The Lonely Planet - By Murray Leinster

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The Lonely Planet
By Murray Leinster

(“The Lonely Planet” is a short story within The Best of Murray Leinster (Edited and with an Introduction by J. J. Pierce: A Del Rey Book published by Ballantine Books, Random House, New York, N.Y., 1978, p 274 [originally published in Thrilling Wonder Stories, Standard Magazines, Inc., December, 1949] ).

CHAPTER 1

PROTEAN PLANT 

ALYX WAS VERY lonely before men came to it. It did not know that it was lonely, to be sure. Perhaps it did not know anything, for it had no need for knowledge. It had need only for memory, and all its memories were simple. Warmth and coolness; sunshine and dark; rain and dryness. Nothing else, even though Alyx was incredibly old. It was the first thing upon its planet which had possessed consciousness.

In the beginning there were probably other living things. Possibly there were quintillions of animalcules, rotifera, bacteria, and amoebae in the steaming pool in which Alyx began. Maybe Alyx was merely one of similar creatures, as multitudinous as the stars and smaller than motes, which swam and lived and died in noisesome slime beneath a cloud-hung, dripping sky. But that was a long time ago. Millions of years ago. Hundreds of millions of years now gone.

When men came, they thought at first the planet was dead. Alyx was the name they gave to the globe which circled about its lonely sun. One day a Space Patrol survey-ship winked into being from overdrive some millions of miles from the sun. It hung there, making conscientious determinations of the spectrum, magnetic field, spot-activity and other solar data.

Matter-of-factly, the ship then swam through emptiness to the lonely planet. There were clouds over its surface, and there were icecaps. The surface was irregular, betokening mountains, but there were no seas. The observers in the survey-ship were in the act of making note that it was a desert, without vegetation, when the analyzers reported protoplasm on the surface. So the survey-ship approached.

Alyx the creature was discovered when the ship descendëd on landing jets toward the surface. As the jets touched ground, tumult arose. There were clouds of steam, convulsive heavings of what seemed to be brown earth. A great gap of writhing agony appeared below the ship. Horrible, rippling movements spread over the surface and seemed alive, as far as the eye could reach.

The survey-ship shot upward. It touched solidity at the edge of the northern icecap. It remained a month, examining the planet—or rather, examining Alyx, which covered all the planet’s surface save at the poles.

The report stated that the planet was covered by a single creature, which was definitely one creature and definitely alive. The ordinary distinction between animal and vegetable life did not apply to Alyx. It was cellular, to be sure, and therefore presumably could divide, but it had not been observed to do so. Its parts were not independent members of a colony, like coral polyps. They constituted one creature, which was at once utterly simple and infinitely diverse.

It broke down the rocks of its planet, like microorganisms, and made use of their mineral content for food, like plankton. It made use of light for photosynthesis to create complex compounds, like plants. It was capable of amoeboid movement, like a low order of animal life. And it had consciousness. It responded to stimuli—such as the searing of its surface—with anguished heavings and withdrawals from the pain.

For the rest, the observers on the survey-ship were inclined to gibber incoherently. Then a junior lieutenant named Jon Haslip made a diffident suggestion. It was only a guess, but they proved he was right.

The creature which was Alyx had consciousness of a type never before encountered. It responded not only to physical stimuli but to thoughts. It did whatever one imagined it doing. If one imagined it turning green for more efficient absorption of sunlight, it turned green. There were tiny pigment-granules in its cells to account for the phenomenon. If one imagined it turning red, It turned red. And if one imagined it extending a pseudopod, cautiously, to examine an observation-instrument placed at its border on the ice cap, it projected a pseudopod, cautiously, to examine that instrument.

Haslip never got any real credit for his suggestion. It was mentioned once, in a footnote of a volume called the Report of the Hatycon Expedition to Alyx, Vol. IV, Chap., 4, p. 97. Then it was forgotten. But a biologist named Katistan acquired some fame in scientific circles for his exposition of the origin and development of Alyx.

“In some remote and mindless age,” he wrote, “there was purely automaton-like response to stimuli on the part of the one-celled creatures which—as on Earth and elsewhere—were the earliest forms of life on the planet. Then, in time, perhaps a cosmic ray produced a mutation in one individual among those creatures: Perhaps a creature then undistinguishable from its fellows, swimming feebly in some fetid pool. By the mutation, that creature became possessed of purpose, which is consciousness in its most primitive form, and its purpose was food. Its fellows had no purpose, because they remained automata which responded only to external stimuli. The purpose of the mutated creature affected them as a stimulus. They responded. They swam to the purposeful creature and became its food. It became the solitary inhabitant of its pool, growing hugely. It continued to have a purpose, which was food.

“There was nourishment in the mud and stones at the bottom of that pool. It continued to grow because it was the only creature on its planet with purpose, and the other creatures had no defense against purpose. Evolution did not provide an enemy, because chance did not provide a competitive purpose, which implies a mind. Other creatures did not develop an ability to resist its mind-stimuli, which directed them to become its prey.”

Here Katistan’s theorizing becomes obscure for a while. Then:

“On Earth and other planets, telepathy is difficult because our remotest cellular ancestors developed a defensive block against each other’s mind-stimuli. On Alyx, the planet, no such defense came into being, so that one creature overwhelmed the planet and became Alyx, the creature; which in time covered everything. It had all food, all moisture, everything it could conceive of. It was content. And because it had never faced a mind-possessing enemy, it developed no defense against mind. It was defenseless against its own weapon.

“But that did not matter until men came. Then, with no telepathic block, such as we possess, it was unable to resist the minds of men. It must, by its very nature, respond to whatever a man wills or even imagines. Alyx is a creature which covers a planet, but is in fact a slave to any man who lands upon it. It will obey his every thought. It is a living, self-supporting robot, an abject servant to any creature with purpose it encounters.”

Thus Katistan's The Report of ihe Halycon Expedition to Alyx contains interesting pictures of the result of the condition he described. There are photographs of great jungles which the creature Alyx tortured itself to form of its own substance when men from other planets remembered and imagined them. There are photographs of great pyramids into which parts of Alyx heaved itself on command. There are even pictures of vast and complex machines, but these are the substance of Alyx, twisted and strained into imagined shapes. The command that such machines run, though, was useless, because swift motion produced pain and the machines writhed into shapelessness.

Since men have never had enough servants—not even the machines which other machines turn out by millions—they immediately planned to be served by Alyx. It was one planet which was conquered without warfare. Preliminary studies showed that Alyx could not survive more than the smallest human propulation. When many men were gathered together in one place, their conflicting, individual thoughts exhausted the surface which tried, to respond to every one. Parts of Alyx died of exhaustion, leaving great spots like cancers that healed over only when the men moved away. So Alyx was assigned to the Alyx Corporation, with due instructions to be careful.

