Home
  By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII | PDF ]

Look for this book on Amazon


We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

´╗┐Title: Operation Terror
Author: Leinster, Murray, 1896-1975
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Operation Terror" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



                              OPERATION
                                TERROR


                           Murray Leinster



CHAPTER 1


On the morning the radar reported something odd out in space, Lockley
awoke at about twenty minutes to eight. That was usual. He'd slept in
a sleeping bag on a mountain-flank with other mountains all around.
That was not unprecedented. He was there to make a base line
measurement for a detailed map of the Boulder Lake National Park,
whose facilities were now being built. Measuring a base line, even
with the newest of electronic apparatus, was more or less a
commonplace job for Lockley.

This morning, though, he woke and realized gloomily that he'd dreamed
about Jill Holmes again, which was becoming a habit he ought to break.
He'd only met her four times and she was going to marry somebody else.
He had to stop.

He stirred, preparatory to getting up. At the same moment, certain
things were happening in places far away from him. As yet, no unusual
object in space had been observed. That would come later. But far away
up at the Alaskan radar complex a man on duty watch was relieved by
another. The relief man took over the monitoring of the giant,
football-field-sized radar antenna that recorded its detections on
magnetic tape. It happened that on this particular morning only one
other radar watched the skies along a long stretch of the Pacific
Coast. There was the Alaskan installation, and the other was in Oregon.
It was extremely unusual for only those two to be operating. The
people who knew about it, or most of them, thought that official
orders had somehow gone astray. Where the orders were issued, nothing
out of the ordinary appeared. All was normal, for example, in the
Military Information Center in Denver. The Survey saw nothing unusual
in Lockley's being at his post, and other men at places corresponding
to his in the area which was to become Boulder Lake National Park. It
also seemed perfectly natural that there should be bulldozer
operators, surveyors, steelworkers, concrete men and so on, all
comfortably at breakfast in the construction camp for the project.
Everything seemed normal everywhere.

Up to the time the Alaskan installation reported something strange in
space, the state of things generally was neither alarming nor
consoling. But at 8:02 A.M. Pacific time, the situation
changed. At that time Alaska reported an unscheduled celestial object
of considerable size, high out of atmosphere and moving with
surprising slowness for a body in space. Its course was parabolic and
it would probably land somewhere in South Dakota. It might be a
bolide--a large, slow-moving meteorite. It wasn't likely, but the
entire report was improbable.

The message reached the Military Information Center in Denver at 8:05
A.M. By 8:06 it had been relayed to Washington and every
plane on the Pacific Coast was ordered aloft. The Oregon radar unit
reported the same object at 8:07 A.M. It said the object was
seven hundred fifty miles high, four hundred miles out at sea, and was
headed toward the Oregon coastline, moving northwest to southeast.
There was no major city in its line of travel. The impact point
computed by the Oregon station was nowhere near South Dakota. As other
computations followed other observations, a second place of fall was
calculated, then a third. Then the Oregon radar unbelievably reported
that the object was decelerating. Allowing for deceleration, three
successive predictions of its landing point agreed. The object, said
these calculations, would come to earth somewhere near Boulder Lake,
Colorado, in what was to become a national park. Impact time should be
approximately 8:14 A.M.

These events followed Lockley's awakening in the wilds, but he knew
nothing of any of them. He himself wasn't near the lake, which was to
be the center of a vacation facility for people who liked the
outdoors. The lake was almost circular and was a deep, rich blue. It
occupied what had been the crater of a volcano millions of years ago.
Already bulldozers had ploughed out roads to it through the forest.
Men worked with graders and concrete mixers on highways and on bridges
across small rushing streams. There was a camp for them. A lakeside
hotel had been designed and stakes were driven in the ground where its
foundation would eventually be poured. There were infant big-mouthed
bass in the lake and fingerling trout in many of the streams. A huge
Wild Life Control trailer-truck went grumbling about such trails as
were practical, attending to these matters. Yesterday Lockley had seen
it gleaming in bright sunshine as it moved toward Boulder Lake on the
highway nearest to his station.

But that was yesterday. This morning he awoke under a pale gray sky.
There was complete cloud cover overhead. He smelled conifers and
woods-mould and mountain stone in the morning. He heard the faint
sound of tree branches moving in the wind. He noted the cloud cover.
The clouds were high, though. The air at ground level was perfectly
transparent. He turned his head and saw a prospect that made being in
the wilderness seem entirely reasonable and satisfying.

Mountains reared up in every direction. A valley lay some thousands of
feet below him, and beyond it other valleys, and somewhere a stream
rushed white water to an unknown destination. Not many wake to such a
scene.

Lockley regarded it, but without full attention. He was preoccupied
with thoughts of Jill Holmes, and unfortunately she was engaged to
marry Vale, who was also working in the park some thirty miles to the
northeast, near Boulder Lake itself. Lockley didn't know him well
since he was new in the Survey. He was up there to the northeast with
an electronic survey instrument like Lockley's and on the same job.
Jill had an assignment from some magazine or other to write an article
on how national parks are born, and she was staying at the
construction camp to gather material. She'd learned something from
Vale and much from the engineers while Lockley had tried to think of
interesting facts himself. He'd failed. When he thought about her, he
thought about the fact that she was engaged to Vale. That was an
unhappy thought. Then he tried to stop thinking about her altogether.
But his mind somehow lingered on the subject.

At ten minutes to eight Lockley began to dress, wilderness fashion. He
began by putting on his hat. It had lain on the pile of garments by
his bed. Then he donned the rest of his garments in the exact reverse
of the order in which he'd removed them.

At 8:00 he had a small fire going. He had no premonition that anything
out of the ordinary was going to happen that day. This was still
before the first Alaskan report. At 8:10 he had bacon sizzling and a
small coffeepot almost enveloped by the flames. Events occurred and he
knew nothing at all about them. For example, the Military Information
Center had been warned of what was later privately called Operation
Terror while Lockley was still tranquilly cooking breakfast and
thinking--frowning a little--about Jill.

Naturally he knew nothing of emergency orders sending all planes
aloft. He wasn't informed about something reported in space and
apparently headed for an impact point at Boulder Lake. As the computed
impact time arrived, Lockley obliviously dumped coffee into his tin
coffeepot and put it back on the flames.

At 8:13 instead of 8:14--this information is from the tape
records--there was an extremely small earth shock recorded by the
Berkeley, California, seismograph. It was a very minor shock, about
the intensity of the explosion of a hundred tons of high explosive a
very long distance away and barely strong enough to record its
location, which was Boulder Lake. The cause of that explosion or shock
was not observed visually. There'd been no time to alert observers,
and in any case the object should have been out of atmosphere until
the last few seconds of its fall, and where it was reported to fall
the cloud cover was unbroken. So nobody reported seeing it. Not at
once, anyhow, and then only one man.

Lockley did not feel the impact. He was drinking a cup of coffee and
thinking about his own problems. But a delicately balanced rock a
hundred yards below his camp site toppled over and slid downhill. It
started a miniature avalanche of stones and rocks. The loose stuff did
not travel far, but the original balanced rock bounced and rolled for
some distance before it came to rest.

Echoes rolled between the hillsides, but they were not very loud and
they soon ended. Lockley guessed automatically at half a dozen
possible causes for the small rock-slide, but he did not think at all
of an unperceived temblor from a shock like high explosives going off
thirty miles away.

Eight minutes later he heard a deep-toned roaring noise to the
northeast. It was unbelievably low-pitched. It rolled and reverberated
beyond the horizon. The detonation of a hundred tons of high
explosives or an equivalent impact can be heard for thirty miles, but
at that distance it doesn't sound much like an explosion.

He finished his breakfast without enjoyment. By that time well over
three-quarters of the Air Force on the Pacific Coast was airborne and
more planes shot skyward instant after instant. Inevitably the
multiplied air traffic was noted by civilians. Reporters began to
telephone airbases to ask whether a practice alert was on, or
something more serious.

Such questions were natural, these days. All the world had the
jitters. To the ordinary observer, the prospects looked bad for
everything but disaster. There was a crisis in the United Nations,
which had been reorganized once and might need to be shuffled again.
There was a dispute between the United States and Russia over
satellites recently placed in orbit. They were suspected of carrying
fusion bombs ready to dive at selected targets on signal. The Russians
accused the Americans, and the Americans accused the Russians, and
both may have been right.

The world had been so edgy for so long that there were fallout
shelters from Chillicothe, Ohio, to Singapore, Malaya, and back again.
There were permanent trouble spots at various places where practically
anything was likely to happen at any instant. The people of every
nation were jumpy. There was constant pressure on governments and on
political parties so that all governments looked shaky and all
parties helpless. Nobody could look forward to a peaceful old age, and
most hardly hoped to reach middle age. The arrival of an object from
outer space was nicely calculated to blow the emotional fuses of whole
populations.

But Lockley ate his breakfast without premonitions. Breezes blew and
from every airbase along the coast fighting planes shot into the air
and into formations designed to intercept anything that flew on wings
or to launch atom-headed rockets at anything their radars could detect
that didn't.

At eight-twenty, Lockley went to the electronic base line instrument
which he was to use this morning. It was a modification of the devices
used to clock artificial satellites in their orbits and measure their
distance within inches from hundreds of miles away. The purpose was to
make a really accurate map of the park. There were other instruments
in other line-of-sight positions, very far away. Lockley's schedule
called for them to measure their distances from each other some time
this morning. Two were carefully placed on bench marks of the
continental grid. In twenty minutes or so of cooperation, the
distances of six such instruments could be measured with astonishing
precision and tied in to the bench marks already scattered over the
continent. Presently photographing planes would fly overhead, taking
overlapping pictures from thirty thousand feet. They would show the
survey points and the measurements between them would be exact, the
photos could be used as stereo-pairs to take off contour lines, and in
a few days there would be a map--a veritable cartographer's dream for
accuracy and detail.

That was the intention. But though Lockley hadn't heard of it yet,
something was reported to have landed from space, and a shock like an
impact was recorded, and all conditions would shortly be changed. It
would be noted from the beginning, however, that an impact equal to a
hundred-ton explosion was a very small shock for the landing of a
bolide. It would add to the plausibility of reported deceleration,
though, and would arouse acute suspicion. Justly so.

At 8:20, Lockley called Sattell who was southeast of him. The
measuring instruments used microwaves and gave readings of distance by
counting cycles and reading phase differences. As a matter of
convenience the microwaves could be modulated by a microphone, so the
same instrument could be used for communication while measurements
went on. But the microwaves were directed in a very tight beam. The
device had to be aimed exactly right and a suitable reception
instrument had to be at the target if it was to be used at all. Also,
there was no signal to call a man to listen. He had to be listening
beforehand, and with his instrument aimed right, too.

So Lockley flipped the modulator switch and turned on the instrument.
He said patiently, "Calling Sattell. Calling Sattell. Lockley calling
Sattell."

He repeated it some dozens of times. He was about to give it up and
call Vale instead when Sattell answered. He'd slept a little later
than Lockley. It was now close to nine o'clock. But Sattell had
expected the call. They checked the functioning of their instruments
against each other.

"Right!" said Lockley at last. "I'll check with Vale and on out of the
park, and then we'll put it all together and wrap it up and take it
home."

Sattell agreed. Lockley, rather absurdly, felt uncomfortable because
he was going to have to talk to Vale. He had nothing against the man,
but Vale was, in a way, his rival although Jill didn't know of his
folly and Vale could hardly guess it.

He signed off to Sattell and swung the base line instrument to make a
similar check with Vale. It was now ten minutes after nine. He aligned
the instrument accurately, flipped the switch, and began to say as
patiently as before, "Calling Vale. Calling Vale. Lockley calling
Vale. Over."

He turned the control for reception. Vale's voice came instantly,
scratchy and hoarse and frantic.

"_Lockley! Listen to me! There's no time to tell me anything. I've got
to tell you. Something came down out of the sky here nearly an hour
ago. It landed in Boulder Lake, and at the last instant there was a
terrific explosion and a monstrous wave swept up the shores of the
lake. The thing that came down vanished under water. I saw it,
Lockley!_"

Lockley blinked. "Wha-a-at?"

"_A thing came down out of the sky!_" panted Vale. "_It landed in the
lake with a terrific explosion. It went under. Then it came up to the
surface minutes later. It floated. It stuck things up and out of
itself, pipes or wires. Then it moved around the lake and came in to
the shore. A thing like a hatch opened and ... creatures got out of
it. Not men!_"

Lockley blinked again. "Look here--"

"_Dammit, listen!_" said Vale shrilly, "_I'm telling you what I've
seen. Things out of the sky. Creatures that aren't men. They landed
and set up something on the shore. I don't know what it is. Do you
understand? The thing is down there in the lake now. Floating. I can
see it!_"

Lockley swallowed. He couldn't believe this immediately. He knew
nothing of radar reports or the seismograph record. He'd seen a barely
balanced rock roll down the mountainside below him, and he'd heard a
growling bass rumble behind the horizon, but things like that didn't
add up to a conclusion like this! His first conviction was that Vale
was out of his head.

"Listen," said Lockley carefully. "There's a short wave set over at
the construction camp. They use it all the time for orders and reports
and so on. You go there and report officially what you've seen. To the
Park Service first, and then try to get a connection through to the
Army."

Vale's voice came through again, at once raging and despairing, "_They
won't believe me. They'll think I'm a crackpot. You get the news to
somebody who'll investigate. I see the thing, Lockley. I can see it
now. At this instant. And Jill's over at the construction camp_--"

Lockley was unreasonably relieved. If Jill was at the camp, at least
she wasn't alone with a man gone out of his mind. The reaction was
normal. Lockley had seen nothing out of the ordinary, so Vale's report
seemed insane.

"_Listen here!_" panted Vale again. "_The thing came down. There was a
terrific explosion. It vanished. Nothing happened for a while. Then it
came up and found a place where it could come to shore. Things came
out of it. I can't describe them. They're motes even in my binoculars.
But they aren't human! A lot of them came out. They began to land
things. Equipment. They set it up. I don't know what it is. Some of
them went exploring. I saw a puff of steam where something moved.
Lockley?_"

"I'm listening," said Lockley. "Go on!"

"_Report this!_" ordered Vale feverishly. "_Get it to Military
Information in Denver, or somewhere! The party of creatures that went
off exploring hasn't come back. I'm watching. I'll report whatever I
see. Get this to the government. This is real. I can't believe it, but
I see it. Report it, quick!_"

His voice stopped. Lockley painfully realigned the instrument again
for Sattell, thirty miles to the southeast.

Sattell surprisingly answered the first call. He said in an astonished
voice, "_Hello! I just got a call from Survey. It seems that the Army
knew there was a Survey team in here, and they called to say that
radars had spotted something coming down from space, right after eight
o'clock. They wanted to know if any of us supposedly sane observers
noticed anything peculiar about that time._"

Lockley's scalp crawled suddenly. Vale's report had disturbed him, but
more for the man's sanity than anything else. But it could be true!
And instantly he remembered that Jill was very near the place where
frighteningly impossible things were happening.

"Vale just told me," said Lockley, his voice unsteady, "that he saw
something come down. His story was so wild I didn't believe it. But
you pass it on and say that Vale's watching it. He's waiting for
instructions. He'll report everything he sees. I'm thirty miles from
him, but he can see the thing that came down. Maybe the creatures in
it can see him. Listen!"

He repeated just what Vale had told him. Somehow, telling it to
someone else, it seemed at once even less real but more horrifying as
a possible danger to Jill. It didn't strike him forcibly that other
people were endangered, too.

When Sattell signed off to forward the report, Lockley found himself
sweating a little. Something had come down out of space. The fact
seemed to him dangerous and appalling. His mind revolted at the idea
of non-human creatures who could build ships and travel through space,
but radars had reported the arrival of a ship, and there were official
inquiries that nearly matched Vale's account, which was therefore not
a mere crackpot claim to have seen the incredible. Something had
happened and more was likely to, and Jill was in the middle of it.

He swung the instrument back to Vale's position. His hands shook,
though a part of his mind insisted obstinately that alarms were
commonplace these days, and in common sense one had to treat them as
false cries of "Wolf!" But one knew that some day the wolf might
really come. Perhaps it had....

Lockley found it difficult to align the carrier beam to Vale's exact
location. He assured himself that he was a fool to be afraid; that if
disaster were to come it would be by the imbecilities of men rather
than through creatures from beyond the stars. And therefore....

But there were other men at other places who felt less skepticism. The
report from Vale went to the Military Information Center and thence to
the Pentagon. Meanwhile the Information Center ordered a
photo-reconnaissance plane to photograph Boulder Lake from aloft. In
the Pentagon, hastily alerted staff officers began to draft orders to
be issued if the report of two radars and one eye-witness should be
further substantiated. There were such-and-such trucks available here,
and such-and-such troops available there. Complicated paper work was
involved in the organization of any movement of troops, but especially
to carry out a plan not at all usual in the United States.

Everything, though, depended on what the reconnaissance plane
photographs might show.

Lockley did not see the plane nor consciously hear it. There was the
faintest of murmuring noises in the sky. It moved swiftly toward the
north, tending eastward. The plane that made the noise was invisible.
It flew above the cloud cover which still blotted out nearly all the
blue overhead. It went on and on and presently died out beyond the
mountains toward Boulder Lake.

Lockley tried to get Vale back, to tell him that radars had verified
his report and that it would be acted on by the military. But though
he called and called, there was no answer.

An agonizingly long time later the faint and disregarded sound of the
plane swept back across the heavens. Lockley still did not notice it.
He was too busy with his attempts to reach Vale again, and with grisly
imaginings of what might be done by aliens from another world when
they found the workmen near the lake--and Jill among them. He pictured
alien monsters committing atrocities in what they might consider
scientific examination of terrestrial fauna. But somehow even that was
less horrible than the images that followed an assumption that the
occupants of the spaceship might be men.

"Calling Vale ... Vale, come in!" He fiercely repeated the call into
the instrument's microphone. "Lockley calling Vale! Come in, man! Come
in!"

He flipped the switch and listened. And Vale's voice came.

"_I'm here._" The voice shook. "_I've been trying to find where that
exploring party went._"

Lockley threw the speech switch and said sharply, "The Army asked
Survey if any of us had seen anything come down from the sky. I gave
Sattell your report to be forwarded. It's gone to the Pentagon now.
Two radars reported tracking the thing down to a landing near you. Now
listen! You go to the construction camp. Most likely they'll get
orders to clear out, by short wave. But you go there! Make sure Jill's
all right. See her to safety."

The switch once more. Vale's voice was desperate.

"_A ... while ago a party of the creatures started away from the lake.
An exploring party, I think. Once I saw a puff of steam as if they'd
used a weapon. I'm afraid they may find the construction camp, and
Jill_...."

Lockley ground his teeth. Vale said unsteadily, "_I ... can't find
where they went.... A little while ago their ship backed out into the
lake and sank. Deliberately! I don't know why. But there's a party of
those ... creatures out exploring! I don't know what they'll do_...."

Lockley said savagely, "Get to the camp and look after Jill! The
workmen may have panicked. The Army'll know by this time what's
happened. They'll send copters to get you out. They'll send help of
some sort, somehow. But you look after Jill!"

Vale's voice changed.

"_Wait. I heard something. Wait!_"

Silence. Around Lockley there were the usual sounds of the wilderness.
Insects made chirping noises. Birds called. There were those small
whispering and rustling and high-pitched sounds which in the wild
constitute stillness.

A scraping sound from the speaker. Vale's voice, frantic.

"_That ... exploring party. It's here! They must have picked up our
beams. They're looking for me. They've sighted me! They're coming_...."

There was a crashing sound as if Vale had dropped the communicator.
There were pantings, and the sound of blows, and gasped
profanity--horror-filled profanity--in Vale's voice. Then something
roared.

Lockley listened, his hands clenched in fury at his own helplessness.
He thought he heard movements. Once he was sure he heard a sound like
the unshod hoof of an animal on bare stone. Then, quite distinctly, he
heard squeakings. He knew that someone or something had picked up
Vale's communicator. More squeakings, somehow querulous. Then
something pounded the communicator on the ground. There was a crash.
Then silence.

Almost calmly Lockley swung his instrument around and lined it up for
Sattell's post. He called in a steady voice until Sattell answered. He
reported with meticulous care just what Vale had said, and what he'd
heard after Vale stopped speaking--the roaring, the sound of blows and
gasps, then the squeakings and the destruction of the instrument
intended for the measurement of base lines for an accurate map of the
Park.

Sattell grew agitated. At Lockley's insistence, he wrote down every
word. Then he said nervously that orders had come from Survey. The
Army wanted everybody out of the Boulder Lake area. Vale was to have
been ordered out. The workmen were ordered out. Lockley was to get out
of the area as soon as possible.

When Sattell signed off, Lockley switched off the communicator. He put
it where it would be relatively safe from the weather. He abandoned
his camping equipment. A mile downhill and four miles west there was a
highway leading to Boulder Lake. When the Park was opened to the
public it would be well used, but the last traffic he'd seen was the
big trailer-truck of the Wild Life Control service. That huge vehicle
had gone up to Boulder Lake the day before.

He made his way to the highway, following a footpath to the spot where
he'd left his own car parked. He got into it and started the motor. He
moved with a certain dogged deliberation. He knew, of course, that
what he was going to do was useless. It was hopeless. It was possibly
suicidal. But he went ahead.

He headed northward, pushing the little car to its top speed. This was
not following his instructions. He wasn't leaving the Park area. He
was heading for Boulder Lake. Jill was there and he would feel
ashamed for all time if he acted like a sensible man and got to safety
as he was ordered.

Miles along the highway, something occurred to him. The base line
instrument had to be aimed exactly right for Vale or Sattell to pick
up his voice as carried by its beam. Vale's or Sattell's instruments
had to be aimed as accurately to convey their voices to him. Yet after
the struggle he'd overheard, and after Vale had been either subdued or
killed, someone or something seemed to have picked up the
communicator, and Lockley had heard squeakings, and then he had heard
the instrument smashed.

It was not easy to understand how the beam had been kept perfectly
aligned while it was picked up and squeaked at. Still less was it
understandable that it remained aimed just right so he could hear when
it was flung down and crushed.

But somehow this oddity did not change his feelings. Jill could be in
danger from creatures Vale said were not human. Lockley didn't wholly
accept that non-human angle, but something was happening there and
Jill was in the middle of it. So he went to see about it for the sake
of his self-respect. And Jill. It was not reasonable behavior. It was
emotional. He didn't stop to question what was believable and what
wasn't. Lockley didn't even give any attention to the problem of how a
microwave beam could stay pointed exactly right while the instrument
that sent it was picked up, and squeaked at, and smashed. He gave that
particular matter no thought at all.

He jammed down the accelerator of the car and headed for Boulder
Lake.



CHAPTER 2


The car was ordinary enough; it was one of those scaled-down vehicles
which burn less fuel and offer less comfort than the so-called
standard models. For fuel economy too, its speed had been lowered. But
Lockley sent it up the brand-new highway as fast as it would go.

Now the highway followed a broad valley with a meadow-like floor. Now
it seemed to pick its way between cliffs, and on occasion it ran over
a concrete bridge spanning some swiftly flowing stream. At least once
it went through a cut which might as well have been a tunnel, and the
crackling noise of its motor echoed back from stony walls on either
side.

He did not see another vehicle for a long way. Deer, he saw twice.
Over and over again coveys of small birds rocketed up from beside the
road and dived to cover after he had passed. Once he saw movement out
of the corner of his eye and looked automatically to see what it was,
but saw nothing. Which meant that it was probably a mountain lion,
blending perfectly with its background as it watched the car. At the
end of five miles he saw a motor truck, empty, trundling away from
Boulder Lake and the construction camp toward the outer world.

The two vehicles passed, combining to make a momentary roaring noise
at their nearest. The truck was not in a hurry. It simply lumbered
along with loose objects in its cargo space rattling and bumping
loudly. Its driver and his helper plainly knew nothing of untoward
events behind them. They'd probably stopped somewhere to have a
leisurely morning snack, with the truck waiting for them at the
roadside.

Lockley went on ten miles more. He begrudged the distances added by
curves in the road. He tended to fume when his underpowered car
noticeably slowed up on grades, and especially the long ones. He saw a
bear halfway up a hillside pause in its exploitation of a berry patch
to watch the car go by below it. He saw more deer. Once a smaller
animal, probably a coyote, dived into a patch of brushwood and stayed
hidden as long as the car remained in sight.

More miles of empty highway. And then a long, straight stretch of
road, and he suddenly saw vehicles coming around the curve at the end
of it. They were not in line, singlelane, as traffic usually is on a
curve. Both lanes were filled. The road was blocked by motor-driven
traffic heading away from the lake, and not at a steady pace, but in
headlong flight.

It roared on toward Lockley. Big trucks and little ones; passenger
cars in between them; a few motorcyclists catching up from the rear by
riding on the road's shoulders. They were closely packed, as if by
some freak the lead had been taken by great trucks incapable of the
road speed of those behind them, yet with the frantic rearmost cars
unable to pass. There was a humming and roaring of motors that filled
the air. They plunged toward Lockley's miniature roadster. Truck horns
blared.

Lockley got off the highway and onto the right-hand shoulder. He
stopped. The crowded mass of rushing vehicles roared up to him and
went past. They were more remarkable than he'd believed. There were
dirt mover trucks. There were truck-and-trailer combinations. There
were sedans and dump trucks and even a convertible or two, and then
more trucks--even tank trucks--and more sedans and half-tonners--a
complete and motley collection of every kind of gasoline-driven
vehicle that could be driven on a highway and used on a construction
project.

And every one was crowded with men. Trailer-trucks had their body
doors open, and they were packed with the workmen of the construction
camp near Boulder Lake. The sedans were jammed with passengers. Dirt
mover trucks had men holding fast to handholds, and there were men in
the backs of the dump trucks. The racing traffic filled the highway
from edge to edge. It rushed past, giving off a deafening roar and
clouds of gasoline fumes.

They were gone, the solid mass of them at any rate. But now there came
older cars, no less crowded, and then more spacious cars, not crowded
so much and less frantically pushing at those ahead. But even these
cars passed each other recklessly. There seemed to be an almost
hysterical fear of being last.

One car swung off to its left. There were five men in it. It braked
and stopped on the shoulder close to Lockley's car. The driver shouted
above the din of passing motors, "You don't want to go up there.
Everybody's ordered out. Everybody get away from Boulder Lake! When
you get the chance, turn around and get the hell away."

