about, feeding firing data to waiting miatron crews. Over their shoulders the third pilot could make out the Delban cruiser as it lay there, slim and deadly against the vast, star-studded vault of space.

"What I'd like to know is why the devil he doesn't run for it," the older pilot said to no one in particular. "Something's up, I'm sure. Delbans just don't act like this."

The third pilot grunted absently, his eyes fixed on the battle screen. The two Galactics now lay on either side of the Delban. His sister ship began to communicate with the new arrival, her yellow beam glowing with baleful intensity. But the pilot wasn't watching. He had noticed something odd about that cruiser. It seemed to bulge in the wrong places. It was completely enclosed by a peculiar mesh antenna which glinted ominously in the faint light.

Then the Delban fired.

For a moment there was stunned amazement in the huge plotting room. It was the very absurdity of the situation rather than mere surprise. To make the blasphemy worse, the Delban had licked out with the beam of a secondary Kellander projector rather than with her main miatron batteries. The damage was slight, the communicator bulb of the other Galactic having been reduced to twisted slag. But this was the grossest of all insults in space warfare and demanded immediate retaliation. The third pilot held his breath in anticipation.

Then it came. The plotting room exploded into frantic activity. Generators screamed into ear-splitting crescendos as the main driver engines were coupled into them to raise the anti-energy shield. The Kellander miatron blasters hurled ravening bolts of energy at the audacious Delban, reducing accumulator loads to zero in instants. The remainder of the driver atomics were coupled into the Kellander accumulators sending up loads that were fed through the continuously thundering miatrons, at the Delban cruiser. Literally trillions of megawatts lapped at the Delban shield, making it glow up the spectral scale in a brilliant spider web of absorbing power foci. But it held.

The Delban shield held! The third pilot was unbelievably shocked as he stared at the battle screen. It was simply not conceivable that the two mightiest warships in space could not penetrate the shield of a pipsqueak Stellar cruiser.

Where were they getting the power? The question blazed up in the third pilot's consciousness as he stared at the slim, deadly Delban. Abruptly he recalled where he had seen the Delban's peculiar external mesh antenna.

"Broadcast power!" he blurted to his comrades. "Those devils are receiving broadcast power!"

'The other two pilots looked at him incredulously. "Hell!" snorted the older one. "You can't transmit the stuff across interstellar distances."

The third pilot didn't reply. As he watched the screen he suddenly knew they were in trouble. By rights this should have been the greatest shock of all but his mind was so dulled with amazement that he could only shake his head.

The Delban's firing had gradually increased in strength until now both the Terran battleship's mighty shields were themselves glowing up the spectral scale in its spidery force web. Despite the older pilot's doubts, he realized that only broadcast power in unlimited quantities could account for those overloaded shields. But where were they getting it to broadcast? Only an infinite source of supply could do the job.

Paralyzed, he watched the battle screen. He was aware of the miatron blasters falling silent, one after another, as the straining driver atomics were diverted to hold the shield. Their sister Galactic's blasters had all fallen silent as all the power of her own huge drivers was shunted into the shield generators. Their own shield was trembling and shuddering under the inconceivable impact of the energies that surged at it from the Delban.

Suddenly the pilot saw their sister ship's shield coruscate in a multi-hued spider web of shorting power foci. Then it buckled. The third pilot instinctively averted his face from the indescribably brilliant, eye-searing nova that followed.

His own ship screamed. The drivers, the generators, the converters and accumulators--all of them screamed ion ultra-sonic crescendos in an effort to maintain the crumbling shield. The force webs shorted one after another in brilliant red fire. The third pilot saw it rupture but he never felt it.

For days, the twin novae burned in the endless night, then slowly faded to blackened cinders.

* * * *

CHAPTER II

THE TRI-DI FILM came to an end and the Council Chamber's soft fluorescents picked up in strength. For a moment the members of Lorle Sector's High Council were stunned and bewildered at what they had seen.

Captain Glayne waited patiently for the explosion which he knew would come. For about the tenth time that morning he fervently cursed all civilians. Not even the valiant efforts of Chairman Dell Thorder could keep them in check. A vast wave of irritation filled him as he listened to the piercing squeak of a fat Councilor named Trask.

