The Project Gutenberg eBook of Cargo to Callisto

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Title: Cargo to Callisto

Author: Jerome Bixby

Illustrator: Earl Mayan

Release date: February 25, 2021 [eBook #64632]

Language: English

Credits: Greg Weeks, Mary Meehan and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team at


Cargo to Callisto


Four Aarnian criminals—vicious and
deadly—fled silently into the Martian night;
and grimly the Patrol threw out an airtight
dragnet. Nothing human could have escaped ...
but what's human about an Aarnian?

[Transcriber's Note: This etext was produced from
Planet Stories November 1950.
Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that
the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed.]

Sarah emerged from the surface of the Great Canal as sleek and brown as a seal. Laughing and sputtering, she jerked her head once over each round shoulder, parting her soaked hair and revealing her face.

"Try that once again!" she flung at Joe.

Joe Caradac ducked her again, and Kent shouted something from the bank that wasn't quite audible over the squeals and splashes.

"What?" Joe held his wife's head firmly between his knees. "What'd you say, Kent?"

His Senior Intendant's grin widened as he cupped his hands over it to shout again:

"I said—you'll drown the poor thing!"

Joe grunted as Sarah cold-bloodedly located a nerve-center in his thigh and bit it. "Not this thing—" he released her and she bobbed up swearing in sand-coast Martian—"they had to rope it out of a canal to teach it to walk!"

He narrowed his grey eyes humorously and poised for the attack, but Sarah had conceded and was swimming toward the bank. The setting sun struck a series of glowing V's in her wake. Joe rubbed his tingling leg and followed. They reached the green slope at the same time and big Kent handed them up with ease.

"Ray's watching the franks," he said, "and I've been watching Ray and I think we'd better get up there or he won't be able to hold off much longer. His inner man is showing through."

The pianist's dark, saturnine face peered at them over the fire as they came up and he rose, wiping his hands carelessly on his sport tunic. He had evidently gone into the canal-skimmer and changed out of his bathing suit.

"How do," he greeted dourly; "the damned thing itched so I took it off."

Joe gave himself a last swipe with the towel and tossed it through the open hatch of the skimmer. Sarah carried her towel into the boat and came out presently in a suede skirt and bolero, looking rubbed down and delectable. Joe's wife was half Martian, and it showed in her long, slender eyebrows and delicately cleft nose and chin. She looked worriedly at the three men busy with the frankfurters.

"There's something on the telaudio," she said. "Come in and listen."

"What is it?" Joe asked.

"Something about somebody escaping from Mars Detain."

Ray's humming stopped. He'd been practicing wrist octaves on a flat rock and his long hand hung motionless for a moment as if he were reaching for something. Kent set his frank across the top of his coffee cup—he was always careful about everything—and stood up.

Joe looked at his wife, looked at her eyes. They were frightened.

"That's pretty near here, isn't it?" Sarah said. She moved back to let the three men into the boat. They grouped around the telaudio.

"I don't think there's anything to worry about," Kent said slowly. "They're bound to catch the men—"

"They aren't men."

The four listened.

"—ruthless Aarnians. This warning cannot be taken too seriously. Detain is doing everything in its power to recapture the four criminals but, as is known, the Aarnian psyche is able to leave its body at will and inhabit the body of another entity, subjugating the mind of its host and contro—"

"My God," Ray whispered, "I've heard of those devils!"

"—in all likelihood will seek to escape from Mars. To prevent this, all persons now holding tickets for interworld travel must submit to being psycho-screened before entering liners. No more tickets will be sold—"

Sarah's eyes were wide and round. "They'd have to leave their bodies behind—here on Mars!"

Big Kent—because he was one of the Caradacs' oldest friends and could do such things—put his arm around her shoulders and squeezed. She was shivering.

"—tenant Smith of Detain informs us that the Aarnians are unable to pronounce certain consonantal diphthongs such as jee and jay—even if occupying bodies that can normally pronounce such sounds. This is very important, as it may be an only possible means of identification, for the Aarnians will undoubtedly seek new bod—"

Sarah switched off the telaudio, her brown face openly sick. She bit her lip and looked at each of the three men surrounding her.

"That gives me the shivers," she said. "Let's go home."

After that they didn't talk much. Under the red twilight, they packed up the pots and pans, leaving the unwanted food for the night-crawling nolls. They spent a lot of time looking over their shoulders as they did this, although each tried to conceal it from the others. At last the skimmer moved silently away from the bank and pointed its nose at the distant haze that was Ofei, By the Great Canal.

