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´╗┐Title: Alien Offer
Author: Sevcik, Al
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 "Alien Offer" ***

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



 _In space, a vengeful fleet waited.... Then
 the furred strangers arrived with a plan to
 save Earth's children. But the General wasn't
 sure if he could trust an_


ALIEN OFFER

By AL SEVCIK


ILLUSTRATOR LLEWELLYN


"You are General James Rothwell?"

Rothwell sighed. "Yes, Commander Aku. We have met several times."

"Ah, yes. I recognize your insignia. Humans are so alike." The alien
strode importantly across the office, the resilient pads of his broad
feet making little plopping sounds on the rug, and seated himself
abruptly in the visitor's chair beside Rothwell's desk. He gave a sharp
cry, and another alien, shorter, but sporting similar, golden fur,
stepped into the office and closed the door. Both wore simple, brown
uniforms, without ornamentation.

"I am here," Aku said, "to tell you something." He stared impassively at
Rothwell for a minute, his fur-covered, almost human face completely
expressionless, then his gaze shifted to the window, to the hot runways
of New York International Airport and to the immense gray spaceship
that, even from the center of the field, loomed above the hangars and
passenger buildings. For an instant, a quick, unguessable emotion
clouded the wide black eyes and tightened the thin lips, then it was
gone.

Rothwell waited.

"General, Earth's children must all be aboard my ships within one week.
We will start to load on the sixth day, next Thursday." He stood.

[Illustration: The aliens supervised the loading as anguished parents
looked on.]

Rothwell locked eyes with the alien, and leaned forward, grinding his
knuckles into the desk top. "You know that's impossible. We can't select
100,000 children from every country and assemble them in only six days."

"You will do it." The alien turned to leave.

"Commander Aku! Let me remind you ..."

Aku spun around, eyes flashing. "General Rothwell! Let _me_ remind you
that two weeks ago I didn't even know Earth existed, and since
accidentally happening across your sun system and learning of your
trouble I have had my entire trading fleet of a hundred ships in orbit
about this planet while all your multitudinous political subdivisions
have filled the air with talk and wrangle.

"I am sorry for Earth, but my allegiance is to my fleet and I cannot
remain longer than seven more days and risk being caught up in your
destruction. Now, either you accept my offer to evacuate as many humans
as my ships will carry, or you don't." He paused. "You are the planet's
evacuation coordinator; you will give me an answer."

       *       *       *       *       *

Rothwell's arms sagged, he sunk back down into his chair, all pretense
gone. Slowly he swung around to face the window and the gray ship,
standing like a Gargantuan sundial counting the last days of Earth. He
almost whispered. "We are choosing the children. They will be ready in
six days."

He heard the door open and close. He was alone.

Five years ago, he thought, we cracked the secret of faster-than-light
travel, and since then we've built about three dozen exploration ships
and sent them out among the stars to see what they could see.

He stared blankly at the palms of his hand. I wonder what it was we
expected to find?

We found that the galaxy was big, that there were a lot of stars, not so
many planets, and practically no other life--at least no intelligence to
compare with ours. Then ... He jabbed a button on his intercom.

"Ed Philips here. What is it Jim?"

"Doc, are you sure your boys have hypo'd, couched, and hypno'd the _Leo_
crew with everything you've got?"

The voice on the intercom sighed. "Jim, those guys haven't got a memory
of their own. We know everything about each one of them, from the hurts
he got falling off tricycles to the feel of the first girl he kissed.
Those men aren't lying, Jim."

"I never thought they were lying, Doc." Rothwell paused for a minute and
studied the long yellow hairs that grew sparsely across the back of his
hand, thickened to a dense grove at his wrist, and vanished under the
sleeve of his uniform. He looked back at the intercom. "Doc, all I know
is that three perfectly normal guys got on board that ship, and when it
came back we found a lot of jammed instruments and three men terrified
almost to the point of insanity."

"Jim, if you'd seen ..."

Rothwell interrupted. "I know. Five radioactive planets with the fresh
scars of cobalt bombs and the remains of civilizations. Then radar
screens erupting crazily with signals from a multi-thousand ship space
fleet; vector computers hurriedly plotting and re-plotting the
fast-moving trajectory, submitting each time an unvarying answer for the
fleet's destination--our own solar system." He slapped his hand flat
against the desk. "The point is, Doc, it's not much to go on, and we
don't dare send another ship to check for fear of attracting attention
to ourselves. If we could only be _sure_."

