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´╗┐Title: The Delegate from Venus
Author: Slesar, Henry, 1927-2002
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 "The Delegate from Venus" ***

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 The
 DELEGATE
 FROM
 VENUS

 By HENRY SLESAR

 ILLUSTRATOR NOVICK


 _Everybody was waiting to see
 what the delegate from Venus
 looked like. And all they got
 for their patience was the
 biggest surprise since David
 clobbered Goliath._


"Let me put it this way," Conners said paternally. "We expect a certain
amount of decorum from our Washington news correspondents, and that's
all I'm asking for."

Jerry Bridges, sitting in the chair opposite his employer's desk, chewed
on his knuckles and said nothing. One part of his mind wanted him to
play it cagey, to behave the way the newspaper wanted him to behave, to
protect the cozy Washington assignment he had waited four years to get.
But another part of him, a rebel part, wanted him to stay on the trail
of the story he felt sure was about to break.

[Illustration: The saucer was interesting, but where was the
delegate?]

"I didn't mean to make trouble, Mr. Conners," he said casually. "It just
seemed strange, all these exchanges of couriers in the past two days. I
couldn't help thinking something was up."

"Even if that's true, we'll hear about it through the usual channels,"
Conners frowned. "But getting a senator's secretary drunk to obtain
information--well, that's not only indiscreet, Bridges. It's downright
dirty."

Jerry grinned. "I didn't take _that_ kind of advantage, Mr. Conners. Not
that she wasn't a toothsome little dish ..."

"Just thank your lucky stars that it didn't go any further. And from now
on--" He waggled a finger at him. "Watch your step."

Jerry got up and ambled to the door. But he turned before leaving and
said:

"By the way. What do _you_ think is going on?"

"I haven't the faintest idea."

"Don't kid me, Mr. Conners. Think it's war?"

"That'll be all, Bridges."

       *       *       *       *       *

The reporter closed the door behind him, and then strolled out of the
building into the sunlight.

He met Ruskin, the fat little AP correspondent, in front of the
Pan-American Building on Constitution Avenue. Ruskin was holding the
newspaper that contained the gossip-column item which had started the
whole affair, and he seemed more interested in the romantic rather than
political implications. As he walked beside him, he said:

"So what really happened, pal? That Greta babe really let down her
hair?"

"Where's your decorum?" Jerry growled.

Ruskin giggled. "Boy, she's quite a dame, all right. I think they ought
to get the Secret Service to guard her. She really fills out a size 10,
don't she?"

"Ruskin," Jerry said, "you have a low mind. For a week, this town has
been acting like the _39 Steps_, and all you can think about is dames.
What's the matter with you? Where will you be when the big mushroom
cloud comes?"

"With Greta, I hope," Ruskin sighed. "What a way to get radioactive."

They split off a few blocks later, and Jerry walked until he came to the
Red Tape Bar & Grill, a favorite hangout of the local journalists. There
were three other newsmen at the bar, and they gave him snickering
greetings. He took a small table in the rear and ate his meal in sullen
silence.

It wasn't the newsmen's jibes that bothered him; it was the certainty
that something of major importance was happening in the capitol. There
had been hourly conferences at the White House, flying visits by State
Department officials, mysterious conferences involving members of the
Science Commission. So far, the byword had been secrecy. They knew that
Senator Spocker, chairman of the Congressional Science Committee, had
been involved in every meeting, but Senator Spocker was unavailable. His
secretary, however, was a little more obliging ...

Jerry looked up from his coffee and blinked when he saw who was coming
through the door of the Bar & Grill. So did every other patron, but for
different reasons. Greta Johnson had that effect upon men. Even the
confining effect of a mannishly-tailored suit didn't hide her
outrageously feminine qualities.

She walked straight to his table, and he stood up.

"They told me you might be here," she said, breathing hard. "I just
wanted to thank you for last night."

