“Get down, yon fool!” said the lieutenant.
The lightning struck the rocket another dozen times. The lieutenant turned his head on his arm and saw the blue blazing flashes. He saw trees split and crumple into ruin. He saw the monstrous dark cloud turn like a black disk overhead and hurl down a hundred other poles of electricity.
The man who had leaped up was now running, like someone in a great hall of pillars. He ran and dodged between the pillars and then at last a dozen of the pillars slammed down and there was the sound a fly makes when landing upon the grill wires of an exterminator. The lieutenant remembered this from his childhood on a farm. And there was a smell of a man burned to a cinder.
The lieutenant lowered his head. “Don’t look up,” he told the others. He was afraid that he too might run at any moment.
The storm above them flashed down another series of bolts and then moved on away. Once again there was only the rain, which rapidly cleared the air of the charred smell, and in a moment the three remaining men were sitting and waiting for the beat of their hearts to subside into quiet once more.
They walked over to the body, thinking that perhaps they could still save the man’s life. They couldn’t believe that there wasn’t some way to help the man. It was the natural act of men who have not accepted death until they have touched it and turned it over and made plans to bury it or leave it there for the jungle to bury in an hour of quick growth.
The body was twisted steel, wrapped in burned leather. It looked like a wax dummy that had been thrown into an incinerator and pulled out after the wax had sunk to the charcoal skeleton. Only the teeth were white, and they shone like a strange white bracelet dropped half through a clenched black fist.
“He shouldn’t have jumped up.” They said it almost at the same time.
Even as they stood over the body it began to vanish, for the vegetation was edging in upon it, little vines and ivy and creepers, and even flowers for the dead.
At a distance the storm walked off on blue bolts of lightning and was gone.
They crossed a river and a creek and a stream and a dozen other rivers and creeks and streams. Before their eyes rivers appeared, rushing, new rivers, while old rivers changed their courses—rivers the color of mercury, rivers the color of silver and milk.
They came to the sea.
The Single Sea. There was only one continent on Venus. This land was three thousand miles long by a thousand miles wide, and about this island was the Single Sea, which covered the entire raining planet. The Single Sea, which lay upon the pallid shore with little motion . . .
“This way.” The lieutenant nodded south. “I’m sure there are two Sun Domes down that way.
“While they were at it, why didn’t they build a hundred more?”
“There’re a hundred and twenty of them now, aren’t there?”
“One hundred and twenty-six, as of last month. They tried to push a bill through Congress back on Earth a year ago to provide for a couple dozen more, but oh no, you know how that is. They’d rather a few men went crazy with the rain.”
They started south.
The lieutenant and Simmons and the third man, Pickard, walked in the rain, in the rain that fell heavily and lightly, heavily and lightly; in the rain that poured and hammered and did not stop falling upon the land and the sea and the walking people.
Simmons saw it first. “There it is!”
“The Sun Dome!”
The lieutenant blinked the water from his eyes and raised his hands to ward off the stinging blows of the rain.
At a distance there was a yellow glow on the edge of the jungle, by the sea. It was, indeed, the Sun Dome.
The men smiled at each other.
“Looks like you were right, Lieutenant.”
“Brother, that puts muscle in me, just seeing it. Come on! Last one there’s a son-of-a-bitch!” Simmons began to trot. The others automatically fell in with this, gasping, tired, but keeping pace.