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Published 20 December 2016

The "Mixed Men" series of golden-age s-f stories by A. E. van Vogt

These three linked golden-age stories pursue the theme of man’s expansion beyond the Milky Way Galaxy explored in van Vogt’s initial and iconic Black Destroyer (1939) tale, from a completely different but just about as interesting perspective – the discovery by a gigantic Earth exploration spaceship of a race of super-evolved men that had escaped from Earth’s domination of the entire Milky Way galaxy into the nearby Lesser Magellanic Cloud galaxy some thousands of years earlier.

These stories were later rewritten and regrouped, with new linkage materials, into the "fix-up" novel The Mixed Men (1952) [1].

Here you have the original versions of these action-packed, inventive and rather well-written stories with a space-opera tinge, complete with the very fine original Astounding artwork by Fax and Orban.


Kindle and e-Pub versions are available for downloading below.



TABLE OF CONTENTS

1. CONCEALMENT (1943) [2]

2. THE STORM (1943) [3]

3. THE MIXED MEN (1945) [4]

CONCEALMENT


The Earth ship came so swiftly around the planetless Gisser sun that the alarm system in the meteorite weather station had no time to react. The great machine was already visible when Watcher grew aware of it.
Alarms must have blared in the ship, too, for it slowed noticeably and, still braking, disappeared. Now it was coming back, creeping along, obviously trying to locate the small object that had affected its energy screens.
It loomed vast in the glare of the distant, yellow-white sun, bigger even at this distance than anything ever seen by the Fifty Suns, a very hell ship out of remote space, a monster from a semi-mythical world, instantly recognizable from the descriptions in the history books as a battleship of Imperial Earth. Dire had been the warnings in the his­tories of what would happen someday—and here it was.
He knew his duty. There was a warning, the age-long dreaded warning, to send to the Fifty Suns by the non-directional subspace radio; and he had to make sure nothing telltale remained of the sta­tion.
There was no fire. As the overloaded atomic engines dissolved, the massive building that had been a weather substation simply fell into its component elements.
Watcher made no attempt to escape. His brain, with its knowl­edge, must not be tapped. He felt a brief, blinding spasm of pain as the energy tore him to atoms.

She didn’t bother to accompany the expedition that landed on the meteorite. But she watched with intent eyes through the astroplate.
From the very first moment that the spy rays had shown a human figure in a weather station—a weather station out here—she had known the surpassing importance of the discovery. Her mind leaped instantly to the several possibilities.
Weather stations meant interstellar travel. Human beings meant Earth origin. She visualized how it could have happened: an expedi­tion long ago; it must have been long ago because now they had interstellar travel, and that meant large populations on many planets.
His majesty, she thought, would be pleased.
So was she. In a burst of generosity, she called the energy room.
"Your prompt action, Captain Glone," she said warmly, "in enclosing the entire meteorite in a sphere of protective energy is commendable, and will be rewarded."
The man whose image showed on the astroplate, bowed. "Thank you, noble lady." He added: "I think we saved the electronic and atomic components of the entire station. Unfortunately, because of the interference of the atomic energy of the station itself, I under­stand the photographic department was not so successful in obtain­ing clear prints."
The woman smiled grimly, said: "The man will be sufficient, and that is a matrix for which we need no prints."
She broke the connection, still smiling, and returned her gaze to the scene on the meteorite. As she watched the energy and matter absorbers in their glowing gluttony, she thought:
There had been several storms on the map in that weather sta­tion. She’d seen them in the spy ray; and one of the storms had been very large. Her great ship couldn’t dare to go fast while the location of that storm was in doubt.
Rather a handsome young man he had seemed in the flashing glimpse she had had in the spy ray, strong-willed, brave. Should be interesting in an uncivilized sort of a fashion.
First, of course, he’d have to be conditioned, drained of relevant information. Even now a mistake might make it necessary to begin a long, laborious search. Centuries could be wasted on these short dis­tances of a few light years, where a ship couldn’t get up to speed, and where it dared not maintain velocity, once attained, without exact weather information.
She saw that the men were leaving the meteorite. Decisively, she clicked off the intership communicator, made an adjustment and stepped through a transmitter into the receiving room half a mile distant.

The officer in charge came over and saluted. He was frowning:
"I have just received the prints from the photographic depart­ment. The blur of energy haze over the map is particularly distress­ing. I would say that we should first attempt to reconstitute the build­ing and its contents, leaving the man to the last."
He seemed to sense her disapproval, went on quickly:
"After all, he comes under the common human matrix. His reconstruction, while basically somewhat more difficult, falls into the same category as your stepping through the transmitter in the main bridge and coming to this room. In both cases there is dissolution of elements—which must be brought back into the original solution."
The woman said: "But why leave him to the last?"
"There are technical reasons having to do with the greater com­plexity of inanimate objects. Organized matter, as you know, is little more than a hydro-carbon compound, easily conjured."
"Very well." She wasn’t as sure as he that a man and his brain, with the knowledge that had made the map, was less important than the map itself. But if both could be had—. She nodded with decision. "Proceed."
She watched the building take shape inside the large receiver. It slid out finally on wings of antigravity, and was deposited in the cen­ter of the enormous metal floor.
The technician came down from his control chamber shaking his head. He led her and the half dozen others who had arrived, through the rebuilt weather station, pointing out the defects.
"Only twenty-seven sun points showing on the map," he said. "That is ridiculously low, even assuming that these people are organ­ized for only a small area of space. And, besides, notice how many storms are shown, some considerably beyond the area of the recon­stituted suns and—"
He stopped, his gaze fixed on the shadowy floor behind a machine twenty feet away.
The woman’s eyes followed his. A man lay there, his body twisting.
"I thought," she said frowning, "the man was to be left to the last."
The scientist was apologetic: "My assistant must have misunder­stood. They—"
The woman cut him off: "Never mind. Have him sent at once to Psychology House, and tell Lieutenant Neslor I shall be there shortly."
"At once, noble lady."
"Wait! Give my compliments to the senior meteorologist and ask him to come down here, examine this map, and advise me of his findings."
She whirled on the group around her, laughing through her even, white teeth. "By space, here’s action at last after ten dull years of sur­veying. We’ll rout out these hide-and-go-seekers in short order."
Excitement blazed inside her like a living force.

The strange thing to Watcher was that he knew before he wak­ened why he was still alive. Not very long before.
He felt the approach of consciousness. Instinctively, he began his normal Dellian preawakening muscle, nerve and mind exercises. In the middle of the curious rhythmic system, his brain paused in a dreadful surmise.
Returning to consciousness? He!
It was at that point, as his brain threatened to burst from his head with shock, that the knowledge came of how it had been done.
He grew quiet, thoughtful. He stared at the young woman who reclined on a chaise lounge near his bed. She had a fine, oval face and a distinguished appearance for so young a person. She was studying him from sparkling gray eyes. Under that steady gaze, his mind grew very still.
He thought finally: "I’ve been conditioned to an easy awakening. What else did they do—find out?"
The thought grew until it seemed to swell his brainpan:
WHAT ELSE?
He saw that the woman was smiling at him, a faint, amused smile. It was like a tonic. He grew even calmer as the woman said in a silvery voice:
"Do not be alarmed. That is, not too alarmed. What is your name?"
Watcher parted his lips, then closed them again, and shook his head grimly. He had the impulse to explain then that even answering one question would break the thrall of Dellian mental inertia and result in the revelation of valuable information.
But the explanation would have constituted a different kind of defeat. He suppressed it, and once more shook his head.
The young women, he saw, was frowning. She said: "You won’t answer a simple question like that? Surely, your name can do no harm."
His name, Watcher thought, then what planet he was from, where the planet was in relation to the Gisser sun, what about inter­vening storms. And so on down the line. There wasn’t any end.
Every day that he could hold these people away from the infor­mation they craved would give the Fifty Suns so much more time to organize against the greatest machine that had ever flown into this part of space.
His thought trailed. The woman was sitting up, gazing at him with eyes that had gone steely. Her voice held a metallic resonance as she said:
"Know this, whoever you are, that you are aboard the Imperial Battleship Star Cluster, Grand Captain Laurr at your service. Know, too, that it is our unalterable will that you shall prepare for us an orbit that will take our ship safely to your chief planet."
She went on vibrantly: "It is my solemn belief you already know that Earth recognizes no separate governments. Space is indivisible. The universe shall not be an area of countless sovereign peoples squabbling and quarreling for power.
"That is the law. Those who set themselves against it are outlaws, subject to any punishment which may be decided upon in their special case.
"Take warning."
Without waiting for an answer, she turned her head. "Lieutenant Neslor," she said at the wall facing Watcher, "have you made any progress?"
A woman’s voice answered: "Yes, noble lady. I have set up an integer based on the Muir-Grayson studies of colonial peoples who have been isolated from the main stream of galactic life. There is no historical precedent for such a long isolation as seems to have obtained here, so I have decided to assume that they have passed the static period, and have made some progress of their own.
"I think we should begin very simply, however. A few forced answers will open his brain to further pressures; and we can draw valuable conclusions meanwhile from the speed with which he adjusts his resistance to the brain machine. Shall I proceed?"
The woman on the chaise longue nodded. There was a flash of light from the wall facing Watcher. He tried to dodge, and discovered for the first time that something held him in the bed, not rope, or chain, nothing visible. But something as palpable as rubbery steel.
Before he could think further, the light was in his eyes, in his mind, a dazzling fury. Voices seemed to push through it, voices that danced and sang, and spoke into his brain, voices that said:
"A simple question like that—of course I’ll answer . . . of course, of course, of course— My name is Gisser Watcher. I was born on the planet Kaider III, of Dellian parents. There are seventy inhabited planets, fifty suns, thirty billion people, four hundred important storms, the biggest at Latitude 473. The Central Government is on the glorious planet, Cassidor VII—"
With a blank horror of what he was doing, Watcher caught his roaring mind into a Dellian knot, and stopped that devastating burst of revelation. He knew he would never be caught like that again but—too late, he thought, too late by far.

The woman wasn’t quite so certain. She went out of the bed­room, and came presently to where the middle-aged Lieutenant Neslor was classifying her findings on receptor spools.
The psychologist glanced up from her work, said in an amazed voice: "Noble lady, his resistance during the stoppage moment registered an equivalent of I. Q. 800. Now, that’s utterly impossible, particularly because he started talking at a pressure point equivalent to I. Q. 167, which matches with his general appearance, and which you know is average.
"There must be a system of mind training behind his resistance. And I think I found the clue in his reference to his Dellian ancestry. His graph squared in intensity when he used the word.
"This is very serious, and may cause great delay—unless we are prepared to break his mind."
The grand captain shook her head, said only: "Report further developments to me."
On the way to the transmitter, she paused to check the battle­ship’s position. A bleak smile touched her lips, as she saw on the reflector the shadow of a ship circling the brighter shadow of a sun.
Marking time, she thought, and felt a chill of premonition. Was it possible that one man was going to hold up a ship strong enough to conquer an entire galaxy?

The senior ship meteorologist, Lieutenant Cannons, stood up from a chair as she came toward him across the vast floor of the transmission receiving room, where the Fifty Suns weather station still stood. He had graying hair, and he was very old, she remem­bered, very old. Walking toward him, she thought:
There was a slow pulse of life in these men who watched the great storms of space. There must be to them a sense of futility about it all, a timelessness. Storms that took a century or more to attain their full roaring maturity, such storms and the men who catalogued them must acquire a sort of affinity of spirit.
The slow stateliness was in his voice, too, as he bowed with a measure of grace, and said:
"Grand Captain, the Right Honorable Gloria Cecily, the Lady Laurr of Noble Laurr, I am honored by your personal presence."
She acknowledged the greeting, and then unwound the spool for him. He listened, frowning, said finally:
"The latitude he gave for the storm is a meaningless quantity. These incredible people have built up a sun relation system in the Lesser Magellanic Cloud, in which the center is an arbitrary one having no recognizable connection with the magnetic center of the whole Cloud. Probably, they’ve picked some sun, called it center, and built their whole spatial geography around it."
The old man whirled abruptly away from her, and led the way into the weather station, to the edge of the pit above which poised the reconstructed weather map.
"The map is utterly worthless to us," he said succinctly. "What?"
She saw that he was staring at her, his china-blue eyes thoughtful.
"Tell me, what is your idea of this map?"
The woman was silent, unwilling to commit herself in the face of so much definiteness. Then she frowned, and said:
"My impression is much as you described. They’ve got a system of their own here, and all we’ve got to do is find the key."
She finished more confidently: "Our main problem, it seems to me, would be to determine which direction we should go in the immediate vicinity of this meteorite weather station we’ve found. If we chose the wrong direction, there would be vexatious delay, and, throughout, our chief obstacle would be that we dare not go fast because of possible storms."
She looked at him questioningly, as she ended. And saw that he was shaking his head, gravely:
"I’m afraid," he said, "it’s not so simple as that. Those bright point-replicas of suns look the size of peas due to light distortion, but when examined through a metroscope they show only a few mole­cules in diameter. If that is their proportion to the suns they repre­sent—"
She had learned in genuine crises to hide her feelings from sub­ordinates. She stood now, inwardly stunned, outwardly cool, thoughtful, calm. She said finally:
"You mean each one of those suns, their suns, is buried among about a thousand other suns?"
"Worse than that. I would say that they have only inhabited one system in ten thousand. We must never forget that the Lesser Magellanic Cloud is a universe of fifty million stars. That’s a lot of sunshine."
The old man concluded quietly: "If you wish, I will prepare orbits involving maximum speeds of ten light days a minute to all the near­est stars. We may strike it lucky."
The woman shook her head savagely: "One in ten thousand. Don’t be foolish. I happen to know the law of averages that relates to ten thousand. We would have to visit a minimum of twenty-five hundred suns if we were lucky, thirty-five to fifty thousand if we were not.
"No, no"—a grim smile compressed her fine lips—"we’re not going to spend five hundred years looking for a needle in a haystack. I’ll trust to psychology before I trust to chance. We have the man who understands the map, and while it will take time, he’ll talk in the end."
She started to turn away, then stopped. "What," she asked, "about the building itself? Have you drawn any conclusions from its design?"
He nodded. "Of the type used in the galaxy about fifteen thou­sand years ago."
"Any improvements, changes?"
"None that I can see. One observer, who does all the work. Simple, primitive."
She stood thoughtful, shaking her head as if trying to clear away a mist.
"It seems strange. Surely after fifteen thousand years they could have added something. Colonies are usually static, but not that static."
She was examining routine reports three hours later when the astro clanged twice, softly. Two messages—
The first was from Psychology House, a single question: "Have we permission to break the prisoner’s mind?"
"No!" said Grand Captain Laurr.
The second message made her glance across at the orbit board. The board was aglitter with orbit symbols. That wretched old man, disobeying her injunction NOT to prepare any orbits.
Smiling twistedly, she walked over and studied the shining things, and finally sent an order to Central Engines. She watched as her great ship plunged into night.
After all, she thought, there was such a thing as playing two games at the same time. Counterpoint was older in human relations than it was in music.

The first day she stared down at the outer planet of a blue-white sun. It floated in the darkness below the ship, an airless mass of rock and metal, drab and terrible as any meteorite, a world of primeval canyons and mountains untouched by the leavening breath of life.
Spy rays showed only rock, endless rock, not a sigh of movement or of past movement.
There were three other planets, one of them a warm, green world where winds sighed through virgin forests and animals swarmed on the plains.
Not a house showed, nor the erect form of a human being. Grimly, the woman said into the intership communicator:
"Exactly how far can our spy rays penetrate into the ground?" "A hundred feet."
"Are there any metals which can simulate a hundred feet of earth?"
"Several, noble lady."
Dissatisfied, she broke the connection. There was no call that day from Psychology House.
The second day, a giant red sun swam into her impatient ken. Ninety-four planets swung in their great orbits around their massive parent. Two were habitable, but again there was the profusion of wilderness and of animals usually found only on planets untouched by the hand and metal of civilization.
The chief zoological officer reported the fact in his precise voice: "The percentage of animals parallels the mean for worlds not inhab­ited by intelligent beings."
The woman snapped: "Has it occurred to you that there may have been a deliberate policy to keep animal life abundant, and laws preventing the tilling of the soil even for pleasure?"
She did not expect, nor did she receive, an answer. And once more there was not a word from Lieutenant Neslor, the chief psy­chologist.

