The Extra-galactic Duel

: Skylark Three

Loaded until her outer skin almost bulged with tightly packed bars of

uranium and equipped to meet any emergency of which the combined efforts

of the mightiest intellects of Norlamin could foresee even the slightest

possibility, Skylark Three lay quiescent. Quiescent, but surcharged

with power, she seemed to Seaton's tense mind to share his own eagerness

to be off; seemed to be motionlessly straining at her neutral controls
r /> in a futile endeavor to leave that unnatural and unpleasant environment

of atmosphere and of material substance, to soar outward into absolute

zero of temperature and pressure, into the pure and undefiled ether

which was her natural and familiar medium.

The five human beings were grouped near an open door of their cruiser;

before them were the ancient scientists, who for so many days had been

laboring with them in their attempt to crush the monstrous race which

was threatening the Universe. With the elders were the Terrestrials'

many friends from the Country of Youth, and surrounding the immense

vessel in a throng covering an area to be measured only in square miles

were massed myriads of Norlaminians. From their tasks everywhere had

come the mental laborers; the Country of Youth had been left

depopulated; even those who, their lifework done, had betaken themselves

to the placid Nirvana of the Country of Age, returned briefly to the

Country of Study to speed upon its way that stupendous Ship of Peace.

The majestic Fodan, Chief of the Five, was concluding his address:

"And may the Unknowable Force direct your minor forces to a successful

conclusion of your task. If, upon the other hand, it should by some

unforeseen chance be graven upon the Sphere that you are to pass in this

supreme venture, you may pass in all tranquillity, for the massed

intellect of our entire race is here supporting me in my solemn

affirmation that the Fenachrone shall not be allowed to prevail. In the

name of all Norlamin, I bid you farewell."

floated lightly upward.]

Crane spoke briefly in reply and the little group of Earthly wanderers

stepped into the elevator. As they sped upward toward the control room,

door after door shot into place behind them, establishing a manifold

seal. Seaton's hand played over the controls and the great cruiser of

the void tilted slowly upward until its narrow prow pointed almost

directly into the zenith. Then, very slowly at first, the unimaginable

mass of the vessel floated lightly upward, with a slowly increasing

velocity. Faster and faster she flew--out beyond measurable atmosphere,

out beyond the outermost limits of the green system. Finally, in

interstellar space, Seaton threw out super-powered detector and

repelling screens, anchored himself at the driving console with a force,

set the power control at "molecular" so that the propulsive force

affected alike every molecule of the vessel and its contents, and, all

sense of weight and acceleration lost, he threw in the plunger switch

which released every iota of the theoretically possible power of the

driving mass of uranium.

Staring intently into the visiplate, he corrected their course from time

to time by minute fractions of a second of arc; then, satisfied at last,

he set the automatic forces which would guide them, temporarily out of

their course, around any obstacles, such as the uncounted thousands of

solar systems lying in or near their path. He then removed the

restraining forces from his body and legs, and with a small pencil of

force wafted himself over to Crane and the two women.

"Well, bunch," he stated, matter-of-fact, "we're on our way. We'll be

this way for some time, so we might as well get used to it. Any little

thing you want to talk over?"

"How long will it take us to catch 'em?" asked Dorothy "Traveling this

way isn't half as much fun as it is when you let us have some weight to

hold us down."

"Hard to tell exactly, Dottie. If we had precisely four times their

acceleration and had started from the same place, we would of course

overtake them in just the number of days they had the start of us, since

the distance covered at any constant positive acceleration is

proportional to the square of the time elapsed. However, there are

several complicating factors in the actual situation. We started out not

only twenty-nine days behind them, but also a matter of five hundred

thousand light-years of distance. It will take us quite a while to get

to their starting-point. I can't tell even that very close, as we will

probably have to reduce this acceleration before we get out of the

Galaxy, in order to give detectors and repellers time to act on stars

and other loose impediments. Powerful as those screens are and fast as

they work, there is a limit to the velocity we can use here in this

crowded Galaxy. Outside it, in free space, of course we can open her up

again. Then, too, our acceleration is not exactly four times theirs,

only three point nine one eight six. On the other hand, we don't have to

catch them to go to work on them. We can operate very nicely at five

thousand light-centuries. So there you are--it'll probably be somewhere

between thirty-nine and forty-one days, but it may be a day or so more

or less."

"How do you know they are using copper?" asked Margaret. "Maybe their

scientists stored up some uranium and know how to use it."

