skylark threeby edward elmer smith author's note:to all profound thinkers in the realms of science who may chance to read skylark three,greetings: i have taken certain liberties with severalmore or less commonly accepted theories, but i assure you that those theories have notbeen violated altogether in ignorance. some of them i myself believe sound, others i considerunsound, still others are out of my line, so that i am not well enough informed upontheir basic mathematical foundations to have come to any definite conclusion, one way orthe other. whether or not i consider any theory sound, i did not hesitate to disregard it,if its literal application would have interfered
with the logical development of the story.in "the skylark of space" mrs. garby and i decided, after some discussion, to allow twomathematical impossibilities to stand. one of these immediately became the target ofcritics from maine to california and, while no astronomer has as yet called attentionto the other, i would not be surprised to hear about it, even at this late date.while i do not wish it understood that i regard any of the major features of this story aslikely to become facts in the near futureâ€”indeed, it has been my aim to portray the highly improbableâ€”itis my belief that there is no mathematical or scientific impossibility to be found in"skylark three." in fact, even though i have repeatedly violatedtheories in which i myself believe, i have
in every case taken great pains to make certainthat the most rigid mathematical analysis of which i am capable has failed to show thati have violated any known and proven scientific fact. by "fact" i do not mean the kind ofreasoning, based upon assumptions later shown to be fallacious, by which it was "proved"that the transatlantic cable and the airplane were scientifically impossible. i refer todefinitely known phenomena which no possible future development can changeâ€”i refer tomathematical proofs whose fundamental equations and operations involve no assumptions andcontain no second-degree uncertainties. please bear in mind that we know very little.it has been widely believed that the velocity of light is the limiting velocity, and manyof our leading authorities hold this viewâ€”but
it cannot be proved, and is by no means universallyheld. in this connection, it would appear that j. j. thompson, in "beyond the electron"shows, to his own satisfaction at least, that velocities vastly greater than that of lightare not only possible, but necessary to any comprehensive investigation into the natureof the electron. we do not know the nature of light. neitherthe undulatory theory nor the quantum theory are adequate to explain all observed phenomena,and they seem to be mutually exclusive, since it would seem clear by definition that noone thing can be at the same time continuous and discontinuous. we know nothing of theetherâ€”we do not even know whether or not it exists, save as a concept of our own extremelylimited intelligence. we are in total ignorance
of the ultimate structure of matter, and ofthe arrangement and significance of those larger aggregations of matter, the galaxies.we do not know nor understand, nor can we define, even such fundamental necessitiesas time and space. why prate of "the impossible"?edward elmer smith, ph.d. end of author's notechapter i duquesne goes travelingin the innermost private office of steel, brookings and duquesne stared at each otheracross the massive desk. duquesne's voice was cold, his black brows were drawn together."get this, brookings, and get it straight. i'm shoving off at twelve o'clock tonight.my advice to you is to lay off richard seaton,
absolutely. don't do a thing. nothing, holdeverything. keep on holding it until i get back, no matter how long that may be," duquesneshot out in an icy tone. "i am very much surprised at your change offront, doctor. you are the last man i would have expected to be scared off after one engagement.""don't be any more of a fool than you have to, brookings. there's a lot of differencebetween scared and knowing when you are simply wasting effort. as you remember, i tried toabduct mrs. seaton by picking her off with an attractor from a space-ship. i would havebet that nothing could have stopped me. well, when they located meâ€”probably with an automaticosnomian ray-detectorâ€”and heated me red-hot while i was still better than two hundredmiles up, i knew then and there that they
had us stopped; that there was nothing wecould do except go back to my plan, abandon the abduction idea, and eventually kill themall. since my plan would take time, you objected to it, and sent an airplane to drop a five-hundred-poundbomb on them. airplane, bomb, and all simply vanished. it didn't explode, you remember,just flashed into light and disappeared, with scarcely any noise. then you pulled severalmore of your fool ideas, such as long-range bombardment, and so on. none of them worked.still you've got the nerve to think that you can get them with ordinary gunmen! i've drawnyou diagrams and shown you figuresâ€”i've told you in great detail and in one-syllablewords exactly what we're up against. now i tell you again that they've got something.if you had the brains of a pinhead, you would
know that anything i can't do with a space-shipcan't be done by a mob of ordinary gangsters. i'm telling you, brookings, that you can'tdo it. my way is absolutely the only way that will work.""but five years, doctor!" "i may be back in six months. but on a tripof this kind anything can happen, so i am planning on being gone five years. even thatmay not be enoughâ€”i am carrying supplies for ten years, and that box of mine in thevault is not to be opened until ten years from today.""but surely we shall be able to remove the obstructions ourselves in a few weeks. wealways have." "oh, quit kidding yourself, brookings! thisis no time for idiocy! you stand just as much
chance of killing seatonâ€”â€”""please, doctor, please don't talk like that!" "still squeamish, eh? your pussyfooting alwaysdid give me an acute pain. i'm for direct action, word and deed, first, last, and allthe time. i repeat, you have exactly as much chance of killing richard seaton as a blindkitten has." "how do you arrive at that conclusion, doctor?you seem very fond of belittling our abilities. personally, i think that we shall be ableto attain our objectives within a few weeksâ€”certainly long before you can possibly return from suchan extended trip as you have in mind. and since you are so fond of frankness, i willsay that i think that seaton has you buffaloed, as you call it. nine-tenths of these wonderfulosnomian things, i am assured by competent
authorities, are scientifically impossible,and i think that the other one-tenth exists only in your own imagination. seaton was luckyin that the airplane bomb was defective and exploded prematurely; and your space-shipgot hot because of your injudicious speed through the atmosphere. we shall have everythingsettled by the time you get back." "if you have, i'll make you a present of thecontrolling interest in steel and buy myself a chair in some home for feeble-minded oldwomen. your ignorance and unwillingness to believe any new idea do not change the factsin any particular. even before they went to osnome, seaton was hard to get, as you foundout. on that trip he learned so much new stuff that it is now impossible to kill him by anyordinary means. you should realize that fact
when he kills every gangster you send againsthim. at all events be very, very careful not to kill his wife in any of your attacks, evenby accident, until after you have killed him." "such an event would be regrettable, certainly,in that it would remove all possibility of the abduction.""it would remove more than that. remember the explosion in our laboratory, that blewan entire mountain into impalpable dust? draw in your mind a nice, vivid picture of oneten times the size in each of our plants and in this building. i know that you are foolenough to go ahead with your own ideas, in spite of everything i've said; and, sincei do not yet actually control steel, i can't forbid you to, officially. but you shouldknow that i know what i'm talking about, and
i say again that you're going to make an utterfool of yourself; just because you won't believe anything possible, that hasn't been done everyday for a hundred years. i wish that i could make you understand that seaton and cranehave got something that we haven'tâ€”but for the good of our plants, and incidentally foryour own, please remember one thing, anyway; for if you forget it, we won't have a plantleft and you personally will be blown into a fine red mist. whatever you start, killseaton first, and be absolutely certain that he is definitely, completely, finally andtotally dead before you touch one of dorothy seaton's red hairs. as long as you only attackhim personally he won't do anything but kill every man you send against him. if you killher while he's still alive, thoughâ€”blooie!"
and the saturnine scientist waved both handsin an expressive pantomime of wholesale destruction. "probably you are right in that," brookingspaled slightly. "yes, seaton would do just that. we shall be very careful, until afterwe succeed in removing him." "don't worryâ€”you won't succeed. i shallattend to that detail myself, as soon as i get back. seaton and crane and their families,the directors and employees of their plants, the banks that by any possibility may harbortheir notes or solutionsâ€”in short, every person and everything standing between meand a monopoly of 'x'â€”all shall disappear." "that is a terrible program, doctor. wouldn'tthe late perkins' plan of an abduction, such as i have in mind, be better, safer and quicker?""yesâ€”except for the fact that it will not
work. i've talked until i'm blue in the faceâ€”i'veproved to you over and over that you can't abduct her now without first killing him,and that you can't even touch him. my plan is the only one that will work. seaton isn'tthe only one who learned anythingâ€”i learned a lot myself. i learned one thing in particular.only four other inhabitants of either earth or osnome ever had even an inkling of it,and they died, with their brains disintegrated beyond reading. that thing is my ace in thehole. i'm going after it. when i get it, and not until then, will i be ready to take theoffensive." "you intend starting open war upon your return?""the war started when i tried to pick off the women with my attractor. that is why iam leaving at midnight. he always goes to
bed at eleven-thirty, and i will be out ofrange of his object-compass before he wakes up. seaton and i understand each other perfectly.we both know that the next time we meet one of us is going to be resolved into his componentatoms, perhaps into electrons. he doesn't know that he's going to be the one, but ido. my final word to you is to lay offâ€”if you don't, you and your 'competent authorities'are going to learn a lot." "you do not care to inform me more fully asto your destination or your plans?" "i do not. goodbye."end of chapter i chapter iidunark visits earth martin crane reclined in a massive chair,the fingers of his right hand lightly touching
those of his left, listening attentively.richard seaton strode up and down the room before his friend, his unruly brown hair onend, speaking savagely between teeth clenched upon the stem of his reeking, battered briar,brandishing a sheaf of papers. "mart, we're stuckâ€”stopped dead. if my headwasn't made of solid blue mush i'd have had a way figured out of this thing before now,but i can't. with that zone of force the skylark would have everything imaginableâ€”withoutit, we're exactly where we were before. that zone is immense, manâ€”terrificâ€”its possibilitiesare unthinkableâ€”and i'm so cussed dumb that i can't find out how to use it intelligentlyâ€”can'tuse it at all, for that matter. by its very nature it is impenetrable to any form of matter,however applied; and this calc here," slapping
viciously the sheaf of papers containing hiscalculations, "shows that it must also be opaque to any wave whatever, propagated throughair or through ether, clear down to cosmic rays. behind it, we would be blind and helpless,so we can't use it at all. it drives me frantic! think of a barrier of pure force, impalpable,immaterial, and exerted along a geometrical surface of no thickness whateverâ€”and yetactual enough to stop even a millikan ray that travels a hundred thousand light-yearsand then goes through twenty-seven feet of solid lead just like it was so much vacuum!that's what we're up against! however, i'm going to try out that model, mart, right now.come on, guy, snap into it! let's get busy!" "you are getting idiotic again, dick," cranerejoined calmly, without moving. "you know,
even better than i do, that you are playingwith the most concentrated essence of energy that the world has ever seen. that zone offorce probably can be generatedâ€”â€”" "probably, nothing!" barked seaton. "it'sjust as evident a fact as that stool," kicking the unoffending bit of furniture half-wayacross the room as he spoke. "if you'd've let me, i'd've shown it to you yesterday!""undoubtedly, then. grant that it is impenetrable to all matter and to all known waves. supposethat it should prove impenetrable also to gravitation and to magnetism? those phenomenaprobably depend upon the ether, but we know nothing fundamental of their nature, nor ofthat of the ether. therefore your calculations, comprehensive though they are, cannot predictthe effect upon them of your zone of force.
suppose that that zone actually does set upa barrier in the ether, so that it nullifies gravitation, magnetism, and all allied phenomena;so that the power-bars, the attractors and repellers, cannot work through it? then what?as well as showing me the zone of force, you might well have shown me yourself flying offinto space, unable to use your power and helpless if you released the zone. no, we must knowmore of the fundamentals before you try even a small-scale experiment.""oh, bugs! you're carrying caution to extremes, mart. what can happen? even if gravitationshould be nullified, i would rise only slowly, heading south the angle of our latitudeâ€”that'sthirty-nine degreesâ€”away from the perpendicular. i couldn't shoot off on a tangent, as someof these hot-heads have been claiming. inertia
would make me keep pace, approximately, withthe earth in its rotation. i would rise slowlyâ€”only as fast as the tangent departs from the curvatureof the earth's surface. i haven't figured out how fast that is, but it must be prettyslow." "pretty slow?" crane smiled. "figure it out.""all rightâ€”but i'll bet it's slower than the rise of a toy balloon." seaton threw downthe papers and picked up his slide-rule, a twenty-inch trigonometrical duplex. "you'llconcede that it is allowable to neglect the radial component of the orbital velocity ofthe earth for a first approximation, won't youâ€”or shall i figure that in too?""you may ignore that factor." "all rightâ€”let's see. radius of rotationhere in washington would be cosine latitude
times equatorial radius, approximatelyâ€”callit thirty-two hundred miles. angular velocity, fifteen degrees an hour. i want secant fifteenless one times thirty-two hundred. right? secant equals one over cosineâ€”um-m-m-mâ€”onepoint oh three five. then point oh three five times thirty-two hundred. hundred and twelvemiles first hour. velocity constant with respect to sun, accelerated respecting point of departure.ouch! you win, martâ€”i'd kinda step out! well, how about this, then? i'll put on avacuum suit and carry rations. harness outside, with the same equipment i used in the testflights before we built skylark iâ€”plus the new stuff and a coil. then throw on the zone,and see what happens. there can't be any jar in taking off, and with that outfit i canget back o. k. if i go clear to jupiter!"
crane sat in silence, his keen mind consideringevery aspect of the motions possible, of velocity, of acceleration, of inertia. he already knewwell seaton's resourcefulness in crises and his physical and mental strength."as far as i can see, that might be safe," he admitted finally, "and we really shouldknow something about it besides the theory." "fine, martâ€”let's get busy! i'll be readyin five minutes. yell for the girls, will you? they'd break us off at the ankles ifwe pull anything new without letting them in on it."a few minutes later the "girls" strolled out into crane field, arms around each otherâ€”dorothyseaton, her gorgeous auburn hair framing violet eyes and vivid coloring; black-haired, dark-eyedmargaret crane.
