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The Sword   By:

The Sword by Frank Quattrocchi

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By Frank Quattrocchi

Illustrated by Tom Beecham

[Transcriber Note: This etext was produced from IF Worlds of Science Fiction March 1953. Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed.]

[Sidenote: There were but three days in which to decipher the most cryptic message ever delivered to earth. ]

George Harrison noticed the flashing red light on the instrument panel as he turned onto the bridge to Balboa Island. Just over the bridge, he pulled the car to the curb and flipped the switch with violence. "Harrison," he muttered.

"How's the water, fella?" asked the voice of Bob Mills, his assistant.

There was a beautiful moon over the island. The surf lapped at the tiers of the picturesque bridge. Soft music was playing somewhere. There was a tinkle of young laughter on the light sea breeze.

Harrison was vacationing and he viewed the emergency contact from Intersolar Spaceport with annoyance.

"What do you want, Bob?"

"Sorry, George," Bob Mills said more seriously. "I guess you got to come back."

"Listen " protested Harrison.

"Orders, George orders from upstairs."

Harrison took a long look at the pleasant island street stretching out before him. Sea corroded street lamps lit the short, island thoroughfare. People in light blue jeans, bronzed youths in skipper caps, deep tanned girls in terry cloth.

"What the hell is it?"

"Don't know, but it's big. Better hurry." He clicked off.

Harrison skidded the car into a squealing turn. Angrily, he raced over the bridge and onto the roaring highway. Thirty minutes later Intersolar Spaceport, Los Angeles, blazed ahead of him.

The main gate guards waved him in immediately and two cycle guards ran interference for him through the scores of video newsmen who lined the spaceport street.

Bob Mills met him at the entrance to the Administration building.

"Sorry, George, but "

"Yeah. Oh, sure. Now what the hell is it all about?"

Mills handed him a sheaf of tele transmittals. They bore heavy secret stamps. Harrison looked up quizzically.

"You saw the video boys," Mills said. "The wheels think there might be some hysteria."

"Any reason for it?"

"Not that we know of not that I know of anyway. The thing is coming in awfully fast speed of light times a factor of at least two, maybe four."

Harrison whistled softly and scanned the reports frowning.

"They contacted us "


" in perfect Intersolar Convention code. Said they were coming in. That's all. The port boys have done all they could to find out what to expect and prepare for it. Somebody thought Engineering might be needed that's why they sent for you."

"Used Intersolar Convention code, eh," mused Harrison.

"Yes," said Mills. "But there's nothing like this thing known in the solar system, nothing even close to this fast. Besides that, there was a sighting several days ago that's being studied.

"One of the radio observatories claims to have received a new signal from one of the star clusters...."

The huge metal vessel settled to a perfect contact with its assigned strip. It hovered over the geometric center of the long runway and touched without raising a speck of dust.

Not a sound, not a puff of smoke issued from any part of it. Immediately it rose a few feet above the concrete and began to move toward the parking strip. It moved with the weightless ease of an ancient dirigible on a still day. It was easily the largest, strangest object ever seen before at the spaceport.

A team of searchlight men swivelled the large spot atop the tower and bathed the ship in orange light.

"What's that mean?" asked Mills paging his way through a book.

"'Halt propulsion equipment,' I think," said Harrison.

"It's a good thing the code makers were vague about that," smiled Mills... Continue reading book >>

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