Infomotions, Inc.Tom Swift and The Visitor from Planet X / Appleton, Victor [pseud.]



Author: Appleton, Victor [pseud.]
Title: Tom Swift and The Visitor from Planet X
Publisher: Project Gutenberg
Tag(s): tom; chow; bud; swift; tom swift; hank sterling; young inventor; arv hanson; brungarian rebel
Contributor(s): Hutt, Henry, 1875-1950 [Illustrator]
Versions: original; local mirror; HTML (this file); printable
Services: find in a library; evaluate using concordance
Rights: GNU General Public License
Size: 37,201 words (really short) Grade range: 7-9 (grade school) Readability score: 65 (easy)
Identifier: etext17985
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The Project Gutenberg EBook of Tom Swift and The Visitor from Planet X, by 
Victor Appleton

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Title: Tom Swift and The Visitor from Planet X

Author: Victor Appleton

Release Date: March 14, 2006 [EBook #17985]

Language: English

Character set encoding: ASCII

*** START OF THIS PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK TOM SWIFT AND THE VISITOR ***




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[Transcriber's Note:
Illustration descriptions in (parentheses) are provided by the
transcriber.]

       *       *       *       *       *


  [Illustrated Cover with Text:]

  The new TOM SWIFT Jr. Adventures

    TOM SWIFT and
    The Visitor from
    Planet X

      By VICTOR APPLETON II


  [Spine Text:]

  Tom Swift and the Visitor from Planet X
  Victor Appleton II

    The new TOM SWIFT Jr. Adventures
    17

      Grosset
      & Dunlap
      9117


  [Dust Jacket text:]

    TOM SWIFT AND THE
    VISITOR FROM PLANET X

    By VICTOR APPLETON II

    Tom Swift Jr. and his associates at Swift
    Enterprises wait breathlessly for what
    may well be the most important scientific
    event in history--the arrival of the
    visitor from Planet X--a visitor in the
    form of energy. But there are factions at
    work determined to snatch the energy,
    which Tom has named Exman, from the
    young scientist-inventor's grasp. First,
    a series of unexplainable, devastating
    earthquakes threaten to destroy a good
    portion of the earth, and Tom suspects the
    Brungarian rebels who obviously would like
    to capture Exman and use the space visitor
    to further their own evil purposes.

    With the security of Enterprises and Exman
    at stake, Tom creates two of his greatest
    inventions--a Quakelizor to counteract the
    simulated earth tremors, and a container
    or "body" to house the energy from outer
    space.

    If the earthquakes cannot be stopped,
    the entire world will be threatened by
    destruction, and the Brungarian forces
    will conquer the earth. How Tom utilizes
    all his scientific knowledge to produce
    swift-action results and outwit the
    Brungarians makes one of the most
    exciting Tom Swift adventures to date.

      GROSSET & DUNLAP _Publishers_
      New York 10, N.Y.


       *       *       *       *       *
           *       *       *       *
       *       *       *       *       *


          [Illustration: inside cover
            (Tom Swift in his lab)]


       *       *       *       *       *


               TOM SWIFT AND THE

             VISITOR FROM PLANET X


       *       *       *       *       *


       THE NEW TOM SWIFT JR. ADVENTURES

             BY VICTOR APPLETON II

         TOM SWIFT AND HIS FLYING LAB
          TOM SWIFT AND HIS JETMARINE
         TOM SWIFT AND HIS ROCKET SHIP
         TOM SWIFT AND HIS GIANT ROBOT
     TOM SWIFT AND HIS ATOMIC EARTH BLASTER
       TOM SWIFT AND HIS OUTPOST IN SPACE
       TOM SWIFT AND HIS DIVING SEACOPTER
     TOM SWIFT IN THE CAVES OF NUCLEAR FIRE
       TOM SWIFT ON THE PHANTOM SATELLITE
    TOM SWIFT AND HIS ULTRASONIC CYCLOPLANE
      TOM SWIFT AND HIS DEEP-SEA HYDRODOME
       TOM SWIFT IN THE RACE TO THE MOON
       TOM SWIFT AND HIS SPACE SOLARTRON
    TOM SWIFT AND HIS ELECTRONIC RETROSCOPE
    TOM SWIFT AND HIS SPECTROMARINE SELECTOR
      TOM SWIFT AND THE COSMIC ASTRONAUTS
    TOM SWIFT AND THE VISITOR FROM PLANET X


       *       *       *       *       *


  [Frontispiece:
  _The raiders transferred Exman to the enemy sub_]


       *       *       *       *       *


        The New Tom Swift Jr. Adventures


                   TOM SWIFT
                AND THE VISITOR
                 FROM PLANET X

             BY VICTOR APPLETON II
           ILLUSTRATED BY GRAHAM KAYE

                Grosset & Dunlap
                    New York
                   Publishers




  [c] by Grosset & Dunlap, Inc., 1961
  All Rights Reserved
  Printed in the United States of America


       *       *       *       *       *


CONTENTS


Chapter                             Page

   1 The Earthquake                    1
   2 The Mysterious Hitchhiker        11
   3 Report from Interpol             18
   4 Another Tremor!                  30
   5 Secret Cache                     39
   6 Brungarian Coup                  46
   7 Wall of Water!                   55
   8 A Suspect Talks                  65
   9 The Cave Monster                 73
  10 Energy from Planet X             83
  11 An Electrical Christening        92
  12 Exman Takes Orders               99
  13 Disaster Strikes                106
  14 Air-borne Hijackers             115
  15 Kidnaped!                       125
  16 A Unique Experiment             137
  17 An Urgent Warning               145
  18 Earthquake Island               155
  19 A Fiendish Machine              166
  20 The Robot Spy's Story           177




CHAPTER I

THE EARTHQUAKE


"Tom, we're having a problem with the gyro-stabilizer," said Mark Faber,
gray-haired president of the Faber Electronics Company. "Hope you can
find out what's wrong."

The eighteen-year-old inventor accepted the challenge with a smile.
"I'll be glad to try, sir," he replied.

Bud Barclay, a dark-haired young flier and Tom Swift Jr.'s closest
friend, chuckled. "If anyone can get the bugs out of your new invention,
genius boy here will do it!"

The two boys followed Mr. Faber and his engineers to a wooden building
which was tightly guarded. Inside, a secret rocket-telemetering device
was mounted on its test stand.

"As you know, Tom," Mr. Faber began, "the usual conditions of rocket
flight will be--"

He broke off with a gasp of astonishment as the whole building suddenly
began to shake.

"Good grief!" Bud exclaimed. "This isn't part of your testing routine,
is it?"

His question was drowned out by cries of alarm and the sound of cracking
glass. The walls and roof were shuddering and creaking, and the concrete
floor was heaving under their feet.

  [Illustration (earthquake in the lab)]

"Look out! The test stand's breaking loose!" Tom warned.

Mr. Faber and two of his men tried frantically to brace the heavy test
stand which held the telemetering device. Another engineer rushed toward
the door to see what was happening outside. Before he reached it,
another shock knocked all of them off their feet.

Electronic equipment cascaded from the wall shelves, and a heavy-duty
chain hoist came loose from its overhead track, plunging to the floor
with a terrifying crash.

"An earthquake!" Tom gasped.

Bud, meanwhile, clawed a handhold on a wire screen enclosing an air
compressor and pulled himself to his feet. But the next moment a third,
more violent tremor rocked the building, knocking him over. "The roof!
It's caving in!" he heard someone scream.

As his eyes flashed upward in panic, Bud caught a brief glimpse of the
ponderous test stand with the priceless telemeter tilting to one side.
An instant later it crashed over, pinning Mark Faber beneath it!

Bud threw up his arms to protect himself, but too late! A falling beam
caught him on the back of the head and the young flier blacked out.

For minutes, no one stirred among the wreckage. Then Tom, who had been
stunned by some falling debris, raised himself to a sitting position.

"Good night!" Tom's eyes focused in horror on the wreckage enveloped by
still-billowing dust.

The sky was visible through several gaping holes in the roof, which was
sagging dangerously on its supporting trusses. Only two thirds of the
walls were still standing.

Suddenly Tom stiffened in fear. "Bud!" The young inventor had just
noticed his friend lying pinned beneath a heavy beam nearby. _Was he
still breathing?_

Disregarding his own injuries, Tom hastily freed himself from the debris
and groped his way to Bud's side. With a desperate heave, he shoved the
beam away, then cradled Bud's head in his arm. His friend's eyelids
flickered.

"Are you all right?" Tom asked fearfully.

The answer came in a groan. "O-oh!... Wow!... What hit me?"

"You got conked by a falling timber. Or grazed, at least," Tom added
thankfully. "If that beam had landed square on your noggin, even a
rock-head like you couldn't have survived!"

Bud managed to grin. "We grow 'em tough out in California where I come
from!" he joked.

Somewhat shakily, Bud got to his feet with Tom's assistance. Both boys
were heartsick as they surveyed the damaged laboratory, wondering where
to begin rescue operations.

"It was a quake," Bud stated grimly. He had heard about the great San
Francisco earthquake from his grandfather, and had no doubt about the
nature of the tremors.

Just then Tom glimpsed a body protruding from under the wreckage of the
telemetering device.

"Mr. Faber!" he gasped.

The two boys scrambled through the clutter of debris toward the spot
where the test stand had been erected. Bud seized a slender, steel
I beam and managed to pry up the wreckage while Tom carefully extricated
Mr. Faber.

The scientist seemed to be badly injured. "We'd better not try to move
him," Tom decided. "We'll get an ambulance."

Of the four other company engineers, two were now stirring and partly
conscious. The boys found a first-aid cabinet and gave what help they
could to them and the other two men. Then Tom taped a bandage on Bud's
scalp wound.

"Let's see if we can find a telephone and call the local hospital," Tom
said.

"Right!" Bud responded.

They picked their way through the wreckage and emerged on a scene of
frightful destruction. The main plant building of Faber Electronics had
been partially demolished by the quake. Power lines were down and an
outlying storage shed was ablaze. Dazed and panic-stricken survivors
were wandering around aimlessly or rushing about to assist the injured.

"Good thing the main shift of workers knocked off before this happened,"
Bud observed with a shudder. "There would've been a lot more
casualties."

"Look!" Tom pointed to a huge crevasse. "Right where we landed our
Whirling Duck!"

The boys exchanged rueful glances as they realized that the craft which
had brought them to Faber Electronics--one of Tom's unique helijets--had
been swallowed up in the gaping chasm.

"No use fussing about it now," Tom said. "Come on, Bud! Let's see about
getting help for Mr. Faber!"

Despite the chaotic confusion, the boys managed to locate the plant
superintendent--a harried, middle-aged man named Simkins--who was doing
his best to restore order. Simkins, who had not been injured, informed
them that electricians were rigging an emergency telephone line in order
to get through to the nearby town of Harkness.

"Mr. Faber is badly injured," Tom said. "Why not send a car? It's only a
few miles away, isn't it?"

"I'll send the plant nurse to him," Simkins said. "As for going to town,
take a look at the parking lot." He pointed with a jerk of his thumb.
The cars on the lot had been smashed into junk by bricks from a
collapsing wall of one of the buildings. "And the only truck we had
available was in that burning shed," the superintendent added bitterly.

"Tough break," Tom sympathized. "Anyhow, we want to help. Got a job
for us?"

Simkins was only too glad to put Tom's quick mind and keen technical
know-how to use. Within minutes, Tom was in charge of clearing away
rubble and extricating anyone who might be trapped inside the buildings.
Bud organized a fire-fighting crew to keep the blaze in the shed from
spreading.

The telephone line was soon repaired and a steady stream of rescue
vehicles began arriving from Harkness--fire trucks, three ambulances,
and private cars driven by volunteers.

Two hours later there was nothing more Tom and Bud could do at the
disaster scene and they hitched a ride into Harkness. The town had
suffered some damage, though only slight compared to the destruction at
the plant.

"The center of the quake was right under Faber Electronics," Tom
remarked.

From a pay telephone, he called Swift Enterprises in Shopton. This was
the experimental station where he and his father developed their many
amazing inventions. Tom asked the operator to send a helicopter
immediately to pick them up. He also called home and spoke to his
sister, Sandra.

"What a relief!" Sandy gasped. "We heard a bulletin about the quake over
the radio!"

"Don't worry, Sis. Tell Mother and Dad that we're okay," Tom said.
"We'll be home in a jiffy--with big appetites!"

The helicopter arrived within twenty minutes at the place Tom had named.
After landing at Enterprises, the boys drove to the pleasant,
tree-shaded Swift home on the outskirts of town.

Mrs. Swift, a slender, petite woman, tried not to show concern when she
saw the boys, bruised and disheveled. "I'm so thankful you're both
safe!" she murmured.

Blond, blue-eyed Sandy, who was a year younger than Tom, had invited her
friend Phyllis Newton to the house for dinner. Phyl, a pretty,
dark-haired girl, was the daughter of Mr. Swift's long-time friend and
business associate, "Uncle Ned" Newton. The two girls were as much upset
as Tom's mother.

Tom laughed. "We're not stretcher cases," he said. "Why, one of the
ambulance doctors checked us out."

Bud groaned. "Why did you have to go and spoil it?" he complained
jokingly. "I was all set for Sandy's cool soothing touch on my fevered
brow!"

Mr. Swift came into the living room just then and told Tom how worried
Mrs. Swift and Sandy had been. "I tried to assure them that you and Bud
can take care of yourselves in any crisis." He smiled guiltily as he
added, "But I must admit I was more than a little concerned myself."

As Tom grinned, the resemblance between him and his father was very
evident. Both had the same clean-cut features and deep-set blue eyes,
although Tom Jr. was lankier and taller.

After the two boys had showered and changed their clothes, Mrs. Swift
served them a delicious, hot meal. While they ate, Mr. Swift managed
after some difficulty to get a call through to the Harkness Hospital.
His face was grave as he hung up.

"Mark Faber is not expected to live," the elder inventor reported. "A
pity. He's a great scientist."

Tom nodded unhappily. Sandy, to take her brother's mind off the
disaster, said, "Dad, tell Tom and Bud about the visitor who's coming."

"A visitor?" Tom looked at his father.

"From another planet," Mr. Swift revealed.

Both boys were amazed and excited. "Wow!" Bud gasped. "Male or female?
Human or animal?"

Mr. Swift's eyes twinkled. "None of those," he replied as the boys
stared, mystified.




CHAPTER II

THE MYSTERIOUS HITCHHIKER


Tom and Bud were bursting with curiosity. Although the Swifts had been
in radio contact with creatures from outer space for many months, this
was the most exciting news yet!

On one occasion, the unknown beings had moved a small asteroid--the
phantom satellite Nestria--into orbit about the earth. Later they had
sent strange samples of the animal life of their planet, aboard orbiting
missiles, to be studied by the Swifts. They had also helped Tom, Bud,
and Mr. Swift a number of times when their lives were at stake while on
daring voyages beyond the earth. What was their latest intention?

The telephone rang and Sandy went to answer it.

"For Pete's sake, Dad," Tom pleaded, "don't keep us in suspense! Who or
what is this visitor?"

Mr. Swift smiled at the boys' baffled expressions. "The fact is that a
message came through today that--"

He was interrupted by Sandy who had come to the door. "The phone call's
for you, Dad. Long distance from Washington."

Bud groaned as Mr. Swift went off to take the call. "It's a conspiracy,"
Bud said. "Everyone's ganging up to keep us from finding out about that
mysterious visitor!"

Tom grinned. "We lasted through an earthquake this afternoon, pal," he
said consolingly. "I guess we can last through a phone call."

Inwardly Tom was as impatient as Bud about the exact nature of the
message.

Several months ago, the space creatures had sent their first
communication in the form of mathematical symbols carved on a black
missile which had landed on the grounds of Swift Enterprises.

Tom and his father had decoded the symbols and beamed out a reply over a
powerful radio transmitter. Later messages had been picked up by radio
telescope and converted to appear as symbols on the oscilloscope screen.

"Sandy must know what it's all about," Bud broke in. "She's the one who
first mentioned the visitor."

"Of course I know," Sandy said mysteriously. "So does Mother and so does
Phyl. But don't think we're going to give it away!" she added teasingly.

Tom and Bud cajoled the two girls and Mrs. Swift for further
information. But Sandy and Phyl only shook their heads, obviously
enjoying the situation.

"At last we're getting back at them for the way they've neglected us!"
Phyl said, her brown eyes sparkling with laughter.

"Come on, Mother!" Tom said. "Be a sport. You tell us!"

But Mrs. Swift too shook her head. "I'm sorry, Tom," she demurred
gently, "but I think the girls are right. I'll say this much, though,"
she relented, "it will be the biggest challenge that Tom Swift Jr. and
Sr. have ever faced!"

"Whew!" Bud remarked as the two boys glanced at each other. "That must
mean it's _plenty_ big news! It would have to be, skipper, to top all
the other jobs you and your dad have taken on!"

Conquering outer space, probing the ocean's secrets, drilling to the
earth's core--these were only a few of Tom Swift's many exciting
exploits.

In his first adventure, Tom, in his Flying Lab, had gone to South
America to fend off a gang of rebels seeking a valuable radioactive ore
deposit. In his most recent challenge, Tom had defied the threats of
Oriental killers determined to ferret out the secret of the Swifts'
latest space research.

As the two boys silently recalled the exciting events of the past
months, Mr. Swift returned to the living room.

Tom and Bud leaned forward in their chairs. "Well, boys," Mr. Swift
said, "as I started to tell you, the space receiver picked up a message
today from our unknown planetary friends. The message informed us that
they are sending a visitor to earth--a visitor consisting of _pure
energy!_"

"_Energy?_" Tom was startled. "I don't get it, Dad!"

"Frankly, I don't quite understand it myself," Tom Sr. confessed. "The
message didn't explain how or in what form the energy would arrive. But,
at any rate, they want us to construct some sort of container for it."

The elder scientist paused thoughtfully. "In my opinion, the energy
which they speak of must be a sort of invisible brain. The symbols were
rather difficult to decode, but apparently our job will be to construct
a device through which the energy will be able to receive impressions of
what life is like here on earth, and also to communicate its own
responses to us."

Tom sat bolt upright. "Dad, this is terrific news!" he exclaimed. "If
we're able to make this energy or 'brain' communicate, it may be able to
tell _us_ what the space people are like!"

Mr. Swift nodded, his own eyes blazing with as much excitement as Tom's
were.

Bud, too, was deeply impressed but could not resist quipping, "What sort
of body will you give it? How about a beautiful, superintelligent space
girl for me to date?"

"Nothing doing!" Sandy retorted mischievously. "I insist on a handsome
young man who'd have time to take two nice earth girls out on dates!"

"Ouch!" Bud pretended to wince. "I really left myself wide open for that
one!"

Mrs. Swift put in, "Goodness, mightn't it get out of control and be
rather overpowering? Suppose it went berserk!"

"Rather an unpleasant possibility," Mr. Swift agreed, smiling wryly.
"But I trust our space friends wouldn't let that happen."

Both he and Tom became thoughtful as they discussed the problem.

"The energy will arrive in two weeks," Mr. Swift added. "Unfortunately
that phone call was a request that I go to Washington on urgent
government business. So you may have to take over and work out a
solution on your own, Tom."

It was a sobering thought to the young inventor. "You were right,
Mother. This is a terrific challenge."

Soon afterward, the little gathering broke up. Bud, who had left his own
convertible at the Swifts' that morning, offered to drop Phyl at her
home.

Tom awoke the next morning, refreshed by a good night's sleep. After a
hearty breakfast of bacon and eggs, he drove off to Enterprises in his
low-slung silver sports car.

"Think I'll listen to the news," Tom thought, and switched on his
dashboard radio.

A moment later the announcer's voice came over the loud-speaker.
"Casualties from yesterday's disastrous earthquake now total thirty-one
injured," the announcer reported. "Most of these are employees of the
Faber Electronics plant and four are in critical condition. There is one
note of cheer, however. At last report, Mark Faber, the brilliant
president of the company, is now expected to recover." Tom gave a
thankful sigh of relief.

The announcer continued, "The nearby town of Harkness was only lightly
damaged, but the plant itself was almost totally demolished. No estimate
of the losses has been released, but will certainly run into millions of
dollars, including some highly secret defense items which were being
developed at the plant. Scientists are puzzled by the severity of the
quake in what had been considered a 'dead' area."

For the first time Tom, too, was struck by this curious aspect of the
disaster. So far as he knew, no serious tremors had ever before been
reported within hundreds of miles of the region.

He was mulling over the matter as he drove along a lonely wooded area,
not far from Lake Carlopa. Suddenly his thoughts were interrupted as a
man stepped out from among the trees ahead and gestured with his thumb
for a ride.

"Sorry, mister," Tom reflected, "but I've had trouble with hitchhikers
before!" He shook his head to let the man know that he did not intend to
stop.

To the young inventor's amazement, the pedestrian deliberately stepped
onto the road--squarely in the path of Tom's oncoming car!

Tom jammed on the brakes, and the silver sports car screeched to a stop.
Only a quick twist of the wheel had prevented an accident!

Somewhat angrily, Tom exclaimed, "What's the big idea, mister? Don't you
realize you might have been--"

"Shut up!" the stranger snarled. In an instant the man had yanked open
the door and climbed in beside Tom.

"Take me inside the grounds of Swift Enterprises," he commanded in a
foreign accent. "And no tricks or you will regret it!"




CHAPTER III

REPORT FROM INTERPOL


Tom, astonished, stared at the stranger.

"Who are you?" the young inventor demanded.

"Never mind who I am. Just do as I say!"

By this time Tom had recovered from his surprise and coolly sized up his
enemy. The man was about thirty years old, with close-cropped black
hair. Steely eyes glinted in a lean, hard-jawed face.

Tom wondered, "_Should I risk a fight? Or is he armed?_"

As if in answer, the stranger growled, "I gave you an order, my friend.
Don't press your luck! Get going!"

As he spoke, the man thrust one hand deep into his coat pocket, and Tom
felt something hard poke against his ribs.

The young inventor drove on, but proceeded slowly. He wanted time to
think. Presently Swift Enterprises, enclosed by a high wall, came into
view.

Tom's brain was working fast. At last he decided on a ruse. He would
head for the main gate, get out, and use his electronic key without
waiting for the guard to admit him. At the same time, he would press a
secret warning bell to alert the Swift security force.

But the stranger seemed to read his thoughts. As Tom started to turn off
toward the main gate, his passenger snapped, "Go to the private gate
which you and your father use!"

"And if I refuse?"

Again the hard object poked into his ribs. "You will be what you call in
this country a dead duck!" the stranger warned. "I will then let myself
in with your key!"

Tight-lipped, Tom drove on another half mile, then turned in at the
private gate. The man got out with him as Tom walked up to the gate and
beamed his electronic key at the hidden mechanism. Instantly the gate
swung open, then closed again automatically after the car passed
through.

Tom parked in his usual spot. The stranger kept his hand in his pocket,
still covering Tom but glancing around cautiously. The sprawling
experimental station was a vast four-mile-square area with a cluster of
gleaming modern laboratory buildings and workshops. In the distance, a
tall glassed-in control tower overlooked Enterprises' long runways for
jet planes.

Suddenly the stranger stiffened. A paunchy, bowlegged figure, topped by
a white Texas sombrero, was coming straight toward them.

