Up from Earth, out of its clear blue sky, and into the glare and dark of space and near a sun the ship soared. They had been holding it motionless over New York, and now as it rose, hundreds of tiny craft, and a few large excursion ships followed it until it was out of Earth’s atmosphere. Then⁠—it was gone. Gone across space, racing toward that far Universe at a speed no other thing could equal. In minutes the great disc of the Universe had taken form behind them, as they took their route photographs to find their way back to Earth after the battle, if still they could come.

Then into the stillness of the Intergalactic spaces.

“This will be our first opportunity to test the full speed of this ship. We have never tried its velocity, and we should measure it now. Take a sight on the diameter of the Island, as seen from here, Morey. Then we will travel ten seconds, and look again.”

Half a million light years from the center of the Island now, the great disc spread out over the vast space behind them, apparently the size of a dinner plate at about thirty inches distance, it was more than two hundred and fifty thousand light years across. Checking carefully, Morey read their distance as just shy of five hundred thousand light years.

“Hold on⁠—here we go,” called Arcot. Space was suddenly black, and beside them ran the twin ghost ships that follow always when space is closed to the smallest compass, for light leaving, goes around a space whose radius is measured in miles, instead of light centuries and returns. There was no sound, no slightest vibration, only Torlos’ iron bones felt a slight shock as the inconceivable currents flowed into the gigantic space distortion coil from the storage fields, their shielded magnetic flux leaking by in some slight degree.

For ten seconds that seemed minutes Arcot held the ship on the course under the maximum combined powers of space distortion and time field distortion. Then he released both simultaneously.

The velvet black of space was about them as before, but now the disc of the Nebula was tiny behind them! So tiny was it, that these men, who knew its magnitude, gasped in sudden wonder. None of them had been able to conceive of such a velocity as this ship had shown! In seconds, Morey announced a moment later, they had traveled one million, one hundred thousand light years! Their velocity was six hundred and sixty quadrillion miles per second!

“Then it will take us only a little over one thousand seconds to travel the hundred and fifty million light years, at 110,000 light years per second⁠—that’s about the radius of our galaxy, isn’t it!” exclaimed Wade.

They started on now, and one thousand and ten seconds, or a little more than eighteen minutes later, they stopped again. So far behind them now as to be almost lost in the far scattered universes, lay their own Island, and carefully they photographed the Universe that now lay less than twenty million light years ahead. Still, it was further, even after crossing this enormous gulf, than are many of those nebulae we see from Earth, many of which lie within that distance. They must proceed cautiously now, for they did not know the exact distance to the Nebula. Carefully, running forward in jumps of five million light years, forty-five second drives, they worked nearer.

Then finally they entered the Island, and drove toward the denser center.

“Good Lord, Arcot, look at those suns!” exclaimed Morey in amazement. For the first time they were seeing the suns of this system at a range that permitted observation, and Arcot had stopped to observe. The first one they had chosen had been a blue-white giant of enormous mass, nearly one hundred and fifty times as heavy as our own sun, and all the enormous surface was radiating power into space at a rate of nearly thirty thousand horsepower per square inch! No planets circled it, however, in its journey through space.

“I’ve been noticing the number of giants here. Look around.”

The Thought moved on, on to other suns. They must find one that was inhabited.

They stopped at last near a great orange giant, and examined it. It had indeed planets, and as Arcot watched, he saw in the telectroscope a line of gigantic freighters rise from the world, and whisk off to nothingness as they exceeded the speed of light! Instantly he started the Thought searching in time fields for the freighters. He found them, and followed them as they raced across the void. He knew he was visible to them, and as he suspected, they soon stopped, slowing down and signaling to him.

“Morey⁠—take the Thought. I’m going to visit them in the Banderlog as I think we shall name the tender,” called Arcot, stripping off the headset, and leaving the control seat. The other fleet of ships was now less than a hundred thousand miles away, clearly visible in the telectroscope. They were still signaling, and Arcot had set an automatic signaling device flashing an enormously powerful searchlight toward them in a succession of dots and dashes, an obvious signal, though also, obviously unintelligible to those others.

“Is it safe, Arcot?” asked Torlos anxiously. To approach those enormous ships in the relatively tiny Banderlog seemed unwise.

“Far safer than they’ll believe. Remember, only the Thought could stand up against such weapons as even the Banderlog carries, run as they are by cosmic energy,” replied Arcot, diving down toward the little tender.

In a moment it was out through the lock, and sped away from them like a bullet, reaching the distant stranger fleet in less than ten seconds.

