Vassals of the Lode-Star

Originally published in PLANET STORIES, Summer, 1947

Caught up in a mad space-time snarl, making their last grim stand against a surging android horde, the outlawed man-beasts of the Settlements could not see why mighty-thewed Thor Masterson of Terra chose instead to battle a strange green flame!

In that dim dawn of all things, when Time was unmeasured and Space was an empty void, before the strange mating of these two and the birth of the cosmos, the Rebel lived. Its streams flowed forth from unfathomable errors, seventeen-hundred billion years ago. It was a cancer of Space, and when Space met Time and flowed with it toward eternity, the Rebel fought. Time and Space sought to disgorge it, for it was the Rebel, and its own great tendrils of Space and Time heaved and raged like the corona of a giant sun. The tendrils leaped and danced, and once in a while they touched reality. And when they did . . .
 

THE PURPLE LIGHT CAME first, tinting the library of the old house, and flooding across rugs and books on the shelves. Then the mansion rocked and tilted as though being lifted and torn loose from its foundation.

Thor Masterson came up from his chair, brown eyes staring. His flannel shirt opened to disclose tanned chest and thick neck. He saw the purple light, but he did not think of it as a pathway between worlds. He felt the tilting of the house, but he did not think of it as riding down the cosmic corridor through which it was being transported.

The mansion rocked and turned slowly. If Thor could have had time, he might have tried to reason, but there was no time —

A woman stood in the center of the rug, a woman with long yellow hair and gauze trousers and jeweled girdle. A dwarf-man with a big club leaped for her, snarling. The woman whirled, a slim dagger glittering in her right hand.

Thor Masterson came alive. He drove forward. His big right fist, scarred with battles in Oregon lumber camps and wise to the ways of axes and bounding footballs and enemy jaws, swept up in a short arc.

The dwarf-man seemed to leap backward. He fell against an antique secretary, splintering wood. Slumping toward the floor, he lay still. The girl screamed.

Again the mansion was rocking and tilting, lifting and falling. A chair skidded into a corner, and a heavy picture dropped with a shattering of glass and frame.

Thor Masterson thought of hurricanes and cyclones and tidal waves. He held the girl against him, looking into her frightened violet eyes.

"Easy does it. Just take it easy. Relax. It"s like skiing. If you"re not stiff, you won"t get broken bones."

The violet eyes told Thor that she hadn't the slightest conception of what he said, but his tones made her generous red mouth yield a tremulous smile. She related and lay against him.

THOR stared out the window, There should be the elms of the Midwestern campus out there, but all he could see were pale purple mists, Thor went toward the window and peered out. Mid western University, where Thor had come from lumber camp and battlefield, ought to be showing its gray stone buildings soon, But the more Thor stared into the lavender mists, the colder became his heart.

Because, as the clouds shifted to reveal darker spaces, Thor could see stars glittering in the blackness. He thought, Something has lifted the house right. off the campus. Something has us in its grip. We"re being taken away from the Earth— taken out in space. For he knew from the star formations that he could see momentarily, that something was moving him and the house swiftly across the void.

The house bumped, pitching at a gentle angle. The floor was like the deck of a ship caught in the trough of a wave. Thor rolled with it, legs straddled.

The front door cracked open as the house settled onto something solid. The purple mists began to flee before the pale yellow light streaming through the door and window.

Thor walked with the girl to the doorway and stood on the cracked sill, looking out. I’m delirious, he thought. I’ve read some fantastic tale and gotten drunk, and this is the result. What I’m looking at is the chaos of a surrealist nightmare.

Sprawling gray rock humped itself into impossible contortions under the warmth of a great yellow sun. Where the rock disappeared, red grass swayed its blades. Low mists hung in the distance.

The girl whimpered. She whispered in a language that made Thor think of jewels in a tumbling spring, clicking and clacking. He grinned down at her.

"Don’t ask me, sweet stuff,” he said. "Offhand I’d say that Dali had us in one of his landscapes. And you wouldn't know about him. But as far as any explanation of where we are or what happened, I’m up a tree. Still, I rather imagine that something went wrong with the space coordinates.”

He went on dreamily, "We don’t know an awful lot about space. Maybe it moves along with the rest of the expanding universe, and maybe it doesn't. But if a certain segment of space was addicted to going off on a tangent-away from its usual sphere— it could conceivably snatch up whatever was in its path, and sort of kidnap it. Get it, sweet stuff?”

