Cosmos (serial novel)/Chapter 1

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Chapter 1 - Faster Than Light by Roger Sherman Hoar
2224862Cosmos — Chapter 1 - Faster Than LightRoger Sherman Hoar

On the shore of the small island of Elbon, on the planet Lemnis, which circles the lesser of the twin suns known collectively to earthlings as the double-star Alpha Centauri, stood Dos Tev, the deposed and exiled young Emperor of the planet, in earnest conversation with white-bearded Mea Quin, greatest scientist of all space. The metal-green sky above them sparkled crisply in the afternoon light of the two suns and an iodine-scented breeze swept in from the rolling purple waves of the sea.

“Thank Tor!” exclaimed the aged scientist gazing furtively around, “that there are two places on this island where we can talk freely. Why do you suppose that Ay-Artz is permitting us to continue the construction of our space ship, although he won’t let us build light-ray transmitters?”

The young Emperor laughed. “You are unexcelled as a scientist Mea-Quin; but you are completely out of your field when you try to fathom the motives of men. Ay-Artz and his misguided revolutionists stole the improved space ship which we completed just before my enforced abdication. They have built twenty more just like it. But they suspect – and rightly so – that you get better and better with practice. So they are letting us build another and better, although much smaller, ship; then they will steal the ideas from that. As for their denying us the use of light-ray transmitters and receivers: they don’t want us listening-in on any devilment they may be up to; and they don’t want us signalling the Risboyans for aid.”

“But what does Ay-Artz need of better space-ships than the ones he already has?”

“Looking for more world to conquer,” suggested Dos Tev.

“Doesn’t he realize that our planet, Lemnis, is the only inhabited, or even inhabitable, world that circles our sun, excepting only Risbo, whose people are too powerful for conquest?”

“But there are other suns in space; and we know that the nearest of them has many planets, and even moons, susceptible of sustaining life.”

Mea-Quin laughed mirthlessly as he replied, “No one but a fool would attempt to bridge four light-years [I] of space.”

[I] Note: For convenience of the reader, all Lemnisian measures of time, distance, velocity, and acceleration have been converted into earth units. The length of day on Lemnis, her size, and the radius of her orbit happen to be practically the same as with us.

“Fools rush in – and win – where scientists fear to tread, “ quoted the young Emperor.

A Lemnisian workman approached them down the beach.

Without waiting to ascertain his identity or purpose, Dos-Tev grimaced and drily remarked, “My error! Let’s take our daily exercise.”

So the two friends made their way to the laboratory courtyard of the castle of Elbon.

Here stood a large metallic cylinder, forty feet high and twenty feet in diameter with the top rounded to a point, resembling a huge, gleaming silver projectile. It was encased in scaffolding which held scores of working men, some with blow-torches, some with air-hammers, and some (their heads helmeted like deep sea divers) with welding arcs in their hands. The din was terrific.

Passing this group, Dos-Tev and his aged companion came to a large saucer-shaped structure one hundred feet in diameter. As they were about to enter this bowl through a small door in its side, a massive workman left his post at the space-ship, approached them, and saluted. From his agitated expression it was quite evident that he had information to impart.

And so, above the din, Dos-Tev shouted, “Would you like to take some sitting-down exercises with us this afternoon?”

Then, without awaiting a reply, the young Emperor and his aged friend hurried through the small door, followed by the workman.

The interior of the huge saucer was plain and unadorned. It contained near its center two chairs, and a table which was equipped with levers and dials.

Dos-Tev and Mea-Quin seated themselves. The former promptly threw one of the levers and the bowl began slowly to revolve.

“Sit down on the floor beside us,” he commanded. “The exercise will do you no good if you take it standing up.”

“But, Sire, I need no exercise,” objected the workman eagerly. “I came here but to – – “

“Sh!” cautioned the Emperor. “Then put it on another ground: if you stand up you are going to be very sick. Or, a third ground: it is my command that you sit down.”

“Very well, Sire,” said the man sheepishly as he saluted and complied. But, Sire, I must – – “

Dos-Tev, with a gesture, commanded silence. Then he moved the lever further and the bowl sped-up its revolution. As it did so the section of the floor occupied by the three men gradually moved outwardly along the upward curve of the bowl. But they still seemed to remain level and the opposite slope of the bowl seemed to tip up correspondingly. Also the weight of their bodies increased oppressively.

The workman looked at his two masters inquisitively, although with considerable apprehension, and shifted his powerful body uneasily. Once he started to speak; then thought better of it.

