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[Illustration: Want to join our secret organization? Well, first you have to pass the tests. ]




Transcriber's Note: This e text was produced from Amazing Science Fiction Stories, July, 1960. Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed.

Thirty million miles out, Keeter began monitoring the planet's radio and television networks. He kept the vigil for two sleepless days and nights, then turned off the receivers and began a systematic study of the notes he had taken on English idioms and irregular verbs.

Twelve hours later, convinced that there would be no language difficulty, he left the control room, went into his cabin and fell into bed. He remained there for sixteen hours.

When he awoke, he walked to a locker at the end of his cabin, opened the door and carefully selected clothing from a wardrobe that was astonishing both for its size and variety. For headdress, he selected a helmet that was not too different in design from the "space helmets" he had viewed on a number of television programs. It would disappoint no one, Keeter reflected happily, as he took a deep breath and blew an almost imperceptible film of dust from the helmet's iridescent finish.

Trousers and blouse were a little more of a problem, but finally he compromised on items of a distinct military cut; both were black and unembellished, providing, he hoped, an ascetic, spiritual tone to temper the military aura.

Boots were no problem at all. The black and silver pair he wore every day were, by happy coincidence, a synthesis of the cowboy and military footgear styling he had observed hour after weary hour on the pick up panel in the control room.

He placed the helmet carefully on his head, took time to make sure that it did not hide too great a portion of his impressively high forehead, and then walked leisurely to the control room.

In the control room he checked the relative position of two green lights on the navigation panel, shut off the main drives, clicked the viewscreen up to maximum magnification and took over the manual controls. A little less than two hours later, at 11:30 A.M. Eastern Standard Time, he landed smoothly and quietly near the Jefferson Memorial in Washington, D.C.

Watching from a port in the airlock, Keeter was impressed with the restraint of the reception committee. Obviously, the entire city had been alerted several hours before his arrival. Now, only orderly files of military equipment could be seen on the city's streets, converging cautiously toward the gleaming white hull and its lone occupant.

He opened the airlock and stepped out on a small platform which held him a full hundred feet above the grass covered park. He watched as an armored vehicle approached within shouting distance, then stopped. Telling himself that it was now or never, he raised both arms to the sky, a gesture which spoke eloquently, he hoped, of peace, friendship and trust.

Later that afternoon, behind locked doors and sitting somewhere near the middle of an enormous conference table, Keeter nonchalantly confessed to an excited gathering of public officials that he had landed on the planet by accident. It was not, he implied, a very happy accident.

"I didn't know where the hell I was," he explained carelessly, in excellent English that awesomely contained the suggestion of a midwestern twang. "Some kind of trouble with the ship's computor if you know what a computor is." He suppressed a yawn with the back of his hand and continued. "Anyway, the thing will repair itself by morning and I'll get out of your hair. Too bad I had to land in a populated area and stir up so much fuss, but from the ship this place looked more like an abandoned rock quarry than a city. Now, if it's okay with you, I'll get back to the ship and "

A senator, Filmore by name, at the opposite end of the table jumped to his feet. "You mean you had no intention of contacting us? My God, man, don't you realize what this means to us? For the first time, we have proof that we're not alone in the universe! You can't just "

Keeter called for silence with an impatient wave of his hand... Continue reading book >>

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