sci_linguistic sf sf_heroic Сидней Джеймс Баундс The Robot Brains [with w_cat]

Вниманию читателей предлагается книга Сидней Джеймса Баундса "The Robot Brains".

Каждый абзац текста, на английском языке, снабжен ссылкой на перевод.

Книга предназначена для учащихся старший классов школ, лицеев и гимназий, а также для широкого круга лиц, интересующихся английской литературой и совершенствующих свою языковую подготовку.

***

По Англии прокатилась волна убийств - жертвы, ведущие ученые, способ убийств одинаков и очень не аппетитен (подробности в тексте). Как всегда, полиция идет неверным путем, за расследование берутся профессор Фокс и капитан Кристиан. Убийцы найдены, "осиное гнездо" растревожено, убийства распространились на весь мир... все оказалось намного сложнее... Как принято, главному герою надо спасти мир.

ru en w_cat
w_cat my_Make_FB2 15.12.2012 2012-12-15-11-30-31-812-0000 1.0 It's project w_cat

The Robot Brains

(1956)

Предуведомление.

Данная книга сделана из книги: "The Robot Brains", автор Сидней Джеймс Баундс.

Сложность текста "English for beginners".

Я старался соотнести по смыслу английский текст с его переводом, часто сознательно вводил в текст "отсебятину", цель - вызвать читателя на спор. Но где-то, возможно, я и "накосячил" :(.

Т.е. перевод часто не точен, а иногда и не верен. Будем считать, упомянутые неточности, темой для обсуждения (а не только осуждения).

Кстати, я так и не смог, правильно перевести название произведения.

Мозги роботов – но в тексте ни разу не упоминаются роботы.

Роботизированные Умники – не звучит.

По книге, скорее это – Супер Умники, но причем тут роботы.

В интернете нашел обложку книги, да, не только наши художники не читают то, что они иллюстрируют.

Прочитайте - убедитесь, сюжета изображенного на картинке в книге НЕТ.

Вот такие загадки. Обложка и название не соответствую содержанию?

Ага! Вот и первое задание: перевести три слова - "The Robot Brains" (советую не спешить).

Полноценно работать с данным пособием можно на устройстве, поддерживающем гиперссылки: компьютер или различные «читалки» с сенсорным экраном, желательно со словарем.

Успехов!

W_cat.

- 1 -

1 "This is an interesting story, Doctor." said the police inspector's politely.

2 "Interesting?" Doctor Fox jumped from his chair and waved his finger under the inspector nose. "Let me remind you that they are murdering people!"

3 Fox was very excited. He was walking up and down the room. He was a short man with a plump face and wore spectacles. He had a reputation of having his own opinion on everything under the sun.

4 "What is your theory, Doctor?" said the inspector. "This organization which you talk about - what motive can they have? If you can tell me something about the weapon with which they kill, I'll be grateful."

5 Fox shook his head.

6 "I only know what I've read in the papers. Some kind of energy discharge, that is clear."

7 The inspector looked at the clock on the wall and knew that tea was waiting. He sighed. Fox suddenly sat down.

8 "You don't have to accept my theory," he said, "but you have to accept the facts. I checked carefully. Each time one of these murders took place, the Burkholder Fair was nearby. Every time - that can't be coincidence."

9 The inspector nodded.

10 "Doctor Fox, the first victim - Professor Leach - was a friend of yours, I believe. Don't you think that fact played on your nerves a little?"

11 Fox jumped to his feet again. He could not remain still for a moment.

12 "So you think I'm talking nonsense, Inspector! Well, let me tell you -"

13 The Inspector pressed a button on his desk, and a sergeant in a uniform opened the door.

14 "Show Doctor Fox out," said the Inspector.

15 The doctor left the police station. He walked, talking to himself.

16 "What the devil can I do? If only Christian were here..."

17 He stopped in the street. "Why not?" he thought. Why not, indeed! He would send for Christian at once.

18 He hurried to the post-office to send a telegram.

19 Meanwhile the inspector was drinking his tea and thinking over what he had just heard. It was absurd, of course. Yet, Fox was a scientist... The inspector saw no connection between the victims, except the manner in which they had died. The whole thing seemed to have no motive. The inspector was puzzled.

- 2 -

20 A neon sing was flashing:

FAIR FAIR FAIR

21 There was a lot of noise and movement. The crowds moved between tents and swings; coloured lights blinked on and off, sounds of music mixed with the shrieks of girls

22 On a wooden platform before a large tent a tall man spoke into a microphone:

23 "Come, ladies and gentlemen, for the greatest show of all! Burkholder is my name and I personally guarantee that you've never seen or heard anything like this before. Come and see the Brains! They'll answer any question you give them, any question on any subject! I am so sure of it that I offer five pounds to anyone who beats them. Come, ladies and gentlemen. The price is one shilling. One shilling to learn the mysteries of the universe!"

