The Boise Acts

: Triplanetary

But what of the super-ship? What happened after that inertialess, that

terribly destructive take-off?

Doctor Frederick Rodebush sat at the control panel of Triplanetary's

newly reconstructed space-ship, his hands grasping the gleaming, ebonite

handles of two double-throw switches. Facing the unknown though the

physicist was, yet he grinned whimsically at his friend.

"Something, whatever it i
, is about to take place. The Boise is

taking off, under full neutralization. Ready for anything to happen,


"All ready--shoot!" Laconically. Cleveland also was constitutionally

unable to voice his deeper sentiments in time of stress.

Rodebush flipped the switches clear over in flashing arcs, and instantly

over both men there came a sensation akin to a tremendously intensified

vertigo; but a vertigo as far beyond the space-sickness of

weightlessness, as that horrible sensation is beyond mere terrestrial

dizziness. The pilot tried to reverse the switches he had just thrown,

but his leaden hands utterly refused to obey the dictates of his reeling

mind. His brain was a writhing, convulsive mass of torment

indescribable; expanding, exploding, swelling out with an unendurable

pressure against its confining skull. Fiery spirals, laced with

streaming, darting lances of black and green, flamed inside his bursting

eyeballs. The Universe spun and whirled in mad gyrations about him as he

reeled drunkenly to his feet, staggering and sprawling. He fell. He

realized that he was falling, yet he could not fall! Thrashing wildly,

grotesquely in agony, he struggled madly and blindly across the room,

directly toward the thick steel wall. The tip of one hair of his unruly

thatch touched the wall, and the slim length of that single hair did not

even bend as its slight strength brought to an instant halt the

hundred-and-eighty-odd pounds of mass--mass now entirely without

inertia--that was his body.

But finally the sheer brain power of the man began to triumph over his

physical torture. By indomitable force of will he compelled his groping

hands to seize a life-line, almost meaningless to his dazed

intelligence; and through that nightmare incarnate of hellish torture he

fought his way back to the control board. Hooking one leg around a

standard, he made a seemingly enormous effort and drove the two switches

back into their original positions; then fell flat upon the floor,

weakly but in a wave of relief and thankfulness, as his racked body felt

again the wonted phenomena of weight and of inertia. White, trembling,

frankly and openly sick, the two men stared at each other in half-amazed


"It worked." Cleveland smiled wanly as he recovered sufficiently to

speak, then leaped to his feet. "Snap it up, Fred! We must be falling

fast--we'll be wrecked when we hit!"

"We're not falling anywhere." Rodebush, foreboding in his eyes, walked

over to the main observation plate and scanned the heavens. "However,

it's not as bad as I was afraid it might be. I can still recognize a few

of the constellations, even though they are all pretty badly distorted.

That means that we can't be more than a couple of light-years or so away

from the Solar System. Of course, since we had so little thrust on,

practically all of our time and energy was spent in getting out of the

atmosphere; but, even at that, it's a good thing that space isn't an

absolutely perfect vacuum or we would have been clear out of the

Universe by this time."

"Huh? Impossible--where are we anyway? Then we must be making mil ...

Oh, I see!" Cleveland exclaimed in disjointed sentences as he also

stared into the plate.

"Right. We aren't traveling at all now." Rodebush replied. "We are

perfectly stationary relative to Tellus, since we made the hop without

inertia. We must have attained one hundred percent neutralization, which

we didn't quite expect, and therefore we must have stopped

instantaneously when our inertia was restored. But it isn't where we

are that is worrying me the most--we can fix our place in space

accurately enough by a few observations--it's when."

"That's right, too. Say we're two light-years away. You think maybe

we're two years older than we were ten minutes ago, then? That's

possible, of course, maybe probable: there's been a lot of discussion on

that theory. Now's a good time to prove or to disprove it. Let's snap

back to Tellus and find out."

"We'll do that, after a little more experimenting. You see, I had no

intention of giving us such a long push. I was going to throw the

switches over and back, but you know what happened. However, there's one

good thing about it--it's worth two years of anybody's life to settle

that relativity-time thing definitely, one way or the other."

