John Campbell's book was written as a sequel to The Black Star Passes, and believe me, it was a world-beater in those days. Arcot, Wade, Morey and their computer, Fuller, put together a ship which will travel faster than light, they give us what may have been the first space-warp drive. The concept was simple; to make it plausible wasn't - unless you were John Campbell.
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Copyright © 2016 by John Campbell
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IN THE EARLY PART OF the Twenty Second Century, Dr. Richard Arcot, hailed as “the greatest living physicist”, and Robert Morey, his brilliant mathematical assistant, discovered the so-called “molecular motion drive”, which utilized the random energy of heat to produce useful motion.
John Fuller, designing engineer, helped the two men to build a ship which used the drive in order to have a weapon to seek out and capture the mysterious Air Pirate whose robberies were ruining Transcontinental Airways.
The Pirate, Wade, was a brilliant but neurotic chemist who had discovered, among other things, the secret of invisibility. Cured of his instability by modern psychomedical techniques, he was hired by Arcot to help build an interplanetary vessel to go to Venus.
The Venusians proved to be a humanoid race of people who used telepathy for communication. Although they weresimilar to Earthmen, their blue blood and double thumbs made them enough different to have caused distrust and racial friction, had not both planets been drawn together in a common bond of defense by the passing of the Black Star.
The Black Star, Nigra, was a dead, burned-out sun surrounded by a planetary system very much like our own. But these people had been forced to use their science to produce enough heat and light to stay alive in the cold, black depths of interstellar space. There was nothing evil or menacing in their attack on the Solar System; they simply wanted a star that gave off light and heat. So they attacked, not realizing that they were attacking beings equal in intelligence to themselves.
They were at another disadvantage, too. The Nigrans had spent long millennia fighting their environment and had had no time to fight among themselves, so they knew nothing of how to wage a war. The Earthmen and Venusians knew only too well, since they had a long history of war on each planet.
Inevitably, the Nigrans were driven back to the Black Star.
The war was over. And things became dull. And the taste of adventure still remained on the tongues of Arcot, Wade, and Morey.
THREE MEN SAT AROUND A table which was littered with graphs, sketches of mathematical functions, and books of tensor formulae. Beside the table stood a Munson-Bradley integraph calculator which one of the men was using to check some of the equations he had already derived. The results they were getting seemed to indicate something well above and beyond what they had expected.
And anything that surprised the team of Arcot, Wade, and Morey was surprising indeed.
The intercom buzzed, interrupting their work.
Dr. Richard Arcot reached over and lifted the switch. “Arcot speaking.”
The face that flashed on the screen was businesslike anddetermined. “Dr. Arcot, Mr. Fuller is here. My orders are to check with you on all visitors.”
Arcot nodded. “Send him up. But from now on, I’m not in to anyone but my father or the Interplanetary Chairman or the elder Mr. Morey. If they come, don’t bother to call, just send ‘em up. I will not receive calls for the next ten hours. Got it?”
“You won’t be bothered, Dr. Arcot.”
Arcot cut the circuit and the image collapsed.
Less than two minutes later, a light flashed above the door. Arcot touched the release, and the door slid aside. He looked at the man entering and said, with mock coldness:
“If it isn’t the late John Fuller. What did you do—take a plane? It took you an hour to get here from Chicago.”
Fuller shook his head sadly. “Most of the time was spent in getting past your guards. Getting to the seventy-fourth floor of the Transcontinental Airways Building is harder than stealing the Taj Mahal.” Trying to suppress a grin, Fuller bowed low. “Besides, I think it would do your royal highness good to be kept waiting for a while. You’re paid a couple of million a year to putter around in a lab while honest people work for a living. Then, if you happen to stub your toe over some useful gadget, they increase your pay. They call you scientists and spend the resources of two worlds to get you anything you want—and apologize if they don’t get it within twenty-four hours.
“No doubt about it; it will do your majesties good to wait.”
With a superior smile, he seated himself at the table and shuffled calmly through the sheets of equations before him.
Arcot and Wade were laughing, but not Robert Morey. With a sorrowful expression, he walked to the window and looked out at the hundreds of slim, graceful aircars that floated above the city.
“My friends,” said Morey, almost tearfully, “I give you the great Dr. Arcot. These countless machines we see have come from one idea of his. Just an idea, mind you! Andwho worked it into mathematical form and made it calculable, and therefore useful? I did!