24 Burkholder took out of his pocket a five-pound note and showed it to everybody.

25 "Here it is, ladies and gentlemen! Five pounds to the man who asks a question which the Brains cannot answer. Pay your shillings and take your seats."

26 More and more people entered the tent. Inside there was a raised platform now curtained off. When all the benches were occupied, Burkholder entered the tent and went up to the platform.

27 "Ladies and gentlemen," he said, "I hope you have prepared your questions. Ask anything you like. Now I give you... the Brains!"

28 The curtain went up, and the people saw three men who were sitting on the stage.

29 The Brains looked very much alike. Each was a dwarf, dressed in a suit of grey colour. What attracted everybody's attention at once was their heads. They were very big, quite out of proportion to their little bodies.

30 The Brains looked down at the people, without smiling.

31 Burkholder said: "Ask your questions, please. You have only half an hour"

32 There was a pause. A lady at the back of the tent whispered to her neighbour: "I don't like the look of them at all!"

33 Indeed, there was something evil in the Brains; it seemed they were devoid of all humanity.

34 At last a schoolboy asked:

"Is space really empty?"

35 "No," answered the Brain in the centre. "The space is only relatively empty. There is a lot of dust and gas between the stars. Also many types of radiation."

36 After that more questions were asked:

37 "Is a sea-horse a fish?"

38 "What is the capital of Pakistan?"

39 "Who wrote 'The Count of Monte Cristo'?"

40 "Are there such things as ghosts?"

41 The Brains answered the questions in turn. The half-hour passed quickly, and the curtain fell.

- 3 -

42 Miller was a big man with short hair and a soft voice. He never hurried. When he reached his office, he was called to the Old Man. He walked along the corridor, knocked at the door and entered.

43 "Sit down, Miller," said the Old Man.

Miller sat down.

44 "I want you to make an investigation," said the Old Man. "I have a report from the police. The report concerns these murders. Have you read about them?"

45 "I've read the newspapers," said Miller.

46 "All the victims have been beheaded. No heads have been found; the neck of each beheaded body was cauterized. It is supposed that the heads were totally destroyed. Of course, we are interested to know what sort of weapon was used."

Miller nodded.

47 "The murders," went on the Old Man, "look like the work of one man or one organization..."

He paused.

48 "Now they have a report from a certain Doctor Fox. He thinks that the murderer is connected with the Burkholder Fair. It is now at Reading. I want you to go to Reading and see what you can find."

"Who is this Fox?" asked Miller.

49 "An unusual person. He is a scientist who has an opinion of his own on everything. He writes a lot for the newspapers on such subjects as flying saucers and teleportation."

"Is that all?" asked Miller.

"I think so," said the Old Man.

Miller stood up.

50 "I'll send a report as soon as I have something."

"All right," said the Old Man. "And, Miller, - don't lose your head."

- 4 -

51 The motor yacht Sea Mist lay in a quiet and peaceful part of the Thames. She was a good ship, her paint was spotless and her metal parts well polished. Everything about her pointed to the fact that her owner was a good sailor and proud of his ship.

In the long cabin Captain Christian sat reading the day's newspapers and smoking a thin black cigar. He was a tall man, well-dressed; he had a blond beard and sea-blue eyes. As he turned the pages of the newspaper, the light of the lantern shone on the headline:

52 GIRL SCIENTIST NEW VICTIM OF STRANGE MURDERER

53 Lovely Margaret Greenways, research biologist, is a new victim of the killer. Her body was found early this morning, beheaded, as all the victims of this madman.

54 Miss Greenways has been working on a secret method to improve the quality of potatoes.

55 As usual, the head was not found - the fifth murder of this kind. When will the police make an arrest? The public have a right to...

56 Christian remembered the newspaper articles about the other murders of this kind:

57 A headless body... the neck cauterized.

58 He put the newspaper aside, stood up, put on a cap and went upstairs. He felt he needed fresh air.

59 When he was on desk, he heard the sound of a motorcycle. Soon he saw a telegraph boy riding towards him.

The young man stopped his motorcycle and called:

"Captain Christian?"

60 "That's me." Christian took the telegram and read it quickly. "No reply," he said.

61 The young man rode away, and Christian started the diesel of his yacht and headed it up the Thames. Standing at the wheel, he re-read the telegram from his old friend:

62 Need your help at once stop Life and death Stop Meet me Bull Hotel Reading stop Fox.

- 5 -

63 As soon as Christian entered the Bull Hotel in Reading, Fox came running to meet him.

64 Christian smiled, pressed his friend's hand and said: "Well, what is it this time? A fall of frogs? Lights in the sky? Or some servant girl who set fire to a house by simply thinking of it?"

65 "Murder," Fox replied quietly and led Christian into the bar. They took two glasses of beer and sat down at a table.

66 "I think," said Christian, "you have some theory which explains the murders."

