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OF THOSE WHO CAME by George Longdon
Pseudonym for Francis G Rayer

This short story first appeared in the magazine New Worlds, Issue Number 18, dated November 1952.
Editor:John Carnell. Publisher:Nova.
Also in Fantastic Universe June/July 1953
Also in Gateway to Tomorrow (1954)
Also in Space Police (1956)

Country of first publication: Great Britain (England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland).
This work is Copyright. All rights are reserved.


OF THOSE WHO CAME

By Francis G. Rayer

of 

those 

who 

came 
The alien scheme was perfect — a night landing, infiltration, human disguises. Fortunately for us the Policeman was awaiting them.

Evening sun touched the top of the blue hills. The lonely slopes lay in shadow, grey and dim, and I stopped the saloon half way along the road that wound down into the valley. Below was a single house, seen among trees, and above it oscillated a faint yellow radiance, coming from an indistinguishable source.

I sat motionless, gloved hands on the wheel, feeling no surprise. The yellow halo slowly shrank, dropping down towards the rooftop, and coalescing into a spheroid which gradually sank from view behind the house. A dim reflection on the trees showed it was still there, concealed by the building. I started the saloon and began to wind down into the valley.

The sky was growing dark. Seen across the valley the house had only been a dim outline and it passed from view as the saloon sped into the valley bottom, where a river ran between wooded banks. I drove to the bridge. The saloon murmured across and began to climb the winding road towards the house. Fifty yards away I parked the vehicle under trees and got out.

The night was very still, and the yellow reflections that had illuminated the rear of the house were gone. Moving silently, I crept near, parting bushes to look into the garden.

The spherical vessel rested on turf behind the house but the power that sustained it had been turned off, leaving it a fragile tracery of spidery girders almost as thin as wire, vulnerable now that the lines of force forming the hull had been collapsed. Two green vaporous shapes moved inside the vessel, visible through the tracery of its sides. I grew completely still, watching.

Two, I thought. Only two. I had expected that there would be three forms in the vessel.

After a long time the vaporous shapes slowly left the machine and crossed the turf towards the house. They were of diffused outline, slightly luminous in the gathering dark, tall as a man. Only when they were gone from view round the corner of the house did I step out from the bushes towards the ship that had come so far.

Its tracery of fragile members buckled under the blows of the spanner brought from the car, bending and folding into a tangle of jointed wire. Within moments it was destroyed beyond even the skill of its owners to repair. Silence returned. A few stars, immeasurably remote worlds, had begun to show in the heavens. I looked up, searching for bright Sirius from where I knew the vessel had come.

But drifting cloud obscured that section of the night sky.

A green shape came round the corner of the house and stopped. I sensed its surprise, quickly followed by antagonism and fury. Glowing it came across the turf, its speed increasing to catch me.

I turned on my heels and ran, slipping through the bushes and to the road. The saloon was not far. I dragged open the door, jumped in . . . and not until half the valley lay behind did I stop, looking back.

The two green shapes were searching round the house. For a long time they passed in and out among the bushes like mysterious pillars of green light, then they returned to the house, were lost from view. My agitation began to sub- side. I told myself that things had worked out well on the whole, that as much had been accomplished as could be expected. Obviously they had not believed their coming was anticipated, must now be regretting having left their vessel unguarded.

I drove slowly back towards the house. It was unfortunate that there had been no time to bring a weapon — or at least one of such a type as would be effective against the beings from the spheroid. There was every reason why their physical make-up should be familiar to me. They could control matter, but were not matter themselves. A lifeform totally dissimilar to any known on Earth, they were sentient, highly intelligent, yet composed of molecules as insubstantial as those of the air. My sworn duty was to destroy them. Theirs was to eliminate me.

An opening in the bushes permitted a view of the rear of the house. The broken vessel was gone, but whether hidden away with the hope of repair Of concealed because its presence would arouse suspicion, could not be decided. The house was silent and I crept round it.

Two men had just emerged and were walking quickly away down the road. One was a trifle more than average height, the other an inch or two below. They were of average build, quite undistinguished. To my trained eye they appeared not as individuals, but as types.

A good disguise, I thought. They had speedily adopted the appearance of average types of the life-forms among which they would now move. That offered concealment, yet opportunity for unlimited activity. There was not a man on Earth who would not swear each was a human, just like himself.

I went round the house quickly, looking inside through each window. No light showed, nor was there any movement. Satisfied, I went back to the car. Apparently the vessel had brought two only, despite supposition to the contrary.