Like a woman, she ignored everything but the one thing. Seriously she repeated, "Sweet stoff, Sweet stoff.”

Thor laughed, "That"s you.” He touched her with his finger. She shook her head vigorously, making the yellow hair fly out fan-wise

"Karola, Karola,” she said insistently.

"Karola. Okay. I’m Thor.”

The violet eyes were sliding over him, taking in his big frame and long legs. Thor flushed a little, reading the frank admiration in her eyes. Felling logs and playing an all-Conference grade of tackle on the football team had built up an already good physique. But the years of logging and football and fighting had left little time for women. And Karola was a woman among women.

She laughed at him, and said something. "We"d better take a look around,” he said, carefully looking over her golden head.

HE WAS staring at gray rock as he spoke. Above it a shape took form out of empty air. It was a man, standing and staring at them. It was as though he had slid sideways out of another dimension. The man watched them with unblinking eyes. He fumbled at a red jew hung on a chain at his chest.

An instant later, the man was gone.

"A swell place this is, where a man appears and disappears right in front of you,” he said disgustedly. "If they can come and go when and where they please, what chance have we?”

Riotous ideas of invisible men Swarming about him and overcoming him capered through his brain. Unconsciously he tensed, preparing for trouble. But nothing happened. Slowly he relaxed.

"Guess they aren't coming at us, after all. He was just a look-out.”

The girl was talking that queerly jewel talk of hers.

He cut in with, "Sweet stuff, you and I are going to understand each other if we"re staying together. And since I like the idea of having you around—and since I’ve a hunch we’ll never get back to where we came from, we might as well begin right now.”

Thor pointed to things and sang out his words for them. The girl listened, head to one side, nodding. She repeated after him, syllable after syllable. They wandered across the gray rock, the man bulking big alongside the woman. Thor knew it would take time, but the girl was eager. Her violet eyes flickered swiftly after his pointing finger and her mouth readily formed the words.

Suddenly Karola gasped and caught his arm with a hand that dug long nails into his flesh. "Slag!” she cried, and flung up a white arm.

Thor saw the house tilted across lava-like rocks. It looked distorted without the elms around it, and the background of gray stone university buildings. The mansard roof was buckled in spots as though under the sledge of a mad giant. Windows gaped without panes of glass, and rungs in split porch railings stuck up like broken teeth. But the dwarf-man leaping from the open doorway was what brought him to his feet.

The girl jabbered in alarm, but Thor grinned and waited. Not for nothing had he been born and raised in a lumber camp. He had fought men with fists and ax handles. The club was just another ax handle to him, a little heavier and metal shod, but as easily eluded.

The dwarf-man halted and looked at them. He called out to the girl. Thor saw that his words calmed her, even as she showed surprise.

The dwarf-man threw the club away and knelt.

Karola frowned and tossed her long yellow hair back over her head. Thor saw she was struggling for words, that she wanted to tell him good news. He fancied that the dwarf-man was trying to make friends.

"That"s all right with me,” he chuckled, and went and held out his hand. After a moment of scrutiny, the dwarf-man took it.

"Slag,” said Karola, touching the dwarf. Thor studied him, seeing tremendous shoulders and, hanging from them, long arms that were heavy with red hair. Matted red locks fell to either side of bright blue eyes in a grotesquely ugly face where big nose and broad lips gave him the look of a cheery gnome. A leathern girdle was twisted around his waist. Short legs, thick with muscles, were slightly bowed.

"I"m Thor, Slag. We"ll get along, you and I. But no more fighting with Karola.”

The dwarf-man grunted and slapped his stomach. His gesture reminded Thor that he was hungry himself.

They walked over the barren rock. In the distance Thor could see where the stone fell away and the earth began. He began to trot. Those red grasses might lure animals to feed. And thinking of steaks cooked over an outdoors fire brought saliva to his lips.

For three hours they stalked through the red grass. And then, around a black outcropping of basalt, Thor sighted two small deer.

Slag started to run, but Thor caught him by the arm.

"The club, man. Give it to me.”

Reluctantly, Slag loosened his grip. Thor glanced at the club, hefting it. It was heavy, but balanced perfectly. Often, in the Oregon camps, Thor had thrown axes at a mark, axes less perfectly balanced than this club.

