Chapter 6 – Interference on Luna by John W. Campbell

Read about the November, 1933 issue.cosmos4-001 (Weinberg)[Image by Robert Weinberg, from a bound volume of Cosmos created for the original editors.]

AUTHOR OF: ‘WHEN THE ATOMS FAILED,’ ‘THE BLACK STAR PASSES,’ ETC.

Old Mea-Quin shook his head sadly and doubtfully. “I do not like the situation, Dos-Tev. We alone can do so little. These worlds must help us, yet the telepathic response we have stirred in them is not hopeful. On Planet Four, and on the satellites of Planet Five, and on the satellite of Planet Six, in particular, only strife, anger and hatred exist now – hate for each other, not for the enemy I fear.”

“Planet Four has weapons. Planet Three has some – and one greater weapon than all others, that shall save vast human misery. It is a weapon which, I believe, we must rely greatly upon: their intelligent machines. Their people were warlike but a long period of peace seems to have brought them into greater harmony and with this threat of outside interference they are now working solidly together, I believe. I have received no strong warring impulses, while the impulses from Four were a jumble of separate strains and will-pulls. Their movement in any direction is not a unified march but a resultant of many individual and diverse strainings.”

“And the satellite of Planet Six: There we have a race which was forced to make itself unnatural because the sexes could not agree. A temporary agreement among the women has been built up only because they are unified against one force.”

“What weapons have we, Mea-Quin?”

Mea-Quin moved restlessly and seemed to look about him; listened sharply to a rattle of metal from behind, where Bullo was working. Finally he got up and went to the instrument panel and looked at it carefully. He sat down to a small calculating machine and rapidly set up a series of functions.

He turned away and shrugged his shoulders helplessly. “Aye – Ahy. The wrongness of Space was here again. I felt it in me. You are not sensitive enough, Dos-Tev. The Interference. They are watching us – listening to our minds again. It is beyond me. If only I could tap their forces – determine their dimensions and their properties, then I could perhaps, understand. But the Wrongness disturbs my instruments. It cuts down the power of my atomic engines. It disturbs my mind, which is far more serious, for through mind alone may we conquer.”

“Ten times we tried with the Thi-Ranley radiator to reach the people of the worlds. Planet Three we reached. Planet One we tried next, and reached. Planet Two – the beam moved and bent and came back to us. We have not been able to send.”

“Twenty-three messenger rockets we sent, one after another. Eight, and eight times they looped, turned and crashed into the sun. Many days of work and eight more looped up from us and turned, wandered and are floating in eternal space. Each day it grows more powerful.”

“Not til after we made them after the pattern of the machines of Planet Three; self-thinking, self-directing, capable of an acceleration one hundred times that any man could stand; did they escape. Even so, it was their own directive power after they were many millions of miles from us that brought them safely to their destination. The fools that found them did not see more than a control machine.”

“And – we are watched. I am sure of that. And I fear – for this one who can pick my thoughts at such a distance is surely a being of great mind. I believe his civilization had little science, that he is learning now from us. And each day his power grows. May Tor aid us – for we shall need it if this one proves the ally of Ay-Artz, as I fear. But I have a new device. There can be no sound on this soundless moon. Any device capable of penetrating these metal walls to reach us must be material in the fourth dimension or immaterial. If in the fourth dimension, it is immaterial to us until reduced to our normal three when it would become visible. If immaterial, it will not react to material vibration.”

“But – could it not be made invisible?”

“No paint can produce invisibility. No space-field can do so without leaving such tremendous spatial strains all about it that the veriest amateur of science would realize something was terribly amiss. Only in the fourth dimension would such affect be achieved.”

“A four-dimensional machine,” Dos-Tev shook his head unhappily. “How could we cope with such a being?”

“No – not four-dimensional machine. Three dimensions just as our machines have. Look, here is a plane. Imagine that it is the home of the useful Flatlander. He knows only this plane, can conceive of but two dimensions. See, we turn this sheet of paper – a two dimensional object, let us say – through 90 degrees to this third dimension. He cannot conceive of a third dimension, therefore the object vanishes, having become unreal to him. The object is now in the second and third, still two dimensional, but beyond his imagination. Thus an object of three dimensions can, by using a different three, be invisible to us.”