"It will mean war, I say--and we haven't had a war involving Terra for seventy years. Lorle Sector must remain neutral--especially if Delb Sector has weapons which can crush super Galactic battleships. Now I say," he squeaked, oblivious of the fact that no one was paying any attention, "that we must request Captain Glayne to leave immediately because his presence might be deemed an overt act by our friends, the Delbans. True, the Stellar Guardians--"

He was suddenly cut off by the staccato thunder of Dell Thorder's gavel. The chairman's thin, ascetic face wore a worried expression as his eyes swept the now silent Council. Of them all, he was the only man Glayne admired. For thirty years he had maneuvered the nine-planet Lorle Sector through the treacherous shoals of Combine politics and never once had the cry of "boss" or "dictator" seriously raised against him.

"I must confess," he began quietly, "that I do not myself understand fully the implications of this situation. I do know that the fact that Imperial Terra has lost two large battleships is inconsequential. The real point is that the Terran Combine is facing imminent destruction at the hands of Gort Bro-Doral and his Delban Empire. Because we are Delb Sector's nearest neighbor, we may expect the first blow to fall on us. Since it is a known fact that the Intelligence Service of the Stellar Guardians is the finest in the galaxy, I have sent for Captain Glayne to explain certain of the technical aspects of the new Delban weapon in order that we may determine what action to take."

Thorder silently gestured to Glayne who arose and faced the hostile stares of the councilors. Their unexpressed antipathy was amusing rather than irritating. The meager little navy that Lorle Sector did possess drained away funds that could otherwise be used in their pork barrel. However, they all had something to worry about which Thorder hadn't mentioned. The Revolution which had smashed the Delb-Lorle Axis thirty years before had made Gort Bro-Doral a ruthless enemy who would not rest until his ships had utterly destroyed the Lorle cities in retaliation. So far they had depended upon Imperial Terra to support them against the Bro's passionate desire for power. But now the Terran navy was helpless and Lorle was in a desperate plight.

"What Dell Thorder told you is true," he began in a firm, clear voice. "Unfortunately it is an understatement because it implies that there is a possibility of discovering a counter-weapon to offset that of the Delbans. Such is not the case.

"For a long time we have been prone to think in terms of optimum sizes for warships. We were accustomed to believe that we had reached the pinnacle of development in destructive weapons. The fatal radiations of atomic generators and converters make it necessary to divert a part of the power into shields. These shields are limited in size by the ship size, and the ship size in turn is limited by the size of its power plant. But there is a point of diminishing returns--that is, we cannot build ships larger than the Galactic class battleships without losing efficiency. So for a long time we have believed that there was a limit to the amount of power available in any given class of warship.

"Unfortunately this no longer applies for the Delbans. As you have just seen on the tri-di film obtained by Stellar Guardian Intelligence, a single Stellar cruiser engage and destroyed two Terran Galactics. This means, as Chairman Thorder has suggested, that the entire fleet strength of the nine hundred Sectors of the Terran Combine is now quite helpless against the Delban Grand Fleet."

Glayne paused for a moment. In spite of the room's air conditioning, many of the Councilors were mopping their faces anxiously. The one called Trask was chewing his lower lip nervously, not liking a bit what the tall Guardian officer had to say. Glayne felt a twinge of sympathy for his three hundred and fifty million constituents.

"The crux of the whole problem is the source of this new Delban power. Experts in our organization are absolutely certain that they are using broadcast power, but this information is based on the tri-di film you have seen which our agents have stolen from the Terran Admiralty Office at Lunaport. It may be a fake, but that is hardly likely. The implications of broadcast power are so tremendous as to defy reason. Even under the best laboratory conditions the power lost in transmission makes it impractical. Consequently any source which produces energies capable of smashing two Terran Galactic battleships at perhaps stellar distances is vast beyond conjecture. As incredible as this sounds, we believe that the Delbans have it. As to its precise nature, we are still in the dark. However, the Stellar Guardians, at least, a in a position to investigate."

Dell Thorder cleared his throat at that point and Glayne stopped.

