Like a huge cup the land now stretched up and around us, but we were still descending with frightful velocity. I had noticed that the air in the car was becoming warmer, and now, filled with apprehension, I stretched out my hand and touched the wall. Instantly I withdrew it—the wall was hot! Like a flash the full realization of our terrible danger burst upon me. I had relied upon the repelling metal to check our descent before we entered the region of air, and had supposed that we would float lightly to the ground under perfect control. But now I saw how foolishly I had erred, in omitting to take into consideration the terrific momentum we would attain in our journey of six thousand miles through space. This momentum was now driving us to the ground, in spite of our strong repelling force, and with such a frightful speed that heat was being generated by friction with the air as we rushed through it. The creaking and straining sound coming from the bottom of the aerenoid was evidence of the fight the repelling metal was making to overcome this momentum before the surface of Mars was reached, but I shuddered as I realized what little effect it had upon this gigantic force.
In a few seconds the air became unbearably hot, and, with a gasp, Zarlah lay limp in my arms, as she turned her face to me to speak. Laying her tenderly upon the floor, I hastily wrapped wet blankets around her, and, dashing water over myself, I staggered across the car to the window again. We were still descending rapidly, but, as I felt the walls of the car, I found that they were now cooler, proving that our terrific speed had been reduced. The increased pressure of my feet upon the floor of the car was also evidence that our descent was being steadily checked. A wild hope surged within me that the repelling metal would overcome the momentum in time to save us from destruction.
Glancing down, I saw white specks lying far beneath us. My heart stood still as I realized that these were buildings. We could not be more than a few miles from the surface, yet down, down we sped. A few moments more and the buildings became plainly visible, and my heart thumped wildly, as they seemed to rush up to meet us. We would be dashed to pieces! The repelling force could not possibly stop us in time! Turning, in despair, I threw myself down beside Zarlah, and enfolded her in a last embrace.
Instantly there was a terrific shock—a deafening crash. Then all was dark, while a flood of water came pouring in upon us. I staggered to my feet with Zarlah in my arms, only to be thrown to the floor again by an upward bound of the aerenoid. Sunlight once more filled the car, and, as I struggled to my feet, a cool breeze wafted in through the shattered windows. To what further extremes of temperature and mediums were we to be subjected?
I was still too dazed by the shock to realize how we had escaped from a death that seemed inevitable, but I knew that we were flying upward with the full force of our repelling metal. Tenderly lifting Zarlah to a safer and more comfortable place, I seized the lever and gradually decreased the repelling power, until we rested motionless in the air.