Raucous klaxon-horns sounded throughout the laboratories and the din of trip-hammers ceased abruptly.

“Quitting time,” remarked Dos-Tev laconically. “Now we can hear ear other. Thank Tor that this is the second place on the Island of Elbon where we can talk without fear of eavesdropping. Well, fellow, what has the chief spy of Ay-Artz been telling the dictator about us?”

“But – -,” the man began.

“Answer my question,” snapped Dos-Tev.

“I told Ay-Artz,” the man replied, “that your space-ship would not be finished for twenty or thirty days yet. Also that you are having trouble perfecting the controls. Also that the new impulse-projector which you have devised is not so successful as the old one. Also that you take exercise regularly in this bowl; and that your health continues good.”

“And Ay-Artz still believes that this bowl is an excerciser?”

“Yes, Sire. Is it not?”

A grin overspread the handsome young face of Dos-Tev as he turned to the white-bearded Mea-Quin.

“I did not credit the dictator with lack of brains to the extent of believing that a man can get exercise from sitting down,” said he. “’Tis fortunate; for without this gravitator to practice in, Ay-Artz would never think it practicable to design a space-ship with an acceleration comparable to ours. Well, fellow, what news do you bring us of the enemy?”

But the huge workman had slumped to the floor of the revolving bowl, his face a sickly green.

Mea-Quin glanced at the dials. “For Tor’s sake, slow it down, Sire! It’s going at a rate of nearly three times gravity already and no man can stand more than twice gravity without practice.”

Dos-Tev slammed back the lever and the bowl slowed down. Mea-Quin got up from his seat and bent over the prostrate workman.

Above them the green sky was already paling and the shafts of reddish purple light from the twin suns could be seen. At this time of year the twin suns set together.

“We must get him out of here,” the aged scientist announced. “He needs water.”

Night falls quickly on planet Lemnis. By the time the Emperor and his friend had dragged the unconscious man out through the small door into the courtyard the sky was blue-black and shot with stars.

With a roar a small rocket-ship passed across above them.

“The scout-ship which guards us,” Dos-Tev drily remarked.

Another roar more distant. Another and another. A chorus of roars. On the horizon, in the direction of the mainland, there could be seen twenty-one cometlike bodies rising straight up into the sky. Up and up they sped, accelerating faster and faster. Dos-Tev and Mea-Quin watched them fascinated.

“It’s the new space-fleet of Ay-Artz,” exclaimed the young Emperor. “What devilment can he be up to now?”

“The conquest of the planet Risbo?” suggested the bearded scientist.

“But Risbo is on the other side of our world at this time of night,” Dos-Tev objected.

The forgotten workman stirred and sat up groggily.

“Sire,” he gasped, “Ay-Artz sets forth tonight to conquer the planets which circle the nearest star. I have been trying to tell you, Sire.”

“By Tor, he shall not! Not if Dos-Tev can stop him!” exclaimed the young Emperor. “Mea-Quin, our space-ship is nearly completed. We must fly to Risbo. Once there, it will be a simple matter to adapt the light-ray transmitters of the Risboyans so as to increase their range and flash a warning to the solar system.”

Mea-Quin took his bearded chin in his hand and remained sunk in thought for a moment. Then he solemnly shook his head.

“Too late,” said he. “A light ray would take four years and 107 days to reach the solar system. The rocket ships of Ay-Artz, traveling half way with an acceleration equal to gravity and then decelerating at the same rate, would arrive there 78 days ahead of our signal even if we could send the message tonight.”

“How long would it take us to get there?”

Mea-Quin blanched. The steadied himself, did some figuring, and replied, “At the rate of one and a half times gravity, we can make it in 3 years and 121 days, Sire.”

“How long will it take us to stock the ship for a trip of that length?”

“There are enough compressed rations and liquid oxygen in the laboratory already, so that we could start tonight, were it not for the part which we tore out of the ship today, in order to give the impression to the spies of Ay-Artz that we are getting nowhere with our preparations. We could get it ready early tomorrow morning, but of course will have to wait until tomorrow night so that the solar system will be above us.”

The handsome young face of Dos-Tev burst into a triumphal smile as he shook his fist at the sky above and exclaimed, “Go, you murderers! You shall learn that Dos-Tev still rules!”

“Look!” whispered Mea-Quin.

A dark form scuttled across the courtyard and disappeared into the shadows.

“We have been overheard,” announced Dos-Tev soberly, his exalted mood dropping from him. “In my excitement I had forgotten that we were neither on the beach nor in the gravitator. We must summon back the men and finish the ship tonight!”