He watched for a chance to get back on the road, having delivered his
warning. Lockley got out of his car and went over, "You're talking
about the thing that came down from the sky," he said grimly. "There
was a girl up at the camp. Jill Holmes. Writing a piece about building
a national park. Getting information about the job. Did anybody get
her away?"

The man who'd warned him continued to watch for a reasonable gap in
the flood of racing cars. They weren't crowded now as they had been,
but it was still impossible to start in low and get back in the
stream of vehicles without an almost certain crash. Then he turned his
head back, staring at Lockley.

"Hell! Somebody told me to check on her. I was routing men out and
loading 'em on whatever came by. I forgot!"

A man in the back of the sedan said, "She hadn't left when we did. I
saw her. But I thought she had a ride all set."

The man at the wheel said furiously, "She hasn't passed us! Unless
she's in one of these...."

Lockley set his teeth. He watched each oncoming car intently. A girl
among these fugitives would have been put with the driver in the cab
of a truck, and he'd have seen a woman in any of the private cars.

"If I don't see her go by," he said grimly, "I'll go up to the camp
and see if she's still there."

The man in the driver's seat looked relieved.

"If she's left behind, it's her fault. If you hunt for her, make it
fast and be plenty careful. Keep to the camp and stay away from the
lake. There was a hell of an explosion over there this morning. Three
men went to see what'd happened. They didn't come back. Two more went
after 'em, and something hit them on the way. They smelled something
worse than skunk. Then they were paralyzed, like they had hold of a
high-tension line. They saw crazy colors and heard crazy sounds and
they couldn't move a finger. Their car ditched. In a while they came
out of it and they came back--fast! They'd just got back when we got
short wave orders for everybody to get out. If you look for that girl,
be careful. If she's still there, you get her out quick!" Then he said
sharply, "Here's a chance for us to get going. Move out of the way!"

There was a gap in the now diminishing spate of cars. The driver of
the stopped car drove furiously onto the highway. He shifted gears and
accelerated at the top of his car's power. Another car behind him
braked and barely avoided a crash while blowing its horn furiously.
Then the traffic went on. But it was lessening now. It was mostly
private cars, owned by the workmen.

Suddenly there were no cars coming down the long straight stretch of
road. Lockley got back on the highway and resumed his rush toward the
spot the others fled from. He heard behind him the diminishing rumble
and roar of the fugitive motors. He jammed his own accelerator down to
the floor and plunged on.

There'd been an explosion by the lake, the man who'd warned him said.
That checked. Three men went to see what had happened. That was
reasonable. They didn't come back. Considering what Vale had reported,
it was almost inevitable. Then two other men went to find out what
happened to the first three and--that was news! A smell that was worse
than skunk. Paralysis in a moving car, which ditched. Remaining
paralyzed while seeing crazy colors and hearing crazy sounds....
Lockley could not even guess at an explanation. But the men had
remained paralyzed for some time, and then the sensations lifted. They
had fled back to the construction camp, evidently fearing that the
paralysis might return. Their narrative must have been hair-raising,
because when orders had come for the evacuation of the camp, they had
been obeyed with a promptitude suggesting panic. But apparently
nothing else had happened.

The first three men were still missing--or at least there'd been no
mention of their return. They'd either been killed or taken captive,
judging by Vale's account and obvious experience. He was either
killed or captured, too, but it still seemed strange that Lockley had
heard so much of that struggle via a tight beam microwave transmitter
that needed to be accurately aimed. Vale had been captured or killed.
The three other men missing probably had undergone the same fate. The
two others had been made helpless but not murdered or taken prisoner.
They'd simply been held until when they were released they'd flee.

The car went over a bridge and rounded a curve. Here a deep cut had
been made and the road ran through it. It came out upon undulating
ground where many curves were necessary.

Another car came, plunging after the others. In the next ten miles
there were, perhaps a dozen more. They'd been hard to start, perhaps,
and so left later than the rest. Jill wasn't in any of them. There was
one car traveling slowly, making thumping noises. Its driver made the
best time he could, following the others.

Sober common sense pointed out that Vale's account was fully verified.
There'd been a landing of non-human creatures in a ship from outer
space. The killing or capture of the first three men to investigate a
gigantic explosion was natural enough--the alien occupants of a space
ship would want to study the inhabitants of the world they'd landed
on. The mere paralysis and release of two others could be explained on
the theory that the creatures who'd come to earth were satisfied with
three specimens of the local intelligent race to study. They had Vale,
too. They weren't trying to conceal their arrival, though it would
have been impossible anyhow. But it was plausible enough that they'd
take measures to become informed about the world they'd landed on, and
when they considered that they knew enough, they'd take the action
they felt was desirable.

All of which was perfectly rational, but there was another
possibility. The other possible explanation was--considering
everything--more probable. And it seemed to offer even more appalling
prospects.

He drove on. Jill Holmes. He'd seen her four times; she was engaged to
Vale. It seemed extremely likely that she hadn't left the camp with
the workmen. If Lockley hadn't been obsessed with her, he'd have tried
to make sure she was left behind before he tried to find her. If she
was still at the camp, she was in a dangerous situation.

There'd been no other car from the camp for a long way now. But there
came a sharp curve ahead. Lockley drove into it. There was a roar, and
a car came from the opposite direction, veering away from the road's
edge. It sideswiped the little car Lockley drove. The smaller car
bucked violently and spun crazily around. It went crashing into a
clump of saplings and came to a stop with a smashed windshield and
crumpled fenders, but the motor was still running. Lockley had braked
by instinct.

The other car raced away without pausing.

Lockley sat still for a moment, stunned by the suddenness of the
mishap. Then he raged. He got out of the car. Because of its small
size, he thought he might be able to get it back on the road with
saplings for levers. But the job would take hours, and he was
irrationally convinced that Jill had been left behind in the
construction camp.

He was perhaps five miles from Boulder Lake itself and about the same
distance from the camp. It would take less time to go to the camp on
foot than to try to get the car on the road. Time was of the essence,
and whoever or whatever the occupants of the landed ship might be,
they'd know what a road was for. They'd sight an intruder in a car on
a road long before they'd detect a man on foot who was not on a
highway and was taking some pains to pass unseen.

He started out, unarmed and on foot. He was headed for the near
neighborhood of the thing Vale had described as coming from the sky.
He was driven by fear for Jill. It seemed to him that his best pace
was only a crawl and he desperately needed all the speed he could
muster.

He headed directly across country for the camp. All the world seemed
unaware that anything out of the ordinary was in progress. Birds sang
and insects chirruped and breezes blew and foliage waved languidly.
Now and again a rabbit popped out of sight of the moving figure of the
man. But there were no sounds, or sights or indications of anything
untoward where Lockley moved. He reflected that he was on his way to
search for a girl he barely knew, and whom he couldn't be sure needed
his help anyway.

Outside in the world, there were places where things were not so
tranquil. By this time there were already troops in motion in long
trains of personnel-carrying trucks. There were mobile guided missile
detachments moving at top speed across state lines and along the
express highway systems. Every military plane in the coastal area was
aloft, kept fueled by tanker planes to be ready for any sort of
offensive or defensive action that might be called for. The short wave
instructions to the construction camp had become known, and all the
world knew that Boulder Lake National Park had been evacuated to avoid
contact with non-human aliens. The aliens were reported to have hunted
men down and killed them for sport. They were reported to have
paralysis beams, death beams and poison gas. They were described as
indescribable, and described in "artist's conceptions" on television
and in the newspapers. They appeared--according to circumstances--to
resemble lizards or slugs. They were portrayed as carnivorous birds
and octopods. The artists took full advantage of their temporarily
greater importance than cameramen. They pictured these diverse aliens
in their one known aggressive action of trailing Vale down and
carrying him away. This was said to be for vivisection. None of the
artists' ideas were even faintly plausible, biologically. The
creatures were even portrayed as turning heat rays upon humans, who
dramatically burst into steam as the beams struck them. Obviously,
there were also artist's conceptions of women being seized by the
creatures from outer space. There was only one woman known to be in
the construction camp, but that inconvenient fact didn't bother the
artists.

The United States went into a mild panic. But most people stayed on
their jobs, and followed their normal routine, and the trains ran on
time.

The public in the United States had become used to newspaper and
broadcast scares. They were unconsciously relegated to the same
category as horror movies, which some day might come true, but not
yet. This particular news story seemed more frightening than most, but
still it was taken more or less as shuddery entertainment. So most of
the United States shivered with a certain amount of relish as ever new
and ever more imaginative accounts appeared describing the landing of
intelligent monsters, and waited to see if it was really true. The
truth was that most of America didn't actually believe it. It was like
a Russian threat. It could happen and it might happen, but it hadn't
happened so far to the United States.

An official announcement helped to guide public opinion in this safe
channel. The Defense Department released a bulletin: An object had
fallen from space into Boulder Lake, Colorado. It was apparently a
large meteorite. When reported by radar before its landing, defense
authorities had seized the opportunity to use it for a test of
emergency response to a grave alarm. They had used it to trigger a
training program and test of defensive measures made ready against
other possible enemies. After the meteorite landed, the defense
measures were continued as a more complete test of the nation's
fighting forces' responsive ability. The object and its landing,
however, were being investigated.

Lockley tramped up hillsides and scrambled down steep slopes with many
boulders scattered here and there. He moved through a landscape in
which nothing seemed to depart from the normal. The sun shone. The
cloud cover, broken some time since, was dissipating and now a good
two-thirds of the sky was wholly clear. The sounds of the wilderness
went on all around him.

But presently he came to a partly-graded new road, cutting across his
way. A bulldozer stood abandoned on it, brand-new and in perfect
order, with the smell of gasoline and oil about it. He followed the
gash in the forest it had begun. It led toward the camp. He came to a
place where blasting had been in progress. The equipment for blasting
remained. But there was nobody in sight.

Half a mile from this spot, Lockley looked down upon the camp. There
were Quonset huts and prefabricated structures. There were streets of
clay and wires from one building to another. There was a long, low,
open shed with long tables under its roof. A mess shed. Next to it
metal pipes pierced another roof, and wavering columns of heated air
rose from those pipes. There was a building which would be a
commissary. There was every kind of structure needed for a small city,
though all were temporary. And there was no movement, no sound, no
sign of life except the hot air rising from the mess kitchen
stovepipes.

Lockley went down into the camp. All was silence. All was lifeless. He
looked unhappily about him. There would be no point, of course, in
looking into the dormitories, but he made his way to the mess shed.
Some heavy earthenware plates and coffee cups, soiled, remained on the
table. There were a few flies. Not many. In the mess kitchen there was
grayish smoke and the reek of scorched and ruined food. The stoves
still burned. Lockley saw the blue flame of bottled gas. He went on.
The door of the commissary was open. Everything men might want to buy
in such a place waited for purchasers, but there was no one to buy or
sell.

The stillness and desolation of the place resulted from less than an
hour's abandonment. But somehow it was impossible to call out loudly
for Jill. Lockley was appalled by the feeling of emptiness in such
bright sunshine. It was shocking. Men hadn't moved out of the camp.
They'd simply left it, with every article of use dropped and
abandoned; nothing at all had been removed. And there was no sign of
Jill. It occurred to Lockley that she'd have waited for Vale at the
camp, because assuredly his first thought should have been for her
safety. Yes. She'd have waited for Vale to rescue her. But Vale was
either dead or a captive of the creatures that had been in the object
from the sky. He wouldn't be looking after Jill.

Lockley found himself straining his eyes at the mountain from whose
flank Vale had been prepared to measure the base line between his post
and Lockley's. That vantage point could not be seen from here, but
Lockley looked for a small figure that might be Jill, climbing
valiantly to warn Vale of the events he'd known before anybody else.

Then Lockley heard a very small sound. It was faint, with an irregular
rhythm in it. It had the cadence of speech. His pulse leaped suddenly.
There was the mast for the short wave set by which the camp had kept
in touch with the outer world. Lockley sprinted for the building under
it. His footsteps sounded loudly in the silent camp, and they drowned
out the sound he was heading for.

He stopped at the open door. He heard Jill's voice saying anxiously,
"But I'm sure he'd have come to make certain I was safe!" A pause.
"There's no one else left, and I want...." Another pause. "But he was
up on the mountainside! At least a helicopter could--"

Lockley called, "Jill!"

He heard a gasp. Then she said unsteadily, "Someone just called. Wait
a moment."

She came to the door. At sight of Lockley her face fell.

"I came to make sure you were all right," he said awkwardly. "Are you
talking to outside?"

"Yes. Do you know anything about--"

"I'm afraid I do," said Lockley. "Right now the important thing is to
get you out of here. I'll tell them we're starting. All right?"

She stood aside. He went up to the short wave set which looked much
like an ordinary telephone, but was connected to a box with dials and
switches. There was a miniature pocket radio--a transistor radio--on
top of the short wave cabinet. Lockley picked up the short wave
microphone. He identified himself. He said he'd come to make sure of
Jill's safety, and that he'd been passed by the rushing mass of cars
and trucks that had evacuated everybody else. Then he said, "I've got
a car about four miles away. It's in a ditch, but I can probably get
it out. It'll be a lot safer for Miss Holmes if you send a helicopter
there to pick her up."

The reply was somehow military in tone. It sounded like a civilian
being authoritative about something he knew nothing about. Lockley
said, "Over" in a dry tone and put down the microphone. He picked up
the pocket radio and put it in his pocket. It might be useful.

"They say to try to make it out in my car," he told Jill wryly. "As
civilians, I suppose they haven't any helicopters they can give orders
to. But it probably makes sense. If there are some queer creatures
around, there's no point in stirring them up with a flying contraption
banging around near their landing place. Not before we're ready to
take real action. Come along. I've got to get you away from here."

"But I'm waiting...." She looked distressed. "He wanted me to leave
yesterday. We almost quarrelled about it. He'll surely come to make
sure I'm safe...."

"I'm afraid I have bad news," said Lockley. Then he described, as
gently as he could, his last talk with Vale. It was the one which
ended with squeaks and strugglings transmitted by the communicator,
and then the smashing of the communicator itself. He didn't mention
the puzzling fact that the communicator had stayed perfectly aimed
while it was picked up and squeaked at and destroyed. He had no
explanation for it. What he did have to tell was bad enough. She went
deathly pale, searching his face as he told her.

"But--but--" She swallowed. "He might have been hurt and--not killed.
He might be alive and in need of help. If there are creatures from
somewhere else, they might not realize that he could be unconscious
and not dead! He'd make sure about me! I--I'll go up and make sure
about him...."

Lockley hesitated. "It's not likely," he said carefully, "that he was
left there injured. But if you feel that somebody has to make sure,
I'll do it. For one thing, I can climb faster. My car is ditched back
yonder. You go and wait by it. At least it's farther from the lake and
you should be safer there. I'll make sure about Vale."

He explained in detail how she could find the car. Up this hillside to
a slash through the forest for a highway. Due south from an abandoned
bulldozer. Keep out of sight. Never show against a skyline.

She swallowed again. Then she said, "If he needs help, you could--do
more than I can. But I'll wait there where the woods begin. I can hide
if I need to, and I--might be of some use."

He realized that she deluded herself with the hope that he, Lockley,
might bring an injured Vale down the mountainside and that she could
be useful then. He let her. He went through the camp with her to put
her on the right track. He gave her the pocket radio, so she could
listen for news. When she went on out of sight in brushwood, he turned
back toward the mountain on which Vale had occupied an observation
post. It was actually a million-year-old crater wall that he climbed
presently. And he took a considerable chance. As he climbed, for some
time he moved in plain view. If the crew of the ship in Boulder Lake
were watching, they'd see him rather than Jill. If they took action,
it would be against him and not Jill. Somehow he felt better equipped
to defend himself than Jill would be.

He climbed. Again the world was completely normal, commonplace. There
were mountain peaks on every hand. Some had been volcanoes
originally, some had not. With each five hundred feet of climbing, he
could see still more mountains. The sky was cloudless now. He climbed
a thousand feet. Two. Three. He could see between peaks for a full
thirty miles to the spot where he'd been at daybreak. But he was
making his ascent on the back flank of this particular mountain. He
could not see Boulder Lake from there. On the other hand, no creature
at Boulder Lake should be able to see him. Only an exploring party
which might otherwise sight Jill would be apt to detect him, a slowly
moving speck against a mountainside.

He reached the level at which Vale's post had been assigned. He moved
carefully and cautiously around intervening masses of stone. The wind
blew past him, making humming noises in his ears. Once he dislodged a
small stone and it went bouncing and clattering down the slope he'd
climbed.

He saw where Vale could have been as he watched something come down
from the sky. He found Vale's sleeping bag, and the ashes of his
campfire. Here too was the communicator. It had been smashed by a huge
stone lifted and dropped upon it, but before that it had been moved.
It was not in place on the bench mark from which it could measure
inches in a distance of scores of miles.

There was no other sign of what had apparently happened here. The
ashes of the fire were undisturbed. Vale's sleeping bag looked as if
it had not been slept in, as if it had only been spread out for the
night before. Lockley went over the rock shelf inch by inch. No red
stains which might be blood. Nothing....

No. In a patch of soft earth between two stones there was a hoofprint.
It was not a footprint. A hoof had made it, but not a horse's hoof,
nor a burro's. It wasn't a mountain sheep track. It was not the track
of any animal known on earth. But it was here. Lockley found himself
wondering absurdly if the creature that had made it would squeak, or
if it would roar. They seemed equally unlikely.

He looked cautiously down at the lake which was almost half a mile
below him. The water was utterly blue. It reflected only the crater
wall and the landscape beyond the area where the volcanic cliffs had
fallen. Nothing moved. There was no visible apparatus set up on the
shore, as Vale had said. But something had happened down in the lake.
Trees by the water's edge were bent and broken. Masses of brushwood
had been crushed and torn away. Limbs were broken down tens of yards
from the water, and there were gullies to be seen wherever there was
soft earth. An enormous wave had flung itself against the nearly
circular boundary of the lake. It had struck like a tidal wave dozens
of feet high in an inland body of water. It was extremely convincing
evidence that something huge and heavy had hurtled down from the sky.

But Lockley saw no movement nor any other novelty in this wilderness.
He heard nothing that was not an entirely normal sound.

But then he smelled something.

It was a horrible, somehow reptilian odor. It was the stench of
jungle, dead and rotting. It was much, much worse than the smell of a
skunk.

He moved to fling himself into flight. Then light blinded him. Closing
his eyelids did not shut it out. There were all colors, intolerably
vivid, and they flashed in revolving combinations and forms which
succeeded each other in fractions of seconds. He could see nothing but
this light. Then there came sound. It was raucous. It was cacophonic.
It was an utterly unorganized tumult in which musical notes and
discords and bellowings and shriekings were combined so as to be
unbearable. And then came pure horror as he found that he could not
move. Every inch of his body had turned rigid as it became filled with
anguish. He felt, all over, as if he were holding a charged wire.

He knew that he fell stiffly where he stood. He was blinded by light
and deafened by sound and his nostrils were filled with the nauseating
fetor of jungle and decay. These sensations lasted for what seemed
years.

Then all the sensations ended abruptly. But he still could not see;
his eyes were still dazzled by the lights that closing his eyelids had
not changed. He still could not hear. He'd been deafened by the sounds
that had dazed and numbed him. He moved, and he knew it, but he could
not feel anything. His hands and body felt numb.

Then he sensed that the positions of his arms and legs were changed.
He struggled, blind and deaf and without feeling anywhere. He knew
that he was confined. His arms were fastened somehow so that he could
not move them.

And then gradually--very gradually--his senses returned. He heard
squeakings. At first they were faint as the exhausted nerve ends in
his ears only began to regain their function. He began to regain the
sense of touch, though he felt only furriness everywhere.

He was raised up. It seemed to him that claws rather than fingers
grasped him. He stood erect, swaying. His sense of balance had been
lost without his realizing it. It came back, very slowly. But he saw
nothing. Clawlike hands--or handlike claws--pulled at him. He felt
himself turned and pushed. He staggered. He took steps out of the need
to stay erect. The pushings and pullings continued. He found himself
urged somewhere. He realized that his arms were useless because they
were wrapped with something like cord or rope.

Stumbling, he responded to the urging. There was nothing else to do.
He found himself descending. He was being led somewhere which could
only be downward. He was guided, not gently, but not brutally either.

He waited for sight to return to him. It did not come.

It was then he realized that he could not see because he was
blindfolded.

There were whistling squeaks very near him. He began helplessly to
descend the mountain, surrounded and guided and sometimes pulled by
unseen creatures.



CHAPTER 3


It was a long descent, made longer by the blindfold and clumsier by
his inability to move his arms. More than once Lockley stumbled. Twice
he fell. The clawlike hands or handlike claws lifted him and thrust
him on the way that was being chosen for him. There were whistling
squeaks. Presently he realized that some of them were directed at him.
A squeak or whistle in a warning tone told him that he must be
especially careful just here.

He came to accept the warnings. It occurred to him that the squeaks
sounded very much like those button-shaped hollow whistles that
children put in their mouths to make strident sounds of varying pitch.
Gradually, all his senses returned to normal. Even his eyes under the
blindfold ceased to report only glare blindness, and he saw those
peculiar, dissolving grayish patterns that human eyes transmit from
darkness.

More squeakings. A long time later he moved over nearly level grassy
ground. He was led for possibly half a mile. He had not tried to speak
during all his descent. It would have been useless. If he was to be
killed, he would be killed. But trouble had been taken to bring him
down alive from a remaining bit of crumbling crater wall. His captors
had evidently some use for him in mind.

They abruptly held him still for a long time--perhaps as much as an
hour. It seemed that either instructions were hard to come by, or some
preparation was being made. Then the sound of something or someone
approaching. Squeaks.

He was led another long distance. Then claws or hands lifted him.
Metal clanked. Those who held him dropped him. He fell three or four
feet onto soft sand. There was a clanging of metal above his head.

Then a human voice said sardonically, "Welcome to our city! Where'd
they catch you?"

Lockley said, "Up on a mountainside, trying to see what they were
doing. Will you get me loose, please?"

Hands worked on the cord that bound his arms close to his body. They
loosened. He removed the blindfold.

He was in a metal-walled and metal-ceilinged vault, perhaps eight feet
wide and the same in height, and perhaps twelve feet long. It had a
floor of sand. Some small amount of light came in through the circular
hole he'd been dropped through, despite a cover on it. There were
three men already in confinement here. They wore clothing appropriate
to workmen from the construction camp. There was a tall lean man, and
a broad man with a moustache, and a chunky man. The chunky man had
spoken.

"Did you see any of 'em?" he demanded now.

Lockley shook his head. The three looked at each other and nodded.
Lockley saw that they hadn't been imprisoned long. The sand floor was
marked but not wholly formed into footprints, as it would have been
had they moved restlessly about. Mostly, it appeared, they'd simply
sat on the sand floor.

"We didn't see 'em either," said the chunky man. "There was a hell of
a explosion over at the lake this mornin'. We piled in a car--my
car--and came over to see what'd happened. Then something hit us. All
of us. Lights. Noise. A godawful stink. A feeling all over like an
electric shock that paralyzed us. We came to blindfolded and tied.
They brought us here. That's our story so far. What's happened to
you--and what really happened to us?"

"I'm not sure," said Lockley.

He hesitated. Then he told them about Vale, and what he'd reported.
They'd had no explanation at all of what had happened to them. They
seemed relieved to be informed, though the information was hardly
heartening.

"Critters from Mars, eh?" said the moustached man. "I guess we'd act
the same way if we was to get to Mars. They got to figure out some way
to talk to who lives here. I guess that makes us it--unless we can
figure out something better."

Lockley, by temperament, tended to anticipate worse things in the
future than had come in the past. The suggestion that the occupants of
the spaceship had captured men to learn how to communicate with them
seemed highly optimistic. He realized that he didn't believe it. It
seemed extremely unlikely that the invaders from space were entirely
ignorant of humanity. The choice of Boulder Lake as a landing place,
for example, could not have been made from space. If there was need
for deep water to land in--which seemed highly probable--then it would
have been simple good sense to descend in the ocean. The ship could
submerge, and it could move about in the lake. Vale had said so. Such
a ship would almost inevitably choose deep water in the ocean for a
landing place. To land in a crater lake--one of possibly two or three
on an entire continent suitable for their use--indicated that they had
information in advance. Detailed information. It practically shouted
of a knowledge of at least one human language, by which information
about Crater Lake could have been obtained. Whoever or whatever made
use of the lake was no stranger to earth!

Yes.... They'd needed a deep-water landing and they knew that Boulder
Lake would do. They probably knew very much more. But if they didn't
know that Jill waited for him where the trail toward his ditched car
began, then there was no reason to let them overhear the information.

"I was part of a team making some base line measurements," said
Lockley, "when this business started. I began to check my instruments
with a man named Vale."

He told exactly, for the second time, what Vale said about the thing
from the sky and the creatures who came out of it. Then he told what
he'd done. But he omitted all reference to Jill. His coming to the
lake he ascribed to incredulity. Also, he did not mention meeting the
fleeing population of the construction camp. When his story was
finished he sounded like a man who'd done a very foolhardy thing, but
he didn't sound like a man with a girl on his mind.

The broad man with the moustache asked a question or two. The tall man
asked others. Lockley asked many.

The answers were frustrating. They hadn't seen their captors at all.
They'd heard squeaks when they were being brought to this place, and
the squeaks were obviously language, but no human one. They'd been
bound as well as blindfolded. They hadn't been offered food since
their capture, nor water. It seemed as if they'd been seized and put
into this metal compartment to wait for some use of them by their
captors.

"Maybe they want to teach us to talk," said the moustached man, "or
maybe they're goin' to carve us up to see what makes us tick. Or
maybe," he grimaced, "maybe they want to know if we're good to eat."

The chunky man said, "Why'd they blindfold us?"

Lockley had begun to have a very grim suspicion about this. It came
out of the realization of how remarkable it was that a ship designed
to be navigable in deep water should have landed in a deep crater
lake. He said, "Vale said at first that they weren't human, though
they were only specks in his binoculars. Later, when he saw them
close, he didn't say what they look like."

"Must be pretty weird," said the tall man.

"Maybe," said the man with the moustache, attempting humor, "maybe
they didn't want us to see them because we'd be scared. Or maybe they
didn't mean to blindfold us, but just to cover us up. Maybe they
wouldn't mind us seeing them, but it hurts for them to look at us!"

Lockley said abruptly, "This box we're in. It's made by humans."