At precisely seven o'clock the telaudio on the headboard of Joe's bed turned itself on. Sounds pricked the balloon of his disturbed slumber, tugged his mind out to wakefulness. He rolled over and sat up, listening, rubbing his lanky legs.

Instead of the usual symphonic music, he heard an urgent voice, obviously ad-libbing:

"—be very, very careful. The criminals—the Aarnians—have still not been found. All residents of Ofei and vicinity are warned—this warning cannot be overemphasized—"

Joe reached out and clicked on the screen. The announcer's tunic was wrinkled, his sash was awry. He looked as if he'd been up all night.

"—are advised to stay within the city limi—"

Joe snapped off the telaudio and glanced over at Sarah's bed. She was snoring delicately, one smooth arm pillowing her mass of blue-black hair. Better that she doesn't hear any more about that business, he decided firmly.

Joe liked the simple life. No servants, no flunkies, although he could have afforded a dozen. Five sunshiny rooms on the Great Canal, with a nice view of Mars Memorial Park on the bank opposite. He robed himself against the early morning chill and headed for the kitchen. His head ached faintly and, to judge by what little he could remember of it, he'd had a dilly of a nightmare. Something about ... being chased, or something? Or smothered by a....

Even as he stopped in his tracks to try to pin it down, the memory broke, dissolved as if in flight. Frowning, he pushed through the kitchen door and crossed to the deep-freeze, slid it open and rummaged in it.

The nightmare wasn't important surely, but he mulled it over with interest as he prepared breakfast, for Joe, being rather well adjusted, dreamed rarely, and then mostly about Iowa, back on Earth ... a long-ago picture of a twelve-year-old boy, his first day in college; the boy sitting under his shining Projector, surrounded by a group of thunderstruck Psychologists; the quick death of their initial skepticism, and in its place a growing wonder as it became evident that, although a History spool was whirling in the scanner and the thought-helmet functioning to perfection, the boy's mind was receiving neither spoken text nor images....

"You don't feel anything?" a Psychologist asked skeptically.

Joe closed his eyes. There was a low, unmusical humming in his ears and that was all. He tried to shake his head and couldn't, so he said: "No, I don't."

"When was the World Federation formed?"

"I don't know."

"Are you lying?"


One of the other Psychologists standing nearby looked up from the little box he held in his hand and said that Joe wasn't lying.

The first Psychologist raised his eyebrows. "We'll try another Projector."

While Technicians dismantled Joe's Projector and examined it for shorts or haywire, the Psychologists had Joe sit down under all the other Projectors in 1stY-Cubicle 149. Then they tried 148 and 150.

"It's some kind of block," the first Psychologist said finally, looking profound to cover up his tizzy. "There's some kind of barrier in his mind."

Joe Caradac clenched his fists. "That's not true—I want to learn!"

"Then you probably will, boy—" the Psychologist sat down to fill in some forms—"but you'll have to go back three hundred years to do it. You'll have to learn from books!"

There the dream would simply end, for no fantasy of wish-fulfillment could have exceeded in satisfaction Joe's actual conquest of this problem. At eighteen he wore thick glasses—he preferred them to contacts or artificial irises. At twenty he took tests contrived especially for him by the members of Central Education assigned to his case. He was awarded equivalence degrees in Business Administration, Metatomics and Interplanetary Law. His marks were the highest of the year and Joe Caradac's name was briefly in the newsphones.

He started with the New Chicago offices of Mars Imports and Exports as a mercury. After six weeks of flying back and forth with memos he traded his anti-gravs for a desk.

And on June 32, 2401, the newly appointed Regional Buyer for M. I. and E. got married and was flown to Mars by a chartered spacer to take command of the regional office at Ofei, By the Great Canal....

He was putting the finishing touches on breakfast when he heard a groan and the sound of a stretch from the bedroom. When he turned around, Sarah was standing in the doorway.

Joe's sandy eyebrows went up. His wife was certainly not a modest woman, but considering even that, this morning was an agreeable surprise. Her eyes were still dull—he guessed that she'd worried about those whatyoucallits after going to bed—but she was smiling broadly. Joe began to have visions of missing work for half a day. He smiled back at her and she laughed a little.

"Hohn, Uarnl!" she said.

Joe was thrusting halved oranges into the juicer. He turned off the machine and grinned.

