A plague of Demons And Other Storiesby Keith Laumer

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3The shrilling of the proximity alarm blasted through the silence. For a wild moment I thought Kayle had beaten me to the punch; then I realized it was the routine DEW line patrol contact."Z four-oh-two, I am reading your IFF. Decelerate at 1.8 gee preparatory to picking up approach orbit . . ."The screen went on droning out instructions. I fed them into the autopilot, at the same time running over my approach plan. The scout was moving in closer. I licked dry lips. It was time to try.I closed my eyes, reached out—as the Gool mind had reached out to me—and felt the touch of a Signals Officer's mind, forty thousand miles distant, aboard the patrol vessel. There was a brief flurry of struggle; then I dictated my instructions. The Signals Officer punched keys, spoke into his microphone:"As you were, Z four-oh-two. Continue on present course. At oh-nineteen seconds, pick up planetary for re-entry and let-down."I blanked out the man's recollection of what had happened, caught his belated puzzlement as I broke contact. But I was clear of the DEW line now, rapidly approaching atmosphere."Z four-oh-two," the speaker crackled. "This is planetary control. I am picking you up on channel forty-three, for re-entry and let-down."There was a long pause. Then:"Z four-oh-two, countermand DEW line clearance! Repeat, clearance countermanded! Emergency course change to standard hyperbolic code ninety-eight. Do not attempt re-entry. Repeat: do not attempt re-entry!"It hadn't taken Kayle long to see that I'd gotten past the outer line of defense. A few more minutes' grace would have helped. I'd play it dumb, and hope for a little luck."Planetary, Z four-oh-two here. Say, I'm afraid I missed part of that, fellows. I'm a little banged up—I guess I switched frequencies on you. What was that after 'pick up channel forty-three' . . . ?""Four-oh-two, sheer off there! You're not cleared for re-entry!""Hey, you birds are mixed up," I protested. "I'm cleared all the way. I checked in with DEW—"It was time to disappear. I blanked off all transmission, hit the controls, following my evasive pattern. And again I reached out—A radar man at a site in the Pacific, fifteen thousand miles away, rose from his chair, crossed the darkened room and threw a switch. The radar screens blanked off . . . For an hour I rode the long orbit down, fending off attack after attack. Then I was clear, skimming the surface of the ocean a few miles southeast of Key West. The boat hit hard. I felt the floor rise up, over, buffeting me against the restraining harness.I hauled at the release lever, felt a long moment of giddy disorientation as the escape capsule separated from the sinking lifeboat deep under the surface. Then my escape capsule was bobbing on the water.I would have to risk calling Kayle now—but by voluntarily giving my position away, I should convince him I was still on our side—and I was badly in need of a pick-up. I flipped the sending key."This is Z four-oh-two," I said. "I have an urgent report for Colonel Kayle of Aerospace Intelligence."Kayle's face appeared. "Don't fight it, Granthan," he croaked. "You penetrated the planetary defenses—God knows how. I—""Later," I snapped. "How about calling off your dogs now? And send somebody out here to pick me up, before I add sea-sickness to my other complaints.""We have you pinpointed," Kayle cut in. "It's no use fighting it, Granthan."* * *I felt cold sweat pop out on my forehead. "You've got to listen, Kayle," I shouted. "I suppose you've got missiles on the way already. Call them back! I have information that can win the war—""I'm sorry, Granthan," Kayle said. "It's too late—even if I could take the chance you were right."A different face appeared on the screen."Mr. Granthan, I am General Titus. On behalf of your country, and in the name of the President—who has been apprised of this tragic situation—it is my privilege to inform you that you will be awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor—posthumously—for your heroic effort. Although you failed, and have in fact been forced, against your will, to carry out the schemes of the inhuman enemy, this in no way detracts from your gallant attempt. Mr. Granthan, I salute you."The general's arm went up in a rigid gesture."Stow that, you pompous idiot!" I barked. "I'm no spy!"Kayle was back, blanking out the startled face of the general."Goodbye, Granthan. Try to understand . . ."I flipped the switch, sat gripping the couch, my stomach rising with each heave of the floating escape capsule. I had perhaps five minutes. The missiles would be from Canaveral.I closed my eyes, forced myself to relax, reached out . . . I sensed the distant shore, the hot buzz of human minds at work in the cities. I followed the coastline, found the Missile Base, flicked through the cluster of minds."