“The solution of our problem is not immediately before me. We cannot escape the watchfulness which, I fear, surrounds us. But – we can, I believe, prevent our minds being picked, read out like the characters of a book.”

“See, and remember. This device which I have here consists of two parts: the reflector and the gatherer. The headpiece is the reflector; it is impervious to thought-waves. When you wear it you will experience a sudden, terrible feeling of utter loneliness. A moment of panic will come over you. I will seem but a picture before you, unreal, inhuman, mindless. Your ears will seem to play you false, your eyes deceive you, a terrible feeling of loneliness that would break a weak mind. If you fear your mind weak, do not don this. For every mental impulse that each living creature radiates continually, forever will be cut off. No corpse will be less lifeless to you than I when you wear this!”

“But you own mental impulses will be reflected, intensified and worked over. Remember the tales of the ancients, the myths handed down from long-forgotten times as fairy tales, of the race with wings and caps which, worn, intensified thinking? Such is this. Further, beware of your strength. The gatherer, this long ribbon of cables, will cover your spinal column in much the same way, intensifying and repeating the nervous impulse. The latent, never-used strength of your muscles will come out. You have not noticed this but I have made timing measurements. Because of our long years in space, traveling at a speed greater than light – to us, not in reality, of course, but under an acceleration always greater than that of Lemnis, by half – your strength has increased and your quickness of motion. This, with the addition of the reflector of thought, will intensify your great strength.”

Thoughtfully Dos-Tev looked at the curious gray cap. It seemed like soft, knitted wool, with its long trailing tail of gray filaments. The cap would fit snugly over his head, like a scalp of gray hair, rounding tightly about his ears and neck.

“It was made to resemble a head of gray hair, when once I saw how it must be,” nodded Mea-Quin. “They who come will not know what we wear.”

With steady hands Dos-Tev donned the strange cap. It snapped about his head abruptly and, as it came, a horrible sickness gripped him. With a sudden clarity of mind, he realized that Dos-Tev was alone in the universe. All other beings, the countless thousands of tiny mental impulses that had always been about him, it seemed, were gone. All the loneliness of the vast and awful space that had traversed was nothing to this. Even Mea-Quin seemed suddenly a gray, unreal shadow. All things were shadows; only Dos-Tev was real. With a brain that saw itself for the first time, he realized that HE was the center of all the universe. The universe had being only in him and by him. He WAS the universe. It was his dream, the dream of a mind alone in all space, a lonely, infinite mind, that had, to amuse itself, filled itself with a dream of infinite spaces and infinite things and then pictured a tiny, sparkling dust speck and circled it with a smaller, duller speck called, in that infinite, alone-existing mind, Lemnis. And that the pictured universe might have motion and interest, the mind pictured a life. And the happenings of a life. How many thousands, millions of times, had his infinite, alone-existing and eternally existing mind conceived a universe, toyed with the dream for a moment or an aeon, then dropped it, when it was tired, and dreamed another?

He – who had dreamed himself as Dos-Tev – was alone, the center of this cosmos that he had dreamt, and for the first time he saw, in their true appearance, the things he had dreamed. Lo – already Mea-Quin was fading, he was not there, a shadow, a thing of dreams – the ship itself and the incredibly rugged mountains beyond the crystal window were vanishing and as his spreading, all-seeing eye looked beyond and the rocky dream of a world disappeared with his negative thought, the stars beyond faded, vanished, and the utter blankness of nothingness came. Dos-Tev knew he was momentarily the infinite mind once more, the eternal mind that had wakened from one more dream.

A great burst of sound and light and tugging, living impulses of mind stirred him suddenly to life again. He had fallen to the floor of the ship and Mea-Quin was bending over him with dark, troubled eyes. The gray cap hung limp in his hand, its tail of fine filaments dangling like some broken snake to the floor. Dos-Tev sat up and shook himself.

