"For a man having no knowledge, you seem to know a lot about rays. How about the fifth order—is that as far as they go?"
"My knowledge is slight and very general; only such as I must have in order to understand my own subject. The fifth order certainly is not the end—it is probably scarcely a beginning. We think now that the orders extend to infinite smallness, just as the galaxies are grouped into larger aggregations, which are probably in their turn only tiny units in a scheme infinitely large.
"Over six thousand years ago the last third order rays were worked out; and certain peculiarities in their behavior led the then Rovol to suspect the existence of the fourth order. Successive generations of the Rovol proved their existence, determined the conditions of their liberation, and found that this metal of power was the only catalyst able to decompose matter and thus liberate the rays. This metal, which was called Rovolon after the Rovol, was first described upon theoretical grounds and later was found, by spectroscopy, in certain stars, notably in one star only eight light-years away, but not even the most infinitesimal trace of it exists in our entire solar system. Since these discoveries, the many Rovol have been perfecting the theory of the fourth order, beginning that of the fifth, and waiting for your coming. The present Rovol, like myself and many others whose work is almost at a standstill, is waiting with all-consuming interest to greet you, as soon as the Skylark can be landed upon our planet."
"Neither your rocket-ships nor your projections could get you any Rovolon?"
"No. Every hundred years or so someone develops a new type of rocket that he thinks may stand a slight chance of making the journey, but not one of these venturesome youths has as yet returned. Either that sun has no planets or else the rocket-ships have failed. Our projections are useless, as they can be driven only a very short distance upon our present carrier wave. With a carrier of the fifth order we could drive a projection to any point in the galaxy, since its velocity would be millions of times that of light and the power necessary reduced accordingly—but as I have said before, such waves cannot be generated without metal Rovolon."
"I hate to break this up—I'd like to listen to you talk for a week—but we're going to land pretty quick, and it looks as though we were going to land pretty hard."
"We will land soon, but not hard," replied Orlon confidently, and the landing was as he had foretold. The Skylark was falling with an ever-decreasing velocity, but so fast was the descent that it seemed to the watchers as though they must crash through the roof of the huge brilliantly lighted building upon which they were dropping and bury themselves many feet in the ground beneath it. But they did not strike the observatory. So incredibly accurate were the calculations of the Norlaminian astronomer and so inhumanly precise were the controls he had set upon their bar, that, as they touched the ground after barely clearing the domed roof and he shut off their power, the passengers felt only a sudden decrease in acceleration, like that following the coming to rest of a rapidly moving elevator, after it has completed a downward journey.
"I shall join you in person very shortly," Orlon said, and the projection vanished.
"Well, we're here, folks, on another new world. Not quite as thrilling as the first one was, is it?" and Seaton stepped toward the door.
"How about the air composition, density, gravity, temperature, and so on?" asked Crane. "Perhaps we should make a few tests."
"Didn't you get that on the educator? Thought you did. Gravity a little less than seven-tenths. Air composition, same as Osnome and Dasor. Pressure, half-way between Earth and Osnome. Temperature, like Osnome most of the time, but fairly comfortable in the winter. Snow now at the poles, but this observatory is only ten degrees from the equator. They don't wear clothes enough to flag a hand-car with here, either, except when they have to. Let's go!"
He opened the door and the four travelers stepped out upon a close-cropped lawn—a turf whose blue-green softness would shame an Oriental rug. The landscape was illuminated by a soft and mellow, yet intense green light which emanated from no visible source. As they paused and glanced about them, they saw that the Skylark had alighted in the exact center of a circular enclosure a hundred yards in diameter, walled by row upon row of shrubbery, statuary, and fountains, all bathed in ever-changing billows of light. At only one point was the circle broken. There the walls did not come together, but continued on to border a lane leading up to the massive structure of cream-and-green marble, topped by its enormous, glassy dome—the observatory of Orlon.
"Welcome to Norlamin, Terrestrials," the deep, calm voice of the astronomer greeted them, and Orlon in the flesh shook hands cordially in the American fashion with each of them in turn, and placed around each neck a crystal chain from which depended a small Norlaminian chronometer-radiophone. Behind him there stood four other old men.
"These men are already acquainted with each of you, but you do not as yet know them. I present Fodan, Chief of the Five of Norlamin. Rovol, about whom you know. Astron, the First of Energy. Satrazon, the First of Chemistry."
Orlon fell in beside Seaton and the party turned toward the observatory. As they walked along the Earth-people stared, held by the unearthly beauty of the grounds. The hedge of shrubbery, from ten to twenty feet high, and which shut out all sight of everything outside it, was one mass of vivid green and flaring crimson leaves; each leaf and twig groomed meticulously into its precise place in a fantastic geometrical scheme. Just inside this boundary there stood a ring of statues of heroic size. Some of them were single figures of men and women; some were busts; some were groups in natural or allegorical poses—all were done with consummate skill and feeling. Between the statues there were fountains, magnificent bronze and glass groups of the strange aquatic denizens of this strange planet, bathed in geometrically shaped sprays, screens, and columns of water. Winding around between the statues and the fountains there was a moving, scintillating wall, and upon the waters and upon the wall there played torrents of color, cataracts of harmoniously blended light. Reds, blues, yellows, greens—every color of their peculiar green spectrum and every conceivable combination of those colors writhed and flamed in ineffable splendor upon those deep and living screens of falling water and upon that shimmering wall.
As they entered the lane, Seaton saw with amazement that what he had supposed a wall, now close at hand, was not a wall at all. It was composed of myriads of individual sparkling jewels, of every known color, for the most part self-luminous; and each gem, apparently entirely unsupported, was dashing in and out and along among its fellows, weaving and darting here and there, flying at headlong speed along an extremely tortuous, but evidently carefully calculated course.
"What can that be, anyway, Dick?" whispered Dorothy, and Seaton turned to his guide.
"Pardon my curiosity, Orlon, but would you mind explaining the why of that moving wall? We don't get it."
"Not at all. This garden has been the private retreat of the family of Orlon for many thousands of years, and women of our house have been beautifying it since its inception. You may have observed that the statuary is very old. No such work has been done for ages. Modern art has developed along the lines of color and motion, hence the lighting effects and the tapestry wall. Each gem is held upon the end of a minute pencil of force, and all the pencils are controlled by a machine which has a key for every jewel in the wall."
Crane, the methodical, stared at the innumerable flashing jewels and asked, "It must have taken a prodigious amount of time to complete such an undertaking?"
"It is far from complete; in fact, it is scarcely begun. It was started only about four hundred years ago."
"Four hundred years!" exclaimed Dorothy. "Do you live that long? How long will it take to finish it, and what will it be like when it is done?"
"No, none of us live longer than about one hundred and sixty years—at about that age most of us decide to pass. When this tapestry wall is finished, it will not be simply form and color, as it is now. It will be a portrayal of the history of Norlamin from the first cooling of the planet. It will, in all probability, require thousands of years for its completion. You see, time is of little importance to us, and workmanship is everything. My companion will continue working upon it until we decide to pass; my son's companion may continue it. In any event, many generations of the women of the Orlon will work upon it until it is complete. When it is done, it will be a thing of beauty as long as Norlamin shall endure."
"But suppose that your son's wife isn't that kind of an artist? Suppose she should want to do music or painting or something else?" asked Dorothy, curiously.
"That is quite possible; for, fortunately, our art is not yet entirely intellectual, as is our music. There are many unfinished artistic projects in the house of Orlon, and if the companion of my son should not find one to her liking, she will be at liberty to continue anything else she may have begun, or to start an entirely new project of her own."
"You have a family, then?" asked Margaret, "I'm afraid I didn't understand things very well when you gave them to us over the educator."
"I sent things too fast for you, not knowing that your educator was new to you; a thing with which you were not thoroughly familiar. I will therefore explain some things in language, since you are not familiar with the mechanism of thought transference. The Five, a self-perpetuating body, do what governing is necessary for the entire planet. Their decrees are founded upon self-evident truth, and are therefore the law. Population is regulated according to the needs of the planet, and since much work is now in progress, an increase in population was recommended by the Five. My companion and I therefore had three children, instead of the customary two. By lot it fell to us to have two boys and one girl. One of the boys will assume my duties when I pass; the other will take over a part of some branch of science that has grown too complex for one man to handle as a specialist should. In fact, he has already chosen his specialty and been accepted for it—he is to be the nine hundred and sixty-seventh of Chemistry, the student of the asymmetric carbon atom, which will thus be his specialty from this time henceforth.