“And who worked out the math for the interplanetary ships? I did! Without me they would never have been built!” He turned dramatically, as though he were playing King Lear. “And what do I get for it?” He pointed an accusing finger at Arcot. “What do I get?Heis called ‘Earth’s most brilliant physicist’, and I, who did all the hard work, am referred to as ‘his mathematical assistant’.” He shook his head solemnly. “It’s a hard world.”
At the table, Wade frowned, then looked at the ceiling. “If you’d make your quotations more accurate, they’d be more trustworthy. The news said that Arcot was the ‘System’smost brilliant physicist’, and that you were the ‘brilliant mathematical assistant who showed great genius in developing the mathematics of Dr. Arcot’s new theory’.” Having delivered his speech, Wade began stoking his pipe.
Fuller tapped his fingers on the table. “Come on, you clowns, knock it off and tell me why you called a hard-working man away from his drafting table to come up to this play room of yours. What have you got up your sleeve this time?”
“Oh, that’s too bad,” said Arcot, leaning back comfortably in his chair. “We’re sorry you’re so busy. We were thinking of going out to see what Antares, Betelguese, or Polaris looked like at close range. And, if we don’t get too bored, we might run over to the giant model nebula in Andromeda, or one of the others. Tough about your being busy; you might have helped us by designing the ship and earned your board and passage. Tough.” Arcot looked at Fuller sadly.
Fuller’s eyes narrowed. He knew Arcot was kidding, but he also knew how far Arcot would go when he was kidding—and this sounded like he meant it. Fuller said: “Look, teacher, a man named Einstein said that the velocity of light was tops over two hundred years ago, and nobody’s come up with any counter evidence yet. Has the Lord instituted a new speed law?”
“Oh, no,” said Wade, waving his pipe in a grand gesture of importance. “Arcot just decided he didn’t like that law and made a new one himself.”
“Nowwaita minute!” said Fuller. “The velocity of light is a property of space!”
Arcot’s bantering smile was gone. “Now you’ve got it, Fuller. The velocity of light, just as Einstein said, is a property of space. What happens if we change space?”
Fuller blinked. “Change space? How?”
Arcot pointed toward a glass of water sitting nearby. “Why do things look distorted through the water? Because the light rays are bent. Why are they bent? Because as each wave front moves from air to water,it slows down. The electromagnetic and gravitational fields between those atoms are strong enough to increase the curvature of the space between them. Now, what happens if we reverse that effect?”
“Oh,” said Fuller softly. “I get it. By changing the curvature of the space surrounding you, you could get any velocity you wanted. But what about acceleration? It would take years to reach those velocities at any acceleration a man could stand.”
Arcot shook his head. “Take a look at the glass of water again. What happens when the light comesoutof the water? It speeds up againinstantaneously. By changing the space around a spaceship, you instantaneously change the velocity of the ship to a comparable velocity in that space. And since every particle is accelerated at the same rate, you wouldn’t feel it, any more than you’d feel the acceleration due to gravity in free fall.”
Fuller nodded slowly. Then, suddenly, a light gleamed in his eyes. “I suppose you’ve figured out where you’re going to get the energy to power a ship like that?”
“He has,” said Morey. “Uncle Arcot isn’t the type to forget a little detail like that.”
“Okay, give,” said Fuller.
Arcot grinned and lit up his own pipe, joining Wade in an attempt to fill the room with impenetrable fog.
“All right,” Arcot began, “we needed two things: a tremendous source of power and a way to store it.
“For the first, ordinary atomic energy wouldn’t do. It’s not controllable enough and uranium isn’t something we could carry by the ton. So I began working with high-density currents.
“At the temperature of liquid helium, near absolute zero, lead becomes a nearly perfect conductor. Back in nineteen twenty, physicists had succeeded in making a current flow for four hours in a closed circuit. It was just a ring of lead, but the resistance was so low that the current kept on flowing. They even managed to get six hundred amperes through a piece of lead wire no bigger than a pencil lead.
“I don’t know why they didn’t go on from there, but they didn’t. Possibly it was because they didn’t have the insulation necessary to keep down the corona effect; in a high-density current, the electrons tend to push each other sideways out of the wire.