The third sun was farther away. She had the speed stepped up to twenty light days a minute—and received a shocking reminder as the ship bludgeoned into a small storm. It must have been small because the shuddering of metal had barely begun when it ended.
"There has been some talk," she said afterward to the thirty cap­tains assembled in the captains’ pool, "that we return to the galaxy and ask for an expedition that will uncover these hidden rascals.
"One of the more whining of the reports that have come to my ears suggests that, after all, we were on our way home when we made our discovery, and that our ten years in the Cloud have earned us a rest."
Her gray eyes flashed; her voice grew icy: "You may be sure that those who sponsor such defeatism are not the ones who would have to make the personal report of failure to his majesty’s government. Therefore, let me assure the faint hearts and the homesick that we shall remain another ten years if it should prove necessary. Tell the officers and crew to act accordingly. That is all."

Back in the main bridge, she saw that there was still no call from Psychology House. There was a hot remnant of anger and impa­tience in her, as she dialed the number. But she controlled herself as the distinguished face of Lieutenant Neslor appeared on the plate. She said then:
"What is happening, lieutenant? I am anxiously waiting for fur­ther information from the prisoner."
The woman psychologist shook her head. "Nothing to report." "Nothing!" Her amazement was harsh in her voice.
"I have asked twice," was the answer, "for permission to break his mind. You must have known that I would not lightly suggest such a drastic step."
"Oh!" She had known, but the disapproval of the people at home, the necessity for accounting for any amoral action against individu­als, had made refusal an automatic action. Now— Before she could speak, the psychologist went on:
"I have made some attempts to condition him in his sleep, stress­ing the uselessness of resisting Earth when eventual discovery is sure. But that has only convinced him that his earlier revelations were of no benefit to us."
The leader found her voice: "Do you really mean, lieutenant, that you have no plan other than violence? Nothing?"
In the astroplate, the image head made a negative movement. The psychologist said simply:
"An 800 I. Q. resistance in a 167 I. Q. brain is something new in my experience."
The woman felt a great wonder. "I can’t understand it," she com­plained. "I have a feeling we’ve missed some vital clue. Just like that we run into a weather station in a system of fifty million suns, a sta­tion in which there is a human being who, contrary to all the laws of self-preservation, immediately kills himself to prevent himself from falling into our hands.
"The weather station itself is an old-model galactic affair, which shows no improvements after fifteen thousand years; and yet the vastness of the time elapsed, the caliber of the brains involved suggest that all the obvious changes should have been made.
"And the man’s name, Watcher, is so typical of the ancient pre-spaceship method of calling names on Earth according to the trade. It is possible that even the sun, where he is watching, is a service heritage of his family. There’s something—depressing—here—somewhere that—"
She broke off, frowning: "What is your plan?" After a minute, she nodded. "I see . . . very well, bring him to one of the bedrooms in the main bridge. And forget that part about making up one of our strong-arm girls to look like me. I’ll do everything that’s necessary. Tomorrow. Fine."

Coldly she sat watching the prisoner’s image in the plate. The man, Watcher, lay in bed, an almost motionless figure, eyes closed, but his face curiously tense. He looked, she thought, like someone discovering that for the first time in four days, the invisible force lines that had bound him had been withdrawn.
Beside her, the woman psychologist hissed: "He’s still suspicious, and will probably remain so until you partially ease his mind. His general reactions will become more and more concentrated. Every minute that passes will increase his conviction that he will have only one chance to destroy the ship, and that he must be decisively ruthless regardless of risk.
"I have been conditioning him the past ten hours to resistance to us in a very subtle fashion. You will see in a moment . . . ah-h!"
Watcher was sitting up in bed. He poked a leg from under the sheets, then slid forward, and onto his feet. It was an oddly powerful movement.
He stood for a moment, a tall figure in gray pajamas. He had evi­dently been planning his first actions because, after a swift look at the door, he walked over to a set of drawers built into one wall, tugged at them tentatively, and then jerked them open with an effortless strength, snapping their locks one by one.
Her own gasp was only an echo of the gasp of Lieutenant Neslor.
"Good heavens!" the psychologist said finally. "Don’t ask me to explain how he’s breaking those metal locks. Strength must be a by­product of his Dellian training. Noble lady—"
Her tone was anxious; and the grand captain looked at her. "Yes?"
"Do you think, under the circumstances, you should play such a personal role in his subjection? His strength is obviously such that he can break the body of anyone aboard—"
She was cut off by an imperious gesture. "I cannot," said the Right Honorable Gloria Cecily, "risk some fool making a mistake. I’ll take an antipain pill. Tell me when it is time to go in."

Watcher felt cold, tense, as he entered the instrument room of the main bridge. He had found his clothes in some locked drawers. He hadn’t known they were there, but the drawers aroused his curiosity. He made the preliminary Dellian extra-energy movements; and the locks snapped before his super strength.
Pausing on the threshold, he flicked his gaze through the great domed room. And after a moment his terrible fear that he and his kind were lost, suffered another transfusion of hope. He was actually free.
These people couldn’t have the faintest suspicion of the truth. The great genius, Joseph M. Dell, must be a forgotten man on Earth. Their release of him must have behind it some plan of course but‑
"Death," he thought ferociously, "death to them all, as they had once inflicted death, and would again."
He was examining the bank on bank of control boards when, out of the corner of his eyes, he saw the woman step from the nearby wall.
He looked up; he thought with a savage joy: The leader! They’d have guns protecting her, naturally, but they wouldn’t know that all these days he had been frantically wondering how he could force the use of guns.
Surely to space, they couldn’t be prepared to gather up his com­ponent elements again. Their very act of freeing him had showed psychology intentions.
Before he could speak, the woman said, smilingly: "I really shouldn’t let you examine those controls. But we have decided on a different tactic with you. Freedom of the ship, an opportunity to meet the crew. We want to convince you . . . convince you—"
Something of the bleakness and implacableness of him must have touched her. She faltered, shook herself in transparent self-annoyance, then smiled more firmly, and went on in a persuasive tone:
"We want you to realize that we’re not ogres. We want to end your alarm that we mean harm to your people. You must know, now we have found you exist, that discovery is only a matter of time.
"Earth is not cruel, or dominating, at least not any more. The barest minimum of allegiance is demanded, and that only to the idea of a common unity, the indivisibility of space. It is required, too, that criminal laws be uniform, and that a high minimum wage for work­ers be maintained. In addition, wars of any kind are absolutely for­bidden.
"Except for that, every planet or group of planets, can have its own form of government, trade with whom they please, live their own life. Surely, there is nothing terrible enough in all this to justify the curious attempt at suicide you made when we discovered the weather station."
He would, he thought, listening to her, break her head first. The best method would be to grab her by the feet, and smash her against the metal wall or floor. Bone would crush easily and the act would serve two vital purposes:
It would be a terrible and salutary warning to the other officers of the ship. And it would precipitate upon him the death fire of her guards.
He took a step toward her. And began the faintly visible muscle and nerve movements so necessary to pumping the Dellian body to a pitch of superhuman capability. The woman was saying:
"You stated before that your people have inhabited fifty suns in this space. Why only fifty? In twelve thousand or more years, a population of twelve thousand billion would not be beyond possibility."
He took another step. And another. Then knew that he must speak if he hoped to keep her unsuspicious for those vital seconds while he inched closer, closer. He said:
"About two thirds of our marriages are childless. It has been very unfortunate, but you see there are two types of us, and when inter­marriage occurs as it does without hindrance—"
Almost he was near enough; he heard her say: "You mean, a mutation has taken place; and the two don’t mix?"
He didn’t have to answer that. He was ten feet from her; and like a tiger he launched himself across the intervening gap.
The first energy beam ripped through his body too low to be fatal, but it brought a hot scalding nausea and a dreadful heaviness. He heard the grand captain scream:
"Lieutenant Neslor, what are you doing?"
He had her then. His fingers were grabbing hard at her fending arm, when the second blow struck him high in the ribs and brought the blood frothing into his mouth. In spite of all his will, he felt his hands slipping from the woman. Oh, space, how he would have liked to take her into the realm of death with him.
Once again, the woman screamed: "Lieutenant Neslor, are you mad? Cease fire!"
Just before the third beam burned at him with its indescribable violence, he thought with a final and tremendous sardonicism: "She still doesn’t suspect. But somebody did; somebody who at this ulti­mate moment had guessed the truth."
"Too late," he thought, "too late, you fools! Go ahead and hunt. They’ve had warning, time to conceal themselves even more thoroughly. And the Fifty Suns are scattered, scattered among a million stars, among—"
Death caught his thought.

The woman picked herself off the floor, and stood dizzily striv­ing to draw her roughly handled senses back into her brain. She was vaguely aware of Lieutenant Neslor coming through a transmitter, pausing at the dead body of Gisser Watcher and rushing toward her.
"Are you all right, my dear? It was so hard firing through an astroplate that—"
"You mad woman!" The grand captain caught her breath. "Do you realize that a body can’t be reconstituted once vital organs have been destroyed. Dissolution or re-solution cannot be piecemeal. We’ll have to go home without—"
She stopped. She saw that the psychologist was staring at her. Lieutenant Neslor said:
"His intention to attack was unmistakable and it was too soon according to my graphs. All the way through, he’s never fitted any­thing in human psychology.
"At the very last possible moment I remembered Joseph Dell and the massacre of the Dellian supermen fifteen thousand years ago. Fantastic to think that some of them escaped and established a civilization in this remote part of space.
"Do you see now: Dellian—Joseph M. Dell—the inventor of the Dellian perfect robot."

THE STORM


Over the miles and the years, the gases drifted. Waste matter from ten thousand suns, a diffuse miasma of spent explosions, of dead hell fires and the furies of a hundred million raging sunspots—formless, purposeless.
But it was the beginning.
Into the great dark the gases crept. Calcium was in them, and sodium, and hydrogen; and the speed of the drift varied up to twenty miles a second.
There was a timeless period while gravitation performed its func­tion. The inchoate mass became masses. Great blobs of gas took a sem­blance of shape in widely separate areas, and moved on and on and on.
They came finally to where a thousand flaring seetee suns had long before doggedly "crossed the street" of the main stream of terrene suns. Had crossed, and left their excrement of gases.
The first clash quickened the vast worlds of gas. The electron haze of terrene plunged like spurred horses and sped deeper into the equally violently reacting positron haze of contraterrene. Instantly, the lighter orbital positrons and electrons went up in a blaze of hard radiation.
The storm was on.
The stripped seetee nuclei carried now terrific and unbalanced negative charges and repelled electrons, but tended to attract terrene atom nuclei. In their turn the stripped terrene nuclei attracted contraterrene.
Violent beyond all conception were the resulting cancellations of charges.
The two opposing masses heaved and spun in a cataclysm of par­tial adjustment. They had been heading in different directions. More and more they became one tangled, seething whirlpool.
The new course, uncertain at first, steadied and became a line drive through the midnight heavens. On a front of nine light years, at a solid fraction of the velocity of light, the storm roared toward its destiny.
Suns were engulfed for half a hundred years—and left behind with only a hammering of cosmic rays to show that they had been the centers of otherwise invisible, impalpable atomic devastation.
In its four hundred and ninetieth Sidereal year, the storm inter­sected the orbit of a Nova at the flash moment.
It began to move!

On the three-dimensional map at weather headquarters on the planet Kaider III, the storm was colored orange. Which meant it was the biggest of the four hundred odd storms raging in the Fifty Suns region of the Lesser Magellanic Cloud.
It showed as an uneven splotch fronting at Latitude 473, Longitude 228, Center 190 parsecs, but that was a special Fifty Suns degree system which had no relation to the magnetic center of the Magellanic Cloud as a whole.
The report about the Nova had not yet been registered on the map. When that happened the storm color would be changed to an angry red.
They had stopped looking at the map. Maltby stood with the councilors at the great window staring up at the Earth ship.
The machine was scarcely more than a dark sliver in the distant sky. But the sight of it seemed to hold a deadly fascination for the older men.
Maltby felt cool, determined, but also sardonic. It was funny, these—these people of the Fifty Suns in this hour of their danger call­ing upon him.
He unfocused his eyes from the ship, fixed his steely, laconic gaze on the plump, perspiring chairman of the Kaider III government—and, tensing his mind, forced the man to look at him. The councilor, unaware of the compulsion, conscious only that he had turned, said:
"You understand your instructions, Captain Maltby?"
Maltby nodded. "I do."
The curt words must have evoked a vivid picture. The fat face rippled like palsied jelly and broke out in a new trickle of sweat.
"The worst part of it all," the man groaned, "is that the people of the ship found us by the wildest accident. They had run into one of our meteorite stations and captured its attendant. The attendant sent a general warning and then forced them to kill him before they could discover which of the fifty million suns of the Lesser Magellanic Cloud was us.
"Unfortunately, they did discover that he and the rest of us were all descendants of the robots who had escaped the massacre of the robots in the main galaxy fifteen thousand years ago.
"But they were baffled, and without a clue. They started home, stopping off at planets on the way on a chance basis. The seventh stop was us. Captain Maltby—"
The man looked almost beside himself. He shook. His face was as colorless as a white shroud. He went on hoarsely:
"Captain Maltby, you must not fail. They have asked for a mete­orologist to guide them to Cassidor VII, where the central govern­ment is located. They mustn’t reach there. You must drive them into the great storm at 473.
"We have commissioned you to do this for us because you have the two minds of the Mixed Men. We regret that we have not always fully appreciated your services in the past. But you must admit that, after the wars of the Mixed Men, it was natural that we should be careful about—"
Maltby cut off the lame apology. "Forget it," he said. "The Mixed Men are robots, too, and therefore as deeply involved, as I see it, as the Dellians and non-Dellians. Just what the Hidden Ones of my kind think, I don’t know, nor do I care. I assure you I shall do my best to destroy this ship."
"Be careful!" the chairman urged anxiously. "This ship could destroy us, our planet, our sun in a single minute. We never dreamed that Earth could have gotten so far ahead of us and produced such a devastatingly powerful machine. After all, the non-Dellian robots and, of course, the Mixed Men among us are capable of research work; the former have been laboring feverishly for thousands of years.
"But, finally, remember that you are not being asked to commit suicide. The battleship is absolutely invincible. Just how it will survive a real storm we were not told when we were shown around. But it will. What happens, however, is that everyone aboard becomes unconscious.
"As a Mixed Man you will be the first to revive. Our combined fleets will be waiting to board the ship the moment you open the doors. Is that clear?"
It had been clear the first time it was explained, but these non­Dellians had a habit of repeating themselves, as if thoughts kept growing vague in their minds. As Maltby closed the door of the great room behind him, one of the councilors said to his neighbor:
"Has he been told that the storm has gone Nova?"
The fat man overheard. He shook his head. His eyes gleamed as he said quietly: "No. After all, he is one of the Mixed Men. We can’t trust him too far no matter what his record."