He took off his shoes. In socked feet he crept nearer the deer. Thor was glad the wind was blowing away from the animals and into his face. Otherwise . . .

The club swung easily in his hand. He moved it faster, around and up. Then he flung it, shoulder and body behind the toss. Sunlight glinted from the red metal embedded in the club-head.

The club thudded home on the temple of the nearer deer. The animal went over sidewise and lay still.

Slag gave a great cry of amazement. Looking down at them from his black pedestal, Thor felt a kinship toward the dwarf. He liked him, It had never entered Slag"s head to throw his club. The blue eyes worshiped Thor, looking up at him. They made him feel good.

And the violet eyes. Thor looked down into them and liked what he saw. His hands felt the need of losing themselves in that thick tawny hair that flooded the girl"s white shoulders. And that red mouth that spilled the jewel-sounds so easily was ripe for kisses.

Slag ran ahead toward the deer, but Karola waited for him as he leaped from the basalt rock. Her hand nestled in his, and her violet eyes flirted with him. Thor grinned and stepped along beside her toward his kill. What did it matter if he was somewhere undreamed of? What matter that they were worlds apart? He was a man with a woman, a man who had killed his first food. His chest rose with added power, and the muscles tingled in legs and arms.

Slag tore the deer apart with powerful hands, and Thor roasted the sweet flesh over a fire of dried twigs. As they ate, the giant sun sank low on the distant horizon. Strange stars came to life in an azure sky, twinkling and throbbing. They were queerly distorted, Thor noticed. In his astronomy classes, he had picked up a smattering of star clusters and formations, but these he saw now, on the little hill where the fire flared, were peculiarly distorted.

"Almost as though I were looking a them through rippled glass," he said.

Under the shadow of a scooped out rock, they slept, huddled together for warmth.

FOR MANY DAYS the three wandered across the red grasslands of the strange planet. Always they found an unbroken strata of rock crust inter-layered with lush lawn-land. Occasionally a herd of tiny deer swept by, and from these they made their meals.

Thor grew hard and tanned with the wild life. The muscles that had seen him through lumber camp and football field waxed even stronger. His clothes wore to thinness, and shredded in places. Slowly he learned the jewel-language, and in turn Karola grew familiar with his tongue.

He taught Slag to hurl his club, and wrestled with his when he felt the need of violent exercise. The dwarf-man worshiped him, but he entered into their games, with feigned rage.

Karola told him something of her past, She was priestess of Klogor on a small planet that swing around a sun invisible from Earth. Her temple had been raided by the dwarf-men, and as she and Slag struggled before an altar, something had come and snatched them up, and whirled them around and around.

"Klogor is our god," said the girl. "I called on him, but he did not hear. I was bred into his service, but he failed me in my need.”

Slag rumbled, "This is my god,” and shook his big club.

"You may need it,” said Thor dryly. "Look!”

They were sitting on the edge of a rock, baking in the hot sun. Below them spread the red meadows, rolling in even swells across a valley toward jagged rocks that rose high into the pale sky. In the middle of the meadow, ankle-high in the grass, three men were standing.

Karola gasped, "They were not there a moment ago.”

"The invisible men,” commented Thor dryly, getting to his feet. "They come and they go, and you can"t see them do either."”

Slag lifted his club, rumbling in his throat.

The men walked toward them slowly. They called out words. Fanning into an arc, they came on. Now their hands fell to their sides and they lifted long swords that dangled from the leather harness around their middles.

Karola pulled her long legs up under the remnants of the gauze trousers. Thor lifted her beside him with a hand. Side by side they stood, awaiting the men.

"They have swords and we only have your club, Slag,” said Thor. "We want to work this together. Take the man at the left. I"ll tackle him, going for his sword, while you clout him. In that way, we"ll each have a weapon.”

"And me?” asked Karola. "I can handle a blade. Priestesses of Klogor are taught to defend themselves.”

"We"ll see. They"re coming head-on for us. Careful, Slag. Go for your man when I say the word.”

His muscles tightened in his legs. This was like a football game, in a way. The man with the sword was a ball carrier. Thor wanted that sword more than he had ever wanted a football. He shifted his feet, balancing himself.

"Now!”

They went off the rock together, dwarf and man.

Slag brought his club around in a vicious arc. Thor slid under it, going for the arm. His fingers tightened on a wrist even as the club crunched home. The sword came free. He grabbed at it. With his hip he hit the man and drove him sideways into his companions.