"Jim," over the intercom, Philips' voice seemed to waver slightly,
"those men honestly saw what they say. I'd stake my life on it."

"All of us are, Doc." He flipped the off button. Just thirty days now,
since the scout ship _Leo's_ discovery and the panicked dash for home
with the warning. Not that the warning was worth much, he reflected,
Earth had no space battle fleet. There had never been any reason to
build one.

Then, two weeks ago, Aku's trading fleet had descended from nowhere,
having blundered, he said, across Earth's orbit while on a new route
between two distant star clusters. When told of the impending attack,
Aku immediately offered to cancel his trip and evacuate as many humans
as his ships could hold, so that humanity would at least survive,
somewhere in the galaxy. Earth chose to accept his offer.

"Hobson's choice," Rothwell growled to himself. "No choice at all."
After years of handling hot and cold local wars and crises of every
description, his military mind had become conditioned to a complete
disbelief in fortuitous coincidence, and he gagged at the thought of Aku
"just happening by." Still frowning, he punched a yellow button on his
desk, and reviewed in his mind the things he wanted to say.

       *       *       *       *       *

"Jim! Isn't everything all right?"

Chagrined, Rothwell scrambled to his feet, the President had never
answered so quickly before. He faced the screen on the wall to his right
and saluted, amazed once again at how old the man looked. Sparse white
hair criss-crossed haphazardly over the President's head, his face was
lined with deep trenches that not even the most charitable could call
wrinkles, and the faded eyes that stared from deep caverns no longer
radiated the flaming vitality that had inspired victorious armies in the
African war.

"Commander Aku was just here, sir. He demands that the children be
ready for evacuation next Thursday. I told him that it would be damned
difficult."

The face on the screen paled perceptibly. "I hope you didn't anger the
commander!"

Rothwell ground his teeth. "I told him we'd deliver the goods on
Thursday."

Presidential lips tightened. "I don't care for the way you said that,
General."

Rothwell straightened. "I apologize, sir. It's just that this whole
lousy setup has me worried silly. I don't like Aku making like a
guardian angel and us having no choice but to dance to his harp." His
fingers clenched. "God knows we need his help, and I guess its wrong to
ask too many questions, but how come he's only landed one of his ships,
and why is it that he and his lieutenant are the only aliens to leave
that ship--the only aliens we've ever even seen? It just doesn't figure
out!" There, he thought, I've said it.

The President looked at him quietly for a minute, then answered softly,
"I know, Jim, but what else can we do?" Rothwell winced at the shake in
the old man's voice.

"I don't know," he said. "But Aku's got us in a hell of a spot."

"Uh, Jim. You haven't said this in public, have you?"

Rothwell snorted. "No, _sir_, I don't care for a panic."

"There, there, Jim." The President smiled weakly. "We can't expect the
aliens to act like we do, can we?" He began to adopt the preacher tone
he used so effectively in his campaign speeches. "We must be thankful
for the chance breeze that wafted Commander Aku to these shores, and for
his help. Maybe the war fleet won't arrive after all and everything will
turn out all right. You're doing a fine job, Jim." The screen went
blank.

       *       *       *       *       *

Rothwell felt sick. He felt sorry for the President, but sorrier for the
Western Democratic Union, to be captained by such a feeble thing.
Leaning back in his chair, he glared at the empty screen. "You can't
solve problems by wishing them away. You knew that once."

His mind wandered, and for a minute he thought he could actually feel
the growing pressure of three billion people waiting for the computers
of Moscow Central to make their impartial choice from the world's
children. Trained mathematicians, the best that could be mustered from
every major country, monitored each phase of the project to insure its
absolute honesty. One hundred thousand children were to be picked
completely at random; brown, yellow, black, white, red; sick or well;
genius or moron; every child had an equal chance. This fact, this fact
alone gave every parent hope, and possibly prevented world-wide rioting.

But with the destruction of the planet an almost certainty, the
collective nervous system was just one micron away from explosion.
There was nothing else to think about or talk about, and no one tried to
pretend any different.

Rothwell's eyes moved involuntarily to the little spherical tri-photo on
his desk, just an informal shot he'd snapped a few months back of Martha
and her proudest possessions, their rambunctious, priceless off-spring:
Jim, Jr., in his space scouts uniform, and Mary Ellen with that crazy
hair-do she was so proud of then, but had already forgotten.