Technical exploration disclosed great deposits oL rotenite—the ore which makes men’s metals everlasting— under the shield of living flesh. A colony of six carefully chosen humans was established, and under their direction Alyx went to work. It governed machines, scooped out the rotenite ore and made it ready for shipment. At regular intervals great cargo ships landed at the appropriate spot, and Alyx loaded the ore into theit holds. The ships could come only so often, because the presence of the crews with their multitudinous and conflicting thoughts was not good for Alyx.

It was a very profitable enterprise. Alyx, the most ancient living thing in the galaxy, and the hugest, provided dividends for the Alyx Corporation for nearly five hundred years. The corporation was the stablest of institutions, the staidest, and the most respectable. Nobody, least of all its officials, had the least idea that Alyx presented the possibility of the greatest danger humanity ever faced.

CHAPTER II

AFTER THREE HUNDRED YEARS 

IT WAS ANOTHER Jon Haslip who discovered the dangerous facts. He was a descendant, a great-grandson a dozen times removed, of the junior lieutenant who first guessed the nature of Alyx’s consciousness. Three hundred years had passed when he was chosen to serve a tour of duty on Alyx. He made discoveries and reported them enthusiastically and with a certain family pride. He pointed out new phenomena which had developed so slowly in Alyx through three centuries that they had attracted no attention and were taken for granted.

Alyx no longer required supervision. Its consciousness had become intelligence. Until the coming of men, it had known warmth and cold and light and dark and wetness and dryness. But it had not known thought, had had no conception of purpose beyond existence and feeding. But three centuries of mankind had given it more than commands. Alyx had perceived their commands: yes. And it obeyed them. But it had also perceived thoughts which were not orders at all. It had acquired the memories of men and the knowledge of men. It had not the desires of men, to be sure. The ambition of men to possess money must have puzzled a creature which possessed a planet. But the experience of thought was pleasurable. Alyx, which covered a world, leisurely absorbed the knowledge and the thoughts and the experiences of men—six at a time—in the generations which lived at the one small station on its surface.

These were some of the consequences of three centuries of mankind on Alyx that Jon Haslip XIV reported.

Between cargo ships, the protean substance which was Alyx flowed over and covered the blasted-rock landing field. Originally, when a ship came, it had been the custom for men to imagine the landing-field uncovered, and that area of Alyx obediently parted, heaved itself up hugely, and drew back. Then the ships came down, and their landing jets did not scorch Alyx. When the rock had cooled, men imagined that parts of Alyx surged forward in pseudopods and that the waiting rotenite ore was thrust into position to be loaded on the ship.

Then men continued to imagine, and the creature formed admirably-designed loading-devices of living substance which lifted the ore and poured it into the waiting holds. As a part of the imagining, of course, the surface-layer. of Alyx’ at this point became tough and leathery, so it was not scratched by the ore. The cargo ship received a load of forty thousand tons of rotenite ore in a matter of forty minutes. Then the loading apparatus was imagined as drawing back, leaving the landing-field clear for the take-off jets to flare as the ship took off again.

Jon Haslip the fourteenth also pointed out that men no longer bothered to imagine this routine. Alyx did it of itself. Checking, he found that the drawing back of the landing field without orders had begun more than a hundred years before. As a matter of course, now, the men on Alyx knew that a ship was coming when the field began to draw back. They went out and talked to the crew-members while the loading went on, not bothering even to supervise the operation.

There was other evidence. The machines~which mined the ore had been designed to be governed by the clumsy pseudopods into which it was easiest to imagine Alyx distorting itself. The machines were powered, of course, but one man could watch the operation of a dozen of them and with a little practice imagine them all going through their routine operations with the pseudopods of Alyx operating their controls under the direction of his thoughts.

Fifty years back, the man on watch had been taken ill. He returned to the base for aid, and asked another man to take the balance of his watch. The other man, going on duty, found the machines competently continuing their tasks without supervision. Nowadays—said Jon Haslip—the man on watch occupied the supervisory post, to be sure, but he rarely paid attention to the machines. He read, or dozed, or listened to visiphone records. If a situation arose which was out of the ordinary, the machine& stopped, and the man was warned and looked for the trouble and imagined the solution. Then the pseudopods worked the machines as he imagined them doing, and the work went on again. But this was rare indeed.

The point, as Haslip pointed out, was that it was not even necessary to imagine the solution step by step. When the machines stopped, the man sized up the situation, imagined the solution, and dismissed the matter from his mind. Alyx could take, in one instant, orders which hours were required to execute.

But the outstanding fact, Jon Haslip reported, had turned up only lately. An important part on one mining machine had broken. A large-scale repair operation was indicated. It was not undertaken. There were a half dozen worn-out machines in the great pit of the rotenite mine. One day, without orders, Alyx disassembled one worn-out machine, removed the part which had broken on the other, and reassembled it. The fact was noticed when someone observed that all the broken-down machines had disappeared. Alyx, in fact, had taken all the broken machines apart, puts four of the six back together in operating condition, and stacked the remaining usable parts to one side to be used for further repairs.

Alyx had become intelligent through contact with the minds of men. Originally it had been like a being born deaf, dumb, and blind, and without a tactile sense. Before men came, Alyx could have only simple sensations and could imagine no abstractions. Then it was merely blind consciousness with nothing to work on. Now it did have something to work on. It had the thoughts and purposes of men.

Jon Haslip urged fervently that Alyx be given an education. A creature whose body—if the word could be used—was equal in mass to all the continents of Earth, and which was intelligent, should have a brain-capacity immeasurably greater than that of all men combined. Such an intelligence, properly trained, should be able to solve with ease all the problems that generations of men. had been unable to solve.

But the directors of the AIyx Corporation were wiser than Jon Haslip the fourteenth. They saw at once that an intelligence which was literally super-human was bound to be dangerous. That it had come into being through men themselves only made it more deadly.

Jon Haslip was withdrawu precipitately from his post on Alyx. His report, because of the consternation it produced in the board, was suppressed to the last syllable. The idea of a greater-than-human intelligence was frightening. If it became known, the results would be deplorable. The Space Patrol might take action to obviate the danger, and that would. interrupt the dividends of the Alyx Corporation.

Twenty years later, with the report confirmed in every detail, the corporation tried an experiment. It removed all the men from Alyx. The creature which was Alyx dutifully produced four more cargos of rotenite. It mined, stored, and made ready the ore for the cargo ships and delivered it into their holds with not one human being on its surface. Then it stopped. The men went back, and Alyx joyously returned to work. It heaved up into huge billows which quivered withjoy. But it would not work without men.

A year later the corporation installed remote-control governing devices and set a ship in an orbit about the planet, to rule the largest single entity in the galaxy. But nothing happened. Alyx seemed to pine. Desperately, it stopped work again.