“Uhra – by Tor – that is not safe! Achurra – I dreamed I was Tor himself, dreaming the dream of a universe and realizing it and wakening from my dream,as all the dreams vanished, all became naught!”

Mea-Quin’s serious eyes looked down into his anxiously. “Sire, I beg forgiveness. I should have prepared you more carefully. I thought to prepare you body in the bowl ere we left Lemnis but for that far more delicate and wonderful mechanism, the brain, I did not think to prepare. I myself have developed this only after experimenting much, and by gradual improvement learned to think rightly. You must practice and learn rapidly. I have much to tell you that, by Tor, I dare not say while this – this Wrongness of Space is about to learn what I say.”

Giant Bullo came into the room, his great frame filling the low metal doorway. He looked down anxiously at his young master; his eyes blazed angrily at the old scientist. Mea-Quin was of the Learned Class and above his Warrior status but nonetheless there was anger in his eyes as he saw his Sire dazed and helpless on the floor.

“Old One, what have you done?” he demanded.

“Silence, Bullo! Mea-Quin is a Learned One; remember your place!” snapped Dos-Tev rising to his feet with a light bound that carried him some five feet into the air. “That is better,” he said in a more kindly voice as Bullo’s face fell and cleared as he saw his master was well. “He has tried to protect me from the searching, thieving fingers of the mind, which some – some thing has sent at me to pick the thoughts from my skull.”

“Your mind is not so sensitive even as mine and you have not felt it, yet when Mea-Quin seeks to protect me in ways you cannot understand–”

Bullo knelt in sorrow, his hands crossed on the back of his head.

“Rise, Bullo.  I know how you felt, but remember, a Warrior is not a good fighter who loses his head in moments of stress. ‘Seek facts, seek plans, seek victory!'” he quoted the Warrior Class motto.

Dos-Tev turned to Mea-Quin once more. “I must try again.  I will concentrate my mind on some useful thought.  My mind was free to absorb impressions and interpret
only those when last I went over. I shall carry over a thought and occupy my mind thus, till it learns its new powers and its new limitations.”

Mea-Quin objected strenuously. “The danger — the danger is too great. Try rather my earlier, less efficient devices.”

“Nay. We have not time. I must try it, Mea-Quin.”

Reluctantly Mea-Quin gave it to the younger man. Dos-Tev smiled slightly to himself as he took it. “Ahruu, Mea-Quin, we shall see whether that wonderful clarity of mind is real or fancied. For a year and a half now have I sought to picture a scheme for a wonderful   weapon whose plan I conceived.  If this can make my thoughts clear and useful – a useful test, indeed!”

He slipped on the cap, his face drawn in lines of sharp concentration. Almost at once his face became flushed, his arms went pale and he began to breathe heavily as though running strenuously. Bullo started forward, an expression of tortured anxiety on his face. Well he knew that no Warrior dared disturb the Tev Class when they were incommunion with themselves. And the Dos-Tev himself-!  But now the young ruler stood swaying gently, his laboring lungs sucking in air, while his face became more flushed and gradually purpled.  Mea-Quin watched anxiously and finally spoke. “Dos-Tev, you strain yourself beyond human endurance. Remove the cap!”

Dos-Tev’s black eyes swung on him and their strange blankness was suddenly gone as a wave of terrific thought-power turned on Mea-Quin.  But simultaneously his face, red and flushed with blood, cleared, and he sat down heavily.  “Aye, my friend, I must not work too hard at this. Never before have I known what thought might be.  You have invented more than a mere protection, you have invented a mighty weapon, a weapon that amplifies our thoughts, concentrates them to the task and makes our every idea a powerful force against our enemies.”

