Page Created 10-18-98

CHAPTER FIVE - The Disc Ship

       BIG and round, like a great silver full moon it came out of the sky. First as big as a sixpence, then the size of half a crown. Then the size of a saucer; the size of a dinner plate, and still growing as it descended. Huge . . . vast . . . and somehow terrifying.

       It seemed to blot out the stars and to blot out the blue velvet of their canopy. It seemed to be an alien thing of the night, and yet for all that there was a strange, terrifying, alien beauty about its gleaming symmetry.

       The great disc ship . . . the unearthly thing, skimming slowly down, like a coin tossed by a careless god, into the abyss of nothingness. A silver coin skimming across a universe; spinning across a galaxy. Down, down . . . down . . . a great silver spinning thing. A ship, an alien ship, a strange unearthly thing, something that was cold and hard and terrible. Something that was beyond man ... that was different from man . . . that seemed to have neither part nor parcel with the ordinary human world. Something frightening, frightening because it was strange; strange because it was frightening.

       It came through the sky, a round, spinning plate of a ship, a flying saucer out of the sky, down through the blue vault of air; down through the dark forests of night; down to the sleeping, unsuspecting countryside below, then it was no longer a thing apart. It had touched down. Softly as a feather landing in a cushion of air.

       Gently as the kiss of a snowflake, and as silent.

       Quieter than a rain drop, just a drifting ghost of a ship. A thing that had arrived with such silence that not even the keenest ear, not the ear of a bat, or the ear of a bird, or the ear of a listening animal could have heard its approach. The disc ship had landed.

       Once it had landed the silence was gone-like an illusion that is destroyed when the curtains of a stage are pulled aside. The silence was broken by metallic noises. Harsh clanking, jarring, metallic noises. Things were stirring within the disc ship. Strange metallic things; things that were alien to the soft green grass of earth.

       Terrifying things, steel things; metal things; things with cylindrical bodies and multitudinous jointed limbs. Things wthout flesh and blood. Things that were made of metal and plastic and transistors and valves and relays, and wires. Metal things. Metal things that could think. Thinking metal things. Terrifying in their strangeness, in their peculiar metal efficiency. Things the like of which had never been seen on the earth before. Things that were sliding back panels . . . Robots! Robots were marching . . . Robots were marching, and were about to spread havoc and destruction across the earth, and as yet the sleeping earth knew nothing of their coming. As mysterious as anything in the great mysterious universe.

       The robots in their disc ship had arrived. . . .

       There were strange flickering lights all around the ship. Terrifying lights, weird lights, uncanny lights, awful lights, inhuman lights, alien lights, robot lights; and all around a great hemispherical glowing shield sprang up. A thing with a pale, greeny blue luminescence. An electronic thing, a mechanical thing. A thing that was part of the robot genius. A thing that was as strange as the ship and its occupants. A force field, a glowing greenish blue force field. . . .

       Within the ship great activity was taking place. The robots, like actors behind a greenish blue curtain, were preparing to present themselves to their audience-their unwitting audience! That audience of earth-men, and earthwomen and earth-children that lay innocently asleep just beyond the green sward. The green sward of earth on which the alien ship had landed. They were as alike as green peas in a pod, every one of those robots. A gleaming line of them began emerging from the disc ship. A gleaming metallic line moving industriously with calm, tireless mechanical efficiency. Clashing metal arms against metal sides. The clang of metal hawsers, moving machinery here, there, everywhere, each one with the strength of a hundred men! Pulling, pushing, lifting, twisting. Iron creatures, metal things, like cars coming off a factory assembly line, one after the other, every one of them identical. Not one possessing a separate identity. Metal entities. The ship was full of them, twenty-forty-sixty-a hundred-and still more . . . moving around industriously. Arranging their mechanical contrivances; setting up their apparatus; preparing . . . preparing . . . for what?

       Then the glowing, green-blue curtain, that shrouded the ship with its hemispherical protection, switched off and disappeared, and a long line of robots, like ants emerging from a colony-gigantic ants-began moving from the confines of the ship, from the confines of their original landing space, their spear head, their bridgehead, across the undulating green turf in the direction of the sleeping city. They had chosen their time well . . . It was typical of their efficiency, they had chosen their time very well indeed! The city slept. Men slept. Women slept. Children slept. Dogs and cats slept.

March of the Robots © R. Lionel Fanthorpe.