By this time the huge workman was on his feet again, thoroughly recovered from his bad turn.

“Sire, at your command!” he declared, saluting eagerly. “Let us show the dictator that you are still our ruler!”

“Summon the men,” directed the Emperor. “I dare not blow the signal-horns, lest the sound reach the mainland. We set forth into space tonight.”

Along toward morning the space-ship was ready. Inexplicably there had been no interference from the forces of the dictator. Perhaps the skulking figure which had been glimpsed in the courtyard had not been a spy of Ay-Artz after all.

The loyal workmen clustered round and one by one silently pressed the hand of their leader. Although the part which they had played in aiding he departure might mean death by torture for each one of them, yet not a man amongst them flinched. Death was certain for the supposed spy of Ay-Artz, but the huge workman did not flinch either.

“Goodbye, Sire, and good luck!” he shouted.

“But you are going with us Bullo,” said Dos-Tev. “You have earned it.”

Bullo fell back a pace and shuddered. Death by torture at the hands of the minions of Ay-Artz held no terrors for him; but this – a flight into the unknown – this was different.

“Are you afraid?”

Bullo proudly raised his head.

“No!” said he firmly as he followed his two masters up a short step-ladder to a small air-lock eight feet above the ground in the side of the cigar-shaped craft, which stood with its sharp end pointing upward.

The door to the air-lock clanged shut behind them. The crowd of workmen scattered. Everything was ready!

The control-room, in which the three voyagers stood, was circular, fifteen feet in diameter and eight high. The wall was lined with bookshelves. A spiral staircase led to the floors above. In the center of the room was a table crowded with switches, levers, and scientific instruments including three television screens and their controls. Three spring-seats hung from the ceiling in front of the instrument table.

Dos-Tev first tested the air-seal of the door to make sure that it was tight enough to withstand the absolute vacuum of outer space; then threw a switch which started the double-gyroscopic stabilizer in the compartment next above. As soon as this stabilizer should develop its full speed steering could be effected by turning the ship with respect to the gyroscopes, which would remain constantly oriented in one direction.

All three men laced themselves into the spring-saddles to guard against any sudden jar of the start.

“Better begin with just barely more than gravity,” suggested the bearded scientist. “Remember that Bullo is not used to this kind of travel.”

The huge workman’s face was white and his eyes were wide, but his jaw was firmly set.

Dos-Tev turned on the atomic blast and a low roar could be heard in the section of the ship beneath him. Gradually he notched it up and the roar became louder and louder until it was nearly deafening. He and Mea-Quin consulted several dials, which showed that the gyros had attained proper speed, that the air-pressure was standard, and that the atoms were disintegrating properly. They nodded to each other.

Dos-Tev signalled to his two companions to hold tight. Then he threw another lever, the roar of the disintegrator became a sudden screech, their seats sagged to the full stretch of the springs, and the space-ship shot upward from the courtyard. The gyros held it steady; there was no wobble in its upward lurch.

For a moment it lurched madly forward. Then its pilot slowed it down until the sum of the readings of two dials showed that the added effects of the attraction of the planet and the impressed acceleration of the ship were only equal to gravity-and-a quarter. But even that slow rate carried them nearly three miles into the air in the first minute.

Below them, as shown in the vision-screens, they could see the lights of their little island and of the nearby coast-cities of the empire. Above them twinkled the starry firmament; and in the midst of the constellation Casseopeia directly overhead there glowed brightly the nearest star, the one which forms the center of the solar system. Toward it they set their course.

Faint bodies, which were not stars, could now be seen converging ahead of them.

“A perfect swarm of scout-ships,” remarked Mea-Quin grimly. “Now I understand why the minions of the dictator did not interfere with our departure. To hurt you on Lemnis would mean a popular uprising; but out in space – why the populace would never know what caused your death. Shall we try and dodge them?”

“No,” replied Dos-Tev slowing down the ship to less then gravity. “They have us pocketed. Undoubtedly they will try space-torpedoes on us. But we’ll give them a taste of our new gun, which the fools have thought was merely another atomic impulse-projector.”

“Guns, Sire?” exclaimed Bullo. “Can this ship stand the recoil?”

“There will be no recoil,” the young Emperor explained, “for this gun has a blast-deflector which neutralizes the recoil. Come on, Bullo, follow me; there’s no time to lose.”

