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Title: The manless worlds

Author: Murray Leinster

Illustrator: Virgil Finlay

Release date: December 4, 2022 [eBook #69465]

Language: English

Original publication: United States: Standard Magazines, Inc, 1946

Credits: Greg Weeks, Mary Meehan and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team at


The Manless Worlds


[Transcriber's Note: This etext was produced from
Thrilling Wonder Stories February 1947.
Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that
the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed.]


Empires in the Making

The speaker inside the house spoke softly.

"Guests for Kim Rendell, asking permission to land."

Kim stared up at the unfamiliar stars of the Second Galaxy, and picked out a tiny winking light with his eyes. He moved to a speaker-disk.

"Land and be welcomed." To Dona he added, "It's a flier. I've been expecting something like this. We need fuel for the Starshine if we're not to be stuck on this one planet forever. My guess is that somebody has come through the matter-transmitter from Ades to argue about it."

He moved to the edge of the terrace to watch the landing. Dona came and stood beside him, her hand twisting into his. The night was very dark, and the two small moons of Terranova cast no more than enough light to outline nearby objects. The house behind Kim and Dona was low and sprawling and, on its polished outer surface, unnamed Second Galaxy constellations glinted faintly.

The flier came down, black and seemingly ungainly, with spinning rotors that guided and controlled its descent, rather than sustaining it against the planet's gravity. The extraordinarily flexible vegetation of Terranova bent away from the hovering object. It landed and the rotors ceased to spin. Figures got out.

"I'm here," said Kim Rendell into the darkness.

Two men came across the matted lawn to the terrace. One was the colony organizer for Terranova and the other was the definitely rough-and-ready mayor of Steadheim, a small settlement on Ades back in the First Galaxy.

"I am honored," said Kim in the stock phrase of greeting.

The two figures came heavily up on the terrace. Dona went indoors and came back with refreshments, according to the custom of Ades and Terranova. The visitors accepted the glasses, in which ice tinkled musically.

"You seem depressed," said Kim politely, another stock phrase. It was a way of getting immediately to business.

"There's trouble," growled the Mayor of Steadheim. "Bad trouble. It couldn't be worse. It looks like Ades is going to be wiped out. For lack of space-ships and fuel. Those so-and-so's on Sinab Two!"

"Lack of space-ships and fuel?" protested Kim. "But you're making them!"

"We thought we were," growled the Mayor. "We've stopped. We're stuck. We're finished—and the ships aren't. The same with the fuel. There's not a drop for you and things look bad! But we can't make ships, and we couldn't make fuel for them if we could! That's why we've come to you. We've got to have those ships!"

He pounded with his fist for emphasis. Kim blinked at him. After twenty thousand years of civilization it was odd to hear a man say that it was impossible to make anything that happened to be wanted. Most of the peoples of the First Galaxy, to be sure, were hardly progressive.

Every habitable planet had been explored and colonized, and the human race swarmed and bred from rim to rim. But on every planet but one—Ades—men were enslaved by the Disciplinary Circuit, which, as an agent of government subjected every citizen on every planet to torture or death at the whim of his rulers.[1]

So everywhere but on Ades in the First Galaxy progress had come to an end and only those people who, for intelligence or crime or rebellion or the lack of a sheeplike spirit, had been exiled to Ades looked forward to any further triumphs for mankind.

Kim Rendell—himself a fugitive from the planet Alphin Three—had allied himself with them and the colony on Terranova was a victory of his contriving.

It was the first foothold of the human race across the monstrous void surrounding the First Galaxy.

It was the promise of all the island universes in all the cosmos, opened for the use of men. It had seemed that an unending march of triumph lay ahead. So it was incredible that the men of Ades should be unable to make space-ships or the fuel needed for ships to subjugate the new galaxy.

"But why not?" demanded Kim. "What's preventing it? You've got the record-reels from the Starshine! They tell you everything, from the first steps in making a ship to the last least item of its outfitting! You know how to make fuel!"

All that was true. On most planets, to be sure, the making of space-ships was not even dreamed of—abandoned even in the amusement reels as too antique to be amusing. Space travel by ship had ceased centuries since. Matter-transmitters on every planet conveyed persons and things from one solar system to another in infinitely less time and with infinitely greater convenience.

The Starshine, in fact, had been the last ship known to make an interstellar voyage, and she was a museum-exhibit on Alphin Three when Kim Rendell and Dona drove her through the museum roof and set out to find a place where they could be free.

They'd had a bad time of it. They'd have died helplessly because of the little ship's inherent limitations, had not Kim applied his matter-transmitter-technician's knowledge and modified its drive past recognition.

He'd made the little ship into a matter-transmitter which received itself, traveling light-millennia in microseconds, and at long last he and Dona had found a haven on Ades—the prison world to which all malcontents were exiled and from which no exile had ever escaped.

The modified Starshine had ended that state of things. She carried a matter-transmitter to the Second Galaxy, and the folk of Ades streamed through to a new island universe and with infinite opportunity before them.

But the Starshine had still been the only ship in space as far as anyone knew. So others had been begun, back on Ades. They would open planets by hundreds of millions for occupation. But now—

"Space!" exploded the Mayor of Steadheim. "Of course we know how! We know all about it! There are fifty useless hulks in a neat row outside my city—every one unfinished. We're short of metal on Ades and we had to melt down tools to make them, but we did—as far as we could go. Now we're stuck and we're apt to be wiped out because of it!"

The Mayor of Steadheim wore a bearskin cap and his costume was appropriate to that part of Ades in which his municipality lay. He was dressed for a subarctic climate, not for the balmy warmth of Terranova, where Kim Rendell had made his homestead. He sweated as he gulped at his drink.

"Tell me the trouble," said Kim. "Maybe—"

"Hafnium!" barked the mayor. "There's no hafnium on Ades! The ships are done, all but the fuel-catalyzers. The fuel is ready—all but the first catalyzation that prepares it to be put in a ship's tanks. We have to have hafnium to make catalyzers for the ships. We have to have hafnium to make the fuel!

"We haven't got it! There's not an atom of it on the planet! We're so short of heavy elements, anyhow, that we make hammers out of magnesium alloy and put stones in 'em to give them weight so they'll strike a real blow! We haven't got an atom of hafnium and we can't make ships or run them either without it!"

Kim blinked at the Colony Organizer for Terranova.


"No hafnium here either," said the Colony Organizer gloomily. "We analyzed a huge sample of ocean salts. If there were any on the planet there'd be a trace in the ocean. Naturally! So what do we do?"

Kim spoke unhappily.

"I wouldn't know. I'm a matter-transmitter technician. I can do things with power and, of course, I understand the Starshine's engines. But there's no record of the early, primitive types that went before them—types that might work on other fuel. Maybe in some library on one of the older planets—But at that, the fuel the Starshine used was so perfect that it would be recorded thousands of years back."

"Take a year to find it," said the Mayor of Steadheim bitterly. "If we could search! And it might be no good then! We haven't got a year. Probably we haven't a month!"

"We're beaten," mourned the Colony Organizer. "All we can do is get as many through the Transmitter from Ades as possible and go on half rations. But we'll starve."

"We're not beaten!" roared the Mayor of Steadheim. "We'll get hafnium and have a fighting fleet and fuel to power it! There's plenty of the blasted stuff somewhere in the galaxy! Kim Rendell, if I find out where it is, will you go get it?"

"The Starshine," said Kim grimly, "barely made it to port here. There's less than six hours' fuel left."

"And who'd sell us hafnium?" demanded the Colony Organizer bitterly. "We're the men of Ades—the rebels, the outlaws! We were sent to Ades to keep us from contaminating the sheep who live under governments with disciplinary circuits and think they're men! We'd be killed on sight for breaking our exile on any planet in the First Galaxy! Who'd sell us hafnium?"

"Who spoke of buying?" roared the mayor. "I was sent to Ades for murder! I'm not above killing again for the things I believe in! I've a wife on Ades, where there are ten men for every woman. I've four tall sons! D'you think I won't kill for them?"

"You speak of piracy," said the Colony Organizer, distastefully.

"Piracy! Murder! What's the difference? When my sons are in danger—"

"What's this danger?" Kim said sharply. "It's bad enough to be grounded, as we seem to be. But you said just now—"

"Sinab Two!" snorted the Mayor of Steadheim. "That's the danger! We know! When a man becomes a criminal anywhere he's sent to us. In the First Galaxy a man with brains usually becomes a criminal. A free man always does! So we've known for a long while there were empires in the making. You heard that, Kim Rendell!"

"Yes, I've heard that," agreed Kim.

So he had, but only vaguely. His own home planet, Alphin Three, was ostensibly a technarchy, ruled by men chosen for their aptitude for public affairs by psychological tests and given power after long training.

Actually it was a tyranny, ruled by members of the Prime Council. Other planets were despotisms or oligarchies and many were kingdoms, these days. Every possible form of government was represented in the three hundred million inhabited planets of the First Galaxy.

But every planet was independent and in all—by virtue of the disciplinary circuit—the government was absolute and hence tyrannical. Empires, however, were something new. On Ades, Kim had barely heard that three were in process of formation.

"One's the Empire of Greater Sinab," snorted the mayor, "and we've just heard how it grows!"

"Surprise attacks, no doubt," said Kim, "through matter-transmitters."

"We'd not worry if that were all!" snapped the mayor. "It's vastly worse! You know the old fighting-beams?"

"I know them!" said Kim grimly.


The Deadly Beams

He did. They were the most terrible weapons ever created by men. They had ended war by making all battles mass suicide for both sides. They were beams of the same neuronic frequencies utilized in the disciplinary circuits which kept men enslaved.