“They are communicating by thought!” announced Zezdon Afthen presently. “But I cannot understand them, for the impulses are too weak to be intelligently received.”

For nearly an hour the Banderlog hung beside the fleet, then it turned about, and raced once more to the Thought. Inside the lock, and a moment later Arcot appeared again on the threshold of the door. He looked immensely relieved.

“Well, I have some good news,” he said and smiled, sitting down. “Follow that bunch, Morey, and I’ll tell you about it. Set it and she’ll hold nicely. We have a long way to go, and those are slow freighters, accompanied by one Cruiser.

“Those men,” he began, “are men of Venone. You remember Thett’s records said something of the Mighty Warless Ones of Venone? Those are they. They inhabit most of this universe, leaving the Thessians but four planets of a minor sun, way off in one corner. It seems the Thessians are their undesirable exiles, those who have, from generation to generation, been either forced to go there, or who wanted to go there.

“They did not like the easier and more effective method of disposing of undesirables, the instantaneous death chamber they now use. Thett was their prison world. No one ever returned and his family could go with him if they desired, but if they did not, they were carefully watched for outcroppings of undesirable traits⁠—murder, crime of any sort, any habitual tendency to injustice.

“About six hundred years ago of our time, Thett revolted. There were scientists there, and their scientists had discovered a thing that they had been seeking for generations⁠—the Twin-ray. I don’t know what it is, and the Venonians don’t either. It is the ray that destroys relux and lux, however, and can be carried only on a machine the size of their forts, due to some limitations. Just what those limitations are the Venonians don’t know. Other than that ray they had no new weapons.

“But it was enough. Their guard ships which had circled the worlds of the prison system, Antseck, were suddenly destroyed, so suddenly that Venone received no word of it till a consignment ship, bringing prisoners, discovered their absence. The consignment ship returned without landing. Thett was now independent. But they were bound to their system, for although they had the molecular ships, they had never been permitted to have time apparatus, nor to see it, nor was anyone who knew its principles ever consigned there. The result was that they were as isolated as ever.

“This was for two centuries. Two centuries later it was worked out by one of their scientists, and the Warless Ones had a War of defense. Their small fleet of cruisers, designed for rescue work and for clearing space lanes of wrecks and asteroids, was destroyed instantly, their world was protected only by the ray screen, which the Thessians did not have, and by the fact that they could build more cruisers. In less than a year Thett was defeated, and beaten back to her world, though Venone could not overcome Thett, now, for around their planets they had so many forts projecting the deadly rays, that no ship could approach.

“Then Thett learned how to make the screen, and came again. Venone had planetoid stations, that projected molecular rays of an intensity I wonder at, with their system of projecting. It seems these people have force-power feeds that operate through space, by which an entire solar system can tie in for power, and they fed these stations in that way. Lord only knows what tubes they had, but the Thessians couldn’t get the power to fight.

“They’ve been let alone since then, they did not know why. I told them what their dear friends had been doing in that time, and the Venonians were immensely surprised, and very evidently sorry. They begged my pardon for letting loose such a menace, quite sincerely feeling that it was their fault. They offered any help they could give, and I told them that a chart of this system would be of the greatest use. They are going now to Venone, and we are to go with them, and see what they have to offer. Also, they want a demonstration of this ‘remarkable ship that can defeat whole fleets of Thessians, and destroy or make planets at will,’ ” concluded Arcot.

“I do not in the least blame them for wanting to see this ship in operation, Arcot, but they are, very evidently, a much older race than yours,” said Torlos, his thoughts coming clear and sharp, as those of a man who has thought over what he says carefully. “Are you not running danger that their minds may be more powerful than yours, that this story they have told you is but a ruse to get this ship on their world where thousand, millions can concentrate their will against you and capture the ship by mind where they cannot capture it by force?”

“That,” agreed Arcot, “is where ‘the rub’ comes in as an ancient poet of Earth put it. I don’t know and I did not have a chance to see. Wherefore I am about to do some work. Let me have the controls, Morey, will you?”

Arcot made a new ship. It was made entirely, perforce, of cosmium, lux and relux, for those were the only forms of matter he could create in space permanently from energy. It was equipped with gravity drive, and time distortion speed apparatus, and his far better trained mind finished this smaller ship with his titanic tools in less than the two days that it took them to reach Venone. In the meantime, the Venonian cruiser had drawn close, and watched in amazement as the ship was fashioned from the energy of space, became a thing of glistening matter, materializing from the absolute void of space, and forming under titanic tools such as the commander could not visualize.

