The Silkie Stories (1964-1967) by A. E. van Vogt

(actualisé le ) by A. E. van Vogt


After more than a decade of absence from the science-fiction field in the fifties and early sixties, A. E. van Vogt started writing science fiction again in the sixties, after the not particularly successful publication of a mainstream political novel, The Violent Man, in 1962.

In these three inter-linked novellas with a strong cosmological bent, he developed one of his favourite themes, the potential long-term future evolution of humans into a higher and more intelligent (and better?) species. They were all published in the remarkable monthly digest Worlds of If between July 1964 and October 1967.

e-book versions of this anthology are available for downloading below.


1. The Silkie (1964) We are amazingly far into the future and the narrator is Nat Cemp, a class-C Silkie (there are other types), a very evolved (and small minority) form of humanoid which has to cohabit with majority of normal humans and also to protect them. Nat will have his hands full trying to do just that when mortal danger looms for the whole human race [1].
With the original Worlds of IF (July 1964) illustrations and cover artwork (for this story) by Morrow.

2. Silkies in Space (1966) - Silkies have terrific mental and physical powers but there are only a few of them, and they will need all their powers plus some clever thinking by Nat Cemp to protect mankind from the menace of a super-beings from outer space who appear in the solar system with nasty projects in mind for humanity and silkies alike.
With the original Worlds of IF (May 1966) illustrations by Jack Gaughan and cover artwork (for this story) by George Schelling.

3. Enemy of the Silkies (1967) - A Silkie has been found murdered: who or what could possibly have been capable of such an seemingly-impossible deed, which places all other Silkies, and all of Earth in grave danger? Nat Cemp, the Silkie who rushes to the murder scene to investigate, immediately comes up against a very strange being-thing possessing deadly powers of its own, and must undertake super-silkie efforts to engage these creatures from the Silkies’ own past.
With the original Worlds of IF (October 1967) illustrations by Jack Gaughan and cover artwork (for another story) by Castellon.



Nat Cemp, a class C Silkie, awakened in his selective fashion, and perceived with the receptors that had been asleep that he was now quite close to the ship which he had first sensed approaching an hour before.
Momentarily, he softened the otherwise steel-hard chitinous structure of his outer skin, so that the area became sensitive to light waves in the visual spectrum. These he now recorded through a lens arrangement that utilized a portion of the chitin for distance viewing.
There was a sudden pressure in his body as it adjusted to the weakening of the barrier between it and the vacuum of space. He experienced the peculiar sensation of the stored oxygen in the chitin being used up at an excessive rate— vision was always extremely demanding of oxygen. And then, having taken a series of visual measurements, he hardened the chitin again. Instantly, oxygen consumption returned to normal.
What he had seen with his telescopic vision system upset him. It was a V ship.
Now the V’s, as Cemp knew, did not normally attack a full-grown Silkie. But there had been reports recently of unusual V activity. Several Silkies had been psychologically harassed. This group might conceivably discover where he was heading and use all their energy to prevent him.
Even as he pondered whether to avoid them or to board them — as Silkies often did — he sensed that the ship was shifting its course ever so slightly in his direction. The decision was made for him. The V’s wanted contact.
In terms of space orientation, the ship was neither up nor down in relation to him. But he sensed the ship’s own artificial gravity and adopted it as a frame of reference. By that standard its approach was somewhat below him.
As Cemp watched it with upper range perception that registered in his brain like very sharp radar blips, the ship slowed, made a wide turn and presently was moving in the same direction as he but at a slightly slower speed. If he kept going as he was, he would catch up with it in a few minutes.

Cemp did not veer away. In the blackness of space ahead and below, the V ship grew large. He had measured it as being about a mile wide, half a mile thick and three miles in length.
Having no breathing apparatus, obtaining his oxygen as he did entirely by electrolytic interchange, Cemp could not sigh. But he felt an equivalent resignation, a sadness at the bad luck that had brought him into contact with such a large group of V’s at so inopportune a time.
As he came level with it, the ship lifted gently until it was only yards away. In the darkness on the deck below, Cemp saw that several dozen V’s were waiting for him. Like himself, they wore no spacesuits, for they were for the time being completely adjusted to the vacuum of space. In the near background, Camp could see a lock that led into the interior of the ship. The outer chamber was open. Through its transparent wall he sensed the water that was inside.
A basic longing in Cemp twinged with anticipatory pleasure. He re acted with a startled shudder, then thought in dismay: "Am I that close to the change?"
Cemp, in the Silkie stage entirely a creature of space, settled awkwardly on the deck. The special bone structures that had once been legs were sensitive to molecular activity within solid masses; and so it was through energy interchanges within the bone itself that he felt himself touch the metal.
In a sense, then, he stood there. But he balanced himself with energy flows, and not by any muscular contractions and expansions. There were no muscles. And it was with magnetic force that he attached himself to the deck, and with internal control that he moved, one after the other, the virtually solid blocks of highly differentiated bone.
He walked forward like a two-legged being, feeling the stretch of the elasticized bone of his legs. Walking was an intricate procedure for him. It meant softening the tough bone each time, then rehardening. Although he had learned long ago how to walk, still he was slow. He who could streak through space at 50 G’s acceleration walked on the deck of the V liner at a mile an hour, and was happy that he could show a semblance of movement in such an environment.
He walked to where the V’s stood, pausing a few feet from the nearest chunky figure.
At first look, a V seemed to be a slightly smaller Silkie, but Cemp knew that these bitter creatures were Variants. V for Variant. It was always difficult to determine which type of V one was looking at. The differences were internal and not readily detectable.
And so he had his first purpose: to establish the identity of the V’s on this ship.

He utilized that function in his brain which, before it was understood had been labeled telepathy to communicate his message. There was a pause, and then a V—who stood well back in the group—replied with the same communication method:
"We have a reason, sir, for not identifying ourselves. And so we ask you to please bear with us until you understand our problems."
"Secrecy is illegal," Cemp replied curtly.
The answer was surprisingly free of the usual V hostility. "We are not trying to be difficult," the V said. "My name is Ralden, and we want you to see something."
"A boy, now nine years old. He’s the V child of a Silkie and a breather, and he recently showed extreme variant qualities. We want permission to destroy him."
"Oh!" said Cemp.
He was instantly disturbed. He had a fleeting awareness that his son, from his own first mating period, would now be nine.
Relationship, of course, didn’t matter. Silkies never saw their children. His training required him to put all Silkie offspring on the same footing. But it was one of the nightmares of the uneasy peace that reigned among the ordinary humans, the Special People, and the two surviving classes of Silkies, that a high-ability V would show up some day in the unstable world of Variants.
The fear had proved unfounded. From time to time, Silkies who boarded the V ships learned that some promising boy had been executed by the V’s themselves. Far from welcoming a superior child, the V’s seemed to fear that if allowed to become full-grown he would be a natural leader, and would threaten their freedom.
The extermination of promising boys now required the permission of a Silkie, which explained the secrecy. If they didn’t obtain permission, they might still kill the youngster, trusting that the murder ship would never be identified.
"Is that the reason?" Cemp demanded.
It was.

Cemp hesitated. He sensed within himself all that remarkable complex of sensations that meant that he was about to change. This was no time for him to spend a day or so aboard a V ship.
Yet if he didn’t stay, it would be tantamount to granting permission for the execution, sight unseen. And that, he realized, could not be permitted.
"You have done well," he communicated gravely. "I shall come aboard."
The entire group of V’s moved along with him to the lock, huddling together as the great steel door rolled shut behind them, closing them away from the vacuum of space. The water came in silently. Cemp could see it exploding into gas as it poured into the utter emptiness in the lock, but presently, as the narrow space filled up, it began to hold its liquor form, and it roiled and rushed around everybody’s low er extremities.
The feel of it was exquisitely pleasurable. Cemp’s bones kept softening automatically, and he had to fight to hold them hard. But when the water closed over the upper part of his body, Cemp let the living barrier that made up his outer skin grow soft. Because the feel of the water excited him, now that the change was so near, he had to exercise a conscious restraint. He wanted to suck the warm delightful liquid with visible enjoyment through the gills that were now being exposed. But it seemed to him that such a display of exuberance might give away his condition to the more experienced V’s.
Around him, the V’s were going through the transformation from their space forms to their normal gill state. The inner lock opened, and the entire group swam through with a casual ease. Behind them, the inner lock door slid shut — and they were inside the ship itself, or rather in the first of the many big tanks that made up the interior.
Cemp, using his vision now, looked around for identifying objects. But it was the usual dim watery world with transplanted sea life. Seaweeds swayed in the strong currents that — Cemp knew — were kept in motion by a powerful pumping system. He could feel the surge of the water at each impulse from the pumps. As always, he began to brace himself for that surge, accepting it, letting it become one of the rhythms of his life.


Cemp had no problems in this environment. Water was a natural element for him, and in the transformation from Silkie to human fish he had lost only a few of his Silkie abilities. All that Silkie inner world of innumerable sensations remained. There were nerve centers which, both separately and in combination, tuned in on different energy flows. In early days, they would have been called senses. But instead of the five to which, for so many centuries, human beings had limited their awareness, the Silkie could record 184 different kinds of sense-impressions over a wide range of intensity.
The amount was on immense amount of internal "noise". Incessantly stimulation poured in upon him. From his earliest days, control of what his sense receptors recorded had been the principal objective of his training and education.
The water flowed rhythmically through his gills. Cemp swam with the others through a watery fairyland. It was a warm, tropical sea. As he looked ahead, he saw that the water universe was changing be cause of their approach. The coral was a new, creamier color. Ten thousand sea worms had withdrawn their bright heads into their tiny holes. Presently, as the group passed, they began to come out again. The coral turned orange, then purple and orange, then other shades of colors and combinations. It was one tiny segment of the sub marine landscape.
A dozen fishes in blues and greens and purples darted up the canyon. Their wild beauty was appealing. They were an old life form, Nature-evolved, untouched by the magic of scientific knowledge that had finally solved so many of the mysteries of life. Cemp reached with webbed fingers for a fish that darted close to him. It whirled away in a flurry of momentarily whitened waters. Cemp grinned happily, and the warm water washed into his open mouth — so far had he softened.
He was already smaller. There had been a natural shrinkage from the tense, bony Silkie body. The new-forming muscles were contracted. The now-internalized bone structure was down to a length of seven feet from a space-maximum of ten.
Of the thirty-nine V’s who had come out to help persuade Cemp to board the ship, thirty-one — he learned by inquiry were among the common variant types. The easiest state for them to be in was the fish condition in which they lived. They could be humans for brief periods, and they could be Silkies for periods that varied with these particular persons from a few hours to a week or so. All thirty-one had some control of energy in limited amounts.
Of the remaining eight, three were capable of controlling very considerable energy, one could put up barriers to energy, and four could be breathers for extended periods of time.
They were all intelligent beings, as such things were judged. But Cemp, who could detect on one or the other of his numerous receptor systems subtle body odors and temperatures in water and out, and read meaning into the set of bone and muscle, sensed from each of them a strong emotional mixture of discontent, anger, petulance and some thing even more intense: hatred. As he nearly always did with V’s, Cemp swam close to the nearest. Then, using a particularly resistant magnetic force line as a carrier — it held its message undistorted for a few feet only — he superimposed the question:
"What’s your secret?"

The V was momentarily startled. The reflex that was triggered into picking up the message was so on the ready that it put the answer onto a similar force line which, at that instant of time, was passing through its head in Cemp’s direction.
And Cemp had the secret.
Cemp grinned at the effectiveness that he could now force a conversation. He communicated: "No one threatens V’s individually or collectively. So why do you hate?"
"I feel threatened!" was the sullen reply.
"Since I know you have a wife —from your secret — do you also have children?"
"News, drama, TV . . .?"
"I watch it. I don’t participate."
They were passing through an underwater jungle. Huge, waving fronds, coral piled high, an octopus peering at them from the shadows of a cave, an eel hissing and then darting away and fish by the dozen — it was still the wild part of the ship, where the tropical conditions of an earth ocean were duplicated. To Cemp, who had been nearly a month in space without a break, merely swimming here seemed like great sport indeed.
But all he said was, "Well, friend, that’s all there is for anyone. A quiet enjoyable existence is the most that life has to offer. If you’re envying me my police duties, don’t! I’m inured to it, but I only have a mating period every nine and a half years. Would you care for that?"
The implication in his statement, that Silkies could only have sex at intervals of nine years or so, was not true. But it was a myth that Silkies and their closest human allies, the Special People, had found it worthwhile to foster. Normal human beings particularly seemed to find great satisfaction in what they conceived to be a major defect in the otherwise enviable Silkie.
After Cemp completed his reassuring communication, the dark emotion that had been radiating from the V took on added hostility. "You’re treating me like a child," he said in a grim manner. "I know something of the logic of levels. So don’t give me any of these sophistries."
"It’s still mostly speculation," Cemp answered gently. He added, "Don’t worry, I won’t tell your wife that you’re unfaithful to her."
"Damn you!" said the V, and swam off.
Cemp turned to another of his companions and had a very similar discussion with him. This one’s secret was that he had twice in the past year fallen asleep while on duty at one of the locks connecting the big ship with outer space.

The third person to whom Cemp addressed himself was a female. Her secret, surprisingly, was that she thought herself insane. As soon as she realized that her thought had come through to him, the substance of her communication became hysterical.
She was a graceful being, one of the breathers — but completely unnerved now. "Don’t tell them!" she telepathed in terror. "They’ll kill me."
Before Cemp could more than consider what an unexpected ally he had found for himself, let alone decide what made her feel she was in sane, the female communicated frantically: "They’re going to lure you into one of the shark tanks —" Her almost human face contorted, as she realized what she had revealed.
Cemp asked quickly, "What is their overall purpose?"
"I don’t know. But it’s not what they said . . . oh; please?" She was threshing in the water now, physically disorganized. In a moment it would look odd.
Cemp said hastily, "Don’t worry — I’ll help you. You have my word."
Her name, he discovered, was Mensa. She said she was very beautiful in her breather form.
Cemp had already decided that since she might be useful, he would have to let himself be drawn into the shark tank.
It was not obvious when it happened. One of the V’s who was capable of energy output swam up beside him. Simultaneously but casually the others fell back.
"This way," said his guide.
Cemp followed. But it was several moments before he realized that he and his guide were on one side of a transparent wall, and the rest of the group were on the other.
He looked around for his companion. The V had dived down, and was sliding into a cavern between two rock formations.
Abruptly the water around Cemp was plunged into pitch darkness.
He grew aware that the V’s were hovering beyond the transparent walls. Cemp saw movement in the swaying weeds: shadows, shapes, the glint of an eye, and the play of light on a grayish body . . . Cemp switched to another level of perception, based on shadow pictures . . . and grew alert for battle.

In his fish stage, Cemp could normally fight like a super-electric eel — except that the discharge was a beam. No contact was required for what he could send forth. The beam had the bright flash of chain lightning, and was strong enough to kill a dozen sea monsters. It was formed outside his body, a confluence of two streams of oppositely charged particles.
But this was not a normal time. The change in him was too imminent. Any fight with a denizen of this sea in space would have to be with levels of logic, not with energy. That he dared not waste.
Even as he made the decision, a shark swam lazily out of the jungle of waving fronds and as lazily, or so it seemed came toward him, turned on its side and, mouth open, teeth showing, slashed at him with its enormous jaws.
Cemp impressed a pattern on an energy wave that was passing through his brain going toward the beast. It was a pattern that stimulated an extremely primitive mechanism in the shark: the mechanism by which pictures were created in the brain.
The shark had no defense against controlled over-stimulation of its picture making ability. In a flash it visualized its teeth closing on its victim, imagined a bloody struggle, followed by a feast. And then, sated, stomach full, it imagined itself swimming back into the shadows, into the underwater forest in this tiny segment of a huge spaceship cruising near Jupiter.
As the overstimulation continued, its pictures ceased to connect with body movements at all. It drifted forward and finally bumped, unnoticing, into a coral embankment. There it hung, dreaming that it was in motion. It was being attacked through a logic related to its structure, a level that by-passed its own gigantic attack equipment.
. . . Levels of logic. Long ago, now, men had titillated themselves by opening up the older parts of the human brain, where suggested pictures and sounds were as real as actual ones. It was the beast level of logic . . . not human at all. For an animal like a shark, reality was an on-off phenomenon, a series of mechanical conditionings. Now stimulation. Now not. Movement always, restless motion always —the endless need for more oxygen than was available in any one location
Caught as it was in a suggested world of fantasy, the motionless shark body grew numb from in sufficient oxygen, and started to become unconscious. Before it could really do so, Cemp communicated to the watchers: "Do you want me to kill this game fish?"
Silently, the beings beyond the transparent wall indicated where he could escape from the shark tank.
Cemp gave the monster control of itself again. But he knew it would be twenty or more minutes before the shock would wear off.
As he emerged from the shark tank a few minutes later and rejoined the V’s, he realized at once that their mood had changed. They were derisive of him. It was a puzzling attitude on their part, for so far as they knew they were completely at his mercy.
Someone in this group must know why. So—
He saw that they were now in a tank of very deep water — the bot tom was not visible. Small schools of brightly colored fish skittered by in the green depths, and the water seemed slightly colder, more bracing: still delightful but no longer tropical. Cemp swam over to one of the V’s who was capable of putting out energy. As before, he asked: "What’s your secret?"
The male V’s name was Gell, and his secret was that he had several times used his energy to kill rivals for the favors of certain females. He was instantly terrified that his murders would be found out. But he had no information, except that the administrative officer of the ship, Riber, had sent them to meet Cemp. The name was important information.
But even more vital was Cemp’s disturbing intuition that this task of duty on which he was embarked was much more important than the evidence had so far established. He divined that the shark attack was a test. But for what?


Ahead, suddenly, Cemp could see the city.
The water at this point was crystal clear. Here were none of those millions of impurities that rendered the oceans of earth so often murky. Through that liquid, almost as transparent as glass, the city spread before him.
Domed buildings. Duplicates of the domed undersea cities on earth, where real water pressure made the shape necessary. Here, with artificial gravity only, water was held in by the metal walls and had only what weight the ship’s officers elected to give it. Buildings could be any reasonable size, delicately molded and even misshaped. They could be beautiful for their own sake and need not merely have the sometimes severe beauty of utility.
The building to which Cemp was taken was a soaring dome with minarets. He was guided to a lock, where only two of the breathers, Mensa and a male named Grig, stayed with him.
The water level began to drop. Air hissed in. Cemp transformed quickly to his human shape and stepped out of the airlock into the corridor of a modern, air-conditioned building. They were all three in the nude. The man said to the woman, "Take him to your apartment. Give him the clothes. As soon as I call, bring him to Apartment One upstairs."
Grig was walking off, when Cemp stopped him. "Where did you get that information?" he demanded.
The V hesitated, visibly frightened at being challenged by a Silkie. The expression on his face changed. He seemed to be listening.
Instantly, Cemp activated the waking centers of a portion of the sensory equipment that he had let sleep and waited for a response on one or more. Much as a man who smells a strong odor of sulphur wrinkles his nose, or as someone who touched a red-hot object jerks involuntarily away, he expected a sensation from one of the numerous senses that were now on the ready. He got nothing.
It was true that, in his human state, he was not so sensitive as when he was in the Silkie state. But such a totally negative result was outside his experience.
Grig said, "He says . . . as soon as you’re dressed . . . come."
"Who says?"
Grig was surprised. "The boy," he replied. His manner indicated: who else?

As he dried himself, and put on the clothes Mensa handed him, Cemp found himself wondering why she believed herself insane.
He asked cautiously, "Why do V’s have a poor opinion of themselves?"
"Because there’s something better —Silkies." Her tone was angry, but there were tears of frustration in her eyes. She went on wearily, "I can’t explain it, but I’ve felt shattered since I was a child. Right now, I have an irrational hope that you will want to take me over and possess me. I wish to be your slave."
Half-dressed though she was, her jet-black hair still caked and wet, she had told the truth about her appearance. Her olive white skin was formed, her body slim and with graceful curve. As a breather, she was beautiful.
Cemp had no alternative. Within the next hour, he might need what help she could give, He said quietly, "I accept you as my slave."
Her response was violent. In a single convulsion of movement, she ran over to him, writhing out of her upper garments until they draped low on her hips. "Take me!" she him. "Take me as a woman!"
Cemp, who was married to a young woman of the Special People, released himself. "Slaves don’t demand," he said in a firm tone. "Slaves are used at the will of their master. And my first demand as your master is: open your mind to me."
The woman drew away from him, trembling. "I can’t," she whispered. "The boy forbids it."
Cemp asked: "What in you makes you feel insane?"
She shook her head. "Something . . . connected with the boy," she said. "I don’t know what."
"Then you’re his slave, not mine," said Cemp coldly.
Her eyes begged him. "Free me!" she whispered. "I can’t do it myself."
"Where’s Apartment One?" Cemp said.
She told him. "You can take the stairway or the elevator," she said.
Cemp went by the stairway. He needed a few minutes, just a few, to determine his course of action. He decided —
See the boy! Determine his fate. Talk to Riber, the administrative officer of the ship. Punish Riber! Order this ship to a check-in point!
These decisions were hardened in his mind as he reached the upper-level and pressed the button beside the door of apartment one.
The door swung open noiselessly. Cemp walked in — and there was the boy.

He was slightly under five feet tall, as fine looking a human child as Cemp had ever seen. The youngster was watching a TV screen set into one wall of the big room. When Cemp entered, the boy turned lazily and said, "I was interested to see what you would do with that shark, in view of your condition."
He knew!
The realization hit Cemp hard. He braced himself and agreed with in himself to die; make no bargains to avoid exposure; come to his final decision with even greater care.
The boy said, "You couldn’t possibly do anything else."
Cemp was recovering, but curious. He had set up a complete no-signal condition within himself. Yet the boy was reading detailed signals. How was it done?"
Smiling faintly, the boy shook his bead.
Cemp said, "If you dare not tell, then it isn’t much of a method. I deduce that if I find it out, I can defeat it."
The boy laughed, made a dismissal gesture, changed the subject. "Do you believe I should be killed?"
Cemp looked into those bright, gray eyes that regarded him with a boyish mischievousness, and felt a qualm. He was being played with by someone who regarded himself as untouchable. Question was, was the boy fooling himself, or was it real?
"It’s real," said the youngster.
And if it was real—Cemp’s analysis continued — were there built in restraining factors such as kept Silkies under control?
The boy said curtly, "That I will not answer."
"Very well." Cemp turned away. "If you persist in that decision, then my judgment is that you are outside the law. No person who cannot be controlled will ever be permitted to live in the solar system. But I’m going to give you a little while to change your mind. My advice: decide to be a law-abiding citizen."
He turned, and left the apartment. And at least one important reality was that he was allowed to do so.


Grig was waiting on the hallway outside. He seemed eager to please. Cemp, who wanted to meet Riber, asked if Riber was a breather. Riber was not; so Cemp and Grig took to the water.
Cemp was guided to an enormous depth, to where several domes were fixed to the inner hull of the ship. There, in a water-filled labyrinth of metal and plastic, he found Riber. The administrative leader of the ship turned out to be a long, strong fish being, with the peculiar, protruding eyes of the fish state. He was floating beside a message-receiving machine. In one hand he held the transmitter for the machine. He looked at Cemp and turned the machine on.
He said aloud in the underwater language: "I think our conversation should be recorded. I don’t think I can trust a Silkie to make a fair report on this special situation."
Cemp acquiesced without an argument. The interchange began with Riber making what seemed to be a completely frank statement. He said, "This ship and all aboard are controlled by that remarkable boy. He is not always here, and so for the most part we do as we always have. But those people who went out to meet you had no way of resisting his commands. If you can deal with him, then obviously we shall be free again. But if you can’t, then we are his servants like it or not."
Cemp said, "There has to be some vulnerable level. Why, for example, do you do as he wants?"
Riber said, "I laughed when he first told me what he wanted. But when I came to, hours later, I realized that I had done everything he desired while I was unconscious. As a result, I now do it consciously. This has been going on for about a year, earth time."
Cemp questioned Riber closely. That he had continued physical functioning when he was under the boy’s control indicated that a shut off of normal outside perception was the principal method of inducing unconsciousness.
Considering that, Cemp remembered the V whose secret was that he had fallen asleep while tending one of the outer locks. At Cemp’s request, lock attendants were assembled. He interviewed each one privately with the question: "What’s your secret?"
Seven of the twenty revealed, in this unwitting fashion, that they had slept while on duty. It turned out to be that simple. The boy had arrived at the lock entrance, blanked out the mind of the attendant, and entered the ship.
It seemed to Cemp he need examine no further.
There was a frame, logic. The problem, which for a time had seemed to involve some new and intricate kind of telekinetic control, was beginning to look much more mundane.
He returned to the woman’s apartment and put on clothes again. Mensa went with him to the door. She whispered, "Don’t you dare leave this ship without making love to me. I need to feel that I belong to you."
Basically, that was not so, Cemp knew. She lived by reversals. She would always want what she did not have, despise or reject what she had. But he reassured her that he meant well by her—and went up again to Apartment One.

It seemed to Cemp as he I walked in that the boy’s face was flushed and that the eyes that had been so bright were duller. Cemp said softly, "If I can figure it out, so can any Silkie. You went to a lot of trouble. Which tells me you do have limitations."
Silkies could approach a vessel, undetected, if they were prepared to manipulate energy waves. But the method was involved, requiring training.
Cemp said, "Well, you know my thoughts. Which one is correct?" Silence.
"Your problem," said Cemp emphatically, "is that the Special People take no chances with dangerous deviates."
He hoped the boy understood how ultimately determined the Special People were.
Abruptly, the boy sighed. "I might as well admit it. I am Tem, your son. When I realized it was you approaching the ship, I thought I’d have a look at my father. The truth is I became frightened that those abilities which you found so unusual would be detected. So I’ve been out here in space setting up an operating base to which I could retreat for my own protection. But I realize I need help. I think some changes should be made in our relationship with human beings. Other than that, I’m willing to conform and be re educated."
For Cemp, it was the decisive clarification. Then and there he made up his mind. There would be no execution.
Hastily — for Cemp was a man in a hurry — they discussed the situation. Cemp would have to tell of this meeting when he got back to Earth. There was no way by which a Silkie could conceal the facts from the perceptive Special People. And for many months, while he was in his mating stage, he would have no control of energy. During that period the boy would be at the mercy of a highly prejudiced law.
Tern was disdainful. "Don’t worry about me. I’m ready for them."
It was rebel talk, dangerous and unfortunate. But this was not the moment to point that out. Such matters could be left until they got home.
"You’d better start now," said the boy, "but as you’ll see I’ll get to Earth before you do."
Cemp did not pause to find out how he would achieve such a miracle of speed. That also would have to wait.

As Cemp removed his clothes in Mensa’s apartment, he said to her with considerable pride, "The boy is my son."
Her eyes widened. "Your son!" she said. "But —" She stopped.
"What’s the matter?" Cemp asked.
"Nothing." She spoke mechanically. "I was surprised, that’s all."
Cemp finished dressing, then went over to her, and kissed her lightly on the forehead. He said, "I sense that you are involved in a love relationship."
Stir: shook her head. "Not now. Not since — " She paused. She seemed bewildered.
It was no time to check on a woman’s love life. If ever a man was in a hurry it was he.
When Cemp had gone, the boy came in. "You almost gave me away," he said in a tone that was wholly unchildlike.
She cringed. "I’m only a V," she pleaded.
He began to change, to grow. Presently, a fully adult human male stood before her. He directed toward her an energy wave that must have exerted an enormous attraction to her, for in spite of the deepening expression of distaste on her face she swayed toward him. When she was within a foot of him, he cut off the wave. She drew back immediately. The man laughed.
But he turned away from her, and for a few moments then he opened a communication line to someone on the planet of a distant star. He said in a silent interchange:
"I have finally risked confrontation with a Silkie, one of the powerful inhabitants of this system. He is guided by an idea called Levels of Logic. I discovered that his had to do with his only offspring, a boy he has never seen. I distorted his interest in this child in a subtle way. I think I can now land safely on the principal planet, which is called Earth."
"To distort it, you must have had to use him as a channel."
"Yes. It was the one risk I took with him."
"What about the other channels you have used, Di-isarill?"
The man glanced at Mensa. "With one possible exception, they would resist any attempt of a Silkie to explore their minds. They’re a rebel group called V’s, and are suspicious of and hostile to the other peoples in this system. The exception is a V woman who is completely under my control."
"Why not annihilate her?"
"These people have some kind of a sensitive telepathic connection, which they seem to be able to manipulate but which I have not wholly solved. If she died I think the others would know instantly. Therefore I cannot do what I normally would."
"What about the Silkie?"
"He is heading to Earth in a state of delusion. Equally important, he is due to suffer a physiological change which will strip him of all his present offensive and defensive powers. I intend to let this physical process run its course — and then kill him."


