Thett Prepares

Streaking through the void toward Thett was again a tiny scout ship. It carried but a single man, and with all the power of the machine he was darting toward distant Thett, at a speed insanely reckless, but he knew that he must maintain such a speed if his mission were to be successful.

Again a tiny ship entered Thett’s far-flung atmosphere, and slowed to less than a light speed, and sent its signal call ahead. In moments the patrol ship, less than three hundred miles away, had reached it, and together they streaked through the dense air in a screaming dive toward Shatnsoma, the capital city. It was directly beneath, and it was not long before they had reached the great palace grounds, and settled on the upper roof. Then the scout leaped out of his tiny craft, and dove for the door. Flashing his credentials, he dove down, and into the first shielded room. Here precious seconds were wasted while a check was made of the credentials the man carried, then he was sent through to the Council Room. And he, too, stood on that exact spot where the other scout, but a few weeks before, had stood⁠—and vanished. Waiting, it seemed, were four councilors and the new Sthanto, Thalt.

“What news, Scout?” asked the Sthanto.

“They have arrived in the Universe to Venone, and gone to the planet Venone. They were on the planet when I left. None of our scouts were able to approach the place, as there were innumerable Venonian watchers who would have recognized our deeper skin-color, and destroyed us. Two scouts were rayed, though the Galactians did not see this. Finally we captured two Venonians who had seen it, and attempted to force the information we needed from them. A young man and his chosen mate.

“The man would tell nothing, and we were hurried. So we turned to the girl. These accursed Venonians are courageous for all their pacifism. We were hurried, and yet it was long before we forced her to tell what we needed to know so vitally. She had been one of the notetakers for the Venonian government. We got most of their conversation, but she died of burns before she finished.

“The Galactians know nothing of the twin-ray beyond its action, and that it is an electromagnetic phenomenon, though they have been able to distort it by using a sheet of pure energy. But their walls are impregnable to it, and their power of creating matter from the pure energy of space, as we saw from a distance, would enable them to easily defeat it, were it not that the twin-ray passes through matter without harming it. Any ray which will destroy matter of the natural electrical types, will be stopped.

“The girl was damnably clever, for she gave us only the things we already knew, and but few new facts; knowing that she would inevitably die soon, she talked⁠—but it was empty talk. The one thing of import we have learned is that they burn no fuel, use no fuel of any sort but in some inconceivable manner get their energy from the radiations of the suns of space. This could not be great⁠—but we know she told the truth, and we know their power is great. She told the truth, for we could determine when she lied, by mental action, of course.

“But more we could not learn. The man died without telling anything, merely cursing. He knew nothing anyway, as we already had determined,” concluded the scout.

Silently the Sthanto sat in thought for some moments. Then he raised his head, and looked at the scout once more.

“You have done well. You secured some information of import, which was more than we had dared hope for. But you managed things poorly. The woman should not have died so soon. We can only guess.

“The radiation of the suns of space⁠—hmmm⁠—” Sthanto Thalt’s brow wrinkled in thought. “The radiation of the suns of space. Were his power derived from the sun near which he is operating, he would not have said suns. It was more than one?”

“It was, oh Sthanto,” replied the scout positively.

“His power is unreasonable. I doubt that he gave the true explanation. It may well have been that he did not trust the Venonians. I would not, for all their warless ways. But surely the suns of space give very little power at any given point at random. Else space would not be cold.

“But go, Scout, and you will be assigned a position in the fleet. The Colonial fleet, the remains of it, have arrived, and the colonists been removed. They failed. We will use their ships. You will be assigned.” The scout left, and was indeed assigned to a ship of the colonists. The incoming colonial transports had been met at the outposts of the system, and rayed out of existence at once⁠—failures, and bringing danger at their heels. Besides⁠—there was no room for them on Thett without Thessians being crowded uncomfortably.

As their battleships arrived they were conducted to one of the satellites, and each man was “fumigated,” lest he bring disease to the mother planet. Men entered, men apparently emerged. But they were different men.

“It seems,” said the Sthanto softly, after the scout had left, “that we will have little difficulty, for they are, we know, vulnerable to the triple ray. And if we can but once destroy their driving units they will be helpless on our world. I doubt that wild tale of their using no fuel. Even if that be true they will be helpless with their power apparatus destroyed, and⁠—if we miss the first time, we can seek it out, or drive them off!

“All of which is dependent on the fact that they attack at a point where we have a triple ray station to meet them. There are but three of these, actually, but I have had dummy stations, apparently identical with our other real stations, set up in many places.

“This gibberish we hear of creating matter⁠—it is impossible, and surely unsuitable as a weapon. Their misty wall⁠—that may be a force plane, but I know of no such possibility. The artificial substance though⁠—why should anyone make it? It but consumes energy, and once made is no more dangerous than ordinary matter, save that there is the possibility of creating it in dangerous position. Remember, we have heard already of the mental suggestions planes⁠—mere force planes⁠—plus a wonderfully developed power of suggestion. They do most of their damage by mental impression. Remember, we have heard already of the mental suggestions of horrible things that drove one fleet of the weak-minded colonists mad.

“And that, I think, we will use to protect ourselves. If we can, with the apparatus which you, my son, have developed, cause them to believe that all the other forts are equally dangerous, and that this one on Thett is the best point of attack⁠—It will be easy. Can you do it?”

“I can, Oh Sthanto, if but a sufficient number of powerful minds may be brought to aid me,” replied the youngest of the four councilmen.

“And you, Ranstud, are the stations ready?” asked the ruler.

“We are ready.”