—missile on course; do right, baby. That's it, right in the slot."I fingered my way through the man's mind and found the control centers. He turned stiffly from the plotting board, tottered to a panel to slam his hand against the destruct button.Men fell on him, dragged him back. "—fool, why did you blow it?"I dropped the contact, found another, who leaped to the panel, detonated the remainder of the flight of six missiles. Then I withdrew. I would have a few minutes' stay of execution now.I was ten miles from shore. The capsule had its own power plant. I started it up, switched on the external viewer. I saw dark sea, the glint of star-light on the choppy surface, in the distance a glow on the horizon that would be Key West. I plugged the course into the pilot, then leaned back and felt outward with my mind for the next attacker. 4It was dark in the trainyard. I moved along the tracks in a stumbling walk. Just a few more minutes, I was telling myself. A few more minutes and you can lie down . . . rest . . . The shadowed bulk of a box car loomed up, its open door a blacker square. I leaned against the sill, breathing hard, then reached inside for a grip with my good hand.Gravel scrunched nearby. The beam of a flashlight lanced out, flipped along the weathered car, caught me. There was a startled exclamation. I ducked back, closed my eyes, felt out for his mind. There was a confused murmur of thought, a random intrusion of impressions from the city all around. It was hard, too hard. I had to sleep—I heard the snick of a revolver being cocked, and dropped flat as a gout of flame stabbed toward me, the imperative Bam! echoing between the cars. I caught the clear thought:"God-awful looking, shaved head, arm stuck out; him all right—"I reached out to his mind and struck at random. The light fell, went out, and I heard the unconscious body slam to the ground like a poled steer.It was easy—if I could only stay awake.I gritted my teeth, pulled myself into the car, crawled to a dark corner behind a crate and slumped down. I tried to evoke a personality fraction to set as a guard, a part of my mind to stay awake and warn me of danger. It was too much trouble. I relaxed and let it all slide down into darkness.* * *The car swayed, click-clack, click-clack. I opened my eyes, saw yellow sunlight in a bar across the litter on the floor. The power truss creaked, pulling at my arm. My broken leg was throbbing its indignation at the treatment it had received—walking brace and all—and the burned arm was yelling aloud for more of that nice dope that had been keeping it from realizing how bad it was. All things considered, I felt like a badly embalmed mummy—except that I was hungry. I had been a fool not to fill my pockets when I left the escape capsule in the shallows off Key Largo, but things had been happening too fast.I had barely made it to the fishing boat, whose owner I had coerced into rendezvousing with me before shells started dropping around us. If the gunners on the cruiser ten miles away had had any luck, they would have finished me—and the hapless fisherman—right then. We rode out a couple of near misses, before I put the cruiser's gunnery crew off the air.At a fishing camp on the beach, I found a car—with driver. He dropped me at the railyard, and drove off under the impression he was in town for groceries. He'd never believe he'd seen me.Now I'd had my sleep. I had to start getting ready for the next act of the farce.I pressed the release on the power truss, gingerly unclamped it, then rigged a sling from a strip of shirt tail. I tied the arm to my side as inconspicuously as possible. I didn't disturb the bandages.I needed new clothes—or at least different ones—and something to cover my shaved skull. I couldn't stay hidden forever. The yard cop had recognized me at a glance.I lay back, waiting for the train to slow for a town. I wasn't unduly worried—at the moment. The watchman probably hadn't convinced anyone he'd actually seen me. Maybe he hadn't been too sure himself.The click-clack slowed and the train shuddered to a stop. I crept to the door, peered through the crack. There were sunny fields, a few low buildings in the distance, the corner of a platform. I closed my eyes and let my awareness stretch out."—lousy job. What's the use? Little witch in the lunch room . . . up in the hills, squirrel hunting, bottle of whiskey . . ." I settled into control gently, trying not to alarm the man. I saw through his eyes the dusty box car, the rust on the tracks, the listless weeds growing among cinders, and the weathered boards of the platform. I turned him, and saw the dingy glass of the telegraph window, a sagging screen door with a chipped enameled cola sign.I walked the man to the door, and through it. Behind a linoleum-topped counter, a coarse-skinned teen-age girl with heavy breasts and wet patches under her arms looked up without interest as the door banged.My host went on to the counter, gestured toward the waxed-paper-wrapped sandwiches under a glass cover. "I'll take 'em all. And candy bars, and cigarettes. And give me a big glass of water.""Better git out there and look after yer train," the girl said carelessly. "When'd you git so all-fired hungry all of a sudden?""Put it in a bag. Quick.""Look who's getting bossy—"My host rounded the counter, picked up a used paper bag, began stuffing food in it. The girl stared at him, then pushed him back. "You git back around that counter!"She filled the bag and rang up the tab. "Cash only."My