He lit his cigar and prepared to listen.

67 "That's right, Chris," said Fox "I've been to the police, but - it was no good, of course. They did not take me seriously."

68 The captain smiled a little; many times in the past, he had laughed at his friend's theories, but in the end it usually turned out that the doctor was right.

69 "Well, what have you discovered?"

70 "I think I know something," said Fox "Each time one of these murders takes place, the Burkholder Fair is nearby. Every time - I checked carefully. The Fair is here now."

71 "So that's why we meet in Reading," said Christian.

Fox nodded.

72 "I went to the Fair and saw a show called the Brains... three dwarfs with huge heads who answer questions. There is something strange about them, besides their appearance They know a lot."

He paused.

73 "You know me, Chris. It's not easy to fool me. Well, I shot questions at the Brains - questions on physics, history, literature, mathematics, anything that came into my head that I could answer myself. They knew all the answers."

74 "So?" said Christian.

75 "I want you to see them for yourself. I didn't like them - and neither did the public. They are evil. I feel it. I want to know who they are, where they came from and how they got their great knowledge."

76 "It won't be hard to find out," said Christian.

77 "Maybe harder than you think," said Fox. "Professor Leach was a friend of mine. He was number one. He did research work in hydroponics.

78 "I was interested in other victims. Gruller, the second victim, was an astronomer. He had just made some new discovery about the stars and was ready to publish - the secret died with him.

79 "The third was Robert James, a chemist. He studied the effect of radiation on insect life. The fourth man was Bond, a psychologist. He worked out a new theory of brain structure. The latest, of course, is Margaret Greenways."

"Potatoes," said Christian.

Fox leaned forward.

80 "Don't you see, Christian? All the murdered people were scientists... and all were working on something new!"

Christian looked at Fox.

81 "Have you any ideas about the weapon?"

82 "Only that it is something new - some great discharge of energy with much heat: that's why the necks are cauterized."

83 "The murderers must be very sure of themselves," said Fox. "You will see it when you meet the Brains. I think they are the murderers."

84 But why a fair? At the fair so many people see and know them."

85 "What can be a better way of travelling about the country?" said Fox. "Remember, they are physically different from the rest of us, and it is easy to notice them. The Fair makes a sort of cover for them."

86 "But why must they kill scientists?" said Christian. "Maybe they are a group of people who are against any form of progress."

Fox shook his head.

87 "It's a big thing, Chris - we're only at the beginning. There'll be more murders. Where did they get their weapon? Modern science does not know such an energy gun..."

88 "So," smiled the captain, "they landed in a flying saucer! You and your theories."

Fox thought.

89 "I imagine an interplanetary organization. They know what is happening on the earth. They see the success of our science and they don't want us to get into space. They want to stop us."

90 He became more excited.

91 "Think of our progress. In twenty years we'll be ready to cross space - and who knows what we may find out there? Maybe they don't want us to leave the earth"

92 "So they kill a young woman who grows potatoes," said Christian.

93 "You don't understand. Margaret Greenways discovered something new. Something new - that's what they are trying to stop. Stop all progress - and you keep man on this planet forever!"

94 Christian looked at his friend with open admiration. It was not everyone who could create such a theory from so few facts.

95 "Well, Christian," said Fox looking at the captain, "you are the man of action. What shall we do about it?"

96 "Investigate the Burkholder Fair," said Christian. "In the morning I'll go to the Fair and see if I can get a job there."

- 6 -

97 Gilbert Thurston worked late in his house on the outskirts of Reading. He was sitting at his desk. On the desk there were pages of manuscript and many notebooks.

98 He was alone, except for his cat. His housekeeper had gone to stay with her relatives and would not be back until morning.

99 Thurston was pleased with his progress. The work of years was nearly over.

He felt tired, but not sleepy. He looked again at the title of his work:

A SOCIAL REVOLUTION

100 He was sure that the publication of his theories would bring great changes. It was an idea of which he was proud.

101 A sound was heard. The cat raised her head, looking at the window.

102 "It's nothing," said Thurston. "Go back to sleep."

103 He crossed the room to the little table and took a sandwich. When his paper was published, it would cause a sensation. He was certain of that.

104 The sound came again, this time from the back of the house. Thurston decided to pay no attention. He drank his milk and looked at the manuscript again.

105 The cat rose, arched her back and hissed. She was looking at the door.

106 Thurston took a poker from the fireplace and opened the door.

107 "Stay where you are," he said loudly. "I can see you."

108 The figure was in shadow, but Thurston noticed the gleam of metal. He raised the poker and said:

"Throw it down!"

109 The figure moved forward. The strange weapon pointed at him...

110 There was a brilliant flash of light in his face, one terrible moment of great heat, then nothing...

111 The murderer stepped past the headless body of Gilbert Thurston and went to the study. There he destroyed the manuscript.