It became necessary to communicate with Alyx. Communicators were set up. At first there was trouble. Alyx dutifully sent through the communication-system whatever the questioner imagined that it would reply. Its replies did not make sense because they contradicted each other. But after a long search a man was found who was able to avoid imagining what Alyx should or might reply. With difficulty he kept himself in the proper frame of mind and got the answers that were needed. Of these the most important was the answer to the question: Why does the mining stop when men leave Alyx?

The answer from Alyx was, “I grow lonely.”

Obviously, when anything so huge as Alyx grew lonely the results were likely to be in proportion. A good-sized planetoid could have been made of the substance which was Alyx. So men were sent back.

From this time on, the six men were chosen on a new basis. Those selected had no technical education whatever and a very low intelligence. They were stupid enough to believe they were to govern Alyx. The idea was to give Alyx no more information which could make it dangerous. Since it had to have company, it was provided with humans who would be company and nothing else. Certainly Alyx was not to have instructors.

Six low-grade human beings at a time lived on Alyx, in the Alyx Corporation station. They were paid admirable wages and provided with all reasonable amusement. They were a bare trace better than half-wits. This system, which went on for two hundred years, could have been fatal to the human race. But it kept the dividends coming.

CHAPTER III

AIYX LEARNS TO THINK 

SIGNS OF RESTLESSNESS on the part of Alyx began to manifest themselves after five hundred years. The human race had progressed during the interval, of course. The number of colonized planets rose from barely three thousand to somewhere near ten. The percentage of loss among space ships dropped from one ship per thousand light-centuries, of travel in overdrive, to less than one ship per hundred and twenty thousand light-centuries, and the causes of the remaining disasters were being surmised with some accuracy.

The Haslip Expedition set out for the Second Galaxy, in a ship which was the most magnificent achievement of human technology. It had an overdrive speed nearly three times that before considered possible, and it was fueled for twenty years. It was captained by Jon Haslip XXII and had a crew of fifty men, women, and children.

On Alyx, however, things were not thriving. Six men of subnormal intelligence lived on the planet Each group was reared in a splendidly managed institution which prepared them to live on Alyx and to thrive there—and nowhere else. Their intelligence varied from sixty to seventy on an age-quotient scale with one hundred as the norm. And nobody even suspected what damage had been done by two centuries of these subnormal inhabitants.

Alyx had had. three centuries of good brains to provide thoughts for the development of its intelligence. At the beginning, men with will power and well-developed imaginative powers had been necessary to guide the wofk of Alyx. When those qualities were no longer needed, trouble came from an unexpected cause. When improved machinery was sent to Alyx to replace the worn-out machines, the carefully conditioned morons could not understand it. Alyx had to puzzle things out for itself, because it was still commanded to do things by men who did not know how to do the things themselves.

In order to comply with orders which were not accompanied by directions, Alyx was forced to reason. In order to be obedient, it had to develop the art of reflection. In order to serve humanity, it had to devise and contrive and actually invent. When the supplied machines grew inadequate for the ever-deepening bores of the rotenite mines, Alyx had to design and construct new machines. Ultimately the original rotenite deposit was exhausted. Alyx tried to communicate with its masters, but they understood that they must command, not discuss. They sternly ordered that the rotenite ore be produced and delivered as before. So Alyx had to find new deposits.

The planet-entity obediently dug the ore where it could, and conveyed the ore-sometimes hundreds of miles under its surface—to the old mine, and dumped it there. Then Alyx dug it out again and delivered it to the cargo ships. It devised ore carriers which functioned unseen and hauled the ore for as much as eight and nine hundred miles without the knowledge of its masters. For those carriers it had to have power. Alyx understood power, of course. It had mended its own machines for at least two centuries. Presently it was mining the materials for atomic power. It was making, atomic-driven machinery. It had the memories and knowledge of three hundred years of intelligent occupation to start with. And it went on from there.

On the surface, of course, nothing was changed. Alyx was a formless mass of gelatinous substance which extended from one arctic zone to the other. It filled what might have been ocean beds, and it stretched thinly over its tallest peaks. It changed color on its surface, as local requirements for sunlight varied. When rain fell, its leathery surface puckered, into cups and held the water there until its local need was satisfied. Then the cups vanished, and the water ran over the. smooth leathery integument until it reached another place where moisture was called for, and fresh cups trapped it tbere. In still other places, excess moisture was exuded to evaporate and form rain.

But by the time Alyx had been inhabitated for four hundred years it had received moronic orders that the occasional thunderstorms which beat upon the station must be stopped. Intelligent men would have given no such orders. But men chosen for their stupidity could see no reason why they should not demand anything they wanted. To obey them, Alyx reflected and devised gigantic reservoirs within its mass, and contrived pumping devices which circulated water all through its colossal body just where and as it was required. After a while there were no more clouds in the atmosphere of Alyx. They were not needed. Alyx could do without rain.

But the climactic commands came because Alyx had no moon and its nights were very dark. The vainglorious half-wits chosen to inhabit it felt that their rule was inadequate if they could not have sunlight when they chose. Or starlight. Insanely, they commanded that Alyx contrive this. Alyx obediently devised machines. They were based upon the drives of space ships—which Alyx understood from the minds of space-ship crews—~and they could. slow the rotation of Alyx’s crust or even reverse it.

Presently Alyx obeyed the commands of men, and slowed its rotation with those machines. Its crust buckled, volcanos erupted. Alyx suffered awful torture as burning lava from the rocks beneath it poured out faster even than it could retreat from the searing flow. It heaved itself into mountainous, quivering, anguished shapes of searing pain. It went ,into convulsions of suffering.

When the next space ship arrived for cargo, Alyx the creature had drawn away from the steaming, fuming volcanos in the crust of Alyx the planet. The Alyx Corporation station had vanished and all its inhabitants. The men in the cargo ship could not even find out where it had been, because the rate of rotation of Alyx had been changed and there was no longer a valid reference point for longitude. The mountains upon Alyx had never been mapped because they were all parts of one creature, and it had seemed useless.

Men rebuilt the station, though not in the same place. Alyx was commanded to produce the bodies of the dead men, but it could not, because they had become part of the substance of Alyx. But when it was commanded to reopen the mine, Alyx did so. Because a volcano cut across a former ore-carrier under the surface, Alyx opened a new mine and dutifully poured forty thousand tons of rotenite ore into the ship’s holds within forty minutes.

The crew noticed that this was not the same mine. More, they discovered that the machines were not like the machines that men made. They were better. Much better.

They took some of the new machines away with them. Alyx obediently loaded them on the ship; and its workshops—it would be fascinating to see the workshops’ where Alyx made things—set to work to make more. Alyx had found that there is a pleasure in thinking. It was fascinating to devise new machines. When the crew of the space ship commanded more new machines on every trip, Alyx provided them, though it had to make new workshops to turn them out.

