Why Mars gives a Red Light Our telescope was now pointed exactly at Mars, and we were observing every feature as we approached him. Compared with the illuminated crescent of the Earth, which we had studied when we were observing the Andes, our present view was infinitely vaster and more comprehensive. We were approaching the illuminated side of a planet, whereas we had then been rapidly receding from the dark side of one partly lighted at its edge. In our new vista there were remarkably few clouds. There were a few pale mists here and there over the seas, but no such heavy, black masses as had frequently obscured the Earth.
On Mars there were fewer large bodies of water, and a very much greater proportion of land. In fact, about the Equator, whither we were steering, there seemed to be a broad, uninterrupted zone of land, with occasional bays or inlets cutting into it, but never crossing it. An open sea of considerable proportions surrounded the great ice-cap at each pole, and it was apparently thus possible to travel entirely around the globe, either by sea or by land, as one might choose.
"Behold again the infinite wisdom of the Creator!" cried the doctor. "Although Mars is a much smaller planet than our own, it is fitted for almost as large a population. The land is nearly all grouped about the Equator, where it is warm enough to live comfortably. On the contrary, on Earth there is no important civilization under the Equator, and most of the land is favourably located in the north temperate zone. On Earth the intervention of great oceans between the continents kept the population restricted to Asia and Egypt for centuries, and to the Old World for a still longer time. But here, this band of continuous land has made it easy and natural to explore the whole globe, and its inhabitants have had ample time and opportunity to distribute themselves."
But by far the most wonderful thing that we had been observing for a long time, and which became more remarkable as we approached, was that the entire planet, seas and continents alike, gave off a reddish light. This tinge of red had been visible ever since we had left the Earth. Much further back we had observed that it seemed to extend a little beyond the outline of Mars, and we now saw that even the white light from the snow-caps had a faint tinge of red.
"For centuries the ruddy light of this planet has been remarked," said the doctor. "His very name was given him because of his gory, warlike appearance. Scientists have attempted to explain it by supposing that his vegetation is uniformly red, instead of green like ours. Still others, objecting that his vegetation could not possibly be rank or plentiful, or continue the same colour through all seasons, have supposed that his soil or primaeval rock is of a deep red colour. But neither of these suppositions explain why his seas should give off a reddish light mixed with their green, or why the pure white of polar snows should be tinged with crimson."
We must have been still two hundred miles above the surface when the barometer began to rise feebly, indicating that we were already entering the Martian atmosphere; and, as we proceeded, the reddish glow spread all around us, and was even dimly visible behind as well as in front. We were still travelling too rapidly to plunge into the denser atmosphere or attempt a landing. Besides, we wished to explore the planet, and find life and civilization before choosing a landing place. And as we drew nearer, in a constantly narrowing circle, that red haze was all about us everywhere.
"There can be but one explanation of it," said the doctor at last. "This red is a colour in the Martian atmosphere. It seems very strange and almost impossible to us; but we must prepare ourselves for extremely unusual and even apparently impossible things."
But this seemed to disturb the doctor greatly, as also did the fact that we could no longer breathe with comfort the rare air which we had not found objectionable far back in space. Our returning weight made physical effort again necessary, and we were able to exert ourselves but little without panting and gasping. The rarest air we had used had shown a pressure of fourteen, and we were now compelled to increase this to eighteen in order to be comfortable.
"This Martian air is sure to give us trouble," the doctor said to me after considerable reflection. "In the first place, its red colour makes me fear it is not composed of the same gases that our air is. If it should turn out to be a mixture of oxygen and nitrogen, like ours, there is the possibility that this red matter which gives it colour will be poisonous to us. And even if it is not harmful, I do not think the air will have a pressure above ten or eleven, and we seem to need eighteen or twenty for comfort. I shall be very sorry if we have to return at once; but our supply of air is limited, you know."
"You keep a close watch through your telescope for those flying men you promised to show me," I answered. "If they can live in this air, I think we can manage it somehow. I will not go back while there is a breath left in me."
But as we drew nearer and nearer to the surface we did not discover the slightest sign of habitation. As far as we could see there was a great desert, barren of all vegetation, and apparently unwatered since creation. Our telescope did not detect the existence even of animals or creeping things.
"The wisdom of the Creator is probably quite as profound, but certainly not as apparent just here as it was somewhat farther back," I ventured.
