The Declaration Of War
: Skylark Three
The capital city of the Fenachrone lay in a jungle plain surrounded by
towering hills. A perfect circle of immense diameter, its buildings of
uniform height, of identical design, and constructed of the same dull
gray, translucent metal, were arranged in concentric circles, like the
annular rings seen upon the stump of a tree. Between each ring of
buildings and the one next inside it there were lagoons, lawns and
-lagoons of tepid, sullenly-steaming water; lawns which were
veritable carpets of lush, rank rushes and of dank mosses; groves of
palms, gigantic ferns, bamboos, and numerous tropical growths unknown to
Earthly botany. At the very edge of the city began jungle unrelieved and
primeval; the impenetrable, unconquerable jungle, possible only to such
meteorological conditions as obtained there. Wind there was none, nor
sunshine. Only occasionally was the sun of that reeking world visible
through the omnipresent fog, a pale, wan disk; always the atmosphere was
one of oppressive, hot, humid vapor. In the exact center of the city
rose an immense structure, a terraced cone of buildings, as though
immense disks of smaller and smaller diameter had been piled one upon
the other. In these apartments dwelt the nobility and the high officials
of the Fenachrone. In the highest disk of all, invisible always from the
surface of the planet because of the all-enshrouding mist, were the
apartments of the Emperor of that monstrous race.
Seated upon low, heavily-built metal stools about the great table in the
council-room were Fenor, Emperor of the Fenachrone; Fenimol, his
General-in-Command, and the full Council of Eleven of the planet. Being
projected in the air before them was a three-dimensional moving, talking
picture--the report of the sole survivor of the warship that had
attacked the Skylark II. In exact accordance with the facts as the
engineer knew them, the details of the battle and complete information
concerning the conquerors were shown. As vividly as though the scene
were being re-enacted before their eyes they saw the captive revive in
the Violet, and heard the conversation between the engineer, DuQuesne,
In the Violet they sped for days and weeks, with ever-mounting
velocity, toward the system of the Fenachrone. Finally, power reversed,
they approached it, saw the planet looming large, and passed within the
DuQuesne tightened the controls of the attractors, which had never been
entirely released from their prisoner, thus again pinning the Fenachrone
helplessly against the wall.
"Just to be sure you don't try to start something," he explained coldly.
"You have done well so far, but I'll run things myself from now on, so
that you can't steer us into a trap. Now tell me exactly how to go
about getting one of your vessels. After we get it, I'll see about
letting you go."
"Fools, you are too late! You would have been too late, even had you
killed me out there in space and had fled at your utmost acceleration.
Did you but know it, you are as dead, even now--our patrol is upon you!"
DuQuesne whirled, snarling, and his automatic and that of Loring were
leaping out when an awful acceleration threw them flat upon the floor, a
magnetic force snatched away their weapons, and a heat-ray reduced them
to two small piles of gray ash. Immediately thereafter a beam of force
from the patrolling cruiser neutralized the retractors bearing upon the
captive, and he was transferred to the rescuing vessel.
The emergency report ended, and with a brief "Torpedo message from
flagship Y427W resumed at point of interruption," the report from the
ill-fated vessel continued the story of its own destruction, but added
little in the already complete knowledge of the disaster.
Fenor of the Fenachrone leaped up from the table, his terrible,
flame-shot eyes glaring venomously--teetering in Berserk rage upon his
block-like legs--but he did not for one second take his full attention
from the report until it had been completed. Then he seized the nearest
object, which happened to be his chair, and with all his enormous
strength hurled it across the floor, where it lay, a tattered, twisted,
shapeless mass of metal.
"Thus shall we treat the entire race of the accursed beings who have
done this!" he stormed, his heavy voice reverberating throughout the
room. "Torture, dismemberment and annihilation to every...."
"Fenor of the Fenachrone!" a tremendous voice, a full octave lower than
Fenor's own terrific bass, and of ear-shattering volume and timbre in
that dense atmosphere boomed from the general-wave speaker, its
deafening roar drowning out Fenor's raging voice and every other lesser
"Fenor of the Fenachrone! I know that you hear, for every general-wave
speaker upon your reeking planet is voicing my words. Listen well, for
this warning shall not be repeated. I am speaking by and with the
authority of the Overlord of the Green System, which you know as the
Central System of this, our Galaxy. Upon some of our many planets there
are those who wished to destroy you without warning and out of hand, but
the Overlord has ruled that you may continue to live provided you heed
these, his commands, which he has instructed me to lay upon you.