"You'll have to talk plainer than that, little monkey," he said. He held out a glass of juice. "Drink this—it'll wake you—up—" The last word faded into an astonished silence.

Then Joe said, "Hey—come back!" He set down the glass and went into the bedroom.

She was lying on her bed, her face hidden. Joe dropped onto the edge of the bed and put a tentative hand on her back.

"Hey now," he said softly, "if that's the way you feel about it I'll juice up some grapefruit." He moved his hand down and spanked lightly. "Hein?"

She didn't look up. She had turned her head and was looking at the corner of the room by Joe's bed.

"I do not feel well. Go away."

Joe's face was immediately concerned. He bent over her, reached for a wrist. "What's the matter, Sarah? Can I get you anything?" The wrist hung limply in his hand.

"No. Go away."

Joe straightened up and drew his eyebrows together in thought. Sarah was usually tearful and pretty much of a leech when she wasn't feeling well. Excessive commiserations and breakfast in bed were the rule at such times.

"Do you want me to get Doc Halprin?"

The blue-black head shook from side to side.

"So what am I supposed to do, monkey? I hate to leave you this way."

"Go away."

"But can't I—"

"Go away, damn you!"

Joe stood up abruptly. He clenched his fists and looked at his wife's still form and gradually the anger dulled and left him. He had no right to be angry. Everybody got tempermental once in a while.

But this was the first time she had ever cursed him.

"O.K.," he said softly. "I'll see you tonight."

The regional offices of Mars Imports and Exports sat upon a hill at the end—or the beginning—of Ila Boulevard, depending upon which way you were going. It was twenty-five-hundred feet of silver and native marble, and covered four city blocks, and Joe Caradac was top man—literally—since his office and personal staff took up the whole two-hundred and fifty-first floor.

His morning mail—about twelve letters weeded out of the daily thousands—was gotten out of the way with skill and dispatch. Grinning, he propped his feet on the low, curving window sill and said: "Miss Kal—take an audiogram."

Miss Kal used two of her arms to adjust pad and stylus, looking up expectantly. Her other arms were busy transcribing a previously dictated letter into Venusian—her native tongue, although she spoke sixty-eight—and tugging at a humidified legging that had somehow worked down almost to the floor.

"My dearest, darling monkey—" Joe began. Miss Kal looked up again in amazement. Joe grinned at her and said, "It's to my wife."

Miss Kal nodded wisely and began to write.

"—I am sending this from my dark and dismal office," Joe went on. It was a habit they had when anything went wrong at breakfast. Joe had first proposed by audiogram.

He casually watched a skimmer that was in danger of creating a honey of a traffic jam down below. Didn't that schlemiel know his left from his right?

"—Where was I? Oh, yes—my dark and dismal office." Joe scratched a cigarette alight, blew a happy smoke ring. "I hope that you are feeling much, much better and that you will take luncheon with me in the Pluto Room of the you-know-what Hotel—" His mind went back to those honeymoon days and he lost track of his dictation again. Another smoke ring, a somewhat more thoughtful one.

"You-know-what Hotel—" said Miss Kal phlegmatically.

"Yes—ah—just end it 'at one fifteen sharp, your everloving Joe.'"

There was a knock on the door and Miss Kal set down her pad and stylus and started to get up. Joe was on his feet and around the desk in a second.

"Stay right where you are," he smiled; "I need the exercise."

Miss Kal smiled also and settled back into her specially built chair with its temperature and humidity controls. A present from Mr. Caradac. He was such a nice being to work for.

Joe opened the door, and said, "Oh, hullo, Kent. Since when are you knocking?"

Big Kent nodded formally to Miss Kal and winked at Joe. He said, "Yoe, there's something I'd like to talk over with you in private."

With a sigh, Miss Kal rose again and made her way through the other door into her little office. The door closed behind her.

Kent let out a long breath. He smiled at Joe and the smile turned into a laugh that had an odd sound of triumph.

"Hohn, Uarnl," he said, and laughed again. "Ut sinna d'yonlwar?"

Joe sat down behind his desk and looked at the big man. Hone you-arnel. Wasn't that what Sarah had said—or something very much like it? He shook his head.

"You wanted to talk to me about something, Kent? What are you and Sarah cooking up with this gibberish?"

