Home Again

They were getting very near their own time, Arcot felt. Indeed, they must already exist on Earth. “One thing that puzzles me,” he commented, “is what would happen if we were to go down now, and see ourselves.”

“Either we can’t or we don’t want to do it,” pointed out Morey, “because we didn’t.”

“I think the answer is that nothing can exist two times at the same time-rate,” said Arcot. “As long as we were in a different time-rate we could exist at two times. When we tried to exist simultaneously, we could not, and we were forced to slip through time to a time wherein we either did not exist or wherein we had not yet been. Since we were nearer the time when we last existed in normal time, than we were to the time of our birth, we went to the time we left. I suspect that we will find we have just left Earth. Shall we investigate?”

“Absolutely, Arcot, and here’s hoping we didn’t overshoot the mark by much.” As Morey intimated, had they gone much beyond the time they left Earth, they might find conditions very serious, indeed. But now they went at once toward Earth on the time control. As they neared, they looked anxiously for signs of the invasion. Arcot spotted the only evident signs, however; two large spheres, tiny points in appearance on the telectroscope screen, were circling Earth, one at about 1,000 miles, moving from east to west, the other about 1,200 miles moving from north to south.

“It seems the enemy have retreated to space to do their fighting. I wonder how long we were away.”

As they swept down at a speed greater than light, they were invisible till Arcot slowed down near the atmosphere. Instantly half a dozen fast ships darted toward them, but the ship was very evidently unlike the Thessian ships, and no attack was made. First the occupants would have an opportunity to prove their friendliness.

“Terrestrians Arcot, Morey and Wade reporting back from exploration in space, with two friends. All have been on Earth with us previously,” said Arcot into the radio vision apparatus.

“Very well, Dr. Arcot. You are going to New York or Vermont?” asked the Patrol commander.


“Yes, Sir. I’ll see that you aren’t stopped again.”

And, thanks to the message thus sent ahead, they were not, and in less than half an hour they landed once more in Vermont, on the field from which they had started.

The group of scientists who had been here on their last call had gone, which seemed natural enough to them, who had been working for three months in the interval of their trip, but to Dr. Arcot senior, as he saw them, it was a misfortune.

“Now I never will get straight all you’ll have ready, and I didn’t expect you back till next week. The men have all gone back to their laboratories, since that permits of better work on the part of each, but we can call them here in half an hour. I’m sure they’ll want to come. What did you learn, Son, or haven’t you done any calculating on your data as yet?”

“We learned plenty, and I feel quite sure that a hint of what we have would bring all those learning-hounds around us pretty quickly, Dad,” laughed Arcot junior, “and believe it or not, we’ve been calculating on this stuff for three months since we left yesterday!”


“Yes, it’s true! We were on our time field, and turned on the space control⁠—and a Thessian ship picked that moment to run into us. We cut the ship in half as neatly as you please, but it threw us eighty thousand years into the past. We have been coasting through time on retarded rate while Earth caught up with itself, so to speak. In the meantime⁠—three months in a day!

“But don’t call those men. Let them come to the appointment, while we do some work, and we have plenty of work to do, I assure you. We have a list of things to order from the standard supply houses, and I think you better get them for us, Dad.” Arcot’s manner became serious now. “We haven’t gotten our Government Expense Research Cards yet, and you have. Order the stuff, and get it out here, while we get ready for it. Honestly, I believe that a few ships such as this apparatus will permit, will be enough in themselves to do the job. It really is a pity that the other men didn’t have the opportunity we had for crowding much work into little time!

“But then, I wouldn’t want to take that road to concentration again myself!

“Have the enemy amused you in my absence? Come on, let’s sit down in the house instead of standing here in the sun.”

They started toward the house, as Arcot senior explained what had happened in the short time they had been away.

“There is a friend of yours here, whom you haven’t seen in some time, Son. He came with some allies.”

As they entered the house, they could hear the boards creak under some heavy weight that moved across the floor, soundlessly and light of motion in itself. A shadow fell across the hall floor, and in the doorway a tremendously powerfully-built figure stood.

He seemed to overflow the doorway, nearly six and a half feet tall, and fully as wide as the door. His rugged, bronzed face was smiling pleasantly, and his deep-set eyes seemed to flash; a living force flowed from them.