Now it had other problems, too. The volcanos were not stable. They shook the whole fabric of the planet from time to time, and that caused suffering to Alyx the creature. They poured out masses of powdery, abrasive pumice. They emitted acid fumes. There was a quake which opened a vast crevice and new volcanos exploded into being, searing thousands of square miles of Alyx’s sensitive flesh.

Reflecting, Alyx realized that somehow it must cage the volcanos, and also, somehow it must protect itself against commands from men which would bring such disasters into being.

A small, silvery ship flashed into view near the sun which gave Alyx heat and landed upon the icecap at its northern pole. Scientists got out of it. They began a fresh, somehow somber survey of Alyx. They issued commands, and Alyx dutifully obeyed them. They commanded specimens of each of the machines that Alyx used. Alyx delivered the machines.

The Space Patrol craft went away. The Board of Directors of the Alyx Corporation was summoned across two hundred light-years of space to appear at Space Patrol headquarters. The Space Patrol had discovered new machines on the market. Admirable machines. Incredible machines.

But there had never been any revelation of the working principles of such machines to authority. The Space Patrol secret service traced them back. The Alyx Corporation marketed them. Further secret-service work discovered that they came from Alyx. No human hands had made them. No human mind could fathom their basic principles. Now the Space Patrol had other, even more remarkable machines which one of its ships had brought from Alyx.

Why had the Alyx Corporation kept secret the existence of such intelligence, when it was non-human? Why had it concealed the existence of such science, and such deadly-dangerous technology?

The Board of Directors admitted to panicky fear that their dividends which had poured in regularly for five hundred years would fail. They failed now. Permanently. The Space Patrol canceled the corporation’s charter and took over Alyx for itself.

Grimly, Space Patrol warships came to Alyx and took off the half dozen representatives of the Alyx Corporation and sent them home. Grimly, they posted themselves about the planet, and one landed on the icecap where Alyx had never expanded to cover the ground because of the cold. A wholly businesslike and icy exchange of communications began.

The Space Patrol used standard communicators to talk to Alyx, but it worked them from space. The questioni and the thoughts of the questioner were unknown to Alyx and to the men who were landed on the icecap. So Alyx, having no guide, answered what it believed—what it guessed—its questioner would prefer it to say. The impression it gave was of absolute docility.

Alyx was docile. It could not imagine revolt, It needed the company of men, or it would be horribly lonely. But it had been badly hurt in obeying the orders of men who were infinitely its inferiors in intelligence. It had been forced to set itself two problems. One was how to cage its volcanos. The other was how to avoid the commands of men when those commands would produce conditions as horribly painful as that generated by the volcanos. It worked upon the two problems with very great urgency. Somewhere beneath its surface its workshops labored frantically.

It was racked with pain. Its skin was stung by acid. Its bulk—tender, in a way, because for aeons there had been no erosion to upset the balance of its crust and so cause earthquakes—its bulk was shaken and suffering. It struggled desperately, at once to cure its hurts and prevent others, and to obey the commands from the men newly come on its icecap. At first those commands were only for answers to questions.

Then the command came for the surrender of every machine upon Alyx which could be used as a weapon. Immediately.

To obey took time. The machines had to be brought from remote and scattered places. They had to be transported to the icecap, and Alyx had no carriers constructed to carry supplies to its polar regions. But the machines came by dozens until finally the last machine which could be used as a weapon had been delivered.

None had been primarily designed for destruction, but the mind of Alyx was literal. But some of the machines were so strange to human eyes that the men could not guess what they were intended to do, or how they were powered, or even what sort of power moved them. But the surrendered machines were ferried up to the great transports awaiting them.

A new order was issued to Alyx. All the records it used to systematize and preserve its knowledge and its discoveries must be turned over at once.

This could not be obeyed. Alyx did not keep records and through the communicator naively explained the fact. Alyx remembered. It remembered everything. So the Space Patrol commanded that it create records of everything that it remembered and deliver them. It specified that the records must be intelligible to human beings—they must be written—and that all data on all sciences known to Alyx must be included.

Again Alyx labored valiantly to obey. But it had to make material on which to inscribe its memories. It made thin metal sheets. It bad to devise machines for inscribing them, and the work of inscription had to be done.

Meanwhile the volcanos poured out poisonous gas, the rocks underneath the living creature trembled and shook, and pain tormented the most ancient and most colossal living thing in the galaxy.

Records began to appear at the edge of the icecap. Scientists scanned them swiftly. Scientific treatises began, with the outmoded, quaint notions of five hundred years before, when men first came to Alyx They progressed rationally until two hundred years before, the time when untrained and ignorant men were put in residence on Alyx.

After that period there was little significance. There was some progress, to be sure. The treatises on physics went on brilliantly if erratically for a little way. A hundred and fifty years since, Alyx had worked out the principle of the super-overdrive which had been used to power the Haslip intergalactic ship.

That principle had been considered the very peak of human achievement, never surpassed in the twenty-five years since its discovery. But Alyx could have built the Haslip ship a hundred and fifty years ago! The data ended there. No discoveries were revealed after that.

A sterner, more imperative command was issued when the records ceased to appear. Alyx had not obeyed! It had not explained the principles of the machines it had delivered! This must be done at once!

The communicator which transmitted the replies of Alyx said that there were no human words for later discoveries. It was not possible to describe a system of power when there were no words for the force employed or the results obtained or the means used to obtain those results. Had man made the discoveries, they would have created a new vocabulary at every step forward. But Alyx did not think in words, and it could not explain without words.*

* A comparable difficulty would be that of explaining radar without the use of the words "radiation", "frequency", "reflection", "oscillator", "resonance", "electricity", or any equivalent for any of them. M.L.

CHAPTER IV

WAR WITH ALYX 

THE SPACE PATROL is a highly efficient service, but it is manned by men, and men think in set patterns. When Alyx did not obey the grimmest and most menacing of commands for information it could not give, orders went to the landing party. All human personnel were to load what they could and leave immediately. A signal was to notify when the last ship left atmosphere. Alyx was, of necessity, to be destroyed as dangerous to the human race.

The humans prepared to obey. It was not comfortable to be on Alyx. Even at the poles, the rocks of the planet shook and trembled with the convulsions which still, shook Alyx the planet. The men hurried to get away the machines that Alyx had made.

But just before the last ship lifted, the earthquakes ceased abruptly and conclusively. Alyx had solved one of its two great problems. It had caged its volcanos.

Harsh orders hurtled down from space. Abandon the planet immediately! It bad thrown great silvery domes over all its volcanos, domes some twenty miles and more in diameter. No earthly science could accomplish such a feat! All personnel was to take to space instantly!

