Vandals of the Void by Robert Wilson appeared in the Spring 1945 issue Planet Stories. It can be read here at Archive.org.
Vandals of the Void is an apocalyptic invasion tale with a lot going for it. Despite some over-reliance on expository dialogue, Wilson gives us something that would be perfect fodder for an invasion flick, classic or modern.
We’ve got multiple alien menaces, neutral/possibly ally extraterrestrials in the form of the Martians, a mad scientist traitor to the human race, and a power couple who are challenged with love in the face of annihilation. Really great stuff!
Scientists have discovered these strange worm-things; they seem semi-carbon-based, but they can’t quite figure out their metabolism. They’re not much more than a tube body and a mouth, and they’ll bore upward through just about anything. Sideways, down, notsomuch, but you put something above them, they’ll eat their way straight up and out. Cities all over earth begin to be destroyed and devoured by these critters as they eat their way upward through the crust.
In Vandals of the Void, we have an Earth that has been virtually disarmed; I say virtually, because they despite a death-penalty for carrying excessive lethal weapons, people are specifically allowed “what might be carried by a man for his personal defense”. Part of the reason for this was that, following “the Great Gas War”, an International Peace Council was set up to try to establish global piece by means forceful enough to try to convince the enlightened Martians that the Earthmen weren’t complete barbarians. Ironically, this sort of thing, combined with the cabal of generals who want to overthrow the Martian scientific council by force and steal their secret wisdom and technology, means that the Martians still don’t trust the average Earthman farther than they can throw him. So, the Martians don’t trust the earthlings and the earthlings don’t readily have the weapons they need to fight the worms.
The weird parasitic aliens are actually the harvesters of an even weirder race of aliens—long and tube-like with giant eyes at the top of their heads, Voornizar use the worms, the “Ghlak-Ileth”, to harvest radium within the crust and mantles of planets with an ingrained instinct to emerge towards the surface for collection every 3000 years. The worms are ready for harvest, and eating their way up through multiple major metropolitan areas all across the globe.
The Martians knew what was up and had been holding back certain knowledge, afraid of what the Earthlings would do with it, especially since they have traitors in their midst, but revelations range from the decline of Mars to a lost civilization on the harsh jungle world of Venus that has been reduced to degenerate Morlocks following the last cycle during which the Voornizar came to collect their harvesters.
Worms, weird aliens, disintegrators, lost civilizations, mad scientists, conspiracies, and an end of the world scenario squarely place Vandals of the Void in the “Kitchen Sink” category of pulp sci-fi adventure.