"We must search over the whole surface of the globe until we find smoke rising," said the doctor. "That is the sure sign of intelligent life on Earth. There has hardly been a tribe of the lowest savages there which did not know how to light a fire, and this knowledge would be far more essential on a cold planet like this. Wherever we find smoke we shall find those intellectual creatures, corresponding to men on our planet."
Presently, far ahead of us, we discerned a small black cloud rapidly crossing our path. As we approached we examined it through the telescope, and soon saw that it was nothing less than an enormous flock of swiftly-flying small grey birds. This was our first acquaintance with what we afterwards found to be the predominating form of animal life on the planet. But the swift-winged cloud bore away from us, as if fleeing from the desert, and was soon lost to view.
It was not long after this that we perceived a broad stripe of brilliant green extending down into the dull expanse of the desert. In the middle of this verdant zone there was a weaving silver ribbon, which could be nothing else than a great river, along whose banks we could discern hundreds of hovering or wading birds, hopping lugubriously, or spreading their broad wings in a low flight.
As we now lowered rapidly to examine the soil more closely, we saw that we were approaching some great geometrical masses of hewn rock, whose regularity of design indicated that they were buildings of some sort. We at once decided to land and investigate these, even if we had to take up our search for intelligent life later.
We remarked that none of these enormous structures were square, or with right-angled corners, such as we were used to. They all seemed to be a combination or multiplication of a single design, which was nothing more than a massive triangular wall, with its right angle on the ground and its acute angle at the top. Sometimes two were built together, with their perpendicular surfaces joining; again, four were joined in the same manner, and one very large one was composed of twelve of these, radiating from a common centre, which, if they had quite joined each other, would have formed a gigantic cone.
I took another look at the tall, slender birds down the river, and remarked to the doctor,-- "These great structures are no birds' nests! You can't make me believe winged men would build with stone. These look more like giants' playthings than anything else."
"They appear to me like the gnomons of enormous sundials," remarked the doctor; "and, indeed, their uses must certainly be astronomical. With these one can not only tell the time, but the ascension and meridian of the sun and stars, and therefore the months and seasons."
We lowered and circled about above the largest one, which had twelve of the triangular walls built in circular form, with their common perpendicular line in the centre and their acute angles at the circumference. On closer observation, the twelve slanting sides, which radiated from the common peak, had a tubular appearance, and we were soon able to look down through almost a hundred great cylindrical chambers, which ran from a common opening at the top, slanting at every different angle down to the surface.
"These are nothing more than great, immovable masonry telescopes, for watching the stars in their courses!" cried the doctor. "Look, there is one perpendicular cylinder for observing just when a star or planet comes directly overhead, and these scores of other cylinders, at different angles, successively afford a view of a given constellation as it rises and then declines."
"Then they have built a separate masonry telescope, pointing in almost every conceivable direction, instead of having one movable telescope to take any direction," said I.
The wonderful size and massive construction of these was very striking, rivalling the pyramids of Egypt in their ponderous and enduring character. They were located on a raised plateau, whence the view in all directions was quite unobstructed. We came gently to land in the midst of them. To the rear, whence we had come, I could see the desolate waste of the desert. From the forward window we observed that the peaceful river kept a straight course from the cataract where it plunged over the plateau, through the green valley, between level banks, as far as we could see; and just at the foot of our plateau restfully nestled a city, whose massive and towering structures reached almost to our level. With the aid of the telescope we saw beings moving slowly about. Their form was upright and unwinged, but more than this we could not see. The deliberation and stately dignity of their movements comported perfectly with the majestic city wherein they dwelt.
"At last we have arrived at the boundaries of Martian civilization," exclaimed the doctor. "We will rest here and test the atmosphere; and if it permits us, we will then venture forth to measure our skill and knowledge against this race of builders. I hazard a guess that we will excel them in many things, for they are apparently only at the perfection of their Stone Age, while we finished that long ago, and have since passed through the Ages of Iron and of Steam, and are now at the dawn of the Era of Magnetism and Gravitation. Our minds are more fertile and elastic, for with this little movable telescope we probably obtain better results than they have done with their years of toiling calculation and patient building."
"You will be sadly disappointed if they so far excel us that they eat us up at two mouthfuls," said I. "As they move about yonder, they impress me as being full of power."
