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Second Stage Lensmen
by E. E. Smith
Copyright 1953 Edward E. "Doc" Smith, PhD.
This edition published by Reading Essentials.
All Rights Reserved.
THE BRAINS BEHIND BOSKONE
Time and again the Galactic Patrol
had defeated the brilliant, elusive forces
of Boskone. The space pirates’ home
base was crushed, its leaders destroyed.
Then, mysteriously, powerful Boskonian
bases sprang up anew throughout
the galaxy, and the elite corps of Lensmen
were forced to face the truth:
that minds mightier than their own, operating
from an unknown planet,
were waging a final war for supremacy
in space—and were on the way
A LENSMAN ADVENTURE
Fifth in the Great Series
Novels of science fiction
SECOND STAGE LENSMEN
CHILDREN OF THE LENS
MASTERS OF THE VORTEX
THE SKYLARK OF SPACE
SKYLARK OF VALERON
SKYLARK DU QUESNE
Invasion Via Tube
Lyrane the Matriarchy
. . .
. . .
Illona of Lonabar
Back to Lyrane
Cartiff the Jeweler
Cartiff the Fence
Bleeko and the Iceberg
Alcon of Thrale
Helen Goes North
In the Cavern
Nadreck at Work
Gannel Fights a Duel
Into Nth Space
Prime Minister Fossten
Gannel, Tyrant of Thrale
Gannel vs. Fossten
The Battle of Klovia
The Taking of Thrale
Acouple of billion years ago, when the First and Second Galaxies were passing through each other and when myriads of planets were coming into being where only a handful had existed before, two races of beings were already ancient. Each had become independent of the chance formation of planets upon which to live. Each had won a large measure of power over its environment; the Arisians by force of mind alone, the Eddorians by employing both mind and mechanism.
The Arisians were native to this, our normal space-time continuum. They had lived in it since the unthinkably remote time of their origin. The original Arisia was very much like Earth. Thus all our normal space was permeated by Arisian life-spores, and thus upon all Earth-like planets there came into being races more or less like what the Arisians had been in the days of their racial youth.
The Eddorians, on the other hand, were interlopers. They came to our space-time continuum from some horribly different plenum. For eons they had been exploring the Macrocosmic All; moving their planets from plenum to plenum; seeking that which at last they found—one in which there were enough planets, soon to be inhabited by intelligent life, to sate even the Eddorian lust for dominance. Here, in our own universe, they would stay; and here supreme they would rule.
The Elders of Arisia, however, the ablest thinkers of the race, had known of and had studied the Eddorians for many cycles of time. Their integrated Visualization of the Cosmic All showed what was to happen. No more than the Arisians themselves could the Eddorians be slain by any physical means; nor could the Arisians, unaided, kill all the invaders by mental force. Eddore’s All-Highest and his Innermost Circle, in their ultra-shielded citadel, could be destroyed only by a mental bolt of such nature and magnitude that its generator, which was to become known as the Galactic Patrol, would require several long Arisian lifetimes for its building.
Nor would that building be easy. The Eddorians must be kept in ignorance, both of Arisia and of the proposed generator, until too late to take effective counter-measures. Also, no entity below the third level of intelligence could ever be allowed to learn the truth, for that knowledge would set up an inferiority complex that would rob the generator of its ability to do the work.
On the four most promising planets of the First Galaxy—our Earth or Sol Three, Velantia, Rigel Four, and Palain Seven—breeding programs, to develop the highest mentality of which each race was capable, were begun as soon as intelligent life appeared.
On our Earth there were only two blood-lines, since humanity has only two sexes. One was a straight male line of descent, and was always named Kinnison or its equivalent. Civilizations rose and fell; Arisia surreptitiously lifting them up, Eddore callously knocking them down. Pestilences raged, and wars, and famines, and holocausts and disasters that decimated entire populations again and again; but the direct male line of descent of the Kinnisons was never broken.
The other line, sometimes male and sometimes female, which was to culminate in the female penultimate of the Arisian program, was equally persistent and was characterized throughout its prodigious length by a peculiarly spectacular shade of red-bronze-auburn hair and equally striking gold-flecked, tawny eyes. Atlantis fell, but the red-headed, yellow-eyed child of red-haired Captain Phryges had been sent to North Maya, and lived. Patroclus, the red-headed gladiator, begot a red-haired daughter before he was cut down. And so it went.
World Wars One, Two, and Three, occupying as they did only a few moments of Arisian-Eddorian time, formed merely one incident in the eons-long game. Immediately after that incident, Gharlane of Eddore made what proved to be an error. Knowing nothing of the Arisians, he assumed that the then completely ruined Tellus would not require his personal attention again for many hundreds of Tellurian years, and went elsewhere; to Rigel Four, to Palain Seven, and to Velantia Two, or Delgon, where he found that his creatures, the Overlords, were not progressing satisfactorily. He spent quite a little time there; during which the men of Earth, aided by the Arisians, made a rapid recovery from the ravages of atomic warfare and very rapid advances in both sociology and technology.
Virgil Samms, the auburn-haired, tawny-eyed Crusader who was to become the first wearer of Arisia’s Lens, took advantage of the demoralization to institute an effective planetary police force. Then, with the advent of interplanetary flight, he was instrumental in forming the Interplanetary League. As head of the Triplanetary Service he took a leading part in the brief war with the Nevians, a race of highly intelligent amphibians who used allotropic iron as a source of atomic power.
Gharlane of Eddore came back to the Solarian System as Gray Roger, the enigmatic and practically immortal scourge of space, only to find his every move so completely blocked that he could not kill two ordinary human beings, Conway Costigan and Clio Marsden. Nor were these two, in spite of some belief to the contrary, anything but what they seemed. Neither of them ever knew that they were being protected. Gharlane’s blocker was in fact an Arisian fusion; the four-ply mentality which was to become known to every Lensman of the Patrol as Mentor of Arisia.
The inertialess drive, which made an interstellar trip a matter of minutes instead of lifetimes, brought with it such an increase in crime, and made detection of criminals so difficult, that law enforcement broke down almost completely. As Samms himself expressed it:
“How can legal processes work efficiently—work at all, for that matter—when a man can commit a murder or a pirate can loot a space-ship and be a hundred parsecs away before the crime is even discovered? How can a Tellurian John Law find a criminal on a strange world that knows nothing of our Patrol, with a completely alien language—maybe no language at all—when it takes months even to find out who and where—if any—the native police officers are?”