Tom's heart gave a leap of hope. The man was Chow Winkler, formerly a
chuck-wagon cook and now head chef for the Swifts' expeditions.

"Hi, boss!" Chow bellowed in his foghorn voice. As usual he was wearing
a gaudy cowboy shirt. "Who's the new buckaroo?" the cook added,
squinting at the stranger with open but friendly curiosity.

"Why--actually I don't know his name yet, but he's looking for a job,"
Tom replied. Turning to the stranger, he added, "What _is_ your name,
mister?"

The stranger glared from Tom to Chow, as if not certain what to answer.

Chow's eyes narrowed. He had detected something strange in the way Tom
addressed the fellow as "mister," and had also noticed how the man kept
one hand hidden in his pocket. Looking to Tom for a lead, Chow suddenly
noticed the young inventor make a quick "thumbs down" gesture.

"My name is..." The man's voice fell to a mumble, obscuring the
syllables. "Frankly I am not yet sure I desire a job here, but being an
engineer, I thought perhaps--"

  [Illustration (Tom and Chow fight the intruder)]

The man's gaze switched back to Tom, and in that instant Chow jumped the
intruder. With surprising agility for his rotund bulk, the cook bore
down on him and let fly a gnarled fist at the stranger's jaw. Tom
followed up like lightning, grabbing the man's wrist and yanking his
hand out of his pocket.

He was clutching a snub-nosed automatic. Tom twisted it from his grasp
as the man landed, writhing on the hard ground. Chow quickly pinned his
other arm and drove a knee into the man's solar plexus.

"Jest lie quiet now, you varmint, or you may git yourself roughed up a
bit," Chow warned, then added, "Who is he, Tom?"

"Search me. He stopped my car on the road and forced me to drive him in
through the private gate. Boy, was I ever glad to see you, old-timer!"

Tom emptied out the clip of shells. Then he searched the stranger while
Chow continued holding him down. The man carried no wallet, papers, or
other means of identification.

"Brand my tumbleweed salad," Chow grumbled, "he sure wasn't takin' no
chances on people findin' out who he is! Which proves he's some sort o'
crooked cowpoke! Honest ones ain't afeared o' showin' their own brand!"

The man muttered something angrily in a foreign tongue. Chow merely
pressed down harder with his knee. "What'll we do with him, boss?"

"Let him up, Chow," Tom said. "Security should be here any second."

Even as he spoke, Tom glimpsed a jeep speeding toward them in the
distance. The young inventor knew what had happened. Since the stranger
did not have the special electronic wrist amulet worn by all Swift
employees, his presence had automatically shown up on the master
radarscope. A security squad was coming to investigate.

As Chow released the man, he got to his feet slowly. Then, without
warning, he suddenly butted the cook square in the stomach. Chow was
knocked sprawling!

Before Tom could counter the surprise attack, the man's fist cracked
against his cheekbone. Tom, though stunned, lashed out. More punches
flew back and forth. Tom landed a stinging blow to his opponent's
midriff, then took a punishing one himself.

Suddenly Tom felt the stranger's hand clawing at his pocket for the key
to the gate. With all his wiry strength, Tom locked his arms around the
man and wrestled him to the ground.

The stranger fought like a tiger. But a second later a jeep screeched to
a stop. Three security guards, led by stocky Phil Radnor, leaped out.
Within moments they had the man subdued.

Tom quickly briefed the security men on what had happened.

"All right, mister, start talking!" snapped Radnor, head security police
officer.

The man's only reply was a scowl of rage.

"Okay, take him away till he cools off," Tom ordered.

Disheveled and still panting, the man was bundled into the jeep and
driven off to the security building.

Tom arrived there by motor scooter several minutes later. Harlan Ames,
the slim, dark-haired security chief of Enterprises, had taken charge of
the case, and the prisoner was now being fingerprinted and photographed.

"Any leads?" Tom inquired.

Ames shook his head. "He won't talk and we've nothing on him in our
files. His clothes have no tags or laundry marks, but I'd say they're of
foreign make."

Tom nodded. "He's definitely foreign. He spoke with an accent and he
also muttered something at Chow--I didn't catch it, but it certainly
wasn't in English."

Ames frowned. "I don't like the looks of this, skipper. He may be a
spy."

"Have you notified the police?" Tom asked.

"Right. Also the FBI. They're on the way right now to pick him up. Maybe
they'll be able to worm something out of him."

Tom spent the morning in routine work in the big double office which he
shared with his father in Enterprises' main building. It was equipped
with huge twin modern desks, deep-pile carpeting, and roomy leather
chairs.

Each of the two inventors had his own drawing board, designed to swing
out from the wall at the press of a button. Small scale models of some
of their most famous inventions were also placed about the office,
including a red-and-silver replica of Tom's first rocket ship, the _Star
Spear_; a blue plastic model of the jetmarine in which he had fought a
band of undersea pirates; and also a gleaming silvery model of Tom's
latest, unique space craft, the _Cosmic Sailer_.

Because of his father's absence in Washington, the burden of
administering the vast experimental station now fell on Tom's youthful
shoulders. Telephone calls, letters, and other detailed work occupied
him until noon.

Chow broke in, bringing a lunch tray with milk, a hot chicken sandwich,
and a chocolate eclair. Tom ate hungrily.

"Kind o' peps up the ole supercharger, eh?" said Chow, lingering to
chat.

"Sure does," Tom agreed.

"Wal, jest remember that, an' don't go missin' any meals--or sleep,
either," Chow advised as he gathered up the tray. "A brainy young hombre
like you needs plenty o' rest an' vitamins to keep from burnin' himself
out."

"I'll remember." Tom grinned affectionately as the leathery-faced old
Texan took his leave. The Swifts had first met Chow when they were on an
atomic research expedition in the Southwest. Chow had become so attached
to Tom that he had returned to Shopton with the Swifts as a permanent
employee.

Soon after Chow left the office, the telephone rang. Tom took the call
and had just finished talking with Harlan Ames when Bud came strolling
in.

"Any more news on that nut who jumped you this morning?" the young flier
asked. "Ames told me about it."

"Not yet, but there may be soon," Tom said. "Harlan just phoned and said
he'd had a call from Washington, asking us to stand by the videophone at
one-thirty sharp."

Ames arrived in person shortly before the scheduled time. Moments later,
a red signal flashed on the control board of the Swifts' private TV
network. Tom flicked on the videophone and two men appeared on the
screen.

One was Blake, the Swifts' Washington, D.C., telecaster. He introduced
the other man, a calm-faced, balding individual in a dark suit.

"This is John Thurston of the Central Intelligence Agency, Tom," Blake
said. "He thought it might be better to discuss this with you face to
face."

Tom, Bud, and Ames were also visible to the pair in Washington.

"Glad to know you, sir," Tom said, and introduced his companions.

"We've identified the man you captured this morning," Thurston began.
"He's in the United States on a French passport under the name of
Jacques Renard. But we've just learned from the International Police
Organization that he's actually a Brungarian. His name is Samson Narko."

Tom and Ames exchanged startled glances. In the past, certain Brungarian
factions had been responsible for some of the most fiendish plots ever
perpetrated against the Swifts.

"Unfortunately, that's not all," Thurston went on. "Interpol believes
that Narko is also a member of the same rebel outfit with whom you've
had trouble before."

Tom was dismayed by the news. "I sure thought that group had been
smashed!" he said. Soon after Tom had balked their attempts to seize the
satellite Nestria, the rebel ringleaders had reportedly been arrested
and tried for treason.

"It now appears," Thurston explained, "that only one segment was
quelled. Other members of the antigovernment movement are active again
and are said to be strongly organized."

The CIA man related even more sinister news. It was suspected that a
larger nation--by aiding the rebels--was planning a coup to take over
Brungaria. They had already subverted various government agencies and
were sending their own professors to staff the Brungarian technical
schools. It was all part of their insidious fifth-column pattern.

"Many top Brungarian officials have joined the plotters," Thurston
added, "and it's now becoming very difficult for anyone to enter or
leave the country."

Ames asked for information on any rebel sympathizers known to be in the
United States. Thurston was able to tell him very little.

"We keep strict tabs, of course, on all Brungarians entering this
country," Thurston explained. "But even though we screen them carefully,
a rebel agent like Narko may slip in--usually on a stolen or faked
passport."

When the telecast ended, Tom, Bud, and Ames discussed the news grimly.

"What if Narko has pals working with him?" Bud conjectured.

"If he does," Tom said, "they may try carrying through Narko's mission."

"I'll station extra guards around the outer wall on twenty-four-hour
alert," Ames promised.

Tom approved this measure wholeheartedly, but the purpose of Narko's
secret mission remained a mystery. Why had he tried to force his way
into Enterprises? What was he after? There was little hope of resolving
these questions, since United States Intelligence had learned of the
rebel movement itself only within the past few days. Thurston had asked
Tom and his companions to treat the information as confidential.

"I'd better get back to work," Tom decided after Bud and Ames had left
his office. Tom sat down at his drawing board and began to sketch out
some rough ideas for a vehicle to house the "brain energy" from space.

Tom wondered if the brain would be able to perform actions by itself,
given the proper mechanical output devices. Or would he have to help it
function via an electronic computer to digest incoming information or
stimuli and then to respond through servo controls?

The problem was so baffling and complex that Tom became completely
oblivious to the passage of time. He sketched out plan after plan, only
to crumple and discard each one.

Suddenly a disturbing thought jarred the young inventor out of his
concentration. Perhaps the Brungarian rebel scientists had now figured
out how to decode the radio messages from the Swifts' space friends!

If so, when the brain energy was launched toward earth, they might try
to divert it to their own receiving setup!




CHAPTER IV

ANOTHER TREMOR!


Tom was appalled at this new danger. Shoving his drawing board back into
its wall slot, the young inventor hurried to his desk and made a number
of telephone calls.

Within minutes, a group of five of his most trusted associates had
assembled in Tom's office. First to arrive were Bud Barclay, Ames, and
George Dilling, the Swifts' communications chief. They were joined
moments later by Hank Sterling, the square-jawed chief engineer and
trouble shooter of Enterprises, and Arvid Hanson.

Hanson, a hulking six-footer, made all the delicate scale models of Tom
Jr.'s and Tom Sr.'s inventions. He was not only an expert craftsman,
but, like all the Swifts' key men, a trained aircraft and space pilot as
well.

"What's up, skipper?" Bud asked.

"I guess you might call this a council of war," Tom replied.

He divulged his fears that Brungarian scientists might hijack the brain
energy to be sent from Planet X, home of the Swifts' unknown space
friends.

"Bud, you recall Mother's remark last night about the danger that this
energy may prove overwhelmingly powerful," Tom went on. "Well, just
suppose that our Brungarian pals fit it out in robot form, then turn it
loose against us or our friends in other countries."

Bud gave an awed whistle. "Boy, a thing like that might make even a
powerful missile look like a toy!"

Even if the brain energy proved too small to be harnessed for
destructive purposes, Tom went on, it might turn out to possess
superintelligence. Gifted with all the scientific know-how of the space
people, it might be made to reveal those secrets to the Brungarians.

"They might learn from it how to construct weapons or space craft
powerful enough to conquer the free world!" Tom ended.

His listeners were grim-faced at the thought.

"I'd say that's a far worse danger than any chance of their coming up
with a robot monster," Ames said.

"Ditto!" Hanson agreed.

"I think so too," Tom replied. "In any case, it's up to us to make sure
the Brungarians don't switch that energy off course before it lands
here."

"Think their scientists are capable of such a stunt?" George Dilling
inquired.

Tom shrugged. "They're certainly far advanced in the fields of rocket
guidance and telemetry. But actually we just don't know."

Hank Sterling glanced hopefully at the young inventor. "Got any ideas,
skipper?" he asked.

Tom drummed a pencil on the table thoughtfully before replying. "Maybe
our best bet is first to find out all we can about the lines of research
on which they're concentrating. That might be the tip-off."

After a thorough discussion, it was decided that Ames and Dilling would
fly to Washington at once and talk to the FBI and Central Intelligence.
Their job would be to garner and piece together every scrap of
information on Brungarian scientists' accomplishments.

"Let us know as soon as you get a general picture," Tom said.

Ames and Dilling promised to do so, and the meeting broke up.

Feeling somewhat reassured now that a definite plan of action had been
decided upon, Tom resumed work on his sketches. Although both the
problem and the solution were still hazy in his mind, a few ideas began
to take shape.

A radio antenna would certainly be needed, to receive or transmit
signals at a distance. And repelatron units would give the brain a way
to exert force when it wanted to act. These were devices which Tom had
invented to produce a repulsion-force ray. He had used the principle in
both air and space flight.

A power plant might also be needed to generate additional energy in case
the brain's own energy was very small. Lastly, there would have to be a
control system for use either by the brain itself or by its human
operators.

After an hour of work at top speed, Tom was rather pleased with one
rough sketch. He was mulling over the idea when Chow Winkler and Bud
Barclay wandered into the office. Both were impressed when Tom explained
the sketch.

Chow stared at it, goggle-eyed at the thought of such a contraption
"coming to life." "So that's the Ole Think Box, eh?" he muttered.

Tom laughed. "Good name, Chow!"

All three were startled as a voice suddenly broke in over the wall
intercom. It was the operator on duty at the plant's communication
center.

"Turn on your TV, skipper," the operator suggested. "We've just had a
news bulletin that an earthquake tremor has been felt over in Medfield.
There's a big plant there that makes rocket nose cones. A mobile TV
crew's been rushed to the scene in a helicopter and they're trying to
pick up the action with a television camera."

"Good night! Another quake?" Bud gasped.

Tom had already rushed to the videophone. Flicking it on, he switched to
a commercial channel. Soon a picture appeared on the screen. It was a
panoramic shot of a landscape, evidently viewed from a hovering
aircraft, with a large industrial plant just below.

A TV commentator's voice was reporting developments. "Few visible signs
of a tremor," he said. "As you can see, the rocket-plant personnel and
the people of Medfield are making desperate attempts to evacuate.
Fortunately, most of them have already left the immediate area."

A few cars and trucks could still be seen speeding along the ribbonlike
roads within view of the hovering television camera.

"Oh--oh!" The commentator's voice broke in again. "Notice that tall
stack just over the plant--see how it's starting to tremble!... It's
beginning to crumble!... This must be it!"

Suddenly the whole scene seemed to explode. Plant buildings collapsed
like toy houses built of cards, while at the same time huge rocks and
trees were uprooted as a yawning crack opened in the ground below.

The three watchers in Tom's office stared in horrified dismay. But a
moment later the picture on the TV screen became jerky and distorted,
then faded out completely.

After a brief interval, a studio announcer came on. "The relay
transmitter must have been knocked out by the quake. We return you now
to our regularly scheduled program, but will keep you informed as
bulletins come in."

"Great balls o' fire!" Chow gulped as Tom turned off the set. "I sure
hope all o' those poor folks in cars got away safe!"

Tom rushed to a wall shelf and pulled out a book on geology. He leafed
quickly to a section dealing with known earthquake faults and the
distribution of quakes. When he looked up at the others, his face was
grim.

"What's wrong, skipper?" Bud asked tensely.

"That quake," Tom replied, "wasn't in a patterned zone any more than the
Faber one was!"

Chow's jaw dropped open in a comic look of dismay. "You mean this here
ole earth we live on is gettin' all busted up an' twisted around
inside?"

"I wish I knew, Chow!" Tom paced worriedly about the office. "It just
seems queer to me that both of those quakes should have destroyed vital
defense factories!"

On a sudden impulse, Tom snatched up the telephone. His two companions
listened as he put through a call to the FBI in Washington. Within
moments, a friend at the Bureau, Wes Norris, came on the line.

"Look, Wes," Tom said, "is there any chance this quake that just
happened at Medfield and the earlier one at Faber Electronics might have
been caused by underground H-bomb blasts?"

"As a matter of fact, we're checking on that very possibility," Norris
replied. "In other words, sabotage. Things are pretty hot around here
since that news on Medfield came in, so I can't talk much right now,
Tom. But I can tell you this," Wes concluded, "we _are_ investigating,
and I do mean thoroughly!"

Bud and Chow were shocked when Tom reported his conversation with the
FBI agent.

"Brand my rattlesnake stew!" Chow exploded. "Any ornery varmint that'd
cause an earthquake ought to be strung up like a hoss thief!"

"I agree, Chow," Tom said. "But how do we find out for sure?"

After closing time at the plant, Bud drove home with Tom. Both Mrs.
Swift and Sandy were upset as the boys discussed the situation.

"Tom, if this was deliberate," Mrs. Swift pointed out, "Enterprises may
be next on the enemy's list!"

Tom did his best to allay his mother's fears, but inwardly he himself
felt apprehensive. Any large-scale sabotage plot would be almost certain
to include Swift Enterprises, America's most daring and advanced
research center.

When his mother went upstairs to her room, Tom suggested to Bud that
they drive to the nearby State Police post. Here he confided his fears
to Captain Rock, an old friend of the Swifts.

"You have some request in mind?" Captain Rock inquired.

"How about making a search for any signs of suspicious digging or
underground activity in the vicinity of Shopton?" Tom said. "There would
have to be an excavation of some sort in order to set off an underground
blast."

Captain Rock mulled over Tom's suggestion. "Sounds like a big job, but
I'm afraid you're right, Tom. We can't risk a similar disaster here."

"We'd better move fast, too," Bud put in. "Those two quakes so far came
only a day apart!"

Rock picked up the telephone and barked out orders. Within half an hour,
several carloads of troopers were covering the outlying roads that
converged on Shopton. Firemen and Chief Slater's town police force were
also pressed into action. They would search every cellar in town for
signs of recent digging.

Bud rode in one police car and Tom in another as a house-to-house search
was conducted along the highway that ran past Enterprises.

At one weather-beaten house, where Bud stopped with a state trooper, an
old man came to the door.

"What you fellers prowlin' around for?" he asked.

"Bomb emergency," the trooper said laconically. "We have orders to
search every house cellar for underground openings."

Grumbling, the old man let them enter. He followed them down a rickety
stairway. A moment later Bud stumbled and gave a yell. The trooper swung
around just in time to see Bud drop from view!




CHAPTER V

SECRET CACHE


As the trooper's flashlight stabbed through the cellar gloom at the spot
where Bud had disappeared, there came a loud splash! The light showed a
round hole in the floor, rimmed by a low circle of brickwork.

"What's that hole?" the trooper snapped at the owner.

"What does it look like?" the elderly man snapped back. "It's an old
well."

"A _well!_" the trooper exclaimed as he rushed to the spot. "And not
even covered? What're you trying to do--kill people?"

The old man sniffed. "Used to be covered, but the lid's gone. Didn't
expect to have a bunch of nosy fellers pokin' around down here!"

The state trooper muttered angrily under his breath as he shone his
flashlight into the well-shaft. Bud was splashing around below, soaked
and chagrined by his accident.

"Give me a hand!" he called up.

The trooper reached down, but was barely able to touch Bud's finger
tips. To make matters worse, the sides of the well were slippery with
moss.

"Get a rope," the trooper ordered the old man.

"Ain't got one."

The policeman reddened and stood up to his full six-foot-two. "Look,
mister--what's your name?"

The elderly man shrank back, as if suspecting that the trooper's
patience might have been tried too far. "Ben Smith," he mumbled.

"Okay, Mr. Smith, you get a rope or something else to pull this boy out.
And fast!"

Ben Smith gulped on his chewing tobacco and hurried off. A minute or so
later he returned with a length of clothesline. The trooper lowered it
into the well and Bud was soon climbing out, looking like a drenched
rat.

"Sorry, son," Smith said apologetically. "Guess I should have warned
ye."

Bud chuckled good-naturedly. "It's all right," he said. "It was my own
fault for not watching where I was going. Besides, you can't blame an
American for not liking the idea of having his home searched."

The old man chuckled too and flashed a wary eye at the trooper. "I'll go
get ye a towel to dry off with," he told Bud.

Meanwhile, Tom was investigating a house down the road with another
state trooper. The owner, a paunchy unshaven bachelor named Pete Latty,
and his seventeen-year-old nephew accompanied them to the basement.

A naked light bulb, hanging from the ceiling, revealed an ancient
furnace, and an accumulation of junk. Most of it was covered with dust,
but Tom noticed a large packing crate that looked as if it had been
freshly moved. He walked over and began to shove the heavy box aside.

"What're you doing?" Latty asked gruffly.

"I want to look underneath," Tom replied. A second later his eyes
widened as he saw a trap door, evidently leading to a subcellar.

Tom beckoned his partner over and showed his discovery. "Where does this
lead to?" the trooper asked, turning back to Latty.

"Just a little storage place," the owner replied with a shrug. "I didn't
think it was worth mentioning. You'd better not go down there," he added
hastily. "The steps ain't safe."

"Just the same, we'll take a look," the trooper said.

"Then do it at your own risk!" Latty snapped.

The officer pulled up the trap door and Tom shone a light down. The
shallow dirt-walled room below was about six feet square. On the floor,
at the foot of a short rickety ladder, lay a large bundle wrapped in a
tarpaulin.

Tom descended the ladder cautiously and opened the tarpaulin to see what
was inside. The contents made him gasp--a large, well-oiled collection
of rifles and pistols!

Looking up, Tom saw both the state trooper and Latty peering down at
him--the trooper openmouthed with surprise, Latty scowling nervously.

"Don't touch 'em!" Latty warned. "Some are loaded. I keep 'em hidden for
safety, but sometimes my nephew Fred here and I have target practice."

Just then Tom's keen eyes spotted a slip of paper tucked among the guns.
He pulled it out. His heart gave a leap of excitement as he saw two
words written on the paper--_Samson Narko!_

Hiding his amazement, Tom read the name aloud and added casually,
"What's this? The make of one of the guns?"

"Uh, yeah--that's right," the man replied.

Without comment, Tom climbed out of the subcellar. As he bent down to
drop the trap door, Tom flashed the officer a signal. Instantly the
trooper grabbed Latty.

"Hey! Why the rough stuff?" the prisoner exclaimed. Then, as he realized
the officer was about to handcuff him, the man's face turned pasty
white. He pulled free from the trooper's grasp and bolted toward the
stairway. His nephew stood as if paralyzed at the sudden turn of events.

  [Illustration (Tom finds Latty's store of weapons)]

Latty's attempt at flight was hopeless. Tom quickly brought him down
with a flying tackle.

Later, after Latty had been manacled, Tom helped him up. "In case you
don't know it," the young inventory said coldly, "your friend Narko is
in jail, so you may as well talk. What's the pitch?"

Latty was trembling and still pale. "I--I d-didn't know there'd be any
trouble with the cops or I'd never have done it," he quavered. "Narko
offered me some dough to hide the guns. I needed money, so I took him
up. That's all there was to it."

"How long have you known this Narko?" Tom asked.

"I met him a few days ago in a restaurant. Believe me, I'd never laid
eyes on him before. And I wish I never had!" Latty added bitterly.

The man's story had a ring of truth. "All right, Officer, let's take him
in," Tom said. To the still-astounded Fred, he added, "We're sorry about
this."

Two hours later Tom and Bud sat in Chief Slater's office at Shopton
police headquarters. Captain Rock and the Shopton fire chief were also
on hand.