“I said I had thought of a weapon? By Tor, I had, but never had I conceived its possibilities,  still less the final key-piece of the apparatus, a tube which permits of a vibration frequency beyond anything known before.  A tube which causes oscillations of a frequency equal to that of the molecular collisions within matter.  Think, Mea-Quin, of what this which I shall describe means, and you too, Bullo.  It is this; a fan-shaped ray, reaching out with effective power for perhaps 100 miles.  It is a ray of anarchy, of total entropy. It destroys organization, it will cause the orderly motion of the mightiest ship ever built to carry man, to degenerate suddenly into a mere anarchy of random, molecular motion.  It causes the effect of a collision of two solid bodies. Orderly motion through it is impossible. Only the random diffusion of gases would be possible. Any organized motion through it builds up the field, increases the energy at the expense of the crystal-structure’s kinetic energy.  In the case of liquids, they are not   crystaline but have a molecular bondage and this bondage is what reacts on the field.  Only things possessed of no molecular bondage, gases in other words, are free to move thru the ray.”

“Aye — and   what   becomes   of   the   momentum?” demanded Mea-Quin, doubtfully.  “The energy you account for but not the momentum.”

A light of blazing thought came into Dos-Tev’s eyes.  His voice became toneless. “I could not have told you, Mea-Quin, had not your device permitted utter concentration.  Remember the wave mechanic formulae of matter and remember that both momentum and kinetic energy are reducible to formulae which  show  the  characteristics of some sort of wave motion, an oscillation never understood.  I firmly believe that this ray in some way releases that momentum as that mysterious oscillation.  It will then transfer itself evenly to all surrounding space.  And react on all surrounding bodies by absorption.  Remember, Mea-Quin, that when Thur Mente propounded his three laws of motion, and stated that action and reaction were equal and opposite, he had no conception of action at a distance, nor of space as we know it.  Could he have seen a great space liner coming into huge Tyroo Lanii docks, seen the mighty mass falling freely for 100 feet without the landing rockets, only to slow gently and safely to a landing as gentle as a bit of down, he would surely have searched in vain for the reaction, since that reaction is born on a magnetic field to the giant decelerating magnets.  Now there is no visible transfer of momentum.  The magnets do not move in the slightest degree.  Space transfers the momentum to them and they lose it in that infinitely vaster momentum of Lemnis.  Here is a completely new method of transferring momentum.”

Mea-Quiii looked at Dos-Tev with awe in his eyes.  “And thou hast been my pupil!  Ayha – the pupil is the master and the master learns his years!’ ” he quoted softly.  “Pray Tor, you are right. In any event we must try it.  You say you can make such a device?”

“No, I say I Believe I Can,” smiled Dos-Tev.  “Bullo must help.”

“And in the—”

Mea-Quin stopped abruptly and reached for one of the handholds in the ship’s wall, for the entire ship had lurched suddenly upward and now began to turn over.

“By Tor -” he gasped.  Then the machine, weighing thousands of tons, began to revolve on its axis like the armature of a motor, and gradually it began to heat.  Faster and faster it rotated, while from all over the ship came the sounds of falling things.  One instant Mea-Quin was hanging by his hands from the ceiling, the next instant he was flat on his stomach, weighed to the floor with with an increasing weight.  Faster and faster, while the metal walls grew warmer.  Bits of metal, a stylus, a knife, a small prospector’s stone-ax were becoming deadly weapons possessed of individual volitions, flying through the air, spinning themselves with a terrific velocity.

In seconds the men were plastered to the rotating walls of the ship by the centrifugal force that was mounting rapidly till it passed normal Lemnis-gravity, then doubled it.  Dos-Tev had released his grip, was crawling hurriedly through the wildly spinning ship, laboring under a swiftly increasing acceleration, while the metal walls grew hot to the touch, and sweat poured down his lean face.  “Thank Tor – I practiced – in the bowl.”  His arms could scarcely bear his weight, while the effort of lifting them made his powerful shoulder muscles bulge through his tunic.

Hastily he scrambled to the power room, and with an effort he had not believed himself to be capable of, reached the lower bank of the control board.  The ship suddenly thundered to the roar of the rockets, jerked fiercely forward – and stopped.  With the mighty rockets thundering with force that should have hurled the machine forward at close to four Lemnis-gravities, she was barely able to creep slowly forward, while the Moon’s surface and the heavens whirled dizzily through the windows.