Also there was the apparently insuperable difficulty of identification of authorized personnel. Triplanetary’s best scientists had done their best in the way of a non-counterfeitable badge—the historic Golden Meteor, which upon touch impressed upon the toucher’s consciousness an unpronounceable,—unspellable syllable—but that best was not enough. What physical science could devise and synthesize, physical science could analyze and duplicate; and that analysis and duplication had caused trouble indeed.
Triplanetary needed something vastly better than its meteor. In fact, without a better, its expansion into an intersystemic organization would probably be impossible. It needed something to identify a Patrolman, anytime and anywhere. This something must be impossible of duplication or imitation—ideally, it should kill, painfully, any entity attempting imposture. It should operate as a telepath or endow its wearer with telepathic power—how else could a Tellurian converse with peoples such as the Rigellians, who could not talk, see, or hear?
Both Solarian Councillor Virgil Samms and his friend of old, Commissioner of Public Safety Roderick Kinnison, knew these things; but they also knew how utterly preposterous their thoughts were; how utterly and self-evidently impossible such a device was.
But Arisia again came to the rescue. The scientist working on the meteor problem, one Dr. Nels Bergenholm—who, all unknown to even his closest associates, was a form of flesh energized at various times by various Arisians—reported to Virgil Samms that:
(1) Physical science could not then produce what was needed, and probably could never do so. (2) Although it could not be explained by any symbology known to man, there was—there must be—a science of the mind; a science whose tangible products physical science could neither analyze nor imitate. (3) Virgil Samms, by going to Arisia, could obtain exactly what was needed.
“Arisia! Of all the hells in space, why Arisia?” Kinnison demanded. “How? Don’t you know that nobody can get anywhere near that damn planet?”
“I know that the Arisians are very well versed in that science. I know that if Virgil Samms goes to Arisia he will obtain the symbol he needs. I know that he will never obtain it otherwise. As to how I know these things—I can’t—I just—I know them, I tell you!”
And since Bergenholm was already as well known for uncannily accurate “hunches” as for a height of genius bordering on insanity, the two leaders of Civilization did not press him farther, but went immediately to the hitherto forbidden planet. They were—apparently—received hospitably enough, and were given Lenses by Mentor of Arisia; Lenses which, it developed, were all that Bergenholm had indicated, and more.
The Lens is a lenticular structure of hundreds of thousands of tiny crystalloids, built and tuned to match the individual life-force—the ego, the personality—of one individual entity. While not, strictly speaking, alive, it is endowed with a sort of pseudo-life by virtue of which it gives off a strong, characteristically-changing, polychromatic light as long as it is in circuit with the living mentality with which it is in synchronization. Conversely, when worn by anyone except its owner, it not only remains dark, but it kills; so strongly does its pseudo-life interfere with any life to which it is not attuned. It is also a telepathic communicator of astounding power and range—and other things.
Back on Earth, Samms set out to find people of Lensman caliber to send to Arisia. Kinnison’s son, Jack, Jack’s friend Mason Northrop, Conway Costigan, and Samms’ daughter Virgilia—who had inherited her father’s hair and eyes and who was the most accomplished muscle-reader of her time—went first. The boys got Lenses, but Jill did not. Mentor, who was to her senses a woman seven feet tall—it should be mentioned here that no two entities who ever saw Mentor ever saw the same thing—told her that she did not then and never would need a Lens.
Frederick Rodebush, Lyman Cleveland, young Bergenholm and a couple of commodores of the Patrol—Clayton of North America and Schweikert of Europe—just about exhausted Earth’s resources. Nor were the other Solarian planets very helpful, yielding only three Lensmen—Knobos of Mars, DelNalten of Venus, and Rularion of Jove. Lensman material was very scarce stuff.
Knowing that his proposed Galactic Council would have to be made up exclusively of Lensmen, and that it should represent as many solar systems as possible, Samms visited the various systems which had been colonized by humanity, then went on: to Rigel Four, where he found Dronvire the Explorer, who was of Lensman grade; and next to Pluto, where he found Pilinixi the Dexitroboper, who very definitely was not; and finally to Palain Seven, an ultra-frigid world where he found Tallick, who might—or might not—go to Arisia some day. And Virgil Samms, being physically tough and mentally a real crusader, survived these various ordeals.
For some time the existence of the newly-formed Galactic Patrol was precarious indeed. Archibald Isaacson, head of Interstellar Spaceways, wanting a monopoly of interstellar trade, first tried bribery; then, joining forces with the machine of Senator Morgan and Boss Towne, assassination. The other Lensmen and Jill saved Samms’ life; after which Kinnison took him to the safest place on Earth—deep underground beneath the Hill; the tremendously fortified, superlatively armed fortress which had been built to be the headquarters of the Triplanetary Service.
But even there the First Lensman was attacked, this time by a fleet of space-ships in full battle array. By that time, however, the Galactic Patrol had a fleet of its own, and again the Lensmen won.
Knowing that the final and decisive struggle would of necessity be a political one, the Patrol took over the Cosmocrat party and set out to gather detailed and documentary evidence of corrupt and criminal activities of the Nationalists, the party then in power. Roderick (“Rod the Rock”) Kinnison ran for President of North America against the incumbent Witherspoon; and after a knock-down-and-drag-out political battle with Senator Morgan, the voice of the Morgan-Towne-Isaacson machine, he was elected.
And Morgan was murdered—supposedly by disgruntled gangsters; actually by his Kalonian boss, who was in turn a minion of Eddore—simply because he had failed.
North America was the most powerful continent of Earth; Earth was the mother planet, the leader and the boss. Hence, under the sponsorship of the Cosmocratic government of North America, the Galactic Council and its arm, the Galactic Patrol, came into their own. At the end of R. K. Kinnison’s term of office, at which time he resumed his interrupted duties as Port Admiral of the Patrol, there were a hundred planets adherent to Civilization. In ten years there were a thousand; in a hundred years a million; and it is sufficient characterization of the government of the Galactic Council to say that in the long history of Civilization no planet has ever withdrawn from it.
Time went on. The prodigiously long blood-lines, so carefully manipulated by Mentor of Arisia, neared culmination. Lensman Kimball Kinnison was graduated Number One of his class—as a matter of fact, although he did not know it, he was Number One of his time. And his female counterpart and complement, Clarrissa MacDougall of the red-bronze-auburn hair and the gold-flecked tawny eyes, was a nurse in the Patrol’s Hospital at Prime Base.