"br-r-r, it's cold!" dorothy shivered, wrappingher coat more closely about her. "this must be the coldest day washington has seen foryears!" "it is cold," margaret agreed. "i wonder whatthey are going to do out here, this kind of weather?" as she spoke, the two men stepped out of the"testing shed"â€”the huge structure that housed their osnomian-built space-cruiser, "skylarkii." seaton waddled clumsily, wearing as he did a crane vacuum-suit which, built of fur,canvas, metal and transparent silica, braced by steel netting and equipped with air-tanksand heaters, rendered its wearer independent of outside conditions of temperature and pressure.outside this suit he wore a heavy harness
of leather, buckled about his body, shoulders,and legs, attached to which were numerous knobs, switches, dials, bakelite cases, andother pieces of apparatus. carried by a strong aluminum framework in turn supported by theharness, the universal bearing of a small power-bar rose directly above his grotesque-lookinghelmet. "what do you think you're going to do in thatthing, dickie?" dorothy called. then, knowing that he could not hear her voice, she turnedto crane. "what are you letting that precious husband of mine do now, martin? he looks asthough he were up to something." while she was speaking, seaton had snappedthe release of his face plate. "nothing much, dottie. just going to showyou-all the zone of force. mart wouldn't let
me turn it on, unless i got all cocked andprimed for a year's journey into space." "dot, what is that zone of force, anyway?"asked margaret. "oh, it's something dick got into his headduring that awful fight they had on osnome. he hasn't thought of anything else since wegot back. you know how the attractors and repellers work? well, he found out somethingfunny about the way everything acted while the mardonalians were bombarding them witha certain kind of a wave-length. he finally figured out the exact ray that did it, andfound out that if it is made strongly enough, it acts as if a repeller and attractor wereworking togetherâ€”only so much stronger that nothing can get through the boundary, eitherwayâ€”in fact, it's so strong that it cuts
anything in two that's in the way. and thefunny thing is that there's nothing there at all, really; but dick says that the forcesmeeting there, or something, make it act as though something really important were there.see?" "uh-huh," assented margaret, doubtfully, justas crane finished the final adjustments and moved toward them. a safe distance away fromseaton, he turned and waved his hand. instantly seaton disappeared from view, andaround the place where he had stood there appeared a shimmering globe some twenty feetin diameterâ€”a globe apparently a perfect spherical mirror, which darted upward andtoward the south. after a moment the globe disappeared and seaton was again seen. hewas now standing upon a hemispherical mass
of earth. he darted back toward the groupupon the ground, while the mass of earth fell with a crash a quarter of a mile away. highabove their heads the mirror again encompassed seaton, and again shot upward and southward.five times this maneuver was repeated before seaton came down, landing easily in frontof them and opening his helmet. "it's just what we thought it was, only worse,"he reported tersely. "can't do a thing with it. gravitation won't work through itâ€”barswon'tâ€”nothing will. and dark? dark! folks, you ain't never seen no darkness, nor heardno silence. it scared me stiff!" "poor little boyâ€”afraid of the dark!" exclaimeddorothy. "we saw absolute blackness in space." "not like this, you didn't. i just saw absolutedarkness and heard absolute silence for the
first time in my life. i never imagined anythinglike itâ€”come on up with me and i'll show it to you.""no you won't!" his wife shrieked as she retreated toward crane. "some other time, perhaps."seaton removed the harness and glanced at the spot from which he had taken off, wherenow appeared a hemispherical hole in the ground. "let's see what kind of tracks i left, mart,"and the two men bent over the depression. they saw with astonishment that the cut surfacewas perfectly smooth, with not even the slightest roughness or irregularity visible. even thesmallest loose grains of sand had been sheared in two along a mathematically exact hemisphericalsurface by the inconceivable force of the disintegrating copper bar."well, that sure wins theâ€”â€”"
an alarm bell sounded. without a glance around,seaton seized dorothy and leaped into the testing shed. dropping her unceremoniouslyto the floor he stared through the telescope sight of an enormous ray-generator which hadautomatically aligned itself upon the distant point of liberation of intra-atomic energywhich had caused the alarm to sound. one hand upon the switch, his face was hard and mercilessas he waited to make sure of the identity of the approaching space-ship, before he releasedthe frightful power of his generator upon it."i've been expecting duquesne to try it again," he gritted, striving to make out the visitor,yet more than two hundred miles distant. "he's out to get you, dotâ€”and this time i'm notjust going to warm him up and scare him away,
as i did last time. this time that misguidedmutt's going to get frizzled right.... i can't locate him with this small telescope, mart.line him up in the big one and give me the word, will you?""i see him, dick, but it is not duquesne's ship. it is built of transparent arenak, likethe 'kondal.' even though it seems impossible, i believe it is the 'kondal'.""maybe so, and again maybe duquesne built itâ€”or stole it. on second thought, though,i don't believe that duquesne would be fool enough to tackle us again in the same wayâ€”buti'm taking no chances.... o. k., it is the 'kondal,' i can see dunark and sitar myself,now." the transparent vessel soon neared the fieldand the four terrestrials walked out to greet
their osnomian friends. through the arenakwalls they recognized dunark, kofedix of kondal, at the controls, and saw sitar, his beautifulyoung queen, lying in one of the seats near the wall. she attempted a friendly greeting,but her face was strained as though she were laboring under a burden too great for herto bear. as they watched, dunark slipped a helmet overhis head and one over sitar's, pressed a button to open one of the doors, and supported hertoward the opening. "they mustn't come out, dick!" exclaimed dorothyin dismay. "they'll freeze to death in five minutes without any clothes on!""yes, and sitar can't stand up under our gravitation, eitherâ€”i doubt if dunark can, for long,"and seaton dashed toward the vessel, motioning
the visitor back.but misunderstanding the signal, dunark came on. as he clambered heavily through the doorhe staggered as though under an enormous weight, and sitar collapsed upon the frozen ground.trying to help her, half-kneeling over her, dunark struggled, his green skin paling toa yellowish tinge at the touch of the bitter and unexpected cold. seaton leaped forwardand gathered sitar up in his mighty arms as though she were a child.[illustration: trying to help her, half kneeling over her, dunark struggled, his green skinpaling to a yellowish tinge at the touch of the bitter and unexpected cold.]"help dunark back in, mart," he directed crisply. "hop in, girlsâ€”we've got to take these folksback up where they can live."
seaton shut the door, and as everyone layflat in the seats crane, who had taken the controls, applied one notch of power and thehuge vessel leaped upward. miles of altitude were gained before crane brought the cruiserto a stop and locked her in place with an anchoring attractor."there," he remarked calmly, "gravitation here is approximately the same as it is uponosnome." "yes," put in seaton, standing up and sheddingclothing in all directions, "and i rise to remark that we'd better undress as far asthe law allowsâ€”perhaps farther. i never did like osnomian ideas of comfortable warmth,but we can endure it by peeling down to bedrockâ€”â€”" sitar jumped up happily, completely restored,and the three women threw their arms around
each other."what a horrible, terrible, frightful world!" exclaimed sitar, her eyes widening as shethought of her first experience with our earth. "much as i love you, i shall never dare tryto visit you again. i have never been able to understand why you terrestrials wear whatyou call 'clothes,' nor why you are so terribly, brutally strong. now i really knowâ€”i willfeel the utterly cold and savage embrace of that awful earth of yours as long as i live!""oh, it's not so bad, sitar." seaton, who was shaking both of dunark's hands vigorously,assured her over his shoulder. "all depends on where you were raised. we like it thatway, and osnome gives us the pip. but you poor fish," turning again to dunark, "withall my brains inside your skull, you should
have known what you were letting yourselfin for." "that's true, after a fashion," dunark admitted,"but your brain told me that washington was hot. if i'd have thought to recalculate youractual fahrenheit degrees into our loro ... but that figures only forty-seven and, while verycold, we could have endured itâ€”wait a minute, i'm getting it. you have what you call 'seasons.'this, then, must be your 'winter.' right?" "right the first time. that's the way yourbrain works behind my pan, too. i could figure anything out all right after it happened,but hardly ever beforehandâ€”so i guess i can't blame you much, at that. but what iwant to know is, how'd you get here? it would take more than my brainsâ€”you can't see oursun from anywhere near osnome, even if you
knew exactly where to look for it.""easy. remember those wrecked instruments you threw out of skylark i when we built skylarkii?" having every minute detail of the configuration of seaton's brain engraved upon his own, dunarkspoke english in seaton's own characteristic careless fashion. only when thinking deeplyor discussing abstruse matter did seaton employ the carefully selected and precise phrasing,which he knew so well how to use. "well, none of them was beyond repair and the juice wasstill on most of them. one was an object-compass bearing on the earth. we simply fixed thebearings, put on some minor improvements, and here we are.""let us all sit down and be comfortable," he continued, changing into the kondaliantongue without a break, "and i will explain
why we have come. we are in most desperateneed of two things which you alone can supplyâ€”salt, and that strange metal, 'x'. salt i know youhave in great abundance, but i know that you have very little of the metal. you have onlythe one compass upon that planet?" "that's allâ€”one is all we set on it. however,we've got close to half a ton of the metal on handâ€”you can have all you want.""even if i took it all, which i would not like to do, that would be less than half enough.we must have at least one of your tons, and two tons would be better.""two tons! holy cat! are you going to plate a fleet of battle cruisers?""more than that. we must plate an area of copper of some ten thousand square milesâ€”infact, the very life of our entire race depends
upon it.""it's this way," he continued, as the four earth-beings stared at him in wonder. "shortlyafter you left osnome we were invaded by the inhabitants of the third planet of our fourteenthsun. luckily for us they landed upon mardonale, and in less than two days there was not asingle osnomian left alive upon that half of the planet. they wiped out our grand fleetin one brief engagement, and it was only the kondal and a few more like her that enabledus to keep them from crossing the ocean. even with our full force of these vessels, we cannotdefeat them. our regular kondalian weapons were useless. we shot explosive copper chargesagainst them of such size as to cause earthquakes all over osnome, without seriously cripplingtheir defenses. their offensive weapons are
almost irresistibleâ€”they have generatorsthat burn arenak as though it were so much paper, and a series of deadly frequenciesagainst which only a copper-driven ray screen is effective, and even that does not standup long." "how come you lasted till now, then?" askedseaton. "they have nothing like the skylark, and noknowledge of intra-atomic energy. therefore their space-ships are of the rocket type,and for that reason they can cross only at the exact time of conjunction, or whateveryou call itâ€”no, not conjunction, exactly, either, since the two planets do not revolvearound the same sun: but when they are closest together. our solar system is so complex,you know, that unless the trips are timed
exactly, to the hour, the vessels will notbe able to land upon osnome, but will be drawn aside and be lost, if not actually drawn intothe vast central sun. although it may not have occurred to you, a little reflectionwill show that the inhabitants of all the central planets, such as osnome, must perforcebe absolutely ignorant of astronomy, and of all the wonders of outer space. before yourcoming we knew nothing beyond our own solar system, and very little of that. we knew ofthe existence of only such of the closest planets as were brilliant enough to be seenin our continuous sunlight, and they were few. immediately after your coming i gaveyour knowledge of astronomy to a group of our foremost physicists and mathematicians,and they have been working ceaselessly from
space-shipsâ€”close enough so that observationscould be recalculated to osnome, and yet far enough away to afford perfect 'seeing,' asyou call it." "but i don't know any more about astronomythan a pig does about sunday," protested seaton. "your knowledge of details is, of course,incomplete," conceded dunark, "but the detailed knowledge of the best of your earthly astronomerswould not help us a great deal, since we are so far removed from you in space. you, however,have a very clear and solid knowledge of the fundamentals of the science, and that is whatwe need, above all things." "well, maybe you're right, at that. i do knowthe general theory of the motions, and i studied some celestial mechanics. i'm awfully weakon advanced theory, though, as you'll find
out when you get that far.""perhapsâ€”but since our enemies have no knowledge of astronomy whatever, it is not surprisingthat their rocket-ships can be launched only at one particularly favorable time; for thereare many planets and satellites, of which they can know nothing, to throw their vesselsoff the course. "some material essential to the operationof their war machinery apparently must come from their own planet, for they have ceasedattacking, have dug in, and are simply holding their ground. it may be that they had notanticipated as much resistance as we could offer with space-ships and intra-atomic energy.at any rate, they have apparently saved enough of that material to enable them to hold outuntil the next conjunctionâ€”i cannot think
of a better word for itâ€”shall occur. ourforces are attacking constantly, with all the armament at our command, but it is certainthat if the next conjunction is allowed to occur, it means the end of the entire kondaliannation."' "what d'you mean 'if the next conjunctionis allowed to occur?'" interjected seaton. "nobody can stop it.""i am stopping it," dunark stated quietly, grim purpose in every lineament. "that conjunctionshall never occur. that is why i must have the vast quantities of salt and 'x'. we arebuilding abutments of arenak upon the first satellite of our seventh planet, and uponour sixth planet itself. we shall cover them with plated active copper, and install chronometersto throw the switches at precisely the right
moment. we have calculated the exact times,places, and magnitudes of the forces to be used. we shall throw the sixth planet somedistance out of its orbit, and force the first satellite of the seventh planet clear outof that planet's influence. the two bodies whose motions we have thus changed will collidein such a way that the resultant body will meet the planet of our enemies in head-oncollision, long before the next conjunction. the two bodies will be of almost equal masses,and will have opposite and approximately equal velocities; hence the resultant fused or gaseousmass will be practically without velocity and will fall directly into the fourteenthsun." "wouldn't it be easier to destroy it withan explosive copper bomb?"
"easier, yes, but much more dangerous to therest of our solar system. we cannot calculate exactly the effect of the collisions we areplanningâ€”but it is almost certain that an explosion of sufficient violence to destroyall life upon the planet would disturb its motion sufficiently to endanger the entiresystem. the way we have in mind will simply allow the planet and one satellite to dropout quietlyâ€”the other planets of the same sun will soon adjust themselves to the newconditions, and the system at large will be practically unaffectedâ€”at least, so we believe."seaton's eyes narrowed as his thoughts turned to the quantities of copper and "x" requiredand to the engineering features of the project; crane's first thought was of the mathematicsinvolved in a computation of that magnitude
and character; dorothy's quick reaction wasone of pure horror. "he can't, dick! he mustn't! it would be tooghastly! it's outrageousâ€”it's unthinkableâ€”it'sâ€”it'sâ€”it's simply too horrible!" her violet eyes flamed,and margaret joined in: "that would be awful, martin. think of thedestruction of a whole planetâ€”of an entire worldâ€”with all its inhabitants! it makesme shudder, even to think of it." dunark leaped to his feet, ablaze. but beforehe could say a word, seaton silenced him. "shut up, dunark! pipe down! don't say anythingyou'll be sorry forâ€”let me tell 'em! close your mouth, i tell you!" as dunark still triedto get a word in, "i tell you i'll tell 'em, and when i tell 'em they stay told! now listen,you two girlsâ€”you're going off half-cocked
and you're both full of little red ants. whatdo you think dunark is up against? sherman chirped it when he described warâ€”and thisis a real he-war; a brand totally unknown on our earth. it isn't a question of whetheror not to destroy a populationâ€”the only question is which population is to be destroyed.one of them's got to go. remember those folks go into a war thoroughly, and there isn'ta thought, even remotely resembling our conception of mercy in any of their minds on either side.if dunark's plans go through the enemy nation will be wiped out. that is horrible, of course.but on the other hand, if we block him off from salt and 'x,' the entire kondalian nationwill be destroyed just as thoroughly and efficiently, and even more horriblyâ€”not one man, woman,or child would be spared. which nation do
you want saved? play that over a couple oftimes on your adding machine, dot, and let me know what you get."dorothy, taken aback, opened and closed her mouth twice before she found her voice."but, dick, they couldn't possibly. would they kill them all, dick? surely they wouldn'tâ€”theycouldn't." "surely they wouldâ€”and could. they doâ€”it'sgood technique in those parts of the galaxy. dunark has just told us of how they killedevery member of the entire race of mardonalians, in forty hours. kondal would go the same way.don't kid yourself, dimplesâ€”don't be a child. war up there is no species of pink tea, believemeâ€”half of my brain has been through thirty years of osnomian warfare, and i know preciselywhat i'm talking about. let's take a vote.
personally, i'm in favor of osnome. mart?""osnome." "dottie? peggy?" both remained silent forsome time, then dorothy turned to margaret. "you tell him, peggyâ€”we both feel the sameway." "dick, you know that we wouldn't want thekondalians destroyedâ€”but the other is soâ€”such aâ€”well, such an utter shrecklichkeitâ€”isn'tthere some other way out?" "i'm afraid notâ€”but if there is any otherpossible way out, i'll do my daâ€”to help find it," he promised. "the ayes have it.dunark, we'll skip over to that 'x' planet and load you up."dunark grasped seaton's hand. "thanks, dick," he said, simply. "but before you help me farther,and lest i might be in some degree sailing
under false colors, i must tell you that,wearer of the seven disks though you are, overlord of osnome though you are, my brainbrother though you are; had you decided against me, nothing but my death could have kept meaway from that salt and your 'x' compass." "why sure," assented seaton, in surprise."why not? fair enough! anybody would do the sameâ€”don't let that bother you.""how is your supply of platinum?" asked dunark. "mighty low. we had about decided to hop overthere after some. i want some of your textbooks on electricity and so on, too. i see you broughta load of platinum with you." "yes, a few hundred tons. we also broughtalong an assortment of books i knew you would be interested in, a box of radium, a few smallbags of gems of various kinds, and some of
our fabrics, sitar thought your karfedirowould like to have. while we are here, i would like to get some books on chemistry and someother things." "we'll get you the congressional library,if you want it, and anything else you think you'd like. well, gang, let's go places anddo things! what to do, mart?" "we had better drop back to earth, have thelaborers unload the platinum, and load on the salt, books, and other things. then bothships will go to the 'x' planet, as we will each want compasses on it, for future use.while we are loading, i should like to begin remodeling our instruments; to make them somethinglike these; with dunark's permission. these instruments are wonders, dickâ€”vastly aheadof anything i have ever seen. come and look
at them, if you want to see something reallybeautiful." "coming up. but say, mart, while i think ofit, we mustn't forget to install a zone-of-force apparatus on this boat, too. even though wecan't use it intelligently, it certainly would be a winner as a defense. we couldn't hurtanybody through it, of course, but if we should happen to be getting licked anywhere, allwe'd have to do would be to wrap ourselves up in it. they couldn't touch us. nothingin the ether spectrum is corkscrewy enough to get through it.""that's the second idea you've had since i've known you, dicky," dorothy smiled at crane."do you think he should be allowed to run at large, martin?""that is a real idea. we may need itâ€”you
never can tell. even if we never find anyother use for the zone of force, that one is amply sufficient to justify its installation.""yes, it would be, for youâ€”and i'm getting to be a regular safety-first simon myself,since they opened up on us. what about those instruments?" the three men gathered around the instrument-boardand dunark explained the changes he had madeâ€”and to such men as seaton and crane it was soonevident that they were examining an installation embodying sheer perfection of instrumentalcontrolâ€”a system which only those wonder instrument-makers, the osnomians, could havedevised. the new object-compasses were housed in arenak cases after setting, and the housingswere then exhausted to the highest attainable
vacuum. oscillation was set up by means ofone carefully standardized electrical impulse, instead of by the clumsy finger-touch seatonhad used. the bearings, built of arenak and osnomian jewels, were as strong as the axlesof a truck and yet were almost perfectly frictionless. "i like them myself," admitted dunark. "withouta load the needles will rotate freely more than a thousand hours on the primary impulse,as against a few minutes in the old type; and under load they are many thousands oftimes as sensitive." "you're a blinding flash and a deafening report,ace!" declared seaton, enthusiastically. "that compass is as far ahead of my model as theskylark is ahead of wright's first glider." the other instruments were no less noteworthy.dunark had adopted the perkins telephone system,
but had improved it until it was scarcelyrecognized and had made it capable of almost unlimited range. even the gunsâ€”heavy rapid-firers,mounted in spherical bearings in the wallsâ€”were aimed and fired by remote control, from theboard. he had devised full automatic steering controls; and meters and recorders for acceleration,velocity, distance, and flight-angle. he had perfected a system of periscopic vision, whichenabled the pilot to see the entire outside surfaces of the shell, and to look towardany point of the heavens without interference. "this kind of takes my eye, too, prince,"seaton said, as he seated himself, swung a large, concave disk in front of him, and experimentedwith levers and dials. "you certainly can't call this thing a periscopeâ€”it's no morea periscope than i am a polyp. when you look
through this plate, it's better than lookingout of a windowâ€”it subtends more than the angle of vision, so that you can't see anythingbut out-of-doorsâ€”i thought for a second i was going to fall out. what do you call'em, dunark?" "kraloto. that would be in english ... seeing-plate?or rather, call it 'visiplate'." "that's a good word. mart, take a look ifyou want to see a set of perfect lenses and prisms."crane looked into the visiplate and gasped. the vessel had disappearedâ€”he was lookingdirectly down upon the earth below him! "no trace of chromatic, spherical, or astigmaticaberration," he reported in surprise. "the refracting system is invisibleâ€”it seemsas though nothing intervenes between the eye
and the object. you perfected all these thingssince we left osnome, dunark? you are in a class by yourself. i could not even copy themin less than a month, and i never could have invented them.""i did not do it alone, by any means. the society of instrument-makers, of which i amonly one member, installed and tested more than a hundred systems. this one representsthe best features of all the systems tried. it will not be necessary for you to copy them.i brought along two complete duplicate sets for the skylark, as well as a dozen or soof the compasses. i thought that perhaps these particular improvements might not have occurredto you, since you terrestrials are not as familiar as we are with complex instrumentalwork."