“At any rate, I tried it, usingluxmetal as an insulator around the wire.”
“Hold it!” Fuller interrupted. “What, may I ask, isluxmetal?”
“That was Wade’s idea,” Arcot grinned. “You remember those two substances we found in the Nigran ships during the war?”
“Sure,” said Fuller. “One was transparent and the other was a perfect reflector. You said they were made of light—photons so greatly condensed that they were held together by their gravitational fields.”
“Right. We called them light-metal. But Wade said that was too confusing. With a specific gravity of 103.5, light-metal was certainly not a light metal! So Wade coined a couple of words.Luxis the Latin for light, so he named the transparent oneluxand the reflecting onerelux.”
“It sounds peculiar,” Fuller observed, “but so does every coined word when you first hear it. Go on with your story.”
Arcot relit his pipe and went on. “I put a current of ten thousand amps through a little piece of lead wire, and that gave me a current density of 1010amps per square inch.
“Then I started jacking up the voltage, and modified the thing with a double-polarity field somewhat similar to the molecular motion field except that it works on a sub-nucleonic level. As a result, about half of the lead fed into the chamber became contraterrene lead! The atoms just turned themselves inside out, so to speak, giving us an atom with positrons circling a negatively charged nucleus. It even gave the neutrons a reverse spin, converting them into anti-neutrons.
“Result: total annihilation of matter! When the contraterrene lead atoms met the terrene lead atoms, mutual annihilation resulted, giving us pure energy.
“Some of this power can be bled off to power the mechanism itself; the rest is useful energy. We’ve got all the power we need—power, literally by the ton.”
Fuller said nothing; he just looked dazed. He was well beginning to believe that these three men could do the impossible and do it to order.
“The second thing,” Arcot continued, “was, as I said, a way to store the energy so that it could be released as rapidly or as slowly as we needed it.
“That was Morey’s baby. He figured it would be possible to use the space-strain apparatus to store energy. It’s an old method; induction coils, condensers, and even gravity itself are storing energy by straining space. But with Morey’s apparatus we could store a lot more.
“A torus-shaped induction coil encloses all its magnetic field within it; the torus, or ‘doughnut’ coil, has a perfectly enclosed magnetic field. We built an enclosed coil, using Morey’s principle, and expected to store a few watts of power in it to see how long we could hold it.
“Unfortunately, we made the mistake of connecting it to the city power lines, and it cost us a hundred and fifty dollars at a quarter of a cent per kilowatt hour. We blew fuses all over the place. After that, we used the relux plate generator.
“At any rate, the gadget can store power and plenty of it, and it can put it out the same way.”
Arcot knocked the ashes out of his pipe and smiled at Fuller. “Those are the essentials of what we have to offer. We give you the job of figuring out the stresses and strains involved. We want a ship with a cruising radius of a thousand million light years.”
“Yes, sir! Right away, sir! Do you want a gross or only a dozen?” Fuller asked sarcastically. “You sure believe in big orders! And whence cometh the cold cash for this lovely dream of yours?”
“That,” said Morey darkly, “is where the trouble comes in. We have to convince Dad. As President of Transcontinental Airways, he’s my boss, but the trouble is, he’s also my father. When he hears that I want to go gallivanting off all over the Universe with you guys, he is very likely to turn thumbs down on the whole deal. Besides, Arcot’s dad has a lot of influence around here, too, and I have a healthy hunch he won’t like the idea, either.”
“I rather fear he won’t,” agreed Arcot gloomily.
A silence hung over the room that felt almost as heavy as the pall of pipe smoke the air conditioners were trying frantically to disperse.
The elder Mr. Morey had full control of their finances. A ship that would cost easily hundreds of millions of dollars was well beyond anything the four men could get by themselves. Their inventions were the property of Transcontinental, but even if they had not been, not one of the four men would think of selling them to another company.
Finally, Wade said: “I think we’ll stand a much better chance if we show them a big, spectacular exhibition; something really impressive. We’ll point out all the advantages and uses of the apparatus. Then we’ll show them complete plans for the ship. They might consent.”
“They might,” replied Morey smiling. “It’s worth a try, anyway. And let’s get out of the city to do it. We can go up to my place in Vermont. We can use the lab up therefor all we need. We’ve got everything worked out, so there’s no need to stay here.
