"As I have said, a lot of it is hard to understand, but I'm going to show it to you—all that, and more."
"Oh, I believe it, all right. After riding in this boat and looking out of the windows, I'll believe anything. Reading a dead man's brain is steep, though."
"I'll let you do it after we get there. I don't understand exactly how it works, myself, but I know how to operate one. Well, I found out that this man's brain was in good shape, and I got a shock when I read it. Here's what he had been through. They had been flying very high on their way to the front when their ship was seized by an invisible force and thrown upward. He must have thought faster than the others, because he put on an air-helmet and dived into this locker where he hid under a pile of gear, fixing things so that he could see out through the transparent arenak of the wall. No sooner was he hidden that the front end of the ship went up in a blaze of light, in spite of their ray screens going full blast. They were up so high by that time that when the bow was burned off the other three fainted from lack of air. Then their generators went out, and pretty soon two peculiar-looking strangers entered. They were wearing vacuum suits and were very short and stocky, giving the impression of enormous strength. They brought an educator of their own with them and read the brains of the three men. Then they dropped the ship a few thousand feet and revived the three with a drink of something out of a flask."
"Must have been different from the kind handled by most booties I know, then. The stuff we've been getting lately would make a man more unconscious than ever."
"Some powerful drug, probably, but the Osnomian didn't know anything about it. After the men were revived, the strangers, apparently from sheer cruelty and love of torturing their victims, informed them in the Osnomian language that they were from another world, on the far edge of the Galaxy. They even told them, knowing that the Osnomians knew nothing of astronomy, exactly where they were from. Then they went on to say that they wanted the entire green system for themselves, and that in something like two years of our time they were going to wipe out all the present inhabitants of the system and take it over, as a base for further operations. After that they amused themselves by describing exactly the kinds of death and destruction they were going to use. They described most of it in great detail. It's too involved to tell you about now, but they've got rays, generators, and screens that even the Osnomians never heard of. And of course they've got intra-atomic energy the same as we have. After telling them all this and watching them suffer, they put a machine on their heads and they dropped dead. That's probably what disintegrated their brains. Then they looked the ship over rather casually, as though they didn't see anything they were interested in; crippled the motors; and went away. The vessel was then released, and crashed. This man, of course, was killed by the fall. I buried the men—I didn't want anybody else reading that brain—hid some of the stuff I wanted most, and camouflaged the ship so that I'm fairly sure that it's there yet. I decided then to make this trip."
"I see." Loring's mind was grappling with these new and strange facts. "That news is staggering, Doctor. Think of it. Everybody thinks our own world is everything there is!"
"Our world is simply a grain of dust in the Universe. Most people know it, academically, but very few ever give the fact any actual consideration. But now that you've had a little time to get used to the idea of there being other worlds, and some of them as far ahead of us in science as we are ahead of the monkeys, what do you think of it?"
"I agree with you, that we've got their stuff," said Loring. "However, it occurs to me as a possibility that they may have so much stuff that we won't be able to make the approach. However, if the Osnomian fittings we're going to get are as good as you say they are, I think that two such men as you and I can get at least a lunch while any other crew, no matter who they are, are getting a square meal."
"I like your style, Loring. You and I will have the world eating out of our hands shortly after we get back. As far as actual procedure over there is concerned, of course, I haven't made any definite plans. We'll have to size up the situation after we get there before we can know exactly what we'll have to do. However, we are not coming back empty-handed."
"You said something, Chief!" and the two men, so startlingly unlike physically, but so alike inwardly, shook hands in token of their mutual dedication to a single purpose.
* * * * *
Loring was then instructed in the simple navigation of the ship of space, and thereafter the two men took their regular shifts at the controls. In due time they approached Osnome, and DuQuesne studied the planet carefully through a telescope before he ventured down into the atmosphere.
"This half of it used to be Mardonale. I suppose it's all Kondal now. No, there's a war on down there yet—at least, there's a disturbance of some kind, and on this planet that means war."
"What are you looking for, exactly?" asked Loring, who was also examining the terrain with a telescope.
"They've got some spherical space-ships, like Seaton's. I know they had one, and they've probably built more of them since that time. Their airships can't touch us, but those ball-shaped cruisers would be pure poison for us, the way we are fixed now. Can you see any of them?"
"Not yet. Too far away to make out details. They're certainly having a hot time down there, though, in that one spot."
They dropped lower, toward the stronghold which was being so stubbornly defended by the inhabitants of the third planet of the fourteenth sun, and so savagely attacked by the Kondalian forces.
"There, we can see what they're doing now," and DuQuesne anchored the vessel with an attractor. "I want to see if they've got many of those space-ships in action, and you will want to see what war is like, when it is fought by people, who have been making war steadily for ten thousand years."
Poised at the limit of clear visibility, the two men studied the incessant battle being waged beneath them. They saw not one, but fully a thousand of the globular craft high in the air and grouped in a great circle around an immense fortification upon the ground below. They saw no airships in the line of battle, but noticed that many such vessels were flying to and from the front, apparently carrying supplies. The fortress was an immense dome of some glassy, transparent material, partially covered with slag, through which they saw that the central space was occupied by orderly groups of barracks, and that round the circumference were arranged gigantic generators, projectors, and other machinery at whose purposes they could not even guess. From the base of the dome a twenty-mile-wide apron of the same glassy substance spread over the ground, and above this apron and around the dome were thrown the mighty defensive ray-screens, visible now and then in scintillating violet splendor as one of the copper-driven Kondalian projectors sought in vain for an opening. But the Earth-men saw with surprise that the main attack was not being directed at the dome; that only an occasional ray was thrown against it in order to make the defenders keep their screens up continuously. The edge of the apron was bearing the brunt of that vicious and never-ceasing attack, and most concerned the desperate defense.
For miles beyond that edge, and as deep under it as frightful rays and enormous charges of explosive copper could penetrate, the ground was one seething, flaming volcano of molten and incandescent lava; lava constantly being volatilized by the unimaginable heat of those rays and being hurled for miles in all directions by the inconceivable power of those explosive copper projectiles—the heaviest projectiles that could be used without endangering the planet itself—being directed under the exposed edge of that unbreakable apron, which was in actuality anchored to the solid core of the planet itself; lava flowing into and filling up the vast craters caused by the explosions. The attack seemed fiercest at certain points, perhaps a quarter of a mile apart around the circle, and after a time the watchers perceived that at those points, under the edge of the apron, in that indescribable inferno of boiling lava, destructive rays, and disintegrating copper, there were enemy machines at work. These machines were strengthening the protecting apron and extending it, very slowly, but ever wider and ever deeper as the ground under it and before it was volatilized or hurled away by the awful forces of the Kondalian attack. So much destruction had already been wrought that the edge of the apron and its molten moat were already fully a mile below the normal level of that cratered, torn, and tortured plain.
Now and then one of the mechanical moles would cease its labors, overcome by the concentrated fury of destruction centered upon it. Its shattered remnants would be withdrawn and shortly, repaired or replaced, it would be back at work. But it was not the defenders who had suffered most heavily. The fortress was literally ringed about with the shattered remnants of airships, and the riddled hulls of more than a few of those mighty globular cruisers of the void bore mute testimony to the deadliness and efficiency of the warfare of the invaders.
Even as they watched, one of the spheres, unable for some reason to maintain its screens or overcome by the awful forces playing upon it, flared from white into and through the violet and was hurled upward as though shot from the mouth of some Brobdingnagian howitzer. A door opened, and from its flaming interior four figures leaped out into the air, followed by a puff of orange-colored smoke. At the first sign of trouble, the ship next it in line leaped in front of it and the four figures floated gently to the ground, supported by friendly attractors and protected from enemy rays by the bulk and by the screens of the rescuing vessel. Two great airships soared upward from back of the lines and hauled the disabled vessel to the ground by means of their powerful attractors. The two observers saw with amazement that after brief attention from an ant-like ground-crew, the original four men climbed back into their warship and she again shot into the fray, apparently as good as ever.
"What do you know about that!" exclaimed DuQuesne. "That gives me an idea, Loring. They must get to them that way fairly often, to judge by the teamwork they use when it does happen. How about waiting until they disable another one like that, and then grabbing it while its in the air, deserted and unable to fight back? One of those ships is worth a thousand of this one, even if we had everything known to the Osnomians."
"That's a real idea—those boats certainly are brutes for punishment," agreed Loring, and as both men again settled down to watch the battle, he went on: "So this is war out this way? You're right. Seaton, with half this stuff, could whip the combined armies and navies of the world. I don't blame Brookings much, though, at that—nobody could believe half of this unless they could actually see it, as we are doing."
"I can't understand it," DuQuesne frowned as he considered the situation. "The attackers are Kondalians, all right—those ships are developments of the Skylark—but I don't get that fort at all. Wonder if it can be the strangers already? Don't think so—they aren't due for a couple of years yet, and I don't think the Kondalians could stand against them a minute. It must be what is left of Mardonale, although I never heard of anything like that. Probably it is some new invention they dug up at the last minute. That's it, I guess," and his brow cleared. "It couldn't be anything else."
* * * * *
They waited long for the incident to be repeated, and finally their patience was rewarded. When the next vessel was disabled and hurled upward by the concentration of enemy forces, DuQuesne darted down, seized it with his most powerful attractor, and whisked it away into space at such a velocity that to the eyes of the Kordalians it simply disappeared. He took the disabled warship far out into space and allowed it to cool off for a long time before deciding that it was safe to board it. Through the transparent walls they could see no sign of life, and DuQuesne donned a vacuum suit and stepped into the airlock. As Loring held the steel vessel close to the stranger, DuQuesne leaped lightly through the open door into the interior. Shutting the door, he opened an auxiliary air-tank, adjusting the gauge to one atmosphere as he did so. The pressure normal, he divested himself of the suit and made a thorough examination of the vessel. He then signaled Loring to follow him, and soon both ships were over Kondal, so high as to be invisible from the ground. Plunging the vessel like a bullet towards the grove in which he had left the Kondalian airship, he slowed abruptly just in time to make a safe landing. As he stepped out upon Osnomian soil, Loring landed the Earthly ship hardly less skillfully.
