Canine People

“And that,” said Arcot between puffs, “will certainly be a great boon to the Rocket Patrol, you must admit. They don’t like dueling with these space-pirates using the molecular rays, and since molecular rays have such a tremendous commercial value, we can’t prohibit the sale of ray apparatus. Now, if you will come into the ‘workshop,’ Fuller, I’ll give a demonstration with friend Morey’s help.”

The four friends rose, Morey, Wade and Fuller following Arcot into his laboratory on the thirty-seventh floor of the Arcot Research Building. As they went, Arcot explained to Fuller the results and principles of the latest product of the ingenuity of the “Triumvirate,” as Arcot, Morey and Wade had come to be called in the news dispatches.

“As you know, the molecular rays make all the molecules of any piece of matter they are turned upon move in the desired direction. Since they supply no new energy, but make the body they are turned upon supply its own, using the energy of its own random molecular motion of heat, they are practically impossible to stop. The energy necessary for molecular rays to take effect is so small that the usual type of filter lets enough of it pass. A ship equipped with filters is no better off when attacked than one without. The rays simply drove the front end into the rear, or vice versa, or tore it to pieces as the pirates desired. The Rocket Patrol could kill off the pirates, but they lost so many men in the process, it was a Phyrric victory.

“For some time Morey and I have been working on something to stop the rays. Obviously it can’t be by means of any of the usual metallic energy absorption screens.

“We finally found a combination of rays, better frequencies, that did what we wanted. I have such an apparatus here. What we want you to do, of course, is the usual job of rearranging the stuff so that the apparatus can be made from dies, and put into quantity production. As the Official Designer for the A.A.L. you ought to do that easily.” Arcot grinned as Fuller looked in amazement at the apparatus Arcot had picked up from the bench in the “workshop.”

“Don’t get worried,” laughed Morey, “that’s got a lifting unit combined⁠—just a plain ordinary molecular lift such as you see by the hundreds out there.” Morey pointed through the great window where thousands of those lift units were carrying men, women and children through the air, lifting them hundreds, thousands of feet above the streets and through the doors of buildings.

“Here’s an ordinary molecular pistol. I’m going to put the suit on, and rise about five feet off the floor. You can turn the pistol on me, and see what impression it makes on the suit.”

Fuller took the molecular ray pistol, while Wade helped Arcot into the suit. He looked at the pistol dubiously, pointed it at a heavy casting of iron resting in one corner of the room, and turned the ray at low concentration, then pressed the trigger-button. The casting gave out a low, scrunching grind, and slid toward him with a lurch. Instantly he shut off the power. “This isn’t any ordinary pistol. It’s got seven or eight times the ordinary power!” he exclaimed.

“Oh yes, I forgot,” Morey said. “Instead of the fuel battery that the early pistols used, this has a space-distortion power coil. This pistol has as much power as the usual A-39 power unit for commercial work.”

By the time Morey had explained the changes to Fuller, Arcot had the suit on, and was floating five or six feet in the air, like a grotesque captive balloon. “Ready, Fuller?”

“I guess so, but I certainly hope that suit is all it is claimed to be. If it isn’t⁠—well I’d rather not commit murder.”

“It’ll work,” said Arcot. “I’ll bet my neck on that!” Suddenly he was surrounded by the faintest of auras, a strange, wavering blue light, like the hazy corona about a 400,000-volt power line. “Now try it.”

Fuller pointed the pistol at the floating man and pushed the trigger. The brilliant blue beam of the molecular ray, and the low hum of the air, rushing in the path of the director beam, stabbed out toward Arcot. The faint aura about him was suddenly intensified a million times till he floated in a ball of blue-white fire. Scarcely visible, the air about him blazed with bluish incandescence of ionization.

“Increase the power,” suggested Morey. Fuller turned on more power. The blue halo was shot through with tiny violet sparks, the sharp odor of ozone in the air was stifling; the heat of wasted energy was making the room hotter. The power increased further, and the tiny sparks were waving streamers, that laced across the surface of the blue fire. Little jets of electric flame reached out along the beam of the ray now. Finally, as full power of the molecular ray was reached, the entire halo was buried under a mass of writhing sparks that seemed to leap up into the air above the man’s head, wavering up to extinction. The room was unbearably hot, despite the molecular ray coolers absorbing the heat of the air, and blowing cooled air into the room.

Fuller snapped off the ray, and put the pistol on the table beside him. The halo died, and went out a moment later, and Arcot settled to the floor.