"Nope, that's out like a light. First, Mart and I saw only copper bars

in their ship. Second, copper is the most efficient metal found in

quantity upon their planet. Third, even if they had uranium or any metal

of its class, they couldn't use it without a complete knowledge of, and

ability to handle, the fourth and fifth orders of rays."

"It is your opinion, then, that destroying this last Fenachrone vessel

is to prove as simple a matter as did the destruction of the others?"

Crane queried, pointedly.

"Hm-m-m. Never thought about it from that angle at all, Mart.... You're

still the ground-and-lofty thinker of the outfit, ain't you? Now that

you mention it, though, we may find that the Last of the Mohicans ain't

entirely toothless, at that. But say, Mart, how come I'm as wild and

cock-eyed as I ever was? Rovol's a slow and thoughtful old codger, and

with his accumulation of knowledge it looks like I'd be the same way."

"Far from it," Crane replied. "Your nature and mine remain unchanged.

Temperament is a basic trait of heredity, and is neither affected nor

acquired by increase of knowledge. You acquired knowledge from Rovol,

Drasnik, and others, as did I--but you are still the flashing genius and

I am still your balance wheel. As for Fenachrone toothlessness: now that

you have considered it, what is your opinion?"

"Hard to say. They didn't know how to control the fifth order rays, or

they wouldn't have run. They've got real brains, though, and they'll

have something like seventy days to work on the problem. While it

doesn't stand to reason that they could find out much in seventy days,

still they may have had a set-up of instruments on their detectors that

would have enabled them to analyze our fields and thus compute the

structure of the secondary projector we used there. If so, it wouldn't

take them long to find out enough to give us plenty of grief--but I

don't really believe that they knew enough. I don't quite know what to

think. They may be easy and they may not; but, easy or hard to get,

we're loaded for bear and I'm plenty sure that we'll pull their corks."

"So am I, really, but we must consider every contingency. We know that

they had at least a detector of fifth-order rays...."

"And if they did have an analytical detector," Seaton interrupted,

"they'll probably slap a ray on us as soon as we stick our nose out of

the Galaxy!"

"They may--and even though I do not believe that there is any

probability of them actually doing it, it will be well to be armed

against the possibility."

"Right, old top--we'll do that little thing!"

* * * * *

Uneventful days passed, and true to Seaton's calculations, the awful

acceleration with which they had started out could not be maintained. A

few days before the edge of the Galaxy was reached, it became necessary

to cut off the molecular drive, and to proceed with an acceleration

equal only to that of gravitation at the surface of the Earth. Tired of

weightlessness and its attendant discomforts to everyday life, the

travelers enjoyed the interlude immensely, but it was all too short--too

soon the stars thinned out ahead of "Three's" needle prow. As soon as

the way ahead of them was clear, Seaton again put on the maximum power

of his terrific bars and, held securely at the console, set up a long

and involved integral. Ready to transfer the blended and assembled

forces to a plunger, he stayed his hand, thought a moment, and turned to


"Want some advice, Mart. I'd thought of setting up three or four courses

of five-ply screen on the board--a detector screen on the outside of

each course, next to it a repeller, then a full-coverage ether-ray

screen, then a zone of force, and a full-coverage fifth-order ray-screen

as a liner. Then, with them all set up on the board, but not out, throw

out a wide detector. That detector would react upon the board at impact

with anything hostile, and automatically throw out the courses it found


"That sounds like ample protection, but I am not enough of a

ray-specialist to pass an opinion. Upon what point are you doubtful?"

"About leaving them on the board. The only trouble is that the reaction

isn't absolutely instantaneous. Even fifth-order rays would require a

millionth of a second or so to set the courses. Now if they were using

ether waves, that would be lots of time to block them, but if they

should happen to have fifth-order stuff it'd get here the same time

our own detector-impulse would, and it's just barely conceivable that

they might give us a nasty jolt before the defenses went out. Nope, I'm

developing a cautious streak myself now, when I take time to do it.

We've got lots of uranium, and I'm going to put one course out."

"You cannot put everything out, can you?"

"Not quite, but pretty nearly, I'll leave a hole in the ether screen to

pass visible light--no, I won't either. You folks can see just as well,

even on the direct-vision wall plates, with light heterodyned on the

fifth, so we'll close all ether bands, absolutely. All we'll have to

leave open will be the one extremely narrow band upon which our

projector is operating, and I'll protect that with a detector screen.

