He felt the whisper of that flow through the wires in the walls of his cage, and through the electric lock of his door. He forced his quivering body into straining immobility, his senses seeking, searching, to tune in on that sibilant tempest of energy. Suddenly, his ear tendrils vibrated in harmony—he caught the surging change into shrillness of that rippling force wave.
With a gentle touch of one tentacle, Coeurl pushed open the door, and glided out into the dully gleaming corridor. For just a moment, he felt contempt, a glow of superiority, as he thought of the stupid creatures who dared to match their wit against a coeurl. And in that moment, he suddenly thought of other coeurls. A queer, exultant sense of race pounded through his being; the driving hate of centuries of ruthless competition yielded reluctantly before pride of kinship with the future rulers of all space. SUDDENLY, he felt weighed down by his limitations, his need for other coeurls, his aloneness—one against a hundred, with the stake all eternity; the starry universe itself beckoned his rapacious, vaulting ambition. If he failed, there would never be a second chance—no time to revive long-rotted machinery, and attempt to solve the secret of space travel. He padded along on tensed paws—through the salon—into the next corridor—and came to the first bedroom door. One swift flow of synchronized muscles, one swiftly lashing tentacle that caught the unresisting throat of the sleeping man, crushing it; and the lifeless head rolled crazily, the body twitched once.
It was the seventh taste of murder that brought a sudden return of lust, a pure, unbounded desire to kill, return of a millennium-old habit of destroying everything containing the precious id. As the twelfth man slipped convulsively into death, Coeurl emerged abruptly from the sensuous joy of the kill to the sound of footsteps. They were not near—that was what brought wave after wave of fright swirling into the chaos that suddenly became his brain. THE WATCHMEN were coming slowly along the corridor toward the door of the cage where he had been imprisoned. In a moment, the first man would see the open door—and sound the alarm. Coeurl caught at the vanishing remnants of his reason. With frantic speed, careless now of accidental sounds, he raced—along the corridor with its bedroom doors—through the salon. He emerged into the next corridor, cringing in awful anticipation of the atomic flame he expected would stab into his face. For on single instant, Coeurl could scarcely believe his tremendous good luck. Like a fool the second had come running when he saw the other stop before the open door. They looked up, paralyzed, before the nightmare of claws and tentacles, the ferocious cat head and hate-filled eyes. The first man went for his gun, but the second, physically frozen before the doom he saw, uttered a shriek, a shrill cry of horror that floated along the corridors—and ended in a curious gurgle, as Coeurl flung the two corpses with one irresistible motion the full length of the corridor. He didn’t want the dead bodies found near the cage. Shaking in every nerve and muscle, conscious of the terrible error he had made, unable to think coherently, he plunged into the cage. He crouched tensely, simulating sleep, as he heard the rush of many feet, caught the vibration of excited voices. He knew when somebody actuated the cage audioscope and looked in. A few moments now, and the other bodies would be discovered. And Coulter and— Horrible!" He covered his face with his hands, but only for an instant. He looked up grimly, his heavy chin out-thrust as he stared into the stern faces that surrounded him. "If anybody’s got so much as a germ of an idea, bring it out." "Space madness!" "I’ve thought of that. But there hasn’t been a case of a man going mad for fifty years.
Eggert will test everybody, of course, and right now he’s looking at the bodies with that possibility in mind." As he finished, he saw the doctor coming through the door. Eggert said, "and I think I can say right now that the space-madness theory is out. The throats of these men have been squeezed to a jelly. No human being could have exerted such enormous strength without using a machine." Morton saw that the doctor’s eyes kept looking down the corridor, and he shook his head and groaned: "It’s no use suspecting pussy, doctor. That cage was built to hold literally anything—four inches of micro-steel—and there’s not a scratch on the door. Kent, even you won’t say, ’Kill him on suspicion,’ because there can’t be any suspicion, unless there’s a new science here, beyond anything we can imagine—" "On the contrary," said Smith flatly, "we have all the evidence we need. I used the telefluor on him—you know the arrangement we have on top of the cage—and tried to take some pictures.
Pussy jumped when the telefluor was turned on, as if he felt the vibrations. This beast can apparently receive and send vibrations of any lengths. The way he dominated the power of Kent’s gun is final proof of his special ability to interfere with energy." "What in the name of all the hells have we got here?" One of the men groaned.