crane and seaton spoke together."that was thoughtful of you, dunark, and we appreciated it fully.""that puts four more palms on your croix de guerre, ace. thanks a lot.""say, dick," called dorothy, from her seat near the wall. "if we're going down to theground, how about sitar?" "by lying down and not doing anything, andby staying in the vessel, where it is warm, she will be all right for the short time wemust stay here," dunark answered for his wife. "i will help all i can, but i do not knowhow much that will be." "it isn't so bad lying down." sitar agreed."i don't like your earth a bit, but i can stand it a little while. anyway, i must standit, so why worry about it?"
"'at-a-girl!" cheered seaton. "and as foryou, dunark, you'll pass the time just like sitar doesâ€”lying down. if you do much chasingaround down there where we live, you're apt to get your lights and liver twisted all outof shapeâ€”so you'll stay put, horizontal. we've got men enough around the shop to eatthis cargo in three hours, let alone unload it. while they unload and load you up, we'llinstall the zone apparatus, put a compass on you, put one of yours on us, and then youcan hop back up here where you're comfortable. then as soon as we can get the 'lark' readyfor the trip, we'll jump up here and be on our way. everything clear? cut the rope, martâ€”letthe old bucket drop!" end of chapter iichapter iii
skylark two sets out"say, mart, i just got conscious! it never occurred to me until just now, as dunark left,that i'm as good an instrument-maker as dunark isâ€”the same one, in factâ€”and i've gota hunch. you know that needle on duquesne hasn't been working for quite a while? well,i don't believe it's out of commission at all. i think he's gone somewhere, so far awaythat it can't read on him. i'm going to house it in, re-jewel it, and find out where heis." "an excellent idea. he has even you worrying,and as for myselfâ€”â€”" "worrying! that bird is simply pulling mycork! i'm so scared he'll get dottie, that i'm running around in circles and biting myselfin the small of the back. he's got a hen on,
you can bet your shirt on thatâ€”what gravelsme is he's aiming at the girls, not at us or the job.""i should say that someone had aimed at you fairly accurately, judging by the number ofbullets stopped lately by that arenak armor of yours. i wish that i could take some ofthe strain, but they are centering all their attacks upon you.""yesâ€”i can't stick my nose outside our yard without somebody throwing lead at it. it'sfunny, too. you're more important to the power-plant than i am.""you should know why. they are not afraid of me. while my spirit is willing enough,it was your skill and rapidity with a pistol that frustrated four attempts at abductionin as many days. it is positively uncanny,
the way you explode into action. with allmy practice, i didn't even have my pistol out yesterday until it was all over. and besidesprescott's guards, we had four policemen with usâ€”detailed to 'guard' usâ€”because of thenumber of gunmen you had to kill before that!" "it ain't practice so much, martâ€”it's agift. i've always been fast, and i react automatically. you think first, that's why you're slow. thosecops were funny. they didn't know what it was all about until it was all overâ€”allbut calling the wagon. that was the worst yet. one of their slugs struck directly infront of my left eyeâ€”it was kinda funny, at that, seeing it splashâ€”and i thoughti was inside a boiler in a riveting shop when those machine-guns cut loose. it was hectic,all right, while it lasted. but one thing
i'll tell the attentive worldâ€”we're notdoing all the worrying. very few, if any, of the gangsters they send after us are gettingback. wonder what they think when they shoot at us and we don't drop?"but i'm afraid i'm beginning to crack, mart," seaton went on, his voice becoming grimlyearnest. "i don't like anything about this whole mess. i don't like all four of us wearingarmor all the time. i don't like living constantly under guard. i don't like all this killing.and this constant menace of losing dorothy, if i let her out of my sight for five seconds,is driving me mad. to tell you the real truth, i'm devilishly afraid that they'll figureout something that'll work. i could grab off two women, or kill two men, if they had armorand guns enough to stock a war. i believe
that duquesne could, tooâ€”and the rest ofthat bunch aren't imbeciles, either, by any means. i won't feel safe until all four ofus are in the skylark and a long ways from here. i'm sure glad we're pulling out; andi don't intend to come back until i get a good line on duquesne. he's the bird i'm goingto get, and get rightâ€”and when i get him i'll tell the cock-eyed world he'll stay got.there won't be any two atoms of his entire carcass left in the same township. i meantthat promise when i gave it to him!" "he realizes that fully. he knows that itis now definitely either his life or our own, and he is really dangerous. when he took steelover and opened war upon us, he did it with his eyes wide open. with his ideas, he musthave a monopoly of 'x' or nothing; and he
knows the only possible way of getting it.however, you and i both know that he would not let either one of us live, even thoughwe surrendered." "you chirped it! but that guy's going to findhe's started something, unless i get paralysis of the intentions. well, how about turningup a few r. p. m.? we don't want to keep dunark waiting too long.""there is very little to do beyond installing the new instruments; and that is nearly done.we can finish pumping out the compass en route. you have already installed every weapon ofoffense and defense known to either earthly or osnomian warfare, including those ray-generatorsand screens you moaned so about not having during the battle over kondal. i believe thatwe have on board every article for which either
of us has been able to imagine even the slightestuse." "yes, we've got her so full of plunder thatthere's hardly room left for quarters. you ain't figuring on taking anybody but shiroalong, are you?" "no. i suppose there is no real necessityfor taking even him, but he wants very much to go, and may prove himself useful.""i'll say he'll be useful. none of us really enjoys polishing brass or washing dishesâ€”andbesides, he's one star cook and an a-1 housekeeper." the installation of the new instruments wassoon completed, and while dorothy and margaret made last-minute preparations for departure,the men called a meeting of the managing directors and department heads of the "seaton-craneco., engineers." the chiefs gave brief reports
in turn. units number one and number two ofthe immense new central super-power plant were in continuous operation. number threewas almost ready to cut in. number four was being rushed to completion. number five waswell under way. the research laboratory was keeping well up on its problems. troubleswere less than had been anticipated. financially, it was a gold mine. with no expense for boilersor fuel, and thus with a relatively small investment in plant and a very small operatingcost, they were selling power at one-sixth of prevailing rates, and still profits werealmost paying for all new construction. with the completion of number five, rates wouldbe reduced still further. "in short, dad, everything's slick," remarkedseaton to mr. vaneman, after the others had
gone."yes; your plan of getting the best men possible, paying them well, and giving them completeauthority and sole responsibility, has worked to perfection. i have never seen an undertakingof such size go forward so smoothly and with such fine co-operation.""that's the way we wanted it. we hand-picked the directors, and put it up to you, strictly.you did the same to the managers. everybody knows that his end is up to him, and him aloneâ€”sohe digs in." "however, dick, while everything at the worksis so fine, when is this other thing going to break?""we've won all the way so far, but i'm afraid something's about due. that's the big reasoni want to get dot away for a while. you know
what they're up to?""too well," the older man answered. "dottie or mrs. crane, or both. her motherâ€”she istelling her goodbye nowâ€”and i agree that the danger here is greater than out there.""danger out there? with the old can fixed the way she is now, dot's a lot safer therethan you are in bed. your house might fall down, you know.""you're probably right, sonâ€”i know you, and i know martin crane. together, and inthe skylark, i believe you invincible." "all set, dick?" asked dorothy, appearingin the doorway. "all set. you've got the dope for prescottand everybody dad. we may be back in six months, or we may see something to investigate, andbe gone a year or so. don't begin to lose
any sleep until after we've been outâ€”oh,say three years. we'll make it a point to be back by then."farewells were said; the party embarked, and skylark two shot upward. seaton flipped aphone set over his head and spoke. "dunark!... coming out, heading directly for'x'.... no, better stay quite a ways off to one side when we get going good.... yes, i'maccelerating twenty six point oh oh oh.... yes. i'll call you now and then, until theradio waves get lost, to check the course with you. after that, keep on the last course,reverse at the calculated distance, and by the time we're pretty well slowed down, we'llfeel around for each other with the compasses and go in together.... right.... uh-huh....fine! so long!"
in order that the two vessels should keepreasonably close together, it had been agreed that each should be held at an accelerationof exactly twenty-six feet per second, positive and negative. this figure represented a compromisebetween the gravitational forces of the two worlds upon which the different parties lived.while considerably less than the acceleration of gravitation at the surface of the earth,the terrestrials could readily accustom themselves to it; and it was not enough greater thanthat of osnome to hamper seriously the activities of the green people.well clear of the earth's influence, seaton assured himself that everything was functioningproperly, then stretched to his full height, wreathed his arms over his head, and heaveda deep sigh of relief.
"folks," he declared, "this is the first timei've felt right since we got out of this old bottle. why, i feel so good a cat could walkup to me and scratch me right in the eye, and i wouldn't even scratch back. yowp! i'ma wild siberian catamount, and this is my night to howl. whee-ee-yerow!"dorothy laughed, a gay, lilting carol. "haven't i always told you he had cat bloodin him, peggy? just like all tomcats, every once in a while he has to stretch his clawsand yowl. but go ahead, dickie, i like itâ€”this is the first uproar you've made in weeks.i believe i'll join you!" "it most certainly is a relief to get thisload off our minds: i could do a little ladylike yowling myself," margaret said; and crane,lying completely at ease, a thin spiral of
smoke curling upward from his cigarette, noddedagreement. "dick's yowling is quite expressive at times.all of us feel the same way, but some of us are unable to express ourselves quite so vividly.however, it is past bedtime, and we should organize our crew. shall we do it as we didbefore?" "no, it isn't necessary. everything is automatic.the bar is held parallel to the guiding compass, and signal bells ring whenever any of theinstruments show a trace of abnormal behavior. don't forget that there is at least one meterregistering and recording every factor of our flight. with this control system we can'tget into any such jam as we did last trip." "surely you are not suggesting that we runall night with no one at the controls?"
"exactly that. a man camping at this boardis painting the lily and gilding fine gold. awake or asleep nobody need be closer to itthan is necessary to hear a bell if one should ring, and you can hear them all over the ship.furthermore, i'll bet a hat we won't hear a signal a week. simply as added precaution,though, i've run lines so that any time one of these signals lets go, it sounds a buzzeron the head of our bed, so i'm automatically taking the night shift. remember, mart, theseinstruments are thousands of times as sensitive as the keenest human sensesâ€”they'll spottrouble long before we could, even if we were looking right at it.""of course, you understand these instruments much better than i do, as yet. if you trustthem, i am perfectly willing to do the same.
goodnight." seaton sat down and dorothy nestled besidehim, her head snuggled into the curve of his shoulder."sleepy, cuddle-pup?" "heavens, no! i couldn't sleep now, loverâ€”couldyou?" "not any. what's the use?"his arm tightened around her. apparently motionless to its passengers, the cruiser bored serenelyon into space, with ever-mounting velocity. there was not the faintest sound, not theslightest vibrationâ€”only the peculiar violet glow surrounding the shining copper cylinderin its massive universal bearing gave any indication of the thousands of kilowatts beinggenerated in the mighty intra-atomic power-plant.
