"The Proxy Intelligence" (1968) by A. E. van Vogt

(actualisé le ) by A. E. van Vogt

The Proxy Intelligence, first published in the October 1968 issue of the WORLDS OF IF SCIENCE FICTION magazine, is the sequel to the golden-age story Asylum (1942) that can be seen elsewhere on this site.

In Asylum we followed the adventures of an (apparently) average-Joe kind of space pilot, Steve Hanardy, who gets inadvertently tangled up in the battle between a galactic observers who are trying to protect mankind and the solar system from deadly, and superiorly-intelligent, vampire-like aliens, the Dreeghs, from overrunning the solar system and destroying mankind.

Here, Steve continues to play an ever more central role in the continuing struggle to ward off the Dreeghs on a far-flung outpost on a meteor near Jupiter, manned by a renowned scientist and his extremely attractive, intelligent and very fiery young daughter.

With the original October 1968 WORLDS OF IF illustrations by Jack Gaughan and the magazine cover artwork by Chaffee.

e-book versions of this 17,600 word-novella are available for downloading below.



Take a sentient being —
Even Steve Hanardy could fit that description. He was a short, stocky man, with the look about him of someone who had lived too close to the animal stage. His eyes were perpetually narrowed, as if he were peering against a bright light. His face was broad and fleshy. But he was human. He could think and act, and he was a giver and not a taker.
Put this sentient person in a solar system surrounded by a two billion light-year ocean of virtual nothingness beyond which, apparently, is more nothingness —
Hanardy, a product of Earth’s migration to the moon and to the planets of the solar system, was born on Europa, one of the moons of Jupiter, before the educational system caught up to the colonists. He grew up an incoherent roustabout and a spacehand on the freighters and passenger liners that sped about among the immense amount of debris — from moons to habitable meteorites — that sur­rounded the massive Jupiter. It was a rich and ever-growing trade area, and so presently even the stolid, unimaginative Hanardy had a freighter of his own. Almost from the beginning, his most fruitful journeys were occasional trips to the meteorite where a scientist, Professor Ungarn, lived with his daughter, Patricia. For years, it was a lucrative, routine voyage, without incident.
Confront this sentient indi­vidual with this enigma of be­ing
The last voyage had been dif­ferent.
To begin with, he accepted a passenger — a reporter named Wil­liam Leigh, who ostensibly wanted to write up the lonely route for his news syndicate. But almost as soon as the freighter reached the Un­garn meteorite and entered the airlock, the meteorite was attacked by strange space vessels, which were capable of far greater speeds than anything Hanardy had ever seen. And William Leigh was not who he seemed.
It was hard to know just who he was. What actually happened as far as Hanardy was concerned, was quite simple: One of the de­fensive energy screens had gone down before the attack of the strange ships; and Professor Un­garn sent Hanardy to machine a new part for the screen’s drive unit. While he was engaged in this, Leigh came upon him by surprise, attacked him, and tied him up.

Lying there on the floor, bound hand and foot, Hanardy thought in anguish: "If I ever get loose, I’m gonna hightail it out of here!"
He tested the rope that held him and groaned at its unyielding toughness. He lay, then, for a while, accepting the confinement of the bonds, but underneath was a great grief and a great fear.
He suspected that Professor Un­garn and the professor’s daughter, Patricia, were equally helpless, or they would have tried during the past hour to find out what had happened to him.
He listened again, intently, holding himself still. But only the steady throbbing of the distant dynamos was audible. No footsteps approached; there was no other movement.
He was still listening when he felt an odd tugging inside his body.
Shivering a little, Hanardy shook his head as if to clear it of men­tal fog — and climbed to his feet.
He didn’t notice that the cords that had bound him fell away.
Out in the corridor, he paused tensely. The place looked deserted, empty. Except for the vague vibration from the dynamos, a great silence pressed in upon him. The place had the look and feel of being on a planet. The artificial grav­ity made him somewhat lighter than on Earth, but he was used to such changes. It was hard to grasp that he was inside a meteorite, hun­dreds of thousands of miles from the nearest moon or inhabited planet. Being here was like being inside a big building, on an upper floor.
Hanardy headed for the nearest elevator shaft. He thought: I’d bet­ter untie Miss Pat, then her pop, and then get.
It was an automatic decision, to go to the girl first. Despite her sharp tongue, he admired her. He had seen her use weapons to in­jure, but that didn’t change his feeling. He guessed that she’d be very angry — very possibly she’d blame him for the whole mess.
Presently he was knocking hesi­tantly on the door to Patricia’s apartment. Hesitantly, because he was certain that she was not in a position to answer.
When, after a reasonable pause, there was no reply, he pressed gently on the latch. The door swung open.
He entered pure enchantment.

The apartment was a physical delight. There were French-type windows that opened onto a sun­lit window. The French doors were open, and the sound of birds singing wafted in through them. There were other doors leading to the inner world of the girl’s home, and Hanardy, who had occasional­ly been in the other rooms to do minor repair work, knew that there also everything was as costly as it was here in this large room that he could see.
Then he saw the girl. She was ly­ing on the floor, half-hidden be­hind her favorite chair, and she was bound hand and foot with wire.
Hanardy walked toward her un­happily. It was he who had brought William Leigh, and he wasn’t quite sure just how he would argue himself out of any accusation she might make about that. His guilt showed in the way he held his thick-set body, in the shuffling of his legs, in the awkward way he knelt beside her. He began gingerly to deal with the thin wire that enlaced and interlaced her limbs.
The girl was patient. She waited till he had taken all the wire off her and then, without moving from the floor, began to rub the circulation back into her wrists and ankles.
She looked up at him and made her first comment: "How did you avoid being tied up?"
"I didn’t. He got me, too," said Hanardy. He spoke eagerly, anxious to be one of the injured, along with her. He already felt better. She didn’t seem to be angry.
"Then how did you get free?" Patricia Ungarn asked.
"Why, I just — " Hanardy be­gan.
He stopped, thunderstruck. He thought back, then over what had happened. He had been lying there, tied. And then . . . and then . . .
He stood blank, scarcely daring to think. Realizing that an answer was expected, he began apologeti­cally, "I guess be didn’t tie me up so good, and I was in a kind of a hurry, figuring you were here, and so I just —"
Even as he spoke, his whole be­ing rocked with the remembrance of how tough those ropes had been a few minutes before he freed him­self.
He stopped his mumbling expla­nation because the girl wasn’t lis­tening, wasn’t even looking. She had climbed to her feet, and she was continuing to rub her hands. She was small of build and good-looking in a bitter way. Her lips were pressed too tightly together; her eyes were slightly narrowed with a kind of permanent anxiety. Except for that, she looked like a girl in her teens, but cleverer and more sophisticated than most girls her age.
Even as Hanardy, in his heavy way, was aware of the complexity of her, she faced him again. She said with an un-girl-like decisive­ness, "Tell me everything that hap­pened to you."

Hanardy was glad to let go of the unsatisfactory recollection of his own escape. He said, "First thing I know, this guy comes in there while I’m working at the lathe. And is he strong, and is he fast! I never would’ve thought he had that kind of muscle and that fast way of moving. I’m pretty chunky, y’understand — "
"What then?" She was patient, but there was a pointedness about her question that channeled his at­tention back to the main line of events.
"Then he ties me up, and then he goes out, and then he takes those Dreeghs from the spaceship and disappears into space." Han­ardy shook his head, wonderingly. "That’s what gets me. How did he do that?"
He paused, in a brown study; but he came from the distance of his thought back into the room, to re­alize guiltily that the girl had spoken to him twice.
"Sorry," he muttered. "I was thinking about how he did that, and it’s kind of hard to get the idea." He finished, almost accus­ingly: "Do you know what he does?"
The girl looked at him, a star­tled expression on her face. Han­ardy thought she was angry at his inattention and said hastily: "I didn’t hear what you wanted me to do. Tell me again, huh!"
She seemed unaware that he had spoken. "What does he do, Steve?" "Why, he just — "
At that point, Hanardy stopped short and glanced back mentally over the glib words he had been using. It was such a fantastic dia­logue, that he could feel the blood draining from his cheeks.
"Huh!" he said.
"What does he do, Steve?" He saw that she was looking at him, as if she understood something that he didn’t. It irritated him.
He said unhappily: "I’d better go and untie your father before that last bunch of Dreegs shows up."
Having spoken, he stopped again, his mouth open in amaze­ment. He thought: "I must be nuts. What am I saying?"
He turned and started for the door.
"Come back here!"
Her voice, sharp and commanding, cut into him. Defensively, he put up between himself and her the thick barrier of stolidity which had served him for so many years in his relations with other people. He swung awkwardly around to face her again. Before he could speak, she said with intensity: "How did he do it, Steve?"
The question ran up against a great stubbornness in him. He had no feeling of deliberately resisting her. But the mental fog seemed to settle down upon his being, and he said: "Do what, Miss?"
"Who?" He felt stupid before her questions, but he felt even more stupid for having had meaning­less thoughts and said meaning­less things.
"Leigh — you fool! That’s who."
"I thought he took that space-boat of yours that looks like an automobile."

There was a long pause. The girl clenched and unclenched her hands. Now she seemed very unchildlike indeed. Hanardy, who had seen her angry before, cringed and waited for the thunder and lightning of her rage to lash out at him. Instead, the tenseness faded. She seemed suddenly thoughtful and said with unexpect­ed gentleness: "After that, Steve? After he got out there!"
She swung her arm and pointed at the aviary, where the sunlight glinted beyond the French win­dows. Hanardy saw birds fluttering among the trees. Their musical cries gave the scene a homey touch, as if it really were a garden. As he watched, the tree leaves stir­red; and he knew that hidden fans were blowing an artificial breeze. It was like a summer afternoon, ex­cept that just beyond the glasslike wall was the blackness of space.
It was a cosmic night outside, dis­turbed here and there by an atom of matter — a planet hidden from sight by its own relative smallness and distance from anything else; a sun, a point of light and energy, quickly lost in darkness so vast that presently its light would fade, and become one grain in a misty bright cloud that obscured the blackness for a moment of universe time and occupied an inch of space, or so it seemed. . . .
Hanardy contemplated that star­tling vista. He was only vaguely aware that his present intensity of interest was quite different from similar thoughts he had had in the past. On his long journeys, such ideas had slipped into and out of his mind. He recalled having had a thought about it just a few months before. He had been look­ing out of a porthole, and — just for an instant — the mystery of the empty immensity had touched him. And he’d thought: "What the heck is behind all this? How does a guy like me rate being alive?"
Aloud, Hanardy muttered: "I’d better get your father free, Miss Pat." He finished under his breath: "And then beat it out of here — fast."