Also, I'm going to send out all four courses, instead of only one--then

I'll know we're all right."

"Suppose they find our one band, narrow as it is? Of course, if that

were shut off automatically by the detector, we'd be safe; but would we

not be out of control?"

"Not necessarily--I see you didn't get quite all this stuff over the

educator. The other projector worked that way, on one fixed band out of

the nine thousand odd possible. But this one is an ultra-projector, an

improvement invented at the last minute. Its carrier wave can be shifted

at will from one band of the fifth order to any other one; and I'll bet

a hat that's one thing the Fenachrone haven't got! Any other

suggestions?... all right, let's get busy!"

A single light, quick-acting detector was sent out ahead of four courses

of five-ply screen, then Seaton's fingers again played over the keys,

fabricating a detector screen so tenuous that it would react to nothing

weaker than a copper power bar in full operation and with so nearly

absolute zero resistance that it could be driven at the full velocity of

his ultra-projector. Then, while Crane watched the instruments closely

and while Dorothy and Margaret watched the faces of their husbands with

only mild interest, Seaton drove home the plunger that sent that

prodigious and ever-widening fan ahead of them with a velocity

unthinkable millions of times that of light. For five minutes, until

that far-flung screen had gone as far as it could be thrown by the

utmost power of the uranium bar, the two men stared at the unresponsive

instruments, then Seaton shrugged his shoulders.

"I had a hunch," he remarked with a grin. "They didn't wait for us a

second. 'I don't care for some,' says they, 'I've already had any.'

They're running in a straight line, with full power on, and don't intend

to stop or slow down."

"How do you know?" asked Dorothy. "By the distance? How far away are


"I know, Red-Top, by what I didn't find out with that screen I just put

out. It didn't reach them, and it went so far that the distance is

absolutely meaningless, even expressed in parsecs. Well, a stern chase

is proverbially a long chase, and I guess this one isn't going to be any


* * * * *

Every eight hours Seaton launched his all-embracing ultra-detector, but

day after day passed and the instruments remained motionless after each

cast of that gigantic net. For several days the Galaxy behind them had

been dwindling from a mass of stars down to a huge bright lens; down to

a small, faint lens; down to a faintly luminous patch. At the previous

cast of the detector it had still been visible as a barely-perceptible

point of light in the highest telescopic power of the visiplate. Now, as

Dorothy and Seaton, alone in the control room, stared into that

visiplate, everything was blank and black; sheer, indescribable

blackness; the utter and absolute absence of everything visible or


"This is awful, Dick.... It's just too darn horrible. It simply scares

me pea-green!" she shuddered as she drew herself to him, and he swept

both his mighty arms around her in a soul-satisfying embrace.

"'Sall right, darling. That stuff out there'd scare anybody--I'm scared

purple myself. It isn't in any finite mind to understand anything

infinite or absolute. There's one redeeming feature, though,

cuddle-pup--we're together."

"You chirped it, lover!" Dorothy returned his caresses with all her

old-time fervor and enthusiasm. "I feel lots better now. If it gets to

you that way, too, I know it's perfectly normal--I was beginning to

think maybe I was yellow or something ... but maybe you're kidding me?"

she held him off at arm's length, looking deep into his eyes: then,

reassured, went back-into his arms. "Nope, you feel it, too," and her

glorious auburn head found its natural resting-place in the curve of his

mighty shoulder.

"Yellow!... You?" Seaton pressed his wife closer still! and laughed

aloud. "Maybe--but so is picric acid; so is nitroglycerin; and so is

pure gold."

"Flatterer!" Her low, entrancing chuckle bubbled over. "But you know I

just revel in it. I'll kiss you for that!"

"It is awfully lonesome out here, without even a star to look at," she

went on, after a time, then laughed again. "If the Cranes and Shiro

weren't along, we'd be really 'alone at last,' wouldn't we?"

"I'll say we would! But that reminds me of something. According to my

figures, we might have been able to detect the Fenachrone on the last

test, but we didn't. Think I'll try 'em again before we turn in."

Once more he flung out that tenuous net of force, and as it reached the

extreme limit of its travel, the needle of the micro-ammeter flickered

slightly, barely moving off its zero mark.

"Whee! Whoopee!" he yelled. "Mart, we're on 'em!"

"Close?" demanded Crane, hurrying into the control room upon his beam.