The brilliant Martian sunlight—not as dim as had been anticipated in the days before space travel—came through the ceiling-high windows, struck little lights here and there from the bouquet of Venusian Glass-moss that Miss Kal tended so carefully. It slanted across Kent's big face as he looked at Joe for a long moment, giving his left eye a pale, shallow lustre and throwing the shadow of his jutting nose down over his mouth. He opened and closed his hands, and said:

"Nothing. It'll wait, I guess." His gaze wandered over the room and settled on a corner that was empty save for a throw rug—a relic of Caradac's Iowa past. Kent's mouth tightened into a thin line. He stared at the corner.

"It'll wait—for a while," he said stiffly and opened the door and went into the outer office. Bone-faced, he walked toward the transveyor belt.

"Mr. Kent—Mr. Kent!" The big man's Mercurian secretary rose out of a chair near the door, his voice quacking from the speaker set into his fishbowl helmet.


"They tolt me that you hat gone to Mr. Caradac's office, sir. I've been trying to finte you all morning, sir. A laty, sir, on the visiphone. She has callt many times—many times—"

"Thank you," Kent said tonelessly. "I know who it is."

Joe Caradac stared in astonishment at the door. First Sarah—now Kent. This seemed to be the day for everybody to blast in orbits ... well, hell ... he shrugged his shoulders and called Miss Kal back out of her office. She dropped into her chair with a sigh and they picked up the day's business from where it had fallen.

San-Vika of Saturn Enterprises was threatening all kinds of things if he didn't receive his shipment of ato-rotors on the very next flight. Joe didn't waste much time with that. One of the many things that made him a top executive was that he knew how to deal with phonies. He told San-Vika—via spacephone—that he could go stick his heads in a waste eliminator and push the button, and that if he wanted to get nasty, M. I. and E. had an army of lawyers hanging around just itching to get their teeth into last year's insurance double-deal.

"We let everybody get away with it—once!" Joe told him and cut the suddenly fawning image off the screen. M. I. and E.'s investigators, he thought absently, could certainly give the Sol Secret Service a run for their credits. Now that he had tactfully gotten San-Vika straightened out, he might as well release those ato-rotors to be shipped.

At twelve fifteen an audiogram came from Sarah. I don't feel well enough to come. Love, S. Well, at least it was an improvement in tone.

At one o'clock, Miss Kal went into her office to open the mysterious little package of lunch that she brought with her every day. Joe stretched out his legs on the window sill and looked at the traffic jam below. That driver had really done a fine job. There were three Patrol skimmers circling the mess, darting to and fro like angry wasps.

He didn't feel much like eating. Breakfast and supper were his big meals—the habit was a long-standing one. However, he thought, this morning's breakfast hadn't been much to rave about. Orange juice, some burned Pohl, some undercooked sand-hoppers.

He switched on the inter-office visiphone.

"I would save you the trouble," he said, when Miss Kal's face appeared, "but they built this place so that all of my inside calls have to be routed through your selective tentacles."

"The usual, Mr. Caradac?"

"The usual."

Joe was rather proud of the fact that everything in his division of M. I. and E. worked smoothly and efficiently—even the kitchens. In a little less than forty seconds a portion of his desk folded back and the "usual" appeared on an elevator tray. A pot of light coffee and some doughnuts with powdered brown sugar.

Joe dunked the solid portion of his lunch and considered the morning's peculiar happenings. Apparently unrelated incidents that were related in part always intrigued him. There was usually a logical reason for parallels. The trick, he thought, was to concentrate not on the "coincidences" themselves but to examine the circumstances under which they occurred.

Sarah's illness—Kent's queer behavior. Not obviously connected. Separately neurotic. Yet what was it Kent had said that had reminded him of Sarah's strange greeting?

Hone you-arnel?

The two had played practical jokes on him before. He grinned. This was probably one of their special five-day jobs, designed to make him into a shattered wreck by Friday so Sarah could duck him on Saturday and get by with it.

Joe repeated the syllables aloud, trying to make some sense out of them:

"Hone you-arnel."

Instantly he was on his feet fighting, his lips raving silently. His big chair tipped back and fell over to the floor.

A furious, icily cold intrusion was being made upon his mind. He stood with feet planted on either side of the overturned chair and threw the force off but it came back again and again. The office was suddenly oppressive and stifling, and the objects about him were small and crystal clear, as if seen through the wrong end of a hand galaxiscope. The churning, utterly loathsome invasion surged up like a wave roaring against a reef—and fell back and away in horrible desperation.