He turned, and this time, though she called after him angrily, he stumbled out into the corridor and went down to the depths of the meteorite, where the dynamos hummed and throbbed; and where, presently, he had Pro­fessor Ungarn untied.
The older man was quite cheer­ful. "Well, Steve, we’re not dead yet. I don’t know why they didn’t jump in on us, but the screens are still holding, I see."
He was a gaunt man with deep-set eyes and the unhappiest face Hanardy have ever seen. He stood, rubbing the circulation back into his arms. Strength of intellect shone from his face, along with the melancholy. He had defended the me­teorite in such a calm, practical way from the attacking Dreeghs that it was suddenly easy to re­alize that this sad-faced man was actually the hitherto unsuspected observer of the solar system for a vast galactic culture, which includ­ed at its top echelon the Great Ga­lactic — who had been William Leigh — and at the bottom, Pro­fessor Ungarn and his lovely daugh­ter.
The thoughts about that seeped into Hanardy’s fore-conscious. He realized that the scientist was pri­marily a protector. He and this station were here to prevent con­tact between Earth and the galaxy. Man and his earth-born civilization were still too low on the scale of development to be admitted to awareness that a gigantic galac­tic culture existed. Interstellar ships of other low-echelon cultures which had been admitted to the galactic union were warned away from the solar system whenever they came too close. Accidentally, the hunted, lawless Dreeghs had wandered into this forbidden sec­tor of space. In their lust for blood and life energy they had avidly concentrated here in the hope of gaining such a quantity of blood, and so great a supply of life ener­gy, that they would be freed for endless years from their terrible search.
It had been quite a trap, which had enabled the Great Galactic to capture so many of them. But now another shipload of Dreeghs was due; and this time there was no trap.
Professor Ungarn was speaking: "Did you get that part machined before Leigh tied you up?" He broke off: "What’s the matter, Steve?"
"Huh! Nothing." Hanardy came out of a depth of wonderment: "I’d better get onto that job. It’ll take a half hour, maybe."
Professor Ungarn nodded and said matter-of-factly: "I’ll feel better when we get that additional screen up. There’s quite a gang out there."
Hanardy parted his lips to say that that particular "gang" was no longer a problem, but that another super-ship, a late arrival, would shortly appear on the scene. He stopped the words, unspoken; and now he was consciously dismayed. "What’s going on?" he wondered. "Am I nuts?"
Almost blank, he headed down to the machine shop. As he entered, he saw the ropes that had bound him, lying on the floor. He walk­ed over in a haze of interest and stooped to pick up one of the short sections.
It came apart in his fingers, breaking into a fine, powdery stuff, some of which drifted into his nos­trils. He sneezed noisily.

The rope, he discovered, was all like that. He could hardly get over it. He kept picking up the pieces, just so that he could feel them crumble. When he had noth­ing but a scattering of dust, he stood up and started on the lathe job. He thought absently: "If that next batch of Dreeghs arrives, then maybe I can start believing all this stuff."
He paused and for the first time thought: "Now, where did I get that name, Dreegh?"
Instantly, he was trembling so violently that he had to stop work. Because — if he could get the pro­fessor to admit that that was what they were — Dreeghs — then. . . .
Then what?
"Why, it’d prove everything," he thought. "Just that one thing!"
Already, the crumbled rope, and whatever it proved, was fading into the background of his recollection, no longer quite real, needing to be reinforced by some new miracle. As it happened, he asked the question under optimum circum­stances. He handed the part to the scientist and managed to ask about the Dreeghs as the older man was turning away. Ungarn be­gan immediately with an obvious urgency to work on the shattered section of the energy screen drive. It was from there, intent on what he was doing, and in an absent-minded tone, that he answered Hanardy’s question.
"Yes, yes," he muttered. "Dreeghs. Vampires, in the worst sense of the word . . . but they look just like us."
At that point he seemed to real­ize to whom he was talking. He stopped what he was doing and swung around and stared at Han­ardy.
He said at last very slowly, "Steve, don’t repeat everything you hear around this place. The uni­verse is a bigger territory than you might think but people will ridi­cule if you try to tell them. They will say you’re crazy.
Hanardy did not move. He was thinking: "He just don’t realize. I gotta know. All this stuff happen­ing — "
But the idea of not telling was easy to grasp. At Spaceport, on the moon, Europa, at the bars that he frequented, he was accepted by certain hangers-on as a boon com­panion. Some of the people were sharp, even educated, but they were cynical, and often witty, and were particularly scathing of serious ideas.
Hanardy visualized himself telling any one of them that there was more to space than the solar system — more life, more intelli­gence — and he could imagine the ridiculing discussion that would be­gin.
Though they usually treated him with tolerance — it sure wouldn’t do any good to tell them.

Hanardy started for the door. "I gotta know," he thought again. "And right now I’d better get on my ship and beat it before that Dreegh comes along pretend­ing that he’s Pat’s future hus­band."
And he’d better leave on the sly. The professor and the girl wouldn’t like him to go away now. But defending this meteorite was their job, not his. They couldn’t expect him to deal with the Dreegh who had captured, and murdered, Pat’s boy friend.
Hanardy stopped in the doorway, and felt blank. "Huh!" he said aloud.
He thought: Maybe I should tell them. They won’t be able to deal with the Dreegh if they think he’s somebody else.
"Steve!" It was Professor Un­garn.
Hanardy turned. "Yeah, boss?" he began.
"Finish unloading your cargo."
"Okay, boss."
He walked off heavily along the corridor, tired and glad that he had been told to go and relieved that the decision to tell them could not be put into effect immediately. He thought wearily: First thing I’d better do is take a nap.


Hanardy walked slowly up the ramp into his own ship, and so to his own cabin. Before lying down for the sleep he needed, he paused to stare at his reflection in the mirror-bright metal wall of the room. He saw a short, muscular man in greasy, gray dungarees, and a dirty yellow shirt. A stubble of beard emphasized a coarseness of features that he had seen be­fore, but somehow never so clearly, never with such a conviction that he was a low-grade human being. Hanardy groaned and stretched out in the bunk. He thought: I sure got my eyes open all of a sudden to what kind of a lug I am.
He took a quick look back along the track of years, and groaned again. It was a picture of a man who had down-graded himself as a human being, seeking escape in a lonely space job from the need to compete as an individual.
"Nobody will believe a word I say," he thought. "All that other junk was only in my noodle — it didn’t happen out where you could prove anything. I’d better just keep my mouth shut and stop thinking I understand what’s going on."
He closed his eyes — and look­ed with a clear inner vision at the universe.
He opened his eyes to realize that he had slept.
He realized something else. The screens were down; a Dreegh in a spaceboat was coming into an air­lock at the extreme lower side of the meteorite.
The vampire was primarily in­tent on information, but he would destroy everyone in the meteorite as soon as he felt it was safe.
Sweating Hanardy tumbled out of the bunk and hurried out of his ship, and so into the meteorite. He raced along the corridor that led to the other airlock. At the entrance he met the professor and Patricia. They were smiling and excited.
The scientist said, "Great news, Steve. Pat’s fiancé has just ar­rived. He’s here sooner than we expected; but we were getting wor­ried that we hadn’t received some communication."
Hanardy muttered something, feeling immensely foolish. To have been so wrong! To have thought: Dreegh! — when the reality was Klugg . . . the girl’s long-awaited fiancé, Thadled Madro.
But the identification of the new arrival made all his fantasies just that — unreal vaporings, figments of an unsettled mind.

Hanardy watched gloomily as Madro came down the ramp from the lifeboat. The girl’s lover was a very tall, slim man in his thirties, with deep-set eyes. He had an intensity about him that was impressive, commanding — and re­pellent. Instantly repellent.
Hanardy realized ruefully that his reaction was over-critical. Hanardy couldn’t decide what had twisted this man. But he was reminded of the degraded people who were his principal buddies at spaceport, on Europa. Smart, many of them were — almost too smart. But they gave off this same ema­nation of an overloaded personality.
Hanardy was a little surprised to realize that the girl was not rushing forward to greet the gaunt-bodied visitor. It was Professor Ungarn, who approached the man and bowed courteously. Madro bow­ed in return and then stood look­ing at the girl who waited stiffly near Hanardy. The scientist glanced at his daughter and then smiled at the newcomer apologet­ically. He said, Thadled Madro, this is my daughter, Patricia —who has suddenly become very shy."
Madro bowed. Patricia inclined her head. Her father turned to her, and said, "My dear, I realize that this is an unfortunate way of mar­rying and giving in marriage — to entrust yourself to a man whom neither of us has ever seen before. But let us remember his courage in coming here at all and resolve to offer him communication and the opportunity to show us what he is."
Madro bowed to the girl. "On those terms, I greet you, Patricia." He straightened. "About communi­cation — I am baffled by the mes­sage I received en route. Will you please give me further informa­tion?"
Professor Ungarn told him of the Dreegh attack and of its abrupt cessation; he told him of William Leigh, the Great Galactic. He finished: "We have our report as to what happened from a mem­ber of the race of this system — who was somehow infected by the mere presence of this mighty be­ing, and who apparently acquired the ability to see at a distance, and to be aware of some of the thoughts of some people, temporarily at least."
There was a faint smile on Un­garn’s tired face. Hanardy shriv­eled a little inside, feeling that he was being made fun of. He looked unhappily at the girl. She must have told her father what he had said.
Patricia Ungarn caught his gaze on her and shrugged. "You said it, Steve," she stated matter-of-factly. "Why not tell us everything you felt?"
The newcomer stared somberly and intently at Hanardy; so in­tently that it was almost as if he also were reading minds. He turn­ed slowly to the girl. Can you give me a swift summary?" he asked. "If there’s action to be taken, I’d like to have some basis for it."
There was a hard note in his voice that chilled Hanardy, who had been thinking for many min­utes over and over: They don’t re­ally know him! They don’t know him. . . . He had a mental picture of the real Madro’s ship being in­tercepted, Madro captured and drained of information and then murdered by the vampire method. The rest was skillful makeup, good enough apparently to pass the in­spection of the professor and his perceptive daughter. Which meant that, before killing the real Madro, the Dreegh had learned passwords, secret codes and enough back his­tory to be convincing.
Within minutes, this creature could decide that it was safe to take action.