“Besides, I’ve got a lake up there in which we can indulge in a little atavism to the fish stage of evolution.”
“Good enough,” Arcot agreed, grinning broadly. “And we’ll need that lake, too. Here in the city it’s only eighty-five because the aircars are soaking up heat for their molecular drive, but out in the country it’ll be in the nineties.”
“To the mountains, then! Let’s pack up!”
THE MANY BOOKS AND PAPERS they had collected were hastily put into the briefcases, and the four men took the elevator to the landing area on the roof.
“We’ll take my car,” Morey said. “The rest of you can just leave yours here. They’ll be safe for a few days.”
They all piled in as Morey slid into the driver’s seat and turned on the power.
They rose slowly, looking below them at the traffic of the great city. New York had long since abandoned her rivers as trade routes; they had been covered solidly by steel decks which were used as public landing fields and ground car routes. Around them loomed titanic structures of glistening colored tile. The sunlight reflected brilliantly from them, and the contrasting colors of the buildings seemed to blend together into a great, multicolored painting.
The darting planes, the traffic of commerce down between the great buildings, and the pleasure cars above, combined to give a series of changing, darting shadows that wove a flickering pattern over the city. The long lines of shipscoming in from Chicago, London, Buenos Aires and San Francisco, and the constant flow from across the Pole—from Russia, India, and China, were like mighty black serpents that wound their way into the city.
Morey cut into a Northbound traffic level, moved into the high-speed lane, and eased in on the accelerator. He held to the traffic pattern for two hundred and fifty miles, until he was well past Boston, then he turned at the first break and fired the ship toward their goal in Vermont.
Less than forty-five minutes since they had left New York, Morey was dropping the car toward the little mountain lake that offered them a place for seclusion. Gently, he let the ship glide smoothly into the shed where the first molecular motion ship had been built. Arcot jumped out, saying:
“We’re here—unload and get going. I think a swim and some sleep is in order before we start work on this ship. We can begin tomorrow.” He looked approvingly at the clear blue water of the little lake.
Wade climbed out and pushed Arcot to one side. “All right, out of the way, then, little one, and let a man get going.” He headed for the house with the briefcases.
Arcot was six feet two and weighed close to two hundred, but Wade was another two inches taller and weighed a good fifty pounds more. His arms and chest were built on the same general plan as those of a gorilla. He had good reason to call Arcot little.
Morey, though still taller, was not as heavily formed, and weighed only a few pounds more than Arcot, while Fuller was a bit smaller than Arcot.
Due to several factors, the size of the average human being had been steadily increasing for several centuries. Only Wade would have been considered a “big” man by the average person, for the average man was over six feet tall.
They relaxed most of the afternoon, swimming and indulging in a few wrestling matches. At wrestling, Wade consistently proved himself not only built like a gorilla butmuscled like one; but Arcot proved that skill was not without merit several times, for he had found that if he could make the match last more than two minutes, Wade’s huge muscles would find an insufficient oxygen supply and tire quickly.
That evening, after dinner, Morey engaged Wade in a fierce battle of chess, with Fuller as an interested spectator. Arcot, too, was watching, but he was saying nothing.
After several minutes of uneventful play, Morey stopped suddenly and glared at the board. “Now why’d I make that move? I intended to move my queen over there to check your king on the red diagonal.”
“Yeah,” replied Wade gloomily, “that’s what I wanted you to do. I had a sure checkmate in three moves.”
Arcot smiled quietly.
They continued play for several moves, then it was Wade who remarked that something seemed to be influencing his play.
“I had intended to trade queens. I’m glad I didn’t, though; I think this leaves me in a better position.”
“It sure does,” agreed Morey. “I was due to clean up on the queen trade. You surprised me, too; you usually go in for trades. I’m afraid my position is hopeless now.”
It was. In the next ten moves, Wade spotted the weak points in every attack Morey made; the attack crumbled disastrously and white was forced to resign, his king in a hopeless position.
Wade rubbed his chin. “You know, Morey, I seemed to know exactly why you made every move, and I saw every possibility involved.”
“Yeah—so I noticed,” said Morey with a grin.
“Come on, Morey, let’s try a game,” said Fuller, sliding into the chair Wade had vacated.