"We've had troopers, detectives, and fire inspectors swarming all over
Latty's place," Captain Rock reported. "They examined his house, the
garage, two sheds out back, and every inch of the grounds. But there's
no indication of any place where a bomb might have been planted to cause
an underground explosion in Shopton."

The fire chief nodded confirmation. "So that clue peters out," he said.

With the waning of daylight, the other groups had finally abandoned
their search of the Shopton area without turning up any information.
"I'll notify the FBI immediately," Chief Slater said.

Nevertheless, he promised that his men would continue their efforts the
next day.

"Even if we find nothing more, that arms cache was worth all the
trouble," Slater added. "The country owes you a vote of thanks, Tom. A
bunch of enemy agents could have hurt a lot of people with an arsenal
like that!"

"That's for sure," Captain Rock agreed. "It was a good day's haul, Tom."

The two boys drove back to the Swift home and had a quick shower. Bud
borrowed clean clothes from Tom. Then they sat down to enjoy a warmed-up
but tasty supper, served by Sandy and Mrs. Swift.

As they ate, the boys listened to music on the radio, interspersed with
eager questions from Sandy about the bomb search.

Suddenly the radio announcer broke in. "We interrupt this broadcast to
bring you an important news bulletin!"




CHAPTER VI

BRUNGARIAN COUP


Tom, Sandy, and Bud listened as the radio announcer continued:

"Reports just in say that Brungaria has been taken over by a rebel
group. Military aid to support the rebel coup is pouring in from
Maurevia, Brungaria's powerful province in the north. The Brungarian
prime minister, his cabinet, and all loyal administrative personnel have
fled or been arrested.

"Worried United States State Department officials admit that the
surprise coup poses a new and dangerous threat to free-world security.
Further news reports will be broadcast as soon as they reach this
station," the announcer ended.

For a moment Tom and Bud were too stunned to speak. Sandy was wide-eyed
with the realization that the news spelled trouble for Swift Enterprises
and all America.

"Looks as though that CIA man who briefed us wasn't kidding, eh,
skipper?" Bud muttered at last.

"It came sooner than he expected!" Tom said.

Jumping up from the table, Tom switched off the radio and hurried to the
hall telephone. In a few moments he managed to get a long-distance call
through to Wes Norris of the FBI.

"Is the news on this Brungarian coup as bad as it sounds, Wes?" Tom
inquired.

"Worse! That rebel bunch really has it in for us, as you know, Tom,"
Norris replied. "They envy America and they'll move heaven and earth to
steal our scientific secrets. This could touch off a whole epidemic of
sabotage and other spy activity!"

Tom's jaw clenched grimly. He then asked the FBI man his opinion about
the discovery of the secret arms cache in Pete Latty's basement.

Norris admitted he was puzzled. "It doesn't add up, Tom," the FBI agent
said thoughtfully. "If our enemies were planning to destroy Shopton by a
quake, why would anyone be needing a gun?"

"I can't figure it myself, Wes--unless they were planning to raid and
loot Enterprises after the place was thrown into disorder," Tom deduced.
"What about Narko himself? Has he talked yet?"

Norris replied that although he had not interviewed Narko himself, FBI
agents who had grilled the spy had failed to elicit any information.

"Here's something else, though, which might interest you," Norris went
on. "We now have reports that at the time of the Harkness and Medfield
disasters, seismographs recorded simultaneous quakes off the coast of
Alaska near the Aleutian chain. Tremors were also felt off the southwest
coast of South America."

A new factor to consider! Tom frowned in puzzlement as he hung up the
telephone after completing his talk with the FBI man.

After Tom had repeated the conversation to his companions, Bud said,
"You mean the H-bomb idea goes out the window?"

Tom shrugged. "Wes says they've found no evidence to support the theory
of man-produced underground blasts. It just doesn't jibe with those
other remote tremors. They'd be too much of a coincidence, happening at
the same time!"

"Then the quakes at Harkness and Medfield were real earthquakes!" Sandy
put in.

"Looks that way," Tom admitted. "Those other tremors Wes mentioned
follow a natural circum-Pacific belt which is well known to
seismologists. I'm no expert, but perhaps they could have set off chain
reactions below the earth's crust which triggered the two quakes in this
part of the country."

In that case, the young inventor reflected, it was only a freak of
nature that the Faber and nose-cone factories had been wrecked by the
shock. But in spite of the seismographic clues, Tom was not entirely
convinced. A nagging doubt still buzzed in the back of his mind.

The next morning Tom hurried off to his private glass-walled laboratory
at Enterprises, eager to continue work on his container, or robot body,
for the brain from space.

Tom frowned as he studied the rough sketch he had drawn in his office
the afternoon before. "This setup's full of bugs!" he muttered.

Nevertheless, Tom decided, the basic idea was sound. Grabbing pencil and
slide rule, he began to dash off page after page of diagrams and
equations.

"Chow down!" boomed a foghorn voice. Chow Winkler, wearing a white
chef's hat, wheeled a lunch cart into the lab.

"Oh... thanks." Tom scarcely looked up from his work as the cook set
out an appetizing meal of Texas hash, milk, and deep-dish apple pie on
the bench beside the young inventor's papers. Grumbling under his
breath, Chow sauntered out.

Tom went on working intently between mouthfuls. In another hour he
finished a set of pilot drawings. Then he called Hank Sterling and Arvid
Hanson and asked them to come to the laboratory.

They listened with keen interest as Tom explained his latest creation.

"No telling if it will work when the energy arrives from space," Tom
said, "but I think everything tracks okay. Hank, get these plans
blueprinted and assign an electronics group to the project. You'd better
handle the hardware yourself."

"Right." Hank rolled up the sketches.

"And, Arv," Tom went on, "I'd like a scale model made to guide them on
assembly. How soon can you have it?"

Hanson promised the model for some time the next day, and the two men
hurried off.

As usual, Arv proved slightly better than his word. The expert
modelmaker was devoted to his craft and as apt to forget the clock as
Tom himself, when absorbed in a new project. By working on in his shop
long after closing hours, Hanson had a desk-size model of the
space-brain robot ready for Tom's inspection when the young inventor
arrived at the plant early the following morning.

"Wonderful, Arv!" Tom approved. "Every time I see one of your models of
a new invention, I'm _sure_ it'll work!" Hanson grinned, pleased at the
compliment.

Tom hopped into a jeep and sped across the plant grounds to deliver the
model to Hank Sterling and his project crew. Work was already well along
on the electronic subassemblies and the strange-looking "body" was
taking shape.

That afternoon Ames and Dilling returned from Washington. The report
they gave to Tom bore out his hunch that the rebel Brungarian scientists
might well be able to divert the space energy.

The next day was Friday. Tom was hoping, although none too
optimistically, that the container might be completed before the week
end. To his delight, an Enterprises pickup truck pulled up outside the
laboratory later that afternoon and Hank rolled the queer-looking device
inside.

"Hi, buster!" Tom greeted it. "Is this your daddy?"

Hank chuckled. "Don't look at me. It claims _you're_ its daddy. But
hanged if I can see much resemblance!"

"Think it'll live?"

"If not," Hank replied, only half jokingly, "the boys who worked on it
will sure be disappointed. No kidding, skipper, that's quite a gadget
you dreamed up!"

The device stood about shoulder-high, with a star-shaped head, one point
of which could be opened. The head would contain the actual brain
energy. Its upper body, cylindrical in shape and of gleaming chrome,
housed the output units through which the brain would react, and also
the controls. Antennas projecting out on either side gave the look of
arms.

Its "waist" was girdled with a ring of repelatron radiators for exerting
a repulsion force when it wanted to move, by repelling itself away from
nearby objects.

Below the repelatrons was an hourglass-shaped power unit, housing a
solar-charged battery.

The power unit, in turn, was mounted on a pancake-shaped transportation
unit. This unit was equipped with both casters and a sort of
caterpillar-crawler arrangement for the contrivance to get about over
obstacles. Inside was a gyro-stabilizer to keep the whole device
upright.

Tom felt a glow of pride--and eager impatience--as he inspected the
device. If it worked as he hoped, this odd creature might one day
provide earth scientists with a priceless store of information about
intelligent life on Planet X!

Bud and Chow, entering the laboratory soon after Hank Sterling had left,
found Tom still engrossed in his thoughts.

"Wow! Is this your spaceman?" Bud inquired.

Tom nodded, then grinned at his callers' gaping expressions. Each was
trying to imagine how the "thing" would look in action.

"Sure is a queer-lookin' buckaroo!" Chow commented, when Tom finished
explaining how it was supposed to work.

On a sudden impulse, the old cowpoke took off his ten-gallon hat and
plumped it on the creature. Then he removed his polka-dotted red
bandanna and knotted it like a neckerchief just below the star head.

Tom laughed heartily as Bud howled, "Ride 'em, spaceman!"

Tom was eager to notify his mysterious space friends that the container
was now ready to receive the brain energy. Bud went with him by jeep to
the space-communications laboratory. Chow, however, stayed behind and
stared in fascination at the odd-looking robot creature.

The stout cook walked back and forth, eying the thing suspiciously from
every angle. "Wonder what the critter eats?" he muttered.

Feeling in his shirt pocket, Chow brought out a wad of his favorite
bubble gum. Should he or shouldn't he? "Shucks, won't hurt to try," the
old Texan decided.

Chow unlocked the hinged point of the star head and popped the gum
inside. He was somewhat disappointed when nothing happened. Feeling a
trifle foolish, Chow finally removed his hat and bandanna from the
creature and stumped off.

Meanwhile, in the space-communications laboratory, Tom was pounding out
a message on the keyboard of the electronic brain. Tom had invented this
device for automatically coding and decoding messages between the Swifts
and their space friends. It was connected to a powerful
transmitting-and-receiving apparatus, served by a huge radio-telescope
antenna mounted atop the communications building.

Bud looked on as Tom signaled:

    TOM SWIFT TO SPACE FRIENDS. CONTAINER FOR ENERGY IS NOW READY.
    SHOULD IT BE PLACED OUTDOORS?

Stirred by a worrisome afterthought, Tom added:

    MESSAGES MAY BE INTERCEPTED BY ENEMY WHO WISHES TO STEAL ENERGY.
    SUGGEST YOU USE FLIGHT PATH TO LAND EXACTLY TWO MILES WEST OF
    FIRST CONTACT WITH US.

"By 'first contact,' you mean when that black missile landed at
Enterprises?" Bud asked.

Tom nodded. At that time, he reminded Bud, the Brungarians and their
conquerors had not yet learned of the Swifts' communication from another
planet. Hence they would have no idea of the site referred to--which
would hamper any plans to kidnap the brain energy.

"I get it," Bud said. "Smart idea, pal!"

Tensely the two boys waited for a reply from outer space.




CHAPTER VII

WALL OF WATER!


Minutes went by before the signal bell rang on the electronic brain.
Both Tom and Bud dashed over to the machine as it began to spell out the
incoming message on tape:

    ENERGY WILL COME TO THE SPOT YOU SUGGESTED. WE CAN CONTROL
    FLIGHT COURSE BUT WHILE THE ENERGY IS ON EARTH YOU WILL BE IN
    CHARGE. WE WILL HAVE NO CONTROL FOR TWENTY-ONE DAYS. THEN WE
    WILL RECALL ENERGY TO BRING US IMPRESSIONS AND DATA OF YOUR
    WORLD.

The two boys stared at each other excitedly as the transmission ended.

"Wow!" Bud murmured. "If Planet X is a peaceful place, Ole Think Box is
sure in for a jolt here on earth!"

Tom grinned fleetingly at the reference to Chow's nickname for the robot
creature. Then he became serious, knowing that Bud's words were all too
true. The space visitor might also take back impressions of the
suffering and warlike threats that some earth countries inflict on one
another. Maybe one day, Tom reflected, it would be different.

In the meantime, the young inventor realized he had an awesome
responsibility. He must not only make the best use of the brain energy
during its stay on earth, but also keep it from falling into the hands
of treacherous Brungarian plotters.

Tom's thoughts were suddenly interrupted by the sound of girls' voices.
Sandy and Phyl were standing in the doorway of the space-communications
laboratory.

"Talk about deep thinkers!" Sandy said teasingly.

"Goodness, we had no idea we'd be interrupting a session of the brain
trust," Phyl added with a mischievous sparkle in her brown eyes. "Maybe
we should go away again, Sandy!"

"Hey! Hold it, you two!" Bud exclaimed. "What do you think, Tom--are
these the visitors we've been expecting from outer space?"

"Well! I like that!" Sandy pouted. "Do we look like a couple of little
green people?"

Tom chuckled and seized the opportunity to do a little teasing of his
own. "I think it's just your pointed heads that fooled us, Sis." Then,
as the two girls broke down in laughter, he added, "Why the unexpected
visit?"

Sandy and Phyl explained that they had come to invite the boys to a
picnic cruise on Lake Carlopa the next day.

"And while we're here, since it's practically quitting time anyhow,"
Sandy went on, her blue eyes twinkling, "we might even let you drive us
some place for dinner."

"Guess they've trapped us, Bud," Tom said with a grin. "Okay, it's a
deal. But first we have something to show you." He took the girls to his
laboratory to show them the robot creature.

"It's marvelous!" Sandy exclaimed, and Phyl agreed.

Early the next morning Bud called for Tom and Sandy in his tomato-red
convertible. Then they stopped at the Newtons' house to pick up Phyl.
Each girl had packed a picnic basket for the day's sail.

"Hmm. Looks as though we're going to be well fed," Bud commented
jokingly. "What's on the menu, girls?"

"Chicken and ham sandwiches..." Sandy began.

"Pickles, olives, hard-boiled eggs, potato salad..." Phyl went on.

"Chocolate cake, milk..." Sandy took up the list.

"Stop! You have us hungry as bears already!" Tom warned.

"Right!" Bud agreed. "Come on! Let's get this cruise under way!"

The two couples drove to the Shopton Yacht Club dock on Lake Carlopa.
There they boarded the _Sunspot_, a beautiful thirty-foot sailing ketch
with auxiliary engine which Mr. Swift and Mr. Newton had purchased for a
frequently promised but not yet realized joint family vacation.

The craft was equipped with twin gravitex stabilizers, mounted one on
each side of the hull. These gave it amazing smoothness even when
plowing through rough seas. They were adaptations of a device Tom had
invented for his space kite and _Cosmic Sailer_.

"Oh, what a gorgeous day for a sail!" Phyl said, aglow with enthusiasm.

The sky was a cloudless blue. Under a hot summer sun, a brisk breeze was
ruffling the lake into tiny whitecaps. The two couples cast off eagerly
and were soon scudding out across the water under full sail.

Tom and Bud wore swimming trunks under their slacks. Unfortunately the
girls had forgotten to bring their suits. When the _Sunspot_ reached the
center of the lake, the boys hove to, stripped down to their trunks, and
dived overboard. Meanwhile, the girls sun-bathed on deck. Soon it was
time for the picnic lunch, and all four ate with healthy young
appetites.

"Jeepers!" Sandy whispered to Phyl with a giggle. "After a feast like
this, we'll have to go on a diet!"

"Don't say it," Phyl warned, "or Tom and Bud will use that as an excuse
for never taking us out ag--"

She broke off with a gasp.

"What's wrong?" Tom asked.

Breathless with fright, Phyl pointed off to starboard. The others paled.
An enormous wave was sweeping across the lake, straight toward the
ketch!

"Jumpin' jets!" Bud gulped. "It's like a tidal wave!"

The boat was already rocking under the swells that preceded the oncoming
huge breaker.

"Quick!" Tom yelled. "Grab life jackets while I start the engine!"

The four leaped into action. Every instant the terrifying wave rushed
closer! By now it was a twelve-foot wall of water!

Tom and the others had just put on the jackets and the engine had barely
gunned into life when disaster struck. The mammoth wave swept up the
_Sunspot_ and heeled it far over into the trough like a toy bark. The
next instant a cataract of water poured over the deck with stunning
force!

"We're going under!" Phyl screamed.

All four were swept overboard in the maelstrom! Under the smashing
impact of the water, the ketch's mainmast bent and groaned. A moment
later came a crack like a gunshot. The mast broke off, hung teetering by
shreds, then toppled into the water. As it fell, the mast struck Sandy a
grazing blow on the head!

"Sandy!" Bud cried fearfully as he struggled in the swirling torrent.

Calling on every ounce of strength, he swam with powerful strokes toward
the girl. Sandy was dazed and limp. Bud's husky arm circled her tightly.
Then he began to fight his way toward shore. Tom and Phyl--each
struggling in the turbulent water--could only breathe a prayer of thanks
as they watched the rescue.

  [Illustration (a huge wave capsizes the Sunspot)]

As the huge wave raced shoreward, the lake water gradually became calmer
in its wake. Tom was able to assist Phyl, and Sandy by now had recovered
her faculties.

The _Sunspot_ had capsized but could still be seen afloat, some distance
away. Rather than swim to it and cling to the hulk in the hope that a
rescue boat would arrive, the four decided to continue on toward shore.
They knew that the aftermath of the tidal wave would keep all shore
facilities in an uproar for hours to come.

As they neared the beach, the young people could see other overturned
craft and heads bobbing in the water. A few daring persons finally began
putting out in motorboats and rowboats to pick up the survivors.

A hundred yards from shore, one of the boats took Tom's group aboard.
Minutes later, they were scrambling out onto a dock.

"Are you all right, Sandy?" Bud asked, his arm still around her.

"I--I think so," she gasped weakly, "but I must have swallowed half the
lake!"

"Take it easy, Sis!" Tom added, as Sandy swayed and shuddered from the
shock of her recent ordeal.

Gently he made Sandy lie down and pillowed her head on a folded
tarpaulin provided by the sympathetic boatman. Phyl, though wan and
white-faced, was in somewhat better shape.

"Tom, we must get these girls home as soon as possible," Bud declared.

This, however, was not easily accomplished. The tidal wave had caused
devastation along the entire shore front. Many docks had been wrecked,
boats splintered like matchsticks, and buildings along the water
smashed.

When Tom's group reached Bud's convertible, parked near the yacht club
pier, they found the car completely waterlogged. Its electrical system
gave not even a faint sputter or spark.

"Oh, fine!" Bud groaned. "The crowning touch!"

Eventually ambulances and private cars began to arrive to transport the
injured. Tom, Bud, and the two girls were given a lift to the Swift home
where Sandy and Phyl were immediately put to bed by a worried Mrs.
Swift.

Downstairs, Tom switched on the TV set. A mobile camera crew from the
local station was scanning the water front and interviewing witnesses of
the disaster. To the two boys, the most interesting note came in a
statement by the announcer that a very slight earth tremor had been felt
in Shopton.

"But no damage occurred except along the water front," the announcer
explained.

Tom gave a snort of anger, jumped up from his chair, and began pacing
about the living room. "Bud, I feel sure that wall of water was caused
by a minor earthquake!" the young inventor declared. "What's more, I'll
bet it was _man-made!_"

Bud stared at his friend, appalled but feeling a hot surge of anger
himself. "If you're right, pal, it's the most fiendish sabotage I've
ever heard of! Think of all the lives that were endangered!"

Tom nodded grimly. "I _am_ thinking!"

Both boys jerked around to look at the TV set again as a studio
announcer's voice suddenly broke into the telecast:

"Flash! A severe quake has occurred at the headquarters of the American
Archives Foundation, a hundred miles from Shopton. The Foundation's
buildings, containing many priceless government and scientific
documents, were badly damaged, and an underground microfilm vault was
utterly destroyed. Apparently this quake was part of the tremor felt
here at Shopton."

Within minutes the Swifts' home phone began jangling constantly. Some
calls were from friends, others from strangers. Many of the calls were
routed through from the Enterprises switchboard.

One was from Dan Perkins of the _Shopton Bulletin_. "What about it,
Tom?" the editor demanded. "I guess you know by now the public's aroused
and in a state of near panic over all these quakes. What they all want
to know is this: are you, Tom Swift, going to find a way to stop all
this destruction?"

Tom's jaw jutted out angrily. "Yes, I am!" he snapped. "And you can
quote me on that!"




CHAPTER VIII

A SUSPECT TALKS


The next morning Tom was up at the crack of dawn, grimly determined to
find an answer to the earthquake menace. He ate a hasty breakfast, then
drove to his private laboratory at Enterprises. He instructed the
switchboard operator to shut off all incoming calls, then plunged into a
study of the mystifying problem.

Earthquake activity, Tom knew, tends to occur in circular patterns, like
bands around the earth--for instance, the circum-Pacific belt, and
another belt extending eastward from the Mediterranean through Asia and
on into the East Indies. Often these quake lines are visible as breaks
or ruptures along the ground surface, called _fault traces_. No doubt,
Tom thought, there were many more uncharted ones.

Could an enemy scientist be making use of these earth faults to produce
a man-made quake? Tom mulled over the disturbing idea.

"How would I tackle the job myself, if I had to undertake such a project
for national defense?" the young inventor mused. He felt a growing sense
of excitement as an idea began to take shape in his mind.

_What about an artificial shock wave!_

An hour later Bud Barclay walked into the laboratory and found Tom
hunched over a jumbled pile of reference books on his workbench.

"What cooks, skipper?" Bud asked.

Tom looked up, his blue eyes blazing. "Bud, I think I may have the
answer!"

Tom got up from his stool and paced about the laboratory. "Suppose the
Brungarian rebel scientists have invented some sort of shock-wave
producer--a device for sending vibrations through the earth's crust or
the mantle underneath."

"Okay, suppose they have," Bud replied.

Tom snatched up a piece of chalk and made some quick diagrams on a
blackboard. "Just this, pal. Let's say they set up two or three stations
around the world for sending out such waves in a definite direction.
Wherever the wave crosses an earth fault or another wave--_boom!_ An
earthquake!"

Bud stared. "No kidding, is that how those rats triggered off all these
quakes?"

"It must be," Tom declared. "It's the only possible explanation."

"Good night!" Bud gasped weakly. "What a weapon! Just push a button
every so often and you could blow up another country bit by bit--and no
one could ever prove who was behind the attack!"

Tom nodded. "Enough to make every American shiver, if he only knew!"

"What can we do about it?" Bud asked.

Tom resumed his worried pacing. "I'll have to invent a shock-wave
deflector, Bud. It must be done in a hurry, too. Our enemy may start to
destroy American cities as well as vital defense plants!"

Immediately Tom put through an urgent call to an eminent scientist in
Washington who was a member of the National Research Council. Quickly he
outlined a plan.

"Tom, I'll talk to the president's special science adviser at once," the
man promised. "I'll try to set up a meeting for ten o'clock tomorrow
morning at Enterprises."

Feeling relieved, Tom left the plant with Bud. The two boys drove off to
attend church with Mrs. Swift and Sandy. Then, after the Sunday midday
meal, Tom returned to his laboratory to work on ideas for a shock-wave
deflector.

Bud and Sandy, meanwhile, drove to the Shopton Yacht Club to inspect the
damage to the _Sunspot_. Tom had arranged with a salvage crew to tow the
disabled ketch back to its slip.

Monday morning, a sleek Air Force jet transport touched down at Swift
Enterprises. Aboard were a select group of top government scientists.
Tom and Bud greeted them as they disembarked on the runway, then drove
them to a conference room in the Enterprises main building.