"This saves us a lot of trouble, Loring. This is undoubtedly one of the finest space-ships of the Universe, and just about ready for anything."
"How did they get to it?"
"One of the screen generators apparently weakened a trifle, probably from weeks of continuous use. That let some of the rays come through; everything got hot, and the crew had to jump or roast. Nothing is hurt, though, as the ship was thrown up and out of range before the arenak melted at all. The copper repellers are gone, of course, and most of the bars that were in use are melted down, but there was enough of the main bar left to drive the ship and we can replace the melted stuff easily enough. Nothing else was hurt, as there's absolutely nothing in the structure of these vessels that can be burned. Even the insulation in the coils and generators has a melting-point higher than that of porcelain. And not all the copper was melted, either. Some of these storerooms are lined with two feet of insulation and are piled full of bars and explosive ammunition."
"What was the smoke we saw, then?"
"That was their food-supply. It's cooked to an ash, and their water was all boiled away through the safety-valves. Those rays certainly can put out a lot of heat in a second or two!"
"Can the two of us put on those copper repeller-bands? This ship must be seventy-five feet in diameter."
"Yes, it's a lot bigger than the Skylark was. It's one of their latest models, or it wouldn't have been on the front line. As to banding on the repellers—that's easy. That airship is half full of metal-working machinery that can do everything but talk. I know how to use most of it, from seeing it in use, and we can figure out the rest."
In that unfrequented spot there was little danger of detection from the air. And none whatsoever of detection from the ground—of ground-travel upon Osnome there is none. Nevertheless, the two men camouflaged the vessels so that they were visible only to keen and direct scrutiny, and drove their task through to completion on the shortest possible time. The copper repellers were banded on, and much additional machinery was installed in the already well-equipped shop. This done, they transferred to their warship food, water, bedding, instruments, and everything else they needed or wanted from their own ship and from the disabled Kondalian airship. They made a last tour of inspection to be sure they had overlooked nothing useful, then embarked.
"Think anybody will find those ships? They could get a good line on what we've done."
"Probably, eventually, Loring, so we'd better destroy them. We'd better take a short hop first, though, to test everything out. Since you're not familiar with the controls of a ship of this type, you need practise. Shoot us up around that moon over there and bring us back to this spot."
"She's a sweet-handling boat—easy like a bicycle," declared Loring as he brought the vessel lightly to a landing upon their return. "We can burn the old one up now. We'll never need her again, any more than a snake needs his last year's skin."
"She's good, all right. Those two hulks must be put out of existence, but we shouldn't do it here. The rays would set the woods afire, and the metal would condense all around. We don't want to leave any tracks, so we'd better pull them out into space to destroy them. We could turn them loose, and as you've never worked a ray, it'll be good practice for you. Also, I want you to see for yourself just what our best armour-plate amounts to compared with arenak."
When they towed the two vessels far out into space, Loring put into practise the instruction he had received from DuQuesne concerning the complex armament of their vessel. He swung the beam-projector upon the Kondalian airship, pressed the connectors of the softener ray, the heat ray, and the induction ray, and threw the master switch. Almost instantly the entire hull became blinding white, but it was several seconds before the extremely refractory material began to volatilize. Though the metal was less than an inch think, it retained its shape and strength stubbornly, and only slowly did it disappear in flaming, flaring gusts of incandescent gas.
"There, you've seen what an inch of arenak is like," said DuQuesne when the destruction was complete. "Now shine it on that sixty-inch chrome-vanadium armor hull of our old bus and see what happens."
Loring did so. As the beam touched it, the steel disappeared in one flare of radiance—as he swung the projector in one flashing arc from the stem to the stern there was nothing left. Loring, swinging the beam, whistled in amazement.
"Wow! What a difference! And this ship of ours has a skin of arenak six feet thick!"
"Yes. Now you understand why I didn't want to argue with anybody out here as long as we were in our steel ship."
"I understand, all right; but I can't understand the power of these rays. Suppose I had had all twenty of them on instead of only three?"
"In that case, I think that we could have whipped even the short, thick strangers."
"You and me both. But say, every ship's got to have a name. This new one of ours is such a sweet, harmless, inoffensive little thing, we'd better name her the Violet, hadn't we?"
* * * * *
DuQuesne started the Violet off in the direction of the solar system occupied by the warlike strangers, but he did not hurry. He and Loring practiced incessantly for days at the controls, darting here and there, putting on terrific acceleration until the indicators showed a velocity of hundreds of thousand of miles per second, then reversing the acceleration until the velocity was zero. They studied the controls and alarm system until each knew perfectly every instrument, every tiny light, and the tone of each bell. They practiced with the rays, singly and in combination, with the visiplates, and with the many levers and dials, until each was so familiar with the complex installation that his handling of every control had become automatic. Not until then did DuQuesne give the word to start out in earnest toward their goal, at an unthinkable distance.
They had not been under way long when an alarm bell sounded its warning and a brilliant green light began flashing upon the board.
"Hm ... m," DuQuesne frowned as he reversed the bar. "Outside intra-atomic energy detector. Somebody's using power out here. Direction, about dead ahead—straight down. Let's see if we can see anything."
He swung number six, the telescopic visiplate, into connection. After what seemed to them a long time they saw a sudden sharp flash, apparently an immense distance ahead, and simultaneously three more alarm bells rang and three colored lights flashed briefly.
"Somebody got quite a jolt then. Three rays in action at once for three or four seconds," reported DuQuesne, as he applied still more negative acceleration.
"I'd like to know what this is all about!" he exclaimed after a time, as they saw a subdued glow, which lasted a minute or two. As the warning light was flashing more and more slowly and with diminishing intensity, the Violet was once more put upon her course. As she proceeded, however, the warnings of the liberation of intra-atomic energy grew stronger and stronger, and both men scanned their path intensely for a sight of the source of the disturbance, while their velocity was cut to only a few hundred miles an hour. Suddenly the indicator swerved and pointed behind them, showing that they had passed the object, whatever it was. DuQuesne instantly applied power and snapped on a small searchlight.
"If it's so small that we couldn't see it when we passed it, it's nothing to be afraid of. We'll be able to find it with a light."
After some search, they saw an object floating in space-apparently a vacuum suit!
"Shall one of us get in the airlock, or shall we bring it in with an attractor?" asked Loring.
"An attractor, by all means. Two or three of them, in fact, to spread-eagle whatever it is. Never take any chances. It's probably an Osnomian, but you never can tell. It may be one of those other people. We know they were around here a few weeks ago, and they're the only ones I know of that have intra-atomic power besides us and the Osnomians."
"That's no Osnomian," he continued, as the stranger was drawn into the airlock. "He's big enough around for four Osnomians, and very short. We'll take no chances at all with that fellow."
The captive was brought into the control room pinioned head, hand, and foot with attractors and repellers, before DuQuesne approached him. He then read the temperature and pressure of the stranger's air-supply, and allowed the surplus air to escape slowly before removing the stranger's suit and revealing one of the Fenachrone—eyes closed, unconscious or dead.
DuQuesne leaped for the educator and handed Loring a headset.
"Put this on quick. He may be only unconscious, and we might not be able to get a thing from him if he were awake."
Loring donned the headset, still staring at the monstrous form with amazement, not unmixed with awe, while DuQuesne, paying no attention to anything except the knowledge he was seeking, manipulated the controls of the instrument. His first quest was for the weapons and armament of the vessel. In this he was disappointed, as he learned that the stranger was one of the navigating engineers, and as such, had no detailed knowledge of the matters of prime importance to the inquisitor. He did have a complete knowledge of the marvelous Fenachrone propulsion system, however, and this DuQuesne carefully transferred to his own brain. He then rapidly explored other regions of that fearsome organ of thought.
As the gigantic and inhuman brain was spread before them, DuQuesne and Loring read not only the language, customs, and culture of the Fenachrone, but all their plans for the future, as well as the events of the past. Plainly in his mind they perceived how he had been cast adrift in the emptiness of the void. They saw the Fenachrone cruiser lying in wait for the two globular vessels. Looking through an extraordinarily powerful telescope with the eyes of their prisoner, they saw them approach, all unsuspecting. DuQuesne recognized all five persons in the Skylark and Dunark and Sitar in the Kondal; such was that unearthly optical instrument and so clear was the impression upon the mind before him. They saw the attack and the battle. They saw the Skylark throw off her zone of force and attack; saw this one survivor standing directly in line with a huge projector-spring, and saw the spring severed by the zone. The free end, under its thousands of pounds of tension, had struck the being upon the side of the head, and the force of the blow, only partially blocked by the heavy helmet, had hurled him out through the yawning gap in the wall and hundreds of miles out into space.
Suddenly the clear view of the brain of the Fenachrone became blurred and meaningless and the flow of knowledge ceased—the prisoner had regained consciousness and was trying with all his gigantic strength to break from those intangible bonds that held him. So powerful were the forces upon him, however, that only a few twitching muscles gave evidence that he was struggling at all. Glancing about him he recognized the attractors and repellers bearing upon him, ceased his efforts to escape, and hurled the full power of his baleful gaze into the black eyes so close to his own. But DuQuesne's mind, always under perfect control and now amply reenforced by a considerable proportion of the stranger's own knowledge and power, did not waver under the force of even that hypnotic glare.