- 7 -

112 Next morning Christian came to the Burkholder Fair with a bag over his shoulder. He was wearing a pair of trousers and a dark blue jersey. He looked like an ordinary sailor looking for work. He was walking about the place, looking around with interest. He saw men feeding animals, workers cleaning the territory, some children playing and a man shaving in the open.

Someone shouted at him:

113 "You there! Are you looking for a job?"

114 A tall man with a long moustache, well-dressed, came up to him. Christian understood that he was Burkholder.

115 "Yes, sir," he said. "I have missed my ship. I could work for a few weeks."

116 Burkholder looked at the captain attentively and saw a strong man with a blond beard and clear blue eyes.

117 "All right," he said. "You will do everything that is needed."

"Yes, sir."

118 "Have you had breakfast?"

"Not yet."

"Miller!" shouted Burkholder.

119 A very big man came up to them.

"What is your name?" Burkholder asked the captain.

"Christian, sir."

120 Burkholder turned to Miller.

121 "Christian will live in your trailer. Show him where it is and take him to the kitchen. Then go back to work."

122 Burkholder went away. The big man led the captain to a small trailer. Inside there were two beds.

123 "Leave your bag," said Miller, "and I'll show where to eat."

124 "Have you been working long here?" asked Christian.

125 "I started yesterday."

126 So the big man could not tell him much, Christian thought. Well, at least he was here: now he must see what he could discover.

127 He did not see the Brains until evening. In the evening they came from a large trailer. They were all dressed in grey. They moved without paying attention to the people around. They had small bodies and very big heads. They were short: not more than four feet in height. They looked very unpleasant.

128 Looking at the Brains, he decided: "Fox must be right, after all."

- 8 -

129 At around 10 o'clock the show was over, and the public left the Fair. Christian went to the kitchen, took his supper and sat on one of the benches.

130 Soon two small girls came in. One of them sat down beside Christian and began to talk.

131 "You are new, aren't you?"

132 "Started today, miss." Only now Christian realized that she was not a child, but a very small grown-up woman.

133 "I'm Jo," she said, laughing. "You need not feel awkward. We are different only outside; inside we are just like anybody else"

134 She had soft dark hair and wore a pink dress.

135 "You are a sailor, aren't you? Tell us about the sea - I'm sure you've had lots of adventures."

136 "You won't believe me," replied Christian. "Once I was shipwrecked on a rock in the middle of the ocean, and every night mermaids brought me food and sang me to sleep. Another time I was swallowed by a whale, but I had my knife with me, so I cut a hole in the side of the whale and escaped."

Jo laughed.

137 "Don't tell me about the sharks," she said. "I shan't believe that if you don't show me your wooden leg!"

138 Christian looked round.

139 "I don't see the Brains," he said. "I suppose they eat something."

140 "Not with us," said Jo with contempt. "they are too high to mix with the rest of us. They are not true dwarfs, not like Mabel and me."

141 "If the Brains are not dwarfs," said Christian, "what are they?"

142 "I don't know. None of us like them very much. They never leave their trailer, except for their act. But they are clever... and cruel!"

143 She shuddered.

144 "I wonder if they went out last night," said Christian.

145 "I don't think so," said Jo. "It seems that they are afraid of the dark - at least they keep the door of their trailer locked all night, and the lamps burning."

146 Soon Christian said good-night to Jo and walked to the trailer where he and Miller slept. When he came, Miller was preparing to go out.

147 "I'll come late," Miller said. "But don't worry, I shan't make noise."

148 Christian was glad to hear it, because he wanted to go out himself to watch the Brains; so he would not have to explain anything to Miller.

- 9 -

149 Christian spent almost all night watching the Brains' trailer, but in vain: they did not leave it.

150 In the evening of the next day, when the show was over, Christian was standing at the back of the large tent and waiting for the Brains. It was cold and it was raining. When they came out, he said:

151 "Typical English weather, this."

152 The Brains did not answer. Christian tried again.

153 "I suppose," he said, "the climate is warm in the place you come from."

154 When they were standing close to him, he could see individual differences in them. One had a more pointed chin than the others; the second had his ears flat against the skull; the third had a scar on his nose.

155 "It is true that we are used to an even temperature," said the Brain with the scar.

156 He spoke with a strange accent.

157 "What country it is?" asked the captain.

158 He received no answer. All three Brains were silent. Looking down at them, Christian saw that each had a belt at his waist; and in each belt there was a large black crystal with some strange engraving on it.

159 He stretched out his hand to touch the nearest crystal and exclaimed: "I've never seen anything like these before!"

160 Their reaction was immediate. All three Brains jerked away from him, as from something dangerous.

161 "Keep your hands off," one of them said angrily. "You must not touch!"

162 "Sorry," said Christian. He was intrigued.

163 They looked at him a moment, then quickly walked to their trailer. The captain remained standing there, wondering: what the devil was that all about?