All morning the reports had come in. Some showed progress, some didn’t. But her basic good humor was untouched by the failures.
The great reality was that her luck had held. She had found a planet of the robots. Only one planet so far, but—
Grand Captain Laurr smiled grimly. It wouldn’t be long now. Being a supreme commander was a terrible business. But she had not shrunk from making the deadly threat: provide all required informa­tion, or the entire planet of Kaider III would be destroyed.
The information was coming in: Population of Kaider III two billion, one hundred million, two-fifths Dellian, three-fifths non­Dellian robots.
Dellians physically and mentally the higher type, but completely lacking in creative ability. Non-Dellians dominated in the research laboratories.
The forty-nine other suns whose planets were inhabited were called, in alphabetical order: Assora, Atmion, Bresp, Buraco, Cassidor, Corrab— They were located at (1) Assora: Latitude 931, Longitude 27, Center 201 parsecs; (2) Atmion—
It went on and on. Just before noon she noted with steely amuse­ment that there was still nothing coming through from the meteor­ology room, nothing at all about storms.
She made the proper connection and flung her words: "What’s the matter, Lieutenant Cannons? Your assistants have been making prints and duplicates of various Kaider maps. Aren’t you getting anything?"
The old meteorologist shook his head. "You will recall, noble lady, that when we captured that robot in space, he had time to send out a warning. Immediately on every Fifty Suns planet, all maps were despoiled, civilian meteorologists were placed aboard spaceships, that were stripped of receiving radios, with orders to go to a planet on a chance basis, and stay there for ten years.
"To my mind, all this was done before it was clearly grasped that their navy hadn’t a chance against us. Now they are going to provide us with a naval meteorologist, but we shall have to depend on our lie detectors as to whether or not he is telling us the truth."
"I see." The woman smiled. "Have no fear. They don’t dare oppose us openly. No doubt there is a plan being built up against us, but it cannot prevail now that we can take action to enforce our unal­terable will. Whoever they send must tell us the truth. Let me know when he comes."
Lunch came, but she ate at her desk, watching the flashing pic­tures on the astro, listening to the murmur of voices, storing the facts, the general picture, into her brain.
"There’s no doubt, Captain Turgess," she commented once, sav­agely, "that we’re being lied to on a vast scale. But let it be so. We can use psychological tests to verify all the vital details.
"For the time being it is important that you relieve the fears of everyone you find it necessary to question. We must convince these people that Earth will accept them on an equal basis without bias or prejudice of any kind because of their robot orig—"
She bit her lip. "That’s an ugly word, the worst kind of propaganda. We must eliminate it from our thoughts."
"I’m afraid," the officer shrugged, "not from our thoughts."
She stared at him, narrow-eyed, then cut him off angrily. A moment later she was talking into the general transmitter: "The word robot must not be used—by any of our personnel—under pain of fine—"
Switching off, she put a busy signal on her spare receiver, and called Psychology House. Lieutenant Neslor’s face appeared on the plate.
"I heard your order just now, noble lady," the woman psycholo­gist said. "I’m afraid, however, that we’re dealing with the deepest instincts of the human animal—hatred or fear of the stranger, the alien.
"Excellency, we come from a long line of ancestors who, in their time, have felt superior to others because of some slight variation in the pigmentation of the skin. It is even recorded that the color of the eyes has influenced the egoistic in historical decisions. We have sailed into very deep waters, and it will be the crowning achievement of our life if we sail out in a satisfactory fashion."
There was an eager lilt in the psychologist’s voice; and the grand captain experienced a responsive thrill of joy. If there was one thing she appreciated, it was the positive outlook, the kind of people who faced all obstacles short of the recognizably impossible with a youth­ful zest, a will to win. She was still smiling as she broke the connec­tion.
The high thrill sagged. She sat cold with her problem. It was a problem. Hers. All aristocratic officers had carte blanche powers, and were expected to solve difficulties involving anything up to whole groups of planetary systems.
After a minute she dialed the meteorology room again. "Lieutenant Cannons, when the meteorology officer of the Fifty Suns navy arrives, please employ the following tactics—"

Maltby waved dismissal to the driver of his car. The machine pulled away from the curb and Maltby stood frowning at the flaming energy barrier that barred farther progress along the street. Finally, he took another look at the Earth ship.
It was directly above him now that he had come so many miles across the city toward it. It was tremendously high up, a long, black torpedo shape almost lost in the mist of distance.
But high as it was it was still visibly bigger than anything ever seen by the Fifty Suns, an incredible creature of metal from a world so far away that, almost, it had sunk to the status of myth.
Here was the reality. There would be tests, he thought, penetrat­ing tests before they’d accept any orbit he planned. It wasn’t that he doubted the ability of his double mind to overcome anything like that, but—
Well to remember that the frightful gap of years which separated the science of Earth from that of the Fifty Suns had already shown unpleasant surprises. Maltby shook himself grimly and gave his full attention to the street ahead.
A fan-shaped pink fire spread skyward from two machines that stood in the center of the street. The flame was a very pale pink and completely transparent. It looked electronic, deadly.
Beyond it were men in glittering uniforms. A steady trickle of them moved in and out of buildings. About three blocks down the avenue a second curtain of pink fire flared up.
There seemed to be no attempt to guard the sides. The men he could see looked at ease, confident. There was murmured conversa­tion, low laughter and—they weren’t all men.
As Maltby walked forward, two fine-looking young women in uniform came down the steps of the nearest of the requisitioned buildings. One of the guards of the flame said something to them. There was a twin tinkle of silvery laughter. Still laughing, they strode off down the street.
It was suddenly exciting. There was an air about these people of far places, of tremendous and wonderful lands beyond the farthest horizons of the staid Fifty Suns.
He felt cold, then hot, then he glanced up at the fantastically big ship; and the chill came back. One ship, he thought, but so big, so mighty that thirty billion people didn’t dare send their own fleets against it. They—
He grew aware that one of the brilliantly arrayed guards was star­ing at him. The man spoke into a wrist radio, and after a moment a second man broke off his conversation with a third soldier and came over. He stared through the flame barrier at Maltby.
"Is there anything you desire? Or are you just looking?"
He spoke English, curiously accented—but English! His manner was mild, almost gentle, cultured. The whole effect had a naturalness, an unalienness that was pleasing. After all, Maltby thought, he had never had the fear of these people that the others had. His very plan to defeat the ship was based upon his own fundamental belief that the robots were indestructible in the sense that no one could ever wipe them out completely.
Quietly, Maltby explained his presence.
"Oh, yes," the man nodded, "we’ve been expecting you. I’m to take you at once to the meteorological room of the ship. Just a moment—"
The flame barrier went down and Maltby was led into one of the buildings. There was a long corridor, and the transmitter that projected him into the ship must have been focused somewhere along it.
Because abruptly he was in a very large room. Maps floated in half a dozen antigravity pits. The walls shed light from millions of tiny point sources. And everywhere were tables with curved lines of very dim but sharply etched light on their surfaces.
Maltby’s guide was nowhere to be seen. Coming toward him, however, was a tall, fine-looking old man. The oldster offered his hand.
"My name is Lieutenant Cannons, senior ship meteorologist. If you will sit down here we can plan an orbit and the ship can start moving within the hour. The grand captain is very anxious that we get started."
Maltby nodded casually. But he was stiff, alert. He stood quite still, feeling around with that acute second mind of his, his Dellian mind, for energy pressures that would show secret attempts to watch or control his mind.
But there was nothing like that.
He smiled finally, grimly. It was going to be as simple as this, was it? Like hell it was.

As he sat down, Maltby felt suddenly cozy and alive. The pure exhilaration of existence burned through him like a flame. He recognized the singing excitement for the battle thrill it was and felt a grim joy that for the first time in fifteen years he could do something about it.
During his long service in the Fifty Suns navy, he had faced hos­tility and suspicion because he was a Mixed Man. And always he had felt helpless, unable to do anything about it. Now, here was a far more basic hostility, however veiled, and a suspicion that must be like a burning fire.
And this time he could fight. He could look this skillfully volu­ble, friendly old man squarely in the eye and—
Friendly?
"It makes me smile sometimes," the old man was saying, "when I think of the unscientific aspects of the orbit we have to plan now. For instance, what is the time lag on storm reports out here?"
Maltby could not suppress a smile. So Lieutenant Cannons want­ed to know things, did he? To give the man credit, it wasn’t really a lame opening. The truth was, the only way to ask a question was—well—to ask it. Maltby said:
"Oh, three, four months. Nothing unusual. Each space meteorolo­gist takes about that length of time to check the bounds of the particular storm in his area, and then he reports, and we adjust our maps.
"Fortunately"—he pushed his second mind to the fore as he cool­ly spoke the great basic lie—"there are no major storms between the Kaider and Cassidor suns."
He went on, sliding over the untruth like an eel breasting wet rock:
"However, several suns prevent a straight line movement. So if you would show me some of your orbits for twenty-five hundred light years, I’ll make a selection of the best ones."
He wasn’t, he realized instantly, going to slip over his main point as easily as that.
"No intervening storms?" the old man said. He pursed his lips. The fine lines in his long face seemed to deepen. He looked genuine­ly nonplused; and there was no doubt at all that he hadn’t expected such a straightforward statement. "Hm-m-m, no storms. That does make it simple, doesn’t it?"
He broke off. "You know, the important thing about two"—he hesitated over the word, then went on—"two people, who have been brought up in different cultures, under different scientific standards, is that they make sure they are discussing a subject from a common viewpoint.
"Space is so big. Even this comparatively small system of stars, the Lesser Magellanic Cloud, is so vast that it defies our reason. We on the battleship Star Cluster have spent ten years surveying it, and now we are able to say glibly that it comprises two hundred sixty billion cubic light years, and contains fifty millions of suns.
"We located the magnetic center of the Cloud, fixed our zero line from center to the great brightest star, S Doradus; and now, I sup­pose, there are people who would be fools enough to think we’ve got the system stowed away in our brainpans."

Maltby was silent because he himself was just such a fool. This was warning. He was being told in no uncertain terms that they were in a position to check any orbit he gave them with respect to all intervening suns.
It meant much more. It showed that Earth was on the verge of extending her tremendous sway to the Lesser Magellanic Cloud. Destroying this ship now would provide the Fifty Suns with precious years during which they would have to decide what they intended to do.
But that would be all. Other ships would come; the inexorable pressure of the stupendous populations of the main galaxy would burst out even farther into space. Always under careful control, shep­herded by mighty hosts of invincible battleships, the great transports would sweep into the Cloud, and every planet everywhere, robot or non-robot, would acknowledge Earth suzerainty.
Imperial Earth recognized no separate nations of any description anywhere. The robots, Dellian, non-Dellian and Mixed, would need every extra day, every hour; and it was lucky for them all that he was not basing his hope of destroying this ship on an orbit that would end inside a sun.
Their survey had magnetically placed all the suns for them. But they couldn’t know about the storms. Not in ten years or in a hundred was it possible for one ship to locate possible storms in an area that involved twenty-five hundred light years of length.
Unless their psychologists could uncover the special qualities of his double brain, he had them. He grew aware that Lieutenant Cannons was manipulating the controls of the orbit table.
The lines of light on the surface flickered and shifted. Then set­tled like the balls in a game of chance. Maltby selected six that ran deep into the great storm. Ten minutes after that he felt the faint jar as the ship began to move. He stood up, frowning. Odd that they should act without some verification of his—
"This way," said the old man.
Maltby thought sharply: This couldn’t be all. Any minute now they’d start on him and—
His thought ended.
He was in space. Far, far below was the receding planet of Kaider III. To one side gleamed the vast dark hull of the battleship; and on every other side, and up, and down, were stars and the distances of dark space.
In spite of all his will, the shock was inexpressibly violent.

His active mind jerked. He staggered physically; and he would have fallen like a blindfolded creature except that, in the movement of trying to keep on his feet, he recognized that he was still on his feet.
His whole being steadied. Instinctively, he—tilted—his second mind awake, and pushed it forward. Put its more mechanical and precise qualities, its Dellian strength, between his other self and whatever the human beings might be doing against him.
Somewhere in the mist of darkness and blazing stars, a woman’s clear and resonant voice said:
"Well, Lieutenant Neslor, did the surprise yield any psychologi­cal fruits?"
The reply came from a second, an older-sounding woman’s voice:
"After three seconds, noble lady, his resistance leaped to I. Q. 900. Which means they’ve sent us a Dellian. Your excellency, I thought you specifically asked that their representative be not a Dellian."
Maltby said swiftly into the night around him: "You’re quite mistaken. I am not a Dellian. And I assure you that I will lower my resistance to zero if you desire. I reacted instinctively to surprise, naturally enough."
There was a click. The illusion of space and stars snapped out of existence. Maltby saw what he had begun to suspect, that he was, had been all the time, in the meteorology room.
Nearby stood the old man, a thin smile on his lined face. On a raised dais, partly hidden behind a long instrument board, sat a handsome young woman. It was the old man who spoke. He said in a stately voice:
"You are in the presence of Grand Captain, the Right Honorable Gloria Cecily, the Lady Laurr of Noble Laurr. Conduct yourself accordingly."
Maltby bowed but he said nothing. The grand captain frowned at him, impressed by his appearance. Tall, magnificent-looking body—strong, supremely intelligent face. In a single flash she noted all the characteristics common to the first-class human being and robot.
These people might be more dangerous than she had thought. She said with unnatural sharpness for her:
"As you know, we have to question you. We would prefer that you do not take offense. You have told us that Cassidor VII, the chief planet of the Fifty Suns, is twenty-five hundred light years from here. Normally, we would spend more than sixty years feeling our way across such an immense gap of uncharted, star-filled space. But you have given us a choice of orbits.
"We must make sure those orbits are honest, offered without guile or harmful purpose. To that end we have to ask you to open your mind and answer our questions under the strictest psychological surveillance."
"I have orders," said Maltby, "to cooperate with you in every way."
He had wondered how he would feel now that the hour of decision was upon him. But there was nothing unnormal. His body was a little stiffer, but his minds—
He withdrew his self into the background and left his Dellian mind to confront all the questions that came. His Dellian mind that he had deliberately kept apart from his thoughts. That curious mind, which had no will of its own, but which, by remote control, reacted with the full power of an I. Q. of 191.
Sometimes, he marveled himself at that second mind of his. It had no creative ability, but its memory was machine-like, and its resistance to outside pressure was, as the woman psychologist had so swiftly analyzed, over nine hundred. To be exact, the equivalent of I. Q. 917.

"What is your name?"
That was the way it began: His name, distinction— He answered everything quietly, positively, without hesitation. When he had finished, when he had sworn to the truth of every word about the storms, there was a long moment of dead silence. And then a middle-aged woman stepped out of the nearby wall.
She came over and motioned him into a chair. When he was seated she tilted his head and began to examine it. She did it gently; her fingers were caressing as a lover’s. But when she looked up she said sharply:
"You’re not a Dellian or a non-Dellian. And the molecular structure of your brain and body is the most curious I’ve ever seen. All the molecules are twins. I saw a similar arrangement once in an artificial electronic structure where an attempt was being made to balance an unstable electronic structure. The parallel isn’t exact, but—mm-m-m, I must try to remember what the end result was of that experiment."
She broke off: "What is your explanation? What are you?"
Maltby sighed. He had determined to tell only the one main lie. Not that it mattered so far as his double brain was concerned. But untruths effected slight variations in blood pressure, created neural spasms and disturbed muscular integration. He couldn’t take the risk of even one more than was absolutely necessary.
"I’m a Mixed Man," he explained. He described briefly how the cross between the Dellian and non-Dellian, so long impossible, had finally been brought about a hundred years before. The use of cold and pressure—
"Just a moment," said the psychologist.
She disappeared. When she stepped again out of the wall trans­mitter, she was thoughtful.
"He seems to be telling the truth," she confessed, almost reluctantly.
"What is this?" snapped the grand captain. "Ever since we ran into that first citizen of the Fifty Suns, the psychology department has qualified every statement it issues. I thought psychology was the only perfect science. Either he is telling the truth or he isn’t."
The older woman looked unhappy. She stared very hard at Maltby, seemed baffled by his cool gaze, and finally faced her superior, said:
"It’s that double molecule structure of his brain. Except for that, I see no reason why you shouldn’t order full acceleration."
The grand captain smiled. "I shall have Captain Maltby to dinner tonight. I’m sure he will cooperate then with any further studies you may be prepared to make at that time. Meanwhile I think—"
She spoke into a communicator: "Central engines, step up to half light year a minute on the following orbit—"
Maltby listened, estimating with his Dellian mind. Half a light year a minute; it would take a while to attain that speed, but—in eight hours they’d strike the storm.
In eight hours he’d be having dinner with the grand captain. Eight hours!

The full flood of a contraterrene Nova impinging upon terrene gases already infuriated by seetee gone insane—that was the new, greater storm.
The exploding, giant sun added weight to the diffuse, maddened thing. And it added something far more deadly.
Speed! From peak to peak of velocity the tumult of ultrafire leaped. The swifter crags of the storm danced and burned with an absolutely hellish fury.
The sequence of action was rapid almost beyond the bearance of matter. First raced the light of the Nova, blazing its warning at more than a hundred and eighty-six thousand miles a second to all who knew that it flashed from the edge of an interstellar storm.
But the advance glare of warning was nullified by the colossal speed of the storm. For weeks and months it drove through the vast night at a velocity that was only a bare measure short of that of light itself.