The moustached man said quickly, "We figured that. It's the shell of
a compost pit for the hotel that's goin' to be built around here.
They'll sink it in the ground and dump garbage in it, and it'll rot,
and then it'll be fertilizer. These critters from space are just using
it to hold us. But what are they gonna do with us?"

There were faint squeakings. The cover to the round opening lifted.
Three rabbits dropped down. The cover closed with a clang. The rabbits
shivered and crouched, terrified, in one corner.

"Is this how they're gonna feed us?" demanded the chunky man.

"Hell, no!" said the tall man, in evident disgust. "They're dumped in
here like we were. They're animals. So are we. This is a temporary
cage. It's got a sand floor that we can bury things in. It won't be
any trouble to clean out. The rabbits and us, we stay caged until
they're ready to do whatever they're goin' to do with us."

"Which is what?" demanded the chunky man.

There was no answer. They would either be killed, or they would not.
There was nothing to be done. Meanwhile Lockley evaluated his three
fellow captives as probably rather good men to have on one's side, and
bad ones to have against one. But there was no action which was
practical now. A single guard outside, able to paralyze them by
whatever means it was accomplished, made any idea of escape in
daylight foolish.

"What kind of critters are they?" demanded the chunky man. "Maybe we
could figure out what they'll do if we know what kind of thing they
are!"

"They've got eyes like ours," said Lockley.

The three men looked at him.

"They landed by daylight," said Lockley. "Early daylight. They could
certainly have picked the time for their landing. They picked early
morning so they could have a good long period of daylight in which to
get settled before night. If they'd been night moving creatures,
they'd have landed in the dark."

The tall man said, "Sounds reasonable. I didn't think of that."

"They saw me at a distance," said Lockley, "and I didn't see them.
They've got good eyes. They beat me up to the top of the mountain and
hid to see what I'd do. When they saw me looking the lake over after
checking up on Vale, they paralyzed me and brought me here. So they've
got eyes like ours."

"This guy Vale," said the chunky man. "What happened to him?"

Lockley said, "Probably what'll happen to us."

"Which is what?" asked the chunky man.

Lockley did not answer. He thought of Jill, waiting anxiously at the
edge of the woods not far from the camp. She'd surely have watched him
climbing. She might have followed his climb all the way to where he
went around to Vale's post. But she wouldn't have seen his capture and
she might be waiting for him now. It wasn't likely, though, that she'd
climb into the trap that had taken Vale and then himself. She must
realize that that spot was one to be avoided.

She'd probably try to make her way to his ditched car. She'd heard him
ask on short wave for a helicopter to come to that place to pick her
up. It hadn't been promised; in fact it had been refused. But if she
remained missing, surely someone would risk a low-level flight to find
out if she were waiting desperately for rescue. A light plane could
land on the highway if a helicopter wasn't to be risked. Somehow Jill
must find a way to safety. She was in danger because she'd waited
loyally for Vale to come to her at the camp. Now....

Time passed. Hot sunshine on their prison heated the metal. It became
unbearably hot inside. There came squeakings. The cover of the compost
pit shell lifted. Half a dozen wild birds were thrust into the
opening. The cover closed again. Lockley listened closely. It was
latched from the outside. There would naturally be a fastening on the
cover of a compost pit to keep bears from getting at the garbage it
was built to contain.

The heat grew savage. Thirst was a problem. Once and only once they
heard a noise from the world beyond their prison. It was a droning hum
which, even through a metal wall, could be nothing but the sound of a
helicopter. It droned and droned, very gradually becoming louder.
Then, abruptly, it cut off. That was all. And that was all that the
four in the metal tank knew about events outside of their own
experience.

But much was happening outside. Troop-carrying trucks had reached the
edge of Boulder Lake National Park, a very few hours after the workmen
from the camp had gotten out of it. They had a story to tell, and if
it lacked detail it did not lack imagination. The three missing men
had their fate described in various versions, all of which were
dramatic and terrifying. The two men who had been paralyzed by some
unknown agency described their sensations after their release. Their
stories were immediately relayed to all the news media. It now
appeared that dozens of men had seen the thing descend from the sky.
They had not compared notes, however, and their descriptions varied
from a black pear-shaped globe which had hovered for minutes before
descending behind the mountains into the lake, to detailed word
pictures of a silvery, torpedo-shaped vessel of space with portholes
and flaming rockets and an unknown flag displayed from a flagstaff.

Of course, none of those accounts could be right. The velocity of the
falling object, as reported from two radar installations, checked
against a seismograph record of the time of the impact in the lake and
allowed no leeway of time for it to hover in mid-air to be admired.

But there were enough detailed and first-hand accounts of alarming
events to make a second statement by the Defense Department necessary.
It was an over-correction of the first soothing one. It was intended
to be more soothing still.

It said blandly that a bolide--a slow-moving, large meteoric
object--had been observed by radar to be descending to earth. It had
been tracked throughout its descent. It had landed in Boulder Lake.
Air photos taken since its landing showed that an enormous disturbance
of the water of the lake had taken place. It had seemed wise to remove
workmen from the neighborhood of the meteoric fall, and the whole
occurrence had been made the occasion of a full-scale practice
emergency response by air and other defense forces. Investigation of
the possible bolide itself was under way.

The writer of the bulletin was obviously sitting on Vale's report and
that of the workmen so as to tell as little as possible and that
slanted to prevent alarm. The bulletin went on to say that there was
no justification for the alarming reports now spreading through the
country. This happening was not--repeat, was not--in any way
associated with the cold war of such long standing. It was simply a
very large meteor arriving from space and very fortunately falling in
a national park area, and even more fortunately into a deep crater
lake so that there was no damage even to the forests of the park.

The bulletin had no effect, of course. It was too late. It was
released at just about the time the temperature in the metal
prison--which seemed likely to become a metal coffin--had begun to
fall. The moving sun had gone behind a mountain and the compost pit
shell was in shadow once more.

Again the cover of that giant box was opened. A porcupine was dropped
inside. The cover went on again. This was, at a guess, about five
o'clock in the afternoon. The chunky man said drearily, "If this is
supposed to be the way they'll feed us, they coulda picked something
easier to eat than a porcupine!"

The box now held four men, three rabbits--panting in terror in one
corner--half a dozen game birds and the just-arrived porcupine. All
the wild creatures shrank away from the men. At any sudden movement
the birds tended to fly hysterically about in the dimness, dashing
themselves against the metal wall.

"I'd say," observed Lockley, "that his guess," he nodded at the tall
man, "is the most likely one. Rabbits and birds and porcupines would
be considered specimens of the local living creatures. We could be
considered specimens too. Maybe we are. Maybe we're simply being held
caged until there's time for a scientific examination of us. Let's
hope they don't happen to drop a bear down here to wait with us!"

The tall man said, "Or rattlers! I wonder what time it is. I'll feel
better when dark comes. They're not so likely to find rattlers in the
dark."

Lockley said nothing. But if Boulder Lake had been chosen for a
landing place on the basis of previously acquired information, it
wasn't likely that either bears or rattlesnakes would be put in
confinement with the men. The men would have been killed immediately,
unless there was a practical use to be made of them. He began to make
guesses. He could make a great many, but none of them added up exactly
right.

Only one seemed promising, and that assumed a lot of items Lockley
couldn't be sure of. He did know, though, that he'd been lifted up
before he was dropped into the round opening of this tank-like metal
shell. The top of the box was well above ground. It was not sunk in
place as it would eventually be. Evidently it was not yet in its
permanent position. The light inside was dim enough, but he could see
the other men and the animals and the birds. He could make out the
riveted plates which formed the box's sides and top.

Inconspicuously, he worked his hand down through the sand bottom of
the prison. Four inches down the sand ended and there was earth. He
felt around. He found grass stems. The box, then, rested on top of the
ground, which was perfectly natural for a compost pit shell not yet
placed where it would finally belong. The sand.... He explored
further.

He waited. The other three stayed quiet. The faint brightness around
the cover hole faded away. The interior of the tank-like box became
abysmally black.

"Can anybody guess the time?" he asked, after aeons seemed to have
passed.

"It feels like next Thursday," said the voice of the moustached man,
"but it's probably ten or eleven o'clock. Looks like we're just going
to be left here till they get around to us."

"I think we'd better not wait," said Lockley. "We've been pretty
quiet. They probably think we're well-behaved specimens of this
planet's wild life. They won't expect us to try anything this late.
Suppose we get out."

"How?" demanded the chunky man.

Lockley said carefully, "This box is resting on top of the ground.
I've dug down through the sand and found the bottom edge of the metal
sidewall. If it's resting only on dirt, not stone, we ought to be able
to dig out with our hands. I'll start now. You listen."

He began to dig with his hands, first clearing away the sand for a
reasonable space. He felt a certain sardonic interest in what might
happen. He strongly suspected that nothing undesirable would take
place.

It was at least quaint that aliens from outer space should accept a
bottomless metal shell as a suitable prison for animals. It was quaint
that they'd put in a sandy floor. How would they know that such a
thing meant a cage, on earth?

Of course the whole event might have been a test of animal
intelligence. Almost any animal would have tried to burrow out.

Lockley dug. The earth was hard, and its upper part was filled with
tenacious grass roots. Lockley pulled them away. Once he'd gotten
under them, the digging went faster. Presently he was under the metal
side wall. He dug upward. His hand reached open air.

"One of you can spell me now," he reported in a low tone. "It looks
like we'll get away. But we've got to make our plans first. We don't
want to be talking outside the tank, or even when the hole's
fair-sized. For instance, will we want to keep together when we get
outside?"

"Nix!" said the chunky man. "We wanna tell everybody about these
characters. We scatter. If they catch one they don't catch any more.
We couldn't fight any better for bein' together. We better scatter. I
call that settled. I'm scatterin'!"

He crawled to Lockley in the darkness.

"Where you diggin'? OK. I got it. Move aside an' give me room."

"Everybody agrees on that?" asked Lockley.

They did. Lockley was relieved. The chunky man dug busily. There was
only the sound of breathing, and the occasional fall of thrown-out
earth against the metal of the thing that confined them. The chunky
man said briskly, "This dirt digs all right. We just got to make the
hole bigger."

In a little while the chunky man stopped, panting. The tall man said,
"I'll take a shot at it."

There was a breakthrough to the air outside. The atmosphere in the
tank improved. The smell of fresh-dug dirt and cool night air was
refreshing. The moustached man took his turn at digging. Lockley went
at it again. Soon he whispered, "I think it's OK. I'll go ahead. No
talking outside!"

He shook hands all around, whispered "Good luck!" and squirmed through
the opening to the night. Innumerable stars glittered in the sky. They
were reflected on the water of the lake, here very close. Lockley
moved silently. In the blackness just behind him, his eyes had become
adjusted to almost complete darkness. He headed away from the shining
water. He got brushwood between himself and his former companions. He
stood very, very still.

He heard them murmuring together. They were outside. But they had
proposed entirely separate efforts at escape. He went on, relieved. It
happened that the next time he'd see them, circumstances would be
entirely different. But he believed they were competent men.

Guided by the Big Dipper, he moved directly toward the place where
Jill should be waiting for him. By the angle of the Dipper's handle he
knew that it was almost midnight. Jill would surely have known that
nearly the worst had happened. He'd have to find her....

It was two o'clock when he reached the place where Jill had intended
to wait. He showed himself openly. He called quietly. There was no
answer. He called again, and again.

He saw something white. It was a scrap of paper speared on a brushwood
branch which had been stripped of leaves to make the paper show
clearly. Lockley retrieved it and saw markings on it which the
starlight could not help him to read. He went deep into the woods,
found a hollow, and bent low, risking the light of his cigarette
lighter for a swift look at the message.

     _"I saw creatures moving around in the camp. They weren't
     men. I was afraid they might be hunting me. I've gone to
     wait by the car if I can find it."_

She'd written in English, in full confidence that creatures from space
would not be able to read it. Lockley was not so sure, but the message
hadn't been removed. If it had been read, there'd have been an ambush
waiting for him when he found it. So it appeared.

He headed through the night toward the ditched small car.

It seemed a very long way, though he did stop and drink his fill from
a little mountain stream over which a highway bridge had almost been
completed. In the night, though, and with hard going, it was not easy
to estimate how far he'd gone. In fact, he was anxiously debating if
he mightn't have passed the abandoned bulldozer when he came upon the
place where blasting had been going on. Still, it was a very long way
to be negotiated over still-remaining tree stumps and the unfilled
holes from which others had been pulled.

He reached the bulldozer and turned south, and at long last reached
the highway. His car should be no more than a quarter-mile away. He
moved toward it, close to the road's edge. He heard music. It was
faint, but vivid because it was the last sound that anybody would
expect to hear in the hours before dawn in a wilderness deserted by
mankind. He scraped his foot on the roadway. The music stopped
instantly. He said, "Jill?"

He heard her gasp.

"I found where Vale had been," he said steadily. "There was no blood
there. There's no sign that he's been killed. Then I was caught
myself. I was put with three other men who were believed killed but
who are still alive. We escaped. It is within reason to hope that Vale
is unharmed and that he may escape or somehow be rescued."

What he said was partly to make her sure that it was he who appeared
in the darkness. But it was technically true, too. It was within
reason to hope for Vale's ultimate safety. One can always hope,
whatever the odds against the thing hoped for. But Lockley thought
that the odds against Vale's living through the events now in progress
were very great indeed.

Jill stepped out into the starlight.

"I wasn't--sure it was you," she said with difficulty. "I saw the
things, you know, at a distance. At first I thought they were men. So
when I first saw you--dimly--I was afraid."

"I'm sorry I haven't better news," said Lockley.

"It's good news! It's very good news," she insisted as he drew near.
"If they've captured him, he'll make them understand that he's a man,
and that men are intelligent and not just animals, and that they
should be our friends and we theirs."

The girl's voice was resolute. Lockley could imagine that all the time
she'd been waiting, she'd been preparing to deny that even the worst
news was final, until she looked on Vale's dead body itself.

"Do you want to tell me exactly what you found out?" she asked.

"I'll tell you while I work on the car," said Lockley. "We want to get
moving away from here before daybreak."

He went down to the little car, wedged in the saplings it had
splintered and broken. He began to clear it so he could lever it back
on to the highway. He used a broken sapling, and as he worked he told
what had happened, including the three men in the compost pit shell
and the dumping of assorted small wild life specimens into it with
them.

"But they didn't kill you," said Jill insistently, "and they didn't
kill those three, and there were the two others you say got over the
paralysis and went back to the camp. Counting you, that's six men they
had at their mercy that we know weren't harmed. So why should they
have harmed a seventh man?"

Lockley did not answer at once. None of the spared six, he thought,
had put up a fight. Only Vale had exchanged blows with the crew of the
spaceship. Nobody else had seen them.

"That's right, about Vale," he said after a moment in which he had
been busy. "But this doesn't look good!"

He felt under the car. He squeezed himself beneath its front end.
There was a small, fugitive flicker of flame. It went out and he was
silent.

Presently he got to his feet and said evenly, "We're in a fix. One of
the front wheels is turned almost at a right angle to the other. A
king pin is broken. The car couldn't be driven even if I managed to
get it up on the road. We've got to walk. There ought to be soldiers
on the way up to the lake today. If we meet them we'll be all right.
But this is bad luck!"

It happened that he was mistaken on both counts. There were no
soldiers moving into the park, and it was not bad luck that his car
couldn't be driven. If he'd been able to get it on the road and
trundling down the highway, the car would have been wrecked and they
could very well have been killed. But this was for the future to
disclose.

They took nothing from the car because they could not see beyond the
present. They started out doggedly to follow the highway that soldiers
would be likely to follow on the way to the lake. It was not the
shortest way to the world outside the Park. It was considerably longer
than a footpath would have been. But Lockley expected tanks, at least,
against which eccentric unearthly weapons would be useless. So they
headed down the main highway. Lockley was unarmed. They had no food.
He hadn't eaten since the morning before.

When day came--gray and still--and presently the dew upon grass and
tree leaves glittered reflections of the sky, he moved aside into the
woods and found a broken-off branch, out of which by very great effort
he made a club. When he came back, Jill was listening attentively to
the little pocket radio. She turned it off.

"I was hoping for news," she explained determinedly. "The government
knows that there are creatures in the spaceship, and he--" that would
be Vale "--will be trying to make them understand what kind of beings
we are. So there could be friendly communication almost any time. But
there aren't any news broadcasts on the air. I suppose it's too
early."

He agreed, with reservations. They made their way along the dew-wetted
surface of the highway. As the light grew stronger, Lockley glanced
again and again at Jill's face. She looked very tired. He reflected
sadly that she was thinking of Vale. She'd never thought twice about
Lockley. Even now, or especially now, all her thoughts were for Vale.

When sunlight appeared on the peaks around them, he said detachedly,
"You've had no rest for twenty-four hours and I doubt that you've had
anything to eat. Neither have I. If troops come up this highway we'll
hear the engines. I think we'd better get off the highway and try to
rest. And I may be able to find something for us to eat."

There are few wildernesses so desolate as to offer no food at all for
one who knows what to look for. There is usually some sort of berry
available. One kind of acorn is not bad to eat. Shoots of bracken are
not unlike asparagus. There are some spiny wild plants whose leaves,
if plucked young enough, will yield some nourishment and of course
there are mushrooms. Even on stone one can find liverish rock-tripe
which is edible if one dries it to complete dessication before soaking
it again to make a soup or broth.

Before he searched for food, though, Lockley said abruptly, "You said
you saw the creatures and they weren't men. What did they look like?"

"They were a long way away," Jill told him. "I didn't see them
clearly. They're about the size of men but they just aren't men. Far
away as they were, I could tell that!"

Lockley considered. He shrugged and said, "Rest. I'll be back."

He moved away. He was hungry and he kept his eyes in motion, looking
for something to take back to Jill. But his mind struggled to form a
picture of a creature who'd be the size of a man but would be known
not to be a man even at a distance; whose difference from mankind
couldn't be described because seen at such great distance. Presently
he shook his head impatiently and gave all his attention to the search
for food.

He found a patch of berries on a hillside where there was enough earth
for berry bushes, but not for trees. Bears had been at them, but there
were many left.

He filled his hat with them and made his way back to Jill. She had the
pocket radio on again, but at the lowest possible volume. He put the
berry-filled hat down beside her. She held up a warning hand. Speckles
of sunshine trickled down through the foliage and the tree trunks were
spotted with yellow light. They ate the berries as they heard the
news.

A new official news release was out. And now, twelve hours after the
last, wholly reassuring bulletin, there was no longer any pretense
that the thing in Boulder Lake was merely a meteorite.

The pretext that it was a natural object, said the news broadcaster,
resuming, had been abandoned. But reassurance continued. Photographic
planes had been attempting to get a picture of the alien ship as it
floated in the lake. So far no satisfactory image had been secured,
but pictures of wreckage caused by an enormous wave generated in the
lake by the alien spaceship's arrival were sharp and clear. Troops
have been posted in a cordon about the Boulder Lake Park area to
prevent unauthorized persons from swarming in to see earth's visitors
from space. Details of its landing continue to be learned. Workmen
from the construction camp have been questioned, and the two men who
were paralyzed and then released have told their story. So far four
human beings are known to have been seized by the occupants of the
spaceship. One is Vale, an eye-witness to the ship's descent and
landing. The three others went to investigate the gigantic explosion
accompanying the landing in the lake. They have not been seen since.
This, however, does not imply that they are dead. Quite possibly the
invaders--aliens--guests--who have landed on American soil are trying
to learn how to communicate with the American people who are their
hosts.

Lockley watched Jill's face. As she heard the references to Vale, she
went white, but she saw Lockley looking at her and said fiercely,
"They don't know that the visitors didn't kill you and let you and the
other three men escape. Someone ought to tell these broadcasters...."

Lockley did not answer. In his own mind, though, there was the fact
that of the two workmen who'd been paralyzed and released, the three
men in the compost pit shell, and himself, none had seen their
captors. But Vale had.

The broadcaster went on with a fine air of confidence, reporting that
yesterday afternoon a helicopter had flown into the mountains to
examine the landing site in detail since it could not be examined from
a high-flying plane.

Lockley remembered the droning he and the others had heard through the
metal plates of their prison.

The helicopter had suddenly ceased to communicate. It is believed to
have had engine trouble. However, later on a fast jet had attempted a
flight below the extreme altitude of the photographic planes. Its
pilot reported that at fifteen thousand feet he'd suddenly smelled an
appalling odor. Then he was blinded, deafened, and his muscles knotted
in spasms. He was paralyzed. The experience lasted for seconds only.
It was as if he'd flown into a searchlight beam which produced those
sensations and then had flown out of it. He'd instinctively used
evasive maneuvers and got away, but twice before he passed the horizon
there were instantaneous flashes of the paralysis and the pain.
Scientists determined that the report of the men who'd been paralyzed
and released agreed with the report of the pilot. It was assumed that
whatever or whoever had landed in Boulder Lake possessed a beam--it
might as well be called a terror beam because of the effects it
had--of some sort of radiation which produced the paralysis and the
agony. Unless the three men missing from the construction camp had
died of it, however, it was not to be considered a death ray.

The news went on with every appearance of frankness and confidence. It
was natural for strangers on a strange planet to take precautions
against possibly hostile inhabitants of the newly-found world. But
every effort would be exerted to make friendly contact and establish
peaceful communications with the beings from space. Their weapon
appeared to be of limited range and so far not lethal to human beings.
Occasional flashes of its effects had been noted by the troops now
forming a cordon about the Park, but it only produced discomfort, not
paralysis. Nevertheless the troops in question have been moved back.
Meanwhile rocket missiles are being moved to areas where they can
deliver atom bombs on the alien ship if it should prove necessary. But
the government is extremely anxious to make this contact with
extra-terrestrials a friendly one, because contact with a race more
advanced than ourselves could be of inestimable value to us. Therefore
atom bombs will be used only as a last resort. An atom bomb would
destroy aliens and their ship together--and we want the ship. The
public is urged to be calm. If the ship should appear dangerous, it
can and will be smashed.

The news broadcast ended.

Jill said, obviously speaking of Vale, "He'll make them realize that
men aren't like porcupines and rabbits! When they realize that we
humans are intelligent people, everything will be all right!"

Lockley said reluctantly, "There's one thing to remember, though,
Jill. They didn't blindfold the rabbits or the porcupine. They only
blindfolded men."

She stared at him.

"One of the men in the pit with me," said Lockley, "thought they
didn't want us to see them because they were monsters. That's not
likely." He paused. "Maybe they blindfolded us to keep us from finding
out they aren't."



CHAPTER 4


"The evidence," said Lockley as Jill looked at him ashen-faced, "the
evidence is all for monsters. But there was something in that
broadcast that calls for courage, and I want to summon it. We're going
to need it."

"If they aren't monsters," said Jill in a stricken voice, "Then--then
they're men. And we have a cold war with only one country, and they're
the only ones who'd play a deadly trick like this. So if they aren't
monsters, in the ship, they must be men, and they'd kill anybody who
found it out."

"But again," insisted Lockley, "the evidence is still all for
monsters. You've been very loyal and very confident about Vale. But
we're in a fix. Vale would want you in a safe place, and there's
something in that broadcast that doesn't look good."

"What was in the broadcast?"

Lockley said wryly, "Two things. One was there and one wasn't. There
wasn't anything about soldiers marching up to Boulder Lake to welcome
visitors from wherever they come from, and to say politely to them
that as visitors they are our guests and we'd rather they didn't shoot
terror beams or paralysis beams about the landscape. We were more or
less counting on that, you and I. We were expecting soldiers to come
up the highway headed for the lake. But they aren't coming."

Jill, still pale, wrinkled her forehead in thought.

"That's what wasn't in the broadcast," Lockley told her. "This is what
was. The troops have formed a cordon about the Park. They've run into
the terror beam. The broadcast said it was weakened by distance and
only made the soldiers uncomfortable. But they've moved back. You see
the point? They've moved back!"

Jill stared, suddenly understanding.

"But that means--"

"It means," said Lockley, "that the terror beam is pretty much of a
weapon. It has a range up in the miles or tens of miles. We don't know
how to handle it yet. Whoever or whatever arrived in the thing Vale
saw, it or they has or have a weapon our Army can't buck, yet. The
point is that we can't wait to be rescued. We've got to get out of
here on our own feet. Literally. So we forget about highways. From
here on we sneak to safety as best we can. And we've got to put our
whole minds on it."

Jill shook her head as if to drive certain thoughts out of it. Then
she said, "I guess you're right. He would want me to be safe. And if I
can't do anything to help him, at least I can not make him worry. All
right! What does sneaking to safety mean?"

Lockley led her down the highway running from Boulder Lake to the
outside world. They came to a blasted-out cut for the highway to run
through. The road's concrete surface extended to the solid rock on
either side. There was no bare earth to take or hold footprints, and
there was a climbable slope.

"We go up here and take to the woods," said Lockley, "because we're
not as easy to spot in woodland as we'd be on a road. The characters
at the lake will know what roads are. If we figure out how to handle
their terror beam, they'll expect the attack to come by road. So
they'll set up a system to watch the roads. They ought to do it as
soon as possible. So we'll avoid notice by not using the roads. It's
lucky you've got good walking shoes on. That could be the deciding
factor in our staying alive."

He led the way, helping her climb. There would be no sign that they'd
abandoned the highway. In fact, there'd be no sign of their existence
except the small smashed car. Lockley's existence was known, but not
his and Jill's together.

Lockley did not feel comfortable about having deliberately shocked
Jill into paying some attention to her own situation instead of
staying absorbed in the possible or probable fate of Vale. But for
them to get clear was going to call for more than sentimentality on
Jill's part. Lockley couldn't carry the load alone.

There was an invasion in process. It could be, apparently, an invasion
from space, in which case the terror produced would be terror of the
unknown. But Lockley had conceived of the possibility that it might be
an invasion only from the other side of the world. Such an invasion
was thought of by every American at least once every twenty-four
hours. The fears it would arouse would be fears of the all too
thoroughly known.

The whole earth had the jitters because of the apparently inevitable
trial of strength between its two most gigantic powers. Their rivalry
seemed irreconcilable. Most of humanity dreaded their conflict with
appalled resignation because there seemed no way to avoid it. Yet it
was admittedly possible that an all-out war between them might end
with all the world dead, even plants and microbes in the deepest seas.
It was ironic that the most reasonable hope that anybody could have
was that one or the other nation would come upon some weapon so new
and irresistible that it could demand and receive the surrender of the
other without atomic war.