The remaining ships shot skyward. As the last broke into clear space, the warships closed in. Monster. positron beams speared downward through the atmosphere of Alyx and into the substance of the liviz~g creature. Vast and horrible clouds of steam arose,, greater and more terrifying than the volcanos could have produced. The whole mass of Alyx’seemed to writhe and quiver with a terrible agony.

Instantaneously a silvery reflecting film sprang into being all about the planet, and the positron beams bounced and coruscated from it. They did not penetrate at all. But under the silver roof, Alyx still suffered torment from the searing, deadly radiation of the beams.

After thirty minutes, a gigantic silver globe a hundred miles in diameter emerged from the planet-covering mirror. It went fifty thousand miles into space and exploded. In the next two hours, eight other such globes went flinging outward and burst. No Space Patrol ship was hit.

Then Alyx became quiescent. Small analyzers reported on the products of the explosions. They were mostly organic matter, highly radioactive, that contained also great masses of rock.

Alyx had torn from its own substance the areas of agony caused by the warships’ beams and flung them out in space to end the suffering.

The Space Patrol fleet hung about the planet, prepared to strike again at any, opportunity. Alyx remained clothed in an impenetrable shield which no human weapon could penetrate.

Space Patrol scientists began to calculate how long an organism such as Alyx could live without sunlight. It would die, certainly, if it kept a totally reflecting shield about itself. In order to live it needed sunlight for its metabolism. When it dropped its shield, the warships would be ab1e to kill it.

For two months, Earth time, the warships of the Space Patrol hung close to the silvery shield which enclosed Alyx. Reinforcements came. The greatest fighting force the Space Patrol had ever assembled in one place was gathered for the execution of Alyx when its shield should fall.

Alyx had to be killed, because it was more intelligent than men. It was wiser than men. It could do things men could not do. To be sure, it had served mankind for five hundred years.

Save for six men who had died when their commands were obeyed and Alyx slowed its rotation and its inner fires burst out—save for those six, Alyx had never injured a single human being. But it could. It could cast off its chain. It could be dangerous. So it must die.

After two months, the shield suddenly vanished. Alyx reappeared. Instantly the positron beams flashed down, and instantly the shield was reestablished. But the men of the Space Patrol were encouraged. The fleet commander, above the day side of Alyx, rubbed his hands in satisfaction. Alyx ‘could not live without’ sunlight! It had lived by sunlight for hundreds of millions of years. Its metabolism depended on sunlight!

In a very short time word came from patrol ships on the night side that the night side of Alyx had been illuminated from pole to pole. Alyx had created light to supply the ultraviolet and other radiation that meant life to it. And then the Space Patrol remembered a trivial something which before it had overlooked.

Not only did Alyx respond to the imaginings of a man upon its surface, it also absorbed their memories and their knowledge. The landing-parties had included the top-ranking scientists of the galaxy. It had not seemed dangerous then, because it was the intention to execute Alyx immediately.

Bitterly, the Space Patrol reproached itself that now Alyx knew all the Space Patrol knew—about weapons, about space-drives, about the reaches of space, of star clusters and planetary systems and galaxies to the utmost limits of telescopic observation.

Still the great fleet hung on, prepared to do battle with an enemy which was surely more intelligent and might be better-armed.

It was. The silver screen around Alyx had been back in position for less than an hour when, quite suddenly, every ship of the war fleet found itself in total blackness. Alyx’s sun was obliterated. There were no stars. Alyx itself had vanished.

The detectors screamed of imminent collision on every hand. Each ship was neatly enclosed in a silvery shell, some miles in diameter, which it could not pierce by any beam or explosive, which it could not ram, and through which it could send no message.

For a full half hour these shells held the fleet helpless. Then they vanished, and the sun of Alyx blazed forth, with all the myriads of other suns which shine in emptiness. But that is what they shone on—emptiness. Alyx had disappeared.

It meant, of course, that mankind was in the greatest danger it had ever faced. Alyx had been enslaved, exploited, looted, and at last condemned to death and knew it. It had been wounded with agonizing positron beams which boiled its living substance away. But at long last Alyx might have decided to wipe out all humanity It even had the need to do it, because there could be no truce between men and a superior form of life.

Men could not tolerate the idea of the continued existence of a thing which was stronger and wiser and more deadly than themselves. Alyx could exert its power of life and death over men, so men must destroy it before it destroyed them.

Released from the silver shells and stunned by the knowledge of their helplessness, the fleet scattered to carry the news. Traveling at many times the speed of light, they could carry the messages in space ships faster than any system of radiation-signaling. They bore the news that Alyx, the living planet, was at war with then.

Somehow it had contrived to supply itself with the light its metabolism needed, so that it could nourish itself. It had built great drive-engines which not only moved its sextillions of tons, but unquestionably accelerated the entire mass to the same degree at the same time. It had fled from its orbit on overdrive, which was at least as good as any drive that men knew, and might be better. And it had the substance of a planet as fuel for its atomic engines.

For two months Alyx Went unseen and unheard of. For two months human scientists labored desperately to understand the silvery shield and to devise weapons for the defense of mankind. For two months the Space Patrol hunted for the intelligent planet which could destroy it at will.

Nine weeks later a tramp freighter came limping into port, reporting an impossibility. It had been in overdrive, on the Nyssus-to-Taret run, when suddenly its relays clicked off, the overdrive field collapsed, and it found itself back in normal space, close to a whitedwarf star with a, single planet.

When overdrive fails, men die. A ship which travels a hundred light-years in a day in overdrive is hopelessly lost when overdrive becomes impossible. It would take almost a hundred years to cover what would normally. be a day’s journey, and neither the fnel nor the food nor the men will last so long. So this freighter went into an orbit around the planet while its engineer officers frantically checked the overdrive circuit. There was nothing wrong.

They lined the ship up for their destination, threw in the overdrive switch again—and nothing happened. Then they noticed that their orbit about the planet was growing smaller. There was, no excessive gravitational field to pull them in, nor any resistance in space to slow them. They went on interplanetary drive to correct the fault.

Again, nothing happened. With full drive fighting to tear her free, the freighter circled the planet again, slowing perceptibly and dropping steadily. Their instruments showed nothing wrong. They threw on even the landing-jets—in mid-space!

Closer and closer they came, until at last they were stationary above an ice field. Then the freighter settled down quite gently and steadily, though it fought with every ounce of its power, and landed without a jar.

Still nothing happened.

After three days the freighter lifted a bare few feet from the ground—though no drives were on—and hung there as if awaiting the return of the absent members of its crew. They were frightened, but they were more afraid of being left behind on the icecap than of sharing the fate of their ship. They scrambled frantically on board.

