Read SOLARITE: CHAPTER V of The Black Star Passes , free online book, by John Wood Campbell, on ReadCentral.com.

The Terrestrians followed their escort high above these great buildings, heading toward the great central tower. In a moment they were above it, and in perfect order the ships of the Venerians shot down to land smoothly, but at high speed. On the roof of the building they slowed with startling rapidity, held back by electromagnets under the top dressing of the roof landing, as Arcot learned later.

“We can’t land on that this thing weighs too much we’d probably sink right through it! The street looks wide enough for us to land there.” Arcot maneuvered the Solarite over the edge of the roof, and dropped it swiftly down the half mile to the ground below. Just above the street, he leveled off, and descended slowly, giving the hurrying crowds plenty of time to get from beneath it.

Landing finally, he looked curiously at the mass of Venerians who had gathered in the busy street, coming out of buildings where they evidently had sought shelter during the raid. The crowd grew rapidly as the Terrestrians watched them people of a new world.

“Why,” exclaimed Fuller in startled surprise, “they look almost like us!”

“Why not?” laughed Arcot. “Is there any particular reason why they shouldn’t look like us? Venus and Earth are very nearly the same size, and are planets of the same parent sun. Physical conditions here appear to be very similar to conditions back home, and if there’s anything to Svend Arrehenius’ theory of life spores being sent from world to world by sunlight, there’s no reason why humanoid races cannot be found throughout the universe. On worlds, that is, suitable for the development of such life forms.”

“Look at the size of ’em,” Fuller commented.

Their size was certainly worth noting, for in all that crowd only the obviously young were less than six feet tall. The average seemed to be seven feet well-built men and women with unusually large chests, who would have seemed very human indeed, but for a ghastly, death-like blue tinge to their skin. Even their lips were as bright a blue as man’s lips are red. The teeth seemed to be as white as any human’s, but their mouths were blue.

“They look as if they’d all been eating blueberries!” laughed Wade. “I wonder what makes their blood blue? I’ve heard of blue-blooded families, but these are the first I’ve ever seen!”

“I think I can answer that,” said Morey slowly. “It seems odd to us but those people evidently have their blood based on hemocyanin. In us, the oxygen is carried to the tissues, and the carbon dioxide carried away by an iron compound, hemoglobin, but in many animals of Earth, the same function is performed by a copper compound, hemocyanin, which is an intense blue. I am sure that that is the explanation for these strange people. By the way, did you notice their hands?”

“Yes, I had. They strike me as having one too many fingers look there that fellow is pointing why his hand hasn’t too many fingers, but too many thumbs! He has one on each side of his palm! Say, that would be handy in placing nuts and bolts, and such fine work, wouldn’t it?”

Suddenly a lane opened in the crowd, and from the great black and gold building there came a file of men in tight-fitting green uniforms; a file of seven-foot giants. Obviously they were soldiers of some particular branch, for in the crowd there were a number of men dressed in similar uniforms of deep blue.

“I think they want one or more of us to accompany them,” Arcot said. “Let’s flip a coin to decide who goes two better stay here, and two go. If we don’t come back inside of a reasonable period of time, one of you might start making inquiries; the other can send a message to Earth, and get out of harm’s way till help can come. I imagine these people are friendly now, however else I wouldn’t go.”

The leader of the troop stepped up to the door of the Solarite, and coming to what was obviously a position of attention, put his left hand over his right breast in an equally obvious salute, and waited.

The coin was flipped with due ceremony it would decide which of them were to have the distinction of being the first Terrestrians to set foot on Venus. Arcot and Morey won, and they quickly put on the loose-fitting ventilated cooling suits that they might live comfortably in the hot air outside for the thermometer registered 150 deg.!

The two men quickly walked over to the airlock, entered, closed it behind them, and opened the outer door. There was a slight rush of air, as the pressure outside was a bit lower than that inside. There was a singing in their ears, and they had to swallow several times to equalize the pressure.