"Look, Greta--"

_Wham!_ Her hand, small and delicate, felt like a slab of lead when it
slammed into his cheek. She left a bruise five fingers wide, and then
turned and stalked out.

       *       *       *       *       *

He ran after her, the restaurant proprietor shouting about the unpaid
bill. It took a rapid dog-trot to reach her side.

"Greta, listen!" he panted. "You don't understand about last night. It
wasn't the way that lousy columnist said--"

She stopped in her tracks.

"I wouldn't have minded so much if you'd gotten me drunk. But to _use_
me, just to get a story--"

"But I'm a _reporter_, damn it. It's my job. I'd do it again if I
thought you knew anything."

She was pouting now. "Well, how do you suppose I feel, knowing you're
only interested in me because of the Senator? Anyway, I'll probably lose
my job, and then you won't have _any_ use for me."

"Good-bye, Greta," Jerry said sadly.

"What?"

"Good-bye. I suppose you won't want to see me any more."

"Did I say that?"

"It just won't be any use. We'll always have this thing between us."

She looked at him for a moment, and then touched his bruised cheek with
a tender, motherly gesture.

"Your poor face," she murmured, and then sighed. "Oh, well. I guess
there's no use fighting it. Maybe if I _did_ tell you what I know, we
could act _human_ again."

"Greta!"

"But if you print one _word_ of it, Jerry Bridges, I'll never speak to
you again!"

"Honey," Jerry said, taking her arm, "you can trust me like a brother."

"That's _not_ the idea," Greta said stiffly.

In a secluded booth at the rear of a restaurant unfrequented by newsmen,
Greta leaned forward and said:

"At first, they thought it was another sputnik."

"_Who_ did?"

"The State Department, silly. They got reports from the observatories
about another sputnik being launched by the Russians. Only the Russians
denied it. Then there were joint meetings, and nobody could figure out
_what_ the damn thing was."

"Wait a minute," Jerry said dizzily. "You mean to tell me there's
another of those metal moons up there?"

"But it's not a moon. That's the big point. It's a spaceship."

"A _what_?"

"A spaceship," Greta said coolly, sipping lemonade. "They have been in
contact with it now for about three days, and they're thinking of
calling a plenary session of the UN just to figure out what to do about
it. The only hitch is, Russia doesn't want to wait that long, and is
asking for a hurry-up summit meeting to make a decision."

"A decision about what?"

"About the Venusians, of course."

"Greta," Jerry said mildly, "I think you're still a little woozy from
last night."

"Don't be silly. The spaceship's from Venus; they've already established
that. And the people on it--I _guess_ they're people--want to know if
they can land their delegate."

"Their what?"

"Their delegate. They came here for some kind of conference, I guess.
They know about the UN and everything, and they want to take part. They
say that with all the satellites being launched, that our affairs are
_their_ affairs, too. It's kind of confusing, but that's what they say."

"You mean these Venusians speak English?"

"And Russian. And French. And German. And everything I guess. They've
been having radio talks with practically every country for the past
three days. Like I say, they want to establish diplomatic relations or
something. The Senator thinks that if we don't agree, they might do
something drastic, like blow us all up. It's kind of scary." She
shivered delicately.

"You're taking it mighty calm," he said ironically.

"Well, how else can I take it? I'm not even supposed to _know_ about it,
except that the Senator is so careless about--" She put her fingers to
her lips. "Oh, dear, now you'll really think I'm terrible."

"Terrible? I think you're wonderful!"

"And you promise not to print it?"

"Didn't I say I wouldn't?"

"Y-e-s. But you know, you're a liar sometimes, Jerry. I've noticed that
about you."

       *       *       *       *       *

The press secretary's secretary, a massive woman with gray hair and
impervious to charm, guarded the portals of his office with all the
indomitable will of the U. S. Marines. But Jerry Bridges tried.

"You don't understand, Lana," he said. "I don't want to _see_ Mr.
Howells. I just want you to _give_ him something."

"My name's not Lana, and I _can't_ deliver any messages."

