By A E van Vogt
The Earth ship came so swiftly around the planetless Gisser sun that the alarm
system in the meteorite weather station had no time to react. The great machine
was already visible when Watcher grew aware of it.
Alarms must have blared in the ship, too, for it slowed noticeably and,
still braking, disappeared. Now it was coming back, creeping along, obviously
trying to locate the small object that had affected its energy screens.
It loomed vast in the glare of the distant yellow-white sun, bigger even
at this distance than anything ever seen by the Fifty Suns, a very hell ship out
of remote space, a monster from a semi-mythical world, instantly recognizable
from the descriptions in the history books as a battleship of Imperial Earth.
Dire had been the warnings in the histories of what would happen someday—and
here it was.
He knew his duty. There was a warning, the age-long dreaded warning, to
send to the Fifty Suns by the non-directional subspace radio; and he had to make
sure nothing telltale remained of the station.
There was no fire. As the overloaded atomic engines dissolved, the massive
building that had been a weather sub-station simply fell into its component
Watcher made no attempt to escape. His brain, with its knowledge, must not
be tapped. He felt a brief, blinding spasm of pain as the energy tore him to
She didn’t bother to accompany the expedition that landed on the meteorite. But
she watched with intent eyes through the astroplate.
From the very first moment that the spy rays had shown a human figure in a
weather station—a weather station out here— she had known the surpassing
importance of the discovery. Her mind leaped instantly to the several
Weather stations meant interstellar travel. Human beings meant Earth
origin. She visualized how it could have happened:
an expedition long ago; it must have been long ago because now they had
interstellar travel, and that meant large populations on many planets.
His majesty, she thought, would be pleased.
So was she. In a burst of generosity, she called the energy room.
‘Your prompt action, Captain Clone,’ she said warmly, ‘in inclosing the
entire meteorite in a sphere of protective energy is commendable, and wili be
The man whose image showed on the astroplate, bowed. iThank you, noble
lady.’ He added: ‘I think we saved the electronic and atomic components of the
entire station. Unfortunately, because of the interference of the atomic energy
of the station itself, I understand the photographic department was not so
successful in obtaining clear prints.’
The woman smiled grimly, said: ‘The man will be sufficient, and that is a
matrix for which we need no prints.’
She broke the connection, still smiling, and returned her gaze to the
scene on the meteorite. As she watched the energy and matter absorbers in their
glowing gluttony, she thought:
There had been several storms on the map in that weather station. She’d