"Damn!" he said aloud. "Dammit to hell!" In one quick movement, he spun
his chair around and jabbed at the intercom. "Get the heli!" His voice
crackled.

Grabbing his hat, he yanked open the door and strode into the sudden
quiet of the small office. He turned right and went out through a side
entrance to a small landing ramp, arriving just as his personal heli
touched down. He climbed in. "To the ship."

As he settled back in the hard seat, Rothwell offered a silent thanks
that, instead of asking which ship, Sergeant Johnson promptly lifted and
headed for the gray space vessel that dominated the field.

A few hundred yards from the craft he said, "You'd better set her down
here, Sarge, and let me walk in. Our friends might get nervous about
something flying in at them."

He jumped out, squinting against the hot glare off the concrete, and
then, with a slight uneasiness, stepped into the dark shadow that
pointed a thousand feet along the runway, away from the setting sun. He
walked towards the ship.

A few seconds later, his eye caught a small, unexplained flash and he
threw himself flat just as a section of pavement exploded, a dozen feet
ahead.

Cursing, Rothwell picked himself off the ground, brushed the dust off
his uniform, and stood quietly. He didn't have long to wait.

A small cubicle jutted out from the ship and lowered itself along a
monorail running down to the ground. The side nearest him opened
revealing, as Rothwell expected, Commander Aku and his lieutenant who
both hurried over to where he was standing, as if to keep him from
coming forward to meet them--and in so doing coming nearer the ship. As
the commander trotted rapidly towards him, Rothwell noted that he was
still buttoning his jacket and that the shirt underneath looked
suspiciously as if it hadn't been buttoned at all. Funny, he thought,
that my presence should cause such a panic.

"General, what a pleasure." The commander's disconcerted look belied his
words, but even as he spoke he began to regain his composure and assume
the poker face that Rothwell had come to expect.

"I do hope," said Rothwell, "that my visit hasn't inconvenienced you."

Aku and his lieutenant traded swift glances, neither said anything.

"Well," Rothwell began again, "I am here to convey to you the good
wishes of the President of our country and to submit a request from him
and from the other governments of the Earth."

Aku straightened. "Though merely the commander of a poor trading fleet,
I feel sure I speak for my empire when I wish your President good
health. The request?"

       *       *       *       *       *

Rothwell spoke evenly, trying to keep the bitterness out of his voice.
"Commander, when the attack comes we expect that Earth with all its life
will be annihilated. But your offer to transport a hundred thousand
children to your own home worlds has prevented despair, and has at least
given us hope that if we will not see the future our children will."

Aku nodded slightly, avoiding his eyes. "You take it well."

"But it takes more than hope, Commander. We need some assurance, also,
that our children will be all right." He took an involuntary step nearer
the alien, whose facial muscles never moved, and who turned away
slightly, refusing to meet Rothwell's eyes.

"Commander, you and your lieutenant are the only members of your race
that we have ever seen, and then only on official business. We would
like very much to meet the others. Why don't you land your ships and
give the crews liberty, so that we can meet them informally and they can
get to know us, also? That way it won't seem as if we are giving our
kids over to complete strangers."

Without turning his head, Aku said flatly, "That is impossible. Do you
want reasons?"

"No," Rothwell said quietly. "If you don't want to do something, it's
easy enough to think up reasons." He ached to reach out and grab the
alien neck, to shake some expression into that frozen face. "Look,
Commander, surely the friendship of a doomed race can't bring any harm
to your crew!"

Aku faced him now. "What you ask is impossible."

Ashamed of the desperate note that crept inadvertently into his voice,
Rothwell said, "Commander, will you let me, alone, briefly enter your
ship, so that I can tell my people what it is like?"

Aku and the lieutenant traded a long, silent look, then the lieutenant
almost imperceptibly shrugged his shoulders. Without moving, turned
partly away from Rothwell, Aku said, simply, "No." The two started to
walk back to the ship.

"Commander!"

They stopped, but didn't turn.

"Commander Aku, if you have any sort of God in your empire, or any sort
of honor that your race swears by, please tell me one thing--tell me
that our children will be safe, I won't ask you anything else."

The two aliens stood still, facing away from him, towards their ship.
Minutes passed. Rothwell stood quietly, looking at their backs, human
appearing, but hiding unguessable thoughts. Neither of them moved, or
said a word. Finally, he turned and walked away, back towards his heli.

