The Battle of Earth

It had been an anxious hour for the forces of the Solar System.

They were in the last fine stages of Earth’s defense when the general staff received notice that a radio message of tremendous power had penetrated the ray screen, with advice for them. It was signed “Arcot.”

“Bringing new weapon. Draw all ships within the atmosphere when I start action, and drive Thessians back into space. Retire as soon as a distance of ten thousand miles is reached. I will then handle the fleet,” was the message.

“Gentlemen: We are losing. The move suggested would be eminently poor tactics unless we are sure of being able to drive them. If we don’t, we are lost in any event. I trust Arcot. How vote you?” asked General Hetsar Sthel.

The message was relayed to the ships. Scarcely a moment after the message had been relayed, a tremendous battleship appeared in space, just beyond the battle. It shot forward, and planted itself directly in the midst of the battle, brushing aside two huge Thessians in its progress. The Thessian ships bounced off its sides, and reeled away. It lay waiting, making no move. All the Thessian ships above poured the full concentration of their moleculars into its tremendous bulk. A diffused glow of opalescence ran over every ship⁠—save the giant. The moleculars were being reflected from its sides, and their diffused energy attacked the very ships that were sending them!

A fort moved up, and the deadly beam of destruction reached out, luminous even in space.

“Now,” muttered Morey, “we shall see what cosmium will stand.”

A huge spot on the side of the ship had become incandescent. A vapor, a strange puff of smokiness exploded from it, and disappeared instantly. Another came and faster and faster they followed each other. The cosmium was disintegrating under the ray, but very slowly, breaking first into gaseous cosmic rays, then free, and spreading.

“We will not fight,” muttered Morey happily as he saw Arcot shift in his seat.

Arcot picked the moleculars. They reached out, touched the heavy relux of the fort, and it exploded into opalescence that was hazily white, the colors shifted so quickly. A screen sprang into being, and the ray was chopped off. The screen was a mass of darting flames as energies of stupendous magnitude clashed.

Arcot used a bit more of his inconceivable power. The ray struck the screen, and it flashed once⁠—then died into blackness. The fort suddenly crumpled in like a dented can, and rolled clumsily away. The other fort was near now, and started an attack of its own. Arcot chose the artificial matter this time. He was not watching the many attacking ships.

The great ship careened suddenly, fell over heavily to one side. “Foolish of me,” said Arcot. “They tried crashing us.”

A mass of crumpled, broken relux and lux surrounded by a haze of gas lying against a slight scratch on the great sides, told the story. Eight inches of cosmium does not give way.

Yet another ship tried it. But it stopped several feet away from the real wall of the ship. It struck a wall even more unyielding⁠—artificial matter.

But now Arcot was using this major weapon⁠—artificial matter. Ship after ship, whether fleeing or attacking, was surrounded suddenly by a great sphere of it, a sudden terrific blaze of energy as the sphere struck the ray shield, the control forces now backed by the energy of all the millions of stars of space shattered it in an instant. Then came the inexorable crush of the artificial matter, and a ball of matter alone remained.

But the pressing disc of the battlefront which had been lowering on Chicago, greatest of Earth’s metropolises, was lifted. This disc-front was staggering back now as Arcot’s mighty ship weakened its strength, and destroyed its morale, under the steady drive of the now hopeful Solarians.

The other gigantic fort moved up now, with twenty of the largest battleships. The fort turned loose its destructive ray⁠—and Arcot tried his new “magnet.” It was not a true magnet, but a transformed space field, a field created by the energy of all the universe.

The fort was gigantic. Even Arcot’s mighty ship was a small thing beside it, but suddenly it seemed warped and twisted as space curved visibly in a magnetic field of such terrific intensity as to be immeasurable.

Arcot’s armory was tested and found not wanting.

Suddenly every Thessian ship in sight ceased to exist. They disappeared. Instantly Arcot threw on all time power, and darted toward Venus. The Thessians were already nearing the planet, and no possible rays could overtake them. An instantaneous touch of the space control, and the mighty ship was within hundreds of miles of the atmosphere.

Space twisted about them, reeled, and was firm. The Thessian fleet was before them in a moment, visible now as they slowed to normal speed. Startled, no doubt, to find before them the ship they had fled, they charged on for a space. Then, as though by some magic, they stopped and exploded in gouts of light.

When space had twisted, seconds before, it was because Arcot had drawn on the enormous power of space to an extent that had been appreciable even to it⁠—ten sols. That was forty million tons of matter a second, and for a hundredth part of a second it had flowed. Before them, in a vast plane, had been created an infinitesimally thin film of artificial matter, four hundred thousand tons of it, and into this invisible, infinitely hard barrier, the Thessian fleet had rammed. And it was gone.

“I think,” said Arcot softly, as he took off his headpiece, “that the beginning of the end is in sight.”

“And I,” said Morey, “think it is now out of sight. Half a dozen ships stopped. And they are gone now, to warn the others.”

“What warning? What can they tell? Only that their ships were destroyed by something they couldn’t see.” Arcot smiled. “I’m going home.”