The brilliant headlights soon picked out the two figures walking quickly down towards the bottom of the valley. I slowed, reaching back to lock the saloon doors on the inside, and stopped near them, my face in shadow. The slightly taller figure came to my window, and I put it down an inch.

"We’d like a lift on into town,” he said.

They did it well, I thought. Very well — had studied everything down to the slight local accent, and adopted it automatically. Everyone would swear the two were exactly what they appeared to be.

" I don’t recognise you,” I said."You strangers hereabouts?”

The figure hesitated, nodding, one hand already on the doorhandle, trying to open it.

"We’re salesmen for a big business concern,” he said. "A cab was to pick us up, but must have mistaken our instructions. So we thought we’d walk on as it’s only a mile or so. But we’d appreciate that lift . .

"Sorry— got four friends to pick up just down the road.” I said and accelerated and let in the clutch. The little man had remained in front of me, and he did not move. They were like that, I thought — they knew there was no danger, and sometimes forgot, especially at the beginning.

The wing ©f the saloon passed through him. When I looked back both were walking quickly on after me.

I sped for town. They had not suspected and I had learned enough to feel safe in going on. Eliminating them was now the problem. No form of physical violence could succeed. Poison was out— they would not eat. Gassing was impossible — they did not breathe, though they could simulate chest movements when necessary to complete their disguise. They were virtually ageless, and did not reckon time by any standard used on Earth. By conscious will they could form the molecules making up their substance into any shape they wished, simulating an outline which would provide protection in the environment they inhabited.

The proprietor of the next town's only hotel greeted me with smiles, and I saw that he remembered my week’s stay and large tips.

"I’m expecting a couple of friends,” I told him. "Commercial travelers here for a deal. You might give me a ring when they come in.”

He beamed. ”I will see to it personally.”

"Good,” I said.

I went towards the stairs, and paused, looking back. "Oh, don't say I asked after them. I want to look in on them as a surprise — get it?”

"Certainly, Mr. Smith, certainly,” he said.

Smith, I thought. But it was as good a name as any ... In my job one seldom used one’s own name.

Alone in my room, I reviewed the situation. The newcomers had arrived as expected and I had traced them. That there were only two, instead of the three anticipated, was the only error but it simplified matters. Two would be easier to deal with and my knowledge of them was complete. They must not be allowed to become lost amid Earth’s teeming millions or they would become a secret, ever-present and certainly active menace. My job was to follow and eliminate them at the earliest possible moment.

Presently the bell rang on my door. I got up, crossed to it and then remembered I had not switched on the light. It would look odd to be seen there without it.

I depressed the switch and opened the door. "Yes?”

"Your friends are just in,” the manager said. "They’ve booked until midday tomorrow.”

"You’re sure it’s them?” I asked.

"A think so, sir — a Mr. Dulice, a bit above average height, booked for himself and his friend . . .”

"That’ll be them,” I agreed. Dulice, I thought. It was as good a name as Diesnar and the latter sounded odd by Earth standards. I wondered if the manager had noticed the light come on under the crack of the door. "I was dozing,” I said. Best to make sure. "Thanks. Needn’t mention me to them. Maybe I'll leave it until tomorrow.”

"Their room is No.13, end of the corridor,” he said.

"Thanks. Good night.”

He left and 1 wondered what he would do if be knew what the occupants of Room 13 were. Not respectable Mr. Dulice and companion but Diesnar and Iago, non- physical entities playing their usual game of imitation— a game that had been perfected by millions of generations of evolutionary selection.

The room clock showed two hours until midnight. That gave about seven hours in all, until dawn. I had known that my visit to Room 13 would certainly not be delayed until then despite my assurance to the contrary. Instead the hours of darkness would see much activity.

I unlocked a trunk and took out a light metal box, which a second key fitted. The weapon inside was not recognisable as such by Earth standards but might have passed for an antique pedestal of bronze, ending in a cup in which a carved crystal rested. But it was not a pedestal and not bronze — was instead the product of much scientific research and inestimably valuable. I doubted whether half a dozen such instruments existed in the cosmos. Those that did were in safe keeping.

With it in a pocket I went out and walked silently to Room 13. A faint light burned in the hall stairway below but the hotel was quiet. I recalled that the manager had said something about being short-staffed. The bronzen object fitted snugly in one hand and my fingers came upon a lever which could be depressed. Holding it I tapped. Silence followed. I tapped again. The knob turned and the door opened.