The guards at once fell into a double row on either side of them, and the young officer strode ahead. He himself had curbed his curiosity after the single startled glance he had given these strange men. Only their hands were visible, for the cooling suits covered them almost completely, but the strange pink color must indeed have been startling to the eyes; also their dwarf stature, and the strange suits they wore. The men of his little troop, however, as well as the people in the crowd about them, were not so disinterested. They were looking in eager amazement at these men who had just saved their city, these strange small men with their queer pink skin. And most surprising of all, perhaps, the inner thumb was missing from each hand!

But soon they had passed beyond the sight of the crowd, which was held in check by a handful of the deep blue uniformed men.

“Those fellows would never hold such a Terrestrial crowd back if visitors from another planet landed!” remarked Morey wonderingly.

“How do they know we are visitors from another planet?” Arcot objected. “We suddenly appeared out of nowhere they don’t even know our direction of approach. We might be some strange race of Venerians as far as they know.”

They walked briskly up to the massive gold and black entrance, and passed through the great doors that seemed made of solid copper, painted with some clear coating that kept the metal lustrous, the rich color shining magnificently. They stood open wide now, as indeed they always were. Even the giant Venerians were dwarfed by these mighty doors as they passed through into an equally vast hall, a tremendous room that must have filled all the front half of the ground floor of the gigantic building, a hall of graceful columns that hid the great supporting members. The stone, they knew, must serve the Venerians as marble serves us, but it was a far more handsome stone. It was a rich green, like the green of thick, heavy grass in summer when the rain is plentiful. The color was very pleasing to the eye, and restful too. There was a checker-board floor of this green stone, alternated with another, a stone of intense blue. They were hard, and the colors made a very striking pattern, pleasingly different from what they had been accustomed to, but common to Venus, as they later learned.

At last the party had crossed the great hall, and stopped beside a large doorway. The officer halted for a moment, and gestured toward two of his men, who remained, while the others walked quickly away. The diminished party stepped through the doorway into a small room whose walls were lined with copper, and an instant later, as the officer pushed a small button, there was a low hiss of escaping air, and a copper grating sprang quickly up across the opening of the elevator. He touched another button, and there was the familiar sinking feeling as the car rose, a low hum seeming to come from its base.

The elevator rose swiftly through a very considerable distance up up, endlessly.

“They must have some wonderfully strong cables here on Venus!” Morey exclaimed. “The engineers of Terrestrial buildings have been wondering for some time how to get around the difficulty of shifting elevators. The idea of changing cars doesn’t appeal to me, either but we must have risen a long way!”

“I should say so I wonder how they do it. We’ve been rising for a minute and a half at a very fair clip there we are; end of the line I want to look at this car!” Arcot stepped over to the control board, looked at it closely, then stepped out and peered down between the car and the shaft as the copper grating fell, simultaneously pulling down with it the door that had blocked off the hallway.

“Come here, Morey simple system at that! It would be so, of course. Look they have tracks, and a regular trolley system, with cog rails alongside, and the car just winds itself up! They have a motor underneath, I’ll bet, and just run it up in that way. They have never done that on Earth because of the cost of running the car up without too much power. I think I see the solution the car has electro-dynamical brakes, and descending, just slows itself down by pumping power into the line to haul some other car up. This is a mighty clever scheme!”

As Arcot straightened, the officer beckoned to him to follow, and started down the long corridor which was lined on either side with large doorways, much like a very exotic earthly office building. Passing through a long series of branching corridors they at last reached one that terminated in a large office, into which the young officer led them. Snapping to attention, he spoke briefly and rapidly, saluted and retired with his two men.

The man before whom the Terrestrians stood was a tall, kindly-faced old gentleman. His straight black hair was tinged with bluish gray, and the kindly face bore the lines of age, but the smiling eyes, and the air of sincere interest gave his countenance an amazingly youthful air. It was warm and friendly despite its disconcerting blueness. He looked curiously, questioningly at the two men before him, looked at their hands, his eyes widening in surprise; then he stepped quickly forward, and extended his hand, at the same time looking toward Arcot.

Smiling, Arcot extended his own. The Venerian grasped it then with an exclamation on the part of each, they mutually released each other, Arcot feeling an uncomfortable sensation of heat, just as the Venerian felt a flash of intense cold! Each stared from his hand to the hand of the other in surprise, then a smile curved the blue lips of the Venerian as he very emphatically put his hand at his side. Arcot smiled in turn, and said to Morey in an animated tone:

“They have a body temperature of at least 170 deg. Fahrenheit. It would naturally be above room temperature, which is 150 deg. here, so that they are most unpleasantly hot to us. Marvelous how nature adapts herself to her surroundings!” He chuckled. “I hope these fellows don’t have fevers. They’d be apt to boil over!”