Shortly after graduation Kinnison was called in by Port Admiral Haynes. Space piracy had become an organized force; and, under the leadership of someone or something known as “Boskon”, had risen to such heights of power as to threaten seriously the Patrol itself. In one respect Boskonia was ahead of the Patrol; its scientists having developed a source of power vastly greater than any known to Civilization. Pirate ships, faster than the Patrol’s fastest cruisers and yet more heavily armed than its most powerful battleships, had been doing as they pleased throughout all space.
For one particular purpose the engineers of the Patrol had designed and built one ship—the Brittania. She was the fastest thing in space, but for offense she had only one weapon, the “Q-gun”. Kinnison was put in command of this vessel, with orders to: (1) Capture a late-model pirate vessel; (2) Learn her secrets of power; and (3) Transmit the information to Prime Base.
He found and took such a ship. Sergeant Peter vanBuskirk led the storming party of Valerians—men of human ancestry, but of extraordinary size, strength, and agility because of the enormous gravitation of the planet Valeria—in wiping out those of the pirate crew not killed in the battle between the two vessels.
The Brittania’s scientists secured the desired data. It could not be transmitted to Prime Base, however, as the pirates were blanketing all channels of communication. Boskonian warships were gathering for the kill, and the crippled Patrol ship could neither run nor fight. Therefore each man was given a spool of tape bearing a complete record of everything that had occurred; and, after setting up a director-by-chance to make the empty ship pursue an unpredictable course in space, and after rigging bombs to destroy her at the first touch of a ray, the Patrolmen paired off by lot and took to the lifeboats.
The erratic course of the cruiser brought her near the lifeboat manned by Kinnison and vanBuskirk, and there the pirates tried to stop her. The ensuing explosion was so violent that flying wreckage disabled practically the entire personnel of one of the attacking ships, which did not have time to go free before the crash. The two Patrolmen boarded the pirate vessel and drove her toward Earth, reaching the solar system of Velantia before the Boskonians headed them off. Again taking to their lifeboat, they landed on the planet Delgon, where they were rescued from a horde of Catlats by one Worsel—later to become Lensman Worsel of Velantia—a highly intelligent winged reptile.
By means of improvements upon Velantian thought-screens the three destroyed a group of the Overlords of Delgon, a sadistic race of monsters who had been preying upon the other peoples of the system by sheer power of mind. Worsel then accompanied the two Patrolmen to Velantia, where all the resources of the planet were devoted to the preparation of defenses against the expected attack of the Boskonians. Several other lifeboats reached Velantia, guided by Worsel’s mind working through Kinnison’s ego and Lens.
Kinnison intercepted a message from Helmuth, who “spoke for Boskone”, and traced his communicator beam, thus getting his first line on Boskone’s Grand Base. The pirates attacked Velantia, and six of their warships were captured. In these six ships, manned by Velantian crews, the Patrolmen again set out for Earth and Prime Base.
Then Kinnison’s Bergenholm, the generator of the force which makes inertialess flight possible, broke down, so that he had to land upon Trenco for repairs. Trenco, the tempestuous, billiard-ball-smooth planet where it rains forty seven feet and five inches every night and where the wind blows at over eight hundred miles per hour—Trenco, the source of thionite, the deadliest of all deadly drugs—Trenco, whose weirdly-charged ether and atmosphere so distort beams and vision that it can be policed only by such beings as the Rigellians, who possess the sense of perception instead of those of sight and hearing!
Lensman Tregonsee, of Rigel Four, then in command of the Patrol’s wandering base on Trenco, supplied Kinnison with a new Bergenholm and he again set out for Tellus.
Meanwhile Helmuth had decided that some one particular Lensman must be the cause of all his set-backs; and that the Lens, a complete enigma to all Boskonians, was in some way connected with Arisia. That planet had always been dreaded and shunned by all spacemen. No Boskonian who had ever approached that planet could be compelled, even by the certainty of death, to go near it again.
Thinking himself secure by virtue of thought-screens given him by a being from a higher-echelon planet named Ploor, Helmuth went alone to Arisia, determined to learn all about the Lens. There he was punished to the verge of insanity, but was permitted to return to his Grand Base alive and sane: “Not for your own good, but for the good of that struggling young Civilization which you oppose.”
Kinnison reached Prime Base with the all-important data. By building super-powerful battleships, called “maulers”, the Patrol gained a temporary advantage over Boskonia, but a stalemate soon ensued. Kinnison developed a plan of action whereby he hoped to locate Helmuth’s Grand Base, and asked Port Admiral Haynes for permission to follow it. In lieu of that, however, Haynes told him that he had been given his Release; that he was an Unattached Lensman—a “Gray” Lensman, popularly so-called, from the color of the plain leather uniforms they wear. Thus he earned the highest honor possible for the Galactic Patrol to give, for the Gray Lensman works under no supervision or direction whatever. He is responsible to no one; to nothing save his own conscience. He is no longer a cog in the immense machine of the Galactic Patrol: wherever he may go he is the Patrol!
In quest of a second line to Grand Base, Kinnison scouted a pirate stronghold on Aldebaran I. Its personnel, however, were not even near-human, but were Wheelmen, possessed of the sense of perception; hence Kinnison was discovered before he could accomplish anything and was very seriously wounded. He managed to get back to his speedster and to send a thought to Port Admiral Haynes, who rushed ships to his aid. In Base Hospital Surgeon-Marshal Lacy put him back together; and, during a long and quarrelsome convalescence, Nurse Clarrissa MacDougall held him together. And Lacy and Haynes connived to promote a romance between nurse and Lensman.
As soon as he could leave the hospital he went to Arisia in the hope that he might be given advanced training; something which had never before been attempted. Much to his surprise he learned that he had been expected to return for exactly such training. Getting it almost killed him, but he emerged from the ordeal vastly stronger of mind than any human being had ever been before; and possessed of a new sense as well—the sense of perception, a sense somewhat analogous to sight, but of much greater power, depth, and scope, and not dependent on light.
After trying out his new mental equipment by solving a murder mystery on Radelix, he went to Boyssia II, where he succeeded in entering an enemy base. He took over the mind of a communications officer and waited for a chance to get his second, all-important line to Grand Base. An enemy ship captured a hospital ship of the Patrol and brought it in to Boyssia. Nurse MacDougall, head nurse of the ship, working under Kinnison’s instructions, stirred up trouble which soon became mutiny. Helmuth took a hand from Grand Base, thus enabling me Lensman to get his second line.