"I'll say it is. But say, we've got a lot of power on our ultra-wave:

enough to reach Tellus, I think. Let's locate the sun and get in touch

with Samms."

"Let's work on these controls a little first, so we'll have something to

report. Out here's a fine place to try the ship out--nothing in the


"All right with me. But I would like to find out whether I'm two years

older than I think I am, or not!"

Then for hours they put the great super-ship through her paces, just as

test-pilots check up on every detail of performance of an airplane of

new and radical design. They found that the horrible vertigo could be

endured, perhaps in time even conquered as space-sickness could be

conquered, by a strong will in a sound body; and that their new

conveyance had possibilities of which even Rodebush had never dreamed.

Finally, their most pressing questions answered, they turned their most

powerful ultra-beam communicator toward the yellowish star which they

knew to be Old Sol.

"Samms ... Samms." Cleveland spoke slowly and distinctly. "Rodebush and

Cleveland reporting from the 'Space-Eating Wampus', now directly in line

with Beta Ursae Minoris from the sun, distance about two point two light

years. It will take six banks of tubes on your tightest beam, LSV3, to

reach us. Barring a touch of an unusually severe type of space-sickness,

everything worked beautifully; even better than our calculations showed.

There's something we want to know right away--have we been gone four

hours and some odd minutes, or better than two years?"

He shut off the power, turned to Rodebush, and went on:

"Nobody knows how fast this ultra-wave travels, but if it goes as fast

as we did coming out it's certainly moving. I'll give him about thirty

minutes, then shoot in another call."

But in less than two minutes the care-ravaged face of their chief

appeared sharp and clear upon their plates and his voice snapped curtly

from the speaker.

"Thank God you're alive, and twice that the ship works!" he exclaimed.

"You've been gone four hours, eleven minutes, and forty-one seconds, but

never mind about abstract theorizing. Get back here, to Pittsburgh, as

fast as you can drive. That Nevian vessel or another like her is mopping

up the city, and has destroyed half the Fleet already!"

"We'll be back there in nine minutes!" Rodebush snapped into the

transmitter. "Two to get from here to atmosphere, four from atmosphere

down to the Hill, and three to cool off. Notify the full four-shift

crew--everybody we've picked out. Don't need anybody else. Ship,

batteries, and armament are ready!"

"Two minutes to atmosphere, and it took ten coming out? Think you can do

it?" Cleveland asked, as Rodebush flipped off the power and leaped to

the control panel.

"We could do it in a few seconds if we had to. We used scarcely any

power at all coming out, and I'm not using very much going back," the

physicist explained rapidly, as he set the dials which would determine

their flashing course.

The master switches were thrown and the pangs of inertialessness again

assailed them--but weaker far this time than ever before--and upon their

lookout plates they beheld a spectacle never before seen by eye of man.

For the ultra-beam, with its heterodyned vision, is not distorted by any

velocity yet attained, as are the ether-borne rays of light. Converted

into light only at the plate, it showed their progress as truly as

though they had been traveling at a pace to be expressed in the ordinary

terms of miles per hour. The yellow star that was the sun detached

itself from the firmament and leaped toward them, swelling visibly,

momentarily, into a blinding monster of incandescence. And toward them

also flung the earth, enlarging with such indescribable rapidity that

Cleveland protested involuntarily, in spite of his knowledge of the

peculiar mechanism of the vessel in which they were.

"Hold it, Fred, hold it! Way 'nuff!" he exclaimed.

"I'm using only ten thousand dynes, so she'll stop herself as soon as we

touch atmosphere, long before she can even begin to heat," Rodebush

explained. "Looks bad, but we'll stop without a jar."

And they did. Weightless and without inertia, gravitation powerless

against her neutralizing generators, the great super-ship came from her

practically infinite velocity to an almost instantaneous halt in the

outermost, most tenuous layer of the earth's atmosphere. Her halt was

but momentary. Inertia restored and gravitation allowed again to affect

her mass, she dropped at a sharp angle downward. More than dropped; she

was forced downward by one full battery of projectors; projectors driven

by iron-powered generators. Soon they were over the Hill, whose violet

screens went down at a word.

