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
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
"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
"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,
"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
"Yellow!... You?" Seaton pressed his wife closer still! and laughed
aloud. "Maybe--but so is picric acid; so is nitroglycerin; and so is
"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
"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
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."
SOME REMARKS ON THE "SKYLARK THREE" AND ABOUT ERRORS. A COMPLIMENT TO
DR. SMITH'S STORIES.
Editor, AMAZING STORIES:
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.