"But this is something he _wants_ to see." He handed her an envelope,
stamped URGENT. "Do it for me, Hedy. And I'll buy you the flashiest pair
of diamond earrings in Washington."

"Well," the woman said, thawing slightly. "I _could_ deliver it with his
next batch of mail."

"When will that be?"

"In an hour. He's in a terribly important meeting right now."

"You've got some mail right there. Earrings and a bracelet to match."

She looked at him with exasperation, and then gathered up a stack of
memorandums and letters, his own envelope atop it. She came out of the
press secretary's office two minutes later with Howells himself, and
Howells said: "You there, Bridges. Come in here."

"Yes, _sir_!" Jerry said, breezing by the waiting reporters with a grin
of triumph.

There were six men in the room, three in military uniform. Howells poked
the envelope towards Jerry, and snapped:

"This note of yours. Just what do you think it means?"

"You know better than I do, Mr. Howells. I'm just doing my job; I think
the public has a right to know about this spaceship that's flying
around--"

       *       *       *       *       *

His words brought an exclamation from the others. Howells sighed, and
said:

"Mr. Bridges, you don't make it easy for us. It's our opinion that
secrecy is essential, that leakage of the story might cause panic. Since
you're the only unauthorized person who knows of it, we have two
choices. One of them is to lock you up."

Jerry swallowed hard.

"The other is perhaps more practical," Howells said. "You'll be taken
into our confidence, and allowed to accompany those officials who will
be admitted to the landing site. But you will _not_ be allowed to relay
the story to the press until such a time as _all_ correspondents are
informed. That won't give you a 'scoop' if that's what you call it, but
you'll be an eyewitness. That should be worth something."

"It's worth a lot," Jerry said eagerly. "Thanks, Mr. Howells."

"Don't thank me, I'm not doing you any _personal_ favor. Now about the
landing tonight--"

"You mean the spaceship's coming down?"

"Yes. A special foreign ministers conference was held this morning, and
a decision was reached to accept the delegate. Landing instructions are
being given at Los Alamos, and the ship will presumably land around
midnight tonight. There will be a jet leaving Washington Airport at
nine, and you'll be on it. Meanwhile, consider yourself in custody."

       *       *       *       *       *

The USAF jet transport wasn't the only secrecy-shrouded aircraft that
took off that evening from Washington Airport. But Jerry Bridges,
sitting in the rear seat flanked by two Sphinx-like Secret Service men,
knew that he was the only passenger with non-official status aboard.

It was only a few minutes past ten when they arrived at the air base at
Los Alamos. The desert sky was cloudy and starless, and powerful
searchlights probed the thick cumulus. There were sleek, purring black
autos waiting to rush the air passengers to some unnamed destination.
They drove for twenty minutes across a flat ribbon of desert road, until
Jerry sighted what appeared to be a circle of newly-erected lights in
the middle of nowhere. On the perimeter, official vehicles were parked
in orderly rows, and four USAF trailer trucks were in evidence, their
radarscopes turning slowly. There was activity everywhere, but it was
well-ordered and unhurried. They had done a good job of keeping the
excitement contained.

He was allowed to leave the car and stroll unescorted. He tried to talk
to some of the scurrying officials, but to no avail. Finally, he
contented himself by sitting on the sand, his back against the grill of
a staff car, smoking one cigarette after another.

As the minutes ticked off, the activity became more frenetic around him.
Then the pace slowed, and he knew the appointed moment was approaching.
Stillness returned to the desert, and tension was a tangible substance
in the night air.

The radarscopes spun slowly.

The searchlights converged in an intricate pattern.

Then the clouds seemed to part!

"Here she comes!" a voice shouted. And in a moment, the calm was
shattered. At first, he saw nothing. A faint roar was started in the
heavens, and it became a growl that increased in volume until even the
shouting voices could no longer be heard. Then the crisscrossing lights
struck metal, glancing off the gleaming body of a descending object.
Larger and larger the object grew, until it assumed the definable shape
of a squat silver funnel, falling in a perfect straight line towards the
center of the light-ringed area. When it hit, a dust cloud obscured it
from sight.