But where the disciplinary circuits were used in place of police and prisons and merely tortured the individual citizen to whom they were tuned—wherever he might be upon a planet—the fighting-beams killed indiscriminately. They induced monstrous, murderous currents in any living tissue containing the amino-chains normally a part of human flesh.

They were death-rays. They killed men and women and children alike in instants of shrieking agony. But no planet could be attacked from space if it was defended by such beams. It was two thousand years since the last attempt at attack from space had been made.

That fleet had been detected far out and swept with fighting-beams and every living thing in the attacking ships died instantly. So planets were independent of each other. But when space-ships ceased to be used the fighting-beams were needless and ultimately were scrapped or put into museums.

"Somebody," the mayor said wrathfully, "has changed those beams! They're not tuned to animal tissue in general any more! They're tuned to male tissue. To blood containing male hormones, perhaps! And Sinab Two is building an empire with 'em! We found out only two weeks ago!

"There's a planet near Ades—Thom Four. Four years ago its matter-transmitter ceased to operate. The Galaxy's going to pot anyhow. Nothing new about that! But we just learned the real reason. The real reason was that four years ago fighting-beams swept Thom Four from pole to pole. The beams killed men and left women unharmed.

"Every man on Thom Four died as the planet rotated. The beams came from space. Every man and every boy and every male baby died! There were only girls and women left." He added curtly, "There were half a billion people on Thom Four!"

Kim stiffened. Dona, beside him, drew closer.

"Every man killed!" said Kim. "What—"

The Mayor Steadheim swore angrily.

"Half the population! On Ades we're nine-tenths men! Women don't run to revolt or crime. There'd not be much left on Ades if those beams swept us! But I'm talking about Thom Four. The men died. All of them. So many that the women couldn't bury them all.

"One instant, the planet was going about its business as usual. The next, every man was dead, his heart burst and blood running from his nostrils. Lying in the streets, toppled in the baths and eating-halls, crumpled beside the machines.

"Boys in the schools dropped at their desks. Babes in arms, with their mothers shrieking at the sight! Only women left. A world of women! Cities and continents filled with dead men and women going mad with grief!"

Kim felt Dona's hand fumbling for his. She held it fast.

"Go on!" said Kim.

"When they thought to go to the matter-transmitter and ask for help from other planets the matter-transmitter was smashed. They didn't go at first. They couldn't believe it. They called from city to city before they realized theirs was a manless world. Then, when they'd have told the men of another planet what had happened—they couldn't.

"For four years there was not one man or boy on the planet Thom Four. Only women. The old ones grew older. The girls grew up. Some couldn't remember ever seeing a man. No communication with other worlds. Then, one day, there was a new matter-transmitter in the place of the smashed one. Men came out of it. The women crowded about them.

The men from Sinab Two were very friendly—and women crowded about them.

"The men were very friendly. They were from Sinab Two. Their emperor had sent them to colonize. There were a thousand women to every man—ten thousand! Some of the women realized what had been done. They'd have killed the newcomers. But some women fell in love with them, of course!

"In a matter of days every man had women ready to fight all other women who would harm him. Their own men were dead four years. What else could they do? More and more men colonists came. Presently things settled down. The men were happy enough. They'd no need to work with all the women about.

"They established polygamy, naturally! Presently it was understood that Thom Four was part of the empire of Greater Sinab. So it was. What else? In a generation there'll be a new population, all its citizens descended from loyal subjects of the emperor.

"And why shouldn't they be loyal? A million colonists inherited the possessions and the women of a planet! It was developed. Everything was built. Every man was rich and with a harem. A darned clever way to build an empire! Who'd want to revolt—and who could?"

He stopped. The two moons of Terranova floated tranquilly, higher in the sky. The soft sweet unfamiliar smells of a Terranovan night came to the small group on the terrace of Kim Rendell's house.

"That's what's ahead of Ades!" raged the Mayor of Steadheim. "And I've four sons! A woman of Thom Four smashed the lock on the new matter-transmitter, which set it to send only to Sinab, and traveled to Khiv Five to warn them. But they laughed at her and when she begged to be sent to a distant planet they grinned—and sent her to Ades!"

He paused.

"Not long after, a criminal from Khiv Five—he'd struck a minor noble for spitting on him—came to Ades. There'd been inquiry for that woman. Spies, doubtless, from Thom Four, trying to trace her. It was clear enough she'd told the truth."

"So," said Kim slowly, "you think Ades will be next."

"I know it!" said the Mayor of Steadheim. "We've checked the planets that have cut communication in our star-cluster. Twenty once inhabited planets have ceased to communicate in the past few years—the twenty planets nearest to Sinab. We figured Khiv Five would be next. Then we'd be in line for it.

"Khiv Five cut communications four days ago! Every man on Khiv Five is dead! We've had exiles from a dozen nearby planets. All know Khiv Five is cut off. It's inhabitated only by women, going mad with grief!

"In a few years, when they grieve no longer, but despair instead, new colonists from Sinab will come out of a new matter-transmitter to let the women fall in love with them—and to breed new subjects for the Empire of Sinab! So we've got to have space-ships, man! We've got to!"

Kim was silent. His face was hard and grim.

"Twenty planets those so-and-so's have taken over!" roared the mayor. "They've murdered not less than four billion men already, and the weasels have a hundred wives apiece and the riches of generations for reward! D'you think I'll let that happen to Ades, with my four sons there? Space, no! I want ships to fight with!"

The two small moons rose higher. Strange sweet smells floated in the air. Dona pressed close to Kim. On Terranova, across the gulf between island universes, Kim was surely safe, but any woman can feel fear for her man on any excuse.

"Its a hard problem," said Kim evenly. "We barely made Terranova with the Starshine, and there's just about enough fuel left to take off with. Of course, on transmitter-drive she could go anywhere, but I doubt that we've fuel enough to land her.

"Here on Terranova we need supplies from Ades to live. If fighting-beams play on Ades we'll starve. And, even if we had fuel the Starshine isn't armed and they'll have a fleet prepared to fight anything."

Dona murmured in his ear.

"We're beaten, then," said the Colony Organizer bitterly. "Ades will be wiped out, we'll starve and the Sinabians will go through the First Galaxy, killing off the men on planet after planet and then moving in to take over."

Dona murmured again in Kim's ear. The Mayor of Steadheim growled profanely, furiously. Dona laughed softly. The two visitors stared at her suspiciously.

"What do we do, Kim Rendell?"

"I suppose," said Kim wryly, "we'll have to fight. We've no fuel and no weapons—but that ought to surprise them."


"They'll be prepared," Kim explained, "to defend themselves against any conceivable resistance by any conceivable weapon. And a warship a fairly intelligent planet could build should be able to wipe out ten thousand Starshines. So when we attack them without any weapons at all they won't quite know what to do."

The two visitors simply stared at him.

"You've got to get hafnium! You've got to get fuel! You can't face a battleship!"

"But," said Kim, "battleships have fuel on board and they'll have hafnium too. It'll be risky—but convenient...."



Actually there was less than a quart of fuel in the Starshine's tanks. Kim knew it ruefully well. It would run the little ship at interplanetary speed for perhaps six hours. On normal overdrive—two hundred light-speeds—it would send her just about one-seventh of a light-year, and star-systems averaged eight light-years apart in both the First and Second Galaxies.

Of course, on transmitter-drive—the practically infinite speed the Starshine alone in history had attained—the ship might circumnavigate the cosmos on a quart of fuel. But merely rising from Terranova would consume one-third of it, and landing on any other planet would take another third.

Actually the little ship was in the position of being able to go almost anywhere, but of having no hope at all of being able to come back.

It rose from Terranova though, just three days after the emergency was made clear. There were a few small gadgets on board—hastily made in the intervening seventy-two hours—but nothing deadly—nothing that could really be termed a weapon.

The Starshine climbed beyond the atmosphere of the Second Galaxy planet. It went on overdrive—at two hundred light-speeds—to a safe distance from Terranova's planetary system. Then it stopped in normal space, not stressed to allow for extra speed.

Kim jockeyed it with infinite care until it was aimed straight at the tiny wisp of nebulous light which was the First Galaxy, unthinkable thousands of light-years away. At long last he was satisfied. He pressed the transmitter-field button—and all space seemed to reel about the ship.

At the moment the transmitter-field went on, the Starshine had a velocity of twenty miles per second and a mass of perhaps two hundred tons. The kinetic energy it possessed was fixed by those two facts.

But, when the transmitter-field enveloped it, its mass dropped—divided by a factor approaching infinity. And its speed necessarily increased in exact proportion because its kinetic energy was undiminished. It was enclosed in a stressed space in which an infinite speed was possible. It approached that infinite speed on its original course.

Instantly, it seemed, alarm-gongs rang and the cosmos reeled again. Suddenly there was a glaring light pouring in the forward vision-ports. There were uncountable millions of stars all about and, almost straight ahead, a monstrous, palpitating Cepheid sun swam angrily in emptiness.

The Starshine had leaped the gulf between galaxies in a time to be measured in heart-beats and the transmitter-field was thrown off when the total quantity of radiation impinging upon a sensitive plate before her had reached a certain total.

Dona watched absorbedly as Kim made his observations and approximately fixed his position. The Mayor of Steadheim looked on suspiciously.

"What's this?"

"Locating ourselves," Kim explained. "From the Second Galaxy the best we could hope for was to hit somewhere in the First. We did pretty well, at that. We're about sixty light-centuries from Ades."

"That's good, eh?" The mayor mopped his face. "Will we have fuel to get there?"