"Anything but. Barely touched 'em--current something less than a

thousandth of a micro-ampere on a million to one step-up. However, it

proves our ideas are O. K."

The next day--Skylark III was running on Eastern Standard Time, of the

Terrestrial United States of America--the two mathematicians covered

sheet after sheet of paper with computations and curves. After checking

and rechecking the figures, Seaton shut off the power, released the

molecular drive, and applied acceleration of twenty-nine point six oh

two feet per second; and five human beings breathed as one a profound

sigh of relief as an almost-normal force of gravitation was restored to


"Why the let-up?" asked Dorothy. "They're an awful long ways off yet,

aren't they? Why not hurry up and catch them?"

"Because we're going infinitely faster than they are now. If we kept up

full acceleration, we'd pass them so fast that we couldn't fight them at

all. This way, we'll still be going a lot faster than they are when we

get close to them, but not enough faster to keep us from maneuvering

relatively to their vessel, if things should go that far. Guess I'll

take another reading on 'em."

"I do not believe that I should," Crane suggested, thoughtfully. "After

all, they may have perfected their instruments, and yet may not have

detected that extremely light touch of our ray last night. If so, why

put them on guard?"

"They're probably on guard, all right, without having to be put

there--but it's a sound idea, anyway. Along the same line I'll release

the fifth-order screens, with the fastest possible detector on guard.

We're just about within reach of a light copper-driven ray right now,

but it's a cinch they can't send anything heavy this far, and if they

think we're overconfident, so much the better."

"There," he continued, after a few minutes at the keyboard. "All set. If

they put a detector on us, I've got a force set to make a noise like a

New York City fire siren. If pressed, I'd reluctantly admit that in my

opinion we're carrying caution to a point ten thousand degrees below the

absolute zero of sanity. I'll bet my shirt that we don't hear a yip out

of them before we touch 'em off. Furthermore...."

* * * * *

The rest of his sentence was lost in a crescendo bellow of sound.

Seaton, still at the controls, shut off the noise, studied his meters

carefully, and turned around to Crane with a grin.

"You win the shirt, Mart. I'll give it to you next Wednesday, when my

other one comes back from the laundry. It's a fifth-order detector ray,

coming in beautifully on band forty-seven fifty, right in the middle of

the order."

"Aren't you going to put a ray on 'em?" asked Dorothy in surprise.

"Nope--what's the use? I can read theirs as well as I could one of my

own. Maybe they know that too--if they don't we'll let 'em think we're

coming along, as innocent as Mary's little lamb, so I'll let their ray

stay on us. It's too thin to carry anything, and if they thicken it up

much I've got an axe set to chop it off." Seaton whistled a merry

lilting refrain as his fingers played over the stops and keys.

"Why, Dick, you seem actually pleased about it." Margaret was plainly

ill at ease.

"Sure am. I never did like to drown baby kittens, and it kinda goes

against the grain to stab a guy in the back, when he ain't even looking,

even if he is a Fenachrone. If they can fight back some I'll get mad

enough to blow 'em up happy."

"But suppose they fight back too hard?"

"They can't--the worst that can possibly happen is that we can't lick

them. They certainly can't lick us, because we can outrun 'em. If we

can't get 'em alone, we'll beat it back to Norlamin and bring up


"I am not so sure," Crane spoke slowly. "There is, I believe, a

theoretical possibility that sixth-order rays exist. Would an extension

of the methods of detection of fifth-order rays reveal them?"

"Sixth? Sweet spirits of niter! Nobody knows anything about them.

However, I've had one surprise already, so maybe your suggestion isn't

as crazy as it sounds. We've got three or four days yet before either

side can send anything except on the sixth, so I'll find out what I can


He flew at the task, and for the next three days could hardly be torn

from it for rest; but

"O. K., Mart," he finally announced. "They exist, all right, and I can

detect 'em. Look here," and he pointed to a tiny receiver, upon which a

small lamp flared in brilliant scarlet light.

"Are they sending them?"

"No, fortunately. They're coming from our bar. See, it shines blue when

I put a grounded shield between it and the bar, and stays blue when I

attach it to their detector ray."

"Can you direct them?"

"Not a chance in the world. That means a lifetime, probably many

lifetimes, of research, unless somebody uses a fairly complete pattern

of them close enough to this detector so that I can analyze it. 'Sa good

deal like calculus in that respect. It took thousands of years to get it

in the first place, but it's easy when somebody that already knows it

shows you how it goes."