- 10 -

164 Kurt Lawrence looked at the clock again. It was now past midnight, and Grace was not yet home. He thought: "She's seeing too much of Stacey..."

165 He tried to concentrate on his work. He was a tall man with brown hair, younger than he looked. His work was nearly finished. He had worked out a new method of launching rockets. It was a big step forward.

166 He looked at the clock again. Twenty minutes past midnight. Where was Grace now? He decided that in future he would devote more time to his wife.

167 He returned to his table to work out final details. When at last he finished, it was one o'clock. He heard someone at the door of the house. He opened the door of his room and went along the corridor, calling:

168 "Grace? Is that you, Grace?"

169 Kurt Lawrence did not know it then, but his worries were almost over...

- 11 -

170 Three cars stopped at the entrance to the Burkholder Fair. Four men in plain clothes got out of each car. They found Burkholder and explained what they wanted. The owner of the Fair did not like the idea, but he had no choice.

171 In ten minutes, everyone who worked at the Fair, was inside the large tent. The men in plain clothes were questioning them. Meanwhile, other men were searching the tents and trailers.

172 Christian was questioned, too. Miller, to his surprise, was with the people who asked the questions.

173 Afterwards, Miller took Christian aside and said, "I must now introduce myself."

174 He showed Christian his card; very simply it said that he was an operative of Military Intelligence.

175 "So you see," said Miller, "that we haven't ignored the theories of your friend Fox. Now we have something important to discuss. I know that you have been watching the Brains. Well, did you see them yesterday between midnight and two a.m.? Did they leave their trailer?"

176 "Another murder?" asked Christian.

177 "Yes, the seventh - a man named Kurt Lawrence. He worked with rockets. He was murdered, and some important papers disappeared at the same time."

178 "I can't help you," Christian said slowly. "I watched their trailer again, but I didn't see the Brains at all. A lamp was burning in the trailer - I think they were inside."

179 "H-m." Miller sat down on a chair and waved a large hand. "Make yourself comfortable - nobody will disturb us."

180 The captain sat down and put a cigar between his lips.

181 "The trouble is," said Miller, "that now I have declared my position. So I can't remain here." He looked thoughtfully at Christian. "Will you stay on here? They don't suspect you - and I shall be glad if you help."

182 "I'll do anything I can," said the captain.

183 "I'd like to see the murder weapon," said Miller. "Do you know the strangest thing about the Brains? They have no past!"

184 "What do you mean?"

185 "I mean that the Brains appeared suddenly, out of nowhere. Before that, no one had seen or heard of them. They have no past. Maybe they just dropped from the sky..."

Christian thought of Fox's theory.

- 12 -

186 It was a few days later, in the evening, when the show was over and the public had gone. It was late, the stars were shining brightly in a frosty sky. Christian was alone. He was doing some work on the territory, when he heard a loud scream from the direction of the Brains' trailer. He ran.

187 He came to where the Brains' trailer stood, and in the light of the moon saw the Brains and Jo. They had the dwarf-woman between them. The Brain with the flat ears held her by her dark long hair; the second Brain held a piece of cloth to her mouth; and the third cruelly twisted her arms.

188 Still running, Christian shouted: "Stop that, you devils - leave her alone!"

189 The Brains were too busy to hear him. He seized one of them - the one with the scar on the nose - and threw him aside.

190 The other two Brains turned to him, releasing Jo, who fell to the ground. The Brain with the scar stood up and ran up to Christian. He was shaking with rage.

191 "I'll teach you to interfere!" he shouted.

192 He was ready to attack Christian, when Victor, the Brain with the flat ears, who seemed to be their leader, said quietly:

"Waldo!"

193 This one word sounded as a command. The Brain with the scar stopped at once. All three looked coldly at the captain, then turned and marched into their trailer.

194 Christian bent over Jo and said:

"It's all right, Jo, they've gone."

She opened her eyes.

"Hello, Sailor! It's good that you came. Thank you!"

195 Christian helped her to get up. Her face was pale. She laughed.

196 "That's what I get for not minding my own business," she said. "Seeing that they know all the answers, I decided to ask them who did the murders. They did not answer me; just stood there and looked at me as if I were some insect. I did not like their look. Then one of them seized me by the hair. 'Little girls must not ask questions,' he said, 'we'll have to teach you a lesson.' Waldo started twisting my arm, and I screamed. Then you came up."

She smiled a little.

"Thanks again."

197 Christian walked with her to her trailer. At the door he stopped and said: "Jo, you must not go near the Brains. They are dangerous. And don't ask any more questions."

198 She looked up at him.

199 "And you? They won't forgive you for stopping them. You must be careful. They'll do something horrible."

200 "I can take care of myself," said the captain. "Do you feel all right now?"

Jo nodded.

"I'm fine... Good night, Sailor."