Kim jockeyed the Starshine to a new line. He adjusted the radiation-operated switch to a new value, to throw off the field more quickly than before. He pressed the field-button again. Space reeled once more and the gongs rang and they were deep within the galaxy. A lurid purple sun blazed balefully far to the left.

Kim began another jockeying for line.

"Khiv Five was beamed about a week ago," he said reflectively. "We're headed for there now. I think there'll be a warship hanging around, if only to drop into the stratosphere at night and pick up the broadcasts or to drop off a spy or two. Dona, you've got your wristlet on?"

Dona, unsmiling, held up her hand. A curious bracelet clung tightly to the flesh. She looked at his forearm, too. He wore a duplicate. The Mayor of Steadheim rumbled puzzledly.

"These will keep the fighting-beams from killing us," Kim told him wryly. "And you too. But they'll hurt like the dickens. When they hit, though, these wristlets trip a relay that throws us into transmitter-drive and we get away from there in the thousandth of a second. The beams simply won't have time to kill us. But they'll hurt!"

He made other adjustments—to a newly-installed switch on the instrument-board.

"Now—we see if we get back to Terranova."

He pressed the transmitter-drive button a third time. Stars swirled insanely, with all their colors changing. Then they were still. And there was the ringed sun Khiv with its family of planets about it.

Khiv Five was readily recognizable by the broad, straight bands of irrigated vegetation across its otherwise desert middle, where the water of the melted icecaps was pumped to its winter hemisphere. It was on the far side of its orbit from the stopping-place of the Starshine, though, and Kim went on overdrive to reach it. This used as much fuel as all the journey from the Second Galaxy.

The three speed-ranges of the Starshine were—if Kim had but known it—quaintly like the three speeds of ancient internal-combustion land-cars. Interplanetary drive was a low speed, necessary for taking off and landing, but terribly wasteful of fuel.

Overdrive had been the triumph of space-navigation for thousands of years. It was like the second gear of the ancient land-cars. And the transmitter-drive of Kim's devising was high speed, almost infinite speed—but it could not be used within a solar system. It was too fast.

Kim drove to the farther orbit of Khiv Five and then went into a long, slow, free fall toward the banded planet below. In the old days it would have been changed to a landing-parabola at an appropriate moment.

"Now," said Kim grimly, "my guess is that we haven't enough fuel to make anything but a crash-landing. Which would mean that we should all get killed. So we will hope very earnestly that a warship is still hanging about Khiv Five, and that it comes and tries to wipe us out."

Dona pointed to a tiny dial. Its needle quivered ever so slightly from its point of rest.

"Mmmmm," said Kim. "Right at the limit of the detector's range. Something using power. We should know how a worm on a fish-hook feels, right now. We're bait."

He waited—and waited—and waited.

The small hundred-foot hull of the space-ship seemed motionless, seen from without. The stars were infinitely far away. The great ringed sun was a hundred and twenty million miles distant. Even the belted planet Khiv Five was a good half-million miles below.

Such motion as the Starshine possessed was imperceptible. It floated with a vast leisureliness in what would be a parabolic semi-orbit. But it would take days to make sure. And meanwhile....

Meanwhile the Starshine seemed to spawn. A small object appeared astern. Suddenly it writhed convulsively. Light glinted upon it. It whirled dizzily, then more dizzily still, and abruptly it was a shape. It was, in fact, the shape of a space-ship practically the size of the Starshine itself, but somehow it was not quite substantial. For minutes it shimmered and quivered.

"You'll find it instructive," said Kim drily to the Mayor of Steadheim, "to look out of a stern-port."

The Mayor lumbered toward a stern-port. A moment later they heard him shout. Minutes later, he lumbered back.

"What's that?" he said angrily. "I thought it was another ship! When I first saw it, I thought it was ramming us!"

"It's a gadget," said Kim abstractedly. His eyes were on the indicator of one of the detectors. The needle was definitely away from its point of rest. "There's something moving toward us. My guess is that it's a warship with fighting-beams—and hafnium and fuel."


Encounter in the Void

The Mayor of Steadheim looked from one to the other of them. Dona was pale. She looked full of dread. Kim's lips were twisted wryly, but his eyes were intent on the dial. The mayor opened his mouth, and closed it, then spoke wrathfully.

"I don't understand all this! Where'd that other ship come from?"

"It isn't a ship," said Kim, watching the dial that told of the approach of something that could only be an enemy—and it had been a matter of faith that only the Starshine roamed the spaceways. "I got it made back on Terranova.

"We took a big reel of metal spring-wire, and wound it round and round a shape like that of the Starshine. When it was in place we annealed and tempered it so it would always resume that shape. And then we wound it back on its reel. I just dumped it out in space from a special lock astern.

"It began to unroll, and of course to go back to the form it had been tempered in. Here, with no gravity to distort it, it went perfectly back into shape. Close-to, of course, you can see it's only a shell and a thin one. But a few miles away it would fool you."

The needle on the detector-dial crept over and over. Kim wet his lips. Dona's face was white.

Then Kim winced and the Mayor of Steadheim roared furiously and the universe without the view-ports swayed and dissolved into something else. Alarm-gongs rang and the Starshine was in a brand-new place, with a blue-white giant sun and a dwarf companion visible nearby. The ringed sun Khiv had vanished.

"K-kim!" said Dona, choking.

"I'm quite all right," he told her. But he wiped sweat off his face. "Those beams aren't pleasant, no matter how short the feeling is."

He turned back to the controls. The faint whine of the gyros began. The Starshine began to turn about. Kim applied power. But it took a long time for the ship's nose to be turned exactly and precisely back in the direction from which it had come.

"It's getting ticklish," he said abruptly. "There's less than a cupful of fuel left."

"Space!" said the Mayor of Steadheim. He looked sick and weak and frightened. "What happened?"

"We were in a sort of orbit about Khiv Five," said Kim, succinctly. "We had a decoy ship out behind us. A warship spotted our arrival. It sneaked up on us and let go a blast of its beams—the same beams that killed all the men on Khiv Five.

"They didn't bother Dona—she's a girl—but they would have killed us had not a relay flung the Starshine away from there. The beams got left behind. So did the dummy ship. I think they'll clamp on to it to look it over. And if our engines keep turning over long enough, we'll be all right. Now, let's see!"

His jaw was set as the transmitter-drive came on and the familiar crazy gyration of all the stars again took place and the gongs rang once more. But his astrogation was perfect. There was the ringed sun Khiv again with its banded fifth planet and its polar ice-cap and its equatorial belt of desert with the wide bands of irrigated land crossing it. Kim drove for the planet. He looked at the fuel-gauge.

"Our tanks," he said evenly, "read empty. What fuel's left is in the catalyzer."

A needle stirred on the bank of indicators. Dona caught her breath. Kim sweated. The indication on the dial grew stronger. The electron-telescope field sparkled suddenly, where light glinted on glistening metal. Kim corrected course subtly.

There was the tiny form which looked so amazingly like a duplicate of the Starshine. It was actually a thin layer of innumerable turns of spring-wire. On any planet it would have collapsed of its own weight. Here in space it looked remarkably convincing.

But the three in the Starshine did not look at it. They looked at the shape that had come alongside it and made fast with magnetic grapples that distorted the thin decoy wildly—the shape that gave no sign of any activity or any motion or any life.

That shape was a monster space-ship a thousand feet long. It looked as if it bulged with apparatus of death. It was ominous. It was gigantic. It was deadly.

"Our trick worked," said Kim uneasily. "We should begin to feel uncomfortable, you and I, in minutes—if only our engines keep running!"

He spoke to the Mayor of Steadheim. Almost as he spoke, a tiny tingling began all over his body. As the ship went on, that tingling grew noticeably stronger.


"We've no weapons," said Kim, "nor time to devise them. But when we were slaves on the planets we came from we were held enslaved by a circuit that could torture us or paralyze us at the will of our rulers. The disciplinary circuit. Remember?

"I put a disciplinary-circuit generator in that little decoy ship. I took a suggestion from what our friends yonder did to the fighting beams. I tuned the disciplinary circuit to affect any man—but no woman—within its range.

"The generator went on when she grappled the decoy. Every man in it should be helpless. If it stands like that, we'd be paralyzed too if we went near. But not Dona."

The tingling was quite strong. It was painful. Presently it would be excruciating. It would be completely impossible for any man within fifty miles of the decoy space-ship to move a muscle.

"However," said Kim, "I've arranged that. I'd disciplinary-circuit projectors fitted on the Starshine. We turn them on that ship. Automatically, the generator on the decoy will cut off. Our friends will still be helpless, and we can go up and grapple—if our engines keep going!"

He threw a switch. A relay snapped over somewhere and a faint humming noise began. The tingling of Kim's body ceased. The decoy and the enemy space-ship grew large before them. The enemy was still motionless.

Its crew, formerly held immobile by the circuit in the decoy, was now held helpless by the beams from the Starshine. But neither Kim nor the Mayor of Steadheim could enter the enemy ship without becoming paralyzed too.

Dona slipped quietly from the control-room. She came back, clad in a space-suit with the helmet face-plate open.

"All ready, Kim," she said quietly.

Sweat stood out in droplets on Kim's face. The Starshine drifted ever so gently into position alongside the pair of motionless shapes—the one so solid and huge, the other so flimsy and insubstantial. Kim energized the grapples. There was a crushing impact as the Starshine anchored itself to the enemy.

Kim reached over and pulled out a switch.

"That's the wristlet relay switch," he told Dona. "We stay here until you come back—even if a fighting-beam hits us. You've got to go on board that monster and get some fuel and, if you can, a hafnium catalyzer. If another battleship's around and comes up—you drive the Starshine home with what fuel you can get. We'll be dead, but you do that. You hear?"

