Second Landingby F. L. Wallace
- LendMe LendMe™ Learn More
EARTH was so far away that it wasn't visible. Even the sun was only a twinkle. But this vast distance did not mean that isolation could endure forever. Instruments within the ship intercepted radio broadcasts and, within the hour, early TV signals. Machines compiled dictionaries and grammars and began translating the major languages. The history of the planet was tabulated as facts became available.
The course of the ship changed slightly; it was not much out of the way to swing nearer Earth. For days the two within the ship listened and watched with little comment. They had to decide soon.
"We've got to make or break," said the first alien.
"You know what I'm in favor of," said the second.
"I can guess," said Ethaniel, who had spoken first. "The place is a complete mess. They've never done anything except fight each other—and invent better weapons."
"It's not what they've done," said Bal, the second alien. "It's what they're going to do, with that big bomb."
"The more reason for stopping," said Ethaniel. "The big bomb can destroy them. Without our help they may do just that."
"I may remind you that in two months twenty-nine days we're due in Willafours," said Bal. "Without looking at the charts I can tell you we still have more than a hundred light-years to go."
"A week," said Ethaniel. "We can spare a week and still get there on time."
"A week?" said Bal. "To settle their problems? They've had two world wars in one generation and that the third and final one is coming up you can't help feeling in everything they do."
"It won't take much," said Ethaniel. "The wrong diplomatic move, or a trigger-happy soldier could set it off. And it wouldn't have to be deliberate. A meteor shower could pass over and their clumsy instruments could interpret it as an all-out enemy attack."
"Too bad," said Bal. "We'll just have to forget there ever was such a planet as Earth."
"Could you? Forget so many people?"
"I'm doing it," said Bal. "Just give them a little time and they won't be here to remind me that I have a conscience."
"My memory isn't convenient," said Ethaniel. "I ask you to look at them."
Bal rustled, flicking the screen intently. "Very much like ourselves," he said at last. "A bit shorter perhaps, and most certainly incomplete. Except for the one thing they lack, and that's quite odd, they seem exactly like us. Is that what you wanted me to say?"
"It is. The fact that they are an incomplete version of ourselves touches me. They actually seem defenseless, though I suppose they're not."
"Tough," said Bal. "Nothing we can do about it."
"There is. We can give them a week."
"In a week we can't negate their entire history. We can't begin to undo the effect of the big bomb."
"You can't tell," said Ethaniel. "We can look things over."
"And then what? How much authority do we have?"
"Very little," conceded Ethaniel. "Two minor officials on the way to Willafours—and we run directly into a problem no one knew existed."
"And when we get to Willafours we'll be busy. It will be a long time before anyone comes this way again."
"A very long time. There's nothing in this region of space our people want," said Ethaniel. "And how long can Earth last? Ten years? Even ten months? The tension is building by the hour."
"What can I say?" said Bal. "I suppose we can stop and look them over. We're not committing ourselves by looking."
They went much closer to Earth, not intending to commit themselves. For a day they circled the planet, avoiding radar detection, which for them was not difficult, testing, and sampling. Finally Ethaniel looked up from the monitor screen. "Any conclusions?"
"What's there to think? It's worse than I imagined."
"In what way?"
"Well, we knew they had the big bomb. Atmospheric analysis showed that as far away as we were."
"We also knew they could deliver the big bomb, presumably by some sort of aircraft."
"That was almost a certainty. They'd have no use for the big bomb without aircraft."
"What's worse is that I now find they also have missiles, range one thousand miles and upward. They either have or are near a primitive form of space travel."
"Bad," said Ethaniel. "Sitting there, wondering when it's going to hit them. Nervousness could set it off."
"It could, and the missiles make it worse," said Bal. "What did you find out at your end?"
"Nothing worthwhile. I was looking at the people while you were investigating their weapons."
"You must think something."
"I wish I knew what to think. There's so little time," Ethaniel said. "Language isn't the difficulty.
- Lost Leaf Publications
- Publication date:
- Sold by:
- Barnes & Noble
- NOOK Book
- File size:
- 197 KB
- Age Range:
- 9 - 12 Years
and post it to your social network
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
See all customer reviews >