From a million miles away he heard—or felt—a voice. It said: "Uarnl—yes, Uarnl!" and it said other things, raging things, that Joe could not understand.

Then it was gone. As suddenly as it had come. The office regained its normal perspective. The bright sunlight, reflected now from the tall buildings across the Great Canal, erased the ragged, black hole out of his consciousness.

Painfully he righted the chair and sank into it. His lungs felt pressed in and stale, like the inside of a folded blanket. He took a deep breath, shoved his wet palms hard at the top of the desk.

Uarnl. The nightmare.

It came back to him as dreams rarely do: down to its last beastly detail. A dream of fear and peril—a running dream—and not a dream, after all. Uarnl. He looked at the corner of the room, at the colorful throw rug. It lay there under the sun, brighter than it had been, as if a pane of glass had been lifted from it.

After a while he got up and went to the door of Miss Kal's office. She looked up vaguely, concealing a small, resigned lizard under her jacket.

"Miss Kal," Joe said blindly, "do you have my morning papers?"

He took the facsimiles back to his desk, walking slowly, afraid to get there and sit down and open them. The nightmare; the first aborted attempt. Sarah and Kent—approaching him separately—yet similarly. Allies. Each had been confident that during the night Uarnl—had—

There was nothing else on the front sheets but the names Ih, Lof, Dir, and Uarnl and the story of their possessors' escape from Mars Detain. A power breakdown had weakened the energy barrier that kept their elusive minds, and hence their bodies, in confinement. By the time armed replacements could be sent to the Aarnians' isolated cell the beings had vanished. The guards had been strangled. Energy barriers had been set up at all space and canal ports. Other barriers had been formed into a hundred mile noose that was being carefully drawn in toward Detain.

Joe folded the last paper over the cruel three-eyed faces that seemed to mock him. He fumbled at the visiphone. Miss Kal was wiping her lips cheerfully.

"Miss Kal," Joe said, "get me Mr. Reader in Shipping." He leaned his elbows wearily on the desk and waited until Reader's puritanical face appeared on the screen.

"Yeah, boss?"

"Reader, has anyone consigned four large crates to go off-world tomorrow night?"

"Yeah," Reader replied promptly; "Mr. Kent. B-type mobile spacesuits. Had me alter the manifest this morn—"

"Do you have the crates down there?"

"Uh-uh. Mr. Kent said he'd skim them in sometime tomorrow. He was coming up to get the switch O.K.'d by you. Why? Anything wrong?"

Joe opened the center drawer of his desk.

"No. Nothing's wrong. Listen carefully, Reader. I'm going to take care of those crates myself. If I'm—not in my office tomorrow you are not to load them on-ship! No matter what Mr. Ke—anyone says or does! If the crates come in refrigerate them and call the Patrol and send the name of the addressee to Detain immediately!"

Reader came as near as he ever had to looking surprised. Nothing wrong? His right eyebrow shot up several millimeters. Joe added, "Keep this in your cheek and there'll be double credits for you pay-day."

Reader nodded. "Yeah, boss. Don't I always?"

Joe took his atom pistol out of the drawer, handling it with unfamiliar fingers. It had been a long time since those target shooting days in Iowa. He checked the gun quickly, reloaded it with fresh pellets.

He had left the visiphone on, and when Reader had broken his connection, the interior of Miss Kal's office and the surprised face of that eavesdropper had automatically returned. She stared at the atom pistol.

"Miss Kal," Joe said softly. "Get me a canal-cab."

The bodies were lying in a row beneath an overhanging ledge of sandstone. They had burrowed deep into a miniature jungle of thick leaved canal weeds, and it had taken him a long time to find them. The gleam of four shiny new B-type spacesuits, less carefully concealed, had finally ended the search. Kent and Ray had been busy this morning.

Standing where he was, Joe could look down the green and red dotted slope and see the ashes of the picnic fire, the scatterings of food that the night-crawling nolls had found unpalatable. And, blown by Mars' occasional winds—or taken by alien hands—to a spot only a few feet from where it had been thrown away, was the scrap of paper with his letterhead on it. The paper that he and Kent had marked up during their discussion of tomorrow night's flight to Aarn, Callisto.

If they didn't actually hear us talking, Joe thought, it was that paper that started the whole thing.

He said loudly: "Are you here, Uarnl? You thought it was perfect, didn't you? You thought you could repossess your bodies as the liner went off-world. Well, look at this!"