The hospital ship, undetectable by virtue of Kinnison’s nullifier, escaped from Boyssia II and headed for Earth at full blast. Kinnison, convinced that Helmuth was really Boskone himself, found that the intersection of the two lines, and therefore the pirates’ Grand Base, lay in Star Cluster AC 257-4736, well outside the galaxy. Pausing only long enough to destroy the Wheelmen of Aldebaran I, he set out to investigate Helmuth’s headquarters. He found a stronghold impregnable to any attack the Patrol could throw against it; manned by thought-screened personnel. His sense of perception was suddenly cut off—the pirates had erected a thought-screen around their whole planet. He then returned to Prime Base, deciding en route that boring from within was the only possible way to take that stupendous fortress.
In consultation with the Port Admiral the zero hour was set, at which time the massed Grand Fleet of the Patrol was to attack Grand Base with every projector it could bring to bear.
Pursuant to his plan, Kinnison again visited Trenco, where the Patrol forces extracted for him some fifty kilograms of thionite; the noxious drug which, in microgram inhalations, makes the addict experience all the sensations of doing whatever it is that he wishes most ardently to do. The larger the dose, the more intense and exquisite the sensations—resulting, sooner or later, in a super-ecstatic death.
Thence to Helmuth’s planet; where, working through the unshielded brain of a dog, he let himself into the central dome. Here, just before the zero minute, he released his thionite into the air-stream, thus wiping out all the pirates except Helmuth himself, who, in his ultra-shielded inner bomb-proof, could not be affected.
The Patrol attacked precisely on schedule, but Helmuth would not leave his retreat, even to try to save his base. Therefore Kinnison had to go in after him. Poised in the air of the inner dome there was an enigmatic, sparkling ball of force which the Lensman could not understand, and of which he was therefore very suspicious.
But the storming of that quadruply-defended inner stronghold was exactly the task for which Kinnison’s new and ultra-cumbersome armor had been designed; so in he went. He killed Helmuth in armor-to-armor combat.
Kinnison was pretty sure that that force-ball was keyed to some particular pattern, and suspected—correctly—that it was in part an inter-galactic communicator. Hence he did not think into it until he was in the flagship with Port Admiral Haynes; until all kinds of recorders and analyzers had been set up. Then he did so—and Grand Base was blasted out of existence by duodec bombs placed by the pirates themselves and triggered by the force-ball. The detectors showed a hard, tight communications line running straight out toward the Second Galaxy. Helmuth was not Boskone.
Scouting the Second Galaxy in his super-powerful battleship Dauntless, Kinnison met and defeated a squadron of Boskonian war-vessels. He landed upon the planet Medon, whose people had been fighting a losing war against Boskone. The Medonians, electrical wizards who had already installed inertia-neutralizers and a space-drive, moved their world across inter-galactic space to our First Galaxy.
With the cessation of military activity, however, the illicit traffic in habit-forming drugs had increased tremendously, and Kinnison, deducing that Boskone was back of the drug syndicate, decided that the best way to find the real leader of the enemy was to work upward through the drug ring.
Disguised as a dock walloper, he frequented the saloon of a drug baron, and helped to raid it; but, although he secured much information, his disguise was penetrated.
He called a Conference of Scientists to devise means of building a gigantic bomb of negative matter. Then, impersonating a Tellurian secret-service agent who lent himself to the deception, he tried to investigate the stronghold of Prellin of Bronseca, one of Boskone’s regional directors. This disguise also failed and he barely managed to escape.
Ordinary disguises having proved useless, Kinnison became Wild Bill Williams; once a gentleman of Aldebaran II, now a space-rat meteor miner. He made of himself an almost bottomless drinker of the hardest beverages known to space. He became a drug fiend—a bentlam eater—discovering that his Arisian-trained mind could function at full efficiency even while his physical body was completely stupefied. He became widely known as the fastest, deadliest performer with twin DeLameters ever to strike the asteroid belts.
Through solar system after solar system he built up an unimpeachable identity as a hard-drinking, wildly-carousing, bentlam-eating, fast-shooting space-hellion; a lucky or a very skillful meteor miner; a derelict who had been an Aldebaranian gentleman once and who would be again if he should ever strike it rich.
Physically helpless in a bentlam stupor, he listened in on a zwilnik conference and learned that Edmund Crowninshield, of Tressilia III, was also a regional director of the enemy.
Boskone formed an alliance with the Overlords of Delgon, and through a hyper-spatial tube the combined forces again attacked humanity. Not simple slaughter this time, for the Overlords tortured their captives and consumed their life forces in sadistic orgies. The Conference of Scientists solved the mystery of the tube and the Dauntless counter-attacked through it, returning victorious.
Wild Bill Williams struck it rich at last. Abandoning the low dives in which he had been wont to carouse, he made an obvious effort to become again an Aldebaranian gentleman. He secured an invitation to visit Crowninshield’s resort—the Boskonian, believing that Williams was basically a booze- and drug-soaked bum, wanted to get his quarter-million credits.
In a characteristically wild debauch, Kinnison-Williams did squander a large part of his new fortune; but he learned from Crowninshield’s mind that one Jalte, a Kalonian by birth, was Boskone’s galactic director; and that Jalte had his headquarters in a star cluster just outside the First Galaxy. Pretending bitter humiliation and declaring that he would change his name and disappear, the Gray Lensman left the planet—to investigate Jalte’s base.
He learned that Boskone was not a single entity, but a council. Jalte did not know very much about it, but his superior, one Eichmil, who lived on the planet Jarnevon, in the Second Galaxy, would know who and what Boskone really was.
Therefore Kinnison and Worsel went to Jarnevon. Kinnison was captured and tortured—there was at least one Overlord there—but Worsel rescued him before his mind was damaged and brought him back with his knowledge intact. Jarnevon was peopled by the Eich, a race almost as monstrous as the Overlords. The Council of Nine which ruled the planet was in fact the long-sought Boskone.
The greatest surgeons of the age—Phillips of Posenia and Wise of Medon—demonstrated that they could grow new nervous tissue; even new limbs and organs if necessary. Again Clarrissa MacDougall nursed Kinnison back to health, and this time the love between them could not be concealed.
The Grand Fleet of the Patrol was assembled, and with Kinnison in charge of Operations, swept outward from the First Galaxy. Jalte’s planet was destroyed by means of the negasphere—the negative-matter bomb—then on to the Second Galaxy.