"I'll—hurry, Kim," Dona said.

"Be careful!" commanded Kim fiercely. "There shouldn't be a man on that ship who can move, but be careful!"

She kissed him quickly and closed the face-plate of her helmet. She went into the airlock and closed the inner door.

There was silence in the Starshine. Kim sweated. The outer airlock door opened. The two ships were actually touching. The clumping of the magnetic shoes of Dona's space-suit upon the other ship's hull was transmitted to the Starshine.

Kim and the Mayor of Steadheim heard the clankings as she opened the other ship's outer airlock door—the inner door. Then they heard nothing.

Dona was in an enemy space-ship, unarmed. Subjects of the Empire of Greater Sinab manned it. They or their fellows had murdered half the population of the banded planet below. They were helpless, now, to be sure, held immobile by fields maintained by the precariously turning engines of the Starshine.

But the fuel-gauge showed the fuel-tanks absolutely dry. The Starshine was running on fuel in the pipe-line and catalyzers. It had been for an indefinite time. Its engines would cut off at any instant.

When the lights flickered Kim groaned. This meant that the last few molecules of fuel were going from the catalyzer. He feverishly cut off the heaters which kept the ship warm in space. He cut off the air-purifier.

He became desperately economical of every watt of energy. He used power for the disciplinary-circuit beams which kept the enemy crew helpless and for the grapples which kept the two ships in contact—for nothing else.

But still the lights flickered. The engines gasped for power. They started and checked and ran again, and again checked.

The second they failed finally, the immobile monster alongside would become a ravening engine of destruction. The two men in the Starshine would die in an instant of unspeakable torment. Dona—now fumbling desperately through unfamiliar passageways amid contorted, glaring figures—would be at the tender mercy of the crew.

And when the three of them were dead the drive of the Starshine would be at the disposal of the Empire of Greater Sinab if they only chose to look at it. The beastly scheme of conquest would spread and spread and spread throughout the galaxy and enslave all women—and murder all human men not parties to the criminality.

The lights flickered again. They almost died and on the Starshine, Kim clenched his hands in absolute despair. On the enemy warship the frozen, immobile figures of the crew made agonized raging movements.

But the engine caught fugitively once more, and Dona worked desperately and then fled toward the airlock with her booty while the disciplinary circuit field which froze the Sinabian crew wavered, and tightened, and wavered once more.

And died!

Dona dragged open the enemy's inner airlock door as a howl rose behind her. She flung open the outer as murderous projectors warmed. She clattered along the outer hull of the Sinabian ship on her magnetic shoes, and saw the Starshine drifting helplessly away, even the grapples powerless to hold the two bodies together.

At that sight, Dona gasped. She leaped desperately, with star-filled nothingness above and below and on every hand. She caught the Starshine's airlock door.

Dona leaped desperately through star-filled nothingness to catch the Starshine's airlock door.

And Kim cut out the disciplinary-circuit beams and the flow of current to the grapples and, with a complete absence of hope, pressed the transmitter-drive button. He had no shred of belief that it would work.

But it did. The equalizer-batteries from the engines gave out one last surge of feeble power—and were dead. But that was enough, since nothing else drew current at all. The stars reeled.

This was a test.

Almost anything could happen. Kim held his breath, anxiously watching and waiting for the worst, his senses attuned to the delicate mechanisms about him.

And then, slowly, the reaction was fully determined, and he smiled.


The Needed Fuel

The Starshine had a mass of about two hundred tons and an intrinsic velocity of so many miles per second. When the field went on, her mass dropped almost to zero, but her kinetic energy remained the same. Her velocity went up almost to infinity. And the universe went mad.

The vision-ports showed stark lunacy. There were stars, but they were the stars of a madman's dream. They formed and dissolved into nothingness in instants too brief for estimate. For fractions of microseconds they careered upon impossible trajectories across the vision-ports' field of view.

Now a monstrous blue-white sun glared in terribly, seemingly almost touching the ship. An instant later there was utter blackness all about. Then colossal flaring globes ringed in the Starshine, and shriveling heat poured in.

Then there was a blue watery-seeming cosmos all around like the vision of an underwater world and dim shapes seemed to swim in it, and then stars again, and then....

It was stark, gibbering madness!

But Kim reached the instrument-board. With the end of the last morsel of power he had ceased to have weight and had floated clear of the floor and everything else.

By the crazy, changing light he sighted himself and, when he touched a sidewall, flung himself toward the now-dark bank of instruments. He caught hold, fumbled desperately and threw the switch a radiation-relay should have thrown. And then the madness ended.

There was stillness. There was nothing anywhere. There was no weight within the ship, nor light, nor any sound save the heavy breathing of Kim and the Mayor of Steadheim. The vision-ports showed nothing.

Looking carefully, with eyes losing the dazzle of now-vanished suns, one could see infinitely faint, infinitely distant luminosities. The Starshine was somewhere between galaxies, somewhere in an unspeakable gulf between islands of space, in the dark voids which are the abomination of desolation.

There were small clankings aft. The outer airlock door went shut. A little later the inner door opened. And then Kim swam fiercely through weightlessness and clung to Dona, still in her space-suit, unable to speak for his emotion.

The voice of the Mayor of Steadheim arose in the darkness which was the interior of the Starshine—and the outer cosmos for tens of thousands of light years all about.

"What's this," he rumbled wrathfully as he floated without weight in darkness. "Is this what happens when a man dies? It'll be frightfully tedious."

Dona now had the face-plate of her helmet open. She kissed Kim hungrily.

"I—brought you something," she said unsteadily. "I'm not sure what, but—something. They've separate engines to power their generators on that ship, and there were tanks I thought were fuel-tanks."

"Space!" roared the Mayor of Steadheim, forward. "Who's that talking? Am I dead? Is this hades?"

"You're not dead yet," Kim called to him. "I'll tell you in a minute if you will be."

There were no emergency-lights in the ship, but Dona's suit was necessarily so equipped. She turned on lights and Kim looked at the two objects she had brought.

"My dear," he told her, "you did it! A little fuel-tank with gallons in it and a complete catalyzer. By the size of it, one of their beams uses an engine big enough for fifty ships like this!"

Clutching at every projection, he made his way to the engine-room. Dona followed.

"I'm glad, Kim," she said unsteadily, "that I was able to do something important. You always do everything."

"The heck I do," he said. "But anyhow...."

He worked on the tank. She'd sheared it off with a tiny atomic torch and the severed fuel-line had closed of itself, of course. He spliced it into the Starshine's fuel-line, and waited eagerly for the heavy, viscid fluid to reach the catalyzer and then the engines.

"We'll—be all right now?" asked Dona hopefully.

"We were on transmitter-drive for five minutes, at a guess. You know what that means!"

She caught her breath.

"Kim! We're lost!"

"To say that we're lost is a masterpiece of understatement," he said wryly. "At transmitter-speed we could cross the First Galaxy in a ten-thousandth of a second. Which means roughly a hundred thousand light years in a ten-thousandth of a second. And we traveled for three hundred seconds or thereabouts. What are our chances of finding our way back?"

"Oh, Kim!" she cried softly. "It's unthinkable!"

He watched the meters. Suddenly, the engines caught. For the fraction of a second they ran irregularly. Then all was normal. There was light. There was weight. An indignant roar came from forward.

"If this is hades—"

They went to the control-room. The Mayor of Steadheim sat on the floor, staring incredulously about him. As they entered he grinned sheepishly.

"I was floating in the air and couldn't see a thing, and then the lights came on and the floor smacked me! What happened and where are we?"

Kim went to the instrument-board and plugged in the heaters—already the vision-ports had begun to frost—and the air-purifier and the other normal devices of a space-ship.

"What happened is simple enough," said Kim. "The last atom of power on board the ship here threw us into transmitter-field drive. And when that field is established it doesn't take power to maintain it.

"So we started to move! There's a relay that should have stopped us, but there wasn't enough power left to work it. So we traveled for probably five minutes on transmitter-drive."

"We went a long way, eh?" said the mayor, comfortably.

"We did," said Kim grimly. "To Ades from its sun is ninety million miles—eight light-minutes. Minutes, remember! The First Galaxy is a hundred thousand light-years across. Light travels a hundred thousand years, going ninety million miles every eight minutes to cross it.

"The Starshine travels a hundred thousand light-years in the ten-thousandth part of a second. In one second—a billion light-years. The most powerful telescope in the Galaxy cannot gather light from so far away. But we went at least three hundred times farther.

"Three hundred billion light-years, plus or minus thirty billions more! We went beyond the farthest that men have ever seen, and kept on beyond the farthest that men have ever thought of!

"The light from the island universes we can see through the ports has never yet reached the First Galaxy since time began. It hasn't had time! We're not only beyond the limits that men have guessed at, we're beyond their wildest imagining!"

The Mayor of Steadheim blinked at him. Then he got up and peered out the vision-ports. Dim, remote luminosities were visible, each one a galaxy of a thousand million suns!

"Hah!" grunted the mayor, "Not much to look at, at that! Now what?"

Kim spread out his hands and looked at Dona.

"Turning about and trying to go back," he said, "would be like starting from an individual grain of sand on a desert, and flying a thousand miles, and then trying to fly back to that grain of sand again. That's how the First Galaxy stacks up."

Dona took a deep breath.

"You'll find a way, Kim! And—anyhow—"

She smiled at him shakily. Whether or not they ever saw another human being she was prepared to take what came, with him. The possibility of being lost amid the uncountable island universes of the cosmos had been known to them both from the beginning of the use of the Starshine.

