“A big pot of coffee for me,” panted Simmons, smiling. “And a pan of cinnamon buns, by God! And just lie there and let the old sun hit you. The guy that invented the Sun Domes, he should have got a medal!”
They ran faster. The yellow glow grew brighter.
“Guess a lot of men went crazy before they figured out the cure. Think it’d be obvious! Right off.”Simmons panted the words in cadence to his running. “Rain, rain! Years ago. Found a friend. Of mine. Out in the jungle. Wandering around. In the rain. Saying over and over, ‘Don’t know enough, to come in, outta the rain. Don’t know enough, to come in, outta the rain. Don’t know enough—’ On and on. Like that. Poor crazy bastard.”
“Save your breath!”
They all laughed. They reached the door of the Sun Dome, laughing.
Simmons yanked the door wide. “Hey!” he yelled. “Bring on the coffee and buns!”
There was no reply.
They stepped through the door.
The Sun Dome was empty and dark. There was no synthetic yellow sun floating in a high gaseous whisper at the center of the blue ceiling. There was no food waiting. It was cold as a vault. And through a thousand holes which had been newly punctured in the ceiling water streamed, the rain fell down, soaking into the thick rugs and the heavy modern furniture and splashing on the glass tables. The jungle was growing up like a moss in the room, on top of the bookcases and the divans. The rain slashed through the holes and fell upon the three men’s faces.
Pickard began to laugh quietly.
“Shut up, Pickard!”
“Ye gods, look what’s here for us—no food, no sun, nothing. The Venusians—they did it! Of course!”
Simmons nodded, with the rain funneling down on his face. The water ran in his silvered hair and on his white eyebrows. “Every once in a while the Venusians come up out of the sea and attack a Sun Dome. They know if they ruin the Sun Domes they can ruin us.”
“But aren’t the Sun Domes protected with guns?”
“Sure.” Simmons stepped aside to a place that was relatively dry. “But it’s been five years since the Venusians tried anything. Defense relaxes. They caught this Dome unaware.”
“Where are the bodies?”
“The Venusians took them all down into the sea. I hear they have a delightful way of drowning you. It takes about eight hours to drown the way they work it. Really delightful.”
“I bet there isn’t any food here at all.” Pickard laughed.
The lieutenant frowned at him, nodded at him so Simmons could see. Simmons shook his head and went back to a room at one side of the oval chamber. The kitchen was strewn with soggy loaves of bread, and meat that had grown a faint green fur. Rain came through a hundred holes in the kitchen roof.
“Brilliant.” The lieutenant glanced up at the holes. “I don’t suppose we can plug up all those holes and get snug here.”
“Without food, sir?” Simmons snorted. “I notice the sun machine’s torn apart. Our best bet is to make our way to the next Sun Dome. How far is that from here?”
“Not far. As I recall, they built two rather close together here. Perhaps if we waited here, a rescue mission from the other might——”
“It’s probably been here and gone already, some days ago. They’ll send a crew to repair this place in about six months, when they get the money from Congress. I don’t think we’d better wait.”
“All right then, we’ll eat what’s left of our rations and get on to the next Dome.”
Pickard said, “If only the rain wouldn’t hit my head, just for a few minutes. If I could only remember what it’s like not to be bothered.” He put his hands on his skull and held it tight. “I remember when I was in school a bully used to sit in back of me and pinch me and pinch me and pinch me every five minutes, all day long. He did that for weeks and months. My arms were sore and black and blue all the time. And I thought I’d go crazy from being pinched. One day I must have gone a little mad from being hurt and hurt, and I turned around and took a metal trisquare I used in mechanical drawing and I almost killed that bastard. I almost cut his lousy head off. I almost took his eye out before they dragged me out of the room, and I kept yelling, ‘Why don’t he leave me alone? why don’t he leave me alone?’ Brother!” His hands clenched the bone of his head, shaking, tightening, his eyes shut. “But what do I donow? Who do I hit, who do I tell to lay off, stop bothering me, this damn rain, like the pinching, always on you, that’s all you hear, that’s all you feel!”