With executival thoroughness, he blasted the four bodies into cinders.

Sarah came out of the kitchen as Joe opened the canal door and let himself in. He turned and paid the cabby and the skimmer moved off.

"Hello, darling," she said, and tugged at his arm. "I've got a swell supper fixed!"

Joe smiled at her as he shrugged out of his tunic. He flung it casually over her favorite potted Zinhaeat. She didn't grab it off. I should have been a detective, he thought. He followed her into the kitchen.

"Anything interesting happen today?" Sarah began to arrange the table, moving things here and there fussily. She looked at Joe from the corner of her eye. "That's about how you like it, isn't it?" she asked.

Joe said, "That's fine." He ground out his cigarette on a clean plate. Sarah would have taken his head off if he had ever done that.

"No," he went on, "nothing happened. Same old stuff."

They sat down to eat. Joe tasted his soup. It was rotten. He wondered if they cooked like that all over Callisto, or only in Aarn.

"Is it all right, darling?" Sarah was looking at him brightly, her fingers twined under her chin with the left pinkie extended, her head cocked to one side. It was all so cute that it made Joe sick. He decided that if the showdown were put off much longer he'd never be able to stand the sight of her again.

"You haven't called me 'darling' since our days of stardust and chivalry," he said. "Call me Joe."


"I said—call—me—Joe."

Sarah pushed her plate away. Her brown eyes were muddy.

"I wasn't hungry anyway," she said coldly.

Big Kent and Ray came through the door that led into the living room. Kent leaned against the wall and folded his massive arms. He grinned mockingly at Joe. "We never give up," he said. Ray stared nervously and wet his lips.

Joe shoved back his chair inch by inch.

"Uarnl's dead," he said. "He blundered things in my office and got scared and tried to get off-world in a passenger. The Patrol blasted him."

Sarah rose calmly and looked at Ray and Kent. Their faces were stony. She said: "Lof—Dir—I think the four of us together can break down his resistance to Occupancy." Her eyes traveled to an empty corner of the kitchen. "Are you ready, Uarnl?"

She faced Joe again, a sly smile on her lips.

"Uarnl wasn't killed, Yoe—atomics don't kill us. The passenyer was."

Joe wasn't surprised when she floated away from the chair and toward him, her slippers hardly seeming to touch the floor. He'd been expecting to be attacked.

But what almost broke him into little pieces was her third eye—the one that blinked open in the middle of her forehead, brushing aside a brittle shell of skin and glaring at him with its wide, unhuman hunger. Then, for one terrible second, his brain felt packed in ice; the room was grotesque, filled with alien contrivances. The only sensible thing in it was Ih's warm, familiar third eye.

With all his melting strength, Joe thought, "I destroyed the bodies!" and the whole scene dangled unmoving before him, the weird, distant setting for the climax of a play, as he heard his own voice in a wrenching groan:

"Our bodies—destroyed!"

Appalling misery and hatred for himself rocked Joe's brain. Then Uarnl recoiled, as the Aarnians' rapport was broken.

Joe cried chokingly, "Lieutenant—Lieutenant Smith!"

The canal door burst open and Lieutenant Smith of Mars Detain, who had been hugging the narrow metal landing ledge, came in like the proverbial tornado. What he'd heard had more than convinced him. The deadly little sphere in his hands started to make sharp spitting sounds.

Sarah and Kent and Ray and the invisible Uarnl screamed. All together, in a dissonance of agony and fear and death.

They screamed, in a dissonance of agony and fear and death....

Then, three of them stood loosely, in puzzled silence.

Big Kent brushed a hand across his eyes. "Ray," he muttered, "what in hell were you yelling about?"

Ray looked at him and sank into the nearest chair.

"Yelling?" he said bewilderedly. His fingers began to unconsciously perform on the chair arm. "I don't know. Was I yelling?"

Sarah was in Joe's arms, her blue-black hair sending its aching fragrance into his nostrils. "Joe," she whispered, "Joe, what happened?"

He tipped back her head, ran a finger over her smooth, brown forehead. Hypnosis—to paralyze and freeze him, to weaken him. He drew her face against his shoulder again.

What had happened? What would those Psychologists back in Iowa say if this story ever reached their ears? The barrier?—the "some sort of block" in my mind, my freakish mind, that keeps out Projectors—and Aarnians?

"Kent," he said, "fix us all some drinks. Lieutenant Smith's got a story to tell us—about that picnic."