"You see, commander, I, too, had the impression that he was always around; and yet, thinking back over it. There were moments—probably long minutes—when he was completely out of sight." Morton’s face was dark with thought, as Kent broke in fiercely: "I say, take no chances. Kill the brute on suspicion before he does any more damage." Morton said slowly: "Korita, you’ve been wandering around with Cranessy and Van Horne. Do you think pussy is a descendant of the ruling class of this planet?" The tall Japanese archeologist stared at the sky as if collecting his mind.
"Commander Morton," he said finally, respectfully, "there is a mystery here. Notice the almost Gothic outline of the architecture. In spite of the megalopolis that they created, these people were close to the soil. Here is the equivalent of the Doric column, the Egyptian pyramid, the Gothic cathedral, growing out of the ground, earnest, big with destiny. If this lonely, desolate world can be regarded as a mother earth, then the land had a warm, a spiritual place in the hearts of the race. Their machines prove they were mathematicians, but they were artists first; and so they did not create the geometrically designed cities of the ultra-sophisticated world metropolis. There is a genuine artistic abandon, a deep joyous emotion written in the curving and unmathematical arrangements of houses, buildings and avenues: a sense of intensity, of divine belief in an inner certainty. This is not a decadent, hoary-with-age civilization, but a young and vigorous culture, confident, strong with purpose.
Abruptly, as if at this point culture had its Battle of Tours, and began to collapse like the ancient Mohammedan civilization. Or as if in one leap it spanned the centuries and entered the period of contending states. In the Chinese civilization that period occupied 480-230 B. C., at the end of which the State of Tsin saw the beginning of the Chinese Empire. C., of which the last century was the ’Hyksos’—unmentionable—time. The classical experienced it from Chaeronea—338—and, at the pitch of horror, from the Gracchi—133—to Actium—31 B. The West European Americans were devastated by it in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, and modern historians agree that, nominally, we entered the same phase fifty years ago: though, of course, we have solved the problem. "You may ask, commander, what has all this to do with your question? My answer is: there is no record of a culture entering abruptly into the period of contending states. It is always a slow development; and the first step is a merciless questioning of all that was once held sacred. Inner certainties cease to exist, are dissolved before the ruthless probings of scientific and analytic minds. "I say that this culture ended abruptly in its most flourishing age. The sociological effects of such a catastrophe would be a sudden vanishing of morals, a reversion to almost bestial criminality, unleavened by any sense of ideal, a callous indifference to death. this pussy is a descendant of such a race, then he will be a cunning creature, a thief in the night, a cold-blooded murderer, who would cut his own brother’s throat for gain." "THAT’S enough!" It was Kent’s-clipped voice. I’m willing to act the role of executioner." Smith interrupted sharply: "Listen, Morton, you’re not going to kill that cat yet, even if he is guilty. He’s a biological treasure house." Kent and Smith were glaring angrily at each other. Morton frowned at them thoughtfully, then said: "Korita, I’m inclined to accept your theory as a working basis. But one question: Pussy comes from a period earlier than our own? That is, we are entering the highly civilized era of our culture, while he became suddenly history-less in the most vigorous period of his. But it is possible that his culture is a later one on this planet than ours is in the galactic-wide system we have civilized?" "Exactly. His may be the middle of the tenth civilization of his world: while ours is the end of the eighth sprung from earth, each of the ten, of course, having been built on the ruins of the one before it." "In that case, pussy would not know anything about the skepticism that made it possible for us to find him out so positively as a criminal and murderer?" "No: it would be literally magic to him." Morton was smiling grimly. We’ll let pussy live; and if there are any fatalities, now that we know him, it will be due to rank carelessness. There’s just the chance, of course, that we’re wrong. Like Siedel, I also have the impression that he was always around. We’ll put him in a coffin and bury him." "No, we won’t!" Kent barked.
It looks to be all there, but something must be missing. I’m going to find out what, and pin this murder on him so that you’ll have to believe it beyond the shadow of a doubt." IT WAS late night when Morton looked up from a book and saw Kent emerge through the door that led from the laboratories below. Kent carried a large, flat bowl in his hands; his tired eyes flashed across at Morton, and he said in a weary, yet harsh, voice: "Now watch!" He started toward Coeurl, who lay sprawled on the great rug, pretending to be asleep. Any other time, I wouldn’t question your actions, but you look ill; you’re overwrought. What have you got there?" Kent turned, and Morton saw that his first impression had been but a flashing glimpse of the truth. There were dark pouches under the little chemist’s gray eyes—eyes that gazed feverishly from sunken cheeks in an ascetic face. There wasn’t so much as a square millimeter of phosphorus left in Jarvey’s bones. Every bit of it had been drained out—by what superchemistry I don’t know.
There are ways of getting phosphorus out of the human body. For instance, a quick way was what happened to the workman who helped build this ship. Remember, he fell into fifteen tons of molten metalite—at least, so his relatives claimed—but the company wouldn’t pay compensation until the metalite, on analysis, was found to contain a high percentage of phosphorus—" "What about the bowl of food?" somebody interrupted. Men were putting away magazines and books, looking up with interest. He’ll get the scent, or whatever it is that he uses instead of scent—" "I think he gets the vibrations of things," Gourlay interjected lazily.