"We'll take some pictures," Kim told her, "and then sit down on a planet and figure things out."

He set to work making a map of all the island universes in view of the Starshine's current position, with due regard to the Starshine's course. On the relatively short jumps within a galaxy, and especially those of a few light-years only, he could simply turn the ship about and come very close to his original position—the line of it, anyhow.

But he did not know within many many billions of light-years how far he had come and he did know that an error of a hundredth of a second of arc would amount to millions of light-years at the distance of the First Galaxy.

The positions of galaxies about the First were plotted only within a radius of something like two million light-years. There had never been a point in even that! At fifteen hundred thousand times that distance he was not likely to strike the tiny mapped area by accident.

He set to work. Presently he was examining the photographs by enlarger for a sign of structure in one of the galaxies in view. One showed evidences of super-giant stars—which proved it the nearest. He aimed the Starshine for it. He threw the ship into transmitter-drive.

The galaxy was startlingly familiar when they reached it. The stellar types were normal ones and there were star-clusters and doubtless star-drifts too and Kim was wholly accustomed to astro-navigation now.

He simply chose a sol-type sun, set the radiation-switch to stop the little space-ship close by, aimed for it and pressed a button. Instantly they were there. They visited six solar systems.

They found a habitable planet in the last—a bit on the small side, but with good gravity, adequate atmosphere and polar icecaps to assure its climate.

They landed and its atmosphere was good. The Mayor of Steadheim stepped out and blinked about him.

"Hah!" he said gruffly. "If we've come as far as you say it was hardly worth the trip!"

Kim grinned.

"It looks normal enough," he acknowledged. "But chemistry's the same everywhere and plants will use chlorophyll in sunlight from a sol-type sun. Stalks and leaves will grow anywhere, and the most efficient animals will be warm-blooded. Given similar conditions you'll have parallel evolution everywhere."

"Hm—" said the Mayor of Steadheim. "A planet like this for each of my four sons to settle on, now—when we've settled with those rats from Sinab—"

The planet was a desirable one. The Starshine had come to rest where a mountain-range rose out of lush, strange, forest-covered hills, which reached away and away to a greenish sea. There was nothing in view which was altogether familiar and nothing which was altogether strange. The Mayor of Steadheim stamped away to a rocky out-crop where he would have an even better view.

"Poor man!" said Dona softly. "When he finds out that we can never go back, and there'll be only the three of us here while horrible things happen back—back home."

But Kim's expression had suddenly become strained.

"I think," he said softly, "I see a way to get back. I was thinking that a place as far away as this would be ideal for the Empire of Sinab to be moved to. True, they've murdered all the men on nineteen or twenty planets, but we couldn't repair anything by murdering all of them in return.

"If we moved them out here, though, there'd be no other people for them to prey on. They'd regret their lost opportunities for scoundrelism but their real penalty would be that they'd have to learn to be decent in order to survive. It's a very neat answer to the biggest problem of the war with Sinab—a post-war settlement."

"But we haven't any chance of getting back, have we?"

"If we wanted to send them here, how'd we do it?" asked Kim. "By matter-transmitter, of course. A receiver set up here—as there used to be one on Ades—to which a sender would be tuned.

"When a transmitter's tuned to a receiver you can't miss. But our transmitter-drive is just that—a transmitter which sends the ship and itself, with a part which is tuned to receive itself, too.

"I'll set up the receiving element here, for later use. And I'll tune the sender-element to Ades. We'll arrive at the station there and everyone will be surprised."

He paused and spoke reflectively.

"A curious war, this. We've no weapons and we arrive at a post-war settlement before we start fighting. We've decided how to keep from killing our enemies before we're sure how we'll defeat them and I suspect that the men had better stay at home and let the women go out to battle. I'm not sure I like it."

He set to work. In twelve hours one-half of the transmitter-drive of the Starshine had been removed and set up on the unnamed planet of a galaxy not even imagined by human beings before.

In fifteen hours the Starshine, rather limpingly, went aloft.

An hour later Kim carefully tuned the transmitting part of the little ship's drive to the matter-receiving station on Ades. In that way, and only in that way, the ship would inevitably arrive at the home galaxy of humanity.

And he pushed a button.

It arrived at the matter station on Ades instead of descending from the skies. And the people on Ades were surprised.


Man-Made Meteor

No obvious warlike move had been made on either side, of course. Ades swam through space, a solitary planet circling its own small sun. About it glittered the thousands of millions of stars which were the suns of the First Galaxy.

Nearby, bright and unwinking, Sinab and Khiv and Phanis were the largest suns of the star-cluster which was becoming the Empire of Sinab. Twenty planets—twenty-one, with Khiv Five—were already cut off from the rest of the galaxy, apparently by the failure of their matter-transmitters.

Actually those twenty planets were the cradles of a new and horrible type of civilization. On the other inhabited worlds every conceivable type of tyranny had come into being, sustained by the disciplinary circuit which put every citizen at the mercy of his government throughout every moment of his life.

On most worlds kings and oligarchs reveled in the primitive satisfaction of arbitrary power. There is an instinct still surviving among men which allows power, as such, to become an end in itself, and when it is attained to be exercised without purpose save for its own display. Some men use power to force abject submission or fawning servility or stark terror.

In the Empire of Greater Sinab there was merely the novelty that the rulers craved adulation—and got it. The rulers of Sinab were without doubt served by the most enthusiastic, most loyal, most ardently co-operative subjects ever known among men.

Every member of the male population of Sinab—where women were considered practically a lower species of animal—could look forward confidently to a life of utter ease on one planet or another, served and caressed by solicitous females, with no particular obligation save to admire and revere his rulers and to breed more subjects for them.

It made for loyalty, but not for undue energy. There was no great worry about the progress of the splendid plan for a greater Sinab. All went well. The planet Khiv Five had been beamed from space some nine days since.

Every man upon the planet had died in one instant of unholy anguish, during which tetanic convulsions of the muscles of his heart burst it while the ligaments and anchorages of other muscles were torn free of his skeleton by the terrific contraction of muscle fibres.

Every woman on Khiv Five was still in a state of frantic grief which would become despair only with the passage of time. It was strange that two guard-ships circling Khiv Five no longer reported to headquarters but it was unthinkable that any harm could have come to them. Records showed that no other planet had practised space travel for centuries or millennia.

Only the Empire of Sinab had revived the ancient art for purposes of conquest. There was no reason to be solicitous, so the Empire of Sinab waited somnolently for time to pass, when colonists would be called up to take over the manless Khiv Five and all its cities and its women.

There was another small planet called Ades, next in order for absorption into the Empire. A squadron had been dispatched to beam it to manlessness—though volunteers for its chilly clime would not be numerous.

The failure of two guard-ships to report, of course, could have no meaning to that other squadron. Of course not! There were no space-ships save the fleet of Greater Sinab. There were no weapons mounted for use against space-craft anywhere.

There was nothing to hinder the expansion of Greater Sinab to include every one of the galaxy's three hundred million inhabited planets. So nobody worried on Sinab.

On Ades it was different. That small planet hummed with activity. It was not the ordered, regimented-from-above sort of activity any other planet in the galaxy would have shown. It was individual activity, often erratic and doubtless inefficient. But it made for progress.

First, of course, a steady stream of human beings filed into the matter-transmitter which communicated with Terranova in the Second Galaxy. Gangling boys, mostly, and mothers with small boy-children made the journey, taking them to Terranova where the beams of Sinabian murder-craft could not cause their death.

The adults of Terranova were not anxious to flee from Ades. The men with wives—though there were only one-tenth as many women as men on Ades—savagely refused to abandon them. Those without wives labored furiously to complete the space-ships that waited for their finishing touches on the outskirts of every community on the planet.

The small drum of fuel taken by Dona from the warship off Khiv Five was depleted by Kim's use of it, but the rest was enormously useful. The catalyzer from the same warship was taken apart and its previous hafnium parts recovered. And then the values of individualism appeared.

A physicist who had been exiled from Muharram Two for the crime of criticizing a magistrate, presented himself as an expert on autocatalysis. With a sample of the catalyzed fuel to start the process he shortly had a small plant turning out space-fuel without hafnium at all. The catalyzed fuel itself acted as a catalyst to cause other fuel to take the desired molecular form.

A power-plant engineer from Hlond Three seized upon the principle and redesigned the catalyzers to be made for the ships. For safety's sake a particle of hafnium was included but the new-type catalyzers required only a microscopic speck of the precious material.

Hafnium from the one bit of machinery from the one beam-generator of an enemy war-craft, was extended to supply the engine-rooms of a thousand space-craft of the Starshine's design.

In a myriad other ways individuals worked at their chosen problems. Hundreds undoubtedly toiled to contrive a shield for the fighting beams—tuned to kill men only—which were the means by which Ades was to be devastated. The scientists of half a galaxy had tried that five thousand years before without success.

But one man did come up with a plausible device. He proposed a shielding paint containing crystals of the hormone to which the fighting-beams were tuned. The crystalline material should absorb the deadly frequencies, so they could not pass on to murder men.

It would have been simple enough to synthesize any desired organic substance, but Kim pointed out grimly that the shield would be made useless by changing the tuning of the beams. Other men devised horrific and generally impractical weapons.

But again, one man came up with a robot ship idea, a ship which could be fought without humans on board and controlled even at interstellar distances. Radio signals at the speed of light would be fantastically too slow.