“This particular suit will stand up against anything the ordinary commercial sets will give. The system now: remember that the rays are short electrical waves. The easiest way to stop them is to interpose a wave of opposite phase, and cause interference. Fine, but try to get in tune with an unknown wave when it is moving in relation to your center of control. It is impossible to do it before you yourself have been rayed out of existence. We must use some system that will automatically, instantly be out of phase.

“The Hall effect would naturally tend to make the frequency of a wave through a resisting medium change, and lengthen. If we can send out a spherical wave front, and have it lengthen rapidly as it proceeds, we will have a wave front that is, at all points, different. Any entering wave would, sooner or later, meet a wave that was half a phase out, no matter what the motion was, nor what the frequency, as long as it lies within the comparatively narrow molecular wave band. What this apparatus, or ray screen, consists of, is a machine generating a spherical wave front of the nature of a molecular wave, but of just too great a frequency to do anything. A second part generates a condition in space, which opposes that wave. After traveling a certain distance, the wave has lengthened to molecular wave type, but is now beyond the machine which generated it, and no longer affects it, or damages it. However, as it proceeds, it continues to lengthen, till eventually it reaches the length of infra-light, when the air quickly absorbs it, as it reaches one of the absorption bands for air molecular waves, and any molecular wave must find its half-wave complement somewhere in that wedge of waves. It does, and is at once choked off, its energy fighting the energy of the ray screen, of course. In the air, however, the screen is greatly helped by the fact that before the half-wave frequency is met in the ray-wedge, the molecular ray is buried in ions, leaving the ray screen little work to do.

“Now your job is to design the apparatus in a form that machines can make automatically. We tried doing it ourselves for the fun of it, but we couldn’t see how we could make a machine that didn’t need at least two humans to supervise.”

“Well,” grinned Fuller, “you have it all over me as scientists, but as economic workers⁠—two human supervisors to make one product!”

“All right⁠—we agree. But no, let’s see you⁠—Lord! What was that?” Morey started for the door on the run. The building was still trembling from the shock of a heavy blow, a blow that seemed much as though a machine had been wrecked on the armored roof, and a big machine at that. Arcot, a flying suit already on, was up in the air, and darting past Morey in an instant, streaking for the vertical shaft that would let him out to the roof. The molecular ray pistol was already in his hand, ready to pull any beams off unfortunate victims pinned under them.

In a moment he had flashed up through the seven stories, and out to the roof. A gigantic silvery machine rested there, streamlined to perfection, its hull dazzingly beautiful in the sunlight. A door opened, and three tall, lean men stepped from it. Already people were collecting about the ship, flying up from below. Air patrolmen floated up in a minute, and seeing Arcot, held the crowd back.

The strange men were tall, eight feet or more in height. Great, round, soft brown eyes looked in curiosity at the towering multicolored buildings, at the people floating in the air, at the green trees and the blue sky, the yellowish sun.

Arcot looked at their strangely blotched and mottled heads, faces, arms and hands. Their feet were very long and narrow, their legs long and thin. Their faces were kindly; the mottled skin, brown and white and black, seemed not to make them ugly. It was not a disfigurement; it seemed oddly familiar and natural in some reminiscent way.

“Lord, Arcot⁠—queer specimens, yet they seem familiar!” said Morey in an undertone.

“They are. Their race is that of man’s first and best friend, the dog! See the brown eyes? The typical teeth? The feet still show the traces of the dog’s toe-step. Their nails, not flat like human ones but rounded? The mottled skin, the ears⁠—look, one is advancing.”

One of the strangers walked laboriously forward. A lighter world than Earth was evidently his home. His great brown eyes fixed themselves on Arcot’s. Arcot watched them. They seemed to expand, grow larger; they seemed to fill all the sky. Hypnotism! He concentrated his mind, and the eyes suddenly contracted to the normal eyes of the stranger. The man reeled back, as Arcot’s telepathic command to sleep came, stronger than his own will. The stranger’s friends caught him, shook him, but he slept. One of the others looked at Arcot; his eyes seemed hurt, desperately pleading.

Arcot strode forward, and quickly brought the man out of the trance. He shook his head, smiled at Arcot, then, with desperate difficulty, he enunciated some words in English, terribly distorted.

“Ahy wizz tahk. Vokle kohds ron. Tahk by breen.”

Distorted as it was, Arcot recognized the meaning without difficulty. “I wish (to) talk. Vocal cords wrong. Talk by brain.” He switched to communication by the Venerian method, telepathically, but without hypnotism.