201 Christian went to his own trailer. He was sure that the Brains would not forget him.. When he was in the trailer, he took his automatic gun out of his bag and checked its mechanism. He thought a little, then he decided that he would not need it that night.

202 He put the gun under his pillow and went out. He went to the Cross Keys, a fine of old pub where he and Miller had agreed to meet.

- 13 -

203 When the captain came up to the old pub, he saw Miller's car standing at the entrance. It was late, and the door was locked. He went round the house to the back door which had been left open for him, and entered the house. It was dark and still inside. A light burned somewhere above.

204 He began climbing the stairs. Then, suddenly, breaking the silence of the house, came a gunshot. Christian jumped forward, to the top of the stairs. He found himself in a short corridor with a door at the end. The door was a little open, and light was coming from inside.

205 He ran to the door and went in. Miller lay on the carpet. On his shirt there was blood. An automatic gun lay beside him, and there was no one else in the room.

206 Christian bent over Miller. The man was dead. He looked at the gun... it was very much like his own. He took it to read the number - and did not believe his eyes: it was his own gun.

207 Christian stared at the gun and then at Miller. He could not understand it. He knew that he had left his gun -

208 The door behind him closed softly and a key turned on the outside. Christian jumped to the door and pulled it, but in vain. He was locked in.

209 By now the old pub was coming to life. He heard movement and voices and steps in the corridor.

210 Someone knocked on the door and shouted: "Mister Miller, are you all right?"

211 Christian answered: "Open this door - Miller is dead, and his murderer is running away!"

212 There was a pause; then the key turned and the door opened. The red-faced owner of the pub stood there with a heavy stick in his hand. He was looking at Christian who was still holding the gun, and at Miller's body.

213 "Let me go out," said Christian.

214 "Not so fast - you will have to explain something"

215 "Listen, I was working with Miller. He was waiting for me. Someone shot him and-"

216 "Maybe," said the red-faced man. He stepped back, quickly closed the door and locked it again. "You will stay here till I bring the police," he said.

217 For the first time Christian realized his own position. He had been found, alone, in a looked room, with a dead man, holding the gun - his own gun. It would be difficult to convince the police that he was not the murderer.

218 And how had his gun got here from the trailer?

219 But now, Christian understood, there was no time for thinking about that. He opened the window. Looking down, he saw Miller's car.

220 He jumped out of the window, ran to the car and got in. The red-faced owner of the pub came out, shouting and waving his stick. Christian started the car and drove away at full speed.

- 14 -

221 He drove back to the Fair. He was determined to find the Brains and speak to them. Instinct told him they were responsible; they knew, that Miller had been watching them, and so they killed him. And they killed Miller with Christian's gun because they wanted to take revenge on him: they had not forgotten that he had interfered when they were speaking with Jo.

222 When he came to the Fair, he parked the car and got out of it. It was dark. Only one light was seen in the distance - it came from the Brains' trailer. Christian walked towards it.

223 The door was locked. The captain took a piece of wire out of his pocket, worked with it a little, and the door opened. The captain stepped in, holding his gun ready.

224 He stopped, disappointed. The trailer was empty.

225 Christian looked angrily around. Where were the Brains now? He could not wait for them. He was sure that the owner of the Cross Keys had raised an alarm and the police were looking for him. And the first place where they would come would be the Fair.

226 He had to get away before the police came. It was absolutely necessary for him to remain in freedom until he could prove his innocence. There was nothing else to do, Christian decided: he must disappear.

He went quickly and silently to his own trailer and packed his bag. He looked under the pillow where he had left his gun: as he expected, there was nothing there. There was no doubt that the Brains had framed him for Miller's murder.

He was thinking where to go. He could not go to his yacht: he was sure that the police would visit it. He could not go to Fox - the police knew that they were friends, so, of course, they would come to Fox's place, too. He had friends who would be ready to hide him, but he wanted to remain near the Fair - that was his only chance to get at the Brains. And the Fair was leaving for Cambridge in the morning - Burkholder had decided to find a new place for it after the visit of Military Intelligence.

So Christian decided to go to Cambridge and hide there, waiting for his chance.

He took his bag and left his trailer. He went to the kitchen. There he took an empty bag and put into it some foodstuffs which he could find. Putting the bag on his shoulder, he left the kitchen.

The police knew the number of Miller's car, so he could not use it. He walked quickly along the path. In the bright light of the moon he saw a workman's bicycle near the fence. Without hesitation he got on it and, leaving the Fair, rode off in the direction of Cambridge.

He travelled the whole night, and with the first light of day he decided to stop and find a place to hide. He stopped at a deserted crossroads and looked around. Through the trees growing along the road he saw a field and a river in the distance. Near the river he noticed the ruins of a deserted boat-house.

He lifted his stolen bicycle on his shoulder and crossed the field to the river. He approached the ruins of the boathouse. Tall grass growing around the door showed that nobody was using the house.