He proposed miniature matter-transmitters automatically shuttling a magnetic element between ship and planet-station and back to the ship again, the solid object conveying all the information to be had from the ship's instruments to the planet-station, and relaying commands to the ship's controls. The trick could have been made to work, and it would be vastly faster than any radiation-beam. But there was no time to manufacture them.

Actually, only four days after the return of the partly dismantled Starshine from the farther side of nowhere, Kim took off again from Ades with fifty other ships following him. There were twenty other similar squadrons ready to take space in days more.

But for a first operation he insisted on a small force to gain experience without too much risk. At transmitter-speeds there could be no such thing as cruising in fleet formation, nor of arriving at any destination in a unit. Guerilla warfare was inevitable.

The navy of the criminals of Ades, though, went swirling up through the atmosphere of that cold planet like a column of voyaging wild geese. It broke through the upper atmosphere and there were all the suns of the Galaxy shining coldly on every hand.

The ships headed first for Khiv Five, lining up for it with such precision as the separate astrogators—hurriedly trained by Kim—could manage. It was a brave small company of tiny ships, forging through space away from the sunlit little world behind them. The light of the local sun was bright upon their hulls.

Glinting reflections of many-colored stars shimmered on their shadowed sides. They drove on and on, on planetary drive, seemingly motionless in space. Then the Starshine winked out of existence. By ones and twos and half-dozens, the others vanished from space.

It was the transmitter-drive, of course. The repaired Starshine vanished from space near Ades because it went away from Ades at such speed that no light could possibly be reflected from it. It reappeared in space within the solar system of Khiv because it slowed enough to be visible.

But it seemed utterly alone. Yet presently an alarm-gong rang, and there was one of its sister-ships a bare ten thousand miles away. The rest were scattered over parsecs.

Kim drove for the banded planet on which dead men still lay unburied. His fleet was to rendezvous above its summer pole, as shown by the size of the ice-cap. There had been two guard-ships circling Khiv Five to keep account of the development of grief into despair. Dona had robbed one of them while its crew was held helpless by projectors of the disciplinary-circuit field.

A second had been on the way to its aid when the Starshine reeled away with the last morsel of energy in its equalizing-batteries. With fifty small ships, swift as gad-flies though without a single weapon, Kim hoped to try out the tactics planned for his fleet, and perhaps to capture one or both of the giants.

He picked up a third member of his force on the way to the planet and the three drove on in company. Detectors indicated two others at extreme range. But as the three hovered over the polar cap of Khiv Five, others came from every direction.

Then a wheezing voice bellowed out of the newly-installed space-radio in the Starshine's control-room. It was the voice of the Mayor of Steadheim, grandly captaining a tiny ship with his four tall sons for crew.

"Kim Rendell!" he bellowed. "Kim Rendell! Enemy ships in sight! We're closing with them and be da—"

His voice stopped—utterly.

Kim snapped orders and his squadron came swarming after him. The direction of the message was clear. It had come from a point a bare two thousand miles above the surface of Khiv Five and with coordinates which made its location easy.

It was too close for the use of transmitter-drive, of course. Even overdrive at two hundred light-speeds was out of the question. On normal drive the little ships—bare specks in space—spread out and out. Their battle tactics had been agreed upon. They wove and darted erratically.

They had projectors of the disciplinary-circuit field, which would paralyze any man they struck with sufficient intensity. But that was all—for the good and sufficient reason that such fields could be tested upon grimly resolute volunteers and adjusted to the utmost of efficiency.

On the prison world of Ades, to which criminals were sent from all over the galaxy, there was no legal murder. Killing fighting-beams could not be calibrated. There were no available victims.

The detectors picked up a single considerable mass. Electron telescopes focussed upon it. Kim's lips tensed. He saw a giant war-craft, squat and ungainly—with no air-resistance in space there is no point in streamlining a space-ship—and with the look of a mass of crammed generators of deadly beams.

It turned slowly in its flight. It was not one space-ship, but two—two giant ships grappled together. It turned further and there was a shimmering, unsubstantial tiny shape clutched to one....

"The dickens!" said Kim bitterly. He called into the space-phones; "Kim Rendell speaking! Don't attack! Those ships aren't driving, they're falling! They'll smash on Khiv Five and we can't do anything about it. Keep at least fifty miles away!"

A wheezing voice said furiously from the communicator,

"They tricked me! I went for 'em, and the transmitter-drive went on! I'll get 'em this time!"

Kim barked at the Mayor of Steadheim, even as in the field of the electron telescope he saw a tiny mote of a space-ship charge valorously at the monsters. It plunged toward them—and vanished.

Dona spoke breathlessly.

"But what happened, Kim?"

"This," said Kim bitterly, "is the end of the battle we fought with one of those ships a week ago. We put out a decoy and that ship grappled it. A disciplinary-circuit generator went on and paralyzed its crew.

"You remember that we went up to it and you went on board. I turned off its generator from a distance and held the crew paralyzed with beams from the Starshine. There was another ship coming when you got off and we got away to the other side of beyond."

"Yes, but—"

"We vanished," said Kim. "The other enemy ship came up. Its skipper must have decided to go on board the first for a conference, or perhaps to inspect the decoy. It grappled to the first—and the magnetic surge turned on the disciplinary field again in the gadget in the decoy!

"Every man in both ships was paralyzed all over again! Both ships were drifting with power off! They've been falling toward Khiv Five! Every man of both crews must be dead by now, but the field's still on and it will stay on! They'll crash!"

"But can't we do anything?" demanded Dona anxiously. "I know you want a ship."

"It would be handy to have those beams modified so we could paralyze a planet from a distance," said Kim grimly, "but these ships are gone."

"I could go on board again," said Dona breathlessly.

"No! They'll hit atmosphere in minutes, now. And even if we could cut off the paralyzing field and get to the control-room nobody could pull an unfamiliar ship out of that fall. I wouldn't let you try it anyhow. They're falling fast. Miles a second. They'll hit with the speed of a meteor!"

"But try, Kim!"

For answer he pulled her away from the electron telescope and pointed through the forward vision-port. The falling ships had seemed almost within reach on the electron-telescope screen. But through the vision-port one could see the whole vast bulk of Khiv Five.

Two thirds of it glowed brightly in sunlight, but night had fallen directly below. The falling ships were the barest specks the eye could possibly detect—too far for hope of overhauling on planetary drive, too close to risk any other. Any speed that would overtake the derelicts would mean a crash against the planet's disk.

"I think," said Kim, "they'll cross the sunset line and fall in the night area."

They did. They vanished, as specks against the sunlit disk. Then, minutes later, a little red spark appeared where the bulk of the banded planet faded into absolute black. The spark held and grew in brightness.

"They've hit atmosphere," Kim told her. "They're compressing the air before them until it's incandescent. They're a meteoric fall."

The spark flared terribly, minute though it was from this distance. It curved downward as the air slowed its forward speed. It was an infinitesimal comet, trailing a long tail of fire behind it. It swooped downward in a gracefully downward-curving arc. It crashed.

"Which," said Kim coldly in the Starshine's control-room, "means that two Sinabian warships are destroyed without cost to us. It's a victory. But it's very, very bad luck for us. With those two ships and transmitter drive we could end the war in one day."


Ready for Action

Indignantly the Mayor of Steadheim bellowed from the space-phone speaker and Kim answered him patiently.

"The decoy still had a disciplinary-circuit field on," he explained for the tenth time. "You know about it! When you tried to go galumphing in, the field grabbed you and paralyzed you. When your muscles went iron hard, the relay on your wrist—you wear it to protect you from the fighter-beams—threw your ship into transmitter-speed travel.

"So you were somewhere else. When you came back you charged in again and the same thing happened. The relay protected you against our field as well as the enemy fighter-beams. That's all."

The Mayor wheezed and sputtered furiously. It was plain that he had meant to distinguish himself and his four sons by magnificent bravery.

"There's something that needs to be done," said Kim. "Those two ships are smashed but they hadn't time to melt. There'll be hafnium in the wreckage, anyhow—and metal is scarce on Ades. See what you can salvage and get it to Ades. It's important war work. Ask for other ships to volunteer to help you."

The Mayor of Steadheim roared indignantly—and then consented like a lamb. In the space-navy of Ades there could not yet be anything like iron discipline. Kim led his forces as a feudal baron might have led a motley assemblage of knights and men-at-arms in ancient days. He led by virtue of prestige and experience. He could not command.

The fleet grew minute by minute as lost ships came in. And Kim worked out a new plan of battle to meet the fact that he could not hope to appear over Sinab with gigantic generators able to pour out disciplinary-circuit beams over the whole planet.

He explained the plan painstakingly to his followers and presently set a course for Sinab. A surprising number of ships volunteered to go to ground on Khiv Five with the Mayor of Steadheim to salve what could be retrieved of the shattered two warships.

No more than thirty little craft of Ades pointed their noses toward Sinab. They went speeding toward it in a close-knit group, matching courses to almost microscopic accuracy and keeping their speed identical to a hair in hopes of arriving nearly in one group.

"So we'll try it again," said Kim into the space-phone. "Here we go!"

He pressed the transmitter-drive button and all the universe danced a momentary saraband—and far off to the left the giant sun Sinab glowed fiercely.

Five of the little ships from Ades were within detector-range. But there were four monstrous moving masses which by their motion and velocity were space-ships rising from the planet and setting out upon some errand of the murder-empire. The same thought must have come instantly to those upon each of the little ships. They charged.

There had been no war in space for five thousand years. The last space-battle was that of Canis Major, when forty thousand warships plunged toward each other with their fighting-beams stabbing out savagely, aimed and controlled by every device that human ingenuity could contrive.

That battle had ended wars for all time, the galaxy believed, because there was no survivor on either side. In seconds every combatant ship was merely a mass of insensate metal, which fought on in a blind futility.