"They are as sluggish as elephants," he replied. "We are certainly more rapid in thought and action, and it is highly probable that we shall excel them in physical strength, as we have been built for three times as heavy muscular tasks as they."
"Still, if we cannot make them understand that we come peaceably as friends, they may attempt to kill us as the quickest solution of the question. And they are a whole race against two of us," said I, just beginning to realize all the difficulties that were yet ahead of us.
"Unless they are a very intelligent and magnanimous race, they will probably attempt to take us prisoners," he answered. "It is the mark of an enlightened nation to welcome strangers whose powers are unknown. A primitive race fears everything it does not understand, and force is its only argument against a superior intelligence."
Thereupon I immediately began a thorough overhauling of all the arms and ammunition, while the doctor prepared to test the air. There was a tone of confident exultation in his voice when he spoke again.
"This redness of the air will not trouble us a whit. Look! you can see no tinge of red between here and that huge wall yonder, nor anywhere along the ground as far as you can see. It is so slight a colouring that it is only noticeable in vast reaches of atmosphere, like the blue colour in our own air. See here, where a small cloud obscures the sky there is no ruddy tinge. There is no more colouring-matter in this than there is indigo in our own air. The amount of it is so infinitely small that it will never trouble us. Now, if it only contains oxygen enough, we are sure of life in it."
"Yes, if they will leave us alive to breathe it," I added, counting out seventeen cartridges for each rifle.
"The air outside shows a pressure of only eleven, while we have eighteen inside," he said. "I will bring in the discharging cylinder full of the outer air, and by keeping it upside down the lighter air will remain in it. Then, if a candle flame will burn steadily in it, the oxygen we need is there."
Suiting the action to the word, he carefully drew in the inverted cylinder, and cautiously brought a lighted candle into it. To our great delight the flame burned for a moment with a brighter, stronger light than it did in the air of the compartment.
"Hurrah!" cried the doctor, as happily as if he had just earned the right to live. "It seems to have more oxygen than our own air, which will make up for the lesser density."
Then he put the lighted candle in the cylinder, and quickly discharged it outside upon the ground where we could see it. The flame had almost twice the brilliancy that it had had inside.
"Our scientists who have sneered at the possibility of life on Mars, because of its rare atmosphere, have overlooked the simplicity of the problem. They delight in propounding posers for Omnipotence. If a Creator dilutes oxygen with three parts of nitrogen on one planet where conditions make a dense atmosphere, why should He not dilute oxygen with an equal part of nitrogen on a planet where the air is rare? Air is not a chemical compound, but a simple mixture. When a stronger, more life-giving atmosphere is needed, let there be less of the diluting gas. The nitrogen is of no known use, except to weaken the oxygen."
"Let me out into it, if you say it is all right," I cried. "I am tired of this bird-cage."
"Put on the diver's suit and helmet, and I will weaken the pressure of the air gradually, to prevent bleeding at the nose and ears which a sudden change might cause. When you are used to the low pressure, you can throw off the helmet and try the Martian double-oxygenated air."
I hurriedly donned the queer, baggy suit and the enormous helmet with the bulging glass eyes, and then connected the two long rubber tubes which sprang from the top with the air pipes which led to the doctor's compartment. He put in the bulkhead, and I went to the port-hole to unseal it. As I glanced out the little window, I thought I saw a light very near the mica. Was it our candle flame that something had lifted? The thick glass of the helmet blinded me a little, and I approached the window and peered out, coming face to face with a Martian, whose nose was pressed against the mica! What a rounded, smooth, and expressionless face! But what large, deep, luminous eyes!
I sprang back from the window in surprise, but not more quickly than he did. Just then the projectile rolled over slightly with a crunching noise, and I hear the thud of a heavy muffled blow on the doctor's end. Suddenly he pulled away the bulkhead and whispered to me excitedly:-- "They are all about us outside--dozens of them! They are examining the projectile and trying to break it open. If they strike the windows, it will be too easy."
The projectile tottered a little again. There was a heaving noise, and one end rose a little from the ground.
"They are trying to carry us off, Doctor," I cried. "You must turn in the currents and fly away from them."
The projectile was just then lifted awkwardly, and wavered a little and pitched, as if it were being carried by a throng struggling clumsily all about it. The doctor sprang to his apparatus and turned in four batteries at once. We shot up swiftly in a long curve, and from my window I could see the circle of amazed Martians, standing dumbly with their hands still held up in front of them, as they had been when the projectile left them, while they gazed open-mouthed into the sky at us.