He leaned back in the little heli's bucket seat and ran a large hand
through unruly yellow hair that was already flecked with white. The
first evening lights of Brooklyn and Queens and, off to the left,
Manhattan, moved unseen beneath him as the craft headed towards his
home. Dammit, he thought, is it that Aku just doesn't care what we
think, or that he cares very much what we would think if we knew
whatever it is he's hiding?

He banged his fists together in frustration. How the hell can anyone
guess what goes on in an alien mind? His whole damn brain is probably
completely different! Maybe to him a poker face is friendly. Maybe he's
honestly not hiding anything at all. He looked out as the heli slowly
started its descent. No evidence, he thought. Not a shred, except a
suspicious mind and, he glanced at the dirt on his trousers, and a shell
exploding in my face.

He slapped his hat back on and whirled to the surprised pilot. "Dammit,
I don't make the decisions, I'm just in charge of loading, and if the
President says it's okay, then it's okay with me!" He stepped out onto
the grass of his yard, and quashed a little shriek of conscience
somewhere in the back of his mind.

       *       *       *       *       *

Blinding lights pinned him in mid-stride. A familiar voice sprang out of
the glare, "Here he is now viewers, General James Rothwell, commander of
the western armies, and head of the Earth evacuation project. General,
International-TV cameras have been waiting secretly in your yard for
hours for your return."

As his eyes adjusted, Rothwell distinguished a camera crew, their small
portable instrument, and a young, smooth-talking announcer that he had
seen several times on television. He forced the annoyance out of his
eyes. This, he thought, is all I need.

"What the general doesn't know," the announcer went on, "is that earlier
this evening it was announced by Moscow Central that the computers had
picked his son as one of the evacuees!"

The shock was visible on 150,000,000 TV sets. Completely unexpected, the
surprise of the announcement hit Rothwell like a physical blow; his eyes
widened, his chin dropped, and for an instant the world's viewers read
in his face the frank emotions of a father, unshielded by military
veneer. Then years of training took command, and he faced the camera,
apparently calm, though churning internally. The odds, he thought
confusedly, the odds must be at least ten thousand to one! Then he
realized that someone was talking to him, waving a microphone.

"Er, I'm sorry, I didn't quite catch ..." he mumbled at the camera.

The announcer laughed amiably. "Certainly can't blame you, this must be
a really big night! How does it feel, General, for your son to be one of
the evacuees?"

Something in the back of his mind twisted the question. How does it
feel, General, to turn your only son over to a poker-faced alien who
shoots when you walk near his ship? "I'm not sure," he said, "how I
feel."

Talking excitedly, the announcer drew closer. "To think that your name
will live forever in the vast star clusters of the galaxy!" He lowered
his voice. "General, speaking now unofficially, as a parent, to the
thousands of other parents whose children may also be selected, and to
the rest of us who ..." he seemed to stumble for a word, and for an
instant Rothwell saw him, too, as a man worried and afraid, instead of
as part of a television machine. "Well, General, _you've_ had contact
with the aliens, are you glad your son is going?"

Rothwell looked at the strained face of the announcer, at the camera
crew quietly eyeing him, and at the small huddled group of neighbors
hovering in the background, and he knew that his next words might be the
most critical he would ever use in his life. In a world strained
emotionally almost beyond endurance, the wrong words, a hint of a
suspicion, could spark the riots that would kill millions and bring
total destruction.

He faced the camera and said calmly, "I am glad my son is going. I wish
it could happen for everyone. Commander Aku has assured me that
everything will turn out all right." Mentally he begged for forgiveness,
there was nothing else he could say. Sweat glistened on his forehead as
he tried to fight down the memory of Aku turning his back on the plea
that echoed in his brain--"tell me that our children will be safe."

The front door of the house banged open and all at once Martha was in
his arms, crying, laughing. "Oh, Jim, I'm so glad, so very glad!"
Rothwell blinked his eyes as he put his arm around her and waved the
camera away. Tears sparkled on his cheeks; but neither Martha nor the
viewers knew why.

       *       *       *       *       *

The next morning Aku and his ever-present lieutenant were waiting when
Rothwell's heli set him down in front of the administration building, a
few minutes later than usual. They followed him into his office.

"Coffee?" Rothwell held out a paper cup.

"No, thank you," said Aku, as expressionless as ever. "We are here to
make final arrangements for the evacuation."

"I see. Well," said Rothwell, "Thursday will be a very painful day for
us and we will want to expedite things as much as possible."