"It was learned long ago that the most perfect children were born of parents in the full prime of mental life, that is, at one hundred years of age. Therefore, with us each generation covers one hundred years. The first twenty-five years of a child's life are spent at home with his parents, during which time he acquires his elementary education in the common schools. Then boys and girls alike move to the Country of Youth, where they spend another twenty-five years. There they develop their brains and initiative by conducting any researches they choose. Most of us, at that age, solve all the riddles of the Universe, only to discover later that our solutions have been fallacious. However, much really excellent work is done in the Country of Youth, primarily because of the new and unprejudiced viewpoints of the virgin minds there at work. In that country also each finds his life's companion, the one necessary to round out mere existence into a perfection of living that no person, man or woman, can ever know alone. I need not speak to you of the wonders of love or of the completion and fullness of life that it brings, for all four of you, children though you are, know love in full measure.
"At fifty years of age the man, now mentally mature, is recalled to his family home, as his father's brain is now losing some of its vigor and keenness. The father then turns over his work to the son by means of the educator—and when the weight of the accumulated knowledge of a hundred thousand generations of research is impressed upon the son's brain, his play is over."
"What does the father do then?"
"Having made his brain record, about which I have told you, he and his companion—for she has in similar fashion turned over her work to her successor—retire to the Country of Age, where they rest and relax after their century of effort. They do whatever they care to do, for as long as they please to do it. Finally, after assuring themselves that all is well with the children, they decide that they are ready for the Change. Then, side by side as they have labored, they pass."
Now at the door of the observatory, Dorothy paused and shrank back against Seaton, her eyes widening as she stared at Orlon.
"No, daughter, why should we fear the Change?" he answered her unspoken question, calm serenity in every inflection of his quiet voice. "The life-principle is unknowable to the finite mind, as is the All-Controlling Force. But even though we know nothing of the sublime goal toward which it is tending, any person ripe for the Change can, and of course does, liberate the life-principle so that its progress may be unimpeded."
* * * * *
In a spacious room of the observatory, in which the Terrestrials and their Norlaminian hosts had been long engaged in study and discussion, Seaton finally rose and extended a hand toward his wife.
"Well, that's that, then, Orlon, I guess. We've been thirty hours without sleep, and for us that's a long time. I'm getting so dopey I can't think a lick. We'd better go back to the Skylark and turn in, and after we've slept nine hours or so I'll go over to Rovol's laboratory and Crane'll come back here to you."
"You need not return to your vessel," said Orlon. "I know that its somewhat cramped quarters have become irksome. Apartments have been prepared here for you. We shall have a meal here together, and then we shall retire, to meet again tomorrow."
As he spoke, a tray laden with appetizing dishes appeared in the air in front of each person. As Seaton resumed his seat the tray followed him, remaining always in the most convenient position.
Crane glanced at Seaton questioningly, and Satrazon, the First of Chemistry, answered his thought before he could voice it.
"The food before you, unlike that which is before us of Norlamin, is wholesome for you. It contains no copper, no arsenic, no heavy metals—in short, nothing in the least harmful to your chemistry. It is balanced as to carbohydrates, proteins, fats and sugars, and contains the due proportion of each of the various accessory nutritional factors. You will also find the flavors are agreeable to each of you."
"Synthetic, eh? You've got us analyzed," Seaton stated, rather than asked, as with knife and fork he attacked the thick, rare, and beautifully broiled steak which, with its mushrooms and other delicate trimmings, lay upon his rigid although unsupported tray—noticing as he did so that the Norlaminians ate with tools entirely different from those they had supplied to their Earthly guests.
"Entirely synthetic," Satrazon made answer, "except for the sodium chloride necessary. As you already know, sodium and chlorin are very rare throughout our system, therefore the force upon the food-supply took from your vessel the amount of salt required for the formula. We have been unable to synthesize atoms, for the same reason that the labors of so many others have been hindered—because of the lack of Rovolon. Now, however, my science shall progress as it should; and for that I join with my fellow scientists in giving you thanks for the service you have rendered us."
"We thank you instead," replied Seaton, "for the service we have been able to do you is slight indeed compared to what you are giving us in return. But it seems that you speak quite impersonally of the force upon the food supply. Did you yourself direct the preparation of these meats and vegetables?"
"Oh, no. I merely analyzed your tissues, surveyed the food-supplies you carried, discovered your individual preferences, and set up the necessary integrals in the mechanism. The forces did the rest, and will continue to do so as long as you remain upon this planet."
"Fruit salad always my favorite dish," Dorothy said, after a couple of bites, "and this one is just too perfectly divine! It doesn't taste like any other fruit I ever ate, either—I think it must be the same ambrosia that the old pagan gods used to eat."
"If all you did was to set up the integrals, how do you know what you are going to have for the next meal?" asked Crane.
"We have no idea what the form, flavor, or consistency of any dish will be," was the surprising answer. "We know only that the flavor will be agreeable and that it will agree with the form and consistency of the substance, and that the composition will be well-balanced chemically. You see, all the details of flavor, form, texture, and so on are controlled by a device something like one of your kaleidoscopes. The integrals render impossible any unwholesome, unpleasant, or unbalanced combination of any nature, and everything else is left to the mechanism, which operates upon pure chance."
"Some system, I'd rise to remark," and Seaton, with the others, resumed his vigorous attack upon the long-delayed supper.
The meal over, the Earthly visitors were shown to their rooms, and fell into a deep, dreamless sleep.
Breakfast over, Seaton watched intently as his tray, laden with empty containers, floated away from him and disappeared into an opening in the wall.
"How do you do it, Orlon?" he asked, curiously. "I can hardly believe it, even after seeing it done."
"Each tray is carried upon the end of a beam or rod of force, and supported rigidly by it. Since the beam is tuned to the individual wave of the instrument you wear upon your chest, your tray is, of course, placed in front of you, at a predetermined distance, as soon as the sending force is actuated. When you have finished your meal, the beam is shortened. Thus the tray is drawn back to the food laboratory, where other forces cleanse and sterilize the various utensils and place them in readiness for the next meal. It would be an easy matter to have this same mechanism place your meals before you wherever you may go upon this planet, provided only that a clear path can be plotted from the laboratory to your person."
"Thanks, but it wouldn't pay. No telling where we'd be. Besides, we'd better eat in the Skylark most of the time, to keep our cook good-natured. Well, I see Rovol's got his boat here for me, so guess I'd better turn up a few r. p. m. Coming along, Dot, or have you got something else on your mind?"
"I'm going to leave you for a while. I can't really understand even a radio, and just thinking about those funny, complicated rays and things you are going after makes me dizzy in the head. Mrs. Orlon is going to take us over to the Country of Youth—she says Margaret and I can play around with her daughter and her bunch and have a good time while you scientists are doing your stuff."
"All right. 'Bye till tonight," and Seaton stepped out into the grounds, where the First of Rays was waiting.
The flier was a torpedo-shaped craft of some transparent, glassy material, completely enclosed except for one circular opening or doorway. From the midsection, which was about five feet in diameter and provided with heavily-cushioned seats capable of carrying four passengers in comfort, the hull tapered down smoothly to a needle point at each end. As Seaton entered and settled himself into the cushions, Rovol touched a lever. Instantly a transparent door slid across the opening, locking itself into position flush with the surface of the hull, and the flier darted into the air and away. For a few minutes there was silence, as Seaton studied the terrain beneath them. Fields or cities there were none; the land was covered with dense forests and vast meadows, with here and there great buildings surrounded by gracious, park-like areas. Rovol finally broke the silence.
"I understand your problem, I believe, since Orlon has transferred to me all the thoughts he had from you. With the aid of the Rovolon you have brought us, I am confident that we shall be able to work out a satisfactory solution of the various problems involved. It will take us some few minutes to traverse the distance to my laboratory, and if there are any matters upon which your mind is not quite clear, I shall try to clarify them."
"That's letting me down easy," Seaton grinned, "but you don't need to be afraid of hurting my feelings—I know just exactly how ignorant and dumb I am compared to you. There's a lot of things I don't get at all. First, and nearest, this airboat. It has no power-plant at all. I assume that it, like so many other things hereabouts, is riding on the end of a rod of force?"
"Exactly. The beam is generated and maintained in my laboratory. All that is here in the flier is a small sender, for remote control."
"How do you obtain your power?" asked Seaton. "Solar generators and tide motors? I know that all your work is done by protelectricity, but Orlon did not inform us as to the sources."
"We have not used such inefficient generators for many thousands of years. Long ago it was shown by research that these rays were constantly being generated in abundance in outer space, and that they could be collected upon spherical condensers and transmitted without loss to the surface of the planet by means of matched and synchronized crystals. Several millions of these condensers have been built and thrown out to become tiny satellites of Norlamin."
"How did you get them far enough out?"
