I do not wish to appear prejudiced against scientists. I am not
prejudiced, but I have observed the scientific mind in action, on a
great many occasions, and I find it rather incomprehensible.
It is true that there are men with a scientific turn of mind who, at
the same time, you can feel safe to stand with shoulder to shoulder,
in an emergency. Young Hendricks, who was my junior officer on the
_Ertak_, back in those early days of the Special Patrol Service, about
which I have written so much, was one of these.
Nor, now that I come to think of the matter in the cool and impartial
manner which is typical of me, was young Hendricks the only one. There
was a chap--let's see, now. I remember his face very well; he was one
of those dark, wiry, alert men, a native of Earth, and his name
was--Inverness! Carlos Inverness. Old John Hanson's memory isn't quite
as tricky as some of these smart young officers of the Service, so
newly commissioned that the silver braid is not yet fitted to the
curve of their sleeves, would lead one to believe.
I met Inverness in the ante-room of the Chief of Command. The Chief
was tied up in one of the long-winded meetings which the
Silver-sleeves devoted largely to the making of new rules and
regulations for the confusion of both men and officers of the Service,
but he came out long enough to give me the _Ertak's_ orders in person.
"Glad to see you here at Base again, Commander," he said, in his
crisp, business-like way. "Hear some good reports of your work; keep
"Thank you, sir," I said, wondering what was in the air. Any time the
Chief was complimentary, it was well to look out for squalls--which is
an old Earth term for unexpected trouble.
"Not at all, Commander, not at all. And now, let me present Carlos
Inverness, the scientist, of whom you have undoubtedly heard."
I bowed and said nothing, but we shook hands after the fashion of
Earth, and Inverness smiled quite humanly.
"I imagine the good captain has been too busy to follow the activities
of such as myself," he said, sensibly enough.
"A commander"--and I laid enough emphasis on the title to point out to
him his error in terminology--"in the Special Patrol Service usually
finds plenty to occupy his mind," I commented, wondering more than
ever what was up.
[Illustration: _At the same instant two other trap-doors swung up._]
"True," said the Chief briskly. "You'll pardon me if I'm exceedingly
brief, Commander, but there's a sizeable group in there waiting my
"I have a special mission for you; a welcome relief from routine
patrol. I believe you have made special requests, in the past, for
assignments other than the routine work of the Service, Commander?"
He was boxing me up in a corner, and I knew it, but I couldn't deny
what he said, so I admitted it as gracefully as I could.