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. "Sometimes, when he wiggles those tendrils, I get a distinct static on the radio. And then, again, there’s no reaction, just as if he’s moved higher or lower on the wave scale.
He seems to control the vibrations at will." Kent waited with obvious impatience until Gourlay’s last word, then abruptly went on "All right, then, when he gets the vibration of the phosphorus and reacts to it like an animal, then—well, we can decide what we’ve proved by his reaction. Can I go ahead, Morton?" "There are three things wrong with your plan," Morton said. "In the first place, you seem to assume that he is only animal; you seem to have forgotten he may not be hungry after Jarvey; you seem to think that he will not be suspicious.
His reaction may tell us something." Coeurl stared with unblinking black eyes as the man set the bowl before him. His ear tendrils instantly caught the id-vibrations from the contents of the bowl—and he gave it not even a second glance. He recognized this two-legged being as the one who had held the weapon that morning. He caught the bowl with the finger-like appendages at the end of one looping tentacle, and emptied its contents into the face of Kent, who shrank back with a yell.