"I'd say your theory is right, Tom, about the quakes being produced by
artificial shock waves," said Bernt Ahlgren, a tall, hawk-faced man with
a shock of red hair. He was a member of the Defense Department's
Advanced Research Projects Agency. "But how do we stop them?"

"I believe they can be damped out by opposing waves," Tom replied. "This
is assuming that I can design the right sort of equipment to do the
job--and also that we can set up a warning system to alert us of the
enemy shock waves in time." The young inventor sketched out the sort of
shock-wave deflector which he had in mind. The government experts were
very much impressed. In the session that followed, the visiting
scientists contributed many tips and suggestions. Tom noted them down
gratefully.

After a thorough discussion, it was agreed that the Defense Department
would set up detectors at fifty check points around the country. Tom
would choose the exact spots. Detection data from the check points would
be fed to an electronic computer. The computer would establish the
pattern, if any, of incoming enemy shock waves.

Dr. Gregg Miles, a seismologist from the Bureau of Mines, agreed to take
on the job of setting up the check points.

"Thanks for your prompt co-operation," Tom said, smiling gratefully as
the meeting broke up.

"We should thank you, Tom, for coming up with a plan to cope with this
fiendish threat," Ahlgren replied. The others heartily agreed.

Shortly after lunch, Tom was hard at work in his laboratory when the
telephone rang. It was Chief Slater at Shopton police headquarters.

"You'd better get over here fast, Tom," Slater said. "Samson Narko is
ready to talk!"

Tom needed no urging. "Right, Chief!"

As he drove into Shopton, Tom wondered what the Brungarian agent would
reveal. Was it possible that he might tip off the whole secret behind
the destructive man-made earthquakes?

Chief Slater was waiting in his office. "Narko showed signs of cracking
this morning," Slater told Tom, "so I notified the Central Intelligence
Agency. They're flying a man up here--in fact he should be here by now.
Narko won't talk till he arrives."

"How come?" Tom asked.

"Narko wants a bargain," Slater explained. "If the government will
promise to deport him at once without trial, he'll spill what he knows."

Tom whistled. "I sure wouldn't want to be in _his_ shoes when he gets
back to Brungaria! His bosses aren't stupid. They'll know he must have
made a deal to get off scot free!"

Just then a taxi from the airport pulled up outside police headquarters,
and the CIA official was ushered into Slater's office. He proved to be
John Thurston.

"Narko's waiting in his cell," Slater said, after an exchange of
handshakes. "Let's hope he hasn't changed his mind."

The Brungarian spy rose from his cot as the turnkey unlocked his cell
door.

"You are from Washington, eh?" Narko said to Thurston. "Very well.
I presume the police have told you my offer. Is it a bargain?"

Thurston was poker-faced. "You know the penalty for spying!" he snapped.
"In your own country it would mean death. Why should we let you off?"

Narko's calmness evaporated. Beads of sweat burst out on his forehead.

"I have done no harm and I know little or nothing of my superiors'
plans!" the spy said excitedly. "Why should I lie to you with my life at
stake? After all, I am only an insignificant agent. But one important
thing I do know--and this I will reveal if you promise to deport me at
once!"

Thurston eyed him coldly. "Very well," the CIA man decided. "You have my
word."

Narko sat down on his cot, breathing heavily. Then he looked up at the
three Americans. "Your nation's capital, Washington, D.C., is going to
be blown up!" the Brungarian asserted.

His words struck like a bombshell. Chief Slater and John Thurston stared
at Narko in open-mouthed astonishment.

Then Slater scowled. "What a preposterous story! I suppose they're going
to fly a plane over and drop an atom bomb--just like that!" He snapped
his fingers.

Thurston was also inclined to doubt Narko's story. Any such bold move by
the Brungarians, he declared, would amount to an act of war.

"It is the truth!" Narko shouted. "Do not forget--you have made a
promise."

Tom Swift did not share Chief Slater's and Thurston's skepticism.
Narko's words had chilled him with dismay. He called the other two aside
and gave them a quick whispered briefing on the theory he had discussed
with the government scientists, asking them to keep it confidential.

If the Brungarians indeed had a means of producing artificial shock
waves, Tom pointed out, they could easily destroy Washington without the
slightest risk to themselves.

Both Thurston and Chief Slater were alarmed. Turning back to Narko, they
grilled him for clues. But it seemed obvious that the Brungarian was
telling all he knew--or, at any rate, all he intended to reveal.

"We're wasting our time," Thurston said finally, with a look of disgust.
"But I made a promise in the name of the United States government and
the promise will be kept."

Turning to Chief Slater, the CIA man added, "Turn him over to the FBI
and have them take him to New York. I'll arrange for a seat on the first
plane for Brungaria."

Tom drove back thoughtfully to Enterprises. Bud was waiting in his
laboratory with news.

"Your dad went from Washington to Fearing Island and has gone up to your
space outpost," Bud reported. "He has to do some experiments for the
government project he's working on."

The outpost was a space station which Tom Swift Jr. had built 22,300
miles above the earth. It was a production factory for his famous solar
batteries, and also an immensely valuable setup for space research and
exploration.

"Think I'll radio Dad and let him know what's going on," Tom decided.
"He may have some good suggestions. He usually does!"

Tom warmed up his private transmitter-receiver and beamed out a code
call through the automatic scrambler. Seconds later, the loud-speaker
crackled in response.

But just as the outpost operator's voice came through, the radio set
exploded in Tom's face!




CHAPTER IX

THE CAVE MONSTER


"Skipper!" Bud cried anxiously as Tom staggered back, his hands to his
face.

"I'm all right--no harm done," Tom assured his friend.

Both boys were a bit shaken by the accident, nevertheless. Chow came
rushing in as Bud was brushing the fragments of debris from Tom's
clothes and examining the young inventor's face.

"Brand my flyin' flapjacks, what happened?" Chow asked. The chef had
been bringing a tray of fruit juice to the laboratory and had heard the
explosion outside.

"The radio set just blew up in my face," Tom explained. "Fortunately,
the equipment was transistorized mostly with printed circuits.
Otherwise," he added, "I might have been badly cut by slivers of glass
from the exploding vacuum tubes."

As it was, the young inventor had suffered only a few slight scratches
and a bruise on the temple from a piece of the shattered housing. Bud
swabbed Tom's injuries with antiseptic from the first-aid cabinet while
Chow poured out glasses of grape juice.

"What caused it, Tom?" Bud asked as they paused to sip the fruit drink.

"Good question," Tom replied. "Frankly, I don't know." But he was
wondering if the set might have been sabotaged.

Tom was still eager to get in touch with his father and telephoned the
electronics department to bring another set to his laboratory. Chow left
just as the new set arrived.

Tom hooked it up quickly, donned a set of goggles, and tuned to the
space-station frequency. Then he picked up the microphone and stepped
well back from the set, waving Bud out of range at the same time.

"Tom Swift calling Outpost!... Come in, please!"

A moment later came another explosion! _The new set had also blown up!_

"Good night!" Bud gasped in a stunned voice. "Don't tell me that's just
a coincidence!"

Tom shrugged. "We can certainly rule out the possibility that anything
was wrong with the radio itself. Every set is checked before it leaves
the electronics department."

"So where does that leave us?" Bud persisted.

Tom shook his head worriedly as he took off the goggles. "Both times it
seemed to happen just as the reply was coming through from the space
station. There is no possibility that their signal was too strong--in
other words, that the explosion was caused by overloading the receiving
circuits."

"Are you implying that an enemy intercepted the message and sent some
sort of ray that caused the set to explode?" Bud demanded.

Tom's face showed clearly that Bud had pinpointed the suspicion in the
young inventor's mind. "Could be."

Bud was worried by this latest development. "Skipper, suppose I hop up
to the space wheel and talk it over with your dad. He may be able to
help us detect any enemy moves."

"Good idea, pal," Tom agreed. "The sooner the better, I'd say."

The boys exchanged a quick handshake and affectionate shoulder slaps.
Then Bud hurried out to one of the Enterprises hangars to ready a
helijet for the flight to Fearing Island. This was the Swifts' rocket
base, just off the Atlantic coast. From there, Bud would board one of
the regular cargo shuttle rockets operating between the space station
and Fearing.

Tom, meanwhile, plunged back to work on his shock-wave deflector.

At ten the next morning he called in Hank Sterling and showed him a set
of completed drawings.

"Hank, you did a fast job on the container for the brain," Tom began
apologetically, "but you'll really have to burn out a bearing on this
one!"

Hank grinned. "I'm geared to action. Say, what do we call it, anyhow?"
he asked.

Tom grinned. "Chow told me last night this gadget looked like a fireplug
under a rose trellis and I ought to call it Fireplug Rose! But I've
given it a more dignified name--the Quakelizor, which stands for an
underground quake wave deflector."

Briefly, Tom explained the various parts of his latest invention, which
consisted of a hydrant-sized cylinder to be inserted into the ground,
with magnetic coils near the top. A smaller hydraulic cylinder, mounted
above this, was wired to a metal framework and radio transmitter.

"This setup will detect any incoming enemy shock waves," Tom said.
"We'll need fifty of 'em, so turn the job over to Swift Construction.
And have Uncle Ned put on extra shifts."

The Swift Construction Company, managed by Ned Newton, was the
commercial division which mass-produced Tom Jr.'s and Tom Sr.'s
inventions.

Information from the detector-transmitters, Tom went on, would be fed
into an electronic computer at the Bureau of Mines in Washington.

The Quakelizor itself was housed in a massive cube-shaped casting with
two large spheres mounted on top. From each of its four sides jutted a
hydraulic piston.

"How does it work, Tom?" Hank asked.

"Dual-control spheres on top," Tom explained, "will receive by radio
signal the pulse frequency computed in Washington."

He added that inside each sphere was a "pulsemaker." This would produce
changes in the pressure of the hydraulic fluid by affecting the kinetic
energy of the fluid's atoms.

The pressure changes would then be enormously magnified in the four
hydraulic output drivers. When the unit was embedded in rock,
underground, the huge pistons would send out counter shock waves through
the earth's crust to neutralize the enemy waves.

"Wow!" Hank Sterling was breathless at the sheer scope of the young
scientist's newest invention. "I'll get hot on the job right away."

After forty-eight hours of round-the-clock work, the equipment was
ready. Tom conferred by telephone with both Dr. Miles in the Bureau of
Mines and Bernt Ahlgren in the Pentagon. He had already chosen the spots
for the detector-transmitter check points.

Tom told the men that he believed the best spot for the Quakelizor
itself was on a certain government reservation in Colorado. A deep
underground cave there would provide a perfect site.

"We'll be close enough to the San Andreas fault to prevent a really
huge-scale disaster," Tom explained. "And the Rocky Mountain structure
will give us a good bedrock medium for shooting out waves anywhere
across the continent."

Dr. Miles and Ahlgren agreed enthusiastically. Tom and the two
scientists spoke over a three-way telephone hookup--with automatic
scramblers to counter the danger of enemy monitors--laying plans to
install the equipment. Ahlgren agreed to fly a technical crew out to the
spot in Colorado which Tom had named.

The next day, Tom, Hank, and several top Enterprises' engineers,
including Art Wiltessa, took off in the _Sky Queen_. This was Tom's huge
atomic-powered Flying Lab. The massive plane flew at supersonic speeds
and was equipped with jet lifters for vertical take-off or hovering.

A Whirling Duck heliplane, loaded with communications equipment,
accompanied the _Sky Queen_. In little more than an hour, the two craft
touched down in a rugged Colorado canyon. The government technical crew
was already on hand.

"Glad to know you," Tom said, shaking hands with the engineer in charge.
He introduced his own men and added, "Better roll up your sleeves. This
job is going to take plenty of oomph!"

The parts of the Quakelizor were unloaded from the _Sky Queen_ onto
dollies. Then the group, armed with bull's-eye lanterns, flashlights,
and walkie-talkies, hauled the parts by tractor into the cave.

"Okay. Now let's pick out the spot for embedding the unit," Tom said.

The men had no sooner begun to look around the huge underground chamber
when a fearsome growl rumbled through the cave. Everyone whirled about
and the next instant froze in horror.

A huge bear reared up in the mouth of the cave! The monster snarled and
blinked its yellow eyes in the glare of lights.

"We're trapped!" Hank cried out.

The enormous bruin was now waving his huge head from side to side, as if
daring the intruders to step up and fight.

Several of the government men had brought rifles and shotguns. But in
spite of their peril, no one wanted to shoot the handsome old fellow.

"I'll send out an SOS," Tom said. "If help arrives before the bear
attacks, we won't use guns."

He radioed the local Forest Ranger post. After a nerve-racking wait,
with the group expecting a charge from the beast at any minute, two
rangers appeared and captured the bear with a net. One man of the
government work crew knocked together a stout wooden cage. The beast,
outraged, was loaded aboard the heliplane to be released in an area
remote from the cave.

  [Illustration (Tom and Hank meet a bear in the cave)]

Now the grueling job of installing the Quakelizor began. First the cave
was cleared of debris, bats, and other small living creatures. Then a
site was marked out on the cave floor. Tom had brought along a midget
model of his great atomic earth blaster, which he had invented to drill
for iron at the South Pole.

With the blaster, Tom quickly drilled a pit of exact size into the
bedrock. Then the Quakelizor was assembled and lowered into place by a
portable crane. A power plant and radio antenna were set up and the
installation was finally completed.

"I must return to Shopton now," Tom said. "Art here will stick around
and help you operate the setup," he told the government engineers after
radio contact had been made with Washington. "If anything goes wrong,
just flash word to Enterprises."

The _Sky Queen_ and the heliplane sped back across the continent. As Tom
landed at Enterprises he was greeted by Bud, who came speeding out on
the airfield by jeep.

"Just got back from the space wheel about an hour ago," Bud said. "Your
dad's really worried about those exploding radio sets, Tom. He has no
clues, but he's sure the scientists working for the Brungarian rebel
setup are responsible. He thinks they may try to ruin all of
Enterprises' communications system by remote control."

Tom's face was grave as he listened. The two boys discussed the problem
as they drove to the Swifts' office in the main building.

"Boy, I sure wish I could think of some way to cope with it," Tom said
wearily, flopping down in his desk chair.

"Your dad said to give it the old college try," Bud reported. "And he
also said he'd be back in two days to help you on the problem."

Tom glanced at the calendar. "Which reminds me," he said, "on Monday the
brain energy will be due from space!"

The thought sent a thrill of excitement tinged with worry through the
young inventor's mind. Would the container he had devised prove
suitable?

"Hey! A call on the videophone!" Bud pointed to the red light flashing
on the control board. He jumped up and switched on the set.

Blake, the Washington announcer, appeared on the screen.

"Bad news, skipper," he said ominously. "An earthquake tremor was just
felt here in Washington. It centered in a shipyard on the Potomac and
caused great damage!"




CHAPTER X

ENERGY FROM PLANET X


Tom and Bud listened in dismay as Blake reported all the details he had
been able to gather.

"Was my Quakelizor a flop, Bud?" Tom muttered, his shoulders drooping as
the announcer signed off. "It must have been!"

"Don't be silly! Snap out of it!" Bud gave his pal a cheerful poke in
the ribs, hoping to buck him up. "You heard what Blake said--Washington
itself was hardly touched. Without your setup, think of all the people
that _might_ have been killed or injured! And all the government
buildings that might have been wrecked, maybe even the White House. I'd
say your shock-wave deflector must have been at least ninety per cent
effective!"

Tom brightened somewhat on hearing Bud's words. He picked up the phone,
and placed a call to Dr. Miles at the Bureau of Mines. It was almost
half an hour before the operator was able to get a line through. But Tom
felt the suspense had been worth while when Dr. Miles exclaimed:

"Tom, it was a miracle you completed the Quakelizor installation in
time! In all probability it saved us from a major national disaster,
perhaps worse than Pearl Harbor!"

Tom felt a glow of pride and relief. "Thanks, sir. But what about the
shipyard destruction?" he added, still not entirely convinced.

"That was a bad break, Tom," Dr. Miles admitted. "Our detectors showed
that the shock waves had been almost damped out when a sudden power
failure occurred. It turned out that an overload had shorted the
Quakelizor's power plant. The crew had it fixed within moments, but by
that time the damage was done."

Tom winced as he heard of the unfortunate accident, but was thankful the
results had been no worse.

Miles went on to say that he had just been conferring with Ahlgren at
the Pentagon. The Defense Department now feared that attempts might be
made against other large cities and was therefore eager to have Tom
deliver several quake deflectors as soon as possible. These would be
installed at strategic points around the country.

"The government heads were so impressed with your invention, Tom," Dr.
Miles added, "that they'll probably be walking the floor anxiously until
the others arrive."

Tom chuckled, then became serious. "Tell them we'll go to work right
away," he informed the seismologist. "I'll have the new Quakelizors
ready as soon as possible, but you'd better warn your associates it's
bound to take a few days."

As soon as the conversation was completed, Tom dialed Ned Newton at the
Swift Construction Company. Although he was actually not a relative of
the Swifts, both Tom and Sandy had from childhood called him "Uncle
Ned."

"What's up, Tom?" he asked.

Tom told him of the latest request from Washington and asked that
another three-shift work schedule be set up to turn out the additional
Quakelizors.

"Hank and I will bring the blueprints over right away, if you don't mind
being late to dinner," Tom said.

Ned Newton agreed willingly, only too happy to help cope with the quake
menace. By eight o'clock that evening, work on the project was
proceeding at great speed. The Swift Construction Company continued
humming with activity around the clock.

The week end was almost over by the time Mr. Swift arrived back from the
space station. Tom flew to Fearing Island to meet him. On the short hop
back to Enterprises, they discussed the radio problem.

"I think the solution's been staring us in the face, Dad, but we've been
too worried to think of it," Tom said. "Remember Li Ching's jamming-wave
generator?"

He was referring to a device used recently by an Oriental foe of Tom and
his father. Mr. Swift's eyes lighted up with a quick flash of
understanding.

"Dad, you wrote a report on the generator for the government with a memo
on possible ways to combat it," Tom went on. "Maybe the same measures
would work in this case."

The Swifts had discovered that their enemy had been intercepting Tom's
messages, thereby learning the frequency to which the Swifts' receiver
was tuned. They then radiated a signal at this frequency, modulated at
the frequency to which the local oscillator was set. This had caused a
buildup of energy in the I.F. transformers, resulting in their
explosion.

Now Mr. Swift said, "You're right, son. We'll insert a blocking filter
in the R.F. stage that should do the trick."

Their minds relieved of this problem, the Swifts were eagerly looking
forward to the arrival of the brain energy from space the next day. The
scheduled time, if pinpointed at exactly two weeks from the moment when
the first message was received, would be half an hour past noon.

The spot, two miles from Enterprises, was on a lonely hillside. It was
shaded by trees, higher up the slope, with bushes and other wild-growing
greenery softening its contours. Over the week end, Tom had had
carpenters from Enterprises put up a small cabin at the foot.

As twelve-thirty approached, Tom, Bud, Mr. Swift, Hank Sterling, Arv
Hanson, and several other Swift technicians stood by at the scene with
the star-headed container. Chow had also begged to be on hand.

"I jest got to see Ole Think Box come to life!" he said.

Eyes darted back and forth from wrist watches to sky as the zero moment
ticked closer. Bud even began muttering a countdown.

"X minus three... X minus two... X minus one... This is it!"

All eyes flashed skyward. _But nothing happened!_ Not a speck showed in
the blue, cloudless sky.

The watchers glanced at one another uncertainly. More minutes went by.
Soon it was quarter to one... then one o'clock.

"No mistake about the time, was there?" Arv asked.

Mr. Swift shook his head. "Not if the code was translated correctly." He
frowned. "It's true they spoke merely in terms of days. But their time
references are usually very precise."

The waiting group fidgeted and prowled back and forth to ease their
tension. Feelings of suspense began changing into gloom after two more
hours had passed with no sign from the sky.

Disappointed but unable to wait any longer, the technical men went back
to the plant, one by one. Hank Sterling, too, and Arv Hanson finally had
to leave.

"Sorry, skipper," Hank muttered. "Ring us right away if it shows up."

"Sure, Hank."

As six o'clock went by, Chow tried to pep up his companions' drooping
spirits with a simple but tasty supper, warmed up on an electric hot
plate in the cabin.

"What do you think, skipper? Are we out of luck?" Bud asked as they ate.

"Our space friends haven't let us down yet," Tom replied. "I'm sure they
won't this time." Though he didn't say so aloud, Tom was worried that
their Brungarian enemies might have managed to divert and capture the
energy.

Mr. Swift seemed to read Tom's thoughts. "Let's hope no hitch has
occurred," he said quietly.

The sun went down. Twilight slowly deepened. The trees on the hillside
faded from view in the gathering darkness.

"_There it is!_" Bud yelled suddenly.

Electrified, the four sprang up in an instant. A speck of light was
sailing across the sky! But their faces fell as it drew closer.

"Only an airplane," Bud grumbled.

At ten o'clock Mr. Swift gave a weary yawn. "The spirit is willing but
the flesh is weak," he confessed. "I got only two hours of sleep on the
space wheel, and apparently last night wasn't enough to catch up. Sorry,
fellows."

"Why don't you go home, Dad? Hit the hay," Tom said sympathetically.

Promising to take a turn on watch if the vigil continued through the
next day, Mr. Swift drove off in his car.

Time dragged by slowly as the three remaining watchers chatted and
looked hopefully at the stars. Eventually Chow propped himself against a
tree and dropped off to sleep to the accompaniment of low-droning
snores. Bud too began to drowse.

It was long past midnight when Tom suddenly caught sight of a moving
light in the sky. He stiffened and held his breath. Another false alarm?

But no! A glowing, faintly bluish mass with a comet tail of luminous
orange red was slowly proceeding through the pattern of stars!

"Hey, fellows! Wake up!" Tom shouted. He sprang to his feet and
unlatched a single point of the star head. Within seconds, Bud and Chow
were both wide awake, as excited as Tom. The blue nebulous mass moved
closer and closer. The three watchers were speechless with awe.

As the ball of energy descended toward them, it lit up the whole scene.
The hillside looked almost as if it were on fire. The earth vibrated,
and the air had the sharp smell of ozone. This was followed by a
frightening clatter and rumble. The force of the energy was sweeping
down rocks, gravel, and shrubbery in a hillside avalanche!

"Look out!" Chow shrieked. "We'll be pulverized in this rock stampede!"
He streaked for cover as a huge boulder came plunging straight toward
him.

"Hold fast, Bud!" Tom cried. "Nothing's headed our way!"

Steeling his nerves, he grabbed the waiting container and held on
grimly. An instant later the glowing mass sharpened and narrowed itself
into a snakelike bolt of fire that arced straight into the head of Tom's
invention.

Tom gave a yell of triumph and clamped the star point shut, then pushed
a button to activate the self-sealing process.

Chow peered out cautiously from behind a clump of rock. The next second,
he let out a Texas whoop, bounded from cover like an over-sized gnome,
and sent his ten-gallon hat sailing high into the air.

"_Yippee!_"

Bud cheered too. "The visitor from Planet X has arrived!"

In their excitement and relief, the three hugged one another and jumped
for joy.

