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Restricted Tool   By:

Restricted Tool by Malcolm B. Morehart

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By Malcolm B. Morehart, Jr.

[Transcriber Note: This etext was produced from Imagination Stories of Science and Fantasy January 1953. Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed.]

[Sidenote: Finders, keepers, is an unwritten law. But the gadget Clark accidentally found had a special set of rules governing its use by whom and when!]

Richard Clark loaded his shotgun. He glanced up the canyon, gray and misty under a cold dawn sky. A cotton tail darted from a nearby bush and bounced away. Clark's gunsights followed in a weaving line after his bobbing target. Before he could draw a bead, the rabbit vanished behind a distant scrub oak. Clark stalked him quietly. He knew he'd bag this one without trouble, but any others around him would take cover at his first shot.

His boots crunched loudly on gravel. At the sound the rabbit sprang into the open and zigzagged toward a thicket. Furious at his clumsiness, Clark blasted away with both barrels. He charged up the canyon, fumbling in his parka for more shells, and crashed through dank high brush into a shadowy clearing. A soft rustling sound quickly faded.

"Well, there he goes," Clark grumbled.

Something metallic glittered in a low, thorny shrub, and he bent down, curious. From a black cord caught in its branches dangled a silvery pocket flashlight. He smiled faintly as he pulled it loose. After months of testing and inspecting complicated electronic devices, he found simple gadgets amusing. He pressed a button on one end and eyed a white knob on the other. When it didn't light up, he stuffed it in a pocket, finishing reloading, and sighed, "At least I bagged something."

"Quite true!" a voice shrilled behind him.

Clark whirled around and gasped in astonishment. Two squat dwarfish men crouched at the far side of the clearing. When he swung up his 16 gauge, two lights flashed, and it slid out of his hands. He buckled dizzily with weakness and nausea, but then an invisible force jolted him upright and motionless. He felt rigid as stone.

"Who are you?" Clark called out hoarsely.

They approached, jabbering in a strange tongue. Bluish dawnlight seemed to tint their scrawny bare arms and legs a deeper, ghastly blue. From weazel shaped heads bulged enormous dark eyes which stared at him unblinkingly. As they waddled closer they puffed under the weight of heavy belts sagging with rows of odd, translucent instruments. One creature wore ear phones. The other, his bald head sunken between his shoulders, opened a round, moist, pink rimmed mouth and bowed stiffly.

"Forgive us, please," he piped. "My biologist friend has broken regulations."

"Who are you?" Clark choked again.

The bald one's eyes closed and his belly quivered with high, tremulous laughter. "Tell him, Ursi!"

"Don't blame me!" the one called Ursi squeaked, then pointed a claw like finger at a glowing disc in his belt. "Interference disturbed the scanner scope. I didn't see him until he fired!"

Baldy chuckled. "He was after food, not your ugly hide. But in your unseemly haste to escape, you dropped a valuable tool. A very careless blunder. And now instead of mold specimens, you've collected a human. I knew this expedition would prove interesting."

"We have to dispose of him!" Ursi shrieked and waved a black tube at Clark menacingly.

"You'd kill him to recover your tool?" Baldy's nose twitched. "Remember we prepare separate reports for the Council. Don't expect me to aid in breaking the law."

Ursi was painfully silent.

Baldy seemed to relish his companion's distress. "You realize, Ursi, you're responsible for this illegal contact? Also may I remind you that the Law reads in part: On pain of death, no human shall be molested, coerced or in any way injured by an expeditionary member's overt action."

"Can't we bargain with him?" Ursi asked irritably.

"Why, of course... Continue reading book >>

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