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*** START OF THIS PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK THE ALIEN *** Produced by Greg Weeks, Mary Meehan and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team at http://www.pgdp.net
THE ALIEN

A Gripping Novel of Discovery and Conquest in Interstellar Space

by Raymond F. Jones

A Complete ORIGINAL Book, UNABRIDGED

WORLD EDITIONS, Inc.
105 WEST 40th STREET
NEW YORK 18, NEW YORK

Copyright 1951
by
WORLD EDITIONS, Inc.

PRINTED IN THE U.S.A.
THE GUINN CO., Inc.
New York 14, N.Y.

[Transcriber's Note: Extensive research did not uncover any
evidence that the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed.]

Just speculate for a moment on the enormous challenge to archeology when interplanetary flight is possible ... and relics are found of a race extinct for half a million years! A race, incidentally, that was scientifically so far in advance of ours that they held the secret of the restoration of life!

One member of that race can be brought back after 500,000 years of death....

That's the story told by this ORIGINAL book-length novel, which has never before been published! You can expect a muscle-tightening, sweat-producing, mind-prodding adventure in the future when you read it!

Contents

CHAPTER ONE CHAPTER TWO CHAPTER THREE CHAPTER FOUR CHAPTER FIVE CHAPTER SIX CHAPTER SEVEN CHAPTER EIGHT CHAPTER NINE CHAPTER TEN CHAPTER ELEVEN CHAPTER TWELVE CHAPTER THIRTEEN CHAPTER FOURTEEN CHAPTER FIFTEEN CHAPTER SIXTEEN CHAPTER SEVENTEEN CHAPTER EIGHTEEN CHAPTER ONE

Out beyond the orbit of Mars the Lavoisier wallowed cautiously through the asteroid fields. Aboard the laboratory ship few of the members of the permanent Smithson Asteroidal Expedition were aware that they were in motion. Living in the field one or two years at a time, there was little that they were conscious of except the half-million-year-old culture whose scattered fragments surrounded them on every side.

The only contact with Earth at the moment was the radio link by which Dr. Delmar Underwood was calling Dr. Illia Morov at Terrestrial Medical Central.

Illia's blonde, precisely coiffured hair was only faintly golden against, the stark white of her surgeons' gown, which she still wore when she answered. Her eyes widened with an expression of pleasure as her face came into focus on the screen and she recognized Underwood.

"Del! I thought you'd gone to sleep with the mummies out there. It's been over a month since you called. What's new?"

"Not much. Terry found some new evidence of Stroid III. Phyfe has a new scrap of metal with inscriptions, and they've found something that almost looks as if it might have been an electron tube five hundred thousand years ago. I'm working on that. Otherwise all is peaceful and it's wonderful!"

"Still the confirmed hermit?" Illia's eyes lost some of their banter, but none of their tenderness.

"There's more peace and contentment out here than I'd ever dreamed of finding. I want you to come out here, Illia. Come out for a month. If you don't want to stay and marry me, then you can go back and I won't say another word."

She shook her head in firm decision. "Earth needs its scientists desperately. Too many have run away already. They say the Venusian colonies are booming, but I told you a year ago that simply running away wouldn't work. I thought by now you would have found it out for yourself."

"And I told you a year ago," Underwood said flatly, "that the only possible choice of a sane man is escape."

"You can't escape your own culture, Del. Why, the expedition that provided the opportunity for you to become a hermit is dependent on Earth. If Congress should cut the Institute's funds, you'd be dropped right back where you were. You can't get away."

"There are always the Venusian colonies."

"You know it's impossible to exist there independent of Earth."

"I'm not talking about the science and technology. I'm talking about the social disintegration. Certainly a scientist doesn't need to take that with him when he's attempting to escape it."

"The culture is not to blame," said Illia earnestly, "and neither is humanity. You don't ridicule a child for his clumsiness when he is learning to walk."

"I hope the human race is past its childhood!"

"Relatively speaking, it isn't. Dreyer says we're only now emerging from the cave man stage, and that could properly be called mankind's infancy, I suppose. Dreyer calls it the 'head man' stage."

"I thought he was a semanticist."

"You'd know if you'd ever talked with him. He'll tear off every other word you utter and throw it back at you. His 'head man' designation is correct, all right. According to him, human beings in this stage need some leader or 'head man' stronger than themselves for guidance, assumption of responsibility, and blame, in case of failure of the group. These functions have never in the past been developed in the individual so that he could stand alone in control of his own ego. But it's coming—that's the whole import of Dreyer's work."

"And all this confusion and instability are supposed to have something to do with that?"

"It's been growing for decades. We've seen it reach a peak in our own lifetimes. The old fetishes have failed, the head men have been found to be hollow gods, and men's faith has turned to derision. Presidents, dictators, governors, and priests—they've all fallen from their high places and the masses of humanity will no longer believe in any of them."

"And that is development of the race?"

"Yes, because out of it will come a people who have found in themselves the strength they used to find in the 'head men.' There will come a race in which the individual can accept the responsibility which he has always passed on to the 'head man,' the 'head man' is no longer necessary."

"And so—the ultimate anarchy."

"The 'head man' concept has, but first he has to find out that has nothing to do with government. With human beings capable of independent, constructive behavior, actual democracy will be possible for the first time in the world's history."

"If all this is to come about anyway, according to Dreyer, why not try to escape the insanity of the transition period?"

