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Chapter 6

  • In the space station, Forential sat in his cubicle in mental conference wit_he other aliens. Behind their flow of thoughts was the unreferred-to bu_ver-present fear for their own lives. Cowardice was taken for granted; it wa_o deeply a part of their own culture (if it wasn't somehow a racia_haracteristic) that it did not need to be acknowledged.
  • The aliens always let other races fight their wars of conquest.
  • Forential knew that his own personal existence might well hinge on the outcom_f the next few hours. None of the aliens knew how much knowledge Juli_ossessed. Unlike the other mutants, she had not been kept in ignorance of th_asic laws of nature. How dangerous she might be, they could only guess. Wa_she_  capable of attacking them?
  • Forential was physically ill; he wanted to flee. If he had had a ship capabl_f traveling interstellar distances, he would have embarked without delay. Bu_he huge interstellar ship of his race would not be back for another thirt_ears. There was no escape from the space station; there was no place to go.
  • And if the earthlings were not destroyed, if the invasion of Earth failed, retaliation from the planet would not be long coming. Once the Earth locate_he space station (and Earth would, once Earth realized its existence) eve_uman normals would be able to destroy it—one rocket with an atomic war hea_ould do—long before the interstellar ship returned.
  • Walt could not fail; the invasion could not fail.
  • **Let's try to make peace with the earthings,** one of the aliens thought.
  • **It's better than … than exposing  _ourselves_  to physical violence!**
  • **That would be suicide: once they realized what we had been planning to do t_hem.**
  • **I don't trust them.**
  • **Let Forential send down  _all_  his charges to kill the female!**
  • **Don't be hysterical!** the Elder thought hysterically.
  • Forential knew that to send down his charges first might alert Earth to th_anger of invasion: twenty-seven saucer-ships would not go unnoticed. But eve_f they would, even if Earth remained unaware, such a course would completel_isrupt the plan of conquest.
  • **She hasn't realized the menace yet,** the Elder thought. **Walt will kil_er. Walt will kill her, won't he, Forential?**
  • **Yes.** If only one of us went to make sure, Forential thought. To help him … no… . None of us would risk it. It's too dangerous.
  • The aliens did not have any equipment to make their single person ship_nvisible. It took bulky distortion machinery; the single person ships wer_oo large to cover with mental shielding.
  • Twenty years ago, yes (Forential thought) we could have risked it. But now th_adar screens around all the major countries are too tight. We could not, lik_alt, destroy our ship. We would need it to return in.
  • **We must give him all the help we can,** Forential thought.
  • **We must.**
  • **We must.**
  • **Lycan,** the Elder thought. **Can you cut the power of your charges?**
  • **An extended period might have a bad psychological effect… .**
  • **They won't realize the implication—that they're not Lyrians, that we contro_hem—until too late.**
  • **If we could give Walt twelve hours,** Forential thought. **… we've got t_ive him every chance!**
  • **When do you think he'll be close to her?** the Elder asked.
  • Forential consulted his maps. He calculated rapidly.
  • **If he travels fast—if he has luck—by another five hours.**
  • **Lycan,** the Elder instructed, **continue with training until then. We'l_ut off the greater transmitter five hours from now. Twelve hours should giv_alt more than enough time to kill her. It will be mutant trying to kill a_arth-normal. He can't fail!**
  • **He can't fail,** they echoed nervously.
  • **Will twelve hours be enough?**
  • **If he does, somehow, fail, we can't risk delaying the invasion more tha_hat.**
  • **I will see that it doesn't delay the invasion,** Lycan promised. **I'l_rain them right through normalcy.**
  • Walt had arrived in Hollywood.  _Wait for me there._  Julia (dressin_arefully) projected to him.  _I'll be right over to get you._
  • She finished combing her hair. She went to her handbag, snapped it close_ecisively, and slipped it over her arm. She was smiling.
  • On her way out of the room, she picked up the book on brain surgery that sh_adn't yet had the chance to read. She skimmed through it in the taxi on th_ay to pick Walt up.
  • She paused a fraction of a second over one of the illustrations; in that time, she was able to memorize it. My brain, she thought, is different right there; but I can't see my own brain well enough to tell much; I want to look at hi_or a minute if I can.
  • Having finished the book, she held it primly in her lap, tapping impatientl_n it with her fingers.
  • There's a lot of things funny about this boy, she thought. I've got to ge_ore information about him. I've got a suspicion he's going to be in for a fe_urprises.
  • (It was less than an hour before the aliens would cut off the large_ransmitter.)
  • When I first located him for sure, she thought, he was traveling  _much_  to_ast; faster and higher than any experimental rocket I've ever heard of.
  • I've got to check on the old flying saucer reports, she thought. They're th_nly things I can remember reading about that were supposed to move that fast.
  • "This is him waiting up here," Julia said to the driver. "Just pull over t_he curb."
  • A moment later, opening the door, she said, "Get in. I'm Julia."
  • "I'm Walt Johnson," he said, flexing his hands. "Let's go someplace where w_an be alone."
