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The Good Neighbors   By: (1909-1976)

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Transcriber's note. This story was published in Galaxy magazine, June 1960. Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed.

By EDGAR PANGBORN

The Good Neighbors

You can't blame an alien for a little inconvenience as long as he makes up for it!

Illustrated by WOOD

The ship was sighted a few times, briefly and without a good fix. It was spherical, the estimated diameter about twenty seven miles, and was in an orbit approximately 3400 miles from the surface of the Earth. No one observed the escape from it.

The ship itself occasioned some excitement, but back there at the tattered end of the 20th century, what was one visiting spaceship more or less? Others had appeared before, and gone away discouraged or just not bothering. 3 dimensional TV was coming out of the experimental stage. Soon anyone could have Dora the Doll or the Grandson of Tarzan smack in his own living room. Besides, it was a hot summer.

The first knowledge of the escape came when the region of Seattle suffered an eclipse of the sun, which was not an eclipse but a near shadow, which was not a shadow but a thing. The darkness drifted out of the northern Pacific. It generated thunder without lightning and without rain. When it had moved eastward and the hot sun reappeared, wind followed, a moderate gale. The coast was battered by sudden high waves, then hushed in a bewilderment of fog.

Before that appearance, radar had gone crazy for an hour.

The atmosphere buzzed with aircraft. They went up in readiness to shoot, but after the first sighting reports only a few miles offshore, that order was vehemently canceled someone in charge must have had a grain of sense. The thing was not a plane, rocket or missile. It was an animal.

If you shoot an animal that resembles an inflated gas bag with wings, and the wingspread happens to be something over four miles tip to tip, and the carcass drops on a city it's not nice for the city.

The Office of Continental Defense deplored the lack of precedent. But actually none was needed. You just don't drop four miles of dead or dying alien flesh on Seattle or any other part of a swarming homeland. You wait till it flies out over the ocean, if it will the most commodious ocean in reach.

It, or rather she, didn't go back over the Pacific, perhaps because of the prevailing westerlies. After the Seattle incident she climbed to a great altitude above the Rockies, apparently using an updraft with very little wing motion. There was no means of calculating her weight, or mass, or buoyancy. Dead or injured, drift might have carried her anywhere within one or two hundred miles. Then she seemed to be following the line of the Platte and the Missouri. By the end of the day she was circling interminably over the huge complex of St. Louis, hopelessly crying.

[Illustration]

She had a head, drawn back most of the time into the bloated mass of the body but thrusting forward now and then on a short neck not more than three hundred feet in length. When she did that the blunt turtle like head could be observed, the gaping, toothless, suffering mouth from which the thunder came, and the soft shining purple eyes that searched the ground but found nothing answering her need. The skin color was mud brown with some dull iridescence and many peculiar marks resembling weals or blisters. Along the belly some observers saw half a mile of paired protuberances that looked like teats.

She was unquestionably the equivalent of a vertebrate. Two web footed legs were drawn up close against the cigar shaped body... Continue reading book >>




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