The dinner dishes had been cleared away. Maltby was thinking: In half an hour—half an hour!
He was wondering shakily just what did happen to a battleship suddenly confronted by thousands of gravities of deceleration. Aloud he was saying:
"My day? I spent it in the library. Mainly, I was interested in the recent history of Earth’s interstellar colonization. I’m curious as to what is done with groups like the Mixed Men. I mentioned to you that, after the war in which they were defeated largely because there was so few of them, the Mixed Men hid themselves from the Fifty Suns. I was one of the captured children who—"
There was an interruption, a cry from the wall communicator: "Noble lady, I’ve solved it!"
A moment fled before Maltby recognized the strained voice of the woman psychologist. He had almost forgotten that she was supposed to be studying him. Her next words chilled him:
"Two minds! I thought of it a little while ago and rigged up a twin watching device. Ask him, ask him the question about the storms. Meanwhile stop the ship. At once!"
Maltby’s dark gaze clashed hard with the steely, narrowed eyes of the grand captain. Without hesitation he concentrated his two minds on her, forced her to say:
"Don’t be silly, lieutenant. One person can’t have two brains. Explain yourself further."
His hope was delay. They had ten minutes in which they could save themselves. He must waste every second of that time, resist all their efforts, try to control the situation. If only his special three-dimensional hypnotism worked through communicators—
It didn’t. Lines of light leaped at him from the wall and crisscrossed his body, held him in his chair like so many unbreakable cables. Even as he was bound hand and foot by palpable energy, a second complex of forces built up before his face, barred his thought pressure from the grand captain, and finally coned over his head like a dunce cap.
He was caught as neatly as if a dozen men had swarmed with their strength and weight over his body. Maltby relaxed and laughed.
"Too late," he taunted. "It’ll take at least an hour for this ship to reduce to a safe speed; and at this velocity you can’t turn aside in time to avoid the greatest storm in this part of the Universe."
That wasn’t strictly true. There was still time and room to sheer off before the advancing storm in any of the fronting directions. The impos­sibility was to turn toward the storm’s tail or its great, bulging sides.
His thought was interrupted by the first cry from the young woman; a piercing cry: "Central engines! Reduce speed! Emergency!"
There was a jar that shook the walls and a pressure that tore at his muscles. Maltby adjusted and then stared across the table at the grand captain. She was smiling, a frozen mask of a smile; and she said from between clenched teeth:
"Lieutenant Neslor, use any means physical or otherwise, but make him talk. There must be something."
"His second mind is the key," the psychologist’s voice came. "It’s not Dellian. It has only normal resistance. I shall subject it to the greatest concentration of conditioning ever focused on a human brain, using the two basics: sex and logic. I shall have to use you, noble lady, as the object of his affections."
"Hurry!" said the young woman. Her voice was like a metal bar.

Maltby sat in a mist, mental and physical. Deep in his mind was awareness that he was an entity, and that irresistible machines were striving to mold his thought.
He resisted. The resistance was as strong as his life, as intense as all the billions and quadrillions of impulses that had shaped his being, could make it.
But the outside thought, the pressure, grew stronger. How silly of him to resist Earth—when this lovely woman of Earth loved him, loved him, loved him. Glorious was that civilization of Earth and the main galaxy. Three hundred million billion people. The very first contact would rejuvenate the Fifty Suns. How lovely she is; I must save her. She means everything to me.
As from a great distance, he began to hear his own voice, explain­ing what must be done, just how the ship must be turned, in what direction, how much time there was. He tried to stop himself, but inexorably his voice went on, mouthing the words that spelled defeat for the Fifty Suns.
The mist began to fade. The terrible pressure eased from his straining mind. The damning stream of words ceased to pour from his lips. He sat up shakily, conscious that the energy cords and the energy cap had been withdrawn from his body. He heard the grand captain say into a communicator:
"By making a point 0100 turn we shall miss the storm by seven light weeks. I admit it is an appallingly sharp curve, but I feel that we should have at least that much leeway."
She turned and stared at Maltby: "Prepare yourself. At half a light year a minute even a hundredth of a degree turn makes some people black out."
"Not me," said Maltby, and tensed his Dellian muscles.
She fainted three times during the next four minutes as he sat there watching her. But each time she came to within seconds.
"We human beings," she said wanly, finally, "are a poor lot. But at least we know how to endure."
The terrible minutes dragged. And dragged. Maltby began to feel the strain of that infinitesimal turn. He thought at last: Space! How could these people ever hope to survive a direct hit on a storm?
Abruptly, it was over; a man’s voice said quietly: "We have fol­lowed the prescribed course, noble lady, and are now out of dang—"
He broke off with a shout: "Captain, the light of a Nova sun has just flashed from the direction of the storm. We—"

In those minutes before disaster struck, the battleship Star Cluster glowed like an immense and brilliant jewel. The warning glare from the Nova set off an incredible roar of emergency clamor through all of her hundred and twenty decks.
From end to end her lights flicked on. They burned row by row straight across her four thousand feet of length with the hard tinkle of cut gems. In the reflection of that light, the black mountain that was her hull looked like the fabulous planet of Cassidor, her destina­tion, as seen at night from a far darkness, sown with diamond shin­ing cities.
Silent as a ghost, grand and wonderful beyond all imagination, glorious in her power, the great ship slid through the blackness along the special river of time and space which was her plotted course.
Even as she rode into the storm there was nothing visible. The space ahead looked as clear as any vacuum. So tenuous were the gases that made up the storm that the ship would not even have been aware of them if it had been traveling at atomic speeds.
Violent the disintegration of matter in that storm might be, and the sole source of cosmic rays the hardest energy in the known uni­verse. But the immense, the cataclysmic danger to the Star Cluster was a direct result of her own terrible velocity.
If she had had time to slow, the storm would have meant nothing.
Striking that mass of gas at half a light year a minute was like running into an unending solid wall. The great ship shuddered in every plate as the deceleration tore at her gigantic strength.
In seconds she had run the gamut of all the recoil systems her designers had planned for her as a unit.
She began to break up.
And still everything was according to the original purpose of the superb engineering firm that had built her. The limit of unit strain reached, she dissolved into her nine thousand separate sections. Streamlined needles of metal were those sections, four hundred feet long, forty feet wide; sliverlike shapes that sinuated cunningly through the gases, letting the pressure of them slide off their smooth hides.
But it wasn’t enough. Metal groaned from the torture of deceler­ation. In the deceleration chambers, men and women lay at the bare edge of consciousness, enduring agony that seemed on the verge of being beyond endurance.
Hundreds of the sections careened into each other in spite of automatic screens, and instantaneously fused into white-hot coffins.
And still, in spite of the hideously maintained velocity, that mass of gases was not bridged; light years of thickness had still to be covered.
For those sections that remained, once more all the limits of human strength were reached. The final action is chemical, directly on the human bodies that remained of the original thirty thousand. Those bodies for whose sole benefit all the marvelous safety devices had been conceived and constructed, the poor, fragile, human beings who through all the ages had persisted in dying under normal condi­tions from a pressure of something less than fifteen gravities.
The prompt reaction of the automatics in rolling back every floor, and plunging every person into the deceleration chambers of each section—that saving reaction was abruptly augmented as the deceleration chamber was flooded by a special type of gas.
Wet was that gas, and clinging. It settled thickly on the clothes of the humans, soaked through to the skin and through the skin, into every part of the body.
Sleep came gently, and with it a wonderful relaxation. The blood grew immune to shock; muscles that, in a minute before, had been drawn with anguish—loosened; the brain impregnated with life-giving chemicals that relieved it of all shortages remained untrou­bled even by dreams.
Everybody grew enormously flexible to gravitation pressures—a hundred—a hundred and fifty gravities of deceleration; and still the life force clung.
The great heart of the Universe beat on. The storm roared along its inescapable artery, creating the radiance of life, purging the dark of its poisons—and at last the tiny ships in their separate courses burst its great bounds.
They began to come together, to seek each other, as if among them there was an irresistible passion that demanded intimacy of union.
Automatically, they slid into their old positions; the battleship Star Cluster began again to take form—but there were gaps. Segments destroyed, and segments lost.
On the third day Acting Grand Captain Rutgers called the sur­viving captains to the forward bridge, where he was temporarily making his headquarters. After the conference a communiqué was issued to the crew:

At 0800 hours this morning a message was received from Grand Captain, the Right Honorable Gloria Cecily, the Lady Laurr of Noble Laurr, I. C., C. M., G. K. R. She has been forced down on the planet of a yellow-white sun. Her ship crashed on landing, and is unrepairable. As all communication with her has been by nondirectional sub-space radio, and as it will be utterly impossible to locate such an ordinary type sun among so many millions of other suns, the Captains in Session regret to report that our noble lady’s name must now be added to that longest of all lists of naval casualties: the list of those who have been lost forever on active duty.
The admiralty lights will burn blue until further notice.

Her back was to him as he approached. Maltby hesitated, then tensed his mind, and held her there beside the section of ship that had been the main bridge of the Star Cluster.
The long metal shape lay half buried in the marshy ground of the great valley, its lower end jutting down into the shimmering deep yellowish black waters of a sluggish river.
Maltby paused a few feet from the tall, slim woman, and, still holding her unaware of him, examined once again the environment that was to be their life.
The fine spray of dark rain that had dogged his exploration walk was retreating over the yellow rim of valley to the "west."
As he watched, a small yellow sun burst out from behind a curtain of dark ocherous clouds and glared at him brilliantly. Below it an expanse of jungle glinted strangely brown and yellow.
Everywhere was that dark-brown and intense, almost liquid yellow.
Maltby sighed—and turned his attention to the woman, willed her not to see him as he walked around in front of her.
He had given a great deal of thought to the Right Honorable Gloria Cecily during his walk. Basically, of course, the problem of a man and a woman who were destined to live the rest of their lives together, alone, on a remote planet, was very simple. Particularly in view of the fact that one of the two had been conditioned to be in love with the other.
Maltby smiled grimly. He could appreciate the artificial origin of that love. But that didn’t dispose of the profound fact of it.
The conditioning machine had struck to his very core. Unfortunately, it had not touched her at all; and two days of being alone with her had brought out one reality:
The Lady Laurr of Noble Laurr was not even remotely thinking of yielding herself to the normal requirements of the situation.
It was time that she was made aware, not because an early solu­tion was necessary or even desirable, but because she had to realize that the problem existed.
He stepped forward and took her in his arms.
She was a tall, graceful woman; she fitted into his embrace as if she belonged there; and, because his control of her made her return the kiss, its warmth had an effect beyond his intention.
He had intended to free her mind in the middle of the kiss. He didn’t.
When he finally released her, it was only a physical release. Her mind was still completely under his domination.
There was a metal chair that had been set just outside one of the doors. Maltby walked over, sank into it and stared up at the grand captain.
He felt shaken. The flame of desire that had leaped through him was a telling tribute to the conditioning he had undergone. But it was entirely beyond his previous analysis of the intensity of his own feelings.
He had thought he was in full control of himself, and he wasn’t. Somehow, the sardonicism, the half detachment, the objectivity, which he had fancied was the keynote of his own reaction to this sit­uation, didn’t apply at all.
The conditioning machine had been thorough.
He loved this woman with such a violence that the mere touch of her was enough to disconnect his will from operations immediately following.
His heart grew quieter; he studied her with a semblance of detachment.
She was lovely in a handsome fashion; though almost all robot women of the Dellian race were better-looking. Her lips, while medi­um full, were somehow a trifle cruel; and there was a quality in her eyes that accentuated that cruelty.
There were built-up emotions in this woman that would not sur­render easily to the idea of being marooned for life on an unknown planet.
It was something he would have to think over. Until then—Maltby sighed. And released her from the three-dimensional hypnotic spell that his two minds had imposed on her.

He had taken the precaution of turning her away from him. He watched her curiously as she stood, back to him, for a moment, very still. Then she walked over to a little knob of trees above the springy, soggy marsh land.
She climbed up it and gazed in the direction from which he had come a few minutes before. Evidently looking for him.
She turned finally, shaded her face against the yellow bright­ness of the sinking sun, came down from the hillock and saw him.
She stopped; her eyes narrowed. She walked over slowly. She said with an odd edge in her voice:
"You came very quietly. You must have circled and walked in from the west."
"No," said Maltby deliberately, "I stayed in the east."
She seemed to consider that. She was silent, her lean face creased into a frown. She pressed her lips together, finally; there was a bruise there that must have hurt, for she winced, then she said:
"What did you discover? Did you find any—"
She stopped. Consciousness of the bruise on her lip must have penetrated at that moment. Her hand jerked up, her fingers touched the tender spot. Her eyes came alive with the violence of her comprehension. Before she could speak, Maltby said:
"Yes, you’re quite right."
She stood looking at him. Her stormy gaze quietened. She said finally, in a stony voice:
"If you try that again I shall feel justified in shooting you." Maltby shook his head. He said, unsmiling:
"And spend the rest of your life here alone? You’d go mad."
He saw instantly that her basic anger was too great for that kind of logic. He went on swiftly:
"Besides, you’d have to shoot me in the back. I have no doubt you could do that in the line of duty. But not for personal reasons."
Her compressed lips—separated. To his amazement there were suddenly tears in her eyes. Angry tears, obviously. But tears!
She stepped forward with a quick movement and slapped his face.
"You robot!" she sobbed.
Maltby stared at her ruefully; then he laughed. Finally he said, a trace of mockery in his tone:
"If I remember rightly, the lady who just spoke is the same one who delivered a ringing radio address to all the planets of the Fifty Suns swearing that in fifteen thousand years Earth people had forgot­ten all their prejudices against robots.
"Is it possible," he finished, "that the problem on closer investiga­tion is proving more difficult?"
There was no answer. The Honorable Gloria Cecily brushed past him and disappeared into the interior of the ship.

She came out again a few minutes later.
Her expression was more serene; Maltby noted that she had removed all trace of the tears. She looked at him steadily, said:
"What did you discover when you were out? I’ve been delaying my call to the ship till you returned."
Maltby said: "I thought they asked you to call at 010 hours." The woman shrugged; and there was an arrogant note in her voice as she replied:
"They’ll take my calls when I make them. Did you find any sign of intelligent life?"
Maltby allowed himself brief pity for a human being who had as many shocks still to absorb as had Grand Captain Laurr.
One of the books he had read while aboard the battleship about colonists of remote planets had dealt very specifically with castaways.
He shook himself and began his description. "Mostly marsh land in the valley and there’s jungle, very old. Even some of the trees are immense, though sections show no growth rings—some interesting beasts and a four-legged, two-armed thing that watched me from a distance. It carried a spear but it was too far away for me to use my hypnotism on it. There must be a village somewhere, perhaps on the valley rim. My idea is that during the next months I’ll cut the ship into small sections and transport it to drier ground.
"I would say that we have the following information to offer the ship’s scientists: We’re on a planet of a G-type sun. The sun must be larger than the average yellow-white type and have a larger surface temperature.
"It must be larger and hotter because, though it’s far away, it is hot enough to keep the northern hemisphere of this planet in a semi-tropical condition.
"The sun was quite a bit north at midday, but now it’s swinging back to the south. I’d say offhand the planet must be tilted at about forty degrees, which means there’s a cold winter coming up, though that doesn’t fit with the age and type of the vegetation."
The Lady Laurr was frowning. "It doesn’t seem very helpful," she said. "But, of course, I’m only an executive."
"And I’m only a meteorologist."
"Exactly. Come in. Perhaps my astrophysicist can make some­thing of it."
"Your astrophysicist!" said Maltby. But he didn’t say it aloud. He followed her into the segment of ship and closed the door.