"Should we wake up your dad and tell him the good news--or keep it a
surprise till morning?" Bud asked Tom.

"I guess we'd better--"

Tom broke off in a gasp as the robotlike container suddenly began to
whirl--slowly at first, then faster and faster. Spinning crazily like a
huge runaway top, it darted up, down, and about the hillside.

Tom and his two companions stared in helpless amazement.

"Great horned toads! What's it up to?" Chow exclaimed.

"Seems like the energy's trying to get out!" Bud guessed. "Something
must be bothering it."

Tom shook his head incredulously. "No reason for that. The container was
absolutely empty."

Chow suddenly gave a groan and slapped his forehead in dismay. "Brand my
Big Dipper!" the cook said. "Mebbe Ole Think Box has gone loco! An' it
could be my fault!"




CHAPTER XI

AN ELECTRICAL CHRISTENING


"What are you talking about, Chow?" Tom asked, turning to the old
Westerner in amazement.

Chow related how he had dropped the bubble gum inside the robot's head.
"Did I ruin the critter?" he asked fearfully.

Tom was thoughtful for a moment, frowning as they watched Ole Think Box
continue its gyrations. The figure seemed to be calming down somewhat,
although Tom could not be sure of this.

Suddenly his face brightened. A new thought had just struck the young
inventor! To Chow's amazement, Tom slapped the cook happily on the back.

"I think you've done me a favor, Chow!" he exclaimed.

"I have?" The old Texan stared at his young boss, as if not sure whether
or not to believe him. "How come?"

"You saw how Ole Think Box reacted to the gum," Tom explained. "That
shows the energy really is like a brain! It's responsive and sensitive
to conditions of its environment, especially when coming up against
something new and unexpected."

"You mean they don't have bubble gum on Planet X?" Chow asked with a
grin.

Tom smiled as Bud said, "This means we should be able to communicate
with it."

"And the brain will probably be able to communicate back to us!" Tom
went on excitedly. "We may even be able to learn about Planet X!"

As he spoke, Ole Think Box's whirling became slower and slower. Finally
it came to rest close to the three humans.

"What do you suppose happened to the gum?" Bud asked. "Did he chew it
all up?"

"It's probably unchanged," Tom replied. "Our visitor is used to it now."

Chow was still wide-eyed with awe. He stared at the strange creature as
if expecting it to snap at him in revenge for the gum.

"Don't worry, old-timer. Think Box won't bite," Bud teased. "With that
gum spree, he's just been initiated into our American tribal customs!"
The pilot grinned. "Hey! We haven't given him a proper name."

"You're right." Tom looked at his pal and chuckled. "Got any ideas?"

"Hmm. Let me see." Bud scowled and paced about with his hands clasped
behind his back. "Firetop--John Q. Pyro--"

"But it ain't on fire now," Chow pointed out.

"Maybe not, but he sure blazed a trail getting here," Bud argued.

Tom and Chow countered with several ideas of their own, but nothing
seemed suitable until Bud suddenly stopped short and snapped his
fingers.

"I have it! He's a visitor from Planet X, so let's call him _Exman!_"
Bud spelled it out.

"Perfect!" Tom was delighted and Chow agreed that it seemed "a right
good monicker." The Texan insisted seriously that if the creature were
going to be named, he should also have a proper christening.

"Why not?" Tom agreed, as both boys broke into laughter. Bud also liked
the idea.

Chow had a troublesome afterthought. He shoved back his sombrero,
squinted frowningly at the brain container, and scratched his bald head.
"For boat christenings and statues and what not, you break bottles on
'em or cut ribbons or pull a sheet off 'em," the cook said. "But how in
tarnation do you christen a buckaroo from space?"

"Nothing to it, Chow," Tom assured him. "We'll do the job up nice and
fancy with a display of electricity. But first let's get Exman over to
the lab."

The three loaded the energy container into the pickup truck which had
brought it to the hillside spot. Then Tom drove back to Enterprises and
they took Exman into his private laboratory.

Here Tom attached an electrode to each side of the star head. One
electrode was safely grounded, the other connected to a Tesla coil.
Then, with all lights turned off in the laboratory, Tom threw a switch.

Instantly a dazzling arc of electricity sputtered through the darkness
across the creature's head! The eerie display lit up the room with such
impressive effect that both Bud and Chow felt their spines tingle.

"I christen you Exman!" Tom intoned.

For several moments he allowed the fiery arc to continue playing about
the star head. Then he opened the power switch and turned the room
lights back on.

"Wow! Quite a ceremony!" Bud murmured.

"After a send-off like that, I'll be expectin' the critter to do great
things here on this lil ole planet Earth!" Chow declared fervently.

"You could be right," Tom said.

Worn out by the long wait for their visitor from Planet X and the
excitement following his arrival, Chow finally went off to his own
quarters at Enterprises for a well-earned sleep.

"Guess you and I had better get some shut-eye too, pal," Tom told Bud.
"And I think I won't tell Dad until morning."

  [Illustration (Tom, Bud and Chow celebrate building Exman)]

The two boys decided to bunk on cots in the small apartment adjoining
Tom's laboratory. Exman, meanwhile, was left locked in the laboratory
with a tiny "night light" showing on him.

"Just a little ray of energy to keep him company," Tom explained with a
chuckle.

Minutes later, the two boys were sound asleep. For a while, all was
silent. Then the apartment's telephone rang, shattering the stillness.
Tom struggled out of the depths of sleep, got up, and groped his way
over to the wall phone.

"Tom Swift Jr. speaking."

A familiar voice asked, "Did it come?"

"Oh, hi, Dad!" Tom replied, yawning. "Yes, Exman arrived in fine shape.
We've put him to bed. Tell you all about it tomorrow morning."

"Okay, Tom."

As Tom hung up, Bud roused and switched on a lamp. He had awakened in
time to catch only part of Tom's words. "Your father?" he inquired.

Tom nodded sleepily and was about to go back to bed. But Bud, still
fascinated by the space visitor, decided to have a peek at Exman. He got
up and opened the door to the laboratory. A yell from him brought Tom
rushing to his side.

"Hey! It's gone!"

The spot by the night light where they had left Exman was now deserted!
Tom found a wall switch and pressed it. As light from the overhead
fluorescent tubes flooded the room, the boys gave laughing cries of
relief.

Ole Think Box had merely moved himself to another corner of the room!

"Guess he didn't like that little chum we left on for him," Bud said
with a chuckle.

"Let's leave him where he is," Tom agreed.

The two boys went back to the adjoining apartment and were soon asleep
again. Several hours later they were rudely awakened by a loud crash of
glass and a heavy thud.

"Something's happening to Exman!" Tom cried.

With Bud at his heels, the young inventor dashed into the laboratory.




CHAPTER XII

EXMAN TAKES ORDERS


A strange sight greeted Tom's and Bud's eyes. In the first rays of
sunlight, the space robot was moving back and forth about the laboratory
in wild zigzag darts and lunges.

As he rolled toward a bench or other object, the brain energy seemed to
send out invisible waves that knocked things over! Already the floor was
strewn with toppled lab stools, books, and broken test tubes. The heavy
thud had apparently been caused by a falling file cabinet.

"Stop him!" Bud yelped.

Exman was heading straight for a plate-glass window! Reaching from floor
to ceiling, the glass formed one entire wall of the laboratory.

"Oh, no!" Tom tensed, realizing that it was hopeless to try to stop
Exman in time.

But an instant later, the rolling robot stopped of its own accord, as if
registering the fact that its energy waves were now striking a fragile
surface. The thick pane of glass vibrated in its frame.

"Good grief!" Tom wiped his brow. "Let's corral that thing before he
wrecks the whole lab!"

Exman was already rolling off on a new tack. The two boys managed to
grab him before more harm was done. The brain energy in its container
seemed to calm under their touch.

"What in the name of space science triggered it off?" Bud wondered out
loud.

"Time. It must have reacted to the passage of time," Tom conjectured.
"I suppose it just decided to explore this place." He added a bit
nervously, "The sooner we can communicate with this energy, the better!"

"But how?" Bud asked.

Tom's brow furrowed. "Say, I wonder if Exman might understand a direct
order?"

Tom backed a few paces away from the space robot, then said in a loud,
clear voice, "Come here!"

Exman remained fixed to its spot.

"Move right!" No response. "Move left!" Still no response.

"Guess you're not getting through, skipper," Bud commented with a grin.

"No," Tom agreed. "I can't predict what kind of energy this brain will
respond to. Being only energy, it must respond to other energy and sound
is our form of energy. The problem is the same as with radio waves,
which are also energy. We must figure out how we can vary the energy, so
it can transmit information to Exman."

"What _do_ we try?" Bud asked. "Or is it hopeless?"

"I'll try communicating with it via the electronic brain, which I have
adapted to fit this problem."

The boys cleaned up the wreckage caused by Exman in his dawn venturings.
Then Tom went by jeep to the computer laboratory, made connections to
his electronic brain, and wired it for remote control. Then he returned
to the private laboratory. There Bud watched as he hooked up the leads
from the computer to a transmitting-receiving decoder with a short-range
antenna.

"Speak, O Master!" Bud said, imitating a squeaky robot voice. "Sound off
loud and clear!"

Tom grinned and tapped out a command on the keyboard: _Move backward._

Exman rolled backward! Bud gave a whoop of delight.

Tom signaled: _Move forward._ Obediently Exman rolled toward him.

_Stop._ Exman stopped.

"Hey, how about that?" Bud exclaimed happily. "It really savvies those
electronic brain impulses!"

"And minds them--which is equally important," Tom added.

A moment later the brain energy seemed to become impatient. It spurted
off in its wheeled container toward a laboratory workbench.

_Crash!_ A rack of test tubes went sailing to the floor with an
explosion of tinkling glass.

_Stop!_ Tom signaled frantically. Again Exman obeyed the order.

"It's like a mischievous kid," Bud said.

Almost as if in defiance, Exman scooted off in another direction. Then
it stopped abruptly and swiveled around, one of its antenna arms
knocking a Bunsen burner to the floor as it did so.

_Come here!_ Tom signaled. As the culprit approached, he added sternly,
_Stop where you are. And stay there until you receive further orders._

This time Exman stood patiently, awaiting the next signal. Bud got a
brush and dustpan, and the boys cleaned up the broken test tubes and
replaced the burner on its shelf.

Then Tom began feeding more complicated instructions to Exman through
the electronic brain. He guided him through a number of dancelike
movements and other drills, and got him to send out a wave of heat which
the boys could instantly feel. Tom was even able to make the robot aim
its wave energy so as to short-circuit a switch on an electrical control
panel.

Tom was both pleased and excited. "Bud," he exclaimed, "the brain reacts
as quickly as that of a highly intelligent being! Just imagine--without
any sort of decoding equipment, it can pick up and _understand_ the
radio signals I beam out to it!"

"What we need now," Tom went on, "is a simple language to get our ideas
across to Exman without having to use the electronic brain all the time.
That means I must find a way to give Exman senses as we humans
have--smell, touch, sight, hearing, taste. Then it could receive the
same reactions we do and talk directly to us!"

"Sounds like quite an order," Bud said wryly. "Speaking of which, how
about us phoning Chow an order for breakfast?"

He did so, and a short time later Chow wheeled a food cart into the
laboratory. As he dished out man-sized helpings of ham and eggs, the
cook kept a wary eye on Exman. Tom was putting the robot through a few
more lively maneuvers.

"A good meal'd calm down Ole Think Box," Chow observed grumpily. "But
what do you feed that there kind o' contraption?"

"Well, not gum, that's for sure!" Bud teased. After tasting his first
forkful of food, he gasped, "And none of this ham!"

Jumping up from his lab stool, Bud began whirling, dancing around, and
flapping his arms as if he were burning up.

"Help! Help!" he yelled. "Chow's poisoned me--just like he did Exman!"

Chow's leathery old face paled under its desert tan. "Great snakes,
Tom!" the Texan gulped. "Have I really pizened him? Maybe we should call
Doc Simpson!"

Doc was the medic in charge of the Enterprises infirmary.

Tom was unable to keep a straight face. "Better call someone with a
strait jacket--or a butterfly net!" he said, quaking with laughter. "I'm
afraid he's just pulling your leg, Chow!"

Chow's jaw clamped shut like a bear trap and he glared at the
pirouetting young flier. Bud collapsed on his stool, doubled over with
mirth.

"Sorry, old-timer," he gasped. "I just couldn't resist!"

"Okay, Buddy boy," Chow said darkly. "And mebbe I won't be able to
resist gettin' even one o' these days!" The cook stumped out of the
laboratory in his high-heeled cowboy boots, a picture of outraged
dignity.

"Better watch out, pal!" Tom warned with a grin. "Just remember: it's
never smart to bite the hand that feeds you!"

"I guess you're right," Bud agreed, wiping away the tears of laughter.
"I'll remember, just as long as Chow promises not to serve us any more
armadillo soup or rattlesnake salad!"

Chow's fondness for experimenting with weird dishes was a standing joke
around Enterprises.

The boys ate their meal hungrily. As they were finishing, Tom glanced at
the big clock on the wall. It was now well past eight o'clock.

"Wonder why Dad hasn't come to the lab," he remarked. "I'd better call
and find out if he's all right."

Tom picked up the telephone and asked the operator for the direct line
to the Swifts' home. His father answered.

"'Morning, Dad!" Tom greeted him. "I thought after your call last night,
you'd be over bright and early to see our visitor. He's already--"

"What are you talking about, son?" Mr. Swift broke in. "I didn't phone
you last night!"




CHAPTER XIII

DISASTER STRIKES


Tom was thunderstruck. "You didn't phone me? But, Dad, I got the
call--I definitely heard your voice!"

"That's impossible," Mr. Swift insisted. "Believe me, son, I slept
soundly from the time I turned in until a little while ago."

There was a moment of stunned silence as both Swifts realized that the
telephone call had been faked! Then Tom exclaimed:

"Dad, this is serious!"

"Deadly serious, I agree," his father replied. "Are you calling from
your lab?"

"Yes!"

"Stay there. I'll be right over," the elder scientist said.

When Mr. Swift arrived, Tom related his conversation with the mysterious
caller. His father listened with worried eyes and a puzzled frown.

"It's bad enough that an enemy was able to get the information," Mr.
Swift remarked. "But, potentially at least, it's even more dangerous
that he was able to imitate my voice so well. If he could fool you, Tom,
he could fool anyone!"

"Are you thinking the same thing I am, Dad?"

"That it may have been some insider here at Enterprises?" When Tom
nodded, his father gravely agreed. "Yes, son, it does look that way. To
imitate my voice convincingly, it would almost certainly have to be
someone who's had close contact with us--either at the plant or here in
Shopton."

The thought of a traitor at the experimental station was repugnant to
the Swifts and to Bud as well. Not only were all employees carefully
screened, but there was a close, almost family relationship among those
who took part in the exciting scientific ventures at Swift Enterprises.

Tom called Security and asked Harlan Ames to come over to the laboratory
at once. The security chief arrived within moments. Quickly Tom filled
him in on the details of the puzzling telephone call.

"Think back, skipper," Ames urged. "Was there anything at all you can
remember about the voice that might give us a tip-off? I mean, was it
deep, or maybe a bit higher-pitched than you expected? Or anything about
the way the caller pronounced his words?"

Tom shook his head. "Nothing. That's the trouble. He spoke only a couple
of sentences, but so far as I knew, it _was_ my father calling!"

"Hmmm." Ames frowned. "What about background noises?"

Tom thought hard. "None. If I had detected any special sounds during the
call, I'm sure they would have stuck in my mind."

Ames tried another tack. He asked how many people had known about the
expected arrival of the brain energy from space. This was harder to
answer, but as Tom and his father enumerated the persons, it did help to
narrow the circle of suspects.

Besides the Swifts, Chow, Phyl, Ames, and George Dilling, there were
three groups who had had access to the information. One was the radio
operators at the space-communications laboratory. Another consisted of
Arv Hanson and Hank Sterling and the workmen who had taken part in
building the energy container. The last group, which also included Hank
and Arv, were the technicians who had actually gone to the hillside to
await the visitor from Planet X.

Tom scowled. "None of those people would pull such a trick, Harlan--any
more than the ones like you and Arv and Hank who are above suspicion.
Most of them could have easily obtained the news without going through
such a rigmarole."

Mr. Swift nodded. "Tom's right. Unless, of course, they had some urgent
reason for wanting to find out as soon as possible."

"Which makes me think it may have been an outsider after all," Tom
argued. "Remember, the Brungarians may have intercepted the code
messages to or from our space friends." After a moment's silence, he
added gloomily, "Whoever the caller was, he knew the energy was
arriving. And now he knows it's here!"

Bud interjected, "Well, if he was a Brungarian agent and he's hoping to
steal the brain energy, one thing's sure. No earthquake will demolish
this place as long as the energy is here at Enterprises."

"A comforting thought, Bud," Mr. Swift commented with a wry smile.

Again Tom frowned. "At any rate, Harlan, see if you can get a line on
that impostor."

Ames departed to begin a thorough check of all personnel at the plant
who might have been implicated. Bud went on an errand, as Tom began
showing his father the accomplishments of the space robot.

"We've christened him Exman," Tom said.

By means of the electronic brain, he made the visitor do a number of
maneuvers in response to orders.

"Wonderful!" Mr. Swift exclaimed, greatly impressed. "Let's see if he
can use his caterpillar treads as well as he does the wheels."

Tom brought a small flight of portable aluminum stairs which he used for
reaching up on high shelves or tinkering with outsized machines. Tom was
uncertain at first how to code the command, having no symbol for steps
or stairs. Finally he moved Exman to the bottom of the steps and
signaled simply: _Go up!_

Exman paused for a moment, then attempted the ascent. His caterpillar
tracks clawed their way up the first step. Then, gingerly, he essayed
the next. The robot body tilted, but its gyro kept it from toppling
over.

"Bravo!" Mr. Swift applauded encouragingly. But the next instant Exman
gave up! He slid back to the floor again with a heavy bump. Then he
began whirling and darting about madly.

"Good night! Exman's gone berserk!" Tom cried.

Now wafts of smoke could be seen issuing from the robot's wheels. He was
banging wildly about the laboratory, leaving a trail of havoc.

Bud, who had returned, opened the door to come in. Instantly Exman
lunged toward him, antennas sparking fiercely and wheels smoking. Bud
slammed the door hastily.

The Swifts, too, found it wiser to take cover. They crouched behind a
lab workbench until the frenzy was over. Presently Exman subsided and
rolled to a complete standstill.

"Good grief!" Tom stood up cautiously and eyed the creature. It made no
further move. Bud poked his head through the doorway for a wary look,
then re-entered the laboratory.

"What made him blow his top?" Bud asked.

Then Tom heard a quiet chuckle from his father. "Actually, boys," the
elder scientist said, "I think we should be encouraged."

"_Encouraged?_" Tom stared at his father.

  [Illustration
   (Tom Jr. and Tom Sr. watch as Exman tries to climb stairs)]

Mr. Swift nodded. "Yes, the whole thing was rather a noteworthy
reaction. I believe Exman was displaying a fear complex about navigating
up those stairs."

Tom gasped, then broke out laughing. "Dad, you're right! I'll bet when
its body tilted over, the brain wasn't sure whether the gyro would keep
it from being wrecked. It just shows Ole Think Box is getting more human
all the time!"

Bud ventured to pat Exman on its "back." "Relax, kid," he said with a
chuckle. "You're among friends and we wouldn't dream of letting you get
hurt. You're too valuable!"

Mr. Swift stroked his jaw thoughtfully. "Valuable, yes, if we can only
get it to communicate. Tom, I believe the first project we should work
on is a way to make Exman talk."

After the debris had been cleaned up, the two scientists pulled up
stools to the workbench and began to discuss the problem. Bud, seeing
them absorbed, and realizing the discussion would soon be far beyond his
depth, snapped a grinning salute at Exman and quietly left the
laboratory.

"Dad, the toughest part won't be the speech mechanism itself," Tom
pointed out. "There are several ways we could handle that--by modulating
a column of air, for instance, or by some sort of speaker diaphragm. The
real stumper will be how to teach him our spoken language."

Mr. Swift nodded. "I'm afraid you're right. If the inhabitants of Planet
X communicate telepathically, or by some sort of wave transfer, they may
have long since forgotten any concept of a spoken language."

The Swifts batted several ideas back and forth. Then Tom snapped his
fingers.

"Wait, Dad! We have the answer! The electronic brain!"

Mr. Swift's eyes lighted up. "Of course! The machine already translates
the space code into written English. All we need do is add a device to
convert the machine's impulses into sound!"

In two hours the Swifts had put together a mechanism designed to work
through a tape recorder. This was hooked up to the electronic brain.

After recording for several moments, Tom reversed the tape and switched
on the playback. A squeaky jumble of noises could be heard. But one word
seemed to come through fairly distinctly. "Universe!"

"It's talking!" Tom cried out.

"Trying to, but not succeeding very well," Mr. Swift said.

Nevertheless, the two scientists were jubilant at this first
breakthrough. Eagerly they began making adjustments--both on the
electronic-brain hookup and the converter mechanism. Tom was just about
to switch on the tape recorder again when the telephone rang.

The young inventor was annoyed at being interrupted at such a crucial
moment, but picked up the phone. "Tom Swift Jr. speaking."

"You have an urgent call from Washington," the operator informed him.
"Just a moment, please."

Bernt Ahlgren was calling from the Pentagon. The defense expert's voice
was strained.

"Tom, there's just been another attempt to cause an earthquake here in
Washington!"

Tom gasped. "What happened?"

"It failed, thanks to you. But Intelligence believes an attempt will be
made on New York City very soon. We need your help to stop it. How near
completion are the other shock deflectors?"

Before Tom could answer, he heard excited voices at the other end of the
line. Then Ahlgren broke in again abruptly.

"A news flash, Tom! The Walling range-finder plant has been demolished
by an earthquake!"




CHAPTER XIV

AIR-BORNE HIJACKERS


Mr. Swift, hearing Tom's dismayed reaction, rushed to the telephone.

"What's wrong, son?"

Tom clamped his hand over the mouthpiece and quickly gave his father the
news of the destroyed range-finder plant. Then he spoke into the
telephone.

"Bernt, we must prevent another disaster! Let me check with our
construction company on the Quakelizors and I'll call you right back!"

"Right, Tom," Ahlgren agreed.

Both Tom and Mr. Swift were shocked by this latest blow of their
enemies. Tom called Ned Newton at the Swift Construction Company at once
and told him the news.

"How soon will the Quakelizors be ready, Uncle Ned?"

"They're finished, Tom. We're running a final inspection on them right
now. We can have them ready to ship out by one o'clock."

Tom relayed word to the Pentagon. Bernt Ahlgren was greatly relieved.
"By the way," Tom went on, "what about the sites? Have they been chosen
yet?"

"Only tentatively," Ahlgren replied. "We wanted to get your opinion
first."

One of the deflectors, Ahlgren felt, should be based in position to
guard the New York and New England area, in view of Intelligence
warnings about a probable attack on New York City. Another, in the
Cumberland plateau region of Kentucky, could damp out shock waves
threatening either the heavily industrialized Great Lakes area or any
southern city.