Hanardy had no illusions, no hope. It had taken an un­bounded being to defeat these mighty Dreeghs. And now, by a trick, a late arrival had achieved what his fellows en masse had not been able to do — he had gotten into the meteorite fortress of the galactic watcher of the solar sys­tem; and his whole manner indi­cated that his fears had nothing to do with either the professor or his daughter, or Hanardy.
He wanted to know what had happened. For a little while he might be forbearing, in the belief that he could learn more as an ap­parent ally than as a revealed en­emy.
"We have to put him off," Han­ardy thought in agony. "We have to hold back, or maybe give him what he wants." Somehow, the lat­ter seemed preferable.
He grew aware that the girl was talking. While Hanardy listened, she gave the essential picture of what he had said. It was all there, surprisingly sharp in detail. It even penetrated some of the blur that had settled over his own memory.
When she had finished, Madro frowned and nodded. His slim body seemed unnaturally tense. He said, almost to himself: "So they were almost all captured — " He paused and, turning, looked at Hanardy. "You have the feeling there will be one more ship?"
Hanardy nodded, not trusting himself to speak.
"How many Dreeghs are there aboard this one ship?" Madro ask­ed.
This time there was no escaping a verbal reply. "Nine," said Han­ardy.
He hadn’t thought about the ex­act number before. But he knew the figure was correct. Just for a moment, he knew it.
Madro said in an odd tone, "You get it that clearly? Then you must already know many other things as well."
His dark eyes gazed directly in­to Hanardy’s. The unspoken mean­ing that was in them seemed to be: "Then you already know who I am?"
There was such a hypnotic qual­ity in the other’s look that Han­ardy had to wage an inner fight against admitting that he knew.
Madro spoke again. "Were these —this first group of Dreeghs — all killed?"
"Why, I —" Hanardy stopped, amazed. "Gee, I don’t know. I don’t know what happened to them. But he intended to kill them; up to a certain moment, he intended to; and then — "
"And then what, Steve?" That was Pat, her voice urging him.
"I don’t know. He noticed some­thing."
"Who noticed something?" asked Pat.
"Leigh. You know — him. But I don’t know what he did after that."
"But where could they be now?" the girl asked, bewildered.
Hanardy remained blank, vague­ly guilty, as if somehow he was failing her by not knowing.
He grew aware that Madro was turning away. "There is apparently more to discover here," the Dreegh said quietly. "It is evident that we must re-assess our entire situation; and I might even guess that we Kluggs could through the chance perceptive stimulation of this man achieve so great a knowledge of the universe that, here and now, we might be able to take the next step of development for our kind."

The comment seemed to indicate that the Dreegh was still un­decided. Hanardy followed along behind the others. For a few des­perate seconds he thought of jerk­ing out his gun, in the hope that he might be able to fire before the Dreegh could defend himself.
But already doubt was upon him. For this suspicion was just in his head. He had no proof other than the steady stream of pictures in his mind; and that was like a mad­ness having no relation to any­thing that had been said and done before his eyes. Crazy people might act on such inner pictures, but not stolid, unimaginative Steve Han­ardy.
"Gotta keep my feet on the ground!" Hanardy muttered to himself.
Ahead, Professor Ungarn said in a conversational voice: "I’ve got to give you credit, Thadled. You have already said something that has shocked Pat and myself. You have used the hateful word "Klugg" just as if it doesn’t bother you."
"It’s just a word," said Madro.
And that was all that was said while they walked. They came to the power room. The girl sank in­to a chair, while her father and the visitor walked over to the pow­er control board. "The screens are working beautifully," said Professor Ungarn with satisfaction. "I just opened them for the few sec­onds it took for you to get through them. We’ve got time to decide what to do, in case this last Dreegh ship attacks us."
Madro walked over near the girl, and settled into a chair. He address­ed Professor Ungarn, "What you said a moment ago, about the word and the identification of Klugg —you’re right. It doesn’t bother me."
The scientist said grimly, "Aren’t you fooling yourself a little? Of all the races that know of the galactic civilization, we’re the lowest on the scale. We do the hard work. We’re like the day laborers on planets such as Earth. Why, when Pat found out, she nearly went mad with self-negation, Galactic mo­rons!" He shuddered.
Madro laughed in a relaxed way; and Hanardy had to admire the easiness of him. If Madro was a Dreegh, then for all Madro knew this, also, was a trap set by the Great Galactic; and yet he seemed unworried. If, on the other hand, he was actually a Klugg, then somehow he had made inferiority right within himself. "I could use some of that," Hanardy thought gloomily. "If these guys are galactic morons, what does that make me?"
Madro was speaking: "We’re what we are," he said simply. "It’s not really a matter of too much dif­ference in intelligence. It’s an en­ergy difference. There’s a way here, somewhere, of utilizing energy in a very superior fashion. But you’ve got to have the energy, and you’ve got to get it from somewhere. That’s what makes the case of this fellow Leigh interest­ing. If we could backtrack on what he did here, we might really get at the heart of a lot of things."
Patricia and her father said noth­ing. But their eyes glistened, as they waited for the man to con­tinue. Madro turned to Hanardy. "That question she asked you be­fore — " he indicated the girl —"when you first untied her. How did he leave the solar system after capturing those — Dreeghs?" He hesitated the slightest bit before using the name.
Hanardy said simply, "He didn’t exactly leave. It’s more like . . . he was somewhere else. And he took them with him." He fumbled for words. "You see, things aren’t the way they seem. They’re — " He stopped, unhappy.
He realized that the two men and the girl were waiting. Hanardy waved his arms aimlessly, indi­cating things beyond the safe­guarding of the meteorite. "All that — that’s not real."

Madro turned towards his com­panions. "It’s the concept of a universe of illusion. An old idea; but maybe we should take another look at it."
Professor Ungarn murmured, "It would take complex techniques to make it work."
Hanardy said straining for meaning, "You just keep putting it out there. As if you’re doing it, even though you’re not. That tunes you in."
"Put what out, Steve?" It was the girl, her voice as strained as his.
"The world. The universe . . . the whole deal."
Hanardy went on, "And then, for a moment, you don’t put any­thing there. That’s when you do something I don’t understand."
"What’s that?" The girls’ voice almost emotionless, led him forward.
"You stop everything," said Hanardy wonderingly. "You let the nothingness rush in. And then —you become the real you . . . for as long as you have energy."
He stared at the three people, through them, unseeing. As from a distance, Madro’s voice came to him:
"You see — it’s a matter of en­ergy," the man said calmly. "Han­ardy?"
He came back into the room, mentally as well as physically. "Yeah?"
"Where did he get his energy?" Madro asked.
"Uh," said Hanardy, "he got most of it out where it was stored — a kind of dark room."
It was a new thought; a picture came with it of how the energy had been put there by somebody else, not by Leigh. Before Han­ardy could speak another word, Madro was over there beside him.
"Show us!" he said, and his voice was like a fire, burning a path of action, demanding counter-action.
Hanardy led the way, his heavy body trembling. He had the feel­ing that he had made an admission that spelled victory for the Dreegh. But there was no turning back. If this creature was a Dreegh, then resistance was useless. He knew that intuitively.
"If I could only be sure," Han­ardy thought miserably.
And the stupid thing was that he was sure. As sure, it seemed to him, as he could ever be. But he wasn’t sure enough even to make the attempt to save his own life. As things stood, he’d have to go through with this farce until the Dreegh — satisfied that all was well — destroyed them all in his own good time.


It was twenty minutes later.
. . . After they had found the little black room to be merely a drab closet where the professor had always kept certain tools, but oth­erwise empty.
"Where was it stored?" Madro demanded of Hanardy. "I mean the energy that Leigh got."
Hanardy pointed unhappily at the metal wall inside the closet.
"Are you saying the energy was in the wall?"
The question once more disturb­ed Hanardy’s sense of the reality of his own thoughts, and so he simply stood there, shaken, as Pat and Professor Ungarn pressed for­ward and with a portable instru­ment tested the wall.
Madro did not join them, nor did he again look into the little room. Hanardy felt an inner tre­mor as the Dreegh, ignoring what the father and daughter were do­ing, turned and strode toward him.
"Steve," he said, "I want to talk to you."
He glanced back, raised his voice, "I’m going to take Han­ardy for a little private question­ing."
"All right!" That was Pat. But neither she nor her father turned. Madro had not waited. His fingers gripped Hanardy’s arm firmly at the elbow. Shrinking, Hanardy re­alized the other’s intent.
A test!
To determine how vulnerable he was.
To the death — if he were that weak.
Even as Hanardy had these awarenesses, Madro drew him away from the storeroom and around a corner. Hanardy kept looking back, not daring to call for help but yet hoping that the professor and his daughter would be motivated to follow.
His final view of them showed them still inside the closet, and the professor was saying, "A series of tests on this wall should—"
Hanardy wondered what they would think when they found him gone — and dead.
Madro drew Hanardy along the side corridor and into a room. He closed the door, and they were alone. Hanardy still not resisting.
Madro stood there for a few mo­ments, tall, lean, smiling.
"Let’s settle this once and for all," he said softly. "Myself —against whatever ability you were endowed with."
And because Hanardy had begun to have fantasies, had nurtured a tiny hope that maybe it was true, that maybe something great had rubbed off on him — as Professor Ungarn had implied — for a few seconds, Hanardy actually waited for that something inside him to handle this situation.

That was all the time he had —seconds. The speed of Madro’s attack, and the total violent intent of it, instantly defeated that wait­ing reaction.
He was lifted effortlessly, grab­bed by one foot, held like a rag doll, and incredibly was about to have his head dashed against the near wall — when, with a primi­tive survival spasm of effort, Han­ardy kicked with his other foot, kicked hard against the wrist of the hand by which Madro held him.
For that moment, for that one attack, it was resistance enough. The Dreegh let him go. Hanardy fell — the slow-motion fall of less than Earth gravity. Far too slow for the speed of Madro’s second attack.
In his awkward, muscle-bound way, only one of Hanardy’s drag­ging legs actually struck the floor. The next moment he was caught again by fingers that were like granite biting into his clothes and body — Madro obviously neither heeding nor caring which.
And there was no longer any doubt in Hanardy’s mind. He had no special ability by which he might defeat the Dreegh’s deadly intent.
He had no inner resources. No visions. He was helpless. His hard muscles were like putty in the steely grip of a man whose strength overwhelmingly transcended his own.
Hanardy ceased his writhing and yelled desperately, "For Pete’s sake, why all this murder when there’s only five women Dreeghs and four men left? Why don’t you Dreeghs change, try once more to become normal?"

As swiftly as it had started, the violence ended.
Madro let him go, stepped back and stared at him. "A message!" he said. "So that’s your role."
Hanardy did not immediately realize that the threat was ended. He had fallen to the floor. From that begging position he continued his appeal. "You don’t have to kill me! I’ll keep my mouth shut. Who’d believe me, anyway?"
"What’s normal?" The Dreegh’s voice was cold and demanding. The radiation from him — unclean­ness — was stronger.
"Me," said Hanardy.
"You!" Incredulous tone.
"Yeah, me." Hanardy spoke ur­gently. "What ails me is that I’m a low-lifer, somehow. But I’m a normal lug. Things balance out in me — that’s the key. I take a drink, but not because I have to. It doesn’t affect me particularly. When I was in my teens once I tried taking drugs. Hell, I just felt it didn’t fit in my body. I just threw it off. That’s normal. You can’t do that with what you’ve got."
"What’s normal?" Madro was cold, steady, remote.
"You’re sick," said Hanardy. "All that blood and life energy. It’s abnormal. Not really necessary. You can be cured."
Having spoken the strange words, Hanardy realized their strangeness. He blinked.
"I didn’t know I was going to say that," he mumbled.
The Dreegh’s expression was changing as he listened. Suddenly he nodded and said aloud, "I ac­tually believe we’ve been given a communication from the Great Galactic. A twelfth-hour, last-chance offer."
"What will you do with me?" Hanardy mumbled.
"The question," came the steely reply, "is what is the best way to neutralize you? I choose this way!"
A metallic something glittered in the Dreegh’s hand. From its muz­zle a shimmering line of light reached toward Hanardy’s head.
The spaceman flinched, tried to duck, had the cringing thought that this was death and stood there expecting at the very least a ter­rible shock.
He felt nothing. The light hit his face; and it was as if a pencil beam from a bright flashlight had briefly glared into his eyes. Then the light went, and there he stood blinking a little, but unhurt so far as he could determine.
He was still standing there when the Dreegh said, "What you and I are going to do now is that you’re going to come with me and show me all the places on this meteorite where there are armaments or small arms of any kind."