Maltby examined the interior of the main bridge with a wry smile as the young woman seated herself before the astroplate.
The very imposing glitter of the instrument board that occupied one entire wall was ironical now. All the machines it had controlled were far away in space. Once it had dominated the entire Lesser Magellanic Cloud; now his own hand gun was a more potent instrument.
He grew aware that Lady Laurr was looking up at him. "I don’t understand it," she said. "They don’t answer." "Perhaps"—Maltby could not keep the faint sardonicism out of his tone—"perhaps they may really have had a good reason for wanting you to call at 010 hours."
The woman made a faint, exasperated movement with her facial muscles but she did not answer. Maltby went on coolly:
"After all, it doesn’t matter. They’re only going through routine motions, the idea being to leave no loophole of rescue unlooked through. I can’t even imagine the kind of miracle it would take for anybody to find us."
The woman seemed not to have heard. She said, frowning:
"How is it that we’ve never heard a single Fifty Suns broadcast? I intended to ask about that before. Not once during our ten years in the Lesser Cloud did we catch so much as a whisper of radio energy."
Maltby shrugged. "All radios operate on an extremely complicat­ed variable wave length—changes every twentieth of a second. Your instruments would register a tick once every ten minutes, and—"
He was cut off by a voice from the astroplate. A man’s face was there—Acting Grand Captain Rutgers.
"Oh, there you are, captain," the woman said. "What kept you?"
"We’re in the process of landing our forces on Cassidor VII," was the reply. "As you know, regulations require that the grand captain—"
"Oh, yes. Are you free now?"
"No. I’ve taken a moment to see that everything is right with you, and then I’ll switch you over to Captain Planston."
"How is the landing proceeding?"
"Perfectly. We have made contact with the government. They seem resigned. But now I must leave. Goodby, my lady."
His face flickered and was gone. The plate went blank. It was about as curt a greeting as anybody had ever received. But Maltby, sunk in his own gloom, scarcely noticed.
So it was all over. The desperate scheming of the Fifty Suns lead­ers, his own attempt to destroy the great battleship, proved futile against an invincible foe.
For a moment he felt very close to the defeat, with all its implica­tions. Consciousness came finally that the fight no longer mattered in his life. But the knowledge failed to shake his dark mood.
He saw that the Right Honorable Gloria Cecily had an expression of mixed elation and annoyance on her fine, strong face; and there was no doubt that she didn’t feel—disconnected—from the mighty events out there in space. Nor had she missed the implications of the abruptness of the interview.
The astroplate grew bright and a face appeared on it—one that Maltby hadn’t seen before. It was of a heavy-jowled, oldish man with a ponderous voice that said:
"Privilege your ladyship—hope we can find something that will enable us to make a rescue. Never give up hope, I say, until the last nail’s driven in your coffin."
He chuckled; and the woman said: "Captain Maltby will give you all the information he has, then no doubt you can give him some advice, Captain Planston. Neither he nor I, unfortunately, are astrophysicists."
"Can’t be experts on every subject," Captain Planston puffed. "Er, Captain Maltby, what do you know?"
Maltby gave his information briefly, then waited while the other gave instructions. There wasn’t much:
"Find out length of seasons. Interested in that yellow effect of the sunlight and the deep brown. Take the following photographs, using ortho-sensitive film—use three dyes, a red sensitive, a blue and a yellow. Take a spectrum reading—what I want to check on is that maybe you’ve got a strong blue sun there, with the ultraviolet barred by a heavy atmosphere, and all the heat and light coming in on the yellow band.
"I’m not offering much hope, mind you—the Lesser Cloud is packed with blue suns—five hundred thousand of them brighter than Sirius.
"Finally, get that season information from the natives. Make a point of it. Good-by!"

The native was wary. He persisted in retreating elusively into the jungle; and his four legs gave him a speed advantage of which he seemed to be aware. For he kept coming back, tantalizingly.
The woman watched with amusement, then exasperation.
"Perhaps," she suggested, "if we separated, and I drove him toward you?"
She saw the frown on the man’s face as Maltby nodded reluctantly. His voice was strong, tense.
"He’s leading us into an ambush. Turn on the sensitives in your helmet and carry your gun. Don’t be too hasty about firing, but don’t hesitate in a crisis. A spear can make an ugly wound; and we haven’t got the best facilities for handling anything like that."
His orders brought a momentary irritation. He seemed not to be aware that she was as conscious as he of the requirements of the situation.
The Right Honorable Gloria sighed. If they had to stay on this planet there would have to be some major psychologist adjustments, and not—she thought grimly—only by herself.
"Now!" said Maltby beside her, swiftly. "Notice the way the ravine splits in two. I came this far yesterday and they join about two hundred yards farther on. He’s gone up the left fork. I’ll take the right. You stop here, let him come back to see what’s happened, then drive him on."
He was gone, like a shadow, along a dark path that wound under thick foliage.
Silence settled.
She waited. After a minute she felt herself alone in a yellow and black world that had been lifeless since time began.
She thought: This was what Maltby had meant yesterday when he had said she wouldn’t dare shoot him—and remain alone. It had­n’t penetrated then.
It did now. Alone, on a nameless planet of a mediocre sun, one woman waking up every morning on a moldering ship that rested its unliving metal shape on a dark, muggy, yellow marsh land.
She stood somber. There was no doubt that the problem of robot and human being would have to be solved here as well as out there.
A sound pulled her out of her gloom. As she watched, abruptly more alert, a catlike head peered cautiously from a line of bushes a hundred yards away across the clearing.
It was an interesting head; its ferocity not the least of its fascinating qualities. The yellowish body was invisible now in the underbrush, but she had caught enough glimpses of it earlier to recognize that it was the CC type, of the almost universal Centaur family. Its body was evenly balanced between its hind and forelegs.
It watched her, and its great glistening black eyes were round with puzzlement. Its head twisted from side to side, obviously searching for Maltby.
She waved her gun and walked forward. Instantly the creature disappeared. She could hear it with her sensitives, running into distance. Abruptly, it slowed; then there was no sound at all.
"He’s got it," she thought.
She felt impressed. These two-brained Mixed Men, she thought, were bold and capable. It would really be too bad if antirobot preju­dice prevented them from being absorbed into the galactic civilization of Imperial Earth.
She watched him a few minutes later, using the block system of communication with the creature. Maltby looked up, saw her. He shook his head as if puzzled.
"He says it’s always been warm like this, and that he’s been alive for thirteen hundred moons. And that a moon is forty suns—forty days. He wants us to come up a little farther along this valley, but that’s too transparent for comfort. Our move is to make a cautious, friendly gesture, and—"
He stopped short. Before she could even realize anything was wrong, her mind was caught, her muscles galvanized. She was thrown sideways and downward so fast that the blow of striking the ground was pure agony.
She lay there stunned, and out of the corner of her eye she saw the spear plunge through the air where she had been.
She twisted, rolled over—her own free will now—and jerked her gun in the direction from which the spear had come. There was a sec­ond centaur there, racing away along a bare slope. Her finger pressed on the control; and then—
"Don’t!" It was Maltby, his voice low. "It was a scout the others sent ahead to see what was happening. He’s done his work. It’s all over."
She lowered her gun and saw with annoyance that her hand was shaking, her whole body trembling. She parted her lips to say: "Thanks for saving my life!" Then she closed them again. Because the words would have quavered. And because—
Saved her life! Her mind poised on the edge of blankness with the shock of the thought. Incredibly—she had never before been in per­sonal danger from an individual creature.
There had been the time when her battleship had run into the outer fringes of a sun; and there was the cataclysm of the storm, just past.
But those had been impersonal menaces to be met with technical virtuosities and the hard training of the service.
This was different.
All the way back to the segment of ship she tried to fathom what the difference meant.
It seemed to her finally that she had it.

"Spectrum featureless." Maltby gave his findings over the astro. "No dark lines at all; two of the yellow bands so immensely intense that they hurt my eyes. As you suggested, apparently what we have here is a blue sun whose strong violet radiation is cut off by the atmosphere.
"However," he finished, "the uniqueness of that effect is confined to our planet here, a derivation of the thick atmosphere. Any ques­tions?"
"No-o!" The astrophysicist looked thoughtful. "And I can give you no further instructions. I’ll have to examine this material. Will you ask Lady Laurr to come in? Like to speak to her privately, if you please."
"Of course."
When she had come, Maltby went outside and watched the moon come up. Darkness—he had noticed it the previous night—brought a vague, overall violet haze. Explained now!
An eighty-degree temperature on a planet that, the angular diameter of the sun being what it was, would have been minus one hundred eighty degrees, if the sun’s apparent color had been real.
A blue sun, one of five hundred thousand— Interesting, but—Maltby smiled savagely—Captain Planston’s "No further instruc­tions!" had a finality about it that—
He shivered involuntarily. And after a moment tried to picture himself sitting, like this, a year hence, staring up at an unchanged moon. Ten years, twenty—
He grew aware that the woman had come to the doorway and was gazing at him where he sat on the chair.
Maltby looked up. The stream of white light from inside the ship caught the queer expression on her face, gave her a strange, bleached look after the yellowness that had seemed a part of her complexion all day.
"We shall receive no more astro-radio calls," she said and, turn­ing, went inside.
Maltby nodded to himself, almost idly. It was hard and brutal, this abrupt cutting off of communication. But the regulations governing such situations were precise.
The marooned ones must realize with utter clarity, without false hopes and without the curious illusions produced by radio communication, that they were cut off forever. Forever on their own.
Well, so be it. A fact was a fact, to be faced with resolution. There had been a chapter on castaways in one of the books he had read on the battleship. It had stated that nine hundred million human beings had, during recorded history, been marooned on then undiscovered planets. Most of these planets had eventually been found; and on no less than ten thousand of them great populations had sprung from the original nucleus of castaways.
The law prescribed that a castaway could not withhold himself or herself from participating in such population increases—regardless of previous rank. Castaways must forget considerations of sensitivity and individualism, and think of themselves as instruments of race expansion.
There were penalties; naturally inapplicable if no rescue was effected, but ruthlessly applied whenever recalcitrants were found.
Conceivably the courts might determine that a human being and a robot constituted a special case.
Half an hour must have passed while he sat there. He stood up finally, conscious of hunger. He had forgotten all about supper.
He felt a qualm of self-annoyance. Damn it, this was not the night to appear to be putting pressure on her. Sooner or later she would have to be convinced that she ought to do her share of the cooking.
But not tonight.
He hurried inside, toward the compact kitchen that was part of every segment of ship. In the corridor, he paused.
A blaze of light streamed from the kitchen door. Somebody was whistling softly and tunelessly but cheerfully; and there was an odor of cooking vegetables, and hot lak meat.
They almost bumped in the doorway. "I was just going to call you," she said.
The supper was a meal of silences, quickly over. They put the dishes into the automatic and went and sat in the great lounge; Maltby saw finally that the woman was studying him with amused eyes.
"Is there any possibility," she said abruptly, "that a Mixed Man and a human woman can have children?"
"Frankly," Maltby confessed, "I doubt it."
He launched into a detailed description of the cold and pressure process that had molded the protoplasm to make the original Mixed Men. When he finished he saw that her eyes were still regarding him with a faint amusement. She said in an odd tone:
"A very curious thing happened to me today, after that native threw his spear. I realized"—she seemed for a moment to have diffi­culty in speaking—"I realized that I had, so far as I personally was concerned, solved the robot problem.
"Naturally," she finished quietly, "I would not have withheld myself in any event. But it is pleasant to know that I like you with­out"—she smiled—"qualifications."

Blue sun that looked yellow. Maltby sat in the chair the following morning puzzling over it. He half expected a visit from the natives, and so he was determined to stay near the ship that day.
He kept his eyes aware of the clearing edges, the valley rims, the jungle trails, but—
There was a law, he remembered, that governed the shifting of light to other wave bands, to yellow for instance. Rather complicat­ed, but in view of the fact that all the instruments of the main bridge were controls of instruments, not the machines themselves, he’d have to depend on mathematics if he ever hoped to visualize the kind of sun that was out there.
Most of the heat probably came through the ultraviolet range. But that was uncheckable. So leave it alone and stick to the yellow.
He went into the ship. Gloria was nowhere in sight, but her bed­room door was closed. Maltby found a notebook, returned to his chair and began to figure.
An hour later he stared at the answer: One million three hundred thousand million miles. About a fifth of a light year.
He laughed curtly. That was that. He’d have to get better data than he had or—
Or would he?
His mind poised. In a single flash of understanding, the stupen­dous truth burst upon him.
With a cry he leaped to his feet, whirled to race through the door as a long, black shadow slid across him.
The shadow was so vast, instantly darkening the whole valley, that, involuntarily, Maltby halted and looked up.
The battleship Star Cluster hung low over the yellow-brown jungle planet, already disgorging a lifeboat that glinted a yellowish silver as it circled out into the sunlight, and started down.
Maltby had only a moment with the woman before the lifeboat landed. "To think," he said, "that I just now figured out the truth."
She was, he saw, not looking at him. Her gaze seemed far away. He went on:
"As for the rest, the best method, I imagine, is to put me in the conditioning chamber, and—"
Still without looking at him, she cut him off:
"Don’t be ridiculous. You must not imagine that I feel embar­rassed because you have kissed me. I shall receive you later in my chambers."
A bath, new clothes—at last Maltby stepped through the trans­mitter into the astrophysics department. His own first realization of the tremendous truth, while generally accurate, had lacked detailed facts.
"Ah, Maltby!" The chief of the department came forward, shook hands. "Some sun you picked there—we suspected from your first description of the yellowness and the black. But naturally we couldn’t rouse your hopes—Forbidden, you know.
"The axial tilt, the apparent length of a summer in which jungle trees of great size showed no growth rings—very suggestive. The featureless spectrum with its complete lack of dark lines—almost conclusive. Final proof was that the orthosensitive film was overex­posed, while the blue and red sensitives were badly underexposed.
"This star-type is so immensely hot that practically all of its ener­gy radiation is far in the ultravisible. A secondary radiation—a sort of fluorescence in the star’s own atmosphere—produces the visible yellow when a minute fraction of the appalling ultraviolet radiation is transformed into longer wave lengths by helium atoms. A fluores­cent lamp, in a fashion—but on a scale that is more than ordinarily cosmic in its violence. The total radiation reaching the planet was naturally tremendous; the surface radiation, after passing through miles of absorbing ozone, water vapor, carbon dioxide and other gases, was very different.
"No wonder the native said it had always been hot. The summer lasts four thousand years. The normal radiation of that special appalling star type—the aeon-in-aeon-out radiation rate—is about equal to a full-fledged Nova at its catastrophic maximum of violence. It has a period of a few hours, and is equivalent to approximately a hundred million ordinary suns. Nova 0, we call that brightest of all stars; and there’s only one in the Lesser Magellanic Cloud, the great and glorious S-Doradus.
"When I asked you to call Grand Captain Laurr, and I told her that out of thirty million suns she had picked—"
It was at that point that Maltby cut him off. "Just a minute," he said, "did you say you told Lady Laurr last night?"
"Was it night down there?" Captain Planston said, interested. "Well, well—By the way, I almost forgot—this marrying and giving in marriage is not so important to me now that I am an old man. But congratulations."
The conversation was too swift for Maltby. His minds were still examining the first statement. That she had known all the time. He came up, groping, before the new words.
"Congratulations?" he echoed.
"Definitely time she had a husband," boomed the captain. "She’s been a career woman, you know. Besides, it’ll have a revivifying effect on the other robots . . . pardon me. Assure you, the name means nothing to me.
"Anyway, Lady Laurr herself made the announcement a few minutes ago, so come down and see me again."
He turned away with a wave of a thick hand.
Maltby headed for the nearest transmitter. She would probably be expecting him by now.
She would not be disappointed.

THE MIXED MEN


The globe was palely luminous, and about three feet in diameter. It hung in the air at approximately the center of the room, and its lowest arc was at the level of Maltby’s chin.
Frowning, his double mind tensed, he climbed farther out of the bed, put on his slippers, and walked slowly around the light-shape. As he stepped past it, it vanished.
He twisted hastily back—and there it was again.
Maltby allowed himself a grim smile. It was as he had thought, a projection pointing out of sub-space at his bed, and having no materi­al existence in the room. Therefore, it couldn’t be seen from the rear.
His frown deepened with gathering puzzlement. If he didn’t know that they did not possess such a communicator, he’d guess that he was about to be advised that the time had come for action.
He hoped not, fervently. He was as far as ever from a decision. Yet who else would be trying to reach him?
The impulse came to touch the button that would connect the control center of the big spaceship with what was going on in his room. It wouldn’t do to have Gloria think that he was in secret communication with outsiders.
Maltby smiled grimly. If she ever got suspicious, even the fact that he was married to her wouldn’t save his two minds from being investigated by the ship’s psychologist, Lieutenant Neslor. Still—
He had other commitments than marriage. He sat down on the bed, scowled at the thing, and said:
"I’m going to make an assumption as to your identity. What do you want?"
A voice, a very strong, confident voice spoke through the globe: "You think you know who is calling, in spite of the unusual means?"
Maltby recognized the voice. His eyes narrowed, he swallowed hard; then he had control of himself. Memory came that there might be other listeners, who would draw accurate conclusions from his instant recognition of a voice. It was for them that he said:
"The logic of it is comparatively simple. I am a Mixed Man aboard the Earth battleship Star Cluster, which is cruising in the Fifty suns region of the Lesser Magellanic Cloud. Who would be trying to get in touch with me but the Hidden Ones of my own race?"
"Knowing this," said the voice pointedly, "you have nevertheless made no attempt to betray us?"
Maltby was silent. He wasn’t sure he liked that remark. Like his own words, he recognized that these were aimed at possible listeners. But it was not a friendly act to call the attention of those listeners to the fact that he was keeping this conversation to himself.
More sharply than before it struck him that he had better remember his political situation both here on the ship, and out there. And weigh every word as he uttered it.