The fighting-beams killed in thousandths of seconds. The robot gunners aimed with absolute precision. The two fleets joined battle and the robots fixed their targets and every ship became a coffin in which all living things were living no longer, which yet fought on with beams which could do no further harm.

With every man in both fleets dead the warships raged through emptiness, pouring out destruction from their unmanned projectors. It was a hundred years before the last war-craft, its fuel gone and its crew mere dust, was captured and destroyed. But there had been no space-fight since—until now.

And this one was strangeness itself. Four huge, squat ships of war rose steadily from the planet Sinab Two. They were doubtless bound on a mission of massacre. The Empire of Sinab gave no warning of its purpose. It did not permit the option of submission.

Its ships headed heavily out into space, crammed with generators of the murder-frequency. They had no inkling of any ships other than those of their own empire as being in existence anywhere.

Suddenly, out of nowhere, a slim and slender space-craft winked into being—a member of Kim's squadron, just arrived. Within a fraction of an instant it was plunging furiously for the Sinabian monster.

The Starshine also flung itself into head-long attack, though it was unarmed save for projectors of a field that would not kill anyone. The other ships—and more, as they appeared—darted valorously for the giants.

Meteor-repellers lashed out automatically. Scanners had detected the newcomers and instantly flung repeller-beams to thrust them aside. They had no effect. Meteor-repellers handle inert masses but, by the nature of its action, an interplanetary drive neutralizes their effect.

The small ships flashed on.

Kim found himself grinning sardonically. There would be alarms ringing frantically in the enemy ships and the officers would be paralyzed with astonishment at the sudden appearance and instant attack by space-craft which could not—to Sinabian knowledge—exist.

Four ships plunged upon one monster. Three dashed at another. Eight little motes streaked for a third and the fourth seemed surrounded by deadly mites of space-ships, flashing toward it with every indication of vengeful resolution.

The attacks were sudden, unexpected, and impossible. There was no time to put the murder-beams into operation. They took priceless seconds to warm up.

In stark panic the control-room officer of the ship at which the Starshine drove jammed his ship into overdrive travel. The Sinabian flashed into flight at two hundred times the speed of light. It fled into untraceable retreat, stressed space folded about it.

Kim spoke comfortably into the space-phone:

"Everything's fine! If the others do the same...."

A second giant fled in the same fashion. The small ships of Ades were appearing on every hand and plunging toward their enemies. A third huge ship made a crazy, irresolute half-turn and also took the only possible course by darting away from its home planet on overdrive. Then the fourth!

"They'd no time to give an alarm," said Kim crisply. "Into atmosphere now and we do our stuff!"

The tiny craft plunged toward the planet below them. It swelled in the Starshine's forward vision-ports. It filled all the firmament. Kim changed course and aimed for the limb of the planet. The ship went down and down.

A faint trembling went through all the fabric of the ship. It had touched atmosphere. There was a monstrous metropolis ahead and below. Kim touched a control. A little thing went tumbling down and down. He veered out into space again.

He watched by electron telescope. Like tiny insects, the fleet of Ades flashed over the surface of the planet. They seemed to have no purpose. They seemed to accomplish nothing. They darted here and there and fled for open space again, without ever touching more than the outermost reaches of the planet's atmosphere.

But it took time. They were just beginning to stream up into emptiness again when the first of the giant warships flashed back into view. This time it was ready for action.

Its beam-projectors flared thin streams of ions that were visible even in empty space. The ships of Ades plunged for it in masses. The fighting-beams flared terribly.

And the little ships vanished. Diving for it, plunging for it, raging toward it with every appearance of deadly assault, they flicked into transmitter-drive when the deadly beams touched them. Because the crews of every one were fitted with the wristlets and the relays which flung them into infinite speed when the fighting-beams struck.

In seconds, when the second and third and fourth Sinabian warships came back from the void prepared for battle, they found all of space about their home planet empty. They ragingly reported their encounter to headquarters.

Headquarters did not reply. The big ships went recklessly, alarmedly, down to ground to see what had happened. They feared annihilation had struck Sinab Two.

But it hadn't. The fleet of Ades had bombed the enemy planet, to be sure, but in a quite unprecedented fashion. They had simply dropped small round cases containing apparatus which was very easily made and to which not even the most conscientious of the exiles on Ades could object.

They were tiny broadcasting units, very much like one Kim had put in a decoy ship, which gave off the neuronic frequencies of the disciplinary circuit, tuned to men. The cases were seamless spheres, made of an alloy that could only be formed by powder metallurgy, and could not be melted or pierced at all.

It was the hardest substance developed in thirty thousand years of civilization. And at least one of those cases had been dropped on every large city of Sinab Two, and when they struck they began to broadcast.


Pitched Battle

Every man in every city of the capital planet of the empire was instantly struck motionless. From the gross and corpulent emperor himself down to the least-considered scoundrel of each city's slums, every man felt his every muscle go terribly and impossibly rigid. Every man was helpless and convulsed. And the women were unaffected.

On Sinab two, which was the capital of a civilization which considered women inferior animals, the women had not been encouraged to be intelligent. For a long time they were merely bewildered. They were afraid to try to do anything to assist their men.

Those with small boy-children doubtless were the first to dare to use their brains. It was unquestionably the mother of a small boy gone terribly motionless who desperately set out in search of help.

She reasoned fearfully that, since her own city was full of agonized statues which were men, perhaps in another city there might be aid. She tremblingly took a land-car and desperately essayed to convoy her son to where something might be done for him.

And she found that, in the open space beyond the city, he recovered from immobility to a mere howling discomfort. As the city was left farther behind he became increasingly less unhappy and at last was perfectly normal.

But it must have been hours before that discovery became fully known, so that mothers took their boy-children beyond the range of the small cases dropped from the skies. And then wives dutifully loaded their helpless husbands upon land-cars or into freight-conveyors and so got them out to where they could rage in unbridled fury.

The emperor and his court were probably last of all to be released from the effects of the disciplinary-circuit broadcasts by mere distance. The Empire was reduced to chaos. For fifty miles about every bomb it was impossible for any man to move a muscle.

For seventy-five it was torment.

No man could go within a hundred miles of any of the small objects dropped from the Starshine and her sister-ships without experiencing active discomfort.

Obviously, the cities housed the machinery of government and the matter-transmitters by which the Empire communicated with its subject worlds and the food-synthesizers and the shelters in which men were accustomed to live and the baths and lecture-halls and amusement-centers in which they diverted themselves.

Men were barred from such places absolutely. They could not govern nor read nor have food or drink or bathe or even sleep upon comfortable soft couches. For the very means of living they were dependent upon the favor of women—because women were free to go anywhere and do anything, while men had to stay in the open fields like cattle.

The foundation of the civilization of Greater Sinab was shattered because women abruptly ceased to be merely inferior animals. The defenses of that one planet were non-existent, and even the four ships just taken off went down recklessly to the seemingly unharmed cities—to land with monstrous crashes and every man in them helpless. The ships were out of action for as long as the broadcast should continue.

But the fleet of Ades rendezvoused at Ades, and again put out into space. They divided now and attacked the subjugated planets. They had no weapons save the devices which every government in the galaxy used.

It was as if they fought a war with the night-sticks of policemen. But the disciplinary circuit which made governments absolute, by the most trivial of modifications became a device by which men were barred from cities, and therefore from government. All government ceased.

Active warfare by the Empire of Sinab became impossible. Space-yards, armories, space-ships grounded and space-ships as they landed from the void—every facility for war or rule in an empire of twenty planets became useless without the killing of a single man and without the least hope of resistance.

Only—a long while since, a squadron of Sinabian warships had headed out for Ades as a part of the program of expansion of the empire. It had lifted from Sinab Two—then the thriving, comfortable capital of the empire—and gone into overdrive on its mission.

The distance to be covered was something like thirty light-years. Overdrive gave a speed two hundred times that of light, which was very high speed indeed, and had sufficed for the conquest of a galaxy, in the days when the human race was rising.

But even thirty light-years at that rate required six weeks of journeying in the stressed space of overdrive. During those six weeks, of course, there could be no communication with home base.

So the squadron bound for Ades had sped on all unknowing and unconscious while Khiv Five was beamed and all its men killed and while the Starshine had essayed a return journey from the Second Galaxy and then sped crazily to universes beyond men's imagining and returned, and while the midget fleet of Ades wrecked the empire in whose service the travelers set out to do murder.

The journeying squadron—every ship wrapped in the utter unapproachability of faster-than-light travel—was oblivious to all that had occurred. Its separate ships came out of overdrive some forty million miles from the solitary planet Ades, lonelily circling its remote small sun.

The warships of Sinab had an easier task in keeping together on overdrive than ships of the Starshine class on transmitter-drive, but even so they went back to normal space forty million miles from their destination—two second's journey on overdrive—to group and take final counsel.

Kim Rendell in the Starshine flashed back from the last of the twenty planets of Sinab as six monster ships emerged from seeming nothingness. The Starshine's detectors flicked over to the "Danger" signal-strength.

Alarm-gongs clanged violently. The little ship hurtled past a monster at a bare two-hundred miles distance, and there was another giant a thousand miles off, and two others and a fifth and sixth....

The six ships drew together into battle formation. Their detectors, too, showed the Starshine. More, as other midgets flicked into being, returning from their raid upon the Empire, they also registered upon the detector-screens of the battle-fleet.

The fighter-beams of the ships flared into deadliness. They were astounded, no doubt, by the existence of other space-craft than those of Sinab. But as the little ships flung at them furiously, the fighting-beams raged among them.