Thor landed on his knees, the hilt of the blade in his right fist. He looked around him, hearing Slag yell with superstitious fright.

Karola screamed from the rock, "They've disappeared!”

The meadows held only Slag and himself. Thor shook his head, and looked at the grasses. Even against the red, there should be bloodstains visible. But the blood had gone where the men had gone.

"They don"t even bleed,” he said. "You sure you hit that guy, Slag?”

"Slag hit him!”

"I don"t understand it. They come and go unseen. They must come from some where. They must have dwelling places.”

He lifted a long brown arm, thickly muscled. With it, he swept the red grasslands, the gray rocks, the sky with its gigantic orb of sun. For many days they had trod this world, and always found it as they saw it now. Empty and barren, like a newborn planet.

Karola ran to catch them, and then the three walked on and on, into the sunset.

EIGHT days later, they found the Discoverer. At first Thor thought him another rock, so almost perfectly did his queer markings and sprawling, blob-like form match the stone. And then when he moved, in a peculiar, pouring sort of slide, and the electric tingles marched up and down his spine, Thor knew he was alive.

"Hallo," called Thor.

The blotched thing swung about. There were no eyes to be seen in its immense shape, but Thor knew he was being surveyed, and closely.

"You are an Earthman,” ran a thought in his mind. "The woman and the man are Klogorons.”

Thor said eagerly, "You know that? Then you must also know where we are — how we came here?”

"I know, yes.”

"And those men that come and go? And why we see no cities, no habitations where they live? Do you know that too?”

"The Discoverer knows everything. I am the Discoverer. I live everywhere and nowhere. Or at least I did until the madness that is this queer space lapped out at me and brought me here, just as it did you.

"To understand, you must think of the universe that you know as a big, big bubble. It is stable and steady. It has its star clusters with their space velocities and planetal orbits. Inside the big bubble everything is orderly—except one thing.

"That one thing is a very tiny bubble. A sort of cancer, you might say. It obeys no laws. Its very space coordinates and vectors are different than ours. It is fluid — always in motion. Its space segments are so alien that they can reach right through ordinary space, annihilating distance, and seize upon objects.”

"But that"s nonsensical,” protested Thor. The Discoverer thought-beamed, "I said it is not space as we know space. Let me put it this way: the magnet can draw metal to it without touching the metal. So this space-cancer can attract objects by reaching out for them, drawing them toward it—through a sort of purplish mist—by some power of magnetic attraction.”

Thor made a sound as if he understood, and the Discoverer went on, "The segment of the rebel-universe came through the true universe, and touched you—”

"Touched my house on the Midwestern campus.”

"Yes. It drew you within itself—”

"But Karola and Slag ! They came out of the air right in the middle of my living room”

"They were in the magnetic pull, too. And where their space and this space met, was the middle of your living room.”

Thor looked at Karola, whose forehead was wrinkled in tiny furrows as she followed the thoughts of the Discoverer. Slag was of to the right, chasing a fat rabbit bounding ahead of them in terrot.

The Discoverer went on, "I sought entrance to this world many eon ago. It was one of the few spots in space I had never visited. Again and again I sought to enter, but its strangely twisted space-time continuum proved too much. Always I failed."

And then, when I was visiting — I am almost all brain and it is a habit of mine to roam a bit — I was visiting a planet of what you call the Magellanic Cluster when everything went blank and I found myself tugged through the purple space and landed here, stretched across a rock."

Thor said, "You claim you can roam, mentally. Away from your body, that is.”

"Your world would call it astral projection, in which the spirit levitates from the body and crosses distance. The high-energy potential of the mind is used to dissociate the ethereal self, with which I include the mental self, from the matter of the body.”

Thor grunted dubiously, but the Discoverer went on, "I was engaged in astral projection to the Magellanic Cluster when this space lapped at my body that rested in the ruins of ancient Flormaseron. It is a form of magnetic current that did the trick. Not ordinary magnetism, but a current of it.”

Thor thought of the Ehrenhaft experiments and nodded. He said, "And what of this world where we are? We saw some men—”

"Not men. Androids. They are semi-human, invested by Aava with a synthetic life force.”

"Aava?”

"Aava is the Green Flame. He rules this land. He is like nothing I have ever seen. He can create, to an extent. He can destroy. He has made androids to serve him, but he is limited in materials on this planet. It is mostly rock and sand. If he had enough material, he could make millions of the androids. As it is, he can, and has made only thousands.”