Although ordinarily equally matched with Fuller, Morey again went down to disastrous defeat in an amazingly short time. It almost seemed as if Fuller could anticipate every move.
“Brother, am I off form today,” he said, rising from the table. “Come on, Arcot—let’s see you try Wade.”
Arcot sat down, and although he had never played chess as extensively as the others, he proceeded to clean Wade out lock, stock, and barrel.
“Now what’s come over you?” asked Morey in astonishment as he saw a very complicated formation working out, a formation he knew was far better than Arcot’s usual game. He had just worked it out and felt very proud of it.
Arcot looked at him and smiled. “That’s the answer, Morey!”
Morey blinked. “What—what’s the answer to what?”
“Yes—I meant it—don’t be so surprised—you’ve seen it done before. I have—no, not under him, but a more experienced teacher. I figured it would come in handy in our explorations.”
Morey’s face grew more and more astonished as Arcot’s strange monologue continued.
Finally, Arcot turned to Wade, who was looking at him and Morey in wide-eyed wonder. And this time, it was Wade who began talking in a monologue.
“Youdid?” he said in a surprised voice. “When?” There was a long pause, during which Arcot stared at Wade with such intensity that Fuller began to understand what was happening.
“Well,” said Wade, “if you’ve learned the trick so thoroughly, try it out. Let’s see you project your thoughts! Go ahead!”
Fuller, now understanding fully what was going on, burst out laughing. “Hehasbeen projecting his thoughts! He hasn’t said a word to you!” Then he looked at Arcot. “As a matter of fact, you’ve said so little that I don’t know how you pulled this telepathic stunt—though I’m quite convinced that you did.”
“I spent three months on Venus a while back,” said Arcot, “studying with one of their foremost telepathists. Actually, most of that time was spent on theory; learning how to do it isn’t a difficult proposition. It just takes practice.
“The whole secret is that everyone has the power; it’s a very ancient power in the human brain, and most of the lower animals possess it to a greater degree than do humans. When Man developed language, it gave his thoughts more concreteness and permitted a freer and more clearly conceived type of thinking. The result was that telepathy fell into disuse.
“I’m going to show you how to do it because it will be invaluable if we meet a strange race. By projecting pictures and concepts, you can dispense with going to the trouble of learning the language.
“After you learn the basics, all you’ll need is practice, but watch yourself! Too much practice can give you the great-granddaddy of all headaches! Okay, now to begin with ...”
Arcot spent the rest of the evening teaching them the Venerian system of telepathy.
They all rose at nine. Arcot got up first, and the others found it expedient to follow his example shortly thereafter. He had brought a large Tesla coil into the bedroom from the lab and succeeded in inducing sufficient voltage in the bedsprings to make very effective, though harmless, sparks.
“Come on, boys, hit the deck! Wade, as chief chemist, you are to synthesize a little coffee and heat-treat a few eggs for us. We have work ahead today! Rise and shine!” He didn’t shut off the coil until he was assured that each of them had gotten a considerable distance from his bed.
“Ouch!” yelled Morey. “Okay! Shut it off! I want to get my pants! We’re all up! You win!”
After breakfast, they all went into the room they used as a calculating room. Here they had two different types of integraph calculators and plenty of paper and equipment to do their own calculations and draw graphs.
“To begin with,” said Fuller, “let’s decide what shape we want to use. As designer, I’d like to point out that a sphere is the strongest, a cube easiest to build, and a torpedo shapethe most efficient aerodynamically. However, we intend to use it in space, not air.
“And remember, we’ll need it more as a home than as a ship during the greater part of the trip.”
“We might need an aerodynamically stable hull,” Wade interjected. “It came in mighty handy on Venus. They’re darned useful in emergencies. What do you think, Arcot?”
“I favor the torpedo shape. Okay, now we’ve got a hull. How about some engines to run it? Let’s get those, too. I’ll name the general things first; facts and figures can come later.
“First: We must have a powerful mass-energy converter. We could use the cavity radiator and use cosmic rays to warm it, and drive the individual power units that way, or we can have a main electrical power unit and warm them all electrically. Now, which one would be the better?”
Morey frowned. “I think we’d be safer if we didn’t depend on any one plant, but had each as separate as possible. I’m for the individual cavity radiators.”
“Question,” interjected Fuller. “How do these cavity radiators work?”