The Venerian had picked up a small rectangle of black material, smooth and solid. He drew quickly upon it with what appeared to be a pencil of copper. In a moment he handed the tablet to Arcot, who reached out for it, then changed his mind, and motioned that he didn’t want to burn his fingers. The old Venerian held it where Arcot could see it.

“Why, Morey, look here I didn’t think they had developed astronomy to any degree, because of the constant clouds, but look at this. He has a nice little map of the solar system, with Mercury, Venus, Earth, the Moon, Mars, and all the rest on it. He has drawn in several of the satellites of Jupiter and of Saturn too.”

The Venerian pointed to Mars and looked inquisitively at them. Arcot shook his head and pointed quickly to Earth. The Venetian seemed a bit surprised at this, then thought a moment and nodded in satisfaction. He looked at Arcot intently. Then to the latter’s amazement, there seemed to form in his mind a thought at first vague, then quickly taking definite form.

“Man of Earth,” it seemed to say, “we thank you you have saved our nation. We want to thank you for your quick response to our signals. We had not thought that you could answer us so soon.” The Venerian seemed to relax as the message was finished. It obviously had required great mental effort.

Arcot looked steadily into his eyes now, and tried to concentrate on a message on a series of ideas. To him, trained though he was in deep concentration on one idea, the process of visualizing a series of ideas was new, and very difficult. But he soon saw that he was making some progress.

“We came in response to no signals exploration only we saw the battle and aided because your city seemed doomed, and because it seemed too beautiful to be destroyed.”

“What’s it all about, Arcot?” asked Morey wonderingly, as he watched them staring at each other.

“Mental telepathy,” Arcot answered briefly. “I’m terribly thick from his point of view, but I just learned that they sent signals to Earth why, I haven’t learned but I’m making progress. If I don’t crack under the strain, I’ll find out sooner or later so wait and see.” He turned again to the Venerian.

The latter was frowning at him rather dubiously. With sudden decision he turned to his desk, and pulled down a small lever. Then again he looked intently at Arcot.

“Come with me the strain of this conversation is too great I see you do not have thought transference on your world.”

“Come along, Morey we’re going somewhere. He says this thought transference is too much for us. I wonder what he is going to do?”

Out into the maze of halls they went again, now led by the kindly seven-foot Venerian. After walking through a long series of halls, they reached a large auditorium, where already there had gathered in the semi-circle of seats a hundred or so of the tall, blue-tinged Venerians. Before them, on a low platform, were two large, deeply-cushioned chairs. To these chairs the two Terrestrians were led.

“We will try to teach you our language telepathically. We can give you the ideas you must learn the pronunciation, but this will be very much quicker. Seat yourselves in these chairs and relax.”

The chairs had been designed for the seven-footers. These men were six feet and six feet six, respectively, yet it seemed to them, as they sank into the cushions, that never had they felt such comfortable chairs. They were designed to put every muscle and every nerve at rest. Luxuriously, almost in spite of themselves, they relaxed.

Dimly Arcot felt a wave of sleepiness sweep over him; he yawned prodigiously. There was no conscious awareness of his sinking into a deep slumber. It seemed that suddenly visions began to fill his mind visions that developed with a returning consciousness up from the dark, into a dream world. He saw a mighty fleet whose individual planes were a mile long, with three-quarters of a mile wingspread titanic monoplanes, whose droning thunder seemed to roar through all space. Then suddenly they were above him, and from each there spurted a great stream of dazzling brilliance, an intense glow that reached down, and touched the city. An awful concussion blasted his ears. All the world about him erupted in unimaginable brilliance; then darkness fell.

Another vision filled his mind a vision of the same fleet hanging over a giant crater of molten rock, a crater that gaped angrily in a plain beside low green hills a crater that had been a city. The giants of the air circled, turned, and sped over the horizon. Again he was with them and again he saw a great city fuse in a blazing flash of blinding light again and yet again until around all that world he saw smoking ruins of great cities, now blasted crimson craters in a world of fearful desolation.

