The Onslaught from Rigel
The Onslaught from Rigel
MURRAY LEE WOKE ABRUPTLY, with the memory of the sound that had roused him drumming at the back of his head, though his conscious mind had been beyond its ambit. His first sensation was an overpowering stiffness in every muscle-a feeling as though he had been pounded all over, though his memory supplied no clue to the reason for such a sensation.
Painfully, he turned over in bed and felt the left elbow where the ache seemed to center. He received the most tremendous shock of his life. The motion was attended by a creaking clang and the elbow felt exceedingly like a complex wheel.
He sat up to make sure he was awake, tossing the offending arm free of the covers. The motion produced another clang and the arm revealed itself to his astonished gaze as a system of metal bands, bound at the elbow by the mechanism he had felt before, and crowned, where the fingers should be, by steely talons terminating in rubber-like finger-tips. Yet there seemed to be no lack of feeling in the member. For a few seconds he stared, open-mouthed, then lifted the other arm. It was the right-hand counterpart of the device he had been gazing at. He essayed to move one, then the other-the shining fingers obeyed his thought as though they were flesh and blood.
A sense of expectant fear gripped him as he lifted one of the hands to unbutton his pajamas. He was not deceived in the half-formed expectation; where the ribs clothed in a respectable amount of muscle should have been, a row of glistening metal plates appeared. Thoughts of body-snatching and bizarre surgery flitted through his mind to be instantly dismissed. Dreaming? Drunk? A dreadful idea that he might be insane struck him and he leaped from the bed to confront a mirror. His feet struck the floor with a portentous bang and each step produced a squeak and clank-and he faced the mirror, the familiar mirror before which he had shaved for years. With utter stupefaction he saw an iron countenance, above which a stiff brush of wire hair projected ludicrously.
One does not go mad at such moments. The shock takes time to sink in. "At all events I may as well get dressed," he remarked to himself practically. "I don't suppose water will do this hardware any good, so I'll omit the bath; but if I'm crazy I might as well go out and have a good time about it."
Dressing was a process prolonged by an examination of himself and the discovery that he was a most efficient metal machine. He rather admired the smoothness of the hip joints and the way the sliding parts of his arms fitted together, and was agreeably surprised to find that in the metallizing process his toes had become prehensile. Just for the fun of it, he pulled one shoe on with the opposite foot.
It was not until he was nearly dressed that he realized that the wonted noise of New York, which reached one as a throaty undertone at the forty-eighth story of a modern apartment building, was somehow absent. Surely, at this hour-he glanced at the clock. It had stopped at a quarter to two. No help there. His watch was inexplicably missing. Probably Ben had borrowed it.... Ah!
That was the idea. Ben Ruby, with whom he occupied the duplex apartment in the penthouse of the Arbuckle Building, was a scientist of sorts (mainly engaged in the analysis of "booze" samples for millionaires distrustful of their bootleggers, these days)-he would be able to explain everything.
He stepped across to the door and dropped the brass knocker, a little timorous at the sound of his own thudding steps. The door was snatched open with unexpected suddenness by a caricature of Ben in metal-as complete a machine as himself, but without most of the clothes.
"Come in! Come in!" his friend bellowed in a voice with an oddly phonographic quality to it. "You look great. Iron Man MacGinnity! What did you put on clothes for? As useful as pants on a rock-drill. I have breakfast."