"You see our position," said the weary Chairman. "Almost any countermeasure we attempt can be interpreted as an overt act by Bro-Doral. Hence any action on our part will make our ruin sooner instead of later. However, there is one thin possibility and that is Captain Glayne. It is true that he is a mercenary belonging to the Stellar Guardians. But Kairn's Intelligence vouches for him absolutely and I am informed that he is as competent as any man in the Lorle Fleet.

"Because of the peculiar nature of the Stellar Guardian organization, he can carry out investigations where any such move on our part would be suicidal. In my opinion, our only possible chance is to employ him in this capacity to locate the Delban power transmitter--if one exists. It is possible that an all-out attack with all the units we can muster will succeed in destroying it."

As Thorder finished, Glayne took a deep breath. He stood motionless by the immense circular table. He knew that the Councilors, like all small planet men, were impressed with his great shoulders and their suggestion of tremendous physical strength. But if they knew what torment he had to endure under high driver thrust as a result of his great size, they wouldn't be so impressed.

Dell Thorder coughed. "Captain Glayne, would you mind stepping into the outer room while we take a vote? We will inform you directly."

Glayne nodded silently and left the Chamber. Disregarding the anteroom's soft chairs, he stood against the wall, waiting. His space-tanned face hardened as he looked thoughtfully from the glassene window at the jewel-like city of Lorle Capital, a dazzling white under the noon sun. Mentally he pictured the sleek Delban cruisers flashing overhead in fast orbits, pouring phenomenal torrents of energy into the pathetic shield the city would attempt to set up. The Lorle High Council would trust him. In the end, even Trask would. They were all rabbits looking desperately for someone to defend them. They would hire him; they would pat him on the back and shake his hand; they would make him solemnly swear the Guardian Oath to struggle against all their enemies. And Glayne would promise to do all of these things.

But he would lie.

He would do none of these things. Instead he would do all in his power to bring war to Lorle. He would commit an overt act against the Delbans and they would cry for Lorle blood. Their fast, sleek ships would deal out death and destruction to the very cities which he would swear ever so solemnly to defend to his last breath. With a coldly objective part of his mind he marveled at the consummate treachery he would perform.

But another part of his mind was aghast. He was unable to suppress the bitter waves of remorse that filled him. Again he remembered the serious, heavy-jowled face of Garstow, Grand Admiral of the Stellar Guardians. In the Dorleb Headquarters, only forty hours before, Garstow had said: "Glayne, we need time. Some Sector must be thrown to the wolves. While the Delbans are occupied with that unfortunate Sector, we will have time to unravel their broadcast scramblers, build antennae of our own, and perhaps even locate their power transmitter. The Policy Organ has decided upon Lorle Sector. And it has decided that you, Glayne, are the man for the job."

Glayne had listened in stunned silence to Garstow. A protest rose automatically to his lips but he had crushed it back with a click of his booted heels. And now here he was in Lorle Capital with his Stellar class cruiser Algol ready for action. When the fat men with rabbit eyes emerged from the Council Chamber and empowered him to work for them, he would be ready to move. A sudden raid on Delban space commerce, an energy bomb hurtling into a Delban city from a stolen Lorle warship-any one of a dozen expedients would have the ruthless Gort Bro-Doral screaming down on the helpless cities of Lorle.

As he stared at the afternoon brilliance of Lorle Capital he realized that his treachery was an ironic manifestation of a greater loyalty. People forgot that the Stellar Guardians were dedicated to the ideal of human progress. The great mercenary organization recognized the inevitability of war and determined that wars should be fought according to rules. But the Delbans were now in a position to flout all rules and destroy all human progress. Hence all rules were forgotten and ruthless treachery was the order of the day as every resource was exploited to crush Gort Bro-Doral and his Delban Empire.

Then the door of the Council Chamber opened and Dell Thorder stepped into the anteroom. He faced Glayne silently for a moment, lines of weariness etched in his tired, old face.

Then he thrust out his hand and said simply: "We wish you the best of luck, Glayne."

The Guardian Captain took the outstretched hand and almost winced at the trust he saw in Thorder's eyes. The weight of the crushing responsibility bowed down the Chairman's frail shoulders, but he seemed to burn with an indomitable determination to defend his people. He was not a rabbit but a warrior. And Glayne was going to betray him.

"I'll do my best," he said in quick, husky tones.

He felt like a swine as he closed the door behind him.


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