had little chance of doing that, bound as he was.
“Alasa!” he called again.
The girl did not heed. Her body glistening with perspiration, she flung herself on Mason, fingers clawing, teeth seeking his throat. He tried to roll over, but could not.
A sharp pain lanced through his neck. He felt the warm stickiness of blood trickling across his skin.
Agonizingly the girl’s teeth drove deeper…
The Deathless Ones
Dimly, through a red haze, Mason realized that the girl’s weight no longer bore him down. Two plant-men held her writhing body in their tentacles, dragging her toward the door. A trickle of blood wormed from her lips. In silence she struggled, striving to break free.
The Gorichen pulled her outside. As Mason watched he saw her body suddenly sag limply in unconsciousness. A pang darted through him. Was Alasa—dead?
The same idea had come to the plant-men. Tentacles were waved excitedly. They lowered the girl to the floor, examining her carefully. A movement of Alasa’s arm reassured Mason; the girl tried feebly to get to her feet.
The Gorichen dragged her back to Mason’s prison. They thrust her within it. Again the door was shut.
Alasa ran to the man.
“Kent! What happened?”
“You—” Mason hesitated. In the girl’s eyes he read the knowledge that she remembered nothing of her nightmare attack on him. The madness of the plant-men had passed from her brain. “Nothing much,” he finished. “Can you untie me, Alasa?”
She bent forward, fumbled at the metal ropes. Would the Gorichen permit her to free the man?
At last the task was finished. Mason got to his feet, rubbing his legs to restore circulation. He went quickly to the door, kicked it tentatively.
The plant-men outside seemed to watch undisturbed.
Again Mason kicked the glass, but it did not shatter. He crashed his shoulder against it, but only bruised his arm. The cell was empty, and there was nothing he could use as a weapon.
A cry from Alasa made him turn. She was pointing to a corner of the cell, where walls joined ceiling. Greenish-white, a plume of vapor was entering the prison, coiling ominously in the still air.
Fear gripped Mason. He sprang forward, tried to reach the valve. If he could manage to stuff it closed—but it was too high. Baffled, he retreated to the door and renewed his onslaught on it.
But the substance, tougher than steel, would not yield. Mason paused only when he could scarcely see the door through a thickening cloud of greenish mist. Alasa touched his arm.
“Kent? What is happening?”
“I don’t know,” he said slowly. “They’re experimenting on us. What they expect—well, I just don’t know. Maybe it’ll kill us. If it does, I hope it’s a quick death.”
With a soft little cry Alasa moved close to Mason, and he put protecting arms about her. She buried her face on his shoulder, and for a while they stood there, while the green mists thickened—
There came a time when Mason was completely blinded. Oddly he had no trouble with his breathing. There was a slight exhilaration, due, he thought, to oxygen in the strange gas, but he was not discommoded. Perhaps the vapor—admittedly experimental—would have no effect on human beings.
He dropped to the floor, cradling the girl in his arms. In that blind emerald emptiness they waited, and Mason soothed and calmed Alasa as best he could. In spite of himself his pulses mounted at the nearness of the girl’s warm, satiny body. The weird gas, he knew, was exciting him; yet the madness grew on him. And Alasa, too, felt the intoxicating effect. Her hands crept up, touched Mason’s hair. She drew down his head, guiding his lips in the green blindness till they touched her own. Flame of dark passion blazed up within Mason…
Desperately he fought it down. The girl’s breathing mingled with his own, hoarse and uneven. His fingers touched the silken smoothness of rounded flesh, and the touch was like fire. Suddenly his muscles were