       *       *       *       *       *

A loudspeaker blared out an unintelligible order, but its message was
clear. No one moved from their position.

Finally, a three-man team, asbestos-clad, lead-shielded, stepped out
from the ring of spectators. They carried geiger counters on long poles
before them.

Jerry held his breath as they approached the object; only when they
were yards away did he appreciate its size. It wasn't large; not more
than fifteen feet in total circumference.

One of the three men waved a gloved hand.

"It's okay," a voice breathed behind him. "No radiation ..."

Slowly, the ring of spectators closed tighter. They were twenty yards
from the ship when the voice spoke to them.

"Greetings from Venus," it said, and then repeated the phrase in six
languages. "The ship you see is a Venusian Class 7 interplanetary
rocket, built for one-passenger. It is clear of all radiation, and is
perfectly safe to approach. There is a hatch which may be opened by an
automatic lever in the side. Please open this hatch and remove the
passenger."

An Air Force General whom Jerry couldn't identify stepped forward. He
circled the ship warily, and then said something to the others. They
came closer, and he touched a small lever on the silvery surface of the
funnel.

A door slid open.

"It's a box!" someone said.

"A crate--"

"Colligan! Moore! Schaffer! Lend a hand here--"

A trio came forward and hoisted the crate out of the ship. Then the
voice spoke again; Jerry deduced that it must have been activated by the
decreased load of the ship.

"Please open the crate. You will find our delegate within. We trust you
will treat him with the courtesy of an official emissary."

They set to work on the crate, its gray plastic material giving in
readily to the application of their tools. But when it was opened, they
stood aside in amazement and consternation.

There were a variety of metal pieces packed within, protected by a filmy
packing material.

"Wait a minute," the general said. "Here's a book--"

He picked up a gray-bound volume, and opened its cover.

"'Instructions for assembling Delegate,'" he read aloud. "'First, remove
all parts and arrange them in the following order. A-1, central nervous
system housing. A-2 ...'" He looked up. "It's an instruction book," he
whispered. "We're supposed to _build_ the damn thing."

       *       *       *       *       *

The Delegate, a handsomely constructed robot almost eight feet tall, was
pieced together some three hours later, by a team of scientists and
engineers who seemed to find the Venusian instructions as elementary as
a blueprint in an Erector set. But simple as the job was, they were
obviously impressed by the mechanism they had assembled. It stood
impassive until they obeyed the final instruction. "Press Button K ..."

They found button K, and pressed it.

The robot bowed.

"Thank you, gentlemen," it said, in sweet, unmetallic accents. "Now if
you will please escort me to the meeting place ..."

       *       *       *       *       *

It wasn't until three days after the landing that Jerry Bridges saw the
Delegate again. Along with a dozen assorted government officials, Army
officers, and scientists, he was quartered in a quonset hut in Fort Dix,
New Jersey. Then, after seventy-two frustrating hours, he was escorted
by Marine guard into New York City. No one told him his destination, and
it wasn't until he saw the bright strips of light across the face of the
United Nations building that he knew where the meeting was to be held.

But his greatest surprise was yet to come. The vast auditorium which
housed the general assembly was filled to its capacity, but there were
new faces behind the plaques which designated the member nations. He
couldn't believe his eyes at first, but as the meeting got under way, he
knew that it was true. The highest echelons of the world's governments
were represented, even--Jerry gulped at the realization--Nikita
Khrushchev himself. It was a summit meeting such as he had never dreamed
possible, a summit meeting without benefit of long foreign minister's
debate. And the cause of it all, a placid, highly-polished metal robot,
was seated blithely at a desk which bore the designation:

                                 VENUS.

The robot delegate stood up.