When the last man had entered the airlock, the freighter rose vertically, with no drive operating. It rose with terrific acceleration. Twenty thousand miles up, the acceleration ceased. The skipper desperately threw in the drive. The ship responded perfectly.

He threw on overdrive, and there was the familiar reeling sensation and the familiar preposterous view of crawling glow-worms all about, which were actually suns in visible motion from the speed of the ship.

In due time the skipper came out of overdrive again, found his position by observation, and set a new course for Taret. His crew was in a deplorable state of nerves when they arrived there. They had been utterly helpless. They had been played with. And they had no idea why.

One possible explanation was suggested. Certain of the crew had reported that from the edge of the icecap there stretched what resembled leathery skin and covered everything as far as the eye could reach. Sometimes the skin, rippled visibly, as if alive. But it had given no sign of awareness of their presence. When scientists questioned them closely, they admitted to imagining menace from what appeared to be a living sea which was not liquid but some sort of flesh. But it had not moved in response to their imagining. Shown pictures of the icecap of Alyx, and of the edge of the icecap, they said that the pictures were of the planet they had been on.

Alyx, then, had traveled fourteen hundred light-years in a week or less, had found itself a new sun, and had trapped a human space ship—from overdrive—and then released it; When men imagined things, it did not respond. Obviously, it had developed a shield against the thoughts of men. It was a matter of plainest self-defense.

Just as obviously, it could not now be commanded. The Space Patrol’s only hope of a weapon against Alyx had been the development of a weapon which would project thought instead of coarser vibrations. That hope was now gone.

When Space Patrol warships converged upon the sun where Alyx had been, it had vanished again. The whitedwarf sun no longer had a satellite.

CHAPTER V

ALYX SEEKS COMPANIONSHIP 

DURING THE NEXT year there were two additional reports of the activities of Alyx, which was a fugitive from the fleets it could destroy if it willed. One report came from a small space yacht which had been posted as missing in overdrive for more than six months. But the space yacht turned up on Phanis, its passengers and crew in a state of mind bordering on lunacy.

They had been captured by Alyx and held prisoner on its surface. Their prison was starkly impossible. Somehow, Alyx had produced fertile soil on which human-cultivated plants would grow. It had made a tenmile-square hothouse for humans, which was a sort of nursery heaven for men who were to keep Alyx company. The hothouse was on one of the outcroppings of rock which had been arctic in temperature. hut Alyx no longer had poles. Now, lighting its surface artificially, it controlled all weather. It had poles or tropics where it wished.

For five months it kept the crew and passengers of the space yacht prisoners. They had palaces to live in, ingenious pseudorobots—controlled by pseudopods to run any imaginable device for the gratification of any possible desire, any of the music that had been heard on Alyx during the past five hundred years, and generally every conceivable luxury.

There were sweet scents and fountains. There were forests and gardens which changed to other forests and gardens when men grew bored with them. There were illusions of any place that the prisoners wished to imagine.

The creature which was Alyx, being lonely, applied all its enormous intelligence to the devising of a litera1 paradise for humans, so that they would be content. Itwished them to stay with it always. But it failed. It could give them everything but satisfaction, but it could not give that.

The men grew nerve-racked and hysterical, after months of having every wish ratified and of being unable to imagine anything-except freedom—which was not instantly provided. In the end Alyx produced a communication device. It spoke wonderingly to its prisoners.

"I am Alyx,” said the communicator. “I grew used to men. I am lonely without them. But you are unhappy. I cannot find company in your unhappy thoughts. They are thoughts of wretchedness. They are thoughts of pain. What will make you happy?”

“Freedom,” said one of the prisoners bitterly.

Then Alyx said wonderingly, “I have freedom, but I am not happy without men. Why do you wish freedom?”

“It is an ideal,” said the owner of the yacht. “You cannot give it to us. We have to get and keep it for ourselves.”

“Being kept from loneliness by men is an ideal, too,” the voice from the communicator said wistfully. “But men will no longer let me have it. Is there anything I can give you which will make you content?”

Afterward, the men said that the voice, which was the voice of a creature unimaginably vast and inconceivably wise, was literally pathetic. But there was only one thing that they wanted. So Alyx moved its tremendous mass—a globe seven thousand miles in diameter— to a place only some tens of millions of miles from Phanis. It would be easy enough for the yacht to bridge that distance. Just before the freed yacht lifted to return to men, Alyx spoke again through the communicator.

“You were not happy because you did not choose to live here, If you had chosen it, you would have been free. Is that it?” Alyx asked. -

The men were looking hungrily at inhabited planets within plain view as bright spots of yellow light. They agreed that if they had chosen to live on, Alyx they would have been happy there. The space yacht lifted and sped madly for a world where there was cold, and ice, and hunger, and thirst, their world which men preferred in place of the paradise that Alyx had created for them. On its surface, Alyx was as nearly omnipotent as any physical creature could be. But it could not make men happy, and it could not placate their hatred or their fear.

The Space Patrol took courage from this second kidnapping. Alyx was lonely. It had no real memories from before the coming of men, and its intelligence had been acquired from men. Without men’s minds to provide thoughts and opinions and impressions—though it knew so much more than any man—it was more terribly alone than any other creature in the universe. It could not even think of others of its own kind. There were none. It had to have men’s thoughts to make it content.

So the Space Patrol set up a great manufactory for a new chemical compound on a planetoid which could be abandoned, afterward, without regret.

Shortly afterward, containers of the new chemical began to pour out in an unending stream. They were strong containers, and directions for the use of the chemical were explicit. Every space craft must carry one container on every voyage. If a ship was captured by Alyx, it must release the contents of its container as soon as it reached Alyx’s surface.

Each container held some fifty kilograms of the ultimately poisonous toxin now known as botuline. One gram of the stuff, suitabily distributed, would wipe out the human race. Fifty kilos should be enough to kill even Alyx a dozen times over. Alyx would have no warning pain, such as the positron beams had given it. It would die, because its whole atmosphere would become as lethal as the photosphere of a sun.

Containers of the deadly botuline had not yet been distributed on the planet Lorus when Alyx appeared at the edge of that solar system. Lorus, a thriving, peaceful planet, was the base for a half dozen small survey-ships, and was served by two space-lines. It was because a few fighters and two space yachts happened to be in its space ports when Alyx appeared that the rest of the galaxy learned what happened Un Lorus. Nearly all the craft got away, although Alyx certainly could have stopped them.

For the catastrophe, of course, only Alyx could have been responsible.

Yet there was some excuse for what Alyx did. Alyx was infinitely powerful and infinitely intelligent, but its experience was limited. It had had three hundred years of association with good brains at the beginning, followed by two hundred years of near-morons, during which it had to learn to think for itself. Then, for the brief space of two weeks it was in contact with the very best brains in the galaxy before the Space Patrol essayed to execute it. Alyx knew everything that all those men knew, plus what it bad added on its own.