So saying, he unlashed himself from his spring seat and dashed up the spiral staircase, followed by the big workman. Up past the twin gyros they rushed, to the floor above, which was equipped as a living-room, with bunks along its sides. Down from the center of the ceiling there projected the breech of a five-inch gun. This gun, being recoilless, was rigidly built into the nose of the ship, so as to prevent the escape of any air around it and had a double air-lock breech-block.

With Bullo’s assistance, Dos-Tev rolled a cartridge out of one of the closets and lifted it into the breech, which he then closed. One throw of a lever then uncapped the point of the space-ship, revealing the muzzle. Dos-Tev turned on a vision-screen, adjusting it for vision straight ahead. The scout ships of the enemy were only a few seconds away.

Seizing a corded push-button in one hand and a telephone in the other, Dos-Tev shouted, “Steer straight toward one of them Mea-Quin; and when I fire, put on full speed ahead.”

The space-ship swung slightly and one of the enemy fliers suddenly loomed large in the vision-screen. Dos-Tev pushed the button, the enemy ship dissolved into a burst of debris, then vanished to the rear as an upward lurch threw Dos-Tev and Bullo to the floor.

With great difficulty they forced their doubly-weighted bodies erect. Then switching the screen to rear-vision, they saw the rapidly diminishing blobs of light which represented the rocket discharge of the survivors of the enemy fleet.

Dos-Tev closed the nose of his space-ship again. Then he and Bullo laboriously climbed back down the spiral stairs to the room where Mea-Quin was driving the ship upward with an acceleration equal to twice that of gravity. He slowed it down a bit as they entered.

The enemy ships were now too far below them to be visible in the rear-vision-screen of the control room. The planet Lemnis, from which they had come, showed as a rapidly diminishing disk, around one end of which its sun was rapidly rising with its twin star visible as an apparently smaller body just beside and beyond it. In spite of daylight, the sky showed black instead of green, for they were now well beyond any trace of the atmosphere of the planet.

“Well,” announced Dos-Tev, grinning, “we’re on our way.”

“What do you plan to do when you catch up with the dictator’s expedition?” asked Mea-Quin.

“I hadn’t thought of that,” the young Emperor replied, sobering. “How soon is it likely to happen?”

“Well, they left with an acceleration of merely gravity, 10 hours ahead of us. We are now speeding up at one and a half times that rate. We shall pass them about forty-four and a half hours from now.”

Nearly two days later the three space travelers had begun to get used to weighing half as much again as on the planet Lemnis. To the huge Bullo this came the hardest, not only because he had done no practicing on the gravitator, but also because he was the heaviest of the three to start with.

By now Lemnis was over a hundred million miles behind them and they had attained a speed of five and a quarter million miles per hour. But they were still well within the system of Alpha Centauri, with the light of the twin suns full upon them from behind.

All three passengers had taken turns sleeping, and now studied the black sky about them by means of the vision-screens and a high-power telescope, searching everywhere for the twenty troop-carrying space-ships of the dictator, but not a sign of the enemy could they find.

Shortly after midnight – not that there really were such things as day and night way out in space, but merely that they kept record of the hours the same as back on Lemnis – Dos-Tev shook his head and said, “I can’t understand it. We started from the same place as Ay-Artz, and headed for the same place. It seems inconceivable that either he or we could have strayed so far from our common course as to have missed the other.”

“I have it!” exclaimed Mea-Quin. “We did not start from the same place, for the planet Lemnis was a million and a quarter miles further along in its orbit when we started than when Ay-Artz did. We have traveled a course parallel to his and have missed him by more than a million miles! Let’s cut over and intercept him.”

“Let’s not,” drily remarked the young Emperor. “Let’s keep on toward the solar system and warn its inhabitants. What a surprise it will be for Ay-Artz to find his old enemy is still in a position to thwart him.”

More days went by and the young Emperor and his friends became more and more accustomed to the strange conditions of life in the space-ship. The effort of carrying around their newly acquired bodily weight took the place of exercise and kept them in good trim.

A delicate recording instrument kept track of their acceleration and from this data Mea-Quin periodically computer their velocity and their position in space. A check on these computations was afforded by the apparent displacement of the stars. As the speed of the space-ship became faster and faster, it compounded with the velocity of the light from the distant stars, thus causing their apparent position to shift gradually forward. By measuring the angle of the displacement, particularly in the stars which ought to have appeared directly amidships, Mea-Quin had an accurate gauge on the speed of the ship.