"Gentlemen," it said into the microphone, and the great men at the
council tables strained to hear the translator's version through their
headphones, "Gentlemen, I thank you for your prompt attention. I come as
a Delegate from a great neighbor planet, in the interests of peace and
progress for all the solar system. I come in the belief that peace is
the responsibility of individuals, of nations, and now of worlds, and
that each is dependent upon the other. I speak to you now through the
electronic instrumentation which has been created for me, and I come to
offer your planet not merely a threat, a promise, or an easy
solution--but a challenge."

The council room stirred.

"Your earth satellites have been viewed with interest by the astronomers
of our world, and we foresee the day when contact between our planets
will be commonplace. As for ourselves, we have hitherto had little
desire to explore beyond our realm, being far too occupied with internal
matters. But our isolation cannot last in the face of your progress, so
we believe that we must take part in your affairs.

"Here, then, is our challenge. Continue your struggle of ideas, compete
with each other for the minds of men, fight your bloodless battles, if
you know no other means to attain progress. But do all this _without_
unleashing the terrible forces of power now at your command. Once
unleashed, these forces may or may not destroy all that you have gained.
But we, the scientists of Venus, promise you this--that on the very day
your conflict deteriorates into heedless violence, we will not stand by
and let the ugly contagion spread. On that day, we of Venus will act
swiftly, mercilessly, and relentlessly--to destroy your world
completely."

Again, the meeting room exploded in a babble of languages.

"The vessel which brought me here came as a messenger of peace. But
envision it, men of Earth, as a messenger of war. Unstoppable,
inexorable, it may return, bearing a different Delegate from Venus--a
Delegate of Death, who speaks not in words, but in the explosion of
atoms. Think of thousands of such Delegates, fired from a vantage point
far beyond the reach of your retaliation. This is the promise and the
challenge that will hang in your night sky from this moment forward.
Look at the planet Venus, men of Earth, and see a Goddess of Vengeance,
poised to wreak its wrath upon those who betray the peace."

The Delegate sat down.

       *       *       *       *       *

Four days later, a mysterious explosion rocked the quiet sands of Los
Alamos, and the Venus spacecraft was no more. Two hours after that, the
robot delegate, its message delivered, its mission fulfilled, requested
to be locked inside a bombproof chamber. When the door was opened, the
Delegate was an exploded ruin.

The news flashed with lightning speed over the world, and Jerry Bridges'
eyewitness accounts of the incredible event was syndicated throughout
the nation. But his sudden celebrity left him vaguely unsatisfied.

He tried to explain his feeling to Greta on his first night back in
Washington. They were in his apartment, and it was the first time Greta
had consented to pay him the visit.

"Well, what's _bothering_ you?" Greta pouted. "You've had the biggest
story of the year under your byline. I should think you'd be tickled
pink."

"It's not that," Jerry said moodily. "But ever since I heard the
Delegate speak, something's been nagging me."

"But don't you think he's done good? Don't you think they'll be
impressed by what he said?"

"I'm not worried about that. I think that damn robot did more for
peace than anything that's ever come along in this cockeyed world. But
still ..."

Greta snuggled up to him on the sofa. "You worry too much. Don't you
ever think of anything else? You should learn to relax. It can be fun."

She started to prove it to him, and Jerry responded the way a normal,
healthy male usually does. But in the middle of an embrace, he cried
out:

"Wait a minute!"

"What's the matter?"

"I just thought of something! Now where the hell did I put my old
notebooks?"

He got up from the sofa and went scurrying to a closet. From a debris of
cardboard boxes, he found a worn old leather brief case, and cackled
with delight when he found the yellowed notebooks inside.

"What _are_ they?" Greta said.

"My old school notebooks. Greta, you'll have to excuse me. But there's
something I've got to do, right away!"

"That's all right with me," Greta said haughtily. "I know when I'm not
wanted."

She took her hat and coat from the hall closet, gave him one last chance
to change his mind, and then left.

Five minutes later, Jerry Bridges was calling the airlines.

