Chapter 5.

9 Feb

Hail Grue was to be transmitting telepath for the next trial, while Zaigt had the task of staying home to oversee and calibrate any reception that was caught. Bave remained at the warehouse station with the elder psychic who was to originate the sending. The pair would wait for an echophone message from the nephew in his flat.

Slana decided to stay at home with her husband. “I have chores to complete in the kitchen,” she informed him with her lips pursed. “My presence will not interfere with all the science you plan to work on.”

Zaigt made no reply as he went out onto the balcony that held the apparati for the electricomagnetic experiment that was set to be carried out next. A tiny cell at the center of the cylindrical container held the tiny measure of dysprosium that was going to undergo testing.

All the components appeared present and ready for action. Checking his wrist chronometer, Zaigt realized there was only a little over a minute of waiting left. By now his uncle was prepared to perform his assignment of power transmission.

Seconds passed with leaden slowness. At last, the awaited moment arrived.

What would it reveal?

The scheduled moment passed, but Zaigt on the balcony could find no change in any of the gauges or indicators that he examined. Were these signs of another failure? he suspected.

But then, in an instant, the unforeseeable and unimaginable struck.

Zaigl witnessed an incredible sight in front of him.

A dozen measurements of magneto-electricity moved to maximum points on the meters and gauges. The instruments did not go far enough to give exact calibrations of the colossal flooding of power. Arrows moved and gyrated back and forth. Every factor involved was spiraling higher and higher.

It was clear to the engineer that some sort of charge had traveled by telepathic means.

Then, for a single moment, Zaigl heard a thundering explosion from the interior of his apartment.

He turned around to find out the cause of the deafening boom.

Flames of an uncanny brilliance filled the rooms he could see. They spread and expanded with each passing second. Torrid heat was filling the space beyond the transparent vitrine door to the balcony. All Zaigl could make out was fire everywhere inside.

A disaster was happening that could not be halted or reversed. His mind focused upon Slana and the peril to her. Where was she, and what had happened to the woman? He had to find that out.

The experiment may have succeeded, but it caused a fire that was consuming the entire apartment. Victory was turning into catastrophe and disaster.

I have to save my wife, Zaigl told himself sternly. I must take some action at once.

Opening the glass door with a desperate effort, he at once realized how futile it was to try entering that way. The fire was too large and intense for him to advance into the interior.

In the distance, the screaming siren of a fire vehicle became audible to him.

Zaigl suddenly became aware of the grave danger he himself faced. What could he do for Slana unless he first rescued himself?

Al at once, he remembered the emergency ladder attached to the outside of the tall apartment building. It could be reached only a small distance from his own flat. Clinging to the narrow platform surface along the outer wall of the structure, he was able to reach very slowly the safety ladder and climb down to the floor just below his own.

By then, the fire-fighting wagons had arrived and the other occupants were evacuating the building. His own top floor was too high to be reached with hoses or equipment. The old, obsolete apartment highrise lacked any interior water spraying system.

Zaigl spoke to the first person in yellow uniform he met in a hallway. The man was carrying a foam cylinder and a liquid gun.

“My wife was in our kitchen!” he shouted. “You must go up there and save her.”

Reach her, they finally did. But the time for rescuing had long passed.

The charred remains of Slana were carried out in a metal body container.

It took her agitated husband considerable time to understand that he was now entirely alone.


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