The destroyers rode up, up, up out of the clouds and he was with them. Out beyond the swirling mists, where the cold of space seemed to reach in at them, and the roaring of the mighty propellers was a thin whine then suddenly that was gone, and from the tail of each of the titanic machines there burst a great stream of light, a blazing column that roared back, and lit all space for miles around rocket jets that sent them swiftly across space!

He saw them approaching another world, a world that shone a dull red, but he saw the markings and knew that it was Earth, not Mars. The great planes began falling now falling at an awful speed into the upper air of the planet, and in an instant the rocket flares were gone, fading and dying in the dense air. Again there came the roar of the mighty propellers. Then swiftly the fleet of giants swooped down, lower and lower. He became aware of its destination a spot he knew must be New York but a strangely distorted New York a Venerian city, where New York should have been. And again, the bombs rained down. In an instant the gigantic city was a smoking ruin.

The visions faded, and slowly he opened his eyes, looked about him. He was still in the room of the circle of chairs he was still on Venus then with sudden shock, understanding came. He knew the meaning of these visions the meaning of that strangely distorted New York, of that red earth. It meant that this was what the Venerians believed was to happen! They were trying to show him the plans of the owners and builders of those gigantic ships! The New York he had seen was New York as these men imagined it.

Startled, confused, his forehead furrowed, he rose unsteadily to his feet. His head seemed whirling in the throes of a terrific headache. The men about him were looking anxiously at him. He glanced toward Morey. He was sleeping deeply in the seat, his features now and again reflecting his sensations. It was his turn to learn this new language and see the visions.

The old Venerian who had brought them there walked up to Arcot and spoke to him in a softly musical language, a language that was sibilant and predominated in liquid sounds; there were no gutturals, no nasals; it was a more musical language than Earth men had ever before heard, and now Arcot started in surprise, for he understood it perfectly; the language was as familiar as English.

“We have taught you our language as quickly as possible you may have a headache, but you must know what we know as soon as possible. It may well be that the fate of two worlds hangs on your actions. These men have concentrated on you and taught you very rapidly with the massed power of their minds, giving you visions of what we know to be in preparation. You must get back to your wonderful ship as quickly as possible; and yet you must know what has happened here on our world in the last few years, as well as what happened twenty centuries ago.

“Come with me to my office, and we will talk. When your friend has also learned, you may tell him.”

Quickly Arcot followed the Venerian down the long corridors of the building. The few people they met seemed intent on their own business, paying little attention to them.

At last they seated themselves in the office where Arcot had first met his escort; and there he listened to a new history the history of another planet.

“My name is Tonlos,” the old man said. “I am a leader of my people though my title and position are unimportant. To explain would entail a prolonged discussion of our social structure, and there is no time for that. Later, perhaps but now to our history.

“Twenty centuries ago,” Tonlos continued, “there were two great rival nations on this planet. The planet Turo is naturally divided so that there would be a tendency toward such division. There are two enormous belts of land around the globe, one running from about 20 degrees north of the equator to about 80 degrees north. This is my country, Lanor. To the south there is a similar great belt of land, of almost identical size, Kaxor. These two nations have existed for many thousands of our years.

“Two thousand years ago a great crisis arose in the affairs of the world a great war was in process of starting but a Lanorian developed a weapon that made it impossible for the Kaxorians to win and war was averted. The feeling was so strong, however, that laws were passed which stopped all intercourse between the two nations for these thousands of years. By devious ways we’ve learned that Kaxor has concentrated on the study of physics, perhaps in hopes of finding a weapon with which they could threaten us once more. Lanor has studied the secrets of the human mind and body. We have no disease here any longer; we have no insanity. We are students of chemistry, but physics has been neglected to a great extent. Recently, however, we have again taken up this science, since it alone of the main sciences had not received our study. Only twenty-five years have been spent on these researches, and in that short time we cannot hope to do what the Kaxorians have done in two thousand.