Thor said abruptly, "Can we get back to Earth and to Klogor?"

"Defeat Aava, learn the secret of this universe and destroy it, and you may return."

"Aava. You called him the Green Flame. Where can I find him?"

Thor caught a slicker of humor in the thoughts that flooded his brain. "Would you see Aava? I will show him to you. Lie down, on your back. So. I warn you, control your thoughts. If Aava suspects he is watched, you are doomed."

Karola pressed his arm against her warm side. Her violet eyes glared in fear out of the white, lovely face. Her scarlet mouth begged, "Do not do it, Thor. I beg you. I am afraid."

"There is nothing to fear. The Discoverer sounds as if he knows what he's doing. And you do want to go back to Klogor, don’t you?”

The girl flushed so that a delicate pale rose flooded her neck and cheeks. Her violet eyes were brilliant as her torrent of gold hair seemed to gather new brightness from the sun.

"I am not sure. It is a nice life, this roaming in open air, across great prairies."

Thor held her hand. "You wait. I"ll be back."

He lay down. His last recollection was the feel of Karola's long nails pressing the flesh of his hand . . .

THOR hung bodiless in blackness. He was aware with all the five senses of him, that life teemed about and all around the blackness, that something walked and spoke and moved. Thor struggled until a

dull pain pounded and throbbed all through his being.

"Patient. Be patient," counseled a gentle voice.

"Are you the Discoverer?"

"I am he. It would be too dangerous to let you take your first mentastral flight alone. Besides, your brain has not the electrical potential sufficient to let you make progress. Hush, now. Listen!"

There were voices, deep and thunderous in a rolling wave of sound. Dim and faint at first, the paean swelled and pulsed. And as the sound grew, so came the light—at first in tiny riplets of grayness that shimmered and fled—then a refulgent glory in broad bands.

He hung above the broad walls and ramparts of a queer city, whose domes and minarets were queerly bent and twisted. The broad avenues and narrow alleys were bare. It was a dead city.

"Not a dead city. Listen!"

The song was louder, richer.

"Lower yourself. Think down."

Thor found himself sweeping in a gentle arc closer and closer to the towers and temple domes. Now the song was crashing out in ponderous triumph.

"Go through the golden dome. You can do it."

Yellow metal shone and glimmered as he dropped gently through opalescent hues of gold and amber and yellow. It was like thick water, with faint bubbles glistening, locked within. He broke free and hung in the groined ceiling above a great chamber.

Hundreds of the androids with the glittering jewels on their chests stood arm to arm. Their rich voices boomed tribute toward a niche cut in the north wall, arched and wide, that held a squat black urn resting on a white alabaster pedestal.

"The song is nearly done. Watch the urn.”

All sound and movement died away. A tongue of green fire stabbed upwards out of the black urn. For one long instant it hung there, quivering and pulsing. It broke and faded into green mist that the breezes blew out across the chamber.

"That was the manifestation of Aava. Now we will see him as he really is."

They swept through the air with the speed of light. Matter that was wall and stone and metal blurred into a liquescent dimness that darkened the further they went. From gray to black to grim jet went the colors. And still they went on. Now the color grew light tan, like sand.

"We are in the bowels of the Mountains of Distortion. The blackness is rock hidden forever from a glimpse of sunlight. We are nearly there. Go cautiously! This buried desert is right above him."

It was a cave. From the high rock ceiling stalactites drooped like the fringes of a weeping willow eternally etched in stone. Amid a riotous profusion of club shaped stalagmites thrusting up from the rough cave floor, lay a circle of red space.

And in the red space stood Aava.

Green light, flickering and flaring, now subdued, now pouring forth in a verdant shower of pride and strength, flooded the cave. Thor could feel its sentience through every beat and pulse of it. Like the tongue of some mighty star trapped in matter, it licked and thrust and strove to speak its greatness.

The green fire lowered, hung brooding.

"I smell men.”

"Careful,” thought the Discoverer.

Thor moved no muscle, took no breath in his spirit form. Yet the machinations of his mind slipped a cog. He thought, and the green flames knew.

A sword of flame lunged outward, at him. He felt its heat, the wild life of it, the pride and all the cruelty.

He tried to cry out. Then his mind went. The last he knew was the voice of the Discoverer.

"Come!”