Atom bombs could have done the trick, had only one nation owned them.
But both were now armed so that by treacherous attack either could
almost wipe out the other. There was no way to guard against desperate
and terrible retaliation by survivors of the first attacked country.
It was the certainty of retaliation which kept the actual war a cold
one--a war of provocation and trickery and counter-espionage, but not
of mutual extermination.

But Lockley had suggested--because it was the worst of
possibilities--that America's rival had developed a new weapon which
could win so long as it was not attributed to its user. If the United
States believed itself attacked from space, it would not launch
missiles against men. It would ask help, and help would be given even
by its rival if the invasion were from another planet. Men would
always combine against not-men. But if this were a ship from no
farther than the other side of the earth, and only pretended to be
from an alien world ... America could be conquered because it believed
it was fighting monsters instead of other men.

This was not likely, but it was believable. There was no proof, but in
the nature of things proof would be avoided. And if his idea should
happen to be true, the disaster could be enormously worse than an
invasion from another star. This first landing could be only a test to
make sure that the new weapon was unknown to America and could not be
countered by Americans. The crew of this ship would expect to be
successful or be killed. In a way, if an atom bomb had to be used to
destroy them, they would have succeeded. Because other ships could
land in American cities where they could not be bombed without killing
millions; where they could demand surrender under pain of death. And
get it.

Lockley looked at the sun. He glanced at his watch.

"That would be south," he indicated. "It's the shortest way for us to
get to where you'll be reasonably safe and I can tell what I know to
someone who may use it."

Jill followed obediently. They disappeared into the woods. They could
not be seen from the highway. They could not even be detected from
aloft. When they had gone a mile, Jill made her one and final protest.

"But it can't be that they aren't monsters! They must be!"

"Whatever they are," said Lockley, "I don't want them to lay hands on
you."

They went on. Once, from the edge of a thicket of trees, they saw the
highway below them and to their left. It was empty. It curved out of
sight, swinging to the left again. They moved uphill and down. Now the
going was easy, through woods with very little underbrush and a carpet
of fallen leaves. Again it was a sunlit slope with prickly bushes to
be avoided. And yet again it was boulder-strewn terrain that might be
nearly level but much more often was a hillside.

Lockley suddenly stopped short. He felt himself go white. He grasped
Jill's hand and whirled. He practically dragged her back to the patch
of woods they'd just left.

"What's the matter?" The sight of his face made her whisper.

He motioned to her for silence. He'd smelled something. It was faint
but utterly revolting. It was the smell of jungle and of foulness.
There was the musky reek of reptiles in it. It was a collection of all
the smells that could be imagined. It was horrible. It was infinitely
worse than the smell of skunk.

Silence. Stillness. Birds sang in the distance. But nothing happened.
Absolutely nothing. After a long time Lockley said suddenly, "I've got
an idea. It fits into that broadcast. I have to take a chance to find
out. If anything happens to me, don't try to help me!"

He'd smelled the foul odor at least fifteen minutes before, and had
dragged Jill back, and there had been no other sign of monsters or
not-monsters upon the earth. Now he crouched down and crawled among
the bushes. He came to the place where he'd smelled the ghastly smell
before. He smelled it again. He drew back. It became fainter, though
it remained disgusting. He moved forward, stopped, moved back. He went
sideways, very, very carefully, extending his hand before him.

He stopped abruptly. He came back, his face angry.

"We were lucky we couldn't use the car," he said when he was near Jill
again. "We'd have been killed or worse."

She waited, her eyes frightened.

"The thing that paralyzes men and animals," he told her, "is a
projected beam of some sort. We almost ran into it. It's probably akin
to radar. I thought they'd put watchers on the highways. They did
better. They project this beam. When it blocks a highway, anybody who
comes along that highway runs into it. His eyes become blinded by
fantastic colored lights, and he hears unbearable noises and feels
anguish and they smell what we smelled just now. And he's paralyzed.
Such a beam was turned on me yesterday and I was captured. A beam like
that on the highway at the lake paralyzed three men who were carried
away, and later two others whose car ditched and who stayed paralyzed
until the beam was turned off."

"But we only smelled something horrible!" protested Jill.

"You did. I rushed you away. I'd smelled it before. But I went back.
And I smelled it, and I crawled forward a little way and I began to
see flashes of light and to hear noises and my skin tingled. I pushed
my hand ahead of me--and it became paralyzed. Until I pulled it back."
Then he said, "Come on."

"What will we do?"

"We change our line of march. If we drove into it or walked into it
we'd be paralyzed. It's a tight beam, but there's just a little
scatter. Just a little. You might say it leaks at its edges. We'll try
to follow alongside until it thins out to nothing or we get where we
want to go. Unless," he added, "they've got another beam that crosses
it. Then we'll be trapped."

He led the way onward.

They covered four miles of very bad going before Jill showed signs of
distress and Lockley halted beside a small, rushing stream. He saw
fish in the clear water and tried to improvise a way to catch them. He
failed. He said gloomily, "It wouldn't do to catch fish here anyhow. A
fire to cook them would show smoke by day and might be seen at night.
And whatever's at the Lake might send a terror beam. We'll leave here
when you're rested."

He examined the stream. He went up and down its bank. He disappeared
around a curve of the stream. Jill waited, at first uneasily, then
anxiously.

He came back with his hands full of bracken shoots, their ends tightly
curled and their root ends fading almost to white.

"I'm afraid," he observed, "that this is our supper. It'll taste a lot
like raw asparagus, which tastes a lot like raw peanuts, and a
one-dish meal of it won't stick to your ribs. That's the trouble with
eating wild stuff. It's mostly on the order of spinach."

"I'll carry them," said Jill.

She actually looked at him for the first time. Until she found herself
anxious because he was out of sight for a long time, she hadn't really
regarded him as an individual. He'd been only a person who was helping
her because Vale wasn't available. Now she assured herself that Vale
would be very grateful to him for aiding her. "I'm rested now," she
added.

He nodded and led the way once more. He watched the sun for direction.
Two or three miles from their first halt he said abruptly, "I think
the terror beam should be over yonder." He waved an arm. "I've got an
idea about it. I'll see."

"Be careful!" said Jill uneasily.

He nodded and swung away, moving with a peculiar tentativeness. She
knew that he was testing for the smell which was the first symptom of
approach to the alien weapon.

He halted half a mile from where Jill watched, resting again while she
gazed after him. He moved backward and forward. He marked a place with
a stone. He came well back from it and seemed to remove his wrist
watch. He laid it on a boulder and stamped on it. He stamped again and
again, shifting it between stampings. Then he pounded it with a small
rock. He stood up and came back, trailing something which glittered
golden for an instant.

He halted before he reached the rock he'd placed as a marker. He did
cryptic things, facing away from Jill. From time to time there was a
golden glitter in the air near him.

He came back. As he came, he wound something into a little coil. It
was the silicon bronze mainspring of his non-magnetic watch. He held
it for her to see and put it in his pocket.

"I know what the terror beam is--for what good it'll do!" he said
bitterly. "It's a beam of radiation on the order of radar, and for
that matter X-rays and everything else. Only an aerial does pick it up
and this watchspring makes a good one. I could barely detect the smell
at a certain place, but when I touched the laid out spring, it picked
up more than my body did and it became horrible! Then I moved in to
where my skin began to tingle and I saw lights and heard noises. The
spring made all the difference in the world. I even found the
direction of the beam."

Jill looked frightened.

"It comes from Boulder Lake," he told her. "It's the terror beam, all
right! You can walk into it without knowing it. And I suspect that if
it were strong enough it would be a death ray, too!"

Jill seemed to flinch a little.

"They're not using it at killing strength," said Lockley coldly.
"They're softening us up. Letting us find out we're frustrated and
helpless, and then letting us think it over. I'll bet they intended
the four of us to escape from that compost pit thing so we could tell
about it! But we'll know, now, if we find dead men in rows in a
wiped-out town, we'll know what killed them, and when they ask us
politely to become their slaves, we'll know we'll have to do it or
die!"

Jill waited. When he seemed to have finished, she said, "If they're
monsters, do you think they want to enslave us?"

He hesitated, and then said with a grimace, "I've a habit, Jill, of
looking forward to the future and expecting unpleasant things to
happen. Maybe it's so I'll be pleasantly surprised when they don't."

"Suppose," said Jill, "that they aren't monsters. What then?"

"Then," said Lockley, "it's a cold war device, to find out if the
other side in the cold war can take us over without our suspecting
they're the ones doing it. Naturally those in this ship will blow
themselves up rather than be found out."

"Which," said Jill steadily, "doesn't offer much hope for...."

She didn't say Vale's name. She couldn't. Lockley grimaced again.

"It's not certain, Jill. The evidence is on the side of the monsters.
But in either case the thing for us to do is get to the Army with what
I've found out. I've had a stationary beam to test, however crudely.
The cordon must have been pushed back by a moving or an intermittent
beam. It wouldn't be easy to experiment with one of those. Come on."

She stood up. She followed when he went on. They climbed steep
hillsides and went down into winding valleys. The sun began to sink in
the west. The going was rough. For Lockley, accustomed to wilderness
travel, it was fatiguing. For Jill it was much worse.

They came to a sere, bare hillside on which neither trees nor
brushwood grew. It amounted to a natural clearing, acres in extent.
Lockley swept his eyes around. There were many thick-foliaged small
trees attempting to advance into the clear space. He grunted in
satisfaction.

"Sit down and rest," he commanded. "I'll send a message."

He broke off branches from dark green conifers. He went out into the
clearing and began to lay them out in a pattern. He came back and
broke off more, and still more. Very slowly, because the lines had to
be large and thick, the letters S.O.S. appeared in dark green on the
clayey open space. The letters were thirty feet high, and the lines
were five feet wide. They should show distinctly from the air.

"I think," said Lockley with satisfaction, "that we might get
something out of this! If it's sighted, a 'copter might risk coming in
after us." He looked at her appraisingly. "I think you'd enjoy a good
meal."

"I want to say something," said Jill carefully. "I think you've been
trying to cheer me up, after saying something to arouse me--which I
needed. If the creatures aren't monsters, they'll never actually let
anybody loose who's seen that they aren't. Isn't that true? And if it
is--"

"We know of six men who were captured," insisted Lockley, "and I was
one of them. All six escaped. Vale may have escaped. They're not good
at keeping prisoners. We don't know and can't know unless it's
mentioned on a news broadcast that he's out and away. So there's
absolutely no reason to assume that Vale is dead."

"But if he saw them, when he was fighting them--"

"The evidence," insisted Lockley again, "is that he saw monsters. The
only reason to doubt it is that they blindfolded four of us."

Jill seemed to think very hard. Presently she said resolutely, "I'm
going to keep on hoping anyhow!"

"Good girl!" said Lockley.

They waited. He was impatient, both with fate and with himself. He
felt that he'd made Jill face reality when--if this S.O.S. signal
brought help--it wasn't necessary. And there was enough of grimness in
the present situation to make it cruelty.

After a very long time they heard a faint droning in the air. There
might have been others when they were trudging over bad terrain, and
they might not have noticed because they were not listening for such
sounds. There were planes aloft all around the lake area. They'd been
sent up originally in response to a radar warning of something coming
in from space. Now they flew in vast circles around the landing place
of that reported object. They flew high, so high that only contrails
would have pointed them out. But atmospheric conditions today were
such that contrails did not form. The planes were invisible from the
ground.

But the pilots could see. When one patrol group was relieved by
another, it carried high-magnification photographs of all the park, to
be developed and examined with magnifying glasses for any signs of
activity by the crew of the object from space.

A second lieutenant spotted the S.O.S. within half an hour of the
films' return. There was an immediate and intense conference. The
lengths of shadows were measured. The size and slope and probable
condition of the clearing's surface were estimated.

A very light plane, intended for artillery-spotting, took off from the
nearest airfield to Boulder Lake.

And Lockley and Jill heard it long before it came in sight. It flew
low, threading its way among valleys and past mountain-flanks to avoid
being spotted against the sky. The two beside the clearing heard it
first as a faint mutter. The sound increased, diminished, then
increased again.

It shot over a minor mountain-flank and surveyed the bare space with
the huge letters on it. Lockley and Jill raced out into view, waving
frantically. The plane circled and circled, estimating the landing
conditions. It swung away to arrive at a satisfactory approach path.

It wavered. It made a half-wingover, and it side-slipped crazily, and
came up and stalled and flipped on its back and dived....

And it came out of its insane antics barely twenty feet above the
ground. It raced away as close as possible to touching its wheels to
earth. It went away behind the mountains. The sound of its going
dwindled and dwindled and was gone. It appeared to have escaped from a
deliberately set trap.

Lockley stared after it. Then he went white.

"Idiot!" he cried fiercely. "Come on! Run!"

He seized Jill's hand. They fled together. Evidently, something had
played upon the pilot of the light plane. He'd been deafened and
blinded and all his senses were a shrieking tumult while his muscles
knotted and his hands froze on the controls of his ship. He hadn't
flown out of the beam that made him helpless. He'd fallen out of it.
And then he raced for the horizon. He got away. And it would appear to
those to whom he reported that he'd arrived too late at the
distress-signal. If fugitives had made it, they'd been overtaken and
captured by the creatures of Boulder Lake, and there'd been an ambush
set up for the plane. It was a reasonable decision.

But it puzzled the pilot's superior officers that he hadn't been
allowed to land the plane before the beam was turned on him. He could
have been paralyzed while on the ground, and he and his plane could
have yielded considerable information to creatures from another world.
It was puzzling.

Lockley and Jill raced for the woodland at the clearing's edge.
Lockley clamped his lips tight shut to waste no breath in speech. The
arrival and the circling of the plane had been a public notice that
there were fugitives here. If the beam could paralyze a pilot in
mid-air, it could be aimed at fugitives on the ground.... There could
be no faintest hope....

Wholly desperate, Lockley helped Jill down a hillside and into a
valley leading still farther down.

He smelled jungle, and muskiness, and decay, and flowers, and every
conceivable discordant odor. Flashes of insane colorings formed
themselves in his eyes. He heard the chaotic uproar which meant that
his auditory nerves, like the nerves in his eyes and nostrils and
skin, were stimulated to violent activity, reporting every kind of
message they could possibly report all at once.

He groaned. He tried to find a hiding-place for Jill so that if or
when the invaders searched for her, they would not find her. But he
expected his muscles to knot in spasm and cramp before he could
accomplish anything.

They didn't. The smell lessened gradually. The meaningless flashings
of preposterous color grew faint. The horrible uproar his auditory
nerves reported, ceased. He and Jill had been at the mercy of the
unseen operator of the terror beam. Perhaps the beam had grazed them,
by accident. Or it could have been weakened....

It was very puzzling.



CHAPTER 5


When darkness fell, Lockley and Jill were many miles away from the
clearing where he had made the S.O.S. They were under a dense screen
of leaves from a monster tree whose roots rose above ground at the
foot of its enormous trunk. They formed a shelter of sorts against
observation from a distance. Lockley had spotted a fallen tree far
gone with wood-rot. He broke pieces of the punky stuff with his
fingers. Then he realized that without a pot the bracken shoots he'd
gathered could not be cooked. They had to be boiled or not cooked at
all.

"We'll call it a salad," he told Jill, "minus vinegar and oil and
garlic, and eat what we can."

She'd been pale with exhaustion before the sun sank, but he hadn't
dared let her rest more than was absolutely necessary. Once he'd
offered to carry her for a while, but she'd refused. Now she sat
drearily in the shelter of the roots, resting.

"We might try for news," he suggested.

She made an exhausted gesture of assent. He turned on the tiny radio
and tuned it in. There was no scarcity of news, now. A few days past,
news went on the air on schedule, mostly limited to five-minute
periods in which to cover all the noteworthy events of the world. Part
of that five minutes, too, was taken up by advertising matter from a
sponsor. Now music was rare. There were occasional melodies, but most
were interrupted for new interpretations of the threat to earth at
Boulder Lake. Every sort of prominent person was invited to air his
views about the thing from the sky and the creatures it brought. Most
had no views but only an urge to talk to a large audience. Something,
though, had to be put on the air between commercials.

The actual news was specific. Small towns around the fringe of the
Park area were being evacuated of all their inhabitants. Foreign
scientists had been flown to the United States and were at the
temporary area command post not far from Boulder Lake. Rocket missiles
were aimed and ready to blast the lake and the mountains around it
should the need arise. A drone plane had been flown to the lake with a
television camera transmitting back everything its lens saw. It
arrived at the lake and its camera relayed back exactly nothing that
had not been photographed and recorded before. But suddenly there was
a crash of static and the drone went out of control and crashed. Its
camera faithfully transmitted the landscape spinning around until its
destruction. Military transmitters were beaming signals on every
conceivable frequency to what was now universally called the alien
spaceship. They had received no replies. The foreign scientists had
agreed that the terror beam--paralysis beam--death beam--was
electronic in nature.

Lockley had thought Jill asleep from pure weariness, but her voice
came out of the darkness beside the big tree trunk.

"You found that out!" she said. "About its being electronic!"

"I had a sample stationary beam to check on," said Lockley. "They
haven't. Which may be a bad thing. Nobody's going to make useful
observations of something that makes him blind and deaf and paralyzed
while he's in the act. There are some things that puzzle me about
that. Why haven't they killed anybody yet? They've got the public
about as scared as it can get without some killing. And why didn't we
get the full force of the beam after the plane had been driven away?
They could have given us the full treatment if they'd wanted to. Why
didn't they?"

"If people run away from the towns," said Jill's voice, very tired and
sleepy, "maybe they think that's enough. They can take the towns...."

Lockley did not answer, and Jill said no more. Her breathing became
deep and regular. She was so weary that even hunger could not keep her
awake.

Lockley tried to think. There was the matter of food. Bracken shoots
were common enough but unsubstantial. It would need more careful
observation to note all the likely spots for mushrooms. Perhaps they
were far enough from the lake to take more time hunting food. They
were almost exactly in the situation of Australian bushmen who live
exclusively by foraging, with some not-too-efficient hunting. But
Australian savages were not as finicky as Jill and himself. They ate
grubs and insects. For this sort of situation, prejudices were a
handicap.

He considered the idea with sardonic appreciation. Two days of
inadequate food and such ideas came! But he and Jill wouldn't be the
only ones to think such things if matters continued as they were
going. The towns around Boulder Lake were being evacuated. The cordon
about it had been made to retreat. There was panic not only in
America, but everywhere. In Europe there were wild rumors of other
landings of other ships of space. The stock markets would undoubtedly
close tomorrow, if they hadn't closed today. There'd be the beginning
of a mass exodus from the larger cities, starting quietly but building
up to frenzy as those who tried to leave jammed all the routes by
which they could get away. If the creatures of the spaceship wanted
more than the flight of all humans from about their landing place,
there would be genuine trouble. Let them move aggressively and there
would be panic and disorder and pure catastrophe, with self-exiled
city dwellers desperate from hunger because they were away from market
centers. It looked as if a dozen or two monsters could wreck a
civilization without the need to kill one single human being directly.

He heard a sound. He turned off the radio, gripping the clumsy club
which was probably useless against anything really threatening.

The sound continued. There were rustlings of leaves, and then faint
rattling, almost clicking noises. Whatever the creature was, it was
not large. It seemed to amble tranquilly through the forest and the
night, neither alarmed nor considering itself alarming.

The clickings again. And suddenly Lockley knew what it was. Of course!
He'd heard it in the compost pit shell, when he was a prisoner of the
invaders from space. He rose and moved toward the noise. The creature
did not run away. It went about its own affairs with the same peaceful
indifference as before. Lockley ran into a tree. He stumbled over a
fallen branch on the ground. He came to the place where the creature
should be. There was silence. He flicked the flint of his pocket
lighter and in the flash of brightness he saw his prey. It had heard
his approach. It was a porcupine, prudently curled up into a spiky
ball and placidly defying all carnivores, including men. A porcupine
is normally the one wild creature without an enemy. Even men
customarily spare it because so often it has saved the lives of lost
hunters and half-starved travelers. It accomplishes this by its bland
refusal to run away from anybody.

Lockley classed himself as a half-starved traveler. He struck with
the club after a second spark from his lighter-flint.

Presently he had a small, barely smouldering fire of rotted wood. He
cooked over it, and the smell of cooking roused Jill from her
exhausted slumber.

"What--"

"We're having a late supper," said Lockley gravely. "A midnight snack.
Take this stick. There's a loin of porcupine on it. Be careful! It's
hot!"

Jill said, "Oh-h-h-h!" Then, "Is there more for you?"

"Plenty!" he assured her. "I hunted it down with my trusty club, and
only got stuck a half-dozen times while I was skinning and cleaning
it."

She ate avidly, and when she'd finished he offered more, which she
refused until he'd had a share.

They did not quite finish the whole porcupine, but it was an odd and
companionable meal, there in the darkness with the barely-glowing
coals well-hidden from sight. Lockley said, "I'm sort of a news
addict. Shall we see what the wild radio waves are saying?"

"Of course," said Jill. She added awkwardly: "Maybe it's the sudden
food, but--I hope you'll remain my friend after this is all over. I
don't know anyone else I'd say that to."

"Consider," said Lockley, "that I've made an eloquent and grateful
reply."

But his expression in the darkness was not happy. He'd fallen in love
with Jill after meeting her only twice, and both times she had been
with Vale. She intended to marry Vale. But on the evidence at hand
Vale was either dead or a prisoner of the invaders; if the last, his
chances of living to marry Jill did not look good, and if the first,
this was surely no time to revive his memory.

He found a news broadcast. He suspected that most radio stations
would stay on the air all night, now that it was officially admitted
that the object in Boulder Lake was a spaceship bringing invaders to
earth. The government releases spoke of them as "visitors," in a
belated use of the term, but the public was suspicious of reassurances
now. At the beginning the landing had seemed like another exaggerated
horror tale of the kind that kept up newspaper circulations. Now the
public was beginning to believe it, and people might stop going to
their offices and the trains might cease to ran on time. When that
happened, disaster would be at hand.

The news came in a resonant voice which revealed these facts:

Four more small towns had been ordered evacuated because of their
proximity to Boulder Lake. The radiation weapon of the aliens had
pushed back the military cordon by as much as five miles. But the big
news was that the aliens had broken radio silence. Apparently they'd
examined and repaired the short wave communicator from the helicopter
they'd knocked down.

Shortly after sundown, said the news report, a call had come through
on a military short wave frequency. It was a human voice, first
muttering bewilderedly and then speaking with confusion and
uneasiness. The message had been taped and now was released to the
public.

_"What the hell's this ...? Oh.... What do you characters want me to
do? This feels like the short wave set from the 'copter.... Hmm....
You got it turned on.... What'll I do with it, Broadcast? I don't know
whether you want me to talk to you or to back home, wherever that
is.... Maybe you want me to say I'm havin' a fine time an' wish you
was here.... I'm not. I wish I was there.... If this is goin' on the
air I'm Joe Blake, radio man on the_ '_copter two 'leven. We were
headin' in to Boulder Lake when I smelled a stink. Next second there
were lights in my eyes. They blinded me. Then I heard a racket like
all hell was loose. Then I felt like I had hold of a power
transmission line. I couldn't wiggle a finger. I stayed that way till
the 'copter crashed. When I come to, I was blindfolded like I am now.
I don't know what happened to the other guys. I haven't seen 'em. I
haven't seen anything! But they just put me in front of what I think
is the 'copter's short wave set an' squeaked at me_--"

The recorded voice ended abruptly. The news announcer's voice came
back. He said that the member of the 'copter crew had given some other
information before he was arbitrarily cut off.

"I'll bet," said Lockley when the newscast ended, "I'll bet the other
information was that the invaders have managed to tell him that earth
must surrender to them!"

"Why?"

"What else would they want to say? To come and play patty-cake, when
they can push the Army around at will and have managed to keep planes
from flying anywhere near them? They may not know we've got atom
bombs, but I'll bet they do! Part of that extra information could have
been a warning not to try to use them. It would be logical to bluff
even on that, though they couldn't make good."

Jill said very carefully, "You hinted once that they might be men,
pretending to be monsters. But that would mean that somebody I care
about would probably be killed because he'd seen them and knew they
weren't creatures from beyond the stars."

"I think you can forget that idea," said Lockley. "They don't act like
men. Chasing away the plane that was going to land for us, and not
using the beam on the fugitives it was plainly going to land
for--that's not like men preparing to take over a continent! And
nudging the Army back to make the cordoned space larger--that's not
like our most likely human enemy, either. They'd wipe out the cordon
by stepping up the terror beam to death ray intensity."

"Suppose they couldn't?"

"They wouldn't have landed with a weapon that couldn't kill anybody,"
said Lockley. "It's much more likely that they're monsters. But they
don't act like monsters, either."

Jill was silent for a moment.

"Not even monsters who wanted to make friends?"

"They," said Lockley drily, "would hardly make a surprise landing.
They'd have parked on the moon and squeaked at us until we got
curious, and then they'd arrange to land, or to meet men in orbit, or
something. But they didn't. They made a surprise landing, and cleared
a big space of humans, keeping themselves to themselves. But if they
do think we're animals, like rabbits, they'd kill people instead of
stinging them up a bit, or paralyzing them for a while and then
letting them go. That's not like any monster I can imagine!"

"Then--"

"You'd better go to sleep," said Lockley. "We've got a long day's hike
before us tomorrow."

"Yes-s-s," agreed Jill reluctantly. "Good-night."

"'Night," said Lockley curtly.

He stayed awake. It was amusing that he was uneasy about wild animals.
There were predators in the Park, and he had only an improvised club
for a weapon. But he knew well enough that most animals avoid man
because of a bewildering sudden development of instinct.

Grizzly bears, before the white man came, were so scornful of man
that they could be considered the dominant species in North America.
They'd been known to raid a camp of Indians to carry away a man for
food. Indian spears and arrows were simply ineffective against them.
When Stonewall Jackson was a lieutenant in the United States Army,
stationed in the West to protect the white settlers, he and a
detachment of mounted troopers were attacked without provocation by a
grizzly who was wholly contemptuous of them. The then Lieutenant
Jackson rode a horse which was blind in one eye, and he maneuvered to
get the bear on the horse's blind side so he could charge it. With his
cavalry sabre he split the grizzly's skull down to its chin. It was
the only time in history that a grizzly bear was ever killed by a man
with a sword. But no grizzly nowadays would attack a man unless
cornered. Even cubs with no possible experience of humankind are
terrified by the scent of men.

