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On Christmas in 1940, as news of world war spreads across Everytown, scientist John Cabal prophesizes: "If we don't end war, war will end us." The war continues until 1966, when, in the wake of social breakdown, a contagious disease called the "wandering sickness" has spread throughout the world. The disease places its victims in a feverish catatonic state that causes them to walk aimlessly through towns, spreading the disease. While Dr. Harding works to find a cure, a war lord who calls himself "the Boss," orders the sick who wander into the streets to be shot. By May Day of 1970, the pestilence has ended due to the Boss's brutal efforts, and Everytown has been reduced to a primitive society that lives under his tyranny. The Boss has ordered his master mechanic, Richard Gordon, to build airplanes in order to fight the town's exiles, who live in the hills. Gordon insists that "civilization is dead," however, and that "flying is finished." Cabal then arrives in an airplane and informs Harding and Gordon of his Brotherhood of Efficiency, which is made up of old engineers and mechanics who are the "last trustees of civilization." Envoys of Cabal's World Communications, whose business is order and trade, want to replace war lords with a government ruled by law and sanity. The Boss imprisons Cabal, however, and continues his fight for "victorious peace," while World Communications spreads its influence over the Mediterranean. Gordon then secretly repairs Cabal's plane and escapes to Basra, a territory controlled by Cabal's united airmen, and a fleet of colossal planes descends on Everytown, releasing a sleeping "peace gas." The Boss then chokes on what he thinks is poison gas and dies. An orgy of technology continues until 2036, when Everytown has been transformed into a highly technical and efficient underground world city free from disease and war. Dissension still exists, however, and finds its leader in Theotocopulos, who believes the people are slaves to scientific progress. Hoping to prevent Oswald Cabal, John Cabal's great grandson, from sending his daughter Catherine and Horrie Passworthy to the moon in a space gun, Theotocopulos announces to the world his desire to end the scientific age, saying "progress is not living." The citizens cheer and then move en masse to destroy the space gun, which they say is a symbol of Oswald's scientific tyranny. Oswald is forced to launch the space gun early, and as it disappears into the atmosphere, Raymond Passworthy, Horrie's father, tells Oswald humanity yearns for an age of rest and happiness. Oswald, however, insists man must conquer "all the universe or nothing," and asks, "which shall it be?"