Jarnevon, the planet of the Eich, was destroyed by smashing it between two barren planets which had been driven there in the “free” (inertialess) condition. These planets, having exactly opposite intrinsic velocities, were inerted, one upon each side of the doomed world; and when that frightful collision was over a minor star had come into being.
Grand Fleet returned to our galaxy. Galactic Civilization rejoiced. Prime Base was a center of celebration. Kinnison, supposing that the war was over and that his problem was solved, threw off Lensman’s Load. Marrying his Cris, he declared, was the most important thing in the universe.
But how wrong he was! For even as Lensman and nurse were walking down a corridor of Base Hospital after a conference with Haynes and Lacy regarding that marriage—
For a complete treatment of matters up to this point, including the discovery of the inertialess—“free”—space-drive, the Nevian War, and the mind-to-mind meeting of Mentor of Arisia and Gharlane of Eddore, see Triplanetary, Fantasy Press, Reading, Pa.
First Lensman (Pyramid Books, 1964).
Galactic Patrol, (Pyramid Books, 1964).
Gray Lensman, (Pyramid Books, 1965).
“Stop, youth!” the voice of Mentor the Arisian thundered silently, deep within the Lensman’s brain.
He stopped convulsively, almost in mid-stride, and at the rigid, absent awareness in his eyes Nurse MacDougall’s face went white.
“This is not merely the loose and muddy thinking of which you have all too frequently been guilty in the past,” the deeply resonant, soundless voice went on,” it is simply not thinking at all. At times, Kinnison of Tellus, we almost despair of you. Think, youth, think! For know, Lensman, that upon the clarity of your thought and upon the trueness of your perception depends the whole future of your Patrol and of your Civilization; more so now by far than at any time in the past.”
“What’dy’mean, ‘think’?” Kinnison snapped back thoughtlessly. His mind was a seething turmoil, his emotions an indescribable blend of surprise, puzzlement, and incredulity.
For moments, as Mentor did not reply, the Gray Lensman’s mind raced. Incredulity . . . becoming tinged with apprehension . . . turning rapidly into rebellion.
“Oh, Kim!” Clarrissa choked. A queer enough tableau they made, these two, had any been there to see; the two uniformed figures standing there so strainedly, the nurse’s two hands gripping those of the Lensman. She, completely en rapport with him, had understood his every fleeting thought. “Oh, Kim! They can’t do that to us . . .”
“I’ll say they can’t!” Kinnison flared. “By Klono’s tungsten teeth, I won’t do it! We have a right to happiness, you and I, and we’ll . . .”
“We’ll what?” she asked, quietly. She knew what they had to face; and, strong-souled woman that she was, she was quicker to face it squarely than was he. “You were just blasting off, Kim, and so was I.”
“I suppose so,” glumly. “Why in all the nine hells of Valeria did I have to be a Lensman? Why couldn’t I have stayed a . . . ?”
“Because you are you,” the girl interrupted, gently. “Kimball Kinnison, the man I love. You couldn’t do anything else.” Chin up, she was fighting gamely. “And if I rate Lensman’s Mate I can’t be a sissy, either. It won’t last forever, Kim. Just a little longer to wait, that’s all.”
Eyes, steel-gray now, stared down into eyes of tawny, gold-flecked bronze. “QX, Cris? Really QX?” What a world of meaning there was in that cryptic question!
“Really, Kim.” She met his stare unfalteringly. If not entirely unafraid, at least with whole-hearted determination. “On the beam and on the green, Gray Lensman, all the way. Every long, last millimeter. There, wherever it is—to the very end of whatever road it has to be—and back again. Until it’s over. I’ll be here. Or somewhere, Kim. Waiting.”
The man shook himself and breathed deep. Hands dropped apart—both knew consciously as well as subconsciously that the less of physical demonstration the better for two such natures as theirs—and Kimball Kinnison, Unattached Lensman, came to grips with his problem.
He began really to think; to think with the full power of his prodigious mind; and as he did so he began to see what the Arisian could have—what he must have—meant. He, Kinnison, had gummed up the works. He had made a colossal blunder in the Boskonian campaign. He knew that Mentor, although silent, was still en rapport with him; and as he coldly, grimly, thought the thing through to its logical conclusion he knew, with a dull, sick certainty, what was coming next. It came:
“Ah, you perceive at last some portion of the truth. You see that your confused, superficial thinking has brought about almost irreparable harm. I grant that, in specimens so young of such a youthful race, emotion has its place and its function; but I tell you now in all solemnity that for you the time of emotional relaxation has not yet come. Think, youth—THINK!” and the ancient Arisian snapped the telepathic line.
As one, without a word, nurse and Lensman retraced their way to the room they had left so shortly before. Port Admiral Haynes and Surgeon-Marshal Lacy still sat upon the nurse’s davenport, scheming roseate schemes having to do with the wedding they had so subtly engineered.
“Back so soon? Forget something, MacDougall?” Lacy asked, amiably. Then, as both men noticed the couple’s utterly untranslatable expression:
“What happened? Break it out, Kim!” Haynes commanded.
“Plenty, chief,” Kinnison answered, quietly. “Mentor stopped us before we got to the elevator. Told me I’d put my foot in it up to my neck on that Boskonian thing. That instead of being all buttoned up, my fool blundering has put us farther back than we were when we started.”
“Put us back!”
It was an entirely unpremeditated, unconscious duet. The two old officers were completely dumbfounded. Arisians never had come out of their shells, they never would. Infinitely less disturbing would have been the authentic tidings that a brick house had fallen upstairs. They had nursed this romance along so carefully, had timed it so exactly, and now it had gone p-f-f-f-t—it had been taken out of their hands entirely. That thought flashed through their minds first. Then, as catastrophe follows lightning’s flash, the real knowledge exploded within their consciousnesses that, in some unguessable fashion or other, the whole Boskonian campaign had gone p-f-f-f-t, too.
Port Admiral Haynes, master tactician, reviewed in his keen strategist’s mind every phase of the recent struggle, without being able to find a flaw in it.
“There wasn’t a loop-hole anywhere,” he said aloud. “Where do they figure we slipped up?”
“We didn’t slip—I slipped,” Kinnison stated, flatly. “When we took Bominger—the fat Chief Zwilnik of Radelix, you know—I took a bop on the head to learn that Boskone had more than one string per bow. Observers, independent, for every station at all important. I learned that fact thoroughly then, I thought. At least, we figured on Boskone’s having lines of communication past, not through, his Regional Directors, such as Prellin of Bronseca. Since I changed my line of attack at that point, I did not need to consider whether or not Crowninshield of Tressilia III was by-passed in the same way; and when I had worked my way up through Jalte in his star-cluster to Boskone itself, on Jarnevon, I had forgotten the concept completely. Its possibility didn’t even occur to me. That’s where I fell down.”