"I have a message,” I said evenly.

The door opened fully and I went in, moving quickly to the right along the wall, my left hand extended back towards the door and on the lighting switch.

"You’ve forgotten the light,” I said.

The switch clicked under my pressure. A glance showed me Dulice, alias Diesnar, was gone. The other — the smaller and weaker— stared at me.

"I was not expecting anyone,” he murmured. "You’ve made some error . . .”

I examined him without speaking. His features were so near average, his dress and appearance so near the normal, that no person in all the world would have given him a second glance.

"You do it very well,” I said.

His astonishment, dismay and terror could be sensed. He did not show it — an appearance of terror would have to be simulated consciously and would serve no useful purpose. Hence it was absent. But his bland expression was not all I had to go by.

"Surely — you think me someone else?” he said softly.

He was moving slowly back. I quickly closed the door and stood with my back to it.

"No,” I said. "No, not someone else — Iago.”

It took him a moment to integrate and recognise the Earth oral vibrations forming his true name. But I saw that he had done so and knew me now and why I had come.

"Better keep still,” I said. "Where’s — Mr. Dulice?”

The silence was so long I thought he was not going to speak. His face shone in the light. His lips almost seemed to smile.

"Gone,” he said at last.

"Obviously. And where?"

"That you can find out.”

"It would save trouble if you told me,” I murmured. I took the bronzen pedestal from my pocket. He saw it. His eyes fixed on the carved crystal, and I sensed his terror anew. It was stronger, this time— the terror of a being faced with death.

"Why should I tell you?" he asked evenly.

"Because, if you do not I shall kill you.”

He shrugged. It was well done. I do not fear death.”

"Odd,” I said. "I do.”

My fingers tightened slightly on the level which controlled the compact, immeasurably complicated apparatus inside the hollow plinth.

"You came far enough,” I said, "to this planet. You might have escaped more easily if you‘d landed near a large city, though I can guess you wanted to avoid observation. This time your effort to appear quite average was a mistake. However, where is Diesnar?”

The eyes looking back at me were cool, but I sensed and knew the terror and decision in the other’s heart.

"That's for you — to find,” he breathed.

I pressed the lever. It was no use waiting. The crystal hummed and sang, ringing like taut wires in the wind, and I closed my eyes, not wanting to see Iago. I wished him no harm, personally. Might even have liked him in some ways, despite his weakness. He was different from Diesnar, the leader, who was strong enough for both.

I opened my eyes in time to see the last wisps of green mist shred away into nothing and dissipate on the air. A few moments passed and a knock came on the door. I opened it.

"Yes?”

The manager appeared apologetic. "I was just retiring, sir — did you ring? I was passing . .

"No,” I said. "We don't want anything.” I put the pedestal in my pocket — the crystal had cooled quickly. "Thanks all the same, Oh — do you know where Mr, Dulice went?”

The manager shook his head. "I haven’t seen him come down, sir. I’ve been at the reception desk — we’re shortstaffed, though I’ve got a new man to take over.”

I went back to my room. The annihilation of Iago gave me no elation. I had not supposed him difficult to deal with but his companion would be very different. Diesnar was clever and a foe any-one might justly fear.

I locked the piezo-electric crystal and waveform generator away in its metal case and stood by the window, the light out so that no revealing shadow fell upon the glass. Wind-driven clouds Were passing a weak moon and the little town was asleep. I knew Mr. Dulice would not be asleep but watching somewhere . . ,

With infinite caution I opened the window and went out upon the iron fire-escape, listening. An alley lay below, lit by a single lamp where it met an adjoining street. At the dim end of the alley, scarcely discernible from the shadows, stood a man. I withdrew and went down into the hall, where a youth dozed behind a lit desk. I did not give him a second glance.

"Just going out to get some books from my car,” I said.

The streets were as near deserted as did not matter. The alley was like a well, and stretching away into complete blackness. I followed the one wall, knowing risks were greatest in the section under the lamp. But risks had to be taken. Agents who uphold law and order are not chosen from the timid.

The lamp behind, the gloom ahead was complete. Clouds had banked against the moon so that even the high rooftops flanking the alley could not be seen against the sky. A car passed along the road, sending down after me a brief humming. I sensed that my enemy was very near, hating me and probably already aware that Iago was dead. There could be no half-measures in this hunt. My instructions were to annihilate them. Guessing that, Mr. Dulice’s reactions were readily predictable.