Cemp had relayed the story through Satellite-Five-R to his contact, Charley Baxter, at the Silkie Authority. When he reached the satellite, and transformed to human, he found a radiogram from Charley waiting for him. It said:


"Till you’ve done away with him, you mean!" Cemp thought angrily. The official action surprised him: an unexpected obstacle.
The commander of the satellite, a normal intelligent human being, who had handed him the message, said, "Mr. Cemp, I have received instructions not to let you on any ferry to Earth until further notice. This is very unusual."
"Unusual" was an understatement. Silkies ordinarily moved freely to and from Earth.
Cemp made up his mind. "I’m going out into space again," he said in a matter-of-fact tone.
"Aren’t you due for the change?" The officer seemed doubtful about letting him go.
Cemp smiled wryly and told the Silkie joke about such things, about how Silkies were like some mothers to-be who kept having false labor pains. Off to the hospital they went. Lay there in bed. At last returned home. And so, after several false alarms, baby finally was born in a taxicab.
"Well, sir," said the man unhappily. "You do as you please. But there aren’t any taxicabs in space."
"It’s not that instantaneous; you can fight it off for hours," said Cemp, who had been fighting it off for hours.
Before he left, Cemp sent a radiogram to his wife:
The coded message would upset her, he knew. But he did not doubt that she would meet him at their pre-arranged rendezvous, as he wanted. She would come if only to find out on behalf of the Special People what he was up to.
Once out in space, Cemp headed for a point over the South Pole, and then he began his entry.
He came in fast. According to theory, that was the only way an unprotected approach should be made. The poles were relatively free of radiation. There, where the magnetic field of the planetary body was bent inward right down to the ground, the potent Van Allen radiation belt was a minimum threat.
Nonetheless, there were two periods of severe bombardment, one of high-energy stripped nuclei, the other of X-rays. The X-rays did him no harm, and, for the most part, the stripped nuclei passed right through his body as if it were a hard vacuum Those nuclei that hit, however, left a small wake of radioactivity. Hastily, Cemp expelled the more seriously damaged cells, with that special ability Silkies had of eliminating damaged parts of their bodies.
As he entered the atmosphere, Cemp gradually activated the planet’s magnetic force lines behind him. Even as they began to glow brightly, he felt the radar beams from below bouncing from him. But they were not a problem now. Radar would register the movement of his body and the pyrotechnic display to his rear as one phenomenon. The outward appearance was of a meteorite shooting toward the ground.

His entrance being slantwise in the direction of Earth’s rotation, his speed of entry was within his capacity to absorb, or radiate from him, the heat of his passage through the air. At ten miles up, he slowed even more and came down in the sea north of Antarctica about a thousand miles from the lower tip of South America. The cold waters quickly washed from his Silkie body the radioactive debris that still clung to the outer bone. He darted along about five hundred feet up, using the water as a coolant by slowing and diving into it whenever he got too hot. It was a fine balancing of extremely rapid acceleration and deceleration. But he made it to near where he lived at the lower tip of Florida in slightly more than forty minutes, the last five of which were wholly underwater.
As he surfaced within sight of the beach, he transformed to his fish stage, and then — two hundred feet from shore — to human. He had already seen Joanne’s car parked on the road behind a sand dune. He did the overhand crawl to get to shallow water, and ran against the surging waves up the embankment to where she lay on a blanket, watching him.
She stood up, a slender, very pretty woman, blonde and blue-eyed Her classically even features were white and set now; but she handed him a towel. Cemp dried himself, and climbed into the clothes she had brought. A few minutes later they were in the car; and at this point she accepted his kiss. But she still withheld her thoughts, and her body was rigid with disapproval.
When she finally communicated, it was verbally and not by direct energy. She said, "Do you realize that if you persist in this you will be the first Silkie in a hundred years to get himself punished or executed?"
That she spoke out loud confirmed Cemp’s suspicion. He was now certain that she had reported his illegal entry to the Silkie Authority, and that people were listening in to this conversation. He felt no blame of Joanne. He even surmised that all the Special People were prepared to help him through this trying period. They were probably also speeding up the investigation of Tem, so that the execution would be quickly over with.
"What are you going to do, Nat?" She sounded anxious now, rather than angry. There was color in her face for the first time.
At some depth within, Cemp felt vaguely surprised at how determined he was. But the awareness did not trigger any question in him. He said coolly: "If they kill that boy, I’ll know the reason why."
She said softly, "I never realized that a Silkie could have so much feeling for his child, whom he has not seen since birth."
Cemp was irritated. "It’s not personal," he said curtly.
She said with sudden emotion: "Then you know the reason very well. This boy evidently has a method of concealing his thoughts, and of reading minds — according to your own account — that even you could not penetrate. With such a person, the Special People will not have their historic protection. It becomes a matter of policy."
"In making my report," said Cemp, "I advised a five year study and re-education program for the
boy. That’s the way it’s going to be."

She seemed not to hear. She said as if thinking out loud: "Silkies were mutated by humans, on the basis of the great biological discoveries of the last half of the twentieth century. When the basic life chemical unit, DNP, was isolated, major advances in life forms, other than those naturally spawned in Nature, became possible. Because the first transformations were to the fish stage, the new beings were called Silkies—after an old song.
"But it had to be done carefully. The Silkie could not be permitted to breed as he pleased. So his genes, which endow him with so many marvelous senses and abilities, also contain certain limitations. He can be a man, a fish, a Silkie at will. So long as he does it by body control, he has nearly all his Silkie abilities in any of these forms. But every nine and a half years he has to become a human being again, in order to mate. It’s built into him, where he can’t interfere with it. Silkies who long ago tried to eliminate this phase of the cycle were executed. At the time of such a compulsive change to human form, he loses all his Silkie abilities, and becomes fallibly human. That’s the great hold we have over him. Then we can punish him for anything illegal he did as a Silkie. Another hold is that there are no female Silkies. If the issue of a Silkie mating with a woman of the Special People is a girl, she is not a Silkie.
That, too, is built into his genes —"
She broke off: "The Special People are a tiny, tiny portion of the main human stream who — it was discovered — had a spontaneous ability to read the minds of Silkies. They used this to establish administrative ascendancy while there were still only a few Silkies, and thus they protected themselves and the human race from beings who would other wise have overwhelmed them."
She finished in a puzzled tone: "You’ve always agreed that such protection was necessary, for human beings to survive. Have you changed your mind?" When Cemp did not reply, she urged: "Why don’t you go to the Silkie Authority and talk to Charley Baxter? A single conversation with him will get you further than any rebellion." She added quickly. "Tem is there. So you’ll have to go there anyway. Please, Nat."
It wasn’t so much, then, that Cemp agreed with what she said. He thought of her suggestion very distinctly as offering a way of getting inside the building — But he was not too surprised as his helijet came down on the roof to see Charley Baxter waiting for him, tall, rather good-looking, thin, unusually pale.

As they rode down in an elevator, Cemp felt himself pass through an energy screen — which instantly sealed off the pulsations from the outside world. And that was normal enough except for the force that was driving the screen. He sensed that the power backing it was enormous enough to protect a
 city, or even a part of the planet.
Cemp glanced questioningly at Baxter, and met a pair of sober, serious eyes. The man said seriously, "At this point, you may read me."
What he read in Baxter’s mind was that his own radiogram about Tem had caused a hasty examination of Tem’s record. Result: they decided the boy was normal, and that something very serious had happened to Cemp.
"At no time," said Baxter, "has your son been in danger. Now, take a look at that TV picture. Which one is Tem? One is."
They had walked from the elevator into a large room. On the TV screen on one wall was a street scene. Several boys were approaching what must have been a hidden camera, for they showed no awareness of its presence.
Cemp’s gaze flicked across the strange faces. "Never saw them before," he said.
"The boy to your right is your son," said Baxter.
Cemp looked, then turned and stared at Baxter. And because his brain had energy relationships that by-passed mere neuron connections, he got the whole picture in a single flash of understanding. That instantaneous comprehension included an analytical awareness of how his duty to protect all Silkie children had been skillfully twisted by his pseudo son. It leaped on to a lightning examination of the energy level that had signaled to him. Almost immediately, he realized that the signal was the only direct contact that had been made by the boy on the V ship. In every other way, the fraudulent Tem had merely been a recipient of signals.
He grew conscious of Baxter’s bright eyes watching him. The man asked breathlessly: "Think we can do anything?"
It was too soon to answer that. Cemp was gratefully realizing how skillfully he had been protected by the Special People. It seemed to him that if he had suspected the truth at any moment before being taken behind the energy screen that now guarded him — the false Tem would probably have tried to annihilate him.
Baxter was speaking again. "You sit down here, and let’s see what the computer makes of the one signal you received."
The computer extrapolated three structural frames that might fit the false Tem. Cemp and Baxter studied the coded messages with amazement, for they had not actually considered anything beyond an unusual V frame.
All three formulated structures were alien.
A quick analysis established that two of the three did not require secrecy on the part of so powerful a being as the invader undoubtedly was. Therefore the third frame, involving a gruesome form of esoteric sex climaxed by the ritual murder of one partner by the other, spider-like, was the most likely.
Baxter’s voice had in it a desire not to believe. "That picture of their needing a lot of love objects —could that be real?" He finished in a subdued tone: "I’ll alert all Silkies, mobilize our other forces — but can you do anything at once?"
Cemp who had already adjusted his sensory system to include all three alien frames was tense and afraid. He said aloud, "I ask myself where he would go and of course it would be to my home. Do you think Joanne would have gotten there yet? Was she supposed to head somewhere else?"
He saw that Baxter was shaking his head . . .
Cemp hurried through a door that led to a wide balcony, transformed to Silkie, did a partial cut-off of gravity combined with control of magnetic force lines . . . a man in a far greater hurry than he had ever been in before.

He entered the large house by the sea in his human form, the better to run the last few yards and maneuver in corridors. And because he had adjusted to the alien sensory structure his arrival was only partly signaled.
He found Joanne in the master bedroom, half-undressed.
She had never seemed so attractive. Her smile, warm, inviting, friendly, drew him. Some state of excitement she was in communicated to him, stirring an impulse so basic that it was as if a fine translucent sheath dropped over his senses, blurring his view of reality. The woman, almost luminescent in a fleshly radiance, lay on the pink bed and his whole being focused on her. For a long moment, nothing else existed. They were two people intensely in love.
Breathless, astounded by that instant, hideous power, Cemp put his thought on the possible fate of the real Joanne, put his attention on fear for her — and broke the spell.

The rage, hate and violence that had been building up in him broke through.
But the magnetically controlled radiation that Cemp launched at the creature crackled harmlessly against a magnetically controlled energy screen . . . Frothing, he plunged at the being, grabbed at him with his bare hands.
For seconds they grappled, the almost nude woman and the wholly naked Cemp. Then Cemp was flung back by muscles that were ten times as strong as his own.
He bounded to his feet, but he was sobered, thinking again.
He began to consider the entire problem of Earth in relation to this creature and the threat it represented.
The duplicate of Joanne was changing. The body in front of Cemp became that of a man with the frilly clothes of a woman’s underdress still draped on the lower part of his body. But there was nothing feminine in his manner. Eyes blazing with the infinite violence potential of the male, the entity locked gazes with Cemp.
Cemp was feeling a desperate anxiety for the real Joanne. But it did not even occur to him to ask this creature about her. He said, instead, "I want you to leave. We’ll communicate when you’re a million miles out in space."
The handsome human face of the other broke into a disdainful smile. "I’ll go. But I sense in you a plan to learn from me where I come from. That will never happen."
Cemp replied in a level tone: "We’ll see what two thousand Silkies can get out of you."
The being’s skin glistened with health, shone with confidence and power. He said: "Perhaps I should remind you that we Kibmadine have achieved a total control of all the forces that Silkies control only partially."
Cemp said, "Many rigidities can envelop one flexibility."
The other said in an uncompromising voice, "Don’t attack me. The price is too high."
He started to turn away. And there was a moment, then, when Cemp had another thought, another feeling: a reluctance to let this being go without some attempt to reach across the abyss that separated them. Because this was man’s first contact with an alien intelligence. For a few fleeting seconds Cemp re membered the thousand dreams that human beings had had for such a meeting. His hesitation came to its inevitable end. The infinitely hostile reality moved in to fill the endless void between them.
Instants later the alien was out on the patio, dissolving, changing—and was gone.

Cemp contacted Baxter and said. "Line me up with another Silkie so that he can take over. I’m really awfully close to my change."
He was lined up through the Silkie communications hub with a Silkie named Jedd. Meanwhile, Baxter said, "I’m on my way over. I have been given a lot of governmental power."
Cemp found Joanne in one of the spare bedrooms. She lay on the bed, fully dressed, breathing slowly and deeply. He sent a quick flow of energy through her brain. The reflexes that were stirred reassured him that she was merely sleeping. He also picked up some of the alien energy that was still in her cells. They told a story that made it instantly obvious why she was still alive: the Kibmadine had used her living body as a model for his duplication of her.
On this occasion at least the creature had been after bigger game: a Silkie.
Cemp did not try to rouse the sleeping woman. But he was greatly relieved as he went out onto the patio, which overlooked a white, sandy beach and the timeless blue ocean beyond. He sat there until Baxter presently joined him.
They had already communicated mentally, and now Baxter said, "I sense a doubt in you."
Cemp nodded.
Baxter asked gently, "What do you fear?"
It was a feeling deep inside him.
Sitting there, he made up his mind—for the second time since he had become involved with the alien — to die if necessary. And with that decision, he began to turn on his receptors, all of them except that to start, he tuned out local Earth noise, TV, radio, innumerable energies from machines—these had to be shut away from him. Swiftly, then, he began to "hear" the signals from the plenum.
Long before Silkies it had been known that space was alive with messages; the entire sidereal universe pulsed with an incredible number of vibrations. Hour on hour and year by year, Silkies, lived with that ceaseless "noise", and most of their early training was entirely and exclusively directed to the development of selective sleep and rest and wakefulness mechanisms for each receptor.
Now — those that were asleep awakened. Those that were at rest alerted.
His brain came to peak awareness.
He began to sense the near stars, the distant stars, the clusters, the galaxies. Every star had its only complex signal. Nowhere was there duplication or even a close similarity.
The universe that he tuned in up on was composed entirely of individuals. Cemp appraised the distance of each star, the uniqueness of each signal. Friendly space world! Every star being exactly and precisely what it was and where it was gave meaning to the immense stellar universe. There was no chaos. He experienced his own location in space and time, and it gave him a certainty of the basic rightness of things.


He came back from his far‑flung ranging to about a million miles from Earth. There he paused to let the signals come in from all of the space between.
Without opening his eyes, he said to Baxter, "I don’t read him. He must have gone around the planet and put the mass of Earth between him and me. Are the reflectors ready?"
Baxter talked on a phone line that had been kept open for him. Previously alerted Telstar and astronomical satellites were placed at Cemp’s disposition. Through one of the reflectors, he focused on the invading entity.
Cemp said to the alien, "Above everything else we want information."
The other said, "Perhaps I should tell you our history."
And so Cemp was given the story of the eternal lovers, more than a million beings who moved from one planetary system to another, and each time altered themselves to the form of the inhabitants and established a love relationship with them — a love relationship that meant death and pain for their love-objects. Only twice had the lovers met beings of sufficient power to make them draw back. In each instance, they had destroyed the entire system.
Di-isarill finished: "No additional information is available no matter what you do."
Cemp broke contact. A shaken Baxter said, "Do you think that was true information?"
Cemp answered that the thought it was.
He finished with finality: "Our job is to find out one thing: Where does he come from? And then destroy him."
"But how do you propose to do this?"

It was a good question. His single clash with the creature had brought him up hard against a wall of power.
Cemp sank lower into his settee and with closed eyes considered the problem of a race of beings who had complete control of body change. Many times in those long duty watches out in space, he had pondered such possibilities; for the cell could grow and ungrow, divide, split off, fall away and re-form, all within a few seconds. In the twilight, virus, the bacteria and the cell had their complex being, the enormous speed of change had made possible the almost instantaneous orderly altering of human to Silkie and back again.
The invader apparently could change to an infinite number of forms with equal rapidity, assuming any body shape at will.
But the logic of levels applied to the Kibmadine’s every action.
From somewhere behind Cemp, Baxter said, "Are you sure?" His voice sounded incredulous.
Cemp had two reactions to the question: Extreme joy at the hope that his analysis brought . . . and the stronger conviction. He said aloud, "Yes, logic applies. But for him we’ll need the closest contact of the energies involved. Inches would be better than feet, feet better than yards. So I’ll have to get out there in person."
"Out where?" Baxter asked, al most incredulous.
"To his ship."
"Do you think he has a ship?"
"Of course he has one. Anything else would be impractical for his operations.
Cemp was patient as he made his explanation. He had observed that even the Special People had exaggerated ideas on such matters. They tended to accept that Silkies were more capable than they were. But the logic of it was simple: coming in toward a sun, one could utilize its full gravitational pull to get up speed. Right now the Kibmadine would be "climbing the ladder" of the planets, cutting off the sun’s gravity from behind, opening up to the pull of Jupiter and the outer planets.
No sensible being would try to bridge the distances between stars by such a method. So there was a ship. There had to be.
Cemp said, "Order a spaceship for me, complete with a tank of water that can be moved."
"You expect to change before you get there?"
"It’ll happen any minute."
Baxter said, amazed, "You intend to confront the most powerful being that we can imagine without a single bit of energy of your own available?"
"Yes," said Cemp. "It’s the only way we’ll get him within inches of the energy source I want installed in the tank. For heaven’s sake, man, get started."
Reluctantly, Baxter reached for the phone.


As Cemp expected, he began his change en route. By the time he was put aboard the Kibmadine ship, he was already in a tank of water in his first compulsive change, which was to the fish state.
He would be a class B Silkie for slightly more than two months.
As Di-isarill came finally to the tiny ship in its remote orbit beyond Pluto, he noticed at once that the entrance mechanism had been tampered with, and he sensed the presence of Cemp aboard.
In the course of countless millennia his fear reflexes had fallen into disuse. So he had no anxiety. But he recognized that here was all the appearance of a trap.
In a flash, he checked to insure that there was no source of energy aboard that could destroy him. There was none; no relay, nothing.
A faint energy emanated from the tank. But it had no purpose that Di-isarill could detect.
He wondered scathingly if these human beings expected somehow to work a bluff whereby he would be impelled by uncertainty to stay away from his own ship.
With that thought, he activated the entrance mechanism, entered, transformed to human, walked over to the tank that stood in the center of the tiny cabin — and looked down at Cemp, who lay at the bottom.
Di-isarill said, "If it’s a bluff, I couldn’t possibly yield to it because I have nowhere else that I can go."

In his fish state, Cemp could hear and understand human words but could not speak them.
Di-isarill persisted: "It’s interesting that the one Silkie whom I cannot read has taken the enormous risk of coming aboard. Perhaps you were more affected by the desire I attempted to rouse in your home than appeared at the time. Perhaps you long for the ecstasy and the anguish that I offered."
Cemp was thinking tensely: "It’s working. He doesn’t notice how he got onto that subject."
The logic of levels was beginning to take effect.

It was a strange world, the world of logic. For nearly all of his long history, man had been moved by unsuspected mechanisms in his brain and nervous system. A sleep center put him to sleep. A waking center woke him up. A rage mechanism mobilized him for attack. A fear complex propelled him to flight. There were a hundred or more other mechanisms, each with its special task for him, each in it self a marvel of perfect functioning but degraded by his uncomprehending obedience to a chance triggering of one or another.
During this period, all civilization consisted of codes of honor and conduct and of attempts noble and ignoble to rationalize the unknown simplicities underneath. Finally, came a developing comprehension and control of the neural mechanisms, one, then another, then many.
The real age of reason began.
On the basis of that reason Cemp asked himself: Was the Kibmadine level lower, or higher, than for example the shark?
It was lower, he decided. The comparison would be, if man had brought cannibalism into civilization with him. A lower level of logic applied to that.
The shark was relatively pure within his frame. He lived by the feedback system, in a pretty good balance. He did not age, as humans did. He grew older — and longer.
It was a savagely simple system. Keep in motion: that was the law of it. What poetry that motion was, in the wide, deep sea that had spawned him! But it was — feel need of oxygen, get excited, swim faster; enough oxygen, slow, cruise, even stop. But not for long. Movement continuous — life.
Eating, of itself, was lower, more basic, went farther back into the antiquity of the cell.
And so, the mighty Kibmadine had brought into their innumerable forms one pattern that was vulnerable, one they wouldn’t give up, no matter how much they controlled the other basic mechanisms of their bodies . . .

Di-isarill was calm as he sped through space. He sensed that he had subtly managed to influence Cemp to the fear of intolerable retaliation . . . Unfortunate that the Silkie had analyzed the Kibmadine structure so accurately. It made direct reading of Cemp’s feelings and thoughts difficult.
Not that it mattered. Under other circumstances, Earth might well have been a planet to be destroyed.
But there was no chance at all of enough Silkies being produced in time to save the system from being conquered.
And so another race would, one at a time, experience the ecstasy of being eaten as the culmination of the act of love.
. . . What a joy it was to receive from tens of millions of cells! First resistance, terror, shrinking; and then the inversion: every part of the being craving to be eaten, longing, begging, demanding —
Di-isarill’s calmness yielded to excitement, as the pictures and the feelings re-formed in his mind, from ten thousand remembered feasts of love-objects.
"I really loved them all," he thought sadly.
Too bad they were not brought up to appreciate in advance the ultimate delight of the all-consuming end of the sex orgy.
It had always bothered Di-isarill that the preliminaries had to be secret, particularly with beings who had the ability to transmit thoughts to others of their kind and thus warn them. The greatest pleasure always came when the ending was known, when part of the love play consisted of reassuring the troubled, trembling being, quieting the pounding heart.
"Some day," he told thousands of love partners, "I shall meet someone who will eat me. And when that happens — "
Always he had tried to persuade them that he would rejoice as he was being devoured.
The inversion involved was a phenomenon of the life condition: first, resistance, terror, shrinking; then every part of the being craving to be eaten, longing, begging, demanding. The urge to succumb could be as powerful as the urge to survive.
Standing there in front of the tank, looking down at Cemp, Di-isarill felt a quickening of emotion as the conjuration of himself being eaten flitted like a fantasy through his brain. He had had such pictures before but never before so strong.
He did not notice that he had passed the point of no return.

Without thinking, he turned away from the tank. Cemp forgotten, he transformed quickly into a remembered form, long-necked, with smooth dappled skin and powerful teeth. He remembered the form well and lovingly. The members of the race had been love objects for the Kibmadine not too long ago. Their bodies had a particularly excruciating pleasure-nerve system.
Di-isarill could scarcely wait.
Even as he became the form, his long neck twisted. A moment later the teeth, impelled by the merciless Kibmadine biting drive, cut off an entire thigh.
The pain was so hideous he screamed. But in his enchanted brain the scream was only an echo of the countless screams that his bite had evoked in the past. Now, as then, the sound excited him almost beyond endurance. He bit deeper, champed harder, at faster.
He devoured nearly one half of his own body before the imminence of death brought a baby fear from his own true past. Whimpering, blindly longing for home, he opened a line to his contact on the planet of the far sun where his kind now dwelt.
At that instant an outside force surged past him and overwhelmed his personal communication. As one, a dozen Silkies loaded an electric charge on that line, all they believed it could carry.
The charge that struck the distant Kibmadine totaled more than 80,000 volts and over 140,000 amperes of electricity. It was so powerful it smashed all his reflex defenses and burnt him in a single puff of flame and smoke.
As quickly as it had opened, the line ceased to exist. The Sol system was now only an anonymous, distant star.

The tank with Cemp in it was carried to the ocean. He crawled out into the sea, breasted the incoming tide.
The bubbling fresh liquid poured through his gills. As he reached the deeper water, he submerged. Soon the thunder of the surf was behind him. Ahead was a blue sea and the great underwater shelf where a colony of class B Silkies lived their fish-like existence.
He would dwell in their domed cities with them . . . for a time.




Nat Cemp, a Class C Silkie, passed the man — and stopped.
Something about the other trigger­ed a signal in that portion of his nervous system which — even in his human state — retained a quota of his Silkie ability.
He couldn’t remember — hard as he tried — ever having felt that par­ticular signal before.
Cemp turned in the street and looked back. The other man had paused at the near corner. Then, as the light became green, he walked briskly toward the far sidewalk. He was about Cemp’s height of slightly over six feet and seemed about the same build — a hundred and ninety pounds.
His hair was dark brown, like Cemp’s, and he wore a dark gray suit, as did Cemp. Now that they were several hundred feet apart, the initial impression he had had of somebody familiar was not so clear.
Yet, after only a slight hesitation, Cemp rapidly walked after the man, presently came up to him, and said courteously, "May I speak to you?"
The man stopped. At close range, the resemblance between them was truly remarkable, suggesting con­sanguinity. Blue-gray eyes, even nose, firm mouth, shape of ears, strong neck, and the very way he held himself, were similar.
Cemp said, "I wonder if you are aware that you and I are practically twins."
The man’s face twisted slightly. Lips curled into a faint sneer. The eyes gazed scornfully at Cemp. He said in an exact replica of Cemp’s baritone voice:
"It was my intent that you notice. If you hadn’t this first time, then I would have approached you again. My name is A-Brem."
Cemp was silent, startled. He de­tected in the man’s tone and manner something akin to hostility. Con­tempt, he analyzed wonderingly.

Had the other been merely a hu­man being who had somehow recognized a Silkie in human form, Cemp would have considered it one of those occasional incidents. Known Silkies were sometime sought out by humans and insulted. Usually, the human who did such a foolish act could be evaded, or good-naturedly parried, or won over. But once in a while a Silkie had to fight.
But the man’s resemblance to him­self indicated that this encounter was different.
As he had these thoughts, the stranger’s cynical gray-blue eyes were gazing into Cemp’s. The man’s lips parted in a derisive smile, showing even white teeth. "At approximately this moment," he said, "every Silkie in the solar system is receiving a communication from his alter ego."
He paused; again the insolent smile. "I see that has alerted you, and you’re bracing yourself —"
It was true. Cemp had abruptly decided that, whether the other’s statement was true or not, he could not let him get away.
The man continued: "—bracing yourself to try to seize me. It can’t be done, for I match you in every way."
"You’re a Silkie?" Cemp asked. "I’m a Silkie."
By all the logic of Silkie history, that had to be a false claim. And yet there was the unmistakable, sen­sational resemblance to himself.
But Cemp did not change his mind. Even if this were a Silkie, he himself had a superiority possessed by no other Silkie. In a clash and direct contact he had had with an alien life form the year before, he had learned previously unknown techniques of body control. It had been decided by the Silkie Authority that he should not communicate his newly gained ability to any other Silkie. He hadn’t.
That extra knowledge was now his advantage — if the other were indeed a Silkie.
"Ready for the message?" said the man, insolently.
Cemp, who was ready for the bat­tle of his life, nodded curtly.
"It’s an ultimatum."
"I’m waiting." Grimly.
"You are to cease and desist from your association with human beings. You are commanded to return to the nation of Silkies. You have a week to make up your mind. After that date you will be considered a traitor and will be treated as traitors have always been, without mercy."
Since there was no "nation" of Silkies, and never had been, Cemp — after considering the unexpected "ultimatum" for a moment, and dis­missing it—made his attack.
He still didn’t quite believe that his "twin" was a Silkie. So he launch­ed a minimum electric charge on one of the magnetic bands that he could use as a human. Enough to render unconsciousness but not damage.

To his dismay, a Silkie magnetic screen as powerful as anything he could muster warded off the en­ergy blow. So it was a Silkie.
The stranger stared at him, teeth showing, eyes glinting with sudden rage. "I’ll remember this!" he snarl­ed. "You’d have hurt me if I didn’t have a defense."
Cemp hesitated, questioning his own purpose. It didn’t have to be captured. "Look," he urged, "why don’t you come with me to the Silkie Authority? If there is a Silkie nation, normal communication is the best way of proving it."
The other Silkie began to back away. "I’ve done my duty," he mut­tered. "I’m not accustomed to fight­ing. You tried to kill me."
He seemed to be in a state of shock. His eyes had changed again, looked dazed now. All the initial cocksureness was gone. He continued backing away.
Cemp followed, uncertain. He was himself so highly trained a fighter, it was hard to grasp that here might be a Silkie who was actually not versed in battle.
He soothed: "We don’t have to fight. But you can’t expect to deliver an ultimatum, and then go off into nowhere, as if you’ve done your part. You say your name is A-Brem. Where did you come from?"
He was aware, as he spoke, that people had stopped in the street around them and were watching the strange drama of two men — one re­treating, the other pursuing, a slow step at a time.
"First, if there’s a Silkie nation, where has it — have you — been hid­ing all these years?" Cemp persisted.
"Damn you, stop badgering me! You’ve got your ultimatum. You’ve got a week. Now leave me alone!"
The alter ego had clearly not con­sidered what he would do after de­livering his message. His unprepared­ness made the whole incident even more fantastic. But he was showing anger again; recovering his nerve.
An electric discharge, in the jag­ged form of lightning, rode a mag­netic beam of his own creation; struck at Cemp, crackling against the magnetic screen he kept ready to be triggered into existence.
The lightning bolt bounced away from Cemp, caromed off of a build­ing, flashed across the sidewalk past several startled people and grounded itself on the metal grill of a street drain.
"Two can play that game," said A-Brem in a savage tone.
Cemp made no reply. The other’s electrical beam had been maximum power for a Silkie in human form; death level potency. Somewhere nearby, a woman screamed. The street was clearing. People were fall­ing away, seeking shelter.