"It is useless, as you observe," he said coldly, in the stranger's own tongue, and sneered. "You are perfectly helpless. Unlike you of the Fenachrone, however, men of my race do not always kill strangers at sight, merely because they are strangers. I will spare your life, if you can give me anything of enough value to me to make extra time and trouble worth while."
"You read my mind while I could not resist your childish efforts. I will have no traffic whatever with you who have destroyed my vessel. If you have mentality enough to understand any portion of my mind—which I doubt—you already know the fate in store for you. Do with me what you will." This from the stranger.
* * * * *
DuQuesne pondered long before he replied; considering whether it was to his advantage to inform this stranger of the facts. Finally he decided.
"Sir, neither I nor this vessel had anything to do with the destruction of your warship. Our detectors discovered you floating in empty space; we stopped and rescued you from death. We have seen nothing else, save what we saw pictured in your own brain. I know that, in common with all of your race, you possess neither conscience nor honor, as we understand the terms. An automatic liar by instinct and training whenever you think lies will best serve your purpose, you may yet have intelligence enough to recognize simple truth when you hear it. You already have observed that we are of the same race as those who destroyed your vessel, and have assumed that we are with them. In that you are wrong. It is true that I am acquainted with those others, but they are my enemies. I am here to kill them, not to aid them. You have already helped me in one way—I know as much as does my enemy concerning the impenetrable shield of force. If I will return you unharmed to your own planet, will you assist me in stealing one of your ships of space, so that I may destroy that Earth-vessel?"
The Fenachrone, paying no attention to DuQuesne's barbed comments concerning his honor and veracity, did not hesitate an instant in his reply.
"I will not. We supermen of the Fenachrone will allow no vessel of ours, with its secrets unknown to any others of the Universe, to fall into the hands of any of the lesser breeds of men."
"Well, you didn't try to lie that time, anyway," said DuQuesne, "but think a minute. Seaton, my enemy, already has one of your vessels—don't think he is too much of a fool to put it back together and to learn its every secret. Then, too, remember that I have your mind, and can get along without you; even though I am willing to admit that you could be of enough help to me so that I would save your life in exchange for that help. Also remember that, superman though you may be, your mentality cannot cope with the forces I have bearing upon you. Neither will your being a superman enable your body to retain life after I have pushed you through yonder door, dressed as you are in a silken tunic."
"I have the normal love of life," was the reply, "but some things cannot be done, even with life at stake. Stealing a vessel of the Fenachrone is one of those things. I can, however, do this much—if you will return me to my own planet, you two shall be received as guests aboard one of our vessels and shall be allowed to witness the vengeance of the Fenachrone upon your enemy. Then you shall be returned to your vessel and allowed to depart unharmed."
"Now you are lying by rote—I know just what you'd do," said DuQuesne. "Get that idea out of your head right now. The attractors now holding you will not be released until after you have told all. Then, and then only, will we try to discover a way of returning you to your own world safely, and yet in a manner which will in no way jeopardize my own safety. Incidentally, I warn you that the first sign of an attempt to play false with me in any way will mean your instant death."
The prisoner remained silent, analyzing every feature of the situation, and DuQuesne continued, coldly:
"Here's something else for you to think about. If you are unwilling to help us, what is to prevent me from killing you, and then hunting up Seaton and making peace with him for the duration of this forthcoming war? With the fragments of your vessel, which he has; with my knowledge of your mind, reenforced by your own dead brain; and with the vast resources of all the planets of the green system; there is no doubt that the plans of the Fenachrone will be seriously interfered with. Myriads of your race will certainly lose their lives, and it is quite possible that your entire race would be destroyed. Understand that I care nothing for the green system. You are welcome to it if you do as I ask. If you do not, I shall warn them and help them simply to protect my world, which is now my own personal property."
"In return for our armament and equipment, you promise not to warn the green system against us? The death of your enemy takes first place in your mind?" The stranger spoke thoughtfully. "In that I understand your viewpoint thoroughly. But, after I have remodeled your power-plant into ours and have piloted you to our planet, what assurance have I that you will liberate me, as you have said?"
"None whatever—I have made and am asking no promises, since I cannot expect you to trust me, any more than I can trust you. Enough of this argument! I am master here, and I am dictating terms. We can get along without you. Therefore you must decide quickly whether you would rather die suddenly and surely, here in space and right now, or help us as I demand and live until you get back home—enjoying meanwhile your life and whatever chance you think you may have of being liberated within the atmosphere of your own planet."
"Just a minute, Chief!" Loring said, in English, his back to the prisoner. "Wouldn't we gain more by killing him and going back to Seaton and the green system, as you suggested?"
"No." DuQuesne also turned away, to shield his features from the mind-reading gaze of the Fenachrone. "That was pure bluff. I don't want to get within a million miles of Seaton until after we have the armament of this fellow's ships. I couldn't make peace with Seaton now, even if I wanted to—and I haven't the slightest intention of trying. I intend killing him on sight. Here's what we're going to do. First, we'll get what we came after. Then we'll find the Skylark and blow her clear out of space, and take over the pieces of that Fenachrone ship. After that we'll head for the green system, and with their own stuff and what we'll give them, they'll be able to give those fiends a hot reception. By the time they finally destroy the Osnomians—if they do—we'll have the world ready for them." He turned to the Fenachrone. "What is your decision?"
"I submit, in the hope that you will keep your promise, since there is no alternative but death," and the awful creature, still loosely held by the attractors and carefully watched by DuQuesne and Loring, fairly tore into the task of rebuilding the Osnomian power-plant into the space-annihilating drive of the Fenachrone—for he well knew one fact that DuQuesne's hurried inspection had failed to glean from the labyrinthine intricacies of that fearsome brain: that once within the detector screens of that distant solar system these Earth-beings would be utterly helpless before the forces which would inevitably be turned upon them. Also, he realized that time was precious, and resolved to drive the Violet so unmercifully that she would overtake that fleeing torpedo, now many hours upon its way—the torpedo bearing news, for the first time in Fenachrone history, of the overwhelming defeat and capture of one of its mighty engines of interstellar war.
In a very short time, considering the complexity of the undertaking, the conversion of the power-plant was done and the repellers, already supposed the ultimate in protection, were reenforced by a ten-thousand-pound mass of activated copper, effective for untold millions of miles. Their monstrous pilot then set the bar and advanced both levers of the dual power control out to the extreme limit of their travel.
There was no sense of motion or of acceleration, since the new system of propulsion acted upon every molecule of matter within the radius of activity of the bar, which had been set to include the entire hull. The passengers felt only the utter lack of all weight and the other peculiar sensations with which they were already familiar, as each had had previous experience of free motion in space. But in spite of the lack of apparent motion, the Violet was now leaping through the unfathomable depths of interstellar space with the unthinkable speed of five times the velocity of light!
The Porpoise-Men of Dasor
"How long do you figure it's going to take us to get there, Mart?" Seaton asked from a corner, where he was bending over his apparatus-table.
"About three days at this acceleration. I set it at what I thought the safe maximum for the girls. Should we increase it?"
"Probably not—three days isn't bad. Anyway, to save even one day we'd have to more than double the acceleration, and none of us could do anything, so we'd better let it ride. How're you making it, Peg?"
"I'm getting used to weighing a ton now. My knees buckled only once this morning from my forgetting to watch them when I tried to walk. Don't let me interfere, though! if I am slowing us down, I'll go to bed and stay there!"
"It'd hardly pay," said Seaton. "We can use the time to good advantage. Look here, Mart—I've been looking over this stuff I got out of their ship and here's something I know you'll eat up. They refer to it as a chart, but it's three-dimensional and almost incredible. I can't say that I understand it, but I get an awful kick out of looking at it. I've been studying it a couple of hours, and haven't started yet. I haven't found our solar system, the green one, or their own. It's too heavy to move around now, because of the acceleration we're using—come on over here and give it a look."
The "chart" was a strip of some parchment-like material, or film, apparently miles in length, wound upon reels at each end of the machine. One section of the film was always under the viewing mechanism—an optical system projecting an undistorted image into a visiplate plate somewhat similar to their own—and at the touch of a lever, a small atomic motor turned the reels and moved the film through the projector.
It was not an ordinary star-chart: it was three-dimensional, ultra-stereoscopic. The eye did not perceive a flat surface, but beheld an actual, extremely narrow wedge of space as seen from the center of the galaxy. Each of the closer stars was seen in its true position in space and in its true perspective, and each was clearly identified by number. In the background were faint stars and nebulous masses of light, too distant to be resolved into separate stars—a true representation of the actual sky. As both men stared, fascinated, into the visiplate, Seaton touched the lever and they apparently traveled directly along the center line of that ever-widening wedge. As they proceeded, the nearer stars grew brighter and larger, soon becoming suns, with their planets and then the satellites of the planets plainly visible, and finally passing out of the picture behind the observers. The fainter stars became bright, grew into suns and solar systems, and were passed in turn. The chart unrolled, and the nebulous masses of light were approached, became composed of faint stars, which developed as had the others, and were passed.
Finally, when the picture filled the entire visiplate, they arrived at the outermost edge of the galaxy. No more stars were visible: they saw empty space stretching for inconceivably vast distances before them. But beyond that indescribable and incomprehensible vacuum they saw faint lenticular bodies of light, which were also named, and which each man knew to be other galaxies, charted and named by the almost unlimited power of the Fenachrone astronomers, but not as yet explored. As the magic scroll unrolled still farther, they found themselves back in the center of the galaxy, starting outward in the wedge adjacent to the one which they had just traversed. Seaton cut off the motor and wiped his forehead.
"Wouldn't that break you off at the ankles, Mart? Did you ever conceive the possibility of such a thing?