“The secret of the heat ray, the weapon that prevented the last war, had been almost forgotten. It required diligent research to bring it to life again, for it is a very inefficient machine or was. Of late, however, we have been able to improve it, and now it is used in commerce to smelt our ores. It was this alone that allowed this city to put up the slight resistance that we did. We were surely doomed. This is the capital of Lanor, Sonor. We and the nation would have fallen but for you.

“We have had some warning that this was coming. We have spies in Kaxor now, for we learned of their intentions when they flew the first of their giant planes over one of our cities and dropped a bomb! We have been trying, since we discovered the awful scope of their plans, to send you a warning if you could not help us. That you should come here at this particular time is almost beyond belief a practically impossible coincidence but perhaps there is more than coincidence behind it? Who knows?” He paused briefly; went on with a heavy sigh: “Since you drove that plane away, we can expect a new raid at any moment, and we must be prepared. Is there any way you can signal your planet?”

“Yes we can signal easily,” Arcot answered; he struggled with the newly acquired language. “I do not know the word in your tongue it may be that you do not have it radio we call it it is akin to light, but of vastly longer wavelength. Produced electrically, it can be directed like light and sent in a beam by means of a reflection. It can penetrate all substances except metals, and can leak around them, if it be not directional. With it I can talk readily with the men of Earth, and this very night I will.”

Arcot paused, frowning thoughtfully, then continued, “I know there’s definite need for haste, but we can’t do anything until Morey has received the knowledge you’ve given me. While we’re waiting here, I might just as well learn all I can about your planet. The more I know, the more intelligently I’ll be able to plan for our defense.”

In the conversation which followed, Arcot gained a general knowledge of the physical makeup of Venus. He learned that iron was an exceedingly rare element on the planet, while platinum was relatively plentiful. Gold, though readily available, was considered a nuisance, since it was of no practical value due to its softness, excessive weight and its affinity for many catalysts. Most of the other metallic elements were present in quantities approximating those of Earth, except for an element called “morlus”. When Tonlos mentioned this, Arcot said:

“Morlus I have the word in your language but I do not know the element. What is it?”

“Why here is some!”

Tonlos handed Arcot a small block of metal that had been used as a weight on a table in one corner of the room. It seemed fairly dense, about as heavy as iron, but it had a remarkably bluish tint. Obviously, it was the element that composed the wings of the airplane they had seen that afternoon. Arcot examined it carefully, handicapped somewhat by its heat. He picked up a small copper rod and tried to scratch it but there was no noticeable effect.

“You cannot scratch it with copper,” said Tonlos. “It is the second hardest metal we know it is not as hard as chromium, but far less brittle. It is malleable, ductile, very very strong, very tough, especially when alloyed with iron, but those alloys are used only in very particular work because of iron’s rarity.”

Indicating the bluish block, Arcot said, “I’d like to identify this element. May I take it back to the ship and test it?”

“You may, by all means. You will have considerable difficulty getting it into solution, however. It is attacked only by boiling selenic acid which, as you must know, dissolves platinum readily. The usual test for the element is to so dissolve it, oxidize it to an acid, then test with radium selenate, when a brilliant greenish blue salt is ”

“Test with radium selenate!” Arcot exclaimed. “Why, we have no radium salts whatever on Earth that we could use for that purpose. Radium is exceedingly rare!”

“Radium is by no means plentiful here,” Tonlos replied, “but we seldom have to test for morlus, and we have plenty of radium salts for that purpose. We have never found any other use for radium it is so active that it combines with water just as sodium does; it is very soft a useless metal, and dangerous to handle. Our chemists have never been able to understand it it is always in some kind of reaction no matter what they do, and still it gives off that very light gas, helium, and a heavy gas, niton, and an unaccountable amount of heat.”

“Your world is vastly different from ours,” Arcot commented. He told Tonlos of the different metals of Earth, the non-metals, and their occurrence. But try as he would, he could not place the metal Tonlos had given him.

Morey’s arrival interrupted their discussion. He looked very tired, and very serious. His head ached from his unwonted mental strain, just as Arcot’s had. Briefly Arcot told him what he had learned, concluding with a question as to why Morey thought the two planets, both members of the same solar family, should be so different.