"The Fenachrone learned to direct fifth-order rays so quickly, then, by

an analysis of our fifth-order projector there?"

"Our secondary projector, yes. They must have had some neutronium in

stock, too--but it would have been funny if they hadn't, at

that--they've had intra-atomic power for ages."

Silent and grim, he seated himself at the console, and for an hour he

wove an intricate pattern of forces upon the inexhaustible supply of

keys afforded by the ultra-projector before he once touched a plunger.

"What are you doing? I followed you for a few hundred steps, but could

go no farther."

"Merely a little safety-first stuff. In case they should send any real

pattern of sixth-order rays this set-up will analyze it, record the

complete analysis, throw out a screen against every frequency of the

pattern, throw on the molecular drive, and pull us back toward the

galaxy at full acceleration, while switching the frequency of our

carrier wave a thousand times a second, to keep them from shooting a hot

one through our open band. It'll do it all in about a millionth of a

second, too--I want to get us all back alive if possible! Hm--m. They've

shut off their ray--they know we've tapped onto it. Well, war's declared

now--we'll see what we can see."

Transferring the assembled beam to a plunger, he sent out a secondary

projector toward the Fenachrone vessel, as fast as it could be driven,

close behind a widespread detector net. He soon found the enemy cruiser,

but so immense was the distance that it was impossible to hold the

projection anywhere in its neighborhood. They flashed beyond it and

through it and upon all sides of it, but the utmost delicacy of the

controls would not permit of holding even upon the immense bulk of the

vessel, to say nothing of holding upon such a relatively tiny object as

the power bar. As they flashed repeatedly through the warship, they saw

piecemeal and sketchily her formidable armament and the hundreds of men

of her crew, each man at battle station at the controls of some

frightful engine of destruction. Suddenly they were cut off as a screen

closed behind them--the Earth-men felt an instant of unreasoning terror

as it seemed that one-half of their peculiar dual personalities vanished

utterly. Seaton laughed.

"That was a funny sensation, wasn't it? It just means that they've

climbed a tree and pulled the tree up after them."

"I do not like the odds, Dick," Crane's face was grave. "They have many

hundreds of men, all trained; and we are only two. Yes, only one, for I

count for nothing at those controls."

"All the better, Mart. This board more than makes up the difference.

They've got a lot of stuff, of course, but they haven't got anything

like this control system. Their captain's got to issue orders, whereas

I've got everything right under my hands. Not so uneven as they think!"

* * * * *

Within battle range at last, Seaton hurled his utmost concentration of

direct forces, under the impact of which three courses of Fenachrone

defensive screen flared through the ultra-violet and went black. There

the massed direct attack was stopped--at what cost the enemy alone

knew--and the Fenachrone countered instantly and in a manner totally

unexpected. Through the narrow slit in the fifth-order screen through

which Seaton was operating, in the bare one-thousandth of a second that

it was open, so exactly synchronized and timed that the screens did not

even glow as it went through the narrow opening, a gigantic beam of

heterodyned force struck full upon the bow of the Skylark, near the

sharply-pointed prow, and the stubborn metal instantly flared blinding

white and exploded outward in puffs of incandescent gas under the awful

power of that Titanic thrust. Through four successive skins of inoson,

the theoretical ultimate of possible strength, toughness, and

resistance, that frightful beam drove before the automatically-reacting

detector closed the slit and the impregnable defensive screens, driven

by their mighty uranium bars, flared into incandescent defense. Driven

as they were, they held, and the Fenachrone, finding that particular

attack useless, shut off their power.

"Wow! They sure have got something!" Seaton exclaimed in unfeigned

admiration. "They sure gave us a solid kick that time! We will now take

time out for repairs. Also, I'm going to cut our slit down to a width of

one kilocycle, if I can possibly figure out a way of working on that

narrow a band, and I'm going to step up our shifting speed to a hundred

thousand. It's a good thing they built this ship of ours in a lot of

layers--if that'd go through the interior we would have been punctured

for fair. You might weld up those holes, Mart, while I see what I can do


Then Seaton noticed the women, white and trembling, upon a seat.

"'Smatter? Cheer up, kids, you ain't seen nothing yet. That was just a

couple of little preliminary love-taps, like two boxers kinda feeling

each other out in the first ten seconds of the first round."

"Preliminary love-taps!" repeated Dorothy, looking into Seaton's eyes

and being reassured by the serene confidence she read there. "But they

hit us, and hurt us badly--why, there's a hole in our Skylark as big

as a house, and it goes through four or five layers!"

