By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII | HTML | PDF ]

Look for this book on Amazon

We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

Title: Invaders from the Infinite
Author: Campbell, John Wood, 1910-1971
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Invaders from the Infinite" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.




Ace Books, Inc.
1120 Avenue of the Americas
New York, N.Y. 10036

Copyright, 1961, by John W. Campbell, Jr.
An earlier version Copyright, 1932, by Experimenter Pub. Co.
An Ace Book, by arrangement with the Author.
All Rights Reserved
Cover by Gray Morrow.
Printed in U.S.A.


The famous scientific trio of Arcot, Wade and Morey, challenged by the
most ruthless aliens in all the universes, blasted off on an
intergalactic search for defenses against the invaders of Earth and all
her allies.

World after world was visited, secret after secret unleashed, and turned
to mighty weapons of intense force--and still the Thessian enemy seemed
to grow in power and ferocity.

Mighty battles between huge space armadas were but skirmishes in the
galactic war, as the invincible aliens savagely advanced and the Earth
team hurled bolt after bolt of pure ravening energy--until it appeared
that the universe itself might end in one final flare of furious
torrential power....

Chapter I


Russ Evans, Pilot 3497, Rocket Squad Patrol 34, unsnapped his seat belt,
and with a slight push floated "up" into the air inside the weightless
ship. He stretched himself, and yawned broadly.

"Red, how soon do we eat?" he called.

"Shut up, you'll wake the others," replied a low voice from the rear of
the swift little patrol ship. "See anything?"

"Several million stars," replied Evans in a lower voice. "And--" His
tone became suddenly severe. "Assistant Murphy, remember your manners
when addressing your superior officer. I've a mind to report you."

A flaming head of hair topping a grinning face poked around the edge of
the door. "Lower your wavelength, lower your wavelength! You may think
you're a sun, but you're just a planetoid. But what I'd like to know,
Chief Pilot Russ Evans, is why they locate a ship in a forlorn, out of
the way place like this--three-quarters of a billion miles, out of
planetary plane. No ships ever come out here, no pirates, not a chance
to help a wrecked ship. All we can do is sit here and watch the other
fellows do the work."

"Which is exactly why we're here. Watch--and tell the other ships where
to go, and when. Is that chow ready?" asked Russ looking at a small
clock giving New York time.

"Uh--think she'll be on time? Come on an' eat."

Evans took one more look at the telectroscope screen, then snapped it
off. A tiny, molecular towing unit in his hand, he pointed toward the
door to the combined galley and lunch room, and glided in the wake of

"How much fuel left?" he asked, as he glided into the dizzily spinning
room. A cylindrical room, spinning at high speed, causing an artificial
"weight" for the foods and materials in it, made eating of food a less
difficult task. Expertly, he maneuvered himself to the guide rail near
the center of the room, and caught the spiral. Braking himself into
motion, he soon glided down its length, and landed on his feet. He bent
and flexed his muscles, waiting for the now-busied assistant to get to
the floor and reply.

"They gave us two pounds extra. Lord only knows why. Must expect us to
clean up on some fleet. That makes four pound rolls left, untouched, and
two thirds of the original pound. We've been here fifteen days, and have
six more to go. The main driving power rolls have about the same amount
left, and three pound rolls in each reserve bin," replied Red, holding a
curiously moving coffee pot that strove to adjust itself to rapidly
changing air velocities as it neared the center of the room.

"Sounds like a fleet's power stock. Martian lead or the terrestrial
isotope?" asked Evans, tasting warily a peculiar dish before him. "Say,
this is energy food. I thought we didn't get any more till Saturday."
The change from the energy-less, flavored pastes that made up the
principal bulk of a space-pilot's diet, to prevent over-eating, when no
energy was used in walking in the weightless ship, was indeed a welcome

"Uh-huh. I got hungry. Any objections?" grinned the Irishman.

"None!" replied Evans fervently, pitching in with a will.

Seated at the controls once more, he snapped the little switch that
caused the screen to glow with flashing, swirling colors as the
telectroscope apparatus came to life. A thousand tiny points of flame
appeared scattered on a black field with a suddenness that made them
seem to snap suddenly into being. Points, tiny dimensionless points of
light, save one, a tiny disc of blue-white flame, old Sol from a
distance of close to one billion miles, and under slight reverse
magnification. The skillful hands at the controls were turning
adjustments now, and that disc of flame seemed to leap toward him with a
hundred light-speeds, growing to a disc as large as a dime in an
instant, while the myriad points of the stars seemed to scatter like
frightened chickens, fleeing from the growing sun, out of the screen.
Other points, heretofore invisible, appeared, grew, and rushed away.

The sun shifted from the center of the screen, and a smaller
reddish-green disc came into view--a planet, its atmosphere coloring the
light that left it toward the red. It rushed nearer, grew larger. Earth
spread as it took the center of the screen. A world, a portion of a
world, a continent, a fragment of a continent as the magnification
increased, boundlessly it seemed.

Finally, New York spread across the screen; New York seen from the air,
with a strange lack of perspective. The buildings did not seem all to
slant toward some point, but to stand vertical, for, from a distance of
a billion miles, the vision lines were practically parallel. Titanic
shafts of glowing color in the early summer sun appeared; the hot rays
from the sun, now only 82,500,000 miles away, shimmering on the colored
metal walls.

The new Airlines Building, a mile and a half high, supported at various
points by actual spaceship driving units, was a riot of shifting,
rainbow hues. A new trick in construction had been used here, and Evans
smiled at it. Arcot, inventor of the ship that carried him, had
suggested it to Fuller, designer of that ship, and of that building. The
colored berylium metal of the wall had been ruled with 20,000 lines to
the inch, mere scratches, but nevertheless a diffraction grating. The
result was amazingly beautiful. The sunlight, split up to its rainbow
colors, was reflected in millions of shifting tints.

In the air, supported by tiny packs strapped to their backs, thousands
of people were moving, floating where they wished, in any direction, at
any elevation. There were none of the helicopters of even five years
ago, now. A molecular power suit was far more convenient, cost nothing
to operate, and but $50 to buy. Perfectly safe, requiring no skill,
everyone owned them. To the watcher in space, they were mere moving,
snaky lines of barely distinguishable dots that shivered and seemed to
writhe in the refractions of the air. Passing over them, seeming to pass
almost through them in this strange perspectiveless view, were the
shadowy forms of giant space liners, titanic streamlined hulls. They
were streamlined for no good reason, save that they looked faster and
more graceful than the more efficient spherical freighters, just as
passenger liners of two centuries earlier, with their steam engines, had
carried four funnels and used two. A space liner spent so minute a
portion of its journey in the atmosphere that it was really inefficient
to streamline them.

"Won't be long!" muttered Russ, grinning cheerily at the familiar,
sunlit city. His eyes darted to the chronometer beside him. The view
seemed to be taken from a ship that was suddenly scudding across the
heavens like a frightened thing, as it ran across from Manhattan Island,
followed the Hudson for a short way, then cut across into New Jersey,
swinging over the great woodland area of Kittatiny Park, resting finally
on the New Jersey suburb of New York nestled in the Kittatinies,
Blairtown. Low apartment buildings, ten or twelve stories high, nestled
in the waving green of trees in the old roadways. When ground traffic
ceased, the streets had been torn up, and parkways substituted.

Quickly the view singled out a single apartment, and the great smooth
roof was enlarged on the screen to the absolute maximum clarity, till
further magnification simply resulted in worse stratospheric distortion.
On the broad roof were white strips of some material, making a huge V
followed by two I's. Russ watched, his hand on the control steadying the
view under the Earth's complicated orbital motion, and rotation, further
corrections for the ship's orbital motion making the job one requiring
great skill. The view held the center with amazing clarity. Something
seemed to be happening to the last of the I's. It crumpled suddenly,
rolled in on itself and disappeared.

"She's there, and on time," grinned Russ happily.

He tried more magnification. Could he--

He was tired, terribly, suddenly tired. He took his hands from the
viewplate controls, relaxed, and dropped off to sleep.

"What made me so tired--wonder--GOD!" He straightened with a jerk, and
his hands flew to the controls. The view on the machine suddenly
retreated, flew back with a velocity inconceivable. Earth dropped away
from the ship with an apparent velocity a thousand times that of light;
it was a tiny ball, a pinpoint, gone, the sun--a minute disc--gone--then
the apparatus was flashing views into focus from the other side of the
ship. The assistant did not reply. Evans' hands were growing ineffably
heavy, his whole body yearned for sleep. Slowly, clumsily he pawed for a
little stud. Somehow his hand found it, and the ship reeled suddenly,
little jerks, as the code message was flung out in a beam of such
tremendous power that the sheer radiation pressure made it noticeable.
Earth would be notified. The system would be warned. But light, slow
crawling thing, would take hours to cross the gulf of space, and radio
travels no faster.

Half conscious, fighting for his faculties with all his will, the pilot
turned to the screen. A ship! A strange, glistening thing streamlined to
the nth degree, every spare corner rounded till the resistance was at
the irreducible minimum. But, in the great pilotport of the stranger,
the patrol pilot saw faces, and gasped in surprise as he saw them!
Terrible faces, blotched, contorted. Patches of white skin, patches of
brown, patches of black, blotched and twisted across the faces. Long,
lean faces, great wide flat foreheads above, skulls strangely squared,
more box-like than man's rounded skull. The ears were large, pointed
tips at the top. Their hair was a silky mane that extended low over the
forehead, and ran back, spreading above the ears, and down the neck.

Then, as that emotion of surprise and astonishment weakened his will
momentarily, oblivion came, with what seemed a fleeting instant of
memories. His life seemed to flash before his mind in serried rank, a
file of events, his childhood, his life, his marriage, his wife, an
image of smiling comfort, then the years, images of great and near great
men, his knowledge of history, pictures of great war of 2074, pictures
of the attackers of the Black Star--then calm oblivion, quiet blankness.

The long, silent ship that had hovered near him turned, and pointed
toward the pinhead of matter that glowed brilliantly in the flaming
jewel box of the heavens. It was gone in an instant, rushing toward Sun
and Earth at a speed that outraced the flying radio message, leaving the
ship of the Guard Patrol behind, and leaving the Pilot as he leaves our

Chapter II


"And that," said Arcot between puffs, "will certainly be a great boon to
the Rocket Patrol, you must admit. They don't like dueling with these
space-pirates using the molecular rays, and since molecular rays have
such a tremendous commercial value, we can't prohibit the sale of ray
apparatus. Now, if you will come into the 'workshop,' Fuller, I'll give
a demonstration with friend Morey's help."

The four friends rose, Morey, Wade and Fuller following Arcot into his
laboratory on the thirty-seventh floor of the Arcot Research Building.
As they went, Arcot explained to Fuller the results and principles of
the latest product of the ingenuity of the "Triumvirate," as Arcot,
Morey and Wade had come to be called in the news dispatches.

"As you know, the molecular rays make all the molecules of any piece of
matter they are turned upon move in the desired direction. Since they
supply no new energy, but make the body they are turned upon supply its
own, using the energy of its own random molecular motion of heat, they
are practically impossible to stop. The energy necessary for molecular
rays to take effect is so small that the usual type of filter lets
enough of it pass. A ship equipped with filters is no better off when
attacked than one without. The rays simply drove the front end into the
rear, or _vice versa_, or tore it to pieces as the pirates desired. The
Rocket Patrol could kill off the pirates, but they lost so many men in
the process, it was a Phyrric victory.

"For some time Morey and I have been working on something to stop the
rays. Obviously it can't be by means of any of the usual metallic energy
absorption screens.

"We finally found a combination of rays, better frequencies, that did
what we wanted. I have such an apparatus here. What we want you to do,
of course, is the usual job of rearranging the stuff so that the
apparatus can be made from dies, and put into quantity production. As
the Official Designer for the A.A.L. you ought to do that easily." Arcot
grinned as Fuller looked in amazement at the apparatus Arcot had picked
up from the bench in the "workshop."

"Don't get worried," laughed Morey, "that's got a lifting unit
combined--just a plain ordinary molecular lift such as you see by the
hundreds out there." Morey pointed through the great window where
thousands of those lift units were carrying men, women and children
through the air, lifting them hundreds, thousands of feet above the
streets and through the doors of buildings.

"Here's an ordinary molecular pistol. I'm going to put the suit on, and
rise about five feet off the floor. You can turn the pistol on me, and
see what impression it makes on the suit."

Fuller took the molecular ray pistol, while Wade helped Arcot into the
suit. He looked at the pistol dubiously, pointed it at a heavy casting
of iron resting in one corner of the room, and turned the ray at low
concentration, then pressed the trigger-button. The casting gave out a
low, scrunching grind, and slid toward him with a lurch. Instantly he
shut off the power. "This isn't any ordinary pistol. It's got seven or
eight times the ordinary power!" he exclaimed.

"Oh yes, I forgot," Morey said. "Instead of the fuel battery that the
early pistols used, this has a space-distortion power coil. This pistol
has as much power as the usual A-39 power unit for commercial work."

By the time Morey had explained the changes to Fuller, Arcot had the
suit on, and was floating five or six feet in the air, like a grotesque
captive balloon. "Ready, Fuller?"

"I guess so, but I certainly hope that suit is all it is claimed to be.
If it isn't--well I'd rather not commit murder."

"It'll work," said Arcot. "I'll bet my neck on that!" Suddenly he was
surrounded by the faintest of auras, a strange, wavering blue light,
like the hazy corona about a 400,000-volt power line. "Now try it."

Fuller pointed the pistol at the floating man and pushed the trigger.
The brilliant blue beam of the molecular ray, and the low hum of the
air, rushing in the path of the director beam, stabbed out toward Arcot.
The faint aura about him was suddenly intensified a million times till
he floated in a ball of blue-white fire. Scarcely visible, the air about
him blazed with bluish incandescence of ionization.

"Increase the power," suggested Morey. Fuller turned on more power. The
blue halo was shot through with tiny violet sparks, the sharp odor of
ozone in the air was stifling; the heat of wasted energy was making the
room hotter. The power increased further, and the tiny sparks were
waving streamers, that laced across the surface of the blue fire. Little
jets of electric flame reached out along the beam of the ray now.
Finally, as full power of the molecular ray was reached, the entire halo
was buried under a mass of writhing sparks that seemed to leap up into
the air above the man's head, wavering up to extinction. The room was
unbearably hot, despite the molecular ray coolers absorbing the heat of
the air, and blowing cooled air into the room.

Fuller snapped off the ray, and put the pistol on the table beside him.
The halo died, and went out a moment later, and Arcot settled to the

"This particular suit will stand up against anything the ordinary
commercial sets will give. The system now: remember that the rays are
short electrical waves. The easiest way to stop them is to interpose a
wave of opposite phase, and cause interference. Fine, but try to get in
tune with an unknown wave when it is moving in relation to your center
of control. It is impossible to do it before you yourself have been
rayed out of existence. We must use some system that will automatically,
instantly be out of phase.

"The Hall effect would naturally tend to make the frequency of a wave
through a resisting medium change, and lengthen. If we can send out a
spherical wave front, and have it lengthen rapidly as it proceeds, we
will have a wave front that is, at all points, different. Any entering
wave would, sooner or later, meet a wave that was half a phase out, no
matter what the motion was, nor what the frequency, as long as it lies
within the comparatively narrow molecular wave band. What this
apparatus, or ray screen, consists of, is a machine generating a
spherical wave front of the nature of a molecular wave, but of just too
great a frequency to do anything. A second part generates a condition in
space, which opposes that wave. After traveling a certain distance, the
wave has lengthened to molecular wave type, but is now beyond the
machine which generated it, and no longer affects it, or damages it.
However, as it proceeds, it continues to lengthen, till eventually it
reaches the length of infra-light, when the air quickly absorbs it, as
it reaches one of the absorption bands for air molecular waves, and any
molecular wave must find its half-wave complement somewhere in that
wedge of waves. It does, and is at once choked off, its energy fighting
the energy of the ray screen, of course. In the air, however, the screen
is greatly helped by the fact that before the half-wave frequency is met
in the ray-wedge, the molecular ray is buried in ions, leaving the ray
screen little work to do.

"Now your job is to design the apparatus in a form that machines can
make automatically. We tried doing it ourselves for the fun of it, but
we couldn't see how we could make a machine that didn't need at least
two humans to supervise."

"Well," grinned Fuller, "you have it all over me as scientists, but as
economic workers--two human supervisors to make one product!"

"All right--we agree. But no, let's see you--Lord! What was that?" Morey
started for the door on the run. The building was still trembling from
the shock of a heavy blow, a blow that seemed much as though a machine
had been wrecked on the armored roof, and a big machine at that. Arcot,
a flying suit already on, was up in the air, and darting past Morey in
an instant, streaking for the vertical shaft that would let him out to
the roof. The molecular ray pistol was already in his hand, ready to
pull any beams off unfortunate victims pinned under them.

In a moment he had flashed up through the seven stories, and out to the
roof. A gigantic silvery machine rested there, streamlined to
perfection, its hull dazzingly beautiful in the sunlight. A door opened,
and three tall, lean men stepped from it. Already people were collecting
about the ship, flying up from below. Air patrolmen floated up in a
minute, and seeing Arcot, held the crowd back.

The strange men were tall, eight feet or more in height. Great, round,
soft brown eyes looked in curiosity at the towering multicolored
buildings, at the people floating in the air, at the green trees and the
blue sky, the yellowish sun.

Arcot looked at their strangely blotched and mottled heads, faces, arms
and hands. Their feet were very long and narrow, their legs long and
thin. Their faces were kindly; the mottled skin, brown and white and
black, seemed not to make them ugly. It was not a disfigurement; it
seemed oddly familiar and natural in some reminiscent way.

"Lord, Arcot--queer specimens, yet they seem familiar!" said Morey in an

"They are. Their race is that of man's first and best friend, the dog!
See the brown eyes? The typical teeth? The feet still show the traces of
the dog's toe-step. Their nails, not flat like human ones but rounded?
The mottled skin, the ears--look, one is advancing."

One of the strangers walked laboriously forward. A lighter world than
Earth was evidently his home. His great brown eyes fixed themselves on
Arcot's. Arcot watched them. They seemed to expand, grow larger; they
seemed to fill all the sky. Hypnotism! He concentrated his mind, and the
eyes suddenly contracted to the normal eyes of the stranger. The man
reeled back, as Arcot's telepathic command to sleep came, stronger than
his own will. The stranger's friends caught him, shook him, but he
slept. One of the others looked at Arcot; his eyes seemed hurt,
desperately pleading.

Arcot strode forward, and quickly brought the man out of the trance. He
shook his head, smiled at Arcot, then, with desperate difficulty, he
enunciated some words in English, terribly distorted.

"Ahy wizz tahk. Vokle kohds ron. Tahk by breen."

Distorted as it was, Arcot recognized the meaning without difficulty. "I
wish (to) talk. Vocal cords wrong. Talk by brain." He switched to
communication by the Venerian method, telepathically, but without

"Good enough. When you attempted to hypnotize me, I didn't known what
you wanted. It is not necessary to hypnotize to carry on communication
by the method of the second world of this system. What brings you to our
system? From what system do you come? What do you wish to say?"

The other, not having learned the Venerian system, had great difficulty
in communicating his thoughts, but Arcot learned that they had machines
which would make it easier, and the terrestrian invited them into his
laboratory, for the crowd was steadily growing.

The three returned to their ship for a moment, coming out with several
peculiar headsets. Almost at once the ship started to rise, going up
more and more swiftly, as the people cleared a way for it.

Then, in the tiniest fraction of a second, the ship was gone; it shrank
to a point, and was invisible in the blue vault of the sky.

"Apparently they intend to stay a while," said Wade. "They are trusting
souls, for their line of retreat is cut off. We naturally have no
intention of harming them, but they can't know that."

"I'm not so sure," said Arcot. He turned to the apparent leader of the
three and explained that there were several stories to descend, and
stairs were harder than a flying unit. "Wrap your arms about my legs,
when I rise above you, and hold on till your feet are on the floor
again," he concluded.

The stranger walked a little closer to the edge of the shaft, and looked
down. White bulbs illuminated its walls down its length to the ground.
The man talked rapidly to his friends, looking with evident distaste at
the shaft, and the tiny pack on Arcot's back. Finally, smiling, he
evinced his willingness. Arcot rose, the man grasped his legs, and then
both rose. Over the shaft, and down to his laboratory was the work of a

Arcot led them into his "consultation room," where a number of
comfortable chairs were arranged, facing each other. He seated them
together, and his own friends facing them.

"Friends of another world," began Arcot, "we do not know your errand
here, but you evidently have good reason for coming to this place. It is
unlikely that your landing was the result of sheer chance. What brought
you? How came you to this point?"

"It is difficult for me to reply. First we must be _en rapport_. Our
system is not simple as yours, but more effective, for yours depends on
thought ideas, not altogether universal. Place these on your heads, for
only a moment. I must induce temporary hypnotic coma. Let one try first
if you desire." The leader of the visitors held out one of the several
headsets they had brought, caplike things, made of laminated metal

Arcot hesitated, then with a grin slipped it on.

"Relax," came a voice in Arcot's head, a low, droning voice, a voice of
command. "Sleep," it added. Arcot felt himself floating down an infinite
shaft, on some superflying suit that did not pull at him with its
straps, just floating down lightly, down and down and down. Suddenly he
reached the bottom, and found to his surprise that it led directly into
the room again! He was back. "You are awake. Speak!" came the voice.

Arcot shook himself, and looked about. A new voice spoke now, not the
tonelessly melodious voice, but the voice of an individual, yet a mental
voice. It was perfectly clear, and perfectly comprehensible. "We have
traveled far to find you, and now we have business of the utmost import.
Ask these others to let us treat them, for we must do what we can in the
least possible time. I will explain when all can understand. I am Zezdon
Fentes, First Student of Thought. He who sits on my right is Zezdon
Afthen, and he beyond him, is Zezdon Inthel, of Physics and of
Chemistry, respectively."

And now Arcot spoke to his friends.

"These men have something of the greatest importance to tell us, it
seems. They want us all to hear, and they are in a hurry. The treatment
isn't at all annoying. Try it. The man on the extreme right, as we face
them, is Zezdon Fentes of Thought, Zezdon apparently meaning something
like professor, or 'First Student of.' Those next him are Zezdon Afthen
of Physics and Zezdon Inthel of Chemistry."

Zezdon Afthen offered them the headsets, and in a moment everyone
present was wearing one. The process of putting them _en rapport_ took
very little time, and shortly all were able to communicate with ease.

"Friends of Earth, we must tell our strange story quickly for the
benefit of your world as well as ours, and others, too. We cannot so
much as annoy. We are helpless to combat them.

"Our world lies far out across the galaxy; even with incalculable
velocity of the great swift thing that bore us, three long months have
we traveled toward your distant worlds, hoping that at last the Invaders
might meet their masters.

"We landed on this roof because we examined mentally the knowledge of a
pilot of one of your patrol ships. His mind told us that here we would
find the three greatest students of Science of this Solar System. So it
was here we came for help.

"Our race has arisen," he continued, "as you have so surely determined
from the race you call canines. It was artificially produced by the
Ancient Masters when their hour of need had come. We have lost the great
science of the Ancient Ones. But we have developed a different science,
a science of the mind."

"Dogs are far more psychic than are men. They would naturally tend to
develop such a civilization," said Arcot judiciously.

Chapter III


"Our civilization," continued Zezdon Afthen, "is built largely on the
knowledge of the mind. We cannot have criminals, for the man who plots
evil is surely found out by his thoughts. We cannot have lying
politicians and unjust rulers.

"It is a peaceful civilization. The Ancient Masters feared and hated War
with a mighty aversion. But they did not make our race cowards, merely
peaceful intelligence. Now we must fight for our homes, and my race will
fight mightily. But we need weapons.

"But my story has little to do with our race. I will tell the story of
our civilization and of the Ancient Ones later when the time is more

"Four months ago, our mental vibration instruments detected powerful
emanations from space. That could only mean that a new, highly
intelligent race had suddenly appeared within a billion miles of our
world. The directional devices quickly spotted it as emanating from the
third planet of our system. Zezdon Fentes, with my aid, set up some
special apparatus, which would pick up strong thoughts and make them
visible. We had used this before to see not only what an enemy
looked upon, but also what he saw in that curious thing, the eye
of the mind, the vision of the past and the future. But while the
thought-amplification device was powerful, the new emanations were hard
to separate from each other.

"It was done finally, when all but one man slept. That one we were
enable to tune sharply to. After that we could reach him at any time. He
was the commander. We saw him operate the ship, we saw the ship, saw it
glide over the barren, rocky surface of that world. We saw other men
come in and go out. They were strange men. Short, squat, bulky men.
Their arms were short and stocky. But their strength was enormous,
unbelievable. We saw them bend solid bars of steel as thick as my arm.
With perfect ease!

"Their brains were tremendously active, but they were evil, selfishly
evil. Nothing that did not benefit them counted. At one time our
instruments went dead, and we feared that the commander had detected us,
but we saw what happened a little later. The second in command had
killed him.

"We saw them examine the world, working their way across it, wearing
heavy suits, yet, for all the terrific gravity of that world, bouncing
about like rubber balls, leaping and jumping where they wanted. Their
legs would drive out like pistons, and they soared up and through the

"They were tired while they made those examinations, and slept heavily
at night.

"Then one night there was a conference. We saw then what they intended.
Before we had tried desperately to signal them. Now we were glad that we
had failed.

"We saw their ship rise (in the thoughts of the second in command) and
sail out into space, and rush toward our world. The world grew larger,
but it was imperfectly sketched in, for they did not know our world
well. Their telescopes did not have great power as your electric
telescopes have.

"We saw them investigate the planet. We saw them plan to destroy any
people they found with a ray which was as follows: 'the ray which makes
all parts move as one.' We could not understand and could not interpret.
Thoughts beyond our knowledge have, of course, no meaning, even when our
mental amplifiers get them, and bring them to us."

"The Molecular ray!" gasped Morey in surprise. "They will be an enemy."

"You know it! It is familiar to you! You have it? You can fight it?"
asked Zezdon Afthen excitedly.

"We know it, and can fight it, if that is all they have."

"They have more--much more I fear," replied Zezdon Afthen. "At any rate,
we saw what they intended. If our world was inhabited, they would
destroy every one on it, and then other men of their race were to float
in on their great ships, and settle on that largest of our worlds.

"We had to stop them so we did what we could. We had powerful machines,
which would amplify and broadcast our thoughts. So we broadcast our
thought-waves, and implanted in the mind of their leader that it would
be wise to land, and learn the extent of the civilization, and the
weapons to be met. Also, as the ship drew nearer, we made him decide on
a certain spot we had prepared for him.

"He never guessed that the thoughts were not his own. Only the ideas
came to him, seeming to spring from his own mind.

"He landed--and we used our one weapon. It was a thing left to one group
of rulers when the Ancient Masters left us to care for ourselves. What
it was, we never knew; we had never used it in the fifteen thousand
years since the Great Masters had passed--never had to. But now it was
brought out, and concealed behind great piles of rock in a deep canyon
where the ship of the enemy would land. When it landed, we turned the
beam of the machine on it, and the apparatus rotated it swiftly, and a
cone of the beam's ray was formed as the beam was swung through a small
circle in the vertical plane. The machine leaped backward, and though it
was so massive that a tremendous amount of labor had been required to
bring it there, the push of the pencil of force we sent out hurled it
back against a rocky cliff behind it as though it were some child's toy.
It continued to operate for perhaps a second, perhaps two. In that time
two great holes had been cut in the enemy ship, holes fifteen feet
across, that ran completely through the hull as though a die had cut
through the metal of the ship, cutting out a disc of metal.

"There was a terrific concussion, and a roar as the air blasted out of
the ship. It did not take us long to discover that the enemy were dead.
Their terrible, bloated corpses lay everywhere in the ship. Most of the
men we were able to recognize, having seen them in the mentovisor. But
the colors were distorted, and their forms were peculiar. Indeed, the
whole ship seemed strange. The only time that things ever did seem
normal about that strange thing, when the angles of it seemed what they
were, when the machines did not seem out of proportion, out of shape,
twisted, was when on a trial trip we ventured very close to our sun."

Arcot whistled softly and looked at Morey. Morey nodded. "Probably
right. Don't interrupt."

"That you thought something, I understood, but the thoughts themselves
were hopelessly unintelligible to me. You know the explanation?" asked
Zezdon Afthen eagerly.

"We think so. The ship was evidently made on a world of huge size. Those
men, their stocky, block legs and arms, their entire build and their
desire for the largest of your planets, would indicate that. Their own
world was probably even larger--they were forced to wear pressure suits
even on that large world, and could jump all over, you said. On so huge
a sphere as their native world seems to be, the gravity would be so
intense as to distort space. Geometry, such as yours seems to be, and
such as ours was, could never be developed, for you assume the existence
of a straight line, and of an absolute plane surface. These things
cannot exist in space, but on small worlds, far from the central sun's
mass, the conditions approach that without sufficient discrepency to
make the error obvious. On so huge a globe as their world the space is
so curved that it is at once obvious that no straight line exists, and
that no plane exists. Their geometry would never be like ours. When you
went close to your sun, the attraction was sufficient to curve space
into a semblance of the natural conditions on their home planet, then
your senses and the ship met a compromise condition which made it seem
more or less normal, not so obviously strange to you.

"But continue." Arcot looked at Afthen interestedly.

"There were none left in their ship now, and we had been careful in
locating the first hole, that it should not damage the propulsive
machinery. The second hole was accidental, due to the shift of the
machine. The machine itself was wrecked now, crushed by its own
reaction. We forgot that any pencil of force powerful enough to do what
we wanted, would tear the machine from its moorings unless fastened with
great steel bolts into the solid rock.

"The second hole had been far to the rear, and had, by ill-luck, cut out
a portion of the driving apparatus. We could not repair that, though we
did succeed at last in lifting the great discs into place. We attempted
to cut them, and put them back in sections. Our finest saws and machines
did not nick them. Their weight was unbelievable, and yet we finally
succeeded in lifting the things into the wall of the ship. The actual
missing material did not represent more than a tiny cut, perhaps as wide
as one of your credit-discs. You could slip the thin piece of metal in
between them, but not so much as your finger.

"Those slots we welded tight with our best steel, letting a flap hang
over on each side of the cut, and as the hot metal cooled, it was drawn
against the shining walls with terrific force. The joints were perfectly

"The machines proper were repaired to the greatest possible extent. It
was a heartbreaking task, for we must only guess at what machines should
be connected together. Much damage had been done by the rushing air as
it left, for it filled the machines, too, and they were not designed to
resist the terrific air pressure that was on them when the pressure in
the ship escaped. Many of the machines had been burst open, and these we
could repair when we had the necessary elements and knew their
construction from the remnants, or could find unbroken duplicates in the
stock rooms.

"Once we connected the wrong things. This will show you what we dealt
with. They were the wrong poles--two generators, connected together in
the wrong way. There was a terrific crash when the switch was thrown,
and huge sheets of electric flame leaped from one of them. Two men were
killed, incinerated in an instant, even the odors one might expect were
killed in that flash of heat. Everything save the shining metal and
clear glass within ten feet of it was instantly wiped out. And there was
a fuse link that gave. The generator was ruined. One was left, and
several small auxiliary generators.

"Eventually, we did the job. We made the machine work. And we are here.

"We have come to warn you, and to ask aid. Your system also has a large
planet, slightly smaller than the largest of our system, but yet
attractive. There are approximately 50,000 planetary systems in this
universe, according to the records of the Invaders. Their world is not
of this system. It is the World Thett, sun Antseck, Universe Venone.
Where that is, or even what it means, we do not know. Perhaps you

"But they investigated your world, and its address, according to their
records, was World 3769-8482730-3. This, I believe, means, Universe
3769, sun 8482730, world 3. They have been investigating this system now
for nearly three centuries. It was close to 200 years ago that they
visited your world--two hundred years of your time."

"This is 2129--which makes it about the year 1929-30 that they floated
around here investigating. Why haven't they done anything?" Arcot asked

"They waited for an auspicious time. They are afraid now, for recently
they visited your world, and were utterly amazed to find the
unbelievable progress your people have made. They intend to make an
immediate attack on all worlds known to be intelligently populated. They
had made the mistake of letting one race learn too much; they cannot
afford to let it happen again.

"There are only twenty-one inhabited worlds known, and their thousands
of scouts have already investigated nearly all the central mass of this
universe, and much of the outer rings. They have established a base in
this universe. Where I do not know. That, alone, was never mentioned in
the records. But of all peoples, they feared only your world.

"There is one race in the universe far older than yours, but they are a
sleeping people. Long ago their culture decayed. Still, now they are not
far from you, and perhaps it will be worth the few days needed to learn
more about them. We have their location and can take you there. Their
world circles a dead star--"

"Not any more," laughed Morey grimly. "That's another surprise for the
enemy. They had a little jog, and they certainly are wide awake now.
They are headed for big things, and they are going to do a lot."

"But how do you know these things? You have ships that can go from
planet to planet, I know, but the records of the enemy said you could
not leave the system of your sun. They alone knew that secret."

"Another surprise for them," said Morey. "We can--and we can move faster
than your ship, if not faster than they. The people of the dead star
have moved to a very live star--Sirius, the brightest in our heavens.
And they are as much alive now as their new sun. They can move faster
than light, also. We had a little misunderstanding a while back, when
their star passed close to ours. They came off second best, and we
haven't spoken to them since. But I think we can make valuable allies

For all Morey's jocular manner, he realized the terrible import of this
announcement. A race which had been able to cross the vast gulf of
intergalactic space in the days when Terrestrians were still developing
the airplane--and already they had mapped Jupiter, and planned their
colonies! What developments had come? They had molecular rays, cosmic
rays, the energy of matter, then--what else had they now? Lux and Relux,
the two artificial metals, made of solidified light, far stronger than
anything of molecular structure in nature, absolutely infusible, totally
inert chemically, one a perfect conductor of light and of all radiation
in space, the other a perfect reflector of all radiations--save
molecular rays. Made into the condition of reflection by the action of
special frequencies in its formation from light, molecular frequencies
were, unfortunately, able to convert it into perfectly transparent lux
metal, when the protective value was gone.

They had that. All Earth had, perhaps.

"There was one other race of some importance, the others were
semi-civilized. They rated us in a position between these races and the
high races--yours, those of the dead star, and those of world
3769-37:478:326:894-6. Our science had been investigated two hundred or
so years ago.

"This other race was at a great distance from us, greater than yours,
and apparently not feared as greatly as yours. They cannot cross to
other worlds, save in small ships driven solely by fire, which the
Thessians have called a 'hopelessly inefficient and laughably awkward
thing to ride in.'"

"Rockets," grinned Morey. "Our first ship was part rocket."

Zezdon Fentes smiled. "But that is all. We have brought you warning, and
our plea. Can you help us?"

"We cannot answer that. The Interplanetary Council must act. But I am
afraid that it will be all we can do to protect our own world if this
enemy attacks soon, and I fear they will. Since they have a base in this
universe, it is impossible to believe that all ships did not report back
to the home world at stated intervals. That one is missing will soon be
discovered, and it will be sought. War will start at once. Three months
it took you to reach us--they should come soon.

"Those men who left will be on their way back from the home world from
which they came. What do you call your planet, friend?"

"Ortol is our home," replied Zezdon Inthel.

"At any rate, I can only assure you that your world will be given
weapons that will permit your people to defend themselves and I will get
you to your home within twenty-four hours. Your ship--is it in the

"It waits on the second satellite of the fourth planet," replied Zezdon

"Signal them, and tell them to land where a beacon of intense light,
alternating red and blue, reaches up from--this point on the map." Arcot
pointed out the spot in Vermont where their private lake and laboratory

He turned to the others, and in rapid-fire English, explained his plans.
"We need the help of these people as much as they need ours. I think
Zezdon Fentes will stay here and help you. The others will go with us to
their world. There we shall have plenty of work to do, but on the way we
are going to stop at Mars and pick up that valuable ship of theirs and
make a careful examination for possible new weapons, their system of
speed-drive, and their regular space-drive. I'm willing to make a bet
right now, that I can guess both. Their regular drive is a molecular
drive with lead disintegration apparatus for the energy, cosmic ray
absorbers for the heating, and a drive much like ours. Their speed drive
is a time distortion apparatus, I'll wager. Time distinction offers an
easy solution of speed. All speed is relative--relative to other bodies,
but also to time-speed. But we'll see.

"I'm going to hustle some workmen to installing the biggest spare power
board I can get into the storerooms of the _Ancient Mariner_, and pack
in a ray-screen. It will be useful. Let's move."

"Our ship," said Zezdon Afthen, "will land in three of your hours."

Chapter IV


The Ortolians were standing on a low, green-clad hill. Below them
stretched the green flank of the little rise, and beyond lay ridge after
ridge of the broad, smooth carpet of the beautiful Vermont hills.

"Man of Earth," said Zezdon Afthen, turning at last to Wade, who stood
behind him. "It took us three months of constant flight at a speed
unthinkable, through space dotted with the titanic gems of the Outer
Dark, stars gleaming in red, and blue and orange, some titanic
lighthouses of our course, others dim pinpoints of glowing color. It was
a scene of unspeakable grandeur, but it was so awesomely mighty in its
scope, one was afraid, and his soul shriveled within him as he looked at
those inconceivable masses floating forever alone in the silence of the
inconceivable nothingness of eternal cold and eternal darkness. One was
awed, suppressed by their sheer magnitude. A magnificent spectacle
truly, but one no man could love.

"Now we are at rest on a tiny pinpoint of dust in a tiny bit of a tiny
corner of an isolated universe, and the magnitude and stillness is gone.
Only the chirpings of those strange birds as they seek rest in darkness,
the soft gurgling of the little stream below, and the rustle of
countless leaves, break the silence with a satisfying existence, while
the loneliness of that great star, your sun, is lost in its tintings of
soft color, the fleeciness of the clouds, and the seeming companionship
of green hills.

