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He didn’t bother with the gun that hung from Kent’s belt. It was only a vibra­tion gun, he sensed—atomic powered, but not an atomic disintegrator. He tossed the kicking Kent onto the nearest couch—and realized with a hiss of dismay that he should have disarmed the man. Not that the gun was dangerous—but, as the man furiously wiped the gruel from his face with one hand, he reached with the other for his weapon. Coeurl crouched back as the gun was raised slowly and a white beam of flame was discharged at his massive head.

His ear tendrils hummed as they can­celed the efforts of the vibration gun. His round, black eyes narrowed as he caught the movement of men reaching for their metalite guns. "Stop!" KENT clicked off his weapon; and Coeurl crouched down, quivering with fury at this man who had forced to reveal something of his power. "Kent," said Morton coldly, "you’re not the type to lose your head. You deliberately tried to kill pussy, knowing that the majority of us are in favor of keeping him alive. You know what our rule is: If anyone objects to my deci­sions, he must say so at the time . If the majority objects, my decisions are overruled. In this case, no one but you objected, and, therefore, your action in taking the law into your own hands is most reprehensible, and automatically debars you from voting for a year.’ Kent stared grimly at the circle of faces.

"Korita was right when he said ours was a highly civilized age. It’s decadent." Passion flamed harshly in his voice. "My God, isn’t there a man here who can see the horror of the situa­tion? Jarvey dead only a few hours, and this creature, whom we all know to be guilty, lying there unchained, plan­ning his next murder; and the victim is right here in this room. What kind of men are we—fools, cynics, ghouls—or is it that our civilization is so steeped in reason that we can contemplate a murderer sympathetically?" He fixed brooding eyes on Coeurl. That’s a devil from the deepest hell of this forgotten planet, whirling its solitary way around a dying sun." "Don’t go melodramatic on us," Mor­ton said. "Your analysis is all wrong, so far as I am concerned. We’re not ghouls or cynics; we’re simply scientists, and pussy here is going to be studied. Now that we suspect him, we doubt his ability to trap any of us. One against a hundred hasn’t a chance." He glanced around. "Do I speak for all of us?" "Not for me, commander!" It was Smith who spoke, and, as Morton stared in amazement, he continued: "In the excitement and momentary confusion, no one seems to have noticed that when Kent fired his vibration gun, the beam hit this creature squarely on his cat head—and didn’t hurt him." Morton’s amazed glance went from Smith to Coeurl, and back to Smith again. As you say, it all happened so swiftly—when pussy wasn’t hurt I simply as­sumed that Kent had missed him." "He hit him in the face," Smith said positively. "A vibration gun, of course, can’t even kill a man right away—but it can injure him. There’s no sign of injury on pussy, though, not even a singed hair." "Perhaps his skin is a good insula­tion against heat of any kind." "Perhaps. But in view of our un­certainty, I think we should lock him up in the cage." While Morton frowned darkly in thought, Kent spoke up. "Now you’re talking sense, Smith." Morton asked: "Then you would be satisfied, Kent, if we put him in the cage?" Kent considered, finally: "Yes. If four inches of micro-steel can’t hold him, we’d better give him the ship." COEURL followed the men as they went out into the corridor. He trotted docilely along as Morton unmistakably motioned him through a door he had not hitherto seen. The door clanged metallically behind him; he felt the flow of power as the electric lock clicked home. His lips parted in a grimace of hate, as he realized the trap, but he gave no other outward reaction. It occurred to him that he had progressed a long way from the sunk-into-primitiveness crea­ture who, a few hours before, had gone incoherent with fear in an elevator cage. Now, a thousand memories of his pow­ers were reawakened in his brain; ten thousand cunnings were, after ages of disuse, once again part of his very being. He sat quite still for a moment on the short, heavy haunches into which his body tapered, his ear tendrils ex­amining his surroundings. Finally, he lay down, his eyes glowing with con­temptuous fire. It was about an hour later when he heard the man—Smith—fumbling over­head. Vibrations poured upon him, and for just an instant he was startled.

He leaped to his feet in pure terror—and then realized that the vibrations were vibrations, not atomic explosions. Some­body was taking pictures of the inside of his body. He crouched down again, but his car tendrils vibrated, and he thought con­temptuously: the silly fool would be surprised when he tried to develop those pictures. After a while the man went away, and for a long time there were noises of men doing things far away. Coeurl lay waiting, as he fell the si­lence creep over the ship. In the long ago, before the dawn of immortality, the coeurls, too, had slept at night; and the memory of it had been revived the day before when he saw some of the men dozing. At last, the vibration of two pairs of feet, pacing, pacing end­lessly, was the only human-made frequency that throbbed on his ear tendrils. Coeurl sensed the alertness of these men; knew that he could never surprise either while they walked separately.

The moment they were past, he switched his senses from their vibrations to a vastly higher range. The pulsating vio­lence of the atomic engines stammered its soft story to his brain.


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