The Complete Stories (Page 247)

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"How did you do that?"

"There is a periodical on this world which sometimes publishes science-fiction which is, however, devoted almost entirely to the various aspects of the cooperation. It does not speak entirely freely, which is annoying, but persists in merely hinting. Its name as nearly as I can put it into flashes is ‘Recreationlad.’ The creature in charge, I deduce, is interested in nothing but inter-form cooperation and searches for it everywhere with a systematic and scientific intensity that has roused my awe. He has found instances of cooperation described in science-fiction and I let material in his periodical guide me. From the stories he instanced I have learned how to bring it about.

"And Captain, I beg of you, when the cooperation is accomplished and the young are brought forth before your eyes, give orders not to leave an atom of this world in existence."

"Well," said Captain Garm, wearily, "bring them into full consciousness and do what you must do quickly."

Marge Skidmore was suddenly completely aware of her surroundings. She remembered very clearly the elevated station at the beginning of twilight. It had been almost empty, one man standing near her, another at the other

end of the platform. The approaching train had just made itself known as a faint rumble in the distance.

There had then come the flash, a sense of turning inside out, the half-seen vision of a spindly creature, dripping mucus, a rushing upward, and now-

"Oh, God," she said, shuddering. "It’s stiD here. And there’s another one, too."

She felt a sick revulsion, but no fear. She was almost proud of herself for feeling no fear. The man next to her, standing quietly as she herself was, but still wearing a battered fedora, was the one that had been near her on the platform.

"They got you, too?" she asked. "Who else?"

Charlie GrimwoW, feeling flabby and paunchy, tried to lift his hand to remove his hat and smooth the thin hair that broke up but did not entirely cover the skin of his scalp and found that it moved only with difficulty against a rubbery but hardening resistance. He let his hand drop and looked morosely at the thin-faced woman facing him. She was in her middle thirties, he decided, and her hair was nice and her dress fit well, but at the moment, he just wanted to be somewhere else and it did him no good at all that he had company, even female company.

He said, "I don’t know, lady. I was just standing on the station platform."

"Me, too."

"And then I see a flash. Didn’t hear nothing. Now here I am. Must be little men from Mars or Venus or one of them places."

Marge nodded vigorously, "That’s what I figure. A flying saucer? You scared?"

"No. That’s funny, you know. I think maybe I’m going nuts or I would be scared."

"Funny thing. I ain’t scared, either. Oh, God, here comes one of them now. If he touches me, I’m going to scream. Look at those wiggly hands. And that wrinkled skin, all slimy; makes me nauseous."

Botax approached gingerly and said, in a voice at once rasping and screechy, this being the closest he could come to imitating the native timbre, "Creatures! We will not hurt you. But we must ask you if you would do us the favor of cooperating."

"Hey, it talks!" said Charlie. "What do you mean, cooperate."

"Both of you. With each other," said Botax. ; "Oh?" He looked at Marge. "You know what he means, lady?"

"Ain’t got no idea whatsoever," she answered loftily.

Botax said, "What I mean-" and he used the short term he had once heard employed as a synonym for the process.

Marge turned red and said, "What!" in the loudest scream she could manage. Both Botax and Captain Garm put their hands over their mid-regions to cover the auditory patches that trembled painfully with the decibels.

Marge went on rapidly, and nearly incoherently. "Of all things. I’m a married woman, you. If my Ed was here, you’d hear from him. And you, wise guy," she twisted toward Charlie against rubbery resistance, "whoever you are, if you think-"

"Lady, lady," said Charlie in uncomfortable desperation. "It ain’t my idea. I mean, far be it from me, you know, to turn down some lady, you know; but me, I’m married, too. I got three kids. Listen-"

Captain Garm said, "What’s happening, Investigator Botax? These

cacophonous sounds are awful." f i

"Well," Botax flashed a short purple patch of embarrassment. "This forms a complicated ritual. They are supposed to be reluctant at first. It f heightens the subsequent result. After that initial stage, the skins must be ^ removed."

"They have to be skinned?"

"Not really skinned. Those are artificial skins that can be removed painlessly, and must be. Particularly in the smaller form."

"All right, then. Tell it to remove the skins. Really, Botax, I don’t find this pleasant."

"I don’t think I had better tell the smaller form to remove the skins. I think we had better follow the ritual closely. I have here sections of those space-travel tales which the man from the ‘Recreationlad’ periodical spoke highly of. In those tales the skins are removed forcibly. Here is a description of an accident, for instance ‘which played havoc with the girl’s dress, ripping it nearly off her slim body. For a second, he felt the warm firmness of her half-bared bosom against his cheek-‘ It goes on that way. You see, the ripping, the forcible removal, acts as a stimulus."

"Bosom?" said the Captain. "I don’t recognize the flash."

"I invented that to cover the meaning. It refers to the bulges on the upper dorsal region of the smaller form."

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