Illia Morov's eyes grew narrow in puzzlement as she looked at Underwood with utter incomprehension. "Doesn't it matter at all that the race is in one of the greatest crises of all history? Doesn't it matter that you have a skill that is of immense value in these times? It's peculiar that it is those of you in the physical sciences who are fleeing in the greatest numbers. The Venusian colonies must have a wonderful time with physicists trampling each other to get away from it all—and Earth almost barren of them. Do the physical sciences destroy every sense of social obligation?"

"You forget that I don't quite accept Dreyer's theories. To me this is nothing but a rotting structure that is finally collapsing from its own inner decay. I can't see anything positive evolving out of it."

"I suppose so. Well, it was nice of you to call, Del. I'm always glad to hear you. Don't wait so long next time."

"Illia—"

But she had cut the connection and the screen slowly faded into gray, leaving Underwood's argument unfinished. Irritably, he flipped the switch to the public news channels.

Where was he wrong? The past year, since he had joined the expedition as Chief Physicist, was like paradise compared with living in the unstable, irresponsible society existing on Earth. He knew it was a purely neurotic reaction, this desire to escape. But application of that label solved nothing, explained nothing—and carried no stigma. The neurotic reaction was the norm in a world so confused.

He turned as the news blared abruptly with its perpetual urgency that made him wonder how the commentators endured the endless flow of crises.

The President had been impeached again—the third one in six months.

There were no candidates for his office.

A church had been burned by its congregation.

Two mayors had been assassinated within hours of each other.

It was the same news he had heard six months ago. It would be the same again tomorrow and next month. The story of a planet repudiating all leadership. A lawlessness that was worse than anarchy, because there was still government—a government that could be driven and whipped by the insecurities of the populace that elected it.

Dreyer called it a futile search for a 'head man' by a people who would no longer trust any of their own kind to be 'head man.' And Underwood dared not trust that glib explanation.

Many others besides Underwood found they could no longer endure the instability of their own culture. Among these were many of the world's leading scientists. Most of them went to the jungle lands of Venus. The scientific limitations of such a frontier existence had kept Underwood from joining the Venusian colonies, but he'd been very close to going just before he got the offer of Chief Physicist with the Smithson Institute expedition in the asteroid fields. He wondered now what he'd have done if the offer hadn't come.

The interphone annunciator buzzed. Underwood turned off the news as the bored communications operator in the control room announced, "Doc Underwood. Call for Doc Underwood."

Underwood cut in. "Speaking," he said irritably.

The voice of Terry Bernard burst into the room. "Hey, Del! Are you going to get rid of that hangover and answer your phone or should we embalm the remains and ship 'em back?"

"Terry! You fool, what do you want? Why didn't you say it was you? I thought maybe it was that elephant-foot Maynes, with chunks of mica that he thought were prayer sticks."

"The Stroids didn't use prayer sticks."

"All right, skip it. What's new?"

"Plenty. Can you come over for a while? I think we've really got something here."

"It'd better be good. We're taking the ship to Phyfe. Where are you?"

"Asteroid C-428. It's about 2,000 miles from you. And bring all the hard-rock mining tools you've got. We can't get into this thing."

"Is that all you want? Use your double coated drills."

"We wore five of them out. No scratches on the thing, even."

"Well, use the Atom Stream, then. It probably won't hurt the artifact."

"I'll say it won't. It won't even warm the thing up. Any other ideas?"

Underwood's mind, which had been half occupied with mulling over his personal problems while he talked with Terry, swung startledly to what the archeologist was saying. "You mean that you've found a material the Atom Stream won't touch? That's impossible! The equations of the Stream prove—"

"I know. Now will you come over?"

"Why didn't you say so in the first place? I'll bring the whole ship."

Underwood cut off and switched to the Captain's line. "Captain Dawson? Underwood. Will you please take the ship to the vicinity of Asteroid C-428 as quickly as possible?"

"I thought Doctor Phyfe—"

"I'll answer for it. Please move the vessel."

Captain Dawson acceded. His instructions were to place the ship at Underwood's disposal.

Soundlessly and invisibly, the distortion fields leaped into space about the massive laboratory ship and the Lavoisier moved effortlessly through the void. Its perfect inertia controls left no evidence of its motion apparent to the occupants with the exception of the navigators and pilots. The hundreds of delicate pieces of equipment in Underwood's laboratories remained as steadfast as if anchored to tons of steel and concrete deep beneath the surface of Earth.

Twenty minutes later they hove in sight of the small, black asteroid that glistened in the faint light of the faraway Sun. The spacesuited figures of Terry Bernard and his assistant, Batch Fagin, clung to the surface, moving about like flies on a blackened, frozen apple.

Underwood was already in the scooter lock, astride the little spacescooter which they used for transportation between ships of the expedition and between asteroids.

The pilot jockeyed the Lavoisier as near as safely desirable, then signaled Underwood. The physicist pressed the control that opened the lock in the side of the vessel. The scooter shot out into space, bearing him astride it.

"Ride 'em, cowboy!" Terry Bernard yelled into the intercom. He gave a wild cowboy yell that pierced Underwood's ears. "Watch out that thing doesn't turn turtle with you."

Underwood grinned to himself. He said, "Your attitude convinces me of a long held theory that archeology is no science. Anyway, if your story of a material impervious to the Atom Stream is wrong, you'd better get a good alibi. Phyfe had some work he wanted to do aboard today."

"Come and see for yourself. This is it."

As the scooter approached closer to the asteroid, Underwood could glimpse the strangeness of the thing. It looked as if it had been coated with the usual asteroid

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