"It would, and I did not. There are literally miles and miles of film in each of those reels, and I see that there is a magazine full of reels in the cabinet. There must be an index or a master-chart."
"Yeah, there's a book in this slot here," said Seaton, "but we don't know any of their names or numbers—wait a minute! How did he report our Earth on that torpedo? Planet number three of sun six four something Pilarone, wasn't it? I'll get the record.
"Six four seven three Pilarone, it was."
"Pilarone ... let's see...." Seaton studied the index volume. "Reel twenty, scene fifty-one, I'd translate it."
They found the reel, and "scene fifty-one" did indeed show that section of space in which our solar system is. Seaton stopped the chart when star six four seven three was at its closest range, and there was our sun; with its nine planets and their many satellites accurately shown and correctly described.
"They know their stuff, all right—you've got to hand it to 'em. I've been straightening out that brain record—cutting out the hazy stretches and getting his knowledge straightened out so we can use it, and there's a lot of this kind of stuff in the record you can get. Suppose that you can figure out exactly where he comes from with this dope and with his brain record?"
"Certainly. I may be able to get more complete information upon the green system than the Osnomians have, which will be very useful indeed. You are right—I am intensely interested in this material, and if you do not care particularly about studying it any more at this time, I believe that I should begin to study it now."
"Hop to it. I'm going to study that record some more. No human brain can take it all, I'm afraid, especially all at once, but I'm going to kinda peck around the edges and get me some dope that I want pretty badly. We got a lot of stuff from that wampus."
About sixty hours out, Dorothy, who had been observing the planet through number six visiplate, called Seaton away from the Fenachrone brain-record, upon which he was still concentrating.
"Come here a minute, Dickie! Haven't you got that knowledge all packed away in your skull yet?"
"I'll say I haven't. That bird's brain would make a dozen of mine, and it was loaded until the scuppers were awash. I'm just nibbling around the edges yet."
"I've always heard that the capacity of even the human brain was almost infinite. Isn't that true?" asked Margaret.
"Maybe it is, if the knowledge were built up gradually over generations. I think maybe I can get most of this stuff into my peanut brain so I can use it, but it's going to be an awful job."
"Is their brain really as far ahead of ours as I gathered from what I saw of it?" asked Crane.
"It sure is," replied Seaton, "as far as knowledge and intelligence are concerned, but they have nothing else in common with us. They don't belong to the genus 'homo' at all, really. Instead of having a common ancestor with the anthropoids, as they say we had, they evolved from a genus which combined the worst traits of the cat tribe and the carnivorous lizards—the most savage and bloodthirsty branches of the animal kingdom—and instead of getting better as they went along, they got worse, in that respect at least. But they sure do know something. When you get a month or so to spare, you want to put on this harness and grab his knowledge, being very careful to steer clear of his mental traits and so on. Then, when we get back to the Earth, we'll simply tear it apart and rebuild it. You'll know what I mean when you get this stuff transplanted into your own skull. But to cut out the lecture, what's on your mind, Dottie Dimple?"
"This planet Martin picked out is all wet, literally. The visibility is fine—very few clouds—but this whole half of it is solid ocean. If there are any islands, even, they're mighty small."
* * * * *
All four looked into the receiver. With the great magnification employed, the planet almost filled the visiplate. There were a few fleecy wisps of cloud, but the entire surface upon which they gazed was one sheet of the now familiar deep and glorious blue peculiar to the waters of that cuprous solar system, with no markings whatever.
"What d'you make of it, Mart? That's water all right—copper-sulphate solution, just like the Osnomian and Urvanian oceans—and nothing else visible. How big would an island have to be for us to see it from here?"
"So much depends upon the contour and nature of the island, that it is hard to say. If it were low and heavily covered with their green-blue vegetation, we might not be able to see even a rather large one, whereas if it were hilly and bare, we could probably see one only a few miles in diameter."
"Well, one good thing, anyway, we're approaching it from the central sun, and almost in line with their own sun, so it's daylight all over it. As it turns and as we get closer, we'll see what we can see. Better take turns watching it, hadn't we?" asked Seaton.
It was decided, and while the Skylark was still some distance away, several small islands became visible, and the period of rotation of the planet was determined to be in the neighborhood of fifty hours. Margaret, then at the controls, picked out the largest island visible and directed the bar toward it. As they dropped down close to their objective, they found that the air was of the same composition as that of Osnome, but had a pressure of seventy-eight centimeters of mercury, and that the surface gravity of the planet was ninety-five hundredths that of the Earth.
"Fine business!" exulted Seaton. "Just about like home, but I don't see much of any place to land without getting wet, do you? Those reflectors are probably solar generators, and they cover the whole island except for that lagoon right under us."
The island, perhaps ten miles long and half that in width, was entirely covered with great parabolic reflectors, arranged so closely together that little could be seen between them. Each reflector apparently focussed upon an object in the center, a helix which seemed to writhe luridly in that flaming focus, glowing with a nacreous, opalescent green light.
"Well, nothing much to see there—let's go down," remarked Seaton as he shot the Skylark over to the edge of the island and down to the surface of the water. But here again nothing was to be seen of the land itself. The wall was one vertical plate of seamless metal, supporting huge metal guides, between which floated metal pontoons. From these gigantic floats metal girders and trusses went through slots in the wall into the darkness of the interior. Close scrutiny revealed that the large floats were rising steadily, although very slowly; while smaller floats bobbed up and down upon each passing wave.
"Solar generators, tide-motors, and wave-motors, all at once!" ejaculated Seaton. "Some power-plant! Folks, I'm going to take a look at that if I have to drill in with a ray!"
They circumnavigated the island without revealing any door or other opening—the entire thirty miles was one stupendous battery of the generators. Back at the starting point, the Skylark hopped over the structure and down to the surface of the small central lagoon previously noticed. Close to the water, it was seen that there was plenty of room for the vessel to move about beneath the roof of reflectors, and that the island was one solid stand of tide-motors. At one end of the lagoon was an open metal structure, the only building visible, and Seaton brought the space-cruiser up to it and through the huge opening—for door there was none. The interior of the room was lighted by long, tubular lights running around in front of the walls, which were veritable switchboards. Row after row and tier upon tier stood the instruments, plainly electrical meters of enormous capacity and equally plainly in full operation, but no wiring or bus-bar could be seen. Before each row of instruments there was a narrow walk, with steps leading down into the water of the lagoon. Every part of the great room was plainly visible, and not a living being was even watching that vast instrument-board.
"What do you make of it, Dick?" asked Crane, slowly.
"No wiring—tight beam transmission. The Fenachrone do it with two matched-frequency separable units. Millions and millions of kilowatts there, if I'm any judge. Absolutely automatic too, or else——" Seaton's voice died away.
"Or else what?" asked Dorothy.
"Just a hunch. I wouldn't wonder if——"
"Hold it, Dicky! Remember I had to put you to bed after that last hunch you had!"
"Here it is, anyway. Mart, what would be the logical line of evolution when the planet has become so old that all the land has been eroded to a level below that of the ocean? You picked us out an old one, all right—so old that there's no land left. Would a highly civilized people revert to fish? That seems like a backward move to me, but what other answer is possible?"
"Probably not to true fishes—although they might easily develop some fish-like traits. I do not believe, however, that they would go back to gills or to cold blood."
"What are you two saying?" interrupted Margaret. "Do you mean to say that you think fish live here instead of people, and that fish did all this?" as she waved her hand at the complicated machinery about them.
"Not fish exactly, no." Crane paused in thought. "Merely a people who have adjusted themselves to their environment through conscious or natural selection. We had a talk about this very thing in our first trip, shortly after I met you. Remember? I commented on the fact that there must be life throughout the Universe, much of it that we could not understand; and you replied that there would be no reason to suppose them awful because incomprehensible. That may be the case here."
"Well, I'm going to find out," declared Seaton, as he appeared with a box full of coils, tubes, and other apparatus.
"How?" asked Dorothy, curiously.
"Fix me up a detector and follow up one of those beams. Find its frequency and direction, first, you know, then pick it up outside and follow it to where it's going. It'll go through anything, of course, but I can trap off enough of it to follow it, even if it's tight enough to choke itself," said Seaton.
"That's one thing I got from that brain record."
* * * * *
He worked deftly and rapidly, and soon was rewarded by a flaring crimson color in his detector when it was located in one certain position in front of one of the meters. Noting the bearing on the great circles, he then moved the Skylark along that exact line, over the reflectors, and out beyond the island, where he allowed the vessel to settle directly downwards.
"Now folks, if I've done this just right, we'll get a red flash directly."
As he spoke the detector again burst into crimson light, and he set the bar into the line and applied a little power, keeping the light at its reddest while the other three looked on in fascinated interest.
"This beam is on something that's moving, Mart—can't take my eyes off it for a second or I'll lose it entirely. See where we're going, will you?"
"We are about to strike the water," replied Crane quietly.
"The water!" exclaimed Margaret.
"Fair enough—why not?"
"Oh, that's right—I forgot that the Skylark is as good a submarine as she is an airship."
Crane pointed number six visiplate directly into the line of flight and started into the dark water.
"Mow deep are we, Mart?" asked Seaton after a time.
"Only about a hundred feet, and we do not seem to be getting any deeper."
"That's good. Afraid this beam might be going to a station on the other side of the planet—through the ground. If so, we'd have had to go back and trace another. We can follow it any distance under water, but not through rock. Need a light?"
"Not unless we go deeper."
For two hours Seaton held the detector upon that tight beam of energy, traveling at a hundred miles an hour, the highest speed he could use and still hold the beam.
"I'd like to be up above watching us. I bet we're making the water boil behind us," remarked Dorothy.
"Yeah, we're kicking up quite a wake, I guess. It sure takes power to drive the old can through this wetness."
