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.But of one thing he was certain—men would want to hear his story, and to know what he had glimpsed of the civilization of the Overlords.They had treated him well, as he had assumed they would.Of the outward journey he had known nothing; when the injection had worn off and he had emerged, the ship was already entering the Overlord system.He had climbed out of his fantastic hiding-place, and found to his relief that the oxygen set was not needed.The air was thick and heavy, but he could breathe without difficulty.He had found himself in the ship’s enormous red-lit hold, among countless other packing-cases and all the impedimenta one would expect on a liner of space or of sea.It had taken him almost an hour to find his way to the control room and to introduce himself to the crew.Their lack of surprise had puzzled him; he knew that the Overlords showed few emotions, but he had expected some reaction.Instead, they simply continued with their work, watching the great screen and playing with the countless keys on their control panels.It was then that he knew that they were landing, for from time to time the image of a planet—larger at each appearance—would flash upon the screen.Yet there was never the slightest sense of motion or acceleration—only a perfectly constant gravity, which he judged to be about a fifth of Earth’s.The immense forces that drove the ship must have been compensated with exquisite precision.And then, in unison, the three Overlords had risen from their seats, and he knew that the voyage was over.They did not speak to their passenger or to each other, and when one of them beckoned to him to follow, Jan realized something that he should have thought of before.There might well be no one here, at this end of Karellen’s enormously long supply line, who understood a word of English.They watched him gravely as the great doors opened before his eager eyes.This was the supreme moment of his life; now he was to be the first human being ever to look upon a world lit by another sun.The only light of NGS 549672 came flooding into the ship, and there before him lay the planet of the Overlords.What had he expected? He was not sure.Vast buildings, cities whose towers were lost among the clouds, machines beyond imagination—these would not have surprised him.Yet what he saw was an almost featureless plain, reaching out to an unnaturally close horizon, and broken only by three more of the Overlords’ ships, a few kilometres away.For a moment Jan felt a surge of disappointment.Then he shrugged his shoulders, realizing that, after all, one would expect to find a space-port in some such remote and uninhabited region as this.It was cold, though not uncomfortably so.The light from the great red sun low down on the horizon was quite ample for human eyes, but Jan wondered how long it would be before he yearned for greens and blues.Then he saw that enormous, wafer-thin crescent reaching up the sky like a great bow placed beside the sun.He stared at it for a long time before he realized that his journey was not yet altogether ended.That was the world of the Overlords.This must be its satellite, merely the base from which their vessels operated.They had taken him across in a ship no larger than a terrestrial airliner.Feeling a pygmy, he had climbed up into one of the great seats to try and see something of the approaching planet through the observation windows.The journey was so swift that he had time to make out few details on the expanding globe beneath.Even so near to home, it seemed, the Overlords used some version of the Stardrive, for in a matter of minutes they were falling down through a deep, cloud-flecked atmosphere.When the doors opened, they stepped out into a vaulted chamber with a roof that must have swung swiftly shut behind them, for there was no sign of any entrance overhead.It was two days before Jan left this building.He was an unexpected consignment, and they had nowhere to put him.To make matters worse, not one of the Overlords could understand English.Communication was practically impossible, and Jan realized bitterly that getting in touch with an alien race was not so easy as it was so often depicted in fiction.Sign language proved singularly unsuccessful, for it depended too much on a body of gestures, expressions and attitudes which the Overlords and mankind did not possess in common.It would be more than frustrating, thought Jan, if the only Overlords who spoke his language were all back on Earth.He could only wait and hope for the best.Surely some scientist, some expert on alien races, would come and take charge of him! Or was he so unimportant that no one could be bothered?There was no way he could get out of the building, because the great doors had no visible controls.When an Overlord walked up to them, they simply opened.Jan had tried the same trick, had waved objects high in the air to interrupt any controlling light-beam, had tried everything he could imagine—with no result at all [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]