The time had come to end this madness, or someone might be killed. Cemp acted on the evaluation that, for a reason that was not clear, this Silkie was not properly trained and was therefore vulnerable to a non-lethal attack by a technique in­volving a simple version of Levels of Logic.
He wouldn’t even have to use the secret ability he had learned from the alien a year before.
The moment he made up his mind, he did a subtle energy thing. He mod­ified a specific set of low energy force lines passing through his brain and going in the direction of A-­Brem.
Instantly, there was manifested a strange logic implicit in the very structure and make-up of life. The logic of levels! The science that had been derived by human scientific method from the great Silkie ability for changing form.
Each life cell had its own rigidity. Each gestalt of cells did a specific action, could not do other. Once stimulated, the "thought" in that particular nerve bundle went through its exact cycle, and if there were an accompanying motion, or emotion . . . that also manifested precisely and exactly and without qualification.
Even more meaningful, more im­portant — a number of cell colonies could he joined together to form a new gestalt, and groups of such clus­ters had their special action.
Such a colony gestalt was the sleep center in human beings.
The method Cemp used wouldn’t work on a Silkie in his Class C form. Even a B Silkie could fight off sleep.
This Silkie in human form began to stagger. His eyes were suddenly heavy-lidded; and the uncontrolled appearance of his body showed that he was asleep on his feet.
As the man fell, Cemp stepped forward and caught the body; pre­vented an injurious crash to the con­crete sidewalk — and simultaneously did a second, subtle thing.
On another force line, he put a message that manipulated the uncon­sciousness gestalt in the other’s brain. It was an attempt at complete con­trol. The sleep cut off perception from the environment. Manipulation of the unconsciousness mechanism eliminated those messages from the brain’s stored memory that would normally stimulate to wakefulness someone who was not really sleepy.
Cemp was congratulating himself on his surprisingly easy capture—when the body he held stiffened. Cemp, sensing an outside force, drew back. To his complete astonishment, the unconscious man rose straight up into the sky.

In his human form, Cemp was not able to determine the nature of the energy that could accomplish such an improbable feat. He should, he realized, transform to Silkie. He found himself hesitating. There was a rule against changing in full view of human beings.
Abruptly, he recognized that this situation was unique; a never-before emergency. He transformed to Silkie and cut off gravity.
The ten-foot body, shaped a little like a projectile, rose from the ground at missile speed. Most of his clothes, completely torn, fell to the ground. A few tattered remnants re­mained, but were swept away by the gale winds created by his passage.
Unfortunately, all of five seconds had gone by while he made the trans­formation; and since several addi­tional seconds had passed before he acted, he found himself pursuing a speck that was continuing to go straight up.
What amazed him anew, was that, even with his Silkie perception, he could detect no energy from it, be­low it or around it. Yet its speed was as great as anything he could manage. Accordingly, after moments only, he realized that his pursuit would not be in time; and that the body of A-Brem would reach an at­mosphere height too rarified for a human to survive, unless he acted promptly. He therefore mercifully removed the pressure from the sleep and unconsciousness centers of the other’s body.
Moments later, he was disappoint­ed — but not surprised — as he sens­ed from the other a shift to Silkie form; proof that the man had awak­ened and could now be responsible for himself.
A-Brem continued straight on up, as a full-grown Silkie now; and it was presently obvious that he intend­ed to risk going through the Van Allen belt. Cemp had no such fool­hardy purpose.
As the two of them approached the outer limits of the atmosphere, Cemp put a thought on a beam to a manned telstar unit in orbit around Earth. The thought contained simply the data about what had happened.
The message sent, he turned back. Greatly disturbed by his experience — and being without clothes for human wear — he flew straight to the Silkie Authority.


Cemp, descending from the sky down to the vast building complex that comprised the central ad­ministration for dealing with Silkies, saw that other Silkies were also com­ing in. He presumed, grimly, that they were there for the same reason as himself.
As the realization came, he scan­ned the heavens behind him with his Silkie senses, and perceived that scores more black spots were out there, hurtling closer. Divining imminent confusion, he slowed and stop­ped. Then, from his position in the sky, he telepathed Charley Baxter, his human contact inside the build­ing, proposing a special plan to han­dle the emergency.
Baxter was in a distracted state but presently his return thought came: "Nat, yours is just about the best idea we’ve had. Because you’re right. This could be dangerous."
There was a pause. Baxter must have gotten his message through to other of the Special People, for Cemp began to record a general Silkie warning:
"To all Silkies: It would be un­wise for too many of you to con­centrate at one time in one place. So divide into ten groups on the secret number system, plan G. Group One only approach and land. All oth­ers disperse till called."
In the sky near Cemp, Silkies be­gan to mill around. Cemp, who —by the designated number system —was in group three, veered off and climbed to the upper atmosphere, and darted over a thousand miles to his home on the southern tip of Florida.
En route, he talked mentally to his wife, Joanne, who — like Baxter — was one of the Special People. And so, by the time he walked naked into the house, she had clothes laid out for him and knew as much as he about what had happened.

As Cemp dressed, he saw that she was in a womanly state of alarm; more concerned than he. She instantly believed that there was a Silkie nation, and that this meant that there would also be Silkie wom­en.
"Admit it!" she said tearfully. "That thought has already crossed your mind, hasn’t it?"
"I’m a logical person," Cemp de­fended. "So I’ve had fleeting thoughts about all possibilities. But, being sensible, I feel that we have a lot of things to explain before I can reject what we know of Silkie his­tory."
It was an accepted part of the human-Silkie relationship that Silkies had been developed from biological experiments. A human sperm and ovum had been brought together in a test tube under controlled condi­tions by scientists who utilized the DNA and DNP discoveries.
"What’s going to become of our marriage?" Joanne said in an an­guished voice.
"Nothing will change."
She sobbed, "I’m going to seem to you like a native woman of three hundred years ago who is married to a white man on a South Sea is­land — and then white women start showing up."
The wildness of her fantasying astounded Cemp. "It’s not the same," he said. "I promise complete loyalty and devotion for the rest of our lives."
"Nobody can promise anything in personal relations," she said. But his words seemed to reassure her after a moment. She dried her eyes and came over to him and allowed her­self to be kissed.
It was an hour before a phone call came from Charley Baxter. The man was apologetic for the delay, but ex­plained that it was the result of a conference on Cemp’s future actions.
"It was a discussion just about you in all this," Baxter said.
Cemp waited.
The final decision was to continue to not let Cemp intermingle with other Silkies — "for reasons that you know," Baxter said significantly.
Cemp surmised that the reference was to his secret knowledge—learn­ed from the alien. Ever since, he had been put on special assignments that kept him away from other Silkies.
Baxter now produced the informa­tion that only four hundred Silkies had been approached by alter egos. "The number actually reported in," he said, "is three hundred and ninety-six."
Cemp was vaguely relieved, vague­ly contemptuous. A-Brem’s claim that all Silkies were targets was now proved to be propaganda. He had already shown himself to be an inept Silkie. The lie added one more de­grading touch.
"Some of them were pretty poor duplicates." said Baxter. "Apparent­ly, mimicking another body is not a great skill with them."
However — he now admitted — even four hundred was more than enough to establish the existence of a hitherto unknown group of Silkies. "Even if they are untrained," he said, "we’ve absolutely got to find out who they are and where they came from."
"Is there no clue?" Cemp asked.
No more than Cemp knew.
"They all got away?" Cemp inter­jected, astounded. "No one did bet­ter than I?"
"On the average, not as well," said Baxter.
It seemed that most Silkies had made no effort to hold the strange Silkie who confronted them; had sim­ply reported in and asked for in­structions.
"Can’t blame them," said Baxter.
He continued frankly, "But I might as well tell you that your fight and your reasons for fighting make you one of the two dozen Silkies we feel we can depend on in this matter. So here are your instructions —"
He concluded: "Take Joanne with you, but go at once!"

The sign said: "All the music in this building is Silkie music."
Cemp, who never listened to any other kind, saw the faint distaste come into his wife’s face. She caught his look and evidently his thought, for she said, "All right, so it sounds dead level to me, as if it’s all the same note—well, anyway, the same few notes, close together, repeated in various sickening combinations."
She stopped, shook her beautiful, blonde head, and said,’ "I guess I’m tense and afraid and need something wild and clashy."
To Cemp, who could hear har­monies in the music that were be­yond the reach of ordinary human ears, her outburst was but a part of the severe emotional reactions to things, to which he had long become accustomed from this human female he was married to. Women, wed to Silkies, had a hard time making their peace with the realities of the rela­tionship.
As Joanne had put it more than once: "There you are with this phy­sically perfect, beautiful male. But all the time you’re thinking: This is not really a man; it’s a monster that can change in a flash either into a fish-like thing or a creature of space.’ But of course I wouldn’t part with him for anything."
The music sign was soon behind them, and they walked on into the interior of the museum. Their desti­nation was the original laboratory, in which the first Silkie was suppos­ed to have been produced. The lab occupied the center of the building; it had been moved there a hundred and ten years before — according to a date on a wall plaque at the en­trance.
It had seemed to Baxter that a sharper study should be made of the artifacts of Silkie history. The entire structure of that history was now for the first time — for the very first time — being questioned.
It was this task, of reevaluating the past data, that he had assigned to Cemp and Joanne.
The lab was brightly lighted. It had only one visitor: a rather plain young woman with jet black hair but no make-up and with ill-fitting clothes was standing at one of the tables beside the far doorway.
As Cemp came in, a thought —not his own — touched his mind. He started to turn to Joanne. She, being one of the Special People, could communicate with him on thought level, and so he took it for granted that the message came from her.
—Took it for granted, that is, for several seconds.
Belatedly, realization came that the thought had arrived on a magnetic carrier wave — Silkie level.
Cemp swung around and stared at the black-haired woman. She smiled at him, somewhat tensely, he noted; and then her thought came, unmis­takably:
"Please don’t give me away. I was stationed here to convince any doubt­ing Silkie."
She didn’t have to explain what she meant. The thunder of it was pour­ing through Cemp’s mind.
According to his knowledge, there never had been any female Silkies. All Silkies on Earth were males, who were married to women of the Spe­cial People — like Joanne.
But this black-haired, farmerish type was a female Silkie! That was what she was letting him know by her presence. In effect, by being here, she was saying, "Don’t bother to search dusty old files. I’m living proof that Silkies were not produced in somebody’s laboratory two hun­dred and thirty years ago."

Suddenly Cemp was confused. He was aware that Joanne had come up beside him; that she must have caught his thought, and was herself dismayed. The one glimpse he had of her face showed that she had become very pale.
"Nat!" her voice came sharply. "You’ve got to capture her."
Cemp started forward, but it was a half-hearted movement.
Yet, in spite of the uncertainty in his actions, he was already having logical thoughts:
Since only hours had gone by from the moment that he first saw A-Brem, she must have been stationed here in advance. She would therefore have had no contact with the others. And so she wouldn’t know that to a train­ed Silkie like himself, she was as vulnerable as an unarmed civilian opposed by a soldier.
The black-haired woman must suddenly have had some doubt of her own. With an abrupt action, she stepped through the door near which she had been standing and closed it after her.
"Nat," Joanne’s voice, high pitch­ed, sounded mere inches behind him. "You can’t let her get away!"
Cemp, who had emerged from his brief stasis, projected a thought after the female Silkie: "I’m not going to fight you, but I’m going to stay close to you until I have all the informa­tion we want."
"Too late!" A magnetic carrier wave, human-Silkie level, brought her thought. "You’re already too !ate."
Cemp didn’t think so. He arrived at the door through which she had disappeared. Was slightly disconcert­ed to find it was locked. Smashed it with a single, jagged lightning thrust of electrical force. Stepped through its smoking remains — and saw the woman in the act of enter­ing a gap in the wall made by a sliding door.
She was not more than three doz­en feet away; and she had half-turn­ed. and was looking back in his di­rection. What she saw was evidently a surprise, for a startled look came into her face.
Hastily, her hand came up to something inside; and the door slid shut. As it closed, Cemp— who was running toward it —had a glimpse of a gleaming corridor beyond. The existence of such a secret passage­way had too many implications for Cemp to consider immediately.
He was at the wall, fumbling for the hidden door. When he could not find it after several long moments, he stepped hack and burned it down with the two energy flows from his brain which — when they came to­gether outside his body—created an intense electric arc. It was the only energy weapon available to him as a human being but it was enough.
A minute later, he stepped through the smoking opening into a narrow corridor.


The corridor in which Cemp found himself was made of concrete and slanted gently downward. It was dimly lighted and straight; and so he could see the young woman in the near distance ahead — about two hundred feet.
She was running, but as a woman runs wearing a dress; not very fast. Cemp broke into his own high-speed lope and, in a minute, had cut the distance between them in half. Ab­ruptly the concrete ended. Ahead was a dirt cave, still lighted, but the lights were set at longer intervals.
As she reached this point, the young woman sent him a message on a magnetic force line: "If you don’t stop chasing me, I’ll have to use the —" something not clear —"power."
Cemp remembered the energy that had lifted A-Brem into the sky. He took the threat seriously and instant­ly modified a magnetic wave to ren­der her unconscious.
It was not so cruel an act as it would have been earlier. Now she fell like a stone— which was the unfortunate characteristic of the unconsciousness gestalt — but it was into dirt and not on cement. The mo­tion of her body was such that she pitched forward on her knees, then slid down on her right shoulder. It didn’t look too severe for her —so it seemed to Cemp as he came closer to where she was lying."
He had slowed to a walk. Now, still wary, he approached the pros­trate body, determined not to let any special "power" remove her from him. He felt only slightly guilty at the violent method he had used. His reasoning had permitted no lesser control over her. The "sleep" shut-off on A-Brem had not prevented that individual from turning on the force field — so Cemp considered it to be— that had saved him.
Quite simply, he couldn’t let her get away.
Because it was an untried situation, he acted at once. At this moment, he had her; there were too many un­knowns for him to delay.
He knelt beside her. Since she was unconscious and not asleep, her sen­sory system was open to exterior stimulation.
But for her to answer, she would have to be switched to sleep, so that the shut-off interior perception could flow.
So he sat there, alternately mani­pulating her unconsciousness center when he wanted to ask a question, and her sleep center for her reply. It was like ancient ham radio with each party saying "over" when his message was completed.
And, of course, in addition, he had to make sure that she did reply to his queries.

What he did for that was ask one question after another, and each time modify a magnetic wave with a message to the brain cell gestalt that responded to hyp­notic drugs.
The result was a steady mental conversation:
"What is your name?"
"Where do you come from?"
"From home."
"Where is home?"
"In the sky." A mental image came of a small stone body in space; Cemp’s impression was of a meteor­ite less than twenty miles in diame­ter.
"Where is it now?"
"About to go around the sun, in­side the first planet’s orbit."
So she had come to earth in ad­vance. So they were all far from "home"; apparently had had no pre­liminary realization that they were out-skilled by Earth Silkies. As a result, he was now obtaining this decisive information.
"What is its orbit?" Cemp asked. "It goes as far out as the ninth planet."
Neptune! What a tremendous dis­tance!
Cemp asked quickly, "What is its mean speed?"
Her answer was in terms of Mer­cury’s year, which—when converted to Earth time—came to a hundred and ten years per orbit.
Cemp whistled softly. An imme­diate association had leaped into his mind. The first Silkie baby had been created in a test tube slightly more than two hundred and twenty years before; that was the official history. The time involved was exactly twice as long as the orbital period of the little Silkie planetoid.
Cemp ended that train of specula­tion abruptly, and demanded from B-Roth exactly how she herself would again find the planetoid, which surely must be one of thou­sands of similar bodies.
The answer was one that only a Silkie could operate from. She had in her brain a set of relationships and signal recognition images which identified for her the location of the Silkie home.
Cemp made an exact mental copy. He was about to begin questioning her for details on other matters—when an inertia phenomenon affected his body.
He was flung backwards—
As if he were in a vehicle, his back to the forward motion; and the vehicle stopped suddenly, but he went on—
Because he always had protection against sudden falls, he had been moved less than eight feet, when he triggered his magnetic field, his only screening mechanism as a human.

The field he set up could not stop gravity pull directly, but it derived from the earth’s magnetic force and gained its power from the force lines that passed through this exact space.
As Cemp modulated the lines now, they attached themselves to flexible metal bands that were woven into his clothes, and they held him. He hung there a few feet above the floor.
From this vantage point he was able to examine his situation.
At once, the phenomenon was shown as completely fantastic.
He detected in the heart of the gravity field a tiny molecule com­plex. What was fantastic about it was that gravity was an invariable, solely dependent on mass and square of distance.
Cemp had already calculated the gravity pull to be the equivalent of three times that of Earth at sea level. And so . . . by all the laws of physics, that incredibly small particle must have an equivalent mass to three Earths!
. . . Impossible, of course.
It was by no means a complex of one of the large molecules, so far as Cemp could make out; and it was not radioactive.
He was about to abandon his study of it, and to turn his attention to his own situation—when he noticed that the gravity field had an even more improbable quality.
Its pull was limited to organic matter. It had no effect on the sur­rounding dirt walls, and in fact—his mind poised in a final amazement—the woman’s body was not influenced by it.
The gravity was limited to one particular organic configuration—himself!
One body, one human being only —Nat Cemp—was the sole object toward which it was oriented.
He found himself remembering how he himself had been untouched by the field that had lifted A-Brem. He had sensed the presence of a field, but only by the way the magnetic lines that passed through his head were affected by it. Even in his Silkie form—as he pursued the hurtling body of his alter ego—that and merely that had been true.
This was for him; a personal grav­itational field; a small group of mol­ecules that "knew" him.
As these events took place, and these flashing awarenesses came to him, Cemp turned his head and gazed back at the young woman.
He was not surprised at what he saw.
His attention had been forcibly removed from her; and so the pres­sure on the unconsciousness "valve" in her brain was released. She was stirring, coming to.

She sat up, looked around, and saw him.
She came to her feet quickly, with an athletic ease. She evidently did not remember what had happened while she was unconscious, did not realize how completely she had given away basic secrets; for her face broke into a smile.
"You see," she said. "I told you what would happen. Well, good-by."
Her spirits visibly high, she turned and walked off into the cave, pres­ently disappeared as it gradually curved to the left.
After she was gone, Cemp turned his attention back to the gravity field. He assumed that it would eventually be withdrawn, or fade out, and he would be free. He had the distinct conviction that he might have only minutes in which to examine it and discover its nature.
He thought unhappily: "If I could change into my Silkie form, I could really examine it."
But he dared not, could not.
At least, he couldn’t and simul­taneously maintain his safe position.
Silkies had one weakness, if it could be called that. They were vul­nerable when they changed from one form to another.
Considering this, Cemp now con­ducted his first mental conversation with Joanne. He explained his pre­dicament, described what he had learned, ended: "I think I can stay here all day and see what comes of this, but I should probably have an­other Silkie stand by for emergen­cies."
Her anxious reply was, "I’ll have Charley Baxter contact you."


She phoned Baxter and passed the conversation on to Cemp in thought form.
Baxter was enormously excited by the information that Cemp had ob­tained about the alien Silkies. He re­garded the gravity field as a new energy application, but was reluctant to send in another Silkie to help.
"Let’s face it, Joanne," he said. "Your husband learned something last year which, if other Silkies un­derstood it, might wreck the delicate balance by which we’re maintaining our present Silkie-human civilization. Nat understands our concern about that. So tell him I’ll send a machine in there to act as a barrier for him while he makes his changeover into Silkie."
It occurred to Cemp that the appearance of new, hitherto unknown Silkies would alter the Silkie-human relationship even more. But he did not permit that thought to go out to Joanne.
Baxter’s conversation concluded with the statement that it would probably take a while before the machine could be gotten to him. "So tell him to hold on."
After Baxter had hung up, Joanne thought at Cemp: "I should tell you that I’m relieved about one thing."
"What’s that?"
"If the Silkie women are all as plain in human form as B-Roth then I’m not going to worry."
An hour went by. Two . . . Ten.
In the world outside, the skies would be dark; the sun long gone; the stars signaling in their tiny bril­liant fashion.
Charley Baxter’s machine had come and gone. And Cemp—safe in the Silkie form—remained close to the most remarkable energy field that had ever been seen in the solar system. What was astounding was that it showed no diminishment of the colossal gravity effect. His hope had been that with his super-sensi­tive Silkie perception he would be able to be aware of any feeder lines that might he flowing power to it from an outside source.
But there was nothing like that; nothing to trace. The power came from the single, small group of mol­ecules. It had no other origin.
The minutes and the hours length­ened. The watch became long, and he had time to feel the emotional impact of the problem that now con­fronted every Silkie on Earth.
The need to make a decision . . . about the Space Silkies.

Shortly after the sun came up out­side, the field manifested an independent quality. It began to move along the corridor, heading deeper into the cave. Cemp floated along after it, letting a portion of its grav­itational pull draw him. He was wary but curious, hopeful that now he would find out more.
The cave ended abruptly in a deep sewer, which had the look of long abandonment. The concrete was cracked. There were innumer­able deep fissures in the walls. But to the group of molecules and their field, it seemed to be a familiar area, for they went forward more rapidly. Suddenly there was water below them. It was not stagnant, but rippled and swirled. A tidal pool, Cemp an­alyzed.
The water grew deeper, and pres­ently they were in it, travelling at undiminished speed.
Ahead the murky depths grew less murky. They emerged into sun­lit waters in a canyon about a hun­dred feet below the surface of the ocean.
As they broke surface a moment later, the strange energy complex ac­celerated. Cemp, suspecting that it would now try to get away from him, made a final effort to perceive its characteristics.
But nothing came back to him. No message, no sign of energy flow. For a split instant, he did have the impression that the atoms making up the molecule group were—somehow—not right. But when he switched his attention to the band involved, the molecules must either have become aware of his momen­tary awareness and closed them­selves off—or he had imagined it.
Even as he made the analysis, his feeling that he was about to be dis­carded was borne out. The particle’s speed increased rapidly. In seconds, its velocity approached the limits of what he could permit himself to en­dure inside an atmosphere. The outer chitin of his Silkie body grew hot, then hotter.
Reluctantly Cemp adjusted his own atomic structure, so that the gravity of the alien field no longer affected him. As he fell away, it continued to pursue a course which took it in an easterly direction, where the sun was now an hour above the horizon. Within mere seconds of his separation from it, it left the at­mosphere and, traveling at many miles a second, headed seemingly straight for the sun.
Cemp came to the atmosphere’s edge. "Gazing" by means of his Sil­kie perceptors out upon the vast, dark ocean of space beyond, he con­tacted the nearest telstar unit. To the scientists aboard, he gave a fix on the speeding molecule group. Then he waited hopefully while they tried to put a tracer on it.
But the word finally came: "Sor­ry, we get no reaction."
Baffled, Cemp let himself be drawn by Earth’s gravity. Then, by a series of controlled adjustments to both the magnetic and gravity fields of the planet, he guided himself to the Silkie Authority.


Three hours of talk—
­Cemp, who, as the only Silkie present, occupied a seat near the foot of the long table, found the discussion boring.
It had early seemed to him that he, or some other Silkie, ought to be sent to the Silkie planetoid to learn the facts, handle the matter in a strictly logical but humanitarian fashion, and report back to the Authority.
If, for some reason, the so-called Silkie Nation proved to be unam­enable to reason, then a further dis­cussion would be in order.
As he waited for the three dozen human conferees to reach the same decision, he couldn’t help but notice the order of importance at the table.
The Special People—which in­cluded Charley Baxter—were at the head of the long table. Next, rang­ing down on either side were the or­dinary human beings. Then, on one side, himself, and below him, three minor aides and the official secretary of the three-man Silkie Authority.
It was not a new observation for him. He had discussed it with other Silkies and had had it pointed out to him that here was a reversal of the power role that was new in history.
The strongest individuals in the solar system—the Silkies—still were relegated to secondary status.
He emerged from his reverie to the realization that silence had fallen. And that Charley Baxter, slim; gray-eyed, intense, was coming around the long table. He stopped across from Cemp.
"Well, Nat," said Baxter, "there’s the picture as we see it." He seemed embarrassed.
Cemp did a lightning mental back­track on the discussion. And recalled that they had indeed arrived at the inevitable conclusion.
But he noted also that they con­sidered it a weighty decision. It was a lot to ask of any person, that was the attitude. The result could be person­al disaster. They wouldn’t be critical if he refused.
"I feel ashamed to ask it," said Baxter, "but this is almost a war sit­uation."
Cemp could see that they were not sure of themselves. There had been no war on Earth for 150 years. No­body was an expert in it any more.
He climbed to his feet as these awarenesses touched him. Now, he looked around at the faces turned to him, and he said, "Calm yourselves, gentlemen. Naturally I’ll do it."
They all looked relieved. The dis­cussion turned quickly to details: the difficulty of locating a single meteor­ite in space; particularly one which had such a long sidereal period.

It was well known that there were about fifteen hundred large meteorites and planetoids, and tens of thousands of smaller objects. All of these had orbits or motions which, though subject to the laws of celestial mechanics, were often very eccentric in their movements. A few of them, like comets, periodically came in close to the sun, then shot off into space again, returning for another hectic go-round fifty to a hundred years later. There were so many of these intermediate-sized rocks that they were identified and their courses plotted only for special reasons. There simply had never been any point in tracking them all.
Cemp had matched course with and landed on scores of lone meteor­ites. His recollections of those ex­periences were among the bleaker memories of his numerous space flights. The darkness, the sense of utterly barren rock, the profound lack of sensory stimulation. Oddly, the larger they were, the worse the feeling.
He had discovered that he could have a kind of intellectual affinity with a rock that was less than a thousand feet in diameter. Particu­larly was this true of an inarticulate mass that had finally been precipi­tated into a hyperbolic orbit. When he computed that it was thus destined to leave the solar system forever, he would find himself imagining how long it had been in space, how far it had gone and how it would now hurtle away from the solar system and spend eons between the stars.
A government representative—a human being named John Mathews —interrupted his thought:
"Mr. Cemp, I’d like to ask you a very personal question."
Cemp looked at him and nodded.
The man went on, "According to reports, several hundred Earth Silk­ies have already defected to these native Silkies. Evidently you don’t feel, as they do, that the Silkie planetoid is home. Why not?"
Cemp smiled. "Well, first of all," he said, "I would never buy a pig in a poke the way they have done."
He hesitated. Then in a serious tone he continued: "Entirely apart from my feelings of loyalty to Earth, I do not believe the future of life forms will be helped or advanced by any rigid adherence to the idea that I am a lion, or I am a bear. Intel­ligent life is, or should be, moving toward a common civilization. May­be I’m like the farm boy who went to the big city—Earth. Now my folks want me to come back to the farm. They’ll never understand why I can’t, so I don’t even try to explain It."
"Maybe," said Mathews, "the planetoid is actually the big city and earth the farm. What then?"
Cemp smiled politely, but merely shook his head.
Mathews persisted: "One more question. How should Silkies be treated?’
Cemp spread his hands. "I can’t think of a single change of value."

He meant it. He had never been able to get excited about the pecking order.
Yet he had known for a long time that some Silkies felt strongly about their inferior—as it seemed to them—role. Others, like himself, did their duty, were faithful to their hu­man wives and tried to enjoy the somewhat limited possibilities of hu­man civilization—limited for Silkies, who had so many additional senses for which there was no organized creative stimulation.
Presumably things could be better. But meanwhile they were what they were. Cemp recognized that any at­tempt to alter them would cause fear and disturbance among human beings. And why do that merely to satisfy the egos of somewhat less than two thousand Silkies?
At least, that had been the prob­lem until now. The coming of the Space Silkies would add an indefin­ite number of new egos to the scene. Yet, Cemp reasoned, not enough to change the statistics mean­ingfully.
Aloud he said, "As far as I can see, under all conceivable circum­stances, there is no better solution to the Silkie problem ’ than that which exists right now."
Charley Baxter chose that mo­ment to end the discussion, saying, "Nat, you have our best, our very best wishes. And our complete con­fidence. A spaceship will rush you to Mercury’s orbit and give you a head start. Good luck."