"Slow down!" commanded Crane. "I see a submarine ahead. I thought it might be a whale at first, but it is a boat and it is what we are aiming for. You are constantly swinging with it, keeping it exactly in the line."
"O.K." Seaton reduced the power and swung the visiplate over in front of him, whereupon the detector lamp went out. "It's a relief to follow something I can see, instead of trying to guess which way that beam's going to wiggle next. Lead on, Macduff—I'm right on your tail!"
The Skylark fell in behind the submersible craft, close enough to keep it plainly visible in the telescopic visiplate. Finally the stranger stopped and rose to the surface between two rows of submerged pontoons which, row upon row, extended in every direction as far as the telescope could reach.
"Well, Dot, we're where we're going, wherever that is."
"What do you suppose it is? It looks like a floating isleport, like what it told about in that wild-story magazine you read so much."
"Maybe—but if so they can't be fish," answered Seaton. "Let's go—I want to look it over," and water flew in all directions as the Skylark burst out of the ocean and leaped into the air far above what was in truth a floating city.
Rectangular in shape, it appeared to be about six miles long and four wide. It was roofed with solar generators like those covering the island just visited, but the machines were not spaced quite so closely together, and there were numerous open lagoons. The water around the entire city was covered with wave-motors. From their great height the visitors could see an occasional submarine moving slowly under the city, and frequently small surface craft dashed across the lagoons. As they watched, a seaplane with short, thick wings curved like those of a gull, rose from one of the lagoons and shot away over the water.
"Quite a place," remarked Seaton as he swung a visiplate upon one of the lagoons. "Submarines, speedboats, and fast seaplanes. Fish or not, they're not so slow. I'm going to grab off one of those folks and see how much they know. Wonder if they're peaceable or warlike?"
"They look peaceable, but you know the proverb," Crane cautioned his impetuous friend.
"Yes, and I'm going to be timid like a mice," Seaton returned as the Skylark dropped rapidly toward a lagoon near the edge of the island.
"You ought to put that in a gag book, Dick," Dorothy chuckled. "You forget all about being timid until an hour afterwards."
"Watch me, Red-top! If they even point a finger at us, I'm going to run a million miles a minute."
No hostile demonstration was made as they dropped lower and lower, however, and Seaton, with one hand upon the switch actuating the zone of force, slowly lowered the vessel down past the reflectors and to the surface of the water. Through the visiplate he saw the crowd of people coming toward them—some swimming in the lagoon, some walking along narrow runways. They seemed to be of all sizes, and unarmed.
"I believe they're perfectly peaceable, and just curious, Mart. I've already got the repellers on close range—believe I'll cut them off altogether."
"How about the ray-screens?"
"All three full out. They don't interfere with anything solid, though, and won't hurt anything. They'll stop any ray attack and this arenak hull will stop anything else we are apt to get there. Watch this board, will you, and I'll see if I can't negotiate with them."
Seaton opened the door. As he did so, a number of the smaller beings dived headlong into the water, and a submarine rose quietly to the surface less than fifty feet away with a peculiar tubular weapon and a huge ray-generator trained upon the Skylark. Seaton stood motionless, his right hand raised in the universal sign of peace, his left holding at his hip an automatic pistol charged with X-plosive shells—while Crane, at the controls, had the Fenachrone super-generator in line, and his hand lay upon the switch, whose closing would volatilize the submarine and cut an incandescent path of destruction through the city lengthwise.
* * * * *
After a moment of inaction, a hatch opened, a man stepped out upon the deck of the submarine, and the two tried to converse, but with no success. Seaton then brought out the mechanical educator, held it up for the other's inspection, and waved an invitation to come aboard. Instantly the other dived, and came to the surface immediately below Seaton, who assisted him into the Skylark. Tall and heavy as Seaton was, the stranger was half a head taller and almost twice as heavy. His thick skin was of the characteristic Osnomian green and his eyes were the usual black, but he had no hair whatever. His shoulders, though broad and enormously strong, were very sloping, and his powerful arms were little more than half as long as would have been expected had they belonged to a human being of his size. The hands and feet were very large and very broad, and the fingers and toes were heavily webbed. His high domed forehead appeared even higher because of the total lack of hair, otherwise his features were regular and well-proportioned. He carried himself easily and gracefully, and yet with the dignity of one accustomed to command as he stepped into the control room and saluted gravely the three other Earth-beings. He glanced quickly around the room, and showed unmistakable pleasure as he saw the power-plant of the cruiser of space. Languages were soon exchanged and the stranger spoke, in a bass voice vastly deeper than Seaton's own.
"In the name of our city and planet—I may say in the name of our solar system, for you are very evidently from one other than our green system—I greet you. I would offer you refreshment, as is our custom, but I fear that your chemistry is but ill adapted to our customary fare. If there be aught in which we can be of assistance to you, our resources are at your disposal—but before you leave us, I shall wish to ask from you a great gift."
"Sir, we thank you. We are in search of knowledge concerning forces which we cannot as yet control. From the power systems you employ, and from what I have learned of the composition of your suns and planets, I assume you have none of the metal of power, and it is a quantity of that element that is your greatest need?"
"Yes. Power is our only lack. We generate all we can with the materials and knowledge at our disposal, but we never have enough. Our development is hindered, our birth-rate must be held down to a minimum, many new cities which we need cannot be built and many new projects cannot be started, all for lack of power. For one gram of that metal I see plated upon that copper cylinder, of whose very existence no scientist upon Dasor has had even an inkling, we would do almost anything. In fact, if all else failed, I would be tempted to attack you, did I not know that our utmost power could not penetrate even your outer screen, and that you could volatilize the entire planet if you so desired."
"Great Cat!" In his surprise Seaton lapsed from the formal language he had been employing. "Have you figured us all out already, from a standing start?"
"We know electricity, chemistry, physics, and mathematics fairly well. You see, our race is many millions of years older than is yours."
"You're the man I've been looking for, I guess," said Seaton. "We have enough of this metal with us so that we can spare you some as well as not. But before you get it, I'll introduce you. Folks, this is Sacner Carfon, Chief of the Council of the planet Dasor. They saw us all the time, and when we headed for this, the Sixth City, he came over from the capital, or First City, in the flagship of his police fleet, to welcome us or to fight us, as we pleased. Carfon, this is Martin Crane—or say, better than introductions, put on the headsets, everybody, and get acquainted right."
Acquaintance made and the apparatus put away, Seaton went to one of the store-rooms and brought out a lump of "X," weighing about a hundred pounds.
"There's enough to build power-plants from now on. It would save time if you were to dismiss your submarine. With you to pilot us, we can take you back to the First City a lot faster than your vessel can travel."
Carfon took a miniature transmitter from a pouch under his arm and spoke briefly, then gave Seaton the course. In a few minutes, the First City was reached, and the Skylark descended rapidly to the surface of a lagoon at one end of the city. Short as had been the time consumed by their journey from the Sixth City, they found a curious and excited crowd awaiting them. The central portion of the lagoon was almost covered by the small surface craft, while the sides, separated from the sidewalks by the curbs, were full of swimmers. The peculiar Dasorian equivalents of whistles, bells, and gongs were making a deafening uproar, and the crowd was yelling and cheering in much the same fashion as do earthly crowds upon similar occasions. Seaton stopped the Skylark and took his wife by the shoulder, swinging her around in front of the visiplate.
"Look at that, Dot. Talk about rapid transit! They could give the New York subway a flying start and beat them hands down!"
* * * * *
Dorothy looked into the visiplate and gasped. Six metal pipes, one above the other, ran above and parallel to each sidewalk-lane of water. The pipes were full of ocean water, water racing along at fully fifty miles an hour and discharging, each stream a small waterfall, into the lagoon. Each pipe was lighted in the interior, and each was full of people, heads almost touching feet, unconcernedly being borne along, completely immersed in that mad current. As the passenger saw daylight and felt the stream begin to drop, he righted himself, apparently selecting an objective point, and rode the current down into the ocean. A few quick strokes, and he was either at the surface or upon one of the flights of stairs leading up to the platform. Many of the travelers did not even move as they left the orifice. If they happened to be on their backs, they entered the ocean backward and did not bother about righting themselves or about selecting a destination until they were many feet below the surface.
"Good heavens, Dick! They'll kill themselves or drown!"
"Not these birds. Notice their skins? They've got a hide like a walrus, and a terrific layer of subcutaneous fat. Even their heads are protected that way—you could hardly hit one of them enough with a baseball bat to hurt him. And as for drowning—they can out-swim a fish, and can stay under water almost an hour without coming up for air. Even one of those youngsters can swim the full length of the city without taking a breath."
"How do you get that velocity of flow, Carfon?" asked Crane.
"By means of pumps. These channels run all over the city, and the amount of water running in each tube and the number of tubes in use are regulated automatically by the amount of traffic. When any section of tube is empty of people, no water flows through it. This was necessary in order to save power. At each intersection there are four stand pipes and automatic swim-counters that regulate the volume of water and the number of tubes in use. This is ordinarily a quiet pool, as it is in a residence section, and this channel—our channels correspond to your streets, you know—has only six tubes each way. If you will look on the other side of the channel, you will see the intake end of the tubes going down-town."
Seaton swung the visiplate around and they saw six rapidly-moving stairways, each crowded with people, leading from the ocean level up to the top of a tall metal tower. As the passengers reached the top of the flight they were catapulted head-first into the chamber leading to the tube below.
"Well, that is some system for handling people!" exclaimed Seaton. "What's the capacity of the system?"
"When running full pressure, six tubes will handle five thousand people a minute. It is only very rarely, on such occasions as this, that they are ever loaded to capacity. Some of the channels in the middle of the city have as many as twenty tubes, so that it is always possible to go from one end of the city to the other in less than ten minutes."