“They’re built like a thermos bottle,” Arcot explained. “The inner shell will be of rough relux, which will absorb the heat efficiently, while the outer one will be of polished relux to keep the radiation inside. Between the two we’ll run a flow of helium at two tons per square inch pressure to carry the heat to the molecular motion apparatus. The neck of the bottle will contain the atomic generator.”
Fuller still looked puzzled. “See here; with this new space strain drive, why do we have to have the molecular drive at all?”
“To move around near a heavy mass—in the presence of a strong gravitational field,” Arcot said. “A gravitational field tends to warp space in such a way that the velocity of light is lower in its presence. Our drive tries to warp or strain space in the opposite manner. The two would simply cancel each other out and we’d waste a lot of power going nowhere. As a matter of fact, the gravitational field of thesun is so intense that we’ll have to go out beyond the orbit of Pluto before we can use the space strain drive effectively.”
“I catch,” said Fuller. “Now to get back to the generators. I think the power units would be simpler if they were controlled from one electrical power source, and just as reliable. Anyway, the molecular motion power is controlled, of necessity, from a single generator, so if one is apt to go bad, the other is, too.”
“Very good reasoning,” smiled Morey, “but I’m still strong for decentralization. I suggest a compromise. We can have the main power unit and the main verticals, which will be the largest, controlled by individual cosmic ray heaters, and the rest run by electric power units. They’d be just heating coils surrounded by the field.”
“A good idea,” said Arcot. “I’m in favor of the compromise. Okay, Fuller? Okay. Now the next problem is weapons. I suggest we use a separate control panel and a separate generating panel for the power tubes we’ll want in the molecular beam projectors.”
The molecular beam projector simply projected the field that caused molecular motion to take place as wanted. As weapons, they were terrifically deadly. If half a mountain is suddenly thrown into the air because all the random motion of its molecules becomes concentrated in one direction, it becomes a difficult projectile to fight. Or touch the bow of a ship with the beam; the bow drops to absolute zero and is driven back on the stern, with all the speed of its billions of molecules. The general effect is similar to that produced by two ships having a head-on collision at ten miles per second.
Anything touched by the beam is broken by its own molecules, twisted by its own strength, and crushed by its own toughness. Nothing can resist it.
“My idea,” Arcot went on, “was that since the same power is used for both the beams and the drive, we’ll have two separate power-tube banks to generate it. That way, if one breaks down, we can switch to the other. We can even useboth at once on the drive, if necessary; the molecular motion machines will stand it if we make them of relux and anchor them with lux metal beams. The projectors would be able to handle the power, too, using Dad’s new system.
“That will give us more protection, and, at the same time, full power. Since we’ll have several projectors, the power needed to operate the ship will be about equal to the power required to operate the projectors.
“And I also suggest we mount some heat beam projectors.”
“Why?” objected Wade. “They’re less effective than the molecular rays. The molecular beams are instantly irresistible, while the heat beams take time to heat up the target. Sure, they’re unhealthy to deal with, but no more so than the molecular beam.”
“True enough,” Arcot agreed, “but the heat beam is more spectacular, and we may find that a mere spectacular display will accomplish as much as actual destruction. Besides, the heat beams are more local in effect. If we want to kill an enemy and spare his captive, we want a beam that will be deadly where it hits, not for fifty yards around.”
“Hold it a second,” said Fuller wearily. “Now it’s heat beams. Don’t you guys think you ought to explain a little bit to the poor goon who’s designing this flying battlewagon? How did you get a heat beam?”
Arcot grinned. “Simple. We use a small atomic cavity radiator at one end of which is a rough relux parabolic filter. Beyond that is a lux metal lens. The relux heats up tremendously, and since there is no polished relux to reflect it back, the heat is radiated out through the lux metal lens as a powerful heat beam.”
“Okay, fine,” said Fuller. “But stop springing new gadgets on me, will you?”
“I’ll try not to,” Arcot laughed. “Anyway, let’s get on to the main power plant. Remember that our condenser coil is a gadget for storing energy in space; we are therefore obliged to supply it with energy to store. Just forming the drive field alone will require two times ten to the twenty-seventhergs, or the energy of abouttwo and a half tonsof matter. That means a whale of a lot of lead wire will have to be fed into our conversion generators; it would take several hours to charge the coils. We’d better have two big chargers to do the job.