"You must forthwith abandon forever your vainglorious and senseless
scheme of universal conquest. You must immediately withdraw your every
vessel to within the boundaries of your solar system, and you must keep
them there henceforth.
"You are allowed five minutes to decide whether or not you will obey
these commands. If no answer has been received at the end of the
calculated time the Overlord will know that you have defied him, and
your entire race shall perish utterly. Well he knows that your very
existence is an affront to all real civilization, but he holds that even
such vileness incarnate, as are the Fenachrone, may perchance have some
obscure place in the Great Scheme of Things, and he will not destroy you
if you are content to remain in your proper place, upon your own dank
and steaming world. Through me, the two thousand three hundred and
forty-sixth Sacner Carfon of Dasor, the Overlord has given you your
first, last and only warning. Heed its every word, or consider it the
formal declaration of a war of utter and complete extinction!"
* * * * *
The awful voice ceased and pandemonium reigned in the council hall.
Obeying a common impulse, each Fenachrone leaped to his feet, raised his
huge arms aloft, and roared out rage and defiance. Fenor snapped a
command, and the others fell silent as he began howling out orders.
"Operator! Send recall torpedoes instantly to every outlying vessel!" He
scuttled over to one of the private-band speakers. "X-794-PW! Radio
general call for all vessels above E blank E to concentrate on battle
stations! Throw out full-power defensive screens, and send the full
series of detector screens out to the limit! Guards and patrols on
invasion plan XB-218!"
"The immediate steps are taken, gentlemen!" He turned to the Council,
his rage unabated. "Never before have we supermen of the Fenachrone been
so insulted and so belittled! That upstart Overlord will regret that
warning to the instant of his death, which shall be exquisitely
postponed. All you of the Council know your duties in such a time as
this--you are excused to perform them. General Fenimol, you will stay
with me--we shall consider together such other details as require
After the others had left the room Fenor turned to the general.
"Have you any immediate suggestions?"
"I would suggest sending at once for Ravindau, the Chief of the
Laboratories of Science. He certainly heard the warning, and may be able
to cast some light upon how it could have been sent, and from what point
The Emperor spoke into another sender, and soon the scientist entered,
carrying in his hand a small instrument upon which a blue light blazed.
"Do not talk here, there is grave danger of being overheard by that
self-styled Overlord," he directed tersely, and led the way into a
ray-proof compartment of his private laboratory, several floors below.
"It may interest you to know that you have sealed the doom of our planet
and of all the Fenachrone upon it," Ravindau spoke savagely.
"Dare you speak thus to me, your sovereign?" roared Fenor.
"I dare so," replied the other, coldly. "When all the civilization of a
planet has been given to destruction by the unreasoning stupidity and
insatiable rapacity of its royalty, allegiance to such royalty is at an
end. SIT DOWN!" he thundered as Fenor sprang to his feet. "You are no
longer in your throne-room, surrounded by servile guards and by
automatic rays. You are in MY laboratory, and by a movement of my finger
I can hurl you into eternity!"
The general, aware now that the warning was of much more serious import
than he had suspected, broke into the acrimonious debate.
"Never mind questions of royalty!" he snapped. "The safety of the race
is paramount. Am I to understand that the situation is really grave?"
"It is worse than grave--it is desperate. The only hope for even
ultimate triumph is for as many of us as possible to flee instantly
clear out of the Galaxy, in the hope that we may escape the certain
destruction to be dealt out to us by the Overlord of the Green System."
"You speak folly, surely," returned Fenimol. "Our science is--must
be--superior to any other in the Universe?"
"So thought I until this warning came in and I had an opportunity to
study it. Then I knew that we are opposed by a science immeasurably
higher than our own."
"Such vermin as those two whom one of our smallest scouts captured
without a battle, vessel and all? In what respects is their science even
comparable to ours?"