host took two dog-eared bills from his shirt pocket, dropped them on the counter and waited while the girl filled a glass. He picked it up and started out."Hey! Where you goin' with my glass?"The trainman crossed the platform, headed for the box car. He slid the loose door back a few inches against the slack latch, pushed the bag inside, placed the glass of water beside it, then pulled off his grimy railroader's cap and pushed it through the opening. He turned. The girl watched from the platform. A rattle passed down the line and the train started up with a lurch. The man walked back toward the girl. I heard him say: "Friend o' mine in there—just passin' through."I was discovering that it wasn't necessary to hold tight control over every move of a subject. Once given the impulse to act, he would rationalize his behavior, fill in the details—and never know that the original idea hadn't been his own.I drank the water first, ate a sandwich, then lit a cigarette and lay back. So far so good. The crates in the car were marked "U.S. Naval Aerospace Station, Bayou Le Cochon." With any luck I'd reach New Orleans in another twelve hours. The first step of my plan included a raid on the Delta National labs; but that was tomorrow. That could wait.* * *It was a little before dawn when I crawled out of the car at a siding in the swampy country a few miles out of New Orleans. I wasn't feeling good, but I had a stake in staying on my feet. I still had a few miles in me. I had my supplies—a few candy bars and some cigarettes—stuffed in the pockets of the tattered issue coverall. Otherwise, I was unencumbered. Unless you wanted to count the walking brace on my right leg and the sling binding my arm.I picked my way across mushy ground to a pot-holed black-top road, started limping toward a few car lights visible half a mile away. It was already hot. The swamp air was like warmed-over subway fumes. Through the drugs, I could feel my pulse throbbing in my various wounds. I reached out and touched the driver's mind; he was thinking about shrimps, a fish-hook wound on his left thumb and a girl with black hair. "Want a lift?" he called.I thanked him and got in. He gave me a glance and I pinched off his budding twinge of curiosity. It was almost an effort now not to follow his thoughts. It was as though my mind, having learned the trick of communications with others, instinctively reached out toward them.An hour later he dropped me on a street corner in a shabby marketing district of the city and drove off. I hoped he made out all right with the dark-haired girl. I spotted a used-clothing store and headed for it.Twenty minutes later I was back on the sidewalk, dressed in a pinkish-gray suit that had been cut a long time ago by a Latin tailor—maybe to settle a grudge. The shirt that went with it was an unsuccessful violet. The black string tie lent a dubious air of distinction. I'd swapped the railroader's cap for a tarnished beret. The man who had supplied the outfit was still asleep. I figured I'd done him a favor by taking it. I couldn't hope to pass for a fisherman—I wasn't the type. Maybe I'd get by as a coffee-house derelict.I walked past fly-covered fish stalls, racks of faded garments, grimy vegetables in bins, enough paint-flaked wrought iron to cage a herd of brontosauri, and fetched up at a cab stand. I picked a fat driver with a wart."How much to the Delta National Laboratories?"He rolled an eye toward me, shifted his toothpick."What ya wanna go out there for? Nothing out there.""I'm a tourist," I said. "They told me before I left home not to miss it."He grunted, reached back and opened the door. I got in. He flipped his flag down, started up with a clash of gears and pulled out without looking."How far is it?" I asked him."It ain't far. Mile, mine and a quarter.""Pretty big place, I guess."He didn't answer.We went through a warehousing district, swung left along the waterfront, bumped over railroad tracks, and pulled up at a nine-foot cyclone fence with a locked gate.I looked out at the fence, a barren field, a distant group of low buildings. "What's this?""This is the place you ast for."I touched his mind, planted a couple of false impressions and withdrew. He blinked, then started up, drove around the field, pulled up at an open gate with a blue-uniformed guard. He looked back at me."You want I should drive in, sir?""I'll get out here."He jumped out, opened my door, helped me out with a hand under my good elbow. "I'll get your change, sir," he said, reaching for his hip."Keep it.""Thank YOU." He hesitated. "Maybe I oughta stick around. You know.""I'll be all right.""I hope so," he said. "A man like you—you and me—" he winked. "After all, we ain't both wearing berets fer nothing.""True," I said. "Consider your tip doubled. Now drive away into the sunrise and forget you ever saw me."He got into the car, beaming, and left. I turned and sized up the Delta Labs.There was nothing fancy about the place; it consisted of low brick and steel buildings, mud, a fence and a guard who was looking at me.I sauntered over. "I'm from Iowa City," I said. "Now, the rest of the group didn't come—said they'd rather rest one day. But I like to see it all. After all, I