The Irresistible and the Immovable

The generator Arcot had brought was one of the two spare generators used for laboratory work. He took it now into the substation, and directed the Talsonian students and the scientist in the task of connecting it into the lines; though they knew where it belonged, he knew how it belonged.

Then the terrestrian turned on the power, and gradually increased it until the power authorities were afraid of breakdowns. The accumulators were charged in the city, and the power was being shipped to other cities whose accumulators were not completely charged.

But, after giving simple operating instructions to the students, Arcot and Morey went with Stel Felso Theu to his laboratory.

“Here,” Stel Felso Theu explained, “is the original apparatus. All these other machines you see are but replicas of this. How it works, why it works, even what it does, I am not sure of. Perhaps you will understand it. The thing is fully charged now, for it is, in part, one of the defenses of the city. Examine it now, and then I will show its power.”

Arcot looked it over in silence, following the great silver leads with keen interest. Finally he straightened, and returned to the Talsonian. In a moment Morey joined them.

The Talsonian then threw a switch, and an intense ionization appeared within the tube, then a minute spot of light was visible within the sphere of light. The minute spot of radiance is the real secret of the weapon. The ball of fire around it is merely wasted energy.

“Now I will bring it out of the tube.” There were three dials on the control panel from which he worked, and now he adjusted one of these. The ball of fire moved steadily toward the glass wall of the tube, and with a crash the glass exploded inward. It had been highly evacuated. Instantly the tiny ball of fire about the point of light expanded to a large globe.

“It is now in the outer air. We make the⁠—thing, in an evacuated glass tube, but as they are cheap, it is not an expensive procedure. The ball will last in its present condition for approximately three hours. Feel the exceedingly intense heat? It is radiating away its vast energy.

“Now here is the point of greatest interest.” Again the Talsonian fell to work on his dials, watching the ball of fire. It seemed far more brilliant in the air now. It moved, and headed toward a great slab of steel off to one side of the laboratory. It shifted about until it was directly over the center of the great slab. The slab rested on a scale of some sort, and as the ball of fire touched it, the scale showed a sudden increase in load. The ball sank into the slab of steel, and the scale showed a steady, enormous load. Evidently the little ball was pressing its way through as though it were a solid body. In a moment it was through the steel slab, and out on the other side.

“It will pass through any body with equal ease. It seems to answer only these controls, and these it answers perfectly, and without difficulty.

“One other thing we can do with it. I can increase its rate of energy discharge.”

The Talsonian turned a fourth dial, well off to one side, and the brilliance of the spot increased enormously. The heat was unbearable. Almost at once he shut it off.

“That is the principle we use in making it a weapon. Watch the actual operation.”

The ball of fire shot toward an open window, out the window, and vanished in the sky above. The Talsonian stopped the rotation of the dials. “It is motionless now, but scarcely visible. I will now release all the energy.” He twirled the fourth dial, and instantly there was a flash of light, and a moment later a terrific concussion.

“It is gone.” He left the controls, and went over to his apparatus. He set a heavy silver bladed switch, and placed a new tube in the apparatus. A second switch arced a bit as he drove it home. “Your generator is recharging the accumulators.”

Stel Felso Theu took the backplate of the control cabinet off, and the terrestrians looked at the control with interest.

“Got it, Morey?” asked Arcot after a time.

“Think so. Want to try making it up? We can do so out of spare junk about the ship, I think. We won’t need the tube if what I believe of it is true.”

Arcot turned to the Talsonian. “We wish you to accompany us to the ship. We have apparatus there which we wish to set up.”

Back to the ship they went. There Arcot, Morey and Wade worked rapidly.

It was about three-quarters of an hour later when Arcot and his friends called the others to the laboratory. They had a maze of apparatus on the power bench, and the shining relux conductors ran all over the ship apparently. One huge bar ran into the power room itself, and plugged into the huge power-coil power supply.

They were still working at it, but looked up as the others entered. “Guess it will work,” said Arcot with a grin.