“Good enough. When you attempted to hypnotize me, I didn’t known what you wanted. It is not necessary to hypnotize to carry on communication by the method of the second world of this system. What brings you to our system? From what system do you come? What do you wish to say?”

The other, not having learned the Venerian system, had great difficulty in communicating his thoughts, but Arcot learned that they had machines which would make it easier, and the terrestrian invited them into his laboratory, for the crowd was steadily growing.

The three returned to their ship for a moment, coming out with several peculiar headsets. Almost at once the ship started to rise, going up more and more swiftly, as the people cleared a way for it.

Then, in the tiniest fraction of a second, the ship was gone; it shrank to a point, and was invisible in the blue vault of the sky.

“Apparently they intend to stay a while,” said Wade. “They are trusting souls, for their line of retreat is cut off. We naturally have no intention of harming them, but they can’t know that.”

“I’m not so sure,” said Arcot. He turned to the apparent leader of the three and explained that there were several stories to descend, and stairs were harder than a flying unit. “Wrap your arms about my legs, when I rise above you, and hold on till your feet are on the floor again,” he concluded.

The stranger walked a little closer to the edge of the shaft, and looked down. White bulbs illuminated its walls down its length to the ground. The man talked rapidly to his friends, looking with evident distaste at the shaft, and the tiny pack on Arcot’s back. Finally, smiling, he evinced his willingness. Arcot rose, the man grasped his legs, and then both rose. Over the shaft, and down to his laboratory was the work of a moment.

Arcot led them into his “consultation room,” where a number of comfortable chairs were arranged, facing each other. He seated them together, and his own friends facing them.

“Friends of another world,” began Arcot, “we do not know your errand here, but you evidently have good reason for coming to this place. It is unlikely that your landing was the result of sheer chance. What brought you? How came you to this point?”

“It is difficult for me to reply. First we must be en rapport. Our system is not simple as yours, but more effective, for yours depends on thought ideas, not altogether universal. Place these on your heads, for only a moment. I must induce temporary hypnotic coma. Let one try first if you desire.” The leader of the visitors held out one of the several headsets they had brought, caplike things, made of laminated metal apparently.

Arcot hesitated, then with a grin slipped it on.

“Relax,” came a voice in Arcot’s head, a low, droning voice, a voice of command. “Sleep,” it added. Arcot felt himself floating down an infinite shaft, on some superflying suit that did not pull at him with its straps, just floating down lightly, down and down and down. Suddenly he reached the bottom, and found to his surprise that it led directly into the room again! He was back. “You are awake. Speak!” came the voice.

Arcot shook himself, and looked about. A new voice spoke now, not the tonelessly melodious voice, but the voice of an individual, yet a mental voice. It was perfectly clear, and perfectly comprehensible. “We have traveled far to find you, and now we have business of the utmost import. Ask these others to let us treat them, for we must do what we can in the least possible time. I will explain when all can understand. I am Zezdon Fentes, First Student of Thought. He who sits on my right is Zezdon Afthen, and he beyond him, is Zezdon Inthel, of Physics and of Chemistry, respectively.”

And now Arcot spoke to his friends.

“These men have something of the greatest importance to tell us, it seems. They want us all to hear, and they are in a hurry. The treatment isn’t at all annoying. Try it. The man on the extreme right, as we face them, is Zezdon Fentes of Thought, Zezdon apparently meaning something like professor, or ‘First Student of.’ Those next him are Zezdon Afthen of Physics and Zezdon Inthel of Chemistry.”

Zezdon Afthen offered them the headsets, and in a moment everyone present was wearing one. The process of putting them en rapport took very little time, and shortly all were able to communicate with ease.

“Friends of Earth, we must tell our strange story quickly for the benefit of your world as well as ours, and others, too. We cannot so much as annoy. We are helpless to combat them.

“Our world lies far out across the galaxy; even with incalculable velocity of the great swift thing that bore us, three long months have we traveled toward your distant worlds, hoping that at last the Invaders might meet their masters.

“We landed on this roof because we examined mentally the knowledge of a pilot of one of your patrol ships. His mind told us that here we would find the three greatest students of Science of this Solar System. So it was here we came for help.

“Our race has arisen,” he continued, “as you have so surely determined from the race you call canines. It was artificially produced by the Ancient Masters when their hour of need had come. We have lost the great science of the Ancient Ones. But we have developed a different science, a science of the mind.”

“Dogs are far more psychic than are men. They would naturally tend to develop such a civilization,” said Arcot judiciously.