paid—""Just a minute," the guard said, holding up a palm. "You must be lost, fella. This here ain't no tourist attraction. You can't come in here.""This is the cameo works?" I said anxiously.He shook his head. "Too bad you let your cab go. It's an hour yet till the bus comes."A dun-painted staff car came into view, slowed and swung wide to turn in. I fingered the driver's mind. The car swerved, braked to a halt. A portly man in the back seat leaned forward, frowning. I touched him. He relaxed. The driver leaned across and opened the door. I went around and got in. The guard was watching, open-mouthed.I gave him a two-finger salute, and the car pulled through the gate."Stop in front of the electronics section," I said. The car pulled up. I got out, went up the steps and pushed through the double glass doors. The car sat for a moment, then moved slowly off. The passenger would be wondering why the driver had stopped—but the driver wouldn't remember.I was inside the building now; that was a start. I didn't like robbery in broad daylight, but it was a lot easier this way. I wasn't equal to climbing any walls or breaking down any locked doors—not until I'd had a transfusion, a skin graft and about three months' vacation on a warm beach somewhere.A man in a white smock emerged from a door. He started past me, spun—"I'm here about the garbage," I said. "Damn fools will put the cans in with the edible. Are you the one called?""How's that?""I ain't got all the morning!" I shrilled. "You scientist fellers are all alike. Which way is the watchamacallit—equipment lab?""Right along there." He pointed. I didn't bother to thank him. It wouldn't have been in character.A thin man with a brush mustache eyed me sharply as I pushed through the door. I looked at him, nodding absently. "Carry on with your work," I said. "The audit will be carried out in such a way as to disturb you as little as possible. Just show me your voucher file, if you please."He sighed and waved toward a filing cabinet. I went to it and pulled a drawer open, glancing about the room. Full shelves were visible through an inner door.Twenty minutes later I left the building, carrying a sheet metal carton containing the electronic components I needed to build a matter transmitter—except for the parts I'd have to fabricate myself from raw materials. The load was heavy—too heavy for me to carry very far. I parked it at the door and waited until a pick-up truck came along.It pulled over. The driver climbed out and came up the walk to me. "Are you—uh . . . ?" He scratched his head."Right." I waved at my loot. "Put it in the back." He obliged. Together we rolled toward the gate. The guard held up his hand, came forward to check the truck. He looked surprised when he saw me."Just who are you, fella?" he said.I didn't like tampering with people any more than I had to. It was a lot like stealing from a blind man: easy, but nothing to feel proud of. I gave him a light touch—just the suggestion that what I would say would be full of deep meaning."You know—the regular Wednesday shipment," I said darkly. "Keep it quiet. We're all relying on you.""Sure thing," he said, stepping back. We gunned through the gate. I glanced back to see him looking after the truck, thinking about the Wednesday shipment on a Friday. He decided it was logical, nodded his head and forgot the whole thing. 5I'd been riding high for a couple of hours, enjoying the success of the tricks I'd stolen from the Gool. Now I suddenly felt like something the student morticians had been practicing on. I guided my driver through a second-rate residential section, looking for an M.D. shingle on a front lawn.The one I found didn't inspire much confidence—you could hardly see it for the weeds—but I didn't want to make a big splash. I had to have an assist from the driver to make it to the front door. He got me inside, parked my box beside me and went off to finish his rounds, under the impression that it had been a dull morning.The doctor was a seedy, seventyish G.P. with a gross tremor of the hands that a good belt of Scotch would have helped. He looked at me as though I'd interrupted something that was either more fun or paid better than anything I was likely to come up with."I need my dressing changed, Doc," I said. "And maybe a shot to keep me going.""I'm not a dope peddler," he snapped. "You've got the wrong place.""Just a little medication—whatever's usual. It's a burn.""Who told you to come here?"I looked at him meaningfully. "The word gets around."He glared at me, gnashed his plates, then gestured toward a black-varnished door. "Go right in there."He gaped at my arm when the bandages were off. I took a quick glance and wished I hadn't."How did you do this?""Smoking in bed," I said. "Have you got . . . something that . . ."He caught me before I hit the floor, got me into a chair. Then he had that Scotch he'd been wanting, gave me a shot as an afterthought, and looked at me narrowly."I suppose you fell out of that same bed and broke your leg," he said."Right. Hell of a dangerous bed.""I'll be right back." He turned to the door. "Don't go away. I'll just . . . get some gauze.""Better stay here, Doc. There's plenty of gauze right on that table.""See here—""Skip it, Doc. I know all about you.""What?""I said all about you."He set to work then; a guilty conscience is a tough argument to answer.He plastered my arm with something and rewrapped it, then looked the leg over and made a couple of adjustments to the brace. He clucked over the stitches in my scalp, dabbed something on them that hurt like hell, then shoved an old-fashioned stickpin needle into my good arm."That's all I can do for you," he said. He handed me a bottle of pills. "Here are some tablets to take in an emergency. Now get out.""Call me a cab, Doc."