Born a Mixed Man, Maltby had been captured as a child by the Dellian and non-Dellian robots of the Fifty Suns, and educated to a point where he felt a semi-loyalty to his captors. Years of a life in which he was never quite trusted had culminated in his being assigned to destroy the Earth battleship.
In this he had only been partially successful, the end result hav­ing been a forcible re-shaping of his minds to be sympathetic to Earth. And this, in its turn, had ended in marriage to the youthful and dynamic Lady Laurr, commander of the mightiest war machine that had ever entered the Lesser Magellanic Cloud.
As a result of his varied experience, he now had three sympa­thies. That was the trouble. Three sympathies. He understood the motivations and beliefs, not only of the Dellian and non-Dellian robots, but also of the hidden race of Mixed Men and of the human beings from the main galaxy.
Literally, he couldn’t take sides against any of them. His only hope, long held now, was that somewhere amid the welter of conflicting fears and desires was a solution that would be satisfactory to all three groups.
He knew better than to expect that such a hope would occur to any of the three. It was time he spoke again, and it would be advis­able to bring the identity of the man beyond the light-thing into the open. He stared at it, and said curtly:
"Who are you?"
"Hunston!"
"Oh!" said Maltby.
His surprise was not altogether simulated. There was a difference between an inward recognition of a voice, and having that recogni­tion verbally verified. The implications of the identity somehow sank in deeper:
Hunston, his enemy among the Mixed Men, and for many years now the acting leader.
Softly, Maltby repeated an earlier question: "What do you want?"
"Your diplomatic support."
Maltby said: "My what?"
The voice grew resonant and proud:
"In accordance with our belief, which you must surely share, that the Mixed Men are entitled to an equal part in the government of the Fifty Suns, regardless of the smallness of their numbers, I have today ordered that control be seized of every planet in the System. At this moment the armies of the Mixed Men, backed by the greatest assem­bly of super-weapons known in any galaxy, are carrying out landing operations, and will shortly attain control. You—"
The voice paused; then quietly: "You are following me, Captain Maltby?"
The question was like the silence after a clap of thunder.

Slowly, Maltby emerged from the hard shock of the news. He climbed to his feet, then sank back again. Consciousness came final­ly that, though the world had changed, the room was still there. The room and the light-globe and himself.
Anger came then like a leaping fire. Savagely, he snapped: "You gave this order—"
He caught himself. His brain geared to lightning comprehension, he examined the implications of the information. At last, with a bleak realization that in his position he could not argue the matter, he said:
"You’re depending on acceptance of a fait accompli. What I know of the unalterable policies of Imperial Earth, convinces me your hope is vain."
"On the contrary," came the quick reply. "Only Grand Captain, the Lady Laurr must be persuaded. She has full authority to act as she sees fit. And she is your wife."
Cooler now, Maltby hesitated. It was interesting that Hunston, having acted on his own, was now seeking his support. Not too inter­esting though. What really held Maltby silent was the sudden realiza­tion that he had known something like this would happen—had known it from the very instant the news had been flashed that an Earth battleship had discovered the robot civilization of the Fifty Suns many months ago now.
Ten years, five years, even one year hence, the seal of Earth’s approval would be set forever’ on the Fifty Suns democratic system as it was.
And the laws of that government expressly excluded the Mixed Men from any participation whatsoever. At this moment, this month, a change was still theoretically possible. After that—
It was clear that he personally had been too slow in making up his mind. The passions of other men had surged to thoughts of action, and finally to action itself. He would have to leave the ship somehow, and find out what was going on. For the moment, however, caution was the word. Maltby said:
"I am not averse to presenting your arguments to my wife. But some of your statements do not impress me in the slightest. You have said ’the greatest assembly of super-weapons in any galaxy.’ I admit this method of using sub-space radio is new to me, but your state­ment as a whole must be nonsense.
"You cannot possibly know the weapons possessed by even this one battleship because, in spite of all my opportunity, I don’t know. It is a safe assumption, furthermore, that no one ship can carry some of the larger weapons that Earth could muster at short notice any­where in the charted universe.
"You cannot, isolated as we have all been, so much as guess what those weapons are, let alone declare with certainty that yours are bet­ter. Therefore, my question in that connection is this: why did you even mention such an implied threat? Of all your arguments, it is the least likely to rouse any enthusiasm for your cause. Well?"

On the main bridge of the big ship, the Right Honorable Gloria Cecily turned from the viewing plate, which showed Maltby’s room. Her fine face was crinkled with thought. She said slowly to the other woman:
"What do you make of it, Lieutenant Neslor?"
The ship’s psychologist said steadily: "I think, noble lady, this is the moment we discussed when you first asked me what would be the psychological effects of your marriage to Peter Maltby."
The grand captain stared at her subordinate in astonishment. "Are you mad? His reaction has been correct in every detail. He has told me at great length his opinions of the situation in the Fifty Suns; and every word he has spoken fits. He—"
There was a soft buzz from the intership radio. A man’s head and shoulders came onto the plate. He said:
"Draydon, Commander of Communications speaking. In refer­ence to your question about the ultrawave radio now focused in your husband’s bedroom, a similar device was invented in the main galaxy about a hundred and ninety years ago. The intention was to install it into all the new warships, and into all the older ships above cruiser size, but we were on our way before mass production began.
"In this field at least, therefore, the Mixed Men have equaled the greatest inventions of human creative genius, though it is difficult to know how so few could accomplish so much. The very smallness of their numbers makes it highly probable that they are not aware that our finders would instantly report the presence of their energy man­ifestation. They cannot possibly have discovered all the by-products of their invention. Any questions, noble lady?"
"Yes, how does it work?"
"Power. Sheer, unadulterated power. The ultra rays are directed in a great cone towards a wide sector of space in which the receiver ship is believed to be. Every engine in the sending ship is geared to the ray. I believe that experimentally contact was established over distances as great as thirty-five hundred light-years."
"Yes, but what is the principle?" Impatiently. "How, for instance, would they pick out the Star Cluster from a hundred other battle­ships?"
"As you know," came the reply, "our battleship constantly emits identification rays, on a special wave length. The ultra rays are tuned to that wave length, and when they contact, react literally instantaneously. Immediately, all the rays focus on the center of the source of the identification waves, and remain focused regardless of speed or change of direction.
"Naturally, once the carrier wave is focused, sending picture and voice beams over it is simplicity itself."
"I see." She looked thoughtful. "Thank you."

The grand captain clicked off the connection, and turned again to the image of the scene in Maltby’s room. She heard her husband say:
"Very well, I shall present your arguments to my wife."
The answer of the light-globe was: it vanished. She sat cold. The whole interview had been registered on a beam; and so the part she had missed didn’t matter. She’d run it off again later. She turned slowly to Lieutenant Neslor, and expressed the thought that hadn’t left her mind for an instant:
"What are your reasons for what you said just before we were interrupted?"
The older woman said coolly: "What has happened here is basic to the entire robot problem. It is too important to allow any interfer­ence. Your husband must be removed from the ship, and you must allow yourself to be conditioned out of love with him until this affair is finally settled. You see that, don’t you?"
"No!" Stubbornly. "I do not. On what do you base your opinion?"
"There are several notable points," said the psychologist. "One of them is the fact that you married him. Madam, you would never have married an ordinary person."
"Naturally." The grand captain spoke proudly. "You yourself have stated that his I.Q.’s, both of them, are greater than mine."
Lieutenant Neslor laughed scathingly. "Since when has I.Q. mat­tered to you? If that was a reason for recognizing equality, then the royal and noble families of the galaxy would long ago have become saturated with professors and scholars. No, no, my captain, there is in a person born to high estate an instinctive sense of greatness which has nothing to do with intelligence or ability. We less fortu­nate mortals may feel that that is unfair, but there is nothing we can do about it. When his lordship walks into the room, we may dislike him, hate him, ignore him or kowtow to him. But we are never indif­ferent to him.
"Captain Maltby has that air. You may not have been conscious­ly aware of it when you married him, but you were, subconsciously."
The young woman protested: "But he’s only a captain in the Fifty Suns navy, and he was an orphan raised by the state."
Lieutenant Neslor was cool. "He knows who he is, make no mis­take. My only regret is that you married him so swiftly, thus barring me from making a detailed examination of his two minds. I am very curious about his history."
"He has told me everything."
"Noble lady," said the psychologist sharply. "Examine what you are saying. We are dealing with a man whose lowest I.Q. is more than 170. Every word you have spoken about him shows the bias of a woman for her lover.
"I am not," Lieutenant Neslor finished, "questioning your basic faith in him. As far as I have been able to determine he is an able and honest man. But your final decisions about the Fifty Suns must be made without reference to your emotional life. Do you see now?"
There was a long pause, and then an almost imperceptible nod. And then:
"Put him off," she said in a drab voice, "at Atmion. We must turn back to Cassidor."

Maltby stood on the ground, and watched the Star Cluster fade into the blue mist of the upper sky. Then he turned, and caught a ground car to the nearest hotel. From there he made his first call. In an hour a young woman arrived. She saluted stiffly as she came into his presence. But as he stood watching her some of the hostility went out of her. She came forward, knelt gingerly, and kissed his hand.
"You may rise," Maltby said.
She stood up, and retreated, watching him with alert, faintly amused, faintly defiant gaze.
Maltby felt sardonic about it himself. Earlier generations of Mixed Men had decided that the only solution to leadership among so many immensely able men was an hereditary rulership. That decision had backfired somewhat when Peter Maltby, the only son of the last active hereditary leader, had been captured by the Dellians in the same battle that had killed his father. After long consideration, the lesser leaders had decided to reaffirm his rights.
They had even begun to believe that it would be of benefit to the Mixed Men to have their leader grow up among the people of the Fifty Suns. Particularly since good behavior on his part and by the other captured, now grown-up children, might be a way of winning back the good opinion of the Fifty Suns’ people.
Some of the older leaders actually considered that the only hope of the race.
It was interesting to know that, in spite of Hunston’s action, one woman partially recognized his status. Maltby said:
"My situation is this: I am wearing a suit which, I am convinced, is tuned to a finder on the Star Cluster. I want someone to wear it while I go to the hidden city."
The young woman inclined her head. "I am sure that can be arranged. The ship will come at midnight tomorrow to the ren­dezvous. Can you make it?"
"I’ll be there."
The young woman hesitated. "Is there anything else?" "Yes," said Maltby, "who’s backing Hunston?"
"The young men." She spoke without hesitation.
"What about the young women?"
She smiled at that. "I’m here, am I not?"
"Yes, but only with half your heart."
"The other half," she said, unsmiling now, "is with a young man who is fighting in one of Hunston’s armies."
"Why isn’t your whole heart there?"
"Because I don’t believe in deserting a system of government at the first crisis. We chose hereditary leadership for a definite period. We women do not altogether approve of these impulsive adventures, led by adventurers like Hunston, though we recognize that this is a crisis."
Maltby said gravely: "There will be many dead men before this is over. I hope your young man is not among them."
"Thank you," said the young woman. And went out.

There were nine nameless planets, nine hidden cities where the Mixed Men lived. Like the planets, the cities had no names. They were referred to with a very subtle accent on the article in the phrase "the city." The! In every case the cities were located underground, three of them beneath great, restless seas, two under mountain ranges, the other four—no one knew.
Actually, no one knew. The outlets were far from the cities, the tunnels that led to them wound so tortuously that the biggest spaceships had to proceed at very low speeds around the curves.
The ship that came for Maltby was only ten minutes late. It was operated mostly by women, but there were some older men along, including three of his long-dead father’s chief advisers, fine-looking old men named Johnson, Saunders and Collings. Collings acted as spokesman:
"I’m not sure, sir, that you should come to the city. There is a cer­tain hostility, even among the women. They are afraid for their sons, husbands and sweethearts, but loyal to them.
"All the actions of Hunston and the others have been secret. For months we have had no idea what is going on. There is positively no information to be had at the hidden city."
Maltby said: "I didn’t expect there would be. I want to give a speech, outlining the general picture as I see it."
There was no clapping. The audience—there were about twenty thousand in the massive auditorium—heard his words in a silence that seemed to grow more intense as he described some of the weapons on board the Star Cluster, and the policies of Imperial Earth with respect to lost colonies like the Fifty Suns.
He knew the verbal picture he was drawing was not pleasing them, but he finished grimly:
"My conclusion is this: Unless the Mixed Men can arrive at some agreement with Earth, or discover some means of nullifying the power of Earth, then all the preliminary victories are futile, meaningless and certain to end in disaster. There is no power in the Fifty Suns strong enough to defeat the battleship Star Cluster let alone all the other ships that Earth could send here in an emergency. Therefore—"
He was cut off. All over the great hall, mechanical speakers shouted in unison:
"He’s a spy for his Earth wife. He never was one of us."
Maltby smiled darkly. So Hunston’s friends had decided his sobering arguments might get him somewhere, and this was their answer.
He waited for the mechanized interruptions to end. In vain! The minutes flew by, and the bedlam grew rather than lessened. The audience was not the kind that approved of noise as a logical form of argument. As Maltby watched, several angry young women tore down reachable loud-speakers. Since many were in the ceiling, it was not a general solution. The confusion increased.
Tensely, Maltby thought: They must know, Hunston and his men, that they were irritating their followers here. How did they dare take the risk?
The answer came like a flash: They were playing for time. They had something big up their collective sleeve, something that would overwhelm all irritation and all opposition.
A hand was tugging at his arm. Maltby turned. And saw that it was Collings. The old man looked anxious.
"I don’t like this," he said urgently above the uproar. "If they’ll go this far, then they might even dare to assassinate you. Perhaps you had better return at once to Atmion, or Cassidor, wherever you wish to go."
Maltby stood thoughtful. "It has to be Atmion," he said finally. "I don’t want the people aboard the Star Cluster to suspect that I have been wandering. In one sense I no longer have any commitments there, but I think the contact might still be valuable."
He smiled wryly, because that was an understatement if there ever was one. It was true that Gloria had been conditioned out of love with him, but he had been left conditioned in love with her. No matter how hard he tried he couldn’t dismiss the reality of that.
He spoke again: "You know how to get in touch with me if any­thing turns up."
That, too, was to laugh. He had a pretty shrewd idea that Hunston would make particularly certain that no information came to the hidden city on the nameless planet.
Just how he was going to obtain information was another matter. Quite suddenly, he felt completely cast out. Like a pariah, he left the stage. The noise faded behind him.

He wandered out the days; and the puzzling thing to Maltby was that he heard nothing about the Star Cluster. For a month of hours, he went aimlessly from city to city; and the only news that came through was of the success of the Mixed Men.
Highly colored news it was. Everywhere, the conquerors must have seized radio control; and glowing accounts came of how the inhabitants of the Fifty Suns were wildly acclaiming their new rulers as leaders in the fight against the battleship from Imperial Earth. Against the human beings whose ancestors fifteen thousand years before had massacred all robots they could find, forcing the survivors to flee to this remote cloud of stars.
Over and over the theme repeated. No robot could ever trust a human being after what had happened in the past. The Mixed Men would save the robot world from the untrustworthy human beings and their battleship.
A very unsettling and chilling note of triumph entered the account every time the battleship was mentioned.
Maltby frowned over that, not for the first time, as he ate his lunch in an open-air restaurant on the thirty-first day. Soft, though vibrant music, poured over his head from a public announcer sys­tem. It was almost literally over his head, because he was too intent to be more than dimly aware of outside sound. One question domi­nated his thought:
What had happened to the battleship Star Cluster? Where could it be?
Gloria had said: "We shall take immediate action. Earth recognizes no governments by minorities. The Mixed Men will be given democratic privileges and equality, not dominance. That is final."
It was also, Maltby realized, reasonable IF human beings had really gotten over their prejudice against robots. It was a big if; and their prompt unloading of him from the ship proved that it wasn’t a settled problem by any means.
The thought ended, as, above him, the music faded out on a high-pitched note. The brief silence was broken by the unmistakable voice of Hunston:
"To all the people of the Fifty Suns, I make this important announcement: The Earth battleship is a danger no more. It has been captured by a skillful trick of the Mixed Men and it is at Cassidor, where it is even now yielding its many secrets to the technical experts of the Mixed Men.
"People of the Fifty Suns, the days of strain and uncertainty are over. Your affairs will in future be administered by your kin and pro­tectors, the Mixed Men. As their and your leader, I herewith dedicate the thirty billion inhabitants of our seventy planets to the task of preparing for future visitations from the main galaxy, and of insur­ing that no warship will ever again venture far into the Lesser Magellanic Cloud, which we now solemnly proclaim to be our living space, sacred and inviolable forever.
"But that is for the future. For the moment, we the people of the Fifty Suns have successfully circumvented the most hideous danger of our history. A three-day celebration is accordingly declared. I decree music, feasting and laughter—"

At first there seemed nothing to think. Maltby walked along a boulevard of trees and flowers and fine homes; and, after a while, his mind tried to form a picture of an invincible battleship captured with all on board—if they were still alive.
How had it been done. By all the blackness in space, how?
Mixed Men, with their hypnotically powerful double minds, if allowed aboard in sufficient numbers to seize mental control of all high officers, could have done it.
But who would be mad enough to let that first group get into the ship?
Until a month ago, the Star Cluster had had two protections at least against such a disastrous finale to its long voyage. The first was the ship’s able psychologist, Lieutenant Neslor, who would unhesi­tatingly pry into the brain of every person who entered the machine.
The second safeguard was Captain Peter Maltby, whose double brain would instantly recognize the presence of another Mixed Man.
Only Maltby was not on the ship, but walking along this quiet, magnificent street, consuming himself with amazement and dismay. He was here because—
Maltby sighed with sudden immense understanding. So that was why the light-globe had appeared to him, and why Hunston had been so plausible. The man’s words had had nothing to do with his intentions. The whole act had been designed to force off of the ship the one man who would instantly sense the presence of Mixed Men.
It was difficult to know what he would have done if he had discovered them. To betray one’s kin to death for the love of an alien woman, was almost unthinkable.
Yet he couldn’t have allowed her ship to be captured.
Perhaps, his course would have been to warn the would-be con­querors to keep away.
The choice, forced upon him at the flash moment of attack, would have taxed the logic capacity of his brain.
It didn’t matter now. The events had fallen their chance ways without reference to him. He couldn’t change the larger aspect of them: The political seizure of the Fifty Suns government, the capture of a mighty battleship, all these were beyond the influence of a man who had been proved wrong by events, and who could now be killed without anybody, even his former supporters, worrying too much about him.
It wouldn’t do to contact the hidden city in this hour of Hunston’s triumph.
There remained a fact that he had to do something about. The fact that if the Star Cluster had been captured, then so had the Right Honorable Gloria Cecily. And the Lady Laurr of Noble Laurr was in addition to all her great titles Mrs. Peter Maltby.
That was the reality. Out of it grew the first purely personal pur­pose of his lonely life.