“I have an idea,” said Morey slowly, “and it doesn’t seem too wacky. As you know, by means of solar photography, astronomers have mapped the sun, charting the location of the different elements. We’ve seen hydrogen, oxygen, silicon and others, and as the sun aged, the elements must have been mixed up more and more thoroughly. Yet we have seen the vast areas of single elements. Some of those areas are so vast that they could easily be the source of an entire world! I wonder if it is not possible that Earth was thrown off from some deposit rich in iron, aluminum and calcium, and poor in gold, radium and those other metals and particularly poor in one element. We have located in the sun the spectrum of an element we have named coronium and I think you have a specimen of coronium in your hand there! I’d say Venus came from a coronium-rich region!”

The discussion ended there, for already the light outside had deepened to a murky twilight. The Terrestrians were led quickly down to the elevator, which dropped them rapidly to the ground. There was still a large crowd about the Solarite, but the way was quickly cleared for them. As the men passed through the crowd, a peculiar sensation struck them very forcibly. It seemed that everyone in the crowd was wishing them the greatest success the best of good things in every wish.

“The ultimate in applause! Morey, I’ll swear we just received a silent cheer!” exclaimed Arcot, as they stood inside the airlock of the ship once more. It seemed home to them now! In a moment they had taken off the uncomfortable ventilating suits and stepped once more into the room where Wade and Fuller awaited them.

“Say what were you fellows doing?” Wade demanded. “We were actually getting ready to do some inquiring about your health!”

“I know we were gone a long time but when you hear the reason you’ll agree it was worth it. See if you can raise Earth on the radio, Morey, will you, while I tell these fellows what happened? If you succeed, tell them to call in Dad and your father, and to have a couple of tape recorders on the job. We’ll want a record of what I have to send. Say that we’ll call back in an hour.” Then, while Morey was busy down in the power room sending the signals out across the forty million miles of space that separated them from their home planet, Arcot told Wade and Fuller what they had learned.

Morey finally succeeded in getting his message through, and returned to say that they would be waiting in one hour. He had had to wait eight minutes after sending his message to get any answer, however, due to time required for radio waves to make the two-way trip.

“Fuller,” Arcot said, “as chef, suppose you see what you can concoct while Wade and I start on this piece of coronium and see what there is to learn.”

At the supper table Wade and Arcot reported to the others the curious constants they had discovered for coronium. It was not attacked by any acid except boiling selenic acid, since it formed a tremendous number of insoluble salts. Even the nitrate violated the long-held rule that “all nitrates are soluble” it wouldn’t dissolve. Yet it was chemically more active than gold.

But its physical constants were the most surprising. It melted at 2800 deg. centigrade, a very high melting point indeed. Very few metals are solid at that temperature. But the tensile strength test made with a standard bar they finally turned out by means of a carbaloy tool, gave a reading of more than one million, three hundred thousand pounds per square inch! It was far stronger than iron stronger than tungsten, the strongest metal heretofore known. It was twice as strong as the Earth’s strongest metal!

Fuller whistled in awe. “No wonder they can make a plane like that when they have such a metal to work with.” The designing engineer had visions of a machine after his own heart one in which half the weight was not employed in holding it together!

It was a little later that they got communication through to Earth, and the men went to the power room. The television screen was struggling to form a clear image despite the handicap of forty million miles of space. In a moment it had cleared, though, and they saw the face of Dr. Arcot. He showed plainly that he was worried about the startling news that had reached him already, sketchy though it was. After brief though warm greetings, his son rapidly outlined to him the full extent of their discoveries, and the force that Earth would have to meet.

“Dad, these Kaxorians have planes capable of far more than a thousand miles an hour in the air. For some reason the apparatus they use to propel them in space is inoperative in air, but their propellers will drive them forward faster than any plane Earth ever saw. You must start at once on a fleet of these molecular motion planes and a lot of the gas Wade developed you know how to make it the animation suspending gas. They don’t have it and I believe it will be useful. I’ll try to develop some new weapons here. If either of us makes any progress along new lines we’ll report to the other. I must stop now a Lanorian delegation is coming.” After a few words of farewell, Arcot severed connections with the Earth and arose to await the arrival of the visitors.