The Terror Birds "They must have thought the projectile was another chunk fallen from Phobos!" I exclaimed; "and now they can't make out why it should fly back to the satellite again."
"The more we mystify them, the more they will fear us," said the doctor. "I am going to make a swift downward swoop now, as if we would crash through the midst of them. Then perhaps they will let us alone till we are ready for them."
He had scarcely finished speaking when we shot down in a long curve, like the swing of a pendulum, apparently making directly for the group of Martians. They were not seized by any quick panic; they were too phlegmatic for that. But just as the projectile threatened to smash into them, they seemed to realize the danger, and to grasp the idea that it was being operated and directed by some power and mind inside. Then they turned, scrambling clumsily over each other, and fled with the awkward precipitation of a rhinoceros in a hurry. Our pendulum motion swung us up a little before we would have struck them, but they had scattered and were scurrying to hiding-places behind the walls of the masonry telescopes. We continued our flight to the edge of the plateau, whence we could get a better view of the city and hold a more commanding position.
"None of these who have seen our aerial evolutions are likely to trouble us again," remarked the doctor. "But they will quickly spread the news to the city, and we must be where we can watch everything that goes on there, and hurriedly prepare for the worst they can do to us. We will seek the principal approach to the plateau and defend it."
His ideas had suddenly become altogether warlike. I liked the excitement of it so far, and hastened to agree with him. We came to land in a sheltered part of the main road leading to the plateau, and prepared to emerge and set up our telescope where it would sweep the city.
"Shall we try this air on the dog before you go out?" inquired the doctor in all seriousness.
"Try it on the rabbit if you wish, but not on Two-spot."
He put Bunny into the discharging cylinder and pushed him out. The meek little animal seemed quite delighted at being released. He hopped about playfully, skipping much higher and farther at each hop than I had ever seen him do before.
This reassured me, and I put on the helmet again, and opened the port-hole. As the rarer Martian air swept in, my suit swelled and puffed to its fullest capacity, by the expansion of the denser air within it. I was so blown up that I could scarcely squeeze myself out of the port-hole. It was like a red misty day outside, though there were no clouds. The sky was a perfectly cloudless dull red, and the coppery sun was shining almost overhead. His orb looked less than two-thirds the size it did from the Earth, and one could look at its duller light fixedly without hurting the eyes. Phobos was also faintly visible, steering his backward course across the ruddy sky. The thermometer showed a temperature just above freezing, but I was perfectly warm within the diver's suit and its envelope of air. The red haze and utter lack of breeze added a deceptive appearance of sultry heat.
I was gazing back toward the Gnomons, when suddenly a group of the Martians we had first seen came around a turn of the road and over a knoll into full view of us. They were plainly surprised beyond all measure by my strange appearance. My puffed and corpulent figure, my bulging face of glass, my two long rubber tentacles extending back into my shell, must have made them think I was a very curious animal! Also they were probably surprised at seeing any living thing come out of the mass, which they must have thought had fallen from their moon, for she was always shying things at them. And I now had my first chance to study their appearance closely.
"Doctor," I said softly, to see if he could hear me through the connecting tubes. As I had hoped, they proved to be very good speaking-trumpets, and I heard his answer noisily.
"Speak lower; I hear you easily," I said. "There is a party of them coming down this road to descend to the city. They have stopped upon seeing me. They are nothing but men like ourselves. I see no wings, horns, tails, or other appendages that we have not. They are just fat, puffy, sluggish men, very white and pale in colour, and covered with a peculiar clothing that looks like feathers. I seem to be a far greater freak to them than they are to me."
Had he been a million miles away, I should have known that it was the doctor answering, from his unsurprised and matter-of-fact tone. I imagined I could see the exact expression of his face as he said,-- "After all, then, man is the most perfect animal the Creator could make. From a mechanical standpoint he needs nothing that he has not, and has nothing that he does not need. However you change him, you would make him imperfect. Physiologically he may be much the same on all the planets, but there is room for the widest variations on the intellectual and spiritual side."
"Do not forget that my patriarchal ancestors record that God made man in His own image, upon which there could be no improvement," I put in.