“The controls we can figure out later. How about it? Any suggestions?”
“Sounds okay to me,” said Morey, and the others agreed.
“Good enough. Now, as far as air and water go, we can use the standard spacecraft apparatus, Fuller, so you can figure that in any way you want to.”
“We’ll need a lab, too,” Wade put in. “And a machine shop with plenty of spare parts—everything we can possibly think of. Remember, we may want to build some things out in space.”
“Right. And I wonder—” Arcot looked thoughtful. “How about the invisibility apparatus? It may prove useful, and it won’t cost much. Let’s put that in, too.”
The apparatus he mentioned was simply a high-frequency oscillator tube of extreme power which caused vibrations approaching light frequency to be set up in the molecules of the ship. As a result, the ship became transparent, since light could easily pass through the vibrating molecules.
There was only one difficulty; the ship was invisible, all right, but it became a radio sender and could easily be detected by a directional radio. However, if the secret were unknown, it was a very effective method of disappearing. And, since the frequency was so high, a special detector was required to pick it up.
“Is that all you need?” asked Fuller.
“Nope,” said Arcot, leaning back in his chair. “Now comes the kicker. I suggest that we make the hull of foot-thick lux metal and line it on the inside with relux wherever we want it to be opaque. And we want relux shutters on the windows. Lux is too doggone transparent; if we came too close to a hot star, we’d be badly burned.”
Fuller looked almost goggle-eyed. “A—foot—of—lux!GoodLord, Arcot! This ship would weigh a quarter of a million tons! That stuff isdense!”
“Sure,” agreed Arcot, “but we’ll need the protection. With a ship like that, you could run through a planetoid without hurting the hull. We’ll make the relux inner wall about an inch thick, with a vacuum between them for protection in a warm atmosphere. And if some tremendous force did manage to crack the outer wall, we wouldn’t be left without protection.”
“Okay, you’re the boss,” Fuller said resignedly. “It’s going to have to be a big ship, though. I figure a length of about two hundred feet and a diameter of around thirty feet. The interior I’ll furnish with aluminum; it’ll be cheaper and lighter. How about an observatory?”
“Put it in the rear of the ship,” Wade suggested. “We’ll mount one of the Nigran telectroscopes.”
“Control room in the bow, of course,” Morey chipped in.
“I’ve got you,” Fuller said. “I’ll work the thing out and give you a cost estimate and drawings.”
“Fine,” said Arcot, standing up. “Meanwhile, the rest of us will work out our little exhibition to impress Mr. Morey and Dad. Come on, lads, let’s get back to the lab.”
IT WAS TWO WEEKS BEFORE Dr. Robert Arcot and his old friend Arthur Morey, president of Transcontinental Airways, were invited to see what their sons had been working on.
The demonstration was to take place in the radiation labs in the basements of the Transcontinental building. Arcot,Wade, Morey, and Fuller had brought the equipment in from the country place in Vermont and set it up in one of the heavily-lined, vault-like chambers that were used for radiation experiments.
The two older men were seated before a huge eighty-inch three-dimensional television screen several floors above the level where the actual demonstration was going on.
“There can’t be anyone in the room, because of radiation burns,” explained Arcot, junior. “We could have surrounded the thing with relux, but then you couldn’t have seen what’s going on.
“I’m not going to explain anything beforehand; like magic, they’ll be more astounding before the explanation is given.”
He touched a switch. The cameras began to operate, and the screen sprang into life.
The screen showed a heavy table on which was mounted a small projector that looked something like a searchlight with several heavy cables running into it. In the path of the projector was a large lux metal crucible surrounded by a ring of relux, and a series of points of relux aimed into the crucible. These points and the ring were grounded. Inside the crucible was a small ingot of coronium, the strong, hard, Venerian metal which melted at twenty-five hundred degrees centigrade and boiled at better than four thousand. The crucible was entirely enclosed in a large lux metal case which was lined, on the side away from the projector, with roughened relux.
Arcot moved a switch on the control panel. Far below them, a heavy relay slammed home, and suddenly a solid beam of brilliant bluish light shot out from the projector, a beam so brilliant that the entire screen was lit by the intense glow, and the spectators thought that they could almost feel the heat.
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