The scene ahead was absolutely fantastic.
The Silkie planetoid would make its circuit of the sun far inside Mer­cury’s eccentric orbit, and the ap­pearance was that it might brush the edges of the great clouds of hot gas that seemed to poke out like stream­ers—or shapeless arms—from the sun’s hot surface.
Cemp doubted if such a calamity would actually occur, but as he per­iodically subjected his steel-hard, chitinous Silkie body to the sun’s gravity, he sensed the enormous pull of it at this near distance.
The circle of white fire filled al­most the entire sky ahead. The light was so intense, and came in on him on so many bands, that it over­whelmed his receptor system, when­ever he let it in. And he had to open up at intervals in order to make readjustments in his course.
The two hurtling bodies—his own and that of planetoid—were pres­ently on a collision course.
The actual moment of "collision" was still hours away. So Cemp shut off his entire perception system. Thus instantly he sank into the deep sleep which Silkies so rarely allowed themselves.
He awoke in stages and saw that his timing had been exact. The plan­etoid now was "visible" on one of the tiny neural screens inside the forward part of his body. It showed as a radar-type image; and at the beginning it was the size of a pea.
In less than thirty minutes it grew to an apparent size of five miles—which was half its diameter, he esti­mated.
At this point, Cemp performed his only dangerous maneuver. He al­lowed the sun’s gravity to draw him between the sun and the planetoid. Then he cut off the sun’s gravity, and, using a few bursts of energy—manufactured at the edge of a field behind his body—darted toward the planetoid’s surface.
What was dangerous about this action was that it brought him in on the day side. With the super brilliant sunlight behind him, he was clearly visible to anyone in or on or around the planetoid.
But his theory was that no Silkie would normally be exposing himself to the sun; and that in fact every sensible Silkie would be inside the big stone ball or on its night side.
At close range In that ultra-bright light, the planetoid looked like the wrinkled head and face of a bald, old Indian. It was reddish-gray in color, and pock-marked and lined, and not quite round. The pock marks turned out to be actual caves. Into one of these, Cemp floated.

Cemp went down into what to his human eyes would have been pitch darkness; but as a Silkie the interior was visible to him on many bands.
He found himself in a corridor with smooth, granite walls that led slantingly downward. After about twenty minutes he came to a turn in the passageway. As he rounded it, he saw a shimmering, almost opaque energy screen in front of him.
Cemp decided at once not to re­gard it as a problem. He doubted if it had been put up to catch anyone. In fact, his lightning analysis of it indicated that it was a wall, with the equivalent solidity of a large space­ship’s outer skin.
As a screen it was strong enough to keep out the most massive armor-piercing shells.
Going through such a screen was an exercise in Silkie energy control.
First he put up a matching field, and started it oscillating. The oscil­lation unstabilized the opposing screen and started it in a sympathetic vibration. As the process continued the screen and the field began to merge. But it was the screen that be­came part of Cemp’s field; not the reverse.
Thus, his field was within minutes a part of the barrier. Safely inside it, he crossed the barrier space. Once past it, disengagement was a matter of slowing down the oscillation until the field and the screen abruptly be­came separate entities.
The sound of the separation was like the crack of a whip.
And the fact that there was sound indicated he had come into air space. Quickly, he discovered that it was air of an unearthly mixture. 30% oxygen, 20% helium, and most of the rest, gaseous sulphur compounds.
The pressure was about twice that of sea level on Earth.
But it was air, and it undoubtedly had a purpose.
From where he had floated through the energy barrier, he saw a large chamber, the floor of which was about a hundred feet below him.
Soft lights shone down.
Seen in that light, the room was a jewel.
The walls were inlaid with pre­cious stones, fine metals and vari­colored rock, cunningly cut into a design. The design was a continuing story picture of a race of four-legged, centaur-type beings, with a proud bearing and—wherever there were close-ups—sensitive though unhuman faces.
On the floor was a picture of a planet inset in some kind of glowing substance that showed the curving, mountainous surface, with sparkling lines where rivers flowed, three-di­mensional appearance of trees and other growth, glinting oceans and lakes, and thousands of bright spots marking cities and towns.
The sides of the planet curved away in proper proportion, and Cemp had the feeling that the globe continued on down and the bot­tom was probably visible in some lower room.
The over-all effect was complete­ly and totally beautiful.

Cemp surmised that the life scenes and the planet picture were an accurate eidolon of a race and a place with which the Silkies had at some time in their past been asso­ciated.
He was mentally staggered by the artistic perfection of the room.
He had already, as he floated down, noticed that there were large archways leading to adjoining cham­bers. He had glimpses of furniture, machines, objects shining bright and new. He surmised they were arti­facts of either the centaur or other civilizations. But he could not take time to explore. His attention fas­tened on a stairway that led down to the next level.
He went down it, and presently found himself facing another energy barrier.
Penetrating it exactly as he had the other, he moved on and into a cham­ber filled with seawater.
Inset in the floor of that huge room was a planet that glimmered with the green-blue of an undersea civilization.
And that was only the beginning. Cemp went down from one level to another, each time through an en­ergy screen, and through similarly decorated chambers.
Each was inlaid in the same way with precious stones and glinting metals. Each had breathtaking scenes from what he presumed were habit­able planets of far stars, and a dif­ferent atmosphere.
After a dozen, the impact began to he cumulative. Realization came that here, inside this planetoid, had been gathered such treasure as prob­ably did note exist anywhere else. Cemp visualized the 700-odd cubic miles that comprised the interior of the most fantastic asteroid in the galaxy; and he remembered what Mathews had said. The human gov­ernment official had speculated that perhaps the planetoid was the "city" and Earth was the "farm".
It began to seem more true.
He had been expecting momen­tarily to collide with an inhabitant of the planetoid. After passing three more of the chambers, each with its glowing duplicate in miniature of a planet of long ago and far away, Cemp paused and re-considered.
He had a strong feeling that in learning of these treasures, he had gained an advantage—which he must not lose—and that the Silkies did in­deed have their living quarters on the aide away from the sun, and that they did not expect anyone to arrive In this surprise fashion.
The idea continued to seem cor­rect, and so he turned back and was presently dropping directly toward the dark side.

Again the cave openings. And a few score feet inside, the energy harrier. Beyond that was air and gravitation exactly as at sea level on the Earth.
Cemp floated down into a smooth­ly polished granite chamber. It was furnished with settees, chairs and tables, and there was a long, low-built bookcase at one end. But the arrangement was as in an anteroom; formal and unlived in. It gave him an eerie feeling.
Still in his Silkie form, he went down a staircase and into another chamber. It had soil in it, and there was vegetation, which consisted of temperate zone Earth shrubs and flowers. Once more, the arrangement was formal.
On the third level down were earth-like offices, with information computers. Cemp, who understood such matters, recorded what they were. He observed also that no one was using this particular source of data.
He was about to go down to the next level—when an energy beam of enormous power triggered the super-fast defense screen he had learned from the Kibmadine the previous year.
The coruscation as the beam in­teracted with an ever vaster inten­sity with Cemp’s barrier screen lit the chamber as if sunlight had sud­denly been let in. It stayed lit as whoever directed the beam tested the screen’s durability in a sustained power thrust.
For Cemp, it was a fight that moved at lightning speed down the entire line of his defenses, and came finally up against the hard core of the second method he had learned from the Kibmadine.
There, and only there, he held his own.


A minute went by before the at­tacker seemed finally to accept that Cemp simply used the beam it­self to maintain the barrier. Hence, it took nothing out of him, and it would last as long as the beam—and re-form as often as necessary.
As suddenly as it had begun, the attacking energy ceased.
Cemp stared around him, dis­mayed. The entire chamber was a shambles of twisted, white-hot ma­chinery and debris. The granite walls had crumbled, exposing raw meteor­ite rock behind it. Molten rock dripped in a score of flowing rivers from the shattered ceiling and walls. Great sections were still tumbling and sliding.
What had been a modern office had become in a matter of minutes a gutted desolation of blackened metal and rock.
For Cemp, the initial staggering reality was that only the high speed Kibmadine screen had saved him. The assault had been gauged to over­whelm and over-speed the entire Silkie defense and attack system.
The intent had been death.
No bargaining, no discussion, no questions.
The hard fight had driven him down to a special logic of levels. He felt an automatic outflow of hatred.
Yet, after a little, another realiza­tion penetrated: "I won!" he thought.
Calm again but savage, he went down five more levels; emerged ab­ruptly at the upper level of a great vista, a huge open space, and one man—waited for him. As Cemp came down, he was aware that they were signaling to others. Soon a crowd had gathered, mostly in human bodies, mostly women, but an even dozen arrived in the Silkie form.
Guards? he wondered. But they were not antagonistic either.
Everybody was mentally open; and what was disconcerting about that was, no one showed awareness of the attack that had been made on him in the office section near the surface.
Instantly, he saw their unaware­ness as an opportunity. By keeping silent and alert, he would be able to spot his vicious assailant.
He presumed the violence had been planned and carried out at the administrative level.
"I’ll find those so-and-so’s!" he thought grimly.
The city of the Silkies spread be­low him.
It was precisely and exactly like a small Earth city. Apartment buildings. Private residences. Tree-lined streets. Cemp was bemused; for here also the native Silkies had clearly at­tempted to create a human atmos­phere.
He could make out figures on a sidewalk far below. He started down.
When he was a hundred feet above them, the people stopped and looked up at him. One—a woman—directed a startled thought at him: "Who are you?"
Cemp told her.
The reaction of the four nearest people was astonishment. But they were not afraid, or hostile.
The little group—three women and one man—waited for him. As Cemp came down, he was aware that they were signaling to others. Soon a crowd had gathered, mostly in human bodies, mostly women, but an even dozen arrived in the Silkie form.
Guards? he wondered. But they were not antagonistic either.
Everybody was mentally open; and what was disconcerting about that was, no one showed awareness of the attack that had been made on him in the office section near the surface.
Instantly, he saw their unaware­ness as an opportunity. By keeping silent and alert, he would be able to spot his vicious assailant.
He presumed the violence had been planned and carried out at the administrative level.
"I’ll find those so-and-so’s!" he thought grimly.

To his audience of innocent cit­izens, he said, "I’m acting as an emissary of the Earth Government. My purpose here is to discover what binding agreements are possible."
A woman called up to him, "We can’t seem to change into attractive females, Earth style. What do you suggest?"
A gale of laughter greeted her re­mark. Cemp was taken aback. He hadn’t expected such easy friendli­ness from the crowd.
But his determination did not waver. "I presume we can discuss that also at government level," he said, "but it won’t be first on the agenda."
Some remnants of his hate flow must have gone out to them with his thought, for a man said sharply, "He doesn’t sound very friendly."
A woman added quickly: "Come now, Mr. Cemp. This is your real home."
Cemp had recovered. He replied; a steady level thought: "You’ll get what you give. Right now, you’re giving good. But the agents your government sent to Earth made blood-thirsty threats."
His thought paused there, puzzled. For these people as they were right now, did not seem to have any of that threat in them. It struck him that that should be very significant.
After a moment’s hesitation, he finished:
"I’m here to discover what it’s all about, so why not direct me to some­one in authority?"
"We don’t have authorities." That was a woman.
A man said, "Mr. Cemp, we live a completely free existence here and you and other Earth Silkies are in­vited to join us."
Cemp persisted, "Who decided to send those four hundred messengers to Earth?"
"We always do that, when the time comes," another woman replied.
"Complete with threats?" asked Cemp. "Threats of death?"
She seemed suddenly uncertain. She turned to one of the men. "You were down there," she said. "Did you imply violence?"
The man hesitated. "It’s a little vague," he said. "But I guess so." He added quickly, "It’s always been this way when E-Lerd conditions us in connection with the Power. Mem­ory tends to fade very quickly. In fact, I hadn’t recalled that threat as­pect until now." He seemed aston­ished. "I’ll be damned. I think we had better speak to E-Lerd and find the reason for it."

Cemp telepathed directly to the man. "What was your after feeling about what you had done?"
"Just that I communicated that we Space Silkies were here, and that it was time for the Earth Silkies to become aware of their true origin."
He broke off, turned to the others. `This is fantastic," he said. "I’m astounded. We need to look into E­-Lerd’s administration of the Power. I uttered murderous words when I was on Earth! That’s not like me at all."
His complete amazement was more convincing than anything else could possibly have been.
Cemp said firmly, "I gather then that, contrary to your earlier state­ments, you do have a leader, and his name is E-Lerd."
One of the Silkie bodies answered that. "No, he’s not a leader, but I can see how that might be under­stood. We’re free. No one tells us what to do. But we do delegate responsibilities. For example, E-Lerd is in charge of the Power, and we get its use through him. Would you like to talk to him, Mr. Cemp?"
"Indeed I would," said Cemp with immense satisfaction.
He was thinking: "The Power! Of course. Who else? The person who has control of the Power is the only one who could have attacked me!"
"My name is O-Vedd," said the Space Silkie. "Come with me."
His long, bullet-like body detached itself from the group of similar bodies and darted off over the heads of the crowd. Cemp followed. They came down to a small entrance that led along a narrow, smooth-walled, granite corridor. After a hundred feet this opened out to another huge space. Here was a second city.
At least, for a moment that was what it looked like.
Then Cemp saw that the buildings were of a different character. Not dwellings at all. For him, who was familiar with most of the parapher­nalia of manufactured energy, there was no question. Some of the mas­sive structures below were the kind that housed atomic power. Others were distributing plants for electric­ity. Still others had the unmistakable shape of the Ylem transformation systems.
None of these, of course, was the Power. But here indeed was power in abundance.
Cemp followed O-Vedd down to the courtyard of a building complex that, despite all its shields, he had no difficulty in identifying as a source of magnetic beams.
The Space Silkie landed and trans­formed to human, then stood and waited for Cemp to do likewise.
"Nothing doing!" said Cemp, curt­ly. "Ask him to come out here."
O-Vedd shrugged. As a human, he was short and dark. He walked off and vanished into a doorway.

Cemp waited amid a silence that was broken only by the faint hum of power from the buildings. A breeze touched the super-sensi­tive spy-ray extensions that he main­tained in operation under all circum­stances. The little wind registered through the spy mechanisms, but did not trigger the defense screens be­hind them.
It was only a breeze, after all; and he had never programmed him­self to respond to such minor sig­nals.
He was about to dismiss it from his mind; about to contemplate his reaction to the Space Silkies — he liked the crowd he had seen — when he thought, sharply; A breeze here!
Up went his screen. Out project­ed his perceptors.
He had time to notice, then, that it was indeed a breeze but that it was being stirred by a blankness in the surrounding space.
Around Cemp, the courtyard grew hazy; then it faded.
There was no planetoid.

Cemp increased all signal sensitiv­ity to maximum.
He continued to float in the vacuum of space, and off to one side was the colossal white circle that was the sun.
Cemp felt a sudden energy drain from his body. The sensation was of his Silkie screens going up, of his system resisting outside energy at many levels.
He thought in a tense dismay: "I’m in a fight. It’s another attempt to kill me."
Whatever it was, it was automatic. His own perception remained cut off, and he was impelled to experi­ence what the attacker wanted him to.
Cemp felt himself, then, like a man suddenly set upon in pitch dark­ness. But what was appalling about it was that his senses were being held by other forces, preventing aware­ness of the nature of the attack. What he saw was —
Distance disappeared!
There, spread over many miles of space, was a group of Silkies. Cemp saw them clearly, counted in his lightning fashion two hundred and eighty-eight, caught their thoughts, and recognized that these were the renegade Silkies from Earth.
Suddenly, he understood that they had been told where the Silkie plan­etoid was, and they were on their way "home".
Time was telescoped.
The entire group of Silkies was transported in what seemed an in­stant to within a short distance of the planetoid. Cemp could see the planetoid in the near distance— only a few miles away, twenty at the maximum.
But to him the baffling, deadly, fantastic thing was that, as these marvelous events ran their course at one level of his perception, at an­other level the feeling remained that a determined attempt was being made to kill him.
He could see, feel, be aware of almost nothing.
But throughout, the shadowy sen­sations continued. His energy fields were going through defensive mo­tions. But it was all far away from his awareness, like a human dream.
Being a fully trained Silkie, Cemp watched the internal as well as the external developments with keen ob­servation. Strove instant by instant to grasp the reality. Monitored incom­ing signals by the thousands.
He began to sense meaning. Began to have initial speculations about the nature of the physical-world pheno­menon involved. And he had the feeling of being on the verge of his first computation when — as sud­denly as it had begun —it ended.
The space scene began to fade. Abruptly, it winked out.
He was back in the courtyard of the buildings that housed the mag­netic power complex.
Coming toward him from the open doorway of the main building was O-Vedd. He was accompanied by a man who was of Cemp’s general human build: over six feet, strongly muscled; his face was heavier than Cemp’s, and his eyes brown instead of gray.
As he came near, he said, "I am E-Lerd. Let’s talk."


E-Lerd continued: "To begin with, I want to tell you the history of the Silkies."
Cemp, who was braced for a bitter quarrel, who could feel in himself a multitude of re-adjusting energy flows . . . proof of the severity of the second all-out fight he had been in — for which he absolutely required a complete explanation — was elec­trified by the statement.
At that moment, caught up as he was in a steely rage, nothing else could have diverted his attention. But —
The history of the Silkies! To Cemp, it was instantly the most im­portant subject in the universe.
The Silkie planetoid, E-Lerd be­gan, had entered the solar system from outer space nearly three hun­dred years before. It had, in due course, been drawn into a Sol-Neptunian orbit.
On its first encirclement of the sun, Silkies visited the inner planets and found that Earth alone was inhabited.
Since they could change form, they studied the biologic structure necessary to function in the two atmospheres of Earth — air and water — and set up an internal programming for that purpose.
Unfortunately, a small percentage of the human population — it was soon discovered—could tune in on the thoughts of Silkies.
All those who did so in this first visit were quickly hunted down and their memories of the experience blotted out.
But, because of these sensitive hu­mans, it became necessary for Silk­ies to seem to be the product of human biologic experiment. An inter­relationship with human females was accordingly programmed into Silk­ies, so that the human female ovum and the male Silkie sperm would produce a Silkie who knew nothing of Silkie history.
In order to maintain this process on an automatic level, the Special People — those persons who could read Silkie minds — were maneuvered into being in charge of it.
Thereupon, all adult Silkies return­ed to their planetoid, which now went to the remote end of its orbit. When it came again into the vicinity of Earth more than a hundred years later, cautious visits were made.
It became apparent that several unplanned things had happened.
Human biologists had experiment­ed with the process. As a result, in the early stages, variants had been born. These had propagated their twisted traits and were continuing to do so, growing ever more numerous.
The actual consequences were:
— A number of true Silkies, cap­able of making the three-fold transformation at will.
— Class B Silkies, who could transform from human to fish state, but with no ability to become space people. They were a stable form.
— Variants!
These latter two groups had large­ly taken to the oceans. Accordingly it was decided to leave the Class B Silkies alone, but that an effort be made to inveigle the Variants into gigantic spaceships filled with water, where — thus concentrated — they would be isolated and prevented from interbreeding.
This plan was already under way by the time the Silkie planetoid made its round of the sun and again headed out toward far Neptune.

Now they were back. And they had found an unfortunate sit­uation.
Somehow, Earth science—virtu­ally ignored by the early visitors—had achieved a training miracle for the Silkie perception system.
The Earth Silkies had become a loyal-to-Earth, tight-knit, masterful group of beings, lacking only the Power.
Cemp "read" all this in E-Lerd’s thought; and then, because he was amazed, he questioned him about what seemed a major omission in his story.
Where had the Silkie planetoid come from?
E-Lerd" showed his first impa­tience.
"These journeys are too far," he telepathed. "They take too long. Nobody remembers origins. Some other star system, obviously."
"Are you serious?" Cemp was astounded. "You don’t know?"
But that was the story. Pry at it as he might, it did not change. Although E-Lerd’s mind remained clos­ed, except for his telepathed thoughts, O-Vedd’s mind was open. In it Cemp saw the same beliefs and the same lack of information.
But why the tampering with hu­man biology, and the intermixing of the two breeds?
"We always do that. That’s how we live in a relationship with the inhabitants of a system."
"How do you know you always do that? You just told me you can’t re­member where you came from this time or where you were before that."
"Well — it’s obvious from the arti­facts we brought along."
E-Lerd’s attitude dismissed his questions as being irrelevant. Cemp detected a mind phenomenon in the other that explained the attitude. To Space Silkies, the past was unimpor­tant. Silkies always did certain things, because that was the way they were mentally, emotionally, and physically constructed.
A Silkie didn’t have to know from past experience. He (or she) simply had to be what was innate in Silkies.
It was, Cemp realized, a basic ex­planation for much that he had ob­served. This was why these Silkies had never been trained scientifically. Training was an alien concept in the cosmos of the Space Silkies.
"You mean," he protested, incredulous, "you have no idea why you left the last system where you had this inter-relationship with the race there? Why not stay forever in some system where you have located yourself?"
"Probably," said E-Lerd, "somebody got too close to the secret of the Power. That could not be per­mitted."

That was the reason—he con­tinued — why Cemp and other Silkies had to come back into the fold. As Silkies, they might learn about the Power.
The discussion had come naturally around to that urgent subject.
"What," said Cemp, "is the Pow­er?"
E-Lerd stated formally that that was a forbidden subject.
"Then I shall have to force the secret from you," said Cemp. "There can be no agreement without it."
E-Lerd replied stiffly that any at­tempt at enforcement would require him to use the Power as a defense.
Cemp lost patience.
"After your two attempts to kill me," he telepathed in a steely rage, "I’ll give you thirty seconds —"
"What attempts to kill you?" said E-Lerd, surprised.
At that precise moment, as Cemp was bracing himself to use logic of levels . . . there was an interruption.
An "impulse" band — a very low, slow vibration— touched one of the receptors in the forward part of his brain. It operated at mere multiples of the audible sound range directly on his sound receiving system.
What was new was that the sound acted as a carrier for the accompany­ing thought. The result was as if a voice spoke clear and loud into his ears.
"You win," said the voice. "You have forced me. I shall talk to you myself —by-passing my unknowing servants."


Cemp identified the incoming thought formation as a direct contact. Accordingly, his brain —which was programmed to respond instantaneously to a multitude of signals — was triggered to instant ef­fort to suction more impulses from the sending brain.
. . . And he got a picture. A mo­mentary glimpse. So brief that even after a few seconds it was hard to be sure that it was real and not a figment of fantasy.
Something huge lay in the dark­ness deep inside the planetoid. Lay there and gave forth with an impres­sion of vast power. It had been with­holding itself, watching him with some tiny portion of itself. The larg­er whole understood the universe and could manipulate massive sec­tions of space-time.
"Say nothing to these others." Again the statement was a direct contact thought which sounded like spoken words.
The dismay that had seized on Cemp in the few moments that had now gone by was on the level of desperation.
He had entered the Silkie strong­hold in the belief that his human training and Kibmadine knowledge gave him a temporary advantage over the Space Silkies, and that — if he did not delay —he could force a decision that might resolve the entire threat from these natural Silkies.
Instead, he had come unsuspecting into the lair of a cosmic giant.
He thought, appalled, "Here is what has been called ’the Power’."
And if the glimpse he had had was real, then it was such a colossal power that all his own ability and strength were as nothing.
He deduced now that this was what had attacked him twice. "Is that true?" he telepathed on the same band as the incoming thoughts had been on.
"Yes, I admit it."
"Why?" Cemp flashed the ques­tion, "did you do it?"
"So that I would not have to re­veal my existence. My fear is always that, if other life forms find out about me, they will analyze how to destroy me."
The direction of the alien thought altered: "But now, listen; do as follows —"

The confession had again stirred Cemp’s emotions.
Because the hatred that had been aroused in him had the sustained force that derived from the Logic of Levels stimulation — in this instance the body’s response to an attempt at total destruction — he had difficulty now restraining additional automatic reactions.
But the pieces of the puzzle were falling into place. And so, presently, he was able, at the request of the monster, to say to E-Lerd and the other Silkie:
"Take a while to think this over. And when the Silkies who have de­fected arrive from Earth, I’ll talk to them. We can then have another discussion."
It was such a complete change of attitude that the two Silkies were surprised.
But he saw that to them the change had the look of weakness, and they were relieved.
"I’ll be back here in one hour!" Cemp telepathed to E-Lerd. Whereupon he turned and climbed up and out of the courtyard, darting to an opening that led by a round‑about route deeper into the planetoid.
Again the low, slow vibration touched his receptors. "Come clos­er!" the creature urged.
Cemp obeyed, on the hard-core principle that he either could de­fend himself — or he couldn’t. Down he went, past a dozen screens, to a barren cave, a chamber that had been carved out of the original meteorite stuff. It was not even light­ed. As he entered, the direct thought touched his mind again: "Now we can talk."
Cemp had been thinking at furious speed; striving to adjust to a danger so fantastic that he had no way of evaluating it.
Yet ’the Power’ had revealed itself to him rather than let E-Lerd find out anything. That seemed to be his one hold on it; and he had the tense conviction that even that was true only so long as he was inside the planetoid.
He thought: ". . . Take full ad­vantage."
He telepathed: "After those at­tacks, you’ll have to give me some straight answers, if you expect to deal with me."
"What do you want to know?"
"Who are you? Where do you come from? What do you want?"
It didn’t know who it was.
"I have a name," it said. "I am a Glis. There used to be many like me long ago. I don’t know what hap­pened to them."
"But what are you?"
It had no knowledge. An energy life form of unknown origin, traveling from one star system to another, remaining for a while, then leaving.
"But why leave? Why not stay?" Sharply.
"The time comes when I have done what I can for a particular system."
. . . By using its enormous power, it transported large ice and air me­teorites to airless planets and made them habitable; cleared away dan­gerous space debris, altered poisonous atmospheres into non-poisonous ones . . .
"Presently the job is done, and I realize it’s time to go on to explore the infinite cosmos. So I make my pretty picture of the inhabited plan­ets, as you saw, and head for outer space."
"And the Silkies?"
They were an old meteorite life form.
"I found them long ago, and be­cause I needed mobile units that could think, I persuaded them into a permanent relationship."
Cemp did not ask what persuasive methods had been used. In view of the ignorance of the Silkies of what they had a relationship with, he di­vined that a sly method had been used. But still, what he had seen showed an outwardly peaceful ar­rangement. The Glis has agents—the Silkies — who acted for it in the world of tiny movements. They, in turn, had at their disposal hits and pieces of the Glis’s own "body", which apparently could be program­med for specific tasks beyond their ability to perform.
"I am willing," said the Glis, "to make the same arrangement with your government for as long as I remain in the solar system."
But absolute secrecy would be necessary.

There was no immediate reply, but the communication band remained open; and along it there flowed an essence of the reaction from the Glis: an impression of un­matched power, of a being so mighty that all other individuals in the uni­verse were less by some enormous percentage.
Cemp felt staggered anew.
But he telepathed: "I must tell someone. Somebody has to know."
"No other Silkies — absolutely."
Cemp didn’t argue. All these millennia, the Glis had kept its identity hidden from the Space Silkies. He had a total conviction that it would wreck the entire planetoid to prevent them from learning it.
He had been lucky. It had fought him at a level where only a single chamber of the meteorite had been destroyed. It had restricted itself.
"Only the top government leaders and the Silkie Council may know," the Glis continued.
It seemed an adequate concession. Yet Cemp had an awful suspicion that in the long past of this creature every person who uncovered its sec­ret had been murdered.
Thinking thus, he could not com­promise. He demanded:
"Let me have a complete view of you — what I caught a fleeting glimpse of earlier."
He sensed, then, that the Glis hes­itated.
Cemp urged: "I promise that only the persons you named will be told about this — but we must know!"
Floating there in the cave in his Silkie form, Cemp felt a change of energy tension in the air and in the ground. Although he himself put forth no additional probing energies, he recognized that barriers were go­ing down.
And presently he began to record. His first awareness was of huge­ness.
Cemp estimated after a long, mea­suring look that the creature, a cir­cular rock-like structure, was about a thousand feet in diameter.
It was alive, but it was not a thing of flesh and blood.
It "fed" from some inner energy that rivaled what existed in the heart of the sun.
And Cemp noticed a remarkable phenomenon.
Magnetic impulses that passed through the creature and impinged on his senses were altered in a fash­ion that he had never observed be­fore — as if they had passed through atoms of a different structure than anything that he knew.
He remembered the fleeting im­pression he had had from the mole­cule. This was the same but on a massive scale.
What startled him was that all his enormous training in such matters gave no clue as to what the struc­ture might be.