The total absence of one expected phenomenon puzzled the old man greatly, namely that the stars directly behind them, and especially the twin star, Alpha Centauri, from whose system they had come, did not turn gradually red and then disappear as the gradually increasing speed of the space-ship slowed down the apparent rate of vibration of light from the rear. At the end of 118 days, when the space-ship had attained a speed equal to half that of light and, consequently, the entire visible spectra of light from the rear ought by rights to have disappeared, no change at all was noticeable!

Dos-Tev and Mea-Quin puzzled about this considerably, until they hit upon the absurdly simple explanation; when the normally visible light from these stars had shifted to infra-red, the normally invisible ultra-violet light had shifted to visible, and so the color of these stars had remained unchanged.

But finally, as they approximated the speed of light, the young leader Dos-Tev was fascinated and the workman Bullo was filled with superstitious awe at the evanishment of all stars to the rear of them and the gradual foreshortening of the remaining constellations.

“You haven’t seen anything yet,” announced Mea-Quin. “Just wait until we exceed 186,000 miles per second. Then we shall begin to catch up with the light from the stars behind us which has preceded us through space. Thus we shall see them ahead of us, although they are really behind us. And, if our telescope were powerful enough, so that we could focus it on Lemnis, we would now see events which occurred on Lemnis before we left there, but we would see them happening backward.”

Dos-Tev shook his head, and grinned.

“Just as well that we can’t,” said he. “Things are confusing enough as they are.”

But little did any of them expect the degree of confusion which they were soon to encounter!

The calculations of Mea-Quin showed that they ought to attain the speed of light after about seven and a half months of travel; and as that time drew near, the correctness of his forecast was indicated by the fact that all the stars which actually occupied a position at right-angles to their course now appeared shifted to a position 45 degrees ahead. Almost no stars were any longer visible in the hemisphere of space behind them.

On the 236th day Dos-Tev was scanning the sky when he noticed that the star for which they were heading was growing blurred and vague. Thinking this might be due to a sudden defect in his telescope he swung the instrument on some adjacent stars and noted to his surprise that they all appeared to be slowly changing their locations in space, moving to the rear. In fact the starry firmament ahead seemed to be opening up to let the spaceship through. But the stars abreast of him seemed to be moving forward.

Locking the steering controls to a small gyroscope which as capable of maintaining their direction for days on end, he clambered up the spiral staircase to the living-room, two stories above in the nose of the ship, and roused Mea-Quin and Bullo from their bunks.

“Something strange is happening to all the stars!” he exclaimed. “Come to the control-room and see for yourselves.”

Incredulous, they followed him, only to find that things were much worse than he had described them. All the stars in the sky had now gathered into a bright and narrow ring, located just 45 degrees ahead of them, surrounding their line of travel. And the star at which they had pointed the nose of the ship thus far, had completely disappeared.

For hours, as they watched, fascinated and appalled, the ring of stars contracted to a single line of light. Then, gradually, this line widened again and broke up into individual stars.

Again the hemisphere of sky ahead was filled with points of light, and the hemisphere behind was blank. But all the familiar constellations were gone! However, as the three space travelers gazed they were gradually able to make out the great dipper, Orion, and a few other of the more familiar star-groups; but now completely reversed, Alpha Centauri, from which they had come, was now directly ahead. All of space seemed to have turned inside out! And the constellation of Cassiopeia, toward which they had been heading, was now nowhere to be seen either in front or behind them!

“Are we coming or going?” gasped Dos-Tev, in an attempt at humor.

Bullo made the sign of Tor, and slumped to the floor.

But Mea-Quin, the aged scientist, shook his head and grimly replied, “We are still going, Sire, for the stars which belong dead abreast of us still appear shifted ahead. Let me think.”

“I shall take a nap,” the young Emperor announced. “Perhaps when I wake up, I’ll find that this has all been merely a bad dream.”

And, as Dos-Tev led the way up the spiral stairs, Bullo staggered erect and followed him, muttering, “When I wake up, I hope that it will be back on Lemnis again.”

But Mea-Quin called after them, “I have it! It’s the relativity effect. Relative to us, as observers, all of space is traveling backward with speed now slightly faster than light. To an observer, a body traveling with the speed of light appears to have contracted to zero dimension in the direction of travel. Accordingly, at speed faster than light, this dimension would be minus, that is to say, reversed.”

“But why didn’t we notice this change gradually coming on?” objected Dos-Tev.

“Because most stars are practically at an infinite distance away,” Mea-Quin explained, “and so the steady contraction of space in the direction of travel would not be noticeable until it almost reached zero.”

Bullo again made the sign of Tor.