"The first ones were forced out to the required distance upon beams of force produced by the conversion of electricity, which was in turn produced from turbines, solar motors, and tide motors. With a few of them out, however, it was easy to obtain sufficient power to send out more; and now, whenever one of us requires more power than he has at his disposal, he merely sends out such additional collectors as he needs."
"Now about those fifth-order rays, which will penetrate a zone of force. I am told that they are not ether waves at all?"
"They are not ether waves. The fourth order rays, of which the theory has been completely worked out, are the shortest vibrations that can be propagated through the ether; for the ether itself is not a continuous medium. We do not know its nature exactly, but it is an actual substance, and is composed of discrete particles of the fourth order. Now the zone of force, which is itself a fourth-order phenomenon, sets up a condition of stasis in the particles composing the ether. These particles are relatively so coarse, that rays and particles of the fifth order will pass through the fixed zone without retardation. Therefore, if there is anything between the particles of the ether—this matter is being debated hotly among us at the present time—it must be a sub-ether, if I may use that term. We have never been able to investigate any of these things experimentally, not even such a coarse aggregation as is the ether; but now, having Rovolon, it will not be many thousands of years until we shall have extended our knowledge many orders farther, in both directions."
"Just how will Rovolon help you?"
"It will enable us to generate a force of the ninth magnitude—that much power is necessary to set up what you have so aptly named a zone of force—and will give us a source of fourth, fifth, and probably higher orders of rays which, if they are generated in space at all, are beyond our present reach. The zone of force is necessary to shield certain items of equipment from ether vibrations; as any such vibration inside the controlling fields of force renders observation or control of the higher orders of rays impossible."
"Hm ... m, I see—I'm learning something," Seaton replied cordially. "Just as the higher-powered a radio set is, the more perfect must be its shielding?"
"Yes. Just as a trace of any gas will destroy the usefulness of your most sensitive vacuum tubes, and just as imperfect shielding will allow interfering waves to enter sensitive electrical apparatus—in that same fashion will even the slightest ether vibration interfere with the operation of the extremely sensitive fields and lenses of force which must be used in controlling forces of the higher orders."
"You haven't tested the theory of the fourth order yet, have you?"
"No, but that is unnecessary. The theory of the fourth order is not really theory at all—it is mathematical fact. Although we have never been able to generate them, we know exactly the forces you use in your ship of space, and we can tell you of some thousands of others more or less similar and also highly useful forces which you have not yet discovered, but are allowing to go to waste. We know exactly what they are, how to liberate and control them, and how to use them. In fact, in the work which we are to begin today, we shall use but little ordinary power: almost all our work will be done by fourth-order forces, liberated from copper by means of the Rovolon you have given me. But here we are at my laboratory. You already know that the best way to learn is by doing, and we shall begin at once."
* * * * *
The flier alighted upon a lawn quite similar to the one before the observatory of Orlon, and the scientist led his Earthly guest through the main entrance of the imposing structure of vari-colored marble and gleaming metal and into the vast, glass-lined room that was his laboratory. Great benches lined the walls, and there were hundreds of dials, meters, tubes, transformers and other instruments, whose uses Seaton could not even guess.
Rovol first donned a suit of transparent, flexible material, of a deep golden color, instructing Seaton to do the same; explaining that much of the work would be with dangerous frequencies and with high pressures, and that the suits were not only absolute insulators against electricity, heat, and sound, but were also ray-filters proof against any harmful radiations. As each helmet was equipped with radiophones, conversation was not interfered with in the least.
Rovol took up a tiny flash-pencil, and with it deftly cut off a bit of Rovolon, almost microscopic in size. This he placed upon a great block of burnished copper, and upon it played a force. As he manipulated two levers, two more beams of force flattened out the particle of metal, spread it out over the copper, and forced it into the surface of the block until the thin coating was at every point in molecular contact with the copper beneath it—a perfect job of plating, and one done in the twinkling of an eye. He then cut out a piece of the treated copper the size of a pea, and other forces rapidly built around it a structure of coils and metallic tubes. This apparatus he suspended in the air at the extremity of a small beam of force. The block of copper was next cut in two, and Rovol's fingers moved rapidly over the keys of a machine which resembled slightly an overgrown and exceedingly complicated book-keeping machine. Streams and pencils of force flashed and crackled, and Seaton saw raw materials transformed into a complete power-plant, in its center the two-hundred-pound lump of plated copper, where an instant before there had been only empty space upon the massive metal bench. Rovol's hands moved rapidly from keys to dials and back, and suddenly a zone of force, as large as a basketball appeared around the apparatus poised in the air.
"But it'll fly off and we can't stop it with anything," Seaton protested, and it did indeed dart rapidly upward.
The old man shook his head as he manipulated still more controls, and Seaton gasped as nine stupendous beams of force hurled themselves upon that brilliant spherical mirror of pure energy, seized it in mid-flight, and shaped it resistlessly, under his bulging eyes, into a complex geometrical figure of precisely the desired form.
Lurid violet light filled the room, and Seaton turned towards the bar. That two-hundred-pound mass of copper was shrinking visibly, second by second, so vast were the forces being drawn from it, and the searing, blinding light would have been intolerable but for the protective color-filters of his helmet. Tremendous flashes of lightning ripped and tore from the relief-points of the bench to the ground-rods, which flared at blue-white temperature under the incessant impacts. Knowing that this corona-loss was but an infinitesimal fraction of the power being used, Seaton's very mind staggered as he strove to understand the magnitude of the forces at work upon that stubborn sphere of energy.
The aged scientist used no tools whatever, as we understand the term. His laboratory was a power-house; at his command were the stupendous forces of a battery of planetoid accumulators, and added to these were the fourth-order, ninth-magnitude forces of the disintegrating copper bar. Electricity, protelectricity, and fourth-order rays, under millions upon millions of kilovolts of pressure, leaped to do the bidding of that wonderful brain, stored with the accumulated knowledge of countless thousands of years of scientific research. Watching the ancient physicist work, Seaton compared himself to a schoolboy mixing chemicals indiscriminately and ignorantly, with no knowledge whatever of their properties, occasionally obtaining a reaction by pure chance. Whereas he had worked with intra-atomic energy schoolboy fashion, the master craftsman before him knew every reagent, every reaction, and worked with known and thoroughly familiar agencies to bring about his exactly predetermined ends—just as calmly certain of the results as Seaton himself would have been in his own laboratory, mixing equivalent quantities of solutions of barium chloride and of sulphuric acid to obtain a precipitate of barium sulphate.
Hour after hour Rovol labored on, oblivious to the passage of time in his zeal of accomplishment, the while carefully instructing Seaton, who watched every step with intense interest and did everything possible for him to do. Bit by bit a towering structure arose in the middle of the laboratory. A metal foundation supported a massive compound bearing, which in turn carried a tubular network of latticed metal, mounted like an immense telescope. Near the upper, outer end of this openwork tube a group of nine forces held the field of force rigidly in place in its axis; at the lower extremity were mounted seats for two operators and the control panels necessary for the operation of the intricate system of forces and motors which would actuate and control that gigantic projector. Immense hour and declination circles could be read by optical systems from the operators' seats—circles fully forty feet in diameter, graduated with incredible delicacy and accuracy into decimal fractions of seconds of arc, and each driven by variable-speed motors through gear-trains and connections having no backlash whatever.
While Rovol was working upon one of the last instruments to be installed upon the controlling panel a mellow note sounded throughout the building, and he immediately ceased his labors and opened the master-switches of his power plants.
"You have done well, youngster," he congratulated his helper, as he began to take off his protective covering, "Without your aid I could not have accomplished nearly this much during one period of labor. The periods of exercise and of relaxation are at hand—let us return to the house of Orlon, where we all shall gather to relax and to refresh ourselves for the labors of tomorrow."
"But it's almost done!" protested Seaton. "Let's finish it up and shoot a little juice through it, just to try it out."
"There speaks the rashness and impatience of youth," rejoined the scientist, calmly removing the younger man's suit and leading him out to the waiting airboat. "I read in your mind that you are often guilty of laboring continuously until your brain loses its keen edge. Learn now, once and for all, that such conduct is worse than foolish—it is criminal. We have labored the full period. Laboring for more than that length of time without recuperation results in a loss of power which, if persisted in, wreaks permanent injury to the mind; and by it you gain nothing. We have more than ample time to do that which must be done—the fifth-order projector shall be completed before the warning torpedo shall have reached the planet of the Fenachrone—therefore over-exertion is unwarranted. As for testing, know now that only mechanisms built by bunglers require testing. Properly built machines work properly."