"The beauty of boundless space is awe-inspiring in its magnitude. The
beauty of Earth is something man can love.

"Man of Earth, you have a home that you may well fight for with all the
strength of your arms, all the forces of your brain, and all the
energies of Space that you can call forth to aid you. It is a wondrous
world." Silently he stood in the gathering dusk, as first Venus winked
into being, then one by one the stars came into existence in the
deepening color of the sky.

"Space is awesomely wonderful; this is--lovable." He gazed long at the
heavens of this world so strange, so beautiful to him, looking at the
unfamiliar heavens, as star after star flashed into the constellations
so familiar to terrestrians and to those Venerians who had been above
the clouds of Venus' eternal shroud.

"But somewhere off there in space are other races, and far beyond the
power of our eyes to see is the star that is the sun of my world, and
around it circles that little globe that is home to me. What is
happening there now? Does it still exist? Are there people still living
on it? Oh, Man of Earth, let us reach that world quickly, you cannot
guess the pangs that attack me, for if it be destroyed, think--forever I
am without home--without friends I knew. However kind your people may be
to me, I would be forever lonely.

"I will not think of that--only it is time your ship was ready, is it

"I think we had better return," replied Wade softly, his English words
rousing thoughts in his mind intelligible to the Ortolians.

The three rose in the air on the molecular suits and drove quickly down
toward the blue gem of the lake to the east, nestled among still other
green hills. Lights were showing in the great shop, where the _Ancient
Mariner_ was being fitted with the ray-shields, and all possible
weapons. Men streaming through her were hastily stocking her with vast
quantities of foods, stocks of fuel, all the spare parts they could cram
into her stock rooms.

When the men arrived from the hilltop, the work was practically done,
and Wade stepped up to Morey, busily checking off a list of required

"Everything you ordered came through?" he asked.

"Yes--thanks to the pull of a two-billion dollar private fortune. Who
says credit-units don't have their value? This expedition never would
have gotten through, if it hadn't been for that.

"But we have the main space distortion power bank, and the new auxiliary
coils full. Ten tons of lead aboard for fuel. There's one thing we are
afraid of. If the enemy have a system of tubes that is able to handle
more power than our last tube--we're sunk. These brilliant people that
suggest using more tubes to a ray-power bank forget the last tube has to
handle the entire output of all the others, and modulate it correctly.
If the enemy has a better tube--it will be too bad for us." Morey was
frankly worried.

"My end is all set, Morey. How soon will you be ready?" Arcot asked.

"'Bout ten-fifteen minutes." Morey lit a cigarette and watched as the
last of the stuff was carried aboard.

At last they were ready. The _Ancient Mariner_, originally built for
intergalactic exploration, was kept in working condition. New apparatus
had been incorporated in it, as their research had led to improvements,
and it was constantly in condition, ready for a trip. Many exploration
trips to the nearer stars had already been made.

The ship was backed out from the hangar now, and rested on the great
smooth landing field, its tremendous quarter million ton mass of lux and
relux sinking a great, smooth depression in the turf of the field. They
were waiting now for the arrival of the Ortolian ship. Zezdon Afthen
assured them it would be there in a few minutes.

High in the sky, came the whining whistle of an approaching ship, coming
at terrific velocity. It came nearer the field, darting toward the
ground at an unheard of speed, flashing down at a speed of well over
three thousand miles an hour, and, only in the last fifty feet slowed
with a sickening deceleration. Even so it landed with a crash of fully
two hundred miles of speed. Arcot gasped at the terrible landing the
pilot had made, fully expecting to see the great hull dent somewhat,
even though made of solid relux. And certainly the jar would kill every
man on board. Yet the hull did not seem harmed by the crash, and even
the ground under the ship was but slightly disturbed, though, at a
distance of some thirty feet, the entire block of soil was crushed, and
cracked by the terrific impact of hundreds of thousands of tons striking
with terrific energy.

"Lord, it's a wonder they didn't kill themselves. I never saw such a
rotten landing," exclaimed Morey with disgust.

"Don't be too sure. I think they landed gently, and at very low speed.
Notice how little the soil directly under them was dented?" replied
Arcot, walking forward. "They have time control, as I suspected. Ask
them. They drifted in gently. Their time rate was speeded up
tremendously, so that what was hundreds of miles per hour to us was feet
per minute to them. But come on, get the handlers to bring that junk up
to the door--they are coming out."

One of the tall, kindly-faced canine people was standing in the doorway
now, the white light streaming out around him into the night, casting a
grotesque shadow on the landing field, for all the flood lights bathing
in it.

Zezdon Afthen came up and spoke quickly to the man evidently in command
of the ship. The entire party went into the ship, and the cream of their
laboratory instruments was brought in.

For hours Arcot, Morey and Wade worked at the apparatus in the ship,
measuring, calculating, following electrical and magnetic and sheer
force hook-ups of staggering complexity. They were not trying to find
the exact method of construction, only the principles involved, so that
they could perform calculations of their own, and duplicate the results
of the enemy. Thus they would be far more thoroughly familiar with the
machinery when done.

Little attention was paid to the actual driving plant, for it was a
molecular drive with the same type of lead-fuel burner they used in
their own ship. The tubes of the power bank were, however, a puzzle to
them. They were made of relux, so that it was impossible to see the
interior of the tube. To open one was to destroy it, but calculations
made from readings of their instruments showed that they were more
efficient, and could readily carry nearly half again the load that the
best terrestrian tubes could sustain. This meant the enemy could send
heavier rays and heavier ray screens.

But finally they returned to the _Ancient Mariner_, and as the Ortolian
ship whined its way out to space, the _Ancient Mariner_ started, rising
faster and faster through the atmosphere till it was in the night of
space. Then the molecular power was shut off. The ship suddenly seemed
to writhe, space was black and starless about them, then sparkling
weirdly distorted stars, all before them. They were moving already.
Almost before the Ortolians fully realized what was happening, a dozen
stars had swung past the ship, driving on now at better than five light
years in every second. At this speed, approximately fourteen hours would
be needed to reach Ortol.

"Now, Arcot, perhaps you will explain to me the secret of this ship,"
said Zezdon Afthen at last, turning from the great lux pilot's window,
to Arcot seated in the pilot's chair. "I know that only the broadest
principles will be intelligible to me, for I could not understand that
ship we captured, after almost four months of study. Yet it crept
through space compared with this ship. Certainly no ship could
outdistance this in a race!"

"As a matter of fact--watch!" Arcot pushed a little metal button along a
slide to the extreme end. Again the ship seemed to writhe. Space was no
longer black, but faintly gray, and beside them, on either side, floated
two exact replicas of their ship! Zezdon Afthen stared. But in another
moment, both were gone, and space was black, yet in but a few moments a
grayness was showing, and light was appearing from all about, growing
gradually in intensity. For three seconds Arcot continued thus, then he
pulled the metal button down the slide, and flicked over another that he
had pulled to cause the second change. The stars were again before them,
their colors changed beyond all recognition at that speed. But the
orientation of the stars behind them had been familiar. Now an entirely
different set of constellation showed.

"I merely opened the ship out to her maximum speed for a moment. I was
able to see any large star 2000 light years in our path, and there were
none. Small stars do not bother us as I will explain. When I put on full
power of the main power coils, I drove the ship up to a speed of 30
light years a second. When I turned in the full power of the auxiliary
coils as well I doubled the power, and the speed was multiplied by
eight. The result was that in the four seconds of racing, we made
approximately 1000 light years!"

Zezdon Afthen gasped. "Two hundred and forty light years _per second_"!
He paused in bewilderment. "Suppose we had struck a small sun, a dark
star, even a meteor at that speed? What would have been the result?"

Arcot smiled. "The chances are excellent that we plowed through more
than one meteor, more than one dark star, and more than one small sun.

"But this is the secret: the ship attains the speed only by going out of
space. _Nothing in space can attain the speed of light, save radiation._
Nothing in normal space. But, we alter space, make space along patterns
we choose, and so distort it that the natural speed of radiation is
enormously greater. In fact, we so change space that nothing can go
_slower_ than a speed we fix.

"Morey--show Afthen the coils, and explain it all to him. I've got to
stay here."

Morey rose, and diving through the weightless ship, went down to the
power room, Zezdon Afthen following. Here, giant pots five feet high
were in close packed rows. The "pots" contained specially designed coils
storing tremendous energy, the energy of four tons of disintegrated
lead, in the only form that energy may be stored, as a strain, or
distortion in space. These charged coils distorted only the space within
themselves, making a closed field entirely within themselves. But in the
exact gravitational center of the quarter of a million ton ship was a
single high coil of different design that distorted space around it as
well as the space within it. This, as Morey explained, was the control
that altered the constants of space to suit. The coils were charged, and
the energy stored. Their energy could be pumped into the big coil, and
then, when the ship slowed to normal space, could be pumped back to
them. The pumping energy, as well as any further energy needed for
recharging the coils could be supplied by three huge power generators.

"These energy-producers," Morey explained, "work on a principle known
for hundreds of years on Earth. Lead, when reduced to a temperature
approaching absolute zero as closely as, for instance, liquid helium,
has _no_ electrical resistance. In other words, no matter how great a
current is sent through it, there is no resistance, and no heat is
produced to raise the temperature. What we do is to send a powerful
current through a lead wire. The wire has a current density so huge that
the atoms are destroyed, and the protons and electrons coalesce into
pure radiant energy. Relux, under the influence of a magnetic field,
converts this directly into electrical potential. Electricity we can
convert to the spatial strain in the power coils, and thus the ship is
driven." Morey pointed out the huge molecular power cylinder overhead,
where the main power drive was located in the inertial center of the
ship, or as near as the great space coil would permit.

The smaller power units for vertical lift, and for steering, were in the
side walls, hidden under heavy walls of relux.

"The projectors for throwing molecular and heat rays are on the outside
of course. Both of these projectors are protected. The walls of the ship
are made of an outer wall of heavy lux metal, a vacuum between, and an
inner wall of heavy relux. The lux is stronger than relux, and is
therefore used for an outer shell. The inner shell of relux will reflect
any dangerous rays and serve to hold the heat in the ship, since a
perfect reflector is a perfect non-radiator. The vacuum wall is to
protect the occupants of the ship against any undue heat. If we should
get within the atmosphere of a sun, it would be disastrous if the
physical conduction of heat were permitted, for though the relux will
turn out any radiated heat, it is a conductor of heat, and we would
roast almost instantly. These artificial metals are both absolutely
infusible and non-volatile. The ship has actually been in the limb of a
star tremendously hotter than your sun or mine.

"Now you see why it is we need not fear a collision with a small sun,
meteor or such like. Since we are in our own, artificial space, we are
alone, and there is nothing in space to run into. But, if we enter a
huge sun, the terrific gravitational field of the mass of matter would
be enough to pull the energy of our coil away from us. That actually
happened the time we made our first intergalactic exploration. But it is
almost impossible to fall into a large star--they are too brilliant. We
won't be worrying about it," grinned Morey.

"But how did the ship we captured operate?" asked Zezdon Afthen.

"It was a very ingenious system, very closely related to ours, really.

"We distort space and change the velocity characteristics; in other
words, we distort the rate of motion through distance characteristics of
normal space. The Thessian ships work on the principle of distorting the
rate of progress through time instead of through space.

"_Velocity_ is really 'units of travel through space per unit of travel
through time.' Now if we make the time unit twice as great, and the
units traveled through space are not changed, the _velocity_ is twice as
great. That is, if we are moving five light years per second, make the
second twice as long and we are moving ten light years per
double-second. Make it ten thousand times as long, and we are traveling
fifty thousand light years per ten-thousand-seconds. This is the
principle--but there is a drawback. We might increase the velocity by
slowing time passage, that is, if it takes me a year for one heartbeat,
two years to raise my arm thus, and six months to turn, my head, if all
my body processes are slowed down in this way, I will be able to live a
tremendous length of time, and though it takes me two hundred years to
go from one star to another, so low is my time rate that the two hundred
years will seem but a few minutes. I can then make a trip to a distant
star--one five light years distant, let us say, in three minutes to me.
I then will say, looking at my chronometer (which has been similarly
slowed) 'I have gone five light years in three minutes, or five thirds
light years per minute. I have exceeded the speed of light.'

"But people back on Earth would say, he has taken two hundred years to
go five light years, therefore he has gone at a speed one fortieth of
that of light, which would be true--for their time rate.

"But suppose I can also speed up time. That is, I can live a year in a
minute or two. Then everyone else will be exceedingly slow. The ideal
thing would be to combine these two effects, arranging that space about
your ship will have a very rapid time rate, ten thousand times that of
normal space. Then the speed of radiation through that space will be
1,860,000,000 miles per second, and a speed of 1,000,000,000 miles per
second would be possible, but still you, too, will be affected, so that
though the people back home will say you are going far faster than
light, you will say 'No, I am going only 100,000 miles per second.'

"But now imagine that your ship and surrounding space for one mile is at
a time rate 10,000 times normal, and you, in a space of one hundred feet
within your ship, are affected by a time rate 1/10,000 that, or normal,
due to a second, reversing field. The two fields will not fight, or be
mutually antagonistic; they will merely compound their effects. Result:
you will agree that you are exceeding the speed of light!

"Do you understand? That is the principle on which your ship operated.
There were two time-fields, overlapping time-fields. Remember the
terrible speed with which your ship landed, and yet there was no
appreciable jar according to the men? The answer of course was, that
their time rate had been speeded enough, due to the fact that one field
had been completely shut off, the other had not.

"That is the principle. The system is so complex, naturally, that we
have not yet learned the actual method of working the process. We must
do a great deal of mathematical and physical research.

"Wish we had it done--we could use it now," mused the terrestrian.

"We have some other weapons, none as important, of course, as the
molecular ray and the heat ray. Or none that have been. But, if the
enemy have ray shields, then perhaps these others also will be
important. There are molecular motion guns, metal tubes, with molecular
director apparatus at one end. A metal shell is pulling the power turned
on, and the shell leaps out at a speed of about ten miles per
second--since it has been super-heated--and is very accurately aimed, as
there is no terrific shock of recoil to be taken up by the gun.

"But a more effective weapon, if these men are as I expect them to be,
will be a peculiarly effective magnetic field concentrator device, which
will project a magnetic field as a beam for a mile or more. How useful
it will be--I don't know. We don't know what the enemy will turn against

Chapter V


After Morey's explanation of the ship was completed, Wade took Arcot's
place at the controls, while Morey and Arcot retired to the calculating
room to do some of the needed mathematics on the time-field

Their work continued here, while the Ortolians prepared a meal and
brought it to them, and to Wade. When at last the sun of Ortol was
growing before them, Arcot took over controls from Wade once more.
Slowing their speed to less than fifty times that of light, they drove
on. The attraction of the giant sun was draining the energy from the
coils so rapidly now, that at last Arcot was forced to get into normal
space, while the planet was still close to a million miles from them.
Morey was showing the Ortolians the operation of the telectroscope and
had it trained now on the rapidly approaching planet. The planet was
easily enlarged to a point where the features of continents were
visible. The magnification was increased till cities were no longer
blurs, but truly cities.

Suddenly, as city after city was brought under the action of the
machine, the Ortolians recognizing them with glad exclamations, one
swept into view--and as they watched, it leapt into the air, a vast
column of dust, then twisting, whirling, it fell back in utter, chaotic

Zezdon Fentes staggered back from the screen in horror.

"Arcot--drive down--increase your speed--the Thessians are there already
and have destroyed one city," called Morey sharply. The men secured
themselves with heavy belts, as the deep toned hum of the warning echoed
through the ship. A moment later they staggered under an acceleration of
four gravities. Space was dark for the barest instant of time, and then
there was the scream of atmosphere as the ship rocketed through the air
of the planet at nearly fifteen hundred miles per second. The outer wall
was blazing in incandescence in a moment, and the heavy relux screens
seemed to leap into place over the windows as the blasting heat,
radiated from the incandescent walls flooded in. The millions of tons
pressure of the air on the nose of the ship would have brought it to a
stop in an instant, and had it not been that the molecular drive was on
at full power, driving the ship against the air resistance, and still
losing. The ship slowed swiftly, but was shrieking toward the destroyed
city at terrific speed.

"Hesthis--to the--right and ahead. That would be their next attack,"
said the Ortolian. Arcot altered the ship's course, and they shot toward
the distance city of Hesthis. They were slowing perceptibly, and yet,
though the city was half around the world, they reached it in half a
minute. Now Arcot's wizardry at the controls came into play, for by
altering his space field constants, he succeeded in reaching a condition
that slowed the ship almost instantly to a speed of but a mile a second,
yet without apparent deceleration.

High in the white Ortolian sky was a shining point bearing down on the
now-visible city. Arcot slanted toward it, and the approaching ship grew
like an expanding rubber balloon.

A ray of intense, blindingly brilliant light flashed out, and a gout of
light appeared in the center of the city. A huge flame, bright blue,
shot heavenward in roaring heat.

Seeing that a strange ship had arrived was enough for the Thessians, and
they turned, and drove at Arcot instantly. The Thessian ship was built
for a heavy world, and for heavy acceleration in consequence, and, as
they had found from the captured ship, it was stronger than the _Ancient
Mariner_. Now the Thessians were driving at Arcot with an acceleration
and speed that convinced him dodging was useless. Suddenly space was
black around them, the sunlit world was gone.

"Wonder what they thought of _that_!" grinned Arcot. Wade smiled grimly.

"It's not what they thought, but what they'll do, that counts."

Arcot came back to normal space, just in time to see the Thessian ship
spin in a quick turn, under an acceleration that would have crushed a
human to a pulp. Again the pilot dived at the terrestrian ship. Again it
vanished. Twice more he tried these fruitless tactics, seeing the ship
loom before him--bracing for the crash--then it was gone
instantaneously, and though he sailed through the spot he knew it to
have occupied, it was not there. Yet an instant later, as he turned, it
was floating, unharmed, exactly where his ship had passed!

Rushing was useless. He stood, and prepared to give battle. A molecular
ray reached out--and disappeared in flaring ions on a shield utterly
impenetrable in the ionizing atmosphere.

Arcot meanwhile watched the instrument of his shield. The Thessian
shield would have been impenetrable, but his shield, fed by less
efficient tubes, was not, and he knew it. Already the terrific energy of
the Thessian ray was noticeably heating the copper plates of the tube.
The seal would break soon.

Another ray reached out, a ray of flaring light. Arcot, watching through
the "eyes" of his telectroscope viewplates, saw it for but an instant,
then the "eyes" were blasted, and the screen went blank.

"He won't do anything with that but burn out eyes," muttered the
terrestrian. He pushed a small button when his instruments told him the
rays were off. Another scanner came into action, and the viewplate was
alive again.

Arcot shot out a cosmic ray himself, and swept the Thessian with it
thoroughly. For the instant he needed the enemy ship was blinded.
Immediately the _Ancient Mariner_ dove, and the automatic ray-finders
could no longer hold the rays on his ship. As soon as he was out of the
deadly molecular ray he shut off his screen, and turned on all his
molecular rays. The Thessian ship, their own ray on, had been unable to
put up their screen, as Arcot was unable to use his ray with the enemy's
ray forcing him to cover with a shield.

Almost at once the relux covering of the Thessian ship shone with
characteristic iridescence as it changed swiftly to lux metal. The
molecular ray blinked out, and a ray screen flashed out instead. The
Thessians were covering up. Their own rays were useless now. Though
Arcot could not hope to destroy their ray shield, they could no longer
attack his, for their rays were useless, and already they had lost so
much of the protective relux, that they would not be so foolhardy as to
risk a second attack of the ray.

Arcot continued to bathe the ship in energy, keeping their "eyes"
closed. As long as he could hold his barrage on them, they would not
damage him.

"Morey--get into the power room, strap onto the board. Throw all the
power-coil banks into the magnets. I may burn them out, but I have
hopes--" Arcot already had the generators going full power, charging the
power coils.

Morey dived. Almost simultaneously the Thessians succeeded in the
maneuver they had been attempting for some time. There were a dozen rays
flaring wildly from the ship, searching blindly over the sky and ground,
hoping to stumble on the enemy ship, while their own ship dived and
twisted. Arcot was busily dodging the sweeping rays, but finally one hit
his viewplates, and his own ship was blind. Instantly he threw the ray
screen out, cutting off his own molecular ray. His own cosmics he set
rotating in cones that covered the three dimensions--save below, where
the city lay. Immediately the Thessian had retreated to this one segment
where Arcot did not dare throw his own rays. The Thessian cosmics
continued to make his relux screens necessary, and his ship remained

His ray screen was showing signs of weakening. The Thessians got a third
ray into position for operation, and opened up. Almost at once the tubes
heated terrifically. In an instant they would give way. Arcot threw his
ship into space, and let the tubes cool under the water jacket. Morey
reported the coils ready as soon as he came out of space.

Arcot cut in the new set of eyes, and put up his molecular ray screen
again. Then he cut the energy back to the coils.

Half a mile below the enemy ship was vainly scurrying around an empty
sky. Wade laughed at the strange resemblance to a puppy chasing its
tail. The _Ancient Mariner_ was utterly lost to them.

"Well, here goes the last trick," said Arcot grimly. "If this doesn't
work, they'll probably win, for their tubes are better than ours, and
they can maneuver faster. By win I mean force us to let them attack
Ortol. They can't really attack us; artificial space is a perfect

Arcot's molecular ray apprized the Thessians of his presence. Their
screen flared up once more. Arcot was driving straight toward their ship
as they turned. He snapped the relux screens in front of his eyes an
instant before the enemy cosmics reached his ship. Immediately the thud
of four heavy relays rang through the ship. The quarter of a million ton
ship leaped forward under a terrific acceleration, and then, as the four
relays cut out again, the acceleration was gone. The screen regained
life as Arcot opened the shutters. Before them, still directly in their
path, was the huge Thessian ship. But now its screen was down, the relux
iridescent in decomposition. It was falling, helplessly falling to the
rocky plateau seven miles below. Its rays reached out even yet--and
again the _Ancient Mariner_ staggered under the terrific pull of some
acceleration. The Thessian ship lurched upward, and a terrific
concussion came, and the entire neighborhood of that projector
disappeared in a flash of radiation.

Arcot drove the _Ancient Mariner_ down beneath the Thessian ship in its
long fall, and with a powerful molecular beam ripped a mighty chasm in
the deserted plateau. The Thessian ship fell into a quarter mile rift in
the solid rock, smashing its way through falling débris. A moment later
it was buried beneath a quarter mile of broken rock as Arcot swept a
molecular beam about with the grace of a mine foreman filling breaks.

An instant later, a heat ray followed the molecular in dazzling
brilliance. A terrific gout of light appeared in the barren rocks. In
ten minutes the plateau was a white hot cauldron of molten rocks,
glowing now against a darkening sky. Night was falling.

"That ship," said Arcot with an air of finality, "will never rise

Chapter VI


"What happened to him, though?" asked Wade, bewildered. "I haven't yet
figured it out. He went down in a heap, and he didn't have any power. Of
course, if he had his power he could have pulled out again. He could
just melt and burn all the excess rock off, and he would be all set. But
his rays all went dead. And why the explosion?"

"The magnetic beam is the answer. In our boat we have everything
magnetically shielded, because of the enormous magnetic flux set up by
the current flowing from the storage coils to the main coil. But--with
so many wires heavily charged with current, what would have happened if
they had not been shielded?

"If a current cuts across a magnetic field, a side thrust is developed.
What do you suppose happened when the terrific magnetic field of the
beam and the currents in the wires of their power-board were mutually

"Lord, it must have ripped away everything in the ship. It'd tear loose
even the lighting wires!" gasped Wade in amazement.

"But if all the power of the ship was destroyed in this way, how was it
that one of their rays was operating as they fell?" asked Zezdon Afthen.

"Each ray is a power plant in itself," explained Arcot, "and so it was
able to function. I do not know the cause of the explosion, though it
might well have been that they had light-bombs such as the Kaxorians of
Venus have," he added, thoughtfully.

They landed, at Zezdon's advice, in the city that their arrival had been
able to save. This was Ortol's largest city, and their industrial
capital. Here, too, was the University at which Afthen taught.

They landed, and Arcot, Morey and Wade, with the aid of Zezdon Afthen
and Zezdon Fentes worked steadily for two of their days of fifty hours
each, teaching men how to make and use the molecular ships, and the rays
and screens, heat beams, and relux. But Arcot promised that when he
returned he would have some weapon that would bring them certain and
easy salvation. In the meantime other terrestrians would follow him.

They left the morning of their third day on the planet. A huge crowd had
come to cheer them on their way as they left, but it was the "silent
cheer" of Ortol, a telepathic well-wishing.

"Now," said Arcot as their ship left the planet behind, "we will have to
make the next move. It certainly looks as though that next move would be
to the still-unknown race that lives on world 3769-37, 478, 326, 894-6.
Evidently we will have to have some weapon they haven't, and I think
that I know what it will be. Thanks to our trip out to the Islands of

"Shall we go?"

"I think it would be wise," agreed Morey.

"And I," said Wade. The Ortolians agreed, and so, with the aid of the
photographic copies of the Thessian charts that Arcot had made, they
started for world 3769-37, 478, 326, 894-6.

"It will take approximately twenty-two hours, and as we have been
putting off our sleep with drugs, I think that we had better catch up.
Wade, I wish you'd take the ship again, while Morey and I do a little
concentrated sleeping. We have by no means finished that calculation,
and I'd very much like to. We'll relieve you in five hours."

Wade took the ship, and following the course Arcot laid out, they sped
through the void at the greatest safe speed. Wade had only to watch the
view-screen carefully, and if a star showed as growing rapidly, it was
proof that they were near, and nearing rapidly. If large, a touch of a
switch, and they dodged to one side, if small, they were suddenly
plunged into an instant of unbelievable radiation as they swept through
it, in a different space, yet linked to it by radiation, not light, that
were permitted in.

Zezdon Afthen had elected to stay with him, which gave him an
opportunity he had been waiting for. "If it's none of my business, just
say so," he began. "But that first city we saw the Thessians destroy--it
was Zezdon Fentes' home, wasn't it? Did he have a family?"

The words seemed blunt as he said them, but there was no way out, once
he had started. And Zezdon Afthen took the question with complete calm.

"Fentes had both wives and children," he said quietly. "His loss was

Wade concentrated on the screen for a moment, trying to absorb the
shock. Then, fearing Zezdon Afthen might misinterpret his silence, he
plunged on. "I'm sorry," he said. "I didn't realize you were
polygamous--most people on Earth aren't, but some groups are. It's
probably a good way to improve the race. But ... Blast it, what bothers
me is that Zezdon Fentes seemed to recover from the blow so quickly!
From a canine race, I'd expect more affection, more loyalty, more...."

He stopped in dismay. But Zezdon Afthen remained unperturbed. "More
unconcealed emotion?" he asked. "No. Affection and loyalty we have--they
_are_ characteristic of our race. But affection and loyalty should not
be uselessly applied. To _forget_ dead wives and children--that would be
insulting to their memory. But to mourn them with senseless loss of
health and balance would also be insulting--not only to their memory,
but to the entire race.

"No, we have a better way. Fentes, my very good friend, has not
forgotten, no more than you have forgotten the death of your mother,
whom you loved. But you no longer mourn her death with a fear and horror
of that natural thing, the Eternal Sleep. Time has softened the pain.

"If we can do the same in five minutes instead of five years, is it not
better? That is why Fentes has _forgotten_".

"Then you have aged his memory of that event?" asked Wade in surprise.

"That is one way of stating it," replied Zezdon Afthen seriously.

Wade was silent for a while, absorbing this. But he could not contain
his curiosity completely. _Well, to hell with it_, he decided.
_Conventional manners and tact don't have much meaning between two
different races_. "Are you--married?" he asked.

"Only three times," Zezdon Afthen told him blandly. "And to forestall
your next question--no, our system does not create problems. At least,
not those you're thinking of. I know my wives have never had the jealous
quarrels I see in your mind pictures."

"It isn't safe thinking things around you," laughed Wade. "Just the
same, all of this has made me even more interested in the 'Ancient
Masters' you keep mentioning. Who were they?"

"The Ancient Ones," began Zezdon Afthen slowly, "were men such as you
are. They descended from a primeval omnivorous mammal very closely
related to your race. Evidently the tendency of evolution on any planet
is approximately the same with given conditions.

"The race existed as a distinct branch for approximately 1,500,000 of
your years before any noticeable culture was developed. Then it existed
for a total of 1,525,000 years before extinction. With culture and
learning they developed such marvelous means of killing themselves that
in twenty-five thousand years they succeeded perfectly. Ten thousand
years of barbaric culture--I need not relate it to you, five thousand
years of the medieval culture, then five thousand years of developed
science culture.

"They learned to fly through space and nearly populated three worlds;
two were fully populated, one was still under colonization when the
great war broke out. An interplanetary war is not a long drawn out
struggle. The science of any people so far advanced as to have
interplanetary lines is too far developed to permit any long duration of
war. Selto declared war, and made the first move. They attacked and
destroyed the largest city of Ortol of that time. Ortolian ships drove
them off, and in turn attacked Selto's largest city. Twenty million
intelligences, twenty million lives, each with its aims, its hopes, its
loves and its strivings--gone in four days.

"The war continued to get more and more hateful, till it became evident
that neither side would be pacified till the other was totally
subjugated. So each laid his plans, and laid them to wipe out the entire
world of the other.

"Ortol developed a ray of light that made things not happen," explained
Zezdon Afthen, his confused thoughts clearly indicating his own

"'A ray of light that made things not happen,'" repeated Wade curiously.
"A ray, which prevented things, which caused processes to stop--_The
Negrian Death Ray_!" he exclaimed as he suddenly recognized, in this
crude and garbled description of its powers, the Negrian ray of
anti-catalysis, a ray which tended to stop the processes of life's
chemistry and bring instant, painless death.

"Ah, you know it, too?" asked the Ortolian eagerly. "Then you will
understand what happened. The ray was turned first on Selto, and as the
whirling planet spun under it, every square foot of it was wiped clean
of every living thing, from gigantic Welsthan to microscopic Ascoptel,
and every man, woman and child was killed, painlessly, but instantly.

"Then Thenten spun under it, and all were killed, but many who had fled
the planets were still safe--many?--a few thousand.

"The day that Thenten spun under that ray, men of Ortol began to
complain of disease--men by the thousands, hundreds of thousands. Every
man, every woman, every child was afflicted in some way. The diseases
did not seem all the same. Some seemingly died of a disease of the
lungs, some went insane, some were paralyzed, and lay helplessly
inactive. But most of them were afflicted, for it was exceedingly
virulent, and the normal serums were helpless. Before any quantity of
new serum was made, all but a slender remnant had died, either of
starvation through paralysis, none being left to care for them, or from
the disease itself, while thousands who had gone mad were painlessly

"The Seltonians came to Ortol, and the remaining Ortolians, with their
aid, tried to rebuild the civilization. But what a sorry thing! The
cities were gigantic, stinking, plague-ridden morgues. And the plague
broke among those few remaining people. The Ortolians had done
everything in their power with the serums--but too late. The Seltonians
had been protected with it on landing--but even that was not enough.
Again the wild fires of that loathsome disease broke out.

"Since first those men had developed from their hairy forebears, they
had found their eternal friends were the dogs, and to them they turned
in their last extremity, breeding them for intelligence, hairlessness,
and resemblance to themselves. The Deathless ones alone remained after
three generations of my people, but with the aid of certain rays, the
rays capable of penetrating lead for a short distance, and most other
substances for considerable distances." X-rays, thought Wade. "Great
changes had been wrought. Already they had developed startling
intelligence, and were able to understand the scheme of their Masters.
Their feet and hands were being modified rapidly, and their vocal
apparatus was changing. Their jaws shortened, their chins developed, the
nose retreated.

"Generation after generation the process went on, while the Deathless
Ancient Ones worked with their helpers, for soon my race was a real
helping organization.

"But it was done. The successful arousing of true love-emotion followed,
and the unhappy days were gone. Quickly development followed. In five
thousand years the new race had outstripped the Ancient Masters, and
they passed, voluntarily, willingly joining in oblivion the millions who
had died before.

"Since then our own race has risen, it has been but a short thousand
years, a thousand years of work, and hope, and continuous improvement
for us, continual accomplishment on which we can look, and a living hope
to which we could look with raised heads, and smiling faces.

"Then our hope died, as this menace came. Do you see what you and your
world was meant to us, Man of Earth?" Zezdon Afthen raised his dark eyes
to the terrestrian with a look in their depths that made Wade
involuntarily resolve that Thet and all Thessians should be promptly
consigned to that limbo of forgotten things where they belonged.

Chapter VII

WORLD 3769-37,478,326,894,6, TALSO

Wade sat staring moodily at the screen for some time, while Zezdon
Afthen, sunk in his own reveries, continued.

"Our race was too highly psychic, and too little mechanically curious.
We learned too little of the world about, and too much of our own
processes. We are a peaceful race, for, while you and the Ancient
Masters learned the rule of existence in a world of strife, where only
the fittest, the best fighters survived, we learned life in a carefully
tended world, where the Ancient Masters taught us to live, where the one
whose social instincts were best developed, where he who would most help
the others, and the race, was permitted to live. Is it not natural that
our race will not fight among themselves? We are careful to suppress
tendencies toward criminality and struggle. The criminal and the maniac,
or those who are permanently incurable as determined by careful
examination, are 'removed' as the Leaders put it. Lethal gas.

"At any rate, we know so pitiably little of natural science. We were
hopelessly helpless against an attacking science."

"I promise you, Afthen, that if Earth survives, Ortol shall survive, for
we have given you all the weapons we know of and we will give your
people all the weapons we shall learn of." Morey spoke from the doorway.
Arcot was directly behind him.

They talked for a short while, then Wade retired for some needed sleep,
while Morey and Arcot started further work on the time fields.

Hour after hour the ship sped on through the dark of space, weirdly
distorted, glowing spots of light before them, wheeling suns that moved
and flashed as their awesome speed whirled them on.

They had to move slower soon, as the changing stars showed them near the
space-marks of certain locating suns. Finally, still moving close to
fifteen thousand miles per second, they saw the sun they knew was sun
3769-37,478,-326,894, twice as large as Sol, two and a half times as
massive and twenty-six times as brilliant.

Thirteen major planets they counted as they searched the system with
their powerful telectroscope, the outermost more than ten billion miles
from the parent sun, while planet six, the one indicated by the world
number, was at a distance of five hundred million miles, nearly as far
from the sun as Jupiter is from ours, yet the giant sun, giving more
than twenty-five times as much heat and light in the blue-white range,
heated the planet to approximately the same temperature Earth enjoys.
Spectroscopy showed that the atmosphere was well supplied with oxygen,
and so the inhabitants were evidently oxygen-breathing men, unlike those
of the Negrian people who live in an atmosphere of hydrogen.

Arcot threw the ship toward the planet, and as it loomed swiftly larger,
he shut off the space-control, and set the coils for full charge, while
the ship entered the planet's atmosphere in a screaming dive, still at a
speed of better than a hundred miles a second. But this speed was
quickly damped as the ship shot high over broad oceans to the dull green
of land ahead in the daylit zone. Observations made from various
distances by means of the space-control, thus going back in time, show
that the planet had a day of approximately forty hours, the diameter was
nearly nine thousand miles, which would probably mean an inconveniently
high gravity for the terrestrians and a distressingly high gravity for
the Ortolians, used to their world even smaller than Earth, with
scarcely 80 percent of Earth's gravity.

Wade made some volumetric analysis of the atmosphere, and with the aid
of a mouse, pronounced it "Q.A.R." (quite all right) for human beings.
It had not killed the mouse, so probably humans would find it quite all

"We'll land at the first city that comes into view," suggested Arcot.
"Afthen, you be the spokesman; you have a very considerable ability with
the mental communication, and have a better understanding of the physics
we need to explain than has Zezdon Fentes."

They were over land, a rocky coast that shot behind them as great jagged
mountains, tipped with snow, rose beneath. Suddenly, a shining
apparition appeared from behind one of the neighboring hills, and drove
down at them with an unearthly acceleration. Arcot moved just enough to
dodge the blow, and turned to meet the ship. Instantly, now that he had
a good view of it he was certain it was a Thessian ship. Waiting no
longer to determine that it was not a ship of this world, he shot a
molecular beam at it. The beam exploded into a coruscating panoply of
pyrotechnics on the Thessian shield. The Thessian replied with all beams
he had available, including an induction-beam, an intensely brilliant
light-beam, and several molecular cannons with shells loaded with an
explosive that was very evidently condensed light. This was no
exploration ship, but a full-fledged battleship.

The _Ancient Mariner_ was blinded instantly. None of the occupants were
hurt, but the combined pressure of the various beams hurled the ship to
one side. The induction beam alone was dangerous. It passed through the
outer lux-metal wall unhindered, and the perfectly conducting relux wall
absorbed it, and turned it into power. At once, all the metal objects in
the ship began to heat up with terrific rapidity. Since there were no
metallic conductors on the ship, no damage was done.

Arcot immediately hid behind his perfect shield--the space-distortion.

"That's no mild dose," he said in a tense voice, working rapidly. "He's
a real-for-sure battleship. Better get down in the power room, Morey."

In a few moments the ship was ready again. Opening the shield somewhat,
Arcot was able to determine that no rays were being played on it, for no
energy fields disclosed as distorting the opened field, other than the
field of the sun and planet.