All that was true enough. In addition, preparations for the Park
included much activity by the Wild Life Control unit, which persuaded
bears to congregate in one area by putting out food for them, and took
various other measures for deer and other animals. It had seeded trout
streams with fingerlings and the lake itself with baby big-mouthed
bass. The huge trailer truck of Wild Life Control was familiar enough.
Lockley had seen it headed up to the lake the day before the landing.
Now he found himself wondering sardonically to what degree the Wild
Life Control men determined where mountain lions should hunt.

He'd slept in the open innumerable times without thinking of mountain
lions. With Jill to look after, though, he worried. But he was
horribly weary, and he knew somehow that in the back of his mind there
was something unpleasant that was trying to move into his conscious
thoughts. It was a sort of hunch. Wearily and half asleep, he tried to
put his mind on it. He failed.

He awoke suddenly. There were rustlings among the trees. Something
moved slowly and intermittently toward him. It could be anything, even
a creature from Boulder Lake. He heard other sounds. Another creature.
The first drew near, not moving in a straight line. The second
creature followed it, drawing closer to the first.

Lockley's scalp crawled. Creatures from space might have some of the
highly-developed senses which men had lost while growing
civilized--full keenness of scent, for example.

Such a creature might be able to find Lockley and Jill in the darkness
after trailing them for miles. And so primitive a talent, in a
creature farther advanced than men, was somehow more horrifying than
anything else Lockley had thought of about them. He gripped his club
desperately, wholly aware that a star creature should be able to
paralyze him with the terror beam....

There were whistling, squealing noises. They were very much like the
squeaks his captors had directed at each other and at him when he was
blindfolded and being led downhill to imprisonment in the compost pit
shell. Very much like, but not identical. Nevertheless, Lockley's hair
seemed to stand up on end and he raised his club in desperation.

The whistling squeals grew shriller. Then there was an indescribable
sound and one of the two creatures rushed frantically away. It
traveled in great leaps through the blackness under the trees.

And then there was a sudden whiff of a long-familiar odor, smelled a
hundred times before. It was the reek of a skunk, stalked by a
carnivore and defending itself as skunks do. But a skunk was nothing
like a terror beam. Its effluvium offended only one sense, affected
only one set of sensation nerves. The terror beam....

Lockley opened his mouth to laugh, but did not. The thing at the back
of his mind had come forward. He was appalled.

Jill said shakily, "What's the matter? What's happened? That smell--"

"It's only a skunk," said Lockley evenly. "He just told me some very
bad news. I know how the terror beam works now. And there's not a
thing that can be done about it. Not a thing. It can't be!"

He raged suddenly, there in the darkness, because he saw the utter
hopelessness of combatting the creatures who'd taken over Boulder
Lake. There was nothing to keep them from taking over the whole earth,
no matter what sort of monsters or not-monsters they might be.



CHAPTER 6


It was nine o'clock at night when Lockley killed the porcupine, and
ten by the time Jill had gone back to sleep huddled between the
projecting roots of a giant tree. Shortly after midnight Lockley had
been awakened when a skunk defeated a hungry predator within a hundred
yards of their bivouac. But some time in between, there was another
happening of much greater importance elsewhere.

Something came out of Boulder Lake National Park. All humans had
supposedly fled from it. It was abandoned to the creatures of the
thing from the sky. But something came out of it.

Nobody saw the thing, of course. Nobody could approach it, which was
the point immediately demonstrated. No human being could endure being
within seven miles of whatever it was. It was evidently a vehicle of
some sort, however, because it swung terror beams before it, and
terror beams on either side, and when it was clear of the Park it
played terror beams behind it, too. Men who suffered the lightest
touch of those sweeping beams of terror and anguish moved frantically
to avoid having the experience again. So when something moved out of
the Park and sent wavering terror beams before it, men moved to one
side or the other and gave it room.

On a large-scale map in the military area command post, its progress
could be watched as it was reported. The reports described a
development of unbearable beam strength which showed up as a bulge in
the cordon's roughly circular line. That bulge, which was the cordon
itself moving back, moved outward and became a half-circle some miles
across. It continued to move outward, and on the map it appeared like
a pseudopod extruded by an enormous amoeba. It was the area of
effectiveness of a weapon previously unknown on earth--the area where
humans could not stay.

Deliberately, the unseen moving thing severed itself from the similar
and larger weapon field which was its birthplace and its home. It
moved with great deliberation toward the small town of Maplewood,
twenty miles from the border of the Park.

Jeeps and motorcycles scurried ahead of it, just out of reach of its
beams. They made sure that houses and farms and all inhabited places
were emptied of people before the moving terror beams could engulf
them. They went into the town of Maplewood itself and frantically made
sure that nothing alive remained in it. They went on to clear the
countryside beyond.

The unseen thing from the Park moved onward. High overhead there was a
dull muttering like faraway thunder, but it was planes with filled
bomb racks circling above the starlit land. There were men in those
planes who ached to dive down and destroy this separated fraction of
an invasion. But there were firm orders from the Pentagon. So long as
the invaders killed nobody, they were not to be attacked. There was
reason for the order in the desire of the government to be on friendly
terms with a race which could travel between the stars. But there was
an even more urgent reason. The aliens had not yet begun to murder,
but it was suspected that they had a horrifying power to kill. So it
was firmly commanded that no bomb or missile or bullet was to be used
unless the invaders invited hostilities by killing humans. Their
captives--the crew of a helicopter--might be freed if aliens and men
achieved friendship. So for now--no provocation!

The thing which nobody saw moved comfortably over the ground between
the park and Maplewood. In the center of the weapon field there was a
something which generated the terror beam and probably carried
passengers. Whatever it was, it moved onward and into Maplewood and
for seven miles in every direction troops watched for it to move out
again. Artillerymen had guns ready to fire upon it if they ever got
firing coordinates and permission to go into action. Planes were ready
to drop bombs if they ever got leave to do so. And a few miles away
there were rockets ready to prove their accuracy and devastating
capacity if only given a launching command. But nothing happened. Not
even a flare was permitted to be dropped by the planes far up in the
sky. A flare might be taken for hostility.

The thing from the Park stayed in Maplewood for two hours. At the end
of that time it moved deliberately back toward the Park. It left the
town untouched save for certain curious burglaries of hardware stores
and radio shops and a garage or two. It looked as if intensely curious
not-human beings had moved from their redoubt--Boulder Lake--to find
out what civilization human beings had attained. They could guess at
it by the buildings and the homes, but most notably in the technical
shops of the inhabitants.

It went slowly and deliberately back into the Park. Humans moved
cautiously back into the area that had been emptied. Not many, but
enough to be sure that the thing had really returned to the place from
which it had come. Soldiers were tentatively entering the
again-abandoned town of Maplewood when the unseen thing changed the
range of its weapon bearing on that little city. It was then
presumably not less than seven miles on its way back to Boulder Lake.
The military had congratulated themselves on what they'd learned. The
beam projectors at the lake had a range of much more than seven miles,
but this movable, unidentifiable thing carried a lesser armament. From
it, men and animals seven miles away were safe. This was notable news.

Then the unseen object did something. The terror beam that flicked
back and forth doubled in intensity. The soldiers just reentering
Maplewood smelled foulness and saw bright lights. Bellowings deafened
them. They fell with every muscle rigid in spasm. Beyond them other
men were paralyzed. For five minutes the invaders' mobile weapon
paralyzed all living things for a distance of fifteen miles. Then for
thirty seconds it paralyzed living things for a distance of thirty
miles. For a bare instant it convulsed men and animals for a greater
distance yet. And all these victims of the terror beam knew,
thereafter, an invincible horror of the beam.

The thing from the Park which nobody had seen went back into the Park.
And then men were permitted to return to exactly the same places
they'd been allowed to occupy before the thing began its excursion.

It seemed that nothing was changed, but everything was changed. If
there were mobile carriers of the invasion weapon, then victory could
not be had by a single atom bomb fired into Boulder Lake. There might
be a dozen separate mobile terror beam generators scattered through
the Park. Any atomic attack would need to be multiplied in its
violence to be certain of results. Instead of one bomb there might be
a need for fifty. They would have to destroy the Park utterly, even
its mountains. And the fallout from so many atom bombs simply could
not be risked. The invaders were effectively invulnerable.

While this undesirable situation was being demonstrated, Jill slept
heavily between two roots of a very large tree, and Lockley dozed
against a nearby tree trunk. He believed that he guarded Jill most
vigilantly.

He awoke at dawn with the din of bird song in his ears. Jill opened
her eyes at almost the same instant. She smiled at him and tried to
get up. She was stiff and sore from the hardness of the ground on
which she'd slept. But it was a new day, and there was breakfast. It
was porcupine cooked the night before.

"Somehow," said Jill as she nibbled at a bone, "somehow I feel more
cheerful than I did."

"That's a mistake," Lockley told her. "Start out with a few
premonitions and the day improves as they turn out wrong. But if you
start out hoping, the day ends miserably with most of your hopes
denied."

"You've got premonitions?" she asked.

"Definitely," he said.

It was true. As yet he knew nothing of last night's temporary
occupation of a human town, but he believed he knew how the terror
beam worked even if he couldn't figure out a way to generate it. He
could imagine no defense against it. But if Jill had awakened feeling
cheerful, there was no reason to depress her. She'd have reason enough
to be dejected later, beginning with proof of Vale's death and going
on from there.

"We might listen to the news," she suggested. "A premonition or two
might be ruled out right away!"

Silently, he turned on the little radio. Automatically, he set it for
the lowest volume they could hear distinctly.

The main item in the news was a baldly factual but toned-down report
of the thing from the lake which had left the park and examined a
small human town in detail and then had returned to the Park. There
were reports of peculiar hoofprints found where the invaders had been.
They were not the hoofprints of any earthly animal. There was an
optimistic report from the scientists at work on the problem of the
beam. Someone had come up with an idea and some calculations which
seemed to promise that the beam would presently be duplicated. Once it
was duplicated, of course a way to neutralize it could be found.

Lockley grunted. The broadcast was enthusiastic in its comments on the
scientists. It talked gobbledegook which sounded as if it meant
something but was actually nonsense. It barely touched on the fact
that human beings were now ordered out of a much larger space than had
been evacuated before. There was a statement from an important
official that panic buying of food was both unnecessary and unwise.
Lockley grunted again when the newscast ended.

"The idea that anything that can be duplicated can be canceled," he
announced gloomily, "is unfortunately rot. We can duplicate sounds,
but there's no way to make them cancel out! Not accurately!"

Jill had eaten a substantial part of the porcupine while the newscast
was on. It was not a satisfying breakfast, but it cheered her
immensely after two days of near-starvation.

"But," she observed, "maybe that won't apply to this business when you
report what you know. It's not likely that anybody else has stood just
outside a beam and made tests of what it's like and how it's aimed and
so on."

They started off. For journeying in the Park, Lockley had the
advantage that as part of the preparation for making a new map, he'd
familiarized himself with all mapping done to date. He knew very
nearly where he was. He knew within a close margin just where the
terror beam stretched. He'd smashed his watch, which during sunshine
substituted admirably for a compass, but he could maintain a
reasonably straight line toward that part of the Park's border the
terror beam would cross.

They moved doggedly over mountain-flanks and up valleys, and once they
followed a winding hollow for a long way because it led toward their
destination without demanding that they climb. It was in this area
that, pushing through brushwood beside a running stream, they came
abruptly upon a big brown bear. He was no more than a hundred feet
away. He stared at them inquisitively, raising his nose to sniff for
their scent.

Lockley bent and picked up a stone. He threw it. It clattered on
rocks on the ground. The bear made a whuffing sound and moved
aggrievedly away.

"I'd have been afraid to do that," said Jill.

"It was a he-bear," said Lockley. "I wouldn't have tried it on a
she-bear with cubs."

They went on and on. At mid-morning Lockley found some mushrooms. They
were insipid and only acute hunger would make them edible raw, but he
filled his pockets. A little later there were berries, and as they
gathered and ate them he lectured learnedly on edible wild plants to
be found in the wilderness. Jill listened with apparent interest. When
they left the berry patch they swung to the left to avoid a steep
climb directly in their way. And suddenly Lockley stopped short. At
the same instant Jill caught at his arm. She'd turned white.

They turned and ran.

A hundred yards back, Lockley slackened his speed. They stopped. After
a moment he managed to grin mirthlessly.

"A conditioned reflex," he said wryly. "We smell something and we run.
But I think it's the old familiar terror beam that crosses highways to
stop men from using them. If it were a portable beam projector with
somebody aiming it, we wouldn't be talking about it."

Jill panted, partly with relief.

"I've thought of something I want to try," said Lockley. "I should
have tried it yesterday when I first smashed my watch."

He retraced his steps to the spot where they'd caught the first whiff
of that disgusting reptilian-jungle-decay odor which had bombarded
their nostrils. Jill called anxiously, "Be careful!"

He nodded. He got the coiled bronze watchspring out of his pocket. He
went very cautiously to the spot where the smell became noticeable.
Standing well back from it, he tossed one end of the spring into it.
He drew it back. He repeated the operation. He moved to one side.
Again he swung the gold-colored ribbon. He dangled it back and forth.
Then he drew back yet again and wrapped his left hand and wrists with
many turns of the thin bronze spring, carefully spacing the turns. He
moved forward once more.

He came back, his expression showing no elation at all.

"No good," he said unhappily. "In a way, it works. The spring acts as
an aerial and picks up more of the beam than my hand. But I tried to
make a Faraday cage. That will stop most electromagnetic radiation,
but not this stuff! It goes right through, like electrons through a
radio tube grid."

He put the spring back in his pocket.

"Well," he grimaced. "Let's go on again. I had a little bit of hope,
but some smarter men than I am haven't got the right gimmick yet."

They started off once more. And this time they did not choose a path
for easier travel, but went up a steep slope that rose for hundreds of
feet to arrive at a crest with another steep slope going downhill. At
the top Lockley said sourly, "I did discover one thing, if it means
anything. The beam leaks at its edges, but it's only leakage. It
doesn't diffuse. It's tight. It's more like a searchlight beam than
anything else in that way. You can see a light beam at night because
dust motes scatter some part of it. But most of the light goes
straight on. This stuff does the same. It's hard to imagine a limit to
its range."

He trudged on downhill. Jill followed him. Presently, when they'd
covered two miles or more with no lightening of his expression, she
said, "You said you understand how it works. Radio and radar beams
don't have effects like this. How does this have them?"

"It makes high frequency currents on the surface of anything it hits.
High frequency doesn't go into flesh or metal. It travels on the
surface only. So when this beam hits a man it generates high frequency
on his skin. That induces counter currents underneath, and they
stimulate all the sensory nerves we've got--of our eyes and ears and
noses as well as our skin. Every nerve reports its own kind of
sensation. Run current over your tongue, and you taste. Induce a
current in your eyes, and you see flashes of light. So the beam makes
all our senses report everything they're capable of reporting, true or
not, and we're blinded and deafened. Then the nerves to our muscles
report to them that they're to contract, and they do. So we're
paralyzed."

"And," said Jill, "if there's a way to generate high frequency on a
man's skin there's nothing that can be done?"

"Nothing," said Lockley dourly.

"Maybe," said Jill, "you can figure out a way to prevent that high
frequency generation."

He shrugged. Jill frowned as she followed him. She hadn't forgotten
Vale, but she owed some gratitude to Lockley. Womanlike, she tried to
pay part of it by urging him to do something he considered impossible.

"At least," she suggested, "it can't be a death ray!"

Lockley looked at her.

"You're wrong there," he said coldly. "It can."

Jill frowned again. Not because of his statement, but because she
hadn't succeeded in diverting his mind from gloomy things. She had
reason enough for sadness, herself. If she spoke of it, Lockley would
try to encourage her. But he was concerned with more than his own
emotions. Without really knowing it, Jill had come to feel a great
confidence in Lockley. It had been reassuring that he could find food,
and perhaps more reassuring that he could chase away a bear. Such
talents were not logical reasons for being confident that he could
solve the alien's seemingly invincible weapon, but she was inclined to
feel so. And if she could encourage him to cope with the
monsters--why--it would be even a form of loyalty to Vale. So she
believed.

In the late afternoon Lockley said, "Another four or five miles and we
ought to be out of the Park and on another highway we'll hope won't be
blocked by a terror beam. Anyhow there should be an occasional
farmhouse where we can find some sort of civilized food."

Jill said hungrily, "Scrambled eggs!"

"Probably," he agreed.

They went on and on. Three miles. Four. Five. Five and a half. They
descended a minor slope and came to a hard-surfaced road with tire
marks on it and a sign sternly urging care in driving. There were
ploughed fields in which crops were growing. There was a row of stubby
telephone poles with a sagging wire between them.

"We'll head west," said Lockley. "There ought to be a farmhouse
somewhere near."

"And people," said Jill. "I look terrible!"

He regarded her with approval.

"No. You look all right. You look fine!"

It was pleasing that he seemed to mean it. But immediately she said,
"Maybe we'll be able to find out about ... about...."

"Vale," agreed Lockley. "But don't be disappointed if we don't. He
could have escaped or been freed without everybody knowing it."

She said in surprise, "Been freed! That's something I didn't think
of. He'd set to work to make them understand that we humans are
intelligent and they ought to make friends with us. That would be the
first thing he'd think of. And they might set him free to arrange it."

Lockley said, "Yes," in a carefully noncommittal tone.

Another mile, this time on the hard road. It seemed strange to walk on
so unyielding a surface after so many miles on quite different kinds
of footing. It was almost sunset now. There was a farmhouse set well
back from the road and barely discernable beyond nearby growing corn.
The house seemed dead. It was neat enough and in good repair. There
were clackings of chickens from somewhere behind it. But it had the
feel of emptiness.

Lockley called. He called again. He went to the door and would have
called once more, but the door opened at a touch.

"Evacuated," he said. "Did you notice that there was a telephone line
leading here from the road?"

He hunted in the now shadowy rooms. He found the telephone. He lifted
the receiver and heard the humming of the line. He tried to call an
operator. He heard the muted buzz that said the call was sounding. But
there was no answer. He found a telephone book and dialed one number
after another. Sheriff. Preacher. Doctor. Garage. Operator again.
General store.... He could tell that telephones rang dutifully in
remote abandoned places. But there was no answer at all.

"I'll look in the chicken coops," said Jill practically.

She came back with eggs. She said briefly, "The chickens were hungry.
I fed them and left the chicken yard gate open. I wonder if the beam
hurts them too?"

"It does," said Lockley.

He made a light and then a fire and she cooked eggs which belonged to
the unknown people who owned this house and who had walked out of it
when instructions for immediate evacuation came. They felt queer,
making free with this house of a stranger. They felt that he might
come in and be indignant with them.

"I ought to wash the dishes," said Jill when they were finished.

"No," said Lockley. "We go on. We need to find some soldiers, or a
telephone that works...."

"I'm not a good dishwasher anyhow," said Jill guiltily.

Lockley put a banknote on the kitchen table, with a weight on it to
keep it from blowing away. They closed the house door. They'd eaten
fully and luxuriously of eggs and partly stale bread and the sensation
was admirable. They went out to the highway again.

"West is still our best bet," said Lockley. "They've blocked the
highway to eastward with that terror beam."

The sun had set now, but a fading glory remained in the sky. They saw
the slenderest, barest crescent of a new moon practically hidden in
the sunset glow. They walked upon a civilized road, with a fence on
one side of it and above it a single sagging telephone wire that could
be made out against the stars.

"I feel," said Jill, "as if we were almost safe, now. All this looks
so ordinary and reassuring."

"But we'd better keep our noses alert," Lockley told her. "We know
that one beam comes nearly this far and probably--no, certainly
crosses this road. There may be more."

"Oh, yes," agreed Jill. Then she said irrelevantly, "I'll bet they do
make him a sort of--ambassador to our government to arrange for
making friends. He'll be able to convince them!"

Again she referred to Vale. Lockley said nothing.

Night was now fully fallen. There were myriad stars overhead. They saw
the telephone wire dipping between poles against the sky's brightness.
They passed an open gate where another telephone wire led away,
doubtless to another farmhouse. But if there was no one at the other
end of a telephone line, there was no point in using a phone.

There came a rumbling noise behind them. They stared at one another in
the starlight. The rumbling approached.

"It--can't be!" said Jill, marvelling.

"It's a motor," said Lockley. He could not feel complete relief.
"Sounds like a truck. I wonder--"

He felt uneasiness. But it was absurd. Only human beings would use
motor trucks.

There was a glow in the distance behind them. It came nearer as the
sound of the motor approached. The motor's mutter became a grumble. It
was definitely a truck. They could hear those other sounds that trucks
always make in addition to their motor noises.

It came up to the curve they'd rounded last. Its headlight beams
glared on the cornstalks growing next to the highway. One headlight
appeared around the turn. Then the other. An enormous trailer-truck
combination came bumbling toward them. Jill held up her hand for it to
stop. Its headlights shone brightly upon her.

Airbrakes came on. The giant combination--cab in front, gigantic box
body behind--came to a halt. A man leaned out. He said amazedly, "Hey,
what are you folks doin' here? Everybody's supposed to be long gone!
Ain't you heard about all civilians clearing out from twenty miles
outside the Park? There's boogers in there! Characters from Mars or
somewhere. They eat people!"

Even in the starlight Lockley saw the familiar Wild Life Control
markings on the trailer. He heard Jill, her voice shaking with relief,
explaining that she'd been at the construction camp and had been left
behind, and that she and Lockley had made their way out.

"We want to get to a telephone," she added. "He has some information
he wants to give to the Army. It's very important." Then she
swallowed. "And I'd like to ask if you've heard anything about a Mr.
Vale. He was taken prisoner by the creatures up there. Have you heard
of his being released?"

The driver hesitated. Then he said, "No, ma'm. Not a word about him.
But we'll take care of you two! You musta been through plenty! Jud,
you go get in the trailer, back yonder. Make room for these two folks
up on the front seat." He added explanatorily, "There's cases and
stuff in the back, ma'm. You two folks climb right up here alongside
of me. You sure musta had a time!"

The door on the near side of the truck cab opened. A small man got
out. Silently, he went to the rear of the trailer and swung up out of
sight. Jill climbed into the opened door. Lockley followed her. He
still felt an irrational uneasiness, but he put it down to habit. The
past few days had formed it.

"We've been cartin' stuff for the soldiers," explained the driver as
Lockley closed the door behind him. "They keep track of where that
terror beam is workin', and they tell us by truck radio, and we dodge
it. Ain't had a bit of trouble. Never thought I'd play games with
Martians! Did you see any of 'em? What sort of critters are they?"

He slipped the truck into gear and gunned the motor. Truck and
trailer, together, began to roll down the highway. Lockley was
irritated with himself because he couldn't relax and feel safe, as
this development seemed to warrant.

Later, he would wonder why he hadn't used his head in this as in other
matters during the few days just past.

He plainly hadn't.



CHAPTER 7


The driver was avidly curious about the area where supposedly no human
being could survive. He asked absorbed questions, especially and
insistently about the aliens. Jill said that she'd seen a few of them,
but only at a distance. They'd been investigating the evacuated
construction camp. They were about the size of men. She couldn't
describe them, but they weren't human beings. He seemed to find it
unthinkable that she hadn't examined them in detail.

Lockley came to her rescue. He observed that he'd been a prisoner of
the invaders, and had escaped. Then the driver's curiosity became
insatiable. He wanted to know every imaginable detail of that
experience. He expressed almost incredulous disappointment that
Lockley couldn't give even a partial description of the creatures.
When convinced, he launched a detailed recital of the descriptions
offered by the workmen from the camp. He pictured the aliens as hoofed
like horses, equipped with horns like antelopes, fitted with multiple
arms like octopi and huge multi-faceted eyes like insects.

He seemed to contemplate this picture with vast satisfaction as the
truck growled and rumbled through the night.

The headlights glared on ahead of the truck. There were dark fields
and darker mountains beyond them. From time to time little side roads
branched off. They undoubtedly led to houses, but no speck of lamp
light appeared anywhere. This part of the world was empty, with the
loneliness of a landscape from which every hint of human activity had
been removed.

Jill asked a question. The driver grew garrulous. He gave a dramatic
picture of terror throughout the world, the suspension of all ordinary
antagonisms in the face of this menace to every man and nation on the
earth. There was peace even in the world's trouble spots as appalled
agitators saw how much worse things could be if the monsters took over
the world to rule. But the driver insisted that the United States was
calm. Us Americans, he assured Lockley, weren't scared. We were
educated and we knew that them scientists would crack this nut
somehow. Like only yesterday a broadcast said this Belgian guy had
come up with calculations that said this poison beam had to be
something like a radar beam or a laser beam or something like that.
And the American scientists were right out there in front, along with
guys from England and France and Italy and Germany and even Russia.
All the big brains of the world were workin' on it! Those Martians
were gonna wish they'd come visitin' polite instead of barging in like
they owned the world! They'd be lucky if they wound up ownin' Mars!

Lockley pressed for details about the scientists' results. He didn't
expect to get them, but the driver cheerfully obliged.

Radio, said the driver largely, worked by making waves like those on
a pond. They spread out and reached places where there were
instruments to detect them, and that was that. Radar made the same
kind of waves, only smaller, which bounced back to where there was an
instrument to detect them. These were ripple waves.

Lockley interpreted the term to mean sine waves, rounded at top and
trough. It was a perfectly good word to express the meaning intended.

These were natural kindsa waves, pursued the driver. Lightning made
them. Static was them, and sparks from running motors and blown fuses.
Waves like that were generated whenever an electric circuit was made
or broken besides their occurrence from purely natural causes.

"We can't feel 'em," said the driver expansively. "We're used to waves
like that. Animals couldn't do anything about 'em and didn't need to
before there was men. So when we come along, we couldn't notice 'em
any more than we notice air pressure on our skin. We're used to it!
But these scientists say there's waves that ain't natural. They ain't
like ripples. They're like storm waves with foam on 'em. And that's
the kind of waves we can notice. Like storm waves with sharp edges. We
can notice them because they do things to us! These Martians make 'em
do things. But now we know what kinda waves they are, we're gonna mess
them up! And I'm savin' up a special kick for one o' those Martians
when they're licked just as soon as I can find out which end of him is
which an' suited to that kinda attention!"

Lockley found himself suspicious and was annoyed. Jill was safe now.
This driver was well-informed, but probably everybody was
well-informed now. They had reason to become so!

The truck trundled through the night. High overhead, a squadron of
planes arrived to take its place in the ever-moving patrol around the
Park. Another squadron, relieved, went away to the southwest. There
was a deep-toned, faraway roaring from the engines aloft. All the sky
behind the trailer seemed to mutter continuously. But the roof of
stars ahead was silent.