Flaming a dazzling white from the friction of the atmosphere through

which she had torn her way, the Boise slowed abruptly as she neared

the ground, plunging toward the surface of the small but deep artificial

lake below the Hill's steel apron. Into the cold waters the space-ship

dove, and even before they could close over her, furious geysers of

steam and boiling water erupted as the stubborn alloy gave up its heat

to the cooling liquid. Endlessly the three necessary minutes dragged

their slow way into time, but finally the water ceased boiling and

Rodebush tore the ship from the lake and hurled her into the gaping

doorway of her dock. The massive doors of the air-locks opened, and

while the full crew of picked men hurried aboard with their personal

equipment, Samms talked earnestly to the two scientists in the control


" ... and about half the fleet is still in the air. They aren't

attacking; they are just trying to keep her from doing much more damage

until you can get there. How about your take-off? We can't launch you

again--the tracks are gone--but you handled her easily enough coming


"That was all my fault," Rodebush admitted. "I should have neutralized

inertia first, but I had no idea that the fields would extend beyond the

hull, nor that they wouldn't act simultaneously. We'll take her out on

the projectors this time, though, the same as we brought her in--she

handles like a bicycle. The projector blast tears things up a little,

but nothing serious. Have you got that Pittsburgh beam for me yet? We're

about ready to go."

"Here it is, Doctor Rodebush," came the secretary's voice, and upon the

screen there flashed into being the view of the events transpiring above

that doomed city. "The dock is empty and sealed against your blast," and

thereupon "Good-bye, and power to your tubes!" came Samms' ringing


As the words were being spoken, mighty blasts of power raved from the

driving projectors and the immense mass of the super-ship shot out

through the portals and upward into the stratosphere. Through the

tenuous atmosphere the huge ship rushed with ever-mounting speed, and

while the hope of Triplanetary drove eastward Rodebush studied the

ever-changing scene of battle upon his plate and issued detailed

instructions to the highly trained specialists manning every offensive

and defensive weapon.

But the Nevians did not wait to join battle until the newcomers arrived.

Their detectors were sensitive--operative over untold thousands of

miles--and the ultra-screen of the Hill had already been noted by the

invaders as the earth's only possible source of trouble. Thus the

departure of the Boise had not gone unnoticed, and the fact, that, not

even with his most penetrant rays could he see into her interior, had

already given the Nevian commander some slight concern. Therefore, as

soon as it was determined that the great ship was being directed toward

Pittsburgh the fish-shaped cruiser of the void went into action.

High in the stratosphere, speeding eastward, the immense mass of the

Boise slowed abruptly, although no projector had slackened its effort.

Cleveland, eyes upon interferometer grating and spectrophotometer

charts, fingers flying over calculator keys, grinned as he turned toward


"Just as you thought, Skipper; an ultra-band pusher. C4V63L29. Shall I

give him a little pull?"

"Not yet; let's feel him out a little before we force a close-up. We've

got plenty of mass. See what he does when I put full push on the


As the full power of the Terrestrial vessel was applied the Nevian was

forced backward, away from the threatened city, against the full drive

of her every projector. Soon, however, the advance was again checked,

and both scientists read the reason upon their plates. The enemy had put

down re-enforcing rods of tremendous power. Three compression members

spread out fanwise behind her, bracing her against the low mountainside,

while one huge tractor beam was thrust directly downward, holding in an

unbreakable grip a cylinder of earth extending deep down into bedrock.

"Two can play at that game!" And Rodebush drove down similar beams, and

forward-reaching tractors as well. "Strap yourselves in solid,

everybody!" he sounded a general warning. "Something is going to give

way somewhere soon, and when it does we'll get a jolt!"

And the promised jolt did indeed come soon. Prodigiously massive and

powerful as the Nevian was, the Boise was even more massive and more

powerful; and as the already enormous energy feeding the tractors,

pushers, and projectors was raised to its inconceivable maximum, the

vessel of the enemy was hurled upward, backward; and that of earth shot

ahead with a bounding leap that threatened to strain even her mighty

members. The Nevian anchor-rods had not broken; they had simply pulled

up the vast cylinders of solid rock that had formed their anchorages.