Since the return of the Terrestrians to the Solarite, a great crowd of Venerians had gathered around it, awaiting a glimpse of the men, for the news had spread that this ship had come from Earth. Now, the crowd had divided, and a group of men was approaching, clothed in great heavy coats that seemed warm enough to wear in Terrestrial arctic regions!

“Why Arcot what’s the idea of the winter regalia?” asked Fuller in surprise.

“Think a moment they are going to visit a place whose temperature is seventy degrees colder than their room temperature. In the bargain, Venus never has any seasonal change of temperature, and a heavy bank of clouds that eternally cover the planet keeps the temperature as constant as a thermocouple arrangement could. The slight change from day to night is only appreciable by the nightly rains see the crowd is beginning to break up now. It’s night already, and there is a heavy dew settling. Soon it will be rain, and the great amount of moisture in the air will supply enough heat, in condensing, to prevent a temperature drop of more than two or three degrees. These men are not used to changes in temperature as we are and hence they must protect themselves far more fully.”

Three figures now entered the airlock of the Solarite, and muffled in heavy garments as they were, large under any conditions, they had to come through one at a time.

Much that Arcot showed them was totally new to them. Much he could not explain to them at all, for their physics had not yet reached that stage.

But there was one thing he could show them, and he did. There were no samples of the liquids he wanted, but their chemistry was developed to a point that permitted the communication of the necessary data and Arcot told them the formula of Wade’s gas. Its ability to penetrate any material at ordinary temperatures, combined with its anesthetic properties, gave it obvious advantages as a weapon for rendering the opposing forces defenseless.

Since it was able to penetrate all substances, there was no means of storing it. Hence it was made in the form of two liquids which reacted spontaneously and produced the gas, which was then projected to the spot where needed.

Arcot asked now that the Venerian chemists make him a supply of these two liquids; and they promptly agreed. He felt he would have a fighting chance in combatting the enemy if he could but capture one of their flying forts. It seemed a strange task! Capturing so huge a machine with only the tiny Solarite but Arcot felt there was a good possibility of his doing it if he but had a supply of that gas.

There was one difficulty one step in the synthesis required a considerable quantity of chlorine. Since chlorine was rare on Venus, the men were forced to sacrifice most of their salt supply; but this chlorine so generated could be used over and over again.

It was quite late when the Venerians left, to go again into the scalding hot rain, rain that seemed to them to be a cold drizzle. After they had gone, the Terrestrians turned in for the night, leaving a telephone connection with the armed guard outside.

The dull light of the Venerian day was filtering in through the windows the next morning when the Terrestrians awoke. It was eight o’clock, New York time, but Sonor was working on a twenty-three hour day. It happened that Sonor and New York had been in opposition at midnight two nights ago, which meant that it was now ten o’clock Sonorian time. The result was that Arcot left the car to speak to the officer in charge of the guard about the ship.

“We need some pure water water free of copper salts. I think it would be best if you can get me some water that has been distilled. That is, for drinking. Also we need about two tons of water of any kind the ship’s tanks need recharging. I’d like about a ton of the drinking water.” Arcot had to translate the Terrestrian measures into the corresponding Venerian terms, of course, but still the officer seemed puzzled. Such a large amount of water would create a real problem in transportation. After apparently conferring by telepathic means with his superiors, the officer asked if the Solarite could be moved to some more accessible place.

Arcot agreed to have it moved to a spot just outside the city, where the water could be procured directly from a stream. The drinking water would be ready when he returned to the city.

The Solarite was moved to the bank of the little river and the electrolysis apparatus was set up beside it. During the previous day, and ever since they had landed on Venus, all their power had been coming from the storage cells, but now that the electrolysis apparatus was to establish such a heavy and constant drain, Arcot started the generator, to both charge the cells, and to do the work needed.

Throughout the day there could be heard the steady hum of the generator, and the throb-throb-throb of the oxygen pump, as the gas was pumped into the huge tanks. The apparatus they were using produced the gas very rapidly, but it was near nightfall before the huge tanks had again been filled. Even then there was a bit more room for the atomic hydrogen that was simultaneously formed, although twice as much hydrogen as oxygen was produced. Its task completed, the Solarite rose again and sped toward the distant city.