"Enough?" asked the creature. Cemp said, "yes," doubt­fully.
The Glis accepted his reluctant agreement as a complete authoriza­tion. What had been a view through and past the cave wall, abruptly disappeared.
The alien thought spoke into his mind: "I have done a very dangerous thing for me in thus revealing my­self. Therefore, I again earnestly impress on you the importance of a limited number of people being told what you have just witnessed."
In secrecy— it continued — lay the greatest safety, not only for it but for Cemp.
"I believe," said the creature, "that what I can do is overwhelming. But I could be wrong. What disturbs me is there is only one of me. I would hate to suddenly feel the kind of fear that might motivate me to destroy an entire system."
The implied threat was as deadly — and as possible — as anything Cemp had ever heard.
Cemp hesitated, feeling over­whelmed, desperate for — and need­ing — more information.
He flashed: "How old do Silkies get?" Added quickly: "We’ve had no experience, since none has yet died a natural death."
"About a thousand of your Earth years," was the answer.
"What have you in mind for Earth-born Silkies? Why did you want us to return here?"
Again there was a pause; once more the sense of colossal power. But presently with it there came a reluctant admission that new Silk­ies, born on planets, normally had less direct knowledge of the Glis than those who had made the latest trip.
Thus, the Glis had a great interest in insuring that there was plenty of time allowed for a good replacement crop of unknowing young Silkies.
It finished: "You and I shall have to make a special agreement. Per­haps you can have E-Lerd’s position and be my contact."
Since E-Lerd no longer remem­bered that he was the contact, Cemp had no sense of having been offer­ed anything but . . . danger.
He thought soberly: "I’ll never be permitted to come back here, once I leave."
But that didn’t matter. The im­portant thing was —
. . . Get away! At once!


At the Silkie Authority, the com­puter gave four answers.
Cemp rejected two at once. They were, in the parlance of computer technology "trials". The machine simply presented all the bits of in­formation, strung out in two look­overs. By this means a living brain could examine the data in segments. But Cemp did not need such data—not now.
Of the remaining two answers, one postulated a being akin to a god.
. . . But Cemp had experienced the less-than-godlike powers of the Glis, in that it had twice failed to defeat him. True, he believed that it had failed to destroy him because it did not wish to destroy the plane­toid. But an omnipotent god would not have found that a limitation.
He had to act as if the amazing fourth possibility were true.
The picture that had come through was one of ancientness.
The mighty being hidden in the planetoid predated most planetary systems.
"In the time from which it de­rives," reported the computer, "there were, of course, stars and star sys­tems, but they were different. The natural laws were not what they are today. Space and time have made ad­justments since then, grown older; and so the present appearance of the universe is different from what the Glis knew at its beginnings. This seems to give it an advantage, for it knows some of the older shapes of atoms and molecules and can re­create them. Certain of these combi­nations reflect the state of matter when it was — the best comparison — younger."
The human government group, to whom Cemp presented this data, were stunned. Like himself, they had been basing their entire plan on working out a compromise with the Space Silkies.
Now, suddenly, here was a colos­sal being, with unknown powers.
"Would you say," asked one man huskily, "that to a degree the Silkies are slaves of this creature."
Cemp said, "E-Lerd definitely didn’t know what he was dealing with. He simply had what he con­ceived to be a scientific system for utilizing a force of nature. The Glis responded to his manipulation of this system, as if it were simply an­other form of energy. But I would guess that it controlled him, perhaps through pre-conditioning, installed long ago."
As he pointed out, such a giant life form would not be concerned with the everyday living details of its sub­jects. It would be satisfied with hav­ing a way of invariably getting them to do what it wanted.
"But what does it want?" That came from another man.
"It goes around doing good," said Cemp. He smiled a tight smile. "That’s the public image it tried to give me. I have the impression that it’s willing to make over the solar system to our specifications."

At this point Mathews spoke, "Mr. Cemp," he said, what does all this do to the Silkie situation?"
Cemp said that the Silkies who had defected had clearly acted has­tily. "But," he finished, "I should tell you that I find the Space Silkies a very likable group. In my opinion, they are not the problem. They have the same problem, in another way, that we have."
"Nat —" said Charley Baxter, "do you trust this monster?"
Cemp hesitated, remembering the deadly attacks; remembering that only the Kibmadine defense screen and energy reversal process had saved him; and that the great being had been compelled to reveal its presence to prevent him from forcing E-Lerd to open his mind — which would have apprised the Space Silkies of the nature of the Power.
"No!" he said.
Having spoken, he realized that a simple negative was not enough answer. It could not convey the reality of the terrifying danger that was out there in space.
He said slowly, "I realize that my own motives may be suspect in what I am about to say. But it’s my true opinion. I think all Earth Silkies should be given full knowledge of the Kibmadine attack and defense system at once, and that they work in teams to keep a constant watch on the Glis, permitting no one to leave the planetoid — except to sur­render."
There was a pregnant silence. Then a scientist said in a small voice, "Any chance of logic of levels applying?"
"I don’t see how," said Cemp.
"I didn’t either," said the man, un­happily.
Camp addressed the group again: "I believe we should gird ourselves to drive this thing from the solar system. We’re not safe until it’s gone."
It was as he finished sneaking that he sensed an energy tension . . . fa­miliar!
He had a sensation, then, of cos­mic distance and cosmic time — opening.
Power unlimited!
It was the same feeling he had had in the second attack . . . when his senses had been confused.
The fear that came to Cemp in that moment had no parallel in his experience. It was the fear of a man who suddenly has a fleeting glimpse of death and destruction for all his own kind and for his planet.

As he had that awful conscious­ness, Cemp whirled from where he was standing. He ran headlong toward the great window behind him, shattering it with an arc of lightning as he did so. And with eyes closed against the flying glass, he plunged out into the empty air seventy stories above the ground.
As he fell, the fabric of space and time collapsed around him like a house of cards tumbling. Cemp trans­formed into Class C Silkie, and became immensely more perceptive. Now he sensed the nature of the co­lossal energy at work: a gravitational field so intense that it actually closed in upon itself. Encompassing all things organic and inorganic, it squeezed with irresistible power —
Defensively, Cemp put up, first, his inverter system.
And perceived that that was not the answer.
Instantly, he triggered gravity transformation — an infinite variable system, which converted the en­croaching superfield to a harmless energy in relation to himself.
With that, he felt the change slow.
It did not stop. But he was no longer so involved, no longer so en­veloped; and yet he was not com­pletely free.
He realized what held him. He was oriented to this massive segment of space-time. To an extent, anything that happened here happened to him. To that extent, he could not get away.
The world grew dim. The sun dis­appeared.
Cemp saw with a start that he was inside a chamber, and realized that his automatic screens had protected him from striking the hard, glitter­ing walls.
And he became aware of three other realities.
The chamber was familiar, in that there below him was one of the glow­ing images of a planet. The image showed the oceans and the conti­nents, and the fact that he was looking down at it seemed to indicate that he was— somehow—back in­side the Silkie planetoid, in one of the "art" rooms.
What was different was that as he looked down at the planetary image, he saw the familiar outlines of the continents and oceans of Earth.
That the feeling of a virtually un­limited force pressing was a true ex­planation of what had happened.
The ancient monster that lived at the core of the planetoid had taken Earth, compressed it and everything in it and on it, from an 8000-mile-in-diameter planet into a hundred-foot ball and had added it to its fabulous collection.
It was not a jewel-like image of Earth there in the floor.
It was Earth itself.
Even as he had the thought, Cemp sensed that the planetoid was increas­ing speed.
He thought: "We’re leaving the solar system."
In a matter of minutes, as he ho­vered there, helpless to act, the speed of the planetoid became hundreds, then thousands of miles a second.
After about an hour of continuing acceleration, the velocity of the tiny planetoid in its ever-widening hyper­bolic orbit was nearly half that of the speed of light.
A few hours later, the planetoid was beyond the orbit of Pluto, and it was traveling at near light-speed.
And still accelerating—


Somewhere in there, Cemp began to brace himself. Anger spilled through him like a torrent down a rocky decline.
"You incredible monster!" he tele­pathed.
No answer.
Cemp raged on: "You’re the most vicious creature that ever existed. I’m going to see that you get what’s coming to you!"
This time he got a reply. "I’m leaving the solar system forever," said the Glis. "Why don’t you get off before it’s too late? I’ll let you get away."
Cemp had no doubt of that. He was its most dangerous enemy, and his escape and unexpected appear­ance must have come as a hideous shock to the Glis.
"I’m not leaving," he retorted, "until you undo what you’ve done to the Earth."
There was silence.
"Can you and will you?" Cemp demanded.
"No. It’s impossible." The re­sponse came reluctantly.
"But you could, if you wanted to, bring Earth back to size?"
"No. But I now wish I had not taken your planet," said the Glis unhappily. "It has been my policy to leave alone inhabited worlds that are protected by powerful life forms. I simply couldn’t bring myself to believe that any Silkie was really dangerous to me. I was mistaken."
It was not the kind of repentance that Cemp respected. "Why can’t you— unsqueeze — it?" he persist­ed.
It seemed that the Glis could create a gravity field, but it could not reverse such a field. It said apologetically, "It would take as much power to undo it as it took to do it. Where is there such power?"
Where, indeed? But still he could not give up. "I’ll teach you what anti-gravity is like," Cemp offered, "from what I can do in my own energy control system."
But the Glis pointed out that it had had the opportunity to study such systems in other Silkies. "Don’t think I didn’t try. Evidently anti­gravity is a late manifestation of matter and energy. And I’m an early form — as you, and only you, know."
Cemp’s hope faded suddenly. Somehow, he had kept believing that there was a possibility. There wasn’t.
The first grief touched him, the first real acceptance of the end of Earth.

The Glis was communicating again: "I can see that you and I now have a serious situation be­tween us. So we must arrive at an agreement. I’ll make you the leader of the Silkie nation. I’ll subtly in­fluence everything and everyone to fit your wishes. Women— as many as you desire. Control— as much as you want. Future actions of this planetoid you and I shall decide."
Cemp did not even consider the offer. He said grimly, "You and I don’t think alike. I can just imagine trusting you to leave me alone if I ever took the chance of changing to human form."
He broke off, said curtly, "The deal as I see it is a limited truce, while I consider what I can do against you, and you figure out what to do to me."
"Since that’s the way you feel," was the harsh reply, "let me make my position clear. If you begin any action against me, I shall first destroy Earth and the Silkie nation, and then give you my attention."
Cemp replied in his own steely fashion: "If you ever damage any­thing I value— and that includes all Silkies and what’s left of Earth —I’ll attack you with everything I’ve got."
The Glis said scornfully. "You have nothing that can touch me —except those defense screens that re­verse the attack flow. That way, you can use my own force against me. So I won’t attack. Therefore — per­manent stalemate."
Cemp said, "We’ll see."
The Glis said, "You yourself stat­ed that your levels of logic wouldn’t work on me."
"I meant not directly," said Cemp. "There are many indirect approaches to the mind."
"I don’t see how anything like that can work on me," was the re­ply.
At the moment, Cemp didn’t eith­er.


Through miles of passageways, up as well as down, and round about, Cemp made his way. The journey took him through long chambers filled with furniture and art objects from other planets.
En route, he saw strange and wonderful scenes in bas-relief and brilliant color on one wall after an­other. And always there were the planets themselves, glowingly beau­tiful, but horrifying too, in his aware­ness that each one represented a hid­eous crime.
His destination was the city of the Silkies. He followed the internal pathway to it because he dared not leave the planetoid to take an ex­ternal route. The Glis had virtually admitted it had not anticipated that he—its most dangerous enemy—would survive. So if he ever left these caves, he would have no fur­ther choice, no chance to decide on what the penalty — if any — or the outcome should he, and no part at all in the Silkie future. For he would surely never be allowed to return.
Not that there was any purpose in him. His grief was too deep and terrible. He had failed to protect, failed to realize, failed in his duty.
Earth was lost.
So quickly, so completely, a disas­ter so great it could not even be contemplated for more than instants at a time.
At intervals, he mourned Joanne, and Charley Baxter, and other friends among the Special People, and the human race.
By the time he was sunk into these miseries, he had taken up an observation position on top of a tree overlooking the main street of the Silkie city.
There he waited, with all of his signal systems constantly at peak alert.
While he maintained his tireless vigil, the life of the Silkie community had its being around him. The fact that the Silkies continued to live mostly as humans began to seem significant.
Cemp thought, shocked: "They’re being kept vulnerable."
In human form, they could all be killed in a single flash of intolerable flame.
He telepathed on the Glis band: "free them from that compulsion, or I’ll tell them the truth about what you are."
An immediate, ferocious answer value: "You say one word, and I shall wipe out the entire nest."
Cemp commanded: "Release them from that compulsion, or we come to our crisis right now!"
His statement must have given the Glis pause, for there was a brief silence. Then: "I’ll release half of them. No more. I must retain some hold over you."
Cemp considered that and, realized its truth. "But it has to be on an alternating basis. Half are free for twelve hours, then the other half."
The Glis accepted the compromise without any further argument.
It was clear that it was prepared to recognize the balance of power.
"Where are we heading?" said Cemp.
"To another star system."
The answer did not satisfy Cemp. Surely, the Glis didn’t expect to go on with its malignant game of col­lecting inhabited planets.
He challenged, "I feel that you have some secret purpose."
"Don’t be ridiculous, and don’t bother me any more!"
. . . Stalemate.

As the days and the weeks went by, Cemp tried to keep track of the distance the planetoid was covering and the direction it was going.
The speed of the meteorite had reached nearly a light year a day, Earth time.
Eighty-two of those days passed. And then there was the feel of slow­ing down. The deceleration contin­ued all that day and the next. And, for Cemp, there was finally no ques­tion: He could not permit this strange craft, which was now his home, to arrive at a destination about which he knew nothing.
"Stop this ship!" he ordered.
The Glis replied angrily: "You can’t expect to control such minor things as this."
Since it could be a deadly danger­ous scheme, Cemp replied: "Then open yourself to me. Show me ev­erything you know about this sys­tem."
"I’ve never been here before." "All right, then that’s what I’ll see when you open up."
"I can’t possibly let you look in­side me. You may see something this time that will make me vulner­able to your techniques."
"Then change course."
"No. That would mean I could not go anywhere until you die about a thousand years from now. I re­fuse to accept such a limitation."
The second reference to Silkie age gave Cemp great pause. On Earth no one had known how long Silkies could live, since none born there had died a natural death. He himself was only thirty-eight years of age.
"Look," he said finally, "If I have only a thousand years, why don’t you just sit me out? That must be only a pinpoint in time compared to your own life span."
"All right, we’ll do that!" replied the Glis.
But the deceleration continued.
Cemp telepathed: "If you don’t turn aside, I must take action."
"What can you do?" was the con­temptuous response.
It was a good question. What, in­deed?
"I warn you," said Cemp.
"Just don’t tell anyone about me. Other than that do anything you please."
Cemp said, "I gather you’ve de­cided I’m not dangerous. And this is the way you act with those you consider harmless."
The Glis said that it believed that, if he had been able to do something, he would already have done it. It finished: "And so I tell you flatly, I’m going to do as I please; and the only restriction on you is, don’t vio­late my need for secrecy. Now, don’t bother me again."

The meaning of the dismissal was clear. He had been judged to be helpless. Categorized as someone whose desires need not be considered. The eighty days of inaction had stood against him. He hadn’t at­tacked; therefore he couldn’t. That was palpably the other’s logic.
Well . . . what could he do?
He could make an energy assault. But it would take time to mount, and he could expect that the Silkie nation would he wiped out in retaliation, and Earth destroyed.
Cemp decided he was not ready to force such a calamity.
He was presently dismayed to realize that the Glis’s analysis was correct. He could keep his mind shut and respect its need for secrecy—and nothing more.
He ought, it seemed to him, to point out to the Glis that there were different types of secrecy. Grada­tions. Secrecy about itself was one type. But secrecy about the star system ahead was quite another. The whole subject of secrecy—
Cemp’s mind poised. Then he thought: "How could I have missed it?"
Yet, even as he had the awareness, he realized how it happened. The Glis’s need to withhold knowledge of itself had seemed understandable. And somehow the naturalness of it had made him by-pass its implica­tions. But now—
"Secrecy!" he thought. "Of course! That’s it!"
To Silkies, secrecy was an under­stood phenomenon.
After a few more seconds of thinking about it, Cemp took his first action. He reversed gravity in rela­tion to the planetoid mass below him. Light as a thistledown he float­ed up and away from the treetop that had been his observation post for so long.
Soon he was speeding along gran­ite corridors.


He reached without incident the chamber which contained Earth.
As he set his signals, so that all his screens would protect that prec­ious round ball, Cemp permitted himself another increment of hope.
"Secrets!" he thought again, and his mind soared.
Life, in its natural impulse, had no secrets.
Baby gurgled, or cried, or mani­fested needs, instant by instant, as each feeling was experienced. But the child, growing older, was pro­gressively admonished and inhibited; subjected to a thousand restraints. Yet all his life the growing being would want openness and unre­straint; would struggle to free him­self from childhood—and that was what it was conditioning.
Conditioning was not of itself logic of levels. But it was related; a step lower, only. The appearance was of a control center; that is, a rigidity. But it was a created center, which could be repeatedly mobilized by the correct stimulus. That part was automatic.
The decisive fact was that, since the Glis had conditioned itself to secrecy . . . it was conditionable.

Having reached this penultimate point in his analysis, Cemp hesitated. As a Silkie, he was condi­tioned to incapacitate rather than kill, to negotiate rather than incapac­itate, and to promote well-being everywhere.
Even for the Glis, death should be the final consideration, not the first.
And so he telepathed: "In all your long span, you have feared that someone would one day learn how to destroy you. I have to tell you that I am that feared person. So, unless you are prepared to back down from those insolent statements of a little while ago, then you also must die."
The answer came coldly, "I let you go to your planet, Earth, be­cause I have the real hostages under my complete control. The Silkie Nation!"
"That is your final statement?" Cemp questioned.
"Yes. Cease these foolish threats! They are beginning to irritate me."
Cemp now used the words: "I know where you come from, what you are, and what happened to oth­ers like you."
He, of course, knew nothing of the kind. But it was the technique. By stating the generalization, he would evoke the Glis’s perception and memory network, first, the truth. Then, like all living things, the Glis would immediately have the impulse automatically to give forth with the data as it actually was.
Yet, before it could be so, it would exercise the restraint of . . . secrecy.
And that would be an exact pat­tern, a reaffirmation of similar, pre­cise restraints in its long, long past. His problem was to utilize it before it de-stimulated. Because so long as it held it was the equivalent of a logic of levels Gestalt.
Having, according to the theory, mobilized it, Cemp transmitted the triggering signal.
A startled thought came from the Glis: "What have you done?"
It was Cemp’s turn to be sly, cov­ert, scheming. He said, "I had to call to your attention that you had bet­ter deal with me."
It was too late, but the pretense—if successful—might save many lives.
"I wish to point out," said the Glis, "that I have not yet damaged anything of value."
Cemp was profoundly relieved to hear the statement. But he had no regrets. With such a creature as this, he could not hope to repeat what he was doing against it. Once the pro­cess was started, it was all or noth­ing.
"What was it you said before about bargaining?" the Glis asked urgently.
Cemp steeled himself against sympathy.
The Glis continued: "I’ll give you all my secrets in exchange for you telling me what you’re doing to me. I’m experiencing severe internal dis­turbance, and I don’t know why."

Cemp hesitated. It was a tremen­dous offer. But he divined that, once he made it, he would have to keep such a promise.
What had happened was that, as he had hoped, his final signal had triggered the equivalent of a colony Gestalt, in this instance the process by which life forms slowly over the years and the millennia adjusted to exterior change.
. . . The cycle-completing control centers, the growth-change mechan­ism in the great being, were stim­ulated.
Silkies understood the nature of growth. And of change they knew much from their own bodies. But Silkies were late indeed in the scheme of life. Their cells were as old as the rocks and the planets, in terms of evolvement. The entire history of life’s progression was in every cell of a Silkie.
That could not be true of the Glis. It was from an ancient eon, and it had stormed time within it­self. Or at least it had not passed on its seed, which was the way of change through time. In itself, it manifested old, primitive forms. Great forms they were, but the mem­ory in each cell would be limited to what had gone before.
Therefore, it couldn’t know what, in holding hack as it had, it was holding back from.
"I promise not to go on to the Nijjan system." said the Glis. "Ob­serve—I’m already turning aside."
Cemp sensed a change in the di­rection of the planetoid. But it seemed a minor act; not meaningful.
He merely noted, in passing, the identity of the star the Glis had named; observed that, since it knew the name, it had been there before. Which seemed to imply that it had had a purpose in going there.
It didn’t matter; they were turn­ing away from it, would never reach it. If there was a threat there for himself, or Silkies, it was now divert­ed; had been useful only in that it had forced him to action regardless of consequences.
The Glis’s willingness to make amends when it no longer had any choice was merely a sad commentary on its character, but much too late. Many planets—Cemp thought—too late.
How many? he wondered.
And because he was in the strange set emotion of someone whose whole thought and effort is concentrated on a single, intensely felt purpose, he asked the question automatically as it came into his mind.
"I don’t think I should tell you; you might hold it against me," the Glis replied.

It must have sensed Cemp’s ada­mant state, for it broke off, said quickly, "Eighteen hundred and twenty-three."
So many!
The total of them did not shock Cemp. It hurt him. For one of that countless number of unnecessary dead on those planets was Joanne. An­other was Charley Baxter.
"Why have you done all this?" Cemp asked. "Why destroy all those planets?"
"They were so beautiful."
True. Cemp had a sudden mental vision of a great planet hanging In space, its atmosphere ballooning up above the oceans and mountains and plains. He had seen that sight often, yet found it always a thing of splen­dor beyond all the visual delights of the universe.
The feeling passed, for a planet was beautiful when it was brooded over by its parent sun, and not as a shrunken museum piece.
The Glis with its planets was like a headhunter of old. Skillfully, he had murdered each victim. Patient­ly, he had reduced the head to its small size. Lovingly, he had placed it in his collection.
For the headhunter, each perfect miniature head was a symbol of his manhood. For the Glis, the planets were—what?
Cemp couldn’t imagine.
But he had delayed long enough. He sensed incipient violence on the communication band. He said has­tily, "All right, I agree—as soon as you do what I want, I’ll tell you."
"What do you want?"
Cemp said, "First, let the other Silkies go outside."
"But you’ll do as I’ve asked?"
"Yes. When you’ve released them, put me and the Earth outside, safe­ly."
"Then you’ll tell me?"
The Glis threatened: "If you don’t, I’ll smash your little planet. I will not let you or it escape if you don’t tell me."
"I’ll tell you."


The method that was used was, the entire section of the planetoid surrounding Cemp simply lifted up and shot off into the sky. Cemp found himself floating in empty, black space, surrounded by meteor­ite debris.
The Glis’s thought came to him: "I have done my part. Now tell me!"
Even as Cemp complied, he began to wonder if he himself really un­derstood what was happening.
Uneasiness came. In setting in mo­tion a cycle-completion process, he had taken it for granted that Nature would strike a balance. An old life form had somehow been preserved here, and in its body evolution was now proceeding at lightning speed. Millions of years of change had al­ready been compressed into minutes of time. Since none other of its kind remained alive, he had assumed that the species had long since evolved to—what?
What was this creature? A chrys­alis? An egg? Would it become a but­terfly of space? a great worm? or a gigantic bird?
Such possibilities had not occurred to him before. He had thought only of the possibility of extinction.
But—it struck him keenly—he hadn’t considered seriously enough what that . . . extinction . . . might consist of in its end product.
Indeed, he hadn’t thought about there being an end product.
Unhappily, Cemp remembered what the computer had reported: That the atomic structure of this giant being reflected a younger state of matter.
Could it be that, as the particles "adjusted" and changed to current norm, there would be a release of energy on a hitherto unknown scale?
Distracted, Camp thought: "What will it evolve to?"

Below, a titanic thing happened. Part of the planetoid lifted.
A solid ball of red-hot matter, at least a mile thick, lifted slowly out of it. As Cemp drew aside to let the improbable thing pass him, he saw an even more unlikely phenomenon was taking place. The "up" speed of the chunk of now white-hot rock and dirt was increasing—and the mass was growing in size.
It was well past him, and it was at least a hundred miles in diameter. A minute later, it was five hundred miles thick, and it was still expand­ing, still increasing speed.
It expanded to a burning, incred­ible mass.
Suddenly, it was ten thousand miles in diameter; and was still going away, still growing.
Cemp sent out a general alarm: "Get away—as fast as you can. Away!"
As he himself, fled, using a rever­sal of gravity on the monstrous body behind him, he saw that in those few minutes it had grown to a sun over a hundred thousand miles thick.
It was quite pink at his point; strangely, beautifully pink.
The color altered even as he watched; turned faintly yellow. And the body that emitted the beautiful ochre light was now over a million miles in diameter.
As big as Earth’s sun.
In minutes more, it grew to the size of a giant blue sun; ten times the diameter of Sol.
It began to turn pink again. And it grew one hundred times in ten minutes.
Brighter than Mira the Wonder­ful. Bigger than glorious Ras Algethi.
But pink, not red. A deeper pink than before; not red, so definitely not a variable.
All around was the starry universe, bright with unfamiliar objects that glowed near and far; hundreds of them, strung out like a long line of jack-o-lanterns.
Below was Earth.

Cemp looked at that scene in the heavens, and then at the near, familiar planet; and an awful excite­ment seized him.
He thought: Is it possible that ev­erything had to grow; its change al­tered this entire area of space-time?
Old forms could not keep their compressed state once the super-colossal pink giant completed the growth that had somehow been ar­rested from time’s beginning.
And so the Glis was now a sun in its prime, but with eighteen hun­dred and twenty-three planets strung out like so many starry brilliants over the whole near sky.
Everywhere he looked were plan­ets so close they looked like moons.
He made a quick, anxious calcu­lation. And realized with great re­lief that all that he could see were still within the warming area of the monstrous sun that hung out there, half a light-year away.
As Cemp descended, at the top speed that his Silkie body could with­stand, into the huge atmosphere blanket that surrounded Earth . . . everything seemed the same—the land, the sea, the cities—
He swooped low over one high­way and observed cars going along it.
He headed for the Silkie Author­ity in a haze of wonder, and saw the shattered window from which he had leaped so dramatically— Not yet repaired!
When, moments later, he landed among the same group of men who had been there at his departure, he realized there had been some kind of a time stasis, related to size.
For Earth, and its people, all that eighty days had been . . . eighty sec­onds.
—Afterwards, he would hear how people had experienced what seemed like an earthquake, tension in their bodies, momentary sensory black­out, a brief feeling that it was dark—
Now, as he entered, Cemp transformed to human form and said in a piercing voice: "Gentlemen, pre­pare for the most remarkable piece of information in the history of the universe. That pink sun out there is not the result of an atmospheric dis­tortion.
"And, gentlemen, Earth now has eighteen hundred inhabited sister planets.
"Let’s begin to organize for a fantastic future!"

Later, comfortably back in his Florida home, Cemp said to Joanne:
"Now we can see why the Silkie problem didn’t have a solution as things stood. For Earth, two thou­sand of us was saturation. But in this new sun system—"
It was no longer a case of what to do with the six thousand members of the Silkie nation, but how could they get a hundred such groups to cope with the work to be done?




When the Silkie call for help came, Nat Cemp, himself Silkie, was exploring the planet which had been given the astronomi­cal designation Minus 1109-93 . . . the 1109th planet farther away than Earth from the new, mighty sun, of which Earth had become one small, green, planetary part, revolving at an angle of 93° in relation to Earth’s orbit.
It was a temporary nomencla­ture. No one took the attitude that Earth was the most important planet of the new system.
Not, apparently, that it was going to matter. On the three planets that had been assigned to Cemp — 1107, 1108 and now 1109 — there were no detectable inhabitants. He had been skimming for nearly half a day among the strange, slender buildings which reared like stretched lacework toward the sky. And al­ready it was sadly obvious that here, also, the transition period had been too long for life to survive. Perhaps only Earth and the few others al­ready discovered had been able to make the changeover.
The call for help came as Cemp was floating through a vast genera­tor building complex. Clear and sharp and urgent, he picked it up from the mechanical relay system between 1109 and 1110.
It said, "All Silkies and govern­ment agencies: I have just received a (Silkie word) message from Lan Jedd."
The special Silkie "word" was a thought-form that was used to des­cribe an after-death Silkie communi­cation phenomenon. As a Silkie descended into death, there was a threshold point at which an isolated neural bundle was activated. The bundle was a telepathic sender; and it, quite simply, transmitted the final living thoughts, perceptions and feel­ings of a Silkie who, at the time the message was sent, was already dead.