Hanardy walked ahead, kept glancing back; and there, each time he looked, was the long body with its grim face.
The resemblance to Thadled Madro was visibly fading, as if the other had actually twisted his fea­tures into a duplication of the young male Klugg’s face, not using makeup at all, and now he was re­laxing.
They came to where the Ungarns waited. Father and daughter said nothing at all. To Hanardy they seemed subdued; the girl was strangely pale. He thought: "They do know!"
The overt revelation came as the four of them arrived in the main living quarters. Professor Un­garn sighed, turned and — ignoring Hanardy — said, "Well, Mr. Dreegh, my daughter and I are wondering why the delay in our execution?"
"Hanardy!" was the reply.
Having uttered the name, as if Hanardy himself were not pres­ent, the Dreegh stood for a long moment, eyes narrowed, lips slight­ly parted, even white teeth clamp­ed together. The result was a kind of a snarling smile.
"He seems to be under your control. Is he?" That was Pat Un­garn, in a small voice. The moment she had spoken, and thus attracted the Dreegh’s attention, she shrank, actually retreated a few steps, as he looked at her.
Sween-Madro’s tense body relax­ed. But his smile was as grim as ever. And still he ignored Hanar­dy’s presence.
"I gave Steve a special type of energy charge that will nullify for the time being what was done to him."
Professor Ungarn laughed curt­ly. "Do you really believe that you can defeat this — this being — William Leigh . . . defeat him with what you have done to Steve? Af­ter all, he’s your real opponent, not Hanardy. This is a shadow battle. One of the fighters has left a pup­pet to strike his blows for him."
Sween-Madro said in an even tone, "It’s not as dangerous as it seems. Puppets are notoriously poor fighters."
The professor argued, "any in­dividual of the race known to less­er races as Great Galactics — which was obviously not their real name — must be presumed to have taken all such possibilities into ac­count. What can you gain by de­lay?"
Sween-Madro hesitated, then: "Steve mentioned a possible cure for our condition." His voice held an edge in it.
There was a sudden silence. It settled over the room and seemed to permeate the four people in it.
The soundless time was broken by a curt laugh from Sween-Madro. He said, "I sensed that for a few seconds I seemed — "
"Human," said Pat Ungarn. "As if you had feelings and hopes and desires like us."
"Don’t count on it." The Dreegh’s voice was harsh.
Professor Ungarn said slowly, "I suspect that you analyzed Steve has a memory of mental contact with a supreme, perhaps even an ultimate, intelligence. Now, these earth people when awake are in that peculiar, perennially confused state that makes them unaccept­able for galactic citizenship. So that the very best way to defend yourself from Steve’s memory is to keep him awake. I therefore deduce that the energy charge you fired at him was designed to maintain in continuous stimulation the wak­ing center in the brain stern.
"But that is only a temporary defense. In four or five days, ex­haustion in Hanardy would reach an extreme state, and something in the body would have to give. What will you have then that you don’t have now?"
The Dreegh seemed surprisingly willing to answer, as if by utter­ing his explanations aloud he could listen to them himself, and so judge them.
He said, "My colleagues will have arrived by then."
"So then you’re all in the trap," said Professor Ungarn. "I think your safest bet would be to kill Pat and me right now. As for Steve — "
Hanardy had been listening to the interchange with a growing conviction that this melancholy old man was arguing them all into being immediately executed.
"Hey!" he interrupted urgently. "What are you trying to do?"
The scientist waved at him impatiently. "Shut up. Steve. Surely you realize that this Dreegh will kill without mercy. I’m trying to find out why he’s holding off. It doesn’t fit with what I consider to be good sense."
He broke off, "Don’t worry about him killing you. He doesn’t dare. You’re safe."
Hanardy felt extremely unsafe. Nevertheless, he had a long his­tory of accepting orders from this man; so he remained dutifully si­lent.
The Dreegh, who had listened to the brief interchange thoughtfully, said in an even tone that when his companions arrived, he, Hanardy and Pat Ungarn would go to Eu­ropa. He believed Pat was needed on such a journey. So no one would be killed until it was over.
"I’m remembering," Sween-Madro continued, "what Steve said about the Great Galactic no­ticing something. I deduce that what he noticed had to do with Steve himself. So we’ll go to Space­port and study Steve’s past beha­vior there. Right now, let’s disarm the entire place for my peace of mind."
Clearly, it would not be for anyone else’s.

From room to room, and along each corridor, silently the three prisoners accompanied their powerful conqueror.
And presently every weapon in the meteorite was neutralized or disposed of. Even energy sources that might be converted were seal­ed off. Thus, the meteorite screens were actually de-energized and the machinery to operate them, wreck­ed.
The Dreegh next cut off escape possibilities by dismantling several tiny space boats. The last place they went, first Hanardy, then the professor, then Pat, and finally Sween-Madro, was Hanardy’s space freighter. There also, all the weapons were eliminated, and the Dreegh had Hanardy dismantle the control board. From the parts that were presently lying over the floor, the gaunt man, with unerring understanding, selected key items. With these in hand, he paused in the doorway. His baleful gaze caught Hanardy’s shifting eyes. "Steve!" he said. "You’ll stay right here."
"You mean, inside my ship?"
"Yes. If you leave here for any reason, I’ll kill you. Do you understand?"
Hanardy glanced helplessly to­ward Professor Ungarn and then back at the Dreegh. He said, "There’s some work the professor wanted me to do."
"Professor Ungarn — " it was the vampire’s harsh voice cutting across Hanardy’s uncertain protest — "tell him how unimportant such work is."
Hanardy was briefly aware of the old man’s wan smile. The sci­entist said wearily, "Pat and I will be killed as soon as we have served our purpose. What he will eventually do with you, we don’t know."
"So you’ll stay right here. You two come with me," Sween-Madro ordered the professor and his daughter.
They went as silently as they had come. The airlock door clang­ed. Hanardy could hear the inter­locking steel bolts wheeze into po­sition. After that, no sound came.
The potentially most intelligent man in the solar system was alone — and wide awake.


Sitting, or lying down, waiting posed no problems for Hanar­dy. His years alone in space had prepared him for the ordeal that now began. There was a difference.
As he presently discovered when he lay down in his narrow cot, he couldn’t sleep.
Twenty-four earth hours ticked by.
Not a thinking man, Steve Han­ardy; nor a reader. The four books on board were repair manuals. He had thumbed through them a hun­dred times, but now he got them out and examined them again. Ev­ery page was, as he had expected, dully familiar. After a slow hour he used up their possibilities.
Another day, and still he was wide-eyed and unsleeping, but there was a developing restlessness in him, and exhaustion.
As a spaceman, Hanardy had re­ceived indoctrination in the dangers of sleeplessness. He knew of the mind’s tendency to dream while awake, the hallucinatory experi­ences, the normal effects of the un­ending strain of wakefulness.
Nothing like that happened.
He did not know that the sleep center in his brain was timelessly depressed and the wake center timelessly stimulated. The former could not turn on, the latter could not turn off. So between them there could be none of the usual interplay with its twilight states.
But he could become more ex­hausted.
Though he was lying down al­most continuously now, he became continually more exhausted.
On the fourth "morning" he had the thought for the first time: this is going to drive me crazy!
Such a fear had never before in his whole life passed through his mind. By late afternoon of that day, Hanardy was scared and diz­zy and hopeless, in a severe dwin­dling spiral of decreasing sanity. What he would have done had he remained alone was not at that time brought to a test.
For late on that fourth "day" Pat Ungarn came through the air­lock, found him cowering in his bunk and said, "Steve, come with me. It’s time we took action."

Hanardy stumbled to his feet. He was actually heading after her when he remembered Sween-Madro’s orders to him, and he stopped.
"What’s the matter?" she de­manded.
He mumbled simply, "He told me not to leave my ship. He’ll kill me if I do."
The girl was instantly impatient. "Steve, stop this nonsense." Her sharp words were like blows strik­ing his mind. "You haven’t any more to lose than we have. So come along!"
And she started back through the airlock. Hanardy stood, stun­ned and shaking. In a single sen­tence, spoken in her preemptory fashion, she challenged his man­hood by implication, recognized that the dumb love he felt for her made him her slave and so re-es­tablished her absolute ascendency.
Silently, tensely, he shuffled across the metal floor of the air­lock and moments later was in the forbidden meteorite.
Feeling doomed.
The girl led the way to what was, in effect, the engine room of the meteorite.
As Steve trailed reluctantly be­hind her, Professor Ungarn rose up from a chair and came forward, smiling his infinitely tired smile.
His greeting was, "Pat wants to tell you about intelligence. Do you know what your I.Q. is?"
The question barely reached the outer ramparts of Hanardy’s at­tention. Following the girl along one corridor after another, a fear­ful vision had been in his mind, of Sween-Madro suddenly rounding the next corner and striking him dead. That vision remained, but along with it was a growing won­der: Where was the Dreegh?
The professor snapped, "Steve do you hear me?"
Forced to look at him, Hanardy was able to remember proudly that he belonged in the 55th per­centile of the human race, intelli­gence-wise, and that his I.Q. had been tested at 104.
"The tester told me that I was above average," Hanardy said in a tone of pleasure. Then, apologetic again, he added, "Of course, beside you guys I’m nothing."
The old man said, "On the Klugg I.Q. scale you would probably rate higher than 104. We take into ac­count more factors. Your mechan­ical ability and spatial relations skill would not be tested correctly by any human I.Q. test that I have examined."
He continued, "Now, Steve, I’m trying to explain this all to you in a great hurry, because some time in the next week you’re going to be, in flashes, the most intelligent man in the entire solar system, and there’s nothing anybody can do about it except help you use it. I want to prepare you."
Hanardy, who had anxiously sta­tioned himself so that he could keep one eye on the open door — and who kept expecting the mighty Dreegh to walk in on the little con­spiratorial group of lesser beings —shook his head hopelessly.
"You don’t know what’s already happened. I can be killed. Easy. I’ve got no defenses."
He glumly described his en­counter with the Dreegh and told how helpless he had been. "There I was on my knees, begging, until I just happened to say something that made him stop. Boy, he sure didn’t think I was unkillable."