Arcot opened it. The battleship was searching vainly about the
mountains, and was now some miles distant. His last view of Arcot's ship
had been a suddenly contracting ship, one that vanished in infinite
distance, the infinite distance of another space, though he did not know

Arcot turned three powerful heat beams on the Thessian ship, and drove
down toward it, accompanying them with molecular rays. The Thessian
shield stopped the moleculars, but the heat had already destroyed the
eyes of the ship. By some system of magnetic or electrostatic locating
devices, the enemy guns and rays replied, and so successfully that Arcot
was again blinded.

He had again been driving in a line straight toward the enemy, and now
he threw in the entire power of his huge magnetic field-rays. The
induction ray disappeared, and the heat, light and cannons stopped.

"Worked again," grinned Arcot. A new set of eyes was inserted
automatically, and the screen again lighted. The Thessian ship was
spinning end over end toward the ground. It landed with a tremendous
crash. Simultaneously from the rear of the _Ancient Mariner_ came a
terrific crash, an explosion that drove the terrestrian ship forward, as
though a giant hand had pushed it from behind.

The _Ancient Mariner_ spun like a top, facing the direction of the
explosion, though still traveling in the direction it had been pursuing,
but backward now. Behind them the air was a gigantic pool of ionization.
Tremendous fragments of what obviously had been a ship were drifting
down, turning end over end. And those fragments of the wall showed them
to be fully four feet of solid relux.

"Enemy got up behind somehow while the eyes were out, and was ready to
raise merry hell. Somebody blew them up beautifully. Look at the ground
down there--it's red hot. That's from the radiated heat of our recent
encounter. Heat rays reflected, light bombs turned off, heat escaping
from ions--nice little workout--and it didn't seriously bother our
defenses of two-inch relux. Now tell me: what will blow up four-foot
relux?" asked Arcot, looking at the fragments. "It seems to me those
fellows don't need any help from us; they may decline it with thanks."

"But they may be willing to help us," replied Afthen, "and we certainly
need such help."

"I didn't expect to come out alive from that battleship there. It was
luck. If they knew what we had, they could insulate against it in an
hour," added Arcot.

"Let's finish those fellows over there--look!" From the wreck of the
ship they had downed, a stream of men in glistening relux suits were
filing. Any men comparable to humans would have been killed by the fall,
but not Thessians. They carried peculiar machines, and as they drove out
of the ship in dive that looked as though they had been shot from a
cannon, they turned and landed on the ground and proceeded to jump back,
leaping at a speed that was bewildering, seemingly impossible in any
living creature.

They busied themselves quickly. It took less than thirty seconds, and
they had a large relux disc laid under the entire group and machines.
Arcot turned a molecular ray down. The rock and soil shot up all about
them, even the ship shot up, to fall back into the great pit its ray had
formed. But the ionization told of the ray shield over the little group
of men. A heat ray reached down, while the men still frantically worked
at their stubby projectors. The relux disc now showed its purpose. In an
instant the soil about them was white hot, bubbling lava. It was liquid,
boiling furiously. But the deep relux disc simply floated on it. The
enemy ship began sinking, and in a moment had fallen almost completely
beneath the white hot rock.

A fountain of the melted lava sprung up, and under Arcot's skillful
direction, fell in a cloud of molten rock on the men working. The suits
protected, and the white hot stuff simply rolled off. But it was sinking
their boat. Arcot continued hopefully.

Meanwhile a signaling machine was frantically calling for help and
sending out information of their plight and position.

Then all was instantly wiped out in a single terrific jolt of the
magnetic beam. The machines jumped a little, despite their weight, and
the ray shield apparatus slumped suddenly in blazing white heat, the
interior mechanism fused. But the men were still active, and rapidly
spreading from the spot, each protected by a ray shield pack.

A brilliant stab of molecular ray shot at each from either of two of the
_Ancient Mariner'_s projectors as Morey aided Arcot. Their little packs
flared brilliantly for an instant under the thousands of horsepower of
energy lashing at the screen, then flashed away, and the opalescent
relux yielded a moment later, and the figure went twisting, hurtling
away. Meanwhile Wade was busy with the magnetic apparatus, destroying
shield after shield, which either Arcot or Morey picked off. The fall
from even so much as half a mile seemed not sufficient to seriously
bother these supermen, for an instant later they would be up tearing
away in great leaps on their own power as their molecular suits, blown
out by the magnetic field, failed them.

It was but a matter of minutes before the last had been chased down
either by the rays or the ship. Then, circling back, Arcot slowly
settled beside the enemy ship.

"Wait," called Arcot sharply as Morey started for the door.

"Don't go out yet. The friends who wrecked that little sweetheart who
crept up behind will probably show up. Wait and see what happens."
Hardly had he spoken, when a strange apparition rose from behind a rock
scarcely a quarter of a mile away. Immediately Arcot intensified the
vision screen covering him. He seemed to leap near. There was one man,
and he held what was obviously a sword by the blade, above his head,
waving it from side to side.

"There they are--whatever they are. Intelligent all right--what more
universally obvious peace sign than a primitive weapon such as a knife
held in reverse position? You go with Zezdon Afthen. Try holding a
carving knife by the blade."

Morey grinned as he got into his power suit, on Wade's O.K. of the
atmosphere. "They may mistake me for the cook out looking for dinner,
and I wouldn't risk my dignity that way. I'll take the baseball bat and
hold it wrong way instead."

Nevertheless, as he stepped from the ship, with Afthen close behind, he
held the long knife by the blade, and Afthen, very awkwardly operating
his still rather unfamiliar power suit, followed.

Into the intensely blue sunlight the men stepped. Their skin and
clothing took on a peculiar tint under the strange sunlight.

The single stranger was joined by a second, also holding a reversed
weapon, and together they threw them down. Morey and Zezdon Afthen
followed suit. The two parties advanced toward each other.

The strangers advanced with a swift, light step, jumping from rock to
rock, while Morey and Afthen flew part way toward them. The men of this
world were totally unlike any intelligent race Morey had conceived of.
Their head and brain case was so small as to be almost animalish. The
nose was small and well formed, the ears more or less cup-shaped with a
remarkable power of motion. Their eyes were seemingly huge, probably no
larger than a terrestrian's, though in the tiny head they were
necessarily closely placed, protected by heavy bony ridges that actually
projected from the skull to enclose them. Tiny, childlike chins
completed the head, running down to a scrawny neck.

They were short, scarcely five feet, yet evidently of tremendous
strength for their short, heavy arms, the muscle bulging plainly under
the tight rubber-like composition garments, and the short legs whose
stocky girth proclaimed equal strength were members of a body in keeping
with them. The deep, broad chest, wide, square shoulders, heavy broad
hips, combined with the tiny head seemed to indicate a perfect
incarnation of brainless, brute strength.

"Strangers from another planet, enemies of our enemies. What brings you
here at this time of troubles?" The thoughts came clearly from the
stocky individual before them.

"We seek to aid, and to find aid. The menace that you face, attacks not
alone your world, but all this star cluster," replied Zezdon Afthen

The stranger shook his head with an evident expression of hopelessness.
"The menace is even greater than we feared. It was just fortune that
permitted us to have our weapon in workable condition at the time your
ship was attacked. It will be a day before the machine will again be
capable of successful operation. When in condition for use, it is
invincible, but--one blow in thirty hours--you can see we are not of
great aid." He shrugged.

An enemy with evident resources of tremendous power, deadly, unknown
rays that wiped out entire cities with a single brief sweep--and no
defense save this single weapon, good but once a day! Morey could read
the utter despair of the man.

"What is the difficulty?" asked Morey eagerly.

"Power, lack of power. Our cities are going without power, while every
electric generator on the planet is pouring its output into the
accumulators that work these damnable, hopeless things. Invincible with
power--helpless without."

"Ah!" Morey's face shone with delight--invincible weapon--with power.
And the _Ancient Mariner_ could generate unthinkable power.

"What power source do you use--how do you generate your power?"

"Combining oxidizing agent with reducing agents releases heat. Heat used
to boil liquid and the vapor runs turbines."

"We can give you power. What wattage have you available?"

Only Morey's thoughts had to translate "watts" to "How many man-weights
can you lift through your height per time interval, equal to this." He
gave the man some impression of a second, by counting. The man figured
rapidly. His answer indicated that approximately a total of two billion
kilowatts were available.

"Then the weapon is invincible hereafter, if what you say is true. Our
ship alone can easily generate ten thousand times that power.

"Come, get in the ship, accompany us to your capital."

The men turned, and retreated to their position behind the rocks, while
Morey and Zezdon Afthen waited for them. Soon they returned, and entered
the ship.

"Our world," explained the leader rapidly, "is a single unified colony.
The capital is 'Shesto,' our world we call 'Talso.'" His directions were
explicit, and Arcot started for Shesto, on Talso.

Chapter VIII


Fifteen minutes after they started, they came to Shesto. They were
forced to land, and explain, for their relux ship was decidedly not the
popular Talsonian idea of a life-saver.

Shesto was defended by two of the machines, and each machine had been
equipped with two fully charged accumulators. Their four possible shots
were hoped to be sufficient protection, and, so far, had been. The city
had been attacked twice, according to Tho Stan Drel, the Talsonian: once
by a single ship which had been instantly destroyed, and once by a fleet
of six ships. The interval had permitted time to recharge the discharged
accumulator, and the fleet had been badly treated. Of the six ships,
four had been brought down in rapid succession, and the remaining two
ships had fled.

When the first city had been wiped out, with a loss of life well in the
hundreds of thousands, the other cities had, to limit of their
abilities, set up the protective apparatus. Apparently the Thessians
were holding off for the present.

"In a way," said Morey seriously, "it was distinctly fortunate that we
were attacked almost at once. Their instantaneous system of destruction
would have worked for the one shot needed to send the _Ancient Mariner_
to eternal blazes." He laughed, but it was a slightly nervous laugh.

The terrestrial ship landed in a great grassy court, and out of respect
for the parklike smoothness of the turf, Arcot left the ship on its
power units, suspended a bit above the surface. Then he, Morey and the
Talsonian left the ship. Zezdon Afthen was left with the ship and with
Wade in charge, for if some difficulties were encountered, Wade would be
able to help them with the ship, and Zezdon Afthen with the tremendous
power of his thought locating apparatus, was busy seeking out the
Thessian stronghold.

A party of men of Talso met the terrestrians outside the ship.

"Welcome, Men of another world, and to you go our thanks for the
destruction of one of our enemies." The clear thoughts of the spokesman
evinced his ability to concentrate.

"And to your world must go our thanks for saving of our lives, and more
important, our ship," replied Arcot. "For the ship represents a thing of
enormous value to this entire star-system."

"I see--understand--your--thoughts that you wish to learn more of this
weapon we use. You understand that it is a question among us as to
whether it is undefeatable, uncontrollable or just un-understandable. We
have had fair success with it. It is not a weapon, was not developed as
such; it was an experiment in the line of electric-waves. How it works,
what it is, what happens--we do not know.

"But men who can create so marvelous a ship as this of yours, capable of
destroying a ship of the Thessians with their own weapons must certainly
be able to understand any machine we may make--and you have power?" he
finished eagerly.

"Practically infinite power. I will throw into any power line you
suggest, all the direct current you wish." Arcot's thoughts were pure
reflection, but the Talsonian brightened at once.

"I feared it might be alternating--but we can handle direct current. All
our transmission is done at high voltage direct current. What potential
do you generate? Will we have to install changers?"

"We generate D.C. at any voltage up to fifty million, any power up to
that needed to lift ten trillion men through their own height in this
time a second." The power represented approximately twenty trillion

The Talsonian's face went blank with amazement as he looked at the ship.
"In that tiny thing you generate such power?" he asked in amazement.

"In that tiny ship we generate more than one million times that power,"
Arcot said.

"Our power troubles are over," declared the military man emphatically.

"Our troubles are not over," replied a civilian who had joined the
party, with equal emphasis. "As a matter of fact, they are worse than
ever. More tantalizing. What he says means that we have a tremendous
power source, but it is in one spot. How are you going to transmit the
power? We can't possibly move any power anywhere near that amount. We
couldn't touch it to our lines without having them all go up in one
instantaneous blaze of glory.

"We cannot drain such a lake of power through our tiny power pipes of

"This man is Stel Felso Theu," said Tho Stan Drel. "The greatest of our
scientists, the man who has invented this weapon which alone seems to
offer us hope. And I am afraid he is right. See, there is the
University. For the power requirements of their laboratories, a heavy
power line has been installed, and it was hoped that you could carry
leads into it." His face showed evident despair greater than ever.

"We can always feed some power into the lines. Let us see just what hope
there is. I think that it would be wiser to investigate the power lines
at once," suggested Morey.

Ten minutes later, with but a single officer now accompanying them, Tho
Stan Drel, the terrestrial scientist, and the Talsonian scientist were
inspecting the power installation.

They had entered a large stone building, into which led numerous very
heavy silver wires. The insulators were silicate glass. Their height
suggested a voltage of well over one hundred thousand, and such heavy
cables suggested a very heavy amperage, so that a tremendous load was

Within the building were a series of gigantic glass tubes, their walls
fully three inches thick, and even so, braced with heavy platinum rods.
Inside the tubes were tremendous elements such as the tiny tubes of
their machine carried. Great cables led into them, and now their heating
coils were glowing a somberly deep red.

Along the walls were the switchboards, dozens of them, all sizes, all
types of instruments, strange to the eyes of the terrestrians, and in
practically all the light-beam indicator system was used, no metallic
pointers, but tiny mirrors directing a very fine line of brilliant light
acted as a needle. The system thus had practically no inertia.

"Are these the changers?" asked Arcot gazing at the gigantic tubes.

"They are; each tube will handle up to a hundred thousand volts," said
Stel Felso Theu.

"But I fear, Stel Felso Theu, that these tubes will carry power only one
way; that is, it would be impossible for power to be pumped from here
into the power house, though the process can be reversed," pointed out
Arcot. "Radio tubes work only one way, which is why they can act as
rectifiers. The same was true of these tubes. They could carry power one
way only."

"True, of tubes in general," replied the Talsonian, "and I see by that
that you know the entire theory of our tubes, which is rather abstruse."

"We use them on the ship, in special form," interrupted Arcot.

"Then I will only say that the college here has a very complete electric
power plant of its own. On special occasions, the power generated here
is needed by the city, and so we arranged the tubes with switches which
could reverse the flow. At present they are operating to pour power into
the city.

"If your ship can generate such tremendous power, I suspect that it
would be wiser to eliminate the tubes from the circuit, for they put
certain restrictions on the line. The main power plant in the city has
tube banks capable of handling anything the line would. I suggest that
your voltage be set at the maximum that the line will carry without
breakdown, and the amperage can be made as high as possible without heat

"Good enough. The line to the city power will stand what pressure?"

"It is good for the maximum of these tubes," replied the Talsonian.

"Then get into communication with the city plant and tell them to
prepare for every work-unit they can carry. I'll get the generator."
Arcot turned, and flew on his power suit to the ship.

In a few moments he was back, a molecular pistol in one hand, and
suspended in front of him on nothing but a ray of ionized air, to all
appearances, a cylindrical apparatus, with a small cubical base.

The cylinder was about four feet long, and the cubical box about
eighteen inches on a side.

"What is that, and what supports it?" asked the Talsonian scientists in

"The thing is supported by a ray which directs the molecules of a small
bar in the top clamp, driving it up," explained Morey, "and that is the

"That! Why it is hardly as big as a man!" exclaimed the Talsonian.

"Nevertheless, it can generate a billion horsepower. But you couldn't
get the power away if you did generate it." He turned toward Arcot, and
called to him.

"Arcot--set it down and let her rip on about half a million horsepower
for a second or so. Air arc. Won't hurt it--she's made of lux and

Arcot grinned, and set it on the ground. "Make an awful hole in the

"Oh--go ahead. It will satisfy this fellow, I think," replied Morey.

Arcot pulled a very thin lux metal cord from his pocket, and attached
one end of a long loop to one tiny switch, and the other to a second.
Then he adjusted three small dials. The wire in hand, he retreated to a
distance of nearly two hundred feet, while Morey warned the Talsonians
back. Arcot pulled one end of his cord.

Instantly a terrific roar nearly deafened the men, a solid sheet of
blinding flame reached in a flaming cone into the air for nearly fifty
feet. The screeching roar continued for a moment, then the heat was so
intense that Arcot could stand no more, and pulled the cord. The flame
died instantly, though a slight ionization clung briefly. In a moment it
had cooled to white, and was cooling slowly through orange--red

The grass for thirty feet about was gone, the soil for ten feet about
was molten, boiling. The machine itself was in a little crater, half
sunk in boiling rock. The Talsonians stared in amazement. Then a sort of
sigh escaped them and they started forward. Arcot raised his molecular
pistol, a blue green ray reached out, and the rock suddenly was black.
It settled swiftly down, and a slight depression was the only evidence
of the terrific action.

Arcot walked over the now cool rock, cooled by the action of the
molecular ray. In driving the molecules downward, the work was done by
the heat of these molecules. The machine was frozen in the solid lava.

"Brilliant idea, Morey," said Arcot disgustedly. "It'll be a nice job
breaking it loose."

Morey stuck the lux metal bar in the top clamp, walked off some
distance, and snapped on the power. The rock immediately about the
machine was molten again. A touch of the molecular pistol to the lux
metal bar, and the machine jumped free of the molten rock.

Morey shut off the power. The machine was perfectly clean, and extremely

"And your ship is made of that stuff!" exclaimed the Talsonian
scientist. "What will destroy it?"

"Your weapon will, apparently."

"But do you believe that we have power enough?" asked Morey with a

"No--it's entirely too much. Can you tone that condensed lightning bolt
down to a workable level?"

Chapter IX


The generator Arcot had brought was one of the two spare generators used
for laboratory work. He took it now into the sub-station, and directed
the Talsonian students and the scientist in the task of connecting it
into the lines; though they knew where it belonged, he knew _how_ it

Then the terrestrian turned on the power, and gradually increased it
until the power authorities were afraid of breakdowns. The accumulators
were charged in the city, and the power was being shipped to other
cities whose accumulators were not completely charged.

But, after giving simple operating instructions to the students, Arcot
and Morey went with Stel Felso Theu to his laboratory.

"Here," Stel Felso Theu explained, "is the original apparatus. All these
other machines you see are but replicas of this. How it works, why it
works, even what it does, I am not sure of. Perhaps you will understand
it. The thing is fully charged now, for it is, in part, one of the
defenses of the city. Examine it now, and then I will show its power."

Arcot looked it over in silence, following the great silver leads with
keen interest. Finally he straightened, and returned to the Talsonian.
In a moment Morey joined them.

The Talsonian then threw a switch, and an intense ionization appeared
within the tube, then a minute spot of light was visible within the
sphere of light. The minute spot of radiance is the real secret of the
weapon. The ball of fire around it is merely wasted energy.

"Now I will bring it out of the tube." There were three dials on the
control panel from which he worked, and now he adjusted one of these.
The ball of fire moved steadily toward the glass wall of the tube, and
with a crash the glass exploded inward. It had been highly evacuated.
Instantly the tiny ball of fire about the point of light expanded to a
large globe.

"It is now in the outer air. We make the--thing, in an evacuated glass
tube, but as they are cheap, it is not an expensive procedure. The ball
will last in its present condition for approximately three hours. Feel
the exceedingly intense heat? It is radiating away its vast energy.

"Now here is the point of greatest interest." Again the Talsonian fell
to work on his dials, watching the ball of fire. It seemed far more
brilliant in the air now. It moved, and headed toward a great slab of
steel off to one side of the laboratory. It shifted about until it was
directly over the center of the great slab. The slab rested on a scale
of some sort, and as the ball of fire touched it, the scale showed a
sudden increase in load. The ball sank into the slab of steel, and the
scale showed a steady, enormous load. Evidently the little ball was
pressing its way through as though it were a solid body. In a moment it
was through the steel slab, and out on the other side.

"It will pass through any body with equal ease. It seems to answer only
these controls, and these it answers perfectly, and without difficulty.

"One other thing we can do with it. I can increase its rate of energy

The Talsonian turned a fourth dial, well off to one side, and the
brilliance of the spot increased enormously. The heat was unbearable.
Almost at once he shut it off.

"That is the principle we use in making it a weapon. Watch the actual

The ball of fire shot toward an open window, out the window, and
vanished in the sky above. The Talsonian stopped the rotation of the
dials. "It is motionless now, but scarcely visible. I will now release
all the energy." He twirled the fourth dial, and instantly there was a
flash of light, and a moment later a terrific concussion.

"It is gone." He left the controls, and went over to his apparatus. He
set a heavy silver bladed switch, and placed a new tube in the
apparatus. A second switch arced a bit as he drove it home. "Your
generator is recharging the accumulators."

Stel Felso Theu took the backplate of the control cabinet off, and the
terrestrians looked at the control with interest.

"Got it, Morey?" asked Arcot after a time.

"Think so. Want to try making it up? We can do so out of spare junk
about the ship, I think. We won't need the tube if what I believe of it
is true."

Arcot turned to the Talsonian. "We wish you to accompany us to the ship.
We have apparatus there which we wish to set up."

Back to the ship they went. There Arcot, Morey and Wade worked rapidly.

It was about three-quarters of an hour later when Arcot and his friends
called the others to the laboratory. They had a maze of apparatus on the
power bench, and the shining relux conductors ran all over the ship
apparently. One huge bar ran into the power room itself, and plugged
into the huge power-coil power supply.

They were still working at it, but looked up as the others entered.
"Guess it will work," said Arcot with a grin.

There were four dials, and three huge switches. Arcot set all four
dials, and threw one of the switches. Then he started slowly turning the
fourth dial. In the center of the room a dim, shining mist a foot in
diameter began to appear. It condensed, solidified without shrinking, a
solid ball of matter a foot in diameter. It seemed black, but was a
perfectly reflective surface--and luminous!

"Then--then you had already known of this thing? Then why did you not
tell me when I tried to show it?" demanded the Talsonian.

Arcot was sending the globe, now perfectly non-luminous, about the room.
It flattened out suddenly, and was a disc. He tossed a small weight on
it, and it remained fixed, but began to radiate slightly. Arcot
readjusted his dials, and it ceased radiating, held perfectly
motionless. The sphere returned, and the weight dropped to the floor.
Arcot maneuvered it about for a moment more. Then he placed his friends
behind a screen of relux, and increased the radiation of the globe
tremendously. The heat became intense, and he stopped the radiation.

"No, Stel Felso Theu, we do not have this on our world," Arcot said.

"You do not have it! You look at my apparatus fifteen minutes, and then
work for an hour--and you have apparatus far more effective than ours,
which required years of development!" exclaimed the Talsonian.

"Ah, but it was not wholly new to me. This ship is driven by curving
space into peculiar coordinates. Even so, we didn't do such a hot job,
did we, Morey?"

"No, we should have--"

"What--it was not a good job?" interrupted the Talsonian. "You succeeded
in creating it in air--in making it stop radiating, in making a ball a
foot in diameter, made it change to a disc, made it carry a load--what
do you want?"

"We want the full possibilities, the only thing that can save us in this
war," Morey said.

"What you learned how to do was the reverse of the process we learned.
How you did it is a wonder--but you did. Very well--matter is
energy--does your physics know that?" asked Arcot.

"It does; matter contains vast energy," replied the Talsonian.

"Matter has mass, and energy because of that! Mass _is_ energy. Energy
in any known form is a field of force in space. So matter is ordinarily
a combination of magnetic, electrostatic and gravitational fields. Your
apparatus combined the three, and put them together. The result

"You created matter. We can destroy it but we cannot create it.

"What we ordinarily call matter is just a marker, a sign that there are
those energy-fields. Each bit is surrounded by a gravitational field.
The bit is just the marker of that gravitational field.

"But that seems to be wrong. This artificial matter of yours seems also
a sort of knot, for you make all three fields, combine them, and have
the matter, but not, very apparently, like normal matter. Normal matter
also holds the fields that make it. The artificial matter is surrounded
by the right fields, but it is evidently not able to hold the fields, as
normal matter does. That was why your matter continually disintegrated
to ordinary energy. The energy was not bound properly.

"But the reason why it would blow up so was obvious. It did not take
much to destroy the slight hold that the artificial matter had on its
field, and then it instantly proceeded to release all its energy at
once. And as you poured millions of horsepower into it all day to fill
it, it naturally raised merry hell when it let loose."

Arcot was speaking eagerly, excitedly.

"But here is the great fact, the important thing: It is artificially
created in a given place. It is made, and exists at the point determined
by these three coordinated dials. It is not natural, and can exist only
where it is made and nowhere else--obvious, but important. It cannot
exist save at the point designated. Then, if that point moves along a
line, the artificial matter must follow that moving point and be always
at that point. Suppose now that a slab of steel is on that line. The
point moves to it--through it. To exist, that artificial matter _must_
follow it through the steel--if not, it is destroyed. Then the steel is
attempting to destroy the artificial matter. If the matter has
sufficient energy, it will force the steel out of the way, and
penetrate. The same is true of any other matter, lux metal or relux--it
will penetrate. To continue in existence it must. And it has great
energy, and will expend every erg of that energy of existence to
continue existence.

"It is, as long as its energy holds out, absolutely irresistible!

"But similarly, if it is at a given point, it must stay there, and will
expend every erg staying there. It is then immovable! It is either
irresistible in motion, or immovable in static condition. It is the
irresistible and the immovable!

"What happens if the irresistible meets the immovable? It can only fight
with its energy of existence, and the more energetic prevails."

Chapter X


"It is still incredible. But you have done it. It is certainly
successful!" said the Talsonian scientist with conviction.

Arcot shook his head. "Far from it--we have not realized a thousandth
part of the tremendous possibilities of this invention. We must work and
calculate and then invent.

"Think of the possibilities as a shield--naturally if we can make the
matter we should be able to control its properties in any way we like.
We should be able to make it opaque, transparent, or any color." Arcot
was speaking to Morey now. "Do you remember, when we were caught in that
cosmic ray field in space when we first left this universe, that I said
that I had an idea for energy so vast that it would be impossible to
describe its awful power?[1] I mentioned that I would attempt to
liberate it if ever there was need? The need exists. I want to find that

[Footnote 1: Islands of Space.]

Stel Felso Theu was looking out through the window at a group of men
excitedly beckoning. He called the attention of the others to them, and
himself went out. Arcot and Wade joined him in a moment.

"They tell me that Fellsheh, well to the poleward of here has used four
of its eight shots. They are still being attacked," explained the
Talsonian gravely.

"Well, get in," snapped Arcot as he ran back to the ship. Stel Felso
hastily followed, and the _Ancient Mariner_ shot into the air, and
darted away, poleward, to the Talsonian's directions. The ground fled
behind them at a speed that made the scientist grip the hand-rail with a
tenseness that showed his nervousness.

As they approached, a tremendous concussion and a great gout of light in
the sky informed them of the early demise of several Thessians. But a
real fleet was clustered about the city. Arcot approached low, and was
able to get quite close before detection. His ray screen was up and
Morey had charged the artificial matter apparatus, small as it was, for
operation. He created a ball of substance outside the _Ancient Mariner_,
and thrust it toward the nearest Thessian, just as a molecular hit the
_Ancient Mariner'_s ray screen.

The artificial matter instantly exploded with terrific violence,
slightly denting the tremendously strong lux metal walls. The pressure
of the light was so great that the inner relux walls were dented inward.
The ground below was suddenly, instantaneously fused.

"Lord--they won't pass a ray screen, obviously," Morey muttered, picking
himself from where he had fallen.

"Hey--easy there. You blinked off the ray screen, and our relux is
seriously weakened," called Arcot, a note of worry in his voice.

"No artificial matter with the ray screen up. I'll use the magnet,"
called Morey.

He quickly shut off the apparatus, and went to the huge magnet control.
The power room was crowded, and now that the battle was raging in truth,
with three ships attacking simultaneously, even the enormous power
capacity of the ship's generators was not sufficient, and the storage
coils had been thrown into the operation. Morey looked at the
instruments a moment. They were all up to capacity, save the ammeter
from the coils. That wasn't registering yet. Suddenly it flicked, and
the other instrument dropped to zero. They were in artificial space.

"Come here, will you, Morey," called Arcot. In a moment Morey joined his
much worried friend.

"That artificial matter control won't work through ray screens. The
Thessians never had to protect against moleculars here, and didn't have
them up--hence the destruction wrought. We can't take our screen down,
and we can't use our most deadly weapon with it up. If we had a big
outfit, we might throw a screen around the whole ship, and sail right
in. But we haven't.

"We can't stand ten seconds against that fleet. I'm going to find their
base, and make them yell for help." Arcot snapped a tiny switch one
notch further for the barest instant, then snapped it back. They were
several millions miles from the planet. "Quicker," he explained, "to
simply follow those ships back home--go back in time."

With the telectroscope, he took views at various distances, thus quickly
tracing them back to their base at the pole of the planet. Instantly
Arcot shot down, reaching the pole in less than a second, by carefully
maneuvering of the space device.

A gigantic dome of polished relux rose from rocky, icy plains. The thing
was nearly half a mile high, a mighty rounded roof that covered an area
almost three-quarters of a mile in diameter. Titanic--that was the only
word that described it. About it there was the peculiar shimmer of a
molecular ray screen.

Morey darted to the power room and set his apparatus into operation. He
created a ball of matter outside the ship and hurled it instantly at the
fort. It exploded with a terrific concussion as it hit the wall of the
ray screen. Almost instantly a second one followed. The concussion was
terrifically violent, the ground about was fused, and the ray screen was
opened for a moment. Arcot threw all his moleculars on the screen, as
Morey sent bomb after bomb at it. The coils supplied the energy, cracked
the rock beneath. Each energy release disrupted the ray-screen for a
moment, and the concentrated fury of the molecular beams poured through
the opened screen, and struck the relux behind. It glowed opalescent now
in a spot twenty feet across. But the relux was tremendously thick.
Thirty bombs Morey hurled, while they held their position without
difficulty, pouring their bombs and rays at the fort.

Arcot threw the ship into space, moved, and reappeared suddenly nearly
three hundred yards further on. A snap of the eyes, and he saw that the
fleet was approaching now. He went again into space, and retreated.
Discretion was the better part of valor. But his plan had worked.

He waited half an hour, and returned. From a distance the telectroscope
told him that one lone ship was patrolling outside the fort. He moved
toward it, creeping up behind the icy mountains. His magnetic beam
reached out. The ship lurched and fell. The magnetic beam reached out
toward the fort, from which a molecular ray had flashed already, tearing
up the icy waste which had concealed him. The ray-screen stopped it,
while again Morey turned the magnetic beam on--this time against the
fort. The ray remained on! Arcot retreated hastily.

"They found the secret, all right. No use, Morey, come on up," called
the pilot. "They evidently put magnetic shielding around the apparatus.
That means the magnetic beam is no good to us any more. They will
certainly warn every other base, and have them install similar

"Why didn't you try the magnetic ray on our first attack?" asked Zezdon

"If it had worked, their sending apparatus would have been destroyed,
and no message could have been sent to call their attackers off
Fellsheh. By forcing them to recall their fleet I got results I couldn't
get by attacking the fleet," Arcot said.

"I think there is little more I can do here, Stel Felso Theu. I will
take you to Shesto, and there make final arrangements till my return,
with apparatus capable of overthrowing your enemies. If you wish to
accompany me--you may." He glanced around at the others of his party.
"And our next move will be to return to Earth with what we have. Then we
will investigate the Sirian planets, and learn anything they may have of
interest, thence--to the real outer space, the utter void of
intergalactic space, and an attempt to learn the secret of that enormous

They returned to Shesto, and there Arcot arranged that the only
generator they could spare, the one already in their possession, might
be used till other terrestrian ships could bring more. They left for
Earth. Hour after hour they fled through the void, till at last old Sol
was growing swiftly ahead of them, and finally Earth itself was large on
the screens. They changed to a straight molecular drive, and dropped to
the Vermont field from which they had taken off.

During the long voyage, Morey and Arcot had both spent much of the time
working on the time-distortion field, which would give them a tremendous
control over time, either speeding or slowing their time rate
enormously. At last, this finished, they had worked on the artificial
matter theory, to the point where they could control the shape of the
matter perfectly, though as yet they could not control its exact nature.
The possibility of such control was, however, definitely proven by the
results the machines had given them. Arcot had been more immediately
interested in the control of form. He could control the nature as to
opacity or transparency to all vibrations that normal matter is opaque
or transparent to. Light would pass, or not as he chose, but cosmics he
could not stop nor would radio or moleculars be stopped by any present
shield he could make.

They had signaled, as soon as they slowed outside the atmosphere, and
when they settled to the field, Arcot's father and a number of very
important scientists had already arrived.

Arcot senior greeted his son very warmly, but he was tremendously
worried, as his son soon saw.

"What's happened, Dad--won't they believe your statements?"

"They doubted when I went to Luna for a session with the Interplanetary
Council, but before they could say much, they had plenty of proof of my
statements," the older man answered. "News came that a fleet of
Planetary Guard ships had been wiped out by a fleet of ships from outer
space. They were huge things--nearly half a mile in length. The Guard
ships went up to them--fifty of them--and tried to signal for a
conference. The white ship was instantly wiped out--we don't know how.
They didn't have ray screens, but that wasn't it. Whatever it
was--slightly luminous ray in space--it simply released the energy of
the lux metal and relux of the ship. Being composed of light energy
simply bound by photonic attraction, it let go with terrible energy.
They can do it almost instantly from a distance. The other Guards at
once let loose with all their moleculars and cosmics. The enemy shunted
off the moleculars, and wiped out the Guard almost instantly.

"Of course, I could explain the screen, but not the detonation ray. I am
inclined to believe from other casualties that the destruction, though
reported as an instantaneous explosion, was not that. Other ships have
been destroyed, and they seemed to catch fire, and burn, but with
terrific speed, more like gun powder than coal. It seems to start a
spreading decomposition, the ship lasts perhaps ten minutes. If it went
instantly, the shock of such a tremendous energy release would disrupt
the planet.

"At any rate, the great fleet separated, twelve went to the North Pole
of Earth, twelve to the south, and similarly twelve to each pole of
Venus. Then one of them turned, and went back to wherever it had come
from, to report. Just turned and vanished. Similarly one from Venus
turned and vanished. That leaves twelve at each of the four poles, for,
as I said, there were an even fifty.

"They all followed the same tactics on landing, so I'll simply tell what
happened in Attica. In the North they had to pick one of the islands a
bit to the south of the pole. They melted about a hundred square miles
of ice to find one.

"The ships arranged themselves in a circle around the place, and
literally hundreds of men poured out of each and fell to work. In a
short time, they had set up a number of machines, the parts coming from
the ships. These machines at once set to work, and they built up a relux
wall. That wall was at least six feet thick; the floor was lined with
thick relux as well as the roof, which is simply a continuation of the
wall in a perfect dome. They had so many machines working on it, that
within twenty-four hours they had it finished.

"We attacked twice, once in practically our entire force, with some
ray-shield machines. The result was disastrous. The second attack was
made with ray shielded machines only, and little damage was done to
either side, though the enemy were somewhat impeded by masses of ice
hurled into their position. Their relux disintegration ray was
conspicuous by its absence.

"Yesterday--and it seems a lot longer than that, son--they started it
again. They'd been unloading it from the ship evidently. We had had
ray-shielded machines out, but they simply melted. They went down, and
Earth retreated. They're in their fortress now. We don't know how to
fight them. Now, for God's sake, tell us you have learned of some
weapon, son!"

The older man's face was lined. His iron gray head showed his fatigue
due to hours of concentration on his work.

"Some," replied Arcot briefly. He glanced around. Other men had arrived,
men whom he met in his work. But there were Venerians here, too, in
their protective suits, insulated against the cold of Earth, and against
its atmosphere.

"First, though, gentlemen, allow me to introduce Stel Felso Theu of the
planet Talso, one of our allies in this struggle, and Zezdon Afthen and
Fentes of Ortol, one of our other allies.

"As to progress, I can say only that it is in a more or less rudimentary
stage. We have the basis for great progress, a weapon of inestimable
value--but it is only the basis. It must be worked out. I am leaving
with you today the completed calculations and equations of the time
field, the system used by the Thessian invaders in propelling their
ships at a speed greater than that of light. Also, the uncompleted
calculations in regard to another matter, a weapon which our ally,
Talso, has given us, in exchange for the aid we gave in allowing them
the use of one of our generators. Unfortunately the ship could not spare
more than the single generator. I strongly advise rushing a number of
generators to Talso in intergalactic freighters. They badly need
power--power of respectable dimensions.

"I have stopped on Earth only temporarily, and I want to leave as soon
as possible. I intend, however, to attempt an attack on the Arctic base
of the Thessians, in strong hopes that they have not armored against one
weapon that the _Ancient Mariner_ carries--though I sadly fear that old
Earth herself has played us false here. I hope to use the magnetic beam,
but Earth's polar magnetism may have forced them to armor, and they may
have sufficiently heavy material to block the effects."

Morey already had a ground crew servicing the ship. He gave designs to
machinists on hand to make special control panels for the large
artificial matter machines. Arcot and Wade got some badly needed

In six hours, Arcot had announced himself ready, and a squadron of
Planetary Guard ships were ready to accompany the refitted _Ancient

They approached the pole cautiously, and were rewarded by the hiss and
roar of ice melting into water which burst into steam under a ray. It
was coming from an outpost of the camp, a tiny dome under a great mass
of ice. But the dome was of relux. A molecular reached down from a Guard
ship--and the Guard ship crumbled suddenly as dozens of moleculars from
the points hit it.

"They know how to fight this kind of a war. That's their biggest
advantage," muttered Arcot. Wade merely swore.

"Ray screens, no moleculars!" snapped Arcot into the transmitter. He was
not their leader, but they saw his wisdom, and the squadron commander
repeated the advice as an order. In the meantime, another ship had
fallen. The dome had its screen up, allowing the multitudes of hidden
stations outside to fight for it.