A soft red glow filled the sky now, for even through the miles of clouds the intense sun was able to force some direct rays, and all the city was lighted with that warm radiance. The floodlights had not yet been turned on, but the great buildings looming high in the ruddy light were wonderfully impressive, the effect being heightened by the planned construction, for there were no individual spires, only a single mass that grew from the ground to tower high in the air, like some man-made mountain.

Back at the Capital the Solarite again settled into the broad avenue that had been cut off to traffic now, and allotted to it as its resting place. Tonlos met them shortly after they had settled into place, and with him were five men, each carrying two large bottles.

“Ah-co,” as Tonlos pronounced the Terrestrian name, “we have not been able to make very much of the materials needed for your gas, but before we made any very great amount, we tried it out on an animal, whose blood structure is the same as ours, and found it had the same effect, but that in our case the iodide of potassium is not as effective in awakening the victim as is the sorlus. I do not know whether you have tried that on Terrestrial animals or not. Luckily sorlus is the most plentiful of the halogen groups; we have far more of it than of chlorine, bromine or iodine.”

“Sorlus? I do not know of it it must be one of the other elements that we do not have on Earth. What are its properties?”

“It, too, is much like iodine, but heavier. It is a black solid melting at 570 degrees; it is a metallic looking element, will conduct electricity somewhat, oxidizes in air to form an acidic oxide, and forms strong oxygen acids. It is far less active than iodine, except toward oxygen. It is very slightly soluble in water. It does not react readily with hydrogen, and the acid where formed is not as strong as HI.”

“I have seen so many new things here, I wonder if it may not be the element that precedes niton. Is it heavier than that?”

“No,” replied Tonlos; “it is just lighter than that element you call niton. I think you have none of it.”

“Then,” said Arcot, “it must be the next member of the halogen series, Morey. I’ll bet they have a number of those heavier elements.”

The gas was loaded aboard the Solarite that evening, and when Wade saw the quantity that they had said was “rather disappointingly small” he laughed heartily.

“Small! They don’t know what that gas will do! There’s enough stuff there to gas this whole city. Why, with that, we can bring down any ship! But tell them to go on making it, for we can use it on the other ships.”

Again that night they spoke with Earth, and Morey, Senior, told them that work was already under way on a hundred small ships. They were using all their own ships already, while the Government got ready to act on the idea of danger. It had been difficult to convince them that someone on Venus was getting ready to send a force to Earth to destroy them; but the weight of their scientific reputation had turned the trick. The ships now under construction would be ready in three weeks. They would be unable to go into space, but they would be very fast, and capable of carrying large tanks of the gas-producing chemicals.

It was near midnight, Venerian time, when they turned in. The following day they planned to start for the Kaxorian construction camp. They had learned from Tonlos that there were but five of the giant planes completed now, but there were fifteen more under construction, to make up the fleet of twenty that was to attack Earth. These fifteen others would be ready in a week or less. When they were ready, the Solarite would stand small chance. They must capture one of the giants and learn its secrets, and then, if possible, with the weapons and knowledge of two worlds, defeat them. A large order!

Their opportunity came sooner than they had hoped for or wanted. It was about three o’clock in the morning when the telephone warning hummed loudly through the ship. Arcot answered.

Far to the east and south of them the line of scout planes that patrolled all the borders of Lanor had been broken. Instantaneously, it seemed, out of the dark, its lights obscured, the mighty Kaxorian craft had come, striking a tiny scout plane head on, destroying it utterly before the scout had a chance to turn from the path of the titanic ship. But even as the plane spun downward, the pilot had managed to release a magnesium flare, a blindingly brilliant light that floated down on a parachute, and in the blaze of the white light it gave off, the other scouts at a few miles distance had seen the mighty bulk of the Kaxorian plane. At once they had dropped to the ground and then, by telephone lines, had sent their report to far off Sonor.

In moments the interior of the Solarite became a scene of swift purposeful activity. All day the Terrestrians had been able to do so little in preparation for the conflict they knew must come, the battle for two worlds. They had wanted action, but they had no weapons except their invisibility and the atomic hydrogen. It would not sink a plane. It would only break open its armor, and they hoped, paralyze its crew. And on this alone they must pin their hopes.