Small, agile craft vanished utterly as the death-beams hit—thrown into transmitter-drive before their crews could die. But the Sinabians could not know that. They drove on. Grandly. Ruthlessly. This planet alone possessed space-craft and offered resistance.

It had appeared only normal that all the men on Ades should die. Now it became essential. The murder-fleet destroyed—apparently—the tiny things which flung themselves recklessly and went on splendidly to bathe the little planet in death.

The midgets performed prodigies of valor. They flung themselves at the giants, with the small hard objects that had destroyed an empire held loosely to the outside of their hulls.

When the death-beams struck and they vanished, the small hard objects went hurtling on.

They could have been missiles. They traveled at miles per second. But meteor-repellers flung them contemptuously aside, once they were no longer parts of space-craft with drives in action.

The little ships tried to ram, and that was impossible. They could do nothing but make threatening dashes. And the giants went on toward Ades.

From forty million miles to thirty millions the enemy squadron drove on with its tiny antagonists darting despairingly about it. At thirty millions, Kim commanded his followers to flee ahead to Ades, give warning, and take on board what refugees they could.

But there were nineteen million souls on Ades—at most a million had crowded through to Terranova in the Second Galaxy—and they could do next to nothing.

At twenty millions of miles, some of the midgets were back with cases of chemical explosive. They strewed them in the paths of the juggernaut ships. With no velocity of their own—almost stationary in space—someone had thought they might not activate the Sinabian repellers.

But that thought was futile. The repeller-beams stabbed at them with the force of collisions. The chemical explosives flashed luridly in emptiness and made swift expanding clouds of vapor, of the tenuity of comets' tails. The enemy ships came on.

At ten million miles two unmanned ships, guided by remote control, flashed furiously toward the leading war-craft. They, at least, should be able to ram.

Repeller-beams which focused upon them were neutralized by the space-torpedoes' drives. They drove in frenziedly. But as they drew closer the power of the repeller-beams rose to incredible heights and overwhelmed the power of the little ships' engines and shorted the field-generating coils and blew out the motors—and the guided missiles were hurled away, broken hulks.

As the little space torpedoes drew closer, the power of the repeller-beams rose to incredible heights.

The fleet reached a mere five million miles from the planet Ades. Its separate members had come to realize their invincibility against all the assaults that could be made against them by the defending forces—unexpected as they were—of this small world.

The fleet divided, to take up appropriate stations above the planet and direct their projectors of annihilation downward. They would wipe out every living male upon the planet's surface. They would do it coldly, remorselessly, without emotion.

Presently the planet would become part of an empire which, in fact, had ceased to function. The action of the fleet would not only be horrible—it would be futile. But its personnel could not know that.

The giant ships took position and began to descend.

Odd little blue-white glows appeared in the atmosphere far below. They seemed quite useless, those blue-white glows. The only effect that could at once be ascribed to them was the sudden vanishing of a dozen little ships preparing to make, for the hundredth time, despairing dashes at the monsters. Those little ships winked out of existence—gone into transmitter-drive.

And then the big ships wavered in their flight. Automatic controls seemed to take hold. They checked in their descent, and presently were motionless....

A roar of triumph came to Kim Rendell's ears from the space-phone speaker in the Starshine's control-room. The Mayor of Steadheim bellowed in exultation.

"We got 'em, by Space! We got 'em!"

"Something's happened to them," said Kim. "What?"

"I'm sending up a couple of shiploads of women," rumbled the Mayor of Steadheim zestfully. "Women from Khiv Five. They'll take over! Remember you had us go to ground to salvage the two ships that crashed there?

"They bounced when they landed. They shook themselves apart and spilled themselves in little pieces instead of smashing to powder. We picked up half a dozen projectors that could be repaired—all neatly tuned to kill men and leave women unharmed.

"We brought 'em back to Ades and mounted 'em—brought 'em here with wives for my four sons and a promise of vengeance for the other women whose men were murdered. We just gave these devils a dose of the medicine they had for us!

"Those ships are coffins, Kim Rendell! Every man in the crews is dead! But no man can go aboard until their beams are cut off! I'll send up the women from Khiv Five to board 'em. They'll attend to things! If any man's alive they'll slit his throat for him!"



Considerable time later, Kim Rendell eased the Starshine down through the light of the two Terranovan moons to the matted lawn outside his homestead in the Second Galaxy. A figure started up from the terrace and hurried down to greet him as he opened the exit-port and helped Dona to the ground.

"Who's this?" asked Kim, blinking in the darkness after the lighted interior of the Starshine. "Who—"

"It's me, Kim Rendell," said the Colony Organizer for Terranova. He sounded unhappy and full of forebodings. "We've been doing all we can to take care of the crowds who came through the matter-transmitter, but it was a difficult task—a difficult task!

"Now the crowd of new colonists has dropped to a bare trickle. Every one has a different story. I was told, though, that you were coming back in the Starshine and could advise me. I need your advice, Kim Rendell! The situation may be terrible!"

Kim led the way to the terrace of his house.

"I wouldn't say it will be terrible," he said cheerfully enough. "It's good to get back home. Dona—"

"I want to look inside," said Dona firmly.

She went within, to satisfy the instinct of every woman who has been away from home to examine all her dwelling jealously on her return. Kim stretched himself out in a chair.

The stars—unnamed, unexplored, and infinitely promising—of all the Second Galaxy twinkled overhead. Terranova's two moons floated serenely across the sky, and the strange soft scents of the night came to his nostrils. Kim sniffed luxuriously.

"Ah, this is good!" he said zestfully.

"But what's happened?" demanded the Colony Organizer anxiously. "In three weeks we had four hundred thousand new arrivals through the transmitter. Most of them were children and boys.

"Then the flood stopped—like that! What are we to do about them? Did you get fuel for your ship? I understand the danger from Sinab is over, but we find it hard to get information from Ades. Everyone there—"

"Everyone there is busy," said Kim comfortably. "You see, we smashed the Empire without killing more than a very few men. On Sinab Two where the empire was started, we chased the men out of the cities and put them at the mercy of the women.

"So many men had emigrated to the planets whose men had been killed off, that there was a big disproportion even on Sinab. And the women were not pleased. They'd been badly treated too. We didn't approve of the men, though.

"We gave them their choice of emigrating to a brand new world, with only such women as chose to go with them or of being wiped out. They chose to emigrate. So half the technical men on Ades have been busy supervising their emigration."

"Not to here?" asked the Colony Organizer in alarm. "We can't feed ourselves, yet!"

"No, not to here," said Kim drily. "They went to a place we scouted accidentally in the Starshine. They're not likely to come back. I left a matter-receiver there, and when they've all gone through it—all the men from twenty planets, with what women want to go with them—we'll smash that receiver and they'll be on their own.

"They're quite a long way off. Three hundred billion light-years, more or less. They're not likely to come in contact with our descendents for several million years yet. By that time they'll either be civilized or else."

The Colony Organizer asked questions in a worried tone. Kim answered them.

"But twenty-one planets with no men on them," said the Organizer worriedly, "Those women will all want to come here!"

Kim grinned.

"Not quite all. There were ten men on Ades for every woman. A lot of them will settle on the twenty planets where the proportion is reversed. A surprising lot will want to move on to the Second Galaxy, though."


"We'll be ready for them," said Kim. "We've space-ships enough for exploration now. The Mayor of Steadheim wants a planet for each of his four sons to colonize. They picked up wives on Khiv Five and want to get away from the old chap and indulge in a little domesticity.

"And there'll be plenty of others." He added, "We've some big war-craft to bring over too, in case there's any dangerous animals or—entities here."

"But—" said the Colony Organizer again.

"We're sending ships through the First Galaxy, too," said Kim, "to do a little missionary work. After all, twenty-one planets without men!

"So the Starshine's sister-ships will drop down secretly on one planet after another to start whisperings that a man who's sent to Ades is a pretty lucky man. If he has courage and brains he's better off than living as a human sheep under kings or technarchs who'll clap the disciplinary circuit on him if he thinks for himself.

"There'll be more criminals and rebels than usual from now on. The flow of men who are not quite sheep will increase. With three hundred million planets to draw from and the way whispers pass from world to world, the adventurous spirits will start getting themselves sent to Ades.

"There'll be planets for them to move to and women to marry and a leaven of hardy souls to teach them that being a free man is pretty good fun. We won't make an empire of those twenty-one planets—just a refuge for every man with backbone in all the Galaxy."

The Colony Organizer looked worried.

"But there are Terranova and the Second Galaxy waiting to be explored and colonized. Maybe they'll be satisfied to stay there."

Kim laughed. When he ceased to laugh he chuckled.

"I'm here! I've got a wife. Do you suppose that any woman will want her husband to stay on one of those twenty-one planets for years to come? Where women outnumber men? Where—well—a man with a roving eye sees plenty of women about for his eyes to rove to?"

The Colony Organizer still worried, nevertheless, until Dona came out from the inside of the house. She had assured herself that everything was intact and her mind was at rest. She brought refreshments for Kim and their guest. She settled down close beside Kim.

"I was just saying," said Kim, "that I thought there would still be plenty of people coming from Ades and the twenty-one planets to Terranova and to settle on the new worlds as they're opened up."

"Of course," said Dona. "I wouldn't live there! Any normal woman, when she has a husband, will want to move where he'll be safe!"

And she might have been referring to the holocausts on those planets caused by the death-beams of the dead Sinabian Empire. But even the Colony Organizer did not think so.

[1] "The Disciplinary Circuit," by Murray Leinster, Thrilling Wonder Stories, February, 1946