"Grab him now!" Rodebush yelled, and even while an avalanche of falling

rock was burying the countryside, Cleveland snapped a tractor ray upon

the flying fish and pulled tentatively.

Nor did the Nevian now seem averse to coming to grips. The two warring

super-dreadnaughts darted toward each other, and from the invader there

flooded out the dread crimson opacity which had theretofore meant the

doom of all things Solarian. It flooded out and engulfed the immense

mass of humanity's hope in its spreading cloud of redly impenetrable

murk. But not for long. Triplanetary's super-ship boasted no ordinary

Terrestrial defense, but was sheathed in screen after screen of

ultra-vibrations: imponderable walls, it is true, but barriers

impenetrable to any unfriendly wave. To the outer screen the red veil of

the Nevians clung tenaciously, licking greedily at every square inch of

the shielding sphere of force, but unable to find an opening through

which to feed upon the steel of the Boise's armor.

"Get back--'way back! Go back and help Pittsburgh!" Rodebush drove an

ultra-communicator beam through the murk to the instruments of the

Terrestrial admiral; for the surviving warships of the Fleet--its most

powerful units--were hurling themselves forward, to plunge into that red

destruction. "None of you will last a second in this red field. And

watch out for a violet field pretty soon--it'll be worse than this. We

can handle them alone, I think; but if we can't, there's nothing in the

System that can help us!"

And now the hitherto passive screen of the super-ship became active. At

first invisible, it began to glow in livid, violet light, and as the

glow brightened to unbearable intensity the entire spherical shield

began to increase in size. Driven outward from the super-ship as a

center, its advancing surface of seething energy consumed the crimson

murk as a billow of blast-furnace heat consumes a cloud of snowflakes in

the air above its shaft. Nor was the red death-mist all that was

consumed. Between that ravening surface and the armor skin of the

Boise there was nothing. No debris, no atmosphere, no vapor, no single

atom of material substance--the first time in Terrestrial experience

that an absolute vacuum had ever been attained!

Stubbornly contesting every foot of way lost, the Nevian fog retreated

before the violet sphere of nothingness. Back and back it fell,

disappearing altogether from all space as the violet tide engulfed the

enemy vessel; but the flying fish did not disappear. Her triple screens

flashed into furiously incandescent splendor and she entered, unscathed,

that vacuous sphere, which collapsed instantly into an enormously

elongated ellipsoid, at each focus a madly warring ship of space.

Then in that tube of vacuum was waged a spectacular duel of

ultra-weapons--weapons impotent in air, but deadly in empty space.

Beams, rays, and rods of Titanic power smote cracklingly against

ultra-screens equally capable. Time after time each contestant ran the

gamut of the spectrum with his every available ultra-force, only to find

all channels closed. For minutes the terrible struggle went on, then:

"Cooper, Adlington, Spencer, Dutton!" Rodebush called into his

transmitter. "Ready? Can't touch him on the ultra, so I'm going onto the

macro-bands. Give him everything you have as soon as I collapse the

violet. Go!"

At the word the violet barrier went down, and with a crash as of a

disrupting Universe the atmosphere rushed into the void. And through the

hurricane there shot out the deadliest material weapons of Triplanetary.

Torpedoes--non-ferrous, ultra-screened, beam-dirigible torpedoes charged

with the most effective forms of material destruction known to man.

Cooper hurled his canisters of penetrating gas, Adlington his atomic

iron explosive bombs, Spencer his indestructible armor-piercing

projectiles, and Dutton his shatterable flasks of the quintessence of

corrosion--a sticky, tacky liquid of such dire potency that only one

rare Solarian element could contain it. Ten, twenty, fifty, a hundred

were thrown as fast as automatic machinery could launch them; and the

Nevians found themselves adversaries not to be despised. Size for size,

their screens were quite as capable as those of the Boise. The

Nevians' destructive rays glanced harmlessly from their shields, and the

Nevians' elaborate screens, neutralized at impact by those of the

torpedoes, were impotent to impede their progress. Each projectile must

needs be caught and crushed individually by beams of the most prodigious

power; and while one was being annihilated dozens more were rushing to

the attack. Then, while the twisting, dodging invader was busiest with

the tiny but relentless destroyers, Rodebush launched his heaviest


The macro-beams! Prodigious streamers of bluish-green flame which tore

savagely through course after course of Nevian screen! Malevolent fangs,

driven with such power and velocity that they were biting into the very

walls of the enemy vessel before the amphibians knew their defensive

shells of force had been punctured! And the emergency screens of the

invaders were equally futile. Course after course was sent out, only to

flare viciously through the spectrum and to go black!