There were four dials, and three huge switches. Arcot set all four dials, and threw one of the switches. Then he started slowly turning the fourth dial. In the center of the room a dim, shining mist a foot in diameter began to appear. It condensed, solidified without shrinking, a solid ball of matter a foot in diameter. It seemed black, but was a perfectly reflective surface⁠—and luminous!

“Then⁠—then you had already known of this thing? Then why did you not tell me when I tried to show it?” demanded the Talsonian.

Arcot was sending the globe, now perfectly non-luminous, about the room. It flattened out suddenly, and was a disc. He tossed a small weight on it, and it remained fixed, but began to radiate slightly. Arcot readjusted his dials, and it ceased radiating, held perfectly motionless. The sphere returned, and the weight dropped to the floor. Arcot maneuvered it about for a moment more. Then he placed his friends behind a screen of relux, and increased the radiation of the globe tremendously. The heat became intense, and he stopped the radiation.

“No, Stel Felso Theu, we do not have this on our world,” Arcot said.

“You do not have it! You look at my apparatus fifteen minutes, and then work for an hour⁠—and you have apparatus far more effective than ours, which required years of development!” exclaimed the Talsonian.

“Ah, but it was not wholly new to me. This ship is driven by curving space into peculiar coordinates. Even so, we didn’t do such a hot job, did we, Morey?”

“No, we should have⁠—”

“What⁠—it was not a good job?” interrupted the Talsonian. “You succeeded in creating it in air⁠—in making it stop radiating, in making a ball a foot in diameter, made it change to a disc, made it carry a load⁠—what do you want?”

“We want the full possibilities, the only thing that can save us in this war,” Morey said.

“What you learned how to do was the reverse of the process we learned. How you did it is a wonder⁠—but you did. Very well⁠—matter is energy⁠—does your physics know that?” asked Arcot.

“It does; matter contains vast energy,” replied the Talsonian.

“Matter has mass, and energy because of that! Mass is energy. Energy in any known form is a field of force in space. So matter is ordinarily a combination of magnetic, electrostatic and gravitational fields. Your apparatus combined the three, and put them together. The result was⁠—matter!

“You created matter. We can destroy it but we cannot create it.

“What we ordinarily call matter is just a marker, a sign that there are those energy-fields. Each bit is surrounded by a gravitational field. The bit is just the marker of that gravitational field.

“But that seems to be wrong. This artificial matter of yours seems also a sort of knot, for you make all three fields, combine them, and have the matter, but not, very apparently, like normal matter. Normal matter also holds the fields that make it. The artificial matter is surrounded by the right fields, but it is evidently not able to hold the fields, as normal matter does. That was why your matter continually disintegrated to ordinary energy. The energy was not bound properly.

“But the reason why it would blow up so was obvious. It did not take much to destroy the slight hold that the artificial matter had on its field, and then it instantly proceeded to release all its energy at once. And as you poured millions of horsepower into it all day to fill it, it naturally raised merry hell when it let loose.”

Arcot was speaking eagerly, excitedly.

“But here is the great fact, the important thing: It is artificially created in a given place. It is made, and exists at the point determined by these three coordinated dials. It is not natural, and can exist only where it is made and nowhere else⁠—obvious, but important. It cannot exist save at the point designated. Then, if that point moves along a line, the artificial matter must follow that moving point and be always at that point. Suppose now that a slab of steel is on that line. The point moves to it⁠—through it. To exist, that artificial matter must follow it through the steel⁠—if not, it is destroyed. Then the steel is attempting to destroy the artificial matter. If the matter has sufficient energy, it will force the steel out of the way, and penetrate. The same is true of any other matter, lux metal or relux⁠—it will penetrate. To continue in existence it must. And it has great energy, and will expend every erg of that energy of existence to continue existence.

“It is, as long as its energy holds out, absolutely irresistible!

“But similarly, if it is at a given point, it must stay there, and will expend every erg staying there. It is then immovable! It is either irresistible in motion, or immovable in static condition. It is the irresistible and the immovable!

“What happens if the irresistible meets the immovable? It can only fight with its energy of existence, and the more energetic prevails.”