Dos-Tev realized that in another minute he would be unable to endure the acceleration, that surely he would be incapable of reaching the higher power controls.

With a driving demand of his muscles, a will to do it, his body slowly straightened upward, his lead-weighted arm reached up, and pulled down the great main switch.  His quick mind had long ago recognized the force that was spinning them into oblivion.  As the switch snapped across, a series of heavy tumblers fell with dull thuds, and the great atomic engines suddenly roared their hate and this spinning force.  A terrific tenseness seemed to pervade space, the great engine labored, and the deep violet-blue of the atomic flames was suddenly changed through blue to green – they were failing under the immense load of the enemy force!  But the flaming rockets were beginning to hold now, they were driving the ship forward, and the terrific spin was no longer increasing.

Hope seemed to spur him as he reached for the steering controls, and pushed three studs.  A powerful motor whined and groaned erratically somewhere, two new sets of rockets flamed out, and instantly Dos-Tev felt himself slipping around the wall of the ship as his power began to opposed the rotation of the ship.

As he slipped he threw out the main rocket drive, and the giant rockets were silenced.  He started the lower rockets on automatic altimeter control; they would force the ship upward at every opportunity.  Presently he felt their rhythmic thrust, jabbing, pushing the ship upward – and fell as blackness swam over him.

He returned to consciousness to find the moon sinking swiftly. Mea-Quin staggered into the room, as he sat up, and set the controls for return.

“Bullo – is alive – but injured!” he gasped.  “I  became unconscious – before – I saw you move – how did – you endure it?”‘

“Sit down, Mea-Quin.  Again it is your device.  It strengthened my will, it strengthened my nerves.  I was two men. What acceleration did it reach?”

“Five gravities.”

“The rotation stopped automatically, I see.  I can guess what was intended.”

“Aye – the enemy intended to rotate the ship, then grind it on the rocks.”

“A simpIe rotating magnetic field. Like the armature of an induction motor, we spun faster and faster.  His magnetic field was firmIy fixed; we could not move it with all the power of our rockets.”

”What opposition did you give?” asked Mea-Quin curiously.

“The meteor-deflecting magnetic field.”

“Our enemy grows more powerful with every hour,” sighed Mea-Quin. “And his mind is great. I have thought.  We must send warnings to the envoys that come to beware of him.”

Dos-Tev looked at his old friend curiously. “How? We sent a rocket to WorId Eight – it was automatically controlled but the control went wrong under his manipulation and the rocket plunged into the sun. We had to send three at once before one escaped while he pursued the other two.  WorId Nine we could not reach at all.  I doubt that it has life but we could not reach them were they there.  We cannot send by radiation beam.  We tried at various times and we do not believe that it got thru.  And no longer can we send the self-controlIed torpedoes.

“No, we must give that up.  We have work to do.  We must construct a conference dome.  It must be lined with that material of the caps, that within we may have free intercommunication of thought and yet be protected from those without.  And it must be divided into nine compartments in this manner: first, there shall be a central cylindrical chamber; second, there shall be 8 compartments facing onto the inner cylinder. The division walls shall be strongly built to resist great air pressures ans there shall be heavy windows between each that all may see,

“But still, this will mean more trouble.  Those races – the proud men of the fourth planet, the powerful, intelligent men of the 3d alone, for instance, will be a source of friction.  Add to this the women of the satellite, who have fought their own males till they believe every male an inferior being.  When such females meet the males of Planet Three and Planet Four -”

“May Tor give us aid!  It will be a terrible task – and then we must separate the races with the result that each, suspicious and naturalIy hateful, naturally resenting and having a feeling of disgust for the strange shapes of those other races, will feel that they have drawn apart to plot and plan against them. This conference will be more difficult to conduct than the battle itself for with your skill and mathematical ability, Mea-Quin, we can give them accurate courses to the battlefront, once we can bring them to cooperation.”

“And we must go back to that crater again, for there we have said the conference will be held. And immediately we must set up detector fields that will warn us of the approach of forces. But ayhuu – I fear, Dos-Tev, he improves every hour.”