The name of the dead Silkie, thus relayed, shocked Cemp. For Lan Jedd and he had been as much friends as any two Silkies ever were, or rather ever were allowed to be. Human beings and particularly the Special People — humans who could communicate telepathically with Silkies — had always discouraged Silkie-with-Silkie associations.
Lan and he had chosen to explore adjoining sets of planets at this remote end of the system in order to have relatively unmonitored discussions about the increasing severity of the Silkie-human problem.
So for Comp, as the message reached him, the shocking thrill-thought came: except, for the sender, he himself was the nearest "help."
He responded at once with: "Nat Cemp coming immediately. Who are you?"
"Ou-Dan! Calling from 1113-86."
The identification of the sender was disturbing. It was a name o the type and style common to meteorite Silkies, whose existence had been unknown until less that a year ago. The presence of such "original" Silkies in this vastly larger sun system was an unknown, un­resolved factor . . . which Cemp and Lan Jedd had also talked about in great detail.
Startling to consider that, perhaps, Ou-Dan had "listened in" to their discussion.
But what especially disturbed Cemp was that he had no confidence in the fighting abilities of these new­ly arrived Silkies. It meant that for many hours he would be virtually alone against a mysterious, power­ful enemy who had already proved himself strong enough to kill a Sil­kie.
As he had these awarenesses, Cemp was projecting himself out of the building he was in. Moments later he was rising out of the at­mosphere by means of his Silkie method of gravitation reversal. Literally, the planet expelled his body which, in his C-Silkie form, was almost bullet-shaped and ten feet long. In this form it was a body that was fully able to operate and live in the vacuum of space.
Once away from the planet, Cemp maintained his expulsion momentum and moved through space by cutting off gravity from all objects in space except in the direction he wanted to go. Thus the outer planets drew him, and he "fell" with ever in­creasing speed toward his destina­tion, a special "ship."
In spite of his initial acceleration, it was the usual slow journey of a Silkie traveling by himself through space. And so it was several anxious hours later before at last he saw the ship in the dark space ahead.

The ship was a defensive vessel that had been built as part of a crash program after the disaster of Earth becoming part of the new sun system. Built without walls, utilizing weapons as modern as what Cemp had learned from the Glis, it and others like it were part of the safety measures set up in con­junction with exploring so many new and unknown planets.
As soon as he was securely in con­trol of the ship, Cemp started it toward Ou-Dan, a distance of only four planets. Which was no problem at all to the fast ship.
Once under way, Cemp allowed its relay sender to activate again. Thus he tuned into communications which were already in progress from more remote points: Silkies specu­lating telepathically about what had happened.
What a powerful life-form that particular planet which Lan Jedd had been exploring must have, if one or even several of them could kill a fully grown Silkie like Lan. That was the general thought. From all over the system converging Silkies readied for a mass battle with a dangerous opponent.
Unfortunately, it would be quite a while before these more distant helpers arrived on the scene. For at least an earth day, Ou-Dan and he would be the only living beings on or near the scene of the crime.
Arriving at ship speed, Cemp learned that the dead Silkie body had been taken by Ou-Dan over to a meteorite, which circled 1113-86.
The strange bright-dark of space with its black "sky" and the huge, faraway sun glaring with a thousand reflected brilliances from every rock and metal facet of the meteorite — that was the backdrop.
In such a vast frame, the shat­tered Silkie body seemed like an atom in infinity. It lay sprawled on a flat spread of rock. In death it bore an even vaguer resemblance to a human being than in life. There was a sort of leg separation at the rear, and up front was a caricature of a human face.
No indication of how the des­truction had been done. Ou-Dan commented telepathically that the body looked collapsed. But it was not much smaller than normal: eight inches at most.
As Cemp gazed silently down at his dead friend, he thought: The worst possible had happened. A highly trained adult Silkie, with all that implied in alertness and ability to utilize powerful defensive and offensive energies, had been confronted by another being.
And the Silkie had been defeated and killed.

Ou-Dan, looking a little like an elongated meteorite himself, telepathed. "Lan had just reported to me that there were no inhabitants surviving on 1110, 1111 and 1112, and I, working backwards, had found the same situation on 1115, 1114 and 1113, when his after-death message came."
Cemp thought: A dead Silkie, and only one clue: that single flash of communication from the mature and powerful Lan Jedd, instants after he died.
. . . A mental picture of a pyra­midal shape and the thought: It came from nowhere, from nothing.
Cemp felt a chill as he contem­plated the fantastic implications of the message. The immense speed of the attack . . . out of nowhere.
Presently, Cemp telepathed to Ou­-Dan: "Why don’t you come with me and we’ll wait in the ship? Its weapons will help us if we’re at­tacked."
Ou-Dan followed Cemp into an alcove barrier at the heart of the machinery that made up the "ship."
"But I’m not staying," he said.
Comp sensed behind the decision, not antagonism, but disinterest.
Ou-Dan’s thought came again: "I remained with Lan’s dead body out of courtesy till someone arrived. Now, that you’re here, I plan to re­turn to Earth."
"It’s safer in the ship," urged.
He pointed out that it was Earth Silkie maxim never to take unnecessary chances. Ou-Dan’s plan to go out by himself into space Seemed a risk of this kind.
"It would be purely accidental," was the reply, "If I met the killer in these vast reaches. My guess is he spotted Lan when he used the relay system to communicate with me. As I see it, the closer you are to a ship, the greater your danger."
The analysis had its own reason­ableness. But why, since Ou-Dan had joined the exploration group in the first place, leave now? Cemp asked the question.
Ou-Dan said that because of Cemp’s action in saving the meteo­rite Silkies from the Glis eight months before, Ou-Dan felt obli­gated to tell him that he considered this to be a crisis. But truth was it was probably typical of the many crises that would occur in the future in a new system comprising eighteen hundred and twenty-three habitable planets. So the time to resolve Silkie rights in relation to human beings was now.
Ou-Dan predicted that the Silkie originals would undoubtedly take no further action until their legal situ­ation with Earth was settled.
"The others and I came out to get the feel of being involved," said Ou-Dan. "So I can tell you right now that we’re not going to settle for being police officers like you. And of course we’re not going to give up our ability to change to any form or shape of body.
"After all," Ou-Dan continued tolerantly, "just because you’re limited to the Silkie-human cycle doesn’t mean we have to be."
They had been talking mentally at the super-speed of thoughts syn­chronized with magnetic carrier waves. It would have actually requir­ed a small book for a transcript of the details of their messages to each other; the overtones were that many.
Now, for the period required for a private thought, Cemp put up a barrier.
The fantastic subject of change of form was not one that he was pre­pared to discuss with anyone.
In fact, he had instructions from the Silkie Foundation to keep secret his special knowledge.

The original Silkies—like Ou‑Dan — had a basic ability to change into any living shape or form that could contain, expand or compress the total number of molecules involved. It need not be merely a human form. Theirs was, however, an elementary level transformation, beginning with a general internal and external resemblance — not too refined but adequate for any reason­able purpose. In addition, in the presence of a life-form, they could by a continuous rapid scanning and feedback method duplicate it at vir­tually any level of refinement —so long as the being who was dupli­cated was close by.
Earth Silkies, on the other hand, had been biologically limited to the human-Silkie change, which was automatic once it was set in motion.
Only Nat Cemp, of the Earth Silkies, could go beyond the Silkie-human cycle.
In confronting the remarkable Kibmadine, he had learned its per­fect method of metamorphic ability. He needed only the memory of somebody once met to be able to become that being with total dup­lication.
Having had these thoughts, and hidden them, Cemp telepathed in a temporizing way, "Don’t underesti­mate human beings."
"I won’t," retorted Ou-Dan, "so long as they have you fooled into being on their side."
Cemp said, "Even with the 6,000 original Silkies added to our own numbers, the total Silkie population of the entire universe is less than 8,000. Such a minority has to ad­just to the vast planetary popula­tions of other life-forms."
Ou-Dan said, "I don’t have to ad­just to anything. I’m free to do as I please."
Cemp said, "All through human history, wherever people got the right to make their own choices, they presently refused to cooperate even for the common good. Soon, each person set himself up as having an opinion as good as anybody else’s. Naturally, they first of all soon fell under the influence of individuals with skillful systems and in the end were maneuvered into a new slavery. Now, here you are making the same error of refusing to co­operate."
"Let others cooperate with us," was the reply. "We’re the superior beings."
"If we were so great," Cemp flashed back, "how come there’re so few of us left?"
"Well — " Ou-Dan was impati­ent — "we were unlucky that we ran into a race with even more capability than we had. At least, that’s the legend. And of course after that we were in that meteorite under the control of the Glis, and our num­bers were kept limited."

Cemp pointed out gently that con­trol of Silkies by the Glis was the slave condition. "Therefore," he said, "we may deduce that long ago Silkies reached the state of re­fusing to cooperate for the common good. We can picture enormous, vaulting egos, opinionated and ri­diculous, never once having a true survival thought.
"We can," Comp continued, "picture Silkies refusing to abide by any system of law, going out into space if anyone threatened them. Feeling absolutely impregnable. And then one day out there in the dark reaches they met their match, and were hunted down one by one by a remorseless enemy."
"I don’t see," said Ou-Dan, "how we free Silkies can even talk to someone as conformist as you are."
"Reliable is the word," answered Cemp. "I can be trusted to do what I say. Evidently you and your orig­inals cannot even decide what role you want to play."
"Why should we have a role? Why should we work at all, at any­thing? Why shouldn’t human beings work for us instead of we for them? That’s a perfectly fair question."
Cemp explained that human beings seemed to be easily surviving their present association with Silkies. But this might not be true if the con­ditions of association were altered.
Ou-Dan seemed indifferent to the possibility. And Cemp realized it was a lot to expect that someone who had had no previous contact with human beings would care about them. But Cemp, who had been born to a human mother, did care. So he said, with the intent of ending the discussion, "We’ll have a general meeting soon. We’ll talk then."
Such a meeting had already been proposed by Charley Baxter, head of the Silkie Foundation. Baxter, who was one of the Special Peo­ple, was as anxious about the atti­tude of the original Silkies as Cemp.
Ou-Dan accepted the end of con­versation with: "I have nothing more to learn here. Good-by."
Whereupon , he launched into space, and was quickly lost from view. Presently, he did not even register en the magnetic band as any different from the meteorite flotsam and jetsam that populated all areas of space.


In this distant point in space, with all the trigger systems for the "ship" set for instant reaction, Cemp waited for he knew not what.
The open-to-space ship was itself lightless. Artificial light on any level interfered with the sensitive instru­ments that monitored the protective weaponry. It was enough problem for the equipment around him that he himself had to be taken account of.
Periodically, Cemp made a com­plete check of that equipment. He established each time that every re­lay was ready to snap and that each device was separately set to permit the presence of his Silkie shape and mass and of that portion of his life energy which he could not contain within himself.
While he waited, Cemp gazed "down" in the general direction of Earth.
The view below him had the for­ever-new quality of light and form that had passed a threshold point of abundance. There were so many, many brilliant planetary lights in the dark sky of Earth’s new super-sun system. The sheer number of planets, each with a different colora­tion, made for a timelessly beautiful panorama.
For Cemp, it was below and down because he had long ago oriented himself in such human terms. In his Silkie body he always operated at what would have been face down in a human being. So he had a right and a left, a front and a back, and an up and down.
In the several conversations that he conducted with far Earth, Cemp could obtain no additional advice as to any other precautions he might take. No one believed that way out there at the remote edge of the sys­tem any living being could approach him, unnoticed.
Yet what Lan Jedd reported, in­dicated that there would be no ad­vance warning.
There wasn’t.

At the moment of the attack, Cemp had waited in the ship exactly four Earth hours, eighteen minutes and forty-two seconds.

The being who at that time for a few split-instants was exposed to Camp’s perception had the shape of an inverted pyramid

The being who at that time for a few split-instants was exposed to Camp’s perception had the shape of an inverted pyramid. Interesting that in the transmission of the same image from the now deceased Lan Jedd, the invert had not come through. The transmitting computer, consulting its analogs, had produced a pyramid stereotype wherein the base was down and the point up.
In fact, the base was up and the point down.
That was all Cemp had time to "see," for the creature was in the trap only momentarily. A less speedy perception than that of a Silkie would have noticed at best a shadow darkening a lighted space.
Despite the colossal speed of the being’s withdrawal, Camp with his heightened Silkie perception was able to examine awareness centers in him­self that had automatically recorded more data. Thus Camp continued to view where it had been through a series of neural and energy recep­tors that played back their informa­tion for his evaluation.
He realized, fascinated: During the moment it was in the trap, the creature attacked and tried to kill him.
But he was saved by the defenses of the trap.
A strong impulse came to study the battle, to discover immediately what it was that had made him vulnerable, why his own screens wouldn’t have worked.
Cemp fought that impulse, think­ing: Put the battle aside. Examine it last.
For an attack was only that —energy, force, whatever. It was the Nijjan method of approaching the trap that everybody down the line wanted to know about. Where had the fantastic thing come from?
Studying the after-images, Cemp saw with amazement that the pyra­mid shape was actually an energy projection from a source.
The being at the source he could not get a good look at; it withdrew so rapidly.
Considering the "impossible" speed of that withdrawal, he re­called a scientifically oriented specu­lative discussion he had had with other Silkies about his encounter with the Glis. Now, he felt that Glis experience again in his mind — and that wasn’t it.
The discovery appalled him. For what he had perceived had been something; and then it was nothing.
Something to nothing. Nothing to something to nothing.
What could it be?

Cemp had one receptor that had on it a vague perception. So vague that it gained reality only because he played it for himself a dozen times, and even then it re­mained unclear. But with so many replays he had an impression, if so it could be called, that the energy point which was the apparent source of the inverted pyramid had another point at some vast distance beyond it. And behind — beyond — that point was still another point, and beyond that another, and more points in the vaster distance. 0r was it distance? Cemp couldn’t decide.
After viewing and re-viewing the perceptic impression, so shadowy and uncertain, he consciously com­pared what he saw to an endless image reflected in two perfect mir­rors facing each other.
But even that was only an analogy. Because the images extended into only one mirror and not the other. It was a one-direction phenomenon.
It was a mystery which he could not solve; so, uneasily, he turned his attention to the life-and-death battle he had fought.
Like the other aspects of that momentary contact, the engagement could only be studied in its con­fusing aftermath. Examined thus, it showed as having started the split-instant that the creature ar­rived. The trap, consisting in its first phase of a Glis-type molecule with the gravity power of a planet, had instantaneously oriented to the enemy.
It was instantaneous because, of course, gravity has no lag; there is no moment of waiting while it goes through a process of adjustment.
The molecule, that remarkable discovery of the ancient nature of matter the secret of which Cemp had gotten from the Glis, reached with the power of an entire world — and attached itself to the alien.
Hindered him.
The attacker, thus handicapped, nevertheless did something. What, Cemp had no idea. All Cemp’s great defenses were up: his energy screens, his magnetic methods of turning aside radiation, what he had learned from the Kibmadine about using attack energy against the at­tacker.
But the attack was not on an en­ergy band. Cemp’s defenses had no effect.
— He felt a change in his whole body, a sudden sense of inward-col­lapsing distortion . . . .
His thought twisted strangely. Un­able to put up a single barrier, Cemp felt himself spin toward death —
The next split-moment the crea­ture, hindered by the molecule, dis­appeared.
And the battle was over.


Urgently, Cemp opened a line to Earth. He was quickly deluged with questions.
And someone had the same thought as he had had: that the pyramid was a weapon that operated through some mirror principle from an actual distance. Thus — it was argued — the effect of nothing to something to nothing was like a mir­ror being turned on and off in the time it took a relay to push-pull a switch.
"No!" answered Cemp. "It was a life-form. I sensed its aliveness."
That ended that part of the argu­ment right there.
Charley Baxter came on. "Your data is being fed into the compu­ter, Nat," he said gravely. "While we wait, would you like to speak to your wife?"
"Of course, what do you think."
Joanne’s thought, when it came through, reflected irritation. "Every­body’s so damned secretive about what you’re doing," she began.
So they hadn’t told her his danger. Cemp was relieved.
"Look," he telepathed, "we’re ex­ploring out here and testing a new ship. That’s all I’m allowed to say."
It was a truth of sorts. He added, "What have you been up to?"
His attempt at diverting her was successful. Joanne became indignant. "I have had the most horrible ex­perience," she reported.
What she told him was that Sil­kie women — members of the orig­inal Silkies — had called on the hu­man wives of Earth Silkies and urged them to divorce their Silkie hus­bands. Such a Silkie woman had called on Joanne and demanded that she divorce Cemp.
The Silkie woman had pointed out bluntly that Cemp as a Silkie would live to be at least a thousand years old. And, of course, Joanne was more mortal than that by far.
"So — " the Silkie woman had urged — "why not face the reality of that now, while you are still young?"
Cemp had the unhappy feeling that the problem was more severe than Joanne knew. A thousand years was as long as the Glis, for its own reasons, had allowed meteorite Sil­kies to live. A Silkie’s actual life span was an unknown.
Yet he had always felt that these matters would be resolved in their own good time. Joanne was under thirty. Her present life expectancy was about one hundred and fifty. Long before she reached that age, human immortality might become possible.
Questioning her, he discovered that Joanne had toughly pointed out all these things to the Silkie woman and had given as much as she received.

It was not a moment for Cemp to consider what changes might come in the Silkie-human tangle. He telepathed with warmth, ’ "Don’t worry about any of this. You’re my darling."
"That’s a powerful point," said Joanne sweetly. "But don’t think you’ve fooled me for a moment. I sense there’s a big event coining up in your life, and you’re-taking it in stride as usual."
"Well — " Cemp began.
"It’s really an unresolvable dilem­ma," answered Joanne.
"What is?" Cemp asked, in sur­prise.
Cemp quickly realized that Joanne’s concern was not with the danger but, of all things, with the fact he was not afraid. She said, almost tearfully, "If you feel so con­fident against such a mighty enemy — what’s going to become of Silkie­human relations?"
"Meaning, I presume," said Cemp, "that Silkies don’t need humans any more?"
"Well, do they?"
Comp explained patiently, "In the first place, my confidence is in Logic of Levels, and not in myself."
Joanne brushed that aside. "It’s the same thing. Logic of Levels is a tool that you can use whether you’re associated with humans or not."
"In the second place," Cemp re­plied, "I don’t even know yet whether I’m going to dare use it, though I’m certainly going to threaten it."
"You’ll be forced to. And then you’ll win, and there you’ll be at an incredible height of power and ability."
"In the third place," Cemp con­tinued, "the association between Sil­kies and humans exists. And I’m particularly happy with what I got out of the transaction — meaning you." He broke off. "Do I seem any smarter?"
"I.Q. human level, eh, still?"
"I suppose so." Reluctant admis­sion.
"I still seem to reason like a hu­man being, correct?"
"But you’re so powerful."
"Perhaps you should think of me as a battleship commander," said Cemp. "In this instance, the battle­ship is my Silkie body, and you’re the commander’s beloved wife."
The comparison seemed to buoy her, for her mind smiled at him, and she said, "They’re motioning me to stop, and I still love you, but good-by, my dear."
Her communication ceased.

Charley Baxter came on. "The computer," he said, and there was concern his thought, "was re­minded by your data of something you reported months ago; something the Glis told you during its death throes."
Cemp remembered: The Glis, re­alizing that Cemp was a dangerous Silkie, had headed toward a remote star system. This system — ac­cording to what the Glis had told Cemp in its final, desperate effort to save itself — was inhabited by an ancient enemy of the Silkies.
These beings called themselves Nijjans. Which was a race name with the mighty meaning: Creators of Universes. Or, in its fullest sense: The People Who Know the Nature of Things and Can Create Uni­verses at Will.
As Cemp uneasily pondered the hideous possibilities if the analysis were true, Baxter continued in an arguing overtone, "Nat, the Glis was going somewhere. You did get alarmed and you threatened him. As you described it, the Glis slowed down and tried to make his peace with you. So that whatever he was pointing toward must be out there in the direction he was going, not too far away."
Since astronomers had gotten a line on Sol, Earth’s former sun, they had already projected a line fairly straight at the Glis’s original destination somewhere in near space.
"And," said Baxter, "the system is out there about six light-years beyond you, Nat."
Such details were, of course, of interest. But Cemp was under too much threat for anything but the ab­solutely decisive points to matter.
He telepathed hastily, "Does the computer have any idea how the Nijjan killed Lan? Or how I should handle him if he comes back with reinforcements?"
Baxter’s disturbed reply came. "Nat, this is a terrible thing to tell someone in your situation. But the computer hasn’t the faintest idea how the thing came out of nothing­ness or what the force used against Lan and you was. It says it has no programming that fits and — "
That was all Cemp had time to receive.
At that precise split-instant, the perceptors that he had projected be­yond the Nijjan’s first relay point were triggered.
Since he had a communication line open to Earth, he allowed his recording of danger to go through him and along that line.
The essential of the communication that he thus instantly passed along was: The Nijjan is back . . . before I’m ready.


It seemed like long, long before. There the creature was, in much the same position as the first time: partly inside the ship, a hundred feet away.
But alone! That was the one hope­ful aspect.
The inverted pyramidal projection glimmered with flickering energy pulsations.
Cemp now saw that the actual being at the source of the projection was also an inverted pyramid — in a way. The base was much narrow­er. And it had, he observed, arms and legs. It was about six feet long, and beautiful in that its hard, bright skin glittered and shone with chang­ing color.
At the instant of the alien’s ar­rival, the Glis molecule fried to attach itself. But the Nijjan was evi­dently prepared; for he balanced himself against it, somehow.
And thereafter ignored the mole­cule.
Cemp grew aware that the crea­ture was looking at him intently from one or more of the bright points at the upper part of its body. Tentatively, Cemp sent a thought on a magnetic wave.
The answer came at once on the same wave band; came with multi­ples more force than Cemp was accustomed to receiving. Yet he had his own neural transformers that stepped the power down to his level —
And he had his first communica­tion.
The creature began: "Let’s have a conversation."
"You have a lot to explain," Cemp thought back, grimly.
"We’re puzzled," was the reply. "Suddenly a Nova-Osize appears on­ly a few light-years from our own system. On investigation, we discover that the system which has so sud­denly come into being is the largest planetary family, possibly, in the galaxy. Only a few of the planets are inhabited. But many have been in the past and are no longer so. Climactically, one of our exploring units meets a Silkie, a powerful be­ing known from our antiquity as an enemy. He naturally destroys this being."
Said Cemp, "We shall require your people to execute this explorer who so instantly — and naturally — took it upon himself to destroy a Silkie."
"It was an ancient reflex, which has now been modified," was the reply. "So execution will not occur. It could have happened to any Nij­jan."
"Did you do it?" Cemp asked. "Are you this — what did you call him? — exploring unit?"
"Would it matter?"
"Probably not."
The Nijjan changed the subject, "What do you Silkies do in relation to human beings? What is your role?"
"We’re police."
"Oh! That’s interesting."
Cemp couldn’t see how. Besides his attention was still concentrated on the other’s explanation for the killing of Lan Jedd.

Cemp admitted reluctantly to him­self that if an attack reflex had indeed been set up long ago in all these creatures, and never canceled, it would be difficult to adjudicate intentional murder.
But his next communication acknowledged none of this, as he continued: "All right, so here we are, accidentally doomed to occupy a space only a few light-years from each other. And we have eighteen hundred habitable planets. How many do you have?"
"That’s a difficult question to answer. We don’t think in terms of having a planet of our own. But I sense this is a difficult concept for you, so I’ll say we probably do own one planet — our original home."
"Do you want any more,"
"Not in the sense that you mean.
All this is too new. But our basic purposes are peaceful."
Cemp didn’t believe him.
It should have been true. The passing of the eons should have ended old impulses of hatred and destruction. On Earth, a thousand descendants of enemies of an equal number of yesteryears now lived side by side, at peace apparently forever.
Of course, this was not quite the same. The Nijjans were not descen­dants. They were the same beings who, long ago indeed, had attained the heights of their civilization and also immortality. These were the same creatures that had in the dis­tant past hated and sought to ex­terminate the Silkies — so the Glis had told Cemp.
In that olden time, desiring to have the Silkies as servants, the mighty Glis had offered them a symbiotic relationship as the price for saving them. And the Silkies had accepted.
But that, with the transformation and defeat of the Glis, was now over. And the Silkies were again on their own. They could expect no help from any outside source.
It was a shaking thought. But Cemp was unrelenting. "I can’t ac­cept your disclaimer," he said. "Be­cause why, when you first arrived here, presumably with your attack reflex already canceled, did you try to hill me?"
The Nijjan’s reply was: "It was a defensive act. Something grabbed me. I see now that it is an unusual gravitational manifestation. But in that first moment I reacted in two ways: Immediate counter-attack. And retreat. As soon as I had con­sidered what the threat was, I de­cided to return. And here I am. So let’s talk."
It was a good explanation. Yet Cemp’s feeling remained: he didn’t believe the story.
Couldn’t accept it. Considered it motivated by the Nijjan’s’ desire to gain time . . . He had a desperate conviction that his danger was in­creasing with each passing moment.
Cemp wondered: What does he want the time for?
The obvious answer: Time to ex­plore the ship, of course. Its struc­ture, its weaponry.
"If what you say is true," Cemp countered, "then you will tell me what your method of attack was. How did your colleague kill a Sil­kie?"
"It would be foolish of me to re­veal my advantages," answered the Nijjan. "How do I know what your plans are?"
Though that, also, was basically true, it was a total stop to discus­sion.
Yet there were still things he could learn.

Cemp sent out magnetic waves on all bands, designed to stir reactions in the other’s body. He re­corded the information that came back on magnetic waves passing through the Nijjan’s body at the time his messages arrived.
He used radar and read the data that bounced back.
— And geon waves, those strange time-delay patterns.
— He used the Ylem energy, al­so — and that was dangerously close to being a weapon. But his purpose, which he telepathed to the Nijjan, was to elicit a reaction.
If there was, in fact, any under­standing for him in the waves and energies that reflected or came back to him, Cemp could not analyze it.
With an effort, Camp braced himself against the failure, and commanded, "Leave! Unless you re­veal the method of murder, I refuse to continue this conversation. And I assure you that no further negoti­ations between our two groups can occur until that revelation is made."
The Nijjan answered, "I cannot give such data without authoriza­tion. So why not come with me and talk to — " He used a mental meaning that implied a government but had a different, additional im­plication, which Cemp could not evaluate.
Cemp answered, "That would place me at your mercy."
"Somebody has to negotiate. Why not you?"
One thing, it seemed to Cemp, could be said for this Nijjan. As a deceiver, if that were what he was, he was certainly consistent.
Telepathically, he temporized: "How would I go with you?"
"Move past me, across and into the projection of myself at a dis­tance of — " The Nijjan named a measurement in terms of a certain magnetic wavelength.
Once more, Cemp felt grudging admiration for this being. He thought: For all I know, that will be his method of killing me.
What was fascinating was that he was being maneuvered into doing it to himself.
The extreme skillfulness of the deception involved was what, in this near-ultimate moment, focused Cemp’s attention on that aspect.

As he realized the possibility, Cemp did two things.
He sent a beam to the trap me­chanism which controlled the mole­cule with its planet-sized gravity; and released the molecule’s hold on the Nijjan.
The rationale of this first action was: the being must be bracing him­self against that gravity, was using power to hold himself away from it. At the moment of release, he would have to deal with the resul­tant inertia, the equivalent of a planet’s centrifugal thrust.
The second thing Cemp did was more subtle, but he did it at the same instant.
He tried Logic of Levels on the one behavior that he had now be­latedly noticed in the Nijjan.
And, because he wasn’t sure it would work, and didn’t want to give away what, until now, had been a human-Silkie secret, he hoped the gravity release would confuse the great being who had come into this trap with such total confidence in his own ability against Silkies —confuse the Nijjan, render him mo­mentarily vulnerable and, somehow, prevent disaster.
The behavior Cemp believed he had observed was the creature manifesting the famous betrayal pat­tern.
From the point of view of Logic of Levels, it was a minor event in the brain. Since it was the basic winning cycle of life, nothing de­cisive could be done against it.
By triggering it, he could force the Nijjan to win more.
— Which was pretty ironic and could lead to unknown consequences.
But it was the only opening avail­able.
Three things happened at the same moment:
The molecule released. The be­trayal cycle triggered. Cemp entered the path of the energy beam, which created the larger pyramid.
He felt a sensation different from anything he had ever experienced.
Under him and around him, the trap-ship . . . vanished.
He perceived that he was in a strange — not place, for there was nothing. But . . . what?


In a group, only the leader can betray. And he must betray, or be ready to betray, or there is no group.
Everyone else has to conform, fit in, follow the rules, be a supporter without qualifications. Even to think an objection is wrong. You must swear fealty to the leader "with­out mental reservations."
You must support the code and ideally report to the leader’s police any deviations from it on the part of others, and on the part of your­self.
At any moment for the good of the group — by the leader’s judgment alone — you can be betrayed (sacrificed) without any other ex­planation being required.
Periodically, you or some other conformist must be betrayed as a matter of policy, even if you have not deviated from the code by any previously applied standard of judg­ment.
The leader’s act of betrayal (of you) of itself makes you guilty.
Immediately every other person in the group must disconnect from you without mental reservations.
The rule of betrayal by the leader alone applies under any group sys­tem, including the elective —, where the leader’s immediate aides are his group.
As a group grows larger, the leader delegates his betrayal rights to unevenly qualified persons, who act in his name. Where this pro­cess (of delegation) continues and expands, there are alleviations be­cause not every sub-leader is as sensitive to the danger of non-con­formism — being a conformist him­self — as the leader.
But the leader who can read minds, and who utilizes the betrayal cycle through a remorseless police control method, can remain leader . . . forever.
Thus betrayal, consistently ap­plied, wins at all levels.