Now, this move was partly the reason for this construction, for while the Venonian was busy, absorbed in watching the miraculous construction, his mind was not shielded, and it was open for observation of two such wonderfully trained minds as those of Zezdon Afthen and Zezdon Inthel. With their instruments and wonderfully developed mind-science, aided at times by Morey’s less skillful, but more powerful mind of his older race, and powerful too, both because of long concentration and training, and because of his individual inheritance, they examined the minds of many of the officers of the ship without their awareness.

As a final test, Arcot, having finished the ship, suggested that the Venonian officer and one of the men of his ship have a trial of mental powers.

Zezdon Afthen tried first, and between the two ships, racing along side by side at a speed unthinkable, the two men struggled with those forces of will.

Quickly Zezdon Afthen told Arcot what he had learned.

The sun of Venone was close, now, and Arcot prepared to use as he intended the little space machine he had made. Morey took it, and went away from the Thought flying on its time field. The ship had been stocked with lead fuel for its matter-burning generators from the supply that had been brought on the Thought for emergencies, and the air had come from the Thought’s great tanks. Morey was going to Venone ahead of the Thought to scout⁠—“to see many of the important men of Venone and find out from them what I can of the relationship between Venone and Thett.”

Hours later Morey returned with a favorable report. He had seen many of the important men of Venone, and conversed with them mentally from the safety of his ship, where the specially installed gravity apparatus had protected him and the ship against the enormous gravity of this gigantic world. He did not describe Venone; he wanted them to see it as he had first seen it.

So the little ship, which had served its purpose now, was destroyed, nearly a light year from Venone, and left a crushed wreck when two plates of artificial matter had closed upon it, destroying the apparatus, lest some unwelcome finder use it. There was little about it, the gravity apparatus alone perhaps, that might have been of use to Thett, and Thett already had the ray⁠—but why take needless risk?

Then once more they were racing toward Venone. Soon the giant star of which it was a planet loomed enormous. Then, at Morey’s direction, they swung, and before them loomed a planet. Large as Thett, near a half million miles in diameter, its mass was very closely equal to that of our sun. Yet it was but the burned-out sweepings of the outermost photospheric layers of this giant sun, and the radioactive atoms that made a sun active were not here; it was a cold planet. But its density was far, far higher than that of our sun, for our sun is but slightly denser than ordinary sea water. This world was dense as copper, for with the deeper sweepings of the tidal strains that had formed it, more of the heavier atoms had gone into its making, and its core was denser than that of Earth.

About it swept two gigantic satellite Worlds, each larger than Jupiter, but satellites of a satellite here! And Venone itself was inhabited by countless millions, yet their low, green tile and metal cities were invisible in the aspect of rolling lands with tiny hillocks, dwarfed by gigantic bulbous trees that floated their enormous weight in the water-dense atmosphere.

Here, too, there were no seas, for the temperature was above the critical temperature of water, and only in the self-cooling bodies of these men and in the trees which similarly cooled themselves, could there be liquid.

The sun of the world was another of the giant red stars, close to three hundred and fifty times the mass of our sun. It was circled by but three giant planets. Its enormous disc was almost invisible from the surface of the world as the Thought sank slowly through fifteen thousand miles of air, due to the screening effect on light passing through so much air. Earth could have rested on this planet and not extended beyond its atmosphere! Had Earth been situated at this planet’s center, the Moon could have revolved about it, and would not have been beyond the planet’s surface!

In silent wonder the terrestrians watched the titanic world as they sank, and their friends looked on amazed, comprehending even less of the significance of what they saw. Already within the titanic gravitational field, they could see that indescribable effects were being produced on them, and on the ship. Arcot alone could know the enormous gravitation, and his accelerometer told him now that he was subject to a gravitational acceleration of three thousand four hundred and eighty-seven feet per second, or almost exactly one hundred and nine times Earth’s pull.

“The Thought weighs one billion, two hundred and six million, five hundred thousand tons, with tender, on Earth. Here it weighs approximately one hundred and twenty-one billion tons,” said Arcot softly.

“Can you set it down? It may crush under this load if the gravity drive isn’t supporting it,” asked Torlos anxiously.

“Eight inches cosmium, and everything else supported by cosmium. I made this thing to stand any conceivable strain. Watch⁠—if the planet’s surface will take the load,” replied Arcot.

They were still sinking, and now a number of small marvelously streamlined ships were clustered around the slowly settling giant. In a few moments more people, hundreds, thousands of men were flying through the air up to the ship.