Aku nodded.

Rothwell went on. "I have made arrangements to have a hundred air fields
cleared at various population centers around the world. That way your
ships can land simultaneously, one at each field, and the loading can be
finished in very little time. Now," he opened a desk drawer, "here is a
list, of ..."

       *       *       *       *       *

Aku held up a fur-covered hand. "That will not be possible."

Rothwell looked down at his desk and closed his eyes briefly. I knew it,
he thought, I knew this would happen, sure as hell. He raised his head.
"Impossible?"

"We will first land twenty ships. These twenty must be fully loaded and
back in orbit before the next will land. We will use the first twenty
air fields on your list."

Rothwell took a deep breath. "But I thought you wanted to get away as
soon as possible! It will take at least an extra day to load according
to your scheme."

"Will it?" Aku moved to go, his lieutenant reached to open the door.

On an impulse, Rothwell stepped forward. "Commander, if you had a son
would you send him away like this?"

Aku stopped, and looked directly at him with even, black eyes; then the
gaze moved through and past him, to the window and the ship beyond. For
a minute his expression altered, changing almost to one of pain. When
he spoke, it was almost to himself. "My father loved his children more
than ..." He started as his lieutenant suddenly clapped a hand on his
shoulder. The expression vanished. They left together, without looking
at Rothwell or saying another word.

For several minutes Rothwell stared frowning at the closed door. He
walked thoughtfully back to his desk, and lowered himself slowly into
the chair.

He sat for a long time, trying to puzzle through the picture. Finally
he stood and paced the room. "Suppose," he said to himself, "just
suppose that not all of those hundred ships up there are really cargo
ships. Suppose that, say, only twenty are. Then, after those twenty were
loaded ..." He swung around to look again at the long, slim silhouette
poised high against the main runway. "With ocean vessels, it's the
fighting ships that are lean and slender."

Bending over his desk, he nudged an intercom button with his finger.
"Doc, how would one go about trying to understand an alien's
reactions?"

Philips' voice shot right back. "Well, Jim, the very first thing, you'd
have to be sure they weren't exactly the same as a human's reactions."

Rothwell paused, startled. "It can't be, Doc. Why, if Aku was a human
I'd say ..." He stiffened, feeling the hair rise at the back of his
neck. The short, curt answers, the refusal to meet his eyes, the frozen
expression clicked into pattern. "Doc ... I'd say he was being forced to
do something he hated like hell to do."

Tensely, he straightened and contemplated the lean, gray spaceship. Then
he whirled around and slapped every button on the intercom.

       *       *       *       *       *

Thursday. The sun pecked fitfully at the low overcast while a sullen
crowd watched a squat alien ship descend vertically, to finally settle
with a flaming belch not far from the first. Similar crowds watched
similar landings at nineteen other airports around the world, but the
loading was to start first in New York.

An elevator-like box swung out from the fat belly of the ship and was
lowered rapidly to the ground. Two golden-hued aliens, in uniforms
resembling Aku's, stepped out and walked about a thousand feet towards
the crowd. Only children actually being loaded were to go beyond this
point; parents had to stay at the airport gates.

"When do I go, Dad?"

"Shortly, son." Rothwell laid his hand on the lean shoulder. "You're in
the second hundred." There was a brief, awkward silence. "Martha, you'd
better take him over to the line." He held out his hand. "So long, son."

Jim, Jr., shook his hand gravely, then, without a word, suddenly threw
his hands tight around his younger sister. He took his mother's hand,
and they walked slowly over to the sad line that was forming beyond the
gate.

Rothwell turned to his daughter. "You going over there too, kitten?" The
words were gruff in his tight throat.

She wiped a hand quickly across her cheek. "No, Dad, I guess I'll stay
here with you." She stood close beside him.

Aku, forgotten until now, cleared his throat. "I think the loading
should start, General."

Raising his hand in a half-salute, Rothwell signaled to a captain
standing near the gate who turned and motioned to a small cordon of
military police. Shortly, a group of fifty of the first youngsters in
the line separated from the others and moved slowly out onto the
concrete ribbon towards the waiting ship. The rest of the line
hesitated, then edged reluctantly up to the gate, to take the place of
the fifty who had left. They waited there, the children of a thousand
families, suddenly dead quiet, staring after the fifty that slowly moved
away.