seaton studied it thoughtfully."you know, if that violet aura and copper bar were a little different in shade and toneof color, they'd be just like your eyes and hair," he remarked finally."you burn me up, dick!" she retorted, her entrancing low chuckle bubbling through herwords. "you do say the weirdest things at times! possibly they wouldâ€”and if the moonwere made of different stuff than it is and had a different color, it might be green cheese,too! what say we go over and look at the stars?" "as you were, rufus!" he commanded sternly."don't move a millimeterâ€”you're a drive fit, right where you are. i'll get you anystars you want, and bring them right in here to you. what constellation would you like?i'll get you the southern crossâ€”we never
see it in washington.""no, i want something familiar; the pleiades or the big dipperâ€”no, get me canis majorâ€”'wheresirius, brightest jewel in the diadem of the firmament, holds sway'," she quoted. "there!thought i'd forgotten all the astronomy you ever taught me, didn't you? think you canfind it?" "sure. declination about minus twenty, asi remember it, and right ascension between six and seven hours. let's seeâ€”where wouldthat be from our course?" he thought for a moment, manipulated severallevers and dials, snapped off the lights, and swung number one exterior visiplate around,directly before their eyes. "oh.... oh ... this is magnificent, dick!"she exclaimed. "it's stupendous. it seems
as though we were right out there in spaceitself, and not in here at all. it's ... it's just too perfectly darn wonderful!"although neither of them was unacquainted with interstellar space, it presents a spectaclethat never fails to awe even the most seasoned observer: and no human being had ever beforeviewed the wonders of space from such a coign of vantage. thus the two fell silent and awedas they gazed out into the abysmal depths of the interstellar void. the darkness ofearthly night is ameliorated by light-rays scattered by the atmosphere: the stars twinkleand scintillate and their light is diffused, because of the same medium. but here, whata contrast! they saw the utter, absolute darkness of the complete absence of all light: andupon that indescribable blackness they beheld
superimposed the almost unbearable brillianceof enormous suns concentrated into mathematical points, dimensionless. sirius blazed in blue-whitesplendor, dominating the lesser members of his constellation, a minute but intenselybrilliant diamond upon a field of black velvetâ€”his refulgence unmarred by any trace of scintillationor distortion. as seaton slowly shifted the field of vision,angling toward and across the celestial equator and the ecliptic, they beheld in turn mightyrigel; the belt, headed by dazzlingly brilliant-white delta-orionis; red betelguese; storied aldebaran,the friend of mariners; and the astronomically constant pleiades.seaton's arm contracted, swinging dorothy into his embrace; their lips met and held."isn't it wonderful, lover," she murmured,
"to be out here in space this way, together,away from all our troubles and worries? i am so happy.""it's all of that, sweetheart mine!" "i almost died, every time they shot at you.suppose your armor cracked or something? i wouldn't want to go on livingâ€”i'd just naturallydie!" "i'm glad it didn'tâ€”and i'm twice as gladthat they didn't succeed in grabbing you away from me...." his jaw set rigidly, his grayeyes became hard as tempered drills. "blackie duquesne has something coming to him. so far,i have always paid my debts.... i shall settle with him ... in full.""that was an awfully quick change of subject," he continued, his voice changing instantlyinto a lighter vein, "but that's one penalty
of being human. we can't live in high altitudesall our livesâ€”if we could there would be no thrill in ascending them so often."yes, we love each other just the sameâ€”more than anybody else i ever heard of." aftera moment she eyed him shrewdly and continued: "you've got something on your mind besidesthat tangled mop of hair, big boy. tell it to red-top.""nothing much...." "come on, 'fess upâ€”it's good for the soul.you can't fool your own wife, guy; i know your little winning ways too well.""let me finish, woman; i was about to bare my very soul. to resumeâ€”nothing much togo on but a hunch, but i think duquesne's somewhere out here in the great open spaces,where men are sometimes schemers as well as
men; and if so, i'm after himâ€”foot, horse,and marines." "that object compass?""yes. you see, i built that thing myself, and i know darn well it isn't out of order.it's still on him, but doesn't indicate. ergo, he is too far away to reachâ€”and with hisweight, i could find him anywhere up to about one and a half light-years. if he wants togo that far away from home, where is his logical destination? it can't be anywhere but osnome,since that is the only place we stopped at for any length of timeâ€”the only place wherehe could have learned anything. he's learned something, or found something useful to himthere, just as we did. that is certain, since he is not the type of man to do anything withouta purpose. uncle dudley is on his trailâ€”and
will be able to locate him pretty soon.""when will you get that new compass-case exhausted to a skillionth of a whillimeter or something,whatever it is? i thought dunark said it took five hundred hours of pumping to get it wherehe wanted it?" "it did himâ€”but while the osnomians arewonders at some things, they're not so hot at others. you see, i've got three pumps onthat job, in series. first, a rodebush-michalek super-pump[a] then, backing that, an ordinarymercury-vapor pump, and last, backing both the others, a cenco-hyvac motor-driven oilpump. in less than fifty hours that case will be as empty as a flapper's skull. just tomake sure of cleaning up the last infinitesimal traces, though, i'm going to flash a gettercharge of tantalum in it. after that, the
atmosphere in that case will be tenuousâ€”takemy word for it." [a] j. am. chem. soc. 51: 3, 750."i'll have to; most of that contribution to science being over my head like a circus tent.what say we let skylark two drift by herself for a while, and catch us some of nature'ssweet restorer?" end of chapter iiichapter iv the zone of force is testedseaton strode into the control room with a small oblong box in his hand. crane was seatedat the desk, poring over an abstruse mathematical treatise in science. margaret was workingupon a bit of embroidery. dorothy, seated upon a cushion on the floor with one foottucked under her, was reading, her hand straying
from time to time to a box of chocolates convenientlynear. "well, this is a peaceful, home-like sceneâ€”toobad to bust it up. just finished sealing off and flashing out this case, mart. going tosee if she'll read. want to take a look?" he placed the compass upon the plane table,so that its final bearing could be read upon the master circles controlled by the gyroscopes;then simultaneously started his stop-watch and pressed the button which caused a minutecouple to be applied to the needle. instantly the needle began to revolve, and for manyminutes there was no apparent change in its motion in either the primary or secondarybearings. "do you suppose it is out of order, afterall?" asked crane, regretfully.
"i don't think so," seaton pondered. "yousee, they weren't designed to indicate such distances on such small objects as men, soi threw a million ohms in series with the impulse. that cuts down the free rotationto less than half an hour, and increases the sensitivity to the limit. there, isn't shetrying to quit it?" "yes, it is settling down. it must be on himstill." finally the ultra-sensitive needle came to rest. when it had done so, seatoncalculated the distance, read the direction, and made a reading upon osnome."he's there, all right. bearings agree, and distances check to within a light-year, whichis as close as we can hope to check on as small a mass as a man. well, that's thatâ€”nothingto do about it until after we get there. one
sure thing, martâ€”we're not coming straightback home from 'x'." "no, an investigation is indicated.""well, that puts me out of a job. what to do? don't want to study, like you. can't crochet,like peg. darned if i'll sit cross-legged on a pillow and eat candy, like that titianblonde over there on the floor. i know whatâ€”i'll build me a mechanical educator and teach shiroto talk english instead of that mess of language he indulges in. how'd that be, mart?""don't do it," put in dorothy, positively. "he's just too perfect the way he is. especiallydon't do it if he'd talk the way you doâ€”or could you teach him to talk the way you write?""ouch! that's a dirty dig. however, mrs. seaton, i am able and willing to defend my customarymode of speech. you realize that the spoken
word is ephemeral, whereas the thought, whosenuances have once been expressed in imperishable print is not subject to revisionâ€”its cruditiescan never be remodeled into more subtle, more gracious shading. it is my contention that,due to these inescapable conditions, the mental effort necessitated by the employment of nicedistinctions in sense and meaning of words and a slavish adherence to the dictates ofthe more precise grammarians should be reserved for the print...."he broke off as dorothy, in one lithe motion, rose and hurled her pillow at his head."choke him, somebody! perhaps you had better build it, dick, after all.""i believe that he would like it, dick. he is trying hard to learn, and the continuoususe of a dictionary is undoubtedly a nuisance
to him.""i'll ask him. shiro!" "you have call, sir?" shiro entered the roomfrom his galley, with his unfailing bow. "yes. how'd you like to learn to talk englishlike crane there doesâ€”without taking lessons?" shiro smiled doubtfully, unable to take sucha thought seriously. "yes, it can be done," crane assured him."doctor seaton can build a machine which will teach you all at once, if you like.""i like, sir, enormously, yes, sir. i years study and pore, but honorable english extraordinarydifference from nipponeseâ€”no can do. dictionary useful but ..." he flipped pages dexterously,"extremely cumbrous. if honorable seaton can do, shall be extreme ... gratification."he bowed again, smiled, and went out.
"i'll do just that little thing. so long,folks, i'm going up to the shop." day after day the skylark plunged throughthe vast emptiness of the interstellar reaches. at the end of each second she was travelingexactly twenty-six feet per second faster than she had been at its beginning; and asday after day passed, her velocity mounted into figures which became meaningless, evenwhen expressed in thousands of miles per second. still she seemed stationary to her occupants,and only different from a vessel motionless upon the surface of the earth in that objectswithin her hull had lost three-sixteenths of their normal weight. acceleration, too,had its effect. only the rapidity with which the closer suns and their planets were passedgave any indication of the frightful speed
at which they were being hurtled along bythe inconceivable power of that disintegrating copper bar.when the vessel was nearly half-way to "x," the bar was reversed in order to change thesign of their acceleration, and the hollow sphere spun through an angle of one hundredand eighty degrees around the motionless cage which housed the enormous gyroscopes. stillapparently motionless and exactly as she had been before, the skylark was now actuallytraveling in a direction which seemed "down" and with a velocity which was being constantlydecreased by the amount of their negative acceleration.a few days after the bar had been reversed seaton announced that the mechanical educatorwas complete, and brought it into the control
room.in appearance it was not unlike a large radio set, but it was infinitely more complex. itpossessed numerous tubes, kino-lamps, and photo-electric cells, as well as many coilsof peculiar designâ€”there were dozens of dials and knobs, and a multiple set of head-harnesses."how can a thing like that possibly work as it does?" asked crane. "i know that it doeswork, but i could scarcely believe it, even after it had educated me.""that is nothing like the one dunark used, dick," objected dorothy. "how come?""i'll answer you first, dot. this is an improved modelâ€”it has quite a few gadgets of my ownin it. now, mart, as to how it worksâ€”it isn't so funny after you understand itâ€”it'sa lot like radio in that respect. it operates
on a band of frequencies lying between thelongest light and heat waves and the shortest radio waves. this thing here is the generatorof those waves and a very heavy power amplifier. the headsets are stereoscopic transmitters,taking or receiving a three-dimensional view. nearly all matter is transparent to thosewaves; for instance bones, hair, and so on. however, cerebin, a cerebroside peculiar tothe thinking structure of the brain, is opaque to them. dunark, not knowing chemistry, didn'tknow why the educator worked or what it worked onâ€”he found out by experiment that it didwork; just as we found out about electricity. this three-dimensional model, or view, orwhatever you want to call it, is converted into electricity in the headsets, and theresulting modulated wave goes back to the
educator. there it is heterodyned with anotherwaveâ€”this second frequency was found after thousands of trials and is, i believe, theexact frequency existing in the optic nerves themselvesâ€”and sent to the receiving headset.modulated as it is, and producing a three-dimensional picture, after rectification in the receiver,it reproduces exactly what has been 'viewed,' if due allowance has been made for the sizeand configuration of the different brains involved in the transfer. you remember a sortof flashâ€”a sensation of seeing somethingâ€”when the educator worked on you? well, you didsee it, just as though it had been transmitted to the brain by the optic nerve, but everythingcame at once, so the impression of sight was confused. the result in the brain, however,was clear and permanent. the only drawback
is that you haven't the visual memory of whatyou have learned, and that sometimes makes it hard to use your knowledge. you don't knowwhether you know anything about a certain subject or not until after you go diggingaround in your brain looking for it." "i see," said crane, and dorothy, the irrepressible,put in: "just as clear as so much mud. what are theimprovements you added to the original design?" "well, you see, i had a big advantage in knowingthat cerebrin was the substance involved, and with that knowledge i could carry mattersconsiderably farther than dunark could in his original model. i can transfer the thoughtsof somebody else to a third party or to a record. dunark's machine couldn't work againstresistanceâ€”if the subject wasn't willing
to give up his thoughts he couldn't get them.this one can take them away by force. in fact, by increasing plate and grid voltages in theamplifier, i can pretty nearly burn out a man's brain. yesterday, i was playing withit, transferring a section of my own brain to a magnetized tapeâ€”for a permanent record,you knowâ€”and found out that above certain rather low voltages it becomes a form of torturethat would make the best efforts of the old inquisition seem like a petting party.""did you succeed in the transfer?" crane was intensely interested."sure. push the button for shiro, and we'll start something.""put your head against this screen," he directed when shiro had come in, smiling and bowingas usual. "i've got to caliper your brains
to do a good job."the calipering done, he adjusted various dials and clamped the electrodes over his own headand over the heads of crane and shiro. "want to learn japanese while we're at it,mart? i'm going to." "yes, please. i tried to learn it while iwas in japan, but it was altogether too difficult to be worth while."seaton threw in a switch, opened it, depressed two more, opened them, and threw off the power."all set," he reported crisply, and barked a series of explosive syllables at shiro,ending upon a rising note. "yes, sir," answered the japanese. "you speaknipponese as though you had never spoken any other tongue. i am very grateful to you, sir,that i may now discard my dictionary."
"how about you two girlsâ€”anything you wantto learn in a hurry?" "not me!" declared dorothy emphatically. "thatmachine is too darn weird to suit me. besides, if i knew as much about science as you do,we'd probably fight about it." "i do not believe i care to...." began margaret.she was interrupted by the penetrating sound of an alarm bell."that's a new note!" exclaimed seaton, "i never heard that note before."he stood in surprise at the board, where a brilliant purple light was flashing slowly."great cat! that's a purely osnomian war-gadgetâ€”kind of a battleship detectorâ€”shows that there'sa boatload of bad news around here somewhere. grab the visiplates quick, folks," as he rangshiro's bell. "i'll take visiplate area one,
dead ahead. mart, take number two. dot, three;peg, four; shiro, five. look sharp!... nothing in front. see anything, any of you?" none of them could discover anything amiss,but the purple light continued to flash, and the bell to ring. seaton cut off the bell."we're almost to 'x'," he thought aloud. "can't be more than a million miles or so, and we'realmost stopped. wonder if somebody's there ahead of us? maybe dunark is doing this, though.i'll call him and see." he threw in a switch and said one wordâ€”"dunark!""here!" came the voice of the kofedix from the speaker. "are you generating?""noâ€”just called to see if you were. what do you make of it?""nothing as yet. better close up?"
"yes, edge over this way and i'll come overto meet you. leave your negative as it isâ€”we'll be stopped directly. whatever it is, it'sdead ahead. it's a long ways off yet, but we'd better get organized. wouldn't talk much,eitherâ€”they may intercept our wave, narrow as it is.""better yet, shut off your radio entirely. when we get close enough together, we'll usethe hand-language. you may not know that you know it, but you do. turn your heaviest searchlighttoward meâ€”i'll do the same." there was a click as dunark's power was shutoff abruptly, and seaton grinned as he cut his own."that's right, too, folks. in osnomian battles we always used a sign-language when we couldn'thear anythingâ€”and that was most of the time.
i know it as well as i know english, now thati am reminded of the fact." he shifted his course to intercept that ofthe osnomian vessel. after a time the watchers picked out a minute point of light, movingcomparatively rapidly against the stars, and knew it to be the searchlight of the kondal.soon the two vessels were almost side by side, moving cautiously forward, and seaton setup a sixty-inch parabolic reflector, focused upon a coil. as they went on, the purple lightcontinued to flash more and more rapidly, but still nothing was to be seen."take number six visiplate, will you, mart? it's telescopic, equivalent to a twenty-inchrefractor. i'll tell you where to look in a minuteâ€”this reflector increases the powerof the regular indicator." he studied meters
and adjusted dials. "set on nineteen hoursforty-three minutes, and two hundred seventy-one degrees. he's too far away yet to read exactly,but that'll put him in the field of vision." "is this radiation harmful?" asked margaret."not yetâ€”it's too weak. pretty soon we may be able to feel it; then i'll throw out ascreen against it. when it's strong enough, it's pretty deadly stuff. see anything, mart?""i see something, but it is very indistinct. it is moving in sharper now. yes, it is aspace-ship, shaped like a dirigible airship." "see it yet, dunark?" seaton signaled."just sighted it. ready to attack?" "i am not. i'm going to run. let's go, andgo fast!" dunark signaled violently, and seaton shookhis head time after time, stubbornly.
"a difficulty?" asked crane."yes. he wants to go jump on it, but i'm not looking for trouble with any such craft asthatâ€”it must be a thousand feet long and is certainly neither terrestrial nor osnomian.i say beat it while we're all in one piece. how about it?""absolutely," concurred crane and both women. the bar was reversed and the skylark leapedaway. the kondal followed, although the observers could see that dunark was raging. seaton swungnumber six visiplate around, looked once, and switched on the radio."well, dunark," he said grimly. "you get your wish. that bird is coming out, with at leasttwice the acceleration we could get with both motors full on. he saw us all the time, andwas waiting for us."