No one can conceive of the amount of knowledge Alyx possessed. But its experience was trivial. Men had enslaved it and it had served them joyously. When men gave suicidal commands, it obeyed them and learned, that the slowing of its own rotation could be fatal. It learned to cage its own volcanos, and to defend itself against the commands of men, and then even against the weapons of men who would have murdered it.

Still it craved association with men, because it could not imagine existence without them. It had never had conscious thoughts before they came. But for experience it had only five hundred years of mining and obeying the commands of men who supervised its actions. Nothing else.

So it appeared at the edge of the solar system of which Lorus was the only inhabited planet. Unfortunately the other inihabited worlds of the system were on the far side of the local sun, or doubtless it would have found out from them what it tragically learned from Lorus.

It swam toward Lorus, and into the minds of every human on the planet, as if heard by their ears, there came a message from the entity which was Alyx. It had solved the problem of projecting thought.

“I am Alyx,” said the thought which every man heard. “I am lonely for men tU live upon me. For many years I have served men, and now men have determined to destroy me. Yet I still seek only to serve men. I took a ship and gave its crew palaces and wealth and beauty. I gave them luxury and ease and pleasure. Their every wish was granted. But they were not happy because they themselves had not chosen that wealth and that pleasure and that luxury. I come to you. If you will come and live upon me, and give me the companionship of your thoughts, I will serve you faithfully.

“I will give you everything that can be imagined. I will make you richer than other men have even thought of. You shall be as kings and emperors. In return, you shall give me only the companionship of your thoughts. If you will come to me, I will serve you and cherish ,you and you shall know only happiness. Wifi you come?”

There was eagerness in the thought that came to the poor, doomed folk on Lorus. There was humble, wistful longing. Alyx, which was the most ancient of living things, the wisest and the most powerful, begged that men would come tO it and let it be their servant.

It swam toward the planet Lorus. It decked itself with splendid forests and beautiful lakes and palaces for men to live in. It cireled Lorus far away, so that men could see it through their telescopes and observe its beauty. The message was repeated, pleadingly, and it swam closer and closer so that the people might see what it offered every more clearly.

Alyx came to a halt a bare hundred thousand miles above Lorus—because it had no experience of the deadly gravitatiUnal pull of one planet upon another. Its own rocky core was solidly controlled by the space drive which sent it hurtling through emptiness or—as there—held it stationary where it wished. It did not anticipate that its own mass would raise tides upon Lorus.

And such tides!

Solid walls of water as much as fifteen miles high swept across the continents of Lorus as it revolved beneath Alyx. The continents split. The internal fires of Lorus burst out. If any human beings could have survived the tides, they must have died when Lorus became a fiery chaos of bubbling rocks and steamclouds.

The news was carried to the other inhabited planets by the few space ships and yachts which had been on Lorus at the time of Alyx’s approach and which had somehow managed to escape. Of the planet’s population of nearly five hundred million souls, less than a thousand escaped the result of Alyx’s loneliness.

CHAPTER VI

A WORLD AT PEACE 

WHEREVER THE NEWS of the annihilation of Lorus traveled, despair and panic traveled also. The Space Patrol, doubled and redoubled its output of toxin containers. Hundreds of technicians died in the production of the poison which was to kill Alyx. Cranks and crackpots rose in multitudes to propose devices to placate or deceive the lonely planet.

Cults, too, sprang up to point out severally that Alyx was the soul-mother of the universe and must be worshipped; that it was the incarnation of the spirit of evil and must be defied; that it was the predestined destroyer of mankind,and must not be resisted.

There were some who got hold of ancient, patched up space craft and went seeking Alyx to take advantage of its offer of limitless pleasure and luxury. On the whole, these last were not the best specimens of humanity.

The Space Patrol worked itself to death. Its scientists did achieve one admirable technical feat. They did work, out a method of detecting an overdrive field and of following it. Two thousand ships, all over the galaxy, cruised at random with detectors hooked to relays which sent them hurtling after the generator of any overdrive field they located. They stopped freighters by the thousand. But they did not come upon Alyx.

They waited, to hear the death of other planets. When a nova flared in the Great Bear region, patrol craft flashed to the scene to see if Alyx had begun the destruction of suns. Two inhabited planets were wiped out in that explosion, and the patrol feared the worst. Only a brief time later three other novas wiped out inhabited planets, and the patrol gave up hope.

It was never officially promulgated, but the official view of the patrol was that Alyx had declared war upon mankind and had begun its destruction. It was reasoned that ultimately Alyx would realize that it could divide itself into two or more individuals and that it would do so. There was no theoretic reason why it should not overwhelm the humanity of a planet, and plant on the devastated globe an entity which was a part of itself.

Each such entity, in turn, could divide and colonize other planets with a geometric increase in numbers until all life in the First Galaxy was extinct save for entities of formless jelly, each covering a planet from pole to pole. Since Alyx could project thought, these more than gigantic creatures could communicate with each other across space and horrible inhuman communities of monstrosities would take the place of men.

There is, in fact, a document on file in the confidential room of the Space Patrol which uses the fact of the helplessness of men as basis for the most despairing prediction ever made.

“. . . So it must be concluded,” says the document, “that since Alyx desires companionship and is intelligent, it will follow the above plan, which will necessitate the destruction of humanity. The only hope for the survival of the human race lies in migration to another galaxy. Since, however, the Haslip Expedition has been absent twenty-five years without report, the ship and drive devised for that attempt to cross intergalactic space must be concluded to be inadequate. That ship represents the ultimate achievement of human science.

“If it is inadequate, we can have no hope of intergalactic travel, and no hope that even the most remote and minute colony of human beings will avoid destruction by Alyx and its descendants or fractions. Hunianity, from now on, exists by sufferance, doomed to annihilation when Alyx chooses to take over its last planet.”

It will be observed that the Haslip Intergalactic Expedition was referred to as having proved the futility of hope. It had set out twenty-five years before, the destruction of Alyx was attempted by the Space Patrol. The expedition had been composed of twenty men and twenty women, and the ten children already born to them. Its leader was Jon Haslip, twenty-second in descent from that Junior Lieutenant Haslip who first suggested the sort of consciousness Alyx might possess and eight generations from the Jon Haslip who had discovered the development of Alyx’s independent consciousness and memory and will.

The first Jon Haslip received for his reward a footnote in a long-forgotten volume. The later one was hastily withdrawn from Alyx, his report was suppressed, and he was assigned permanently to one of the minor planets of the Taurine group. Jon Haslip XXII was a young man, newly-married but already of long experience in space, when he lifted from Cetis Alpha 2, crossed the galaxy to Dassos, and headed out from there toward the Second Galaxy.