“I still don’t see it!” Haynes protested. “Boskone was the top!”
“Yeah?” Kinnison asked, pointedly. “That’s what I thought—but prove it.”
“Oh.” The Port Admiral hesitated. “We had no reason to think otherwise . . . looked at in that light, this intervention would seem to be conclusive . . . but before that there was no . . .”
“There were so,” Kinnison contradicted,” but I didn’t see them then. That’s where my brain went sour; I should have seen them. Little things, mostly, but significant. Not so much positive as negative indices. Above all, there was nothing whatever to indicate that Boskone actually was the top. That idea was the product of my own wishful and very low-grade thinking, with no basis or foundation in fact or in theory. And now,” he concluded bitterly,” because my skull is so thick that it takes an idea a hundred years to filter through it—because a sheer, bare fact has to be driven into my brain with a Valerian maul before I can grasp it—we’re sunk without a trace.”
“Wait a minute, Kim, we aren’t sunk yet,” the girl advised, shrewdly. “The fact that, for the first time in history, an Arisian has taken the initiative in communicating with a human being, means something big—really big. Mentor does not indulge in what he calls ‘loose and muddy’ thinking. Every part of every thought he sent carries meaning—plenty of meaning.”
“What do you mean?” As one, the three men asked substantially the same question; Kinnison, by virtue of his faster reactions, being perhaps half a syllable in the lead.
“I don’t know, exactly,” Clarrissa admitted. “I’ve got only an ordinary mind, and it’s firing on half its jets or less right now. But I do know that his thought was ‘almost’ irreparable, and that he meant precisely that—nothing else. If it had been wholly irreparable he not only would have expressed his thought that way, but he would have stopped you before you destroyed Jarnevon. I know that. Apparently it would have become wholly irreparable if we had got . . .” she faltered, blushing, then went on, “. . . if we had kept on about our own personal affairs. That’s why he stopped us. We can win out, he meant, if you keep on working. It’s your oyster, Kim . . . it’s up to you to open it. You can do it, too—I just know you can.”
“But why didn’t he stop you before you fellows smashed Boskone?” Lacy demanded, exasperated.
“I hope you’re right, Cris—it sounds reasonable,” Kinnison said, thoughtfully. Then, to Lacy:
“That’s an easy one to answer, doctor. Because knowledge that comes the hard way is knowledge that really sticks with you. If he had drawn me a diagram before, it wouldn’t have helped, the next time I get into a jam. This way it will. I’ve got to learn how to think, if it cracks my skull.
“Really think,” he went on, more to himself than to the other three. “To think so it counts.”
“Well, what are we going to do about it?” Haynes was—he had to be, to get where he was and to stay where he was—quick on the uptake. “Or, more specifically, what are you going to do and what am I going to do?”
“What I am going to do will take a bit of mulling over,” Kinnison replied, slowly. “Find some more leads and trace them up, is the best that occurs to me right now. Your job and procedure are rather clearer. You remarked out in space that Boskone knew that Tellus was very strongly held. That statement, of course, is no longer true.”
“Huh?” Haynes half-pulled himself up from the davenport, then sank back. “Why?” he demanded.
“Because we used the negasphere—a negative-matter bomb of planetary anti-mass—to wipe out Jalte’s planet, and because we smashed Jarnevon between two colliding planets,” the Lensman explained, concisely. “Can the present defenses of Tellus cope with either one of those offensives?”
“I’m afraid not . . . no,” the Port Admiral admitted. “But . . .”
“We can admit no ‘buts’, admiral,” Kinnison declared, with grim finality. “Having used those weapons, we must assume that the Boskonian scientists—we’ll have to keep on calling them ‘Boskonians’, I suppose, until we find a truer name—had recorders on them and have now duplicated them. Tellus must be made safe against anything we have ever used; against, as well, everything that, by the wildest stretch of the imagination, we can conceive of the enemy using.”
“You’re right . . . I can see that,” Haynes nodded.
“We’ve been underestimating them right along,” Kinnison went on. “At first we thought they were merely organized outlaws and pirates. Then, when it was forced upon us that they could match us—overmatch us in some things—we still wouldn’t admit that they must be as large and as wide-spread as we are—galactic in scope. We know now that they were wider-spread than we are. Intergalactic. They penetrated into our galaxy, riddled it, before we knew that theirs was inhabited or inhabitable. Right?”
“To a hair, although I never thought of it in exactly that way before.”
“None of us have—mental cowardice. And they have the advantage,” Kinnison continued, inexorably,” in knowing that our Prime Base is on Tellus; whereas, if Jarnevon was not in fact theirs, we have no idea whatever where it is. And another point. Was that fleet of theirs a planetary outfit?”
“Well, Jarnevon was a big planet, and the Eich were a mighty warlike race.”
“Quibbling a bit, aren’t you, chief?”
“Uh-huh,” Haynes admitted, somewhat sheepishly. “The probability is very great that no one planet either built or maintained that fleet.”
“And that leads us to expect what?”
“Counter-attack. In force. Everything they can shove this way. However, they’ve got to rebuild their fleet, besides designing and building the new stuff. We’ll have time enough, probably, if we get started right now.”
“But, after all, Jarnevon may have been their vital spot,” Lacy submitted.
“Even if that were true, which it probably isn’t,” the now thoroughly convinced Port Admiral sided in with Kinnison, “it doesn’t mean a thing, Sawbones. If they should blow Tellus out of space it wouldn’t kill the Galactic Patrol. It would hurt it, of course, but it wouldn’t cripple it seriously. The other planets of Civilization could, and certainly would, go ahead with it.”
“My thought exactly,” from Kinnison. “I check you to the proverbial nineteen decimals.”
“Well, there’s a lot to do and I’d better be getting at it.” Haynes and Lacy got up to go. “See you in my office when convenient?”
“I’ll be there as soon as I tell Clarrissa good-bye.”
At about the same time that Haynes and Lacy went to Nurse MacDougall’s room, Worsel the Velantian arrowed downward through the atmosphere toward a certain flat roof. Leather wings shot out with a snap and in a blast of wind—Velantians can stand eleven Tellurian gravities—he came in his customary appalling landing and dived unconcernedly down a nearby shaft. Into a corridor, along which he wriggled blithely to the office of his old friend, Master Technician LaVerne Thorndyke.