"But I'd have liked to see it work just once, anyway," lamented Seaton as the small airship tore through the air on its way back to the observatory.
"You must cultivate calmness, my son, and the art of relaxation. With those qualities your race can easily double its present span of useful life. Physical exercise to maintain the bodily tissues at their best, and mental relaxation following mental toil—these things are the secrets of a long and productive life. Why attempt to do more than can be accomplished efficiently? There is always tomorrow. I am more interested in that which we are now building than you can possibly be, since many generations of the Rovol have anticipated its construction; yet I realize that in the interest of our welfare and for the progress of civilization, today's labors must not be prolonged beyond today's period of work. Furthermore, you yourself realize that there is no optimum point at which any task may be interrupted. Short of final completion of any project, one point is the same as any other. Had we continued, we would have wished to continue still farther, and so on without end."
"You're probably right, at that," the impetuous chemist conceded, as their craft came to earth before the observatory.
* * * * *
Crane and Orlon were already in the common room, as were the scientists Seaton already knew, as well as a group of women and children still strangers to the Terrestrials. In a few minutes Orlon's companion, a dignified, white-haired woman, entered; accompanied by Dorothy, Margaret, and a laughing, boisterous group of men and women from the Country of Youth. Introductions over, Seaton turned to Crane.
"How's every little thing, Mart?"
"Very well indeed. We are building an observatory in space—or rather, Orlon is building it and I am doing what little I can to help him. In a few days we shall be able to locate the system of the Fenachrone. How is your work progressing?"
"Smoother than a kitten's ear. Got the fourth-order projector about done. We're going to project a fourth-order force out to grab us some dense material, a pretty close approach to pure neutronium. There's nothing dense enough around here, even in the core of the central sun, so we're going out to a white dwarf star—one a good deal like the companion star to Sirius in Canis Major—get some material of the proper density from its core, and convert our sender into a fifth-order machine. Then we can really get busy—go places and do things."
"Neutronium? Pure mass?" queried Crane, "I have been under the impression that it does not exist. Of what use can such a substance be to you?"
"Can't get pure neutronium, of course—couldn't use it if we could. What we need and are going to get is a material of about two and a half million specific gravity. Got to have it for lenses and controls for the fifth-order forces. Those rays go right through anything less dense without measurable refraction. But I see Rovol's giving me a nasty look. He's my boss on this job, and I imagine this kind of talk's barred during the period of relaxation, as being work. That so, chief?"
"You know that it is barred, you incorrigible young cub!" answered Rovol, with a smile.
"All right, boss; one more little infraction and I'll shut up like a clam. I'd like to know what the girls have been doing."
"We've been having a wonderful time!" Dorothy declared. "We've been designing fabrics and ornaments and jewels and things. Wait 'til you see 'em!"
"Fine! All right, Orlon, it's your party—what to do?"
"This is the time of exercise. We have many forms, most of which are unfamiliar to you. You all swim, however, and as that is one of the best of exercises, I suggest that we all swim."
"Lead us to it!" Seaton exclaimed, then his voice changed abruptly. "Wait a minute—I don't know about our swimming in copper sulphate solution."
"We swim in fresh water as often as in salt, and the pool is now filled with distilled water."
The Terrestrials quickly donned their bathing suits and all went through the observatory and down a winding path, bordered with the peculiarly beautiful scarlet and green shrubbery, to the "pool"—an artificial lake covering a hundred acres, its polished metal bottom and sides strikingly decorated with jewels and glittering tiles in tasteful yet contrasting inlaid designs. Any desired depth of water was available and plainly marked, from the fenced-off shallows where the smallest children splashed to the forty feet of liquid crystal which received the diver who cared to try his skill from one of the many spring-boards, flying rings, and catapults which rose high into the air a short distance away from the entrance.
Orlon and the others of the older generation plunged into the water without ado and struck out for the other shore, using a fast double-overarm stroke. Swimming in a wide circle they came out upon the apparatus and went through a series of methodical dives and gymnastic performances. It was evident that they swam, as Orlon had intimated, for exercise. To them, exercise was a necessary form of labor—labor which they performed thoroughly and well—but nothing to call forth the whole-souled enthusiasm they displayed in their chosen fields of mental effort.
The visitors from the Country of Youth, however, locked arms and sprang to surround the four Terrestrials, crying, "Let's do a group dive!"
"I don't believe that I can swim well enough to enjoy what's coming," whispered Margaret to Crane, and they slipped into the pool and turned around to watch. Seaton and Dorothy, both strong swimmers, locked arms and laughed as they were encircled by the green phalanx and swept out to the end of a dock-like structure and upon a catapult.
* * * * *
"Hold tight, everybody!" someone yelled, and interlaced, straining arms and legs held the green and white bodies in one motionless group as a gigantic force hurled them fifty feet into the air and out over the deepest part of the pool. There was a mighty splash and a miniature tidal wave as that mass of humanity struck the water. Many feet they went down before the cordon was broken and the individual units came to the surface. Then pandemonium reigned. Vigorous informal games, having to do with floating and sinking balls and effigies: pushball, in which the players never seemed to know, or to care, upon which side they were playing; water-fights and ducking contests.... A green mermaid, having felt the incredible power of Seaton's arms as he tossed her lightly away from a goal he was temporarily defending, put both her small hands around his biceps wonderingly, amazed at a strength unknown and impossible upon her world; then playfully tried to push him under. Failing, she called for help.
"He's needed a good ducking for ages!" Dorothy cried, and she and several other girls threw themselves upon him. Over and around him the lithe forms flashed, while the rest of the young people splashed water impartially over all the combatants and cheered them on. In the midst of the battle the signal sounded to end the period of exercise.
"Saved by the bell," Seaton laughed as, thoroughly ducked and almost half drowned, he was allowed to swim ashore.
When all had returned to the common room of the observatory and had seated themselves, Orlon took out his miniature ray-projector, no larger than a fountain pen, and flashed it briefly upon one of the hundreds of button-like lenses upon the wall. Instantly each chair converted itself into a form-fitting divan, inviting complete repose.
"I believe that you of Earth would perhaps enjoy some of our music during this, the period of relaxation and repose—it is so different from your own," Orlon remarked, as he again manipulated his tiny force-tube.
* * * * *
Every light was extinguished and there was felt a profoundly deep vibration—a note so low as to be palpable rather than audible; and simultaneously the utter darkness was relieved by a tinge of red so dark as to be barely perceptible, while a peculiar somber fragrance pervaded the atmosphere. The music rapidly ran the gamut to the limit of audibility and, in the same tempo, the lights traversed the visible spectrum and disappeared. Then came a crashing chord and a vivid flare of blended light; ushering in an indescribable symphony of sound and color, accompanied by a slower succession of shifting, blending odors.
The quality of tone was now that of a gigantic orchestra, now that of a full brass band, now that of a single unknown instrument—as though the composer had had at his command every overtone capable of being produced by any possible instrument, and with them had woven a veritable tapestry of melody upon an incredibly complex loom of sound. As went the harmony, so the play of light accompanied it. Neither music nor illumination came from any apparent source; they simply pervaded the entire room. When the music was fast—and certain passages were of a rapidity impossible for any human fingers to attain—the lights flashed in vivid, tiny pencils, intersecting each other in sharply drawn, brilliant figures, which changed with dizzying speed; when the tempo was slow, the beams were soft and broad, blending into each other to form sinuous, indefinite, writhing patterns, whose very vagueness was infinitely soothing.
"What do you think of it, Mrs. Seaton?" Orlon asked.
"Marvelous!" breathed Dorothy, awed. "I never imagined anything like it. I can't begin to tell you how much I like it. I never dreamed of such absolute perfection of execution, and the way the lighting accompanies the theme is just too perfectly wonderful for words! It was incredibly brilliant."
"Brilliant—yes. Perfectly executed—yes. But I notice that you say nothing of depth of feeling or of emotional appeal." Dorothy blushed uncomfortably and started to say something, but Orlon silenced her and continued: "You need not apologize. I had a reason for speaking as I did, for in you I recognize a real musician, and our music is indeed entirely soulless. That is the result of our ancient civilization. We are so old that our music is purely intellectual, entirely mechanical, instead of emotional. It is perfect, but, like most of our other arts, it is almost completely without feeling."
"But your statues are wonderful!"
"As I told you, those statues were made myriads of years ago. At that time we also had real music, but, unlike statuary, music at that time could not be preserved for posterity. That is another thing you have given us. Attend!"
At one end of the room, as upon a three-dimensional screen, the four Terrestrials saw themselves seated in the control-room of the Skylark. They saw and heard Margaret take up her guitar, and strike four sonorous chords in "A." Then, as if they had been there in person, they heard themselves sing "The Bull-Frog" and all the other songs they had sung, far off in space. They heard Margaret suggest that Dorothy play some "real music," and heard Seaton's comments upon the quartette.