"go onâ€”get away if you can. you can standa higher acceleration than we can. we'll hold him as long as possible.""i would, if it would do any good, but it won't. he's so much faster than we are thathe could catch us anyway, if he wanted to, no matter how much of a start we hadâ€”andit looks now as though he wanted us. two of us stand a lot better chance than one of lickinghim if he's looking for trouble. spread out a mile or two, and pretend this is all thespeed we've got. what'll we give him first?" "give him everything at once. rays six, seven,eight, nine, and ten...." crane, with seaton, began making contacts, rapidly but with precision."heat wave two-seven. induction, five-eight. oscillation, everything under point oh sixthree. all the explosive copper we can get
in. right?""rightâ€”and if worse comes to worst, remember the zone of force. let him shoot first, becausehe may be peaceableâ€”but it doesn't look like olive branches to me.""got both your screens out?" "yes. mart, you might take number two visiplateand work the gunsâ€”i'll handle the rest of this stuff. better strap yourselves in solid,folksâ€”this may develop into a kind of rough party, by the looks of things right now." as he spoke, a pyrotechnic display envelopedthe entire ship as a radiation from the foreign vessel struck the other neutralizing screenand dissipated its force harmlessly in the ether. instantly seaton threw on the fullpower of his refrigerating system and shot
in the master switch that actuated the complexoffensive armament of his dreadnought of the skies. an intense, livid violet glow hid completelymain and auxiliary power bars, and long flashes leaped between metallic objects in all partsof the vessel. the passengers felt each hair striving to stand on end as the very air becamemore and more highly chargedâ€”and this was but the slight corona-loss of the frightfulstream of destruction being hurled at the other space-cruiser, now scarcely a mile away!seaton stared into number one visiplate, manipulating levers and dials as he drove the skylark hitherand yon, dodging frantically, the while the automatic focusing devices remained centeredupon the enemy and the enormous generators continued to pour forth their deadly frequencies.the bars glowed more fiercely as they were
advanced to full working loadâ€”the strangerwas one blaze of incandescent ionization, but she still fought on; and seaton noticedthat the pyrometers recording the temperature of the shell were mounting rapidly, in spiteof the refrigerators. "dunark, put everything you've got upon onespotâ€”right on the end of his nose!" as the first shell struck the mark, seatonconcentrated every force at his command upon the designated point. the air in the skylarkcrackled and hissed and intense violet flames leaped from the bars as they were driven almostto the point of disruption. from the forward end of the strange craft there erupted prominenceafter prominence of searing, unbearable flame as the terrific charges of explosive copperstruck the mark and exploded, liberating instantaneously
their millions upon millions of kilowatt-hoursof intra-atomic energy. each prominence enveloped all three of the fighting vessels and extendedfor hundreds of miles out into spaceâ€”but still the enemy warship continued to hurlforth solid and vibratory destruction. a brilliant orange light flared upon the panel,and seaton gasped as he swung his visiplate upon his defenses, which he had supposed impregnable.his outer screen was already down, although its mighty copper generator was exerting itsutmost power. black areas had already appeared and were spreading rapidly, where there shouldhave been only incandescent radiance; and the inner screen was even now radiating farinto the ultra-violet and was certainly doomed. knowing as he did the stupendous power drivingthose screens, he knew that there were superhuman
and inconceivable forces being directed againstthem, and his right hand flashed to the switch controlling the zone of force. fast as hewas, much happened in the mere moment that passed before his flying hand could closethe switch. in the last infinitesimal instant of time before the zone closed in, a gapingblack hole appeared in the incandescence of the inner screen, and a small portion of aray of energy so stupendous as to be palpable, struck, like a tangible projectile, the exposedflank of the skylark. instantly the refractory arenak turned an intense, dazzling white andmore than a foot of the forty-eight-inch skin of the vessel melted away, like snow beforean oxy-acetylene flame: melting and flying away in molten globes and sparkling gasesâ€”therefrigerating coils lining the hull were of
no avail against the concentrated energy ofthat titanic thrust. as seaton shut off his power, intense darkness and utter silenceclosed in, and he snapped on the lights. "they take one trick!" he blazed, his eyesalmost emitting sparks, and leaped for the generators. he had forgotten the efforts ofthe zone of force, however, and only sprawled grotesquely in the air until he floated withinreach of a line. "hold everything, dick!" crane snapped, asseaton bent over one of the bars. "what are you going to do?""i'm going to put as heavy bars in these ray-generators as they'll stand and go out and get that bird.we can't lick him with osnomian rays or with our explosive copper, but i can carve thatsausage into slices with a zone of force,
and i'm going to do it.""steady, old manâ€”take it easy. i see your point, but remember that you must releasethe zone of force before you can use it as a weapon. furthermore, you must discover hisexact location, and must get close enough to him to use the zone as a weapon, all withoutits protection. can those ray-screens be made sufficiently powerful to withstand the beamthey employed last, even for a second?" "hm ... m ... m. never thought of that, mart,"seaton replied, the fire dying out of his eyes. "wonder how long the battle lasted?""eight and two-tenths seconds, from first to last, but they had had that heavy ray inaction only a fraction of one second when you cut in the zone of force. either theyunderestimated our strength at first, or else
it required about eight seconds to tune intheir heavy generatorsâ€”probably the former." "but we've got to do something, man! we can'tjust sit here and twiddle our thumbs!" "why, and why not? that course seems eminentlywise and proper. in fact, at the present time, thumb-twiddling is distinctly indicated.""oh, you're full of little red ants! we can't do a thing with that zone onâ€”and you sayjust sit here. suppose they know all about that zone of force? suppose they can crackit? suppose they ram us?" "i shall take up your objections in order,"crane had lighted a cigarette and was smoking meditatively. "first, they may or may notknow about it. at present, that point is immaterial. second, whether or not they know about it,it is almost a certainty that they cannot
crack it. it had been up for more than threeminutes, and they have undoubtedly concentrated everything possible upon us during that time.it is still standing. i really expected it to go down in the first few seconds, but nowthat it has held this long it will, in all probability, continue to hold indefinitely.third, they most certainly will not ram us, for several reasons. they probably have encounteredfew, if any, foreign vessels able to stand against them for a minute, and will act accordingly.then, too, it is probably safe to assume that their vessel is damaged, to some slight extentat least; for i do not believe that any possible armament could withstand the forces you directedagainst them and escape entirely unscathed. finally, if they did ram us, what would happen?would we feel the shock? that barrier in the
ether seems impervious, and if so, it couldnot transmit a blow. i do not see exactly how it would affect the ship dealing the blow.you are the one who works out the new problems in unexplored mathematicsâ€”some time youmust take a few months off and work it out." "yes, it would take that long, too, i guessâ€”butyou're right, he can't hurt us. that's using the old bean, mart! i was going off half-cockedagain, darn it! i'll pipe down, and we'll go into a huddle." seaton noticed that dorothy's face was whiteand that she was fighting for self-control. drawing himself over to her, he picked herup in a tight embrace. "cheer up, red-top! this man's war ain't startedyet!"
"not started? what do you mean? haven't youand martin just been admitting to each other that you can't do anything? doesn't that meanthat we are beaten?" "beaten! us? how do you get that way? noton your sweet young life!" he ejaculated, and the surprise on his face was so manifestthat she recovered instantly. "we've just dug a hole and pulled the hole in after us,that's all! when we get everything doped out to suit us, we'll snap out of it and thatbird'll think he's been petting a wildcat!" "mart, you're the thinking end of this partnership,"he continued, thoughtfully. "you've got the analytical mind and the judicial disposition,and can think circles around me. from what little you've seen of those folks, tell mewho, what, and where they are. i'm getting
the germ of an idea, and maybe we can makeit work." "i will try it." crane paused. "they are,of course, neither from the earth nor from osnome. it is also evident that they havesolved the secret of intra-atomic energy. their vessels are not propelled as ours areâ€”theyhave so perfected that force that it acts upon every particle of the structure and itscontents...." "how do you figure that?" blurted seaton."because of the acceleration they can stand. nothing even semi-human, and probably nothingliving, could endure it otherwise. right?" "yesâ€”i never thought of that.""furthermore, they are far from home, for if they were from anywhere nearby, the osnomianswould have known of themâ€”particularly since
it is evident from the size of the vesselthat it is not a recent development with them, as it is with us. since the green system isclose to the center of the galaxy, it seems reasonable, as a working hypothesis, to assumethat they are from some system far from the center, perhaps close to the outer edge. theyare very evidently of a high degree of intelligence. they are also highly treacherous and merciless....""why?" asked dorothy, who was listening eagerly. "i deduce those characteristics from theirunprovoked attack upon peaceful ships, vastly smaller and supposedly of inferior armament;and also from the nature of that attack. this vessel is probably a scout or an exploringship, since it seems to be alone. it is not altogether beyond the bounds of reason toimagine it upon a voyage of discovery, in
search of new planets to be subjugated andcolonized...." "that's a sweet picture of our future neighborsâ€”buti guess you're hitting the old nail on the head, at that.""if these deductions are anywhere nearly correct, they are terrible neighbors. for my next point,are we justified in assuming that they do or do not know about the zone of force?""that's a hard one. knowing what they evidently do know, it's hard to see how they could havemissed it. and yet, if they had known about it for a long time, wouldn't they be ableto get through it? of course it may be a real and total barrier in the etherâ€”in that casethey'd know that they couldn't do a thing as long as we keep it on. take your choice,but i believe that they know about it, and
know more than we doâ€”that it is a totalbarrier set up in the ether." "i agree with you, and we shall proceed uponthat assumption. they know, then, that neither they nor we can do anything as long as wemaintain the zoneâ€”that it is a stalemate. they also know that it takes an enormous amountof power to keep the zone in place. now we have gone as far as we can go upon the meagerdata we haveâ€”considerably farther than we really are justified in going. we must nowtry to come to some conclusion concerning their present activities. if our ideas asto their natures are even approximately correct, they are waiting, probably fairly close athand, until we shall be compelled to release the zone, no matter how long that period ofwaiting shall be. they know, of course, from
our small size, that we cannot carry enoughcopper to maintain it indefinitely, as they could. does that sound reasonable?""i check you to nineteen decimal places, mart, and from your ideas i'm getting surer andsurer that we can pull their corks. i can get into action in a hurry when i have to,and my idea now is to wait until they relax a trifle, and then slip a fast one over onthem. one more bubble out of the old think-tank and i'll let you off for the day. at whattime will their vigilance be at lowest ebb? that's a poser, i'll admit, but the answerto it may answer everythingâ€”the first shot will, of course, be the best chance we'llever have." "yes, we should succeed in the first attempt.we have very little information to guide us
in answering that question." he studied theproblem for many minutes before he resumed, "i should say that for a time they would keepall their rays and other weapons in action against the zone of force, expecting us torelease it immediately. then, knowing that they were wasting power uselessly, they wouldcease attacking, but would be very watchful, with every eye fastened upon us and with everyweapon ready for instant use. after this period of vigilance, regular ship's routine wouldbe resumed. half the force, probably, would go off dutyâ€”for, if they are even remotelylike any organic beings with which we are familiar, they require sleep or its equivalentat intervals. the men on dutyâ€”the normal force, that isâ€”would be doubly careful fora time. then habit will assert itself, if
we have done nothing to create suspicion,and their watchfulness will relax to the point of ordinary careful observation. toward theend of their watch, because of the strain of the battle and because of the unusuallylong period of duty, they will become careless, and their vigilance will be considerably belownormal. but the exact time of all these things depends entirely upon their conception oftime, concerning which we have no information whatever. though it is purely a speculation,based upon earthly and osnomian experience, i should say that after twelve or thirteenhours would come the time for us to make the attack.""that's good enough for me. fine, mart, and thanks. you've probably saved the lives ofthe party. we will now sleep for eleven or
twelve hours.""sleep, dick! how could you?" dorothy exclaimed. end of chapter ivchapter v first bloodthe next twelve hours dragged with terrible slowness. sleep was impossible and eatingwas difficult, even though all knew that they would have need of the full measure of theirstrength. seaton set up various combinations of switching devices connected to electricaltimers, and spent hours trying, with all his marvelous quickness of muscular control, tocut shorter and ever shorter the time between the opening and the closing of the switch.at last he arranged a powerful electro-magnetic device so that one impulse would both openand close the switch, with an open period
of one one-thousandth of a second. only thenwas he satisfied. "a thousandth is enough to give us a lookaround, due to persistence of vision; and it is short enough so that they won't seeit unless they have a recording observer on us. even if they still have rays on us, theycan't possibly neutralize our screens in that short an exposure. all right, gang? we'lltake five visiplates and cover the sphere. if any of you get a glimpse of him, mark theexact spot and outline on the glass. all set?" he pressed the button. the stars flashed inthe black void for an instant, then were again shut out."here he is, dick!" shrieked margaret. "right hereâ€”he covered almost half the visiplate!"she outlined for him, as nearly as she could,
the exact position of the object she had seen,and he calculated rapidly. "fine business!" he exulted. "he's withinhalf a mile of us, three-quarters onâ€”perfect! i thought he'd be so far away that i'd haveto take photographs to locate him. he hasn't a single ray on us, either. that bird's gooseis cooked right now, folks, unless every man on watch has his hand right on the controlsof a generator and can get into action in less than a tenth of a second! hang on, gang,i'm going to step on the gas!" after making sure that everyone was fastenedimmovably in their seats he strapped himself in the pilot's seat, then set the bar towardthe strange vessel and applied fully one-third of its full power. the skylark, of course,did not move. then, with bewildering rapidity,
he went into action; face glued to the visiplate,hands moving faster than the eye could followâ€”the left closing and opening the switch controllingthe zone of force, the right swinging the steering controls to all points of the sphere.the mighty vessel staggered this way and that, jerking and straining terribly as the zonewas thrown on and off, lurching sickeningly about the central bearing as the giganticpower of the driving bar was exerted, now in one direction, now in another. after asecond or two of this mad gyration, seaton shut off the power. he then released the zone,after assuring himself that both inner and outer screens were operating at the highestpossible rating. "there, that'll hold 'em for a while, i guess.this battle was even shorter than the other
oneâ€”and a lot more decisive. let's turnon the flood-lights and see what the pieces look like."the lights revealed that the zone of force had indeed sliced the enemy vessel into pieces.no fragment was large enough to be navigable or dangerous and each was sharply cut, asthough sheared from its neighbor by some gigantic curved blade. dorothy sobbed with relief inseaton's arms as crane, with one arm around his wife, grasped his hand."that was flawless, dick. as an exhibition of perfect co-ordination and instantaneoustiming under extreme physical difficulties, i have never seen its equal.""you certainly saved all our lives," margaret added."only fifty-fifty, peg," seaton protested,
and blushed vividly. "mart did most of it,you know. i'd have gummed up everything back there if he had let me. let's see what wecan find out about them." he touched the lever and the skylark movedslowly toward the wreckage, the scattered fragments of which were beginning to movetoward and around each other because of their mutual gravitational forces. snapping on asearchlight, he swung its beam around, and as it settled upon one of the larger sectionshe saw a group of hooded figures; some of them upon the metal, others floating slowlytoward it through space. "poor devilsâ€”they didn't have a chance,"he remarked regretfully. "however, it was either they or weâ€”look out! sweet spiritsof niter!"
he leaped back to the controls and the otherswere hurled bodily to the floor as he applied the powerâ€”for at a signal each of the hoodedfigures had leveled a tube and once more the outer screen had flamed into incandescence.as the skylark leaped away, seaton focussed an attractor upon the one who had apparentlysignaled the attack. rolling the vessel over in a short loop, so that the captive was hurledoff into space upon the other side, he snatched the tube from the figure's grasp with oneauxiliary attractor, and anchored head and limbs with others, so that the prisoner couldscarcely move a muscle. then, while crane and the women scrambled up off the floor andhurried to the visiplates, seaton cut in rays six, two-seven, and five-eight. ray six, "thesoftener," was a band of frequencies extending
from violet far up into the ultra-violet.when driven with sufficient power, this ray destroyed eyesight and nervous tissue, andits power increased still further, actually loosened the molecular structure of matter.ray two-seven was operated in a range of frequencies far below the visible red. it was pure heatâ€”underits action matter became hotter and hotter as long as it was applied, the upper limitbeing only the theoretical maximum of temperature. ray five-eight was high-tension, high-frequencyalternating current. any conductor in its path behaved precisely as it would in theajax-northrup induction furnace, which can boil platinum in ten seconds! these threerays composed the beam which seaton directed upon the mass of metal from which the enemyhad elected to continue the battleâ€”and behind
each ray, instead of the small energy at thecommand of its osnomian inventor, were the untold millions of kilowatts developed bya one-hundred-pound bar of disintegrating copper! there ensued a brief but appalling demonstrationof the terrible effectiveness of those osnomian weapons against anything not protected byultra-powered ray screens. metal and menâ€”if men they wereâ€”literally vanished. one momentthey were outlined starkly in the beam; there was a moment of searing, coruscating, blindinglightâ€”the next moment the beam bored on into the void, unimpeded. nothing was visiblesave an occasional tiny flash, as some condensed or solidified droplet of the volatilized metalre-entered the path of that ravening beam.
"we'll see if there's any more of them loose,"seaton remarked, as he shut off the force and probed into the wreckage with a searchlight.no sign of life or of activity was revealed, and the light was turned upon the captive.he was held motionless in the invisible grip of the attractors, at the point where theforce of those peculiar magnets was exactly balanced by the outward thrust of the repellers.by manipulating the attractor holding it, seaton brought the strange tubular weaponinto the control-room through a small air-lock in the wall and examined it curiously, butdid not touch it. "i never heard of a hand-ray before, so iguess i won't play with it much until after i learn something about it.""so you have taken a captive?" asked margaret.
