The Ancient Mariner stirred, and rose lightly from its place beside the city. Visible over the horizon now, and coming at terrific speed, was a fleet of seven Thessian ships.

They must do their best to protect that city. Arcot turned the ship and called his decision to Morey. As he did so, one of the Thessian ships suddenly swerved violently, and plunged downward. The attractive ray was in action. It struck the rocks of Neptune, and plunged in. Half buried, it stopped. Stopped⁠—and backed out! The tremendously strong relux and lux had withstood the blow, and these strange, inhumanly powerful men had not been injured!

Two of the ships darted toward him simultaneously, flashing out molecular rays. The rays glanced off of Arcot’s screen already in place, but the tubes were showing almost at once that this could not be sustained. It was evident that the swiftly approaching ships would soon break down the shields. Arcot turned the ship and drove to one side. His eyes went dead.

He cut into artificial space, waited ten seconds, then cut back. The scene before him changed. It seemed a different world. The light was very dim, so dim he could scarcely see the images on the view plate. They were so deep a red that they were very near to black. Even Sirius, the flaming blue-white star was red. The darting Thessian ships were moving quite slowly now, moving at a speed that was easy to follow. Their rays, before ionizing the air brilliantly red, were now dark. The instruments showed that the screen was no longer encountering serious loading, and, further, the load was coming in at a frequency harmlessly far down the radio spectrum!

Arcot stared in wide-eyed amazement. What could the Thessians have done that caused this change? He reached up and increased the amplification on the eyes to a point that made even the dim illumination sufficient. Wade was staring in amazement, too.

“Lord! What an idea!” suddenly exclaimed Arcot.

Wade was staring at Arcot in equally great amazement. “What’s the secret?” he asked.

“Time, man, time! We are in an advanced time plane, living faster than they, our atoms of fuel are destroyed faster, our second is shorter. In one second of our earthly time our generators do the same amount of work as usual, but they do many, many times more work in one second, of the time we were in! We are under the advanced time field.”

Wade could see it all. The red light⁠—normal light seen through eyes enormously speeded in all perceptions. The change, the dimness⁠—dim because less energy reached them per second of their time. Then came this blue light, as they reached the X-ray spectrum of Sirius, and saw X-rays as normal light⁠—shielded, tremendously shielded by the atmosphere, but the enormous amplification of the eyes made up for it.

The remaining Thessians seemed to get the idea simultaneously, and started for Arcot in his own time field. The Thessian ship appeared to be actually leaping at him. Suddenly, his speed increased inconceivably. Simultaneously, Arcot’s hand, already started toward the space-control switch, reached it, and pushed it to the point that threw the ship into artificial Space. The last glimmer of light died suddenly, as the Thessian ship’s bow loomed huge beside the Ancient Mariner.

There was a terrific shock that hurled the ship violently to one side, threw the men about inside the ship. Simultaneously the lights blinked out.

Light returned as the automatic emergency incandescent lights in the room, fed from an energy store coil, flashed on abruptly. The men were white-faced, tense in their positions. Swiftly Morey was looking over the indicators on his remote-reading panel, while Arcot stared at the few dials before the actual control board.

There’s an air pressure outside the ship!” he cried out in surprise. “High oxygen, very little nitrogen, breathable apparently, provided there are no poisons. Temperature ten below zero C.”

“Lights are off because relays opened when the crash short circuited them.” Morey and the entire group were suddenly shaking.

“Nervous shock,” commented Zezdon Afthen. “It will be an hour or more before we will be in condition to work.”

“Can’t wait,” replied Arcot testily, his nerves on edge, too.

“Morey, make some good strong coffee if you can, and we’ll waste a little air on some smokes.”

Morey rose and went to the door that led through the main passage to the galley. “Heck of a job⁠—no weight at all,” he muttered. “There is air in the passage, anyway.” He opened the door, and the air rushed from the control room to the passage till the pressure was equalized. The door to the power room was shut, but it was bulged, despite its two-inch lux metal, and through its clear material he could see the wreckage of the power room.

“Arcot,” he called. “Come here and look at the power room. Quintillions of miles from home, we can’t shut off this field now.”

Arcot was with him in a moment. The tremendous mass of the nose of the Thessian ship had caught them full amidship, and the powerful ram had driven through the room. Their lux walls had not been touched; only a sledgehammer blow would have bent them under any circumstances, let alone breaking them. But the tremendously powerful main generator was split wide open. And the mechanical damage was awful. The prow of the ship had been driven deep into the machine, and the power room was a wreck.

“And,” pointed out Morey, “we can’t handle a job like that. It will take a tremendous amount of machinery back on a planet to work that stuff, and we couldn’t bend that bar, let alone fix it.”