"In that, youngster, you were entirely wrong," said Orlon, stopping the reproduction for a moment. "The entire planet was listening to you very attentively—we were enjoying it as no music has been enjoyed for thousands of years."
"The whole planet!" gasped Margaret. "Were you broadcasting it? How could you?"
"Easy," grinned Seaton. "They can do most anything with these rays of theirs."
"When you have time, in some period of labor, we would appreciate it very much if you four would sing for us again, would give us more of your vast store of youthful music, for we can now preserve it exactly as it is sung. But much as we enjoyed the quartette, Mrs. Seaton, it was your work upon the violin that took us by storm. Beginning with tomorrow, my companion intends to have you spend as many periods as you will, playing for our records. We shall now have your music."
"If you like it so well, wouldn't you rather I'd play you something I hadn't played before?"
"That is labor. We could not...."
"Piffle!" Dorothy interrupted. "Don't you see that I could really play right now, with somebody to listen, who really enjoys music; whereas, if I tried to play in front of a record, I'd be perfectly mechanical?"
"'At-a-girl, Dot! I'll get your fiddle."
"Keep your seat, son," instructed Orlon, as the case containing the Stradivarius appeared before Dorothy, borne by a pencil of force. "While that temperament is incomprehensible to every one of us, it is undoubtedly true that the artistic mind does work in that manner. We listen."
Dorothy swept into "The Melody in F," and as the poignantly beautiful strains poured forth from that wonderful violin, she knew that she had her audience with her. Though so intellectual that they themselves were incapable of producing music of real depth of feeling, they could understand and could enjoy such music with an appreciation impossible to a people of lesser mental attainments; and their profound enjoyment of her playing, burned into her mind by the telepathic, almost hypnotic power of the Norlaminian mentality, raised her to heights of power she had never before attained. Playing as one inspired, she went through one tremendous solo after another—holding her listeners spellbound, urged on by their intense feeling to carry them further and ever further into the realm of pure emotional harmony. The bell which ordinarily signaled the end of the period of relaxation did not sound; for the first time in thousands of years the planet of Norlamin deserted its rigid schedule of life—to listen to one Earth-woman, pouring out her very soul upon her incomparable violin.
The final note of "Memories" died away in a diminuendo wail, and the musician almost collapsed into Seaton's arms. The profound silence, more impressive far than any possible applause, was soon broken by Dorothy.
"There—I'm all right now, Dick. I was about out of control for a minute. I wish they could have had that on a recorder—I'll never be able to play like that again if I live to be a thousand years old."
"It is on record, daughter. Every note and every inflection is preserved, precisely as you played it," Orlon assured her. "That is our only excuse for allowing you to continue as you did, almost to the point of exhaustion. While we cannot really understand an artistic mind of the peculiar type to which yours belongs, yet we realized that each time you play you are doing something that no one, not even yourself, can ever do again in precisely the same subtle fashion. Therefore we allowed, in fact encouraged, you to go on as long as that creative impulse should endure—not merely for our pleasure in hearing it, great though that pleasure was, but in the hope that our workers in music could, by a careful analysis of your product, determine quantitatively the exact vibrations or overtones which make the difference between emotional and intellectual music."
Into a Sun
As Rovol and Seaton approached the physics laboratory at the beginning of the period of labor, another small airboat occupied by one man drew up beside them and followed them to the ground. The stranger, another white-bearded ancient, greeted Rovol cordially and was introduced to Seaton as "Caslor, the First of Mechanism."
"Truly, this is a high point in the course of Norlaminian science, my young friend," Caslor acknowledged the introduction smilingly. "You have enabled us to put into practice many things which our ancestors studied in theory for many a wearisome cycle of time." Turning to Rovol, he went on: "I understand that you require a particularly precise directional mechanism? I know well that it must indeed be one of exceeding precision and delicacy, for the controls you yourself have built are able to hold upon any point, however moving, within the limits of our immediate solar system."
"We require controls a million times as delicate as any I have constructed," said Rovol, "therefore I have called your surpassing skill into co-operation. It is senseless for me to attempt a task in which I would be doomed to failure. We intend to send out a fifth-order projection, something none of our ancestors ever even dreamed of, which, with its inconceivable velocity of propagation, will enable us to explore any region in the galaxy as quickly as we now visit our closest sister planet. Knowing the dimensions of this, our galaxy, you can readily understand the exact degree of precision required to hold upon a point at its outermost edge."
"Truly, a problem worthy of any man's brain," Caslor replied after a moment's thought. "Those small circles," pointing to the forty-foot hour and declination circles which Seaton had thought the ultimate in precise measurement of angular magnitudes, "are of course useless. I shall have to construct large and accurate circles, and in order to produce the slow and fast motions of the required nature, without creep, slip, play, or backlash, I shall require a pure torque, capable of being increased by infinitesimal increments.... Pure torque."
He thought deeply for a time, then went on: "No gear-train or chain mechanism can be built of sufficient tightness, since in any mechanism there is some freedom of motion, however slight, and for this purpose the director must have no freedom of motion whatever. We must have a pure torque—and the only possible force answering our requirements is the four hundred sixty-seventh band of the fourth order. I shall therefore be compelled to develop that band. The director must, of course, have a full equatorial mounting, with circles some two hundred and fifty feet in diameter. Must your projector tube be longer than that, for correct design?"
"That length will be ample."
"The mounting must be capable of rotation through the full circle of arc in either plane, and must be driven in precisely the motion required to neutralize the motion of our planet, which, as you know, is somewhat irregular. Additional fast and slow motions must, of course, be provided to rotate the mechanism upon each graduated circle at the will of the operator. It is my idea to make the outer supporting tube quite large, so that you will have full freedom with your inner, or projector tube proper. It seems to me that dimensions X37 B42 J867 would perhaps be as good as any."
"Perfectly satisfactory. You have the apparatus well in mind."
"These things will consume some time. How soon will you require this mechanism?" asked Caslor.
"We also have much to do. Two periods of labor, let us say: or, if you require them, three."
"It is well. Two periods will be ample time: I was afraid that you might need it today, and the work cannot be accomplished in one period of labor. The mounting will, of course, be prepared in the Area of Experiment. Farewell."
"You aren't going to build the final projector here, then?" Seaton asked as Caslor's flier disappeared.
"We shall build it here, then transport it to the Area, where its dirigible housing will be ready to receive it. All mechanisms of that type are set up there. Not only is the location convenient to all interested, but there are to be found all necessary tools, equipment and material. Also, and not least important for such long-range work as we contemplate, the entire Area of Experiment is anchored immovably to the solid crust of the planet, so that there can be not even the slightest vibration to affect the direction of our beams of force, which must, of course, be very long."
He closed the master switches of his power-plants and the two resumed work where they had left off. The control panel was soon finished. Rovol then plated an immense cylinder of copper and placed it in the power-plant. He next set up an entirely new system of refractory relief-points and installed additional ground-rods, sealed through the floor and extending deep into the ground below, explaining as he worked.
"You see, son, we must lose one one-thousandth of one per cent of our total energy, and provision must be made for its dissipation in order to avoid destruction of the laboratory. These air-gap resistances are the simplest means of disposing of the wasted power."
"I get you—but say, how about disposing of it when we get the thing in a ship out in space? We picked up pretty heavy charges in the Skylark—so heavy that I had to hold up several times in the ionized layer of an atmosphere while they faded—and this outfit will burn up tons of copper where the old ones used ounces."
"In the projected space-vessel we shall install converters to utilize all the energy, so that there will be no loss whatever. Since such converters must be designed and built especially for each installation, and since they require a high degree of precision, it is not worth while to construct them for a purely temporary mechanism, such as this one."
* * * * *
The walls of the laboratory were opened, ventilating blowers were built, and refrigerating coils were set up everywhere, even in the tubular structure and behind the visiplates. After assuring themselves that everything combustible had been removed, the two scientists put on under their helmets, goggles whose protecting lenses could be built up to any desired thickness. Rovol then threw a switch, and a hemisphere of flaming golden radiance surrounded the laboratory and extended for miles upon all sides.
"I get most of the stuff you've pulled so far, but why such a light?" asked Seaton.
"As a warning. This entire area will be filled with dangerous frequencies, and that light is a warning for all uninsulated persons to give our theater of operations a wide berth."
"I see. What next?"
"All that remains to be done is to take our lens-material and go," replied Rovol, as he took from a cupboard the largest faidon that Seaton had ever seen.