"Not those vermin, no. The one who calls himself the Overlord. That one
is our master. He can penetrate the impenetrable shield of force and can
operate mechanisms of pure force behind it; he can heterodyne, transmit,
and use the infra-rays, of whose very existence we were in doubt until
recently! While that warning was being delivered he was, in all
probability, watching you and listening to you, face to face. You in
your ignorance supposed his warning borne by the ether, and thought
therefore he must be close to this system. He is very probably at home
in the Central System, and is at this moment preparing the forces he
intends to hurl against us."
The Emperor fell back into his seat, all his pomposity gone, but the
general stiffened eagerly and went straight to the point.
"How do you know these things?"
"Largely by deduction. We of the school of science have cautioned you
repeatedly to postpone the Day of Conquest until we should have mastered
the secrets of sub-rays and of infra-rays. Unheeding, you of war have
gone ahead with your plans, while we of science have continued to study.
We know a little of the sub-rays, which we use every day, and
practically nothing of the infra-rays. Some time ago I developed a
detector for infra-rays, which come to us from outer space in small
quantities and which are also liberated by our power-plants. It has been
regarded as a scientific curiosity only, but this day it proved of real
value. This instrument in my hand is such a detector. At normal impacts
of infra-rays its light is blue, as you see it now. Some time before the
warning sounded it turned a brilliant red, indicating that an intense
source of infra-rays was operating in the neighborhood. By plotting
lines of force I located the source as being in the air of the council
hall, almost directly above the table of state. Therefore the carrier
wave must have come through our whole system of screens without so much
as giving an alarm. That fact alone proves it to have been an infra-ray.
Furthermore, it carried through those screens and released in the
council room a system of forces of great complexity, as is shown by
their ability to broadcast from those pure forces without material aid a
modulated wave in the exact frequency required to energize our general
"As soon as I perceived these facts I threw about the council room a
screen of force entirely impervious to anything longer than ultra-rays.
The warning continued, and I then knew that our fears were only too well
grounded--that there is in this Galaxy somewhere a race vastly superior
to ours in science and that our destruction is a matter of hours,
perhaps of minutes."
"Are these ultra-rays, then, of such a dangerous character?" asked the
general. "I had supposed them to be of such infinitely high frequency
that they could be of no practical use whatever."
* * * * *
"I have been trying for years to learn something of their nature, but
beyond working out a method for their detection and a method of possible
analysis that may or may not succeed I can do nothing with them. It is
perfectly evident, however, that they lie below the level of the ether,
and therefore have a velocity of propagation infinitely greater than
that of light. You may see for yourself, then, that to a science able to
guide and control them, to make them act as carrier waves for any other
desired frequency--to do all of which the Overlord has this day shown
himself capable--they should theoretically afford weapons before which
our every defense would be precisely as efficacious as so much vacuum.
Think a moment! You know that we know nothing fundamental concerning
even our servants, the sub-rays. If we really knew them we could utilize
them in thousands of ways as yet unknown to us. We work with the merest
handful of forces, empirically, while it is practically certain that the
enemy has at his command the entire spectrum, visible and invisible,
embracing untold thousands of bands of unknown but terrific
"But he spoke of a calculated time necessary before our answer could be
received. They must, then, be using vibrations in the ether."
"Not necessarily--not even probably. Would we ourselves reveal
unnecessarily to an enemy the possession of such rays? Do not be
childish. No, Fenimol, and you, Fenor of the Fenachrone, instant and
headlong flight is our only hope of present salvation and of ultimate
triumph--flight to a far distant Galaxy, since upon no point in this one
shall we be safe from the infra-beams of that self-styled Overlord."
"You snivelling coward! You pusillanimous bookworm!" Fenor had regained
his customary spirit as the scientist explained upon what grounds his
fears were based. "Upon such a tenuous fabric of evidence would you have
such a people as ours turn tail like beaten hounds? Because, forsooth,
you detect a peculiar vibration in the air, will you have it that we are
to be invaded and destroyed forthwith by a race of supernatural ability?