Lockley stayed tense and was weary of his tenseness, Jill was safe. He
tried to reason his uneasiness away. The cab of the truck wobbled and
swayed. The feel of the vehicle was entirely unlike the feel of a
passenger car. It felt tail-heavy. The driver had ceased to talk. He
seemed to be musing as he drove. He'd asked about the invaders but
seemed almost indifferent to any adventures Jill and Lockley might
have had on their way out. He didn't ask what they'd done for food. He
was thinking of something else.

Lockley found himself questioning the driver's statements just after
they got in. Driving for the Army. The Army kept track of where the
terror beams existed, and notified this truck by truck radio, and he
dodged all such road barriers. That was what he said. It seemed
plausible, but--

"One thing strikes me funny," said the driver, musingly. "Those
critters blindfoldin' you and those other guys. What' you think they
did it for?"

"To keep us from seeing them," said Lockley, curtly.

"But why'd they want to do that?"

"Because," said Lockley, "they might not have been Martians. They
might not have been critters. They might have been men."

On the instant he regretted bitterly that he'd said it. It was a
guess, only, with all the evidence against it. The driver visibly
jumped. Then he turned his head.

"Where'd you get that idea?" he demanded. "What's the evidence? Why
d'you think it?"

"They blindfolded me," said Lockley briefly.

A pause. Then the driver said vexedly, "That's a funny thing to make
you think they was men! Hell! Excuse me, ma'm!--they coulda had all
kindsa reasons for blindfoldin' you! It coulda been part of their
religion!"

"Maybe," said Lockley. He was angry with himself for having said
something which was needlessly dramatic.

"Didn't you have any other reason for thinkin' they were men?"
demanded the driver curiously. "No other reason at all?"

"No other at all," said Lockley.

"It's a crazy reason, if you ask me!"

"Quite likely," conceded Lockley.

He'd been indiscreet, but no more. He'd said what he thought, perhaps
because he was tired of watching all the country round him for a
menace to Jill, and then watching every word he spoke to keep her from
abandoning hope for Vale.

Jill said, "Where are we headed for? I hope I can get to a telephone.
I want to ask about somebody.... He wants to tell the soldiers
something."

"We're headed for a army supply dump," said the driver comfortably,
"to load up with stuff for the guys that're watching all around the
Park. We'll be goin' through Serena presently. Funny. Everybody moved
out by the Army. A good thing, too. The folks in Maplewood couldn't
ha' been got out last night before the Martians got there."

The trailer-truck went on through the night. The driver lounged in his
seat, keeping a negligent but capable eye on the road ahead. The
headlights showed a place where another road crossed this one and
there was a filling station, still and dark, and four or five
dwellings nearby with no single sign of life about them. Then the
crossroads settlement fell behind. A mile beyond it Jill said
startledly, "Lights! There's a town. It's lighted."

"It's Serena," said the driver. "The street lights are on because the
electricity comes from far away. With the lights on it's a marker for
the planes, too, so they can tell exactly where they are and the Park
too. They can't see the ground so good at night, from away up there."

The white street lamps seemed to twinkle as the trailer-truck rumbled
on. A single long line of them appeared to welcome the big vehicle. It
went on into the town. It reached the business district. There were
side streets, utterly empty, and then the main street divided. The
truck bore to the right. There were three and four-story buildings.
Every window was blank and empty, reflecting only the white street
lamps. No living thing anywhere. There had been no destruction, but
the town was dead. Its lights shone on streets so empty that it would
have seemed better to leave them to the kindly dark.

Jill exclaimed, "Look! That window!"

And ahead, in the dead and lifeless town, a single window glowed from
electric light inside it, and it looked lonelier than anything else in
the world.

"I'm gonna look into that!" said the driver. "Nobody's supposed to be
here."

The truck came to a stop. The driver got out. There was a stirring,
behind, and the small man who'd given his place to Jill and Lockley
popped out of the trailer body. Lockley saw the name of a local
telephone company silhouetted on the lighted windowpane. He opened the
door. Jill followed him instantly. The four of them--driver, helper,
Lockley and Jill--crowded into the building hallway to investigate
the one lighted room in a town where twenty thousand people were
supposed to live.

There was a door with a frosted glass top through which light showed.
The driver turned the door-knob and marched in. The room had an
alcoholic smell. A man with sunken cheeks slept heavily in a chair,
his head forward on his chest.

The driver shook him.

"Wake up, guy!" he said sternly. "Orders are for all civilians to
clear outa this town. You wanna soldier to come by an' take you for a
looter an' bump you off?"

He shook again. The cadaverous man blinked his eyes open. The smell of
alcohol was distinct. He was drunk. He gazed ferociously up at the
driver of the truck.

"Who the hell are you?" he demanded belligerently.

The driver spoke sternly, repeating what he'd said before. The drunk
assumed an air of outraged dignity.

"If I wanna stay here, that's my business! Who th' hell are you
anyways, disturbin' a citizen tax-payer on his lawful occasions? Are
you Martians? I wouldn't put it pasht you!"

He sat down and went back to sleep.

The driver said fretfully, "He oughtn't to be here! But we ain't got
room to carry him. I'm gonna use the truck radio an' ask what to do.
Maybe they'll send a Army truck to get him outa here. He could set the
whole town on fire!"

He went out. The small man who was his helper followed him. He hadn't
spoken a word. Lockley growled. Then Jill said breathlessly, "The
switch-board has some long distance lines. I know how to connect them.
Shall I try?"

Lockley agreed emphatically. Jill slipped into the operator's chair
and donned the headset. She inserted a plug and pressed a switch.

"I did an article once on how--Hello! Serena calling. I have a very
important message for the military officer in command of the cordon.
Will you route me through, please?"

Her manner was convincingly professional. She looked up and smiled
shakily at Lockley. She spoke again into the mouthpiece before her.
Then she said, "One moment, please." She covered the mouthpiece with
her hand.

"I can't get the general," she said. "His aide will take the message
and if it's important enough--"

"It is," said Lockley. "Give me the phone."

She vacated the chair and handed him the operator's instrument with
its light weight earphones and a mouthpiece that rested on his chest.

"My name's Lockley," said Lockley evenly. "I was in the Park on a
Survey job the morning the thing came down from the sky. I relayed
Vale's message describing the landing and the creatures that came out
of the--object. I was talking to him by microwave when he was seized
by them. I reported that via Sattell of the Survey. You probably know
of these reports."

A tinny voice said with formal cordiality that he did, indeed.

"I've just managed to get out of the park," said Lockley. "I've had a
chance to experiment with a stationary terror beam. I've information
of some importance about detecting those beams before they strike."

The tinny voice said hastily that Lockley should speak to the general
himself. There were clickings and a long wait. Lockley shook his head
impatiently. When a new voice spoke, he said, "I'm at Serena. I was
brought here by a Wild Life Control trailer-truck which picked us up
just outside the Park. I mention that because the driver says he's
driving it for the Army, now. The information I have to pass on is...."

Curtly and succinctly, he began to give exact information about the
terror beam. Its detection so that one need not enter it. The total
lack of effectiveness of a Faraday cage to check it. Its use to block
highways and its one use against a low-flying plane. The failure to
search him out with that terror beam was to be noted. There was other
evidence that the monsters were not monsters at all--

The new voice interrupted sharply. It asked him to wait. His
information would be recorded. Lockley waited, biting his lips. The
voice returned after an unconscionably long wait. It told him to go
ahead.

The driver of the truck was taking a long time to make contact with
the military. He'd have done better by telephone instead of short
wave.

The new voice repeated sharply for Lockley to go on with his story.
And very, very carefully Lockley explained the contradictions in the
behavior of the invaders. The blindfolds. The fact that it had been
absurdly easy for four human prisoners in a compost pit shell to
escape--almost as if it were intended for them to get away and report
that their captors regarded men as on a par with game birds and
rabbits and porcupines. True aliens would not have bothered to give
such an impression. But men cooperating with aliens would contrive
every possible trick to insist that only aliens operated at Boulder
Lake.

"I'm saying," said Lockley carefully, "that they do not act like
aliens making a first landing on earth. Apparently their ship is
designed to land in deep water. On a first landing, they should have
chosen the sea. But they knew Boulder Lake was deep enough to cushion
their descent. How did they know it? They didn't kill us local animals
for study, but they dropped in other local animals to convince us that
they wouldn't mind. Why try to fill us with horror--and then let us
escape?"

The voice at the other end said sharply, "_What do you infer from all
this?_"

"They've been briefed," said Lockley. "They know too much about this
planet and us humans. Somebody has told them about human psychology
and suggested that they conquer us without destroying our cities or
our factories or our usefulness as slaves. We'll be much more valuable
if captured that way! I'm saying that they've got humans advising and
cooperating with them! I'm suggesting that those humans have made a
deal to run earth for the aliens, paying them all the tribute they can
demand. I'm saying that we're not up against an invasion only by
aliens, but by aliens with humans in active cooperation and acting not
only as advisers but probably as spies. I'm--"

"_Mr. Lockley!_" said the voice at the other end of the wire. It was
startled and shocked. It became pompous. "_Mr. Lockley, what has been
your training?_" The voice did not wait for an answer. "_Where have
you become qualified to offer opinions contradicting all the
information and all the decisions of scientists and military men
alike? Where do you get the authority to make such statements? They
are preposterous! You have wasted my time! You--_"

Lockley reached over and flipped back the switch he'd seen Jill flip
over. He carefully put down the headset. He stood up.

The driver and the small man came back. They picked up the sleeping
drunk and moved toward the door. Something fell out of the drunk's
pocket. It was a wallet. They did not notice. They went out, carrying
the drunk. Jill stooped and recovered it. She looked at Lockley's
face.

"What--"

"I'm trying," said Lockley in a grating voice, "to figure out what to
do next. That didn't work."

"I'll be right back," said Jill.

She went out to deliver the wallet to the driver, who had apparently
been ordered to put the drunk in the trailer body and deliver him
somewhere.

Lockley swore explosively when she was gone. He clenched and
unclenched his hands. He paced the length of the room.

Jill came back, her face white.

"They opened the door of the trailer to pass him in," she said in a thin,
strained voice. "And there were other men back there. Several of them! And
machinery! Not cages for animals but engines--generators--electrical
things! I'm frightened!"

"And I," said Lockley, "am a fool. I should have known it! Look
here--"

The frosted-glass door opened. The driver came back. He had a revolver
in his hand.

"Too bad!" he said calmly. "We should've been more careful. But the
lady saw too much. Now--"

The revolver bore on Lockley. Jill flung herself upon it. Lockley
swung, with every ounce of his strength. He connected with the
driver's jaw. The driver went limp. Lockley had the revolver almost
before he reached the floor.

"Quick!" he snapped. "Where was the machinery? Front or back part of
the trailer?"

"All of it," panted Jill. "Mostly front. What--"

"The hall again," Lockley snapped. "Hunt for a back door!"

He thrust her out. She fumbled toward the back of the building while
he went to the street entrance. The trailer-truck loomed huge. The
driver's helper came out of it. Another man followed him. Still
another....

Lockley fired from the doorway. One bullet through the front part of
the truck. One near the middle. Then a third halfway between the first
two. The three men dived to the ground, thinking themselves his
targets. But Jill called inarticulately from the back of the dark
hall. Lockley raced back to her. He saw starlight. She waited,
shivering. They went out and he closed the door softly behind him.

He took her hand and they ran through the night. Overhead there was a
luminous mistiness because of the street light, but here were abysmal
darknesses between vague areas on which the starlight fell. Lockley
said evenly, "We've got to be quiet. Maybe I hit some of the
machinery. Maybe. If I didn't, it's all over!"

The back of a building. An alleyway. They ran down it. There was a
street with trees, where the street lights cast utterly black shadows
in between intolerable glare. They ran across the street. On the other
side were residences--the business district was not large. Lockley
found a gate, and opened it quietly and as quietly closed it behind
them. They ran into a lane between two dead, dark, dreary structures
in which people had lived but from which all life was now gone.

A back yard. A fence. Lockley helped Jill get over it. Another lane.
Another street. But this street was not crossed--not here, anyhow--by
another which led back to the street of the telephone office. A man
could not look from there and see them running under the lights.

The blessed irregularity of the streets continued. They ran and ran
until Jill's breath came in pantings. Lockley was drenched in sweat
because he expected at any instant to smell the most loathesome of
all possible combinations of odors, and then to see flashing lights
originating in his own eyes, and sounds which would exist only in the
nerves of his ears, and then to feel all his muscles knot in total and
horrible paralysis.

They heard the truck motor rumble into life when they were many blocks
away. They heard the clumsy vehicle move. It continued to growl, and
they knew that it was moving about the streets with its occupants
trying to sight fleeing figures under the darknesses which were trees.

"I hit--I hit the generator," panted Lockley. "I must have! Else
they'd swing a beam on us!"

He stopped. Here they were in a district where many large homes pooled
their lawns in block-long stretches of soft green. The street lights
cast arbitrary patches of brightness against the houses, but their
windows were blank and dark. This street, like most in this small
town, was lined with trees on either side. There were the fragrances
of flowers and grass.

"We aren't safe now," said Lockley, "but I just found out there may
not be any safety anywhere."

Jill's teeth chattered.

"What will we do? What was that machinery? I felt--frightened because
it wasn't what he said was back there. So I told you. But what was
it?".

"At a guess," said Lockley, "a terror beam generator. The invaders
must have human friends. To us they're spies. They're cooperating with
the monsters. Apparently they're even trusted with terror beam
projectors."

He stood still, thinking, while in the distance the trailer-truck
ground and rumbled about the streets. It was not a very promising
method for finding two fugitives. They could hide if it turned onto a
street they used. It could not continue the search indefinitely. The
most likely final course would be to leave some of the unknown number
of men in its trailer to search the town on foot. Even that might not
be successful. But it wouldn't be a good idea for Lockley and Jill to
remain here, either.

"We look for two-car garages," said Lockley. "It's not a good chance,
but it's all we've got. _If_ somebody had two cars, they might have
left one behind when they evacuated. I can jump an ignition switch if
necessary. Meanwhile we'll be moving out of town, which is a good idea
even if we do it on foot!"

They ceased to use the streets with their dramatic contrast of vivid
lights with total shadows. They moved behind a row of what would be
considered mansions in Serena, Colorado. Sometimes they stumbled over
flower beds, and once there was a hose over which Jill tripped, and
once Lockley barked his shin on a garden wheelbarrow. Most of the
garages were empty or contained only tools and garden equipment.

Then something made Lockley look up. A slender, truss-braced, mastlike
tower rose skyward. It began on the lawn of a house with wide porches.
There was a two-car garage with one wide door open.

"A radio ham," said Lockley. "I wonder--"

But he looked first in the garage. There was a car. It looked all
right. He climbed in and opened the door. The dome light came on. The
key was still in the ignition. He turned it and the gauge showed that
the gas tank was three-quarters full. This was unbelievable good
fortune.

"They probably intended to use this and then changed their minds,"
said Lockley. "I'll get the door open and attempt a little burglary.
Just one burglary with a prayer that he used a storage battery for
his power!"

Breaking in was simple. He tried the windows opening on the main wide
porch. One window slid up. He went inside, Jill following.

The ham radio outfit was in the cellar. Like most radio hams, this one
had battery-powered equipment as a matter of public responsibility. In
case of storm or disaster when power lines are down, the ham operators
of the United States can function as emergency communication systems,
working without outside power. This operator was equipped as
membership in the organization required.

Lockley warmed up the tubes. He tuned to a general call frequency. He
began to say, "May Day! May Day! May Day!" in a level voice. This
emergency call has precedence over all other calls but S.O.S., which
has an identical meaning. But "May Day" is more distinct and
unmistakable when heard faintly.

There were answers within minutes. Lockley snapped for them to stay
tuned while he called for others. He had half a dozen hams waiting
curiously when he began to broadcast what he wanted the world to know.

He told it as briefly and as convincingly as he could. Then he said,
"Over" and threw the reception switch for questions.

There were no questions. His broadcast had been jammed. Some other
station or stations were transmitting pure static with deafening
volume, evidently from somewhere nearby. Lockley could not tell when
it had begun. It could have been from the instant he began to speak.
It was very likely that not one really useful word had been heard
anywhere.

But a direction finder could have betrayed his position.



CHAPTER 8


It was a ticklish job getting the car out of the garage and into the
street. Lockley was afraid that starting the motor would make a noise
which in the silence of the town's absolute abandonment could be heard
for a long way. The grinding of the starter, though, lasted only for
seconds. It might make men listen, but they could hardly locate it
before the motor caught and ran quietly. Also, the trailer-truck was
still in motion and making its own noise. Of course it was probably
posting watchers and listeners here and there to try to find Lockley
and Jill.

So Lockley backed the car into the street as silently as was possible.
He did not turn on the lights. He stopped, headed away from the area
in which the truck rumbled. He sent the car forward at a crawl. Then
an idea occurred to him and cold chills ran down his spine. It is
possible to use a short wave receiver to pick up the ignition sparks
of a car. Normally such sparkings are grounded so the car's own radio
will work. But sometimes a radio is out of order. It was
characteristic of Lockley's acquired distrust of luck and chance that
he thought of so unlikely a disaster.

He eased the car into motion, straining his ears for any sign that the
truck reacted. Then he moved the car slowly away from the business
district. It required enormous self-control to go slowly. While among
the lighted streets the urge to flee at top speed was strong. But he
clenched his teeth. A car makes much less noise when barely in motion.
He made it drift as silently as a wraith under the trees and the
street lamps.

They got out of town. The last of the street lamps was behind them.
There was only starlight ahead, and an unknown road with many turns
and curves. Sometimes there were roadsigns, dimly visible as
uninformative shapes beside the highway. They warned of curves and
other driving hazards, but they could not be read because Lockley
drove without lights. He left the car dark because any glare would
have been visible to the men of the trailer-truck for a very long way.

Starlight is not good for fast driving, and when a road passes through
a wooded space it is nerve-racking. Lockley drove with foreboding,
every sense alert and every muscle tense. But just after a painful
progress through a series of curves with high trees on either side
which he managed by looking up at the sky and staying under the middle
of the ribbon of stars he could see, Lockley touched the brake and
stopped the car.

"What's the matter?" asked Jill, as he rummaged under the instrument
panel.

"I think," said Lockley, "that I must have damaged something in that
truck. Otherwise they'd have turned their beam on us just to get even.

"But maybe they'll be able to make a repair. In any case there are
other beams. Those are probably stationary and the truck knows where
they are and calls by truck radio to have them shut off when it wants
to go by. That would work. Using the Wild Life truck was really very
clever."

He wrenched at something. It gave. He pulled out a length of wire and
started working on one end of it.

"If they guess we got a car," he observed, "they'll expect us to run
into a road block beam that would wreck the car and paralyze us. I'm
taking a small precaution against that. Here." He put the wire's end
into her hand. "It's the lead-in from this car's radio antenna. It
ought to warn us of beams across the road as my watch spring did in
the hills. Hold it."

"I will," said Jill.

"One more item," he said. He got out of the car and closed the door
quickly. He went to the back. There was the sound of breaking glass.
He returned, saying, "No brake lights will go on now. I'll try to do
something about that dome light." With a sharp blow he shattered it.
"Now we could be as hard to trail as that Wild Life truck was the
other night."

Jill groped as the car got into motion again.

"You mean it was--Oh!"

"Most likely," agreed Lockley, "it was the thing that went out of the
park and occupied Maplewood, flinging terror beams in all directions.
Some of the truck's crew would have had footgear to make hoofprints.
They committed a token burglary or two. And there was the illusion of
aliens studying these queer creatures, men."

They went on at not more than fifteen miles an hour. The car was
almost soundless. They heard insects singing in the night. There was a
steady, monotonous rumbling high above where Air Force planes
patrolled outside the Park. After a time Jill said, "You seemed
discouraged when you talked to that general."

"I was," said Lockley. "I am. He played it safe, refused to admit that
anybody in authority over him could possibly be mistaken. That's sound
policy, and I was contradicting the official opinion of his superiors.
I've got to find somebody of much lower rank, or much higher.
Maybe--"

Jill said in a strained voice, "Stop!"

He braked. She said unsteadily, "Holding the wire, I smell that
horrible smell."

He put his hand on the wire's end. He shared the sensation.

"Terror beam across the highway," he said calmly. "Maybe on our
account, maybe not. But there was a side road a little way back."

He backed the car. He'd smashed the backing lights, too. He guided
himself by starlight. Presently he swung the wheel and faced the car
about. He drove back the way he had come. A mile or so, and there was
another hard-surface road branching off. He took it. Half an hour
later Jill said quickly, "Brakes!"

The road was blocked once more by an invisible terror beam, into which
any car moving at reasonable speed must move before its driver could
receive warning.

"This isn't good," he said coldly. "They may have picked some good
places to block. We have to go almost at random, just picking roads
that head away from the Park. I don't know how thoroughly they can
cage us in, though."

There was a flicker of light in the sky. Lockley jerked his head
around. It flashed again. Lightning. The sky was clouding up.

"It's getting worse," he said in a strained voice. "I've been taking
every turn that ought to lead us away from the Park, but I've had to
use the stars for direction. I didn't think that soldiers would keep
us from getting away from here. I was almost confident. But what will
I do without the stars?"

He drove on. The clouds piled up, blotting out the heavens. Once
Lockley saw a faint glow in the sky and clenched his teeth. He turned
away from it at the first opportunity. The glow could be Serena, and
he could have been forced back toward it by the windings of the
highway he'd followed without lights. Twice Jill warned him of beams
across the highway. Once, driven by his increasing anxiety, his brakes
almost failed to stop him in time. When the car did stop, he was aware
of faint tinglings on his skin. There were erratic flashings in his
eyes, too, and a discordant composite of sounds which by association
with past suffering made him nauseated. Perhaps this extra leakage
from the terror beam was through the metal of the car.

When he got out of that terror beam the sky was three-quarters blacked
out and before he was well away from the spot there was only a tiny
patch of stars well down toward the horizon. There were lightning
flickers overhead. After a time he depended on them to show him the
road.

Then the rain came. The lightning increased. The road twisted and
turned. Twice the car veered off onto the road's shoulders, but each
time he righted it. As time passed conditions grew worse. It was
urgent that he get as far as possible from Serena, because of the Wild
Life truck which could seize Jill and himself if its beam generators
were repaired, and whose occupants could murder them if they weren't.
But it was most urgent that he get away beyond the military cordon to
find men who would listen to his information and see that use was made
of it. Yet in driving rain and darkness, without car lights and daring
to drive only at a crawl, he might be completely turned around.

"I think," he said at last, "I'll turn in at the next farm gate the
lightning shows us. I'll try to get the car into a barn so it won't
show up at daybreak. We might be heading straight back into the Park!"

He did turn, the next time a lightning flash showed him a turn-off
beside a rural free delivery mailbox. There was a house at the end of
a lane. There was a barn. He got out and was soaked instantly, but he
explored the open space behind the wide, open doors. He backed the car
in.

"So," he explained to Jill, "if we have a chance to move we won't have
to back around first."

They sat in the car and looked out at the rain-filled darkness. There
was no light anywhere except when lightning glittered on the rain. In
such illuminations they made out the farmhouse, dripping floods of
water from its eaves. There was a chicken house. There were fences.
They could not see to the gate or the highway through the falling
water, but there had been solid woodland where they turned off into
the lane.

"We'll wait," said Lockley distastefully, "to see if we are in a tight
spot in the morning. If we're well away--and I've no real idea where
we are--we'll go on. If not, we'll hide till dark and hope for stars
to steer by when we go."

Jill said confidently, "We'll make it. But where to?"

"To any place away from Boulder Lake Park, and where I'm a human being
instead of a crackpot civilian. To where I can explain some things to
people who'll listen, if it isn't too late."

"It's not," said Jill with as much assurance as before.

There was a pause. The rain poured down. Lightning flashed. Thunder
roared.

"I didn't know," said Jill tentatively, "that you believed the
invaders--the monsters--had people helping them."

"The overall picture isn't a human one," he told her. "But there's a
design that shows somebody knows us. For instance, nobody's been
killed. At least not publicly. That was arranged by somebody who
understood that if there was a massacre, we'd fight to the end of our
lives and teach our children to fight after us."

She thought it over. "You'd be that way," she said presently. "But not
everybody. Some people will do anything to stay alive. But you
wouldn't."

The rain made drumming sounds on the barn roof. Lockley said, "But
what's happened isn't altogether what humans would devise. Humans who
planned a conquest would know they couldn't make us surrender to them.
If this was a sort of Pearl Harbor attack by human enemies--and you
can guess who it might be--they might as well start killing us on the
largest possible scale at the beginning. If monsters with no
information about us landed, they might perpetrate some massacres with
the entirely foolish idea of cowing us. But there haven't been any
massacres. So it's neither a cold war trick nor an unadvised landing
of monsters. There's another angle in it somewhere. Monster-human
cooperation is only a guess. I'm not satisfied, but it's the best
answer so far."

Jill was silent for a long time. Then she said irrelevantly, "You must
have been a good friend of ... of...."

"Vale?" Lockley said. "No. I knew him, but that's all. He only joined
the Survey a few months ago. I don't suppose I've talked to him a
dozen times, and four of those times he was with you. Why'd you think
we were close friends?"

"What you've done for me," she said in the darkness.

He waited for a lightning flash to show him her expression. She was
looking at him.

"I didn't do it for Vale," said Lockley.

"Then why?"

"I'd have done it for anyone," said Lockley ungraciously.

In a way it was true, of course. But he wouldn't have gone up to the
construction camp to make sure that anyone hadn't been left behind.
The idea wouldn't have occurred to him.

"I don't think that's true," said Jill.

He did not answer. If Vale was alive, Jill was engaged to him;
although if matters worked out, Lockley would not be such a fool as to
play the gentleman and let her marry Vale by default. On the other
hand, if Vale was dead, he wouldn't be the kind of fool who'd try to
win her for himself before she'd faced and recovered from Vale's
death. A girl could forgive herself for breaking her engagement to a
living man, but not for disloyalty to a dead one.

"I think," said Lockley deliberately, "that we should change the
subject. I will talk about why I went to the Lake after you when
everything has settled down. I had reasons. I still have them. I will
express them, eventually, whether Vale likes it or not. But not now."

There was a long silence, while rain fell with heavy drumming noises
and the world was only a deep curtain of lightning-lighted droplets of
falling water.

"Thanks," said Jill very quietly. "I'm glad."