The wall at my back, the bricks rough under my hands, I edged on into the blackness, listening often, and with every sense strung to its highest point of receptivity. I sensed that the figure anyone would take for an ordinary commercial traveller, Mr. Dulice, was nearer. If the moon came up it was as Mr. Dulice that he would be visible.

That was how the imitative adaptibiliiy of my quarry worked— he had become an average representative of the creatures among whom he sought to hide. That process was largely instinctive, the outcome of an ancestry where survival had depended upon the perfect imitation of other life-forms. Those whose imitative processes had been less than perfect had on the whole survived less well. That was how evolution worked and Mr. Dulice was at the tail end of a long evolutionary period and his imitation of an average human life-form was excellent.

The tiny sound of something brushing stones froze me against the wall. I realised that I should have brought the resonant disintegrator. The knowledge of my eror ran through me like a cold fear. In this job those who made errors seldom had the opportunity to repeat them — instead they died . . . But that little pedestal-shaped weapon was special I had adopted the habit of locking it away to guard against its loss. Accidents could happen — and that pedestal had to be checked in when my task was finished. Better that I never return at all than return without it.

Diesnar would deduce that I carried it, I decided. By playing on that belief I could keep my advantage.

"Mr. Dulice," I whispered.

Neither of us would want anyone else in the town to know we were other than we appeared. He would not want a howling mob chasing him, even though they could not harm him. As for myself I preferred secrecy.

No reply came. A gap in the moving cloud let a weak moonray glow momentarily into the alley. Directly opposite me, his back to the wall, was Dulice. We could have touched hands by reaching out.

The moonlight went. Somewhere in the distance a whistle sounded, and wheels on rails. That would be the 2 A.M. electric-tram passing south, I thought. I had not known it was already quite so late.

"Mr. Dulice," I said quietly, "I have killed your companion . . ."

His terror could be sensed, so strong was the emotion. Had he been a real man his breathing would have sounded heavily.

"There have been times when we allowed one of you to live," I said evenly. That was true — but only a long time ago when new arrivals such as Diesnar had been less well equipped. "Would you guarantee to put in our hands all the information you possess of your companions, their names and plans?"

Came a scarcely audible rustle, then silence. It seemed apparent that Mr. Dulice expected immediate annihilation. I guessed that his terror was so extreme he had for the moment lost the power to use the pseudo-larynx which was now part of his make-up.

"Come," I said. "I expect an answer — in the circumstances."

"You underestimate me . . "

The words were a whisper — and from high up on my left. I moved out into the alley and saw his shadow on the iron fire-escape, ascending rapidly. I ran to the ladder, climbing. He went through the window into my room. When I reached the window the door had just closed. The metal box containing the pedestal was gone.

We only made mistakes like that once, I thought, running for the door. The corridor was empty — so were the stairs and hall. The youth was frankly asleep now, snoring. I passed him and emerged into the street.

Diesnar would be waiting somewhere. He would prefer I did not live, for while I lived he was listed among the hunted.

A clock struck loudly. I crossed the street and watched the hotel for a moment. The building was dark except for the glass above the entrance door. Mr. Dulice might not try to open the metal box but merely hide it. Either way, he now had a ponderous advantage— that of knowing the apparatus was not in my possession.

A man was a long way down the street at a corner, watching, and began walking towards me. He was very slightly over average height— just such a man as one might meet a thousand times in a thousand cities of the Earth.

I withdrew round the nearest corner and looked back. The man was following— the distance between us had decreased. Our roles had changed, I thought. Mr. Dulice had become the hunter, I the hunted. It was a role he would adopt readily, one well suited to his character.

The buildings thinned a little as I went eastwards through the town. Every time I looked back my follower was there. He wanted secrecy as much as I — would play the game the way I led, until very near the end.

Waste lots slipped behind and a viaduct bridge. I went off it onto turf. At my back was a high wire fence— below it a bank sloping down to the railway. No one would disturb us here at this hour. The nearest lamp was far away, the moonlight intermittent, the nearest buildings away down the line.

Mr. Dulice stopped a few paces away. "I didn't come across light-years of space to have my plans interrupted by meddlers,” he said.

I wondered whether he held the resonator. Turned on me it could prove equally fatal.

"You cannot be allowed to settle on this planet,” I pointed out, watching him keenly. “Succinctly you’re a bad lot, Mr. Dulice.”