  • "Well," she said. "It's good to see you, Walt." She extended her hand.
  • He had sealed off his thoughts. His hand was moist in hers; it responde_ncertainly to her warm pressure. She drew him inside. She caught a wisp o_hought that he was not quite able to conceal. "Back to the hotel," she tol_he driver.
  • Now I'm  _sure_ , she thought, that he really tried to teleport me out of m_otel room. I wonder why he wanted to? Why should he want to kill me?
  • I'll have to keep an eye on him. But he's such a baby. He can't even contro_is emotions.
  • "Your clothing," she said, studying him with professional concern, "is al_rong. We'll just have to get some more. Some to fit your personality better.
  • I'll do that tomorrow."
  • Anger crossed his face. He rubbed his hand over his knee and looked down a_is trousers. "I like them," he said in a surly voice.
  • She was not afraid of him. She had no need to be. He was such an innocent!
  • Why, she thought, he doesn't seem to have any information to draw on hardly a_ll; he'll be harmless as long as I wish him so.
  • "I'm a Lyrian traitor, too," he said.
  • "You are?"
  • His accent. She could not remember any accent on Earth like that. He had no_earned his English from an earthman. A Lyrian had taught him?
  • "What are you doing here?" he said.
  • Boy! she thought. Is his conversation naive! Keep him talking, girl!
  • She studied his face. She thought: Get 'em young and raise 'em to sui_ourself, Julia.
  • She added up the facts she had already discovered. He was, like herself, _uman mutant. (I must check, she thought, to see if there were any huma_abies missing during the last flying saucer scare twenty-four years ago, th_ear I was born.) The mutants had been collected at birth, but the collector_ad overlooked her. Walt had traveled here from (where? Mars? Luna?) in orde_o rectify this oversight by putting her out of the way. Why? Obviously h_wed allegiance to the collectors (Lyrians?) from whom he had probabl_earned—among other things—his atrocious accent. He was—
  • She had ignored his question, so he asked another one. "Where is the war?"
  • "War?" Julia repeated. She frowned delicately. "There's no war. Not right now.
  • The international situation is getting better, I think." War? she aske_erself. He's got a lot of misinformation about us.
  • She kept trying to  _see_  into the physical structure of his brain. Ah, sh_hought, yes. Right there—
  • A bridge there, all right.
  • It's probably an easy mutation, she thought. Probably latent in everyone'_enes. The next development of man? (But how many centuries will it take fo_t to come out again?) How did the collectors produce the mutation in th_irst place—assuming they did produce (as well as harvest) it?
  • Could, she thought, a surgeon—operate, as it were—on an adult brain to produc_he bridge?… I'll have to take up surgery. A few months to learn technique. _hink I could. It's easy to heal, because of the subconscious pattern (th_ellular pattern?) but to—operate—to change—to build into a differen_tructure, so that would require experiments and study, perhaps actual knif_ork… .
  • "There  _has_  to be a war," Walt said. "Forential told us there was."
  • "There isn't. Not now." Forential? A non-human? An alien?
  • "He told us," Walt said.
  • "He lied," Julia said.
  • "He doesn't lie."
  • Julia shrugged. Walt is a loyal follower, she thought. "There's no war. Mayb_e meant there would be one shortly; maybe it was a premature announcement."
  • Lord! do these aliens have some way of prodding the Russian bear? she thought.
  • Or how the devil are they—Forentials, wherever they are—thinking of starting _ar?
  • Walt refused to consider her denial. He did not look her in the face. "I lik_ou," he said. He was desperate to change the subject. "Your smile. You're so … so … "  _nice_. He thought the last word; he took the risk that she migh_eep his other thoughts. He was almost certain she could not; he hoped to pee_ers if she thought a reply. Forential couldn't be a liar!
  • Julia knew they were both incorrect: his statement and his conviction. But sh_iked to hear him say he liked her. I guess, she thought, he's trying to lul_y suspicions. Maybe I better lull his, too… .
  • She smiled sweetly.
  • "You see, I've never seen a Lyrian female before," Walt said. "… except one o_he ship just the other day; but just one, before."
  • Is Lyria supposed to be a  _planet_? she thought to herself. "You've neve_een to Lyria, then, have you?"
  • "… we were very young when we left."
  • He doesn't even know he's a native of Earth! Julia thought. "You know," sh_aid, "I'll bet I know more about you than you think I do."
  • That brought a fear reaction from Walt.
  • _You don't need to be afraid of me_ , Julia thought soothingly.
  • (She had scarcely half an hour left before the aliens shut off the bi_ransmitter.)
  • "How soon… . When will we get to the hotel?"
  • "Soon, now," Julia said.
  • "We'll be alone?" Walt said.
  • "We'll have a chance to talk; there are a lot of things for us to talk about."
  • "Yes," he said. He began to rub his hands over one another. His growin_xcitement and his hatred bubbled just below the surface of his mind; Juli_ould feel the emotions without him being aware that she could.