"Don't they ever jam?" asked Dorothy curiously. "I've been lost more than once in the New York subway, and been in some perfectly frightful jams, too—and they weren't moving ten thousand people a minute either."
"No jams ever have occurred. The tubes are perfectly smooth and well-lighted, and all turns and intersections are rounded. The controlling machines allow only so many persons to enter any tube—if more should try to enter than can be carried comfortably, the surplus passengers are slid off down a chute to the swim-ways, or sidewalks, and may either wait a while or swim to the next intersection."
"That looks like quite a jam down there now." Seaton pointed to the receiving pool, which was now one solid mass except for the space kept clear by the six mighty streams of humanity-laden water.
"If the newcomers can't find room to come to the surface they'll swim over to some other pool." Carfon shrugged indifferently. "My residence is the fifth cubicle on the right side of this channel. Our custom demands that you accept the hospitality of my home, if only for a moment and only for a beaker of distilled water. Any ordinary visitor could be received in my office, but you must enter my home."
Seaton steered the Skylark carefully, surrounded as she was by a tightly packed crowd of swimmers, to the indicated dwelling, and anchored her so that one of the doors was close to a flight of steps leading from the corner of the building down into the water. Carfon stepped out, opened the door of his house, and preceded his guests within. The room was large and square, and built of a synthetic, non-corroding metal, as was the entire city. The walls were tastefully decorated with striking geometrical designs in many-colored metal, and upon the floor was a softly woven rug. Three doors leading into other rooms could be seen, and strange pieces of furniture stood here and there. In the center of the floor-space was a circular opening some four feet in diameter, and there, only a few inches below the level of the floor, was the surface of the ocean.
Carfon introduced his guests to his wife—a feminine replica of himself, although she was not of quite such heroic proportions.
"I don't suppose that Seven is far away, is he?" Carfon asked of the woman.
"Probably he is outside, near the flying ball. If he has not been touching it ever since it came down, it is only because someone stronger than he pushed him aside. You know how boys are," turning to Dorothy with a smile as she spoke, "boy nature is probably universal."
"Pardon my curiosity, but why 'Seven'?" asked Dorothy, as she returned the smile.
"He is the two thousand three hundred and forty-seventh Sacner Carfon in direct male line of descent," she explained. "But perhaps Six has not explained these things to you. Our population must not be allowed to increase, therefore each couple can have only two children. It is customary for the boy to be born first, and is given the name of his father. The girl is younger, and is given her mother's name."
"That will now be changed," said Carfon feelingly. "These visitors have given us the secret of power, and we shall be able to build new cities and populate Dasor as she should he populated."
"Really?——" She checked herself, but a flame leaped to her eyes, and her voice was none too steady as she addressed the visitors. "For that we Dasorians thank you more than words can express. Perhaps you strangers do not know what it means to want a dozen children with every fiber of your being and to be allowed to have only two—we do, all too well—I will call Seven."
She pressed a button, and up out of the opening in the middle of the floor there shot a half-grown boy, swimming so rapidly that he scarcely touched the coaming as he came to his feet. He glanced at the four visitors, then ran up to Seaton and Crane.
"Please, sirs, may I ride, just a little short ride, in your vessel before you go away?" This was said in their language.
"Seven!" boomed Carfon sternly, and the exuberant youth subsided.
"Pardon me, sirs, but I was so excited——"
"All right, son, no harm done at all. You bet you'll have a ride in the Skylark if your parents will let you." He turned to Carfon. "I'm not so far beyond that stage myself that I'm not in sympathy with him. Neither are you, unless I'm badly mistaken."
"I am very glad that you feel as you do. He would be delighted to accompany us down to the office, and it will be something to remember all the rest of his life."
"You have a little girl, too?" Dorothy asked the woman.
"Yes—would you like to see her? She is asleep now," and without waiting for an answer, the proud Dasorian mother led the way into a bedroom—a bedroom without beds, for Dasorians sleep floating in thermostatically controlled tanks, buoyed up in water of the temperature they like best, in a fashion that no Earthly springs and mattresses can approach. In a small tank in a corner reposed a baby, apparently about a year old, over whom Dorothy and Margaret made the usual feminine ceremony of delight and approbation.
* * * * *
Back in the living room, after an animated conversation in which much information was exchanged concerning the two planets and their races of peoples, Carfon drew six metal goblets of distilled water and passed them around. Standing in a circle, the six touched goblets and drank.
They then embarked, and while Crane steered the Skylark slowly along the channel toward the offices of the Council, and while Dorothy and Margaret showed the eager Seven all over the vessel, Seaton explained to Carfon the danger that threatened the Universe, what he had done, and what he was attempting to do.
"Doctor Seaton, I wish to apologize to you," the Dasorian said when Seaton had done. "Since you are evidently still land animals, I had supposed you of inferior intelligence. It is true that your younger civilization is deficient in certain respects, but you have shown a depth of vision, a sheer power of imagination and grasp, that no member of our older civilization could approach. I believe that you are right in your conclusions. We have no such rays nor forces upon this planet, and never have had; but the sixth planet of our own sun has. Less than fifty of your years ago, when I was but a small boy, such a projection visited my father. It offered to 'rescue' us from our watery planet, and to show us how to build rocket-ships to move us to Three, which is half land, inhabited by lower animals."
"And he didn't accept?"
"Certainly not. Then as now our sole lack was power, and the strangers did not show us how to increase our supply. Perhaps they had more power than we, perhaps, because of the difficulty of communication, our want was not made clear to them. But, of course, we did not want to move to Three, and we had already had rocket-ships for hundreds of generations. We have never been able to reach Six with them, but we visited Three long ago; and every one who went there came back as soon as he could. We detest land. It is hard, barren, unfriendly. We have everything, here upon Dasor. Food is plentiful, synthetic or natural, as we prefer. Our watery planet supplies our every need and wish, with one exception; and now that we are assured of power, even that one exception vanishes, and Dasor becomes a very Paradise. We can now lead our natural lives, work and play to our fullest capacity—we would not trade our world for all the rest of the Universe."
"I never thought of it in that way, but you're right, at that," Seaton conceded. "You are ideally suited to your environment. But how do I get to planet Six? Its distance is terrific, even as cosmic distances go. You won't have any night until Dasor swings outside the orbit of your sun, and until then Six will be invisible, even to our most powerful telescope."
"I do not know, myself," answered Carfon, "but I will send out a call for the chief astronomer. He will meet us, and give you a chart and the exact course."
At the office, the earthly visitors were welcomed formally by the Council—the nine men in control of the entire planet. The ceremony over and their course carefully plotted, Carfon stood at the door of the Skylark a moment before it closed.
"We thank you with all force, Earthmen, for what you have done for us this day. Please remember, and believe that this is no idle word—if we can assist you in any way in this conflict which is to come, the resources of this planet are at your disposal. We join Osnome and the other planets of this system in declaring you, Doctor Seaton, our Overlord."
The Welcome to Norlamin
The Skylark was now days upon her way toward the sixth planet, Seaton gave the visiplates and the instrument board his customary careful scrutiny and rejoined the others.
"Still talking about the human fish, Dottie Dimple?" he asked, as he stoked his villainous pipe. "Peculiar tribe of porpoises, but I'm strong for 'em. They're the most like our own kind of folks, as far as ideas go, of anybody we've seen yet—in fact, they're more like us than a lot of human beings we all know."
"I like them immensely——"
"You couldn't like 'em any other way, their size——"
"Terrible, Dick, terrible! Easy as I am, I can't stand for any such joke as that was going to be. But really, I think they're just perfectly fine, in spite of their being so funny-looking. Mrs. Carfon is just simply sweet, even if she does look like a walrus, and that cute little seal of a baby was just too perfectly cunning for words. That boy Seven is keen as mustard, too."
"He should be," put in Crane, dryly. "He probably has as much intelligence now as any one of us."
"Do you think so?" asked Margaret. "He acted like any other boy, but he did seem to understand things remarkably well."
"He would—they're 'way ahead of us in most things." Seaton glanced at the two women quizzically and turned to Crane. "And as for their being bald, this was one time, Mart, when those two phenomenal heads of hair our two little girl-friends are so proud of didn't make any kind of hit at all. They probably regard that black thatch of Peg's and Dot's auburn mop as relics of a barbarous and prehistoric age—about as we would regard the hirsute hide of a Neanderthal man."
"That may be so, too," Dorothy replied, unconcernedly, "but we aren't planning on living there, so why worry about it? I like them, anyway, and I believe that they like us."
"They acted that way. But say, Mart, if that planet is so old that all their land area has been eroded away, how come they've got so much water left? And they've got quite an atmosphere, too."
"The air-pressure," said Crane, "while greater than that now obtaining upon Earth, was probably of the order of magnitude of three meters of mercury, originally. As to the erosion, they might have had more water to begin with than our Earth had."
"Yeah, that'd account for it, all right," said Dorothy.
"There's one thing I want to ask you two scientists," Margaret said. "Everywhere we've gone, except on that one world that Dick thinks is a wandering planet, we've found the intelligent life quite remarkably like human beings. How do you account for that?"
"There, Mart, is one for the massive old bean to concentrate on," challenged Seaton: then, as Crane considered the question in silence for some time he went on: "I'll answer it myself, then, by asking another. Why not? Why shouldn't they be? Remember, man is the highest form of earthly life—at least, in our own opinion and as far as we know. In our wanderings, we have picked out planets quite similar to our own in point of atmosphere and temperature and, within narrow limits, of mass as well. It stands to reason that under such similarity of conditions, there would be a certain similarity of results. How about it, Mart? Reasonable?"
