I must attend this demonstration at any cost, but I would explain to my host that it was most urgently necessary to return to the observatory within two hours. I was now ready for the strange journey, and, approaching my visitor, I said:
“And now, Reon, I will accompany you, but there is no time to be lost, as an experiment I am conducting with one of these instruments demands my attention in two hours.”
I held back the portieres as Reon passed out, and following him down a short passage, we stepped out upon a wide balcony constructed of white marble.
A wonderful sight met my astonished gaze. It was a summer evening, and the dome of the heavens seemed ablaze with the light of myriads of diamonds, so countless were the stars to be seen and so brilliant did they appear in this rarefied atmosphere. Below me stretched out what appeared to be a magnificent park, with white marble buildings scattered here and there, while floating easily in the air were hundreds of small canoe-like airships, containing the inhabitants of this fairyland, reclining on cushions and enjoying sailing through the cool night air. As the question of buoyancy of these remarkable airships arose in my mind, I immediately became aware that they were sustained, in the air by a metal which was used in their construction that was repellent to the surface of Mars. It had been discovered by the Martians that their planet, like a magnet, had both the power of attracting and repelling. The north and south poles were found to be the repelling poles of this immense magnetic sphere. Nothing could exist on these poles that was not a fixture to the planet’s surface, consequently no snow or ice existed at the poles themselves. Many explorers’ lives had been lost before this discovery was made; those who succeeded in reaching the pole having made the discovery too late to save themselves from being hurled off the planet into space. But so small was the surface of this repelling pole that it was argued that the pole must run through the center of the planet, to make it equal in mass to the attracting force which covered the rest of the surface.
Working on this theory, although it was impossible to reach the pole itself without danger of being hurled off the planet, excavations were made as near it as possible, and a tunnel was run under the surface until the desired point was reached. A change from rock to ore was encountered, with evidences of its having been subjected to intense heat, and upon penetrating farther, pure metal was discovered. This strange metal, unlike any other metal known to the Martians, was found to possess a powerful repelling force. And when it was brought to the surface, it was discovered that it not only retained its repelling force, as a lodestone retains its attracting power, but that this same force was greatly increased, doubtless owing to the close proximity of an unfriendly element in the surface of the planet away from the pole. The repelling force of this metal was found to be ten times as great as the specific gravity of a piece of iron of relative proportions, and by its use in the construction of airships, the problem of aerial navigation on Mars had been solved.