“I make my way,” he said.

I knew then that he had not got the resonator — probably had been unable to open the box. Had he, he would not have talked but acted and his action would have ended my part of the case. Now he came forward so that we were two paces apart.

“You know I shall have to kill you,” he said.

"Of course — provided you have the chance.”

He inclined his head. "I make my own chances.”

We watched each other. In a way, we were evenly matched— now. Possibly his strength exceeded mine. From experience I knew that one of them could summon up great physical power when survival depended on it. Not the power of nerves and muscles of ordinary flesh but that of the interaction orbits of the molecules making up his form, that strength could be none the less nearly irresistable.

“You’ve often hunted us,” he said. “It’s a habit which should stop . . "

"I’m paid for my work,” I said, never looking from him.

He was watching for an opening. Suddenly — abruptly — it would be over, for one of us.

Then he moved— so did I. My hands clasped round one arm above the elbow and one leg by the knee, gripping with all my strength. He came up in my grasp like an empty, hollow dummy, struggling. He realised at that moment too that I had not fled this way without purpose.

He screamed as I flung him down towards the electrified rails. The cry echoed to the sky even as he descended. It was not a cry of terror but triumph,

"We were three! There’s Piert!”

Then he touched the electrified rails. A flash glowed abruptly between earth and sky. He was almost as conductive as solid metal, I thought. Nothing of Mr. Dulice remained— only a wisp of thin green vapor drifting up on the night air and dispersing.

Piert, I thought. Piert, the leader— I should have known! But he had not been seen, nor visible to follow. I had traced the two only. Such a plan was like Piert. He would go off alone — might now be lost in some populous city. Or again he might be near. Piert was the kind who stuck around to see things out — in his own way . . .

I turned from the fence quickly, eyes searching the road below and the expanse of turf, half expecting Piert to be there, waiting for me. Were he, it would end his way. Piert was more than the equal of the two disposed of . . . worse, could have followed me while I had not suspected his presence . . .

A group of men was coming to-wards me, shouting. Those in the lead began to run, waving their arms.

"It was murder!” one cried.

They had seen me throw Dulice down and I ran. This was not the time for difficult explanations. As an agent one has to make one’s own way out of difficulties. When the difficulties were of this type, an avoiding action was called for. Furthermore, while I argued Piert would act.

The hotel was quiet, the youth gone, possibly to get tea or coffee. I hurried to the room Mr. Dulice had hired and searched quickly. The metal box was not there. I went to my own room and traced back the way he must have gone, watching for likely hiding-places. There seemed to be none — or those I saw were too obvious for a mind of Mr. Dulice’s calibre to adopt.

I went out of the hotel. Dulice had appeared to go left and the road was almost bare of hiding- places until the next corner. Beyond the corner was a railed garden, small and sunk below street level. At tbe bottom of steps was a metal box, shiny and new. I descended, brought it up, and unlocked it. The resonator safe in my pocket, I hesitated, then locked the box and returned it to its previous position. Piert was the type who would be aware of developments. He might know it was there, return to reassure himself or carry it off.

With everything I possessed on Earth stowed in my case I hurried out of the hotel, wondering if already too much time had been wasted. It would be wise to move on. Voices sounded along the street and three workmen came into view.

"That’s him!" one shouted, pointing at me.

They had been quick in tracing me — almost too quick. The other way along the street others were coming, a torch bobbing in their leader’s hands. Behind in the alley would be others. I wondered whether it was luck or whether Piert was present and had already acted.

I put down my case, waiting. The railwaymen were confident because of their numbers, yet hesitated to lay hands on me.

"We saw him throw the man down the embankment," one said to another. "It was attempted murder, clear as daylight.”

I tensed my skin against their grasp but they only surrounded me, increasingly hesitant.

"Look,” I said, "I’m an ordinary man. I ran— who wouldn’t with a pack like you after him? If you think there’s been murder done, then go back and look for the body!”

"It’s a plan to get rid of us," one said.

I laughed. "If you think so, some go back and some stay."

"You’re trying to leave town,” another pointed out.

"So what? Who wouldn’t, after being chased like a thief?"

They were silent, looking at each other. The enthusiasm of the first rush that had carried them after me was subsiding— some were beginning to doubt the truth of what they had seen.

"Perhaps we made a mistake . ." one said.

"No. He threw him down, clear as daylight.”

"It’s a job for the authorities to look into,” a third suggested.