"Yes, but we're not hurt a bit. They're easily fixed, and we've lost

nothing but a few tons of inoson and uranium. We've got lots of spare

metal. I don't know what I did to him, any more than he knows what he

did to us, but I'll bet my other shirt that he knows he's been nudged!"

Repairs completed and the changes made in the method of projection,

Seaton actuated the rapidly-shifting slit and peered through it at the

enemy vessel. Finding their screens still up, he directed a

complete-coverage attack upon them with four bars, while with the entire

massed power of the remaining generators concentrated into one

frequency, he shifted that frequency up and down the spectrum, probing,

probing, ever probing with that gigantic beam of intolerable

energy--feeling for some crack, however slight, into which he could

insert that searing sheet of concentrated destruction. Although much of

the available power of the Fenachrone was perforce devoted to repelling

the continuous attack of the Terrestrials, they maintained an equally

continuous attack offensive, and in spite of the narrowness of the open

slit and the rapidity with which that slit was changing from frequency

to frequency, enough of the frightful forces came through to keep the

ultra-powered defensive screens radiating far into the violet--and, the

utmost power of the refrigerating system proving absolutely useless

against the concentrated beams being employed, mass after mass of inoson

was literally blown from the outer and secondary skins of the Skylark

by the comparatively tiny jets of force that leaked through the

momentarily open slit from time to time, as exact synchronization was

accidentally obtained.

Seaton, grimly watching his instruments, glanced at Crane, who, calm but

watchful at his console, was repairing the damage as fast as it was


"They're sending more stuff, Mart, and it's getting hotter to handle.

That means they're building more projectors. We can play that game, too.

They're using up their fuel reserves fast; but we're bigger than they

are, carry more metal, and it's more efficient metal, too. Only one way

out of it, I guess--what say we put in enough generators to smother them

down by brute force, no matter how much power it takes?"

"Why don't you use some of those awful copper shells? Or aren't we close

enough yet?" Dorothy's low voice came clearly, so utterly silent was

that frightful combat.

"Close! We're still better than two hundred thousand light-years apart!

There may have been longer-range battles than this somewhere in the

Universe, but I doubt it. And as for copper, even if we could get it to

them, it'd be just like so many candy kisses compared to the stuff we're

both using. Dear girl, there are fields of force extending for thousands

of miles from each of these vessels beside which the exact center of the

biggest lightning flash you ever saw would be a dead area!"

He set up a series of integrals and, machine after machine, in a space

left vacant by the rapidly-vanishing store of uranium, there appeared

inside the fourth skin of the Skylark a row of gigantic generators,

each one adding its hellish output to the already inconceivable stream

of energy being directed at the foe. As that frightful flow increased by

leaps and bounds, the intensity of the Fenachrone attack diminished, and

finally it ceased altogether as every iota of the enemy's power became

necessary for the maintenance of the defenses. Still greater grew the

stream of force from the Skylark, and, now that the attack had ceased,

Seaton opened the slit wider and stopped its shifting, in order still

further to increase the efficiency of his terrible weapon. Face set in a

fighting mask and eyes hard as gray iron, deeper and deeper he drove his

now irresistible forces. His flying fingers were upon the keys of his

console; his keen and merciless eyes were in a secondary projector near

the now doomed ship of the Fenachrone, directing masterfully his

terrible attack. As the output of his generators still increased, Seaton

began to compress a searing hollow sphere of seething energy upon the

furiously-straining defensive screens of the Fenachrone. Course after

course of the heaviest possible screen was sent out, driven by massed

batteries of copper now disintegrating at the rate of tons in every

second, only to flare through the ultra-violet and to go down before

that dreadful, that irresistible onslaught. Finally, as the inexorable

sphere still contracted, the utmost efforts of the defenders could not

keep their screens away from their own vessel, and simultaneously the

prow and the stern of the Fenachrone cruiser was bared to that awful

field of force, in which no possible substance could endure for even the

most infinitesimal instant of time.

There was a sudden cessation of all resistance, and those Titanic

forces, all directed inward, converged upon a point with a power behind

which there was the inconceivable energy of four hundred thousand tons

of uranium, being disintegrated at the highest possible rate, short of

instant disruption. In that same instant of collapse, the enormous mass

of power-copper in the Fenachrone cruiser and the vessel's every atom,

alike of structure and contents, also exploded into pure energy at the

touch of that unimaginable field of force.