       *       *       *       *       *

It had been eleven years since Jerry had walked across the campus of
Clifton University, heading for the ivy-choked main building. It was
remarkable how little had changed, but the students seemed incredibly
young. He was winded by the time he asked the pretty girl at the desk
where Professor Martin Coltz could be located.

"Professor Coltz?" She stuck a pencil to her mouth. "Well, I guess he'd
be in the Holland Laboratory about now."

"Holland Laboratory? What's that?"

"Oh, I guess that was after your time, wasn't it?"

Jerry felt decrepit, but managed to say: "It must be something new since
I was here. Where is this place?"

He followed her directions, and located a fresh-painted building three
hundred yards from the men's dorm. He met a student at the door, who
told him that Professor Coltz would be found in the physics department.

The room was empty when Jerry entered, except for the single stooped
figure vigorously erasing a blackboard. He turned when the door opened.
If the students looked younger, Professor Coltz was far older than Jerry
remembered. He was a tall man, with an unruly confusion of straight gray
hair. He blinked when Jerry said:

"Hello, Professor. Do you remember me? Jerry Bridges?"

"Of course! I thought of you only yesterday, when I saw your name in the
papers--"

They sat at facing student desks, and chatted about old times. But Jerry
was impatient to get to the point of his visit, and he blurted out:

"Professor Coltz, something's been bothering me. It bothered me from the
moment I heard the Delegate speak. I didn't know what it was until last
night, when I dug out my old college notebooks. Thank God I kept them."

Coltz's eyes were suddenly hooded.

"What do you mean, Jerry?"

"There was something about the Robot's speech that sounded familiar--I
could have sworn I'd heard some of the words before. I couldn't prove
anything until I checked my old notes, and here's what I found."

He dug into his coat pocket and produced a sheet of paper. He unfolded
it and read aloud.

"'It's my belief that peace is the responsibility of individuals, of
nations, and someday, even of worlds ...' Sound familiar, Professor?"

Coltz shifted uncomfortably. "I don't recall every silly thing I said,
Jerry."

"But it's an interesting coincidence, isn't it, Professor? These very
words were spoken by the Delegate from Venus."

"A coincidence--"

"Is it? But I also remember your interest in robotics. I'll never forget
that mechanical homing pigeon you constructed. And you've probably
learned much more these past eleven years."

"What are you driving at, Jerry?"

"Just this, Professor. I had a little daydream, recently, and I want you
to hear it. I dreamed about a group of teachers, scientists, and
engineers, a group who were suddenly struck by an exciting, incredible
idea. A group that worked in the quiet and secrecy of a University on a
fantastic scheme to force the idea of peace into the minds of the
world's big shots. Does my dream interest you, Professor?"

"Go on."

"Well, I dreamt that this group would secretly launch an earth satellite
of their own, and arrange for the nose cone to come down safely at a
certain time and place. They would install a marvelous electronic robot
within the cone, ready to be assembled. They would beam a radio message
to earth from the cone, seemingly as if it originated from their
'spaceship.' Then, when the Robot was assembled, they would speak
through it to demand peace for all mankind ..."

"Jerry, if you do this--"

"You don't have to say it, Professor, I know what you're thinking. I'm
a reporter, and my business is to tell the world everything I know. But
if I did it, there might not be a world for me to write about, would
there? No, thanks, Professor. As far as I'm concerned, what I told you
was nothing more than a daydream."

       *       *       *       *       *

Jerry braked the convertible to a halt, and put his arm around Greta's
shoulder. She looked up at the star-filled night, and sighed
romantically.

Jerry pointed. "That one."

Greta shivered closer to him.

"And to think what that terrible planet can do to us!"

"Oh, I dunno. Venus is also the Goddess of Love."

He swung his other arm around her, and Venus winked approvingly.


THE END



Transcriber's Note:

    This etext was produced from _Amazing Science Fiction Stories_
    October 1958. Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that
    the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed. Minor spelling
    and typographical errors have been corrected without note.





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