Pat came forward, stood in front of him, and grabbed his shoul­ders with both hands.
"Steve," she said in an urgent voice, "above a certain point of I.Q. mind actually is over mat­ter. A being above that intelli­gence level cannot be killed. Not by bullets, nor by any circum­stance involving matter. Nov lis­ten: in you is a memory of such an intelligence level. In manhandling you, the Dreegh was trying to see what limited stress would do. He found out. He got the message from the Great Galactic out of you.
"Steve, after that he didn’t dare put a bullet into you, or fire a death-level energy beam. Because that would force this memory to the surface!"
In her intense purposefulness she tried to move him with her hands. But that only made Hanardy aware of what a girlish body she had. So little body, so much imperious woman — it startled him, for she could barely budge him, let alone shake him.
She said breathlessly, "Don’t you see, Steve? You’re going to be king! Try to act accordingly."
"Look — " Hanardy began, stol­idly.
Rage flashed into her face. Her voice leaped past his interjection. "And if you don’t stop all this re­sistance, in the final issue I’ll put a bullet into your brain myself, and then you’ll see."
Hanardy gazed into her blue eyes, so abruptly furious. He had a sinking conviction that she would do exactly what she threatened. In alarm, he said, "For Pete’s sake, what do you want me to do?"
"Listen to what dad has to say!" she commanded. "And stop looking the other way. You need a high-speed education, and we haven’t got much time."
That last seemed like a total understatement to Hanardy. His feeling was that he had no time at all.
Awareness saved him, then. There was the room with its ma­chinery, and the old man and his daughter; and there was he with his mind jumping with the new fear of her threat. Hanardy had a flit­ting picture of the three of them lost forever inside this remote me­teorite that was just one tiny part of Jupiter’s colossal family of small, speeding particles of matter — a meaningless universe that visibly had no morality or justice, because it included without a qualm crea­tures like the Dreeghs.
As his skittering thought reached that dark depth, it suddenly occur­red to Hanardy that Pat couldn’t shoot him. She didn’t have a gun. He opened his mouth to tell her of her helplessness. Then closed it again.
Because an opportunity might open up for her to obtain a weapon. So the threat remained, receded in time . . . but not to be dismissed. Nonetheless, he grew calmer. He still felt compelled, and jittery. But he stayed there and listened, then, to a tiny summary of the story of human intelligence and the attempts that had been made to measure it.

It seemed human intelligence tests were based on a curve where the average was 100. Each test Professor Ungarn had seen reveal­ed an uncertainty about what constituted an intelligence factor, and what did not. Was the ability to tell left from right important to in­telligence? One test included it.
Should an individual be able to solve brain twisters? Many test­ers considered this trait of great importance. And almost all psy­chologists insisted on a subtle un­derstanding of the meaning of words and many of them. Skill at arithmetic was a universal require­ment. Quick observation of a va­riety of geometric shapes and forms was included. Even a general knowledge of world conditions and history was a requirement in a few tests.
"Now, we Kluggs," continued the professor in his melancholy voice, "have gone a step beyond that."
The words droned on through Hanardy’s mind. Kluggs were the­ory-operating people . . . theories based on primary and not second­ary abilities. Another race, "higher" than the Kluggs — called the Len­nels — operated on Certainty . . . a high harmonic of Authority.
"Certainty, with the Lennels," said the old man, "is of course a system and not an open channel. But even so it makes them as pow­erful as the Dreeghs."
On an I.Q. curve that would in­clude humans, Kluggs, Lennels and Dreeghs, the respective averages would be 100, 220, 380, and 450. The Dreeghs had an open channel on control of physical movement.
"Even a Great Galactic can only move as fast as — he cannot move faster than — a Dreegh," Profes­sor Ungarn commented and explained, "Such open channels are pathways in the individual to a much greater ability than his stand­ard I.Q. permits."
Musical, mathematical, artistic, or any special physical, mental or emotional ability was an open channel that operated outside the normal human, Klugg, or even the Dreegh curve. By definition, a Great Galactic was a person whose I.Q. curve included only open channels.
It had been reported that the open channel curve began at about 80. And, though no one among the lesser races had ever seen any­thing higher than 3,000 — the lim­its of the space phenomenon — it was believed that the Great Galac­tic I.Q. curve ascended by types to about 10,000.
"It is impossible," said the Pro­fessor’s melancholy voice, "to im­agine what kind of an open chan­nel that would be. An example of an 800 open channel is Pat. She can deceive. She can get away with a sleight of hand, a feint, a diversion "
The old man stopped suddenly. His gaze flicked past Hanardy’s right shoulder and fastened on something behind him that Han­ardy couldn’t see.


The spaceman froze with the sudden terrified conviction that the worst had happened, and that the Dreegh Sween-Madro was behind him.
But it couldn’t be, he realized. Professor Ungarn was looking at the control board of the meteorite. There was no door there.
Hanardy allowed himself to turn around. He saw that on the big instrument panel a viewplate had lighted, showing a scene of space.
It was a familiar part of the starry heavens looking out toward interstellar space, away from the sun. Near the center of the scene a light was blinking.
Even as Hanardy watched, the viewplate picture shifted slightly, centering exactly on the blinking light.
Behind Hanardy, there was a gasp from the girl, "Dad," she whispered, "is it — ?"
Professor Ungarn had walked to­ward the viewplate, past Hanardy and so into the latter’s range of vision. The old man nodded with an air of utter weariness.
"Yes, I’m afraid it is, my dear. The other eight Dreeghs have ar­rived."
He glanced hopelessly at Han­ardy. "My daughter had some kind of idea of using you against Sween-Madro before they got here."
Hanardy said blankly, "Using me?"
The meaning of that brought him with a jar out of his own bodily exhaustion.
The old man was shrugging. "Whatever the merit of her plan, of course, now it’s too late."
He finished dully, "Now we’ll learn our fate."
The tableau of dejection held for seconds only. A sound, a high-pitched human voice, broke through the silence and the dark emotion that filled the room.
"How far away are they?" It was the girl’s voice, from behind Hanardy, strained but recogniz­able. "Exactly how long till they get here?"
Hanardy’s mind stirred from its thrall as Professor Ungarn said dully, "Less than two hours would be my guess. Notice — "
He thereupon started a technical comment to her about the speed with which the view plate had cen­tered on the ship, implying — he said — the enormous velocity of its approach.
His explanation was never com­pleted. In the middle of it, the girl uttered a screech and then, to Hanardy’s amazement, she raced past him and flung herself, arms flailing, at the old man.
She kept striking at his face then, yelling the most bloodcur­dling curses in a furious soprano voice. A long moment went by be­fore Hanardy was able to make out what she was saying:
" — You stupid old man! What do you mean, only two hours? Two hours is all we need, damn you!

At that point Hanardy emerged from his surprise. Awkwardly, he jumped over her, grabbed her, pulled her away. "For Pete’s sake!" he cried.
The girl tried to turn on him, her struggling body writhing in his grip. But he held her, uttering apologies the while. Finally, she realized that his strength was too much for her. She ceased her ef­forts, and with an attempt at con­trol said grimly, "Steve, this crazy old fool who is my father has twice now accepted defeat — when it wasn’t necessary!"
She broke off, addressed the old man. Her voice went up a whole octave as she said, "Show Steve what you showed me only a few minutes before I went to get him."
Professor Ungarn was white and haggard. "I’m sorry, my dear," he mumbled. He nodded to Hanardy. "I’m sure you can let her go now."
Hanardy released the girl. She stood straightening her clothes, but her eyes still flashed. "Show him, damn it," she snapped, "and make it quick."
Professor Ungarn took Hanardy’s arm and drew him toward the control board, speaking in apol­ogetic tones. "I failed my daugh­ter. But the truth is I’m over three hundred years old. That’s just about it for a Klugg; so I keep forgetting how younger people might feel."
Pat — he went on — was a product of a late-life marriage. Her mother had flatly refused to go along on his assignment as a galac­tic watcher. In bringing the girl with him, he had hoped to shield her from the early shock of dis­covering that she was a member of a servant race. But isolation had not, in fact, saved her feelings. And now, their very remoteness from the safeguarding military strength of associated lower-level races had brought a horrifying threat of death from which he had decided there was no escape.
"So it didn’t even occur to me to tell her — "
"Show him," the girl’s voice came shrilly from the rear, "what you didn’t bother to tell me."
Professor Ungarn made a few control adjustments, and there ap­peared on the viewplate first a picture of a room and then of a bed in one corner with an almost naked man lying on it.
The bed came into full focus, filled the viewplate. Hanardy drew in his breath with a sharp hiss of disbelief. It was the Dreegh.

The man who lay there, seemingly unconscious, bore almost no resemblance to the tall, vital being who had come aboard in the guise of Pat’s fiancé. The body on the bed was unnaturally thin; the rib cage showed. His face, where it had been full-cheeked, was sunk­en and hollow.
"They need other people’s blood and life energy to survive, and they need it almost continuously," the old man whispered. "That’s what I wanted to show you, Steve." Her tone grew scathing, as she continued, "My father didn’t let me see that until a few minutes ago. Imagine! Here we are under sentence of death, and on the day, almost on the hour that the other Dreeghs are due to arrive, he fi­nally reveals it — something he had watched developing for days."
The old man shut off the scene on the viewplate and sighed.
"I’m afraid it never occurred to me that a Klugg could challenge a Dreegh. Anyway, I imagine Sween-Madro originally arrived here expecting to use us as a source of blood and life force. And then when you showed all that Great Galactic programming, he changed his mind and decided to await the coming of his colleagues. So there he is — at our mercy, Pat thinks."
Hanardy had spent his years of association with this couple defer­ring to them. So he waited now, pa­tiently, for the scientist to tell him what to do about the opportunity.
The old man said, with a sigh, "Pat thinks if we make a bold at­tack at this stage, we can kill him."
Hanardy was instantly skeptical, but he had never been able to influence this father and daughter in any way, and he was about to follow the old, withdrawing pattern, when he remembered again that there were no weapons around to make any kind of attack whatsoever.
He pointed out that fact and was still talking when he felt something cold touch his hand.
Startled, he glanced down and back — and saw that the girl was pushing a metal bar about one and a half feet long, at his palm. Involuntarily, still not thinking, he closed his fingers over it. As soon as he had it firmly in one chunky hand, Hanardy recognized by its feel that it was a special aluminum alloy, hard, light, and tough.
The girl spoke. "And just in case that dumb look on your face means what I think it does," she said, "here are your orders: take that bar, go where the Dreegh is and beat him to death with it."
Hanardy turned slowly, not quite sure that it was he who was being addressed. "Me?" he said. And then, after a long pause, "Hey!"
"And you’d better get started," said the girl, "there isn’t much time."
"Hey!" repeated Hanardy, blankly.