The naval yard spread before him. Maltby paused on the side­walk a hundred feet from the main officers’ entrance, and casually lighted a cigarette.
Smoking was primarily a non-Dellian habit; and he had never contracted it. But a man who wanted to get from planet IV of the Atmion sun to Cassidor VII without going by regular ship needed a flexible pattern of small actions to cover such moments as this.
He lit the cigarette, the while his gaze took in the gate and the officer in charge of the guard. He walked forward finally with the easy stride of a person of clear conscience.
He stood, puffing, while the man, a Dellian, examined his per­fectly honest credentials. The casualness was a mask. He was think­ing, in a mental sweat: It would be a Dellian. With such a man hyp­notism, except under certain conditions of surprise, was almost impossible.
The officer broke the silence. "Step over to the postern, captain," he said. "I want to talk to you."
Maltby’s primary mind sagged, but his secondary brain grew as alert as steel suddenly subjected to strain.
Was this discovery?
On the verge of slashing forth with his minds, he hesitated. Wait! he warned himself. Time enough to act if an attempt was made to sound an alarm. He must test to the limit his theory that Hunston wouldn’t have had time to close all the gates against him.
He glanced sharply at the other’s face. But the typically handsome countenance of a Dellian robot was typically impassive. If this was dis­covery, it was already too late for his special brand of hypnotism.
The robot began in a low voice, without preamble:
"We have orders to pick you up, captain."
He paused; he stared curiously at Maltby, who probed cautious­ly with his minds, met an invincible barrier, and withdrew, defeated but nonplussed. So far there was nothing menacing.
Maltby studied the fellow narrowly. "Yes?" he said cautiously.
"If I let you in," the Dellian said, "and something happened, say, a ship disappeared, I’d be held responsible. But if I don’t let you in, and you just walk away, no one will guess that you’ve been here."
He shrugged, smiled. "Simple, eh?"
Maltby stared at the man gloomily. "Thanks," he said. "But what’s the idea?"
"We’re undecided."
"About what?"
"About the Mixed Men. This business of their taking over the government is all very well. But the Fifty Suns navy does not for­swear, or swear, allegiance in ten minutes. Besides, we’re not sure that Earth’s offer was not an honest one."
"Why are you telling me this? After all, I am physically a Mixed Man."
The robot smiled. "You’ve been thoroughly discussed in the mess halls, captain. We haven’t forgotten that you were one of us for fif­teen years. Though you may not have noticed it, we put you through many tests during that period."
"I noticed," said Maltby, his face dark with memory. "I had the impression that I must have failed the tests."
"You didn’t."

There was silence. But Maltby felt a stirring of excitement. He had been so intent on his own troubles that the reaction of the peo­ple of the Fifty Suns to cataclysmic political change had scarcely touched him.
Come to think of it, he had noticed among civilians the same uncertainty as this officer was expressing.
There was no doubt at all, the Mixed Men had seized control at a beautifully timed psychological moment. But their victory wasn’t final. There was still opportunity here for the purposes of others.
Maltby said simply: "I want to get to Cassidor to find out what has happened to my wife. How can I manage it?"
"The grand captain of the Star Cluster is really your wife! That wasn’t propaganda?"
Maltby nodded. "She’s really my wife."
"And she married you knowing you were a robot?"
Maltby said: "I spent weeks in the battleship’s library looking up Earth’s version of the massacre of the robots, which took place fifteen thousand years ago. Their explanation was that it was a brief revival in the mass of the people of old-time race prejudices which, as you know, were rooted in fear of the alien and, of course, in pure elemen­tal antipathy.
"The Dellian robot was such a superbly handsome being, and with his curious physical and mental powers seemed to be superior to naturally born men that, in one jump, the fear became a panicky hate, and the lynchings began."
"What about the non-Dellian robots, who made possible the escape, and yet about whom so little is known?"
Maltby laughed grimly. "That is the cream of the jest. Listen—" When he had finished his explanation, the officer said blankly: "And do the people of the Star Cluster know this?"
"I told them," Maltby said. "They were intending to make the announcement just before the battleship went back to Earth."
There was silence. Finally the Dellian said: "What do you think of this business of Mixed Men seizing our government and organiz­ing for war?"
"I’m undecided."
"Like the rest of us."
"What troubles me," said Maltby, "is that there are bound to be other Earth battleships arriving, and some of them at least will not be captured by trickery."
"Yes," said the robot, "we’ve thought of that."
The silence settled, and lasted longer this time before Maltby brought out his request:
"Is there any way that I can get to Cassidor?"
The Dellian stood with closed eyes, hesitating. At last he sighed:
"There’s a ship leaving in two hours. I doubt if Captain Terda Laird will object to your presence aboard. If you will follow me, captain."
Maltby went through the gate, and into the shadows of the great hangars beyond. There was an odd relaxedness inside him; and he was in space before he realized what it meant.
His taut sense of being alone in a universe of aliens was gone.

The darkness beyond the portholes was soothing to his creative brain. He sat staring into the black ink with its glinting brightness that were stars; and felt a oneness.
Nostalgic memory came of all the hours he had spent like this when he was a meteorologist in the Fifty Suns navy. Then he had thought himself friendless, cut off from these Dellian and non-Dellian robots by an unbridgeable suspicion.
The truth, perhaps, was that he had grown so aloof that no one had dared to try to close the gap.
Now, he knew the suspicion had long dimmed almost to vanish­ing. Somehow that made the whole Fifty Suns problem his again. He thought: a different approach to the rescue of Gloria was in order. A few hours before the landing, he sent his card to Captain Laird, and asked for an interview.
The commanding officer was a non-Dellian, lean and gray and dignified. And he agreed to every word, every detail of Maltby’s plan.
"This whole matter," he said, "was threshed out three weeks ago, shortly after the Mixed Men seized power. In estimating the total number of warcraft available to Imperial Earth, we arrived at a figure that was almost meaningless, it was so large.
"It wouldn’t be surprising," the officer continued earnestly, "if Earth could detach a warship for every man, woman and child in the Fifty Suns, and not perceptibly weaken the defenses of the main galaxy.
"We of the navy have been waiting anxiously for Hunston to make a statement either privately or publicly about that. His failure to do so is alarming, particularly as there is some logic in the argument that the first penetration of a new star system like our Lesser Magellanic Cloud, would be undertaken on the orders of the central executive."
"It’s an Imperial mission," said Maltby, "working on a directive from the Emperor’s council."
"Madness!" Captain Laird muttered. "Our new rulers are madmen." He straightened, shaking his head, as if to clear it of darkness and confusion. He said in a resonant voice:
"Captain Maltby, I think I can guarantee you the full support of the navy in your effort to rescue your wife if . . . if she is still alive."
As he fell through the darkness an hour later, down and down and down, Maltby forced the warming effects of that promise to dim the grim import of the final words.
Once, his old sardonicism surged like a stirred fire; and he thought ironically: almost incredible that only a few months had passed since circumstances had made it necessary for Lieutenant Neslor, the Star Cluster’s psychologist, to force on him an intense emotional attachment for Gloria; that attachment which, ever since, had been the ruling passion of his life.
She on the other hand had fallen for him naturally. Which was one of the reasons why their relationship was so precious.
The planet below was brighter, larger, a crescent sitting comfort­ably in space, its dark side sparkling with the silver flashing lights of tens of thousands of towns and cities.
That was where he headed, towards the twinkling dark side. He landed in a grove of trees; and he was burying his spacesuit beside a carefully marked tree, when the total blackness struck him.
Maltby felt himself falling over. He hit the ground with a sharp impact, distinctly aware of his consciousness fading out of his mind.

He woke up, amazed. And looked around him. It was still dark. Two of the three moons of Cassidor were well above the horizon; and they hadn’t even been in sight when he landed. Their light shed vaguely over the small glade.
It was the same grove of trees.
Maltby moved his hands—and they moved; they were not tied. He sat up, then stood up.
He was alone.
There was not a sound, except the faint whispering of wind through the trees. He stood, eyes narrowed, suspicious; then, slowly, he relaxed. He had heard, he remembered suddenly, of unconscious­ness like this overwhelming non-Dellians after a long fall through space. Dellians were not affected; and until this instant he had thought Mixed Men were also immune.
They weren’t. There was no doubt about that.
He shrugged, and forgot about it. It took about ten minutes to walk to the nearest air stop. Ten minutes later he was at an air center.
He knew his way now. He paused in one of the forty entrances and, probing briefly with his two minds, satisfied himself that there were no Mixed Men among the masses of people surging towards the various escalators.
It was a tiny satisfaction at best. Tiny because he had known Hunston couldn’t possibly spare the men for complicated patrol duty. The leader of the Mixed Men could talk as glibly as he pleased about his armies. But—Maltby smiled darkly—there was no such force.
The coup d’etat that had won Hunston control of the Fifty Suns was a far bolder, more risky accomplishment that was readily apparent. It must have been undertaken with less than a hundred thousand men—and the danger to Peter Maltby would be the point of disembarkation at the mighty city Della, capital of the Fifty Suns.
He had just bought his ticket, and was striding towards a fourth level escalator when the woman touched his arm.
In a single flash, Maltby had her mind, then as swiftly he relaxed. He found himself staring at Lieutenant Neslor, chief psychologist of the Star Cluster.

Maltby set down his cup, and stared unsmilingly across the table at the woman psychologist.
"Frankly," he said, "I am not interested in any plan you may have for recapturing the ship. I am in a position where I cannot conscien­tiously take sides on the larger issues."
He paused. He studied her curiously, but without any real thought. The emotional life of the middle-aged woman had puzzled him at times. In the past, he had wondered if she had used the machines in her laboratories to condition herself against all human feeling. The memory of that thought touched his brain as he sat there.
The memory faded. It was information he wanted, not addenda on her character.
He said, more coldly: "To my mind, you are responsible for the ignominious capture of the Star Cluster, first because it was you, in your scientific wisdom, who had me, a protective force, put off the ship; second because it was your duty to explore the minds of those who were permitted aboard. I still can’t understand how you could have failed."
The woman was silent. Thin and graying at the temples, handsome in a mature fashion, she sat sipping her drink. She met his gaze finally, steadily. She said:
"I’m not going to offer any explanations. Defeat speaks for itself."
She broke off, flashed: "You think our noble lady will fall into your arms with gratitude when you rescue her. You forget that she has been conditioned out of love with you, and that only her ship matters to her."
"I’ll take my chances on that, and I’ll take it alone. And if we are ever again subject to Earth laws, I shall exercise my legal rights."
Lieutenant Neslor’s eyes narrowed. "Oh," she said, "you know about that. You did spend a great deal of time in the library, didn’t you?"
Maltby said quietly: "I probably know more about Earth laws than any other individual on the Star Cluster."
"And you won’t even listen to my plan, to use the thousand sur­vivors to help in the rescue."
"I’ve told you, I cannot participate in the larger issues."
The woman stood up. "But you are going to try to rescue Lady Gloria?"
"Yes."
She turned without another word, and walked off. Maltby watched her until she disappeared through a distant door. After a moment there seemed nothing at all to think about the interview.

Grand Captain, the Right Honorable Gloria Cecily, the Lady Laurr of Noble Laurr, sat in the throne chair of her reception dais, and listened unsmilingly to the psychologist’s report. It was not until the older woman had finished that the bleakness of the listener showed abatement.
Her voice, however, was sharp as she said:
"Then he definitely didn’t suspect the truth? He didn’t discover that the Star Cluster has never been captured. He didn’t realize that it was you who made him unconscious when he landed in the grove of trees?"
Lieutenant Neslor said: "Oh, he was suspicious. But how could he so much as guess the larger truth? In view of our silence, how could he suspect that Hunston’s triumphant announcement was only a part of the ever deadlier game he and we are playing, in our attempts to destroy each other? The very fact that Hunston has got an Earth battleship makes it particularly impossible for anybody to realize the truth."
The young noblewoman nodded, smiling now. She sat for a moment, proud eyes narrowed with thought, lips parted, gleaming white teeth showing.
That had not been the expression on her face when first she had learned that the Mixed Men also had an Earth battleship, and a mar­velously new model at that, a ship whose type had been in the design stage for nearly eight hundred years.
Sitting there, all the knowledge she had on the subject of that new thundership, as it was called in the naval yards, was flashingly reviewed in her mind. How its nine hundred billion separate parts had gone into mass production seventy-five years before, with the expectation that the first ship would be completed at the end of seventy years, and additional ones every minute thereafter for five years.
The five years were up. Very few of the vessels would actually be in service as yet, but somewhere along the line one of them had been stolen.
Her feelings concerning the possession by the Mixed Men of such a battleship had been an imbalance of relief and alarm. Relief that the super-inventions of the Mixed Men were after all only stolen from the main galaxy. And alarm at the implications of such a capture.
What were Hunston’s intentions? How did he intend to get around the fact that Imperial Earth had more warships than there were men, women and children in the Fifty Suns?
She said slowly: "Undoubtedly, the Mixed Men sent a ship to the main galaxy the moment they heard about us; and, of course, if enough of them ever got aboard one of our warships there would be no stopping them."
She broke off, more cheerfully: "I am glad that Captain Maltby did not question your account of how you and a thousand other crew members escaped when Hunston made his so-called seizure of the Star Cluster. I am not surprised that he refused to have anything to do with your hare-brained scheme for recapturing the battleship.
"The important thing is that, under cover of this pretty little story, you learned what we wanted to know: His love fixation for me is driving him to an attempt to board Hunston’s battleship. When the indicator we have had pointing at him since he left us at Atmion indicates that he is inside the ship, then we shall act."
She laughed. "He’s going to be a very surprised young man when he discovers what kind of clothes he is wearing."
Lieutenant Neslor said: "He may be killed."
There was silence. But the faint smile remained on the finely mold­ed, handsome face of Lady Laurr. Lieutenant Neslor said quickly:
"Do not forget that your present antagonism towards him is influenced by your present comprehension of how deeply you had previously committed yourself to an emotional attachment."
"It is possible," admitted the grand captain steadily, "that your conditioning was over enthusiastic. Whatever the reason, I have no desire to feel other than I do now. You may therefore consider this a command: Under no circumstances am I to be reconditioned into my former state.
"The divorce between Captain Maltby and myself, now that it has taken place, is final. Is that clear?"
"Yes, noble lady."

