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قراءة كتاب Potential Enemy

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‏اللغة: English
Potential Enemy

Potential Enemy

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دار النشر: Project Gutenberg
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history books, and ordinarily he didn't mind spending a little time now and then talking things over with him. But right now he was hoping the old duffer wasn't going to keep him from the game going on forward with Captain Post and the steward.

"Just noticed one on the screen," the elderly journalist told him easily.

The co-pilot smiled courteously. "You must have seen a meteorite, sir. There aren't any—"

Markham Gray flushed. "I'm not as complete a space neophyte as your condescending air would indicate, Lieutenant. As a matter of fact, I'll stack my space-months against yours any day."

Bormann said soothingly, "It's not that, sir. You've just made a mistake. If a ship was within reasonable distance, the alarms would be sounding off right now. But that's not all, either. We have a complete record of any traffic within a considerable distance, and I assure you that—"

Markham Gray pointed a finger at the lower left hand corner of the screen. "Then what is that, Lieutenant?" he asked sarcastically.

The smile was still on the co-pilot's face as he turned and followed the direction of the other's finger. The smile faded. "I'll be a makron!" he blurted. Spinning on his heel, he hurried forward to the bridge, muttering as he went.

The older man snorted with satisfaction. Actually, he shouldn't have been so snappy with the young man; he hated to admit he was growing cranky with age. He took up his half completed manuscript again. He really should finish this article, though, space knew, he hadn't enough material for more than a few paragraphs. Triton was a barren satellite if he'd ever seen one—and he had.

He had almost forgotten the matter ten minutes later when the ship's public address system blurted loudly.

BATTLE STATIONS! BATTLE STATIONS! ALL CREW MEMBERS TO EMERGENCY STATIONS. ALL PASSENGERS IMMEDIATELY TO THEIR QUARTERS. BATTLE STATIONS!

Battle Stations?

Markham Gray was vaguely familiar with the fact that every Solar System spacecraft was theoretically a warcraft in emergency, but it was utterly fantastic that—

He heaved himself to his feet, grunting with the effort, and, disregarding the repeated command that passengers proceed to their quarters, made his way forward to the bridge, ignoring the hysterical confusion in passengers and crew members hurrying up and down the ship's passageways.

It was immediately obvious, there at the craft's heart, that this was no farce, at least not a deliberate one. Captain Roger Post, youthful officer in command of the Neuve Los Angeles, Lieutenant Hans Bormann and the two crew members on watch were white-faced and shaken, momentarily confused in a situation which they had never expected to face. The two officers stood before the bridge vision screen watching, wide-eyed, that sector of space containing the other vessel. They had enlarged it a hundred-fold.

At the elderly journalist's entrance, the skipper had shot a quick, irritated glance over his shoulder and had begun to snap something; he cut it off. Instead, he said, "When did you first sight the alien ship, Mr. Gray?"

"Alien?"

"Yes, alien. When did you first sight it? It is obviously following us in order to locate our home planet." There was extreme tension in the captain's voice.

Markham Gray felt cold fingers trace their way up his back. "Why, why, I must have noticed it several hours ago, Captain. But ... an alien!... I...." He peered at the enlarged craft on the screen. "Are you sure, Captain? It seems remarkably like our own. I would say—"

The captain had spun back around to stare at the screen again, as though to reassure himself of what he had already seen.

"There are no other ships in the vicinity," he grated, almost as though to himself. "Besides that, as far as I know, and I should know, there are no Earth craft that look exactly like that. There are striking similarities, I'll admit, to our St. Louis class scouts, but those jets on the

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