"what are you going to do with him?""i'm going to drag him in here and read his mind. he's one of the officers of that ship,i believe, and i'm going to find out how to build one exactly like it. this old can isnow as obsolete as a 1920 flivver, and i'm going to make us a later model. how aboutit, mart, don't we want something really up-to-date if we're going to keep on space-hopping?""we certainty do. those denizens seem to be particularly venomous, and we will not besafe unless we have the most powerful and most efficient space-ship possible. however,that fellow may be dangerous, even nowâ€”in fact, it is practically certain that he is.""you chirped it, ace. i'd much rather touch a pound of dry nitrogen iodide. i've got himspread-eagled so that he can't destroy his
brain until after we've read it, though, sothere's no particular hurry about him. we'll leave him out there for a while, to wastehis sweetness on the desert air. let's all look around for the kondal. i sure hope theydidn't get her in that fracas." they diffused the rays of eight giant searchlightsinto a vertical fan, and with it swept slowly through almost a semi-circle before anythingwas seen. then there was revealed a cluster of cylindrical objects amid a mass of wreckage,which crane recognized at once. "the kondal is gone, dick. there is what isleft of her, and most of her cargo of salt, in jute bags."as he spoke, a series of green flashes played upon the bags, and seaton yelled in relief."they got the ship all right, but dunark and
sitar got awayâ€”they're still with theirsalt!" the skylark moved over to the wreck and seaton,relinquishing the controls to crane, donned a vacuum suit, entered the main air-lock andsnapped on the motor which sealed off the lock, pumped the air into a pressure-tank,and opened the outside door. he threw a light line to the two figures and pushed himselflightly toward them. he then talked briefly to dunark in the hand-language, and handedthe end of the line to sitar, who held it while the two men explored the fragments ofthe strange vessel, gathering up various things of interest as they came upon them.back in the control-room, dunark and sitar let their pressure decrease gradually to thatof the terrestrial vessel and removed the
face-plates from their helmets."again, oh karfedo of earth, we thank you for our lives," dunark began, gasping forbreath, when seaton leaped to the air-gauge with a quick apology."never thought of the effect our atmospheric pressure would have on you two. we can standyours all right, but you'd pretty nearly pass out on ours. there, that'll suit you better.didn't you throw out your zone of force?" "yes, as soon as i saw that our screens werenot going to hold." the osnomians' labored breathing became normal as the air-pressureincreased to a value only a little below that of the dense atmosphere of their native planet."i then increased the power of the screens to the extreme limit and opened the zone fora moment to see how the screens would hold
with the added power. that instant was enough.in that period a concentrated beam, such as i had no idea could ever be generated, wentthrough the outer and inner screens as though they were not there, through the four-footarenak of the hull, through the entire central installation, and through the hull on theother side. sitar and i were wearing suits...." "say, mart, that's one bet we overlooked.it's a good idea, tooâ€”those strangers wore them all the time as regular equipment, apparently.next time we get into a jam, be sure we do it; they might come in handy. excuse me, dunarkâ€”goahead." "we had suits on, so as soon as the ray wasshut off, which was almost instantly, i phoned the crew to jump, and we leaped out throughthe hole in the hull. the air rushing out
gave us an impetus that carried us many milesout into space, and it required many hours for the slight attraction of the mass hereto draw us back to it. we just got back a few minutes ago. that air-blast is probablywhat saved us, as they destroyed our vessel with atomic bombs and hunted down the fourmen of our crew, who stayed comparatively close to the scene. they rayed you for aboutan hour with the most stupendous beams imaginableâ€”no such generators have ever been consideredpossible of constructionâ€”but couldn't make any impression upon you. then they shut offtheir power and stood by, waiting. i wasn't looking at you when you released your zone.one moment it was there, and the next, the stranger had been cut in pieces. the restyou know."
"we're sure glad you two got away, dunark.well, mart, what say we drag that guy in and give him the once-over?" seaton swung the attractors holding the prisoneruntil they were in line with the main air-lock, then reduced the power of the repellers. ashe approached the lock various controls were actuated, and soon the stranger stood in thecontrol room, held immovable against one wall, while crane, with a 0.50-caliber elephantgun, stood against the other. "perhaps you girls should go somewhere else,"suggested crane. "not on your life!" protested dorothy, who,eyes wide and flushed with excitement, stood near a door, with a heavy automatic pistolin her hand. "i wouldn't miss this for a farm!"
"got him solid," declared seaton, after acareful inspection of the various attractors and repellers he had bearing upon the prisoner,"now let's get him out of that suit. noâ€”better read his air first, temperature and pressureâ€”mightanalyze it, too." nothing could be seen of the person of thestranger, since he was encased in vacuum armor, but it was plainly evident that he was veryshort and immensely broad and thick. by means of hollow needles forced through the leather-likematerial of the suit seaton drew off a sample of the atmosphere within, into an orsat apparatus,while crane made pressure and temperature readings."temperature, one hundred ten degrees. pressure, twenty-eight poundsâ€”about the same as oursis, now that we have stepped it up to keep
the osnomians from suffering."seaton soon reported that the atmosphere was quite similar to that of the skylark, exceptthat it was much higher in carbon dioxide and carried an extremely high percentage ofwater vapor. he took up a pair of heavy shears and laid the suit open full length, on bothsides, knowing that the powerful attractors would hold the stranger immovable. he thenwrenched off the helmet and cast the whole suit aside, revealing the enemy officer, cladin a tunic of scarlet silk. he was less than five feet tall. his legswere merely blocks, fully as great in diameter as they were in length, supporting a torsoof herculean dimensions. his arms were as large as a strong man's thigh and hung almostto the floor. his astounding shoulders, fully
a yard across, merged into and supported anenormous head. the being possessed recognizable nose, ears, and mouth; and the great domedforehead and huge cranium bespoke an immense and a highly developed brain.but it was the eyes of this strange creature that fixed and held the attention. large theywere, and blackâ€”the dull, opaque, lusterless black of platinum sponge. the pupils werea brighter black, and in them flamed ruby lights: pitiless, mocking, cold. plainly tobe read in those sinister depths were the untold wisdom of unthinkable age, sheer ruthlessness,mighty power, and ferocity unrelieved. his baleful gaze swept from one member of theparty to another, and to meet the glare of those eyes was to receive a tangible physicalblowâ€”it was actually ponderable force; that
of embodied hardness and of ruthlessness incarnate,generated in that merciless brain and hurled forth through those flame-shot, stygian orbs."if you don't need us for anything, dick, i think peggy and i will go upstairs," dorothybroke the long silence. "good idea, dot. this isn't going to be prettyto watchâ€”or to do, either, for that matter." "if i stay here another minute i'll see thatthing as long as i live; and i might be very ill. goodbye," and heartless and bloodthirstyosnomian though she was, sitar had gone to join the two terrestrial women."i didn't want to say much before the girls, but i want to check a couple of ideas withyou two. don't you think it's a safe bet that this bird reported back to his headquarters?""i have been thinking that very thing," crane
spoke gravely, and dunark nodded agreement."any race capable of developing such a vessel as this would almost certainly have developedsystems of communication in proportion." "that's the way i doped it outâ€”and that'swhy i'm going to read his mind, if i have to burn out his brain to do it. we've gotto know how far away from home he is, whether he has turned in any report about us, andall about it. also, i'm going to get the plans, power, and armament of their most modern ships,if he knows them, so that your gang, dunark, can build us one like them; because the nextboat that tackles us will be warned and we won't be able to take it by surprise. we won'tstand a chance in the skylark. with a ship like theirs, however, we can runâ€”or we canfight, if we have to. any other ideas, fellows?"
as neither crane nor dunark had any othersuggestions to offer, seaton brought out the mechanical educator, watching the creature'seyes narrowly. as he placed one headset over that motionless head the captive sneered inpure contempt, but when the case was opened and the array of tubes and transformers wasrevealed, that expression disappeared; and when he added a super-power stage by cuttingin a heavy-duty transformer and a five-kilowatt transmitting tube, seaton thought that hesaw an instantaneously suppressed flicker of doubt or fear."that headset thing was child's play to him, but he doesn't like the looks of this otherstuff at all. i don't blame him a bitâ€”i wouldn't like to be on the receiving end ofthis hook-up myself. i'm going to put him
on the recorder and on the visualizer," seatoncontinued as he connected spools of wire and tape, lamps, and lenses in an intricate systemand donned a headset. "i'd hate to have much of that brain in my own skullâ€”afraid i'dbite myself. i'm just going to look on, and when i see anything i want, i'll grab it andput it into my own brain. i'm starting off easy, not using the big tube."he closed several switches, lights flashed, and the wires and tapes began to feed throughthe magnets. "well, i've got his language, folks, he seemedto want me to have it. it's got a lot of stuff in it that i can't understand yet, though,so guess i'll give him some english." he changed several connections and the captivespoke, in a profoundly deep bass voice.
"you may as well discontinue your attempt,for you will gain no information from me. that machine of yours was out of date withus thousands of years ago." "save your breath or talk sense," said seaton,coldly. "i gave you english so that you can give me the information i want. you alreadyknow what it is. when you get ready to talk, say so, or throw it on the screen of yourown accord. if you don't, i'll put on enough voltage to burn your brain out. remember,i can read your dead brain as well as though it were alive, but i want your thoughts, aswell as your knowledge, and i'm going to have them. if you give them voluntarily, i willtinker up a lifeboat that you can navigate back to your own world and let you go; ifyou resist i intend getting them anyway and
you shall not leave this vessel alive. youmay take your choice." "you are childish, and that machine is impotentagainst my will. i could have defied it a hundred years ago, when i was barely a grownman. know you, american, that we supermen of the fenachrone are as far above any ofthe other and lesser breeds of beings who spawn in their millions in their countlessmyriads of races upon the numberless planets of the universe as you are above the inertmetal from which this, your ship, was built. the universe is ours, and in due course weshall take itâ€”just as in due course i shall take this vessel. do your worst; i shall notspeak." the creature's eyes flamed, hurling a wave of hypnotic command through seaton'seyes and deep into his brain. seaton's very
senses reeled for an instant under the impactof that awful mental force; but after a short, intensely bitter struggle he threw off thespell. "that was close, fellow, but you didn't quitering the bell," he said grimly, staring directly into those unholy eyes. "i may rate prettylow mentally, but i can't be hypnotized into turning you loose. also i can give you cardsand spades in certain other lines which i am about to demonstrate. being superman didn'tkeep the rest of your men from going out in my ray, and being a superman isn't going tosave your brain. i am not depending upon my intellectual or mental forceâ€”i've got anace in the hole in the shape of five thousand volts to apply to the most delicate centersof your brain. start giving me what i want,
and start quick, or i'll tear it out of you."the giant did not answer, merely glared defiance and bitter hate."take it, then!" seaton snapped, and cut in the super-power stage and began turning dialsand knobs, exploring that strange mind for the particular area in which he was most interested.he soon found it, and cut in the visualizerâ€”the stereographic device, in parallel with solon'sown brain recorder, which projected a three-dimensional picture into the "viewing-area" or dark spaceof the cabinet. crane and dunark, tense and silent, looked on in strained suspense as,minute after minute, the silent battle of wills raged. upon one side was a horribleand gigantic brain, of undreamed of power; upon the other side a strong man, fightingfor all that life holds dear, wielding against
that monstrous and frightful brain a weaponwrought of high-tension electricity, applied with all the skill that earthly and osnomianscience could devise. seaton crouched over the amplifier, his jawset and every muscle taut, his eyes leaping from one meter to another, his right handslowly turning up the potentiometer which was driving more and ever more of the searing,torturing output of his super-power tube into that stubborn brain. the captive was standingutterly rigid, eyes closed, every sense and faculty mustered to resist that cruelly penetrantattack upon the very innermost recesses of his mind. crane and dunark scarcely breathedas the three-dimensional picture in the visualizer varied from a blank to the hazy outlines ofa giant space-cruiser. it faded out as the
unknown exerted himself to withstand thatpoignant inquisition, only to come back in, clearer than before, as seaton advanced thepotentiometer still farther. finally, flesh and blood could no longer resist that lethalprobe and the picture became sharp and clear. it showed the captainâ€”for he was no lessan officer than the commander of the vesselâ€”at a great council table, seated, together withmany other officers, upon very low, enormously strong metal stools. they were receiving ordersfrom their emperor; orders plainly understood by crane and the osnomian alike, for thoughtneeds no translation. "gentlemen of the navy," the ruler spoke solemnly,"our preliminary expedition, returned some time ago, achieved its every aim, and we arenow ready to begin fulfilling our destiny,
the conquest of the universe. this galaxycomes first. our base of operations will be the largest planet of that group of brilliantgreen suns, for they can be seen from any point in the galaxy and are almost in theexact center of it. our astronomers," here the captain's thoughts shifted briefly toan observatory far out in space for perfect seeing, and portrayed a reflecting telescopewith a mirror five miles in diameter, capable of penetrating unimaginable myriads of light-yearsinto space, "have tabulated all the suns, planets, and satellites belonging to thisgalaxy, and each of you has been given a complete chart and assigned a certain area which heis to explore. remember, gentlemen, that this first major expedition is to be purely oneof exploration; the one of conquest will set
out after you have returned with completeinformation. you will each report by torpedo every tenth of the year. we do not anticipateany serious difficulty, as we are of course the highest type of life in the universe;nevertheless, in the unlikely event of trouble, report it. we shall do the rest. in conclusion,i warn you againâ€”let no people know that we exist. make no conquests, and destroy allwho by any chance may see you. gentlemen, go with power."the captain embarked in a small airboat and was shot to his vessel. he took his stationat an immense control board and the warship shot off instantly, with unthinkable velocity,and with not the slightest physical shock. at this point seaton made the captain takethem all over the ship. they noted its construction,
its power-plant, its controlsâ€”every minutedetail of structure, operation, and maintenance was taken from the captain's mind and wasboth recorded and visualized. the journey seemed to be a very long one,but finally the cluster of green suns became visible and the fenachrone began to explorethe solar systems in the area assigned to that particular vessel. hardly had the surveystarted, however, when the two globular space-cruisers were detected and located. the captain stoppedthe ship briefly, then attacked. they watched the attack, and saw the destruction of thekondal. they looked on while the captain read the brain of one of dunark's crew, gleaningfrom it all the facts concerning the two space-ships, and thought with him that the two absenteesfrom the kondal would drift back in a few
hours, and would be disposed of in due course.they learned that these things were automatically impressed upon the torpedo next to issue,as was every detail of everything that happened in and around the vessel. they watched himimpress a thought of his own upon the recordâ€”"the inhabitants of planet three of sun six fourseven three pilarone show unusual development and may cause trouble, as they have alreadybrought knowledge of the metal of power and of the impenetrable shield to the centralsystem, which is to be our base. recommend volatilization of this planet by vessel senton special mission." they saw the raying of the skylark. they sensed him issue commands:"ray it for a time; he will probably open the shield for a moment, as the other onedid," then, after a time skipped over by the
mind under examination. "cease rayingâ€”nouse wasting power. he must open eventually, as he runs out of power. stand by and destroyhim when he opens." the scene shifted. the captain was asleepand was awakened by an alarm gongâ€”only to find himself floating in a mass of wreckage.making his way to the fragment of his vessel containing the torpedo port, he released themessenger, which flew, with ever-increasing velocity, back to the capital city of thefenachrone, carrying with it a record of everything that had happened."that's what i want," thought seaton. "those torpedoes went home, fast. i want to knowhow far they have to go and how long it'll take them to get there. you know what distancea parsec is, since it is purely a mathematical
concept; and you must have a watch or somesimilar instrument with which we can translate your years into ours. i don't want to haveto kill you, fellow, and if you'll give up even now i'll spare you. i'll get it anyway,you knowâ€”and you also know that a few hundred volts more will kill you."they saw the thought received, and saw its answer: "you shall learn no more. this isthe most important of all, and i shall hold it to disintegration and beyond."seaton advanced the potentiometer still farther, and the brain picture waxed and waned, strengthenedand faded. finally, however, it was revealed by flashes that the torpedo had about a hundredand fifty-five thousand parsecs to go and that it would take two-tenths of a year tomake the journey; that the warships which
would come in answer to the message were asfast as the torpedo; that he did indeed have in his suit a watchâ€”a device of seven dials,each turning ten times as fast as its successor; and that one turn of the slowest dial measuredone year of his time. seaton instantly threw off his headset and opened the power switch."grab a stopwatch quick, mart!" he called, as he leaped to the discarded vacuum suitand searched out the peculiar timepiece. they noted the exact time consumed by one completerevolution of one of the dials, and calculated rapidly."better than i thought!" exclaimed seaton. "that makes his year about four hundred tenof our days. that gives us eighty-two days before the torpedo gets thereâ€”longer thani'd dared hope. we've got to fight, too, not
run. they figure on getting the skylark, thenvolatilizing our world. well, we can take time enough to grab off an absolutely completerecord of this guy's brain. we'll need it for what's coming, and i'm going to get it,if i have to kill him to do it." he resumed his place at the educator, turnedon the power, and a shadow passed over his face."poor devil, he's conked outâ€”couldn't stand the gaff," he remarked, half-regretfully."however that makes it easy to get what we want, and we'd have had to kill him anyway,i guessâ€”bad as it is, i'd hate to bump him off in cold blood."he threaded new spools into the machine, and for three hours, mile after mile of tape spedbetween the magnets as seaton explored every
recess of that monstrous, yet stupendous brain."well, that's that," he declared finally, as, the last bit of information gleaned andrecorded upon the flying tape, he removed the body of the fenachrone captain into spaceand rayed it out of existence. "now what to do?""how can we get this salt to osnome?" asked dunark whose thoughts were never far fromthat store of the precious chemical. "you are already crowded, and sitar and i willcrowd you still more. you have no room for additional cargo, and yet much valuable timewould be lost in going to osnome for another vessel.""yes, and we've got to get a lot of 'x', too. guess we'll have to take time to get anothervessel. i'd like to drag in the pieces of
that ship, tooâ€”his instruments and a lotof the parts could be used." "why not do it all at once?" suggested crane."we can start that whole mass toward osnome by drawing it behind us until such a velocityhas been attained that it will reach there at the desired time. we could then go to 'x,'and overtake this material near the green system.""right you are, aceâ€”that's a sound idea. but say, dunark, it wouldn't be good techniquefor you to eat our food for any length of time. while we're figuring this out you'dbetter hop over there and bring over enough to last you two until we get you home. giveit to shiroâ€”after a couple of lessons, you'll find he'll be as good as any of your cooks."