As to the other three Quakelizors, Ahlgren suggested that one be
installed on the West Coast, one in the Black Hills of South Dakota, and
the third on the Atlantic island of San Rosario. This would protect both
Latin-American allies and Caribbean defense bases of the United States.

Before deciding, Tom asked that Dr. Miles at the Bureau of Mines be
circuited into the telephone conversation. Mr. Swift, too, joined in on
another line. The four scientists discussed the problem and referred to
geologic maps. Finally the exact sites were agreed upon.

"Dad, I'm going to deliver and install one of those Quakelizors myself,"
Tom declared, after the telephone conference ended. "Judging from that
phone impostor last night, there's no telling what sort of trick our
enemies may try next!"

Mr. Swift approved heartily. "Good idea, son. In the meantime, I'll see
what I can accomplish with Ole Think Box here."

Tom notified Uncle Ned of the delivery sites. He requested that because
of the urgency of the situation, Swift planes transport the Quakelizors.
Mr. Newton promised to have five cargo jets loaded and prepared for
take-off from the construction company airfield.

Next, Tom turned to the job of rounding up flight crews. He decided that
Hank Sterling, Arv Hanson, Art Wiltessa, and a crack Swift test pilot,
Slim Davis, would each captain a plane.

Tom was just hanging up the telephone when Chow wheeled in a lunch cart,
bearing sizzling servings of steak for the two Swifts.

"How's Ole Think Box comin' along?" Chow inquired.

"All right now, but he went berserk a while back," Tom replied with a
chuckle.

Chow eyed the robot apprehensively and made a hasty exit. Both Tom Jr.
and Tom Sr. were amused.

As they ate, the two scientists continued their discussion on how to
equip Exman with senses and the power of speech. Several minutes later,
when they were finishing dessert, Bud came into the laboratory.

"Tom, what's this about you hopping off somewhere to install a
Quakelizor?" he asked anxiously.

"Don't worry, pal. I'll need my usual copilot," Tom said with a grin.
"Just didn't have time to call you before lunch. We'll be flying down to
a place called San Rosario in the Caribbean."

At one o'clock Tom briefed the flight crews and technicians. Slim was
provided with three men who had worked on the original model of the
quake deflector. After making sure that every man knew his job, Tom had
the groups flown by helicopter over to the Swift Construction Company
airfield.

Tom and Bud's cargo jet was the second to take off. On signal from the
tower, the big workhorse thundered down the runway and soared off into
the blue. Soon it was spearing southward above the waters of the
Atlantic.

Presently Bud drew Tom's attention to some blurry specks of light on the
radarscope. "Looks like a formation of planes, skipper."

Tom studied the blips for a while. "Guess you're right. It's sure not a
flock of sea gulls!" The young inventor frowned.

"Worried, Tom?" Bud asked quietly.

Tom shrugged. "It could be a routine military flight."

He increased speed and climbed for altitude. But the blips on the
radarscope showed that the planes were coming steadily closer. It was
clear that they were targeting on the Swift cargo jet.

Tom switched on the radio. Presently a voice crackled over their
headphones:

"Calling Swift jet!" The voice was heavily accented.

"Brungarians!" Bud muttered.

Tom made no reply to the radio challenge. Again came the voice:

"Calling Swift jet! Make emergency landing on the water!"

Tom's only response was a fresh burst of speed. Gunning the jet motors,
he sent the big cargo ship arrowing forward at supersonic velocity.

"There they are!" Bud cried suddenly. He pointed to a cluster of silvery
glints in the sky at seven o'clock.

Tom zoomed downward into a billowing cloud bank. It was a feeble hope
and Tom knew it. His only real chance now was to outrun or outmaneuver
the marauders.

The slim hope faded as they emerged from the cloud cover moments later.
The enemy planes were not only still dogging them, but closing in
rapidly. Sleek, needle-nosed attack ships, they appeared to have
seaplane hulls.

"Wow! Those are new ones!" Bud gasped.

"Our last warning to Swift jet! Hit the water or be shot down!" came the
enemy voice.

Tom raced along, his mind searching frantically for a method of escape.

Bud switched off radio power momentarily. "If we're going to be
hijacked, skipper, let's ditch your invention before it's too late!"

Tom shook his head stubbornly. "Why should I let those pirates bulldoze
us? Actually, I think they're after Exman!"

This last thought was a hunch that had just occurred to Tom. It was
clear that their foe had learned about the arrival of the energy from
space. "But so far," Tom reasoned, "there's no cause to suppose they
know anything about the quake deflectors."

Stalling for time, Tom switched on the radio again and spoke into the
mike. "Swift jet to attack planes. Our home base is picking up every
word of your threats. Shoot us down and America will consider it an act
of war!... Care to risk it?"

There was a moment's silence, then a reply. "War, you say? How can there
be a question of war? War against whom? You do not even know our
national identity!"

"Don't kid yourselves, mister!" Bud put in with a snarl. "We know, all
right, and so does United States Intelligence!"

Tom decided to risk a blunt query, without actually giving away any
facts, in case his hunch about the Brungarian's knowledge was wrong.

"There was a phone call to Swift Enterprises last night," he radioed.
"We know it was a fake. We also know your agents are aware of our
visitor.... Right?"

After a pause, the enemy spokesman replied, "Perhaps. If so, what then?"

"Just this," Tom radioed back. "If you're hoping to meet our visitor,
you're out of luck. I'll give you my word for it. Do you think we'd risk
such a valuable character in an unguarded crate like this?"

Tom and Bud looked at each other. Somehow, both boys felt instinctively
that Tom's words had struck home. The enemy had certainly risen to the
bait.

Finally came the reply. "You Swifts have a reputation for scrupulous
honesty." There was a slight sneer in the speaker's voice as if he
considered this a foolish weakness. "You give me your word of honor that
this--er--character is not aboard?"

"I do!" Tom snapped. "And if you don't trust me, go ahead and risk a
war!"

The boys waited breathlessly for the outcome of Tom's bold gamble. Soon
they saw the result. The pursuing planes suddenly peeled off and sped
away in the direction from which they had first appeared.

"Whew!" Bud wiped his hand across his face and drew it away moist with
perspiration. "How do you like that?"

Tom chuckled with relief. "I like it fine, fly boy. But I was sure
worried there for a while!"

Less than an hour later, the big cargo jet touched down at the San
Rosario airport. An armed guard was on hand to greet the boys, under
command of an officer named Captain Sanchez. He had brought along a work
crew of soldiers and also a geology expert, Professor Leone, from the
island's small technical school.

"I have selected a spot on the eastern shore of the island," the
professor told Tom. He unrolled a map and explained the site.

"Excellent," Tom agreed.

The Quakelizor parts, communications equipment, and small atomic earth
blaster were quickly unloaded and transported to the site by trucks. In
three hours the installation was finished.

Tom, who spoke Spanish fairly well, explained to a small group of San
Rosario military technicians how the quake deflector worked. He also
detailed one of his own men to stay on as trouble shooter for the setup.

"And now," said Captain Sanchez, beaming, "we must relax and celebrate
the friendship of our two countries."

Tom and Bud, though eager to get home, hesitated to hurt the friendly
officer's feelings. They sat through a delicious meal, followed by
numerous speeches. When his own turn to speak came, Tom used it to warn
against possible sabotage attempts by the Brungarians. At last the boys
were allowed to take off with their crew.

"Swell guys," Bud said, when the boys were airborne, "but a bit hard to
break away from!"

Tom grinned, then became serious. "You know, Bud," he said thoughtfully,
"those aerial hijackers gave me an idea."

"Let's have it, skipper."

"If only I could get Exman perfected so he would report back to me," Tom
explained, "I could _let_ him be kidnaped. Think what a wonderful
'inside man' he'd make in the enemy setup! He could tip us off to
everything the Brungarians were doing!"

"Hey, that's neat!" Bud exclaimed, wide-eyed. "But how could you be sure
those Brungarian rebel scientists wouldn't change him somehow? I mean
they might brainwash him or something."

"It's a risk," Tom agreed. "But that's my problem--how to make a perfect
spy out of him."

It was midnight when the cargo jet touched down on the Enterprises
airfield. The boys slept soundly.

The next morning Tom reported to Mr. Swift and Harlan Ames the outcome
of his trip to San Rosario, including the attack en route by unmarked
sky raiders. He also privately told his father about his plan to use
Exman as an electronic spy. Mr. Swift was enthusiastic.

The two scientists promptly set to work. Mr. Swift built two powerful
but miniature radio sets; one for receiving, one for transmitting. Tom,
meanwhile, was busy on another device, also highly miniaturized,
combining features of both the electronic decoder and Tom's famous
midget computers, known as Little Idiots.

With this equipment, Tom hoped, Exman would be able to monitor all
communications at Brungarian rebel headquarters, then radio the
information to Enterprises.

Chow brought lunch to the laboratory at noon, and Bud came in later.
Both stayed to watch the outcome of the experiment. Hank Sterling and
Arv Hanson joined the group.

By midafternoon the equipment was ready for a tryout. Tom opened Exman's
star head, inserted the gear, and made the delicate wiring connections.

"So far, so good," the young inventor murmured, stepping back. "Now for
the real test! Will Exman answer our questions?"

Tom walked over to the electronic decoder brain and began to tap out a
message on the keyboard. The others waited in breathless suspense.




CHAPTER XV

KIDNAPED!


The message which Tom signaled in code over the electronic brain said:

    WE HAVE A DANGEROUS PLAN. IF PLAN WORKS, YOU MAY BE EXPOSED TO
    ENEMY TAMPERING. WILL THIS BE SAFE? CAN YOU STAND THIS?

There was a tense pause. Then the signal bell rang on the machine and
the keys began to punch out a reply on tape:

    NO ONE CAN ALTER THIS BRAIN NOR CAN THEY CHANGE ITS PURPOSE.
    THEY CAN ONLY DESTROY THE ENERGY HOLDER.

As Tom finished reading the message aloud, Chow gave a whoop of delight
and the whole group burst into spontaneous cheers.

"Terrific, skipper!" Bud exclaimed, clapping his pal on the back. The
others gathered around to add their congratulations.

Mr. Swift, beaming with pride, gave Tom a quick hand-squeeze. "It's an
amazing achievement, son. And it may prove to be the key for unlocking
the secrets of space, if and when we have time for some research after
this crisis is over."

"I sure hope so, Dad," Tom murmured. Though jubilant, the young inventor
realized that this was only the first step in his plan to checkmate the
Brungarian rebels.

_The real perils still lay ahead!_

Tom called Harlan Ames and asked him to come to the laboratory for a
conference. When the security chief arrived, he was as impressed as the
others with the way Tom was able to communicate with Exman.

"The problem now," Tom said, "is how do we have him kidnaped?"

Chow, wary as a coyote, offered his opinion that the safest way would be
merely to leave the space robot unguarded somewhere about the grounds of
Enterprises.

Ames shook his head. "Too obvious. They'd suspect a trap." Tom agreed.

"Wal, then, how about truckin' him along the highway hereabouts, as if
you all were sendin' him down to Washington?"

This, too, was vetoed on the grounds that a shrewd espionage agent would
guess that such a valuable prize would never be entrusted to a slow and
vulnerable method of transport.

"Then what about an air flight?" Hank Sterling suggested.

"Brand my six-guns, that'd be jest beggin' to git yourself shot down!"
Chow fumed.

"Not if we used a plane like the _Sky Queen_, equipped with jet
lifters," Hank argued. "If any hijack planes jumped us, they'd have to
let us come down safely in order to get their hands on Exman. We could
land on the water or just hover while they made the transfer."

"And after they had it safe aboard their own plane, they'd blast yours
to smithereens!" Chow retorted.

Tom, too, thought a plane flight unwise, but for different reasons. It
might look suspicious to the Brungarians after the Swifts had been
warned by one aerial hijack attempt. Also, they might be deterred by
fear of war, thinking that the United States Air Force would doubtless
be alerted to the possibility of attack.

"So right," Ames agreed. After a thoughtful pause, he added, "Tom, what
about transporting Exman by submarine? We know that every spy apparatus
in this hemisphere is constantly trying to probe what goes on at Fearing
Island, where our subs are based."

"No doubt about that," Tom conceded.

"So," Ames continued, "any move to Fearing would certainly make the
Brungarian agents prick up their ears. Their own spy subs probably would
come prowling around the island and detect the departure of a Swift sub.
And they might feel that an undersea hijack attempt would be a fairly
safe gamble."

The others looked thoughtful, then slowly nodded in agreement. Ames's
reasoning sounded highly logical.

"Tom, you'll insist on going, I suppose," Mr. Swift said somberly.

"Of course, Dad. After all, the kidnap plan was my own idea," Tom
replied. "Another thing I'll insist on is that you _don't_ go. We have
Mother and Sandy to think of, and it's not right that both of us risk
our necks."

Realizing that it was hopeless to dissuade his son, and realizing the
basic fairness of Tom's position, Mr. Swift did not argue. Bud, Hank,
Chow, and Arv immediately volunteered to accompany the young inventor on
his dangerous mission.

Tom gratefully accepted their help. He asked all hands to assemble on
the Enterprises airfield at six the next morning for the flight to
Fearing.

After the others had left, Tom and his father resumed their experiments
with Exman. Mr. Swift suggested adding a device to the radio equipment
to make it disintegrate if tampered with. "Before those rebel
Brungarians can learn the secret of your electronic spy."

"Good idea, Dad. And how about our doing the job with Swiftonium?" This
was an unusual radioactive ore which Tom had discovered in South
America.

Mr. Swift nodded as he began work.

Tom watched admiringly as his father reconstructed the radio, coating
the entire thing with a Swiftonium compound. He at once placed the set
in a small oven which he raised to 50 degrees centigrade.

"When this cools, the set will be stable," Mr. Swift said. "But if you
should move any part of it after it cools, all of the organic parts,
like the circuit boards, the insulation, the carbon resistors, etc.,
will oxidize and disappear as gas. You will not even be able to tamper
with a single unit."

"Wonderful, Dad," Tom murmured when the device was finished. "I wish I
had your know-how in microchemistry."

"And I wish I had yours in electronics!" the elder scientist declared
with a chuckle.

After Mr. Swift had installed the device in Exman's star head, Tom used
the electronic brain to inform the robot about the whole scheme.

Both Tom Jr. and Tom Sr. were delighted when Exman showed real
enthusiasm. It replied via the printed tape on the decoder:

    DO NOT WORRY, MY FRIENDS. I WILL NOT RESPOND TO ANY ATTEMPTS BY
    BRUNGARIAN SCIENTISTS TO COMMUNICATE WITH ME. MY PLANET IS WELL
    AWARE OF THEIR DANGEROUS AIMS. HAVING CONQUERED YOUR WORLD, THEY
    WOULD NEXT INVADE SPACE.

"Looks as though Exman's got their number, all right!" Tom said with
satisfaction.

Early the next morning Mr. Swift drove Tom to the Enterprises airfield
to meet his friends. Hank Sterling, Bud, and Chow were already on hand,
and Arv Hanson arrived a few moments later. Tom and Bud left the others
to bring Exman in a small panel truck.

Soon the space robot was safely loaded aboard a transport helicopter.
The others took their places inside the cabin.

"Good luck, son!" Mr. Swift forced a smile as he gave Tom a parting
handshake.

"Don't worry, Dad. I'll be back soon!" Tom assured him. The nature of
the trip had been described only vaguely to Mrs. Swift and Sandy in
order to keep them from worrying.

The short hop overwater to Fearing Island was soon completed. Lying just
off the Atlantic coast, Fearing had once been a barren, thumb-shaped
expanse of scrubgrass and sand dunes. Now it was the Swifts' top-secret
rocket base, tightly guarded by drone planes and radar.

As the helicopter approached its destination, Tom radioed for clearance,
then whirred down toward the landing field. The barracks, workshops, and
launching area of the base lay spread out in full view. Cargo rockets
bristled on their launching pads, along with Tom's spaceships, including
the mighty _Titan_, and the oddly shaped _Challenger_ and _Cosmic
Sailer_.

North and south, the island was fringed with docks. Here the recovery
tugs and fuel tankers were moored, as well as the Swifts' fleet of
undersea craft.

Tom had chosen a cargo-hauling jetmarine, named the _Swiftsure_. It was
a larger version of his original two-man jet sub, the _Ocean Dart_. He
had given orders the night before to have it ready for sea by morning.

By jeep and truck, Tom's group sped across the island to the dock. Exman
was quickly lowered aboard through the sub's hatch. The others followed,
the conning-tower hatch was dogged shut, and soon the _Swiftsure_ was
gliding off into the shadowy blue-green depths.

"What's your sailing plan, skipper?" Hank Sterling inquired. The
quiet-spoken, square-jawed engineer stood beside Tom at the atomic
turbine controls and looked out through the transparent nose of the
jetmarine.

"Go slow. Give 'em plenty of chance to pick up our trail," Tom replied.

For two hours they cruised at moderate speed. Nothing happened.
Disappointed, Tom surfaced and radioed his father for news, after
cutting in the automatic scrambling device.

"You're in time for an exciting flash," Mr. Swift reported jubilantly.

"What is it, Dad?"

"An attempt to earthquake New York has just failed!"

Grins broke out on the faces of the crew as they heard Mr. Swift's words
come over the loud-speaker. Bud let out a happy whoop.

"That's great, Dad!" Tom said. "Maybe we've got 'em licked on the quake
front. No luck so far, though, on our new project."

"Well, keep in touch and let me know at once if anything happens," Mr.
Swift urged.

"Right, Dad!" Tom promised.

Again the _Swiftsure_ submerged. This time it was only a few minutes
before Arv Hanson gave a cry of warning.

"Something on the sonarscope, skipper!"

Bud, Hank, and Chow hastily gathered around the scope to watch. The blip
grew larger rapidly. It was clearly another submarine, closing in on a
collision course.

Tom put on a burst of speed, as if attempting to outrace their pursuer.
But he was careful to gauge his knots by reports from the sonarscope, in
order not to widen the gap between the two craft. There seemed no danger
that this would happen, although the _Swiftsure_ raced ahead faster and
faster. Still the enemy sub continued to close in like a marauding
shark, finally passing Tom's craft.

"Some baby!" Bud muttered respectfully.

The words were hardly out of his mouth when a missile streaked across
their bow, in plain view through the _Swiftsure's_ transparent nose. Its
foaming wake rocked the jetmarine.

"They're attacking us!" Bud cried out.

Tom slammed shut the turbine throttle, bringing his craft to a gliding
halt in the water. At the same time, he switched on the sonarphone.

"Orders to Swift sub!" a voice barked over the set. "Surface and heave
to! No tricks, or the next missile will not be across your bow!"

Tom blew his tanks and sent the _Swiftsure_ spearing upward. As the
conning tower broke water, Tom and his men swarmed up on deck. Seconds
later, a sleek gray enemy submarine knifed into view. Its hatch opened
and several men climbed out.

To Tom's amazement, their leader was Samson Narko!

Chow let out a yelp of rage. "Why, you sneakin', double-dyed,
bushwhackin' polecat!" the old Westerner bellowed. "We shoulda kept you
hawg-tied, 'stead o' lettin' you go free!"

Narko ignored the outburst and raised a megaphone to his lips. "Hand
over your cargo and do it quickly!"

"What cargo?" Tom snapped back. "And what's the meaning of this outrage?
You realize this is piracy?"

"I realize you will wind up on the bottom at the slightest show of
resistance!" Narko warned menacingly. "You know very well what cargo
I refer to! Now do not try our patience!"

  [Illustration (a submarine attacks the Swiftsure)]

Tom and his crew pretended to put up a blustering, indignant front. Chow
was especially convincing, with a blistering torrent of salty Texas
invectives.

Narko's only response was a barked-out order to his men in Brungarian.
Quickly the enemy submarine maneuvered closer until the two craft were
almost chockablock. Narko and his men then leaped aboard the
_Swiftsure_, armed with sub-machine guns and automatics.

"I'm warning you, Narko--" Tom began angrily. But Narko cut the young
inventor short by a poke in his ribs with the gun muzzle, then issued
orders to two of his men to go below.

Moments later, Exman was being hauled up through the hatch and
transferred aboard the raider. The Americans glared in angry silence.

"Thanks so much, my stupid friends!" Narko taunted them with a jeering
laugh. Then he followed his crewmen as the last one scrambled back to
the enemy submarine.

With laughs and waves, they disappeared into its conning tower. The
hatch was clamped shut and the raider promptly submerged.

Tom and his men were amazed, but delighted at not having been taken
prisoner along with Exman. All of them broke into happy chuckles of
relief.

"Wow! That's what I call fast service!" Bud exclaimed.

"It was sure a blamed sight easier'n I expected," Chow said. "Thought
fer a while we might end up feedin' the fishes!"

"You put on a real act, Chow!" Tom said, clapping the stout old cook on
the back. "Well, they've taken the bait. Now let's hope it pays off--for
us!"

The Americans swarmed below again, closed the hatch, and submerged. Tom
took his time in bringing the jet pumps up to speed. "Wonder if we
should pretend to proceed on course, or turn around and head for home?"
he murmured to Hank.

Hank's reply was cut short by a yell from Hanson at the sonarphone.

"Missile coming, skipper! Straight at us!"




CHAPTER XVI

A UNIQUE EXPERIMENT


"Bearing?" Tom cried.

"One-seven-five!" Arv Hanson sang out.

Tom gunned his port jet turbine and swung the _Swiftsure_ hard right.
The abrupt turn at high speed sent the craft sideslipping crazily like a
skidding race boat.

"Here she comes, skipper!" Bud yelled. He had rushed to the sonarscope
with the other members of the crew.

Tom's maneuver had carried them a good hundred yards off the missile's
course. Now he yanked a lever, pulling the cadmium rods still farther
from the atomic pile, in order to increase power and jet-blast their sub
still farther out of range.

But suddenly the men at the scope blanched. "The missile's turning too!"
Hank cried. "It's homing in on us!"

Unlike most Swift craft used on scientific expeditions, the cargo sub's
hull had not been coated with Tomasite. This would have insulated it
from all magnetic effects or any form of pulse detection. Tom had chosen
the _Swiftsure_ partly for this very reason, so that the Brungarian
rebels could easily pick up its trail after leaving Fearing.

How ironic if his choice should prove fatal! As the thought flashed
through Tom's brain, the missile came streaking into view through the
sub's transparent nose.

By this time, Tom had flipped up the _Swiftsure's_ diving planes. The
craft plummeted deeper into the ocean depths.

"Brand my whale blubber, she's turnin' again!" Chow gulped. The
missile's arc, as it veered around to follow, painted a streak of light
on the sonarscope.

Anxious moments raced by while Tom steered their craft in a deadly game
of tag with the sub-killer. Gradually the missile appeared to be losing
momentum.

"It's slowing down, all right!" Arv called out.

In a few minutes the missile had lost so much way that Tom was easily
able to outdistance it. The crew crowded to the scope, heaving sighs of
relief. The missile, its velocity spent, sank harmlessly toward the
bottom.

"Boy, what a close call!" Bud gasped weakly. "You played that thing like
a toreador sidestepping a bull, Tom! Nice going!"

The others echoed Bud's sentiments, with fervent handshakes and
backslaps for Tom's skillful evasive action.