They landed again at Copernicus and at once set up delicate detector fields and automatic apparatus.  Any force they knew would be instantly met by their great atomic engines. But there were many, so many they did not know!

Mea-Quin started work that day on the conference dome, while Bullo and Dos-Tev worked on the new apparatus, with occasional help from Mea-Quin when abstruse calculations must be performed, for Dos-Tev was not the mathematician that Mea-Quin was.

The floor of the dome was laid on the rock of the moon, transmuted from the very rock itself, a brightly gleaming, blue-silvery, metal platform, but underneath it was that strange, soft, gray material that reflected all mental impulse and was as impervious to it as the shining metal to light.

In twelve hours the walls rose up, curved and met in a great dome over the solid floor.  There were no windows and but four doors.  And all these were covered with the gray protective material.

Mea-Quin slept that night and only Bullo stood guard.  Dos~Tev slept heavily, too, after his labors with the growing apparatus. His work had been mental and had tired him, while Bullo had but cut out the apparatus on the machines and so had been selected to stand guard.

He sat silently, hour after hour, guarding the machine and watching the detector fields, as is a Warrior’s training.  But presently he began to watch curiously and with some little surprise a tiny flickering shadow against one wall and attempted to locate the cause. It flickered slowIy like a bit of cloth in a soft breeze but there was no breeze here.  Intently Bullo stared at it; more and more intently – it began to move more rapidly and became a light instead of a shadow; it went in little rhythmic spirals.  His eyes grew tired and closed momentarily to ease the strain–

Dos-Tev was shaking him roughly by the shoulder, shouting in his ear:  “Bullo – BuIlo – and thou a Warrior!  What was it?  How were you tricked to sleep? I well know you would not have been asleep normally.”

“The shadow – the little, fiickering shadow-!” gasped Bullo, trembling to his very soul.

Dos-Tev turned to Mea-Quin sadly.  “He was caught by some hypnotic device.  The cap does not protect against all things.  What damage was done?”

“I woke because of a feeling of unrest. The walls of the ship were glowing faintly. As I watched the metal glowed and crumbled.  It was a transmutation field, a field so huge I cannot conceive it. The dome – the dome is nigh ruined. The latnem covering has been destroyed.  The work is to be done again.  He attacked only the tungsten it contained, which explains why we were not injured.  Had he used a field which would have effected any of the elements of our body, surely we would have awakened more quickly.  The tungsten of the ship, too, has been somewhat effected but there was only one-half of one per cent of the metal.

“Ayhuuu – he improves.”  Mea-Quin was worried; his old face was seamed and tired. “So much to do – so hard to do it.  And always this opposition.  I fear the opposition of the worlds themselves.  May Tor aid us, for His aid we need.”  He bowed his head a moment, then raised his tired   face   once   more.    The   sIeep   seemed   not   to   have rested him.  “We must work.”

There was little need be done to the ship.  Mea-Quin had awakened before great damage had been done and the enemy, whosoever he might be, had apparently concentrated his power on the dome.  Dos-Tev inspected the walls of the ship and decided that they needed attention, while Mea-Quin again began the labor of building
up the gray latnem protective material for the dome.  Dos~Tev, meanwhiIe, devised a protecting detector field that would be sensitive to the transmutation field of the
enemy.  Twice during the day it responded to an external influence   and   Mea-Quin realized   that   his   own   transmutation operations were misbehaving.

The third day Mea-Quin devised a detector that was sensitive to any space distortion whatsoever and carefully balanced it against the gravitational and magnetic fields of the planets and sun. Regularly once each six hours it was thrown off, because the changing fields of the planets and the sun would throw it off, but it could be rebalanced and it was a Protection.

The sixth day saw Dos-Tev’s apparatus finished, a strange, chunky projector at the nose of their ship, with a curious, semi-cylindrical meshwork of wires that glowed faintly a moment, then pulsed into invisible flickerings as the power was turned on.  A faint glow in the almost non-existent atmosphere of the moon was the only apparent result.