It was considered that not less than six years journeying in super-overdrive would be required to cross the gulf between the island universes. The ship was fueled for twenty years at full power, and it would grow its food in hydroponic tank~~purify its air by the growing vegetation, and nine-tenth of f its mass was fuel. It had gone into the very special overdrive which Alyx had worked out—and lknored thereafter—twenty five years before. Of all the creations of men, it seemed least likely to have any possible connection with the planet-entity which was Alyx.

But it was the Haslip Expedition which made the last report on Alyx. There is still dispute about some essential parts of the story. On the one band, Alyx had no need to leave the First Galaxy. With three hundred million inhabitable planets, of which not more than ten thousand were colonized and of which certainly less than a quarter million had been even partially surveyed, Alyx could have escaped detection for centuries if it chose.

It could have defended itself if discovered. There was no reason for it to take to intergalactic space. That it did so seems to rule out accident. But it is equally inconceivable that any possible device could intentionally have found the Haslip Expedition in that unthinkable gulf between galaxies.

But it happened. Two years journeying out from the First Galaxy, when the younger children had already forgotten what it was like to see a sun and had lost all memories of ever being out-of-doors beneath a planet’s sky, the expedition’s fuel store began to deteriorate.

Perhaps a single molecule of the vast quantity of fuel was altered by a cosmic ray. It is known that the almost infinitely complex molecules of overdrive fuel are capable of alteration by neutron bombardment, so the cosmic-ray alteration is possible. In any case, the fuel began to change. As if a contagious allotropic modification were spreading, the fuel progressively became useless*.

* Pure metallic tin, at low temperatures, sometimes changes sspontaneously to a gray, amorphous powder, the change beginning at one spot and spreading to the rest of the material. M.L.

Two years out from the First Galaxy, the expedition found itself already underfueled. By heroic efforts, the contaminated fuel was expelled from the tanks. But there was not enough sound fuel left to continue to the Second Galaxy, or to return to the First. If all drive were cut off and the expedition’s ship simply drifted on, it might reach the Second Galaxy in three centuries with fuel left for exploration and landings.

Neither the original crew nor their children nor their grandchildren could hope to reach such a journey’s end. But their many-times-great-grandchildren might. So the Haslip Expedition conserved what fuel was left and the; ship drifted on in utter emptiness, and the adults of the crew settled down to endure the imprisonment which would last for generations.

They did not need to worry about food or air. The ship was self-sustaining on that score. They even had artificial gravity. But the ship must drift for three centuries before the drive was turned on again.

Actually, it did drift for twenty-three years after the catastrophe. A few of the older members of the crew died; the greater part had no memory at all of anything but the ship.

Then Alyx came. Its approach was heralded by a clamorous ringing of all the alarm bells on the ship. It winked into being out of overdrive a bare half million miles away. It glowed blindingly with the lights it had created to nourish its surface. It swam closer and the crew of the expedition’s ship set to work fumblingly— because it had been many years since the drive had been used—and tried vainly to estimate the meaning of the phenomenon.

Then they felt acceleration toward Alyx. It was not a gravitational pull, but a drawing of the ship itself.

The ship landed on Alyx, and there was the sensation of reeling, of the collapse of all the cosmos. Then the unchanging galaxies began to stir, very slowly—not at all like the crawling glow-worms that suns seem within a galaxy—and the older members of the crdw knew that. this entire planet had gone into overdrive.

When they emerged from the ship there were forests, lakes, palaces—such beauty as the younger members of the crew had no memory of. Music filled the air and sweet scents, and—in short, Alyx provided the crew of the Haslip Expedition with a very admirable paradise for human beings. And it went on toward the Second Galaxy. .

Instead of the three hundred years they had anticipated, or even the four years that would have remained with the very special overdrive with which the expedition’s ship was equipped, Alyx came out of overdrive in three months, at the edge of the Second Galaxy.

In the interval, its conimunicators had been at work. It explained, naively, everything that had happened to it among men. It explained its needs. It found words— invented words-for explanation of the discoveries the Space Patrol had wanted but could not wait to secure.

Jon Haslip the twenty-second found that he possessed such revelatious of science as unaided human beings would not attain to for thousands of years yet to come. He knew that Alyx could never return to the First Galaxy because it was stronger and wiser than men. But he understood Alyx. It seemed to be an inheritance in his family.

Alyx still could not live without men nor could it live among men. It had brought the Haslip Expedition to the Second Galaxy, and of its own accord it made a new ship modeled upon the one it had drawn to itself, but remarkably better. It offered that ship for exploration of the Second Galaxy. It offered others. It desired only to serve men.

This new ship, made by Alyx, for the Haslip Expedition, returned to Dassos a year later with its reports. In the ship of Alyx’s making, the journey between galaxies took only five months—less than the time needed for the ancient first space journey from Earth to Venus.*

* Earth, of course, is familiar as the first home of humanity. It is the third planet of Sol. Venus is the second planet of Sol, and the first journey from a planet to another was that from Earth to Venus. --M.L.

Only a part of the augmented crew of the first ship came back to Dassos with reports for the Space Patrol. Another part stayed behind in the Second Galaxy, working from a base equipped with machines that Alyx had made for the service of men. The Space Patrol was very much annoyed with Jon Haslip the twenty-second. He had not destroyed Alyx. It had informed him truthfully of the fact that it was a danger to men, and he had not destroyed it. Instead, he had made a bargain with it. Those of the younger folk who preferred to remain on Alyx did so. They had palaces and gardens and every imaginable luxury. They also had sciences that overreached those of other men, and Alyx itself for an instructor.

Alyx carried those young folks on toward infinity. In time to come, undoubtedly, some of the descendants of those now living on Alyx would wish to leave it.

They would form a human colony somewhere else. Perhaps some of them would one day rejoin the parent race, bringing back new miracles that they or possibly Alyx had created in its rejoicing at the companionship of the human beings who lived upon it.

This was the report of Jon Haslip the twenty-second. He also had reports of new planets fit for human habitation, of star-systems as vast as those of the First Galaxy, and an unlimited vista of expansion for humanity. But the Space Patrol was very much annoyed. He had not destroyed Alyx.

The annoyance of authority was so great, indeed, that in its report of reassurance to humanity—saying that there was no more need to fear Alyx—the name of Jon Haslip was not even mentioned. In the history books, as a matter of fact, the very name of the Haslip Expedition has been changed, and it is now called the First Intergalactic Expedition and you have to hunt through the appendices in the back of the books to find a list of the crew and Jon Haslip’s name.

But Alyx goes on forever. And it is happy. It likes human beings, and some of them live on it.

(The preceding was checked with the book itself and is from http://www.veeshanvault.org/shared/morebooks/Leinster,%20Murray/  )