"Hmm--something to remember when terrestrians have to retire to forts.
They will, too, before this war is over. That way the main fort doesn't
have to lower its ray screen to fight," commented Arcot. He was watching
intensely as a tiny ship swung away from one of the larger machines, and
a tremendously powerful molecular started biting at the fort's ray
screen. The ship seemed nothing but a flying ray projector, which was
what it was.

As they had hoped, the deadly new ray stabbed out from somewhere on the
side of the fort. It was not within the fort.

"Which means," pointed out Morey, "that they can't make stuff to stand
that. Probably the projector would be vulnerable."

But a barrage of heat rays which immediately followed had no apparent
effect. The little radio-controlled molecular beam projector lay on the
rock under the melted ice, blazing incandescent with the rapidly
released energy of the relux.

"Now to try the real test we came here for," Morey clambered back to the
power room, and turned on the controls of the magnetic beam. The ship
was aligned, and then he threw the last switch. The great mass of the
machine jerked violently, and plunged forward as the beam attracted the
magnetic core of the Earth.

Morey could not see it, but almost instantly the shimmer of the
molecular screen on the fort died out. The deadly ray sprang out from
the Thessian projector--and went dead. Frantically the Thessians tried
weapon after weapon, and found them dead almost as soon as they were
turned on--which was the natural result in the terrific magnetic field.

And these men had iron bones, their very bones were attracted by the
beam; they plunged upward toward the ship as the beam touched them, but,
accustomed to the enormous gravitation accelerations of an enormous
world, most of them were not killed.

"Ah--!" exclaimed Arcot. He picked up the transmitter and spoke again to
the Squadron Commander. "Squadron Commander Tharnton, what relux
thickness does your ship carry?"

"Inch and a quarter," replied the surprised voice of the commander.

"Any of the other ships carry heavier?"

"Yes, the special solar investigator carries five inches. What shall we

"Tell him to lower his screen, and let loose at once on all operating
forts. His relux will stand for the time needed to shut them down for
their own screens, unless some genius decides to fight it out. As soon
as the other ships can lower their screens, tell them to do so, and tell
them to join in. I'll be able to help then. My relux has been burned,
and I'm afraid to lower the screen. It's mighty thin already."

The squadron commander was smiling joyously as he relayed the advice as
a command.

Almost at once a single ship, blunt, an almost perfect cylinder, lowered
its screen. In an instant the opalescence of the transformation showed
on it, but its dozen ray projectors were at work. Fort after fort glowed
opalescent, then flashed into protective ionization of screening.
Quickly other ships lowered their screens, and joined in. In a moment
more, the forts had been forced to raise their screens for protection.

A disc of artificial matter ten feet across suddenly appeared beside the
_Ancient Mariner_. It advanced with terrific speed, struck the great
dome of the fort, and the dome caved, bent in, bent still more--but
would not puncture. The disc retreated, became a sharp cone, and drove
in again. This time the point smashed through the relux, and made a
small hole. The cone seemed to change gradually, melting into a cylinder
of twenty foot diameter, and the hole simply expanded. It continued to
expand as the cylinder became a huge disc, a hundred feet across, set in
the wall.

Suddenly it simply dissolved. There was a terrific roar, and a mighty
column of white rushed out of the gaping hole. Figures of Thessians
caught by the terrific current came rocketing out. The inside was at
last visible. The terrific pressure was hurling the outside line of
ships about like thistledown. The _Ancient Mariner_ reeled back under
the tremendous blast of expanding gas. The snow that fell to the boiling
water below was not water, _in toto_; some was carbon dioxide--and some
oxygen chilled in the expansion of the gas. It was snowing within the
dome. The falling forms of Thessians were robbed of the life-giving air
pressure to which they were accustomed. But all this was visible for but
an instant.

Then a small, thin sheet of artificial matter formed beside the fort,
and advanced on the dome. Like a knife cutting open an orange, it simply
went around the dome's edge, the great dome lifted like the lid of a
teapot under the enormous gas pressure remaining--then dropped under its
own weight.

The artificial matter was again a huge disc. It settled over the exact
center of the dome--and went down. The dome caved in. It was crushed
under a load utterly inestimable. Then the great disc, like some
monstrous tamper, tamped the entire works of the Thessians into the
bed-rock of the island. Every ship, every miniature fort, every man was
caught under it--and annihilated.

The disc dissolved. A terrific barrage of heat beams played over the
island, and the rock melted, flowed over the ruins, and left only the
spumes of steam from the Arctic ice rising from a red-hot: mass of rock,
contained a boiling pool.

The Battle of the Arctic was done.

Chapter XI


"Squadron commander Tharnton speaking: Squadron 73-B of Planetary Guard
will follow orders from Dr. Arcot directly. Heading south to Antarctica
at maximum speed," droned the communicator. Under the official tone of
command was a note of suppressed rage and determination. "And the
squadron commander wishes Dr. Arcot every success in wiping out
Antarctica as thoroughly and completely as he destroyed the Arctic

The flight of ships headed south at a speed that heated them white in
the air, thin as it was at the hundred mile altitude, yet going higher
would have taken unnecessary time, and the white heat meant no
discomfort. They reached Antarctica in about ten minutes. The Thessian
ships were just entering through great locks in the walls of the dome.
At first sight of the terrestrial ships they turned, and shot toward the
guard-ships. Their screens were down, for, armored as they were with
very heavy relux they expected to be able to overcome the terrestrial
thin relux before theirs was seriously impaired.

"Ships will put up screens." Arcot spoke sharply--a new plan had
occurred to him. The moleculars of the Thessians Struck glowing screens,
and no damage was done. "Ships, in order of number, will lower screen
for thirty seconds, and concentrate all moleculars on one ship--the
leader. Solar investigator will not join in action."

The flagship of the squadron lowered its screen, and a tremendous
bombardment of rays struck the leading ship practically in one point.
The relux glowed, and the opalescence shifted with bewildering,
confusing colors. Then the terrestrial ship's screen was up, before the
Thessians could concentrate on the one unprotected ship. Immediately
another terrestrial ship opened its screen and bombarded the same ship.
Two others followed--and then it was forced to use its screen.

But suddenly a terrestrial ship crashed. Its straining screen had been
overworked--and it failed.

Arcot's magnetic beam went into action. The Thessian ray did not go
out--it flickered, dimmed, but was apparently as deadly as ever.

"Shielded--write off the magnet, Morey. That is one asset we lose."

Arcot, protected in space, was thinking swiftly. Moleculars--useless.
They had to keep their own screens up. Artificial matter--bound in by
their own molecular screen! And the magnet had failed them against the
protected mechanism of the dome. The ships were not as yet protected,
but the dome was.

"Guess the only place we'd be safe is under the ground--way under!"
commented Wade dryly.

"Under the ground--Wade, you're a genius!" Arcot gave a shout of joy,
and told Wade to take over the ship.

"Take the ship back into normal space, head for the hill over behind the
Dome, and drop behind it. It's solid rock, and even their rays will take
a moment or so to move it. As soon as you get there, drop to the ground,
and turn off the screen. No--here, I'll do it. You just take it there,
land on the ground, and shut off the screen. I promise the rest!" Arcot
dived for the artificial matter room.

The ship was suddenly in normal space; its screen up. The dog-fight had
been ended. The terrestrial ships had been completely defeated. The
_Ancient Mariner'_s appearance was a signal for all the moleculars in
sight. Ten huge ships, half a dozen small forts and now the unshielded
Dome, joined in. Their screen tubes heated up violently in the brief
moment it took to dive behind the hill, a tube fused, and blew out.
Automatic devices shunted it, another tube took the load--and heated.
But their screen was full of holes before they were safe for the moment
behind the hill.

Instantly Wade dropped the defective screen. Almost as quickly as the
screen vanished, a cylinder of artificial matter surrounded the entire
ship. The cylinder was tipped by a perfect cone of the same base
diameter. The entire system settled into the solid rock. The rock above
cracked and filled in behind them. The ship was suddenly pushed by the
base of the cylinder behind them, and drove on through the rock, the
cone parting the hard granite ahead. They went perhaps half a mile, then
stopped. In the light of the ship's windows, they could see the faint
mistiness of the inconceivably hard, artificial matter, and beyond the
slick, polished surface of the rock it was pushing aside. The cone shape
was still there.

There was a terrific roar behind them, the rock above cracked, shifted
and moved about.

"Raying the spot where we went down," Arcot grinned happily.

The cone and cylinder merged, shifted together, and became a sphere. The
sphere elongated upward and the _Ancient Mariner_ turned in it, till it,
too, pointed upward. The sphere became an ellipsoid.

Suddenly the ship was moving, accelerating terrifically. It plowed
through the solid rock, and up--into a burst of light. They were
_inside_ the dome. Great ships were berthed about the floor. Huge
machines bulked here and there--barracks for men--everything.

The ellipsoid shrank to a sphere, the sphere grew a protuberance which
separated and became a single bar-like cylinder. The cylinder turned,
and drove through the great dome wall. A little hole but it whirled
rapidly around, sliced the top off neatly and quickly. Again, like a
gigantic teapot lid, the whole great structure lifted, settled, and
stayed there. Men, scrambling wildly toward ships, suddenly stopped,
seemed to blur and their features ran together horribly. They fell--and
were dead in an instant as the air disappeared. In another instant they
were solid blocks of ice, for the temperature was below the freezing
point of carbon dioxide.

The giant tamper set to work. The Thessian ships went first. They were
all crumpled, battered wrecks in a few seconds of work of the terrible

The dome was destroyed. Arcot tried something else. He put on his
control machine the equation of a hyperboloid of two branches, and
changed the constants gradually till the two branches came close. Then
he forced them against each other. Instantly they fought, fought
terribly for existence. A tremendous blast of light and heat exploded
into being. The energy of two tons of lead attempted to maintain those
two branches. It was not, fortunately, explosive, and it took place over
a relux floor. Most of the energy escaped into space. The vast flood of
light was visible on Venus, despite the clouds.

But it fused most of Antarctica. It destroyed the last traces of the
camp in Antarctica.

"Well--the Squadron was wiped out, I see." Arcot's voice was flat as he
spoke. The Squadron: twenty ships--four hundred men.

"Yes--but so is the Arctic camp, and the Antarctic camp, as well,"
replied Wade.

"What next, Arcot. Shall we go out to intergalactic space at once?"
asked Morey, coming up from the power room.

"No, we'll go back to Vermont, and have the time-field stuff I ordered
installed, then go to Sirius, and see what they have. They moved their
planets from the gravitation field of Negra, their dead, black star, to
the field of Sirius--and I'd like to know how they did it.[2]
Then--Intergalactia." He started the ship toward Vermont, while Morey
got into communication with the field, and gave them a brief report.

[Footnote 2: "The Black Star Passes."]

Chapter XII


They landed about half an hour later, and Arcot simply went into the
cottage, and slept--with the aid of a light soporific. Morey and Wade
directed the disposition of the machines, but Dr. Arcot senior really
finished the job. The machines would be installed in less than ten
hours, for the complete plans Arcot and Morey had made, with the modern
machines for translating plans to metal and lux had made the actual
construction quick, while the large crew of men employed required but
little time.

When Arcot and his friends awoke, the machines were ready.

"Well, Dad, you have the plans for all the machines we have. I expect to
be back in two weeks. In the meantime you might set up a number of ships
with very heavy relux walls, walls that will stand rays for a while, and
equip them with the rudimentary artificial matter machines you have, and
go ahead with the work on the calculations. Thett will land other
machines here--or on the moon. Probably they will attempt to ray the
whole Earth. They won't have concentration of ray enough to move the
planet, or to seriously chill it. But life is a different matter--it's
sensitive. It is quite apt to let go even under a mild ray. I think that
a few exceedingly powerful ray screen stations might be set up, and the
Heavyside Layer used to transmit the vibrations entirely around the
Earth. You can see the idea easily enough. If you think it
worthwhile--or better, if you can convince the thickheaded politicians
of the Interplanatary Defense Commission that it is--

"Beyond that, I'll see you in about two weeks," Arcot turned, and
entered the ship.

"I'll line up for Sirius and let go." Arcot turned the ship now, for
Earth was well behind, and lined it on Sirius, bright in the utter black
of space. He pushed his control to "1/2," and the space closed in about
them. Arcot held it there while the chronometer moved through six and a
half seconds. Sirius was at a distance almost planetary in its magnitude
from them. Controlling directly now, he brought the ship closer, till a
planet loomed large before them--a large world, its rocky continents,
its rolling oceans and jagged valleys white under the enormous
energy-flood from the gigantic star of Sirius, twenty-six times more
brilliant than the sun they had left.

"But, Arcot, hadn't you better take it easy?" Wade asked. "They might
take us for enemies--which wouldn't be so good."

"I suppose it would be wise to go slowly. I had planned, as a matter of
fact, on looking up a Thessian ship, taking a chance on a fight, and
proving our friendship," replied Arcot.

Morey saw Arcot's logic--then suddenly burst into laughter.
"Absolutely--attack a Thessian. But since we don't see any around now,
we'll have to make one!"

Wade was completely mystified, and gave Morey a doubtful, sarcastic
look. "Sounds like a good idea, only I wonder if this constant terrific
mental strain--"

"Come along and find out!" Arcot threw the ship into artificial space
for safety, holding it motionless. The planet, invisible to them,
retreated from their motionless ship.

In the artificial matter control room, Arcot set to work, and developed
a very considerable string of forms on his board, the equations of their
formations requiring all the available formation controls.

"Now," said Arcot at last, "you stay here, Morey, and when I give the
signal, create the thing back of the nearest range of hills, raise it,
and send it toward us."

At once they returned to normal space, and darted down toward the now
distant planet. They landed again near another city, one which was
situated close to a range of mountains ideally suited to their purposes.
They settled, while Zezdon Afthen sent out the message of friendship. He
finally succeeded in getting some reaction, a sensation of scepticism,
of distrust--but of interest. They needed friends, and only hoped that
these were friends. Arcot pushed a little signal button, and Morey began
his share of the play. From behind a low hill a slim, pointed form
emerged, a beautifully streamlined ship, the lines obviously those of a
Thessian, the windows streaming light, while the visible ionization
about the hull proclaimed its molecular ray screen. Instantly Zezdon
Afthen, who had carefully refrained from learning the full nature of
their plans, felt the intense emotion of the discovery, called out to
the others, while his thoughts were flashed to the Sirians below.

From the attacking ship, a body shot with tremendous speed, it flashed
by, barely missing the _Ancient Mariner_, and buried itself in the
hillside beyond. With a terrific explosion it burst, throwing the soil
about in a tremendous crater. The _Ancient Mariner_ spun about, turned
toward the other ship, and let loose a tremendous bombardment of
molecular and cosmic rays. A great flame of ionized air was the only
result. A new ray reached out from the other ship, a fan-like spreading
ray. It struck the _Ancient Mariner_, and did not harm it, though the
hillside behind was suddenly withered and blackened, then smoking as the
temperature rose.

Another projectile was launched from the attacking ship, and exploded
terrifically but a few hundred feet from the _Ancient Mariner_. The
terrestrial ship rocked and swayed, and even the distant attacker rocked
under the explosion.

A projectile, glowing white, leaped from the Earthship. It darted toward
the enemy ship, seemed to barely touch it, then burst into terrific
flames that spread, eating the whole ship, spreading glowing flame. In
an instant the blazing ship slumped, started to fall, then seemingly
evaporated, and before it touched the ground, was completely gone.

The relief in Zezdon Afthen's mind was genuine, and it was easily
obvious to the Sirians that the winning ship was friendly, for, with all
its frightful armament, it had downed a ship obviously of Thett. Though
not exactly like the others, it had the all too familiar lines.

"They welcome us now," said Zezdon Afthen's mental message to his

"Tell them we'll be there--with bells on or thoughts to that effect,"
grinned Arcot. Morey had appeared in the doorway, smiling broadly.

"How was the show?" he asked.

"Terrible--Why didn't you let it fall, and break open?"

"What would happen to the wreckage as we moved?" he asked sarcastically.
"I thought it was a darned good demonstration."

"It was convincing," laughed Arcot. "They want us now!"

The great ship circled down, landing gently just outside of the city.
Almost at once one of the slim, long Sirian ships shot up from a
courtyard of the city, racing out and toward the _Ancient Mariner_.
Scarcely a moment later half a hundred other ships from all over the
city were on the way. Sirians seemed quite humanly curious.

"We'll have to be careful here. We have to use altitude suits, as the
Negrians breathe an atmosphere of hydrogen instead of oxygen," explained
Arcot rapidly to the Ortolian and the Talsonian who were to accompany
him. "We will all want to go, and so, although this suit will be
decidedly uncomfortable for you and Zezdon Afthen and Stel Felso Theu, I
think it wise that you all wear it. It will be much more convincing to
the Sirians if we show that people of no less than three worlds are
already interested in this alliance."

A considerable number of Sirian ships had landed about them, and the
tall, slim men of the 100,000,000-year-old race were watching them with
their great brown eyes from a slight distance, for a cordon of men with
evident authority were holding them back.

"Who are you, friends?" asked a single man who stood within the cordon.
His strongly built frame, a great high brow and broad head designated
him a leader at a glance.

Despite the vast change the light of Sirius had wrought, Arcot
recognized in him the original photographs he had seen from the planet
old Sol had captured as Negra had swept past. So it was he who answered
the thought-question.

"I am of the third planet of the sun your people sought as a home a few
years back in time, Taj Lamor. Because you did not understand us, and
because we did not understand you, we fought. We found the records of
your race on the planet our sun captured, and we know now what you most
wanted. Had we been able to communicate with you then, as we can now,
our people would never have fought.

"At last you have reached that sun you so needed, thanks, no doubt, to
the genius that was with you.

"But now, in your new-found peace comes a new enemy, one who wants not
only yours, but every sun in this galaxy.

"You have tried your ray of death, the anti-catalyst? And it but
sputters harmlessly on their screens? You have been swept by their
terrible rays that fuse mountains, then hurl them into space? Our world
and the world of each of these men is similarly menaced.

"See, here is Zezdon Afthen, from Ortol, far on the other side of the
galaxy, and here is Stel Felso Theu, of Talso. Their worlds, as well as
yours and mine have been attacked by this menace from a distant galaxy,
from Thett, of the sun Ansteck, of the galaxy Venone.

"Now we must form an alliance of far wider scope than ever has existed

"To you we have come, for your race is older by far than any race of our
alliance. Your science has advanced far higher. What weapons have you
discovered among those ancient documents, Taj Lamor? We have one weapon
that you no doubt need; a screen, which will stop the rays of the
molecule director apparatus. What have you to offer us?"

"We need your help badly," was the reply. "We have been able to keep
them from landing on our planets, but it has cost us much. They have
landed on a planet we brought with us when we left the black star, but
it is not inhabited. From this as a base they have made attacks on us.
We tried throwing the planet into Sirius. They merely left the planet
hurriedly as it fell toward the star, and broke free from our attractive

"The attractive ray! Then you have uncovered that secret?" asked Arcot

Taj Lamor had some of his men bring an attractive ray projector to the
ship. The apparatus turned out to be nearly a thousand tons in weight,
and some twenty feet long, ten feet wide and approximately twelve feet
high. It was impossible to load the huge machine into the _Ancient
Mariner_, so an examination was conducted on the spot, with instruments
whose reading was intelligible to the terrestrians operating it. Its
principal fault lay in the fact that, despite the enormous energy of
matter given out, the machine still gobbled up such titanic amounts of
energy before the attraction could be established, that a very large
machine was needed. The ray, so long as maintained, used no more power
than was actually expended in moving the planet or other body. The power
used while the ray was in action corresponded to the work done, but a
tremendous power was needed to establish it, and this power could never
be recovered.

Further, no reaction was produced in the machine, no matter what body it
was turned upon. In swinging a planet then, a spaceship could be used as
the base for the reaction was not exerted on the machine.

From such meager clues, and the instruments, Arcot got the hints that
led him to the solution of the problem, for the documents, from which
Taj Lamor had gotten his information, had been disastrously wiped out,
when one of their cities fell, and Taj Lamor had but copied the machines
of his ancestors.

The immense value of these machines was evident, for they would permit
Arcot to do many things that would have been impossible without them.
The explanation as he gave it to Stel Felso Theu, foretold the uses to
which it might be put.

"As a weapon," he pointed out, "its most serious fault is that it takes
a considerable time to pump in the power needed. It has here,
practically the same fault which the artificial matter had on your

"As I see it, the ray is actually a directed gravitational field.

"Now here is one thing that makes it more interesting, and more useful.
It seems to defy the laws of mechanics. It acts, but there is no
apparent reaction! A small ship can swing a world! Remember, the field
that generates the attraction is an integral, interwoven part of the
mesh of Space. It is created by something outside of itself. Like the
artificial matter, it exists there, and there alone. There is reaction
on that attractive field, but it is created in Space at that given
point, and the reaction is taken by all Space. No wonder it won't move.

"The work considerations are fairly obvious. The field is built up. That
takes energy. The beam is focused on a body, the body falls nearer, and
immediately absorbs the energy in acquiring a velocity. The machine
replenishes the energy, because it is set to maintain a certain
energy-level in the field. Therefore the machine must do the work of
moving the ship, just as though it were a driving apparatus. After the
beam has done what is wanted, it may be shut off, and the energy in the
field is now available for any work needed. It may be drained back into
power coils such as ours for instance, or one might just spend that last
iota of power on the job.

"As a driving device it might be set to pull the entire ship along, and
still not have any acceleration detectable to the occupants.

"I think we'll use that on our big ship," he finished, his eyes far away
on some future idea.

"Natural gravity of natural matter is, luckily, not selective. It goes
in all directions. But this artificial gravity is controlled so that it
does not spread, and the result is that the mass-attraction of a mass of
matter does not fall off as the inverse square of the distance, but like
the ray from the parallel beam spotlight, continues undiminished.

"Actually, they create an exceedingly intense, exceedingly small
gravitational field, and direct it in a straight line. The building up
of this field is what takes time."

Zezdon Afthen, who had a question which was troubling him, looked
anxiously at his friends. Finally he broke into their thoughts which had
been too cryptically abbreviated for him to follow, like the work of a
professor solving some problem, his steps taken so swiftly and so
abbreviated that their following was impossible to his students.

"But how is it that the machine is not moved when exerting such force on
some other body?" he asked at last.

"Oh, the ray concentrates the gravitational force, and projects it. The
actual strain is in space. It is space that takes the strain, but in
normal cases, unless the masses are very large, no considerable
acceleration is produced over any great distance. That law operates in
the case of the pulled body; it pulls the gravitational field as a
normal field, the inverse-square law applying.

"But on the other hand, the gravity-beam pulls with a constant force.

"It might be likened to the light-pressure effects of a spotlight and a
star. The spotlight would push the sun with a force that was constant;
no matter what the distance, while the light pressure of the sun would
vary as the inverse square of the distance.

"But remember, it is not a body that pulls another body, but a
gravitational field that pulls another. The field is in space. A normal
field is necessarily attached to the matter that it represents, or that
represents it as you prefer, but this artificial field has no connection
in the form of matter. It is a product of a machine, and exists only as
a strain in space. To move it you must move all space, since it, like
artificial matter, exists only where it is created in space.

"Do you see now why the law of action and reaction is apparently
flouted? Actually the reaction is taken up by space."

Arcot rose, and stretched. Morey and Wade had been looking at him, and
now they asked when he intended leaving for the intergalactic spaces.

"Now, I think. We have a lot of work to do. At present we have the
mathematics of the artificial matter to carry on, and the math of the
artificial gravity to develop. We gave the Sirians all we had on
artificial matter and on moleculars.

"They gave us all they had--which wasn't much beyond the artificial
gravity, and a lot of work. At any rate, let's go!"

Chapter XIII


The _Ancient Mariner_ stirred, and rose lightly from its place beside
the city. Visible over the horizon now, and coming at terrific speed,
was a fleet of seven Thessian ships.

They must do their best to protect that city. Arcot turned the ship and
called his decision to Morey. As he did so, one of the Thessian ships
suddenly swerved violently, and plunged downward. The attractive ray was
in action. It struck the rocks of Neptune, and plunged in. Half buried,
it stopped. Stopped--and backed out! The tremendously strong relux and
lux had withstood the blow, and these strange, inhumanly powerful men
had not been injured!

Two of the ships darted toward him simultaneously, flashing out
molecular rays. The rays glanced off of Arcot's screen already in place,
but the tubes were showing almost at once that this could not be
sustained. It was evident that the swiftly approaching ships would soon
break down the shields. Arcot turned the ship and drove to one side. His
eyes went dead.

He cut into artificial space, waited ten seconds, then cut back. The
scene before him changed. It seemed a different world. The light was
very dim, so dim he could scarcely see the images on the view plate.
They were so deep a red that they were very near to black. Even Sirius,
the flaming blue-white star was red. The darting Thessian ships were
moving quite slowly now, moving at a speed that was easy to follow.
Their rays, before ionizing the air brilliantly red, were now dark. The
instruments showed that the screen was no longer encountering serious
loading, and, further, the load was coming in at a frequency harmlessly
far down the radio spectrum!

Arcot stared in wide-eyed amazement. What could the Thessians have done
that caused this change? He reached up and increased the amplification
on the eyes to a point that made even the dim illumination sufficient.
Wade was staring in amazement, too.

"Lord! What an idea!" suddenly exclaimed Arcot.

Wade was staring at Arcot in equally great amazement. "What's the
secret?" he asked.

"Time, man, time! We are in an advanced time plane, living faster than
they, our atoms of fuel are destroyed faster, our second is shorter. In
one second of our earthly time our generators do the same amount of work
as usual, but they do many, many times more work in one second, of the
time we were in! We are under the advanced time field."

Wade could see it all. The red light--normal light seen through eyes
enormously speeded in all perceptions. The change, the dimness--dim
because less energy reached them per second of their time. Then came
this blue light, as they reached the X-ray spectrum of Sirius, and saw
X-rays as normal light--shielded, tremendously shielded by the
atmosphere, but the enormous amplification of the eyes made up for it.

The remaining Thessians seemed to get the idea simultaneously, and
started for Arcot in his own time field. The Thessian ship appeared to
be actually leaping at him. Suddenly, his speed increased inconceivably.
Simultaneously, Arcot's hand, already started toward the space-control
switch, reached it, and pushed it to the point that threw the ship into
artificial Space. The last glimmer of light died suddenly, as the
Thessian ship's bow loomed huge beside the _Ancient Mariner_.

There was a terrific shock that hurled the ship violently to one side,
threw the men about inside the ship. Simultaneously the lights blinked

Light returned as the automatic emergency incandescent lights in the
room, fed from an energy store coil, flashed on abruptly. The men were
white-faced, tense in their positions. Swiftly Morey was looking over
the indicators on his remote-reading panel, while Arcot stared at the
few dials before the actual control board.

"_There's an air pressure outside the ship!_" he cried out in surprise.
"High oxygen, very little nitrogen, breathable apparently, provided
there are no poisons. Temperature ten below zero C."

"Lights are off because relays opened when the crash short circuited
them." Morey and the entire group were suddenly shaking.

"Nervous shock," commented Zezdon Afthen. "It will be an hour or more
before we will be in condition to work."

"Can't wait," replied Arcot testily, his nerves on edge, too.

"Morey, make some good strong coffee if you can, and we'll waste a
little air on some smokes."

Morey rose and went to the door that led through the main passage to the
galley. "Heck of a job--no weight at all," he muttered. "There is air in
the passage, anyway." He opened the door, and the air rushed from the
control room to the passage till the pressure was equalized. The door to
the power room was shut, but it was bulged, despite its two-inch lux
metal, and through its clear material he could see the wreckage of the
power room.

"Arcot," he called. "Come here and look at the power room. Quintillions
of miles from home, we can't shut off this field now."

Arcot was with him in a moment. The tremendous mass of the nose of the
Thessian ship had caught them full amid-ship, and the powerful ram had
driven through the room. Their lux walls had not been touched; only a
sledge-hammer blow would have bent them under any circumstances, let
alone breaking them. But the tremendously powerful main generator was
split wide open. And the mechanical damage was awful. The prow of the
ship had been driven deep into the machine, and the power room was a

"And," pointed out Morey, "we can't handle a job like that. It will take
a tremendous amount of machinery back on a planet to work that stuff,
and we couldn't bend that bar, let alone fix it."

"Get the coffee, will you please, Morey? I have an idea that's bound to
work," said Arcot looking fixedly at the machinery.

Morey turned and went to the galley.

Five minutes later they returned to the corridor, where Arcot stood
still, looking fixedly at the engine room. They were carrying small
plastic balloons with coffee in them.

They drank the coffee and returned to the control room, and sat about,
the terrestrians smoking peacefully, the Ortolian and the Talsonian
satisfying themselves with some form of mild narcotic from Ortol, which
Zezdon Afthen introduced.

"Well, we have a lot more to do," Arcot said. "The air-apparatus stopped
working a while back, and I don't want to sit around doing nothing while
the air in the storage tanks is used up. Did you notice our friends, the
enemy?" Through the great pilot's window the bulk of the Thessian ship's
bow could be seen. It was cut across with an exactitude of mathematical

"Easy to guess what happened," Morey grinned. "They may have wrecked us,
but we sure wrecked them. They got half in and half out of our space
field. Result--the half that was in, stayed in. The half that was out
stayed out. The two halves were instantaneously a billion miles apart,
and that beautifully exact surface represents the point our space cut

"That being decided, the next question is how to fix this poor old
wreck." Morey grinned a bit. "Better, how to get out of here, and down
to old Neptune."

"Fix it!" replied Arcot. "Come on; you get in your space suit, take the
portable telectroscope and set it up in space, motionless, in such a
position that it views both our ship and the nose of the Thessian
machine, will you, Wade? Tune it to--seven-seven-three." Morey rose with
Arcot, and followed him, somewhat mystified, down the passage. At the
airlock Wade put on his space suit, and the Ortolian helped him with it.
In a moment the other three men appeared bearing the machine. It was
practically weightless, though it would fall slowly if left to itself,
for the mass of the _Ancient Mariner_ and the front end of the Thessian
ship made a considerable attractive field. But it was clumsy, and needed
guiding here in the ship.

Wade took it into the airlock, and a moment later into space with him.
His hand molecular-driving unit pulling him, he towed the machine into
place, and with some difficulty got it practically motionless with
respect of the two bodies, which were now lying against each other.

"Turn it a bit, Wade, so that the _Ancient Mariner_ is just in its
range," came Arcot's thoughts. Wade did so. "Come on back and watch the

Wade returned. Arcot and the others were busy placing a heavy emergency
lead from the storeroom in the place of one of the broken leads. In five
minutes they had it fixed where they wanted it.

Into the control room went Arcot, and started the power-room teleview
plate. Connected into the system of view plates, the scene was visible
now on all the plates in the ship. Well off to one side of the room,
prepared for such emergencies, and equipped with individual power
storage coils that would run it for several days, the view plate
functioned smoothly.

"Now, we are ready," said Arcot. The Talsonian proved he understood
Arcot's intentions by preceding him to the laboratory.

Arcot had two viewplates operating here. One was covering the scene as
shown by the machine outside, and the other showed the power room.

Arcot stepped over to the artificial-matter machine, and worked swiftly
on it. In a moment the power from the storage coils of the ship was
flowing through the new cable, and into the machine. A huge ring
appeared about the nose of the Thessian ship, fitting snugly over it. A
terrific wrench--and it was free of the _Ancient Mariner_. The ring
contracted and formed a chunk of the stuff free of the broken nose of
the ship.

It was carried over to the wall of the _Ancient Mariner_, a smaller
piece snipped off as before, and carried inside. A piece of perhaps half
a ton mass. "I hope they use good stuff," grinned Arcot. The piece was
deposited on the floor of the ship, and a disc formed of artificial
matter plugged the hole in its side. Another took a piece of the relux
from the broken Thessian ship, pushed it into the hole on the ship. The
space about the scene of operation was a crackling inferno of energy
breaking down into heat and light. Arcot dematerialized his tremendous
tools, and the wall of the _Ancient Mariner_ was neatly patched with
relux smoothed over as perfectly as before. A second time, using some of
the relux he had brought within the ship, and the inner wall was
rebuilt. The job was absolutely perfect, save that now, where there had
been lux, there was an outer wall of relux.

The main generator was crumpled up, and torn out. The auxiliary
generators would have to carry the load. The great cables were swiftly
repaired in the same manner, a perfect cylinder forming about them, and
a piece of relux from the store Arcot had sliced from the enemy ship,
welding them perfectly under enormous pressure, pressure that made them
flow perfectly into one another as heat alone could not.

In less than half an hour the ship was patched up, the power room
generally repaired, save for a few minor things that had to be replaced
from the stores. The main generator was gone, but that was not an
essential. The door was straightened and the job done.

In an hour they were ready to proceed.

Chapter XIV


"Well, Sirius has retreated a bit," observed Arcot. The star was indeed
several trillions of miles away. Evidently they had not been motionless
as they had thought, but the interference of the Thessian ship had
thrown their machine off.

"Shall we go back, or go on?" asked Morey.

"The ship works. Why return?" asked Wade. "I vote we go on."

"Seconded," added Arcot.

"If they who know most of the ship vote for a continuance of the
journey, then assuredly we who know so little can only abide by their
judgment. Let us continue," said Zezdon Afthen gravely.

Space was suddenly black about them. Sirius was gone, all the jewels of
the heavens were gone in the black of swift flight. Ten seconds later
Arcot lowered the space-control. Black behind them the night of space
was pricked by points of light, the infinite multitude of the stars.
Before them lay--nothing. The utter emptiness of space between the

"Thlek Styrs! What happened?" asked Morey in amazement, his pet Venerian
phrase rolling out in his astonishment.

"Tried an experiment, and it was overly successful," replied Arcot, a
worried look on his face. "I tried combining the Thessian high speed
_time_ distortion with our high _speed_ space distortion--both on low
power. 'There ain't no sich animals,' as the old agriculturist remarked
of the giraffe. God knows what speed we hit, but it was plenty. We must
be ten thousand light years beyond the galaxy."

"That's a fine way to start the trip. You have the old star maps to get
back however, have you not?" asked Wade.

"Yes, the maps we made on our first trip out this way are in the
cabinet. Look 'em up, will you, and see how far we have to go before we
reach the cosmic fields?"

Arcot was busy with his instruments, making a more accurate
determination of their distance from the "edge" of the galaxy. He
adopted the figure of twelve thousand five hundred light years as the
probable best result. Wade was back in a moment with the information
that the fields lay about sixteen thousand light years out. Arcot went
on, at a rate that would reach the fields in two hours.

Several hours more were spent in measurements, till at last Arcot
announced himself satisfied.

"Good enough--back we go." Again in the control room, he threw on the
drive, and shot through the twenty-seven thousand light years of cosmic
ray fields, and then more leisurely returned to the galaxy. The star
maps were strangely off. They could follow them, but only with
difficulty as the general configuration of the constellations that were
their guides were visibly altered to the naked eye.

"Morey," said Arcot softly, looking at the constellation at which they
were then aiming, and at the map before him, "there is something very,
very rotten. The Universe either 'ain't what it used to be' or we have
traveled in more than space."

"I know it, and I agree with you. Obviously, from the degree of
alteration off the constellations, we are off by about 100,000 years.
Question: how come? Question: what are we going to do about it?"

"Answer one: remembering what we observed _in re_ Sirius, I suspect that
the interference of that Thessian ship, with its time-field opposing our
space-field did things to our time-frame. We were probably thrown off

"As to the second question, we have to determine number one first. Then
we can plan our actions."

With Wade's help, and by coming to rest near several of the stars, then
observing their actual motions, they were able to determine their
time-status. The estimate they made finally was of the order of eighty
thousand years in the past! The Thessian ship had thrown them that much
out of their time.

"This isn't all to the bad," said Morey with a sigh. "We at least have
all the time we could possibly use to determine the things we want for
this fight. We might even do a lot of exploring for the archeologists of
Earth and Venus and Ortol and Talso. As to getting back--that's a

"Which is," added Arcot, "easy to answer now, thank the good Lord. All
we have to do is wait for our time to catch up with us. If we just wait
eighty thousand years, eight hundred centuries, we will be in our own

"Oh, I think waiting so long would be boring," said Wade sarcastically.
"What do you suggest we do in the intervening eighty millenniums? Play

"Oh, cards or chess. Something like that," grinned Arcot. "Play cards,
calculate our fields--and turn on the time rate control."

"Oh--I take it back. You win! Take all! I forgot all about that," Wade
smiled at his friend. "That will save a little waiting, won't it."

"The exploring of our worlds would without doubt be of infinite benefit
to science, but I wonder if it would not be of more direct benefit if we
were to get back to our own time, alive and well. Accidents always
happen, and for all our weapons, we might easily meet some animal which
would put an abrupt and tragic finish to our explorations. Is it not
so?" asked Stel Felso Theu.

"Your point is good, Stel Felso Theu. I agree with you. We will do no
more exploring than is necessary, or safe."

"We might just as well travel slowly on the time retarder, and work on
the way. I think the thing to do is to go back to Earth, or better, the
solar system, and follow the sun in its path."

They returned, and the desolation that the sun in its journey passes
through is nothing to the utter, oppressive desolation of empty space
between the stars, for it has its family of planets--and it has no
conscious thought.

The Sun was far from the point that it had occupied when the travelers
had left it, billions on billions of miles further on its journey around
the gravitational center of our galactic universe, and in the eighty
millenniums that they must wait, it would go far.

They did not go to the planets now, for, as Arcot said in reply to Stel
Felso Theu's suggestion that they determine more accurately their
position in time, life had not developed to an extent that would enable
them to determine the year according to our calendar.

