The news went on with every appearance of frankness and confidence. It was natural for strangers on a strange planet to take precautions against possibly hostile inhabitants of the newly-found world. But every effort would be exerted to make friendly contact and establish peaceful communications with the beings from space. Their weapon appeared to be of limited range and so far not lethal to human beings. Occasional flashes of its effects had been noted by the troops now forming a cordon about the Park, but it only produced discomfort, not paralysis. Nevertheless the troops in question have been moved back. Meanwhile rocket missiles are being moved to areas where they can deliver atom bombs on the alien ship if it should prove necessary. But the government is extremely anxious to make this contact with extra-terrestrials a friendly one, because contact with a race more advanced than ourselves could be of inestimable value to us. Therefore atom bombs will be used only as a last resort. An atom bomb would destroy aliens and their ship together—and we want the ship. The public is urged to be calm. If the ship should appear dangerous, it can and will be smashed.
The news broadcast ended.
Jill said, obviously speaking of Vale, “He’ll make them realize that men aren’t like porcupines and rabbits! When they realize that we humans are intelligent people, everything will be all right!”
Lockley said reluctantly, “There’s one thing to remember, though, Jill. They didn’t blindfold the rabbits or the porcupine. They only blindfolded men.”
She stared at him.
“One of the men in the pit with me,” said Lockley, “thought they didn’t want us to see them because they were monsters. That’s not likely.” He paused. “Maybe they blindfolded us to keep us from finding out they aren’t.”
“The evidence,” said Lockley as Jill looked at him ashen-faced, “the evidence is all for monsters. But there was something in that broadcast that calls for courage, and I want to summon it. We’re going to need it.”
“If they aren’t monsters,” said Jill in a stricken voice, “Then—then they’re men. And we have a cold war with only one country, and they’re the only ones who’d play a deadly trick like this. So if they aren’t monsters, in the ship, they must be men, and they’d kill anybody who found it out.”
“But again,” insisted Lockley, “the evidence is still all for monsters. You’ve been very loyal and very confident about Vale. But we’re in a fix. Vale would want you in a safe place, and there’s something in that broadcast that doesn’t look good.”
“What was in the broadcast?”
Lockley said wryly, “Two things. One was there and one wasn’t. There wasn’t anything about soldiers marching up to Boulder Lake to welcome visitors from wherever they come from, and to say politely to them that as visitors they are our guests and we’d rather they didn’t shoot terror beams or paralysis beams about the landscape. We were more or less counting on that, you and I. We were expecting soldiers to come up the highway headed for the lake. But they aren’t coming.”