I did not want that. The wheels of authority turn slowly and Piert would be hundreds of miles away by the time it was decided there was indeed no body.

"He’s an ordinary looking kind of cove,” the first man said. "Maybe it was all an — an illusion—”

Another man had come down the street behind them, and stood on the perimeter of the circle in shadow.

"That’s your saloon in the open-air park down the road,” he shot at me over their heads.

It was. I had bought it as the world could prove. I nodded. Something in the timbre of the voice— something lacking — chilled me but I could not see him clearly over the surrounding heads.

The newcomer gave an exclamation. "He admits it! That’s why you’ll not find a body! I stayed behind, going down to see if the man was alive. He was dead. There’s no body now.” He pointed at me accusingly. "He came back, threw the body in his car and took it away. I didn’t try to stop him — he had a gun. He’s dumped both in the river in my opinion. It was quick work — but he had time to do it."

The workmen looked at the speaker. "Yes, I did notice this chap stay behind,” one said.

Another nodded. “There’d be time to nip down to the bridge—”

I was afraid, then. Terribly afraid. They had lost an exact sense of the time that had passed. Worse, it might have been possible for me to have taken a body down to the river. Time had flown while I had been searching for the pedestal.

“It’s all lies,” I said. "I never had a gun.”

"That’s for a judge and jury to decide,” they said, and pressed closely round me.

We walked noisily through the town. I was surrounded, and shaken. This was the kind of thing no agent likes to happen. We like secrecy. We expect no outside aid— know indeed, that there will be none forthcoming— and the situation was ugly. There was enough proof against me to keep me tied up so long that Piert could be ten thousand miles away and then it would take half a lifetime to find him.

The workmen told each other they had seen me do it, gaining confidence. "I still think there’s been some mistake,” one objected.

They silenced him. The mistake had been mine, coupled with bad luck that sent the late gang off work at that very moment when Dulice had pitched down on to the live rails.

They pressed closer as we neared the police station. "Where’s that man who saw him take the body?” one asked. They needed to reassure themselves now.

"I’m here,” the voice said.

It was slightly flat, yet somehow absolutely normal.

"Ah, you saw him,” the man said, satisfied. "You’ll have to tell the police. You’re new here, eh?”

"I was going to the station to see if there were any late trains stopping.” The newcomer was behind me, beyond the fringe of the crowd.

"No expresses stop here all night,” someone said.

There was silence, then one said, "You’ll need to give evidence. We didn’t see him come back. What you saw is important. What’s your name?”

"Peart,” the man said. "Samuel Peart. I was at the hotel.”

I knew then that Piert had engineered it and lied to convict me and wanted me to know. That was like him. He must have the satisfaction of knowing that I knew, thus doubling his own triumph. In that was his revenge for Iago and Diesnar and for all the others of his type I had hunted down.

"You’re a stranger here?” one asked again.

"Yes.”

He put the human sound of triumph into his voice, knowing I should hear it and understand and thus hate tenfold my defeat.

It was awkward. We agents like things to be kept quiet. We do not like a town stirred to awareness of our presence and actions. But things had gone too far. At that moment a dozen workmen possessed the fringe of this knowledge, excluding Piert and myself. Of their number one doubted. The others were still so surprised they needed to reassure each other.

I halted and turned around. The newcomer was the youth of the hotel. "I didn’t have time to take the body away, Mr. Peart,” I said evenly. "But I did have time to find — and open — the box Mr. Dulice took.”

It meant nothing to the workmen. For a second I savored the terror which instantly replaced Piert’s satisfaction and which could be sensed with a feeling of almost physical impact. He had been clever, getting a job at the hotel. Then I pressed the lever of the pedestal.

Piert’s outline wobbled, shrank inwards, and he dissipated away into faint green vapor which drifted and vanished like cigarette smoke on the evening air.

"Strewth!” a workman breathed.

I walked through them and ran. My feet made no sound. I heard their shouts as I reached my saloon but lost them as I drove for the valley. It had been an untidy case, I thought, but the workmen would end up doubting their own eyes.

I lifted my vessel, a mere lattice structure of girders thin as wire, from the water, set it on the bank and put up the force screens. My human shape, replica of the lifeforms amid which I had moved, began to vanish. I glided into the vessel, set now for the Dog Star.

We police from Sirius do not like outlaws to prey upon unsuspecting worlds, however remote.

Francis G. Rayer.


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