“Get the coffee, will you please, Morey? I have an idea that’s bound to work,” said Arcot looking fixedly at the machinery.

Morey turned and went to the galley.

Five minutes later they returned to the corridor, where Arcot stood still, looking fixedly at the engine room. They were carrying small plastic balloons with coffee in them.

They drank the coffee and returned to the control room, and sat about, the terrestrians smoking peacefully, the Ortolian and the Talsonian satisfying themselves with some form of mild narcotic from Ortol, which Zezdon Afthen introduced.

“Well, we have a lot more to do,” Arcot said. “The air-apparatus stopped working a while back, and I don’t want to sit around doing nothing while the air in the storage tanks is used up. Did you notice our friends, the enemy?” Through the great pilot’s window the bulk of the Thessian ship’s bow could be seen. It was cut across with an exactitude of mathematical certainty.

“Easy to guess what happened,” Morey grinned. “They may have wrecked us, but we sure wrecked them. They got half in and half out of our space field. Result⁠—the half that was in, stayed in. The half that was out stayed out. The two halves were instantaneously a billion miles apart, and that beautifully exact surface represents the point our space cut across.

“That being decided, the next question is how to fix this poor old wreck.” Morey grinned a bit. “Better, how to get out of here, and down to old Neptune.”

“Fix it!” replied Arcot. “Come on; you get in your space suit, take the portable telectroscope and set it up in space, motionless, in such a position that it views both our ship and the nose of the Thessian machine, will you, Wade? Tune it to⁠—seven-seven-three.” Morey rose with Arcot, and followed him, somewhat mystified, down the passage. At the airlock Wade put on his space suit, and the Ortolian helped him with it. In a moment the other three men appeared bearing the machine. It was practically weightless, though it would fall slowly if left to itself, for the mass of the Ancient Mariner and the front end of the Thessian ship made a considerable attractive field. But it was clumsy, and needed guiding here in the ship.

Wade took it into the airlock, and a moment later into space with him. His hand molecular-driving unit pulling him, he towed the machine into place, and with some difficulty got it practically motionless with respect of the two bodies, which were now lying against each other.

“Turn it a bit, Wade, so that the Ancient Mariner is just in its range,” came Arcot’s thoughts. Wade did so. “Come on back and watch the fun.”

Wade returned. Arcot and the others were busy placing a heavy emergency lead from the storeroom in the place of one of the broken leads. In five minutes they had it fixed where they wanted it.

Into the control room went Arcot, and started the power-room teleview plate. Connected into the system of view plates, the scene was visible now on all the plates in the ship. Well off to one side of the room, prepared for such emergencies, and equipped with individual power storage coils that would run it for several days, the view plate functioned smoothly.

“Now, we are ready,” said Arcot. The Talsonian proved he understood Arcot’s intentions by preceding him to the laboratory.

Arcot had two viewplates operating here. One was covering the scene as shown by the machine outside, and the other showed the power room.

Arcot stepped over to the artificial-matter machine, and worked swiftly on it. In a moment the power from the storage coils of the ship was flowing through the new cable, and into the machine. A huge ring appeared about the nose of the Thessian ship, fitting snugly over it. A terrific wrench⁠—and it was free of the Ancient Mariner. The ring contracted and formed a chunk of the stuff free of the broken nose of the ship.

It was carried over to the wall of the Ancient Mariner, a smaller piece snipped off as before, and carried inside. A piece of perhaps half a ton mass. “I hope they use good stuff,” grinned Arcot. The piece was deposited on the floor of the ship, and a disc formed of artificial matter plugged the hole in its side. Another took a piece of the relux from the broken Thessian ship, pushed it into the hole on the ship. The space about the scene of operation was a crackling inferno of energy breaking down into heat and light. Arcot dematerialized his tremendous tools, and the wall of the Ancient Mariner was neatly patched with relux smoothed over as perfectly as before. A second time, using some of the relux he had brought within the ship, and the inner wall was rebuilt. The job was absolutely perfect, save that now, where there had been lux, there was an outer wall of relux.

The main generator was crumpled up, and torn out. The auxiliary generators would have to carry the load. The great cables were swiftly repaired in the same manner, a perfect cylinder forming about them, and a piece of relux from the store Arcot had sliced from the enemy ship, welding them perfectly under enormous pressure, pressure that made them flow perfectly into one another as heat alone could not.

In less than half an hour the ship was patched up, the power room generally repaired, save for a few minor things that had to be replaced from the stores. The main generator was gone, but that was not an essential. The door was straightened and the job done.

In an hour they were ready to proceed.