So for thirty thousand years they hung motionless as the sun moved on,
and the little spots of light, that were worlds, hurled about it in a
mad race. Even Pluto, in its three-hundred-year-long track seemed madly
gyrating beneath them; Mercury was a line of light, as it swirled about
the swiftly moving sun.

But that thirty thousand years was thirty days to the men of the ship.
Their time rate immensely retarded, they worked on their calculations.
At the end of that month Arcot had, with the help of Morey and Wade,
worked out the last of the formulas of artificial matter, and the
machines had turned out the last graphical function of the last branch
of research that they could discover. It was a time of labor for them,
and they worked almost constantly, stopping occasionally for a game of
some sort to relax the nervous tension.

At the end of that month they decided that they would go to Earth.

They speeded their time rate now, and flashed toward Earth at enormous
speed that brought them within the atmosphere in minutes. They had
landed in the valley of the Nile. Arcot had suggested this as a means of
determining the advancement of life of man. Man had evidently
established some of his earliest civilizations in this valley where
water and sun for his food plants were assured.

"Look--there _are_ men here!" exclaimed Wade. Indeed, below them were
villages, of crude huts made of timber and stone and mud. Rubble work
walls, for they needed little shelter here, and the people were but

"Shall we land?" asked Arcot, his voice a bit unsteady with suppressed

"Of course!" replied Morey without turning from his station at the
window. Below them now, less than half a mile down on the patchwork of
the Nile valley, men were standing, staring up, collecting in little
groups, gesticulating toward the strange thing that had materialized in
the air above them.

"Does every one agree that we land?" asked Arcot.

There were no dissenting voices, and the ship sank gently toward a road
below and to the left. A little knot of watchers broke, and they fled in
terror as the great machine approached, crying out to their friends,
casting affrighted glances at the huge, shining monster behind them.

Without a jar the mighty weight of the ship touched the soil of its
native planet, touched it fifty millenniums before it was made, five
hundred centuries before it left!

Arcot's brow furrowed. "There is one thing puzzles me--I can't see how
we can come back. Don't you see, Morey, we have disturbed the lives of
those people. We have affected history. This must be written into the
history that exists.

"This seems to banish the idea of free thought. We have changed history,
yet history is that which is already done!

"Had I never been born, had--but I _was_ already--I existed fifty-eighty
thousand years before I was born!"

"Let's go out and think about that later. We'll go to a psych hospital,
if we don't stop thinking about problems of space and time for a little
while. We need some kind of relaxation."

"I suggest that we take our weapons with us. These men may have weapons
of chemical nature, such as poisons injected into the flesh on small
sticks hurled either by a spring device or by pneumatic pressure of the
lungs," said Stel Felso Theu as he rose from his seat unstrapping

"Arrows and blow-guns we call 'em. But it's a good idea, Stel Felso, and
I think we will," replied Arcot. "Let's not all go out at once, and the
first group to go out goes out on foot, so they won't be scared off by
our flying around."

Arcot, Wade, Zezdon Afthen, and Stel Felso Theu went out. The natives
had retreated to a respectful distance, and were now standing about,
looking on, chattering to themselves. They were edging nearer.

"Growing bold," grinned Wade.

"It is the characteristic of intelligent races manifesting
itself--curiosity," pointed out Stel Felso Theu.

"Are these the type of men still living in this valley, or who will be
living there in fifty thousand years?" asked Zezdon Afthen.

"I'd say they weren't Egyptians as we know them, but typical Neolithic
men. It seems they have brains fully as large as some of the men I see
on the streets of New York. I wonder if they have the ability to learn
as much as the average man of--say about 1950?"

The Neolithic men were warming up. There was an orator among them, and
his grunts, growls, snorts and gestures were evidently affecting them.
They had sent the women back (by the simple and direct process of
sweeping them up in one arm and heaving them in the general direction of
home). The men were brandishing polished stone knives and axes, various
instruments of war and peace. One favorite seemed to be a large club.

"Let's forestall trouble," suggested Arcot. He drew his ray pistol, and
turned it on the ground directly in front of them, and about halfway
between them and the Neoliths. A streak of the soil about two feet wide
flashed into intense radiation under the impact of millions on millions
of horsepower of radiant energy. Further, it was fused to a depth of
twenty feet or more, and intensely hot still deeper. The Neoliths took a
single look at it, then turned, and raced for home.

"Didn't like our looks. Let's go back."

They wandered about the world, investigating various peoples, and proved
to their own satisfaction that there was no Atlantis, not at this time
at any rate. But they were interested in seeing that the polar caps
extended much farther toward the equator; they had not retreated at that
time to the extent that they had by the opening of history.

They secured some fresh game, an innovation in their larder, and a
welcome one. Then the entire ship was swept out with fresh, clean air,
their water tanks filled with water from the cold streams of the melting
glaciers. The air apparatus was given a new stock to work over.

Their supplies in a large measure restored, thousands of aerial
photographic maps made, they returned once more to space to wait.

Their time was taken up for the most part by actual work on the enormous
mass of calculation necessary. It is inconceivable to the layman what
tremendous labor is involved in the development of a single mathematical
hypothesis, and a concrete illustration of it was the long time, with
tremendously advanced calculating machines, that was required in their
present work.

They had worked out the problem of the time-field, but there they had
been aided by the actual apparatus, and the possibilities of making
direct tests on machines already set up. The problem of artificial
matter, at length fully solved, was a different matter. This had
required within a few days of a month (by their clocks; close to thirty
thousand years of Earth's time), for they had really been forced to
develop it all from the beginning. In the small improvements Arcot had
instituted in Stel Felso Theu's device, he had really merely followed
the particular branch that Stel Felso Theu had stumbled upon. Hence it
was impossible to determine with any great variety, the type of matter
created. Now, however, Arcot could make any known kind of matter, and
many unknown kinds.

But now came the greatest problem of all. They were ready to start work
on the data they had collected in space.

"What," asked Zezdon Afthen, as he watched the three terrestrians begin
their work, "is the nature of the thing you are attempting to harness?"

"In a word, energy," replied Arcot, pausing.

"We are attempting to harness energy in its primeval form, in the form
of a space-field. Remember, mass is a measure of energy. Two centuries
ago a scientist of our world proposed the idea that energy could be
measured by mass, and proceeded to prove that the relationship was the
now firmly intrenched formula E=Mc^{2}.

"The sun is giving off energy. It is giving off mass, then, in the form
of light photons. The field of the sun's gravity must be constantly
decreasing as its mass decreases. It is a collapsing field. It is true,
the sun's gravitational field does decrease, by a minute amount, despite
the fact that our sun loses a thousand million tons of matter every four
minutes. The percentage change is minute, but the energy released

"But, I am going to invent a new power unit, Afthen. I will call it the
'sol,' the power of a sun. One sol is the rating of our sun. And I will
measure the energy I use in terms of sun-powers, not horsepower. That
may tell you of its magnitude!"

"But," Zezdon Afthen asked, "while you men of Earth work on this
problem, what is there for us? We have no problems, save the problem of
the fate of our world, still fifty thousand years of your time in the
future. It is terrible to wait, wait, wait and think of what may be
happening in that other time. Is there nothing we can do to help? I know
our hopeless ignorance of your science. Stel Felso Theu can scarcely
understand the thoughts you use, and I can scarcely understand his
explanations! I cannot help you there, with your calculations, but is
there nothing I can do?"

"There is, Ortolian, decidedly. We badly need your help, and as Stel
Felso Theu cannot aid us here as much as he can by working with you, I
will ask him to do so. I want your knowledge of psycho-mechanical
devices to help us. Will you make a machine controlled by mental
impulses? I want to see such a system and know how it is done that I may
control machines by such a system."

"Gladly. It will take time, for I am not the expert worker that you are,
and I must make many pieces of apparatus, but I will do what I can,"
exclaimed Zezdon Afthen eagerly.

So, while Arcot and his group continued their work of determining the
constants of the space-energy field, the others were working on the
mental control apparatus.

Chapter XV


Again there was a period of intense labor, while the ship drifted
through time, following Earth in its mad careening about the sun, and
the sun as it rushed headlong through space. At the end of a thirty-day
period, they had reached no definite position in their calculations, and
the Talsonian reported, as a medium between the two parties of
scientists, that the work of the Ortolian had not reached a level that
would make a scientific understanding possible.

As the ship needed no replenishing, they determined to finish their
present work before landing, and it was nearly forty thousand years
after their first arrival that they again landed on Earth.

It was changed now; the ice caps had retreated visibly, the Nile delta
was far longer, far more prominent, and cities showed on the Earth here
and there.

Greece, they decided would be the next stop, and to Greece they went,
landing on a mountain side. Below was a village, a small village, a
small thing of huts and hovels. But the villagers attacked, swarming up
the hillside furiously, shouting and shrieking warnings of their
terrible prowess to these men who came from the "shining house,"
ordering them to flee from them and turn over their possession to them.

"What'll we do?" asked Morey. He and Arcot had come out alone this time.

"Take one of these fellows back with us, and question him. We had best
get a more or less definite idea of what time-age we are in, hadn't we?
We don't want to overshoot by a few centuries, you know!"

The villagers were swarming up the side of the hill, armed with weapons
of bronze and wood. The bronze implements of murder were rare, and
evidently costly, for those that had them were obviously leaders, and
better dressed than the others.

"Hang it all, I have only a molecular pistol. Can't use that, it would
be a plain massacre!" exclaimed Arcot.

But suddenly several others, who had come up from one side, appeared
from behind a rock. The scientists were wearing their power suits, and
had them on at low power, leaving a weight of about fifty pounds. Morey,
with his normal weight well over two hundred, jumped far to one side of
a clumsy rush of a peasant, leaped back, and caught him from behind.
Lifting the smaller man above his head, he hurled him at two others
following. The three went down in a heap.

Most of the men were about five feet tall, and rather lightly built. The
"Greek God" had not yet materialized among them. They were probably
poorly fed, and heavily worked. Only the leaders appeared to be in good
physical condition, and the men could not develop to large stature.
Arcot and Morey were giants among them, and with their greater skill,
tremendous jumping ability, and far greater strength, easily overcame
the few who had come by the side. One of the leaders was picked up, and
trussed quickly in a rope a fellow had carried.

"Look out," called Wade from above. Suddenly he was standing beside
them, having flown down on the power suit. "Caught your thoughts--rather
Zezdon Afthen did." He handed Arcot a ray pistol. The rest of the Greeks
were near now, crying in amazement, and running more slowly. They didn't
seem so anxious to attack. Arcot turned the ray pistol to one side.

"Wait!" called Morey. A face peered from around the rock toward which
Arcot had aimed his pistol. It was that of a girl, about fifteen years
old in appearance, but hard work had probably aged her face. Morey bent
over, heaved on a small boulder, about two hundred pounds of rock, and
rolled it free of the depression it rested in, then caught it on a
molecular ray, hurled it up. Arcot turned his heat ray on it for an
instant, and it was white hot. Then the molecular ray threw it over
toward the great rock, and crushed it against it. Three children
shrieked and ran out from the rock, scurrying down the hillside.

The soldiers had stopped. They looked at Morey. Then they looked at the
great rock, three hundred yards from him. They looked at the rock

"They think you threw it," grinned Arcot.

"What else--they saw me pick it up, saw me roll it, and it flew. What
else could they think?"

Arcot's heat ray hissed out, and the rocks sputtered and cracked, then
glowed white. There was a dull explosion, and chips of rock flew up.
Water, imprisoned, had been turned into steam. In a moment the whistle
and crackle of combined heat and molecular rays stabbing out from
Arcot's hands had built a barrier of fused rocks.

Leisurely Arcot and Morey carried their now revived prisoner back to the
ship, while Wade flew ahead to open the locks.

Half an hour later the prisoner was discharged, much to his surprise,
and the ship rose. They had been able to learn nothing from him. Even
the Greek Gods, Zeus, Hermes, Apollo, all the later Greek gods, were
unknown, or so greatly changed that Arcot could not recognize them.

"Well," he said at length, "it seems all we know is that they came
before any historical Greeks we know of. That puts them back quite a
bit, but I don't know how far. Shall we go see the Egyptians?"

They tried Egypt, a few moments across the Mediterranean, landing close
to the mouth of the Nile. The people of a village near by immediately
set out after them. Better prepared this time, Arcot flew out to meet
them with Zezdon Afthen and Stel Felso Theu. Surely, he felt, the sight
of the strange men would be no more terrifying than the ship or the men
flying. And that did not seem to deter their attack. Apparently the
proverb that "Discretion is the better part of valor," had not been

Arcot landed near the head of the column, and cut off two or three men
from the rest with the aid of his ray pistol. Zezdon Afthen quickly
searched his mind, and with Arcot's aid they determined he did not know
any of the Gods that Arcot suggested.

Finally they had to return to the ship, disappointed. They had had the
slight satisfaction of finding that the Sun God was Ralz, the later
Egyptian Ra might well have been an evolved form of that name.

They restocked the ship, fresh game and fruits again appearing on the
menu, then once again they launched forth into space to wait for their
own time.

"It seems to me that we must have produced some effect by our visit,"
said Arcot, shaking his head solemnly.

"We did, Arcot," replied Morey softly. "We left an impress in history,
an impress that still is, and an impress that affected countless

"Meet the Egyptian Gods with their heads strange to terrestrians, the
Gods who fly through the air without wings, come from a shining house
that flies, whose look, whose pointed finger melts the desert sands, and
the moist soil!" he continued softly, nodding toward the Ortolian and
the Talsonian.

"Their 'impossible' Gods existed, and visited them. Indubitably some
genius saw that here was a chance for fame and fortune and sold 'charms'
against the 'Gods.' Result: we are carrying with us some of the oldest
deities. Again, we did leave our imprint in history."

"And," cried Wade excitedly, "meet the great Hercules, who threw men
about. I always knew that Morey was a brainless brute, but I never
realized the marvelous divining powers of those Greeks so
perfectly--now, the Incarnation of Dumb Power!" Dramatically Wade
pointed to Morey, unable even now to refrain from some unnecessary

"All right, Mercury, the messenger of the Gods speaks. The little flaps
on Wade's flying shoes must indeed have looked like the winged shoes of
legend. Wade was Mercury, too brainless for anything but carrying the
words of wisdom uttered by others.

"And Arcot," continued Morey, releasing Wade from his condescending
stare, "is Jove, hurling the rockfusing, destroying thunderbolts!"

"The Gods that my friends have been talking of," explained Arcot to the
curious Ortolians, "are legendary deities of Earth. I can see now that
we did leave an imprint on history in the only way we could--as Gods,
for surely no other explanation could have occurred to those men."

The days passed swiftly in the ship, as their work approached
completion. Finally, when the last of the equation of Time, artificial
matter, and the most awful of their weapons, the unlimited Cosmic Power,
had been calculated, they fell to the last stage of the work. The actual
appliances were designed. Then the completed apparatus that the Ortolian
and the Talsonian had been working on, was carefully investigated by the
terrestrial physicists, and its mechanism studied. Arcot had great plans
for this, and now it was incorporated in their control apparatus.

The one remaining problem was their exact location in time. Already
their progress had brought them well up to the nineteenth century, but,
as Morey sadly remarked, they couldn't tell what date, for they were
sadly lacking in history. Had they known the real date, for instance, of
the famous battle of Bull Run, they could have watched it in the
telectroscope, and so determined their time. As it was, they knew only
that it was one of the periods of the first half of the decade of 1860.

"As historians, we're a bunch of first-class kitchen mechanics. Looks
like we're due for another landing to locate the exact date," agreed

"Why land now? Let's wait until we are nearer the time to which we
belong, so we won't have to watch so carefully and so long," suggested

They argued this question for about two hundred years as a matter of
fact. After that, it was academic anyway.

Chapter XVI


They were getting very near their own time, Arcot felt. Indeed, they
must already exist on Earth. "One thing that puzzles me," he commented,
"is what would happen if we were to go down now, and see ourselves."

"Either we can't or we don't want to do it," pointed out Morey, "because
we didn't."

"I think the answer is that nothing can exist two times at the same
time-rate," said Arcot. "As long as we were in a different time-rate we
could exist at two times. When we tried to exist simultaneously, we
could not, and we were forced to slip through time to a time wherein we
either did not exist or wherein we had not yet been. Since we were
nearer the time when we last existed in normal time, than we were to the
time of our birth, we went to the time we left. I suspect that we will
find we have just left Earth. Shall we investigate?"

"Absolutely, Arcot, and here's hoping we didn't overshoot the mark by
much." As Morey intimated, had they gone much beyond the time they left
Earth, they might find conditions very serious, indeed. But now they
went at once toward Earth on the time control. As they neared, they
looked anxiously for signs of the invasion. Arcot spotted the only
evident signs, however; two large spheres, tiny points in appearance on
the telectroscope screen, were circling Earth, one at about 1,000 miles,
moving from east to west, the other about 1,200 miles moving from north
to south.

"It seems the enemy have retreated to space to do their fighting. I
wonder how long we were away."

As they swept down at a speed greater than light, they were invisible
till Arcot slowed down near the atmosphere. Instantly half a dozen fast
ships darted toward them, but the ship was very evidently unlike the
Thessian ships, and no attack was made. First the occupants would have
an opportunity to prove their friendliness.

"Terrestrians Arcot, Morey and Wade reporting back from exploration in
space, with two friends. All have been on Earth with us previously,"
said Arcot into the radio vision apparatus.

"Very well, Dr. Arcot. You are going to New York or Vermont?" asked the
Patrol commander.


"Yes, Sir. I'll see that you aren't stopped again."

And, thanks to the message thus sent ahead, they were not, and in less
than half an hour they landed once more in Vermont, on the field from
which they had started.

The group of scientists who had been here on their last call had gone,
which seemed natural enough to them, who had been working for three
months in the interval of their trip, but to Dr. Arcot senior, as he saw
them, it was a misfortune.

"Now I never will get straight all you'll have ready, and I didn't
expect you back till next week. The men have all gone back to their
laboratories, since that permits of better work on the part of each, but
we can call them here in half an hour. I'm sure they'll want to come.
What did you learn, Son, or haven't you done any calculating on your
data as yet?"

"We learned plenty, and I feel quite sure that a hint of what we have
would bring all those learning-hounds around us pretty quickly, Dad,"
laughed Arcot junior, "and believe it or not, we've been calculating on
this stuff for three months since we left yesterday!"


"Yes, it's true! We were on our time field, and turned on the space
control--and a Thessian ship picked that moment to run into us. We cut
the ship in half as neatly as you please, but it threw us eighty
thousand years into the past. We have been coasting through time on
retarded rate while Earth caught up with itself, so to speak. In the
meantime--three months in a day!

"But don't call those men. Let them come to the appointment, while we do
some work, and we have plenty of work to do, I assure you. We have a
list of things to order from the standard supply houses, and I think you
better get them for us, Dad." Arcot's manner became serious now. "We
haven't gotten our Government Expense Research Cards yet, and you have.
Order the stuff, and get it out here, while we get ready for it.
Honestly, I believe that a few ships such as this apparatus will permit,
will be enough in themselves to do the job. It really is a pity that the
other men didn't have the opportunity we had for crowding much work into
little time!

"But then, I wouldn't want to take that road to concentration again

"Have the enemy amused you in my absence? Come on, let's sit down in the
house instead of standing here in the sun."

They started toward the house, as Arcot senior explained what had
happened in the short time they had been away.

"There is a friend of yours here, whom you haven't seen in some time,
Son. He came with some allies."

As they entered the house, they could hear the boards creak under some
heavy weight that moved across the floor, soundlessly and light of
motion in itself. A shadow fell across the hall floor, and in the
doorway a tremendously powerfully-built figure stood.

He seemed to overflow the doorway, nearly six and a half feet tall, and
fully as wide as the door. His rugged, bronzed face was smiling
pleasantly, and his deep-set eyes seemed to flash; a living force flowed
from them.

"Torlos! By the Nine Planets! Torlos of Nansal! Say, I didn't expect you
here, and I will not put my hand in that meatgrinder of yours," grinned
Arcot happily, as Torlos stretched forth a friendly, but quite too
powerful hand.

Torlos of Nansal, that planet Arcot had discovered on his first voyage
across space, far in another Island of Space, another Island Universe,
was not constructed as are human beings of Earth, nor of Venus, Talso,
or Ortol, but most nearly resembled, save in size, the Thessians. Their
framework, instead of being stone, as is ours, was iron, their bones
were pure metallic iron, far stronger than bone. On these far stronger
bones were great muscles of an entirely different sort, a muscle that
used heat of the body as its fuel, a muscle that was utterly tireless,
and unbelievably powerful. Not a chemical engine, but a molecular motion
engine, it had no chemical fatigue-products that would tire it, and
needed only the constant heat supply the body sucked from the air to
work indefinitely. Unlimited by waste-carrying considerations, the
strength was enormous.

It was one of the commercial space freighters plying between Nansal,
Sator, Earth and Venus that had brought the news of this war to him,
Torlos explained, and he, as the new Trade Coordinator and Fourth of the
Four who now ruled Nansal, had suggested that they go to the aid of the
man who had so aided them in their great war with Sator. It was Arcot's
gift of the secret of the molecular ray and the molecular ship that had
enabled them to overcome their enemy of centuries, and force upon them
an unwelcome peace.

Now, with a fleet of fifty interstellar, or better, intergalactic
battleships, Nansal was coming to Earth's aid.

The battleships were now on patrol with all of Earth's and Venus' fleet.
But the Nansalian ships were all equipped with the enormously rapid
space distortion system of travel, of course, and were a shock troop in
the patrol. The Terrestrian and Venerian patrols were not so equipped in

"And Arcot, from what I have learned from your father, it seems that I
can be of real assistance," finished Torlos.

"But now, I think, I should know what the enemy has done. I see they
built some forts."

"Yes," replied Arcot senior, "they did. They decided that the system
used on the forts of North and South poles was too effective. They moved
to space, and cut off slices of Luna, pulled it over on their molecular
rays, and used some of the most magnificent apparatus you ever dreamed
of. I have just started working on the mathematics of it.

"We sent out a fleet to do some investigating, but they attacked, and
stopped work in the meantime. Whatever the ray is that can destroy
matter at a distance, they are afraid that we could find its secret too
easily, and block it, for they don't think it is a weapon, and it is
evidently slow in action."

"Then it isn't what I thought it was," muttered Arcot.

"What did you think it was?" asked his father.

"Er--tell you later. Go on with the account."

"Well, to continue. We have not been idle. Following your suggestion, we
built up a large ray screen apparatus, in fact, several of them, and
carried them in ships to different parts of the world. Also some of the
planets, lest they start dropping worlds on us. They are already in
operation, sending their defensive waves against the Heaviside layer.
Radio is poor, over any distance, and we can't call Venus from inside
the layer now. However, we tested the protection, and it works--far more
efficiently than we calculated, due to the amazing conductivity of the

"If they intend to attack in that way, I suspect that it will be soon,
for they are ready now, as we discovered. An attack on their fort was
met with a ray screen from the fort.

"They fight with a wild viciousness now. They won't let a ship get near
them. They destroy everything on sight. They seem tremendously afraid of
that apparatus of yours. Too bad we had no more."

"We will have--if you will let me get to work."

They went to the ship, and entered it. Arcot senior did not follow, but
the others waited, while the ship left Earth once more, and floated in
space. Immediately they went into the time-field.

They worked steadily, sleeping when necessary, and the giant strength of
Torlos was frequently as great an asset as his indefatigable work. He
was learning rapidly, and was able to do a great deal of the work
without direction. He was not a scientist, and the thing was new to him,
but his position as one of the best of the secret intelligence force of
Nansal had proven his brains, and he did his share.

The others, scientists all, found the operations difficult, for work had
been allotted to each according to his utmost capabilities.

It was still nearly a week of their time before the apparatus was
completed to the extent possible, less than a minute of normal time

Finally the unassembled, but completed apparatus, was carried to the
laboratory of the cottage, and word was sent to all the men of Earth
that Arcot was going to give a demonstration of the apparatus he hoped
would save them. The scientists from all over Earth and Venus were
interested, and those of Earth came, for there was no time for the men
of Venus to arrive to inspect the results.

Chapter XVII


It was night. The stars visible through the laboratory windows winked
violently in the disturbed air of the Heaviside layer, for the molecular
ray screen was still up.

The laboratory was dimly lighted now, all save the front of the room.
There, a mass of compact boxes were piled one on another, and
interconnected in various and indeterminate ways. And one table lay in a
brilliant path of illumination. Behind it stood Arcot. He was talking to
the dim white group of faces beyond the table, the scientists of Earth

"I have explained our power. It is the power of all the universe--Cosmic
Power--which is necessarily vaster than all others combined.

"I cannot explain the control in the time I have at my disposal but the
mathematics of it, worked out in two months of constant effort, you can
follow from the printed work which will appear soon.

"The second thing, which some of you have seen before, has already been
partly explained. It is, in brief, artificially created matter. The two
important things to remember about it are that it _is_, that it _does
exist_, and that it exists _only where it is determined to exist by the
control there, and nowhere else_.

"These are all coordinated under the new mental relay control. Some of
you will doubt this last, but think of it under this light. Will,
thought, concentration--they are efforts, they require energy. Then they
can exert energy! That is the key to the whole thing.

"But now for the demonstration."

Arcot looked toward Morey, who stood off to one side. There was a heavy
thud as Morey pushed a small button. The relay had closed. Arcot's mind
was now connected with the controls.

A globe of cloudiness appeared. It increased in density, and was a
solid, opalescent sphere.

"There is a sphere, a foot in diameter, ten feet from me," droned Arcot.
The sphere was there. "It is moving to the left." The sphere moved to
the left at Arcot's thought. "It is rising." The sphere rose. "It is
changing to a disc two feet across." The sphere seemed to flow, and was
a disc two feet across as Arcot's toneless voice of concentration

"It is changing into a hand, like a human hand." The disc changed into a
human hand, the fingers slightly bent, the soft, white fingers of a
woman with the pink of the flesh and the wrinkles at the knuckles
visible. The wrist seemed to fade gradually into nothingness, the end of
the hand was as indeterminate as are things in a dream, but the hand was

"The hand is reaching for the bar of lux metal on the floor." The soft,
little hand moved, and reached down and grasped the half ton bar of lux
metal, wrapped dainty fingers about it and lifted it smoothly and
effortlessly to the table, and laid it there.

A mistiness suddenly solidified to another hand. The second hand joined
the first, and fell to work on the bar, and pulled. The bar stretched
finally under an enormous load. One hand let go, and the thud of the
highly elastic lux metal bar's return to its original shape echoed
through the soundless room. These men of the twenty-second century knew
what relux and lux metals were, and knew their enormous strength. Yet it
was putty under these hands. The hands that looked like a woman's!

The bar was again placed on the table, and the hands disappeared. There
was a thud, and the relay had opened.

"I can't demonstrate the power I have. It is impossible. The
power is so enormous that nothing short of a sun could serve as a
demonstration-hall. It is utterly beyond comprehension under any
conditions. I have demonstrated artificial matter, and control by mental

"I'm now going to show you some other things we have learned. Remember,
I can control perfectly the properties of artificial matter, by
determining the structure it shall have.


Morey closed the relay. Arcot again set to work. A heavy ingot of iron
was raised by a clamp that fastened itself upon it, coming from nowhere.
The iron moved, and settled over the table. As it approached, a
mistiness that formed became a crucible. The crucible showed the gray of
pure iron, but it was artificial matter. The iron settled in the
crucible, and a strange process of flowing began. The crucible became a
ball, and colors flowed across its surface, till finally it was glowing
richly silvery. The ball opened, and a great lump of silvery stuff was
within it. It settled to the floor, and the ball disappeared, but the
silvery metal did not.

"Platinum," said Morey softly. A gasp came from the audience. "Only
platinum could exist there, and the matter had to rearrange itself as
platinum." He could rearrange it in any form he chose, either absorbing
or supplying energy of existence and energy of formation.

The mistiness again appeared in the air, and became a globe, a globe of
brown. But it changed, and disappeared. Morey recognized the signal. "He
will now make the artificial matter into all the elements, and many
nonexistent elements, unstable, atomic figures." There followed a long
series of changes.

The material shifted again, and again. Finally the last of the natural
elements was left behind, all 104 elements known to man were shown, and
many others.

"We will skip now. This is element of atomic weight 7000."

It was a lump of soft, oozy blackness. One could tell from the way that
Arcot's mind handled it that it was soft. It seemed cold, terribly cold.
Morey explained:

"It is very soft, for its atom is so large that it is soft in the
molecular state. It is tremendously photoe-lectric, losing electrons
very readily, and since its atom has so enormous a volume, its electrons
are very far from the nucleus in the outer rings, and they absorb rays
of very great length; even radio and some shorter audio waves seem to
affect it. That accounts for its blackness, and the softness as Arcot
has truly depicted it. Also, since it absorbs heat waves and changes
them to electrical charges, it tends to become cold, as the frost Arcot
has shown indicates. Remember, that that is infinitely hard as you see
it, for it is artificial matter, but Arcot has seen natural matter
forced into this exceedingly explosive atomic figuration.

"It is so heavily charged in the nucleus that its X-ray spectrum is well
toward the gamma! The inner electrons can scarcely vibrate."

Again the substance changed--and was gone.

"Too far--atom of weight 20,000 becomes invisible and nonexistent as
space closes in about it--perhaps the origin of our space. Atoms of this
weight, if breaking up, would form two or more atoms that would exist in
our space, then these would be unstable, and break down further into
normal atoms. We don't know.

"And one more substance," continued Morey as he opened the relay once
more. Arcot sat down and rested his head in his hands. He was not
accustomed to this strain, and though his mind was one of the most
powerful on Earth, it was very hard for him.

"We have a substance of commercial and practical use now. Cosmium. Arcot
will show one method of making it."

Arcot resumed his work, seated now. A formation reached out, and grasped
the lump of platinum still on the floor. Other bars of iron were brought
over from the stack of material laid ready, and piled on a broad sheet
that had formed in the air, tons of it, tens of tons. Finally he
stopped. There was enough. The sheet wrapped itself into a sphere, and
contracted, slowly, steadily. It was rampant with energy, energy flowed
from it, and the air about was glowing with ionization. There was a
feeling of awful power that seeped into the minds of the watchers, and
held them spellbound before the glowing, opalescent sphere. The tons of
matter were compressed now to a tiny ball! Suddenly the energy flared
out violently, a terrific burst of energy, ionizing the air in the
entire room, and shooting it with tiny, burning sparks. Then it was
over. The ball split, and became two planes. Between them was a small
ball of a glistening solid. The planes moved slowly together, and the
ball flattened, and flowed. It was a sheet.

A clamp of artificial matter took it, and held the paper-thin sheet,
many feet square, in the air. It seemed it must bend under its own
enormous weight of tons, but thin as it was it did not.

"Cosmium," said Morey softly.

Arcot crumpled it, and pressed it once more between artificial matter
tools. It was a plate, thick as heavy cardboard, and two feet on a side.
He set it in a holder of artificial matter, a sort of frame, and caused
the controls to lock.

Taking off the headpiece he had worn, he explained, "As Morey said,
Cosmium. Briefly, density, 5007.89. Tensile strength, about two hundred
thousand times that of good steel!" The audience gasped. That seems
little to men who do not realize what it meant. An inch of this stuff
would be harder to penetrate than three miles of steel!

"Our new ship," continued Arcot, "will carry six-inch armor. Six inches
would be the equivalent of eighteen miles of solid steel, with the
enormous improvement that it will be concentrated, and so will have far
greater resistance than any amount of steel. Its tensile strength would
be the equivalent of an eighteen-mile wall of steel.

"But its most important properties are that it reflects everything we
know of. Cosmics, light, and even moleculars! It is made of cosmic ray
photons, as lux is made of light photons, but the inexpressibly tighter
bond makes the strength enormous. It cannot be handled by any means save
by artificial matter tools.

"And now I am going to give a demonstration of the theatrical
possibilities of this new agent. Hardly scientific--but amusing."

But it wasn't exactly amusing.

Arcot again donned the headpiece. "I think," he continued, "that a
manifestation of the super-natural will be most interesting. Remember
that all you see is real, and all effects are produced by artificial
matter generated by the cosmic energy, as I have explained, and are
controlled by my mind."

Arcot had chosen to give this demonstration with definite reason.
Apparently a bit of scientific playfulness, yet he knew that nothing is
so impressive, nor so lastingly remembered as a theatrical demonstration
of science. The greatest scientist likes to play with his science.

But Arcot's experiment now--it was on a level of its own!

From behind the table, apparently crawling up the leg came a thing! It
was a hand. A horrible, disjointed hand. It was withered and incarmined
with blood, for it was severed from its wrist, and as it hunched itself
along, moving by a ghastly twitching of fingers and thumb, it left a
trail of red behind it. The papers to be distributed rustled as it
passed, scurrying suddenly across the table, down the leg, and racing
toward the light switch! By some process of writhing jerks it reached
it, and suddenly the room was plunged into half-light as the lights
winked out. Light filtering over the transom of the door from the hall
alone illuminated the hall, but the hand glowed! It glowed, and scurried
away with an awful rustling, scuttling into some unseen hole in the
wall. The quiet of the hall was the quiet of tenseness.

From the wall, coming through it, came a mistiness that solidified as it
flowed across. It was far to the right, a bent stooped figure, a figure
half glimpsed, but fully known, for it carried in its bony, glowing hand
a great, nicked scythe. Its rattling tread echoed hollowly on the floor.
Stooping walk, shuffling gait, the great metal scythe scraping on the
floor, half seen as the gray, luminous cloak blew open in some unfelt
breeze of its ephemeral world, revealing bone; dry, gray bone. Only the
scythe seemed to know Life, and it was red with that Life. Slow running,
sticky lifestuff.

Death paused, and raised his awful head. The hood fell back from the
cavernous eyesockets, and they flamed with a greenish radiance that made
every strained face in the room assume the same deathly pallor.

"The Scythe, the Scythe of Death," grated the rusty Voice. "The Scythe
is slow, too slow. I bring new things," it cackled in its cracked voice,
"new things of my tools. See!" The clutching bones dropped the rattling
Scythe, and the handle broke as it fell, and rotted before their eyes.
"Heh, heh," the Thing cackled as it watched. "Heh--what Death touches,
rots as he leaves it." The grinning, blackened skull grinned wider, in
an awful, leering cavity, rotting, twisted teeth showed. But from under
his flapping robe, the skeletal hands drew something--ray pistols!

"These--these are swifter!" The Thing turned, and with a single leering
glance behind, flowed once more through the wall.

A gasp, a stifled, groaning gasp ran through the hall, a half sob.

But far, far away they could hear something clanking, dragging its slow
way along. Spellbound they turned to the farthest corner--and looked
down the long, long road that twined off in distance. A lone, luminous
figure plodded slowly along it, his half human shamble bringing him
rapidly nearer.

Larger and larger he loomed, clearer and clearer became the figure, and
his burden. Broken, twisted steel, or metal of some sort, twisted and

"It's over--it's over--and my toys are here. I win, I always win. For I
am the spawn of Mars, of War, and of Hate, the sister of War, and my
toys are the things they leave behind." It gesticulated, waving the
twisted stuff and now through the haze, they could see them--buildings.
The framework of buildings and twisted liners, broken weapons.

It loomed nearer, the cavernous, glowing eyes under low, shaggy brows,
became clear, the awful brutal hate, the lust of Death, the rotting
flesh of Disease--all seemed stamped on the Horror that approached.

"Ah!" It had seen them! "Ahh!" It dropped the buildings, the broken
things, and shuffled into a run, toward them! Its face changed, the lips
drew back from broken, stained teeth, the curling, cruel lips, and the
rotting flesh of the face wrinkled into a grin of lust and hatred. The
shaggy mop of its hair seemed to writhe and twist, the long, thin
fingers grasped spasmodically as it neared. The torn, broken fingernails
were visible--nearer--nearer--nearer--

"Oh, God--stop it!" A voice shrieked out of the dark as someone leaped
suddenly to his feet.

Simultaneously with the cry the Thing puffed into nothingness of energy
from which it had sprung, and a great ball of clear, white glowing light
came into being in the center of the room, flooding it with a light that
dazzled the eyes, but calmed broken nerves.

Chapter XVIII


"I am sorry, Arcot. I did not know, for I see I might have helped, but
to me, with my ideas of horror, it was as you said, amusement," said
Torlos. They were sitting now in Arcot's study at the cottage; Arcot,
his father, Morey, Wade, Torlos, the three Ortolians and the Talsonian.

"I know, Torlos. You see, where I made my mistake, as I have said, was
in forgetting that in doing as I did, picturing horror, like a snowball
rolling, it would grow greater. The idea of horror, started, my mind
pictured one, and it inspired greater horror, which in turn reacted on
my all too reactive apparatus. As you said, the things changed as you
watched, molding themselves constantly as my mind changed them, under
its own initiative and the concentrated thoughts of all those others. It
was a very foolish thing to do, for that last Thing--well, remember it
_was_, it existed, and the idea of hate and lust it portrayed was caused
by my mind, but my mind could picture what it would do, if such were its
emotions, and it would do them because my mind pictured them! And
_nothing_ could resist it!" Arcot's face was white once more as he
thought of the danger he had run, of the terrible consequences possible
of that 'amusement.'

"I think we had best start on the ship. I'll go get some sleep now, and
then we can go."

Arcot led the way to the ship, while Torlos, Morey and Wade and Stel
Felso Theu accompanied him. The Ortolians were to work on Earth, aiding
in the detection of attacks by means of their mental investigation of
the enemy.

"Well--good-bye, Dad. Don't know when I'll be back. Maybe twenty-five
thousand years from now, or twenty-five thousand years ago. But we'll
get back somehow. And we'll clean out the Thessians!"

He entered the ship, and rose into space.