And then they sat in silence while the long hours went by. Eventually
they dozed. Lockley was awakened by the ending of the rain. It was
then just the beginning of gray dawn. The sky was still filled with
clouds. The ground was soaked. There were puddles here and there in
the barnyard, and water dripped from the barn's eaves, and from the
now vaguely visible house, and from the two or three trees beside it.

Lockley opened the car door and got out quietly. Jill did not waken.
He visited the chicken house, and horrendous squawkings came out of
it. He found eggs. He went to the house, stepping gingerly from grass
patch to grass patch, avoiding the puddles between them. He found
bread, jars of preserves and cans of food. He inspected the lane. The
car's tracks had been washed out. He nodded to himself.

He went back to the barn. There was still only dusky half-light. He
pulled the doors almost shut behind him, leaving only a four-inch gap
to see through. Now the car was safely out of sight and there was no
sign that any living being was near.

"You closed the doors," said Jill. "Why?"

He said reluctantly, "I'm afraid we're as badly off as we were at the
beginning. Unless I'm mistaken, we got turned around in that rainstorm
on those twisty roads, and the Park begins nearby. This isn't the
highway I drove up on to find you, the one where my car's wrecked.
This is another one. I don't think we're more than twenty miles from
the Lake, here. And that's something I didn't intend!"

He began to unload his pockets.

"I got something for us to eat. Well just have to lie low until night
and fumble our way out toward the cordon, with the stars to guide us."

There was silence, save for the lessened dripping of water. Lockley
was filled with a sort of baffled impatience with himself. He felt
that he'd acted like an idiot in trying to escape the evacuated area
by car. But there'd been nothing else to do. Before that he'd stupidly
been unsuspicious when the Wild Life truck came down a highway that
he'd known was blocked by a terror beam. And perhaps he'd been a fool
to refuse to discuss why he'd gone up to the construction camp to see
to her safety when by all the rules of reason it was none of his
business.

The gray light paled a little. Through the gap between the barn doors,
he could see past the house. Then he could see the length of the lane
and the trees on the far side of the highway.

He was laying out the food when suddenly he froze, listening. The
stillness of just-before-dawn was broken by the distant rumble of an
internal-combustion engine. It was a familiar kind of rumbling. It
drew nearer. Except for the singularly distinct impacts of drippings
from leaves and roof to the ground below, it was the only sound in all
the world.

It became louder. Jill clenched her hands unconsciously.

"I don't think there are any car tracks at the turn-off where we came
in," said Lockley in a level voice. "The rain should have washed them
out. It's not likely they're looking for us here anyhow. But I've only
got three bullets left in the pistol. Maybe you'd better go off and
hide in the cornfield. Then if things go wrong they'll believe I left
you somewhere."

"No," said Jill composedly, "I'd leave tracks in the ploughed ground.
They'd find me."

Lockley ground his teeth. He got out the pistol he'd taken from the
truck driver in the lighted room in Serena. He looked at it grimly. It
would be useless, but....

Jill came and stood beside him, watching his face.

The rumbling of the truck was still nearer and louder. It diminished
for a moment where a curve in the road took the vehicle behind some
trees that deadened its noise. But then the sound increased suddenly.
It was very loud and frighteningly near.

Lockley watched through the gap between the barn doors. He stayed
well back lest his face be seen.

The trailer-truck with the Wild Life Control markings on it rumbled
past. It growled and roared. The noise seemed thunderous. Its wheels
splashed as they went through a puddle close by the gate.

It went away into the distance. Jill took a deep breath of relief.
Lockley made a warning gesture.

He listened. The noise went on steadily for what he guessed to be a
mile or more. Then they heard it stop. Only by straining his ears
could Lockley pick up the sound of an idling motor. Maybe that was
imagination. Certainly at any other less silent time he could not
possibly have heard it. Jill whispered, "Do you think--"

He gestured for silence again. The distant heavy engine continued to
idle. One minute. Two. Three. Then the grinding of gears and the roar
of the engine once more. The truck went on. Its sound diminished. It
faded away altogether.

"They got to a place where the road's blocked with a terror beam,"
said Lockley evenly. "They stopped and called by short wave and the
beam was cut off, then they went past the block-point and undoubtedly
the beam was turned on again."

He debated a decision.

"We'll have breakfast," he said shortly. "We'll have to eat the eggs raw,
but we need to eat. Then we'll figure things out. It may be that we'd be
sensible to forget about cars and try to get to the cordon on foot,
robbing farmhouses of food on the way. There can't be too many ...
collaborators. And we could keep out of sight."

He opened a jar of preserves.

"But it would be better for you to be travelling by car, if tonight's
clear and there's starlight to drive by."

Jill said practically, "There might be some news...."

Her hands shook as she put the pocket radio on the hood of the car.
Lockley noticed it. He felt, himself, the strain of their long march
through the wilderness with danger in every breath they drew. And he
was shaken in a different way by the proof that humans were
cooperating fully with the invading monsters. It was unthinkable that
anybody could be a traitor not only to his own country but to all the
human race. He felt incredulous. It couldn't be true! But it obviously
was.

The radio made noises. Lockley turned it in another direction. There
was music. Jill's face worked. She struggled not to show how she felt.

The radio said, "_Special news bulletin! Special news bulletin! The
Pentagon announces that for the first time there has been practically
complete success in duplicating the terror beam used by the space
invaders at Boulder Lake! Working around the clock, teams of foreign
and American scientists have built a projector of what is an entirely
new type of electronic radiation which produces every one of the
physiological effects of the alien terror beam! It is low-power, so
far, and has not produced complete paralysis in experimental animals.
Volunteers have submitted themselves to it, however, and report that
it produces the sensations experienced by members of the military
cordon around Boulder Lake. A crash program for the development of the
projector is already under way. At the same time a crash program to
develop a counter to it is already showing promising results. The
authorities are entirely confident that a complete defense against the
no longer mysterious weapon will be found. There is no longer any
reason to fear that earth will be unable to defend itself against the
invaders now present on earth, or any reinforcements they may
receive!_"

The newscast stopped and a commercial called the attention of
listeners to the virtues of an anti-allergy pill. Jill watched
Lockley's face. He did not relax.

The broadcast resumed. With this full and certain hope of a defense
against the invasion weapon, said the announcer, it remained important
not to destroy the alien ship if it could be captured for study. The
use of atom bombs was, therefore, again postponed. But they would be
used if necessary. Meanwhile, against such an emergency, the areas of
evacuation would be enlarged. People would be removed from additional
territory so if bombs were used there would be no humans near to be
harmed.

Another commercial. Lockley turned off the radio.

"What do you think?" asked Jill.

"I wish they hadn't made that broadcast," said Lockley. "If there were
only monsters involved and they didn't understand English, it would be
all right. But with humans helping them, it sets a deadline. If we're
going to counter their weapon, they have to use it before we finish
the job."

After a moment he said bitterly, "There was a time, right after the
last big war, when we had the bomb and nobody else did. There couldn't
be a cold war then! There were years when we could destroy others and
they couldn't have fought back. Now somebody else is in that position.
They can destroy us and we can't do a thing. It'll be that way for a
week, or maybe two, or even three. It'll be strange if they don't take
advantage of their opportunity."

Jill tried to eat the food Lockley had laid out. She couldn't. She
began to cry quietly. Lockley swore at himself for telling her the
worst, which it was always his instinct to see. He said urgently,
"Hold it! That's the worst that could happen. But it's not the most
likely!"

She tried to control her tears.

"We're in a fix, yes!" he said insistently. "It does look like there
may be a flock of other space ship landings within days. But the
monsters don't want to kill people. They want a world with people
working for them, not dead. They've proved it. They'll avoid
massacres. They won't let the humans who're their allies destroy the
people they want alive and useful."

Jill clenched her fists. "But it would be better to be dead than like
that!"

"But wait!" protested Lockley. "We've duplicated the terror beam. Do
you think they'll leave it at that? The men who know how to do it will
be scattered to a dozen or a hundred places, so they can't possibly
all be found, and they'll keep on secretly working until they've made
the beams and a protection against them and then something more deadly
still! We humans can't be conquered! We'll fight to the end of time!"

"But you yourself," said Jill desperately, "you said there couldn't be
a defense against the beam! You said it!"

"I was discouraged," he protested. "I wasn't thinking straight. Look!
With no equipment at all, I found out how to detect the stuff before
it was strong enough to paralyze us. You know that. The scientists
will have equipment and instruments, and now that they've got the beam
they'll be able to try things. They'll do better than I did. They can
try heterodyning the beam. They can try for interference effects. They
may find something to reflect it, or they can try refraction."

He paused anxiously. She sobbed, once. "But other weapons--"

"There may not be any. And there's bound to be some trick of
refraction that'll help. It thins out at the edges now. That's how we
get warning of it. It's refracted by ions in the air. That's why it
isn't a completely tight beam. Ions in the air act like drops of mist;
they refract sunshine and make rainbows after rain. And we got the
smell-effect first. That proves there's refraction."

He watched her face. She swallowed. What he'd said was largely without
meaning. Actually, it wasn't even right. The evidence so far was that
the nerves of smell were more sensitive than the optic nerves or the
auditory ones, while nerves to bundles of muscle were less sensitive
still. But Lockley wasn't concerned with accuracy just now. He wanted
to reassure Jill.

Then his eyes widened suddenly and he stared past her. He'd been
speaking feverishly out of emotion, while a part of his mind stood
aside and listened. And that detached part of his mind had heard him
say something worth noting.

He stood stock-still for seconds, staring blankly. Then he said very
quietly, "You made me think, then. I don't know why I didn't, before.
The terror beam does scatter a little, like a searchlight beam in thin
mist. It's scattered by ions, like light by mist-droplets. That's
right!"

He stopped, thinking ahead. Jill said challengingly, "Go on!" Again
what he'd said had little meaning to her, but she could see that he
believed it important.

"Why, a searchlight beam is stopped by a cloud, which is many
mist-droplets in one place. It's scattered until it simply doesn't
penetrate!" Lockley suddenly seemed indignant at his own failure to
see something that had been so obvious all along. "If we could make a
cloud of ions, it should stop the terror beam as clouds stop light! We
could--"

Again he stopped short, and Jill's expression changed. She looked
confident again. She even looked proud as she watched Lockley
wrestling with his problem, unconsciously snapping his fingers.

"Vale and I," he said jerkily, "had electronic base-measuring
instruments. Some of their elements had to be buried in plastic
because otherwise they ionized the air and leaked current like a
short. If I had that instrument now--No. I'd have to take the plastic
away and it couldn't be done without smashing things."

"What would happen," asked Jill, "if you made what you're thinking
about?"

"I might," said Lockley. "I just possibly might make a gadget that
would create a cloud of ions around the person who carried it. And it
might reflect some of the terror beam and refract the rest so none got
through to the man!"

Jill said hopefully, "Then tonight we go into a deserted town and
steal the things you need...."

Lockley interrupted in a relieved voice, "No-o-o-o. What I need, I
think, is a cheese grater and the pocket radio. And there should be a
cheese grater in the house."

He listened at the barn door gap, and then went out. Presently he was
back. He had not only a cheese grater but also a nutmeg grater. Both
were made of thin sheet metal in which many tiny holes had been
punched, so that sharp bits of torn metal stood out to make the
grating surface. Lockley knew that sharp points, when charged
electrically, make tiny jets of ionized air which will deflect a
candle flame. Here there were thousands of such points.

He set to work on the car seat, pushing the pistol with its three
remaining bullets out of the way. The pistol was reserved for Jill in
case of untoward events, when it would be of little or no practical
value.

He operated on the tiny radio with his pocket-knife to establish a
circuit which should oscillate when the battery was turned on. There
was induction, to raise the voltage at the peaks and troughs of the
oscillations. A transistor acted as a valve to make the oscillations
repeated surges of current of one sign in the innumerable sharp points
of the graters. And there was an effect he did not anticipate. The
ion-forming points were of minutely different lengths and patterns, so
the radiation inevitably accompanying the ion clouds was of minutely
varying wave lengths. The consequence of using the two graters was, of
course, that rather astonishing peaks of energy manifested themselves
in ultra-microscopic packages for a considerable distance from the
device. But Lockley did not plan that. It happened because of the
materials he had to use in lieu of something better.

When it was finished he told Jill, "I can only check ion production
here. If it works, it ought to make a lighter-flame flicker when near
the points. If it does that, I'll go up the road to where the
trailer-truck stopped. I've a pretty good idea that the road's blocked
by a terror beam there."

Absorbed, he threw the switch. And instantly there was a racking,
deafening explosion. The pistol on the car seat blew itself to bits,
smashing the windshield and ripping the cushion open. The three
cartridges in its cylinder had exploded simultaneously.

Lockley seized a pitchfork. He stood savagely, ready for anything.
Powder smoke drifted through the barn. Nothing else happened.

After long, tense moments, Lockley said slowly, "That could be another
weapon the monsters have turned on. It's been imagined. They could be
using a broadcast or a beam we haven't suspected to disarm the troops
of the cordon. They could have a detonator beam that sets off
explosives at a distance. It's possible. And if that's what they're
turning on they only have to sweep the sky and the bombers aloft will
be wiped out."

But there were no sounds other than the slowly diminishing drip of
water from the barn roof, and the house eaves, and the few trees in
the barnyard.

"Anyhow they've ruined our only weapon," said Lockley coldly. "It
would be a detonation beam setting off the cartridges. That would be a
perfect protection against atomic bombs, if the chemical explosive
that makes them go off could be triggered from a distance. Clever
people, these monsters!"

Then he said abruptly, "Come on! It's ten times more necessary for us
to get to where somebody can make use of our information!"

"Go where?" asked Jill, shaken once more.

"We take to the woods until dark," said Lockley, "and meanwhile I'll
check this supposedly promising gadget--though it looks pretty feeble
if the monsters have a detonating beam--against the road blocking beam
up yonder. Come on!"

He stuffed his pockets with food. He led the way.

The morning had now arrived. The sun was visible, red at the eastern
horizon.

"Walk on the grass!" commanded Lockley.

There was no point in leaving footprints, though there was no reason
to believe the explosion on the car seat had been heard. Lockley,
indeed, considered that if the aliens had just used a previously
undisclosed weapon, there would be explosions of greater or lesser
violence all over the evacuated territory and all other areas within
its range. There wouldn't be many farmhouses without a shotgun put
away somewhere. There would be shotgun shells, too. If the aliens had
a detonator beam as well as one that produced the terror beam's
effects, then all hope of resistance was probably gone.

They crossed to the house and moved alongside it. They went with
instinctive furtiveness out of the lane and quickly into the woodland
on the farther side. They were soaked almost immediately. Fallen
leaves clung to their shoes. Drooping branches smeared them with
wetness. Lockley went barely out of sight of the highway and then
trudged doggedly in the direction the Wild Life Control trailer-truck
had taken. He handed Jill the ribbon of bronze that had been the
mainspring of his watch.

"We might pick up the beam from the wetness underfoot," he said, "but
we'll play it safe and use this too."

They went on for a long way. Lockley fumed, "I don't like this! We
ought to be there--"

"I think," said Jill, "I smell it."

"I'll try it," said Lockley.

He detected the jungle smell and its concomitant revolting odors. He
led Jill back.

"Wait here, by this big tree stump. I'll be able to find you and
you're safe enough from the beam."

He turned away. Jill said pleadingly, "Please be careful!"

"A little while ago," he told her gloomily, "I felt that I had too
much useful information to take any chances with my life, let alone
yours. I'm not so sure of my importance now. But I think you still
need somebody else around."

"I do!" said Jill. "And you know it! I'd much rather--"

"I'll be back," he repeated.

He went away, trailing the watch spring.

He was extra cautious now. The smell recurred and grew stronger. He
began to feel the first faint flashes of light in his eyes. It was the
symptom which followed the smell when approaching a terror beam. Then
a faint, discordant murmur, originating in his own ears. He turned on
the device made of two graters and the elements of a pocket radio. The
smell ceased. The faint flashes of light stopped. There was no longer
a raucous sound.

He turned off the ion producing device. The symptoms returned. He
turned it on and off. He took a step forward. He tested again. The
cloud of ions from the innumerable jagged points was invisible, but
somehow it refracted or reflected--in any case, neutralized--the
weapon of the beings at Boulder Lake. He went on and presently he felt
the very faintest possible tingling of his skin and heard the barest
whisper of a sound, and smelled the jungle reek as something so
diluted that he was hardly sure he smelled it.

He went on, and those faint sensations ceased. Presently, impatient of
his own timorousness, he turned the device off again. He had walked
through the terror beam.

He started back with the device turned on once more and at the point
where he'd felt the beam's manifestations faintly, he stopped to savor
his now seemingly useless triumph. If the monsters had a detonating
beam this meant nothing. Yet it could have meant everything. He paid
close attention and distinctly but weakly experienced the effect of
the terror beam.

Then he didn't. Not at all. The sensations were cut off.

He heard Jill cry out shrilly. He plunged toward the place where he
had left her. He raced. He leaped. Once he fell, and frantically swore
at the wet stuff that had caused him to slip. He reached the tree
stump and Jill was not there. He saw the saucer-sized tracks her feet
had made on the saturated fallen leaves. They led toward the road.

He heard a car door slam and a motor roar. He plunged onward more
desperately than before.

The motor raced away. And Lockley got out on the highway only in time
to see the rear of a brown-painted, military-marked car some three
hundred yards away. It swept around a curve of the highway and was
gone. It was going through the space where the road was blocked by a
terror beam, headed obviously for Boulder Lake.

What had happened was self-evident. From her place beside the huge
stump she'd seen a military car approaching. And she and Lockley had
been trying to reach the cordon of troops around Boulder Lake. There
was no reason to distrust men in uniform or in a military car. She'd
run to flag it down. She had. By a coincidence, it was undoubtedly
where a carload of collaborating humans would have stopped to have the
road-blocking beam cut off by their monster allies. She'd approached
the stopped car. And something frightened her. She screamed.

But she'd been pulled into the car, which went on before the beam
could come on again to stop it.



CHAPTER 9


It was very likely that at that moment Lockley despised himself more
bitterly than any other man alive. He blamed himself absolutely for
Jill's capture. If there were humans acting with the alien invaders,
her fate would unquestionably be more horrible than at the hands of
the monsters alone. After all, there was one nation most likely to
deal with extra-terrestrial creatures to help them in the conquest of
earth, and its troops were not notorious for their kindly behavior to
civilians.

And Jill was their captive. He'd been carried past the place where a
terror beam blocked the road. The military markings might mean the car
was stolen, or that its markings and paint were counterfeit. It seemed
certain that Jill had gone up to it in confidence that there could
only be American soldiers in such a car, and when near it found out
her mistake too late.

These were not things that Lockley thought out in detail at the
beginning. He ran after the car like a mad man, unable to feel
anything but horror and so terrible a fury that it should have killed
its objects by sheer intensity.

Presently he heard hoarse, gasping sounds. He realized that the sounds
were the breath going in and out of his own throat, while Jill was
carried farther and farther away from him in a car which traveled ten
yards to his one. He sobbed then, and suddenly he was strangely and
unnaturally calm. He was able to think quite coolly. The only
difference between this and normal thinking was that now he could
only think about one thing--full and complete and terrible revenge for
the crimes committed and to be committed against Jill. She would be
taken to Boulder Lake. So he would go to Boulder Lake, and somehow, in
some manner, he would destroy utterly all living beings there and
every trace of their coming.

Which, of course, was both natural and unreasonable. But reason would
have been unnatural at such a time as this.

He moved along the highway in a passion of ultimate resolve. In the
rest of the world, time passed without knowledge of his emotional
state. The rest of the world was suffering emotional agonies of its
own.

The United States had become popular among peoples who disliked all
things American except those they were given free, and who continued
to dislike the givers. Now though, the United States had been invaded
from space by creatures using weapons of unprecedented type and
effect. If the United States were conquered, there was no other nation
likely to remain free. So a great deal of anti-Americanism faded under
pressure of an ardent desire for America to be successful in its
self-defense.

Moreover, anticipating other alien landings which could take place
anywhere, the United States offered to share its stock of atom bombs
with any nation so invaded. American popularity increased. The fact
that the USSR made no such proposal also had its effect. The United
States invited scientists of every country to help in solving the
menace of the terror beam, and committed itself to share any
discoveries for defense against it with all the world. Again there was
an improvement in the public image of the United States abroad.

But Lockley knew nothing of this. His pocket radio no longer existed
to give him news. It had been rebuilt into something else, whose most
conspicuous parts were cheese and nutmeg graters, slung over his
shoulder as he marched. But if he had known of changes in the
popularity of his country, he wouldn't have been interested. He could
fix his mind only on one subject and matters related to it.

He tramped along the highway, possessed by a cold demon of hatred. He
was on foot for lack of a car. He was unarmed. At the moment he
believed that all the rest of humanity was disarmed, in effect if not
in fact. So he had no plans, only an infinite hatred.

But because he would have to pass through terror beams to get at those
he meant to destroy, he realized that it was necessary to make sure
that he would be able to pass through them, that his equipment for
reaching Boulder Lake was in good order. It was still turned on. He
turned it off to be economical of its batteries. He went on, thinking
of only one subject, examining every possibility for revenge with a
passionate patience, undiscouraged because one idea after another was
plainly impossible, but continuing obsessively to think of others.

He smelled the foetid odor, which cut through his absorption because
of its connotations. He turned on his device and went doggedly ahead.
He knew he had entered a terror beam by the faint perceptions which
came through the cloud of ions his instrument produced. Then they
ceased. He knew that the beam had been cut off. He heard a motor rev
up. A car or truck had stopped beyond the road-blocking beam and
waited for it to be cut off, as it had been.

Lockley stepped into the woods hating the vehicle bitterly as it
approached, but wanting to save destruction for those where Jill had
been taken.

He was hidden when the car appeared. It was a perfectly commonplace
car with a whip aerial at its rear. It came confidently along the
highway. A hundred yards from him, there were explosions. Smoke came
out of the open windows. The engine stopped and the car bucked crazily
and went into the ditch beside the highway. A man plunged out,
slapping at his leg. A revolver in its holster had exploded all its
shells. The leather holster had saved him from serious injury, but his
clothing was on fire. Other men, two of them, got out hastily. Things
had exploded in the back of the car, too. The three men swore
agitatedly.

Then one of them said something which stimulated the others to frantic
flight down the highway away from the ditched car. The third man
limped anxiously after the faster-moving two.

Lockley, watching and hating with undivided attention, knew when the
terror beam came on again. He felt it, very faint because of his
protection, but quite distinct. The explosions had taken place when
the car was in the area now covered again by the terror beam. The men
in the car, astonished and scorched, had fled because the beam was due
to come back on and they didn't want to be caught in it.

Lockley noted that the human confederates of the monsters had no
protection against the beam to match his own. Perhaps the monsters
themselves were protected only near the projectors. This was an item
affecting his plans of revenge for Jill. He stored it away in his
mind. Then he realized that the weapons in the car had exploded just
like the pistol on his own seat cushion. The explosion was not
associated with the terror beam. There'd been no beam in action when
his own pistol blew up. It did not seem reasonable that if the
monsters possessed a detonation beam that they'd turn it on their own
confederates.

No. Rational beings would do nothing so self-contradictory.

Then Lockley looked down at the cheese grater-pocket radio device of
his own manufacture. He considered the fact that his own pistol had
exploded the instant he'd turned the gadget on. The weapons in the
other car detonated when that car was near him.

He plodded onward thinking very clearly and precisely about the
matter. He even remembered to turn off his gadget because he would
need it to avenge Jill. But when he tried to think of any subject
unconnected with revenge, his mind became confused and agitated.

Two miles along the highway, which had not yet turned to head in
toward Boulder Lake, there was a farmhouse. Lockley walked heavily to
the abandoned building. He found the door locked. Without conscious
thought, he forced it. He searched the closets. He found a shotgun and
half a box of shells. He considered them, then left the gun and all
the shells but three. He went out. Presently he laid a shotgun shell
down on the road. He paced off twenty-five yards and dropped another.
He dropped a third twenty-five yards farther on, and then carefully
counted off three hundred feet. The car had been just about that far
away when the explosions came.

He turned on his device. Two of the three shells exploded smokily. The
farthest away did not explode.

He did not rejoice. He went on without elation, but it became a part
of his painstaking search for vengeance that he knew he could set off
explosives within a hundred and twenty-five yards of himself. There
was something about the device he'd constructed which made explosives
detonate, up to a distance of a little over one hundred yards. He felt
no curiosity about it, though it was simple enough. The heterodyning
of extremely saw-toothed waves produced peaks of energy until the
saw-teeth began to smooth out. There were infinitesimal spots in
which, for infinitesimal lengths of time, energy conditions comparable
to sparks existed. This had not been worked out in advance, but the
reason was clear.

He came to the place where the main highway to Boulder Lake branched
off from the road he was following. He turned into it, walking
doggedly.

Three miles toward the lake, an engine sounded from behind him. He got
off the highway and turned the switch. A half-ton truck came trundling
openly along the road. It came closer and closer.

Small-arm ammunition exploded. The engine stopped and the light truck
toppled over onto its side. Lockley did not approach it. Its driver
might not be dead, and he would not find it possible to leave any man
alive who was associated with Jill's captors. He passed the truck and
went on up the highway.

Seven miles up the road a truck came down from Boulder Lake. Lockley
placed himself discreetly out of sight. He turned on his instrument. A
gun flew to pieces with a thunderous detonation. The truck crashed. It
was interesting to Lockley that automobile engines invariably went
dead at about the time that explosives went off. The fact was, of
course, that ionized air is more or less conductive. In an ion cloud
the spark plugs shorted and did not fire in the cylinders.

There were two other vehicles which essayed to pass Lockley as he
went on up the long way to the lake. Both came from the interior of
the Park. He left them wrecked beside the highway. Between times, he
walked with a dogged grimness toward the place where Vale had been the
first to report a thing come down from the sky. That had been how many
days ago? Three? Four?

Then Lockley had been a quiet and well-conducted citizen inclined to
pessimism about future events, but duly considerate of the rights of
others. Now he'd changed. He felt only one emotion, which was hatred
such as he'd never imagined before. He had only one motive, which was
to take total and annihilating vengeance for what had been done to
Jill.

He plodded on and on. He had to make a march of not less than twenty
miles from the Park's beginning. He journeyed on foot because there
were terror beams to pass and automobile engines did not run when his
protective device operated. He could not arm himself from the cars
that ditched, because all chemical explosive weapons and their
ammunition blew at the same time. He was a minute figure among the
mountains, marching alone upon a winding highway, moving resolutely to
destroy--alone--the invaders from outer space and the men who worked
with them for the conquest of earth. For his purpose he carried the
strangest of equipment, a device made of a pocket radio and a cheese
grater.