For Cemp, a combination event was occurring. He felt as if someone with whom he was in a kind of total telepathic communica­tion was small. So small. Or — a sudden puzzlement struck him —was he, in fact, very large?
Incredibly large? Larger than the universe? The being whose thoughts Cemp was receiving rejected the con­cept of vastness. It was more com­fortable to feel — small.
Satisfied that he was a mere point, the being considered what he might become. He thought; and Cemp received the thought along with the awareness: N’Yata will be pleased that I am having this mo­ment of near-ultimate reality.
At his stage of development, he could only expect to hold on for a brief time, aligning what was possi­ble for him, setting up as many of the golden lights as he could, in the time available. Mustn’t waste a second!
One by one the being, himself so small, discharged even tinier bits of the smallness into the dark. Each bit was hard to push away, as if its attachment to him, or con­sanguinity, prevented it from de­parting to any distance. The first few yards were tremendously hard, the first miles hard, the first light-years progressively easier, the distance of a galaxy like wafting a feather into a whirlwind. And the dark light-years beyond seemed almost barrier-less.
Suddenly, one of the points he had thus put out attracted the being’s attention. He thought: No, oh, no, I mustn’t.
What he fought, then, was a surge of interest within himself in that point. He tried to tell himself the truth: that it was he who had put out the point, and it was he who was projecting the interest into it. That it had no interest of its own.
But a curious inversion was tak­ing place: the conviction that the point was of itself interesting. That there was something attractive there, separate from his thought about it.
As he had that awareness, Cemp sensed that the creature’s high, pure energy began to drop. Rapidly, it seemed — how long it took be didn’t know — the being suffered an emo­tional transformation from a kind of radiance to — an, oh, well —boredom, through a momentary flash of rage to the self-delusion of: I am probably god, or at least a sub-god. So everything must align with me.
He was back, the creature thought sardonically, to the level of betrayal.
As he had that awareness, he was already at the other point, the one that had so automatically aroused his interest.
— Every instant that these re­markable events occurred, Cemp was fighting and observing, by means of another aspect of his awareness, a life-and-death battle that had no meaning.
Because no one was fighting him.

Like a man who falls through an unnoticed manhole into a drain­age pipe of deep, dirty, swirling water; like a child grabbing at and abruptly caught by the surging power of a live wire; like someone who puts his foot into a noose sets off a trigger and is jerked a hundred feet above ground as a bent tree springs back into position — Cemp had moved himself into a cosmic equivalent of the slipstream of a rocket.
He was instantly beyond his ability to cope, struggling with a natural force that transcended his experi­ence. It was a basic condition of space, the existence of which had never been suspected by man or Sil­kie.
Cemp put up his barriers. Drew energy from the trap-ship. Replenish­ed what was being suctioned from him.
The golden dot winked out.
And Cemp grew aware that he was in a large room. Several human beings, who were sitting before an enormous instrument bank, turned and looked at him in amazement.
As Cemp recognized top person­nel of the Silkie Foundation, Char­ley Baxter leaped from his chair and came loping across the distances of the thick carpet.
Another realization forced itself upon Cemp: His Silkie body felt unstable in a unique fashion. Not unpleasant, the sensation was as if some part of him were aware of a distant place.
The alarmed thought came: I’m still connected to another location! I could be snatched out of here any moment.
And what was alarming about that was that he had no further defense. Except for one small delaying idea, he had used up his available pos­sibilities.
Accordingly, the real crisis was upon him, unless —
Cemp transformed to human.
Doing so was not a well consider­ed act. He had the thought that a change of structure might free him even a little from that remote . . . connection. Because it was his only remaining possibility, he made the change at once.
And, in his haste, he half-fell, half-slid, to the floor.
The transition, he noted with re­lief, seemed to work. The feeling of being connected faded to a shadowy thing — still there, but like a whis­per in a room where someone had been yelling moments before.
As Charley Baxter came up, Cemp called out to him, "Quick! Let’s get to the computer. I don’t know what happened. I should be read."
On the way, someone slipped Cemp a robe. He donned it over his naked body without pausing.
There was a little conversation, tense, staccato. Baxter asked, "What seemed to happen?"
"I gained some time," replied Cemp.
As he explained it, it was of course much more than that. Instead of being instantly defeated, he had manipulated and confused the enemy. Confronted by a superior being, he had used what ability and capacity he had. Now he desperately needed help, some kind of understanding about the fantastic thing he had ex­perienced.
Baxter asked anxiously, "How much time do you think we have?"
Cemp replied, "I have an impres­sion that they’re working at top speed. An hour — no more."
It appeared to be true. At least they arrived in the computer room safely.
In its swift electronic way — yet slowly for the urgency that Cemp felt — the computer made its study of him.
And came up with its four al­ternative answers.
The first of the two that mattered — number three — was strange in­deed. "I have the impression," said the computer, "that everything that happened was occurring in some­one’s mind. Yet there is an impres­sion of something ultimate in that concept. Something — well, I don’t know — really basic to all things."
And of course that was hard to accept. Ultimate — basic — was too great.
An ultimate, axiomatically, could not be fought or resisted by some­thing less.
"And that," said the computer, "is really all I can tell you. The manipulations of space of which the Nijjans seem to be capable are new. It would seem as if the cells in their system had to adjust to conditions that give them an advantage over other life-forms; some kind of great­er control over the essence of things."
It was a bad moment. For even as the computer reported failure, Cemp sensed an internal change for the worse. The something —out there — was adjusting to his hu­man body. He had a sudden convic­tion that at any moment a threshold point would be crossed.
Hastily, he reported the sensation to Baxter and finished, "I was hop­ing we’d have time for me to visit the Earth headquarters of the orig­inal Silkies, but I’d better go Silkie myself right now."
Charley Baxter’s reply showed his awareness of Cemp’s danger, the possibility that Cemp might find himself in some far vacuum of space in his unprotected human body. Baxter asked anxiously, "Didn’t you transform to human because as a Silkie you were even more vulner­able to whatever is pulling at you?"
It was true. But there was no al­ternative. As a Silkie he would tem­porarily at least be safer in a dan­gerous environment.
Baxter went on, and his voice held a note of strain. "Nat, why don’t you change to some other form?"

Cemp turned and stared at him. And then for a space the two of them were silent. They stood there in that plush room, with its cushioned chairs and its small me­chanical protrusions — which were all that was visible of the giant com­puter. Finally Cemp said:
"Charley, the consequences of what you suggest are an unknown factor."
Baxter said earnestly, "Nat, if we can’t trust you to work it out, then it’s an unsolvable problem anyway."
The sensation of imminent change was stronger. But still Cemp tem­porized. What Baxter suggested was almost as world-shaking as the Nij­jan threat.
Transform — to anything!!
To any body. To any form. Be something entirely different from the three bodies he knew so well.
He believed what Charley had said was a truth. But it was a truth in relation to a known past — the human-Silkie situation that he had grown up with. It was not a truth to someone who didn’t have that back­ground. The meteorite "original" Sil­kie, Ou-Dan, had made that crystal clear.
Cemp had the strangest conviction of his entire life: that he was like a man poised in pitch darkness on some edge, preparing to jump into the night ahead — and below.
It would of course be a limited jump. At the moment there were only about three alien changes he could make. He could become a Kibmadine and the creature to which the Kibmadine had changed to . . . and a Nijjan.
He explained to Charley, "You have to have a mental picture to go by, have to have ’seen’ the other being first; and I only have a few."
"Change to Nijjan!" urged Bax­ter.
Cemp said, almost blankly, "Are you serious?"
And then, because he had an in­ternal sensation as of something be­ginning to slip away from him —it was a very distinct impression —he hastily played the Nijjan image, as he had recorded it — "played" it through the transmorpha system.
As he did so, all his cells received the uniform simultaneous charge of energy that acted like the explosion of the cap of a cartridge, releasing the pent-up energy in the cell.
The transformation was as rapid as it was because the chemical ener­gy thus released needed instan­taneous unions with their chemical counterparts.
Again, it was one of those situ­ations where, by theory, the entire process should have required a sec­ond or less. In actual fact, of course, living cells were slow to adjust.
So, it was exactly five and a half seconds after start that Cemp was in his new state.
He was also, he observed, in a strange place.


Cemp became aware that he was recording the thoughts of the other being again.
This being — the Nijjan enemy — grew conscious of something to his left.
He glanced in that direction and saw that N’Yata had moved from her remote center of being into his space.
It was a movement that he wel­comed and admired, since she was at least half a stage above him in development. Under ordinary cir­cumstances, he would have appreci­ated her coming because it was both flattering to and educational for him. And normally it would have been an ideal opportunity for him to observe and imitate her greater perfection.
But this was not a normal or or­dinary occasion. She had come in response to his need for help; his puzzling failure to deal with Cemp.
Her thought about this showed in her movement, and so he perceived her as a single golden dot the size of an atom. Her smallness, and her location to his left, he was able to mark by crisscrossing lines of forces.
Cemp marked it with him. But presently he had a private thought to the effect: how am I observing this? And then he realized. With his own energy, automatically evok­ed from him by an emotion, which (the other being’s thoughts noted with a wry self-judgment) was still only a few vibrations above betray­al.
Once again, Logic of Levels and all its implicit awareness of the na­ture of emotion was Cemp’s only possible overt defense.
And of course, as before, betray­al was simply not an area by which he could decisively defeat anyone.
Also, he felt intuitively reluctant to trigger the more capable N’Yata to some ultimate level of win.
With these various restrictions in mind, he directed his one defense against all the destruction implicit in the betrayal emotion.
He urged her to a slightly gayer meaning of betrayal. Suggested se­duction. Argued that the pleasure outweighed negative aspects.
His was a skillful counteraction, for the golden dot switched positions in space. Moved from his left to directly in front of him.
How many light-years were in­volved in that switch, Cemp could not determine. N’Yata was still at a very remote viewpoint. The vast dis­tances defied measurement by his one-half-step lower techniques, in which he reflected the condition of the Nijjan body he had duplicated.
"You can still betray!" That was the thought-feeling, which flowed back now from the golden dot to Cemp. Having sent the message, the dot began to recede. Cemp felt a distinct drop in his own energy level to a still lower (than betrayal) level of grief and apathy. As he watched the dot go, the first longing came for death, so great was the outflow of his life energy.
He recognized it as a half-hearted attempt to kill him, sensed that even though she knew he was not the real G’Tono, she was puzzled. In the final issue, she could not bring her­self to destroy another Nijjan — not even a duplicate one.
Her withdrawal was an intent to consider the problem. He felt her let him go.
His thought ended. He was back in the computer room.

Cemp glanced over at Baxter and telepathed, "What happened?"
Having asked the question, Cemp grew conscious of three things. The first of these was merely interesting:
During Cemp’s . . confrontation . . . with N’Yata, Baxter had moved away.
The man stood now staring at Cemp, a wary expression on his lean face.
Once more, Cemp asked, "I had an experience. What seemed to oc­cur while I was having it?" It was the same question as before, but more detailed.
This time, Baxter stirred. He said aloud, "I don’t get your thoughts any more. So let me just say that right now I sense that your Nijjan body is radiating more force than I can take. Evidently you’re in a dif­ferent energy state."
Cemp was remembering his own earlier problem in receiving the communication of the Nijjan. After a moment’s consideration of the dif­ficulty, he tentatively tried for an adjustment of output in the bank of cells devoted to the problem. Then he telepathed to Baxter, again tentatively.
An expression of relief came over the lean man’s face. "Okay." he re­plied, "We’re on. What happened?"
Cemp hastily reported his experi­ence, finishing, "There’s no ques­tion, my original use of Logic of Levels confused the first Nijjan I met, whose name I gather is G’Tono. By spiraling him up to a super-win situation, I escaped whatever he had in mind. And now, by be­coming a duplicate of him — essentially that’s all I did — I momen­tarily confused N’Yata. But she re­covered fast, and so time is of the essence."
"You think — "
"Wait!" admonished Cemp.
it was the second awareness that was suddenly in Cemp’s mind, and that was not merely interesting; it was urgent:
He still had the consciousness of being a Nijjan.

It had all happened so fast. At the moment of change, instant trans­fer to a confrontation with N’Yata; then back here —
Now, Cemp realized that as a Nijjan he could hear sounds. Baxter’s human voice had penetrated to him at a normal level — sea-level Earth pressure, it seemed.
With that to start, Cemp did a lightning-swift orientation: not only sound was affected but sight, feeling, proprioceptive sensations. He possessed an apparently human phy­sic-emotion spectrum.
And he could walk. He felt odd-shaped appendages that held him, balanced him, enabled him to stand . . . and arm-like things, more si­nuous.
Cemp was not surprised that he was aware of human qualities. Change of shape was not change of being, but a chameleon-like al­teration of appearance, a total al­teration as distinct from merely a method of concealment, not simply a blending with a background.
He was the human-Silkie, Nat Cemp, in the shape of a Nijjan. His Earth-born cells were the basic stuff of his new body, different undoubt­edly from the actual cells of a Nij­jan.
Yet the similarity, in its finer de­tails, was sufficiently intricate to be interesting to Cemp. It made him hopeful that, by being a Nijjan-shape, he would be able also to discover some of the secrets of that shape’s abilities.
His attention continued to leap from point to point of his Nijjan body.
The legs and arms — being able to have them in the vacuum of space: that was different from Silkie-hu­man.
The Silkie shape could survive in space only if the interior flesh and structure were separated from the vacuum by a steel-hard chitinous substance. For that, even legs had to be massive. And so Silkies had semi-legs and nothing but a grimace where the face and head should be.
The Nijjans evidently had the same ability without change of form. A hard substance? It didn’t seem that way. It seemed more like a different molecular structure.
— No time to investigate that!
On a higher level, there was in the Nijjan body the entire magnetic waveband, and radiation sensitivity; also, awareness of gravity, and all the stasis centers that made it pos­sible for Silkies to operate stably in the vacuum of space.
There was more.
Cemp perceived another set of control centers high in the thickest part of the pyramidal shape. But these neural areas were silent, flowed no energy and responded to none of his hastily directed thought-commands.
If there was any automatic ac­tivity above the level of mere chemi­cal survival in that mass of nerve substance, Cemp could not detect it.
He surmised uneasily: was it the space-control lobe of the Nijjan brain?
But he had no time to experiment with it. Not yet.
What was particularly frustrating was that there was no larger pyra­midal energy image projecting from him. So that was not an automatic process. Could it be an output of some kind from the space-control cells?
No time to investigate that either.
No time, because his third aware­ness was forcing in upon his atten­tion, and that was something he could do something about.
By his reasoning, furthermore, it was related to the second awareness he had had. Thus he was not really turning away from what it was like to be a Nijjan to something less ur­gent. Not completely turning, any­way.
"Wait . . . a little longer," Cemp repeated to Baxter.
Having telepathed the second ad­monition, Cemp put out another thought on a magnetic beam that humans could read.
The thought was directed toward the headquarters on Earth of the Space Silkies. It was on an open channel; and so he was not surprised when he received answers from three minds, one a Silkie female.
All three answers were the same: We space Silkies have agreed that we will not discuss our affairs on an individual basis.
"What I have to say is very ur­gent. Do you have a spokesman?" Cemp asked.
"Yes. I-Yun. But you’ll have to come over. He can only talk if some of us are monitoring."

The implication was of group thinking and group action, decisions by many, not merely one. Considering the restrictions — which he did fleetingly — Cemp had a sudden intuition, a thought that was surely an insight of major import.
"I’ll be there in — " Cemp be­gan.
He paused, turned to Baxter and asked, "How quickly can you get me over to Space Silkie headquar­ters?"
Baxter was pale. "It would take too long, Nat," he protested. "Fif­teen, twenty minutes — "
"— in twenty minutes; so get everybody together in one room!" Camp completed his thought to the Silkies in their distant headquarters.
Whereupon, he mentally persuad­ed Baxter, still objecting, literally to run to the nearest elevator. People turned and stared as the silvery Nij­jan body and the human being ran along side by side. But Cemp was already explaining, already con­vincing the other.
As a result, what authority could do, was done.
A "down" elevator stopped on an emergency signal, picked them up and whisked them to the roof. A helijet, about to take off, was held back by a pre-emptive control tower command, and presently it was zooming across the rooftops of the huge buildings that made up the Silkie Foundation, soaring many de­grees indeed away from its original destination.
It zeroed in presently on the land­ing depot H of the three-story build­ing which had been assigned as a preliminary headquarters and which was more or less across town from the main Silkie community.
During the flight, Cemp resumed his magnetic level communication. He told the receiving trio who the enemy was and explained, "Since I had no reaction to it in my Silkie form, I’m assuming that those of us born on Earth do not have any old reflexes on the subject of Nijjans. But it seemed to me that the meteorite Silkies might."
There was a long pause, and then another mind sent a thought on the magnetic beam. "This is I-Yun. All restrictions are temporarily off. Answer with any truth you have, anyone."
The female Silkie’s thought came first. "But it’s so many generations ago!" she protested. "You believe we’ll have an ancestral memory after such a long time?"
Cemp replied, "If that’s what it takes, I can only say I hope so, but —
He hesitated. What was in his mind was even more fantastic. He had got the impression from the Otis that a number of really original Silkies were still around.
His brief hesitation ended. He sent the thought.
"You mean, like a hundred thousand years old?" came an as­tonished male Silkie response.
"Maybe not that long," said Cemp. "In fact, I compute from feeling-thoughts I recorded that it’s not more than ten thousand years since the Glis attached the Silkies to him. But anywhere from five to ten thousand, yes."

There was a pause. Then the thought came: "What do you expect such a Silkie to do? Defeat a Nijjan? Remember, our understanding is that we Silkies were the ones who were defeated and decimated. And, besides, how will we find the old ones? No one remembers anything like that far back; the Glis with its memory-erasing techniques saw to that. Do you have a method of stimulating such ancient reflexes?"
Cemp, who indeed had the perfect, practicable method, wanted to know many Silkies were in the building this very moment.
"Oh, about a hundred." That was I-Yun.
It seemed a sizable cross-section.
Cemp wanted to know if they were all together as be had request­ed.
"No, but we’ll get them here if you wish."
Cemp very much wished. "And quick!" he urged. "I swear to you that there’s no time to waste."
Presently, Cemp sent another magnetic level message, "Mr. Bax­ter and I are now landing on the roof. We shall be down in the big room in about one minute."
During that minute he sent streams of thoughts down to the grotto, explaining his analysis.
The decisive question was: Since the Silkies had indeed been deci­mated in the long ago by the Nij­jans, how come a few had sur­vived?
Why had not all Silkies been ex­terminated?
What survival method had kept a few alive?
Since the survivors, or their des­cendants, were the only Silkies avail­able, the answer must be buried deep in their unconscious minds, or else be available by stimulation of an­cestral DNA-RNA molecules.
Cemp and Baxter emerged from their elevator and started along a corridor toward a large green door.
At this penultimate moment, I­-Yun’s thought showed a qualm.
"Mr. Cemp," he telepathed uneasily, "we have cooperated with more than we intended to co­ operate with anyone on Earth. But I think we should know before we go any further what to expect next."
At that point, Baxter opened the green door for Cemp, and Cemp walked into the big room.
Cemp was aware of Baxter return­ing along the corridor, running at top speed — his retreat was actually protected by an energy screen that Cemp put up at the moment he went through the door. But the agreement was that Baxter would get out of the way, so that Cemp would not have to devote attention to his defense.
The reason Baxter had come this far was that he wanted to see the room where the space Silkies were waiting. With that much pre-visuali­zation, he could get the rest by way of the telepathic channel Cemp left open for him.
In an emergency his experience might be useful; that was the thought . . . .


At that instant of entry the scene that spread before Cemp was of many men and women, sitting or standing. His Nijjan body had visual awareness to either side, and so he also noticed that four Silkie shapes "floated" near the ceiling on both sides of the door. Guards? He pre­sumed so.
Cemp accepted their presence as a normal precaution. His own quick defense against them was to put up a magnetic signal system which, when triggered by any dangerous force, would automatically set up a screen.
The majority of the occupants of the big room were not a pre­possessing lot, for the human shape was not easy for these space Sil­kies. But human-like they were. And, as Cemp entered, they naturally focused their gazes on him.
Every pair of eyes at the exact same moment saw the silvery glitter­ing body of a Nijjan.
How many individuals were pres­ent Cemp did not know or count, then or later.
But there was an audible tearing sound as all over the room clothes ripped, threads parted and cloth literally shredded.
The sound was the result of a simultaneous transformation by the majority from human to Silkie. About a dozen people, eight of them women, merely gasped and made no effort to change.
Three individuals turned into Nij­jans.

Having become so, they instantly scattered. They ran off in three directions and came to a halt each in a separate corner; they did not actually leave the room.
Cemp waited, tense, all receptors recording; not knowing what more to expect. This was what he had hoped for; and here, in all its po­tentiality, it was. Three. Almost in­credibly, three out of a hundred or so had responded with — what? He wanted very much to believe that theirs was an age-old reflex that operated in the presence of Nijjans.
Could it be that the defense against a Nijjan was — to become a Nijjan?
It seemed almost too elementary. Raised numerous questions.
Cemp received a thought from Baxter: "Nat, do you think the old Silkies of long ago might have been killed one by one because they were surprised and couldn’t turn Nijjan quickly enough?"
It seemed reasonable. The lag, al­ways that lag in the transmorpha system, had been a dangerous few moments for Silkies.
But the question remained: After turning into Nijjans, what did they know? And what could they do against real Nijjans?
Out of the darkness of unknown numbers of millennia, from some­where below the mist of forgetfulness created by the Glis in its effort at total control, had now come a re­sponse. Like a pure light carrying images as from a projector, it shone from that far distant time into the here and now.
Was there more to those images than appeared on the surface? More than the transformation itself?
The swift seconds ran their courses, and Cemp got nothing more, nothing special.
Baxter’s anxious mind must have registered Cemp’s developing disap­pointment, for his thought came, "Isn’t there some association they’ve got with the changeover? Some rea­son why the transformation was successful?"
Cemp took that thought, made it his own, transferred it to a mag­netic wave and sent it on to the three Silkie-Nijjans.
With that, he got his first non­-automatic response. Said one, "You want my moment-by-moment reactions? Well, the reflex that was triggered had only an ordinary trans­morpha lag. I estimate no more than seven Earth seconds was what the changeover required. While waiting for the change, and immediately after, my impulse was to escape. But of course I only ran a few yards and then recognized that you were not a true Nijjan. At which moment of awareness I stopped my flight. There followed intense anxie­ty — memories, obviously, since I had no reason to feel any of that here. But that’s it."
Camp asked quickly, "You had no impulse to use any attack or de­fense energies?"
"No. It was just change and get out of there."
One of the remaining two Silkie-Nijjans was able to add only a single new thought. "I had the conviction," he said, "that one of us was doomed. And I felt sad and wondered who it would be this time."
"But there was nothing," Cemp persisted, "about how one of you would be killed? And I presume no awareness of the means by which the Nijjan had suddenly appeared in your midst without advance warn­ing?"
"Nothing at all," answered the three in unison.
Baxter’s third thought intruded, "Nat, we’d better get back to the computer."
En route, Baxter made another, more far reaching decision.
From him, preceded by a pri­vate emergency code — known for its extreme meaning only to its recipients — there was mentally pro­jected by way of a general alarm system in the Silkie Foundation, a warning message to "all Silkies on Earth and all Special People —"
Slightly more than six thousand persons received it.
In the warning Baxter described the Nijjan danger and the only solu­tion so far analyzed for Silkies: change to Nijjan and scatter!
Having completed his own mes­sage, Baxter introduced Comp who broadcast, for Silkies only, the Nij­jan image.

Shortly after, Baxter and Cemp completed their trip to the computer, which said, "Though this new data gives no additional clue to the space control methods of the Nijjans, we can now view the nature of the battle by which the old Silkie na­tion was gradually decimated. The method was a cautious, never-altered system of one-by-one extermination."
The computer thought it inter­esting that even the higher type Nij­jan female, N’Yata, had not made a serious attempt to kill Camp while he was in his Nijjan form.
Listening to the analysis, Comp was plunged into gloom. It was clear now that, first, the Glis molecule, and then his small use of Logic of Levels on betrayal had saved him in his first two encounters.
He thought blankly: What could be the nature of space that man or Silkie had never even dreamed of it?
Nothing to something to nothing — and that slightly caved-in, col­lapsed body of Lan Jedd. Those were the only dues.
"Space," said the computer in answer to Cemp’s question, "is con­sidered to be an orderly, neutral vastness, wherein energy and matter masses may interact according to a large but finite number of rules. The distances of space are so enormous that life has had an opportunity to evolve at leisure in innumerable chance ways on a large but finite number of planets on which, acci­dentally — it is presumed — suit­able conditions developed."
The definition deepened Cemp’s gloom. It seemed like truth. Yet, if it were literally so, then how could the Nijjan have spanned those enor­mous distances apparently in no time at all? One or more of the assump­tions needed to be modified. Or so it seemed.

Cemp said unhappily, "We’ve got to remember we’re looking at an evolved universe. Perhaps, in its younger days, space was less — what did you say? — neutral. The specu­lative question arises, what might an unorderly space have been like?"
"This is something that can be learned, now that Logic of Levels is applicable."
"Eh!" That was Baxter, astounded. "Logic of Levels will work here? How?"
"Consider!" said the computer. "A command to operate the space-control areas will have to come from the central self of a Nijjan. Our prob­lem is that we don’t know what that command is. But some kind of thought stimulates it. Once stimu­lated a basic action response occurs. Naturally, somebody will have to force a dangerous confrontation in order to trigger such a cycle."
Cemp said quickly, "Do you still have the feeling that what we might trigger is bigger than what happened to the Glis? And more basic?"
"But — " baffled — "what could be bigger than an apparently small object — like the Glis expanding into the largest sun in the known universe?"
"This is something you will dis­cover. I presume you are the one who will discover it."
Cemp, who hadn’t thought about it, presumed instantly that he would indeed be the one.
Thinking thus, feeling the irony but resigned nonetheless, Cemp transformed to his Silkie body. He expected that he would immediately perceive the distant tug on all his cells.
But there was nothing. No aware­ness in him of a faraway segment of space. He had not the faintest sense of being unbalanced at some deep level. His entire body was at peace and in a state of equilibrium with his surroundings.
Cemp reported the situation to Baxter — and then warily transform­ed to human.
But there was no distant pull on him in that state either.
A few minutes later the computer expressed what was already obvious, "They’re taking no chances. They never did with Silkies. You’ll have to seek them out . . . or else be ex­terminated one by one, now that they have found you."
From the corner of his eye, Cemp noticed Baxter as that analysis came through. The man’s face had a strange look: sort of hypnotic, sort of inward-turning . . .
Cemp was quick. He grabbed the man and yelled, "What’s the thought? What command is being given?"
Baxter twisted weakly in that iron grip, abruptly stopped his resisting and whispered, "The message I’m getting is absolutely ridiculous. I refuse!"


The doorbell rang with a soft, musical note. Joanne Cemp stopped what she was doing in the kitchen and thought: The time has come for revelation. The night of no-memory is over.
Having had the thought, casually, as if it were an ordinary concept, she headed for the door. And it was then that she simultaneously realized two things. The shock of each of the two brought a reaction of an in­tensity that she had not previously experienced in her entire life.
The first realization was: Night of no-memory! . . . Revelation! . . . Why, that’s crazy! Where would I get an idea like that?
The second realization was that she was getting no thoughts from whoever had rung the doorbell.
She felt a chill. She, who could read minds better even than her Sil­kie husband by the direct telepathic method, she was receiving no thoughts. It had always been a point of wonder that the Special People were so great in this area of mind reading: something about a unique DNA-RNA combination in the cells of a few human beings, that was not duplicated in other humans or in Silkies.
But even that uncanny ability sensed no presence at the door. Nothing. Not a sound. Not a thought. Not a sign of another mind or being.
Joanne veered dawn the hail and into her bedroom and secured her gun. That was pretty weak stuff against what she now suddenly sus­pected might be a space Silkie woman making a second visitation. But the first Silkie woman had not been mentally silent.
Still, against a human the gun would be effective, particularly as she had no intention of opening the door. A moment later, Joanne turned on the closed-circuit TV and found herself gazing at — nothing.