Slowly, the room swung back into a kind of balance. And Hanardy grew aware that the girl was speaking again:
"I’ll go in through the door facing the bed," she stated. "If he can awaken at all in his condition, I want to ask him some questions. I must know about the nature of super-intelligence."
For a brain in as dulled state as Hanardy’s, the words were con­fusing. He had been striving to ad­just to the idea that he was the one who was supposed to go in to the Dreegh, and simultaneously he was bracing himself against what she wanted him to do.
With so many thoughts already in his mind, it was hard to get the picture that this slip of a girl in­tended to confront the Dreegh by herself.
Pat was speaking again, in an ad­monishing tone, "You stand just in­side the other door, Steve. Now listen carefully. Do your best not to attract his attention, which I hope will be on me. The informa­tion I want is for your benefit. But when I yell, ’Come!’ don’t delay. You come and you kill, understand?"
Hanardy had had a thought of his own. A sudden stark realiza­tion. The realization was that in this deadly dangerous situation there was ultimately a solution.
He could cast off in his own spacecraft!
But that meant he would have to obtain the key equipment Sween-Madro had taken from his ship. Obtain it, repair the control board, get away!
To obtain it he’d have to go to where it was — into the Dreegh’s bedroom. At least apparently, he would have to do exactly what Pat wanted.
Fear dimmed before that obvi­ous purpose, yielded to the feeling that there was no other way.
Thinking thus, Hanardy abrupt­ly uttered agreement. "Yep," he said, "I understand."
The girl had started toward the door. At the tone of his voice, she paused, turned back and gazed at him suspiciously. "Now, don’t you go having any plans of your own!" She spoke accusingly.
Hanardy was instantly guilty, instantly confused. "For Pete’s sake," he said, "I don’t like what you want to do — going in there and waking this guy. I don’t see any good in my listening to a lec­ture on intelligence. I’m not smart enough to understand it! So, my vote is if we’re going in let’s just kill him right off."
The girl had turned away. She did not glance back as she walked out of the room. Hanardy grim­aced at Professor Ungarn. Moments later he was through the door, fol­lowing her, weary, hopeless, men­tally shut down, but resigned.
Pat heard him stumbling along behind her. Without looking around she said, "You’re a weapon, Steve. I have to figure out how to fire that weapon and escape. Basically, that’s all we need to do! Get away from the Dreeghs and hide. Under­stand?"
He was a man stumbling along metal and rock corridors in a re­mote part of the solar system, his normal stolidness made worse now by an immense weariness. So he heard the words she uttered; even understood their surface meaning.
It was enough awareness for him to be able to mumble, "Yeah — yeah!”
Otherwise — she went on when he had acknowledged — he might go off like a firecracker, discharging whatever energy homo-galactic had endowed him with in a series of meaningless explosions aimed at nothing and accomplishing noth­ing.
So the question was: What kind of weapon was he?
"As I see it," she finished, "that information we can only hope to gain from the Dreegh. That’s why we have to talk to him."
"Yeah," mumbled Hanardy, hoarsely. "Yeah."

They came all too quickly to their destination. At the girl’s nod Hanardy broke into an uneven lope and ran around to the far corridor. He fumbled the door open and stepped inside.
At this point Pat had already been through her door for fifteen seconds. Hanardy entered upon a strange scene, indeed.
On the bed, the almost naked body was stirring. The eyes opened and stared at the girl, and she said breathlessly, "That! What you just now did — becoming aware of me. How do you do that?"
From where he stood, Hanardy could not see the Dreegh’s head. He was aware only that the Dreegh did not answer.
"’What," asked Pat Ungarn, "is the nature of the intelligence of a Great Galactic?"
The Dreegh spoke. "Pat," he said, "you have no future, so why are you making this inquiry?"
"I have a few days."
"True," said Sween-Madro.
He seemed unaware that there was a second person in the room. So he can’t read minds! Hanardy exulted. For the first time he had hope.
"I have a feeling," Pat was con­tinuing, "that you’re at least slightly vulnerable in your present condition. So answer my question! Or — "
She left the threat and the sen­tence unfinished.
Again the body on the bed shift­ed position. Then:
"All right, my dear, if it’s in­formation you want, I’ll give you more than you bargained for."
"What do you mean?"
"There are no Great Galactics," said the Dreegh. "No such beings exist, as a race. To ask about their intelligence is — not meaningless, but complex."
"That’s ridiculous!" Pat’s tone was scathing. "We saw him!"
She half-glanced at Hanardy for confirmation, and Hanardy found himself nodding his head in full agreement with her words. Boy, he sure knew there was a great Ga­lactic.
On the bed, Sween-Madro sat up.
"The Great Galactic is a sport! Just a member of some lesser race who was released by a chance stim­ulus so that he temporarily became a super-being. The method?" The Dreegh smiled coldly. "Every once in a while, accidentally, enough energy accumulates to make such a stimulus possible. The lucky individual, in his super-state, realized the whole situation. When the ener­gy had been transformed by his own body and used up as far as he himself was concerned, he stored the transformed life-energy where it could eventually be used by someone else. The next person would be able to utilize the ener­gy in its converted form. Having gone through the energy, each re­cipient in turn sank back to some lower state.
"Thus William Leigh, earth re­porter, had for a few brief hours been the only Great Galactic in this area of space. By now his super-ability is gone forever. And there is no one to replace him.
"And that, of course," said the Dreegh, "is the problem with Hanardy. To use his memory of intelligence in its full possibility, he’ll need life energy in enormous quantities. Where will he get it? He won’t! If we’re careful, and investigate his background cautiously, we should be able to prevent Steve getting to any source, known or unknown."
Hanardy had listened to the ac­count with a developing empty feeling from the pit of his stom­ach. He saw that the color had drained from the girl’s face.
"I don’t believe it," she faltered. "That’s just a — "

She got no further, because in that split instant the Dreegh was beside her. The sheer speed of his movement was amazing. Han­ardy, watching, had no clear mem­ory of the vampire actually getting off the bed.
But now, belatedly, he realized what the Dreegh’s movements on the bed must have been — maneu­verings, re-balancings. The crea­ture-man had been surprised —had been caught in a prone, help­less position, but used the talk to brace himself for attack.
Hanardy was miserably aware that Pat Ungarn was equally tak­en by surprise. Sween-Madro’s fin­gers snatched at her shoulder. With effortless strength, he spun her around to face him. His lank body towered above her, as he spoke.
"Hanardy has a memory of some­thing, Pat. That’s all. And that is all there is. That’s all that’s left of the Great Galactics."
Pat gasped, "If it’s nothing, why are you scared?"
"It’s not quite nothing," Sween-Madro replied patiently. "There is a — potential. One chance in a mil­lion. I don’t want him to have any chance to use it, though of course we’ll presently have to take a chance with him and put him into a state of sleep."
He released her and stepped back. “No, no, my dear, there’s no possible chance of you making use of some special ability in Hanardy — because I know he’s over there by the door. And he can’t move fast enough to get over here and hit me with that metal bar."
The tense Hanardy sagged. And Pat Ungarn seemed frozen, glaring at the creature. She came back to life, abruptly. "I know you don’t dare shoot Steve. So why don’t you shoot me?" Her tone was up in pitch, challenging.
"Hey!" said Hanardy. "Careful!"
"Don’t worry, Steve," she an­swered gaily without turning around. "It’s not because I have any I.Q. potentialities. But he won’t touch me either. He knows you like me. You might have a bad thought about him at a key moment, later. Isn’t that right, Mr. Dreegh? I’ve got your little dilemma figured out, haven’t I, even though I’ve only got a Klugg brain."
Her words seemed suicidal to Hanardy. But Sween-Madro just stood gazing at her, swaying a lit­tle, saying nothing — a naked scarecrow of a man from the waist up, and below, wearing knee-length dungarees over bone-thin legs.
Yet there was no belief in Han­ardy that the Dreegh was vulner­able. He remembered the other’s high speed movements — that seemingly instantaneous transition from one location in space to an­other . . . from the bed to Pat, at invisible speed. Fantastic!
Once more Pat’s voice broke the si­lence, mockingly: "What’s this? An I.Q. of 400 or 500 baffled? Doesn’t know what to do? Remember, no matter what action you take, he can’t stay awake much longer. It’s only a matter of time before some­thing has to give."
At that point, another sharp anx­iety struck through Hanardy. He thought: She’s wasting time. Ev­ery minute those other Dreeghs are getting closer!
The thought was so urgent in his mind, he spoke it aloud, "For Pete’s sake, Miss Pat, those other Dreeghs’ll be here any second—"
"Shut up, you fool!"
Instantly shrill, hysterical, terri­fied — that was her totally unex­pected reaction.
She said something else in that same high-pitched tone, but Hanardy did not hear it clearly. For in that moment between his own words and hers, the Dreegh turned. And his arm moved. That was all that was visible. Where did it move to? The super-speed of the move­ment blurred that. It could only, logically, have been toward the pocket of his dungarees, but noth­ing like that was visible.
A weapon glittered; a beam of light touched Hanardy’s face.
As blackness swept over him, he realized what else it was the girl had said: "Steve, he’ll put you to sleep while that thought about the Dreegh’s coming quickly is in your mind. . . . "


How swiftly can transition be­tween wakefulness and sleep take place?
As long as it requires for the wakefulness center to shut off and the sleep center to turn on.
So there is no apparent conscious time lag. If you live a dull, human existence, it seems brief enough.
To Hanardy, who was normally duller than most, it seemed no time at all.
He started forward, his lips part­ed to speak — and he was already asleep . . . so far as he — the self — was aware. He did have a vague feeling of starting to fall.
Consciously, nothing more oc­curred.
Below the conscious, there was a measurable lapse of time.
During that time, the particles inside the atoms of his body did millions of millions of separate ac­tions. And molecules by the quad­rillion maneuvered in the twilight zone of matter. Because of the thought that had been in Hanardy’s mind, at some level of his brain he noticed exact spots of space, saw and identified the other-ness of the Dreeghs in the approaching. Dreegh ship, estimated their other-whereness, computed the mathe­matics of change. It was simple in the virtual emptiness of space, dif­ficult where matter was dense. But never impossible.
As he did so, the Dreegh ship with its eight Dreeghs changed location from one spot to another exact spot in space, bridging the gap through a lattice-work of related spots.
In the bedroom in the meteorite, the visible event was that Hanardy fell. A twisting fall, it was, where­by he sprawled on his side, the arm with the metal bar in it partly un­der him.
As Hanardy collapsed to the floor, the Dreegh walked past Pat toward the open door behind it. Reaching it, he clutched at it, seem­ingly for support.
Pat stared at him. After what had happened she didn’t quite dare to believe that his apparent weakness was as great as she saw it to be.
Yet after a little, she ventured,
"May I ask my father a question?"
There was no answer. The Dreegh stood at the door, and he seemed to be clinging to it.
Excitement leaped through the girl.
Suddenly she dared to accept the reality of the exhaustion that was here. The Dreegh’s one mighty ef­fort had depleted him, it seemed.
She whirled and raced over to Hanardy, looking for the metal bar. She saw at once that he was lying on top of it and tried to roll him over. She couldn’t. He seemed to be solidly imbedded in the floor in that awkward position.
But there was no time to waste! Breathing hard, she reached un­der him for the metal weapon, found it, tugged at it.
It wouldn’t budge.
Pull at it, twist it, exert all her strength — it was no use. Hanardy had a vice-like grip on the bar, and his body weight reinforced that grip. Nothing she could do could move it, or him.
Pat believed the position, the im­movability, was no accident. Dismayed, she thought the Dreegh caused him to fall like that.
She felt momentarily awed. What an amazing prediction ability Sween-Madro had had — to have re­alized the nature of the danger against him and taken an exact defense against it.
It was a maneuver designed to defeat, exactly and precisely, a small Klugg woman, whose ability at duplication could not lighten the weight of a body like Han­ardy’s enough to matter and whose ability to solve problems did not include the ability to unravel a muscularly knotted hand grip.