He opened the door and frightened away a rat, which quickly ran into the darkness. He saw a flight of stairs which led to a loft, and he climbed up carrying the bicycle with him. He found himself in a small room with a little window, which gave him a clear view of the approaches to the house. So if some people were coming to the house, he would see them.

Christian was satisfied. He sat down on the floor and ate some cold bacon and bread and cheese. The whole morning he was looking out of the window, but saw nobody. In the afternoon he slept a few hours.

When night fell, he set off again, and in the morning he was near Cambridge.

On the wall of a newspaper stall there was a newspaper. Christian stopped his bicycle and looked through the front page. There was a photograph of him and a text under it:

The police are looking for Captain Arthur Christian to interview him in connection with the shooting at Reading.

Christian is tall, blond, blue-eyed, with a short beard.

He is armed. The police think he may be near Cambridge.

Christian was alarmed. He decided that he must find a hiding-place at once. He could not remain in the streets during the day.

227 He rode on again. Soon he saw a large poster:

BURKHOLDER'S FAIR

228 There was a picture of the Brains and a text in red letters:

Five pounds will be given to anyone who asks a question which the Brains cannot answer.

Below the poster gave the address of the place where the Fair was located.

Christian looked around. There was a long, partly broken fence along one side of the street. Behind the fence he saw a garden and an old shed. The garden was grown with weeds, and it was clear that it was not used. Christian looked around again to make sure that nobody saw him, then took his bicycle and got into the garden through a crack in the fence.

There was a lock on the door of the shed, but Christian easily broke it and got inside. He sat down on the floor and ate some food, which still remained, in his bag.

During the day he slept. In the evening, when it was dark, he left the shed and rode to the place where the Burkholder Fair was located.

- 15 -

229 Jo came out of the kitchen after a late supper and walked towards her trailer. There was no moon, and the stars were covered with clouds. There was nobody around.

230 Then she heard a soft voice: "Jo."

231 She recognized Christian's voice and stopped.

232 "It is not safe for you here," she said in a whisper. "The whole area is watched by plain-clothes men."

Christian smiled.

233 "I know." He looked down at the dwarf-woman. "Jo, I didn't kill Miller."

234 "Of course, you didn't," she said quickly. "I never believed that for a moment. Tell me how I can help. Doctor Fox was here this morning I know where he is now. But the police are watching him."

235 Christian pointed to a light, which was coming from one of the trailers.

236 "Are the Brains at home?"

237 "I think they are," she answered. "What are you going to do?"

238 "I am going to speak to them," he said. "I am sure that they murdered Miller"

239 "Be careful, Sailor!"

240 Christian pressed her hand.

241 "Don't go near the Brains," he said. He turned and walked to the Brains' trailer.

242 He noiselessly approached the door of the trailer, put his piece of wire into the lock and opened the door.

243 And again - he saw nobody!

244 Christian stepped inside and locked the door after himself. He sat down, looking at the door and holding his automatic gun ready. This time he was going to wait till the Brains returned.

245 Minutes passed. Christian thought about Fox and Jo: they both believed in him and were ready to help. It was good indeed to have such good friends. Then he thought about the Brains. Maybe now, just at this moment, they were murdering another man, and soon they would return with their murder weapon..

246 He didn't notice how his eyes closed. He heard some movement and opened his eyes. The Brains were standing before him - but he was sure that the door had not opened. For a long moment the Brains and Christian looked at each other.

Christian pointed his gun at them.

247 "You know why I am here," he said. "Speak - and remember that I can shoot you."

Suddenly Victor, the leader of the Brains, raised his hand. He was holding his murder weapon in it..

248 Christian jumped to his feet, quick as lightning, caught Victor by his hand and pressed it hard. The weapon fell to the floor, and Christian kicked it under the bed. He pointed his automatic at the Brains again.

"All right-speak!"

249 The Brains were standing and looking at him. Then Victor said quietly: "We must leave."

250 "You are not going to leave..." Christian did not finish.

251 Each Brain touched the black crystal at his waist - and disappeared. The captain was alone in the trailer, not believing his eyes. It was impossible...

252 Fox was right. They could not be human.

253 He put his hand under the bed and took out the weapon of the Brains. It was made of some hard metal.

254 It was very important to send the weapon to Miller's chief as quickly as possible. Military Intelligence must understand who their enemies were: beings who could disappear into nothing. But he did not know if the people in Military Intelligence would believe him...

255 Christian walked up and down the trailer, thinking. Then he sat down at the table and wrote an account of what had happened at the Cross Keys, how he had got the Brains' weapon, and how the three Brains had disappeared before his eyes.

256 He smoked one of his black cigars while he was reading what he had written. Then he put his account and the weapon into a cardboard box and left the trailer. In the darkness of the night he walked noiselessly to Jo's trailer. He knocked, and Jo opened the door.