Here were ships. Ships, ships, ships, more than Maltby had ever seen in the Cassidor yards. The Fifty Suns navy was undoubtedly being demobilized as fast as the Mixed Men could manage it.
The ships stretched in ranks to the north, to the east, to the south, as far as the eye could see. They lay in their cradles in long, geomet­ric rows. Here and there surface hangars and repair shops broke that measured rhythm of straight line. But for the most part the buildings were underground, or rather, under sheeted plains of metal, hidden by a finely corrugated sea of translucent steel alloy.
The Earth battleship lay about four miles from the western entrance. The distance seemed to have no diminishing effect on its size.
It loomed colossal on the horizon, overshadowing the smaller ships, dominating the sky and the planet and the sections of city that spread beyond it. Nothing on Cassidor, nothing in the Fifty Suns system could begin to approach that mighty ship for size, for complication, for sheer appearance of power.
Even now, it seemed incredible to Maltby that so great a weapon, a machine that could destroy whole planets, had fallen intact into the hands of the Mixed Men, captured by a trick.
With an effort, Maltby drew his mind from that futile contem­plation, and walked forward. He felt cold and steady and determined. The officer at the gate was a pleasant faced non-Dellian, who took him through, saying:
"There is an electronic matter transmitter focused from the ship’s hold into the doorway of that building."
He motioned a hundred yards ahead and to one side, and went on: "That will get you inside the battleship. Now, put this alarm device in your pocket."
Maltby accepted the tiny instrument curiously. It was an ordi­nary combination sending and receiving tube with a lock button to activate the signal.
"What’s this for?" he asked.
"You’re heading for the Grand Captain’s bridge, are you not?"
Maltby nodded, but there was a thought beginning in his mind; and he did not trust himself to speak. He waited. The young man continued:
"As soon as you can, make every effort to go over to the control board and nullify energy flows, force connections, automatic screens and so on. Then press the signal."
The thought inside Maltby was an emptiness. He had a sudden sense of walking along the edge of an abyss.
"But what’s the idea?" he asked blankly.
The answer was quiet, almost cool. "It has been decided," said the young officer, "to try to take the battleship. We got hold of some spare transmitters, and we are ready to put a hundred thousand men aboard in one hour from the various concentration centers. Whatever the result, in the confusion of the attack your chances of escaping with your wife will be augmented."
He broke off crisply: "You understand your instructions?"
Instructions! So that was it. He was a member of the Fifty Suns navy, and they took it for granted that he was subject to orders without question.
He wasn’t of course. As hereditary leader of the Mixed Men, who had sworn allegiance to the Fifty Suns, and married the representa­tive of Imperial Earth, his loyalty was a problem in basic ethics.
The wry thought came to Maltby that only an attack by the sur­vivors of the Star Cluster was needed now. Led by Lieutenant Neslor, their arrival would just about make a perfect situation for a man whose mind was running around in circles, faster and faster every minute.
He needed time to think, to decide. And, fortunately, the time was going to be available. This decision didn’t have to be made here and now. He would take the alarm device—and sound it or not according to his determination at the moment.
Relieved, he slipped the instrument into his pocket. He said quietly: "Yes, I understand my instructions."
Two minutes later he was inside the battleship.

The storeroom, in which Maltby found himself, was deserted. That shocked him. It was too good to be true.
His gaze flashed over the room. He couldn’t remember ever hav­ing been in it when he was aboard the Star Cluster. But then he had never had any reason to wander all over the mighty ship. Nor, for that matter, had he had time.
The room was a storehouse, ordinary, without interest for him.
Maltby walked swiftly over to the inter-room transmitter, reached up to press the toucher that would enable him to step from the hold into the grand captain’s bridge. But at the last instant, his fingers actually on the toucher, he hesitated.
It had been wise, of course, to do everything boldly. The whole history of warfare taught that planned boldness, tempered with alert­ness, weighed heavily in the balance of victory.
Only he hadn’t really planned.
Consciously, he let his secondary, his Dellian mind tilt forward. He stood very still, mentally examining his actions from the moment that Hunston had projected the globe of force into his bedroom, through the trip to Cassidor, the talk he had had with Lieutenant Neslor, and the suddenly announced plan of the Fifty Suns navy.
Thinking about it, it struck him sharply that the over-all, outstanding effect was of complication. The Dellian part of his brain, with its incisive logic, usually had little difficulty organizing seemingly unrelated facts into whatever unity was innate in them.
Yet now, it was slow in resolving the details. It took a moment to realize why: Each fact was a compound of many smaller facts, some of them partially resolvable by deduction, others though undoubtedly there, refused to come out of the mist.
There was no time to think about it. He had decided to enter the grand captain’s cabin—and there was only one way to do it.
With an abrupt movement, he pressed the toucher. He stepped through into a brightly lighted room. A tall man was standing about a dozen feet from the transmitter, staring at it. In his fingers he held an In-no gun.
It was not until the man spoke that Maltby recognized Hunston. The Leader of the Mixed Men said in a ringing voice:
"Welcome, Captain Maltby, I’ve been waiting for you." For once, boldness had failed.

Maltby thought of snatching his own In-no gun from its holster. He thought of it, but that was all. Because, first, he glanced over at the control board, to the section that governed the automatic defenses of the interior of the ship.
A single light glowed there. He moved his hand slowly. The light flickered, showing awareness of him. He decided not to draw his weapon.
The possibility that that light would be on had made it highly inadvisable to enter the main bridge, weapon in hand.
Maltby sighed and gave his full attention to the other. It was seven years since he had seen Hunston. The man’s physical develop­ment since then was worthy of attention. Like all men with Dellian blood in them, like Maltby himself, Hunston was a superbly well-proportioned being.
His mother must have been a blonde and his father a very dark brunette, because his hair had come out the curious mixture of gold and black that always resulted from such a union. His eyes were gray-blue.
Seven years before Hunston had been slenderer, and somehow immature in spite of his confidence and personality. That was all gone now. He looked strong and proud, and every inch a leader of men. He said without preamble:
"Basically, the facts are these: This is not the Star Cluster. My statement about that was political maneuvering. We captured this battleship from a naval yard in the main galaxy. A second battleship, now in process of being captured, will soon be here. When it arrives, we shall engage the Star Cluster in a surprise attack."
The change of Maltby’s status from rescuer to dupe was as swift as that. One instant he was a man tensed with determination, geared to withstand any danger; the next a fool, his purpose made ludicrous.
He said: "B-but—"
It was a sound, not a reaction. A word expressing blankness, a thoughtless state, which preceded the mind storm, out of which grew understanding. Before Maltby could speak, Hunston said:
"Someone advised us that you were coming. We assume it was your wife. We assume furthermore that there is hostile purpose behind every move she is making. Accordingly, we prepared for any emergency. There are ten thousand Mixed Men inside this ship. If your arrival here is to be the signal for an attack, it will have to be well-organized indeed to surprise us."
Once more, there were too many facts. But after a moment, Maltby thought of the Fifty Suns navy men, waiting to enter the bat­tleship, and flinched. He parted his lips to speak, and closed them again as his Dellian mind projected into his primary the memory of his meeting with Lieutenant Neslor.
The logic capacity of that secondary mind was on a plane that had no human parallel. There was a flashing connection made between the meeting with the psychologist and the blackness that had struck him down at the moment of his landing on Cassidor.
Instantly, that marvelous secondary brain examined a thousand possibilities, and, since it had enough clues at last, came forth with the answer.
The suit he was wearing!!! He must have been made uncon­scious, in order to substitute it for the one he had been wearing. Any minute, any second, it would be activated.
Sweating, Maltby pictured the resulting clash of titans: Ten thousand Mixed Men versus a major portion of the crew of the Star Cluster versus one hundred thousand men of the Fifty Suns navy.
If only that last group would wait for his signal, then he could save them by not sounding it. Sharp consciousness came that he ought to speak, but first—
He must find out if the suit had been energized.
He put his arm behind his back, and pushed his hand cautiously into his back. It went in four inches, six inches; and still there was only emptiness. Slowly, Maltby withdrew his arm.
The suit was activated all right.

Hunston said: "Our plan is to destroy the Star Cluster, then Earth itself."
"W-what?" said Maltby.
He stared. He had a sudden feeling that he had not heard correctly. He echoed, his voice loud in his own ears:
"Destroy Earth!"
Hunston nodded coolly. "It’s the only logical course. If the one planet is destroyed, on which men know of the Star Cluster’s expedi­tion to the Lesser Magellanic Cloud, then we shall have time to expand, to develop our civilization; and eventually, after a few hun­dred years of intensive breeding of Mixed Men, we will have enough population to take over the control of the main galaxy itself."
"But," Maltby protested, "Earth is the center of the main galaxy. All the government is there, the Imperial symbol. It’s the head of the planets of 3000 million suns. It—"
He stopped. The fear that came was all the greater because it was not personal.
"Why, you madman!" he cried angrily. "You can’t do a thing like that. It would disorganize the entire galaxy."
"Exactly." Hunston nodded with satisfaction. "We would defi­nitely have the time we need. Even if others knew of the Star Cluster expedition, no one would connect it with the catastrophe, and no other expedition would be sent."
He paused. Then went on:
"As you see, I have been very frank with you. And you will not have failed to note that our entire plan depends on whether or not we can first destroy the Star Cluster. In this," he finished quietly, "we naturally expect the assistance of the hereditary leader of the Mixed Men."

There was silence in the great room. The bank on bank of con­trol board remained impassive, except for the solitary anti-light that glowed like a faint beacon from its deep-inset tube.
Standing there, Maltby grew aware of a thought. It had only an indirect relation to the request Hunston had just made, and it wasn’t new. He tried to fight it, but it remained strong, and grew stronger, a developing force in his mind. It was the conviction that he would yet have to take sides in this struggle of three powerful groups.
He couldn’t allow Earth to be destroyed!
With a terrible effort, he finally forced the thought aside, and looked at Hunston. The man was staring at him with a narrow-eyed anxiety that abruptly startled Maltby.
He parted his lips to make a sardonic comment about a usurper who had the gall to ask help from the man he was striving to displace. But Hunston spoke first:
"Maltby—what is the danger? What is their plan in having you come here? You must know by this time."
Almost, Maltby had forgotten about that. Once more he was about to speak. But this time he stopped himself.
There was another thought forming in the back of his mind. It had been there for many months, and in its more detailed conception, it was actually his solution to the whole Fifty Suns problem. In the past, the knowledge that the solution required one man to convince three groups, actually to control the three hostile groups at a given hour, and to force them to yield to his will, had made the whole idea ridiculous and impractical.
Now, in one mental jump, he saw how it could be done. But hurry, hurry! Any instant the suit he was wearing would be used. He said violently:
"It’s this room! If you value your life, get out of it at once." Hunston stared at him, bright-eyed. He seemed unafraid. He asked in an interested tone:
"This room is the danger point because you’re in it?"
"Yes," said Maltby—and held his arms out slightly, and his head up, so that the energy of Hunston’s In-no gun would not hit them. His body tensed for the run forward.
Instead of shooting, Hunston frowned.
"There’s something wrong. Naturally, I wouldn’t leave you in charge of the control room of this battleship. Accordingly, you’re practically asking me to kill you. It’s obvious that if you’re the dan­ger, then you must die. Too obvious."
He added sharply: "That anti-light watching you—the moment I fire, its automatic defenses are nullified; and you can use a gun too. Is that what you’re waiting for?"
It was.
All Maltby said was: "Get out of this room. Get out, you fool!" Hunston did not move, but some of the color had faded from his cheeks. He said:
"The only danger we’ve been able to imagine is if somehow they managed to get a Star Cluster transmitter aboard."
He stared at Maltby. "We haven’t been able as yet to figure out how those transmitters work, but we do know this: There is no liai­son between the transmitters of one ship and another. They’re tuned differently, and set. No amount of manipulation can change them, once completed. But YOU must have had opportunity to learn the secret of their operation. Tell me."
Tell me! It was clear now that he would have to attack in spite of the anti-light. That meant muscles only, which needed a fractional surprise. Starting to tell might do the trick.
But what an odd irony that Hunston and his technical experts had correctly reasoned out the exact nature of the danger. And yet now Hunston, standing in front of a man who was wearing a suit of clothes, both the back and front of which were transmitters, did not begin to suspect.
Maltby said: "Transmitters work in much the same way that the first Dellian robots were made, only they use the original components. The robot constructors took an electronic image of a human being, and constructed an exact duplicate from organic matter. Something was wrong of course because the Dellians never were mental duplicates of the original human beings, and there were even physical differences. Out of the difference grew the hatred that eventually resulted in the robot massacres of fifteen thousand years ago.
"But never mind that. These matter transmitters reduce the body to an electronic flow, transmit without loss, and then rebuild the body. The process has become as simple as turning on a light and—"
It was at that point that Maltby launched his attack.

The awful fear that Hunston would aim at his feet, arms or head, ended. Because in that ultimate moment, the man hesitated and like a thousand million men before him was lost.
The In-no gun did flash, as Maltby grabbed at the wrist of the hand that held it. But the fire sprayed harmlessly against the impreg­nable floor. And then the gun clattered out of the fight.
"You scoundrel!" Hunston gasped. "You knew I wouldn’t fire on the hereditary leader of the Mixed Men. You traitor—"
Maltby had known nothing of the kind. And he did not waste time in consideration of it. Hunston’s voice stopped because Maltby had his head in a vice-like grip, and was pulling it towards and into his chest. The surprise of that must have been staggering. For a vital moment Hunston ceased his struggling.
During that moment, Maltby stuffed him through the transmitter seemingly right into his own body.
Even as the last squirming foot was shoved out of sight, Maltby was tearing at the fasteners of the suit. He rolled the suit down, so that the transmitter surfaces faced one against the other.
Frantically, he climbed all the way out of the suit and, racing over to the control board, adjusted the anti-light to work for him, and made a dozen other adjustments that he knew about. A minute later, the ship was his.
There remained the necessity of telling the three groups his decision. And there remained—Gloria!

The Dellians and non-Dellians of the Fifty Suns accepted the decision the moment they realized the Star Cluster had not been captured by the Mixed Men, and that Earth guaranteed them protection.
The information that the non-Dellians were NOT robots at all but descendants of human beings who had helped the original robots to escape from the massacres did not have the sensational effect anticipated by Maltby. It merely made everything easier, to realize that human beings had pretended to be robots for the sake of subse­quent generations; and that it had worked out all right.
The Mixed Men, their volatile leader Hunston a prisoner aboard the Star Cluster, agreed because Maltby was after all their hereditary chieftain, because their chances of ever capturing another battleship were zero, now that all ships in the main galaxy would be warned of their methods. And because their new status was that of complete equality within the government of the Fifty Suns, INCLUDING a guarantee that when a Dellian married a non-Dellian, the couple would no longer be forbidden to have children by the cold-pressure system.
Since the child resulting from such a union would invariably be a Mixed Man, it assured that ultimately and by legal and natural development there would only be Mixed Men in the Fifty Suns—and eventually in the main galaxy, too.
On the tenth day, the captains in session aboard the Star Cluster sat on an entirely different case. The case of Grand Captain, the Right Honorable Gloria Cecily, the Lady Laurr of Noble Laurr, estranged from her husband, Peter Maltby, by psychological means because of an emergency.

The judgment handed down made intergalactic legal history. The judges held:
(1) That the law relating to the reintegration of artificially imposed psychological pressures did not apply to Captain Maltby, a non-citizen of Imperial Earth at the time he was conditioned, but does apply to the Lady Gloria, a citizen born.
(2) That since Captain Maltby has been made permanent agent to Earth for the Fifty Suns, and since this is the Lady Gloria’s last trip into space on a warship, no geographical barriers exist to a continu­ation of the marriage.
(3) It is accordingly ordered that the Lady Gloria be given the necessary treatment to return her to her former condition of loving affection for her husband.


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Notes

[1these stories were regrouped, with a great many changes, in 1952 into the (somewhat hard-to-follow) "fix-up" novel The Mixed Men as follows:
- Concealment => Prologue
- new material => Chapters 1-7
- The Storm => Chapters 8-15
- The Mixed Men => Chapters 16-22

The new material, very loosely based on The Mixed Men episode, was published separately as a novella in 1972 under the title Lost: Fifty Suns.

[2first published in September 1943 in the s-f periodical Astounding Science Fiction, with illustrations by Fax and cover by Timmins.

[3first published in October 1943 in Astounding Science Fiction, with illustrations by Orban and cover by Timmins.

[4first published in the January 1945 issue of Astounding Science Fiction, illustrated by Orban with cover by Timmins.