"Jest the same," said Chow, "I'd sure like to make Narko an' them
Brungarian hoss thieves dance a Texas jig with a little hot lead sprayed
around their boot heels! Sneakin' bushwhackers! It's jest like I told
Hank about his airplane scheme--they'd try to gun us down, like as not,
soon as they got their hands on Exman!"

"I guess you had them figured right, Chow," Tom agreed wryly. "Well, at
least we've lost their sub!"

The Brungarian raider was no longer visible even as a faint blip on
their radarscope. Evidently Narko had thought the jetmarine a sure
victim and headed back to his own base.

Nevertheless, Tom steered a wary zigzag course back to Fearing. When
they arrived at the island, he immediately telephoned Bernt Ahlgren and
Wes Norris in Washington to report the hijacking of the space brain.
Both men praised the young inventor for his daring scheme to outwit the
ruthless Brungarian rebel clique.

"If your idea pays off, Tom, we should be able to checkmate every move
those phonies and their allies make!" Norris declared.

"I'm hoping we can do even better than that," Tom replied. "Part of my
plan is to help the Brungarian loyalists through Exman's tip-offs. With
some smart quarterbacking, we might be able to rally the rightful
government before all resistance is crushed out."

"Terrific!" Norris exclaimed. "Let's hope your scheme works!"

Tom had ordered the space oscilloscopes to be manned constantly, both at
Fearing and at Enterprises, in case of a flash from Exman. But no word
had yet been received when Tom and his companions arrived at the
mainland late that afternoon.

Mr. Swift greeted his son warmly at the airfield. Tom had refrained from
radioing the news to Enterprises after the hijacking and the missile
attempt. Any such message, Tom feared, might be picked up by the enemy
and bring on another attack. But the young inventor had telephoned his
father immediately after calling Washington.

Now Mr. Swift threw his arm affectionately around the lanky youth. "You
look pretty well bushed, son. Why not hustle home and call it a day?
That goes for the rest of you, too," he added to Bud, Chow, and the
others. "You've just risked your lives and the strain is bound to tell."

Tom urged his companions to comply. "But I'm sticking right here," the
young inventor told his father. "I want to be on hand the minute Exman
contacts us."

Bud insisted upon staying with his pal. The two boys ate a quiet supper
in Tom's private laboratory and finally lay down on cots in the
adjoining apartment. But first Tom posted a night operator to watch the
electronic brain.

"Wake me up the second that alarm bell goes off," he ordered.

"Okay, skipper," the radioman promised.

No message arrived to disturb the boys' rest. Tom felt a pang of worry
as he dressed the next morning, and then relieved the man on duty at the
decoder. Had the Brungarians somehow outwitted him? Surely Exman should
have reported by this time!

"Relax, pal," Bud urged. "Our space chum's hardly had time to learn any
secrets yet. Besides, those Brungarian scientists are probably giving
him the once-over with all sorts of electronic doodads. Why risk sending
a message till he has something important to tell us?"

"That's true," Tom admitted.

Chow brought in breakfast. "You jest tie into these vittles, boss, an'
stop frettin'," the cook said soothingly. "I reckon Ole Think Box won't
let us down."

Tom sniffed the appetizing aroma of flapjacks and sausages. "Guess
you're right, Chow," he said with a chuckle.

As the boys ate hungrily, Tom's thoughts turned back to the problem of
how to equip Exman with senses. He talked the project over with Bud.
Most of his ideas were too technical for Bud to follow, but he listened
attentively. He knew the young inventor found it helpful to have a
"sounding board" for his ideas.

"Too bad I didn't have time to tackle the job before Exman was
kidnaped," Tom mused. "Think how much more he could learn with 'eyes'
and 'ears'!"

"Stop crabbing," Bud joked. "Isn't an electronic spy with a brain like
Einstein's good enough?"

Mr. Swift arrived at the laboratory an hour or so later. He found Tom
setting up an experiment with a glass sphere to which were affixed six
powerful electromagnets. Two shiny electrodes, with cables attached to
their outer ends, had also been molded into the glass. Bud was looking
on, wide-eyed.

Tom explained to his father that he had blown the sphere himself,
following a formula adapted from the quartz glass used for view panels
in his space and undersea craft.

"What's it for, son?" Mr. Swift asked, after studying the setup
curiously.

"Don't laugh, Dad, but I'm trying to produce a brain of pure energy. A
substitute for Exman, so we can go ahead with our sensing experiments."

Mr. Swift reacted with keen interest and offered to help. "But remember,
son," he cautioned, "at best you can only hope to produce an ersatz
brain energy--which will be vastly different from the real thing. Don't
forget, Tom, the mind of a human being or any thinking inhabitant of our
universe is based on a divine soul. No scientist must ever delude
himself into thinking he can copy the work of our Creator."

"I know that, Dad," Tom said soberly. "Man's work will always be a crude
groping, compared to the miracles of Nature. All I'm hoping to come up
with here is a sort of stimulus-response unit that we can use for
testing any sensing apparatus we devise."

The two scientists plunged into work. First, a bank of delicate gauges
was assembled to record precisely every electrical reaction that took
place inside the sphere. Then Tom threw a switch, shooting a powerful
bolt of current across the electrodes. The field strength of the
electromagnets, controlled by rheostats, instantly shaped the charge
into a glowing ball of fire!

"Wow! A real hothead!" Bud wisecracked, trying to hide his excitement.

Tom grinned as he twirled several knobs and checked the gauges. The
slightest variation in field strength triggered an instant response from
the ball of energy. Mr. Swift tried exposing it to radio and repelatron
waves. Each time the gauges showed a sensitive reaction.

"Looks as if we're in business, Dad!" Tom said jubilantly.

Bud left soon afterward as the two Swifts buckled down to work on the
problem of perfecting an apparatus to simulate the human senses. Each
concentrated on a different line of approach.

At noon they broke off briefly for a lunch wheeled in by Chow. Then
silence settled again over the laboratory.

Tom had rigged up a jointed, clawlike mechanical arrangement with
sensitive diaphragms in its "finger tips." The diaphragms were connected
to a transistorized circuit designed to modulate the field current to
the electromagnets.

Suddenly the young inventor looked up at his father with a glow of
triumph.

"Dad, I just got a reaction to my sense-of-touch experiment!"




CHAPTER XVII

AN URGENT WARNING


Mr. Swift looked on eagerly as Tom explained and demonstrated his touch
apparatus. By moving a pantograph control, Tom was able to manipulate
the claws like a hand with fingers. Whenever they touched any material,
the brain gauges instantly registered an electrical reaction inside the
sphere.

The swing of a voltmeter needle showed how firmly the substance resisted
the claw's touch, thus indicating its hardness or softness.

"With a computer device, such as we planted in Exman," Tom went on, "the
brain would also be able to assimilate the textural pattern of any
substance."

"Wonderful, son!" Mr. Swift exclaimed. "I hope I can do as well with
this artificial sense of sight I'm working on."

Another hour went by before Mr. Swift was ready to test his own
arrangement.

"You've probably heard of the experiments conducted with blind persons,"
he told Tom. "By stimulating the right part of their brain with a lead
from a cathode-ray-tube device, an awareness of light and dark can be
restored."

Tom nodded.

"Well, I'm using the same principle," Mr. Swift went on, "but with a
sort of television camera scanning setup."

He asked Tom to draw the drapes and shut off the room lights, throwing
the laboratory into complete darkness, except for the weirdly glowing
"brain" in the glass sphere. Then Mr. Swift shone a flashlight at the
scanner. The brain responded by glowing more brightly itself!

Next, after the drapes were opened again and the overhead fluorescent
lights switched on, Mr. Swift painted a pattern of black-and-white
stripes on a large piece of cardboard. He held this up to the scanner.

Visible ripples of brightness and less-brightness passed through the
glowing ball of energy inside the sphere. It was reproducing the striped
pattern!

"Dad, that's amazing!" Tom said with real admiration.

Mr. Swift shook his head. "Pretty crude, I'm afraid. The brain energy by
itself can't take the place of a picture tube in a TV receiver. What we
need is an analog computer to sum up the scanning pattern picked up by
the camera tube and then pass this information along in code form."

Before Tom could comment, the alarm bell rang on the electronic brain.
The Swifts dropped everything and rushed to the machine.

"Wonder if it's Exman?" Tom exclaimed.

The answer was quickly revealed as the keys began punching out the
incoming message on tape. At the same time, a flow of strange
mathematical symbols flashed, one after another, on the lighted
oscilloscope screen mounted above the keyboard.

Tom and his father read the tape as it unreeled.

    SPACE BEINGS TO SWIFTS. REQUEST INFORMATION ON PROGRESS AND
    RESULTS OF ENERGY SENT TO YOUR PLANET.

After a quick consultation with his father, Tom beamed out the reply:

    WE ARE PLEASED WITH RESULTS SO FAR. FURTHER EXPERIMENTS NOW
    GOING ON. REQUEST VISIT TO CONTINUE LONGER THAN TWENTY-ONE DAYS
    AS PLANNED.

Hopefully the Swifts stood by the machine. Would their space friends
agree? As the minutes went by without a response coming through, father
and son exchanged anxious glances.

"They've _got_ to let Exman stay, Dad!" Tom said.

Mr. Swift nodded. "I'm afraid, though, the space beings have decided
otherwise. They--"

He was interrupted by the ringing of the alarm bell. "Message, Dad!" Tom
said tersely.

A moment later they were overjoyed to see three words appear on the
tape:

    VISIT EXTENSION GRANTED.

Relieved, the two scientists went back to work on their sensing
experiments. Twenty minutes later the signal bell rang again on the
electronic brain.

"This time it _must_ be Exman!" Tom cried.

The unreeling tape quickly bore out his guess.

    EXMAN TO SWIFTS. TWENTY-FOUR-HOUR EARTHQUAKE UNDER HIGH LOYALTY.

"What!" Tom stared at the tape, his brow creased in a puzzled frown.
"That 'twenty-four-hour earthquake' bit must mean he's warning us that a
quake will occur in twenty-four hours. But what about the rest of it?"

"Hmm... 'Under high loyalty.'" Mr. Swift was as baffled as Tom. He
studied the message for several minutes. It seemed highly unlikely that
the electronic brain had made an error in decoding. Any new or
untranslatable symbol caused a red light to flash on the machine.

"I think the only thing we can do is signal Exman and ask for a
clarification, Tom," Mr. Swift decided at last.

Tom agreed. He beamed out a hasty code signal:

    EXPLAIN MESSAGE.

Seconds later came Exman's reply. It was identical with the first
message:

    TWENTY-FOUR-HOUR EARTHQUAKE UNDER HIGH LOYALTY.

Tom and Mr. Swift stared at each other anxiously.

"Good night, Dad! This is horrible!" Tom exclaimed. "Exman sends us
ample warning of a disaster and we're stymied!"

  [Illustration (Tom Jr. and Tom Sr. read a message from Exman)]

"Hi! What's going on, you two?" asked a merry voice. "More heavy
thinking?"

Sandy Swift stood smiling in the doorway. The smile gave way to a look
of concern as Tom explained the crisis.

"How dreadful!" Sandy gasped. "We _must_ figure out what it means!...
Wait a minute!"

Tom looked at her expectantly. "Got an idea, Sis?"

"Well..." The pretty, blond teen-ager hesitated. "You don't suppose
Exman might have been translating some foreign words with a meaning
similar to 'high loyalty'? For instance, high loyalty could mean 'good
faith.' I know that in Latin 'good faith' would be _bona fide_."

"Sandy! You've guessed it!" Tom crossed the room in a single bound, gave
his sister a quick hug, and whirled her around. "Exman must mean the
Bona Fide Submarine Building Corporation! He didn't dare risk telling us
the exact translation."

"Of course!" Mr. Swift was equally jubilant. But his face was grave as
he added, "The company's located on the West Coast close to the San
Andreas fault. Tom, a quake in that area could be devastating!"

"You're right, Dad," the young inventor replied. "I'll call Dr. Miles
and Bernt Ahlgren at once!"

The telephone conversation that followed was grim with tension. Both
government men begged Tom to take personal charge of the
quake-deflection measures. Dr. Miles pointed out that tremors along the
fault might trigger off a chain of quakes amounting to a national
disaster.

After a hasty discussion, Tom agreed that he should station himself at
the Colorado site, rather than at the West Coast Quakelizor
installation. This would give him broader scope for damping out shock
waves across the continent.

"I'll fly out immediately!" the young inventor promised.

Ahlgren, meanwhile, would flash orders to the Bona Fide Company and to
civilian officials to have the entire area evacuated as soon as
possible.

Hasty preparations were made for Tom's departure. He telephoned the
airfield to have a jet plane with lifters readied for take-off. He also
had Bud paged over the plant intercom. The copilot came on the run. When
he heard the news, he was eager to accompany his pal.

"Listen, you two! I insist you have something to eat before you leave!"
Sandy declared.

Tom was impatient over any delay. When Sandy proceeded to call Chow, the
old Texan solved the problem by volunteering to go along as cook.

A short time later Chow came jouncing out to the airfield astride a
motor scooter, hauling a cart loaded with supplies.

"Good grief!" Tom said, unable to suppress a grin. "We'll be back
tomorrow, unless something goes wrong!"

"Bring food--that's my motto," Chow retorted, "like any good cook."

Minutes later, after a parting handshake from his father and a worried
kiss from Sandy, Tom sent the sleek jet racing down the runway for
take-off. Soon they were air-borne and heading westward. Chow served a
tasty meal en route.

It was still daylight when the jet landed vertically in the Colorado
canyon. The government crew manning the installation, and the Swift
technician who had relieved Art Wiltessa as trouble shooter on the
setup, greeted them eagerly.

"Looks as if we're in for a real test, Tom," said Mike Burrows, the
engineer in charge.

"Let's hope we pass!" said Tom, holding up crossed fingers.

He checked every detail of the Quakelizor, power plant, and the
communications gear. He opened an inspection panel in each of the
dual-control spheres and tuned the kinetic-hydraulic units so as to
step up the working pressure of the four powerful drivers.

"Well, all we can do now is wait," the young inventor muttered, wiping
his arm across his forehead.

Tom passed the night in a fitful sleep, half expecting to be wakened at
any moment by the stand-by crew on watch. No alarm occurred, however.

Dawn broke, and Chow delighted all hands with a hearty breakfast of
bacon, eggs, and corn fritters. More hours of waiting dragged by.

"What time do you think the attack will occur?" Bud asked.

Tom shrugged. "The 'twenty-four-hour' business may have been
approximate. But I'd say from two o'clock on is the danger period."

The young inventor checked frequently with Washington and the other
crews stationed around the country. Suddenly the radiotelephone operator
gave a yell.

"Your father is on the line, skipper!"

The scientist was calling from the receiver-computer headquarters at
Enterprises. "Exman has reported a quake pulse will be sent in seven
minutes--at 21.36 G.M.T."

"I'm ready, Dad," Tom said, then asked for various technical details
before hanging up.

He passed the word to the crew and glanced at his watch. A hasty,
last-moment inspection was carried out, every man checking certain
details of the setup.

Soon the pulsemakers began ticking inside the dual-control spheres as
they picked up the frequency signal by radio. Tom studied the gauge
dials.

Tension mounted rapidly among the waiting group. The same thought was
throbbing through every mind:

_Was the nation on the brink of a terrible disaster? Or would Tom
Swift's invention safeguard the threatened area?_

As the deadline approached, Tom pushed a button. The mighty hydraulic
drivers throbbed into action, sending out their pulse waves across the
continent!




CHAPTER XVIII

EARTHQUAKE ISLAND


Now came the hardest part of all for Tom and his companions--waiting to
learn if the shock deflectors had succeeded in blotting out the enemy
quake wave.

No one spoke. As the silence deepened inside the cave, the suspense
became almost unbearable. Minutes passed.

"When will we know, skipper?" a crewman ventured at last.

"Soon, I hope," Tom replied tersely.

But the waiting seemed endless. Bud's eyes met Tom's. The flier grinned
and held up crossed fingers, just as Tom had done to Mike Burrows the
previous evening. Tom managed a feeble grin in response.

Suddenly the telephone shrilled, shattering the silence of the cave. Tom
snatched it from the radioman's hands.

"Tom Swift here!... Yes?... Thank heavens! I guess we can all be
grateful, Dr. Miles!"

"Providence protected us, I'm sure, Tom," the seismologist replied at
the other end of the line. "But in this instance it worked through Tom
Swift's Quakelizors! The Bona Fide plant and the surrounding area never
even felt the tremor--your quake deflectors worked perfectly!"

There was no need to tell the others. Tom's words on the telephone and
the grin on his face told the story. A spontaneous volley of cheers
echoed through the cave as he hung up. Then the crew crowded around to
slap Tom on the back and shake his hand.

"I hope the whole country learns what you've done, Tom," Mike Burrows
said. "If it doesn't, I'll be the first to spread the word as soon as
the secrecy lid's taken off!"

"Shucks, I knew all along Tom's contraption would do the trick!" Chow
boasted, glowing with pride over his young boss's achievement.

Tom could only smile happily. "Guess we can go home now," he said to Bud
and Chow.

They were preparing to leave when another flash from Washington came
over the radiotelephone. A ship's captain, five hundred miles out on the
Pacific, had just reported sighting a great waterspout, accompanied by
considerable wave turbulence.

"It could have been the spot where the enemy shock waves and our
deflector waves met and damped out," Tom commented.

"Dr. Miles thinks so, too," the caller said.

Soon the sleek Swift jet was arrowing back across the continent. En
route, Tom radioed word of his latest triumph to Mr. Swift. As always,
he used the automatic scramblers to make sure any enemy eavesdroppers
would pick up only static.

"Great work, son!" Mr. Swift congratulated Tom. "I was confident you
could handle the situation with your Quakelizors."

"Thanks, Dad. See you soon."

When the jet finally landed at Enterprises and came to a halt on the
runway, the control tower operator spoke over the radio.

"Harlan Ames would like to see Tom Jr. at the security building. He left
word just a few minutes ago."

"Roger!" Tom replied.

Chow frugally carted off his leftover supplies. Tom and Bud, meanwhile,
went by jeep across the plant grounds to security headquarters.

Ames greeted the two boys enthusiastically. "Nice going on that
earthquake situation, Tom!" he said. "And now I have some more good
news. We've just nabbed the man who imitated your father's voice over
the phone the other night."

"What!" Both boys were excited, and Tom added eagerly, "Who is he?"

"An actor at the Shopton summer playhouse."

"How did you find out?" Tom asked.

"I had a hunch," Ames went on. "If the impersonator wasn't a plant
employee at Enterprises, then he had to be a person with a trained
voice. That gave me the idea of checking on all actors and station
announcers here in the vicinity. It paid off right away. The guy's name
is Brent Nolan."

"Have you questioned him yet?" Tom asked.

"I'm about to," Ames replied. "Radnor just brought him in."

The security chief led the way into an adjoining office. A slender,
good-looking young man with blond wavy hair was seated on a chair with
Phil Radnor on one side of him and a Shopton police officer on the
other. The actor was visibly nervous and perspiring.

"This is Tom Swift Jr.," Ames told him. "Brent Nolan."

Nolan nodded. "Yes, I've seen your picture in the papers many times."
The actor tried to force a smile but his face muscles twitched.
"I--I seem to have pulled a pretty dumb stunt by faking that phone
call from your father. I'm sorry."

"What was the reason?" Tom asked.

Nolan fingered his wavy blond hair uneasily and swallowed hard. "A man
named Professor Runkle paid me to do it."

"Professor Runkle?" Tom frowned. The name seemed vaguely familiar.

"He spoke with a foreign accent. Said he was doing research at Grandyke
University," Nolan explained. "He told me you might be expecting a rare
biological specimen from the East Indies. He said both of you were eager
to get hold of it for research purposes, but he was afraid that you had
outbid him. However, if he asked you straight out, you would guard the
secret very jealously. So he hired me to find out."

"Didn't it occur to you he might be an espionage agent?" Ames asked
coldly.

Nolan seemed shocked. "Believe me, I had no such idea!" he averred.
"Runkle seemed pleasant. He said it all was merely a short cut to save
him from wasting any more time on the project. If Tom Swift had the
specimen, he would quit. I--I guess I'm a little bit vain about the way
I can mimic voices, and this gave me a chance to show off. Besides,
I saw no harm in doing it."

"No harm?" Bud snorted. "You had Swift Enterprises in a real lather when
we found out."

Nolan spread his hands in a helpless gesture. "I'm truly sorry," he
repeated.

"How were you able to find out how my father's voice sounded?" Tom
asked.

"I listened to a recording of a speech he made at the Fourth of July
rally here in Shopton," Nolan explained. "I borrowed the tape from a
local radio station. Guess that's how your security men got onto me."

"What did this fellow Runkle look like?" Ames asked.

Nolan thought for a moment. "Oh, he was past middle age, I should say.
Grizzled hair, thick-lensed glasses. And he was quite heavy-set."

"Hmm. Then it certainly wasn't Narko," Ames murmured to Tom.

The young inventor nodded. "I believe I know him. The name just came
back to me. I met a Professor Runkle in New York about a month ago, at a
scientific convention. He was a member of the visiting Brungarian
delegation."

"We'll check on him," Ames promised. He turned back sternly to the young
actor. "All right, Nolan, I guess you can go. But I warn you--no more
impersonations."

After more flustered apologies, the actor hurried out, obviously
relieved.

"What a dumb egg he is!" Bud muttered.

"In a way he may have helped us," Tom pointed out. "If the Brungarian
rebels hadn't found out about Exman, we couldn't have lured them into
that kidnap plot. It's already helped us to save the Bona Fide Submarine
Building Corporation."

Monday morning Ames reported that Professor Runkle had left the country.
Tom was not sorry, since an arrest and public trial might have led to
dangerous publicity about Exman. The probings of a sharp-tongued defense
attorney might even have tipped off the Brungarian to Tom's real purpose
in letting the space brain be hijacked.

Meanwhile, a telephone call from Washington announced that State
Department men were flying to Enterprises to confer with the Swifts
about taking official action against the Brungarian attacks. The group
arrived by jet after lunch. Thurston of the CIA was also present.

"The problem is this," a State Department official said as they
discussed the matter in the Swifts' office. "Should we bring charges
against Brungaria before the United Nations? Or should we rely on other
means, short of war, to block the Brungarian rebel coup?"

Mr. Swift frowned thoughtfully. "It might be difficult to prove they
were responsible for the earthquake attacks," he pointed out.

"I'd say it's impossible," Tom said, "unless we give away the secret
about our electronic spy." He paused, then added, "Sir, if the State
Department will agree, I'd like more time before you make any official
moves."

The Quakelizors, Tom argued, seemed to offer protection against any
future quake waves, unless the power of the shocks was greatly stepped
up. Meantime, working through Exman, Tom might be able to provide the
Brungarian loyalists with valuable information. "I'm hoping it will help
them overthrow the rebel clique and their brutal allied military
bosses."

The State Department men conferred, then Thurston spoke up quietly, "In
our opinion, it's worth a gamble."

After the group had left, the Swifts resumed their sensing experiments
in Tom's private laboratory. They were hard at work when the signal bell
suddenly rang on the electronic brain.

The two scientists rushed to read the incoming message. It said:

    EXMAN TO SWIFTS. ONE ENEMY EARTHQUAKE PRODUCER IS AT...