Bah! Your calamity-howling clan has delayed the Day of Conquest from
year to year--I more than half believe that you yourself or some other
treacherous poltroon of your ignominious breed prepared and sent that
warning, in a weak and rat-brained attempt to frighten us into again
postponing the Day of Conquest! Know now, spineless weakling, that the
time is ripe, and that the Fenachrone in their might are about to
strike. But you, foul traducer of your emperor, shall die the death of
the cur you are!" The hand within his tunic moved and a vibrator burst
"Coward I may be, and pusillanimous, and other things as well," the
scientist replied stonily, "but, unlike you, I am not a fool. These
walls, this very atmosphere, are fields of force that will transmit no
rays directed by you. You weak-minded scion of a depraved and obscene
house--arrogant, overbearing, rapacious, ignorant--your brain is too
feeble to realize that you are clutching at the Universe hundreds of
years before the time has come. You by your overweening pride and folly
have doomed our beloved planet--the most perfect planet in the Galaxy in
its grateful warmth and wonderful dampness and fogginess--and our entire
race to certain destruction. Therefore you, fool and dolt that you are,
shall die--for too long already have you ruled." He flicked a finger and
the body of the monarch shuddered as though an intolerable current of
electricity had traversed it, collapsed and lay still.
"It was necessary to destroy this that was our ruler," Ravindau
explained to the general. "I have long known that you are not in favor
of such precipitate action in the Conquest: hence all this talking upon
my part. You know that I hold the honor of Fenachrone dear, and that all
my plans are for the ultimate triumph of our race?"
"Yes, and I begin to suspect that those plans have not been made since
the warning was received."
"My plans have been made for many years; and ever since an immediate
Conquest was decided upon I have been assembling and organizing the
means to put them into effect. I would have left this planet in any
event shortly after the departure of the grand fleet upon its final
expedition--Fenor's senseless defiance of the Overlord has only made it
necessary for me to expedite my leave-taking."
"What do you intend to do?"
"I have a vessel twice as large as the largest warship Fenor boasted;
completely provisioned, armed, and powered for a cruise of one hundred
years at high acceleration. It is hidden in a remote fastness of the
jungle. I am placing in that vessel a group of the finest, brainiest,
most highly advanced and intelligent of our men and women, with their
children. We shall journey at our highest speed to a certain distant
Galaxy, where we shall seek out a planet similar in atmosphere,
temperature, and mass to the one upon which we now dwell. There we shall
multiply and continue our studies; and from that planet, in that day
when we shall have attained sufficient knowledge, there shall descend
upon the Central System of this Galaxy the vengeance of the Fenachrone.
That vengeance will be all the sweeter for the fact that it shall have
"But how about libraries, apparatus and equipment? Suppose that we do
not live long enough to perfect that knowledge? And with only one vessel
and a handful of men we could not cope with that accursed Overlord and
his navies of the void."
"Libraries are aboard, so are much apparatus and equipment. What we
cannot take with us we can build. As for the knowledge I mentioned, it
may not be attained in your lifetime nor in mine. But the racial memory
of the Fenachrone is long, as you know; and even if the necessary
problems are not solved until our descendants are sufficiently numerous
to populate an entire planet, yet will those descendants wreak the
vengeance of the Fenachrone upon the races of that hated one, the
Overlord, before they go on with the Conquest of the Universe. Many
questions will arise, of course; but they shall be solved. Enough! Time
passes rapidly, and all too long have I talked. I am using this time
upon you because in my organization there is no soldier, and the
Fenachrone of the future will need your great knowledge of warfare. Are
you going with us?"
"Very well." Ravindau led the general through a door and into an airboat
lying upon the terrace outside the laboratory. "Drive us at speed to
your home, where we shall pick up your family."
Fenimol took the controls and laid a ray to his home--a ray serving a
double purpose. It held the vessel upon its predetermined course through
that thick and sticky fog and also rendered collision impossible, since
any two of these controller rays repelled each other to such a degree
that no two vessels could take paths which would bring them together.
Some such provision had been found necessary ages ago, for all
Fenachrone craft were provided with the same space-annihilating drive,
to which any comprehensible distance was but a journey of a few moments,
and at that frightful velocity collision meant annihilation.
"I understand that you could not take any one of the military into your
confidence until you were ready to put your plans into effect," the
general conceded. "How long will it take you to get ready to leave? You
have said that haste is imperative, and I therefore assume that you have
already warned the other members of the expedition."