A cruiser had appeared, and was very evidently intent on leading them somewhere, and Arcot followed it as it streaked through the dense air. “No wonder they streamline,” he muttered as he saw the enormous force it took to drive the gigantic ship through this air. The air pressure outside their ship now was so great, that the sheer crushing effect of the air pressure alone was enormous. The pressure was well over nine tons to the square inch, on the surface of that enormous ship!

They landed approximately fifty miles from a large city which was the capital. The land seemed absolutely level, and the horizon faded off in distance in an atmosphere absolutely clear. There was no dust in the air at their height of nearly three hundred feet, for dust was too heavy on this world. There were no clouds. The mountains of this enormous world were not large, could not be large, for their sheer weight would tear them down, but what mountains there were were jagged, tortured rock, exceedingly sharp in outline.

“No rain⁠—no temperature change to break them down,” said Wade looking at them. “The zone of fracture can’t be deep here.”

“What, Wade, is the zone of fracture?” asked Torles.

“Rock has weight. Any substance, no matter how brittle, will flow if sufficient pressure is brought to bear from all sides. A thing which can flow will not break or fracture. You can’t imagine the pressure to which the rock three hundred feet down is subject to. There is the enormous mass of atmosphere, the tremendous mass of rock above, and all forced down by this gravitation. By the time you get down half a mile, the rock is under such an inconceivably great pressure that it will flow like mud. The rock there cannot break; it merely flows under pressure. Above, the rock can break, instead of flowing. That is the zone of fracture. On Earth the zone of fracture is ten miles deep. Here it must be of the order of only five hundred feet! And the planetary blocks that made a planet’s surface float on the zone of flowage⁠—they determine the zone of fracture.”

The gigantic ship had been sinking, and now, suddenly it gave a very unexpected demonstration of Wade’s words. It had landed, and Arcot shut off the power. There was a roaring, and the giant ship trembled, rocked, and rolled along a bit. Instantly Arcot drove it into the air.

“Whoa⁠—can’t do it. The ship will stand it, and won’t bend under the load⁠—but the planet won’t. We caused a Venone-quake. One of those planetary blocks Wade was talking about slipped under the added strain.”

Quickly Wade explained that all the planetary blocks were floating, truly floating, and in equilibrium just as a boat must be. The added load had been sufficiently great, so that, with an already extant overload on this particular planetary block, this “boat” had sunk a bit further into the flowage zone, till it was once more at rest and balanced.

“They wish us to come out that they may see us, strangers and friends from another Island,” interrupted Zezdon Afthen.

“Tell them they’d have to scrape us up off the ground, if we attempted it. We come from a world where we weigh about as much as a pebble here,” said Wade, grinning at the thought of terrestrians trying to walk on this world.

“Don’t⁠—tell them we’ll be right out,” said Arcot sharply. “All of us.”

Morey and the others all stared at Arcot in amazement. It was utterly impossible!

But Zezdon Afthen did as Arcot had asked. Almost immediately, another Morey stepped out of the airlock wearing what was obviously a pressure suit. Behind him came another Wade, Torlos, Stel Felso Theu, and indeed all the members of their party save Arcot himself! The Galactians stared in wonder⁠—then comprehended and laughed together. Arcot had sent artificial matter images of them all!

Their images stepped out, and the Venonian crowd which had collected, stared in wonder at the giants, looming twice their height above them.

“You see not us, but images of us. We cannot withstand your gravity nor your air pressure, save in the protection of our ship. But these images are true images of us.”

For some time then they communicated, and finally Arcot agreed to give a demonstration of their power. At the suggestion of the cruiser commander who had seen the construction of a spaceship from the emptiness of space, Arcot rapidly constructed a small, very simple, molecular drive machine of pure cosmium, making it entirely from energy. It required but minutes, and the Venonians stared in wonder as Arcot’s unbelievable tools created the machine before their eyes. The completed ship Arcot gave to an official of the city who had appeared. The Venonian looked at the thing skeptically, and half expecting it to vanish like the tools that made it, gingerly entered the port. Powered as it was by lead burning cosmic ray generators, the lead alone having been made by transmutation of natural matter, it was powerful, and speedy. The official entered it, and finding it still existing, tried it out. Much to his amazement it flew, and operated perfectly.

Nearly ten hours Arcot and his friends stayed at Venone, and before they left, the Venonians, for all their vast differences of structure, had proven themselves true, kindly honest men, and a race that our Alliance has since found every reason to respect and honor. Our commerce with them, though carried on under difficulties, is none the less a bond of genuine friendship.