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´╗┐Title: From outer space
Author: Zacks, Robert
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.


*** Start of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "From outer space" ***


                           FROM OUTER SPACE

                            By ROBERT ZACKS

           [Transcriber's Note: This etext was produced from
                     Startling Stories, May 1952.
         Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that
         the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed.]


The grizzled old space veteran leaned back in his chair and stared up
through the transparent dome. In the black sky myriad white specks
gleamed without twinkling, their light unbent by atmosphere or dust.
The steady pulse of the airmakers kept rhythm with the heartbeats of
the young men seated in a semi-circle, listening with glistening eyes
to these ancient tales of an Earth they'd never seen--the home of their
species.

They stared hungrily at the old man's face. There was a silvery spot on
the chin where Venusian fungus had nearly gotten into his bloodstream
and had had to be burned away. Over one eye an eyebrow was gone,
replaced by scar tissue grown on a planet at the other end of the
galaxy where the light of enormous fireflies wasn't cold, as on ancient
earth, but searing with heat.

"Imagine," they marveled, "such weak flame in fireflies."

"Not weak," corrected the old man. "Just different. Those insects on
Earth didn't have to fight off intense cold. They had a much thicker
atmosphere and were close to the sun. And they didn't feed on alcohol."

The young men's eyes glittered. They were an odd group. Small--most of
them, none over five feet five inches--and pale, unlike the old man
who was bulky around the shoulders and had skin virtually leathered by
various radiations and temperatures and winds.

Each day this group waited hungrily for the old man to come and talk to
them. The stories he told were the breath of life to them. And of all
the tales of adventures in the far ends of the universe, the one that
was most repeatedly called for was the story of what had happened to
Earth.

"Tell us about Earth," said one of them, now, in a low voice.

"About how great we were?" said the old man. "About what love was like?
About homes and children and how a man went to work in the morning at
tasks of his own choosing? Or...."

"No. About what happened. You know. At the finish."

The old man looked up again. His eyes were dreamy.

"Earth," he said, softly. "Earth. I've been through the galaxies these
last forty years and I've seen planets by the thousand. And there never
was one like Earth."

"Tell us," they said, each in urgent, differing words, but all with the
same tortured look. "Tell us about what went wrong."

"I've told you that a hundred times," he said.

But they wanted it again. Like a man who relives an incident to examine
each moment with incredulity, as if in hope that it will fade and not
have happened, as if in unconscious attempt to move sideways from that
point into another time stream probability where a different course of
action will be true.

"All right," said the old man.

       *       *       *       *       *

The first they had heard of the strangers from outer space was when
the new ultra short-wave frequencies were used. Professor Kennicot of
Palmira University was the first to find how to generate and control
them. He tried to transform the wavelengths upward to a range either
auditory or visual but for some reason power was lost in the process.

Apparently he gave them a sufficient jolt with extra voltage, however,
because they were picked up by the strangers in outer space as a
signal. The heaviside layer did not stop these wavelengths.

Professor Kennicot was startled one day when he heard, or thought he
heard, a soundless voice in his mind. It said:

"Interesting. We didn't know there was life on your planet or in your
solar system."

Professor Kennicot shook his head and looked around. Nobody was in the
laboratory.

"Of course," said the voice, "We detected atomic radiations from the
area, but Zeetal thought it might come from your sun. Tell us, please,
are you a Grade Three society?"

"My God," muttered Professor Kennicot. "I'm having hallucinations."

"There seems to be some difficulty establishing telepathic
communication," came the puzzled thought. And then, after a pause,
"Could it be we're in communication with creatures of zero grade?"

Another thought from elsewhere answered, and yet Professor Kennicot,
somewhat, was tuned in: "Impossible. The signal picked up was very
close to telepathic frequency."

It wasn't until two days later that Professor Kennicot discovered that
he wasn't the only one who had experienced the auditory hallucination.
The entire college was babbling about how Professor Johnson had come
running out of the Chemistry Lab, which was two doors away from
Physics, holding his head and babbling nonsense.

Professor Kennicot made a beeline for the hospital and had a quiet
discussion with Professor Johnson, a discussion which is now historic.
They discovered that not only were both their I.Q.s over one hundred
and eighty, but that both of them, sitting together discussing the
matter, were simultaneously getting new messages which nobody around
them was receiving.

It wasn't long after that, of course, that many of the most brilliant
men on Earth were reporting the same hallucinations, and as news of
it spread it became obvious that not all could be insane in exactly
the same way with the same thoughts. Excitement and puzzlement ran
tremendously high because, although these intellects of Earth could
receive telepathic messages, they were not advanced enough to send.
They only knew what was being messaged to them; and this continued to
be so until feverishly working physicists pinned down the telepathic
wavelength mechanically. That was when conversations were begun and
the entire Earth was able to listen in, by translation and regular
broadcast.

The discussions did not go well. The beings from outer space would not
answer questions. They only asked. The first thing, apparently, that
made them cautious, was the first official question from Earth.

"How is it that we understand your thought even though many of our
scientists speak different languages?"

The whole world awaited the first answer. None came. There was a
silence lasting four hours. Then came a message:

"Your question indicates you may be a low grade of developed life.
We shall investigate and fit you into our needs according to your
capabilities."

A thrill of horror went around the world. What kind of monsters were
these? What would they do? The uproar that ensued was full of frantic
military preparations. Bombs were readied in the atomic planes, rockets
were raised in their cradles adjustable to any orbit. Unfortunately,
nobody thought to conceal this, and some fool had failed to shut
off the telepathic wavelength. One morning the world awoke to a
non-electrical society in which nothing electrical would work.

"We have put a field of force around your planet," came the message.
"There must be no violence. Be not afraid. We come as friends. We will
appear now and investigate. Be calm."

The leaders of each nation spoke to their people, and the world waited
in tense silence. One day an enormous sphere appeared and landed. The
creatures that emerged couldn't be clearly discerned because they were
in space-suits which gave them comfortable air-pressures and what was
to them breathable atmosphere. They were four-legged creatures but
could walk on two, if necessary.

A delegation of picked dignitaries started to show them our world, our
customs, the way we dressed, what we lived in, what we ate. Almost
immediately the strangers turned and left our world.

Within two days Earth was in bondage.

       *       *       *       *       *

The old space veteran stopped. He looked around at the tense faces.

"We found out later," he said. "It was the banquet they watched on a
film which we ran off, that did it. There was a scene where a waiter
brings in a whole roast pig with an apple in its mouth and then it's
eaten."

All the boys drew a deep horrified breath. The old man nodded heavily.
"Well," he said, "how were we to know these beings from outer space had
evolved from pigs, or creatures very similar?" He sighed, and stood
up. "Well, maybe in fifty years they'll feel we're advanced enough for
freedom." He smiled. "I'll leave you to your telepathy classes and
conditioning."

He moved toward the door and a portion of glass wall slid aside to let
him through. But before he exited he turned and said softly, "Now don't
let it get you, boys. Being exhibited in a zoo isn't too bad. Serve
your time and you'll get servant status like me and get out into space."

He waved and walked out through the spectators gathered around the
glass cage. They moved aside to let him through, staring at him with
brilliant brown eyes, their snoutlike noses twitching in sympathy and
kindness, their pig-like faces gentle with the expression a man gives a
trained dog.



*** End of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "From outer space" ***

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