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   Chapter 23 No.23

Islands of Space By Jr. John W. Campbell Characters: 12837

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:03


Richard Arcot stepped into the open airlock of the Ancient Mariner and walked down the corridor to the library. There, he found Fuller and Wade battling silently over a game of chess and Morey relaxed in a chair with a book in his hands.

"What a bunch of loafers," Arcot said acidly. "Don't you ever do anything?"

"Sure," said Fuller. "The three of us have entered into a lifelong pact with each other to refrain from using a certain weapon which would make this war impossible for all time."

"What war?" Arcot wondered. "And what weapon?"

"This war," Wade grinned, pointing at the chess board. "We have agreed absolutely never to read each other's minds while playing chess."

Morey lowered his book and looked at Arcot. "And just what have you been so busy about?"

"I've been investigating the weapon on board the Satorian ships we captured," Arcot told them. "Quite an interesting effect. The Nansalian scientists and I have been analyzing the equipment for the past three days.

"The Satorians found a way to cut off and direct an electrostatic field. The energy required was tremendous, but they evidently separated the charges on Sator and carried them along on the ships.

"You can see what would happen if a ship were charged negatively and the ship next to it were charged positively! The magnitude of electrostatic forces is terrific! If you put two ounces of iron ions, with a positive charge, on the north pole, and an equivalent amount of chlorine ions, negatively charged, on the south pole, the attraction, even across that distance, would be three hundred and sixty tons!

"They located the negative charges on one ship and the positive charges on the one next to it. Their mutual attraction pulled them toward each other. As they got closer, the charges arced across, heating and fusing the two ships. But they still had enough motion toward each other to crash.

"They were wrecked by less than a tenth of an ounce of ions which were projected to the ship and held there by an automatic field until the ships got close enough to arc through it.

"We still haven't been able to analyze that trick field, though."

"Well, now that we've gotten things straightened out," Fuller said, "let's go home! I'm anxious to leave! We're all ready to go, aren't we?"

Arcot nodded. "All except for one thing. The Supreme Three want to see us. We've got a meeting with them in an hour, so put on your best Sunday pants."

In the Council of Three, Arcot was officially invited to remain with them. The fleet of molecular motion ships was nearing completion-the first one was to roll off the assembly line the next day-but they wanted Arcot, Wade, Morey, and Fuller to remain on Nansal.

"We have a large world here," the Scientist thought at them. "Thanks to you people, we can at last call it our own. We offer you, in the name of the people, your choice of any spot in this world. And we give you-this!" The Scientist came forward. He had a disc-shaped plaque, perhaps three inches in diameter, made of a deep ruby-red metal. In the exact center was a green stone which seemed to shine of its own accord, with a pale, clear, green light; it was transparent and highly refractive. Around it, at the three points of a triangle, were three similar, but smaller stones. Engraved lines ran from each of the stones to the center, and other lines connected the outer three in a triangle. The effect was as though one were looking down at the apex of a regular tetrahedron.

There were characters in Nansalese at each point of the tetrahedron, and other characters engraved in a circle around it.

Arcot turned it in his hand. On the back was a representation of the Nansalian planetary system. The center was a pale yellow, highly-faceted stone which represented the sun. Around this were the orbits of planets, and each of the eleven planets was marked by a different colored stone.

The Scientist was holding in the palm of his hand another such disc, slightly smaller. On it, there were three green stones, one slightly larger than the others.

"This is my badge of office as Scientist of the Three. The stone marked Science is here larger. Your plaque is new. Henceforth, it shall be the Three and a Coordinator!

"Your vote shall outweigh all but a unanimous vote of the Three. To you, this world is answerable, for you have saved our civilization. And when you return, as you have promised, you shall be Coordinator of this system!"

Arcot stood silent for a moment. This was a thing he had never thought of. He was a scientist, and he knew that his ability was limited to that field.

At last, he smiled and replied: "It is a great honor, and it is a great work. But I can not spend my time here always; I must return to my own planet. I can not be fairly in contact with you.

"Therefore, I will make my first move in office now, and suggest that this plaque signify, not the Coordinator, and first power of your country, but Counselor and first friend in all things in which I can serve you.

"The tetrahedron you have chosen; so let it be. The apex is out of the plane of the other points, and I am out of this galaxy. But there is a relationship between the apex and the points of the base, and these lines will exist forever.

"We have been too busy to think of anything else as yet, but our worlds are large, and your worlds are large. Commerce can develop across the ten million light years of space as readily as it now exists across the little space of our own system. It is a journey of but five days, and later machines will make it in less! Commerce will come, and with it will come close communication.

"I will accept this plaque with the understanding that I am but your friend and advisor. Too much power in the hands of one man is bad. Even though you trust me completely, there might be an unscrupulous successor.

"And I must return to my world.

"Your first ship will be ready tomorrow, and when it is completed, my friends and I will leave your planet.

"We will return, though. We are ten million light years apart, but the universe is not to be measured in space anymore, but in time. We are five days apart. I will be nearer to you at all times than is Sator!