"It seems plausible, in a way," conceded Crane, "but it probably is not universally true."
"Sure not—couldn't be, hardly. No doubt we could find a lot of worlds inhabited by all kinds of intelligent things—freaks that we can't even begin to imagine now—but they probably would be occupying planets entirely different from ours in some essential feature of atmosphere, temperature, or mass."
"But the Fenachrone world is entirely different," Dorothy argued, "and they're more or less human—they're bipeds, anyway, with recognizable features. I've been studying that record with you, you know, and their world has so much more mass than ours that their gravitation is simply frightful!"
"That much difference is comparatively slight, not a real fundamental difference. I meant a hundred or so times either way—greater or less. And even their gravitation has modified their structure a lot—suppose it had been fifty times as great as it is? What would they have been like? Also, their atmosphere is very similar to ours in composition, and their temperature is bearable. It is my opinion that atmosphere and temperature have more to do with evolution than anything else, and that the mass of the planet runs a poor third."
"You may be right," admitted Crane, "but it seems to me that you are arguing from insufficient premises."
"Sure I am—almost no premises at all. I would be just about as well justified in deducing the structure of a range of mountains from a superficial study of three pebbles picked up in a creek near them. However, we can get an idea some time, when we have a lot of time."
"Remember that planet we struck on the first trip, that had an atmosphere composed mostly of gaseous chlorin? In our ignorance we assumed that life there was impossible, and didn't stop. Well, it may be just as well that we didn't. If we go back there, protected as we are with our rays and stuff, it wouldn't surprise me a bit to find life there, and lots of it—and I've got a hunch that it'll be a form of life that'd make your grandfather's whiskers curl right up into a ball!"
"You do get the weirdest ideas, Dick!" protested Dorothy. "I hope you aren't planning on exploring it, just to prove your point?"
"Never thought of it before. Can't do it now, anyway—got our hands full already. However, after we get this Fenachrone mess cleaned up we'll have to do just that little thing, won't we, Mart? As that intellectual guy said while he was insisting upon dematerializing us, 'Science demands it.'"
"By all means. We should be in a position to make contributions to science in fields as yet untouched. Most assuredly we shall investigate those points."
"Then they'll go alone, won't they, Peggy?"
"Absolutely! We've seen some pretty middling horrible things already, and if these two men of ours call the frightful things we have seen normal, and are planning on deliberately hunting up things that even they will consider monstrous, you and I most certainly shall stay at home!"
"Yeah? You say it easy. Bounce back, Peg, you've struck a rubber fence! Rufus, you red-headed little fraud, you know you wouldn't let me go to the corner store after a can of tobacco without insisting on tagging along!"
"You're a...." began Dorothy hotly, but broke off in amazement and gasped, "For Heaven's sake, what was that?"
"What was what? It missed me."
"It went right through you! It was a kind of funny little cloud, like smoke or something. It came right through the ceiling like a flash—went right through you and on down through the floor. There it comes back again!"
* * * * *
Before their staring eyes a vague, nebulous something moved rapidly upward through the floor and passed upward through the ceiling. Dorothy leaped to Seaton's side and he put his arm around her reassuringly.
"'Sall right folks—I know what that thing is."
"Well, shoot it, quick!" Dorothy implored.
"It's one of those projections from where we're heading for, trying to get our range; and it's the most welcome sight these weary old eyes have rested upon for full many a long and dreary moon. They've probably located us from our power-plant rays. We're an awful long ways off yet, though, and going like a streak of greased lightning, so they're having trouble in holding us. They're friendly, we already know that—they probably want to talk to us. It'd make it easier for them if we'd shut off our power and drift at constant velocity, but we'd use up valuable time and throw our calculations all out of whack. We'll let them try to match our acceleration If they can do that, they're good."
The apparition reappeared, oscillating back and forth irregularly—passing through the arenak walls, through the furniture and the instrument boards, and even through the mighty power-plant itself, as though nothing was there. Eventually, however, it remained stationary a foot or so above the floor of the control-room. Then it began to increase in density until apparently a man stood before them. His skin, like that of all the inhabitants of the planets of the green suns, was green. He was tall and well-proportioned when judged by Earthly standards, except for his head, which was overly large, and which was particularly massive above the eyes and backward from the ears. He was evidently of great age, for what little of his face was visible was seamed and wrinkled, and his long, thick mane of hair and his square-cut, yard-long beard were a dazzling white, only faintly tinged with green.
While not in any sense transparent, nor even translucent, it was evident that the apparition before them was not composed of flesh and blood. He looked at each of the four Earth-beings intensely for a moment, then pointed toward the table upon which stood the mechanical educator, and Seaton placed it in front of the peculiar visitor. As Seaton donned a headset and handed one to the stranger, the latter stared at him, impressing upon his consciousness that he was to be given a knowledge of English. Seaton pressed the lever, receiving as he did so a sensation of an unbroken calm, a serenity profound and untroubled, and the projection spoke.
"Dr. Seaton, Mr. Crane, and ladies—welcome to Norlamin, the planet toward which you are now flying. We have been awaiting you for more than five thousand years of your time. It has been a mathematical certainty—it has been graven upon the very Sphere itself—that in time someone would come to us from without this system, bringing a portion, however small, of Rovolon—of the metal of power, of which there is not even the most minute trace in our entire solar system. For more than five thousand years our instruments have been set to detect the vibrations which would herald the advent of the user of that metal. Now you have come, and I perceive that you have vast stores of it. Being yourselves seekers after truth, you will share it with us gladly as we will instruct you in many things you wish to know. Allow me to operate the educator—I would gaze into your minds and reveal my own to your sight. But first I must tell you that your machine is too rudimentary to work at all well, and with your permission I shall make certain minor alterations."
Seaton nodded permission, and from the eyes and from the hands of the figure there leaped visible streams of force, which seized the transformers, coils and tubes, and reformed and reconnected them, under Seaton's bulging eyes, into an entirely different mechanism.
"Oh, I see!" he gasped. "Say, what are you anyway?"
"Pardon me; in my eagerness I became forgetful. I am Orlon, the First of Astronomy of Norlamin, in my observatory upon the surface of the planet. This that you see is simply my projection, composed of forces for which you have no name in your language. You can cut it off, if you wish, with your ray-screens, which even I can see are of a surprisingly high order of efficiency. There, this educator will now work very well. Please put on the remodeled headsets, all four of you."
They did so, and the rays of force moved levers, switches, and dials as positively as human hands could have moved them, and with infinitely greater speed and precision. As the dials moved, each brain received clearly and plainly a knowledge of the customs, language, and manners of the inhabitants of Norlamin. Each mind became suffused with a vast, immeasurable peace, calm power, and a depth and breadth of mental vision theretofore undreamed of. Looking deep into his mind they sensed a quiet, placid certainty, beheld power and knowledge to them illimitable, perceived depths of wisdom to them unfathomable.
Then from his mind into theirs there flowed smoothly a mighty stream of comprehension of cosmic phenomena. They hazily saw infinitely small units grouped into planetary formations to form practically dimensionless particles. These particles in turn grouped to form slightly larger ones, and after a long succession of such grouping they knew that the comparatively gigantic aggregates which then held their attention were in reality electrons and protons, the smallest units recognized by Earthly science. They clearly understood the combination of these electrons and protons into atoms. They perceived plainly the way in which atoms build up molecules, and comprehended the molecular structure of matter. In mathematical thoughts, only dimly grasped even by Seaton and Crane, were laid before them the fundamental laws of physics, of electricity, of gravitation, and of chemistry. They saw globular aggregations of matter, the suns and their planets, comprising solar systems; saw solar systems, in accordance with those immutable laws, grouped into galaxies, galaxies in turn—here the flow was suddenly shut off as though a valve had been closed, and the astronomer spoke.
"Pardon me. Your brains should be stored only with the material you desire most and can use to the best advantage, for your mental capacity is even more limited than my own. Please understand that I speak in no derogatory sense; it is only that your race has many thousands of generations to go before your minds should be stored with knowledge indiscriminately. We ourselves have not yet reached that stage, and we are perhaps millions of years older than you. And yet," he continued musingly, "I envy you. Knowledge is, of course, relative, and I can know so little! Time and space have yielded not an iota of their mystery to our most penetrant minds. And whether we delve baffled into the unknown smallness of the small, or whether we peer, blind and helpless, into the unknown largeness of the large, it is the same—infinity is comprehensible only to the Infinite One: the all-shaping Force directing and controlling the Universe and the unknowable Sphere. The more we know, the vaster the virgin fields of investigation open to us, and the more infinitesimal becomes our knowledge. But I am perhaps keeping you from more important activities. As you approach Norlamin more nearly, I shall guide you to my observatory. I am glad indeed that it is in my lifetime that you have come to us, and I await anxiously the opportunity of greeting you in the flesh. The years remaining to me of this cycle of existence are few, and I had almost ceased hoping to witness your coming."
* * * * *
The projection vanished instantaneously, and the four stared at each other in an incredulous daze of astonishment. Seaton finally broke the stunned silence. "Well, I'll be kicked to death by little red spiders!" he ejaculated. "Mart, did you see what I saw, or did I get tight on something without knowing it? That sure burned me up—it breaks me right off at the ankles, just to think of it!"
Crane walked to the educator in silence. He examined it, felt the changed coils and transformers, and gently shook the new insulating base of the great power-tube. Still in silence he turned his back, walked around the instrument board, read the meters, then went back and again inspected the educator.
"It was real, and not a higher development of hypnotism, as at first I thought it must be," he reported seriously. "Hypnotism, if sufficiently advanced, might have affected us in that fashion, even to teaching us all a strange language, but by no possibility could it have had such an effect upon copper, steel, bakelite, and glass. It was certainly real, and while I cannot begin to understand it, I will say that your imagination has certainly vindicated itself. A race of beings, who can do such things as that, can do almost anything—you have been right, from the start."