“Verne, I have been thinking,” he announced, as he coiled all but about six feet of his sinuous length into a tight spiral upon the rug and thrust out half a dozen weirdly stalked eyes.
“That’s nothing new,” Thorndyke countered. No human mind can sympathize with or even remotely understand the Velantian passion for solid weeks of intense, uninterrupted concentration upon a single thought. “What about this time? The whichness of the why?”
“That is the trouble with you Tellurians,” Worsel grumbled. “Not only do you not know how to think, but you . . .”
“Hold on!” Thorndyke interrupted, unimpressed. “If you’ve got anything to say, old snake, why not say it? Why circumnavigate total space before you get to the point?”
“I have been thinking about thought . . .”
“So what?” the technician derided. “That’s even worse. That’s a logarithmic spiral if there ever was one.”
“Thought—and Kinnison,” Worsel declared, with finality.
“Kinnison? Oh—that’s different I’m interested—very much so. Go ahead.”
“And his weapons. His DeLameters, you know.”
“No, I don’t know, and you know I don’t know. What about them?”
“They are so . . . so . . . so obvious.” The Velantian finally found the exact thought he wanted. “So big, and so clumsy, and so obtrusive. So inefficient, so wasteful of power. No subtlety—no finesse.”
“But that’s far and away the best hand-weapon that has ever been developed!” Thorndyke protested.
“True. Nevertheless, a millionth of that power, properly applied, could be at least a million times as deadly.”
“How?” The Tellurian, although shocked, was dubious.
“I have reasoned it out that thought, in any organic being, is and must be connected with one definite organic compound—this one,” the Velantian explained didactically, the while there appeared within the technician’s mind the space formula of an incredibly complex molecule; a formula which seemed to fill not only his mind, but the entire room as well. “You will note that it is a large molecule, one of very high molecular weight. Thus it is comparatively unstable. A vibration at the resonant frequency of any one of its component groups would break it down, and thought would therefore cease.”
It took perhaps a minute for the full import of the ghastly thing to sink into Thorndyke’s mind. Then, every fiber of him flinching from the idea, he began to protest.
“But he doesn’t need it, Worsel. He’s got a mind already that can . . .”
“It takes much mental force to kill,” Worsel broke in equably. “By that method one can slay only a few at a time, and it is exhausting work. My proposed method would require only a minute fraction of a watt of power and scarcely any mental force at all.”
“And it would kill—it would have to. That reaction could not be made reversible.”
“Certainly,” Worsel concurred. “I never could understand why you soft-headed, soft-hearted, soft-bodied human beings are so reluctant to kill your enemies. What good does it do merely to stun them?”
“QX—skip it.” Thorndyke knew that it was hopeless to attempt to convince the utterly unhuman Worsel of the fundamental rightness of human ethics. “But nothing has ever been designed small enough to project such a wave.”
“I realize that. Its design and construction will challenge your inventive ability. Its smallness is its great advantage. He could wear it in a ring, in the bracelet of his Lens; or, since it will be actuated, controlled, and directed by thought, even imbedded surgically beneath his skin.”
“How about backfires?” Thorndyke actually shuddered. “Projection . . . shielding . . .”
“Details—mere details,” Worsel assured him, with an airy flip of his scimitared tail.
“That’s nothing to be running around loose,” the man argued. “Nobody could tell what killed them, could they?”
“Probably not.” Worsel pondered briefly. “No. Certainly not. The substance must decompose in the instant of death, from any cause. And it would not be ‘loose’, as you think; it should not become known, even. You would make only the one, of course.”
“Oh. You don’t want one, then?”
“Certainly not. What do I need of such a thing? Kinnison only—and only for his protection.”
“Kim can handle it . . . but he’s the only being this side of Arisia that I’d trust with one . . . QX, give me the dope on the frequency, wave-form, and so on, and I’ll see what I can do.”
Invasion Via Tube
Port Admiral Haynes, newly chosen President of the Galactic Council and by virtue of his double office the most powerful entity of Civilization, set instantly into motion the vast machinery which would make Tellus safe against any possible attack. He first called together his Board of Strategy; the same keen-minded tacticians who had helped him plan the invasion of the Second Galaxy and the eminently successful attack upon Jarnevon. Should Grand Fleet, many of whose component fleets had not yet reached their home planets, be recalled? Not yet—lots of time for that. Let them go home for a while first. The enemy would have to rebuild before they could attack, and there were many more pressing matters.
Scouting was most important. The planets near the galactic rim could take care of that. In fact, they should concentrate upon it, to the exclusion of everything else of warfare’s activities. Every approach to the galaxy—yes, the space between the two galaxies and as far into the Second Galaxy as it was safe to penetrate—should be covered as with a blanket. That way, they could not be surprised.
Kinnison, when he heard that, became vaguely uneasy. He did not really have a thought; it was as though he should have had one, but didn’t. Deep down, far off, just barely above the threshold of perception an indefinite, formless something obtruded itself upon his consciousness. Tug and haul at it as he would, he could not get the drift. There was something he ought to be thinking of, but what in all the iridescent hells from Vandemar to Alsakan was it? So, instead of flitting about upon his declared business, he stuck around; helping the General Staff—and thinking.
And Defense Plan BBT went from the idea men to the draftsmen, then to the engineers. This was to be, primarily, a war of planets. Ships could battle ships, fleets fleets; but, postulating good tactics upon the other side, no fleet, however armed and powered, could stop a planet. That had been proved. A planet had a mass of the order of magnitude of one times ten to the twenty fifth kilograms, and an intrinsic velocity of somewhere around forty kilometers per second. A hundred probably, relative to Tellus, if the planet came from the Second Galaxy. Kinetic energy, roughly, about five times ten to the forty first ergs. No, that was nothing for any possible fleet to cope with.
Also, the attacking planets would of course be inertialess until the last strategic instant. Very well, they must be made inert prematurely, when the Patrol wanted them that way, not the enemy. How? HOW? The Bergenholms upon those planets would be guarded with everything the Boskonians had.
The answer to that question, as worked out by the engineers, was something they called a “super-mauler”. It was gigantic, cumbersome, and slow; but little faster, indeed, than a free planet. It was like Helmuth’s fortresses of space, only larger. It was like the special defense cruisers of the Patrol, except that its screens were vastly heavier. It was like a regular mauler, except that it had only one weapon. All of its incomprehensible mass was devoted to one thing—power! It could defend itself; and, if it could get close enough to its objective, it could do plenty of damage—its dreadful primary was the first weapon ever developed capable of cutting a Q-type helix squarely in two.