But — she was on her feet, infinitely determined—it would do him no good!
The Dreegh also had a weapon. His only hope must be that she wouldn’t dare come near him.
Instants later, she was daring. Her trembling fingers fumbled over his dungarees, seeking openings.
They found nothing.
But he had a weapon, she told herself, bewildered. He fired it at Steve. I saw him!
Again, more frantically, she searched all the possibilities of the one garment he wore — in vain.
She remembered, finally, in her desperation, that her father must have been watching this room. He might have seen where it was.
"Dad!" she called anxiously.
"Yes, my dear?" The reply from the intercom came at once, reassur­ingly calm.
Watching the Dreegh warily, she asked, "Do you have any advice on how to kill him?"
The old man, sitting in the con­trol room of the meteorite, sighed. From his viewpoint, he could on one viewplate see the girl, Hanardy’s unconscious body and Sween-Madro; on another he observed gloom­ily that the Dreegh ship had ar­rived and had attached to an air­lock. As he watched that second viewplate, three men and five wom­en came out of the ship and into a corridor of the meteorite. It was obvious that killing Sween-Madro was no longer of value.
The girl’s voice cut across his awareness. "He must have used the super-speed again without my noticing and hidden his weapon. Did you see what he did with it?"
What Professor Ungarn was see­ing was that the newly arrived Dreeghs, though in no hurry, were heading directly toward Madro and Pat.
Watching them, the professor thought, Pat was right. Sween-Madro had been vulnerable. He could have been killed. But it was too late.
Sick with self-recrimination he abandoned the control room and hurried to join his daughter.

By the time he arrived, Sween-Madro was back in the bed, and Hanardy had been lifted onto a powered dolly which had been wheeled alongside a machine that had evidently been brought from the Dreegh ship.
The machine was a simple de­vice with a pair of bulbous, trans­parent cups and a suction system. A needle was inserted into a blood vessel on Hanardy’s right arm.
Swiftly, a turgid bluish-red liquid rose in one of the bulbous cups; about a quart, Professor Ungarn estimated to his daughter in a whisper.
One by one, wordlessly, the Dreeghs went to the machine. An­other needle was used. And into each a tiny drain of blood siphoned from the red stuff in the bulbous cup. It seemed as if about half of it was taken.
Still without anyone speaking, the needle was inserted into Sween-Madro’s arm; and the rest of the blood from the cup flowed into him.
Pat stared at the dreadful be­ings with avid curiosity. All her life she had heard of, and been warned against, these creatures; and here they were from all those distances of years and miles. Four men and five women.
Three of the five women were brunette, one was a blonde; the fifth was a redhead.
The women were, every one, tall and willowy. The men were uniformly six feet four or five and gaunt of build. Was height a part of the Dreegh illness? Pat won­dered, seeing them together like this. Did Dreegh bones grow as a result of their disease? She could only wonder.
The figure on the bed moved. Sween-Madro opened eyes and sat up.
He seemed shaky and unsure.
Again, there was silent action. The Dreegh men did not move, but the women one by one went over and lightly kissed Sween-Madro on the lips.
At each touch of lips there was a faint bluish light, a flash of brightness, like a spark. Invariably, the blue spark leaped from the woman to the man.
And with each flash he grew more alive. His body became vis­ibly larger. His eyes grew bright.
Pat, who had been watching with total fascination, suddenly felt two pairs of hands grab her. She had time to let out a shriek as two Dreegh men carried her over to Sween and held her above him, her face over his.
At the final moment, she ceased her futile struggle and froze.
She was aware of Sween’s sar­donic eyes gazing up at her. Then, with a deliberate movement he raised his head and brushed her lips with his.
She expected to die.
Deep inside the back of her head, a fire started. The heat of it seem­ed instantly unbearable; instantly there was a flash of blue flame from her lips to his.
Then she was back on the floor, dizzy, but — as she realized pres­ently — recovering. And still alive.
Sween-Madro swung his feet over the edge of the bed and said,
"The existence of such brother‑and-sister energy flows, Pat — which you have now experienced - and the Dreegh ability to use them make it likely that we could become the most powerful beings in the galaxy on a continuing basis. If we can defeat Hanardy. We only took about ten percent from you. We don’t want you damaged — yet."
He stood up, walked over and looked down at the unconscious spaceman. Presently he beckoned Pat and Professor Ungarn; fa­ther and daughter came at once.
The Dreegh said, "I’m still not well. Can you detect any change in him?" He did not wait for a reply, but said in relief, "I guess nothing happened. He looks as low-grade a human as you could ever not want to meet or deal with in any way, and that’s the way he was before — don’t you agree?"
Pat said quickly, "I don’t un­derstand. What did you expect?"
"Hopefully, nothing," was the reply. "But that remark about how near our ship was the first un-programmed use of his ability. A spatial relationship action like that comes in the Great Galactic intelligence curve at about I.Q. 1200."
"But what did you fear?" Pat persisted.
"That it would feed back through his nervous system!"
"What would that do?"
The Dreegh merely stared at her, sardonically. It was Professor Ungarn’s voice that finally broke the silence. "My dear, the Dreeghs are actually acting as if their only enemy is a programmed Hanardy."
"Then you believe their analy­sis of the nature of the Great Ga­lactics?"
"They believe it; so I believe it."
"Then there’s no hope?"
The old man pointed at Han­ardy. "There’s Steve."
"But he’s just a bum. That’s why we selected him to be our drayhorse, remember?" She spoke accus­ingly. "Because he was the dumb­est, most honest jerk in the solar system — remember?"
The old man nodded, suddenly looking gloomy. Pat became aware that the Dreeghs were watching them, as if they were listening.
It was one of the dark-haired women who spoke. "My name is Rilke," she said. She went on, in a low, husky voice, "What you’ve just described — a man as unim­portant as this one — is one of the reasons why we want to go to Europa. We must find out what did the Great Galactic see in this strange little man. We should know because for our blood stor­age tanks and energy pool we need the blood and life force of a mil­lion people from this otherwise un­defended planetary system. And we dare not kill a single one of those million until the riddle of Hanardy is resolved."


Take a sentient being
Everyone aboard the Dreegh super-ship that flew to the moon Europa in thirty hours (instead of many weeks) fitted that descrip­tion: the Dreeghs, Pat, Professor Ungarn, and the sleeping Hanardy.
They had brought along Hanar­dy’s freighter to be their landing craft. They came down without in­cident into Hanardy’s permanent spaceship berth in Spaceport, the large moon’s principal city.
Consider any sentient person
That includes a man asleep . . . like Hanardy.
There he lies, helpless. In that fourth sleep stage that Hanardy was in — the deep delta-wave stage — push at him, hit him, roll him over. It is enormously difficult to awaken him. Yet it is in this state that a person can act out a sleepwalker’s strange goal.
Force this sentient individual to interact with a grossly vast uni­verse
"We’re taking no chances," said the Dreegh brunette woman, Ril­ke. "We’re going to bring him into motion on the somnambulistic level."
It was Sween who directed a bright light at Hanardy’s face; af­ter mere seconds, he shut it off.
There was a measurable passage of time. Then the body on the bed stirred.
A second woman — the blonde — without glancing up from the instrument she was monitoring, made a gesture and said hurriedly, "The somnambulistic purpose is in the delta-wave band 3-10-13B."
It was a private nomenclature that meant nothing to Pat. But the words caused an unexpected flut­ter of excitement among the Dreeghs.
Sween-Madro turned to Pat. "Have you any idea why Hanar­dy should want to visit with, and have a feeling of affection for, thirteen people in Spaceport?"
Pat shrugged. "He associates with certain space bums around town," she said contemptuously. "Typical hangers-on of the kind you find out in space. I wouldn’t waste a minute on them."
Sween said coldly, "We take no chances, Pat. The ideal solution would be to kill all thirteen. But if we do, Hanardy might have puni­tive dreams about us as he awak­ens — which awakening will hap­pen very soon now, one way or another. So — " the long gaunt face cracked into a grimace of a smile — "we’ll render them useless to him."
"Ssssh!" said the blonde woman. She motioned toward the figure on the bed.
The somnambulistic Hanardy had opened his eyes.
Pat was aware, then, of the Dreeghs watching alertly. Involuntarily, briefly, she held her breath and waited.

Hanardy did not glance at her or at the Dreeghs, showed no awareness of anyone else being in the room.
Without a word, he got out of bed and removed his pajamas. Then he went into his bathroom and shaved and combed his hair. He came out again into the bed­room and began to dress, putting on his dirty pants, a shirt and a pair of boots.
As Hanardy walked out of the room, Rilke shoved at Pat. "Re­main near the sleepwalker," she commanded.
Pat was aware that Rilke and Sween-Madro stayed close behind her. The others had slipped some­where out of sight.
The somnambulistic Hanardy opened the airlock and headed down the gangplank.
Sween-Madro gestured with his head for Pat to follow.
The girl had hesitated at the top of the spidery "plank." And now she stood for a moment gazing out at the city of Spaceport.
The airlock of Hanardy’s freight­er was located about fifty feet above the heavy lower scaffolding that held the vessel. There was a space of about five feet between the opening and the upper scaf­folding which actually constituted a part of the dock.
Almost straight ahead of her Pat could see the first building of the city. It was hard for her to re­alize that the entire populace of the port, with all their available equipment, had no chance against the Dreeghs. There was no protection here for her, or Hanardy, or anyone.
Awe came. The decisive factor was the intelligence of the Dreeghs.
She thought: and what’s in Steve’s memory of intelligence is all that stands between these vampires and their victims.
Minutes later she found herself walking beside Hanardy. She stole a glance at his blank face, so stolid and unintellectual. He seemed like a small hope, indeed.
The Dreeghs and she followed Hanardy along a street, into a ho­tel, up an elevator and along a corridor to a door numbered 517. Hanardy pressed a little button, and after a little the door opened. A middle-aged woman shuffled in­to view. She was dumpy and bleary-eyed, but her face brightened into a welcoming smirk as she saw Han­ardy.
"Hi, there, Han!" she yelled.
Having spoken, she must have realized that the Dreeghs and Pat were with the spaceman. If she had any defensive thought, it was too late. Sween made her helpless with his mechanical light-flash hypno­tism, about which he commented casually after they were inside and the door shut, "Nothing more complex is needed for human be­ings, or—" he shrugged—"Kluggs. Sorry, Pat," he apologized to the girl, "but the fact is that, like the people of this system, you also have a vague idea that hypnotism and other non-conscious phenomena were invented by hypnotists and similar unscrupulous people."
He added ruefully, "You’ll never surprise a Lennel, or a Medder, or a Hulak with any control method short of — " He broke off. "Never mind!"