"Where are you going, Arcot?" asked Morey.

"Eros," replied Arcot laconically.

"Not if my mind is working right," cried Wade suddenly. All the others
were tense, listening for inaudible sounds.

"I quite agree," replied Arcot. The ship turned about, and dived toward
New York, a hundred thousand miles behind now, at a speed many times
that of light as Arcot snapped into time. Across the void, Zezdon
Fentes' call had come--New York was to be attacked by the Thessians, New
York and Chicago next. New York because the orbits of their two forts
were converging over that city in a few minutes!

They were in the atmosphere, screaming through it as their relux glowed
instantaneously in the Heaviside layer, then was through before damage
could be done. The screen was up.

Scarcely a minute after they passed, the entire heavens blazed into
light, the roar of tremendous thunders crashing above them, great
lightning bolts rent the upper air for miles as enormous energies

"Ah--they are sending everything they have against that screen, and it's
hot. We have ten of our biggest tube stations working on it, and more
coming in, to our total of thirty, but they have two forts, and Lord
knows how many ships.

"I think me I'm going to cause them some worrying."

Arcot turned the ship, and drove up again, now at a speed very low to
them but as they had the time-field up, very great. They passed the
screen, and a tremendous bolt struck the ship. Everything in it was
shielded, but the static was still great enough to cause them some
trouble as the time-field and electric field fought. But the time-field,
because of its very nature, could work faster, and they won through
undamaged, though the enormous current seemed flowing for many minutes
as they drifted slowly past it. Slowly--at fifty miles a second.

Out in space, free of the atmosphere, Arcot shot out to the point where
the Thessians were congregating. The shining dots of their ships and the
discs of the forts were visible from Earth save for the air's

They seemed a miniature Milky Way, their deadly beams concentrated on

Then the Thessians discovered that the terrestrial fleet was in action.
A ship glowed with the ray, the opalescence of relux under moleculars
visible on its walls. It simply searched for its opponent while its
relux slowly yielded. It found it in time, and the terrestrial ship put
up its screen.

The terrestrial fleet set to work, everything they had flying at the
Thessian giants, but the Thessians had heavier ships, and heavier tubes.
More power was winning for them. Inevitably, when the Sun's interference
somewhat weakened the ray shield--

About that time Arcot arrived. The nearest fort dived toward the further
with an acceleration that smashed it against no less than ten of its own
ships before they could so much as move.

When the way was clear to the other fort--and that fort had moved, the
berserk fort started off a new tack--and garnered six more wrecks on its

Then Thett's emissaries located Arcot. The screen was up, and the
Negrian attractive ray apparatus which Arcot had used was working
through it. The screen flashed here and there and collapsed under the
full barrage of half the Thessian fleet, as Arcot had suspected it
would. But the same force that made it collapse operated a relay that
turned on the space control, and Thett's molecular ray energy steamed
off to outer space.

"We worried them, then dug our hole and dragged it in after us, as
usual, but damn it, we can't hurt them!" said Arcot disgustedly. "All we
can do is tease them, then go hide where it's perfectly safe, in
artificial--" Arcot stopped in amazement. The ship had been held under
such space control that space was shut in about them, and they were
motionless. The dials had reached a steady point, the current flow had
become zero, and they hung there with only the very slow drain of the
Sun's gravitational field and that of the planet's field pulling on the
ship. Suddenly the current had leaped, and the dials giving the charge
in the various coil banks had moved them down toward zero.

"Hey--they've got a wedge in here and are breaking out our hole. Turn on
all the generators, Morey." Arcot was all action now. Somehow,
inconceivable though it was, the Thessians had spotted them, and got
some means of attacking them, despite their invulnerable position in
another space!

The generators were on, pouring enormous power into the coils, and the
dials surged, stopped, and climbed ever so slowly. They should have
jumped back under that charge, ordinarily dangerously heavy. For perhaps
thirty seconds they climbed, then they started down at full speed!

Arcot's hand darted to the time field, and switched it on full. The dial
jerked, swung, then swung back, and started falling in unison with the
dials, stopped, and climbed. All climbed swiftly, gaining ever more
rapidly. With what seemed a jerk, the time dial flew over, and back, as
Arcot opened the switch. They were free, and the dial on the space
control coils was climbing normally now.

"By the Nine Planets, did they drink out our energy! The energy of six
tons of lead just like that!"

"How'd they do it?" asked Wade.

Torlos kept silent, and helped Morey replace the coils of lead wire with
others from stock.

"Same way we tickled them," replied Arcot, carefully studying the
control instruments, "with the gravity ray! We knew all along that
gravitational fields drank out the energy--they simply pulled it out
faster than we could pump it in, and used four different rays on us
doing it. Which speaks well for a little ship! But they burned off the
relux on one room here, and it's a wreck. The molecs hit everything in
it. Looks like something bad," called Arcot. The room was Morey's, but
he'd find that out himself. "In the meantime, see if you can tell where
we are. I got loose from their rays by going on both the high speed
time-field and the space control at full, with all generators going full
blast. Man, they had a stranglehold on us that time! But wait till we
get that new ship turned out!"

With the telectroscope they could see what was happening. The terrific
bombardment of rays was continuing, and the fleets were locked now in a
struggle, the combined fleets of Earth and Venus and of Nansal, far
across the void. Many of the terrestrian, or better, Solarian ships,
were equipped with space distortion apparatus, now, and had some measure
of safety in that the attractive rays of the Thessians could not be so
concentrated on them. In numbers was safety; Arcot had been endangered
because he was practically alone at the time they attacked.

But it was obvious that the Solarian fleet was losing. They could not
compete with the heavier ships, and now the frequent flaming bursts of
light that told of a ship caught in the new deadly ray showed another

"I think Earth is lost if you cannot aid it soon, Arcot, for other
Thessian ships are coming," said Stel Felso Theu softly.

From out of the plane of the planetary orbits they were coming, across
space from some other world, a fleet of dozens of them. They were
visible as one after another leapt into normal time-rates.

"Why don't they fight in advanced time?" asked Morey, half aloud.

"Because the genius that designed that apparatus didn't think of it.
Remember, Morey, those ships have their time apparatus connected with
their power apparatus so that the power has to feed the time
continuously. They have no coils like ours. When they advance their
time, they're weakened every other way.

"We need that new ship. Are we going to make it?" demanded Arcot.

"Take weeks at best. What chance?" asked Morey.

"Plenty; watch." As he spoke, Arcot pulled open the time controls, and
spun the ship about. They headed off toward a tiny point of light far
beyond. It rushed toward them, grew with the swiftness of an exploding
bomb, and was suddenly a great, rough fragment of a planet hanging
before them, miles in extent.

"Eros," explained Wade laconically to Torlos. "Part of an ancient planet
that was destroyed before the time of man, or life on Earth. The planet
got too near the sun when its orbit was irregular, and old Sol pulled it
to pieces. This is one of the pieces. The other asteroids are the rest.
All planetary surfaces are made up of great blocks; they aren't
continuous, you know. Like blocks of concrete in a building, they can
slide a bit on each other, but friction holds them till they slip with a
jar and we have earthquakes. This is one of the planetary blocks. We see
Eros from Earth intermittently, for when this thing turns broadside it
reflects a lot of light; edge on it does not reflect so much."

It was a desolate bit of rock. Bare, airless, waterless rock, of
enormous extent. It was contorted and twisted, but there were no great
cracks in it for it was a single planetary block.

Arcot dropped the ship to the barren surface, and anchored it with an
attractive ray at low concentration. There was no gravity of consequence
on this bit of rock.

"Come on, get to work. Space suits, and rush all the apparatus out,"
snapped Arcot. He was on his feet, the power of the ship in neutral now.
Only the attractor was on. In the shortest possible time they got into
their suits, and under Arcot's direction set up the apparatus on the
rocky soil as fast as it was brought out. In all, less than fifteen
minutes were needed, yet Arcot was hurrying them more and more. Torlos'
tremendous strength helped, even on this gravitationless world, for he
could accelerate more quickly with his burdens.

At last it was up for operation. The artificial matter apparatus was
operated by cosmic power, and controlled by mental operation, or by
mathematical formula as they pleased. Immediately Arcot set to work. A
giant hollow cylinder drilled a great hole completely through the thin,
curved surface of the ancient planetary block, through twelve miles of
solid rock--a cylinder of artificial matter created on a scale possible
only to cosmic power. The cylinder, half a mile across, contained a huge
plug of matter. Then the artificial matter contracted swiftly,
compressing the matter, and simultaneously treating it with the
tremendous fields that changed its energy form. In seconds it was a
tremendous mass of cosmium.

A second smaller cylinder bored a plug from the rock, and worked on it.
A huge mass of relux resulted. Now other artificial matter tools set to
work at Arcot's bidding, and cut pieces from his huge masses of raw
materials, and literally, quick as thought, built a great framework of
them, anchored in the solid rock of the planetoid.

Then a tremendous plane of matter formed, and neatly bisected the
planetoid, two great flat pieces of rock were left where one had
been--miles across, miles thick--planetary chips.

On the great framework that had been constructed, four tall shafts of
cosmium appeared, and each was a hollow tube, up the center of which ran
a huge cable of relux. At the peak of each mile-high shaft was a great
globe. Now in the framework below things were materializing as Arcot's
flying thoughts arranged them--great tubes of cosmium with relux
element--huge coils of relux conductors, insulated with microscopic but
impenetrable layers of cosmium.

Still, for all his swiftness of mind and accuracy of thought, he had to
correct two mistakes in all his work. It was nearly an hour before the
thing was finished. Then, two hundred feet long, a hundred wide, and
fifty in height, the great mechanism was completed, the tall columns
rising from four corners of the greater framework that supported it.

Then, into it, Arcot turned the powers of the cosmos. The stars in the
airless space wavered and danced as though seen through a thick
atmosphere. Tingling power ran through them as it flowed into the
tremendous coils. For thirty seconds--then the heavens were as before.

At last Arcot spoke. Through the radio communicators, and through the
thought-channels, his ideas came as he took off the headpiece. "It's
done now, and we can rest." There was a tremendous crash from within the
apparatus. The heavens reeled before them, and shifted, then were still,
but the stars were changed. The sun shone weirdly, and the stars were

"That is a time shifting apparatus on a slightly larger scale," replied
Arcot to Torlos' question, "and is designed to give us a chance to work.
Come on, let's sleep. A week here should be a few minutes of Earthtime."

"You sleep, Arcot. I'll prepare the materials for you," suggested Morey.
So Arcot and Wade went to sleep, while Morey and the Talsonian and
Torlos worked. First Morey bound the _Ancient Mariner_ to the frame of
the time apparatus, safely away from the four luminous balls,
broadcasters of the time field. Then he shut off the attractive ray, and
bound himself in the operator's seat of the apparatus of the artificial
matter machine.

A plane of artificial matter formed, and a stretch of rock rose under
its lift as it cleft the rock apart. A great cleared, level space
resulted. Other artificial matter enclosed the rock, and the fragments
cut free were treated under tremendous pressure. In a few moments a
second enormous mass of cosmium was formed.

For three hours Morey worked steadily, building a tremendous reserve of
materials. Lux metal he did not make, but relux, the infusible, perfect
conductor, and cosmium in tremendous masses, he did make. And he made
some great blocks of oxygen from the rock, transmuting the atoms, and
stored it frozen on the plane, with liquid hydrogen in huge tanks, and
some metals that would be needed. Then he slept while they waited for

Eight hours after he had lain down, Arcot was up, and ate his breakfast.
He set to work at once with the machine. It didn't suit him, it seemed,
and first he made a new tool, a small ship that could move about,
propelled by a piece of artificial matter, and the entire ship was a
tremendously greater artificial matter machine, with a greater power
than before!

His thoughts, far faster than hands could move, built up the gigantic
hull of the new ship, and put in the rooms, and the brace members in
less than twelve hours. A titanic shell of eight-inch cosmium, a space,
with braces of the same nonconductor of heat, cosmium, and a two inch
inner hull. A tiny space in the gigantic hull, a space less than one
thousand cubic feet in dimension was the control and living quarters.

It was held now on great cosmium springs, but Arcot was not by any means
through. One man must do all the work, for one brain must design it, and
though he received the constant advice and help of Morey and the others,
it was his brain that pictured the thing that was built.

At last the hull was completed. A single, glistening tube, of enormous
bulk, a mile in length, a thousand feet in diameter. Yet nearly all of
that great bulk would be used immediately. Some room would be left for
additional apparatus they might care to install. Spare parts they did
not have to carry--they could make their own from the energy abounding
in space.

The enormous, shining hull was a thing of beauty through stark grandeur
now, but obviously incomplete. The ray projectors were not mounted, but
they were to be ray projectors of a type never before possible. Space is
the transmitter of all rays, and it is in space that those energy forms
exist. Arcot had merely to transfer the enormously high energy level of
the space-curvature to any form of energy he wanted, and now, with the
complete statistics on it, he was able to do that directly. No tubes, no
generators, only fields that changed the energy already there--the
immeasurable energy available!

The next period of work he started the space distortion apparatus. That
must go at the exact center of the ship. One tremendous coil, big enough
for the _Ancient Mariner_ to lie in easily! Minutes, and flying thoughts
had made it--then came thousands of the individual coils, by thinking of
one, and picturing it many times! In ranks, rows, and columns they were
piled into a great block, for power must be stored for use of this
tremendous machine, while in the artificial space when its normal power
was not available, and that power source must be tremendous.

Then the time apparatus, and after that the driving apparatus. Not the
molecular drive now, but an attraction ray focused on their own ship,
with projectors scattered about the ship that it might move effortlessly
in every direction. And provision was made for a force-drive by means of
artificial matter, planes of it pushing the ship where it was wanted.
But with the attraction-drive they would be able to land safely, without
fear of being crushed by their own weight on Thett, for all its enormous

The control was now suspended finally, with a series of attraction
drives about it, locking it immovably in place, while smaller attraction
devices stimulated gravity for the occupants.

Then finally the main apparatus--the power plant--was installed. The
enormous coils which handled, or better, caused space to handle as they
directed, powers so great that whole suns could be blasted
instantaneously, were put in place, and the field generators that would
make and direct their rays, their ray screen if need be, and handle
their artificial matter. Everything was installed, and all but a rather
small space was occupied.

It had been six weeks of continuous work for them, for the mind of each
was aiding in this work, indirectly or directly, and it neared
completion now.

"But, we need one more thing, Arcot. That could never land on any planet
smaller than Jupiter. What is its mass?" suggested Morey.

"Don't know, I'm sure, but it is of the order of a billion tons. I know
you are right. What are we going to do?"

"Put on a tender."

"Why not the _Ancient Mariner_?" asked Wade.

"It isn't fitting. It was designed for individual use anyway," replied
Morey. "I suggest something more like this on a small scale. We won't
have much work on that, merely think of every detail of the big ship on
a small scale, with the exception of the control cube furnishings.
Instead of the numerous decks, swimming pool and so forth, have a large,
single room."

"Good enough," replied Arcot.

As if by magic, a machine appeared, a "small" machine of
two-hundred-foot length, modified slightly in some parts, its bottom
flattened, and equipped with an attractor anchor. Then they were ready.

"We will leave the _Mariner_ here, and get it later. This apparatus
won't be needed any longer, and we don't want the enemy to get it. Our
trial trip will be a fight!" called Arcot as he leaped from his seat.
The mass of the giant ship pulled him, and he fell slowly toward it.

Into its open port he flew, the others behind him, their suits still on.
The door shut behind them as Arcot, at the controls, closed it. As yet
they had not released the air supplies. It was airless.

Now the hiss of air, and the quickening of heat crept through it. The
water in the tanks thawed as the heat came, soaking through from the
great heaters. In minutes the air and heat were normal throughout the
great bulk. There was air in power compartments, though no one was
expected to go there, for the control room alone need be occupied;
vision-screens here viewed every part of the ship, and all about it.

The eyes of the new ship were set in recesses of the tremendously strong
cosmium wall, and over them, protecting them, was an infinitely thin,
but infinitely strong wall of artificial matter, permanently maintained.
It was opaque to all forms of radiation known from the longest Hertzian
to the shortest cosmics, save for the very narrow band of visible light.
Whether this protection would stop the Thessian beam that was so deadly
to lux and relux was not, of course, known. But Arcot hoped it would,
and, if that beam was radiant energy, or material particles, it would.

"We'll destroy our station here now, and leave the _Ancient Mariner_
where it is. Of course we are a long way out of the orbit this planetoid
followed, due to the effect of the time apparatus, but we can note where
it is, and we'll be able to find it when we want it," said Arcot, seated
at the great control board now. There were no buttons now, or visible
controls; all was mental.

A tiny sphere of artificial matter formed, and shot toward the control
board of the time machine outside. It depressed the main switch, and
space about them shifted, twisted, and returned to normal. The time
apparatus was off for the first time in six weeks.

"Can't fuse that, and we can't crush it. It's made of cosmium, and
trying to crush it against the rock would just drive it into it. We'll
see what we can do though," muttered Arcot. A plane of artificial matter
formed just beneath it, and sheared it from its bed on the planetoid,
cutting through the heavy cosmium anchors. The framework lifted, and the
apparatus with it. A series of planes, a gigantic honeycomb formed, and
the apparatus was cut across again and again, till only small fragments
were left of it. Then these were rolled into a ball, and crushed by a
sphere of artificial matter beyond all repair. The enemy would never
learn their secret.

A huge cylinder of artificial matter cut a great gouge from the plane
that was left where the apparatus had been, and a clamp of the same
material picked up the _Ancient Mariner_, deposited it there, then
covered it with rubble and broken rock. A cosmic flashed on the rock for
an instant, and it was glowing, incandescent lava. The _Ancient Mariner_
was buried under a hundred feet of rapidly solidifying rock, but rock
which could be fused away from its infusible walls when the time came.

"We're ready to go now--get to work with the radio, Morey, when we get
to Earth."

The gravity seemed normal here as they walked about, no accelerations
affected them as the ship darted forward, for all its inconceivably
great mass, like an arrow, then flashed forward under time control. The
sun was far distant now, for six weeks they had been traveling with the
section of Eros under time control. But with their tremendous time
control plant, and the space control, they reached the solar system in
very little time.

It seemed impossible to them that that battle could still be waging, but
it was. The ships of Earth and Venus, battling now as a last, hopeless
stand, over Chicago, were attempting to stop the press of a great
Thessian fleet. Thin, long Negrian, or Sirian ships had joined them in
the hour of Earth time that the men had been working. Still, despite the
reinforcements, they were falling back.

Chapter XIX


It had been an anxious hour for the forces of the Solar System.

They were in the last fine stages of Earth's defense when the general
staff received notice that a radio message of tremendous power had
penetrated the ray screen, with advice for them. It was signed "Arcot."

"Bringing new weapon. Draw all ships within the atmosphere when I start
action, and drive Thessians back into space. Retire as soon as a
distance of ten thousand miles is reached. I will then handle the
fleet," was the message.

"Gentlemen: We are losing. The move suggested would be eminently poor
tactics unless we are sure of being able to drive them. If we don't, we
are lost in any event. I trust Arcot. How vote you?" asked General
Hetsar Sthel.

The message was relayed to the ships. Scarcely a moment after the
message had been relayed, a tremendous battleship appeared in space,
just beyond the battle. It shot forward, and planted itself directly in
the midst of the battle, brushing aside two huge Thessians in its
progress. The Thessian ships bounced off its sides, and reeled away. It
lay waiting, making no move. All the Thessian ships above poured the
full concentration of their moleculars into its tremendous bulk. A
diffused glow of opalescence ran over every ship--save the giant. The
moleculars were being reflected from its sides, and their diffused
energy attacked the very ships that were sending them!

A fort moved up, and the deadly beam of destruction reached out,
luminous even in space.

"Now," muttered Morey, "we shall see what cosmium will stand."

A huge spot on the side of the ship had become incandescent. A vapor, a
strange puff of smokiness exploded from it, and disappeared instantly.
Another came and faster and faster they followed each other. The cosmium
was disintegrating under the ray, but very slowly, breaking first into
gaseous cosmic rays, then free, and spreading.

"We will not fight," muttered Morey happily as he saw Arcot shift in his

Arcot picked the moleculars. They reached out, touched the heavy relux
of the fort, and it exploded into opalescence that was hazily white, the
colors shifted so quickly. A screen sprang into being, and the ray was
chopped off. The screen was a mass of darting flames as energies of
stupendous magnitude clashed.

Arcot used a bit more of his inconceivable power. The ray struck the
screen, and it flashed once--then died into blackness. The fort suddenly
crumpled in like a dented can, and rolled clumsily away. The other fort
was near now, and started an attack of its own. Arcot chose the
artificial matter this time. He was not watching the many attacking

The great ship careened suddenly, fell over heavily to one side.
"Foolish of me," said Arcot. "They tried crashing us."

A mass of crumpled, broken relux and lux surrounded by a haze of gas
lying against a slight scratch on the great sides, told the story. Eight
inches of cosmium does not give way.

Yet another ship tried it. But it stopped several feet away from the
real wall of the ship. It struck a wall even more unyielding--artificial

But now Arcot was using this major weapon--artificial matter. Ship after
ship, whether fleeing or attacking, was surrounded suddenly by a great
sphere of it, a sudden terrific blaze of energy as the sphere struck the
ray shield, the control forces now backed by the energy of all the
millions of stars of space shattered it in an instant. Then came the
inexorable crush of the artificial matter, and a ball of matter alone

But the pressing disc of the battle-front which had been lowering on
Chicago, greatest of Earth's metropolises, was lifted. This disc-front
was staggering back now as Arcot's mighty ship weakened its strength,
and destroyed its morale, under the steady drive of the now hopeful

The other gigantic fort moved up now, with twenty of the largest
battleships. The fort turned loose its destructive ray--and Arcot tried
his new "magnet." It was not a true magnet, but a transformed space
field, a field created by the energy of all the universe.

The fort was gigantic. Even Arcot's mighty ship was a small thing beside
it, but suddenly it seemed warped and twisted as space curved visibly in
a magnetic field of such terrific intensity as to be immeasurable.

Arcot's armory was tested and found not wanting.

Suddenly every Thessian ship in sight ceased to exist. They disappeared.
Instantly Arcot threw on all time power, and darted toward Venus. The
Thessians were already nearing the planet, and no possible rays could
overtake them. An instantaneous touch of the space control, and the
mighty ship was within hundreds of miles of the atmosphere.

Space twisted about them, reeled, and was firm. The Thessian fleet was
before them in a moment, visible now as they slowed to normal speed.
Startled, no doubt, to find before them the ship they had fled, they
charged on for a space. Then, as though by some magic, they stopped and
exploded in gouts of light.

When space had twisted, seconds before, it was because Arcot had drawn
on the enormous power of space to an extent that had been appreciable
even to it--ten sols. That was forty million tons of matter a second,
and for a hundredth part of a second it had flowed. Before them, in a
vast plane, had been created an infinitesimally thin film of artificial
matter, four hundred thousand tons of it, and into this invisible,
infinitely hard barrier, the Thessian fleet had rammed. And it was gone.

"I think," said Arcot softly, as he took off his headpiece, "that the
beginning of the end is in sight."

"And I," said Morey, "think it is now out of sight. Half a dozen ships
stopped. And they are gone now, to warn the others."

"What warning? What can they tell? Only that their ships were destroyed
by something they couldn't see." Arcot smiled. "I'm going home."

Chapter XX


Some time later, Arcot spoke. "I have just received a message from
Zezdon Fentes that he has an important communication to make, so I will
go down to New York instead of to Chicago, if you gentlemen do not mind.
Morey will take you to Chicago in the tender, and I can find Zezdon

Zezdon Fentes' message was brief. He had discovered from the minds of
several who had been killed by the magnetic field Arcot had used, and
not destroyed, that they had a base in this universe. Thett's base was
somewhere near the center of the galaxy, on a system of unusually large
planets, circling a rather small star. But what star their minds had not

"It's up to us then to locate said star," said Arcot, after listening to
Zezdon Fentes' account: "I think the easiest way will be to follow them
home. We can go to your world, Zezdon Fentes, and see what they are
doing there, and drive them off. Then to yours, Stel Felso. I place your
world second as it is far better able to defend itself than is Ortol. It
is agreeable?"

It was, and the ship which had been hanging in the atmosphere over New
York, where Zezdon Afthen, Fentes and Inthel had come to it in a
taxi-ship, signaled for the crowd to clear away above. The enormous bulk
of the shining machine, the savior of Earth, had attracted a very great
amount of attention, naturally, and thousands on thousands of hardy
souls had braved the cold of the fifteen mile height with altitude suits
or in small ships. Now they cleared away, and as the ship slowly rose,
the tremendous concentrated mental well-wishing of the thousands reached
the men within the ship. "That," observed Morley, "is one thing cosmium
won't stop. In some ways I wish it would--because the mental power that
could be wielded by any great number of those highly advanced Thessians,
if they know its possibilities, is not a thing to neglect."

"I can answer that, terrestrian," thought Zezdon Afthen. "Our
instruments show great mental powers, and great ability to concentrate
the will in mental processes, but they indicate a very slight
development of these abilities. Our race, despite the fact that our
mental powers are much less than those of such men as Arcot and
yourself, have done, and can do many things your greater minds cannot,
for we have learned the direction of the will. We need not fear the will
of the Thessians. I feel confident of that!"

The ship was in space now, and as Arcot directed it toward Ortol, far
far across the Island, he threw on, for the moment, the combined power
of space distortion and time fields. Instantly the sun vanished, and
when, less than a second later, he cut off the space field, and left
only the time, the constellations were instantly recognizable. They were
within a dozen light years of Ortol.

"Morey, may I ask what you call this machine?" asked Torlos.

"You may, but I can't answer," laughed Morey. "We were so anxious to get
it going that we didn't name it. Any suggestions?"

For a moment none of them made any suggestions, then slowly came Arcot's
thoughts, clear and sharp, the thoughts of carefully weighed decision.

"The swiftest thing that ever was _thought_! The most irresistible
thing, _thought_, for nothing can stop its progress. The most
destructive thing, _thought_. Thought, the greatest constructor, the
greatest destroyer, the product of mind, and producer of powers, the
greatest of powers. Thought is controlled by the mind. Let us call it

"Excellent, Arcot, excellent. The _Thought_, the controller of the
powers of the cosmos!" cried Morey.

"But the _Thought_ has not been christened, save in battle, and then it
had no name. Let us emblazen its name on it now," suggested Wade.

Stopping their motion through space, but maintaining a time field that
permitted them to work without consuming precious time, Arcot formed
some more cosmium, but now he subjected it to a special type of
converted field, and into the cosmium, he forced some light photons,
half bound, half free. The fixture he formed into the letters, and
welded forever on the gigantic prow of the ship, and on its huge sides.
_Thought_, it stood in letters ten feet high, made of clear transparent
cosmium, and the golden light photons, imprisoned in it, the slowly
disintegrating lux metal, would cause those letters to shine for
countless aeons with the steady golden light they now had.

The _Thought_ continued on now, and as they slowed their progress for
Ortol, they saw that messengers of Thett had barely arrived. The fort
here too had been razed to the ground, and now they were concentrating
over the largest city of Ortol. Their rays were beating down on the
great ray screen that terrestrial engineers had set up, protecting the
city, as Earth had been protected. But the fleet that stood guard was
small, and was rapidly being destroyed. A fort broke free, and plunged
at last for the ray screen. Its relux walls glowed a thousand colors as
the tremendous energy of the ray-screen struck them--but it was through!

A molecular ray reached down for the city--and stopped halfway in a
tremendous coruscating burst of light and energy. Yet there was none of
the sheen of the ray screen. Merely light.

The fort was still driving downward. Then suddenly it stopped, and the
side dented in like the side of a can some one has stepped on, and it
came to sudden rest against an invisible, impenetrable barrier. A
molecular reached down from somewhere in space, hit the ray screen of
Ortol, which the Thessians had attacked for hours, and the screen
flashed into sudden brilliance, and disappeared. The ray struck the
Thessian fort, and the fort burst into tremendous opalescence, while the
invisible barrier the ray had struck was suddenly a great sheet of
flaming light. In less than half a second the opalescence was gone, the
fort shuddered, and shrieked out of the planet's atmosphere, a mass of
lux now, and susceptible to the moleculars. And everything that lived
within that fort had died instantly and painlessly.

The fleet which had been preparing to follow the leading fort was
suddenly stopped; it halted indecisively.

Then the _Thought_ became visible as its great golden letters showed
suddenly, streaking up from distant space. Every ship turned cosmic and
moleculars on it. The cosmic rebounded from the cosmium walls, and from
the artificial matter that protected the eyes. The moleculars did not
affect either, but the invisible protective sheet that the _Thought_ was
maintaining in the Ortolian atmosphere became misty as it fought the
slight molecular rebounds.

The _Thought_ went into action. The fort which remained was the point of
attack. The fort had turned its destructive ray on the cosmium ship with
the result that, as before, the cosmium slowly disintegrated into puffs
of cosmic rays. The vapor seemed to boil out, puff suddenly, then was
gone. Arcot put up a wall of artificial matter to test the effect. The
ray went right through the matter, without so much as affecting it. He
tried a sheet of pure energy, an electro-magnetic energy stream of
tremendous power. The ray bent sharply to one side. But in a moment the
Thessians had realigned it.

"It's a photonic stream, but of some type that doesn't affect ordinary
matter, but only artificial matter such as lux, relux, or cosmium. If
the artificial matter would only fight it, I'd be all right." The
thought running through Arcot's mind reached the others.

A tremendous burst of light energy to the rear announced the fact that a
Thessian had crashed against the artificial matter wall that surrounded
the ship. Arcot was throwing the Thessian destructive beam from side to
side now, and twice succeeded in misdirecting it so that it hit the
enemy machines.

The _Thought_ sent out its terrific beam of magnetic energy. The ray was
suddenly killed, and the fort cruised helplessly on. Its driving
apparatus was dead. The diffused cosmic reached out, and as the magnetic
field, the relux and the cosmics interacted, the great fort was suddenly
blue-white--then instantly a dust that scattered before an enormous
blast of air.

From the _Thought_ a great shell of artificial matter went, a visible,
misty wall, that curled forward, and wrapped itself around the Thessian
ships with a motion of tremendous speed, yet deceptive, for it seemed to
billow and flow.

A Thessian warship decided to brush it away--and plowed into
inconceivable strength. The ship crumpled to a mass of broken relux.

The greater part of the Thessian fleet had already fled, but there
remained half a hundred great battleships. And now, within half a
million miles of the planet, there began a battle so weird that
astronomers who watched could not believe it.

From behind the _Thought_, where it hung motionless beyond the misty
wall, a Thing came.

The Thessian ships had realized now that the misty sphere that walled
them in was impenetrable, and their rays were off, for none they now had
would penetrate it. The forts were gone.

But the Thing that came behind the _Thought_ was a ship, a little ship
of the same misty white, and it flowed into, and through the wall, and
was within their prison. The Thessian ships turned their rays toward it,
and waited. What was this thing?

The ovaloid ship which drifted so slowly toward them suddenly seemed to
jerk, and from it reached pseudopods! An amoeba on a titanic scale! It
writhed its way purposefully toward the nearest ship, and while that
ship waited, a pseudopod reached out, and suddenly drove through the
four foot relux armor! A second pseudopod followed with lightning
rapidity, and in an instant the ship had been split from end to end!

Now a hundred rays were leaping toward the thing, and the rays burst
into fire and gouts of light, blackened, burned pseudopods seemed to
fall from the thing and hastily it retreated from the enclosure, flowing
once more through the wall that stopped their rays.

But another Thing came. It was enormous, a mile long, a great, shining
scaly thing, a dragon, and on its mighty neck was mounted an enormous,
distorted head, with great flat nose and huge flapping nostrils. It was
a Thessian head! The mouth, fifty feet across, wrinkled into an horrific
grin, and broken, stained teeth of iron showed in the mouth. Great
talons upraised, it rent the misty wall that bound them, and writhed its
awful length in. The swish of its scales seemed to come to the watchers,
as it chased after a great battleship whose pilot fled in terror. Faster
than the mighty spaceship the awful Thing caught it in mighty talons
that ripped through solid relux. Scratching, fluttering enormous,
blood-red wings, the silvery claws tore away great masses of relux,
sending them flying into space.

Again rays struck at it. Cosmic and moleculars with blinding pencils of
light. For now in the close space of the Wall was an atmosphere, the air
of two great warships, and though the space was great, the air in the
ships was dense.

The rays struck its awful face. The face burst into light, and black,
greasy smoke steamed up, as the thing writhed and twisted horribly,
awful screams ringing out. Then it was free, and half the face was
burned away, and a grinning, bleeding, half-cooked face writhed and
screamed in anger at them. It darted at the nearest ship, and ripped out
that ray that burned it--and quivered into death. It quivered, then
quickly faded into mist, a haze, and was gone!

A last awful thing--a thing they had not noticed as all eyes watched
that Thing--was standing by the rent in the Sphere now, the gigantic
Thessian, with leering, bestial jaws, enormous, squat limbs, the webbed
fingers and toes, and the heavy torso of his race, grinning at them. In
one hand was a thing--and his jaws munched. Thett's men stared in horror
as they recognized that thing in his hand--a Thessian body! He grinned
happily and reached for a battleship--a ray burned him. He howled, and
leaped into their midst.

Then the Thessians went mad. All fought, and they fought each other,
rays of all sorts, their moleculars and their cosmics, while in their
midst the Giant howled his glee, and laughed and laughed--

Eventually it was over, and the last limping Thessian ship drove itself
crazily against the wreck of its last enemy. And only wreckage was left.

"Lord, Arcot! Why in the Universe did you do that--and how did you
conceive those horrors?" asked Morey, more than a little amazed at the
tactics Arcot had displayed.

Arcot shook himself, and disconnected his controls. "Why--why I don't
know. I don't know what made me do that, I'm sure. I never imagined
anything like that dragon thing--how did--"

His keen eyes fixed themselves suddenly on Zezdon Fentes, and their
tremendous hypnotic power beat down the resistance of the Ortolian's
trained mind. Arcot's mind opened for the others the thoughts of Zezdon

He had acted as a medium between the minds of the Thessians, and Arcot.
Taking the horror-ideas of the Thessians, he had imprinted them on
Arcot's mind while Arcot was at work with the controls. In Arcot's mind,
they had acted exactly as had the ideas that night on Earth, only here
the demonstration had been carried to the limit, and the horror ideas
were compounded to the utmost. The Thessians, highly developed minds
though they were, were not resistant and they had broken. The Allies,
with their different horror-ideas, had been but slightly affected.

"We will leave you on Ortol, Zezdon Fentes. We know you have done much,
and perhaps your own mind has given a bit. We hope you recover. I think
you agree with me, Zezdon Afthen and Inthel?" thought Arcot.

"We do, heartily, and are heartily sorry that one of our race has acted
in this way. Let us proceed to Talso, as soon as possible. You might
send Fentes down in a shell of artificial matter," suggested Zezdon

"Which," said Arcot, after this had been done, and they were on their
way to Talso, "shows the danger of a mad _Thought_!"

Chapter XXI


But it seemed, or must have seemed to any infinite being capable of
watching it as it moved now, that the _Thought_ was a mad thought. With
the time control opened to the limit, and a touch of the space control,
it fled across the Universe at a velocity such as no other thing was
capable of.

One star--it flashed to a disc, loomed enormous--overpowering--then
suddenly they were flashing _through_ it! The enormous coils fed their
current into the space-coils and the time field, and the ship seemed to
twist and writhe in distorted space as the gravitational field of a
giant star, and a giant ship's space field fought for a fraction of time
so short as to be utterly below measurement. Then the ship was gone--and
behind it a star, the center of which had suddenly been hurled into
another space forever, as the counteracting, gravitational field of the
outer layers was removed for a moment, and only its own enormous density
affected space, writhed and collapsed upon itself, to explode into a
mighty sea of flames. Planets it formed, we know, by a process such as
can happen when only this man-made accident happens.

But the ship fled on, its great coils partly discharged, but still far
more charged than need be.

It was minutes to Talso where it had been hours with the _Ancient
Mariner_, but now they traveled with the speed of _Thought_!

Talso too was the scene of a battle, and more of a battle than Ortol had
been, for here where more powerful defensive forces had been active, the
Thessians had been more vengeful. All their remaining ships seemed
concentrated here. And the great molecular screen that terrestrian
engineers had flung up here had already fallen. Great holes had
opened in it, as two great forts, and a thousand ships, some mighty
battleships of the intergalactic spaces, some little scout cruisers,
had turned their rays on the struggling defensive machines. It had held
for hours, thanks to the tremendous tubes that Talso had in their
power-distribution stations, but in the end had fallen, but not before
many of their largest cities had been similarly defended, and the people
of the others had scattered broadcast.

True, wherever they might be, a diffused molecular would find them and
destroy all life save under the few screens, but if the Thessians once
diffused their rays, without entering the atmosphere, the broken screen
would once more be able to hold.

No fleet had kept the Thessian forces out of this atmosphere, but dozens
of more adequately powered artificial matter bomb stations had taught
Thett respect for Talso. But Talso's own ray screen had stopped their
bombs. They could only send their bombs as high as the screen. They did
not have Arcot's tremendous control power to maintain the matter without
difficulty even beyond a screen.

At last the screen had fallen, and the Thessian ships, a hole once made,
were able to move, and kept that hole always under them, though if it
once were closed, they would again have the struggle to open it.

Exploding matter bombs had twice caused such spatial strains and ionized
conditions as to come near closing it, but finally the Thessian fleet
had arranged a ring of ships about the hole, and opened a cylinder of
rays that reached down to the planet.