She had the thought: The bell was rung from a distance, from many light-years away, to tell you that someone will come. You have done your duty. The painful laboratory change from Nijjan to human will now be reversed . . . Unfortunate that Nijjans have had no natural way of transforming from one shape to another. However, by changing shape in this difficult way you were enabled to marry an Earth Silkie. By so doing you have lulled him and understood him; and now that the space Silkies have finally revealed themselves, we can finally decide what to do with this dangerous race.
And what you and the other Spe­cial People have done will determine the fate of the universe endangerers.
Joanne frowned at the message — for that was how she thought of it — but she made no answer. She simply stood there, silent and dis­turbed. What kind of nonsense!
The thought went on: You are skeptical, no doubt, but it will soon be proved. You may now ask any questions you wish.
After many heartbeats, during which Joanne considered, remem­bered, decided, she still refused to reply.
She saw the message as a trap, a lie, an attempt to locate her if she replied. Actually, even if it were true, it didn’t matter. Her involve­ment on Earth was total. She thought to herself: This is the final Silkie-Nijjan confrontation, and it’s all a bunch of Nijjan madness.
She didn’t have to accept such a solution, no matter if her own back­ground were Nijjan.
During all these intense moments, Joanne had kept her own thoughts out of the telepathic band. Yet the fear was already in her, the realiza­tion that this message, or a variation of it, was probably being received by all forty-seven-hundred-odd of the Special People on Earth. And the fear which almost petrified her was that among these numerous per­sons somebody would be foolish, somebody would answer.
The awful conviction came that any reply would mean disaster for everybody. Because all of the Special People without exception knew so much that was basic about Silkies.
Even as she had the anxiety, somebody did answer. Two women and three men almost simultaneously projected their outraged replies. Joanne received every nuance of the emotion that accompanied each un­wise reply:
Said one: "But many of the Spe­cial People have died in the past two hundred years — "
A second chimed in, "So they can’t be immortal Nijjans."
A third mind said, "If what you say is true, it proves that Silkies and Nijjans could live together."
The fourth person — a man —was scornful: "This time you crazy killers have run up against more than you bargained for."
And the fifth telepathic human reply to the Nijjan trap was, "I don’t know what you expect to gain from this lie, but I reject it."

That was as far as the doomed five got with their response.
The best later reconstruction of what happened then was that in each instance, answering located the in­dividual to the remote watching minds of the Nijjans. At once a Nij­jan arrived on the scene — in the house, on the street, wherever —and seized the person.
At the moment of seizure a sin­gle mental scream of despairing re­alization came from one of the women. The remaining four went silently to their fates.
What had happened: shortly after the Space Silkie, Ou-Dan, left Comp in the ship near the dead body of Lan Jedd — he saw a rapid move­ment beside him.
That was all Ou-Dan had time to observe. The next split-instant he was subjected to an internal pressure against which he had no defense. It could have been his moment of death, for he was completely sur­prised and helpless. But the Nijjan, G’Tono, who had already had his dou­ble failure with Nat Cemp, wanted a prisoner and not a dead body. Not yet.
Moments later, he had the un­conscious Ou-Dan on his own planet.
The resultant study of the inter­nal working of a Silkie was some­what disappointing to the various Nijjans who came from distant place to look him over: there was nothing in Ou-Dan’s memories that explain­ed how Cemp had escaped destruc­tion in his confrontation with G’Tono.
His captors quickly discovered the differences between the space and Earth Silkies and learned from Ou­-Dan that Cemp was an Earth Sil­kie. The Nijjans thereupon reasoned accurately that the Space Silkies, be­ing considered unreliable, had sim­ply never been given the secret of the special technique that Cemp had used.
In their study of Ou-Dan, the great beings were delayed for many minutes, perhaps even an entire hour, by an attitude that radiated from him. Ou-Dan so thoroughly dis­missed and downrated the human-Silkie relationship that his emotion about it was a barrier. Thus, for a decisive time, the Nijjans did not note in his mind that the Special People were a unique human group.
During that vital period, Baxter extended the information about the Nijjans to the Special People, Cemp and he met with the Space Silkies and talked to the computer. And so, when the five Special People were captured, Earth was as ready as Earth would ever be.
The Nijjans secured the basic clue from all five of their human prison­ers. Moments later, the knowledge of Logic of Levels was going down the Nijjan line of planets, multi-millions of them.


On G’Tono’s planet was a tall mountain that rose thousands of feet sheer from the ground. On top of that mountain stood the palace of G’Tono.
Inside the throne room, the octo­pus-people hurried and bustled and shuffled in a steady stream of activi­ty, partly ritual and partly in re­lation to the five human prisoners and to the Space Silkie, Ou-Dan.
The quintet of Special People were beginning to feel a little easier; were no longer so certain that they would be murdered out of hand. Ou-Dan, who had been internally damaged as a result of his interrogation, lay unconscious in one corner, ignored by all except a few guards.
Across the room from the hu­mans — a distance of more than a hundred yards — was a great, glittering throne chair. On the chair sat a figure even more glittery in his natural state than any of the inanimate objects that framed him—
. . . G’Tono himself!
About a dozen of the octopus-people lay face down on the marble in front of their tyrant. Their gentle bulbous faces pressed against the hard floor. It was a priceless privilege for those who were there, and every half hour the dozen or so person­ages reluctantly gave up their places to another group of the same size, all of whom were equally apprecia­tive.
G’Tono paid no attention to these, his servant-people. He was engaged in a mental conversation with N’Yata, 2400 light-years away, and the subject of their concern was in fact the fate of the prisoners.
G’Tono believed that the five Special People and Ou-Dan had served their purpose and should be put to death on the betray principle. N’Yata felt that no final decision should be made about prisoners until the Earth-Silkie situation was entire­ly resolved, which could only happen if all the Silkies were destroyed.
She pointed out that the betray idea did not apply except where it was part of a control system. No control existed as yet for human beings and would not until a Nijjan took over Earth as his domain.

G’Tono was beginning to feel very boldly masculine in relation to N’Yata. And so he took the attitude that her answer showed a lovable feminine weakness, a caution un­necessary now that the human-Silkie problem was solved. For all Nijjan purposes, the procurement of the Logic of Levels concept ended the danger.
"You seem to believe that some­thing can still go wrong," he pro­tested.
"Let’s wait," said N’Yata.
G’Tono replied, scathingly that Nijjans, after all, had their own ration­ality, long-tested by experience. It was not necessary to await the out­come of a logical sequence once it had been reasoned through.
He thereupon listed for N’Yata the reasons why the Silkies were defeated for all practical purposes:
Nijjan attacks — said G’Tono —would in future be made in such a way that no Silkie could ever again hitch a ride as the Silkie, Cemp, had so skillfully done. Furthermore, the vast majority of Nijjans, though allowing through their mind-barriers the information about Logic of Levels, had fortunately refused to be involved in the actual struggle.
G’Tono explained, "Contrary to our initial irritation with their re­fusal to participate, what they have done — or rather, not done — is really favorable to our side." He broke off for purposes of clarifying his point. "How many helpers do we have?"
"You saw most of them," N’Yata answered. "About a hundred."
The smallness of the number mo­mentarily gave pause to G’Tono. He had a natural cynicism about things Nijjan; yet his rationalization seemed true to him . . . It was true that Nijjans had a hard time getting along with one another. So many proud individuals, each with his planet —of which he, or she— was absolute ruler. Where everyone, without ex­ception, was a king or a queen, egos had a tendency to soar out of sight.
Once in a while, of course, a queen would accept a communication from a king, as N’Yata had done with him. And at certain times kings were receptive to a communication from a queen. G’Tono had observed with jealousy that the hundred-odd who had responded to N’Yata’s call for volunteers were all males . . .

But that very aloofness of the great majority was now, G’Tono argued, a sign of the indestructibili­ty of the Nijjan race. Scattered all over the universe, out of contact with their own kind, individual Nij­jans in their total numbers couldn’t be hunted down in a million years, even assuming that somebody ex­isted with the ability and power to kill Nijjans; but there was no such person, group or race.
"And now that we have the only dangerous Silkie weapon, Logic of Levels, our position is absolutely im­pregnable," G’Tono pointed out.
N’Yata replied that she was still studying Logic of Levels and that it wasn’t the mistakes Nijjans might make in the future that worried her; indeed, she conceded that the chance of additional errors was unlikely. The question was, could G’Tono and she recover from the errors that had already been made?
G’Tono was astonished. "The only mistake that would matter," he ob­jected, "would be if we had left this Silkie, Cemp, some means of forcing me or you to transport him here by our space control system. Though I," he continued scornfully, "would certainly like to be the first to know of such a method, I find myself wondering, would he dare to come? Because what could he do in a direct confrontation with me, who is more powerful than any Silkie?"
He had been thinking hard while he was speaking, and now he saw an opening in her logic and a way of gaining his own point, made ear­lier.
"As I see it," he said, "the one way in which we might be vulnerable is through these prisoners. So I think you will agree that instant extermina­tion is a safety precaution, if nothing more. Don’t try to interfere!"
He did not wait for N’Yata’s re­ply, but sent a high-level energy blast at the two women and three men, and at the helpless Ou-Dan. All six prisoners were literally dissolved in­to their component elements; death was as rapid as that.
Having taken the action, G’Tono proceeded with his listing of favor­able points. "After all," he said, "lacking space control, Silkies are trapped on or near Earth or at best are subject to the slow speeds of ordinary space travel. I estimate that in three Earth weeks I could perhaps expect to have an Earth ship arrive at my planet. Whereupon, if you were to invite me, I could visit you for a while. And, frankly, what could they do? Where could they look? A Nijjan can disappear into a distance in a split-instant."
He stopped, feeling suddenly diz­zy.
N’Yata telepathed sharply, "What’s happening?"
"I — " faltered G’Tono.
That was as far as he got. The dizziness had become an all-envelop­ing madness, and he fell from this throne chair to the marble floor. Fell hard, rolled over onto his back and lay there like one dead.


The Nijjans had lied. That was what snatched Cemp’s most in­tense interest.
A quick check of records by the computer had established, with thousands of detailed documenta­tions, that the Special People could not possibly have been Nijjans. And so it was a lie.
Hard to believe that the Nijjans could have exposed one of their number to a counter-attack on that level. But it looked as if they had.
Cemp shared his analysis with Charley Baxter and watched Bax­ter become excited. The thin man said, "You’re right, Nat! A lie is a complete disaster in a world where people understand the energy flows involved."
And could control them as Silkies could.
Because an existing object is truth incarnate. There it is — whatever it is — unparadoxical, without an opposite.
It cannot not-be. Or at least it cannot not-have-been; if it was mat­ter and has been converted to ener­gy, or vice versa, it still exists in some aspect of its ever-form.
A lie about such an object is a mental attempt to alter the "is" of it. Basically, the effort implicit in the lie is to create a dichotomy where none can exist. There is no op­posite, yet the lie says there is.
Hence, the moment a dichotomy is evoked in somebody’s mind, there is a confusion created.
It was too potentially great a pos­sibility to miss.
In telling his plan to Baxter, Cemp pointed out, "You’ll have to send a ship after me, because I’ll be stranded there!"
"You don’t think the method of getting you to Nijja will also get you away?" Baxter asked, doubtful­ly.
"No. Somebody will be riding herd on all this, and they’ll notice."
"It’ll take three weeks for a ship to get there," Baxter objected.
Camp couldn’t take the time to consider that. The pace of this battle was super-speed. Since the struggle had begun out there between G’Tono and himself, the enemy had taken time only to make brief studies of new data before striking again.
"After all," said Cemp, "I can’t be sure how successful I’ll be. I ex­pect to get whoever told the lie, but that won’t solve the problem. And I’ll set it up so that whoever helps him is doomed also. But a chain re­action like that can only go so far before somebody gets wise."
Baxter spoke again, urgently,
"Now that these beings have Logic of Levels, they’ll be able to trigger it in you even as you’re triggering it in them. Have you thought of that?"

Since there was no defense against Logic of Levels, Cemp hadn’t even considered it. There being no point in thinking about it, now that it had been called to his attention . . . he didn’t.
He converted to Nijjan and pro­jected the thought: "I want you to recall the moment when the message arrived telling you the lie that you were a Nijjan."
Between such experts as Baxter and himself, it required less than a minute to make a study of the wave patterns and to measure the subtle variations of the Nijjan version of the telepathic band of the Special People — and to superimpose on that exact band and that individual variation all two hundred and seventy-eight dichotomies, known to be the most confusing of the verbal opposites that had mentally tangled human beings since the beginning of language:
. . . Right-wrong . . . good-bad .. . justice-injustice . . .
A living brain receiving for the first time such a madness in the time of a few seconds could go into a state of total confusion.
At key points along that train of words, Cemp placed large, hypnotic-type command loads designed to in­fluence the receiving Nijjan brain during the confusion to —
First, utilize Cemp’s own pre­vious experience to transport him through space.
And, second, set up a basic Logic of Levels in the receiving Nijjan brain.
Cemp arrived — it was part of his hypnotic command to G’Tono —outside the atmosphere of G’Tono’s planet. As he descended toward the surface, he saw that there was a great city below and a huge ocean beside it.
He landed on an isolated beach of that ocean where the thunder of the surf and the smell of sea briefly enticed him. Ignoring that sudden desire for the feel of water, he walk­ed toward the city. Arrived at the outskirts, he boldly entered the first of the odd-shaped dwellings he came to; odd in that the doorways were low and broad, and inside he had to stoop because the ceilings were less than six feet. There were three chunky octopus-like aliens inside. But he saw them; they never saw him. Cemp manipulated the hallu­cinatory mechanisms of the three, whereupon they observed him as one of themselves. After studying their minds, Cemp carefully went to a nearby street, climbed up to a roof, and watched the octopus-beings who went by.
As Cemp had already correctly analyzed, these aliens were not dangerous to him, and they were very definitely not up to defending themselves. After reading the minds of several hundreds, Cemp did not detect a single suspicious thought. The fundamental goodness of the beings he did observe decided him on his next move.
Minutes later, he walked in on several leading members of the government, hallucinated them into seeing him as a human being and thought at them, "Where is the one who can betray?"
The tense creatures had drawn away-from him. They did not under­stand the significance of his ques­tion, for they said that on Nijja no one ever betrayed anyone.

The answer amused Cemp in a steely-grim fashion. It meant, as he had suspected, that there was only one betray cycle in action on the entire planet: the true Nijjan as the betrayer, and then all these beings who must conform.
He directed another thought. "Has this planet always been called Nijja?"
They knew of only one other name. Anthropological studies of their antiquity indicated that, at the time the common language had be­gun some indeterminate thousands of years before, the name had been Thela, meaning Home of the Brave. Nijja, on the other hand, in their language meant Home of the Pure.
Obviously, the name would have to have a meaning in their language as well as in that of the true Nijjans. A different meaning, of course.
"I see," said Cemp.
And he did see.
With that, he asked one more question, "Where can I find the one who requires purity?"
"Oh, you can see him only through the police."
"Where else?" thought Cemp to himself, sarcastically.
Whereupon, the exact, proper time having gone by, and the exact mo­ment for G’Tono to awaken having come, he directed a thought on the Special People telepathic band. He said, "I am that Silkie who con­fronted you after you killed my Sil­kie associate — and I’m sure now it was you who killed him. As I now understand it, this planet illu­strates what you meant when you stated Nijjans had no home planet in the ordinary sense. All planets controlled by a Nijjan are part of the Nijjan system — the nearest place, in other words, where a single ruling Nijjan could be located. Is that correct?"
Along with the message, Cemp projected the thought that would trigger the Logic of Levels cycle he had set up in G’Tono’s brain. Hav­ing done so, Cemp spoke again to the focal point nearly three hundred miles away, "You’d better talk to me before it’s too late."
It was moments after that when Cemp sensed a peculiar sensation in his transmorpha system. N’Yata, he thought. He remembered Baxter’s fear that he also might be attacked, and here it was. It interested him in­tensely to observe that it was the mechanism for changing form that was affected; not surprising, really, but nobody had known. By the time he had that thought, he had already accepted his personal disaster. From the beginning he had had to con­sider himself expendable.
Cemp felt briefly sad for Joanna. He presumed that he would die, and her life would now have to go on without him. As for what might happen to the Nijjans — Cemp felt a chill, recalling what the computer had predicted: that the Nijjans Logic of Levels would be bigger than what had happened to the Glis.
Again he wondered: What could be bigger than that?
The awareness remained with him only fleetingly. Abruptly, he didn’t have time to consider anything ex­cept what was happening to him.


For Camp there was, first of all, a kaleidoscope of visual images.
He saw Nijjan bodies and faces — if the upper part of the pyramidal shape could be considered a face. The images streamed by, not exactly silently — for thoughts came from some of them.
Cemp himself seemed to be float­ing along in a timeless void. Each set of Nijjan thoughts came to him separate and distinct:
" . . . But how did he do it? . . ." "What exactly is happening? — "
"Why not kill him and then solve the problem, ourselves? . . ." " —Because we don’t even know what part of the Nijjan brain was utilized for the attack, that’s why. Besides, we have no proof yet that we can kill him. In this Silkie, Logic of Levels seems to be a time phenomenon. In us, it’s of course the space thing — "
As these thoughts and others like them whispered into Cemp’s aware­ness, he was conscious of a develop­ing stir in the greater distance of the Nijjan world. Other minds, at first a few, then many, then tens of thousands turned their attention in amazement and took note of him and had their thoughts . . . and were hooked into G’Tono’s disaster.
. . . Like an anthill deep into which somebody has kicked, the Nij­jan system began to roil and churn with innumerable reactions. What they were afraid of briefly held Cemp’s astonished interest:
— Two bodies cannot occupy the same space or . . . two spaces the same body; there was danger that this would now happen.
More basic: the space-time con­tinuum, though it was a self-sustain­ing mechanism of immense but finite complication, needed Nijjans to sur­vive: that was the thought. So that if a Nijjan were over-stimulated, space might have a reaction.
. . . That was how Lan Jedd had been killed: a Nijjan consciously over-stimulating himself in some small, precise way elicited a reaction in the space occupied by Lan’s body.
Push at the universe, at space. A Nijjan might be affected. Push at a Nijjan, the universe would push back or adjust to the push in some funda­mental way.
What are they implying? thought Comp, staggered. What are they say­ing?
Between the universe and the Nij­jan a symbiotic relation. If one was unstable, so was the other.
And the Nijjans were becoming unstable.

As Cemp’s awareness reached that point, there was a flash of alarmed agreement that extended through every observing Nijjan mind. Whereupon, N’Yata telepathed to Cemp:
"I speak for Nijja. We’re in pro­cess of being destroyed by a chain reaction. Is there anything we can do to save ourselves, any agreement we can make?
"In us," N’Yata continued in that desperate way, "awareness of the connection of life to all atoms in the universe was not dulled. Somehow, in those long ago days of the be­ginning of things, we automatically worked out a method of maintaining consciousness without constantly en­dangering ourselves. Other life forms had to attenuate or shut off direct contact with space and its contents. We Nijjans can therefore be destroy­ed if we are forced to a state of order from the chaos in which, alone, life can survive, and this forcing you have now done."
It was as far-fetched a story as Cemp had ever heard. "You’re a bunch of liars," he said contemp­tuously, "and the proof is that G’Tono could be victimized by an overflow of opposites."
He broke off, "The truth is I couldn’t believe any promise you made."
There was a pause, brief but preg­nant; finally a mental sigh from N’Yata. "It is interesting," she said, resigned, "that the one race we fear­ed above all others — the Silkies —has now made a successful attack on us. Because of the overweening pride of countless Nijjans, we are particularly vulnerable. Each Nij­jan, as he tunes in, has a Logic of Levels cycle triggered in him. And there’s nothing we can do to warn him ahead of time. What you’re saying is that you won’t listen to any argument against this."
It was more than that, Cemp saw. Between these two races there was no quick way to cooperation. That would be true, he speculatively re­alized, even if the fate of the uni­verse depended on it. The Nijjan destruction of Silkies had been too remorseless.
But the fact was also, there was really nothing he could do. Logic of Levels, once started, could not be interrupted. The cycle would com­plete in them and in him and take whatever course the logic required.
A brain mechanism had been trig­gered. The pattern of that mechan­ism had been set ages before, and it had no other way to be.
That was as far as his thought had time to go.
There was an interruption. Two things happened, then, almost simultaneously.
From N’Yata’s mind to his there leaped an emotion of anguish. "Oh, it’s happening," she said.
"What’s happening?" Cemp’s mind yelled at her.
If there was ever an answer from her, Cemp did not receive it. For at that precise instance he felt a strange, strong feeling inside him.
That was the second event.

He was on Earth with Joanna. It was at the beginning of their marriage; and there she was, and there he was, completely real both of them. Outside, the sun was shin­ing.
It grew dark suddenly.
That was earlier, he realized. More than a hundred years before he was born.
— This is the time change in myself, Cemp thought. Logic of Levels affecting him, taking him somehow earlier in time, a kind of genetic memory journey.
Night. A dark sky. A Silkie float­ed silently down from the heavens . . . Cemp realized with a start: That was the first Silkie to come to Earth, the one that —it was later pretended — was creat­ed in a laboratory.
The scene, so briefly observed, yielded to a view of the city inside the Glis meteorite. There were the Space Silkies; and he was there, al­so — or so it seemed. Probably, it was his ancestor with his trans­morpha cells: the DNA-RNA mem­ory of earlier bodies.
A space scene came next. A blue-white sun in the distance. Other Silkies around him in the darkness. A contented happiness was in all of them.
Camp had an impression that the time was long ago indeed, twenty or more thousand Earth-years, before contact with Nijjans.
Now, a more primitive scene showed. Millions of years earlier, according to his impression. Some­thing — himself, but different, small­er, less intelligent, more creature-like — clung to a small rock in space. There was darkness.
Another scene. Billions of years. And not darkness but brightness. Where? Impossible to be sure. In­side a sun? He vaguely suspected, yes.
It was too hot. He was flung in a titanic eruption of matter into the far blackness.
Flung earlier.
As he receded to an even re­moter time, Cemp felt himself some­how still connected to G’Tono and to the other Nijjans, somehow held to what — for want of a better un­derstanding — he decided was a mental relationship.
Because of that tenuous mind connection and interaction, he was able to sense the Nijjan disaster from a safe distance in time.
It was possible, then, that he was the only living being who, from his vantage point, witnessed the destruc­tion of the eight-billion-light-year-in-diameter universe, of which Earth’s galaxy was but one small bit of cos­mic flitter.


The start of it was very similar to when the betrayal-win cycle in G’Tono was triggered toward ul­timate win during his and Camp’s second confrontation.
Swiftly, there came the moment when all those connected Nijjan bodies reached the dividing line be­tween becoming ultra-small or super-large. But this time the victims had no choice. Winning was not involved. It was a Logic of Levels cycle in its ultimate meaning, operating on and through innumerable individuals, each of whom had the potential for that ultimate state.
Every rock has in it the history of the universe. Every life form has evolved from a primitive state to a sophisticated one. Touch the wellspring of that evolvement in a living thing — or a rock — and it has to remember.
For the millions of Nijjans, it was the end. What was happening to them was a process that was not con­cerned with maintaining identity.
One moment each Nijjan was a unit object, a living being, with lo­cation and mass; the next the Nijjan brain center that had the ability to move the individual Nijjan through space tried to move him simultane­ously into all spaces. Instantly, the entire Nijjan race was shredded into their component atoms.
On the object level, the process scattered them, put one atom here, another there, quadrillions more in as many places.
At the moment when Nijjans be­came as large as the universe, the universe inverted in relation to them to its real normalcy, to the perfect order that is inherent in a dot the size of an atom, which is unaffected by other atoms.
It was not a shrinking phenome­non. Turning inside out was the best analogy. The collapse of a bubble.
Cemp, who was merely tuned in to G’Tono and the others, felt his own thought expand with the doomed Nijjans to a state that was an exact proportion to the largeness of the universe with which the Nij­jans had interacted.
Having become in this purely mental way larger than space and time, Cemp so to say blinked away his dizziness and looked around him.
At once he saw something in the great dark. He was distracted and he forgot the dot that had been the universe. It thereupon disappeared.
The tiny spot of light, the uni­verse, which one moment had glow­ed with such brilliance, winked out and was gone.
Cemp was aware of its vanish­ing with a portion of his mind only. But he could not immediately turn his attention away from the sight that had made him forget.
He was looking at the "tree."
He was at such a remote view­point, at such vastness in relation to all things that, yes, he saw the golden tree.
Presently, he forced himself to look away from that jeweled thing.
When Cemp finally, after what seemed to be several seconds, was able to consider the disappearance of the universe once more, he thought: how long has it been gone? A thousand, a million, a trillion years? Or no time at all?
Perhaps, in some future when he reached this viewpoint, not by ar­tificial projection but by growth, he would be able to count the time elapsed in such a phenomenon.
He was still thinking about it, bemused, when he felt an unstable­ness in his position. He thought, Oh, oh, I’m going to invert again.
The first evidence of his unstable state: the glorious tree disappeared.
Realization came that he prob­ably had only moments to find the universe.
How do you find a universe?

As Cemp discovered, then, it was not really a problem. The entire meaning of Logic of Levels was based on the certainty that all life forms, at some inner root, know the origin of things, and that by the very nature of their structure they are balancing themselves against all other things.
There is no moment when the tini­est insect, or plant, or rock, or grain of sand is not interacting. The atoms at the centers of remote stars are part of that interaction.
The problem is not is the interac­tion happening? The problem is that, in order to function, awareness of so much has had to be reduced.
Such attenuation is not normally conscious. Hence, sensitivity to many good things is automatically cut down so close to zero that, in this universe, apparently only the Nijjans had retained through all the vicis­situdes of their evolution the cellular method of space and control.
As Cemp remembered his uni­verse it began to interact with him, to become in essence what he knew it to be.
And there it suddenly was, a dot of golden brightness.
Cemp sensed by the interaction he continued to feel that it was still re-forming deep inside itself; re­sponding exactly to his universal memory of it. He had a mighty thought: Before it all reverts to ex­actly the way it was, why don’t I change it?
Obviously, there was no time for detailed consideration. A few flash thoughts, quick judgments, snap de­cisions — and that would be it. It was never or now. Forever.
The Nijjans?
In a way, he could understand that they had felt it necessary to protect themselves and the space-time continuum by destroying races that were capable of challenging Nijjan hegemony. So they were not as guilty as he had once considered them. But truth was the universe did not need a race that could destroy it. It was time the place became per­manent.
Cemp refused to remember the Nijjans in his recollection of the plenum.
So what about human beings, the Special People and the Space Sn­icks?
Camp’s immediate solution: In his universe they all became Earth Silkies with the ability to change to any form and a complete willing­ness to play a benevolent police role everywhere in space.
And, without exception, they un­derstood the Nijjan method of space control but their ability to interact with space was on the small scale necessary for transportation. In ad­dition, no Silkies were subject to Logic of Levels, and all the effects of the cycle that had been triggered in him were reversed. Also, in case there was any question, Silkies were immortal.
There was no Kibmadine race —Cemp felt no mercy for those per­verted creatures.
. . . And Earth was back with her own sun.

Was it a good way for things to be? There was no one to tell him yea or nay. He thought it, and then it was too late to remember it differently.
In a flash, the orderly perfection of the single light in the blackness . . . altered, expanded. As Cemp watched tensely, the ochre-colored dot reached the moment of inver­sion.
For Cemp, it was the return back to smallness. Something grabbed him, did an irresistibly powerful thing with him, squeezed him —and pushed.
When he could perceive again, the starry universe stretched around him in every direction.
He realized he was somewhere in space, his Nijjan body intact.
For that super-sensitive shape and form, now that he understood it, orientation in space was an instinct. Here he was; there was Earth. Cemp did the Nijjan space-control manipulation — and interacted with another space many light-years distant, whose existence he sensed. With that space Cemp did the inversion pro­cess on a small scale, became a dot, became himself, became a dot . . . something to nothing to something —
And he stepped eighty thousand light-years into the Silkie Foundation and said to Charley Baxter, "Don’t bother sending that ship after me. I won’t be needing it."
The thin man gazed at him, eyes shining. "Nat," he breathed, "you’ve done it! You’ve won!"
Camp did not reply immediately. [’here was a question in his mind. Since, while the universe was being destroyed and reborn, he himself had been in a time change, had he wit­nessed and participated in the second formation of the continuum?
Or the first?
He realized it was a question to which he would now never know the answer.
Besides . . . could it all have been a fantasy, a wish that drifted through his mind while he was unconscious, the strangest dream ever?
There was a great window to his right, one of those massive struc­tures that led to a balcony from which a Silkie could launch himself. Camp walked out onto the balcony.
It was night. Earth’s old moon floated in the dark sky above, and there were the familiar star con­figurations that he knew so well.
Standing there, Cemp began to feel excitement, a surging con­sciousness of the permanence and finality of his victory.
"I’m going to Joanna," he an­nounced to Charley Baxter, who had come up behind him.
As Cemp launched himself into the familiar universe that was Earth, he was thinking: he had great things to tell his darling.


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[1if you’ll pardon the expression.