* * *I listened while he called, then lit a cigarette and watched through the curtains. The doc stood by, worrying his upper plate and eyeing me. So far I hadn't had to tinker with his mind, but it would be a good idea to check. I felt my way delicately.—oh God, why did I . . . long time ago . . . Mary ever knew . . . go to Arizona, start again, too old . . . I saw the nest of fears that gnawed at him, the frustration and the faint flicker of hope but not quite dead. I touched his mind, wiped away scars . . . "Here's your car," he said. He opened the door, looking at me. I started past him."Are you sure you're all right?" he said."Sure, Pop. And don't worry. Everything's going to be okay."The driver put my boxes on the back seat. I got in beside him and told him to take me to a men's clothing store. He waited while I changed my hand-me-downs for an off-the-hook suit, new shirt and underwear and a replacement beret. It was the only kind of hat that didn't hurt. My issue shoes were still good, but I traded them in on a new pair, added a light raincoat, and threw in a sturdy suitcase for good measure. The clerk said something about money and I dropped an idea into his mind, paused long enough to add a memory of a fabulous night with a redhead. He hardly noticed me leaving.I tried not to feel like a shoplifter. After all, it's not every day a man gets a chance to swap drygoods for dreams.In the cab, I transferred my belongings to the new suitcase, then told the driver to pull up at an anonymous-looking hotel. A four-star admiral with frayed cuffs helped me inside with my luggage. The hackie headed for the bay to get rid of the box under the impression I was a heavy tipper.I had a meal in my room, a hot bath, and treated myself to a three hour nap. I woke up feeling as though those student embalmers might graduate after all.I thumbed through the phone book and dialed a number."I want a Cadillac or Lincoln," I said. "A new one—not the one you rent for funerals—and a driver who won't mind missing a couple nights' sleep. And put a bed pillow and a blanket in the car."I went down to the coffee room then for a light meal. I had just finished a cigarette when the car arrived—a dark blue heavy-weight with a high polish and a low silhouette."We're going to Denver," I told the driver. "We'll make one stop tomorrow—I have a little shopping to do. I figure about twenty hours. Take a break every hundred miles, and hold it under seventy."He nodded. I got in the back and sank down in the smell of expensive upholstery."I'll cross town and pick up U.S. 84 at—""I leave the details to you," I said. He pulled out into the traffic and I got the pillow settled under me and closed my eyes. I'd need all the rest I could get on this trip. I'd heard that compared with the Denver Records Center, Fort Knox was a cinch. I'd find out for sure when I got there.* * *The plan I had in mind wasn't the best I could have concocted under more leisurely circumstances. But with every cop in the country under orders to shoot me on sight, I had to move fast. My scheme had the virtue of unlikeliness. Once I was safe in the Central Vault—supposed to be the only H-bomb-proof structure ever built—I'd put through a phone call to the outside, telling them to watch a certain spot; say the big desk in the President's office. Then I'd assemble my matter transmitter and drop some little item right in front of the assembled big shots. They'd have to admit I had something. And this time they'd have to start considering the possibility that I wasn't working for the enemy.It had been a smooth trip, and I'd caught up on my sleep. Now it was five a.m. and we were into the foothills, half an hour out of Denver. I ran over my lines, planning the trickiest part of the job ahead—the initial approach. I'd listened to a couple of news broadcasts. The FBI was still promising an arrest within hours. I learned that I was lying up, or maybe dead, in the vicinity of Key West, and that the situation was under control. That was fine with me. Nobody would expect me to pop up in Denver, still operating under my own power—and wearing a new suit at that.The Records Center was north of the city, dug into mountain-side. I steered my chauffeur around the downtown section, out a street lined with dark hamburger joints and unlit gas stations to where a side road branched off. We pulled up. From here on, things might get dangerous—if I was wrong about how easy it was all going to be. I brushed across the driver's mind. He set the brake and got out."Don't know how I came to run out of gas, Mr. Brown," he said apologetically. "We just passed a station but it was closed. I guess I'll just have to hike back into town. I sure am sorry; I never did that before."I told him it was okay, watched as he strode off into the predawn gloom, then got into the front seat and started up. The gate of the Reservation surrounding the Record Center was only a mile away now. I drove slowly, feeling ahead for opposition. There didn't seem to be any. Things were quiet as a poker player with a pat hand. My timing was good.