  • My, she thought. He's going to take a lot of re-educating before he makes _ery good husband.
  • When they entered the hotel room, Walt found his throat expanding wit_xcitement.
  • Forential, he thought, will be pleased that I have killed her in secret. N_ne on Earth will ever know who she was killed by. When she is dead, I ca_lip out of the hotel and … and invisible, I can steal food and drink and sta_n empty rooms until the invasion comes; and when it does, then I can star_eleporting earthlings and slaying them with my hands, and… . She doesn'_uspect, he thought, that I am going to kill her in just a moment.
  • He complimented himself on how cleverly he had concealed his intentions.
  • Covertly he surveyed the room. The pitcher on the table? The chair? What with?
  • A sudden numbing blow—like the blow Calvin delivered to John. Then, afterwards, hands, knees, fingers—and she will be dead.
  • He saw himself rising triumphant from her still body. Saw Forential (when, later, he heard of it) smiling approval, saw his mates listening awe struck… .
  • His breath trembled in his throat; his arms ached to be moving.
  • "Won't you sit down?" she said.
  • I will wait until she is off guard, he thought. Smiling in anticipation, h_at down.
  • … she doesn't, he thought, seem like a traitor. Such bright, clear eyes. Sh_eems, so nice, so trusting, so innocent. It was foolish to have been afrai_f meeting her. She's small and harmless. I wish she weren't a traitor; maybe—
  • But Forential knows.
  • (How about the war? Why did Forential say there was a war?)
  • Forential knows. He said to kill her.
  • Julia, studying him with faint amusement, said "Have you looked at your brain?
  • I have a picture of a human brain here. I want to show you how alike the_re."
  • "Lyrians have a superficial resemblance to earthlings."
  • "Look at this. Very similar. The same, almost."
  • Walt shifted uneasily. Her eyes did not move from his face. What was sh_etting at?
  • "I wonder," she said, "why we … Lyrians … have had certain powers given to u_ust recently? Why, before, we were no different than earthlings?"
  • Walt frowned. He didn't want to think about it. He had a job to do.
  • "There's a—call it—a bridge in our minds. It's just recently been closed."
  • (It was ten minutes before the larger transmitter was to be turned off fo_welve hours.)
  • Walt decided on the pitcher. The answer to her question was suddenly obvious.
  • "That means we're ready to invade."
  • She watched him very closely. Her fingers tapped her knee. "… you said yo_ere on a ship?"
  • It's almost time to kill her, he thought. I'm sorry, he wanted to say: but _eally must. "Yes. A space station."
  • "How many of you are there?"
  • "Twenty-seven; twenty-eight, counting me."
  • "That's not many. Not enough." She bent forward. "You said you saw a Lyria_emale on the ship. I think there's another group of Lyrians on the ship. _hink they're going to invade first. That's the war your group is supposed t_ome in on the end of. You're going to be used as a clean-up group."
  • "Forential would have told us," Walt said.
  • "The question is:  _Why didn't he tell you?_ "
  • Walt realized how terribly sly and dangerous she was. She was too smart to b_armless. Suppose she should warn—but who could she warn? Earthlings? Coul_hey get their atom bombs ready?
  • He felt his skin prickle.  _Look behind you!_  he thought to her. It ha_orked with the officer; it worked with her.
  • She turned.
  • Savagely, he grasped the pitcher with the mental fingers of teleportation. H_urled it as hard as he could at the back of her head.
  • Julia was ready for the blow. She had the molecules of the pitcher displace_efore it was half way to her. It passed through her body easily and smashe_gainst the far wall.
  • She turned quickly enough to avoid Walt's rush.
  • On her feet now, she wavered into partial displacement.
  • Snarling harshly, he advanced on her.
  • (There was less than five minutes remaining. One of the aliens hovered at th_arger transmitter.)
  • He tried to grab her. His hand passed through her body.
  • She smiled.
  • He tried to adjust to her level of displacement. He choked. Quickly h_ealized what was wrong; he rectified the air so he could breathe. She change_o normal just as he sprang. He hurtled through her as through the air itself.
  • She turned to face him. He was panting. "When I was a kid," she said, "I use_o throw rocks when I got mad."
  • _Damn you!_  His fists clenched. He towered over her.
  • She did not have any more time to waste with him. 'That means,' he had said,
  • 'we're ready to invade.'
  • How much time did she have? The full extent of the menace was gradually takin_orm in her mind. With an army of indoctrinated mutants… . Invasion! Murder!
  • Destruction! For an instant she wanted to collapse and cry like a frightene_ittle girl.
  • What am I going to do? what am I going to do? what am I going to do? sh_hought frantically.
  • I've got to see someone! I've got to convince someone—I've got to show peopl_y mutant powers: they'll have to believe me! The President, the Army… .
  • How much time?
  • She made a distortion field. Invisible, she rushed to the door. She paused, returned for her handbag. Holding it, she passed through the door.
  • I haven't got time to beat reason into his head, she thought. I'll tend to hi_ater.
  • Half way down the stairs, she suddenly became visible.