"Yes, but modern scientists would have us believe that your patriarchs would have written a different fable if they had understood the theory of evolution. It appears that man is really a little lower than the angels, by being material and ponderable and visible, but the general image may be the same. Perhaps upon the various planets it may be that the same lines of differences prevail, as between the heathen tribes and the civilized people on earth. There at least we are sure that physiologically no marked difference exists between the lowest savage and the wisest sage."
"Except, perhaps, that the savage may have the best digestion," I added. "Those look as if they had but few troubles and plenty to eat. I see no wrinkles or hard lines. Their forms and features are gracefully rounded. Their eyes are larger and stronger, with a liquid depth suited to this soft and weaker light. None of them wear beards, and very little hair is visible. I must say they do not look at all warlike. If we could only make them understand that we are friendly, I think they would gladly bid us to a feast of freshly-cooked meats and good wines, and ask us, chuckling, for the latest after-dinner stories that are current on Earth."
"Make friendly signs to them, and see how they behave," he suggested.
I slowly waved my hand to them to approach, and extended my arm as if to shake hands. While talking with the doctor I had stood perfectly still, and they had been warily watching me all the time. When I moved and stretched out my arm, they took fright and fled precipitately.
"I have scared them away, as if they were a lot of roe deer!" I exclaimed.
"Then let us hasten preparations while they are gone," he replied. "If you can stand the pressure I have given you, it will be safe to throw off the helmet and suit."
Upon lifting the cover from my head, I caught a draught of fresh cold air that was unspeakably invigorating. I drank it in deep breaths, and felt like skipping about for joy. Kicking off the suit that trammelled me, I put it and the helmet back inside and closed the port-hole. Then the doctor pulled away the bulkhead and breathed the mixed atmosphere, half-Martian from my compartment and half-Earthly from his. He suffered no inconvenience from the sudden half-way step toward a lower density, and presently he emerged into the exhilarating air with me.
"This atmosphere has a stimulation in it like thin wine, and it gives me an appetite. I feel strong and virile enough to tip Mars topsy-turvy," I said. "At least, let me get some cigars to smoke while we are arming our stronghold."
When I went in for the guns, I put a handful of Havanas in my vest pocket, and emerging, I laid the rifles handy and proceeded to light a weed. I was watching the bright flame of the match, and puffing with gusto at the fragrant smoke, when from another direction a second squad of Martians came into view very near us. They immediately halted and gazed at us in open-mouthed wonder, which soon changed to a look of horror. Remembering the pipe of peace among the American Indians, I drew out a cigar, and hastily striking a match upon my trousers, I held the weed and flame toward them. Not a man of them stayed to see any more. Their flight was more precipitate than the other party's had been.
"It was your smoke they were afraid of," said the doctor. "Whenever you puffed, I saw them looking at each other blankly and dropping back a little. They have taken you for a fire-eater and a smoke-breather, and when you drew the flame from your lungs it was too much for them. But all this serves our purpose of frightening them. They will spread strange stories in the city below!"
I helped him carry out the telescope, and we placed it in a commanding position. Then we propped up the broad shields, so that each of us could crouch behind one, and I laid a broadsword and rifle handy to each. Then we put on the linked-wire shirts under our coats, buckled the revolvers about us, and, as it was rather cold, we each put on a thick pair of gloves and a heavy topcoat.
The doctor, who was carefully watching things down in the city through the telescope, cried out to me presently,-- "There is wild commotion and great excitement down yonder by the great palace. The news has reached them! They are preparing to come in force to take us!"
"I wish I knew what their sign of peace is, we might save a conflict," said I. "Perhaps our fire-arms won't harm them."
"More likely they will blow them all to pieces," answered the doctor. "But we must not fire unless it becomes absolutely necessary to defend ourselves, for if we kill any of them, they will then have cause to deal with us as dreadfully as they can. We cannot hope to overcome them all. It will be enough to demonstrate our supremacy, so that they will allow us to live among them. Therefore, let us simply defend ourselves and do nothing offensive, thus showing that we are peaceably disposed."
"You cry peace, but look at the great army they are sending against us!" I exclaimed. "There are four companies of foot soldiers marching through the streets, and each man is armed with a very long cross-bow and wears a brightly-coloured bird-wing on his forehead. The streets are filling with people to see them pass. Now three more companies wheel out of the palace, but they have no cross-bows. They are whirling something around their heads."