* * *I stopped in front of the gate, under a floodlight and the watchful eye of an M.P. with a shiny black tommygun held at the ready. He didn't seem surprised to see me. I rolled down the window as he came over to the car."I have an appointment inside, Corporal," I said. I touched his mind. "The password is 'hotpoint.' "He nodded, stepped back, and motioned me in. I hesitated. This was almost too easy. I reached out again . . . " . . . middle of the night . . . password . . . nice car . . . I wish . . ." I pulled through the gate and headed for the big parking lot, picking a spot in front of a ramp that led down to a tall steel door. There was no one in sight. I got out, dragging my suitcase. It was heavier now, with the wire and magnets I'd added. I crossed the drive, went up to the doors. The silence was eerie.I swept the area, searching for minds, found nothing. The shielding, I decided, blanked out everything.There was a personnel door set in the big panel, with a massive combination lock. I leaned my head against the door and felt for the mechanism, turning the dial right, left, right . . . The lock opened. I stepped inside, alert.Silence, darkness. I reached out, sensed walls, slabs of steel, concrete, intricate mechanisms, tunnels deep in the ground . . . But no personnel. That was surprising—but I wouldn't waste time questioning my good luck.

I followed a corridor, opened another door, massive as a vault, passed more halls, more doors. My footsteps made muffled echoes. I passed a final door and came into the heart of the Records Center.There were lights in the chamber around the grim, featureless periphery of the Central Vault. I set the valise on the floor, sat on it and lit a cigarette. So far, so good. The Records Center, I saw, had been overrated. Even without my special knowledge, a clever locksmith could have come this faror almost. But the Big Vault was another matter. The great integrating lock that secured it would yield only to a complex command from the computer set in the wall opposite the vault door. I smoked my cigarette and, with eyes closed, studied the vault.I finished the cigarette, stepped on it, went to the console, began pressing keys, tapping out the necessary formulations. Half an hour later I finished. I turned and saw the valve cycle open, showing a bright-lit tunnel within.* * *I dragged my bag inside, threw the lever that closed the entry behind me. A green light went on. I walked along the narrow passage, lined with gray metal shelves stacked with gray steel tape drums, descended steps, came into a larger chamber fitted out with bunks, a tiny galley, toilet facilities, shelves stocked with food. There was a radio, a telephone and a second telephone, bright red. That would be the hot-line to Washington. This was the sanctum sanctorum, where the last survivors could wait out the final holocaust—indefinitely.I opened the door of a steel cabinet. Radiation suits, tools, instruments. Another held bedding. I found a tape-player, tapes—even a shelf of books. I found a first aid kit and gratefully gave myself a hypo-spray jolt of neurite. My pains receded.I went on to the next room; there were wash tubs, a garbage disposal unit, a drier. There was everything here I needed to keep me alive and even comfortable until I could convince someone up above that I shouldn't be shot on sight.A heavy door barred the way to the room beyond. I turned a wheel, swung the door back, saw more walls lined with filing cabinets, a blank façade of gray steel; and in the center of the room, alone on a squat table—a yellow plastic case that any Sunday Supplement reader would have recognized.It was the Master Tape, the Utter Top Secret Programming document that would direct the terrestrial defense in case of a Gool invasion.It was almost shocking to see it lying there—unprotected except for the flimsy case. The information it contained in micro-micro dot form could put my world in the palm of the enemy's hand.The room with the tool kit would be the best place to work, I decided. I brought the suitcase containing the electronic gear back from the outer door where I'd left it, opened it and arranged its contents on the table. According to the Gool these simple components were all I needed. The trick was in knowing how to put them together.There was work ahead of me now. There were the coils to wind, the intricate antenna arrays to lay out; but before I started, I'd take time to call Kayle—or whoever I could get at the other end of the hot-line. They'd be a little startled when I turned up at the heart of the defenses they were trying to shield.I picked up the receiver and a voice spoke:"Well, Granthan. So you finally made it." 

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