"If you wish, others of my race shall come, too. But if you do not want them to come, they will not. I alone have Tharlano's photographs of the route, and I can lo

se them."

For a moment, the Three spoke together, then the Scientist was again thinking at Arcot.

"Perhaps you are right. It is obvious your people know more than we. They have the molecular ray, and they know no wars; they do not destroy each other. They must be a good race, and we have seen excellent examples in you.

"We can realize your desire to return home, but we ask you to come again. We will remember that you are not ten million light years, but five days, from our planet."

When the conference was ended, Arcot and his friends returned to their ship. Torlos was waiting for them outside the airlock.

"Abaout haow saon you laive?" he asked in English.

"Why-tomorrow," Arcot said, in surprise. "Have you been practicing our language?"

Torlos reverted to telepathy. "Yes, but that is not what I came to talk to you about. Arcot-can a man of Nansal visit Earth?" Anxiously, hopefully, and hesitatingly, he asked. "I could come back on one of your commercial vessels, or come back when you return. And-and I'm sure I could earn my living on your world! I'm not hard to feed, you know!" He half smiled, but he was too much in earnest to make a perfect success.

Arcot was amazed that he should ask. It was an idea he would very much like to see fulfilled. The idea of metal-boned men with tremendous strength and strange molecular-motion muscles would inspire no friendship, no feeling of kinship, in the people of Earth. But the man himself-a pleasant, kindly, sincere, intelligent giant-would be a far greater argument for the world of Nansal that the most vivid orator would ever be.

Arcot asked the others, and the vote was unanimous-let him come!

The next day, amid great ceremony, the first of the new Nansalian ships came from the factories. When the celebration was over, the four Earthmen and the giant Torlos entered the Ancient Mariner.

"Ready to go, Torlos?" Arcot grinned.

"Pearfactly, Ahcut. Tse soonah tse bettah!" he said in his oddly accented English.

Five hours saw them out of the galaxy. Twelve hours more, and they were heading for home at full speed, well out in space.

The Home Galaxy was looming large when they next stopped for observation. Old Tharlano had guided them correctly!

They were going home!

* * *

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* * *

ISLANDS

OF

SPACE

"John Campbell's book was written as a sequel to The Black Star Passes ... and believe me, it was a world-beater in those days.

"Arcot, Wade, Morey, and their computer, Fuller, put together a ship which will travel faster than light ... they give us what may have been the first space-warp drive. The concept was simple; to make it plausible wasn't-unless you were John Campbell.

"With this out-of-space drive they hightail it among the stars. They locate the fugitive planets of the Black Star ... find a frozen cemetery-world of a lost race ... then head out for another galaxy ... and wind up in a knock-down-drag-out interplanetary war in the other galaxy."

-P. Schuyler Miller, Astounding Science Fiction

* * *

Transcriber notes:

page 006 - Corrected spelling of millenia to millennia

page 007 - Corrected intergraph to integraph to be consistent w/ other instance - 1st paragraph (Google shows intergraph to be a company and integraph to be a calculator)

page 009 - Added a single ' that was dropped in the 3rd paragragh before ... brilliant mathematical assistant

page 013 - Corrected spelling of whench to whence

page 027 - Corrected spelling of withing to within, 6th paragraph

page 028 - Missing word - replaced "energy the strain" with "energy in the strain" - 6th paragraph

page 029 - Corrected spelling of Flourine to Fluorine

page 030 - Italicized "Ancient Mariner" on the first line of Ch. IV to be consistent with the dozens of other instances

page 032 - Corrected spelling of flourine to fluorine - 2nd paragraph

page 032 - Corrected spelling of flurocarbon to fluorocarbon - 2nd paragraph

page 037 - Corrected typo of 'that that' to 'than that' - 6th paragraph

page 052 - Corrected spelling of paralax to parallax - 5nd paragraph

page 059 - Corrected spelling of millenia to millennia - 3rd paragraph

page 074 - Corrected typo of 'ro' to 'to' in 1st line of 8th paragraph

page 085 - Corrected spelling of airly to airily

page 098 - Corrected typo of 'as' to 'was' - 1st line of the 7 paragraph

page 116 - Corrected typo of turned to turn - paragraph 10

page 117 - Corrected typo of builder to boulder - paragraph 6

page 118 - Corrected typo of seen to seem - paragraph 7

page 119 - Corrected typo of 'a known' to 'an unknown' - last paragraph

page 126 - Corrected typo of Earthmen to Earthman - paragraph 3

page 142 - Corrected typo of might to mighty - paragraph 7

page 143 - Corrected typo of opporutnity to opportunity - paragraph 6

page 145 - Corrected typo of mightest to mightiest - first paragraph

page 152 - Corrected typo of parelying to parleying - last paragraph

page 155 - Corrected typo of eloguently to eloquently - 3rd paragraph

page 161 - Corrected typo of could to would - 7th paragraph

page 164 - Corrected typo of communicaton to communication - paragraph 6

page 173 - Corrected typo of Astonomer to Astronomer - paragraph 7

Project Gutenberg couldn't find a renewal of the copyright.

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