Like some gigantic plow the rays tore up mountains, oceans, glaciers and
land. Tremendous chasms opened in straight lines as it plowed along.
Unprotected cities flashed into fountains of rock and soil and steel
that leaped upwards as the rays touched, and were gone. Protected
cities, their screens blazing briefly under the enormous ray
concentrations as the ships moved on, unheeding, stood safe on islands
of safety amidst the destruction. Here in the lower air, where ions
would be so plentiful, Thett did not try to break down the screens, for
the air would aid the defenders.

Finally, as Thett's forces had planned, they came to one of the ionized
layer ray-screen stations that was still projecting its cone of
protective screening to the layer above. Every available ray was turned
on that station, and, designed as it was for protecting part of a world,
the station was itself protected, but slowly, slowly as its already
heated tubes weakened their electronic emission, the disc of ions
retreated more and more toward the station, as, like some splashing
stream, the Thessian rays played upon it forcing it back. A rapidly
accelerating retreat, faster and faster, as the disc changed from the
dull red of normal defense to the higher and bluer quanta of failing,
less complete defense, the disc of interference retreated.

Then, with a flash of light, and a roar as the soil below spouted up,
the station was gone. It had failed.

Instantly the ring of ships expanded as the great screen was weakened by
the withdrawal of this support. Wider was the path of destruction now as
the forces moved on.

But high, high in the sky, far out of sight of the naked eye, was a tiny
spot that was in reality a giant ship. It was flashing forward, and in
moments it was visible. Then, as another deserted city vanished, it was
above the Thessian fleet.

Their rays were directed downward through a hole that was even larger. A
second station had gone with that city. But, as by magic, the hole
closed up, and chopped their rays off with a decisiveness that startled
them. The interference was so sharp now that not even the dullest of
reds showed where their beams touched. The close interference was giving
off only radio! In amazement they looked for this new station of such
enormous power that their combined rays did not noticeably affect it. A
world had been fighting their rays unsuccessfully. What single station
could do this, if the many stations of the world could not? There was
but one they knew of, and they turned now to search for the ship they
knew must be there.

"No horrors this time; just clean, burning energy," muttered Arcot.

It was clean, and it was burning. In an instant one of the forts was a
mass of opalescence that shifted so swiftly it was purest white, then
rocketed away, lifeless, and no longer relux.

The other fort had its screen up, though its power, designed to
withstand the attack of a fleet of enormous intergalactic,
matter-driven, fighting ships lasted but an instant under the driving
power of half a million million suns, concentrated in one enormous ray
of energy. The sheer energy of the ray itself, molecular ray though it
was, heated the material it struck to blinding incandescence even as it
hurled it at a velocity close to that of light into outer space. With
little sparkling flashes battleships of the void after giant cruisers
flashed into lux, and vanished under the ray.

A tremendous combined ray of magnetism and cosmic ray energy replaced
the molecular, and the ships exploded into a dust as fine as the
primeval gas from which came all matter.

Sweeping energy, so enormous that the defenses of the ships did not even
operate against it, shattered ship after ship, till the few that
remained turned, and, faster than the pursuing energies could race
through space, faster than light, headed for their base.

"That was fair fight; energy against energy," said Arcot delightedly,
for his new toy, which made playthings of suns and fed on the cosmic
energy of a universe, was behaving nicely, "and as I said, Stel Felso
Theu, at the beginning of this war, the greater Power wins, always. And
in our island here, I have five hundred thousand million separate power
plants, each generating at the rate of decillions of ergs a second,
backing this ship.

"Your world will be safe now, and we will head for our last embattled
ally, Sirius." The titanic ship turned, and disappeared from the view of
the madly rejoicing billions of Talso below, as it sped, far faster than
light, across a universe to relieve another sorely tried civilization.

Knowing their cause was lost, hopeless in the knowledge that nothing
known to them could battle that enormous force concentrated in one ship,
the _Thought_, the Thessians had but one aim now, to do all the damage
in their power before leaving.

Already their tremendous, unarmed and unarmored transports were
departing with their hundreds of thousands from that base system for the
far-off Island of Space from which they had come. Their battlefleets
were engaged in destroying all the cities of the allies, and those other
helpless races of our system that they could. Those other inhabited
worlds, many of which were completely wiped out because Arcot had no
knowledge of them, were relieved only when the general call for retreat
to protect the mother planet was sent out.

But Sirius was looming enormous before them. And its planets, heavily
defended now by the combined Sirian, Terrestrial and Venerian fleets and
great ray screens as well as a few matter-bomb stations, were suffering
losses none the less. For the old Sixth of Negra, the Third here, had
fallen. Slipping in on the night side of the planet, all power off, and
so sending forth no warning impulses till it actually fell through the
ray screen, a small fleet of scouts had entered. Falling still under
simple gravity, they had been missed by the rays till they had fallen to
so small a distance, that no humans or men of our allied systems could
have stopped, but only their enormous iron boned strength permitted them
to resist the acceleration they used to avert collision with the planet.
Then scattering swiftly, they had blasted the great protective screen
stations by attacking on the sides, where the ray screen projectors were
not mounted. Designed to protect above, they had no side armor, and the
Sixth was opened to attack.

Two and one-half billion people lost their lives painlessly and
instantaneously as tremendous diffused moleculars played on the
revolving planet.

Arcot arrived soon after this catastrophe. The Thessians left almost
immediately, after the loss of three hundred or more ships. One hundred
and fifty wrecks were found. The rest were so blasted by the forces
which attacked them, that no traces could be found, and no count made.

But as those ships fled back to their base, Arcot, with the wonderfully
delicate mental control of his ship, was able to watch them, and follow
them; for, invisible under normal conditions, by twisting space in the
same manner that they did he was able to see them flee, and follow.

Light year after light year they raced toward the distant base. They
reached it in two hours, and Arcot saw them from a distance sink to the
various worlds. There were twelve gigantic worlds, each far larger than
Jupiter of Sol, and larger than Stwall of Talso's sun, Renl.

"I think," said Arcot as he stopped the ship at a third of a light year,
"that we had best destroy those planets. We may kill many men, and
innocent non-combatants, but they have killed many of our races, and it
is necessary. There are, no doubt, other worlds of this Universe here
that we do not know of that have felt the vengeance of Thett, and if we
can cause such trouble to them by destroying these worlds, and putting
the fear of our attacking their mother world into them, they will call
off those other fleets. I could have been invisible to Thett's ships as
we followed them here, and for the greater part of the way I was, for I
was sufficiently out of their time-rate, so that they were visible only
by the short ultra-violet, which would have put in their infra-red, and,
no photo-electric cell will work on quanta of such low energy. When at
last I was sure of the sun for which they were heading, I let them see
us, and they know we are aware of their base, and that we can follow

"I will destroy one of these worlds, and follow a fleet as it starts for
their home nebula. Gradually, as they run, I will fade into
invisibility, and they will not know that I have dropped back here to
complete the work, but will think I am still following. Probably they
will run to some other nebula in an effort to throw me off, but they
will most certainly send back a ship to call the fleets here to the
defense of Thett.

"I think that is the best plan. Do you agree?"

"Arcot," asked Morey slowly, "if this race attempts to settle another
Universe, what would that indicate of their own?"

"Hmmm--that it was either populated by their own race or that another
race held the parts they did not, and that the other race was stronger,"
replied Arcot. "The thought idea in their minds has always been a single
world, single solar system as their home, however."

"And single solar systems cannot originate in this Space," replied
Morey, referring to the fact that in the primeval gas from which all
matter in this Universe and all others came, no condensation of mass
less than thousands of millions of times that of a sun could form and

"We can only investigate--and hope that they do not inhabit the whole
system, for I am determined that, unpleasant as the idea may be, there
is one race that we cannot afford to have visiting us, and it is going
to be permanently restrained in one way or another. I will first have a
conference with their leaders and if they will not be peaceful--the
_Thought_ can destroy or make a Universe! But I think that a second race
holds part of that Universe, for several times we have read in their
minds the thought of the 'Mighty Warless Ones of Venone.'"

"And how do you plan to destroy so large a planet as these are?" asked
Morey, indicating the telectroscope screen.

"Watch and see!" said Arcot.

They shot suddenly toward the distant sun, and as it expanded, planets
came into view. Moving ever slower on the time control, Arcot drove the
ship toward a gigantic planet at a distance of approximately 300,000,000
miles from its primary, the sun of this system.

Arcot fell into step with the planet as it moved about in its orbit, and
watched the speed indicator carefully.

"What's the orbital speed, Morey?" asked Arcot.

"About twelve and a half miles per second," replied the somewhat
mystified Morey.

"Excellent, my dear Watson," replied Arcot. "And now does my dear friend
know the average molecular velocity of ordinary air?"

"Why, about one-third of a mile a second, average."

"And if that planet as a whole should stop moving, and the individual
molecules be given the entire energy, what would their average velocity
be? And what temperature would that represent?" asked Arcot.

"Good--Why, they would have to have the same kinetic energy as
individuals as they now have as a whole, and that would be an average
molecular velocity in random motion of 12.5 miles a second--giving
about--about--about--twelve thousand degrees centigrade!" exclaimed
Morey in surprise. "That would put it in the far blue-white region!"

"Perfect. Now watch." Arcot donned the headpiece he had removed, and
once more took charge. He was very far from the planet, as distances go,
and they could not see his ship. But he wanted to be seen. So he moved
closer, and hung off to the sunward side of the planet, then moved to
the night side, but stayed in the light. In seconds, a battlefleet was
out attempting to destroy him.

Surrounding the ship with a wall of artificial matter, lest they annoy
him, he set to work.

Directly in the orbit of the planet, a faint mistiness appeared, and
rapidly solidified to a titanic cup, directly in the path of the planet.

Arcot was pouring energy into the making of that matter at such a rate
that space was twisted now about them. The meter before them, which had
not registered previously, was registering now, and had moved over to
three. Three sols--and was still climbing. It stopped when ten were
reached. Ten times the energy of our sun was pouring into that
condensation, and it solidified quickly.

The Thessians had seen the danger now. It was less than ten minutes away
from their planet, and now great numbers of ships of all sorts started
up from the planet, swarming out like rats from a sinking vessel.

Majestically the great world moved on in its orbit toward the thin wall
of infinite strength and infinite toughness. Already Thessian
battleships were tearing at that wall with rays of all types, and the
wall sputtered back little gouts of light, and remained. The meters on
the _Thought_ were no longer registering. The wall was built, and now
Arcot had all the giant power of the ship holding it there. Any attempt
to move it or destroy it, and all the energy of the Universe would rush
to its defense!

The atmosphere of the planet reached the wall. Instantly, as the
pressure of that enormous mass of air touched it, the wall fought, and
burst into a blaze of energy. It was fighting now, and the meter that
measured sun-powers ran steadily, swiftly up the scale. But the men were
not watching the meter; they were watching the awesome sight of Man
stopping a world in its course! Turning a world from its path!

But the meter climbed suddenly, and the world was suddenly a tremendous
blaze of light. The solid rock had struck the giant cup, 110,000 miles
in diameter. It was silent, as a world pitted its enormous kinetic
energy against the combined forces of a universe. Soundless--and as
hopeless. Its strength was nothing, its energy pitted unnoticed against
the energy of five hundred thousand million suns--as vain as those
futile attempts of the Thessian battleships on the invulnerable walls of
the _Thought_.

What use is there to attempt description of that scene as
2,500,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 tons of rock and metal and matter
crashed against a wall of energy, immovable and inconceivable. The
planet crumpled, and split wide. A thousand pieces, and suddenly there
was a further mistiness about it, and the whole enormous mass, seeming
but a toy, as it was from this distance in space, and as it was in this
ship, was enclosed in that same, immovable, unalterable wall of energy.

The ship was as quiet and noiseless, as without indication of strain as
when it hummed its way through empty space. But the planet crumpled and
twirled, and great seas of energy flashed about it.

The world, seeming tiny, was dashed helpless against a wall that stopped
it, but the wall flared into equal and opposite energy, so that matter
was raised not to the twelve thousand Morey had estimated but nearer
twenty-four thousand degrees. It was over in less than half an hour, and
a broken, misshapen mass of blue incandescence floated in space. It
would fall now, toward the sun, and it would, because it was motionless
and the sun moved, take an eccentric orbit about that sun. Eventually,
perhaps, it would wipe out the four inferior planets, or perhaps it
would be broken as it came within the Roches limit of that sun. But the
planet was now a miniature sun, and not so very small, at that.

And from every planet of the system was pouring an assorted stream of
ships, great and small, and they all set panic-stricken across the void
in the same direction. They had seen the power of the _Thought_, and did
not contest any longer its right to this system.

Chapter XXII


Through the utter void of intergalactic space sped a tiny shell, a wee
mite of a ship. Scarcely twenty feet long, it was one single power
plant. The man who sat alone in it, as it tore through the void at the
maximum speed that even its tiny mass was capable of, when every last
twist possible had been given to the distorted time fields, watched a
far, far galaxy ahead that seemed unchanging.

Hours, days sped by, and he did not move from his position in the ship.
But the ship had crossed the great gulf, and was speeding through the
galaxy now. He was near the end. At a reckless speed, he sat motionless
before the controls, save for slight movements of supple fingers that
directed the ship at a mad pace about some gigantic sun and its family
of planets. Suns flashed, grew to discs, and were left behind in the
briefest instant.

The ship slowed, the terrific pace it had been holding fell, and dull
whine of overworked generators fell to a contented hum. A star was
looming, expanding before it. The great sun glowed the characteristic
red of a giant as the ship slowed to less than a light-speed, and turned
toward a gigantic planet that circled the red sun. The planet was very
close to 50,000 miles in diameter, and it revolved at a distance of four
and one half billions of miles from the surface of its sun, which made
the distance to the center of the titanic primary four billion, eight
hundred million miles, in round figures, for the sun's diameter was
close to six hundred and fifty million miles! Greater even than Antares,
whose diameter is close to four hundred million miles, was this star of
another universe, and even from the billions of miles of distance that
its planet revolved, the disc was enormous, a titanic disc of dull red
flame. But so low was its surface temperature, that even that enormous
disc did not overheat the giant planet.

The planet's atmosphere stretched out tens of thousands of miles into
space, and under the enormous gravitational acceleration of the
tremendous mass of that planet, it was near the surface a blanket dense
as water. There was no temperature change upon it, though its night was
one hundred hours long, and its day the same. The centrifugal force of
the rapid rotation of this enormous body had flattened it when still
liquid till it seemed now more of the shape of a pumpkin than of an
orange. It was really a double planet, for its satellite was a world of
one hundred thousand miles diameter, yet smaller in comparison to its
giant primary than is Luna in comparison to Earth. It revolved at a
distance of five million miles from its primary's center, and it, too,
was swarming with its people.

But the racing ship sped directly toward the great planet, and shrieked
its way down through the atmosphere, till its outer shell was radiating
far in the violet.

Straight it flew to where a gigantic city sprawled in the heaped, somber
masonry, but in some order yet, for on closer inspection the appearance
of interlaced circles came over the edge of the giant cities. Ray
screens were circular and the city was protected by dozens of stations.

The scout was going well under the speed of light now, and a message,
imperative and commanding, sped ahead of him. Half a dozen patrol boats
flashed up, and fell in beside him, and with him raced to a gigantic
building that reared its somber head from the center of the city.

Under a white sky they proceeded to it, and landed on its roof. From the
little machine the single man came out. Using the webbed hands and feet
that had led the Allied scientists to think them an aquatic race, he
swam upward, and through the water-dense atmosphere of the planet toward
the door.

Trees overtopped the building, for it had but four stories, above
ground, though it was the tallest in the city. The trees, like seaweed,
floated most of their enormous weight in the dense air, but the
buildings under the gravitational acceleration, which was more than one
hundred times Earth's gravity, could not be built very high ere they
crumple under their own weight. Though one of these men weighed
approximately two hundred pounds on Earth, for all their short stature,
on this planet their weight was more than ten tons! Only the enormously
dense atmosphere permitted them to move.

And such an atmosphere! At a temperature of almost exactly 360 degrees
centigrade, there was no liquid water on the planet, naturally. At that
temperature water cannot be a liquid, no matter what the pressure, and
it was a gas. In their own bodies there was liquid water, but only
because they lived on heat, their muscles absorbed their energy for work
from the heat of the air. They carried in their own muscles
refrigeration, and, with that aid, were able to keep liquid water for
their life processes. With death, the water evaporated. Almost the
entire atmosphere was made up of oxygen, with but a trace of nitrogen,
and some amount of carbon dioxide.

Here their enormous strength was not needed, as Arcot had supposed, to
move their own bodies, but to enable them to perform the ordinary tasks
of life. The mere act of lifting a thing weighing perhaps ten pounds on
Earth, here required a lifting force of more than half a ton! No wonder
enormous strength had been developed! Such things as a man might carry
with him, perhaps a ray pistol, would weigh half a ton; his money would
weigh near to a hundred pounds!

But--there were no guns on this world. A man could throw a stone perhaps
a short distance, but when a gravitational acceleration of more than a
half a mile per second acted on it, and it was hurled through an
atmosphere dense as water--what chance was there for a long range?

But these little men of enormous strength did not know other schemes of
existence, save in the abstract, and as things of comical peculiarity.
To them life on a planet like Earth was as life to a terrestrian on a
planetoid such as Ceres, Juno or Eros would have seemed. Even on
Thettsost, the satellite planet of Thett, life was strange, and they
used lux roofs over their cities, though their weight there was four

As the scout swam through the dense atmosphere of his world toward the
entrance way to the building, guards stopped him, and examined his
credentials. Then he was led through long halls, and down a shaft ten
stories below the planet's surface, to where a great table occupied a
part of a low ceilinged, wide room. This room was shielded, interference
screens of all known kinds lined the hollow walls, no rays could reach
through it to the men within. The guard changed, and new men examined
the scout's credentials, and he was led still deeper into the bowels of
the planet. Once more the guard changed, and he entered a room guarded
not by single shields but by triple, and walled with six foot relux, and
ceiled with the same strong material. But here, under the enormous
gravity, even its great strength required aid in the form of pillars.

A giant of his race sat before a low table. The table ran half the
length of the room, and beside it sat four other men. But there were
places for more than two dozen.

"A scout from the colony? What news?" demanded the leader. His voice was
a growl, deep and throaty.

"Oh mighty Sthanto, I bring news of resistance. We waited too long, in
our explorations, and those men of World 3769-8482730-3 have learned too
much. We were wrong. They had found the secret of exceeding the speed of
light, and can travel through space fully as rapidly as we can, and now,
since by some means we cannot fathom, they have learned to combine both
our own system and theirs, they have one enormous engine of destruction
that travels across their huge universe in less time than it takes us to
travel across a planetary system.

"Our cause is lost, which is by far the least of our troubles. Thett is
in danger. We cannot hope to combat that ship."

"Thalt--what means have we. Can we not better them?" demanded Sthanto of
his chief scientist.

"Great Sthanto, we know that such a substance can be made when pressure
can be brought to bear on cosmic rays under the influence of field
24-7649-321, but that field cannot be produced, because no sufficient
concentration of energy is available. Energy cannot be released rapidly
enough to replace the losses when the field is developing. The fact that
they have that material indicates their possession of an unguessed and
terrific energy source. I would have said that there was no energy
greater than the energy of matter, but we know the properties of this
material and that the triple ray which has at last been perfected, can
be produced providing your order for all energy sources is given, will
release its energy at a speed comparable to the rate of energy relux in
a twin ray, but that the release takes place only in the path of the

"What more, Scout?" asked Sthanto smoothly.

"The ship first appeared in connection with our general attack on world
3769-8482730-3. The attack was near success, their screens were already
failing. They have devised a new and very ionized layer as a conductor.
It was exceedingly difficult to break, and since their sun had been
similarly screened, we could not throw masses of that matter upon them.

"In another sthan of time, we would have destroyed their world. Then the
ship appeared. It has molecular rays, magnetic beams and cosmic rays,
and a fourth weapon we know nothing of. It has molecular screens, we
suspect, but has not had occasion to use them.

"Our heaviest molecular screens flash under their molecular rays.
Ordinary screens fall instantly without momentary defense. The ray power
is incalculable.

"Their magnetic beams are used in conjunction with cosmics. The action
of the two causes the relux to induce current, and due to reaction of
currents on the magnetic field--"

"And the resistance due to the relux, the relux is first heated to
incandescence and then the ship opens out as the air pressure bends the
magnetically softened relux?" finished Thalt.

"No, the effect is even more terrific. It explodes into powder," replied
the scout.

"And what happens to worlds that the magnetic ray touches?" inquired the

"A corner of it touched the world we fought over, and the world shook,"
replied the colonist.

"And the last weapon?" asked Sthanto, his voice soft now.

"It seems a ghost. It is a mistiness that comes into existence like a
cloud, and what it touches is crushed, what it rams is shattered. It
surrounds the great ship, and machines crashing into it at a speed of
more than six times that of light are completely destroyed, without in
the slightest injuring the shield.

"Then--what caused my departure from the colony--it showed once more its
unutterable power. The mistiness formed in the path of our colonial
world, number 3769-1-5, and the planet swept against that wall of
mistiness, and was shattered, and turned in less than five sthan to a
ball of blue-white fire. The wall stopped the planet in its motion. We
could not fight that machine, and we left the worlds. The others are
coming," finished the scout.

The ruler turned his slightly smiling face to the commander of his
armies, who sat beside him.

"Give orders," he said softly, almost gently, "that a triple ray station
be set up under the direction of Thalt, and further notice that all
power be made instantly available to it. Add that the colonists are
returning defeated, and bringing danger at their heels. The triple ray
will destroy each ship as it enters the system." His hand under the
table pushed an invisible protuberance, and from the perfectly
conducting relux floor to the equally perfectly conducting ceiling, and
between four pillars grouped around the spot where the scout stood,
terrific arcs suddenly came into being. They lasted for the thousandth
part of a second, and when they suddenly died away, as swiftly as they
had come, there was not even ash where the scout had been.

"Have you any suggestions, Thalt?" he asked of the scientist, his voice
as soft as before.

"I quite agree with your conduct so far, but the future conduct you had
planned is quite unsatisfactory," replied the scientist. The ruler sat
motionless in his great seat, staring fixedly at the scientist. "I think
it is time I take your place, therefore." The place where the ruler had
been was suddenly seen as through a dark cloud, then the cloud was gone,
and with it the king, only his relux chair, and the bits of lux or relux
that had been about his garments remained.

"He was a fool," said the scientist softly, as he rose, "to plan on
removing his scientist. Are there any who object to my succession?"

"No one objects," said Faslar, the ex-king's Prime Minister and

"Then I think, Phantal, Commander of planetary forces, that you had best
see Ranstud, my assistant, and follow out the plan outlined by my
predecessor. And you Tastal, Commander of Fleets, had best bring your
fleets near the planets for protection. Go."

"May I suggest, mighty Thalt," said Faslar after the others had left,
"that my knowledge will be exceedingly useful to you. You have two
commanders, neither of whom loves you, and neither of whom is highly
capable. The family of Thadstil would be glad to learn who removed that
honored gentleman, and the family of Datstir would gladly support him
who brought the remover of their head to them.

"This would remove two unwelcome menaces, and open places for such as
Ranstud and your son Warrtil.

"And," he said hastily as he saw a slight shift in Thalt's eyes, "I
might say further that the bereaved ones of Parthel would find great
interest in certain of my papers, which are only protected by my
personal constant watchfulness."

"Ah, so? And what of Kelston Faln, Faslar?" smiled the new Sthanta.

Thalt's hand relaxed and they started a conversation and discussion on
means of defense.

Chapter XXIII


Up from Earth, out of its clear blue sky, and into the glare and dark of
space and near a sun the ship soared. They had been holding it
motionless over New York, and now as it rose, hundreds of tiny craft,
and a few large excursion ships followed it until it was out of Earth's
atmosphere. Then--it was gone. Gone across space, racing toward that far
Universe at a speed no other thing could equal. In minutes the great
disc of the Universe had taken form behind them, as they took their
route photographs to find their way back to Earth after the battle, if
still they could come.

Then into the stillness of the Intergalactic spaces.

"This will be our first opportunity to test the full speed of this ship.
We have never tried its velocity, and we should measure it now. Take a
sight on the diameter of the Island, as seen from here, Morey. Then we
will travel ten seconds, and look again."

Half a million light years from the center of the Island now, the great
disc spread out over the vast space behind them, apparently the size of
a dinner plate at about thirty inches distance, it was more than two
hundred and fifty thousand light years across. Checking carefully, Morey
read their distance as just shy of five hundred thousand light years.

"Hold on--here we go," called Arcot. Space was suddenly black, and
beside them ran the twin ghost ships that follow always when space is
closed to the smallest compass, for light leaving, goes around a space
whose radius is measured in miles, instead of light centuries and
returns. There was no sound, no slightest vibration, only Torlos' iron
bones felt a slight shock as the inconceivable currents flowed into the
gigantic space distortion coil from the storage fields, their shielded
magnetic flux leaking by in some slight degree.

For ten seconds that seemed minutes Arcot held the ship on the course
under the maximum combined powers of space distortion and time field
distortion. Then he released both simultaneously.

The velvet black of space was about them as before, but now the disc of
the Nebula was tiny behind them! So tiny was it, that these men, who
knew its magnitude, gasped in sudden wonder. None of them had been able
to conceive of such a velocity as this ship had shown! In seconds, Morey
announced a moment later, they had traveled _one million, one hundred
thousand light years_! Their velocity was six hundred and sixty
quadrillion miles per second!

"Then it will take us only a little over one thousand seconds to travel
the hundred and fifty million light years, at 110,000 light years per
second--that's about the radius of our galaxy, isn't it!" exclaimed

They started on now, and one thousand and ten seconds, or a little more
than eighteen minutes later, they stopped again. So far behind them now
as to be almost lost in the far scattered universes, lay their own
Island, and carefully they photographed the Universe that now lay less
than twenty million light years ahead. Still, it was further, even after
crossing this enormous gulf, than are many of those nebulae we see from
Earth, many of which lie within that distance. They must proceed
cautiously now, for they did not know the exact distance to the Nebula.
Carefully, running forward in jumps of five million light years,
forty-five second drives, they worked nearer.

Then finally they entered the Island, and drove toward the denser

"Good Lord, Arcot, look at those suns!" exclaimed Morey in amazement.
For the first time they were seeing the suns of this system at a range
that permitted observation, and Arcot had stopped to observe. The first
one they had chosen had been a blue-white giant of enormous mass, nearly
one hundred and fifty times as heavy as our own sun, and all the
enormous surface was radiating power into space at a rate of nearly
thirty thousand horsepower per square inch! No planets circled it,
however, in its journey through space.

"I've been noticing the number of giants here. Look around."

The _Thought_ moved on, on to other suns. They must find one that was

They stopped at last near a great orange giant, and examined it. It had
indeed planets, and as Arcot watched, he saw in the telectroscope a line
of gigantic freighters rise from the world, and whisk off to nothingness
as they exceeded the speed of light! Instantly he started the _Thought_
searching in time fields for the freighters. He found them, and followed
them as they raced across the void. He knew he was visible to them, and
as he suspected, they soon stopped, slowing down and signaling to him.

"Morey--take the _Thought_. I'm going to visit them in the _Banderlog_
as I think we shall name the tender," called Arcot, stripping off the
headset, and leaving the control seat. The other fleet of ships was now
less than a hundred thousand miles away, clearly visible in the
telectroscope. They were still signaling, and Arcot had set an automatic
signaling device flashing an enormously powerful searchlight toward them
in a succession of dots and dashes, an obvious signal, though also,
obviously unintelligible to those others.

"Is it safe, Arcot?" asked Torlos anxiously. To approach those enormous
ships in the relatively tiny _Banderlog_ seemed unwise.

"Far safer than they'll believe. Remember, only the _Thought_ could
stand up against such weapons as even the _Banderlog_ carries, run as
they are by cosmic energy," replied Arcot, diving down toward the little

In a moment it was out through the lock, and sped away from them like a
bullet, reaching the distant stranger fleet in less than ten seconds.

"They are communicating by thought!" announced Zezdon Afthen presently.
"But I cannot understand them, for the impulses are too weak to be
intelligently received."

For nearly an hour the _Banderlog_ hung beside the fleet, then it turned
about, and raced once more to the _Thought_. Inside the lock, and a
moment later Arcot appeared again on the threshold of the door. He
looked immensely relieved.

"Well, I have some good news," he said and smiled, sitting down. "Follow
that bunch, Morey, and I'll tell you about it. Set it and she'll hold
nicely. We have a long way to go, and those are slow freighters,
accompanied by one Cruiser.

"Those men," he began, "are men of Venone. You remember Thett's records
said something of the Mighty Warless Ones of Venone? Those are they.
They inhabit most of this universe, leaving the Thessians but four
planets of a minor sun, way off in one corner. It seems the Thessians
are their undesirable exiles, those who have, from generation to
generation, been either forced to go there, or who wanted to go there.

"They did not like the easier and more effective method of disposing of
undesirables, the instantaneous death chamber they now use. Thett was
their prison world. No one ever returned and his family could go with
him if they desired, but if they did not, they were carefully watched
for outcroppings of undesirable traits--murder, crime of any sort, any
habitual tendency to injustice.

"About six hundred years ago of our time, Thett revolted. There were
scientists there, and their scientists had discovered a thing that they
had been seeking for generations--the Twin-ray. I don't know what it is,
and the Venonians don't either. It is the ray that destroys relux and
lux, however, and can be carried only on a machine the size of their
forts, due to some limitations. Just what those limitations are the
Venonians don't know. Other than that ray they had no new weapons.

"But it was enough. Their guard ships which had circled the worlds of
the prison system, Antseck, were suddenly destroyed, so suddenly that
Venone received no word of it till a consignment ship, bringing
prisoners, discovered their absence. The consignment ship returned
without landing. Thett was now independent. But they were bound to their
system, for although they had the molecular ships, they had never been
permitted to have time apparatus, nor to see it, nor was any one who
knew its principles ever consigned there. The result was that they were
as isolated as ever.

"This was for two centuries. Two centuries later it was worked out by
one of their scientists, and the Warless Ones had a War of defense.
Their small fleet of cruisers, designed for rescue work and for clearing
space lanes of wrecks and asteroids, was destroyed instantly, their
world was protected only by the ray screen, which the Thessians did not
have, and by the fact that they could build more cruisers. In less than
a year Thett was defeated, and beaten back to her world, though Venone
could not overcome Thett, now, for around their planets they had so many
forts projecting the deadly rays, that no ship could approach.

"Then Thett learned how to make the screen, and came again. Venone had
planetoid stations, that projected molecular rays of an intensity I
wonder at, with their system of projecting. It seems these people have
force-power feeds that operate through space, by which an entire solar
system can tie in for power, and they fed these stations in that way.
Lord only knows what tubes they had, but the Thessians couldn't get the
power to fight.

"They've been let alone since then, they did not know why. I told them
what their dear friends had been doing in that time, and the Venonians
were immensely surprised, and very evidently sorry. They begged my
pardon for letting loose such a menace, quite sincerely feeling that it
was their fault. They offered any help they could give, and I told them
that a chart of this system would be of the greatest use. They are going
now to Venone, and we are to go with them, and see what they have to
offer. Also, they want a demonstration of this 'remarkable ship that can
defeat whole fleets of Thessians, and destroy or make planets at will,'"
concluded Arcot.

"I do not in the least blame them for wanting to see this ship in
operation, Arcot, but they are, very evidently, a much older race than
yours," said Torlos, his thoughts coming clear and sharp, as those of a
man who has thought over what he says carefully. "Are you not running
danger that their minds may be more powerful than yours, that this story
they have told you is but a ruse to get this ship on their world where
thousand, millions can concentrate their will against you and capture
the ship by mind where they cannot capture it by force?"

"That," agreed Arcot, "is where 'the rub' comes in as an ancient poet of
Earth put it. I don't know and I did not have a chance to see. Wherefore
I am about to do some work. Let me have the controls, Morey, will you?"

Arcot made a new ship. It was made entirely, perforce, of cosmium, lux
and relux, for those were the only forms of matter he could create in
space permanently from energy. It was equipped with gravity drive, and
time distortion speed apparatus, and his far better trained mind
finished this smaller ship with his titanic tools in less than the two
days that it took them to reach Venone. In the meantime, the Venonian
cruiser had drawn close, and watched in amazement as the ship was
fashioned from the energy of space, became a thing of glistening matter,
materializing from the absolute void of space, and forming under titanic
tools such as the commander could not visualize.

Now, this move was partly the reason for this construction, for while
the Venonian was busy, absorbed in watching the miraculous construction,
his mind was not shielded, and it was open for observation of two such
wonderfully trained minds as those of Zezdon Afthen and Zezdon Inthel.
With their instruments and wonderfully developed mind-science, aided at
times by Morey's less skillful, but more powerful mind of his older
race, and powerful too, both because of long concentration and training,
and because of his individual inheritance, they examined the minds of
many of the officers of the ship without their awareness.

As a final test, Arcot, having finished the ship, suggested that the
Venonian officer and one of the men of his ship have a trial of mental

Zezdon Afthen tried first, and between the two ships, racing along side
by side at a speed unthinkable, the two men struggled with those forces
of will.

Quickly Zezdon Afthen told Arcot what he had learned.

The sun of Venone was close, now, and Arcot prepared to use as he
intended the little space machine he had made. Morey took it, and went
away from the _Thought_ flying on its time field. The ship had been
stocked with lead fuel for its matter-burning generators from the supply
that had been brought on the _Thought_ for emergencies, and the air had
come from the _Thought_'s great tanks. Morey was going to Venone ahead
of the _Thought_ to scout--"to see many of the important men of Venone
and find out from them what I can of the relationship between Venone and

Hours later Morey returned with a favorable report. He had seen many of
the important men of Venone, and conversed with them mentally from the
safety of his ship, where the specially installed gravity apparatus had
protected him and the ship against the enormous gravity of this gigantic
world. He did not describe Venone; he wanted them to see it as he had
first seen it.

So the little ship, which had served its purpose now, was destroyed,
nearly a light year from Venone, and left a crushed wreck when two
plates of artificial matter had closed upon it, destroying the
apparatus, lest some unwelcome finder use it. There was little about it,
the gravity apparatus alone perhaps, that might have been of use to
Thett, and Thett already had the ray--but why take needless risk?

Then once more they were racing toward Venone. Soon the giant star of
which it was a planet loomed enormous. Then, at Morey's direction, they
swung, and before them loomed a planet. Large as Thett, near a half
million miles in diameter, its mass was very closely equal to that of
our sun. Yet it was but the burned-out sweepings of the outermost
photospheric layers of this giant sun, and the radioactive atoms that
made a sun active were not here; it was a cold planet. But its density
was far, far higher than that of our sun, for our sun is but slightly
denser than ordinary sea water. This world was dense as copper, for with
the deeper sweepings of the tidal strains that had formed it, more of
the heavier atoms had gone into its making, and its core was denser than
that of Earth.

About it swept two gigantic satellite Worlds, each larger than Jupiter,
but satellites of a satellite here! And Venone itself was inhabited by
countless millions, yet their low, green tile and metal cities were
invisible in the aspect of rolling lands with tiny hillocks, dwarfed by
gigantic bulbous trees that floated their enormous weight in the
water-dense atmosphere.

Here, too, there were no seas, for the temperature was above the
critical temperature of water, and only in the self-cooling bodies of
these men and in the trees which similarly cooled themselves, could
there be liquid.

The sun of the world was another of the giant red stars, close to three
hundred and fifty times the mass of our sun. It was circled by but three
giant planets. Its enormous disc was almost invisible from the surface
of the world as the _Thought_ sank slowly through fifteen thousand miles
of air, due to the screening effect on light passing through so much
air. Earth could have rested on this planet and not extended beyond its
atmosphere! Had Earth been situated at this planet's center, the Moon
could have revolved about it, and would not have been beyond the
planet's surface!

In silent wonder the terrestrians watched the titanic world as they
sank, and their friends looked on amazed, comprehending even less of the
significance of what they saw. Already within the titanic gravitational
field, they could see that indescribable effects were being produced on
them, and on the ship. Arcot alone could know the enormous gravitation,
and his accelerometer told him now that he was subject to a
gravitational acceleration of three thousand four hundred and
eighty-seven feet per second, or almost exactly one hundred and nine
times Earth's pull.

"The _Thought_ weighs one billion, two hundred and six million, five
hundred thousand tons, with tender, on Earth. Here it weighs
approximately one hundred and twenty-one billion tons," said Arcot

"Can you set it down? It may crush under this load if the gravity drive
isn't supporting it," asked Torlos anxiously.

"Eight inches cosmium, and everything else supported by cosmium. I made
this thing to stand any conceivable strain. Watch--if the planet's
surface will take the load," replied Arcot.

They were still sinking, and now a number of small marvelously
streamlined ships were clustered around the slowly settling giant. In a
few moments more people, hundreds, thousands of men were flying through
the air up to the ship.

A cruiser had appeared, and was very evidently intent on leading them
somewhere, and Arcot followed it as it streaked through the dense air.
"No wonder they streamline," he muttered as he saw the enormous force it
took to drive the gigantic ship through this air. The air pressure
outside their ship now was so great, that the sheer crushing effect of
the air pressure alone was enormous. The pressure was well over nine
tons to the square inch, on the surface of that enormous ship!

They landed approximately fifty miles from a large city which was the
capital. The land seemed absolutely level, and the horizon faded off in
distance in an atmosphere absolutely clear. There was no dust in the air
at their height of nearly three hundred feet, for dust was too heavy on
this world. There were no clouds. The mountains of this enormous world
were not large, could not be large, for their sheer weight would tear
them down, but what mountains there were were jagged, tortured rock,
exceedingly sharp in outline.

"No rain--no temperature change to break them down," said Wade looking
at them. "The zone of fracture can't be deep here."