Here the message gave precise latitude and longitude figures. It went
on:

    RUIN OF SWIFT PLACE IN ONE WEEK.

Tom and his father gasped in dismay. "I thought the New York-New England
Quakelizor was going to protect us!" the young inventor exclaimed. "Our
enemies must have located another earth fault with Enterprises right in
its path!"

Hastily opening an atlas, Tom fingered the location of the proposed
source of attack. It was Balala Island off the coast of Peru.

"Dad, that settles it!" Tom declared grimly. "It's clear now that those
Brungarian rebels want to destroy us and use Exman in some way to
conquer the earth!"

"I don't doubt that you're right, son," Mr. Swift said grimly. "We must
act fast! But how?"

Again, the signal bell interrupted. This time, Exman gave a number of
military details, evidently picked up from orders issuing from
Brungarian rebel headquarters. They concerned incoming troop movements
from the north and operational plans for crushing out the last pockets
of resistance by loyal government forces.

Tom recorded them with TV tape, then snatched up the telephone and
called the Central Intelligence Agency in Washington. He relayed the
information from Exman and asked if American agents could transmit it to
the loyalists.

"Don't worry. Well see that it reaches them," the CIA chief assured Tom.
"Many thanks. This _could_ have important consequences."

As Tom hung up he decided on a bold move. "Dad, I'm going to lead a raid
on Balala!"

"A raid!" The elder scientist was electrified.

"According to the atlas, the island is barren and deserted," Tom said,
"so no friendly power will object if we land there. If it's being used
as an enemy base for quake attacks against our country, we have every
right to investigate. I might be able to learn the secret of the
setup--perhaps even put the equipment out of commission."

"Nevertheless, a raid by a United States force could lead to trouble if
the base there puts up any resistance," Mr. Swift said gravely.

"That's why I intend to handle it myself," Tom declared. "I'll take all
responsibility."

Tom Sr.'s eyes flashed as he recalled some of his own hair-raising
exploits in younger days. "All right, son," he said, putting a hand on
Tom's shoulder. "I know I can trust your judgment. Good luck!"

Again Tom issued a call for volunteers. Bud, Hank Sterling, Arv Hanson,
and Chow were all eager to take part. Within an hour they were taking
off for Fearing. At the rocket base, they embarked in the _Sea Hound_,
Tom's favorite model of his diving seacopter. A powerful central rotor
with reversible-pitch blades, spun by atomic turbines, enabled the craft
to rise through the air or descend into the deepest abysses of the
ocean. Propulsion jets gave it high speed in either medium.

Loaded with equipment, the _Sea Hound_ streaked southward through the
skies--first to Florida, then across the Gulf and Central America into
the Pacific. Here Tom eased down to the surface of the water and
submerged.

It was near midnight when the _Sea Hound_ rose from the depths just off
Balala. The lonely rocky island lay outlined like a huddled black mass
against the star-flecked southern sky. No glimmer of light showed
anywhere ashore.

"Maybe no one's here," Bud murmured.

"Don't bank on that," Tom said. "They wouldn't be apt to advertise their
presence to passing ships or planes."

Tom nosed inshore as closely as he dared from sonar soundings, finally
easing the _Sea Hound_ up to a rocky reef that fingered out from the
beach. Then he, Bud, Hank, and Arv clambered out, armed with wrecking
tools and powerful flashlights.

Chow, in spite of his muttered grumblings, was ordered to stay aboard
and guard the ship with the other two crewmen who had come along.

Tom led his party cautiously ashore from the reef. They probed the
darkness of the beach. Their footfalls sounded eerily in the night
silence, broken only by the soughing of the sea wind and splash of
breakers.

"Good place for spooks!" Bud whispered jokingly.

A steep draw led upward among the rocky slopes. A hundred feet on, Tom's
group found the black yawning mouth of a cave. The yellow beams of their
flashlights revealed a tunnel leading downward inside. Tom checked with
a pocket detector. Its gauge needle showed no field force caused by
electrical equipment in operation.

"Okay, let's go in!" Tom murmured.

Cautiously they moved into the tunnel. Then suddenly ahead of them a
powerful dazzling light burst on, nearly blinding the searchers!




CHAPTER XIX

A FIENDISH MACHINE


A chill of fear gripped Tom and his companions as they blinked
helplessly in the glare! Had the enemy detected them the first moment
they had set foot on Balala Island? Had they walked blindly into a trap?

Gradually Tom's eyes and those of his friends adjusted to the dazzling
radiance. A door, blocking the tunnel just ahead, had slid open and the
light was pouring out of a room beyond.

"What happened?" Arv gasped.

Tom pointed downward to a pedallike plunger inserted in the tunnel
floor. "This must be a switch," he explained. "When I stepped on it
accidentally, it must have opened the door and flashed on the lights."

Bud whistled. "Wow! Let's be thankful it wasn't a booby trap!"

"Maybe it is," murmured Hank grimly.

Steeling their nerves, and with every sense alert, the searchers
advanced into the secret room.

Tom suddenly gave a cry of amazement. "The earthquake machine!"

A huge hydraulic device, with massive steel bed and supporting pillars,
looking somewhat like the enormous body presses found in automobile
plants, stood embedded in a recess in one wall.

Tom rushed to the machine and examined it in fascination. A powerful
diesel generator stood nearby with banks of complicated electrical
equipment, amid a spider-web tangle of wiring. Tom assumed this gear was
for timing and synchronizing the shock waves. Evidently the whole setup
was operated from a single control panel in the wall, studded with knobs
and dials.

"What a job of design!" Tom exclaimed in awe. His eyes roved over every
detail of the equipment while he poked here and there with his hands. He
was getting the "feel" of the setup almost as much by touch and handling
as by his superb technical intuition. "Boy, I hate to admire anything
those Brungarian rebel scientists do, but this is really masterful!"

"Yes? Well, don't go ga-ga over it," said Bud. "Let's do what we came to
do and scram out of here. This place makes me jumpy!"

Tom appeared oblivious. "It seems like vandalism to wreck such an
engineering achievement! Also, and this may sound strange to you," he
went on in a doubtful tone, "are we _really_ justified in taking the law
into our own hands?"

"They're trying to wreck _our_ setup, aren't they?" Bud retorted. "Think
of the destruction they've caused already! Do you want to stand by and
see Enterprises destroyed too?"

"Bud's right," Hank Sterling spoke up quietly. "Take a look at this."

He beckoned them over to another corner of the cave and pointed to a
series of notations, crudely scrawled in white chalk on the cave wall.
Half hidden behind a clump of rock, they would have escaped casual
notice.

Tom read them and gave an angry gasp. A list of places and dates,
already checked off, showed the quakes that had occurred so far. The
last notation, not yet checked, said: SWIFT ENTERPRISES and was dated
five days ahead.

"Okay, that's all the convincing I need!" Tom said grimly.

He issued quick orders. Hank and Arv were to rush back to the _Sea
Hound_, get an underwater pump from the gear carried aboard, and install
it just off the beach. From there, they were to run a pipe line up into
the cave, using special plastic tubing which hooked together in a jiffy.

"Cover the piping with sand and gravel, so it won't be noticed," Tom
added. "In the meantime, Bud and I will go to work on this setup here."

"Aye-aye, skipper!" Hank and Arv responded.

As they hurried out through the tunnel, Tom and Bud set to work with the
tools they had brought along. The diesel was partly dismantled, sand
poured into its fuel feed, and the generator windings ripped out. The
boys then tore off and tangled all wiring leads to the electrical
equipment, took apart much of the equipment itself, and smashed the
control panel.

"Boy, if those Brungarian creeps get this setup working again, they're
_really_ geniuses!" Bud said as he and Tom paused a second.

"This is only the beginning, pal!" Tom said. "Let's tackle the machine!"

The huge earthquake device was a far more difficult proposition to
disable. Its heavy structural parts had to be disassembled or pried
apart, one by one. Both boys were streaked with sweat as they finished.

By this time, Hank and Arv had the piping installed halfway into the
tunnel. Spurred on as if by a sixth sense of danger, Tom told them to go
back to the beach and get the pump working while he and Bud connected
the few remaining pipe lengths into the machine room.

Minutes later, their job done, Tom and Bud rushed out to the mouth of
the cave and waved their flashlights. Soon the water could be heard
boiling through the pipeline. It gushed out with a roar, flooding the
machine room.

"Let's go!" Tom cried, yanking Bud's arm.

As they reached the beach and joined Hank and Arv, Tom's keen ears
picked up the drone of a plane somewhere in the darkness.

He gave a yell of alarm and pointed skyward. A ghostlike jet came
zooming into view, boring straight toward them. All four broke into a
mad dash for the seacopter.

They were halfway out on the reef when the plane leveled out of its dive
with an earsplitting whine.

"Hide!" Tom shouted, fearing a bomb might be dropped.

  [Illustration
   (Tom and friends are attacked by a ray gun from an airplane)]

All leaped for cover among the rocks. At the same instant, a fiery beam
like a bolt of lightning shot from the plane. It seared the spot on the
reef they had just vacated!

"A ray gun!" Bud gasped.

The plane's speed had already carried it far past the island. Before it
could maneuver around for another pass, Tom and his companions were on
their feet, racing for the safety of the _Sea Hound_.

They were aboard and clamping shut the hatch lid as the jet made its
second pass. This time its fiery ray glanced harmlessly off the
seacopter's Tomasite sheathing. Seconds later, the _Sea Hound_ had
darted off beyond reach into the ocean waters.

"Whew! We really broke all speed records that time!" Arv panted.

The others looked at him with wan but triumphant grins. Then they began
to speculate on what the beamlike bolt was, who was in the plane, and if
their enemy knew who Tom's group were.

Dawn was streaking the sky when the seacopter arrived at Fearing Island.
The adventurers flew back to Enterprises at once. Tom and Bud snatched a
few hours' sleep in the apartment adjoining Tom's laboratory.

Later in the morning the whole group gathered in Tom's laboratory to
recount the raid to Mr. Swift and Harlan Ames. A bell signal from the
electronic brain brought them rushing to the decoder. Grim news awaited
them. The message said:

    EXMAN TO SWIFTS. YOUR ENEMIES ARE NOW SURE I AM SPY. THEY PLAN
    TO DESTROY ME.

"No! It mustn't happen!" Tom cried in dismay. "Dad, I'll rescue him
myself!"

His words were greeted with shocked protests from the others.

"Don't be crazy!" Bud said. "You wouldn't have a chance!"

"It would be suicide!" Arv Hanson declared.

Chow grabbed his young boss by the arm. "Brand my cayenne pepper, before
I'd let you make a blame fool move like that, I'd rope an' hawg-tie you
myself!"

Ames interjected the most convincing argument. "I know how you feel,
Tom," he said sympathetically, "but I'm positive the United States
government would never permit such a risky undertaking."

Tom was beside himself with anxiety. Not only had he worked and
struggled to make the space brain's visit a scientific success, but also
it was he who had thought of the scheme to use Exman as a spy. In Tom's
eyes, if the Brungarian rebels were to destroy the brain's body, it
would amount to murder! The young inventor knew that the destruction of
the "body" would not destroy the energy, but that it would be "lost" as
far as the earth was concerned.

Who knew, Tom asked himself, what priceless secrets the "brain" might
ultimately yield to earth's scientific researchers? If the Brungarians
were to succeed, this might deter the Swifts' space friends from ever
attempting another visit to our planet!

In despair, Tom turned to his father. "You know how much is at stake,
Dad!" he pleaded. "Isn't there something we can do?"

Mr. Swift had been silent, thoughtfully drumming his pencil on the
workbench. He looked up.

"Tom, I can think of only one thing," he said. "Perhaps our friends on
Planet X can help us. They said they would have no control over the
energy until it was ready to return home. But maybe we can get them to
help us transfer the energy back here--not by any means of earth
transportation, but by some extraterrestrial means known to their
scientists."

Tom's eyes kindled with hope. "Dad, that's a terrific idea!" he
exclaimed. "Let's try!"

A message was quickly beamed out into space. Minutes went by. Then the
machine signaled a reply. It said:

    WE WILL ATTEMPT RESCUE IF YOU WILL ARC A POWERFUL RADIO BEAM
    FROM POINT OF ORIGINAL EARTH LANDING TO POINT WHERE ENERGY IS
    NOW.

Moments later, a further message followed, giving technical instructions
on how to project the beam. It ended:

    NOTIFY US WHEN SETUP IS READY.

"Yahoo!" Chow whooped. "Brand my space guns, I reckon we'll get Ole
Think Box home safe after all!"

"He's not home yet, Chow," Tom cautioned, grinning but still tense with
worry. "Glad you said that, though. It reminds me that the first job on
our hands is to build a new think box for Exman!"

With hope alive, Tom turned icy calm and buckled down to the work at
hand. Before beginning construction of a new space robot, he contacted
Exman via the electronic brain and asked him for his exact location in
Brungaria. The answer came in precise latitude and longitude.

Next, Tom radioed instructions for the rescue plan. As soon as Exman was
notified that the invisible force from Planet X was ready to transport
his energy, he was to unlatch point five of his star head. He would then
be free to attach his energy to the rescue beam and be arced back to the
hillside spot near Enterprises, where Tom would have a new robot body
waiting.

Exman replied tersely:

    MESSAGE UNDERSTOOD. WILL COMPLY.

Tom snapped out orders. "Hank! Arv! Bud! And, Dad, we can sure use your
help too! Every hour may be precious! We must construct a replica of
Exman's robot container as fast as possible!"

Every resource of Swift Enterprises was convulsed into action. But for
all their scientific miracles, the staff could not perform magic. The
complicated robot device required hours of highly skilled construction.

Darkness had fallen by the time the energy container was ready.
Meanwhile, a powerful transmitter and directional antenna had been set
up at the hillside spot. Extensive reports on the condition of the
ionosphere poured into headquarters.

The Swifts and their small group of trusted associates trucked the new
robot and the electronic brain out to the site. Tom then signaled his
space friends that he was ready. They responded with the exact time for
the rescue attempt. Tom transmitted the information to Exman, who
replied:

    DANGER NEAR. BRUNGARIAN SCIENTISTS READY TO DESTROY ME.

"Great bellowin' buffaloes!" Chow gulped. "Please make it quick, Tom! We
got to save that space critter!"

Tom glanced at his illuminated watch dial. The countdown ticked by.
Suddenly his hand closed a switch, transmitting the rescue beam. More
moments passed as the Swifts and the watchers strained their eyes toward
the night sky.

"Here it comes!" Bud yelled suddenly.

A fiery bluish-white light had suddenly flamed into view. It grew
steadily larger. Tom poised the container and opened one point of the
star head.

Now the blue fireball was arcing down over the hillside, trailing its
orange-red comet tail. It hissed into the container and Tom snapped shut
the star head.

The next moment, the young inventor wavered and slumped unconscious!




CHAPTER XX

THE ROBOT SPY'S STORY


"Tom!" his father cried. Anxiously the others crowded around the lanky
young inventor, who had fallen beside the new robot.

"Stand back! Give him air!" Bud urged. "How is he, Mr. Swift?"

The elder scientist was feeling Tom's wrist. "His pulse is beating, but
it's a bit weak. He must have received a terrific shock from all that
energy!... Tom!... Tom, son, can you hear me?"

The young inventor moaned and stirred faintly but his eyes did not open.
His cheeks and lips seemed colorless in the glow of Mr. Swift's
flashlight. Chow was terrified, hovering about helplessly.

"I'll call Doc Simpson to bring a pulmotor!" Hank exclaimed.

"Yes, do, Hank!" Mr. Swift pleaded. "Quick!"

An ambulance arrived a few minutes later. Doc Simpson and an attendant
leaped out, and the resuscitation equipment--specially designed by the
Swifts for their plant infirmary--was hastily unloaded.

Anxious moments followed, but finally Tom began to respond to the
treatment. Soon his eyes were open and he regained full consciousness.
As Doc held a paper cup of water for him to sip, Tom smiled wanly.

"Okay." he murmured, "I'm all right now. Sorry if I scared you, Dad." He
started to get up.

"It's a hospital bed for you, skipper. And no arguments!" Doc Simpson
said sternly. "What happened here?"

"I believe," Mr. Swift answered, "that our space friends, in finding a
way to move the energy back to us, had less close control over it on
earth than when they sent it from space."

By midmorning the next day, Tom had awakened refreshed from a good
night's sleep and felt normal again. Over Doc Simpson's protests, he
insisted upon dressing and hurrying over to his laboratory.

Here he found his father working intently amid a jumble of mechanical
parts, tools, and electronic equipment. Nearby stood Exman with a panel
open in his upper body, exposing the controls and output equipment.

"Hi, Dad!" Tom exclaimed as he strode into the laboratory. "What's doing
with Ole Think Box?"

Mr. Swift looked up with a smile of relief. "'Morning, son! All well
again? That's wonderful! I'm just giving Exman an artificial speech
mechanism. He's already briefed us via the electronic brain on the
situation in Brungaria. But I thought it would be even better if he
could tell us in person."

Details on the earthquake plot, Mr. Swift went on, had already been
reported to the Defense Department. Tom's raid on Balala Island had
effectively blocked further quake attempts.

The Brungarian rebels had become enraged by their failure to extract
Exman's secrets, and had decided to disintegrate the robot creature and
its brain energy. But the youthful Brungarian loyalist group had kept
them so busy with resistance outbreaks that they had delayed too long.

"Lucky thing!" Tom put in with an affectionate grin at Exman. "If they
had started to destroy him half an hour sooner, it might have been
pretty sad for Ole Think Box!"

Tom was intrigued by his father's design for an artificial speech
mechanism. After talking it over, they decided that Tom would go to work
on a central computer device to integrate all the senses. He would also
provide Exman with "ears," which would be sound-reception equipment. Mr.
Swift, meanwhile, would continue work on the speech mechanism and also
perfect the seeing equipment he had started earlier.

The day sped by as the two Swifts worked with feverish intensity. Lunch
was eaten from their workbenches, but the inventors reluctantly halted
at dinnertime.

After a tasty meal of fried chicken at home with Mrs. Swift and Sandy,
both Toms returned to the plant. Father and son labored until well past
midnight on their experiments. Then they snatched a few hours of sleep
and resumed their tasks early the next morning.

By early afternoon an atmosphere of excitement pervaded Enterprises. The
visitor from Planet X would soon be able to communicate directly with
his earth friends! Bud, Chow, Hank Sterling, Arv Hanson, and Art
Wiltessa gathered in the laboratory, along with several other Swift key
men. Mrs. Swift, Sandy, and Phyl also arrived to watch.

At last the sensing equipment was completed and installed. Exman was
ready to speak!

His voice came out haltingly, but as the words were selected from a vast
taped collection, they were clear and bold:

    GREETINGS TO YOU, MY EARTH FRIENDS!

Sandy gave a squeal of delight and the room echoed with applause for
Exman's first effort. After a few adjustments, he was able to speak more
freely and smoothly.

Tom whispered to Phyl, "Confidentially, we had a dummy run before
lunchtime. At first, all Exman could do was croak like a frog."

Phyl, thrilled by the spectacle of a speaking space creature, gave the
young inventor's hand a squeeze. "Tom, he's just wonderful!"

Tom agreed. "Our country owes him a lot for exposing the Brungarian
rebel schemes."

To Tom's amazement, Exman's "ears" picked up his murmured words, even
above the babble of the spectators crowding the room.

"Your country owes you much, Tom Swift," the creature said. "You
conceived the idea of an electronic spy and found ways to block the
rebels' destructive earthquake plans."

As Tom flushed at the crowd's applause, Exman continued, "Unless I am
mistaken, you will soon learn that you have accomplished even more."

Tom was mystified by this. Meanwhile, the spectators listened spellbound
as Exman went on talking, telling what he had learned of the valiant
resistance efforts to overthrow the Brungarian rebels.

A short time later the telephone rang. Tom answered, and the operator
informed him that John Thurston of Central Intelligence was calling.

"Great news, Tom," the CIA man said. "We've just learned that the
rightful Brungarian government forces have struck hard in the capital
city and at half a dozen other points. The rebel puppets and their
troops have been crushed completely!"

Tom was enthusiastic over the news.

"That's not all," Thurston went on. "In case you don't realize it, the
information which you supplied by means of your electronic spy is
chiefly what enabled the government forces to win out. They've promised
to dismantle the rebels' other two earthquake bases."

As Tom hung up and relayed the electrifying news, Bud and the others
burst into cheers.

"It is all due to Tom Swift and his secret assistant," Exman said.

Tom was puzzled by the remark but had no time to ask what he meant as
the people in the room crowded around to shake his hand. Mr. and Mrs.
Swift smiled proudly at their son's latest triumph. Phyl and Sandy
expressed their feelings by giving Tom a quick kiss.

"Hey! Where do I come in?" Bud protested.

Before the girls could answer, the door of the laboratory opened and
Harlan Ames walked in, accompanied by a lean, gray-eyed young man with
dark close-cropped hair. _Samson Narko!_

Chow let out a yelp of rage. "Why, brand my sagebrush hash, it's that
double-crossin' Brungarian--"

"Hold it, Chow!" Ames cut short the outburst. "Allow me to introduce one
of America's most effective counterespionage agents, Mr. Samson Narko!"

Tom and his friends were astounded. Narko himself smiled somewhat
uncomfortably. "I can imagine how you all feel--you especially, Tom.
But, believe me, I could not risk pulling my punches even when it put
you all in grave peril, such as when I fired that missile across the bow
of your sub. I could only hope that Tom Swift would succeed in eluding
us."

Ames quickly briefed the others on Narko's background. Brungarian-born,
he had received his engineering training in the United States and had
learned to love America. When he saw his own country threatened by the
forces of dictatorship, he had secretly offered his services to the CIA
against the rebels. Soon afterward, the agency had approached him to
become a counterspy.

"I dared not relax from my role as a spy for a moment," Narko added.
"I even grabbed the chance to plant that cache of firearms in Latty's
cellar to convince any rebel agents who might be watching me that I was
on their side. Tom, the rebels gave me the job of hijacking your space
robot. But, going on the brief messages that the CIA was able to get
through to me, I guessed that you were using it as bait."

"I guess we all owe _you_ an apology," Tom said. "And our thanks. We
were lucky to have you on our side."

"He saved the lives of a number of loyalist prisoners and gave the
government forces some vital tip-offs of his own," Ames added.

As Tom shook hands with Narko, the young Brungarian said warmly, "It is
good to know that Tom Swift is my friend." With a chuckle, Narko added,
"I know from experience that you certainly make a dangerous enemy!"

As the others gathered around to speak to Samson Narko and add their
friendly congratulations, Bud slapped Tom on the back.

"Well, skipper, what's next on the schedule?"

For a moment Tom did not reply. He too wondered where his next
scientific adventure would lead him.

Finally Tom turned to Bud. "I'm not sure. But who knows what space
secrets Exman may have up his mechanical sleeve!"

       *       *       *       *       *
           *       *       *       *
       *       *       *       *       *

[Errors noted by transcriber:

Tom and Bud wore swimming trunks under their slacks.
  _text reads_ swiming
Tom looked up, his blue eyes blazing.
  _text has period for comma_
KIDNAPED! [chapter title] _and elsewhere_
  _spelling "kidnaped" consistent in text_ ]






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