And in various solar systems, uninhabitable and worthless planets were converted into projectiles. Dozens of them, possessing widely varying masses and intrinsic velocities. One by one they flitted away from their parent suns and took up positions—not too far away from our Solar System, but not too near.
And finally Kinnison, worrying at his tantalizing thought as a dog worries a bone, crystallized it. Prosaically enough, it was an extremely short and flamboyantly waggling pink skirt which catalyzed the reaction; which acted as the seed of the crystallization. Pink—a Chickladorian—Xylpic the Navigator—Overlords of Delgon. Thus flashed the train of thought, culminating in:
“Oh, so that’s it!” he exclaimed, aloud. “A TUBE—just as sure as hell’s a mantrap!” He whistled raucously at a taxi, took the wheel himself, and broke—or at least bent—most of the city’s traffic ordinances in getting to Haynes’ office.
The Port Admiral was always busy, but he was never too busy to see Gray Lensman Kinnison; especially when the latter demanded the right of way in such terms as he used then.
“The whole defense set-up is screwy,” Kinnison declared. “I thought I was overlooking a bet, but I couldn’t locate it. Why should they fight their way through inter-galactic space and through sixty thousand parsecs of planet-infested galaxy when they don’t have to?” he demanded. “Think of the length of the supply line, with our bases placed to cut it in a hundred places, no matter how they route it. It doesn’t make sense. They’d have to out-weigh us in an almost impossibly high ratio, unless they have an improbably superior armament.”
“Check.” The old warrior was entirely unperturbed. “Surprised you didn’t see that long ago. We did. I’ll be very much surprised if they attack at all.”
“But you’re going ahead with all this just as though . . .”
“Certainly. Something may happen, and we can’t be caught off guard. Besides, it’s good training for the boys. Helps morale, no end.” Haynes’ nonchalant air disappeared and he studied the younger man keenly for moments. “But Mentor’s warning certainly meant something, and you said ‘when they don’t have to’. But even if they go clear around the galaxy to the other side—an impossibly long haul—we’re covered. Tellus is far enough in so they can’t possibly take us by surprise. So—spill it!”
“How about a hyper-spatial tube? They know exactly where we are, you know.”
“Um . . . m . . . m.” Haynes was taken aback. “Never thought of it . . . possible, distinctly a possibility. A duodec bomb, say, just far enough underground . . .”
“Nobody else thought of it, either, until just now,” Kinnison broke in. “However, I’m not afraid of duodec—don’t see how they could control it accurately enough at this three-dimensional distance. Too deep, it wouldn’t explode at all. What I don’t like to think of, though, is a negasphere. Or a planet, perhaps.”
“Ideas? Suggestions?” the admiral snapped.
“No—I don’t know anything about that stuff. How about putting our Lenses on Cardynge?”
“That’s a thought!” and in seconds they were in communication with Sir Austin Cardynge, Earth’s mightiest mathematical brain.
“Kinnison, how many times must I tell you that I am not to be interrupted?” the aged scientist’s thought was a crackle of fury. “How can I concentrate upon vital problems if every young whippersnapper in the System is to perpetrate such abominable, such outrageous intrusions . . .”
“Hold it, Sir Austin—hold everything!” Kinnison soothed. “I’m sorry. I wouldn’t have intruded if it hadn’t been a matter of life or death. But it would be worse intrusion, wouldn’t it, if the Boskonians sent a planet about the size of Jupiter—or a negasphere—through one of their extra-dimensional vortices into your study? That’s exactly what they’re figuring on doing.”
“What-what-what?” Cardynge snapped, like a string of firecrackers. He quieted down, then, and thought. And Sir Austin Cardynge could think, upon occasion and when he felt so inclined; could think in the abstruse symbology of pure mathematics with a cogency equaled by few minds in the universe. Both Lensmen perceived those thoughts, but neither could understand or follow them. No mind not a member of the Conference of Scientists could have done so.
“They can’t!” of a sudden the mathematician cackled, gleefully disdainful. “Impossible—quite definitely impossible. There are laws governing such things, Kinnison, my impetuous and ignorant young friend. The terminus of the necessary hyper-tube could not be established within such proximity to the mass of the sun. This is shown by . . .”
“Never mind the proof—the fact is enough,” Kinnison interposed, hastily. “How close to the sun could it be established?”
“I couldn’t say, off-hand,” came the cautiously scientific reply. “More than one astronomical unit, certainly, but the computation of the exact distance would require some little time. It would, however, be an interesting, if minor, problem. I will solve it for you, if you like, and advise you of the exact minimum distance.”
“Please do so—thanks a million,” and the Lensmen disconnected.
“The conceited old goat!” Haynes snorted. “I’d like to smack him down!”
“I’ve felt like it more than once, but it wouldn’t do any good. You’ve got to handle him with gloves—besides, you can afford to make concessions to a man with a brain like that.”
“I suppose so. But how about that infernal tube? Knowing that it can not be set up within or very near Tellus helps some, but not enough. We’ve got to know where it is—if it is. Can you detect it?”
“Yes. That is, I can’t, but the specialists can, I think. Wise of Medon would know more about that than anyone else. Why wouldn’t it be a thought to call him over here?”
“It would that,” and it was done.
Wise of Medon and his staff came, conferred, and departed.
Sir Austin Cardynge solved his minor problem, reporting that the minimum distance from the sun’s center to the postulated center of the terminus of the vortex—actually, the geometrical origin of the three-dimensional figure which was the hyper-plane of intersection—was one point two six four seven, approximately, astronomical units; the last figure being tentative and somewhat uncertain because of the rapidly-moving masses of Jupiter . . .
Haynes cut the tape—he had no time for an hour of mathematical dissertation—and called in his execs.
“Full-globe detection of hyper-spatial tubes,” he directed, crisply. “Kinnison will tell you exactly what he wants. Hipe!”
Shortly thereafter, five-man speedsters, plentifully equipped with new instruments, flashed at full drive along courses carefully calculated to give the greatest possible coverage in the shortest possible time.
Unobtrusively the loose planets closed in; close enough so that at least three or four of them could reach any designated point in one minute or less. The outlying units of Grand Fleet, too, were pulled in. That fleet was not actually mobilized—yet—but every vessel in it was kept in readiness for instant action.
“No trace,” came the report from the Medonian surveyors, and Haynes looked at Kinnison, quizzically.