They landed about half an hour later, and Arcot simply went into the cottage, and slept⁠—with the aid of a light soporific. Morey and Wade directed the disposition of the machines, but Dr. Arcot senior really finished the job. The machines would be installed in less than ten hours, for the complete plans Arcot and Morey had made, with the modern machines for translating plans to metal and lux had made the actual construction quick, while the large crew of men employed required but little time.

When Arcot and his friends awoke, the machines were ready.

“Well, Dad, you have the plans for all the machines we have. I expect to be back in two weeks. In the meantime you might set up a number of ships with very heavy relux walls, walls that will stand rays for a while, and equip them with the rudimentary artificial matter machines you have, and go ahead with the work on the calculations. Thett will land other machines here⁠—or on the moon. Probably they will attempt to ray the whole Earth. They won’t have concentration of ray enough to move the planet, or to seriously chill it. But life is a different matter⁠—it’s sensitive. It is quite apt to let go even under a mild ray. I think that a few exceedingly powerful ray screen stations might be set up, and the Heavyside Layer used to transmit the vibrations entirely around the Earth. You can see the idea easily enough. If you think it worthwhile⁠—or better, if you can convince the thickheaded politicians of the Interplanatary Defense Commission that it is⁠—

“Beyond that, I’ll see you in about two weeks,” Arcot turned, and entered the ship.

“I’ll line up for Sirius and let go.” Arcot turned the ship now, for Earth was well behind, and lined it on Sirius, bright in the utter black of space. He pushed his control to “½,” and the space closed in about them. Arcot held it there while the chronometer moved through six and a half seconds. Sirius was at a distance almost planetary in its magnitude from them. Controlling directly now, he brought the ship closer, till a planet loomed large before them⁠—a large world, its rocky continents, its rolling oceans and jagged valleys white under the enormous energy-flood from the gigantic star of Sirius, twenty-six times more brilliant than the sun they had left.

“But, Arcot, hadn’t you better take it easy?” Wade asked. “They might take us for enemies⁠—which wouldn’t be so good.”

“I suppose it would be wise to go slowly. I had planned, as a matter of fact, on looking up a Thessian ship, taking a chance on a fight, and proving our friendship,” replied Arcot.

Morey saw Arcot’s logic⁠—then suddenly burst into laughter. “Absolutely⁠—attack a Thessian. But since we don’t see any around now, we’ll have to make one!”

Wade was completely mystified, and gave Morey a doubtful, sarcastic look. “Sounds like a good idea, only I wonder if this constant terrific mental strain⁠—”

“Come along and find out!” Arcot threw the ship into artificial space for safety, holding it motionless. The planet, invisible to them, retreated from their motionless ship.

In the artificial matter control room, Arcot set to work, and developed a very considerable string of forms on his board, the equations of their formations requiring all the available formation controls.

“Now,” said Arcot at last, “you stay here, Morey, and when I give the signal, create the thing back of the nearest range of hills, raise it, and send it toward us.”

At once they returned to normal space, and darted down toward the now distant planet. They landed again near another city, one which was situated close to a range of mountains ideally suited to their purposes. They settled, while Zezdon Afthen sent out the message of friendship. He finally succeeded in getting some reaction, a sensation of scepticism, of distrust⁠—but of interest. They needed friends, and only hoped that these were friends. Arcot pushed a little signal button, and Morey began his share of the play. From behind a low hill a slim, pointed form emerged, a beautifully streamlined ship, the lines obviously those of a Thessian, the windows streaming light, while the visible ionization about the hull proclaimed its molecular ray screen. Instantly Zezdon Afthen, who had carefully refrained from learning the full nature of their plans, felt the intense emotion of the discovery, called out to the others, while his thoughts were flashed to the Sirians below.

From the attacking ship, a body shot with tremendous speed, it flashed by, barely missing the Ancient Mariner, and buried itself in the hillside beyond. With a terrific explosion it burst, throwing the soil about in a tremendous crater. The Ancient Mariner spun about, turned toward the other ship, and let loose a tremendous bombardment of molecular and cosmic rays. A great flame of ionized air was the only result. A new ray reached out from the other ship, a fan-like spreading ray. It struck the Ancient Mariner, and did not harm it, though the hillside behind was suddenly withered and blackened, then smoking as the temperature rose.

Another projectile was launched from the attacking ship, and exploded terrifically but a few hundred feet from the Ancient Mariner. The terrestrial ship rocked and swayed, and even the distant attacker rocked under the explosion.