In that awful moment before Seaton could shut off his power it seemed to

him that space itself must be obliterated by the very concentration of

the unknowable and incalculable forces there unleashed--must be

swallowed up and lost in the utterly indescribable brilliance of the

field of radiance driven to a distance of millions upon incandescent

millions of miles from the place where the last representatives of the

monstrous civilization of the Fenachrone had made their last stand

against the forces of Universal Peace.


The three-dimensional, moving, talking, almost living picture, being

shown simultaneously in all the viewing areas throughout the innumerable

planets of the Galaxy, faded out and the image of an aged, white-bearded

Norlaminian appeared and spoke in the Galactic language.

"As is customary, the showing of this picture has opened the celebration

of our great Galactic holiday, Civilization Day. As you all know, it

portrays the events leading up to and making possible the formation of

the League of Civilization by a mere handful of planets. The League now

embraces all of this, the First Galaxy, and is spreading rapidly

throughout the Universe. Varied are the physical forms and varied are

the mentalities of our almost innumerable races of beings, but in

Civilization we are becoming one, since those backward people who will

not co-operate with us are rendered impotent to impede our progress

among the more enlightened.

"It is peculiarly fitting that the one who has just been chosen to head

the Galactic Council--the first person of a race other than one of those

of the Central System to prove himself able to wield justly the vast

powers of that office--should be a direct descendant of two of the

revered persons whose deeds of olden times we have just witnessed.

"I present to you my successor as Chief of the Galactic Council, Richard

Ballinger Seaton, the fourteen hundred sixty-ninth, of Earth."





Dr. Smith, in his foreword to "Skylark Three" mentions two errors which

he made knowingly. I think I can recognize the astronomical one, at any


Of course, the acceleration of twice 186,000 miles per second, as used

in escaping the field of the great "dud" star, as told in "Skylark of

Space" was impossible. Nothing could withstand that strain. Further, no

gravitational field could be that intense. It would have exactly the

effect Dr. Smith describes and allots to the zone of force in "Skylark

Three"--it would make a hole in space and pull the hole in after it.

Light would be too heavy to leave the planet. The effect on space would

be so great as to curve it so violently as to shut it in about it like a

blanket. The dud would be both invisible and unapproachable.

The astronomical error? I wonder how Dr. Smith solved the problem of

three--or more--bodies? Osnome is a planet of a sun in a group of

seventeen suns, is it not? The gravitational field about even two suns

is so exceedingly complex that a planet could take up an orbit only

such that one sun was at each of the two foci of the ellipse of its

orbit, and then only provided the suns were of very nearly the same

mass, and stationary, which in turn means they must have no attraction

for each other. No, I think his complex system of seventeen suns would

not be so good for planets. Celestial Mechanics won't let them stay

there. And I really don't see why it was necessary to have so complex a


Further, I wonder if Dr. Smith considered the proposition of his ammonia

cooling plant carefully? The ammonia "cooling" plant works only to

transmit heat, not to remove it. The heat is removed by it from the

inside of an icebox for instance, and put outside, which is what is

wanted. However, it must have some place to dump the heat. In the fight

with the Mardonalians, Seaton has an arenak cylinder on his compressor,

and runs it very heavily, but if he can't get the heat outside the ship,

and away from it, he wouldn't cool the machine at all. Since the

Mardonalians kept the outside so hot, and the story says the

compressor-cooling was accomplished by a water cooler which boiled--some

amount of water, too, if it would absorb all the heat of that

Mardonalian fleet in any way--and this heat was then merely transferred

from outside to inside--where they DIDN'T want it!

Again, in this battle, to protect themselves against ultra-violet

radiation, they smear themselves with red paint--presumably because

red will stop ultra-violet.

Personalty, I'd have picked some ultra-violet paint--if any were handy

as that would reflect the rays. Red wouldn't affect them at all, so

far as I can see--he might as well have used blue. What he wanted, was a

complementary color of ultra-violet, and I don't believe it is

red--green is the complement of red. (Green light won't pass through red


Dr. Smith invited "knocks" with that foreword of his--I hope I am

complying, as an interested reader, and a hopeful scientist. However, my

personal opinion has always been that "Skylark of Space" was the best

story of scientifiction ever printed, without exception. I have recently

changed my opinion, however, since "Skylark Three" has come out.

John W. Campbell, Jr.

Cambridge, Mass.