"Oh, that's what you're going to use! You know, I've been wondering about that stuff. I took one back with me to the Earth to experiment on. I gave it everything I could think of and couldn't touch it. I couldn't even make it change its temperature. What is it, anyway?"
"It is not matter at all, in the ordinary sense of the word. It is almost pure crystallized energy. You have, of course, noticed that it looks transparent, but that it is not. You cannot see into its substance a millionth of a micron—the illusion of transparency being purely a surface phenomenon, and peculiar to this one form of substance. I have told you that the ether is a fourth-order substance—this also is a fourth-order substance, but it is crystalline, whereas the ether is probably fluid and amorphous. You might call this faidon crystallized ether without being far wrong."
"But it should weigh tons, and it is hardly heavier than air—or no, wait a minute. Gravitation is also a fourth-order phenomenon, so it might not weigh anything at all—but it would have terrific mass—or would it, not having protons? Crystallized ether would displace fluid ether, so it might—I'll give up! It's too deep for me!" said Seaton.
"Its theory is abstruse, and I cannot explain it to you any more fully than I have, until after we have given you a knowledge of the fourth and fifth orders. Pure fourth-order material would be without weight and without mass; but these crystals as they are found are not absolutely pure. In crystallizing from the magma, they entrapped sufficient numbers of particles of the higher orders to give them the characteristics which you have observed. The impurities, however, are not sufficient in quantity to offer a point of attack to any ordinary reagent."
"But how could such material possibly be formed?"
"It could be formed only in some such gigantic cosmic body as this, our green system, formed incalculable ages ago, when all the mass comprising it existed as one colossal sun. Picture for yourself the condition in the center of that sun. It has attained the theoretical maximum of temperature—some seventy million of your centigrade degrees—the electrons have been stripped from the protons until the entire central core is one solid ball of neutronium and can be compressed no more without destruction of the protons themselves. Still the pressure increases. The temperature, already at the theoretical maximum, can no longer increase. What happens?"
"Precisely. And just at the instant of disruption, during the very instant of generation of the frightful forces that are to hurl suns, planets and satellites millions of miles out into space—in that instant of time, as a result of those unimaginable temperatures and pressures, the faidon comes into being. It can be formed only by the absolute maximum of temperature and at a pressure which can exist only momentarily, even in the largest conceivable masses."
"Then how can you make a lens of it? It must be impossible to work it in any way."
"It cannot be worked in any ordinary way, but we shall take this crystal into the depths of that white dwarf star, into a region in which obtain pressures and temperatures only less than those giving it birth. There we shall play forces upon it which, under those conditions, will be able to work it quite readily."
"Hm—m—m. I want to see that! Let's go!"
They seated themselves at the panels, and Rovol began to manipulate keys, levers and dials. Instantly a complex structure of visible force—rods, beams and flat areas of flaming scarlet energy—appeared at the end of the tubular, telescope-like network.
"Merely to render them visible. One cannot work well with invisible tools, hence I have imposed a colored light frequency upon the invisible frequencies of the forces. We will have an assortment of colors if you prefer," and as he spoke each ray assumed a different color, so that the end of the projector was almost lost beneath a riot of color.
The structure of force, which Seaton knew was the secondary projector, swung around as if sentient, and a lurid green ray extended itself, picked up the faidon, and lengthened out, hurling the jewel a thousand yards out through the open side of the laboratory. Rovol moved more controls and the structure again righted itself, swinging back into perfect alignment with the tube and carrying the faidon upon its extremity, a thousand yards beyond the roof of the laboratory.
"We are now ready to start our projection. Be sure your suit and goggles are perfectly tight. We must see what we are doing, so the light-rays must be heterodyned upon our carrier wave. Therefore the laboratory and all its neighborhood will be flooded with dangerous frequencies from the sun we are to visit, as well as with those from our own generators."
"O. K., chief! All tight here. You say it's ten light-years to that star. How long's it going to take us to get there?"
"About ten minutes. We could travel that far in less than ten seconds but for the fact that we must take the faidon with us. Slight as is its mass, it will require much energy in its acceleration. Our projections, of course, have no mass, and will require only the energy of propagation."
Rovol flicked a finger, a massive pair of plunger switches shot into their sockets, and Seaton, seated at his board and staring into his visiplate, was astounded to find that he apparently possessed a dual personality. He knew that he was seated motionless in the operator's chair in the base of the rigidly anchored primary projector, and by taking his eyes away from the visiplate before him, he could see that nothing in the laboratory had changed, except that the pyrotechnic display from the power-bar was of unusual intensity. Yet, looking into the visiplate, he was out in space in person, hurtling through space at a pace beside which the best effort of the Skylark seemed the veriest crawl. Swinging his controls to look backward, he gasped as he saw, so stupendous was their velocity, that the green system was only barely discernible as a faint green star!
* * * * *
Again looking forward, it seemed as though a fierce white star had separated from the immovable firmament and was now so close to the structure of force in which he was riding that it was already showing a disk perceptible to the unaided eye. A few moments more and the violet-white splendor became so intense that the watchers began to build up, layer by layer, the protective goggles before their eyes. As they approached still closer, falling with their unthinkable velocity into that incandescent inferno, a sight was revealed to their eyes such as man had never before been privileged to gaze upon. They were falling into a white dwarf star, could see everything visible during such an unheard-of journey, and would live to remember what they had seen! They saw the magnificent spectacle of solar prominences shooting hundreds of thousands of miles into space, and directly in their path they saw an immense sunspot, a combined volcanic eruption and cyclonic storm in a gaseous-liquid medium of blinding incandescence.
"Better dodge that spot, hadn't we, ace? Mightn't it be generating interfering fourth-order frequencies?" cried Seaton.
"It is undoubtedly generating fourth-order rays, but nothing can interfere with us, since we are controlling every component of our beam from Norlamin."
Seaton gripped his hand-rail violently and involuntarily drew himself together into the smallest possible compass as, with their awful speed unchecked, they plunged through that flaming, incandescent photosphere and on, straight down, into the unexplored, unimaginable interior of that frightful and searing orb. Through the protecting goggles, now a full four inches of that peculiar, golden, shielding metal, Seaton could see the structure of force in which he was, and could also see the faidon—in outline, as transparent diamonds are visible in equally transparent water. Their apparent motion slowed rapidly and the material about them thickened and became more and more opaque. The faidon drew back toward them until it was actually touching the projector, and eddy currents and striae became visible in the mass about them as their progress grew slower and slower.
"'Smatter? Something gone screwy?" demanded Seaton.
"Not at all, everything is working perfectly. The substance is now so dense that it is becoming opaque to rays of the fourth order, so that we are now partially displacing the medium instead of moving through it without friction. At the point where we can barely see to work; that is, when the fourth-order rays will be so retarded that they can no longer carry the heterodyned light waves without complete distortion, we shall stop automatically, as the material at that depth will have the required density to refract the fifth-order rays to the correct degree."
"How can our foundations stand it?" asked Seaton. "This stuff must be a hundred times as dense as platinum already, and we must he pushing a horrible load in going through it."
"We are exerting no force whatever upon our foundations nor upon Norlamin. The force is transmitted without loss from the power-plant in our laboratory to this secondary projector here inside the star, where it is liberated in the correct band to pull us through the mass, using all the mass ahead of us as anchorage. When we wish to return, we shall simply change the pull into a push. Ah! we are now at a standstill—now comes the most important moment of the entire project!"
All apparent motion had ceased, and Seaton could see only dimly the outlines of the faidon, now directly before his eyes. The structure of force slowly warped around until its front portion held the faidon as in a vise. Rovol pressed a lever and behind them, in the laboratory, four enormous plunger switches drove home. A plane of pure energy, flaming radiantly even in the indescribable incandescence of the core of that seething star, bisected the faidon neatly, and ten gigantic beams, five upon each half of the jewel, rapidly molded two sections of a geometrically-perfect hollow lens. The two sections were then brought together by the closing of the jaws of the mighty vise, their edges in exact alignment. Instantly the plane and the beams of energy became transformed into two terrific opposing tubes of force—vibrant, glowing tubes, whose edges in contact coincided with the almost invisible seam between the two halves of the lens.
Like a welding arc raised to the nth power these two immeasurable and irresistible forces met exactly in opposition—a meeting of such incredible violence that seismic disturbances occurred throughout the entire mass of that dense, violet-white star. Sunspots of unprecedented size appeared, prominences erupted to hundreds of times their normal distances, and although the two scientists deep in the core of the tormented star were unaware of what was happening upon its surface, convulsion after Titanic convulsion wracked the mighty globe, and enormous masses of molten and gaseous material were riven from it and hurled far out into space—masses which would in time become planets of that youthful and turbulent luminary.