A projectile, glowing white, leaped from the Earthship. It darted toward the enemy ship, seemed to barely touch it, then burst into terrific flames that spread, eating the whole ship, spreading glowing flame. In an instant the blazing ship slumped, started to fall, then seemingly evaporated, and before it touched the ground, was completely gone.

The relief in Zezdon Afthen’s mind was genuine, and it was easily obvious to the Sirians that the winning ship was friendly, for, with all its frightful armament, it had downed a ship obviously of Thett. Though not exactly like the others, it had the all too familiar lines.

“They welcome us now,” said Zezdon Afthen’s mental message to his companions.

“Tell them we’ll be there⁠—with bells on or thoughts to that effect,” grinned Arcot. Morey had appeared in the doorway, smiling broadly.

“How was the show?” he asked.

“Terrible⁠—Why didn’t you let it fall, and break open?”

“What would happen to the wreckage as we moved?” he asked sarcastically. “I thought it was a darned good demonstration.”

“It was convincing,” laughed Arcot. “They want us now!”

The great ship circled down, landing gently just outside of the city. Almost at once one of the slim, long Sirian ships shot up from a courtyard of the city, racing out and toward the Ancient Mariner. Scarcely a moment later half a hundred other ships from all over the city were on the way. Sirians seemed quite humanly curious.

“We’ll have to be careful here. We have to use altitude suits, as the Negrians breathe an atmosphere of hydrogen instead of oxygen,” explained Arcot rapidly to the Ortolian and the Talsonian who were to accompany him. “We will all want to go, and so, although this suit will be decidedly uncomfortable for you and Zezdon Afthen and Stel Felso Theu, I think it wise that you all wear it. It will be much more convincing to the Sirians if we show that people of no less than three worlds are already interested in this alliance.”

A considerable number of Sirian ships had landed about them, and the tall, slim men of the 100,000,000-year-old race were watching them with their great brown eyes from a slight distance, for a cordon of men with evident authority were holding them back.

“Who are you, friends?” asked a single man who stood within the cordon. His strongly built frame, a great high brow and broad head designated him a leader at a glance.

Despite the vast change the light of Sirius had wrought, Arcot recognized in him the original photographs he had seen from the planet old Sol had captured as Negra had swept past. So it was he who answered the thought-question.

“I am of the third planet of the sun your people sought as a home a few years back in time, Taj Lamor. Because you did not understand us, and because we did not understand you, we fought. We found the records of your race on the planet our sun captured, and we know now what you most wanted. Had we been able to communicate with you then, as we can now, our people would never have fought.

“At last you have reached that sun you so needed, thanks, no doubt, to the genius that was with you.

“But now, in your newfound peace comes a new enemy, one who wants not only yours, but every sun in this galaxy.

“You have tried your ray of death, the anticatalyst? And it but sputters harmlessly on their screens? You have been swept by their terrible rays that fuse mountains, then hurl them into space? Our world and the world of each of these men is similarly menaced.

“See, here is Zezdon Afthen, from Ortol, far on the other side of the galaxy, and here is Stel Felso Theu, of Talso. Their worlds, as well as yours and mine have been attacked by this menace from a distant galaxy, from Thett, of the sun Ansteck, of the galaxy Venone.

“Now we must form an alliance of far wider scope than ever has existed before.

“To you we have come, for your race is older by far than any race of our alliance. Your science has advanced far higher. What weapons have you discovered among those ancient documents, Taj Lamor? We have one weapon that you no doubt need; a screen, which will stop the rays of the molecule director apparatus. What have you to offer us?”

“We need your help badly,” was the reply. “We have been able to keep them from landing on our planets, but it has cost us much. They have landed on a planet we brought with us when we left the black star, but it is not inhabited. From this as a base they have made attacks on us. We tried throwing the planet into Sirius. They merely left the planet hurriedly as it fell toward the star, and broke free from our attractive ray.”

“The attractive ray! Then you have uncovered that secret?” asked Arcot eagerly.

Taj Lamor had some of his men bring an attractive ray projector to the ship. The apparatus turned out to be nearly a thousand tons in weight, and some twenty feet long, ten feet wide and approximately twelve feet high. It was impossible to load the huge machine into the Ancient Mariner, so an examination was conducted on the spot, with instruments whose reading was intelligible to the terrestrians operating it. Its principal fault lay in the fact that, despite the enormous energy of matter given out, the machine still gobbled up such titanic amounts of energy before the attraction could be established, that a very large machine was needed. The ray, so long as maintained, used no more power than was actually expended in moving the planet or other body. The power used while the ray was in action corresponded to the work done, but a tremendous power was needed to establish it, and this power could never be recovered.