faster and faster the skylark flew, pullingbehind her the mass of wreckage, held by every available attractor. when the calculated velocityhad been attained, the attractors were shut off and the vessel darted away toward thatplanet, still in the carboniferous age, which possessed at least one solid ledge of metallic"x," the rarest of all earthly metals. as the automatic controls held the cruiser uponher course, the six wanderers sat long in discussion as to what should be done, whatcould be done, to avert the threatened destruction of all the civilization of the galaxy exceptthe monstrous and unspeakable culture of the fenachrone. nearing their destination, seatonrose to his feet. "well, folks, it's like this. we've got ourbacks to the wall. dunark has troubles of
his ownâ€”if the third planet doesn't gethim the fenachrone will, and the third planet is the more pressing danger. that lets himout. we've got nearly six months before the fenachrone can get back here....""but how can they possibly find us here, or wherever we'll be by that time, dick?" askeddorothy. "the battle was a long way from here." "with that much start they probably couldn'tfind us," seaton replied soberly. "it's the world i'm thinking about. they've got to bestopped, and stopped coldâ€”and we've got only six months to do it in.... osnome's gotthe best tools and the fastest workmen i know of...." his voice died away in thought."that sort of thing is in your department, dick."crane was calm and judicial as always. "i
will, of course, do anything i can. but youprobably have a plan of campaign already laid out?""after a fashion. we've got to find out how to work through this zone of force or we'resunk without a trace. even with rays, screens, and ships equal to theirs, we couldn't keepthem from sending a vessel to destroy the earth; and they'd probably get us too, eventually.they've got a lot of stuff we don't know about, of course, since i took only one man's mind.while he was a very able man, he didn't know all that all the rest of them do, any morethan any one man has all the earthly science known. absolutely our only chance is to controlthat zoneâ€”it's the only thing they haven't got. of course, it may be impossible, buti won't believe that, until i've exhausted
a lot of possibilities. dunark, can you sparea crew to build us a duplicate of that fenachrone ship, besides those you are going to buildfor yourself?" "certainly. i will be only too glad to doso." "well, then, while dunark is doing that, isuggest that we go to this third planet, abduct a few of their leading scientists, and readtheir minds. then do the same, visiting every other highly advanced planet we can locate.there is a good chance that, by combining the best points of the warfares of many worlds,we can evolve something that will enable us to turn back these invaders.""why not send a copper torpedo to destroy their entire planet?" suggested dunark."wouldn't work. their detecting screens would
locate it a thousand million miles off inspace, and they would ray it. with a zone of force that would get through their screens,that would be the first thing i'd do. you see, every thought comes back to that zone.we've got to get through it some way." the course alarm sounded, and they saw thata planet lay directly in their path. it was "x," and enough negative acceleration wasapplied to make an easy landing possible. "isn't it going to be a long, slow job, choppingoff two tons of that metal and fighting away those terrible animals besides?" asked margaret."it'll take about a millionth of a second, peg. i'm going to bite it off with the zone,just as i took that bite out of our field. the rotation of the planet will throw us awayfrom the surface, then we'll release the zone
and drag our prey off with us. see?"the skylark descended rapidly toward that well-remembered ledge of metal to which theobject compass had led them. "this is exactly where we landed before,"margaret commented in surprise, and dorothy added:"yes, and there's that horrible tree that ate the dinosaur or whatever it was. i thoughtyou blew it up for me, dick?" "i did, dottieâ€”blew it into atoms. mustbe a good location for carnivorous treesâ€”and they must grow awfully fast, too. as to itsbeing the same place, pegâ€”sure it is. that's what object compasses are for."everything appeared as it had been at the time of their first visit. the rank carboniferousvegetation, intensely, vividly green, was
motionless in the still, hot, heavy air; theliving nightmares inhabiting that primitive world were lying in the cooler depths of thejungle, sheltered from the torrid rays of that strange and fervent sun."how about it, dot? want to see some of your little friends again? if you do, i'll givethem a shot and bring them out." "heavens, no! i saw them onceâ€”if i neversee them again, that will be twenty minutes too soon!""all rightâ€”we'll grab us a piece of this ledge and beat it."seaton lowered the vessel to the ledge, focussed the main anchoring attractor upon it, andthrew on the zone of force. almost immediately he released the zone, pointed the bar parallelto the compass bearing upon osnome, and slowly
applied the power."how much did you take, anyway?" asked dunark in amazement. "it looks bigger than the skylark!""it is; considerably bigger. thought we might as well take enough while we're here, so iset the zone for a seventy-five-foot radius. it's probably of the order of magnitude ofhalf a million tons, since the stuff weighs more than half a ton to the cubic foot. however,we can handle it as easily as we could a smaller bite, and that much mass will help us holdthat other stuff together when we catch up with it." the voyage to osnome was uneventful. theyovertook the wreckage, true to schedule, as they were approaching the green system, andattached it to the mass of metal behind them
by means of attractors."where'll we land this junk, dunark?" asked seaton, as osnome grew large beneath them."we'll hold this lump of metal and the fragment of the ship carrying the salt; and we'll beable to hold some of the most important of the other stuff. but a lot of it is boundto get away from usâ€”and the lord help anybody who's under it when it comes down! you mightyell for helpâ€”and say, you might ask somebody to have that astronomical data ready for usas soon as we land." "the parade ground will be empty now, so wewill land there," dunark replied. "we should be able to land everything in a field of thatsize, i should think." he touched the sender at his belt, and in the general code notifiedthe city of their arrival and warned everyone
to keep away from the parade ground. he thensent several messages in the official code, concluding by asking that one or two space-shipscome out and help lower the burden to the ground. as the peculiar, pulsating chatterof the osnomian telegraph died out, seaton called for help."come here, you two, and grab some of these attractors. i need about twelve hands to keepthis plunder in the straight and narrow path." the course had been carefully laid, with allowancefor the various velocities and forces involved, to follow the easiest path to the kondalianparade ground. the hemisphere of "x" and the fragment of the kondal which bore the saltwere held immovably in place by the main attractor and one auxiliary; and many other auxiliariesheld sections of the fenachrone vessel. however,
the resistance of the air seriously affectedthe trajectory of many of the irregularly shaped smaller masses of metal, and all threemen were kept busy flicking attractors right and left; capturing those strays which threatenedto veer off into the streets or upon the buildings of the kondalian capital city, and shiftingfrom one piece to another so that none should fall freely. two sister-ships of the kondalappeared as if by magic in answer to dunark's call, and their attractors aided greatly inhandling the unruly collection of wreckage. a few of the smaller sections and a showerof debris fell clear, however, in spite of all efforts, and their approach was heraldedby a meteoric display unprecedented in that world of continuous daylight.as the three vessels with their cumbersome
convoy dropped down into the lower atmosphere,the guns of the city roared a welcome; banners and pennons waved; the air became riotouswith color from hundreds of projectors and odorous with a bewildering variety of scents;while all around them played numberless aircraft of all descriptions and sizes. the space belowthem was carefully avoided, but on all sides and above them the air was so full that itseemed marvelous that no collision occurred. tiny one-man helicopters, little more thansingle chairs flying about; beautiful pleasure-planes, soaring and wheeling; immense multiplane linersand giant helicopter freightersâ€”everything in the air found occasion to fly as near aspossible to the skylark in order to dip their flags in salute to dunark, their kofedix,and to seaton, the wearer of the seven disksâ€”their
revered overlord.finally the freight was landed without serious mishap and the skylark leaped to the landingdock upon the palace roof, where the royal family and many nobles were waiting, in fullpanoply of glittering harness. dunark and sitar disembarked and the four others steppedout and stood at attention as seaton addressed roban, the karfedix."sir, we greet you, but we cannot stop, even for a moment. you know that only the mosturgent necessity would make us forego the pleasure of a brief rest beneath your roofâ€”thekofedix will presently give you the measure of that dire need. we shall endeavor to returnsoon. greetings, and, for a time, farewell." "overlord, we greet you, and trust that soonwe may entertain you and profit from your
companionship. for what you have done, wethank you. may the great first cause smile upon you until your return. farewell."end of chapter v chapter vithe peace conference "here's a chart of the green system, mart,with all the motions and the rest of the dope that they've been able to get. how'd it befor you to navigate us over to the third planet of the fourteenth sun?""while you build a fenachrone super-generator?" "right, the first time. your deducer is hittingon all eight, as usual. that big ray is hot stuff, and their ray-screen is something towrite home about, too." "how can their rays be any hotter than ours,dick?" dorothy asked curiously. "i thought
you said we had the very last word in rays.""i thought we had, but those birds we met back there spoke a couple of later words.their rays work on an entirely different system than the one we use. they generate an extremelyshort carrier wave, like the millikan cosmic ray, by recombining some of the electronsand protons of their disintegrating metal, and upon this wave they impose a pure heatfrequency of terrific power. the millikan rays will penetrate anything except a specialray screen or a zone of force, and carry with themâ€”somewhat as radio frequencies carrysound frequenciesâ€”the heat rays, which volatilize anything they touch. their ray screens area lot better than ours, tooâ€”they generate the entire spectrum. it's a sweet system andwhen we revamp ours so as to be just like
it, we'll be able to talk turkey to thosefolks on the third planet." "how long will it take you to build it?" askedcrane, who, dexterously turning the pages of "vega's handbuch" was calculating theircourse. "a day or soâ€”maybe less. i've got all thestuff and with my osnomian tools it won't take long. if you find you'll get there beforei get done, you'll have to loaf a whileâ€”kill a little time.""are you going to connect the power plant to operate on the entire vessel and all itscontents?" "noâ€”can't do it without redesigning thewhole thing and that's hardly worth while for the short time we'll use this old bus."building those generators would have been
a long and difficult task for a corps of earthlymechanics and electricians, but to seaton it was merely a job. the "shop" had been enlargedand had been filled to capacity with osnomian machinery; machine tools that were capableof performing automatically and with the utmost precision and speed any conceivable mechanicaloperation. he put a dozen of them to work, and before the vessel reached its destination,the new offensive and defensive weapons had been installed and thoroughly tested. he hadadded a third screen-generator, so that now, in addition to the four-foot hull of arenakand the repellers, warding off any material projectile, the skylark was also protectedby an outer, an intermediate, and an inner ray-screen; each driven by the super-powerof a four-hundred-pound bar and each covering
the entire spectrumâ€”capable of neutralizingany dangerous frequency known to those master-scientists, the fenachrone.as the skylark approached the planet, seaton swung number six visiplate upon it, and directedtheir flight toward a great army base. darting down upon it, he snatched an officer intothe airlock, closed the door, and leaped back into space. he brought the captive into thecontrol room pinioned by auxiliary attractors, and relieved him of his weapons. he then rapidlyread his mind, encountering no noticeable resistance, released the attractors, and addressedhim in his own language. "please be seated, lieutenant," seaton saidcourteously, motioning him to one of the seats. "we come in peace. please pardon my discourtesyin handling you, but it was necessary in order
to learn your language and thus to get intouch with your commanding officer." the officer, overcome with astonishment thathe had not been killed instantly, sank into the seat indicated, without a reply, and seatonwent on: "please be kind enough to signal your commandingofficer that we are coming down at once, for a peace conference. by the way, i can readyour signals, and will send them myself if necessary."the stranger worked an instrument attached to his harness briefly, and the skylark descendedslowly toward the fortress. "i know, of course, that your vessels willattack," seaton remarked, as he noted a crafty gleam in the eyes of the officer. "i intendto let them use all their power for a time,
to prove to them the impotence of their weapons.after that, i shall tell you what to say to them.""do you think this is altogether safe, dick?" asked crane as they saw a fleet of giganticairships soaring upward to meet them. "nothing sure but death and taxes," returnedseaton cheerfully, "but don't forget that we've got fenachrone armament now, insteadof osnomian. i'm betting that they can't begin to drive their rays through even our outerscreen. and even if our outer screen should begin to go into the violetâ€”i don't thinkit will even go cherry-redâ€”out goes our zone of force and we automatically go up whereno possible airship can reach. since their only space-ships are rocket driven, and ofpractically no maneuverability, they stand
a big chance of getting to us. anyway, wemust get in touch with them, to find out if they know anything we don't, and this is theonly way i know of to do it. besides, i want to head dunark off from wrecking this world.they're exactly the same kind of folks he is, you notice, and i don't like civil war.any suggestions? keep an eye on that bird, then, mart, and we'll go down." the skylark dropped down into the midst ofthe fleet, which instantly turned against her the full force of their giant guns andtheir immense ray batteries. seaton held the skylark motionless, staring into his visiplate,his right hand grasping the zone-switch. "the outer screen isn't even getting warm!"he exulted after a moment. the repellers were
hurling the shells back long before they reachedeven the outer screen, and they were exploding harmlessly in the air. the full power of theray-generators, too, which had been so destructive to the osnomian defenses, were only sufficientto bring the outer screen to a dull red glow. after fifteen minutes of passive acceptanceof all the airships could do, seaton spoke to the captive."sir, please signal the commanding officer of vessel seven-two-four that i am going tocut it in two in the middle. have him remove all men in that part of the ship to the ends,and have parachutes in readiness, as i do not wish to cause any loss of life."the signal was sent, and, as the officer was already daunted by the fact that their utmostefforts could not even make the strangers'
screens radiate, it was obeyed. seaton thenthrew on the frightful power of the fenachrone super-generators. the defensive screens ofthe doomed warship flashed onceâ€”a sparkling, coruscating display of incandescent brillianceâ€”andin the same instant went down. simultaneously the entire midsection of the vessel explodedinto light and disappeared; completely volatilized. "sir, please signal the entire fleet to ceaseaction, and to follow me down. if they do not do so, i will destroy the rest of them."the skylark dropped to the ground, followed by the fleet of warships, who settled in aring about herâ€”inactive, but ready. "will you please loan me your sending instrument,sir?" seaton asked. "from this point on i can carry on negotiations better direct thanthrough you."
the lieutenant found his voice as he surrenderedthe instrument. "sir, are you the overlord of osnome, of whomwe have heard? we had supposed that one was a mythical character, but you must be heâ€”noone else would spare lives that he could take, and the overlord is the only being reputedto have a skin the color of yours." "yes, lieutenant, i am the overlordâ€”andi have decided to become the overlord of the entire green system, as well as of osnome."he then sent out a call to the commander-in-chief of all the armies of the planet, informinghim that he was coming to visit him at once, and the skylark tore through the air to thecapital city. no sooner had the earthly vessel alighted upon the palace grounds than shewas surrounded by a ring of warships who,
however, made no offensive move. seaton againused the telegraph. "commander-in-chief of the armed forces ofthe planet urvania; greetings from the overlord of this solar system. i invite you to comeinto my vessel, unarmed and alone, for a conference. i come in peace and, peace or war as you decide,no harm shall come to you, until after you have returned to your own command. think wellbefore you reply." "if i refuse?""i shall destroy one of the vessels surrounding me, and shall continue to destroy them, oneevery ten seconds, until you agree to come. if you still do not agree. i shall destroyall the armed forces upon this planet, then destroy all your people who are at presentupon osnome. i wish to avoid bloodshed and
destruction, but i can and i will do as ihave said." "i will come."the general came out upon the field unarmed, escorted by a company of soldiers. a hundredfeet from the vessel he halted the guards and came on alone, erect and soldierly. seatonmet him at the door and invited him to be seated."what can you have to say to me?" the general demanded, disregarding the invitation."many things. first, let me say that you are not only a brave man; you are a wise generalâ€”yourvisit to me proves it." "it is a sign of weakness, but i believedwhen i heard those reports, and still believe, that a refusal would have resulted in a heavyloss of our men," was the general's reply.