Seaton felt his air-supply grow hot. Suddenly it became icy cold, and knowing that Rovol had energized the refrigerator system, Seaton turned away from the fascinating welding operation for a quick look around the laboratory. As he did so, he realized Rovol's vast knowledge and understood the reason for the new system of relief-points and ground-rods, as well as the necessity for the all-embracing scheme of refrigeration.
Even through the practically opaque goggles he could see that the laboratory was one mass of genuine lightning. Not only from the relief-points, but from every metallic corner and protuberance the pent-up losses from the disintegrating bar were hurling themselves upon the flaring, blue-white, rapidly-volatilizing ground-rods; and the very air of the room, renewed second by second though it was by the powerful blowers, was beginning to take on the pearly luster of the highly-ionized corona. The bar was plainly visible, a scintillating demon of pure violet radiance, and a momentary spasm of fear seized him as he saw how rapidly that great mass of copper was shrinking—fear that their power would be exhausted with their task still uncompleted.
But the calculations of the aged physicist had been accurate. The lens was completed with some hundreds of pounds of copper to spare, and that geometrical form, with its precious content of semi-neutronium, was following the secondary projector back toward the green system. Rovol left his seat, discarded his armor, and signaled Seaton to do the same.
"I've got to hand it to you, ace—you sure are a blinding flash and a deafening report!" Seaton exclaimed, writhing out of his insulating suit. "I feel as though I'd been pulled half-way through a knot-hole and riveted over on both ends! How big a lens did you make, anyway? Looked as though it would hold a couple of liters; maybe three."
"Its contents are almost exactly three liters."
"Hm—m—m. Seven and a half million kilograms—say eight thousand tons. Some mass, I'd say, to put into a gallon jug. Of course, being inside the faidon, it won't have any weight, but it'll have all its full quota of inertia. That's why you're taking so long to bring it in, of course."
"Yes. The projector will now bring it here into the laboratory without any further attention from us. The period of labor is about to end, and tomorrow we shall find the lens awaiting us when we arrive to begin work."
"How about cooling it off? It had a temperature of something like forty million degree centigrade before you started working on it; and when you got done with it, it was hot."
"You're forgetting again, son. Remember that the hot, dense material is entirely enclosed in an envelope impervious to all vibrations longer than those of the fifth order. You could put your hand upon it now, without receiving any sensation either of heat, or of cold."
"Yeah, that's right, too. I noticed that I could take a faidon right out of an electric arc and it wouldn't even be warm. I couldn't explain why it was, but I see now. So that stuff inside that lens will always stay as hot as it is right now! Zowie! Here's hoping she never explodes! Well, there's the bell—for once in my life, I'm all ready to quit when the whistle blows," and arm in arm the young Terrestrial chemist and the aged Norlaminian physicist strolled out to their waiting airboat.
Flying Visits—Via Projection
"Well, what to do?" asked Seaton as he and Rovol entered the laboratory, "Tear down this fourth-order projector and tackle the big job? I see the lens is here, on schedule, so we can hop right into it."
"We shall have further use for this mechanism. We shall need at least one more lens of this dense material, and other scientists also may have need of one or two. Then, too, the new projector must be so large that it cannot be erected in this room."
As he spoke, Rovol seated himself at his control-desk and ran his fingers lightly over the keys. The entire wall of the laboratory disappeared, hundreds of beams of force darted here and there, seizing and working raw materials, and in the portal there grew up, to Seaton's amazement, a keyboard and panel installation such as the Earth-man, in his wildest moments, had never imagined. Bank upon bank of typewriter-like keys; row upon row of keys, pedals, and stops resembling somewhat those of the console of a gigantic pipe-organ; panel upon panel of meters, switches, and dials—all arranged about two deeply-cushioned chairs and within reach of their occupants.
"Whew! That looks like the combined mince-pie nightmares of a whole flock of linotype operators, pipe-organists, and hard-boiled radio hams!" exclaimed Seaton when the installation was complete. "Now that you've got it, what are you going to do with it?"
"There is not a control system in Norlamin adequate for the task we face, since the problem of the projection of rays of the fifth order has heretofore been of only academic interest. Therefore it becomes necessary to construct such a control. This mechanism will, I am confident, have a sufficiently wide range of application to perform any operation we shall require of it."
"It sure looks as though it could do almost anything, provided the man behind it knows how to play a tune on it—but if that rumble seat is for me, you'd better count me out right now. I followed you for about fifteen seconds, then lost you completely; and now I'm sunk without a trace," said Seaton.
"That is, of course, true, and is a point I was careless enough to overlook." Rovol thought for a moment, then got up, crossed the room to his control desk, and continued, "We shall dismantle the machine and rebuild it at once."
"Oh no—too much work!" protested Seaton, "You've got it about done, haven't you?"
"It is hardly started. Two hundred thousand bands of force must be linked to it, each in its proper place, and it is necessary that you should understand thoroughly every detail of this entire projector," Rovol answered.
"Why? I'm not ashamed to admit that I haven't got brains enough to understand a thing like that."
"You have sufficient brain capacity; it is merely undeveloped. There are two reasons why you must be as familiar with the operation of this mechanism as you are with the operation of one of your Earthly automobiles. The first is that a similar control is to be installed in your new space-vessel, since by its use you can attain a perfection of handling impossible by any other system. The second, and more important reason, is that neither I nor any other man of Norlamin could compel himself, by any force of will, to direct a ray that would take away the life of any fellow-man."
While Rovol was speaking, he reversed his rays, and soon the component parts of the new control had been disassembled and piled in orderly array about the room.
"Hm—m—m. Never thought of that. It's right too," mused Seaton. "How're you going to get it into my thick skull—with an educator?"
"Exactly," and Rovol sent a beam of force after his highly developed educational mechanism. Dials and electrodes were adjusted, connections were established, and the beams and pencils of force began to reconstruct the great central controlling device. But this time, instead of being merely a bewildered spectator, Seaton was an active participant in the work. As each key and meter was wrought and mounted, there were indelibly impressed upon his brain the exact reason for and function of the part, and later, when the control itself was finished and the seemingly interminable task of connecting it up to the output force-bands of the transformers had begun, he had a complete understanding of everything with which he was working, and understood all the means by which the ends he had so long desired were to be attained. For to the ancient scientist the tasks he was then performing were the merest routine, to be performed in reflex fashion, and he devoted most of his attention to transferring from his own brain to that of his young assistant as much of his stupendous knowledge as the smaller brain of the Terrestrial was capable of absorbing. More and more rapidly as the work progressed the mighty flood of knowledge poured into Seaton's mind. After an hour or so, when enough connections had been made so that automatic forces could be so directed as to finish the job, Rovol and Seaton left the laboratory and went into the living room. As they walked, the educator accompanied them, borne upon its beam of force.
"Your brain is behaving very nicely indeed," said Rovol, "much better than I would have thought possible from its size. In fact, it may be possible for me to transfer to you all the knowledge I have which might be of use to you. That is why I took you away from the laboratory. What do you think of the idea?"
"Our psychologists have always maintained that none of us ever uses more than a minute fraction of the actual capacity of his brain," Seaton replied after a moment's thought. "If you think you can give me even a percentage of your knowledge without killing me, go to it—I'm for it, strong!"
"Knowing that you would be, I have already requested Drasnik, the First of Psychology, to come here, and he has just arrived," answered Rovol. And as he spoke, that personage entered the room.
When the facts had been set before him, the psychologist nodded his head
"That is quite possible," he said with enthusiasm, "and I will be only too glad to assist in such an operation."
"But listen!" protested Seaton, "You'll probably change my whole personality! Rovol's brain is three times the size of mine."
"Tut-tut—nothing of the kind," Drasnik reproved him. "As you have said, you are using only a minute portion of the active mass of your brain. The same thing is true with us—many millions of cycles would have to pass before we would be able to fill the brains we now have."
"Then why are your brains so large?"
"Merely a provision of Nature that no possible accession of knowledge shall find her storehouse too small," replied Drasnik, positively. "Ready?"
All three donned the headsets and a wave of mental force swept into Seaton's mind, a wave of such power that the Terrestrial's every sense wilted under the impact. He did not faint, he did not lose consciousness—he simply lost all control of every nerve and fiber as his entire brain passed into the control of the immense mentality of the First of Psychology and became a purely receptive, plastic medium upon which to impress the knowledge of the aged physicist.
* * * * *
Hour after hour the transfer continued, Seaton lying limp as though lifeless, the two Norlaminians tense and rigid, every faculty concentrated upon the ignorant, virgin brain exposed to their gaze. Finally the operation was complete and Seaton, released from the weird, hypnotic grip of that stupendous mind, gasped, shook himself, and writhed to his feet.