"Then you can beat those horrible Fenachrone, after all!" cried Dorothy, and threw herself into her husband's arms.
"Do you remember, Dick, that I hailed you once as Columbus at San Salvador?" asked Margaret unsteadily from Crane's encircling arm. "What could a man be called who from the sheer depths of his imagination called forth the means of saving from destruction all the civilization of millions of entire worlds?"
"Don't talk that way, please, folks," Seaton was plainly very uncomfortable. He blushed intensely, the burning red tide rising in waves up to his hair as he wriggled in embarrassment, like any schoolboy. "Mart's done most of it, anyway, you know; and even at that, we ain't out of the woods yet, by forty-seven rows of apple trees."
"You will admit, will you not, that we can see our way out of the woods, at least, and that you yourself feel rather relieved?" asked Crane.
"I think we'll be able to pull their corks now, all right, after we get some dope. It's a cinch they've either got the stuff we need or know how to get it—and if that zone is impenetrable, I'll bet they'll be able to dope out something just as good. Relieved? That doesn't half tell it, guy—I feel as if I had just pitched off the Old Man of the Sea who's been sitting on my neck! What say you girls get your fiddle and guitar and we'll sing us a little song? I feel kind of relieved—they had me worried some—it's the first time I've felt like singing since we cut that warship up."
Dorothy brought out her "fiddle"—the magnificent Stradivarius, formerly Crane's, which he had given her—Margaret her guitar, and they sang one rollicking number after another. Though by no means a Metropolitan Opera quartette, their voices were all better than mediocre, and they had sung together so much that they harmonized readily.
"Why don't you play us some real music, Dottie?" asked Margaret, after a time. "You haven't practiced for ages."
"I haven't felt like playing lately, but I do now," and Dorothy stood up and swept the bow over the strings. Doctor of Music in violin, an accomplished musician, playing upon one of the finest instruments the world has ever known, she was lifted out of herself by relief from the dread of the Fenachrone invasion and that splendid violin expressed every subtle nuance of her thought.
She played rhapsodies and paeans, and solos by the great masters. She played vivacious dances, then "Traumerei" and "Liebestraum." At last she swept into the immortal "Meditation," and as the last note died away Seaton held out his arms.
"You're a blinding flash and a deafening report, Dottie Dimple, and I love you," he declared—and his eyes and his arms spoke volumes that his light utterance had left unsaid.
* * * * *
Norlamin close enough so that its image almost filled number six visiplate, the four wanderers studied it with interest. Partially obscured by clouds and with its polar regions two glaring caps of snow—they would be green in a few months, when the planet would swing inside the orbit of its sun around the vast central luminary of that complex solar system—it made a magnificent picture. They saw sparkling blue oceans and huge green continents of unfamiliar outlines. So terrific was the velocity of the space-cruiser, that the image grew larger as they watched it, and soon the field of vision could not contain the image of the whole disk.
"Well, I expect Orlon'll be showing up pretty quick now," remarked Seaton; and it was not long until the projection appeared in the air of the control room.
"Hail, Terrestrials!" he greeted them. "With your permission, I shall direct your flight."
Permission granted, the figure floated across the room to the board and the rays of force centered the visiplate, changed the direction of the bar a trifle, decreased slightly their negative acceleration, and directed a stream of force upon the steering mechanism.
"We shall alight upon the grounds of my observatory upon Norlamin in seven thousand four hundred twenty-eight seconds," he announced presently. "The observatory will be upon the dark side of Norlamin when we arrive, but I have a force operating upon the steering mechanism which will guide the vessel along the required curved path. I shall remain with you until we land, and we may converse upon any topic of most interest to you."
"We've got a topic of interest, all right. That's what we came out here for. But it would take too long to tell you about it—I'll show you!"
He brought out the magnetic brain record, threaded it into the machine and handed the astronomer a head-set. Orlon put it on, touched the lever, and for an hour there was unbroken silence as the monstrous brain of the menace was studied by the equally capable intellect of the Norlaminian scientist. There was no pause in the motion of the magnetic tape, no repetition—Orlon's brain absorbed the information as fast as it could be sent, and understood that frightful mind in every particular.
As the end of the tape was reached and the awful record ended, a shadow passed over Orlon's face.
"Truly a depraved evolution—it is sad to contemplate such a perversion of a really excellent brain. They have power, even as you have, and they have the will to destroy, which is a thing that I cannot understand. However, if it is graven upon the Sphere that we are to pass, it means only that upon the next plane we shall continue our searches—let us hope with better tools and with greater understanding than we now possess."
"'Smatter?" snapped Seaton gravely. "Going to take it lying down, without putting up any fight at all?"
"What can we do? Violence is contrary to our very natures. No man of Norlamin could offer any but passive resistance."
"You can do a lot if you will. Put on that headset again and get my plan, offering any suggestions your far abler brain may suggest."
As the human scientist poured his plan of battle into the brain of the astronomer, Orlon's face cleared.
"It is graven upon the Sphere that the Fenachrone shall pass," he said finally. "What you ask of us we can do. I have only a general knowledge of rays, as they are not in the province of the Orlon family; but the student Rovol, of the family Rovol of Rays, has all present knowledge of such phenomena. Tomorrow I will bring you together, and I have little doubt that he will be able, with the help of your metal of power, to solve your problem."
"I don't quite understand what you said about a whole family studying one subject, and yet having only one student in it," said Dorothy, in perplexity.
"A little explanation is perhaps necessary," replied Orlon. "First, you must know that every man of Norlamin is a student, and most of us are students of science. With us, 'labor' means mental effort, that is, study. We perform no physical or manual labor save for exercise, as all our mechanical work is done by forces. This state of things having endured for many thousands of years, it long ago became evident that specialization was necessary in order to avoid duplication of effort and to insure complete coverage of the field. Soon afterward, it was discovered that very little progress was being made in any branch, because so much was known that it took practically a lifetime to review that which had already been accomplished, even in a narrow and highly specialized field. Many points were studied for years before it was discovered that the identical work had been done before, and either forgotten or overlooked. To remedy this condition the mechanical educator had to be developed. Once it was perfected a new system was begun. One man was assigned to each small subdivision of scientific endeavor, to study it intensively. When he became old, each man chose a successor—usually a son—and transferred his own knowledge to the younger student. He also made a complete record of his own brain, in much the same way as you have recorded the brain of the Fenachrone upon your metallic tape. These records are all stored in a great central library, as permanent references.
"All these things being true, now a young person may need only finish an elementary education—just enough to learn to think, which takes only about twenty-five or thirty years—and then he is ready to begin actual work. When that time comes, he receives in one day all the knowledge of his specialty which has been accumulated by his predecessors during many thousands of years of intensive study."
"Whew!" Seaton whistled, "no wonder you folks know something! With that start, I believe I might know something myself! As an astronomer, you may be interested in this star-chart and stuff—or do you know all about that already?"
"No, the Fenachrone are far ahead of us in that subject, because of their observatories out in open space and because of their gigantic reflectors, which cannot be used through any atmosphere. We are further hampered in having darkness for only a few hours at a time and only in the winter, when our planet is outside the orbit of our sun around the great central sun of our entire system. However, with the Rovolon you have brought us, we shall have real observatories far out in space; and for that I personally will be indebted to you more than I can ever express. As for the chart, I hope to have the pleasure of examining it while you are conferring with Rovol of Rays."
"How many families are working on rays—just one?"
"One upon each kind of ray. That is, each of the ray families knows a great deal about all kinds of vibrations of the ether, but is specializing upon one narrow field. Take, for instance, the rays you are most interested in; those able to penetrate a zone of force. From my own very slight and general knowledge I know that it would of necessity be a ray of the fifth order. These rays are very new—they have been under investigation only a few hundred years—and the Rovol is the only student who would be at all well informed upon them. Shall I explain the orders of rays more fully than I did by means of the educator?"
"Please. You assumed that we knew more than we do, so a little explanation would help."
"All ordinary vibrations—that is, all molecular and material ones, such as light, heat, electricity, radio, and the like—were arbitrarily called waves of the first order; in order to distinguish them from waves of the second order, which are given off by particles of the second order, which you know as protons and electrons, in their combination to form atoms. Your scientist Millikan discovered these rays for you, and in your language they are known as Millikan, or Cosmic, rays.
* * * * *
"Some time later, when sub-electrons were identified the rays given off by their combination into electrons, or by the disruption of electrons, were called rays of the third order. These rays are most interesting and most useful; in fact, they do all our mechanical work. They as a class are called protelectricity, and bear the same relation to ordinary electricity that electricity does to torque—both are pure energy, and they are inter-convertible. Unlike electricity, however, it may be converted into many different forms by fields of force, in a way comparable to that in which white light is resolved into colors by a prism—or rather, more like the way alternating current is changed to direct current by a motor-generator set, with attendant changes in properties. There is a complete spectrum of more than five hundred factors, each as different from the others as red is different from green.
"Continuing farther, particles of the fourth order give rays of the fourth order; those of the fifth, rays of the fifth order. Fourth-order rays have been investigated quite thoroughly, but only mathematically and theoretically, as they are of excessively short wave-length and are capable of being generated only by the breaking down of matter itself into the corresponding particles. However, it has been shown that they are quite similar to protelectricity in their general behavior. Thus, the power that propels your space-vessel, your attractors, your repellers, your object-compass, your zone of force—all these things are simply a few of the many hundreds of wave-bands of the fourth order, all of which you doubtless would have worked out for yourselves in time. Very little is known, even in theory, of the rays of the fifth order, although they have been shown to exist."