Over time-ruined Illar the searching planes swooped and circled. Northwest
Smith, peering up at them with a steel-pale stare from the shelter of
a half-collapsed temple, thought of vultures wheeling above carrion. All
day long now they had been raking these ruins for him. Presently, he
knew, thirst would begin to parch his throat and hunger to gnaw at him.
Ten thousand persons in New York looked skyward at the first rumble
of sound. The flash caught them that way, seared them to cinder, liquefied
their eyeballs, brought their vitals boiling out of the fissures of their
bodies. They were the lucky ones. The rest died slowly, their monument
the rubble which had once been a city.
Of all that, Case Damon knew nothing. Rocketing up in the self-service
elevator to his new cloud-reaching apartment in San Francisco, his
thoughts were all on the girl who would be waiting for him.
"She loves me, she loves me not," he said to himself.
So I had a headache. The grandfather of all headaches. You try working
on the roof line sometime, with the presses grinding and the overhead
cranes wailing and the mechanical arms clacking and grabbing at your
inner skull while you snap a shiny sheet of steel like an armored pillowcase
and shove it into the maw of a hungry greasy ogre. Noise. Hammering,
pounding, shrieking, gobbling, yammering, incessant noise. And I
had a headache.
All along the line of machines, the men's hands and arms worked like
the legs of spiders spinning a web. They wound wire and hammered
bolts, tied knots and welded pieces of steel and fitted gears. They did not
look at each other or sing or whistle or talk or laugh.
And then—he made a mistake.
Instantly he stepped back and a trouble shooter moved into his place.
The trouble shooter's hands flew over the controls.
The trouble shooter finished and the workman took his place. His
arms moved ceaselessly again....