THOR gasped lungfuls of sweet, cool air, staring up at the sun in the blue sky. Yellow hair splashed on his face and chest as Karola wept and whimpered. Wonderingly, Thor put a big hand to his face. It was beaded with damp sweat.

The Discoverer beamed a thought at him.

"That was a near thing, man of Earth. Had I not kept constant control of your mind, Aava would have had you."

"What—what is he? That green fire is alive. I could feel it. I knew its emotions.”

"Aava is alive. He has been alive for eons piled upon eons. His beginning I know not. Whether he will have an end — I also know not."

Thor shuddered.

The Discoverer went on, "Destroy Aava, and destroy his universe, and you may return to your own. But how can you destroy Aava when even I, the Discoverer, must admit failure?"

Thor shook his head. Destroy that flame? It was impossible.

When he looked up, the Discoverer was oozing a path into the distance and Karola was hugging herself to him. Thor put an arm around her, smiling grimly into her frightened eyes.

"We're in it, baby. All the way. Lost in some mad corner of space that nobody can get in or out of. Trapped. And me with an education to catch up on. Although," he grinned, looking at her thick yellow hair and large red mouth, "I'm not feeling any too scholarly at the moment. Yeah, I guess it could be worse. I guess it could."

Slag came toward them with three rabbits dangling from his right hand. He knelt and began to make a fire. Thor and Karola watched him until the roasting flesh scents reached their nostrils.

Thor laughed, "Hell. I"m just hungry. After a good meal, I"ll feel better about it all."

But that meal was never finished. The androids came in the middle of the second rabbit. One moment there was only the stars and the rolling meadow land, and the red flames making shadows on the grass and on their arms and legs. The next they were falling out of thin air, all over them, fists hitting at Slag and Thor, hands reaching out for, and lifting, a screaming, clawing Karola.

"Thor! Thor!" she cried.

Thor heaved up from under three androids. His muscles rended with the strain, but he threw them from him. His fists lashed out and thudded into rib and jaw. He clove a path through living men, dropping them with chops and uppercuts.

Karola stood writhing in the grasp of three giants. Their hands were wrapped about her wrists, and their free hands fumbled at the jewels that hung about their neck.

Thor flung an android from him; whirled to his left, avoiding a sword thrust, hitting down with the edge of his hand against the android's neck even as he turned. His knees slid under anothers' knife and splintered his ribs. He heard Slag's club crunching home to his left, but all he could see was Karola with the firelight playing across legs and midriff.

"Thor! Thor! It"s dark, Thor! I"m frightened"

Her scream sent cold horror into his spine. Her white feet were almost in the fire. How could it be dark to her? Unless these fiends who came and went were blinding her—

Thor roared.

He lowered his head and charged, as some Viking ancestor might have charged a longboat's deck. His fists hammered and clubbed. He blasted a path through cursing, sobbing men.

Karola was in front of him.

He reached out for her.

Karola disappeared.

Thor felt his hands sink through empty space where Karola should have been; where she was standing, one instant before. On spraddled legs he stood, naked chest gulping in cool air, staring at the darkness. "Karola !" he cried.

The androids were all fading. Thor dimly understood that it was Karola they had been after, seeing them drop into nothingness, one after the other. The fire flared brighter. In its red beams, one still sat, fumbling a little dazedly at the jewel on his chest. Thor knew his own thoughts were fumbling, just as the other's fingers were. Karola was gone. The androids were going, only one was left. There was no way to follow.

The firelight hung in the ruby jewel for one bursting moment, like red blood bursting. Red jewel. Fumbling fingers clawing at it. Three androids with Karola also clawing at their jewels. And Karola disappearing —

Thor leaped. His big right hand stabbed for the ruby. He closed his fingers on it and tugged. The chain resisted, and then the android came awake to what Thor wanted and pounded at him. Thor lowered his head and chin until his jaw rested against his chest and hunched his shoulders. He rode the buffets, swaying as he did in the ring.

Tug, tug. Tug and tear with that right hand, his mind kept telling him.

Get that jewel!

It broke and came loose in his hand. The android screamed, reaching out. Slag came over the fire with a tremendous bound and his club swung. It caved in the android's head and toppled him forward into the fire.

Thor stared at the dying green fire that spilled from the android's head. That was a part of Aava, that fire. It was the life force.

He looked at the jewel throbbing soft red fire in his palm. He grinned.

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