“We will try first a small mass at some distance from the ship,” suggested Dos-Tev.  A stone was thrown on it by Bullo; it rose, then fell in a slow arc to land on the beam and rest as though on a solid platform.  Dos-Tev sighed  happily.   “Ayhuuu – It works somewhat, at any rate.  Now for a real test.”

They had a few remaining message rockets and one of these was sent off, to return after a short while.  It rose in a graceful arc to a height of nearly a hundred miles, turned and came rushing back at a speed of nearly ten miles a second!

Mea~Quin glanced at Dos~Tev in consternation.  “He has done that – it is coming directly at us!”  The enemy had seized their own test as a weapon!  Dos-Tev was working.  The ship rose suddenly.  “Pray Tor our untried weapon is a true defense!’

The projector was rotating on its axis till it pointed at an angle back across the ship, a roof above it.  It had been done in less than three seconds, yet already the swift-driving message rocket was less than fifty miles off and accelerating terrifically.

It struck.  There was a sudden unbearable wrench to all space; without the slightest apparent acceleration the ship was driving down toward the surface of the Moon and high above them a blazing, blue-white globe of gas slid swiftly down an invisible plane   toward   them.  A rocket roared out and the ship stopped its descent.

Trembling, Mea-Quin turned to Dos-Tev.  “It had done its duty as you foresaw.  The momentum was distributed, our ship received its alloted portion, the Moon absorbed the greater part.  My son, you have done much for the defeat of Ay-Artz.  Now I shall give you one more thing I have labored on.  What ray has been sought for long and declared impossible?  It is a ray that matter will not stop, a ray which no mechanism of matter can screen against and which will bring tearing, burning death to any living being.”

“The Gamma Ray.  That is easily guessed and the answer is it cannot be made controllable because of its very power.  Breaking atoms produce it.  The great difficulty of designing the atomic engine was to prevent its appearance.  It is uncontrollable.”

“Ay, it is uncontrollable,” smiled Mea-Quin.  “An inch of lead will stop by far the greater part of it if the intensity is not too great and will render it harmless then. Our eight inch metal walls would stop a low intensity.  Now – here is the long-sought Gamma Ray weapon.”  Mea-Quin handed Dos-Tev a small thing, a device that resembled   a   large   fruit, some six inches in diameter, with crinkled, slightly pitted sides, surmounted by a conical hat.  The tip of the cone was knurled and free to turn, a white line was marked on it and on the adjacent surface of the cone itself was a series of fine white lines.

“It is uncontrollable,” smiled Mea-Quin.  “The answer to that is so simple that for a hundred years a thousand scientists and warriors have overlooked it. Use a Bomb of Gamma Rays.”

Dos-Tev burst out laughing. “Ayhuuu – Mea-Quin, our minds are topheavy. They weigh themselves down with their very strength. But can your bomb generate the necessary intensity?”

Mea-Quin nodded. “It is filled with radioactive material of a type familiar to you – fuel 239-34 – L equals 34.9.  But I have it under the control system of Tur Lao.” The old face crinkled in smiles, his eyes glistened slyly.

Dos-Tev brought the ship to the ground once more, beside the dome. He was silent for a moment, while a slow, broad smile crept over his lean face. “And the report of the committee was that Tur Lao’s system of control was unsafe because, while permitting high efficiency and rapid release of energy, it had a critical point which, when reached, meant the release of the energy solely as Gamma radiation.”  Dos-Tev laughed again.  “And the mistakes of yesteryear become the successful weapons of today!”

“Ayhuu – we have a new weapon,” sighed Mea-Quin.  “But we have no weapon that is in the least effective against our most dangerous enemy, the enemy here now.  And more, I feel that this enemy of ours is most dangerous now, for already he has learned much science and he must realize that many of his most effective weapons are blocked because he is not near us.  He will not remain in hiding much longer, he must come out, and when he does come – Ayhuu – I fear-”

Read about the November, 1933 issue.
Read Chapter Seven of Cosmos.

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