"Great Cat!" he exclaimed, his eyes wide with astonishment. "I wouldn't have believed there was as much to know in the entire Universe as I know right now, and I know it as well as I ever knew elementary algebra. Thanks, fellows, a million times—but say, did you leave any open spaces for more? In one way, I seem to know less than I did before, there's so much more to find out. Can I learn anything more, or did you fill me up to capacity?"
The psychologist, who had been listening to the exuberant youth with undisguised pleasure, spoke calmly.
"The mere fact that you appreciate your comparative ignorance shows that you are still capable of learning. Your capacity to learn is greater than it ever was before, even though the waste space has been reduced. Much to our surprise, Rovol and I gave you all of his knowledge that would be of any use to you, and some of my own, and still theoretically you can add to it more than nine times the total of your present knowledge."
The psychologist departed, and Rovol and Seaton returned to the laboratory, where the forces were still merrily at work. There was nothing that could be done to hasten the connecting, and it was late in the following period of labor before they could begin the actual construction of the projector. Once started, however, it progressed with amazing rapidity. Now understanding the system, it did not seem strange to Seaton that he should merely actuate a certain combination of forces when he desired a certain operation performed; nor did it seem unusual or worthy of comment that one flick of his finger over that switchboard would send a force a distance of hundreds of miles to a factory where other forces were busily at work, to seize a hundred angle-bars of transparent purple metal that were to form the backbone of the fifth-order projector. Nor did it seem peculiar that the same force, with no further instruction, should bring these hundred bars back to him, in a high loop through the atmosphere; should deposit them gently in a convenient space near the site of operations; and then should disappear as though it had never existed! With such tools as that, it was a matter of only a few hours before the projector was done—a task that would have required years of planning and building upon Earth.
Two hundred and fifty feet it towered above their heads, a tubular network of braced and latticed bars of purple metal, fifty feet in diameter at the base and tapering smoothly to a diameter of about ten feet at the top. Built of a metal thousands of times as strong and hard as steel, it was not cumbersome in appearance, and yet was strong enough to be absolutely rigid. Ten enormous supporting forces held the lens of neutronium immovable in the exact center of the upper end; at intervals down the shaft similar forces held variously-shaped lenses and prisms formed from zones of force; in the center of the bottom or floor of the towering structure was the double controlling system, with a universal visiplate facing each operator.
"Well, Rovol, that's that," remarked Seaton as the last connection was made. "What say we hop in and give the baby a ride over to the Area of Experiment? Caslor must have the mounting done, and we've got time enough left in this period to try her out."
"In a moment. I am setting the fourth-order projector to go out to the dwarf star after an additional supply of neutronium."
Seaton, knowing from the data of their first journey, that the controls could be so set as to duplicate their feat in every particular without supervision, stepped into his seat in the new controller, pressed a key, and spoke.
"Hi, Dottie, what's on your mind?"
"Nothing much," Dorothy's clear voice answered. "Got it done and can I see it?"
"Sure—sit tight and I'll send a boat after you."
As he spoke, Rovol's flier darted into the air and away; and in two minutes it returned, slowing abruptly as it landed. Dorothy stepped out, radiant, and returned Seaton's enthusiastic caresses with equal fervor before she spoke.
"Lover, I'm afraid you violated all known speed laws getting me over here. Aren't you afraid of getting pinched?"
"Nope—not here. Besides, I didn't want to keep Rovol waiting—we're all ready to go. Hop in here with me, this left-hand control's mine."
Rovol entered the tube, took his place, and waved his hand. Seaton's hands swept over the keys and the whole gigantic structure wafted into the air. Still upright, it was borne upon immense rods of force toward the Area of Experiment, which was soon reached. Covered as the Area was with fantastic equipment, there was no doubt as to their destination, for in plain sight, dominating all the lesser instruments, there rose a stupendous telescopic mounting, with an enormous hollow tube of metallic lattice-work which could be intended for nothing else than their projector. Approaching it carefully, Seaton deftly guided the projector lengthwise into that hollow receptacle and anchored it in the exact optical axis. Flashing beams of force made short work of welding the two tubes together immovably with angles and lattices of the same purple metal, the terminals of the variable-speed motors were attached to the controllers, and everything was in readiness for the first trial.
"What special instructions do we need to run it, if any?" Seaton asked of the First of Mechanism, who had lifted himself up into the projector.
"Very little. This motor governs the hour motion, that one the right ascension. The potentiometers regulate the degree of vernier action—any ratio is possible, from direct drive up to more than a hundred million complete revolutions of that graduated dial to give you one second of arc."
"Plenty fine, I'd say. Thanks a lot, ace. Whither away, Rovol—any choice?"
"Anywhere you please, son, since this is merely a try-out."
"O. K. We'll hop over and tell Dunark hello."
The tube swung around into line with that distant planet and Seaton stepped down hard, upon a pedal. Instantly they seemed infinite myriads of miles out in space, the green system barely visible as a faint green star behind them.
"Wow, that ray's fast!" exclaimed the pilot, ruefully. "I overshot about a thousand light years. We'll try again, with considerably less power," and he rearranged and reset the dials and meters before him. Adjustment after adjustment and many reductions in power had to be made before the projection ceased leaping millions of miles at a touch, but finally the operators became familiar with the new technique and the ray became manageable. Soon they were hovering above what had been Mardonal, and saw that all signs of warfare had disappeared. Slowly turning the controls, Seaton flashed the projection over the girdling Osnomian sea and guided it through the impregnable metal walls of the palace into the throne room of Roban, where they saw the Emperor, Tarnan the Karbix, and Dunark in close conference.
"Well, here we are," remarked Seaton. "Now we'll put on a little visibility and give the natives a treat."
"Sh-sh," whispered Dorothy, "they'll hear you, Dick—we're intruding shamefully."
"No, they won't hear us, because I haven't heterodyned the audio in on the wave yet. And as for intruding, that's exactly what we came over here for."
* * * * *
He imposed the audio system upon the inconceivably high frequency of their carrier wave and spoke in the Osnomian tongue.
"Greetings, Roban, Dunark, and Tarnan, from Seaton." All three jumped to their feet, amazed, staring about the empty room as Seaton went on, "I am not here in person. I am simply sending you my projection. Just a moment and I will put on a little visibility."
He brought more forces into play, and solid images of force appeared in the great hall; images of the three occupants of the controller. Introductions and greetings over, Seaton spoke briefly and to the point.
"We've got everything we came after—much more than I had any idea we could get. You need have no more fear of the Fenachrone—we have found a science superior to theirs. But much remains to be done, and we have none too much time; therefore I have come to you with certain requests."
"The Overlord has but to command," replied Roban.
"Not command, since we are all working together for a common cause. In the name of that cause, Dunark, I ask you to come to me at once, accompanied by Tarnan and any others you may select. You will be piloted by a ray which we shall set upon your controls. Upon your way here you will visit the First City of Dasor, another planet, where you will pick up Sacner Carfon, who will be awaiting you there."
"As you direct, so it shall be," and Seaton flashed the projector to the neighboring planet of Urvania. There he found that the gigantic space-cruiser he had ordered had been completed, and requested Urvan and his commander-in-chief to tow it to Norlamin, piloted by a ray. He then jumped to Dasor, there interviewing Carfon and being assured of the full co-operation of the porpoise-men.
"Well, that's that, folks," said Seaton as he shut off the power. "We can't do much more for a few days, until the gang gets here for the council of war. How'd it be, Rovol, for me to practice with this outfit while you are finishing up the odds and ends you want to clean up? You might suggest to Orlon, too, that it'd be a good deed for him to pilot those folks over here."
As Rovol wafted himself to the ground from their lofty station, Crane and Margaret appeared and were lifted up to the place formerly occupied by the physicist.
"How's tricks, Mart? I hear you're quite an astronomer?" said Seaton.
"Yes, thanks to Orlon and the First of Psychology. He seemed quite interested in increasing our Earthly knowledge. I certainly know much more than I had ever hoped to know of anything."
"Yeah, you can pilot us to the Fenachrone system now without any trouble. You also absorbed some ethnology and kindred sciences. What d'you think—with Dunark and Urvan, do we know enough to go ahead or should we take a chance on holding things up while we get acquainted with some of the other peoples of these planets of the green system?"
"Delay is dangerous, as our time is already short," Crane replied after a time. "We know enough, I believe; and furthermore, any additional assistance is problematical; in fact, it is more than doubtful. The Norlaminians have surveyed the system rather thoroughly, and no other planet seems to have inhabitants who have even approached the development attained here."