Outfought at every turn, the now frantically dodging Nevian leaped away

in headlong flight, only to be brought to a staggering, crashing halt as

Cleveland nailed her with a tractor beam. But the Terrestrials were to

learn that the Nevians held in reserve a means of retreat. The tractor

snapped--sheared off squarely by a sizzling plane of force--and the

fish-shaped cruiser faded from Cleveland's sight, just as the Boise

had disappeared from the communicator plates of Radio Center, back in

the Hill, when she was launched. But though the plates in the control

room could not hold the Nevian, she did not vanish beyond the ken of

Randolph, now Communications Officer in the super-ship. For, warned and

humiliated by his losing one speeding vessel from his plates in Radio

Center, he was now ready for any emergency. Therefore as the Nevian

fled, Randolph's spy-ray held her, automatically behind it as there was

the full output of twelve special banks of iron-driven power tubes; and

thus it was that the vengeful Terrestrials flashed immediately along the

Nevians' line of flight. Inertialess now, pausing briefly from time to

time to enable the crew to accustom themselves to the new sensations,

the Boise pursued the invader; hurtling through the void with a

velocity unthinkable.

"He was easier to take than I thought he would be," Cleveland grunted,

staring into the plate.

"I thought he had more stuff, too," Rodebush assented; "but I guess

Costigan got almost everything they had. If so, with all our own stuff

and most of theirs besides, we should be able to take them. They must

have neutralization, too, to take off like that; and if it's one hundred

per cent we'll never catch them ... but it isn't--there they are!"

"And this time I'm going to hold her or burn out all our generators

trying," Cleveland declared, grimly. "Are you fellows down there able to

handle yourselves yet? Fine! Start throwing out your cans!"

Space-hardened veterans all, the other Terrestrial officers had fought

off the horrible nausea of inertialessness, just as Rodebush and

Cleveland had done. Again the ravening green macro-beams tore at the

flying cruiser, again the mighty frames of the two space-ships shuddered

sickeningly as Cleveland clamped on his tractor rod, again the highly

dirigible torpedoes dashed out with their freights of death and

destruction. And again the Nevian shear-plane of force slashed at the

Terrestrial's tractor beam; but this time the mighty puller did not give

way. Sparkling and spitting high-tension sparks, the plane bit deeply

into the stubborn rod of energy. Brighter, thicker, and longer grew the

discharges as the gnawing plane drew more and more power; but in direct

ratio to that power the rod grew larger, denser, and ever harder to cut.

More and more vivid became the pyrotechnic display of electric

brilliance, until suddenly the entire tractor rod disappeared. At the

same instant a blast of intolerable flame erupted from the Boise's

flank and the whole enormous fabric of her shook and quivered under the

force of a terrific detonation.

"Randolph! I don't see them! Are they attacking or running?" Rodebush

demanded. He was the first to realize what had happened.


"Just as well, perhaps, but get their line. Adlington!"


"Good! Was afraid you were gone--that was one of your bombs, wasn't it?"

"Yes. Well launched, just inside the screens. Don't see how it could

have detonated unless something hot and hard struck it in the tube; it

would need about that much time to explode. Good thing it didn't go off

any sooner, or none of us would have been here. As it is, Area Six is

pretty well done in, but the bulkheads held the damage to Six. What


"We don't know, exactly. Both generators on the tractor beam went out.

At first, I thought that was all, but my neutralizers are dead and I

don't know what else. When the G-4's went out the fusion must have

shorted the neutralizers. They would make a mess; it must have burned a

hole down into number six tube. Cleveland and I will come down, and

we'll all look around."