The doctor anxiously awaited his turn at the telescope, and as he looked he clutched his pistol though they were still several miles away.
"Those are slings they are whirling about their heads," he said. "And the commander of each company rides an ambling donkey, and wears a heavy plaited beard and long braided hair, without head covering."
"But look further back, coming out of the palace now!" I cried. "What are those strange, stately animals far behind the soldiers? I can see them with the naked eye."
"Donnerwetter! what towering birds!" he muttered under his breath. "Like ostriches in form, but as tall and graceful as a giraffe! There is a man riding astride the neck of each of them, yet he could scarcely reach half-way to their heads!"
"Are those monstrous things birds?" I demanded. "Let me look. What long and bony legs they have! They would stride over us without touching our heads; but how they could kick!"
"And how they could run!" put in the doctor. "See, they stride easily over seven or eight feet with a single step. They must be messenger birds, for there are only four of them, and their riders are not armed."
"They may have hundreds more of them in reserve, and they could fight far more viciously than the men. See what a wicked beak and what a long muscular neck they have. They could crush a skull in a twinkling with one swift swoop of that head! I will fight the men, but I will take no chances with those birds!"
Although these strange, small-winged creatures had started long after the soldiers, they had quickly passed them, and were now beginning to mount toward our plateau. They were making swift detours at intervals, as if to reconnoitre. We were hidden behind our rocks and shields, and the riders could not see us, and they had evidently not yet seen the brass barrel of our telescope. It would be folly for them to attempt to come up the road we were guarding, for we could easily heave boulders over and crush them. I had already put my shoulder to an immense rock near the brink, to see if it was as heavy as it looked. I found it porous and crumbly, and no heavier than so much chalk. Up the roadway the great birds climbed with wonderful ease. Their riders were evidently looking for us without any idea where we were.
"I won't see those elephantine bipeds come any nearer to me!" I exclaimed, and rushing to the boulder, which was certainly four feet in diameter, I toppled it over the brink, and expected to see it carry everything down before it. It rolled slowly down the steep bank, with hardly a third the force and speed of the same mass on Earth. This discouraged me, but I watched for it to reach the foremost bird. He was surprised by it, but made one step sideways, and, lifting his great right leg, the stone rolled under him without any damage. He gave a queer, guttural croak, accompanied by a most violent motion of the head and neck. The other birds, thus warned, dodged quickly sidewise, and avoided the slowly rolling boulder; but all three of the riders were thrown by the swift lateral movement of the birds. The astonished men picked themselves up slowly from the bushes and approached their birds. But they could scarcely reach with their hands the lower part of the neck where they had sat.
"Unless they are good jumpers, they cannot mount again without a ladder!" said the doctor.
"Jumping is easier than standing still here," I interrupted. "I can jump ten feet high with no trouble."
"Yes; but these Martian boobies haven't your muscles. Aber Blitzen! did you see that fellow mount his bird again?"
I had seen it, and I do not remember anything more wonderful than this operation, which was repeated for each rider. The man went in front of his bird, turned his back, and stooped forward. The bird then curved his long neck to the ground, and put his head and neck between the legs of the rider, who clutched tightly with his arms and legs. With a swift, graceful swing, the bird lifted its head on high, carrying the rider as if he were nothing. When the great neck was again erect, the man slid carefully down it to his place, much as one might slip down a telegraph pole. Then two of the birds turned back to the city as swiftly as they could go, and the other two took separate side trails and soon disappeared.
The Armies of Mars As the two returning birds passed the marching soldiers, their riders evidently delivered some message to the captains, for the soldiers suddenly broke forward in a run, using their long cross-bows with great dexterity as jumping staves. Placing the outer end upon the ground ahead of them as they ran, they leaped and hung upon the cross-piece with their hands. The springy resistance of this tough wood imparted to them a forward motion with its rebound, and they scaled great distances at each jump. The whole company did it in concert, and they made almost as great speed as if they had been riding bicycles. The slingers were consequently left far in the rear.
Less than half way up the incline the archers stopped, arranged their bow-thongs, and selected feathered arrows from a pouch slung over their shoulders.
"They can never hit us from that distance!" I exclaimed; "a rifle would not carry so far."
"You forget the weak gravity which will bend their course down very little, and the thin air which will barely resist their flight; this is a model planet for archery," he answered. "Quick! drop behind your shield! They have fired the first volley!"