He had food in his pockets, but he could not eat. During the afternoon
he became impatient of its weight and threw it away. But he thirsted
often. More than once he drank from small streams over which the
highway builders had made small concrete bridges.

At three in the afternoon a truck came up from behind. Here he
trudged between steep cliffs which made him seem almost a midget. The
highway went through a crevice between adjoining mountainsides. There
was no place for him to conceal himself. When he heard the engine, he
stopped and faced it. The truck had picked up many men from wrecked
cars along its route. There were scorched and scratched and wounded
men, hurt by the explosion of their firearms. The truck brought them
along and overtook Lockley.

He waited very calmly since it did not seem likely that they would
realize that one man had caused the crashes. The driver of the truck
with the picked-up men did not even think of such a thing. Lockley
seemed much more likely the victim of still another wreck.

The overtaking truck slowed down. There would be no strangers in
Boulder Lake Park. There would only be the task force aiding the
monsters, as Lockley reasoned it out. So the truck slowed, preparatory
to taking Lockley aboard.

At a hundred and twenty-five yards from Lockley, weapons in the truck
cab blew themselves violently apart. The engine, stopped in gear,
acted as a violently applied brake. The truck swerved off the highway.
It turned over and was still.

Lockley turned and walked on. He considered coldly that it was
perfectly safe for him to go on. There were no weapons left behind
him. The men themselves were shaken up. They would attempt to make no
trouble beyond a report of their situation and a plea for help. The
report could be made by the radio, which was not smashed.

Half an hour later, Lockley felt the tingling which meant that his
instrument was protecting him from a terror beam. The tingling lasted
only a short time, but fifteen minutes later it came back. Then it
returned at odd intervals. Five minutes--eight--ten--three--six--one.
Each time the terror beam should have paralyzed him and caused intense
suffering. A man with no protective device would have had his nerves
shattered by torment coming so violently at unpredictable intervals.

Lockley tried to reason out why this nerve-wracking application of the
terror beam hadn't been used before. To an unprotected man it would be
worse than continuous pain. No living man could remain able to resist
any demand if exposed to such torture.

The beam was evidently swung at random intervals, and the phenomenon
lasted for an hour and a half. Anyone but Lockley behind a cloud of
ions would have been reduced to shivering hysteria. Then, suddenly,
the beamings stopped. But Lockley left his device in operation.

Half an hour later still--close to five o'clock--it appeared that the
invaders assumed that any enemy should have been softened up for
capture. They sent an expedition to find out what had happened to
their trucks and cars.

Lockley saw four cars and a light truck in close formation moving
toward him from the Lake. They were close, as if for mutual
protection. They moved steadily, as if inviting the fate that had
overtaken others. The short wave reports from smashed trucks seemed
improbable to them, but the expedition was equipped to investigate
even such unlikely happenings.

The four cars in the lead contained five men each. Each man was armed
with a rifle containing a single cartridge in its chamber and none in
its magazine. The rifles pointed straight up. There was more
ammunition in the light truck behind, and it was in clips ready for
use, but the truck body was of iron. If that ammunition detonated, it
could do no harm. If it did not, it would be available for use against
the single man mentioned by the driver of the last truck to be
wrecked.

But Lockley saw them coming. They came sedately down a long straight
stretch of road. He climbed a rocky wall beside the highway to a
little ravine that led away from the road. He posted himself where he
was extremely unlikely to be seen. Then he waited.

The cavalcade of cars appeared. It drove briskly toward Lockley at
something like thirty miles an hour. Perhaps ten yards separated the
lead car from the second. The truck was a trifle closer to the four
man-carrying vehicles. They swept along, every man alert. They would
pass forty feet below Lockley.

He did nothing. His device was already turned on. He watched in
detached calm.

The lead car stopped as if it had run into a brick wall, while rifles
inside it blew holes in its top. The second car crashed into it,
rifles detonating. The third car. The fourth. The truck piled into the
others with a gigantic flare and furious report, each separate brass
cartridge case exploding in the same instant. The truck became scrap
iron.

Lockley went away along the small ravine. From now on he would avoid
the highway. He estimated that he would arrive at Boulder Lake itself
about half an hour after dark. It occurred to him that then Jill would
have been a prisoner of the invaders for something more than twelve
hours, at least ten of them at their headquarters.

Before he began the climb that would take him to the invaders, Lockley
stopped at a small stream.

He drank thirstily.



CHAPTER 10


There was a three-day-old moon in the sky when the last colors faded
in the west. When darkness fell it was already low. It gave little
light; not much more than the stars alone. It did help Lockley while
it lasted however. He knew the terrain about Boulder Lake but not in
detail. And it would not be wise for him to move openly to wreak
destruction on the enemies of his nation.

He used the moonlight for his approach by the least practical route to
the lake. When it dimmed and went behind the mountains, he continued
to climb, sliding dangerously, then descend and climb again as the
rough going demanded. His mind was absorbed with reflections upon what
he meant to do. The wrecks on the highway would have given notice to
the invaders that he could do damage. They would take every possible
precaution against him.

It was typical of Lockley that he painstakingly imagined every
obstacle that might be put in his way. During the last half hour of
his scrambling travel, for example, he was tormented by a measure his
enemies might have used to make him advertise his presence. If they
simply laid rifle cartridges on the ground at intervals of twenty-five
or fifty yards, he could not cross that line with his device in
operation without blowing up those shells. It was a possible
countermeasure that caused him to sweat with worry.

But it wasn't thought of by anyone else. To contrive it, a man would
have to know how the detonation field worked and how far it extended.
Nobody but Lockley knew. Therefore no one could contrive this defense
against him.

He worked his way to Boulder Lake's back door through brushwood and
over boulders. Presently he looked down upon his destination. To his
right and left rocky masses were silhouetted against the starry sky.
He gazed down on the lake and the shoreline where the hotel would be
built, and the places where roads came out of the wilderness.

There were changes since the time he'd looked down from Vale's survey
post and before the terror beam captured him. He catalogued them
mentally, but the sight before him was intolerable. Everything he saw,
here where space monsters were believed to hold sway, was in reality
the work of men. Rage filled him at the sight. Hatred. Fury....

In the rest of the world an entirely different sort of emotion was
felt about the subject of the invaders. The United States had
announced to all the world that American and other scientists, working
together, had solved the mystery of the alien weapon. They had
produced a duplicate of the terror beam. It was no less effective and
no less an absolute weapon than the invaders'. And a defense had been
found which was complete. It was being rushed into production. The
experimental counter beam generators would be moved into position to
frustrate and defeat the monsters who had landed upon earth. Military
detachments, protected by the counter generators, would move upon
Boulder Lake at dawn. By sunset tomorrow the aliens would be dead or
captive, and their ship would undoubtedly be in the hands of
scientists for study.

Moreover, the United States would provide counter weapons for other
nations. In no more than months every continent and nation on earth
would be equipped to defy any alien landing that might take place.
The world would be able to defend itself. It would be equipped to do
so. And this was the resolve of the United States because the world
could not exist half free and half enslaved by creatures from a
distant planet. The news poured out from all sources. The alien weapon
was understood and now could be defied. Soon all the world would be
provided with counter weapons. It was necessary for all the world to
be prepared and prepared it would be.

This was the information which made all the world rejoice, though not
yet at ease because aliens still occupied a tiny part of the earth.
But all the world was eager for confirmation of the news it had just
received.

Lockley had no such soothing anticipations. He shook with fury because
what he saw before him was so appalling as to be almost unbelievable.

It was not dark in the space he looked down upon. There were bright
floodlights placed here and there to drench a large area with light.
There were few figures in sight. But what the floodlights showed made
Lockley quiver with hatred.

The floodlights were of typically human type. There were vehicles
parked on a level grassy space. They were of human manufacture. There
was no space ship in the lake, but there was a three-stage rocket set
up, ready for firing. It was of the kind used by humans to put
artificial satellites into orbit. Lockley even knew its designation,
and that it used the new solid fuels for propulsion.

In the lair of the creatures from outer space there was nothing from
outer space. There was nothing in view which was alien or unearthly or
extra-terrestrial. And Lockley made inarticulate growling sounds
because he saw with absolute clarity and certainty that there never
had been anything from outer space at this spot.

There were no monsters. There never had been. And the truth was more
horribly enraging than the deception had been.

Because this could mean the death of the world. This was an attempt to
fight the last war on earth in disguise. Humans had posed as non-human
beings so that America would fight against phantoms while its great
military rival pretended to help and actually stabbed from behind.

It was completely logical, of course. An admitted attack by terror
beams in the form of death rays would involve retaliation by America.
Against a human enemy great, roaring missiles could circle earth to
plunge down upon that enemy's cities to turn them and their
inhabitants into incandescent gas. An attack known to be by humans and
upon humans must touch off the world's last war in which every living
thing might die. No conceivable success at the beginning could prevent
full retaliation. But if the attack were believed to be from space,
then American weapons and valor would be spent against creatures which
were no more than ghosts.

Lockley moved forward. Only he could know the situation as it
presented itself here. Even vengeance for Jill should be put aside, if
it called for action irrelevant to this state of things. But it did
not. A full and terrible revenge for her required exactly the action
the coolest of cold-blooded resolutions would suggest be taken now.
And Lockley moved on and downward to take it.

He began to crawl downhill toward the lights, unaware that there were
some gaps in his picture of the total scene. For example, these lights
could be detected by aircraft overhead. The fact did not occur to
Lockley. He was not given pause by the relaxation of the enemy's
disguise so far as air observation was concerned. He didn't think of
it. He moved on.

He drew near the lighted area. He did not walk, he crawled. He began
to listen with fury-sharpened ears. If he could get close to that huge
rocket, close enough to detonate its solid fuel stores....

That would be at once revenge and expedience. If the rocket's fuel
blew up instead of burning as intended, it would annihilate the camp.
It would wipe out every living creature present. But there would be
fragments left by the explosion. There would be corpses. There would
be wreckage. And that wreckage and those corpses would be unmistakably
human. The last war on earth might not be avoided, but at the worst it
would be fought against America's actual enemy and not against
imaginary monsters.

It was worth dying to accomplish even that. But Jill....

Lockley's progress was infinitely slow, but he needed to take the
greatest pains. He listened carefully.

He heard the faint high roaring of the planes overhead. They were far
away. There were sounds of insects, and the cries of night birds, and
the rustling of leaves and foliage.

There was another sound. A new sound. It was inexplicable. It was a
strange and intermittent muttering. There was a certain irregular
rhythm to it, a familiar rhythm.

He crawled on.

There was movement suddenly, off to his left. Then it stopped. It
could be a man on watch against him simply shifting his position.
Lockley froze, and then went on with even greater caution. He felt
the ground before him for small twigs that might crack under his
weight.

The muttering continued. Presently Lockley realized that it was a
human voice. It was resonant and with many overtones, but still too
faint for him to distinguish words.

He crossed a slight rise that had much brushwood. The brushwood grew
in clumps and he circled them with a patient caution foreign to his
feelings.

The muttering changed and went on. Lockley pressed himself to the
ground. Men went past him a hundred feet away. He saw them in outline
against the illuminated parked cars and trucks and in the space around
the huge rocket. They carried no rifles, probably no firearms at all.
Lockley's march up the highway had warned them of the uselessness of
guns, at least at short range. They were watching for him now. Perhaps
these men were relieving other watchers on the hillside.

He saw other men. They seemed to move restlessly around the lighted
area.

The muttering was louder now. He could almost catch the words. He made
another hundred yards toward the rocket and the voice changed again.
Then he was dazed. The voice was speaking to him! Calling him by name!

_"Lockley! Lockley! Don't do anything crazy! Everything can be
explained! You'll recognize my voice. You talked to me on the
telephone from Serena!_"

Lockley did recognize the voice. It was that of the general who'd
sounded pompous and indignant as he refused to listen to Lockley's
statements. Now, coming out of many loudspeakers and echoing hollowly
from cliffs, it was the same voice but with an intonation that was
persuasive and forthright.

"_You startled me_," said the voice crisply. "_You'd found out there
were humans involved in this business. It was important that the fact
be suppressed. I tried to browbeat you, which was a mistake. While I
was talking to you your suspicion was reported on short wave by the
Wild Life driver. I tried to overawe you. You're the wrong kind of man
for that. But everything can be explained. Everything! Here's Vale to
prove it!_"

There was only an instant's pause. Then Vale's voice came out of the
loudspeakers spread all about.

"_Lockley, this is Vale. The whole thing's faked. There's a good
reason for it, but you stumbled on the facts. They had to be kept
secret. I didn't even tell Jill. This isn't treason, Lockley. We
aren't traitors! Come out and I'll explain everything. Here's
Sattell._"

And Sattell's voice boomed against the hills.

"_Vale's right, Lockley! I didn't know what was up. I was fooled as
much as anybody. But it's all right! It's perfectly all right! When
you understand you'll realize that you had to be deceived just as I
was. Come on out and everything will be explained to your
satisfaction. I promise!_"

Lockley grimaced. How did Sattell get up here? And the general in
command of the cordon? More than that, why did they call his name
instead of simply trying to kill him? Why post watchers on the
hillsides if they were anxious to explain and not to murder? How could
they hope to deceive him after Jill....

There was a pause, and then what was evidently considered a decisive
message came. It was Jill's voice, weary and desperate. It said,
"_Please come out and listen! Please come and let them explain
everything. They can do it. I understand and I believe them. It's
true. It's not treason. I--I beg you to come out and let them tell
you why all this has happened...._"

Her voice trailed off. It had trembled. It was tense. It was strained.
And Lockley cursed softly, shaking with rage. Then the first voice
returned, "_Lockley! Lockley! Don't do anything crazy! Everything can
be explained. You'll recognize my voice. You talked to me on the
telephone from Serena._"

This voice repeated, word for word and intonation for intonation,
exactly what it had said before. The other voices followed in the same
order. They were taped.

In Lockley's state of mind, the taping took away all authority from
the voices. Jill, in particular, sounded as she might have if torture
had been used to break her will and force her to say what her captors
wished. She could not put any warning into it, because she could have
been forced to repeat and repeat the message until her captors were
satisfied.

That would all be avenged now. All of it. And Jill would be grateful
to Lockley even if they never saw each other again; grateful for the
monstrous blast that would wipe this place clean of living creatures.

Lockley suddenly saw a way by which his vengeance could be increased
by just a little. It could be made even more satisfying and just.
Hiding under brushwood while the voices tirelessly repeated their
recorded persuasion, he made a very simple device. It switched onto
the instrument he carried. If his hand clenched, it would go on. If
his hand relaxed, it would go on. So if he could get within a hundred
and twenty-five yards of the rocket he could show himself and let them
know what waited for them, and why.

With infinite patience he got to a place almost near the circle of
unarmed guards about the rocket. He waited. The guards were tense.
They did not like trying to protect something with no weapons. They
were jumpy. The endlessly repeated messages booming into the night
frayed their nerves. They were plainly on edge.

Their tenseness made the oldest trick in the world serve Lockley's
purpose. He threw a stone from an especially dark shadow. It struck
and bounced upon another stone, and it created a rustling of brushwood
at a place distant from Lockley. And the unarmed guards plunged for
that place to seize whatever or whoever had made the disturbance.

They were too eager. They stumbled upon each other.

And Lockley ran, and a voice cried out in terror. And then Lockley
stood with his back to the rocket's lower parts, and he waved the
cheese grater derisively and shouted.

Then there was stillness. Only the booming voice from the speakers
went on. It happened to be Sattell's voice.

"_ ... all right. It's perfectly all right. When you understand you'll
realize that you had to be deceived as I was. It was necessary. Come
out and everything--_"

Somebody cut off the recorder. There was a moment of blank indecision,
and then a man in uniform with two general's stars on his shoulders
came out of somewhere and walked to face Lockley.

"Ah, Lockley!" he said briskly. "That's the thing you smash cars and
explode ammunition with, eh? Do you think it will blow the rocket?"

"I'm going to try it!" said Lockley. "Listen." He showed how anything
that could be done to him would close the switch one way or the other.
"I wanted you to know before I blow it!" he said fiercely. "Where's
Jill? Jill Holmes? One of your cars picked her up and brought her
here. Where is she?"

"We sent her," said the general, "over to the construction camp, in
case you managed to get in the exact situation you're in. In other
words, she's safe. She'll be coming shortly, though. She was to be
notified the instant you appeared--if the rocket didn't blast as your
greeting."

Lockley ground his teeth.

"We'll have this settled before she gets here!"

Vale appeared. He walked forward and stood beside the general.

"We did a job that was several times too good, Lockley," he said
ruefully. "I'd rehearsed my song-and-dance until we thought it was
perfect. What made you suspicious, Lockley? Did you notice we kept the
communicator aimed right so you'd hear through to the end? A fine
point, that. We worried about it."

The headlights of a car moved against a mountainside.

"You see," said Vale, "the thing had to be done this way! Sattell
swore a blue streak when it was explained to him. He felt he'd been
made a fool of. But there are some things that can't be handled
forthrightly!"

Lockley felt physically ill. Jill had been--still was--engaged to
Vale. She'd been anxious about him. She'd been loyal to him. And he
was helping the invaders! He opened his mouth to speak bitterly, when
Sattell appeared. He lined up beside the general and Vale.

"They fooled me too, Lockley," he said wryly. "But it's all right.
They had to. They thought you were fooled. Those three men in the box
with you the other day, they said you were fooled, too. And they're
sharp secret service men!"

"You're very convincing, aren't you?" he raged. "But--"

"You believe," said Sattell, "I've joined up with spies and traitors.
You believe...."

He outlined, with precision, exactly what Lockley did believe; that
phantom monsters were to be credited with waging war against America
while another nation actually murdered Americans. It was a remarkably
accurate picture of Lockley's state of mind.

"But that's all wrong!" insisted Sattell. "This is a quick trick by
our own people for our own safety. For the benefit of all the world.
It's a trick to forestall just what I described!"

The far away headlights drew nearer. But no car could have come from
the construction camp as quickly as this.

"The fact is," said the general, "that our spies tell us that another
very great nation has developed this beam we've been demonstrating to
all the world. So did we. And we couldn't use it, but they would! If
they didn't use it against us, they'd use it for any sort of emergency
dirty trick. So we made up this invasion to persuade every country on
earth to arm itself against this particular weapon. Nothing less than
monsters in space would justify arming, in the eyes of some
politicians! Of course, they'll arm against us as well as--anybody
else."

He spoke matter-of-factly. A glance at Lockley's face would have told
him that persuasiveness would not work.

"This trick, with the defense we intended to reveal," the general
added, "should mean that a very nasty weapon won't ever be used,
either to start or end a war. Maybe the war won't occur because we've
said there are monsters who fly around in space ships."

Lockley had a confused impression that he was dreaming this. It was
not the way things should happen! This was not true! When he squeezed
or released the improvised switch in his hand, the rocket behind him
would disappear in a monstrous flame, and he and the three men who
faced him would, vanish, and there would be an explosion crater here
and a shattered mass of wrecked cars--

"It was an interesting job," said Vale. "The Army dumped a hundred
tons of high explosive into the lake. The two radars that reported a
ship in space were arranged to be operated by two special men, who got
their orders directly from the President. We picked a day with full
cloud cover; the radar operators inserted their faked tapes and made
their reports; and the Army set off the hundred-ton explosion in the
lake. From there on, it was just a matter of using the terror beam."

"I mention," said the general mildly, "that not one human being has
been killed by anything we've done. Would you expect traitors to be so
careful? Or spies?"

Lockley said thickly, "You stand there arguing. You're trying to make
me believe you. But there's Jill! What's happened to her? How did you
make her record that tape? Where's Jill? She won't tell me it's all
right!"

Headlights swept up to the floodlit space. The car stopped.

Jill came into view. She saw Lockley, standing against the rocket's
base. She ran.

She stood beside the general and Vale and Sattell. She looked worn and
desperately anxious.

"What have they done to you?" demanded Lockley fiercely.

She shook her head.

"N-nothing. I couldn't stay at the camp when I was so sure you'd come
to try to help me. So I came here. I don't know what they've told you
yet, but it's all right. We were fooled as the world has to be.
Believe it! Please believe it!"

"What have they done to you?" he repeated terribly.

"What have they done to the world?" demanded Jill. "They've made every
nation look to us as the defender of their freedom. And we are!
They've made everybody ready to fight against more monsters if they
come, and to fight against men if they try to enslave them with the
terror beam or anything else! Would traitors have done that?"

Lockley knew that he had to decide. It was an unbearable
responsibility. He was not convinced, even by Jill. But he was no
longer certain that he'd been right.

"Why didn't you kill me?" he demanded. "I could have been shot down
from a distance. You didn't have to come close to talk to me. If the
rocket blew, what would it matter?"

"You've got a protection against the terror beam," said the general
matter-of-factly. "So have we. But ours weighs two tons. Yours can be
carried without being a burden. And--" his eyes went to the unlikely
cheese grater over Lockley's shoulder--"and yours detonates
explosives. If we can equip the world with those, Lockley, we'll have
peace!"

Lockley thought of a decisive test. He grimaced.

"You want me to risk being a traitor! All right, what's in it for me?
What am I offered?"

The general shrugged, his eyes hardening. Vale spread out his hands.
Sattell snorted. Jill moistened her lips. Lockley turned upon her.

"You want me to believe," he said harshly. "What do you offer if I
turn over the thing to these men you say are honest men and neither
spies or traitors. What do you offer?"

She stared at him. Then she said quietly, "Nothing."

Lockley hesitated once more, for a long instant. But that was the
right answer. Nobody who'd been bought or bribed or frightened into
being a traitor would have thought of it.

"That," said Lockley, "by a strange coincidence happens to be my
price."

He ripped away a wire. He flung the queer combination of pocket radio
and cheese and nutmeg graters to the general.

"I'll explain later how it works," he said wearily, "--if I haven't
made a mistake."

       *       *       *       *       *

After a suitable time the general came to him. Lockley was convinced,
now. The reaction of the men who'd been guards and truck drivers and
the like was conclusive. They regarded him with a certain cordial
respect which was not the reaction of either traitors or invaders.

"We've been checking that little device, Lockley," said the general
happily. "It's perfect for our purposes! So much better than a two-ton
generator to interfere with and cancel the terror beams! Marvelous!
And do you know what it means? With all the world believing we've been
attacked from space, and with our great show of taking back Boulder
Lake--"

"How will you manage that?" asked Lockley, without too much interest.

"The rocket," said the general, beaming. "When troops start into the
Park, the rocket takes off. It heads for empty space. And we explain
that the aliens went away when they found their weapon useless and we
started to get rough with them!"

"Oh," said Lockley listlessly.

"But the really beautiful thing," the general told him, "is your
gadget! They can be made by millions. Ridiculously cheap, they tell
me. Everybody in the world will want one, and we'll pass them out. No
government could stop that! Not even Russia! But--d'you see, Lockley?"

Lockley shook his head. He always had a tendency to look on the dark
side of future events. The future did not look bright to him.

"Don't you see?" demanded the general, chuckling. "They detonate
explosives, those little gadgets! There's no harm in that! Where
explosives are used in industry you've only to make sure that nobody
turns one on too close. In nine-tenths of the world, anyhow, civilians
aren't allowed to have guns. But think of the consequences there!"

Lockley was weary. He was dejected. The general grinned from ear to
ear.

"Why, when these are distributed, even the secret police can't go
armed! What price dictators then? For that matter, what price
soldiers? The cold war ends, Lockley, because there couldn't be a
conquering army in the modern sense. The tanks wouldn't run. The cars
would stall. And the guns--An invasion would have to be made with
horse-drawn transport and the troops armed with bows and spears. That
amounts to disarmament, Lockley! A consummation devoutly to be wished!
I'm going to look forward to a ripe old age now. I never could
before!"

       *       *       *       *       *

Presently Lockley talked to Jill. She was constrained. She seemed
uneasy. Lockley felt that there wasn't much to say, now that Vale was
alive and well and there was no more danger for her. He offered his
hand to say good-bye.

"I think," she said with a little difficulty, "I think I should tell
you I'm not--engaged any longer. I--told him I--wouldn't want to be
married to someone whose work made him keep secrets from me."

Lockley tensed. He said incredulously, "You're not going to marry
Vale?"

She said nervously.

"No-o-o. I've told him."

Lockley swallowed.

"What did he say?"

"He--didn't like it," said Jill. "But he understood. I explained
things. He said--he said to congratulate you."

Lockley made an appropriate movement. She wept quietly, held close in
his arms.

"I was so afraid you didn't--you wouldn't--"

Lockley took appropriate measures to comfort her and to assure her
that he did and he would, forever and ever. A very long time later he
asked interestedly, "What did you say to Vale when he asked you to
congratulate me?"

"I said," said Jill comfortably, "that I would if things worked out
all right. And they have. I congratulate you, darling. Now how about
congratulating me?"

       *       *       *       *       *

The rocket took off and went away into emptiness. This was near dawn,
when military announcements of the reoccupation of Boulder Lake were
being passed out to the news media. As much of the public as was awake
was informed that the monstrous aliens had fled from earth, their
intentions frustrated by the work of scientists. It wasn't necessary
for a large force to march in. A special detail took over at the lake
itself. Curiously enough, it seemed to be already there when the
question arose. It would report a regrettable absence of alien
artifacts by which the monsters might be kept in mind.

But there would be reminders. Later bulletins would report that the
United States was putting into quantity production the small,
individual protective devices which defied the terror beam and would
supply them to all the world. There could not be greater friendship
than that! The United States also proposed a world wide alliance for
defense against future attacks by space monsters, with pooled armament
and completely cooperative governments.

The world, obviously, would unite against monsters. And people in a
posture of defense against enemies from the stars obviously wouldn't
fight each other.

And there were some people who were pleased. They knew about the
possibilities of the small gadgets, brought down in production to the
size of a pack of cigarettes. Knowing what they could do, they waited
very interestedly to see what would happen in certain nations when
secret police couldn't carry firearms and soldiers could only be armed
with spears.

They expected it to be very interesting indeed.





*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Operation Terror" ***

Doctrine Publishing Corporation provides digitized public domain materials.
Public domain books belong to the public and we are merely their custodians.
This effort is time consuming and expensive, so in order to keep providing
this resource, we have taken steps to prevent abuse by commercial parties,
including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.



Home