They walked quietly, in a tight group, without any antics or horseplay
which, in itself, gave the event an air of unreality. Approaching the
ship, they seemed to huddle even closer together, forming a pathetically
tiny cluster in the shadow of the towering space cruiser. The title of a
book that he had read once, many years before, flashed unexpectedly in
Rothwell's memory, _The Story of Mankind_. He looked sadly after the
fifty, then back at the silent line. Were these frightened kids now
writing the final period in the last chapter? He shook himself, work to
be done, no time now for daydreams.

As the fifty reached the ship and started to enter the elevator,
Rothwell turned and beckoned to some technicians standing out of sight
just inside the entrance to the control tower. Three of them ran out and
set up what looked like a television set, only with three screens. One
ran back, unreeling a power cable, while a fourth flicked on a bank of
switches, making feverish, minute adjustments. Rothwell felt the sweat
in his hands. "Is it okay, Sergeant?"

The back of the sergeant's shirt was wet though the air was cool. "It's
got to be, sir!" His fingers played across the knobs. "All that metal,
the whole thing is critical as ... Ah!" He jumped back. The screens
flashed into life.

       *       *       *       *       *

Aku stiffened. His lieutenant gasped audibly, made a jerky movement
towards the screens, then suddenly became aware of three MPs standing
beside him, hands nonchalantly cradling blunt-nosed weapons.

All three receivers showed similar scenes, the milling youngsters and
the ship, but from up close, the pictures jerking and swaying
erratically as if the cameras were somehow fastened to moving human
beings. Then the scenes condensed into a cramped, jostling blackness as
the fifty crowded into the elevator and were lifted up the side of the
ship.

Next, were three views of a large room, bare except for what appeared to
be overhead cranes and other mechanical paraphernalia of a military shop
or warehouse. For a while the fifty moved about restlessly, then the
cameras swung about simultaneously to face a wall that slowly slid
apart.

Rothwell froze. "Good Lord!"

Six murky _things_ moved from the open wall towards the cameras, which
fell back to the opposite side of the room. Each was large, many times
the size of a man, but somehow indistinct, for the cameras didn't convey
any sense of shape or form. For an instant, one of the screens flashed a
picture of a terrified human face, and arms raised protectively as the
shadowy things moved in upon the group.

A projection snapped out from one, grabbed two of the humans, and
hurled them into a corner. Then it motioned a dozen or so others over to
the same spot. With similar harsh, sweeping movements, the group of
humans was quickly broken up into three roughly equal segments. One of
the groups seemed to be protecting someone who appeared seriously hurt.
A black tentacle lashed out and one of the screens went blank. Then
another.

The third showed a small group pushed stumbling through a narrow door,
down a short passageway, and abruptly into blackness. Something that
looked like bars flashed across the screen, then a dark liquid trickled
across the camera lens, blotting out the view.

Eyes blazing, Rothwell whirled on Aku. "Throughout our history,
Commander, humans have had one thing in common, our blasted pride! We
will not turn over our young to slavery, and by hell if we die, we'll
die fighting!" He jerked up his coat sleeve, barked an order into a
small transmitter on his wrist, and, grabbing his daughter, threw
himself flat on the concrete.

Hesitating only an instant, Aku, his lieutenant, and the MPs hit the
ground as both spaceships vanished in a cataclysmic eruption of flame
and steel.

Raising his head, Rothwell grinned crazily into the exploding debris,
imagining nineteen other ships suddenly disintegrating under the rocket
guns of nineteen different nations. He saw Earth, like a giant
porcupine, flicking thousands of atom tipped missiles into space from
hundreds of submarines and secret bases--the war power of the great
nations, designed for the ruin of each other, united to destroy the
alien fleet.

He turned to Aku, "Midgets, volunteers with miniature TV cameras ..." he
stopped.

The commander and his lieutenant had flung their arms about each other
and were crying like babies. Tentatively, Aku reached towards him.
"Those things, the _Eleele_, from another galaxy." He struggled for
words. "They captured your scout crew and implanted memories of
thousands of ships to create fear and make it easier to take slaves
before blasting you." He glanced up at the flashes in the sky. "This was
their only fleet."

       *       *       *       *       *

Rothwell glared. "You helped them."

Aku nodded miserably. "We had to. They thought you'd trust us because we
look almost human. It was a trick that worked before." Tears streamed
across his face, matting the golden fur. "You see, the radioactive
planets your men reported, one of them was--home."


THE END



Transcriber's Note:

    This etext was produced from _Amazing Stories_ January 1959.
    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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