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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
الصفحة رقم: 4

can't afford to have neighbors; we can't afford to be encircled by enemies."

"Nor even friends?" Captain Post had asked softly.

Michell glared at his subordinate. "That is what it amounts to, Captain; and the thing to remember is that they feel the same way. They must! They must seek us out and destroy us completely and as quickly as possible. By the appearance of things, and partially through your negligence, they've probably won the first round. They know our location; we don't know theirs."

The supreme commander of Earth's space forces dropped that point. "Let us go back again. When you received this telepathic message—or whatever it was—what was your reaction? Did it seem friendly, domineering, or what?"

Roger Post stood silent for a moment. Finally he answered, "Sir, I still think it was the telviz, rather than a telepathic communication, but the ... the tone of voice seemed to give me the impression of pitying."

"Pitying!" Michell ejaculated.

The captain was nervous but determined. "Yes, sir. I had the distinct feeling that the being that sent the message felt sorry for us."

The SupSpaceCom's face had gone red with indignation.

It was three years before another of the aliens was sighted. Three hurried, crowded, harassed years during which all the Solar System's resources were devoted to building and arming a huge space fleet and rushing space defenses. The total wars of the Twentieth Century paled in comparison to the all out efforts made to prepare for this conflict.

The second view of the alien ship was similar to the first. This, time the Pendleton, a four-man scout returning to the Venus base after a patrol in the direction of Sirius, held the intruder in its viewer for a full five minutes. Once again, no estimation of its distance nor size could be made. All instruments pertaining to such detection seemed to fail to function properly.

And again the alien had sent a message—seemingly, at least, by telviz. We are no danger to you, mankind. Seek your destiny in peace. Your troubles are from within.

The Pendleton would have attempted to follow the strange craft, but her fuel tanks were nearly dry and she had to proceed to Venus. Her captain's report made a sensation.

In a way, the whole business had been a good thing for Markham Gray. As a free lancing journalist, he'd had a considerable advantage. First, he was more than usually informed on space travel and the problems relating to it, second, he had been present at—in fact, had made himself—the first sighting of the aliens.

His articles were in continuous demand in both magazines and newspaper supplements; editors clamored for additional material from his voco-typer. There was but one complaint against his copy—it wasn't alarmist enough, sensational enough. Humanity had been whipped into a state of hysteria, an emotional binge, and humanity loved it.

And it was there that Markham Gray refused to go along. He had agreed with poor Captain Post, now serving a life sentence in the Martian prison camps; there had been no sign of hostility from the alien craft. It was man who was preparing for war—and Gray knew of no period in history in which preparations for war did not eventually culminate in one.

So it was not really strange that it was he the aliens chose to contact.

It came in the early hours of the morning. He awakened, not without a chill of fear, the sound of his telviz set in his ears. He had left it turned off, he knew that. He shook his head to clear it, impatient of the fact that with advancing years it was taking an increasing time to become alert after sleep.

He had not caught the message. For a brief moment he thought the sound had been a dream.

Then the telviz spoke again. The screen was blank. It said, You are awake, Mr. Gray?

He stared at it, uncomprehending.

He said, "I ... I don't understand." Then, suddenly, he did understand, as though by an inspired