Donning space-suits, the scientists let themselves into the damaged

compartment through the emergency air-locks, and what a sight they saw!

Both outer and inner walls of alloy armor had been blown away by the

awful force of the explosion. Jagged plates hung awry; bent, twisted,

and broken. The great torpedo tube, with all its intricate automatic

machinery, had been driven violently backward and lay piled in hideous

confusion against the backing bulkheads. Practically nothing remained

whole in the entire compartment.

"Nothing much we can do here," Rodebush said finally, through his

transmitter, "Let's go see what number four generator room looks like."

That room, although not affected by the explosion from without, had been

quite as effectively wrecked from within. It was still stiflingly hot;

its air was still reeking with the stench of burning lubricant,

insulation, and metal; its floor was half covered by a semi-molten mass

of what had once been vital machinery. For with the burning out of the

generator bars the energy of the disintegrating allotropic iron had had

no outlet, and had built up until it had broken through its insulation

and in an irresistible flood of power had torn through all obstacles in

its path of neutralization.

"Hm-m-m. Should have had an automatic shut-off--one detail we

overlooked," Rodebush mused. "The electricians can rebuild this stuff

here, though--that hole in the hull is something else again."

"I'll say it's something else," the grizzled Chief Engineer agreed.

"She's lost all her spherical strength--anchoring a tractor with this

ship now would turn her inside out. Back to the nearest Triplanetary

shop for us, I would say."

"Come again, Chief!" Cleveland advised the engineer. "None of us would

live long enough to get there. We can't travel inertialess until the

repairs are made, so if they can't be made without very much traveling,

it's just too bad."

"I don't see how we could support our jacks...." The engineer paused,

then went on. "If you can't give me Mars or Tellus, how about some other

planet? I don't care about atmosphere, or about anything but mass. I can

stiffen her up in three or four days if I can sit down on something

heavy enough to hold our jacks and presses; but if we have to rig up

space-cradles around the ship herself it'll take a long time--months,

probably. Haven't got a spare planet on hand, have you?"

"We might have, at that," Rodebush made surprising answer. "A couple of

seconds before we engaged we were heading toward a sun with at least two

planets. I was just getting ready to dodge them when we cut the

neutralizers, so they should be fairly close somewhere--yes, there's the

sun, right over there. Rather pale and small; but it's close,

comparatively speaking. We'll go back up into the control room and find

out about the planets."

The strange sun was found to have three large and easily located

children, and observation showed that the crippled space-ship could

reach the nearest of these in about five days. Power was therefore fed

to the driving projectors, and each scientist, electrician, and mechanic

bent to the task of repairing the ruined generators; rebuilding them to

handle any load which the converters could possibly put upon them. For

two days the Boise drove on; then her acceleration was reversed, and

finally a landing was effected upon the forbidding, rocky soil of the

strange world.

It was larger than the earth, and of a somewhat stronger gravitation.

Although its climate was bitterly cold, even in its short daytime, it

supported a luxuriant but outlandish vegetation. Its atmosphere, while

rich enough in oxygen and not really poisonous, was so rank with

indescribably fetid vapors as to be scarcely breathable.

But these things bothered the engineers not at all. Paying no attention

to temperature or to scenery and without waiting for chemical analysis

of the air, the space-suited mechanics leaped to their tasks; and in

only a little more time than had been mentioned by the chief engineer

the hull and giant frame of the super-ship were as staunch as of yore.

"All right, Skipper!" came finally the welcome word. "You might try her

out with a fast hop around this world before you shove off in earnest."

Under the fierce blast of her projectors the vessel leaped ahead, and

time after time, as Rodebush hurled her mass upon tractor beam or

pressor, the engineers sought in vain for any sign of weakness. The

strange planet half girdled and the severest tests passed flawlessly,

Rodebush reached for his neutralizer switches. Reached and paused,

dumfounded, for a brilliant purple light had sprung into being upon his

panel and a bell rang out insistently.

"What the blue blazes!" Rodebush shot out an exploring beam along the

detector line and gasped. He stared, mouth open, then yelled:

"Roger is here, rebuilding his planetoid! STATIONS ALL!"