He turned to the woman. Pres­ently, under his guidance she was speaking enforced truths about her real relationship with Hanardy.
From the time they had met, Hanardy had given her money.
"What does he really get for it?" asked Rilke.
Since their method evoked only truth, Rilke frowned at Sween, "It couldn’t be altruism. Not on his low level?"
It was visibly an unexpected de­velopment. Pat said scathingly, "If altruism is an I.Q. factor, you Dreeghs probably come in below idiot."
The man did not reply. The next instant his preternaturally long body was bending over the bloated female whom they had so briefly interrogated. There was a flash of blue as his lips touched hers. Half a dozen times he repeat­ed that caricature of a kiss. Each time, the woman grew visibly small­er, like a sick person fading away on a hospital bed.
Finally, a bright light was flash­ed into the tired eyes, excising all memory of her degradation. But when they departed, the shriveled being on the bed was still alive.
The next person that the som­nambulistic Hanardy led them to was a man. And this time it was Rilke who took the glancing kiss, and it was into her nervous sys­tem that the blue fire was drawn.
They drained all thirteen of Hanardy’s friends in the same way; and then they decided to kill Han­ardy.
Grinning, Sween explained. "If we blow him up with you, the woman for whom he feels a dumb devotion, standing beside him in his home port — the only home he knows — he’ll be busy protecting those he loves. And then we, who will be out in space while this is going on, will probably survive the few instants that it will take for him to awaken."
As she heard those words, Pat felt a hardening of her own re­solve, a conviction that she had nothing to lose.
They had started up the metal gangplank that led to the airlock of Hanardy’s ship. Hanardy walk­ed blankly in front, behind him was the girl, then Rilke, and, bringing up the rear, Sween. And they reached the final few feet, Pat braced herself and spoke aloud.
"It seems wrong, —" she said.
And leaped forward. She put her hands against Hanardy and shov­ed him over the side of the plank.
As she expected, the Dreeghs were quick. Hanardy was still tee­tering over the fifty-foot drop from the narrow walk when both the man and woman were beside him. As one person, they reached over the low handrail, reached out, reached down. That swiftly they had him.
In pushing at Hanardy, Pat found herself automatically pro­pelled by the effort of her thrust away from Hanardy and over the other edge of the plank.
As she fell, she completed in her mind the sentence she had be­gun: It seems wrong . . . not to put that dumb love to the utter­most test!"


Spaceport, on Europa, like other similar communities in the solar system, was not at all like an ordinary little town of four thou­sand human beings. If anything, it resembled an old-style naval re­fueling station in the South Pacific, with its military establishment and garrison. Except that the "garrison" of Spaceport consisted of technical experts who worked in complex mechanical systems for the repair and servicing of spaceships. In addition, Spaceport was a min­ing post, where small craft brought their meteorite ore, gigantic plants separated the precious from the debris, and the resultant refined materials were transshipped to Earth.
The similarity to a South Pacific port was borne out in one other respect. Exactly as each little is­land post of Earth’s Pacific Ocean gradually accumulated a satura­tion of human flotsam and jetsam, so on Spaceport there had gather­ed a strange tribe of space bums. The tribe consisted of men and women in almost equal numbers, the size of the group being vari­able. Currently, it consisted of thirteen persons. They were not ex­actly honest people, but they were not criminals. That was impossible. In space, a person convicted of one of the basic crimes was automati­cally sent back to Earth and not allowed out again. However, there was a great tolerance among enforcement officials as to what con­stituted a crime. Not drunkenness, certainly, and not dope addiction, for either men or women. Any de­gree of normal sex, paid for or not, was never the subject of investiga­tion.
There was a reason for this lati­tude. The majority of the persons involved — men and women — were technically trained. They were bums because they couldn’t hold a steady job, but during rush periods, a personnel officer of the pressured company could often be found down in the bars on Front Street looking for a particular in­dividual, or group. The bums thus located might then earn good money for a week or two, or perhaps even three.
It was exactly such a personnel officer looking for exactly such lost souls who discovered all thirteen of the people he wanted — four wom­en and nine men — were sick in their hotel rooms.
Naturally, he called the port au­thorities. After an examination, the M.D. who was brought in stated that all thirteen showed extreme weakness. They seemed to be, as he so succinctly put it, "only marginally alive."
The report evoked an alarm reaction from the Port Authority. The Director had visions of some kind of epidemic sweeping up from these dregs of people and decimating his little kingdom.
He was still considering a course of action when reports from private doctors indicated that the illness, whatever it was, had affected a large number of affluent citizens of Spaceport in addition to the bums.
The total in the final count came to a hundred and ninety-three per­sons sick with the same loss of energy and near-death apathy.


At some mind level, Hanardy became aware that Patricia Un­garn was falling to her death.
To save her, he had to get en­ergy from somewhere.
He knew immediately where the energy would have to come from.
For a cosmic moment, as his som­nambulism was disrupted and replaced by the dreaming state that precedes awakening, he was held by rigidities of his personality.
There was a split instant, then, as some aware part of him gazed in amazement and horror at a life­time of being a sloppy Joe.
That one glance of kaleidoscopic insight was all that was necessary. The barriers went down.
Time ceased. For him, all parti­cle flows ended.
In that forever state, Hanardy was aware of himself as being at a location.
Around him were 193 other lo­cations. He observed at once that thirteen of the locations were ex­tremely wavery. He immediately excluded the thirteen from his pur­pose.
To the remaining 180 locations, he made a postulate. He postulated that the 180 would be glad to make immediate payment.
Each of the 180 thereupon will­ingly gave to Hanardy seven-tenths of all the available life-energy in their 180 locations.
As that energy flowed in Hanardy, time resumed for him.

The living universe that was Steve Hanardy expanded out to what appeared to be a great primeval dark. In that dark were blacker blobs, nine of them — the Dreeghs. At the very heart of the black excrescences ran a fine, wormlike thread of silvery bright­ness: the Dreegh disease, shining, twisting, ugly.
As Hanardy noticed that utterly criminal distortion, he became aware of a red streak in the sinis­ter silver.
He thought, in immense aston­ishment, "Why, that’s my blood!"
He realized, then, with profound interest that this was the blood the Dreeghs had taken from him when they first arrived at the Un­garn meteorite.
They had given Sween most of it. But the others had each eager­ly taken a little of the fresh stuff for themselves.
Hanardy realized that that was what the Great Galactic had no­ticed about him. He was a catalyst! In his presence by one means or another people got well . . . in many ways.
In a few days longer, his blood in them would enable the Dreeghs to cure their disease.
The Dreeghs would discover the cure belatedly — too late to change their forcing methods.
For Hanardy, the scene altered.
The nine black blobs were no longer shaped by their disease, as he saw them next. He found himself respecting the nine as members of the only race that had achieved immortality.
The cure of them was important.
Again, for Hanardy, there was a change. He was aware of long lines of energy that were straight and white flowing at him from some greater darkness beyond. In the near distance was a single point of light. As his attention focused there, all the numerous lines, ex­cept from that light-point, van­ished.
It occurred to Hanardy that that was the Dreegh ship and that, in relation to earth, it would eventu­ally be in a specific direction. The thin, thin, white line was like a pointer from the ship to him. Han­ardy glanced along that line. And because he was open — oh, so open! — he did the touching. Then he touched other places and did a balancing thing between them and the Dreegh ship.
He oriented himself in space.
Oriented it!
As he completed that touching, he realized that the Dreegh ship was now slightly over six thousand light-years away.
That was far enough, he decided.
Having made that decision, he allowed particle flow to resume for the Dreeghs. And so —

As time began again, the Dreeghs found themselves in their own spaceship. There they were, all nine of them. They gazed uneasily at each other and then made a study of their surroundings. They saw unfamiliar star configurations. Their unhappiness grew. It was not a pleasant thing to be lost in space, as they knew from previous experience.
After a while, when nothing further happened, it became ap­parent that — though they would probably never again be able to find the Earth’s solar system —they were safe . . .
Pat’s first consciousness of change was that she was no longer falling. But no longer on Europa. As she caught her balance, she saw that she was in a familiar room.
She shook her head to clear away the fuzziness from her eyes. And then she realized it was a room in the Ungarn meteorite, her home. She heard a faint sound and swung about — and paused, balancing on one heel, as she saw her father.
There was an expression of relief on his face. "You had me worried," he said. "I’ve been here for more than an hour. My dear, all is well! Our screens are back to working; everything is the way it was . . . before. We’re safe."
"B-but," said the girl, where’s Steve?"
. . . It was earlier. Hanardy had the impression that he was remembering a forgotten experience on the Ungarn meteorite — a time before the arrival of Sween-Madro and the second group of Dreeghs.
The Great Galactic of that ear­lier time, he who had been William Leigh, bent over Hanardy where he lay on the floor.
He said with a friendly, serious smile, "You and that girl make quite a combination. You with so much owed to you, and she with that high ability for foolhardiness. We’re going to have another look at such energy debts. Maybe that way we’ll find our salvation."
He broke off. "Steve, there are billions of open channels in the solar system. Awareness of the genius in them is the next step up for intelligence. Because you’ve had some feedback, if you take that to heart you might even get the girl."
Leigh’s words ended abruptly. For at that instant he touched the spaceman’s shoulder.
The memory faded —


It was several weeks later.
On the desk of the Port Au­thority lay the report on the ill­ness which had suddenly affected 193 persons. Among other data, the report stated:
It develops that these people were all individuals who during the past fifteen years have taken ad­vantage of a certain low I.Q. person named Steve Hanardy. As al­most everyone in Spaceport is aware, Hanardy — who shows many evidences of mental retardation —has year after year been by his own simple-minded connivance swindled out of his entire income from the space freighter, ECTON-66 (a type classification) — which he owns and operates.
In this manner so much money has been filched from Hanardy that, first one person, then anoth­er, then many, set themselves up in business at their victim’s expense. And as soon as they were se­cure, each person in turn discarded the benefactor. For years now, while one human leech after anoth­er climbed from poverty to afflu­ence, Hanardy himself has remain­ed at the lowest level.
The afflicted are slowly recov­ering, and most are in a surprisingly cheerful frame of mind. One man. even said to me that he had a dream that he was paying a debt by becoming ill; and in the dream he was greatly relieved.
There’s some story around that Hanardy has married the daughter of Professor Ungarn. But to accept that would be like believing that everything that has happened has been a mere background to a love story.
I prefer to discount that rumor and prefer to say only that it is not known exactly where Hanardy is at present.


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