"I flashed the emergency signal before I joined you and Fenor in the
council room. Each man of the organization has received that signal,
wherever he may have been, and by this time most of them, with their
families, are on the way to the hidden cruiser. We shall leave this
planet in fifteen minutes from now at most--I dare not stay an instant
longer than is absolutely necessary."
The members of the general's family were bundled, amazed, into the
airboat, which immediately flew along a ray laid by Ravindau to the
In a remote and desolate part of the planet, concealed in the depths of
the towering jungle growth, a mammoth space-cruiser was receiving her
complement of passengers. Airboats, flying at their terrific velocity
through the heavy, steaming fog as closely-spaced as their controller
rays would permit, flashed signals along their guiding beams, dove into
the apparently impenetrable jungle, and added their passengers to the
throng pouring into the great vessel.
* * * * *
As the minute of departure drew near, the feeling of tension aboard the
cruiser increased and vigilance was raised to the maximum. None of the
passengers had been allowed senders of any description, and now even the
hair-line beams guiding the airboats were cut off, and received only
when the proper code signal was heard. The doors were shut, no one was
allowed outside, and everything was held in readiness for instant flight
at the least alarm. Finally a scientist and his family arrived from the
opposite side of the planet--the last members of the organization--and,
twenty-seven minutes after Ravindau had flashed his signal, the prow of
that mighty space-ship reared toward the perpendicular, poising its
massive length at the predetermined angle. There it halted momentarily,
then disappeared utterly, only a vast column of tortured and shattered
vegetation, torn from the ground and carried for miles upward into the
air by the vacuum of its wake, remaining to indicate the path taken by
the flying projectile.
Hour after hour the Fenachrone vessel bored on, with its frightful and
ever-increasing velocity, through the ever-thinning stars, but it was
not until the last star had been passed, until everything before them
was entirely devoid of light, and until the Galaxy behind them began to
take on a well-defined lenticular aspect, that Ravindau would consent to
leave the controls and to seek his hard-earned rest.
Day after day and week after week went by, and the Fenachrone vessel
still held the rate of motion with which she had started out. Ravindau
and Fenimol sat in the control cabin, staring out through the
visiplates, abstracted. There was no need of staring, and they were not
really looking, for there was nothing at which to look. Outside the
transparent metal hull of that monster of the trackless void, there was
nothing visible. The Galaxy of which our Earth is an infinitesimal mote,
the Galaxy which former astronomers considered the Universe, was so far
behind that its immeasurable diameter was too small to affect the vision
of the unaided eye. Other Galaxies lay at even greater distances away on
either side. The Galaxy toward which they were making their stupendous
flight was as yet untold millions of light-years distant. Nothing was
visible--before their gaze stretched an infinity of emptiness. No stars,
no nebulae, no meteoric matter, nor even the smallest particle of cosmic
dust--absolutely empty space. Absolute vacuum and absolute zero.
Absolute nothingness--a concept intrinsically impossible for the most
highly trained human mind to grasp.
Conscienceless and heartless monstrosities though they both were, by
heredity and training, the immensity of the appalling lack of anything
tangible oppressed them. Ravindau was stern and serious, Fenimol moody.
Finally the latter spoke.
"It would be endurable if we knew what had happened, or if we ever could
know definitely, one way or the other, whether all this was necessary."
"We shall know, general, definitely. I am certain in my own mind, but
after a time, when we have settled upon our new home and when the
Overlord shall have relaxed his vigilance, you shall come back to the
solar system of the Fenachrone in this vessel or a similar one. I know
what you shall find--but the trip shall be made, and you shall yourself
see what was once our home planet, a seething sun, second only in
brilliance to the parent sun about which she shall still be revolving."
"Are we safe, even now--what of possible pursuit?" asked Fenimol, and
the monstrous, flame-shot wells of black that were Ravindau's eyes
almost emitted tangible fires as he made reply:
"We are far from safe, but we grow stronger minute by minute. Fifty of
the greatest minds our world has ever known have been working from the
moment of our departure upon a line of investigation suggested to me by
certain things my instruments recorded during the visit of the
self-styled Overlord. I cannot say anything yet: even to you--except
that the Day of Conquest may not be so far in the future as we have