"it would have," said seaton. "i repeat thatyour act was not weakness, but wisdom. the second thing i have to say is that i had notplanned on taking any active part in the management of things, either upon osnome or upon thisplanet, until i learned of a catastrophe that is threatening all the civilization in thisgalaxyâ€”thus threatening my own distant world as well as those of this solar system. third,only by superior force can i make either your race or the osnomians listen to reason sufficientlyto unite against a common foe. you have been reared in unreasoning hatred for so many generationsthat your minds are warped. for that reason i have assumed control of this entire system,and shall give you your choice between co-operating with us or being rendered incapable of molestingus while our attention is occupied by this
threatened invasion.""we will have no traffic with the enemy whatever," said the general. "this is final.""you just think so. here is a mathematical statement of what is going to happen to yourworld, unless i intervene." he handed the general a drawing of dunark's plan and describedit in detail. "that is the answer of the osnomians to your invasion of their planet. i do notwant this world destroyed, but if you refuse to make common cause with us against a commonfoe, it may be necessary. have you forces at your command sufficient to frustrate thisplan?" "no; but i cannot really believe that sucha deflection of celestial bodies is possible. possible or not, you realize that i couldnot yield to empty threats."
"of course not," said seaton, "but you werewise enough to refuse to sacrifice a few ships and men in a useless struggle against my overwhelmingarmament, therefore you are certainly wise enough to refuse to sacrifice your entirerace. however, before you come to any definite conclusion, i will show you what threatensthe galaxy." he handed the other a headset and ran throughthe section of the record showing the plans of the invaders. he then ran a few sectionsshowing the irresistible power at the command of the fenachrone."that is what awaits us all unless we combine against them.""what are your requirements?" the general asked."i request immediate withdrawal of all your
armed forces now upon osnome and full co-operationwith me in this coming war against the invaders. in return, i will give you the secrets i havejust given the osnomiansâ€”the power and the offensive and defensive weapons of this vessel.""the osnomians are now building vessels such as this one?" asked the general."they are building vessels a hundred times the size of this one, with the same armament.""for myself, i would agree to your terms. however, the word of the emperor is law.""i understand," replied seaton. "would you be willing to seek an immediate audience withhim? i would suggest that both you and he accompany me, and we shall hold a peace conferencewith the osnomian emperor and commander-in-chief upon this vessel. we shall be gone less thana day."
"i shall do so at once.""you may accompany your general, lieutenant. again i ask pardon for my necessary rudeness."as the urvanian officers hurried toward the palace, the other terrestrials, who had beenlistening in from another room, entered. "it sounded as though you convinced him, dick;but that language is nothing like kondalian. why don't you teach it to us? teach it toshiro, too, so he can cook for, and talk to, our distinguished guests intelligently, ifthey're going back with us." as he connected up the educator, seaton explainedwhat had happened, and concluded: "i want to stop this civil war, keep dunarkfrom destroying this planet, preserve osnome for osnomians, and make them all co-operatewith us against the fenachrone. that's one
tall order, since these folks haven't theremotest notion of anything except killing." a company of soldiers approached, and dorothygot up hastily. "stick around, folks. we can all talk to them.""i believe that it would be better for you to be alone," crane decided, after a moment'sthought. "they are used to autocratic power, and can understand nothing but one-man control.the girls and i will keep out of it." "that might be better at that," and seatonwent to the door to welcome the guests. seaton instructed them to lie flat, and put on allthe acceleration they could bear. it was not long until they were back in kondal, whereroban, the karfedix, and tarnan, the karbix, accepted seaton's invitation and entered theskylark, unarmed. back out in space, the vessel
stationary, seaton introduced the emperorsand commanders-in-chief to each otherâ€”introductions which were acknowledged almost imperceptibly.he then gave each a headset, and ran the complete record of the fenachrone brain."stop!" shouted roban, after only a moment. "would you, the overlord of osnome, revealsuch secrets as this to the arch-enemies of osnome?""i would. i have taken over the overlordship of the entire green system for the durationof this emergency, and i do not want two of its planets engaged in civil war."the record finished, seaton tried for some time to bring the four green warriors to hisway of thinking, but in vain. roban and tarnan remained contemptuous. they would have thrownthemselves upon him, but for the knowledge
that no fifty unarmed men of the green racecould have overcome his strengthâ€”to them supernatural. the two urvanians were equallyobdurate. this soft earth-being had given them everything; they had given him nothingand would give him nothing. finally seaton rose to his full height and stared at themin turn, wrath and determination blazing in his eyes."i have brought you four together, here in a neutral vessel in neutral space, to bringabout peace between you. i have shown you the benefits to be derived from the peacefulpursuit of science, knowledge, and power, instead of continuing this utter economicwaste of continual war. you all close your senses to reason. you of osnome accuse meof being an ingrate and a traitor; you of
urvania consider me a soft-headed, sentimentalweakling, who may safely be disregardedâ€”all because i think the welfare of the numberlesspeoples of the universe more important than your narrow-minded, stubborn, selfish vanity.think what you please. if brute force is your only logic, know now that i can, and will,use brute force. here are the seven disks," and he placed the bracelet upon roban's knee."if you four leaders are short-sighted enough to place your petty enmity before the goodof all civilization, i am done with you forever. i have deliberately given urvanians preciselythe same information that i have given the osnomiansâ€”no more and no less. i have givenneither of you all that i know, and i shall know much more than i do now, before the timeof the conquest shall have arrived. unless
you four men, here and now, renounce thiswar and agree to a perpetual peace between your worlds, i shall leave you to your mutualdestruction. you do not yet realize the power of the weapons i have given you. when youdo realize it, you will know that mutual destruction is inevitable if you continue this internecinewar. i shall continue upon other worlds my search for the one secret standing betweenme and a complete mastery of power. that i shall find that secret i am confident; and,having found it, i shall, without your aid, destroy the fenachrone."you have several times remarked with sneers that you are not to be swayed by empty threats.what i am about to say is no empty threatâ€”it is a most solemn promise, given by one whohas both the will and the power to fulfill
his every given word. now listen carefullyto this, my final utterance. if you continue this warfare and if the victor should notbe utterly destroyed in its course, i swear as i stand here, by the great first cause,that i shall myself wipe out every trace of the surviving nation as soon as the fenachroneshall have been obliterated. work with each other and me and we all may liveâ€”fight onand both your nations, to the last person, will most certainly die. decide now whichit is to be. i have spoken." roban took up the bracelet and clasped itagain about seaton's arm, saying, "you are more than ever our overlord. you are wiserthan are we, and stronger. issue your commands and they shall be obeyed.""why did not you say those things first, overlord?"
asked the urvanian emperor, as he salutedand smiled. "we could not in honor submit to a weakling, no matter what the fate instore. having convinced us of your strength, there can be no disgrace in fighting beneathyour screens. an armlet of seven symbols shall be cast and ready for you when you next visitus. roban of osnome, you are my brother." the two emperors saluted each other and staredeye to eye for a long moment, and seaton knew that the perpetual peace had been signed.then all four spoke, in unison: "overlord, we await your commands.""dunark of osnome is already informed as to what osnome is to do. say to him that it willnot be necessary for him to build the vessel for me; the urvanians will do that. urvanof urvania, you will accompany roban to osnome,
where you two will order instant cessationof hostilities. osnome has many ships of this type, and upon some of them you will returnyour every soldier and engine of war to your own planet. as soon as possible you will buildfor me a vessel like that of the fenachrone, except that it shall be ten times as large,in every dimension, and except that every instrument, control, and weapon is to be leftout." "left out? it shall be so builtâ€”but of whatuse will it be?" "the empty spaces shall be filled after ihave returned from my quest. you will build this vessel of dagal. you will also instructthe osnomian commander in the manufacture of that metal, which is so much more resistantthan their arenak."
"but, overlord, we have....""i have just brought immense stores of the precious chemical and of the metal of powerto osnome. they will share it with you. i also advise you to build for yourselves manyships like those of the fenachrone, with which to do battle with the invaders, in case ishould fail in my quest. you will, of course, see to it that there will be a corps of yourmost efficient mechanics and artisans within call at all times in case i should returnand have sudden need for them." "all these things shall be done."the conference ended, the four nobles were quickly landed upon osnome and once more theskylark traveled out into her element, the total vacuum and absolute zero of the outervoid, with crane at the controls.
"you certainly sounded savage, dick. i almostthought you really meant it!" dorothy chuckled. "i did mean it, dot. those fellows are mightykeen on detecting bluffs. if i hadn't meant it, and if they hadn't known that i meantit, i'd never have got away with it." "but you couldn't have meant it, dick! youwouldn't have destroyed the osnomians, surelyâ€”you know you wouldn't.""no, but i would have destroyed what was left of the urvanians, and all five of us knewexactly how it would have turned out and exactly what i would have done about itâ€”that's whythey all pulled in their horns." "i don't know what would have happened," interjectedmargaret. "what would have?" "with this new stuff the urvanians would havewiped the osnomians out. they are an older
race, and so much better in science and mechanicsthat the osnomians wouldn't have stood much chance, and knew it. incidentally, that'swhy i'm having them build our new ship. they'll put a lot of stuff into it that dunark's menwould missâ€”maybe some stuff that even the fenachrone haven't got. however, though itmight seem that the urvanians had all the best of it, urvan knew that i had somethingup my sleeve besides my bare armâ€”and he knew that i'd clean up what there was leftof his race if they polished off the osnomians." "what a frightful chance you were taking,dick!" gasped dorothy. "you have to be hard to handle those folksâ€”andbelieve me, i was a forty-minute egg right then. they have such a peculiar mental andmoral slant that we can hardly understand
them at all. this idea of co-operation isso new to them that it actually dazed all four of them even to consider it.""do you suppose they will fight, anyway?" asked crane."absolutely not. both nations have an inflexible code of honor, such as it is, and lying isagainst both codes. that's one thing i like about themâ€”i'm sort of honest myself, andwith either of these races you need nothing signed or guaranteed.""what next, dick?" "now the real trouble begins. mart, oil upthe massive old intellect. have you found the answer to the problem?""what problem?" asked dorothy. "you didn't tell us anything about a problem.""no, i told mart. i want the best physicist
in this entire solar systemâ€”and since thereare only one hundred and twenty-five planets around these seventeen suns, it should besimple to yon phenomenal brain. in fact, i expect to hear him say 'elementary, my dearwatson, elementary'!" "hardly that, dick, but i have found out afew things. there are some eighty planets which are probably habitable for beings likeus. other things being equal, it seems reasonable to assume that the older the sun, the longerits planets have been habitable, and therefore the older and more intelligent the life....""'ha! ha! it was elementary,' says sherlock." seaton interrupted. "you're heading directlyat that largest, oldest, and most intelligent planet, then, i take it, where i can catchme my physicist?"
"not directly at it, no. i am heading forthe place where it will be when we reach it. that is elementary.""ouch! that got to me, mart, right where i live. i'll be good.""but you are getting ahead of me, dickâ€”it is not as simple as you have assumed fromwhat i have said so far. the osnomian astronomers have done wonders in the short time they havehad, but their data, particularly on the planets of the outer suns, is as yet necessarily veryincomplete. since the furthermost outer sun is probably the oldest, it is the one in whichwe are most interested. it has seven planets, four of which are probably habitable, as faras temperature and atmosphere are concerned. however, nothing exact is yet known of theirmasses, motions, or places. therefore i have
laid our course to intercept the closest oneto us, as nearly as i can from what meager data we have. if it should prove to be inhabitedby intelligent beings, they can probably give us more exact information concerning theirneighboring planets. that is the best i can do.""that's a darn fine best, old topâ€”narrowing down to four from a hundred and twenty-five.well, until we get there, what to do? let's sing us a song, to keep our fearless quartettein good voice." "before you do anything," said margaret seriously,"i would like to know if you really think there is a chance of defeating those monsters." "in all seriousness, i do. in fact, i am quiteconfident of it. if we had two years, i know
that we could lick them cold; and by steppingon the gas i believe we can get the dope in less than the six months we have to work in.""i know that you are serious, dick. now you know that i do not want to discourage anyone, but i can see small basis for optimism," crane spoke slowly and thoughtfully. "i hopethat you will be able to control the zone of forceâ€”but you are not studying it yourself.you seem to be certain that somewhere in this system there is a race who already knows allabout it. i would like to know your reasons for thinking that such a race exists.""they may not be upon this system; they may have been outsiders, as we areâ€”but i havereasons for believing them to be natives of this system, since they were green. you areas familiar with osnomian mythology as i amâ€”you
girls in particular have read osnomian legendsto osnomian children for hours. also identically the same legends prevail upon urvania. i readthem in that lieutenant's brainâ€”in fact, i looked for them. you also know that everyfolk-legend has some basis, however tenuous, in fact. now, dottie, tell about the battleof the gods, when osnome was a pup." "the gods came down from the sky," dorothyrecited. "they were green, as were men. they wore invisible armor of polished metal, whichappeared and disappeared. they stayed inside the armor and fought outside it with swordsand lances of fire. men who fought against them cut them through and through with swords,and they struck the men with lances of flame so that they were stunned. so the gods foughtin days long gone and vanished in their invisible
armor, andâ€”â€”""that's enough," interrupted seaton. "the little red-haired girl has her lesson perfectly.get it, mart?" "no, i cannot say that i do.""why, it doesn't even make sense!" exclaimed margaret."all right, i'll elucidate. listen!" and seaton's voice grew tense with earnestness. "visitorscame down out of space. they were green. they wore zones of force, which they flashed onand off. they stayed inside the zones and projected their images outside, and used raysthrough the zones. men who fought against the images cut them through and through withswords, but could not harm them since they were not actual substance; and the imagesdirected rays against the men so that they
were stunned. so the visitors fought in dayslong gone, and vanished in their zones of force. how does that sound?""you have the most stupendous imagination the world has ever seenâ€”but there may besome slight basis of fact there, after all," said crane, slowly."i'm convinced of it, for one reason in particular. notice that it says specifically that thevisitors stunned the natives. now that thought is absolutely foreign to all osnomian natureâ€”whenthey strike they kill, and always have. now if that myth has come down through so manygenerations without having that 'stunned' changed to 'killed', i'm willing to bet afew weeks of time that the rest of it came down fairly straight, too. of course, whatthey had may not have been the zone of force
as we know it, but it must have been a rayof some kindâ€”and believe me, that was one educated ray. somebody sure had something,even 'way back in those days. and if they had anything at all back there, they mustknow a lot by now. that's why i want to look 'em up.""but suppose they want to kill us off at sight?" objected dorothy. "they might be able to doit, mightn't they?" "sure, but they probably wouldn't want toâ€”anymore than you would step on an ant who asked you to help him move a twig. that's abouthow much ahead of us they probably are. of course, we struck a pure mentality once, whocame darn near dematerializing us entirely, but i'm betting that these folks haven't gotthat far along yet. by the way, i've got a
hunch about those pure intellectuals.""oh, tell us about it!" laughed margaret. "your hunches are the world's greatest brainstorms!""well, i pumped out and rejeweled the compass we put on that funny planetâ€”as a last resort,i thought we might maybe visit them and ask that bozo we had the argument with to helpus out. i think heâ€”or itâ€”would show us everything about the zone of force we wantto know. i don't think that we'd be dematerialized, either, because the situation would give himsomething more to think about for another thousand cycles; and thinking seemed to behis main object in life. however, to get back to the subject, i found that even with thenew power of the compass the entire planet was still out of reach. unless they've dematerializedit, that means about ten billion light-years
as an absolute minimum. think about that fora minute!... i've just got a kind of a hunch that maybe they don't belong in this galaxyat allâ€”that they might be from some other galaxy, planet and all; just riding aroundon it, as we are riding in the skylark. is the idea conceivable to a sane mind, or not?""not!" decided dorothy, promptly. "we'd better go to bed. one more such idea, in progressionwith the last two you've had, would certainly give you a compound fracture of the skull.'night, cranes." end of chapter viColoring Pages Of Animal And Plant Cells