"What, Wade, is the zone of fracture?" asked Torles.

"Rock has weight. Any substance, no matter how brittle, will flow if
sufficient pressure is brought to bear from all sides. A thing which can
flow will not break or fracture. You can't imagine the pressure to which
the rock three hundred feet down is subject to. There is the enormous
mass of atmosphere, the tremendous mass of rock above, and all forced
down by this gravitation. By the time you get down half a mile, the rock
is under such an inconceivably great pressure that it will flow like
mud. The rock there cannot break; it merely flows under pressure. Above,
the rock can break, instead of flowing. That is the zone of fracture. On
Earth the zone of fracture is ten miles deep. Here it must be of the
order of only five hundred feet! And the planetary blocks that made a
planet's surface float on the zone of flowage--they determine the zone
of fracture."

The gigantic ship had been sinking, and now, suddenly it gave a very
unexpected demonstration of Wade's words. It had landed, and Arcot shut
off the power. There was a roaring, and the giant ship trembled, rocked,
and rolled along a bit. Instantly Arcot drove it into the air.

"Whoa--can't do it. The ship will stand it, and won't bend under the
load--but the planet won't. We caused a Venone-quake. One of those
planetary blocks Wade was talking about slipped under the added strain."

Quickly Wade explained that all the planetary blocks were floating,
truly floating, and in equilibrium just as a boat must be. The added
load had been sufficiently great, so that, with an already extant
overload on this particular planetary block, this "boat" had sunk a bit
further into the flowage zone, till it was once more at rest and

"They wish us to come out that they may see us, strangers and friends
from another Island," interrupted Zezdon Afthen.

"Tell them they'd have to scrape us up off the ground, if we attempted
it. We come from a world where we weigh about as much as a pebble here,"
said Wade, grinning at the thought of terrestrians trying to walk on
this world.

"Don't--tell them we'll be right out," said Arcot sharply. "All of us."

Morey and the others all stared at Arcot in amazement. It was utterly

But Zezdon Afthen did as Arcot had asked. Almost immediately, another
Morey stepped out of the airlock wearing what was obviously a pressure
suit. Behind him came another Wade, Torlos, Stel Felso Theu, and indeed
all the members of their party save Arcot himself! The Galactians stared
in wonder--then comprehended and laughed together. Arcot had sent
artificial matter images of them all!

Their images stepped out, and the Venonian crowd which had collected,
stared in wonder at the giants, looming twice their height above them.

"You see not us, but images of us. We cannot withstand your gravity nor
your air pressure, save in the protection of our ship. But these images
are true images of us."

For some time then they communicated, and finally Arcot agreed to give a
demonstration of their power. At the suggestion of the cruiser commander
who had seen the construction of a spaceship from the emptiness of
space, Arcot rapidly constructed a small, very simple, molecular drive
machine of pure cosmium, making it entirely from energy. It required but
minutes, and the Venonians stared in wonder as Arcot's unbelievable
tools created the machine before their eyes. The completed ship Arcot
gave to an official of the city who had appeared. The Venonian looked at
the thing skeptically, and half expecting it to vanish like the tools
that made it, gingerly entered the port. Powered as it was by lead
burning cosmic ray generators, the lead alone having been made by
transmutation of natural matter, it was powerful, and speedy. The
official entered it, and finding it still existing, tried it out. Much
to his amazement it flew, and operated perfectly.

Nearly ten hours Arcot and his friends stayed at Venone, and before they
left, the Venonians, for all their vast differences of structure, had
proven themselves true, kindly honest men, and a race that our Alliance
has since found every reason to respect and honor. Our commerce with
them, though carried on under difficulties, is none the less a bond of
genuine friendship.

Chapter XXIV


Streaking through the void toward Thett was again a tiny scout ship. It
carried but a single man, and with all the power of the machine he was
darting toward distant Thett, at a speed insanely reckless, but he knew
that he must maintain such a speed if his mission were to be successful.

Again a tiny ship entered Thett's far-flung atmosphere, and slowed to
less than a light speed, and sent its signal call ahead. In moments the
patrol ship, less than three hundred miles away, had reached it, and
together they streaked through the dense air in a screaming dive toward
Shatnsoma, the capital city. It was directly beneath, and it was not
long before they had reached the great palace grounds, and settled on
the upper roof. Then the scout leaped out of his tiny craft, and dove
for the door. Flashing his credentials, he dove down, and into the first
shielded room. Here precious seconds were wasted while a check was made
of the credentials the man carried, then he was sent through to the
Council Room. And he, too, stood on that exact spot where the other
scout, but a few weeks before, had stood--and vanished. Waiting, it
seemed, were four councilors and the new Sthanto, Thalt.

"What news, Scout?" asked the Sthanto.

"They have arrived in the Universe to Venone, and gone to the planet
Venone. They were on the planet when I left. None of our scouts were
able to approach the place, as there were innumerable Venonian watchers
who would have recognized our deeper skin-color, and destroyed us. Two
scouts were rayed, though the Galactians did not see this. Finally we
captured two Venonians who had seen it, and attempted to force the
information we needed from them. A young man and his chosen mate.

"The man would tell nothing, and we were hurried. So we turned to the
girl. These accursed Venonians are courageous for all their pacifism. We
were hurried, and yet it was long before we forced her to tell what we
needed to know so vitally. She had been one of the notetakers for the
Venonian government. We got most of their conversation, but she died of
burns before she finished.

"The Galactians know nothing of the twin-ray beyond its action, and that
it is an electro-magnetic phenomenon, though they have been able to
distort it by using a sheet of pure energy. But their walls are
impregnable to it, and their power of creating matter from the pure
energy of space, as we saw from a distance, would enable them to easily
defeat it, were it not that the twin-ray passes through matter without
harming it. Any ray which will destroy matter of the natural electrical
types, will be stopped.

"The girl was damnably clever, for she gave us only the things we
already knew, and but few new facts; knowing that she would inevitably
die soon, she talked--but it was empty talk. The one thing of import we
have learned is that they burn no fuel, use no fuel of any sort but in
some inconceivable manner get their energy from the radiations of the
suns of space. This could not be great--but we know she told the truth,
and we know their power is great. She told the truth, for we could
determine when she lied, by mental action, of course.

"But more we could not learn. The man died without telling anything,
merely cursing. He knew nothing anyway, as we already had determined,"
concluded the scout.

Silently the Sthanto sat in thought for some moments. Then he raised his
head, and looked at the scout once more.

"You have done well. You secured some information of import, which was
more than we had dared hope for. But you managed things poorly. The
woman should not have died so soon. We can only guess.

"The radiation of the suns of space--hmmm--" Sthanto Thalt's brow
wrinkled in thought. "The radiation of the _suns_ of space. Were his
power derived from the sun near which he is operating, he would not have
said _suns_. It was more than one?"

"It was, oh Sthanto," replied the scout positively.

"His power is unreasonable. I doubt that he gave the true explanation.
It may well have been that he did not trust the Venonians. I would not,
for all their warless ways. But surely the suns of space give very
little power at any given point at random. Else space would not be cold.

"But go, Scout, and you will be assigned a position in the fleet. The
Colonial fleet, the remains of it, have arrived, and the colonists been
removed. They failed. We will use their ships. You will be assigned."
The scout left, and was indeed assigned to a ship of the colonists. The
incoming colonial transports had been met at the outposts of the system,
and rayed out of existence at once--failures, and bringing danger at
their heels. Besides--there was no room for them on Thett without
Thessians being crowded uncomfortably.

As their battleships arrived they were conducted to one of the
satellites, and each man was "fumigated," lest he bring disease to the
mother planet. Men entered, men apparently emerged. But they were
different men.

"It seems," said the Sthanto softly, after the scout had left, "that we
will have little difficulty, for they are, we know, vulnerable to the
triple ray. And if we can but once destroy their driving units they will
be helpless on our world. I doubt that wild tale of their using no fuel.
Even if that be true they will be helpless with their power apparatus
destroyed, and--if we miss the first time, we can seek it out, or drive
them off!

"All of which is dependent on the fact that they attack at a point where
we have a triple ray station to meet them. There are but three of these,
actually, but I have had dummy stations, apparently identical with our
other real stations, set up in many places.

"This gibberish we hear of creating matter--it is impossible, and surely
unsuitable as a weapon. Their misty wall--that may be a force plane, but
I know of no such possibility. The artificial substance though--why
should any one make it? It but consumes energy, and once made is no more
dangerous than ordinary matter, save that there is the possibility of
creating it in dangerous position. Remember, we have heard already of
the mental suggestions planes--mere force planes--_plus_ a wonderfully
developed power of suggestion. They do most of their damage by mental
impression. Remember, we have heard already of the mental suggestions of
horrible things that drove one fleet of the weak-minded colonists mad.

"And that, I think, we will use to protect ourselves. If we can, with
the apparatus which you, my son, have developed, cause them to believe
that all the other forts are equally dangerous, and that this one on
Thett is the best point of attack--It will be easy. Can you do it?"

"I can, Oh Sthanto, if but a sufficient number of powerful minds may be
brought to aid me," replied the youngest of the four councilmen.

"And you, Ranstud, are the stations ready?" asked the ruler.

"We are ready."

Chapter XXV


The _Thought_ arose from Venone after long hours, and at Arcot's
suggestion, they assumed an orbit about the world, at a distance of two
million miles, and all on board slept, save Torlos, the tireless
molecular motion machine of flesh and iron. He acted as guard, and as he
had slept but four days before, he explained there was really no reason
for him to sleep as yet.

But the terrestrians would feel the greatest strain of the coming
encounter, especially Arcot and Morey, for Morey was to help by
repairing any damage done, by working from the control board of the
_Banderlog_. The little tender had sufficient power to take care of any
damage that Thett might inflict, they felt sure.

For they had not learned of the triple ray.

It was hours later that, rested and refreshed, they started for Thett.
Following the great space-chart that they had been given by the
Venonians, a series of blocks of clear lux metal, with tiny points of
slowly disintegrating lux, such as had been used to illuminate the
letters of the _Thought_'s name representing suns, the colors and
relative intensity being shown. Then there was a more manageable guide
in the form of photographs, marked for route by constellations
formations as well, which would be their actual guide.

At the maximum speed of the time apparatus, for thus they could better
follow the constellations, the _Thought_ plunged along in the wake of
the tiny scout ship that had already landed on Thett. And, hours later,
they saw the giant red sun of Antseck, the star of Thett and its system.

"We're about there," said Arcot, a peculiar tenseness showing in his
thoughts. "Shall we barge right in, or wait and investigate?"

"Well have to chance it. Where is their main fort here?"

"From the direction, I should say it was to the left and ahead of our
position," replied Zezdon Afthen.

The ship moved ahead, while about it the tremendous Thessian battlefleet
buzzed like flies, thousands of ships now, and more coming with each

In a few moments the titanic ship had crossed a great plain, and came to
a region of bare, rocky hills several hundred feet high. Set in those
hills, surrounded by them, was a huge sphere, resting on the ground. As
though by magic the Thessian fleet cleared away from the _Thought_. The
last one had not left, when Arcot shot a terrific cosmic ray toward the
sphere. It was relux, and he knew it, but he knew what would happen when
that cosmic ray hit it. The solometer flickered and steadied at three as
that inconceivable ray flashed out.

Instantly there was a terrific explosion. The soil exploded into
hydrogen atoms, and expanded under heat that lashed it to more than a
million degrees in the tiniest fraction of a second. The terrific recoil
of the ray-pressure was taken by all space, for it was generated in
space itself, but the direct pressure struck the planet, and that
titanic planet reeled! A tremendous fissure opened, and the section that
had been struck by the ray smashed its way suddenly far into the planet,
and a geyser of fluid rock rolled over it, twenty miles deep in that
world. The relux sphere had been struck by the ray, and had turned it,
with the result that it was pushed doubly hard. The enormously thick
relux strained and dented, then shot down as a whole, into the
incandescent rock.

For miles the vaporized rock was boiling off. Then the fort sent out a
ray, and that ray blasted the rock that had flowed over it as Arcot's
titanic ray snapped out. In moments the fort was at the surface
again--and a molecular hit it. The molecular did not have the energy the
cosmic had carried, but it was a single concentrated beam of destruction
ten feet across. It struck the fort--and the fort recoiled under its
energy. The marvelous new tubes that ran its ray screen flashed
instantly to a temperature inconceivable, and, so long as the elements
embedded in the infusible relux remained the metals they were, those
tubes could not fail. But they were being lashed by the energy of half a
sun. The tubes failed. The elements heated to that enormous temperature
when elements cannot exist--and broke to other elements that did not
resist. The relux flashed into blinding iridescence--

And from the fort came a beam of pure silvery light. It struck the
_Thought_ just behind the bow, for the operator was aiming for the point
where he knew the control room and pilot must be. But Arcot had designed
the ship for mental control, which the enemy operator could not guess.
The beam was a flat beam, perhaps an inch thick, but it fanned out to
fifty feet width. And where it touched the _Thought_, there was a
terrific explosion, and inconceivably violent energy lashed out as the
cosmium instantaneously liberated its energy.

A hundred feet of the nose was torn off the ship, and the enormously
dense air of Thett rushed in. But that beam had cut through the very
edge of one of the ray projectors, or better, one of the ray feed
apparatus. And the ray feed released it without control; it released all
the energy it could suck in from space about it, as one single beam of
cosmic energy, somewhat lower than the regular cosmics, and it flashed
out in a beam as solid matter.

There was air about the ship, and the air instantly exploded into atoms
of a different sort, threw off their electrons, and were raised to the
temperature at which no atom can exist, and became protons and
electrons. But so rapidly was that coil sucking energy from space that
space tended to close in about it, and in enormous spurts the energy
flooded out. It was directed almost straight up, and but one ship was
caught in its beam. It was made of relux, but the relux was powdered
under the inconceivable blow that countless quintillions of cosmic ray
photons struck it. That ray was in fact, a solid mass of cosmium moving
with the velocity of light. And it was headed for that satellite of
Thett, which it would reach in a few hours time.

The _Thought_, due to the spatial strains of the wounded coil, was
constantly rushing away to an almost infinite distance, as the ship
approached that other space toward which the coil tended with its load,
and rushing back, as the coil, reaching a spatial condition which
supplied no energy, fell back. In a hundredth of a second it had reached
equilibrium, and they were in a weirdly, terribly distorted space. But
the triple-ray of the Thessians seemed to sheer off, and miss, no matter
how it was directed. And it was painfully weak, for the coil sucked up
the energy of whatsoever matter disintegrated in the neighborhood.

Then suddenly the performance was over. And they plunged into artificial
space that was black and clean, and not a thing of wavering, struggling
energies. Morey, from his control in the _Banderlog_, had succeeded in
getting sufficient energy, by using his space distortion coils, to
destroy the great projector mechanism. Instantly Arcot, now able to
create the artificial space without the destruction of the coils by the
struggling ray-feed coil, had thrown them to comparative safety.

Space writhed before they could so much as turn from the instruments.
The Thessians had located their artificial space, and reached it with an
attraction ray. They already had been withstanding the drain of the
enormous fields of the giant planet and the giant sun; the attractive
ray was an added strain. Arcot looked at his instruments, and with a
grim smile set a single dial. The space about them became black again.

"Pulling our energy--merely let 'em pull. They're pulling on an ocean,
not a lake this time. I don't think they'll drain those coils very
quickly." He looked at his instruments. "Good for two and a half hours
at this rate.

"Morey, you sure did your job then. I was helpless. The controls
wouldn't answer, of course, with that titanic thing flopping its wings,
so to speak. What are we going to do?"

Morey stood in the doorway, and from his pocket drew a cigarette, handed
it to Arcot, another to each of the others who smoked, and lit them, and
his own. "Smoke," he said, and puffed. "Smoke and think. From our last
experience with a minor tragedy, it helps."

"But--this is no minor tragedy, they have burst open the wall of this
invulnerable ship, destroyed one of those enormous coils, and can do it
again," exclaimed Zezdon Afthen, exceedingly nervous, so nervous that
the normal courage of the man was gone. His too-psychic breeding was
against him as a warrior.

"Afthen," replied Stel Felso Theu calmly, "when our friends have smoked,
and thought, the _Thought_ will be repaired perfectly, and it will be
made invulnerable to that weapon."

"I hope so, Stel Felso Theu," smiled Arcot. He was feeling better
already. "But do you know what that weapon is, Morey?"

"Got some readings on it with the _Banderlog_'s instruments, and I think
I do. Twin-ray is right," replied Morey.

"Hm-hm--so I think. It's a super-photon. What they do is to use a field
somewhat similar to the field we use in making cosmium, except that in
theirs, instead of the photons lying side by side, they slide into one
another, compounding. They evidently get three photons to go into one.
Now, as we know, that size photon doesn't exist for the excellent reason
that it can't in this space. Space closes in about it. Therefore they
have a projected field to accompany it that tends to open out space--and
they are using that, not the attractive ray, on us now. The result is
that for a distance not too great, the triple-ray exists in normal
space--then goes into another. Now the question is how can we stop it? I
have an idea--have you any?"

"Yes, but my idea can't exist in this space either," grinned Morey.

"I think it can. If it's what I think, remember it will have a terrific
electric field."

"It's what you think, then. Come on." Arcot and Morey went to the
calculating room, while Wade took over the ship. But one of the
ray-feeds had been destroyed, and they had three more in action, as well
as their most important weapon, artificial matter. Wade threw on the
time field, and started the emergency lead burner working to recharge
the coils that the Thessians were constantly draining. Being in their
own peculiar space, they could not draw energy from the stars, and Arcot
didn't want to return to normal space to discharge them, unless

"How's the air pressure in the rest of the ship?" asked Wade.

"Triple normal," replied Morey. "The Thessian atmosphere leaked in and
sent it up terrifically, but when we went into our own space, at the
halfway point, a lot leaked out. But the ship is full of water now. It
was a bit difficult coming up from the _Banderlog_, and I didn't want to
breathe the air I wasn't sure of. But let's work."

They worked. For eight hours of the time they were now in they continued
to work. The supply of lead metal gave out before the end of the fourth
hour, and the coils were nearing the end of their resistance. It would
soon be necessary for Arcot to return to normal space. So they stopped,
their calculations very nearly complete. Throwing all the remaining
energy into the coils, they a little more than held the space about
them, and moved away from Thett at a speed of about twice that of light.
For an hour more Arcot worked, while the ship plowed on. Then they were

As Arcot took over the controls, space reeled once more, and they were
alone, far from Thett. The suns of this space were flashing and glowing
about them, and the unlimited energy of a universe was at Arcot's
command. But all the remaining atmosphere in the ship had either gone
instantaneously in the vacuum, or solidified as the chill of expansion
froze it.

To the amazement of the extra-terrestrians, Arcot's first move was to
create a titanic plane of artificial matter, and neatly bisect the
_Thought_ at the middle! He had thrown all of the controls thus
interrupted into neutral, and in the little more than half of the ship
which contained the control cabin, was also the artificial matter
control. It was busy now. With bewildering speed, with the speed of
thought trained to construct, enormous masses of cosmium were appearing
beside them in space as Arcot created them from pure energy. Cosmium,
relux and some clear cosmium-like lux metal. Ordinary cosmium was
reflective, and he wanted something with cosmium's strength, and the
clearness of lux.

In seconds, under Arcot's flying thought manipulation, a great tube had
been welded to the original hull, and the already gigantic ship
lengthened by more than five hundred feet! Immediately great artificial
matter tools gripped the broken nose-section, clamped it into place, and
welded it with cosmium flowing under the inconceivable pressure till it
was again a single great hull.

Then the Thessian fleet found them. The coils were charged now, and they
could have escaped, but Arcot had to work. The Thessians were attacked
with moleculars, cosmics, and a great twin-ray. Arcot could not use his
magnet, for it had been among those things severed from the control. He
had two ray feeds, and the artificial matter. There were nearly three
thousand ships attacking him with a barrage of energy that was
inconceivably great, but the cosmium walls merely turned it aside. It
took Arcot less than ten seconds to wipe out that fleet of ships! He
created a wall of artificial matter at twenty feet from the ship--and
another at twenty thousand miles. It was thin, yet it was utterly
impenetrable. He swept the two walls together, and forced them against
each other until his instruments told him only free energy remained
between them. Then he released the outer wall, and a terrific flood of
energy swept out.

"I don't think we'll be attacked again," said Morey softly. They were
not. Thett had only one other fleet, and had no intention of losing the
powers of their generators at this time when they so badly needed them.
The strange ship had retired for repairs--very well, they could attack
again--and maybe--

Arcot was busy. In the great empty space that had been left, he
installed a second collector coil as gigantic as the main artificial
matter generator. Then he repaired the broken ray feed, and it, and the
companion coil which, with it, had been in the severed nose section,
were now in the same relative position to the new collector coil that
they had had with relation to the artificial matter coil. Next Arcot
built two more ray feeds. Now in the gigantic central power room there
loomed two tremendous power collectors, and six smaller ray feed

His next work was to reconnect the severed connectors and controls. Then
he began work on the really new apparatus. Nothing he had constructed so
far was more than a duplicate of existing apparatus, and he had been
able to do it almost instantly, from memory. Now he must vision
something new to his experience, and something that was forced to exist
in part in this space, and partly in another. He tried four times before
the apparatus had been completed correctly, and the work occupied ten
hours. But at last it was done. The _Thought_ was ready now for the

"Got it right at last?" asked Wade. "I hope so."

"It's right--tried it a little. I don't think you noticed it. I'm going
down now to give them a nice little dose," said Arcot grimly. His ship
was repaired--but they had caused him plenty of trouble.

"How long have we been out here, their time?" asked Wade.

"About an hour and a half." The _Thought_ had been on the time field at
all times save when the Thessian fleet attacked.

"I think, Earthman, that you are tired, and should rest, lest you make a
tired thought and do great harm," suggested Zezdon Afthen.

"I want to finish it!" replied Arcot, sharply. He was tired.

In seconds the _Thought_ was once more over that fortified station in
the mountains--and the triple-ray reached out--and suddenly, about the
ship, was a wall of absolute, utter blackness. The triple-ray touched
it, and exploded into coruscating, blinding energy. It could not
penetrate it. More energy lashed at the wall of blackness as the
operators within the sphere-fort turned in the energy of all the
generators under their control. The ground about the fort was a great
lake of dazzling lava as far as the eye could see, for the triple-ray
was releasing its energy, and the wall of black was releasing an equal,
and opposing energy!

"Stopped!" cried Arcot happily. "Now here is where we give them
something to think about. The magnet and the heat!"

He turned the two enormous forces simultaneously on the point where he
knew the fort was, though it was invisible behind the wall of black that
protected him. From his side, the energy of the spot where all the
system of Thett was throwing its forces, was invisible.

Then he released them. Instantly there was a terrific gout of light on
that wall of blackness. The ship trembled, and space turned gray about
them. The black wall dissolved into grayness in one spot, as a flood of
energy beyond comprehension exploded from it. The enormously strong
cosmium wall dented as the pressure of the escaping radiation struck it,
and turned X-ray hot under the minute percentage it absorbed. The
triple-ray bent away, and faded to black as the cosmic force playing
about it, actually twisted space beyond all power of its mechanism to
overcome. Then, in the tiniest fraction of a second it was over, and
again there was blackness and only the brilliant, blinding blue of the
cosmium wall testified to its enormous temperature, cooling now far more
slowly through green to red.

"Lord--you're right, Zezdon Afthen. I'm going to sleep," called Arcot.
And the ship was suddenly far, far away from Thett. Morey took over, and
Arcot slept. First Morey straightened the uninjured wall and ironed out
the dents.

"What, Morey, is the wall of Blackness?" asked Stel Felso Theu.

"It's solid matter. A thing that you never saw before. That wall of
matter is made of a double layer of protons lying one against the other.
It absorbs absolutely every and all radiation, and because it is solid
matter, not tiny sprinklings of matter in empty space, as is the matter
of even the densest star, it stops the triple-ray. That matter is
nothing but protons; there are no electrons there, and the positive
electrical field is inconceivably great, but it is artificial matter,
and that electrical field exerts its strain not in pulling and
electrifying other bodies, but in holding space open, in keeping it from
closing in about that concentrated matter, just as it does about a
single proton, except that here the entire field energy is so absorbed.

"Arcot was tired, and forgot. He turned his magnet and his heat against
it. The heat fought the solid matter with the same energy that created
it, and with an energy that had resources as great. The magnet curved
space about it, and about us. The result was the terrific energy release
you saw, and the hole in the wall. All Thett couldn't make any
impression on it. One of the rays blasted a hole in it," said Morey with
a laugh. For he, too, loved this mighty thing, the almost living ideas
of his friend's brain.

"But it is as bad as the space defense. It works both ways. We can't
send through it but neither can they. Any thing we use that attacks
them, attacks it, and so destroys it--and it fights."

"We're worse off than ever!" said Morey gloomily.

"My friend, you, too, are tired. Sleep, sleep soundly, sleep till I
call--sleep!" And Morey slept under Zezdon Afthen's will, till Torlos
carried him gently to his room. Then Afthen let the sleep relax to a
natural one. Wade decided he might as well follow under his own power,
for now he knew he was tired, and could not overcome Zezdon Afthen, who
was not.

       *       *       *       *       *

On Thett, the fort was undestroyed, and now floating on its power units
in a sea of blazing lava. Within, men were working quickly to install a
second set of the new tubes in the molecular motion ray screen, and
other men were transmitting the orders of the Sthanto who had come here
as the place of actually greatest safety.

"Order all battleships to the nearest power-feed station, and command
that all power available be transmitted to the station attacked. I
believe it will be this one. There is no limit on the power transmission
lines, and we need all possible power," he commanded his son, now in
charge of all land and spatial forces.

"And Ranstud, what happened to that molecular ray screen?"

"I do not know. I cannot understand such power.

"But what most worries me is his wall of darkness," said Ranstud

"But he was forced to retire for all his wall of darkness, as you saw.

"He can maintain it but a short time, and it was full of holes when he

"Old Sthanto is much too confident, I believe," said an assistant
working at one of the great boards in the enemy's fort, to one of his
friends. "And I think he has lost his science-knowledge. Any power-man
could tell what happened. They tried to use their own big rays against
us, and their screen stopped them from going out, just as it stopped
ours on the way in. Ours had been working at it for seconds, and hadn't
bothered them. Then for a bare instant their ray touched it--and they
retired. That shield of blackness is absolutely new."

"They have many men on that ship of theirs," replied his friend, helping
to lift the three hundred ton load of a vacuum tube into place, "for it
is evident that they built new apparatus, and it is evident their ship
was increased in size to contain it. Also the nose was repaired. They
probably worked under a time field, for they accomplished an impossible
amount of work in the period they were gone."

Ranstud had come up behind them, and overheard the later part of this
conversation. "And what," he asked suddenly, "did your meters tell you
when our ray opened his ship?"

"Councilor of Science-wisdom, they told us that our power diminished,
and our generators gave off but little power when his power was
exceedingly little, we still had much."

"Have you heard the myth of the source of his power, in the story that
he gets it from all the stars of the Island?"

"We have, Great Councilor. And I for one believe it, for he sucked the
power from our generators. So might he suck the power from the
inconceivably greater generators of the Suns. I believe that we should
treat with them, for if they be like the peace-loving fools of Venone,
we might win a respite in which to learn their secret."

Ranstud walked away slowly. He agreed, in his heart, but he loved life
too well to tell the Sthanto what to do, and he had no intention of
sacrificing himself for the possible good of the race.

So they prepared for another attack of the _Thought_, and waited.

Chapter XXVI


"What we must find," said Arcot, between contented puffs, for he had
slept well, and his breakfast had been good, "is some weapon which will
attack them, but won't attack us. The question is, what is it? And I
think, I think--I know." His eyes were dreamy, his thoughts so
cryptically abbreviated that not even Morey could follow them.

"Fine--what is it?" asked Morey after vainly striving to deduce some
sense from the formulas that were chasing through Arcot's thoughts. Here
and there he recognized them: Einstein's energy formula, Planck's
quantum formulas, Nitsu Thansi's electron interference formulas,
Stebkowfski's proton interference, Williamson's electric field, and his
own formulas appeared, and others so abbreviated he could not recognize

"Do you remember what Dad said about the way the Thessians made the
giant forts out in space--hauled matter from the moon and transformed it
to lux and relux. Remember, I said then I thought it might be a ray--but
found it wasn't what I thought? I want to to use the ray I was thinking
of. The only question in my mind is--what is going to happen to us when
I use it?"

"What's the ray?"

"Why is it, Morey, that an electron falls through the different quantum
energy levels, falls successively lower and lower till it reaches its
'lowest energy level,' and can radiate no more. Why can't it fill
another step, and reach the proton? Why has it no more quanta to
release? We know that electrons tend to fall always to lower energy
level orbits. Why do they stop?"

"And," said Morey, his own eyes dreamily bright now, "what would happen
if it did? If it fell all the way?"

"I cannot follow your thoughts, Earthmen, beyond a glimpse of an
explosion. And it seems it is Thett that is exploding, and that Thett is
exploding itself. Can you explain?" asked Stel Felso Theu.

"Perhaps--you know that electrons in their planetary orbits, so called,
tend to fall away to orbits of lower energy, till they reach the lowest
energy orbit, and remain fixed till more energy comes and is absorbed,
driving them out again. Now we want to know why they don't fall lower,
fall all the way? As a matter of fact, thanks to some work I did last
year with disintegrating lead, we do know. And thanks to the absolute
stability of artificial matter, we can handle such a condition.

"The thing we are interested in is this: Artificial matter has no
tendency to radiate, its electrons have no tendency to fall into the
proton, for the matter is created, and remains as it was created. But
natural matter does have a tendency to let the electron fall into the
proton. A force, the 'lowest energy wall,' over which no electron can
jump, caused by the enormous space distorting of the proton's mass and
electrical attraction, prevents it. What we want to do is to remove that
force, iron it out. Requires inconceivable power to do so in a mass the
size of Thett-but then--!

"And here's what will happen: Our wall of protonic material won't be
affected by it in the least, because it has no tendency to collapse, as
has normal matter, but Thett, beyond the wall, _has_ that tendency, and
the ray will release the energy of every planetary electron on Thett,
and every planetary electron will take with it the energy of one proton.
And it will take about one one-hundred-millionth of a second. Thett will
disappear in one instantaneous flash of radiation, radiation in the high

"Here's the trouble: Thett represents a mass as great as our sun. And
our sun can throw off energy at the present rate of one sol for a period
of some ten million million years, three and a half million tons of
matter a second for ten million years. If all of that went up in _one
one-hundred-millionth of a second_, how many sols?" asked Morey.

"Too many, is all I can say. Even this ship couldn't maintain its walls
of energy against that!" declared Stel Felso Theu, awed by the thought.

"But that same power would be backing this ship, and helping it to
support its wall. We would operate from--half a million miles."

"We will. If we are destroyed--so is Thett, and all the worlds of Thett.
Let that flood of energy get loose, and everything within a dozen light
years will be destroyed. We will have to warn the Venonians, that their
people on nearby worlds may escape in the time before the energy reaches
them," said Arcot slowly.

The _Thought_ started toward one of the nearer suns, and as it went,
Arcot and Morey were busy with the calculators. They finished their
work, and started back from that world, having given their message of
warning, with the artificial matter constructors. When they reached
Thett, less than a quarter of an hour of Thessian time had passed. But,
before they reached Thett, Arcot's viewplates were blinded for an
instant as a terrific flood of energy struck the artificial matter
protectors, and caused them to flame into defense. Thett's satellite was
sending its message of instantaneous destruction. That terrific ray had
reached it, touched it, and left it a shattered, glowing ball of

"There won't be even that left when we get through with Thett!" said
Arcot grimly. The apparatus was finished, and once more they were over
the now fiery-red lava sea that had been mountains. The fort was still
in action. Arcot had cut a sheet of sheer energy now, and as the
triple-ray struck it, he knew what would happen. It did. The triple-ray
shunted off at an angle of forty-five degrees in the energy field, and
spread instantly to a diffused beam of blackness. Arcot's molecular
reached out. The lava was instantly black, and mountains of ice were
forming over the struggling defenses of the fort. The molecular screen
was working.

"I'd like to know how they make tubes that'll stand that, Morey," said
Arcot, pointing to an instrument that read .01 millisols. "They have
tubes now, that would have wiped us out in minutes, seconds before

The triple-ray snapped off. They were realigning it to hit the ship now,
correcting for the shield. Arcot threw out his protonic shield, and
retreated to half a million miles, as he had said.

"Here goes." But before even his thoughts could send Theft to radiation,
the entire side of the planet blazed suddenly incandescent. Thett was
learning what had happened when their ray had wounded the _Thought_.

And then, in the barest instant of time, there was no Thett. There was
an instant of intolerable radiation, then momentary blackness, and then
the stars were shining where Thett had been. Thett was utterly gone.

But Arcot did not see this. About him there was a tremendous roar,
titanic generator-converters that had not so much as hummed under the
impact of Thett's greatest weapons, whined and shuddered now. The two
enormous generators, the blackness of the protonic shield, and the great
artificial matter generator, throwing an inner shield impervious to the
cosmics Thett gave off as it vanished, both were whining. And the six
smaller machines, which Arcot had succeeded in interconnecting with the
protonic generator, were whining too. Space was weirdly distorted,
glowing gray about them, the great generators struggling to maintain the
various walls of protecting power against the surge of energy as Thett,
a world of matter, disintegrated.

But the Very energy that fought to destroy those walls was absorbed in
defending it, and by that much the attacking energy was lessened. Still,
it seemed hours, days that the battle of forces continued.

Then it was over, and the skies were clear once more as Arcot lowered
the protonic screen silently. The white sky of Thett was gone, and only
the black starriness of space remained.

"_It's gone!_" gasped Torlos. He had been expecting it--still, the
disappearance of a world--

"We will have to do no more. No ships had time to escape, and the risk
we run is too great," said Morey slowly. "The escaping energy from that
world will destroy the others of this system as completely, and it will
probably cause the sun itself to blow up--perhaps to form new planets,
and so the process repeats itself. But Venone knows better now, and
their criminals will not populate more worlds.

"And we can go--home. To our little dust specks."

"But they're wonderfully welcome dust specks, and utterly important to
us, Earthman," reminded Zezdon Afthen.

"Let us go then," said Arcot.

       *       *       *       *       *

It was dusk, and the rose tints of the recently-set sun still hung on
the clouds that floated like white bits of cotton in the darkening blue
sky. The dark waters of the little lake, and the shadowy tree-clad hills
seemed very beautiful. And there was a little group of buildings down
there, and a broad cleared field. On the field rested a shining, slim
shape, seventy-five feet long, ten feet in diameter.

But all, the lake, the mountains even, were dwarfed by the silent,
glistening ruby of a gigantic machine that settled very, very slowly,
and very, very gently downward. It touched the rippled surface of the
lake with scarcely a splash, then hung, a quarter submerged in that

Lights were showing in the few windows the huge bulk had, and lights
showed now in the buildings on the shore. Through an open door light was
streaming, casting silhouettes of two men. And now a tiny door opened in
the enormous bulk that occupied the lake, and from it came five figures,
that floated up, and away, and toward the cottage.

"Hello, Son. You have been gone long," said Arcot, senior, gravely, as
his son landed lightly before him.

"I thought so. Earth has moved in her orbit. More than six months?"

His father smiled a bit wryly. "Yes. Two years and three months. You got
caught in another time field and thrown the other way this time?"

"Time and force. Do you know the story yet?"

"Part of it--Venone sent a ship to us within a month of the time you
left, and said that all Thett's system had disappeared save for one
tremendous gas cloud--mostly hydrogen. Their ships were met by such a
blast of cosmic rays as they came toward Thett that the radiation
pressure made it almost impossible to advance. There were two distinct
waves. One was rather slighter, and was more in the gamma range, so they
suspected that two bodies had been directly destroyed; one small one,
and one large one were reduced completely to cosmics. Your warning to
Sentfenn was taken seriously, and they have vacated all planets near. It
was the force field created when you destroyed Thett that threw you
forward? Where are the others?"

"Zezdon Afthen and Zezdon Inthel we took home, and dropped in their
power suits, without landing. Stel Felso Theu as well. We will visit
them later."

"Have you eaten? Then let us eat, and after supper we'll tell you what
little there is to tell."

"But Arcot," said Morey slowly, "I understand that Dad will be here
soon, so let us wait. And I have something of which I have not spoken to
you as yet. Worked it out and made it on the back trip. Installed in the
_Thought_ with the _Banderlog_'s controls. It is--well, will you
look?--Fuller! Come and see the new toy you designers are going to have
to work on!"

They had all been depressed by the thought of their long absence, by the
scenes of destruction they had witnessed so recently. They were
beginning to feel better.

"Watch." Morey's thoughts concentrated. The _Thought_ outside had been
left on locked controls, but the apparatus Morey had installed responded
to his thoughts from this distance.

Before them in the room appeared a cube that was obviously copper. It
stayed there but a moment, beaming brightly, then there was a snapping
of energies about them--and it dropped to the floor and rang with the

"It was not created from the air," said Morey simply.

"And now," said Arcot, looking at it, "Man can do what never before was
possible. From the nothingness of Space he can make anything.

"Man alone in this space is Creator and Destroyer.

"It is a high place.

"May he henceforth live up to it."

And he looked out toward the mighty starlit hull that had destroyed a
solar system--and could create another.

       *       *       *       *       *

Books by JOHN W. CAMPBELL in Ace editions:





*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Invaders from the Infinite" ***

Doctrine Publishing Corporation provides digitized public domain materials.
Public domain books belong to the public and we are merely their custodians.
This effort is time consuming and expensive, so in order to keep providing
this resource, we have taken steps to prevent abuse by commercial parties,
including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.