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in the plane.
"Good lord, what does that mean?" Putney demanded. Warren was busy. He was
setting up a test field, exactly in the center of that ship-or it should have
been. His test field reported absolutely and completely nothing. Its very
negativeness was a report. It showed that it was beyond time, and space. It
had, in some mysterious manner, been cast into that fifth dimension,
timelessness.
"That's that. But that just means our forces don't work. Uh. Say, Putt, do you
notice we are getting warm? They've been slinging everything they had at us
for the last five minutes, and now that heat is beginning to get through.
Build up that field a little, will you?"
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Putney looked at instruments and shook his head. "Can't. To absorb a certain
amount of energy, that isn't too great, that field's fine. But under a
concentrated beam of thousands of horsepower, it just won't carry power
without losing its characteristics. Apparatus just won't handle it. Remember
that is generated by mechanical apparatus, not by the Flame itself. Those
ships are bigger, and carry bigger apparatus. We can't compete there."
"Those screens worry me. I wonder what will go through them? I'm going to
try," said Warren.
Now there were five projectors on the nose of the Prometheus for the sole
purpose of sending rays. Two were run by the great Flame in the power room.
They were the lesser projectors, for they projected rays controlled by
apparatus. But three were run by individual flames. Warren's fingers moved
like lightning, and five terrific blasting streams of energy shot forth, five
different beams. One was a cosmic ray concentrated in a pencil of atom-
smashing power. It struck a giant Bay-Raonii battle-ship, and the vessel
screamed in tortured agony; it shivered over its entire length as the awful
stabbing tongue of cosmic energy washed through it. The atoms smashed into
individual tortured protons and electrons under flooding billions of
horsepower that smashed through their force-mirror as though it were not
there. It crumbled to atomic powder, the atoms smashed to individual protons
and electrons, and all reunited in a single intolerable burst of ultra-violet
radiation.
And one beam was a beam of pure radio-frequency energy, not generated by
apparatus, but in space itself, by a Flame that hurled nearly half an ounce of
iron into pure energy. That lashed at the screen in a concentrated needle of
searing power that blasted its way through simply because only 99.98 percent
of incident energy was reflected. It struck the ship beyond, and in an instant
there was an incandescent hole drilled through it. The shield fell, and the
machine burst into white-hot gas.
The third beam was a strange thing. It was like the evil arm of a great, green
octopus. It reached out slowly, drifting outward, and touched a ship's screen.
It spread adhesively over the screen like a running glue, and ate through it
to the ship behind. The ship glowed softly in green light, darted away, and
escaped the beam; but the clinging radiance hung, and like rotting flesh the
green spread and grew brighter, until the ship was torn open and fell a
green-glowing rotten fruit to the ground ten miles below.
And the fourth beam alone did not have effect, for it was a pure heat beam
that struck a ship's screen, and was nearly all reflected; and what leaked
through the screen was reflected from metal walls.
The fifth beam was a true disintegration ray. It did not glow with the harsh,
solid brilliance of a lash of cosmic force, nor with the sticky green of the
other beam, but with a soft green-blue light that passed through the force-
mirror with a slight sputtering and struck the ship. And the instant it
touched, a stupendous explosion echoed that blew that ship, and two ships
within two hundred yards of it to tiny fragments. The beam had released the
molecular bonds that had held the steel of its walls as a solid, and the steel
became a gas under a pressure equal to its strength, which was sixty tons per
square inch. When nearly a thousand tons of gas under a pressure of that order
is released suddenly, the results are awesome.
Bay-Raonii had had enough. The ships turned and fled into space with all
possible acceleration. And the Prometheus followed easily, without a sign of
strain. A great spaceship suddenly swerved from its path and crashed in a
flash of light against its neighbor, and then suddenly all the ships darted
upward far faster, toward a common point. They reached it with astounding
speed, for the attractive field Warren was using caused an acceleration nearly
fifty times as great as that of the enemy ships. In less than ten seconds a
single great mass of smashed steel was falling to the planet nearly forty
miles below.
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Thaen was staring with wide eyes throughout. Tepalor sat stunned in his seat.
Slowly he gasped as they descended gently to the city far below. For the first
time Warren noticed that for miles around the ground was blasted and bare.
Smoking grasses alone remained. Directly below the ground were glowing dull
red, little tongues of flame licked up some five miles away.
Tepalor shook himself. "Grr-men of another world, we want no such thing as
this. Urr. That was no battle. That was the loosing of the thunderbolt on the
field of grain. Death reaping with his scythe. You fought them, and smashed
them, and the waste energy has set the ground smoking for miles about, the
diluted, reflected rays. That green ray-it ate like a blighting rot. It was
unholy.
This thing we cannot have. It is not meant for our people. With such, a world
could be wiped out and left as nothing, as wholly vanished as the ship that
hard, bright blue ray touched. A tongue of flame-and gone completely.
"And that other-a terrific blast, and only dust so fine it was not to be seen,
mere dancing specks in the !:ght of the sun, and glowing motes that were
mighty atomic engines. Their shields fought, and crumpled as the strength of
the ant before the tread of the unheeding man."
"Put very well, Commander of Anlo. That is the true case. As the insect is to
the man, are those ships to us. Our power is as much greater, as the power of
the man."
"I would look at this engine that has done this," said Tepalor.
MacLaurin showed him his engine-room. It was clean, ind shining, and noiseless
save for the ceaseless soft whirr of the glinting iridescent whirlwind of
atoms vanishing forever. Tepalor stared for minutes. "This is the "ame block
of fuel that I saw when first you came to this planet?" he asked quietly. [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]