Further, no reaction was produced in the machine, no matter what body it was turned upon. In swinging a planet then, a spaceship could be used as the base for the reaction was not exerted on the machine.

From such meager clues, and the instruments, Arcot got the hints that led him to the solution of the problem, for the documents, from which Taj Lamor had gotten his information, had been disastrously wiped out, when one of their cities fell, and Taj Lamor had but copied the machines of his ancestors.

The immense value of these machines was evident, for they would permit Arcot to do many things that would have been impossible without them. The explanation as he gave it to Stel Felso Theu, foretold the uses to which it might be put.

“As a weapon,” he pointed out, “its most serious fault is that it takes a considerable time to pump in the power needed. It has here, practically the same fault which the artificial matter had on your world.

“As I see it, the ray is actually a directed gravitational field.

“Now here is one thing that makes it more interesting, and more useful. It seems to defy the laws of mechanics. It acts, but there is no apparent reaction! A small ship can swing a world! Remember, the field that generates the attraction is an integral, interwoven part of the mesh of Space. It is created by something outside of itself. Like the artificial matter, it exists there, and there alone. There is reaction on that attractive field, but it is created in Space at that given point, and the reaction is taken by all Space. No wonder it won’t move.

“The work considerations are fairly obvious. The field is built up. That takes energy. The beam is focused on a body, the body falls nearer, and immediately absorbs the energy in acquiring a velocity. The machine replenishes the energy, because it is set to maintain a certain energy-level in the field. Therefore the machine must do the work of moving the ship, just as though it were a driving apparatus. After the beam has done what is wanted, it may be shut off, and the energy in the field is now available for any work needed. It may be drained back into power coils such as ours for instance, or one might just spend that last iota of power on the job.

“As a driving device it might be set to pull the entire ship along, and still not have any acceleration detectable to the occupants.

“I think we’ll use that on our big ship,” he finished, his eyes far away on some future idea.

“Natural gravity of natural matter is, luckily, not selective. It goes in all directions. But this artificial gravity is controlled so that it does not spread, and the result is that the mass-attraction of a mass of matter does not fall off as the inverse square of the distance, but like the ray from the parallel beam spotlight, continues undiminished.

“Actually, they create an exceedingly intense, exceedingly small gravitational field, and direct it in a straight line. The building up of this field is what takes time.”

Zezdon Afthen, who had a question which was troubling him, looked anxiously at his friends. Finally he broke into their thoughts which had been too cryptically abbreviated for him to follow, like the work of a professor solving some problem, his steps taken so swiftly and so abbreviated that their following was impossible to his students.

“But how is it that the machine is not moved when exerting such force on some other body?” he asked at last.

“Oh, the ray concentrates the gravitational force, and projects it. The actual strain is in space. It is space that takes the strain, but in normal cases, unless the masses are very large, no considerable acceleration is produced over any great distance. That law operates in the case of the pulled body; it pulls the gravitational field as a normal field, the inverse-square law applying.

“But on the other hand, the gravity-beam pulls with a constant force.

“It might be likened to the light-pressure effects of a spotlight and a star. The spotlight would push the sun with a force that was constant; no matter what the distance, while the light pressure of the sun would vary as the inverse square of the distance.

“But remember, it is not a body that pulls another body, but a gravitational field that pulls another. The field is in space. A normal field is necessarily attached to the matter that it represents, or that represents it as you prefer, but this artificial field has no connection in the form of matter. It is a product of a machine, and exists only as a strain in space. To move it you must move all space, since it, like artificial matter, exists only where it is created in space.

“Do you see now why the law of action and reaction is apparently flouted? Actually the reaction is taken up by space.”

Arcot rose, and stretched. Morey and Wade had been looking at him, and now they asked when he intended leaving for the intergalactic spaces.

“Now, I think. We have a lot of work to do. At present we have the mathematics of the artificial matter to carry on, and the math of the artificial gravity to develop. We gave the Sirians all we had on artificial matter and on moleculars.

“They gave us all they had⁠—which wasn’t much beyond the artificial gravity, and a lot of work. At any rate, let’s go!”