“Torlos! By the Nine Planets! Torlos of Nansal! Say, I didn’t expect you here, and I will not put my hand in that meatgrinder of yours,” grinned Arcot happily, as Torlos stretched forth a friendly, but quite too powerful hand.

Torlos of Nansal, that planet Arcot had discovered on his first voyage across space, far in another Island of Space, another Island Universe, was not constructed as are human beings of Earth, nor of Venus, Talso, or Ortol, but most nearly resembled, save in size, the Thessians. Their framework, instead of being stone, as is ours, was iron, their bones were pure metallic iron, far stronger than bone. On these far stronger bones were great muscles of an entirely different sort, a muscle that used heat of the body as its fuel, a muscle that was utterly tireless, and unbelievably powerful. Not a chemical engine, but a molecular motion engine, it had no chemical fatigue-products that would tire it, and needed only the constant heat supply the body sucked from the air to work indefinitely. Unlimited by waste-carrying considerations, the strength was enormous.

It was one of the commercial space freighters plying between Nansal, Sator, Earth and Venus that had brought the news of this war to him, Torlos explained, and he, as the new Trade Coordinator and Fourth of the Four who now ruled Nansal, had suggested that they go to the aid of the man who had so aided them in their great war with Sator. It was Arcot’s gift of the secret of the molecular ray and the molecular ship that had enabled them to overcome their enemy of centuries, and force upon them an unwelcome peace.

Now, with a fleet of fifty interstellar, or better, intergalactic battleships, Nansal was coming to Earth’s aid.

The battleships were now on patrol with all of Earth’s and Venus’ fleet. But the Nansalian ships were all equipped with the enormously rapid space distortion system of travel, of course, and were a shock troop in the patrol. The Terrestrian and Venerian patrols were not so equipped in full.

“And Arcot, from what I have learned from your father, it seems that I can be of real assistance,” finished Torlos.

“But now, I think, I should know what the enemy has done. I see they built some forts.”

“Yes,” replied Arcot senior, “they did. They decided that the system used on the forts of North and South poles was too effective. They moved to space, and cut off slices of Luna, pulled it over on their molecular rays, and used some of the most magnificent apparatus you ever dreamed of. I have just started working on the mathematics of it.

“We sent out a fleet to do some investigating, but they attacked, and stopped work in the meantime. Whatever the ray is that can destroy matter at a distance, they are afraid that we could find its secret too easily, and block it, for they don’t think it is a weapon, and it is evidently slow in action.”

“Then it isn’t what I thought it was,” muttered Arcot.

“What did you think it was?” asked his father.

“Er⁠—tell you later. Go on with the account.”

“Well, to continue. We have not been idle. Following your suggestion, we built up a large ray screen apparatus, in fact, several of them, and carried them in ships to different parts of the world. Also some of the planets, lest they start dropping worlds on us. They are already in operation, sending their defensive waves against the Heaviside layer. Radio is poor, over any distance, and we can’t call Venus from inside the layer now. However, we tested the protection, and it works⁠—far more efficiently than we calculated, due to the amazing conductivity of the layer.

“If they intend to attack in that way, I suspect that it will be soon, for they are ready now, as we discovered. An attack on their fort was met with a ray screen from the fort.

“They fight with a wild viciousness now. They won’t let a ship get near them. They destroy everything on sight. They seem tremendously afraid of that apparatus of yours. Too bad we had no more.”

“We will have⁠—if you will let me get to work.”

They went to the ship, and entered it. Arcot senior did not follow, but the others waited, while the ship left Earth once more, and floated in space. Immediately they went into the time-field.

They worked steadily, sleeping when necessary, and the giant strength of Torlos was frequently as great an asset as his indefatigable work. He was learning rapidly, and was able to do a great deal of the work without direction. He was not a scientist, and the thing was new to him, but his position as one of the best of the secret intelligence force of Nansal had proven his brains, and he did his share.

The others, scientists all, found the operations difficult, for work had been allotted to each according to his utmost capabilities.

It was still nearly a week of their time before the apparatus was completed to the extent possible, less than a minute of normal time passing.

Finally the unassembled, but completed apparatus, was carried to the laboratory of the cottage, and word was sent to all the men of Earth that Arcot was going to give a demonstration of the apparatus he hoped would save them. The scientists from all over Earth and Venus were interested, and those of Earth came, for there was no time for the men of Venus to arrive to inspect the results.