“But why is the celestial equator still 45 degrees ahead instead of behind,” Dos-Tev again objected.

“Because the relativity-effect merely causes space to look as it would if reversed. Let us therefore assume space to be reversed, and then apply to that reversed space the phenomena which we experienced before the reversal. Result: The stars abreast of us would be shifted ahead as it was before.”

As the days went on the constellation toward which they were going gradually appeared again in the sky; and not behind them, as the change of space would lead them to expect, but rather in front of them in almost a direct line with the star from which they had come. Truly space was more than merely turned around! It was cock-eyed!

The aged scientist explained, “Since space is now reversed by the relativity effect, it is the star in front of us rather than the one behind that disappears and then reappears in front of us as we catch up with its light. I was all wrong when I said that this would happen to Alpha Centauri. Instead it is happening to the star for which we are headed.”

“Perhaps Ay-Artz’s expedition will get all twisted up and will return to Lemnis by mistake,” suggested Dos-Tev. “Ought we to go on, or return to Lemnis?”

“Not a chance of Ay-Artz blundering,” replied Mea-Quin positively. “The dictator has several astronomers with him and their combined brains will think up the true explanation of all these paradoxes as quickly as I did.”

At the end of the 608th day their calculations indicated that their journey was half completed. Their speed had become two and a half times that of light. The problem now was to slow down to zero speed again, between here and the solar system. So they shut off the rocket-discharge and drifted.

The effect was sudden, and as strange as though it had been unexpected. Not only did their ship drift through space, but the three men drifted within the ship, with their bodily weight suddenly reduced to zero.

Upness and downess ceased to exist for them. The least motion of arms or legs started their bodies spinning. Bullo completely lost control of himself and, with a shriek of fright, shot through the air of the room, bouncing off walls and ceiling and floor in his mad flight. And every movable object which he touched joined in the confusion, until the interior of the room became a maelstrom.

Through this chaos Dos-Tev attempted to swim back to the instrument table, which to his confused senses now appeared to be hanging upside-down from the ceiling above him. Due to the fact that the slightest effort spun him around and around and end over end, progress was most difficult; but at last he learned how to steady his course and cautiously approached the array of levers.

Gingerly turning-on a slight acceleration, he restored all objects to the floor. Bullo lay groaning with fright, Mea-Quin was unconscious from a severe gash in his forehead, and the entire place was a mess which would require hours to clean up; but the instruments appeared to be unharmed.

Then Dos-Tev swung the space-ship around so that it pointed back in the direction from which it had come. Yet, of course, its speed was so terrific that merely turning around as it shot through space had no effect whatever on the direction of travel. So now it was shooting backward toward its objective at the same rate at which it had a few minutes ago been shooting forward.

The maneuver completed, Dos-Tev slammed on an acceleration – deceleration now – of one and a half times gravity, and went for water to revive his aged friend. And, as he did so, he realized that all this confusion had been unnecessary; he could have just as well have effected the reversal of the ship end-for-end without shutting off the rocket discharge at all.

So the trip proceeded. And, when the ship finally slowed down to less than the speed of light, space again reversed itself and became normal once more.

To kill time, Mea-Quin had rigged up a laboratory in the living-room of the ship, and had there constructed a light-ray transmitter and receiver, instruments denied to them by the dictator Ay-Artz in their exile on the island of Elbon.

And so it was that, as they approached the solar system, they picked up a message intended for Ay-Artz, a message asking the dictator to land on the satellite of the planet Earth, and even describing to him the exact lunar crater beside which he was to land. Dos-Tev was jubilant.

“I had been wondering just where to head for at our journey’s end,” said he. “Now we know that our enemy has solar allies; and they have played into our hands by giving us the desired information.”

And so, in due time, the ship of Dos-Tev reached the solar system, cruised slowly through it, and at last alighted on the rim of the lunar crater Copernicus.

Not a living thing was in sight. The lunar rocks were bleak and bare. The surface of the moon was devoid of atmosphere. But fortunately this part of the moon was then in twilight, and hence neither unbearably hot nor unbearably cold.

So, donning air suits, brought with them lest their journey should end on just such a planet as this, they sallied forth through the air-lock of their machine, taking great care not to be overthrown by the reduced gravity of the moon.

Their helmets were equipped with electrical transmitters and receivers, so that they could talk as normally as though there had been air to carry the sound of their voices.

Gazing up into the sky, Dos-Tev declaimed, “Here we are, nine months ahead of Ay-Artz. Plenty of time for us to arrange how to foil him. He shall find that Dos-Tev still rules!”