257 "Can you take this package to Fox?" he asked in a low voice. "Tell him to send it to Miller's chief. Tell him also that I shall be hiding at Girton: he knows that I have friends there.

258 "I'll go now," said Jo. "Good luck, Sailor."

259 Christian went to the place where he had left his bicycle and rode off. Early in the morning, when it was still dark, he arrived at the village of Girton.

260 He got into his friends' house through the back door. It was quiet in the house, and breakfast was prepared on the table. Christian ate, then lay down on the bed which had been prepared for him.

261 It was late when he woke. Bright sun was shining in through the window.

On the table there was a newspaper. He read:

DECAPITATION AT CAMBRIDGE

262 The headless corpse of Professor Duval was found early this morning in his private study. Duval, one of the world's famous mathematicians and a lecturer at the University of Cambridge, was working on a new theory of the space-time continuum. His papers have been lost...

- 16 -

263 "Come in," the Old Man said. "Please sit down, Doctor Fox."

264 Fox looked with interest at the chief of Military Intelligence. The Old Man pushed a box of cigarettes towards him.

265 "Help yourself, Doctor. First of all I must thank you for bringing us the weapon -"

266 Fox interrupted:

267 "Christian got that weapon for you. Don't you think it is time to clear him of the suspicion of the murder?"

268 "That is really a matter for the police, but I believe his story. I think I will be able to help." The Old Man looked through some papers. "I have here a report on this weapon. It is a decapitator; and a new kind of energy is used in it. I have no details, but a group of scientists are working on it. The fingerprints on the weapon show that it has been used by somebody with very small hands."

269 "The Brains!" exclaimed Fox.

270 "Probably. As you know, the Brains have disappeared completely - my men are watching the Fair, and they haven't seen them. I don't think they will come to the Fair again."

271 "We must get one of those crystals," said Fox. "Lawrence worked with rockets. Duval worked out a new theory for the space-time continuum. Do you see what we are up against? These murders aren't going to stop - you can be sure that the Brains have more than one decapitator. It is an interplanetary affair. The earth is fighting for the right to go out into space..."

272 The Old Man looked grim.

273 "If you are right," he said, "the position is serious. What have we got? An invasion by beings from another world who can disappear at will and who have a deadly weapon - deadlier than ours. We must find them. If only we knew where to start looking -"

274 "They have a spaceship which is hidden somewhere," said Fox. "Find the ship and you will find the Brains. I advise you to check all unidentified flying objects which appear in the sky."

275 "I'll do that. Now, if you'll excuse me, I must see the Prime Minister immediately."

276 Fox said quickly: "And Christian? Will you clear him?"

277 "Yes. I'll speak with the Home Secretary. Later, I should like to meet the captain personally."

278 Fox walked along the corridor and left the building of Military Intelligence. He heard the voice of a newsboy:

279 "Another decapitation! The maniac strikes again! Special!"

280 Fox bought a newspaper. It told of an Italian scientist who had been found dead in his laboratory. Fox had a feeling that the real trouble was only just starting. First Britain, now Italy...

Where next? He wondered.

- 17 -

281 From the window of his office on the sixty-fourth floor Michael Brant had a very good view of downtown Manhattan. But he was not looking through the window. He was sitting with his back to the window. He was a fat man with rings on his fingers and a big cigar between his teeth.

282 "It is interesting," he said slowly. "Of course, it is interesting, but where is money in it? You agree that it will take a lot of money to make something practical out of this model of yours, don't you?"

283 He was looking at the inventor who was standing in front of him.

284 "I haven't the money to do it myself," said the inventor. "That's why I came to you. I need a research laboratory. But I am sure that you will get your money back in the end."

285 "In the end!" Brant smiled cynically. "Listen, Marten, I am a financier, not a philanthropist. I want results - now. All right," he went on, "I'll give you five thousand."

"Ten," said Marten.

286 At this moment, though the door was locked, a dwarf-like figure, dressed in grey, suddenly appeared in the room. The man raised his hand and pointed a strange-looking gun at Marten. A bright ray appeared from the gun.

287 The next moment Marten's headless corpse fell on the floor. The weapon turned to Brant...

288 Afterwards the man in grey turned the ray on Marten's invention, and then disappeared.

- 18 -

289 In South America five men died.

290 In Africa and Mexico, in Sweden and Madagascar, the decapitations continued. Reports from behind the Iron Curtain said that this process was now world-wide. Brains were seen in Berlin, Hawaii, and other places. More and more people were murdered, and all of them were scientists - until the incident in Caribou City.

291 Caribou City was a small town on the banks of the Peace River in Canada. Uranium had been discovered there, and a group of scientists were doing some research work. One night a scientist was decapitated there in the presence of a large group of people, but this time the Brain who had decapitated him did not escape.

292 The scientist's assistant had a gun and shot the Brain through his heart.

293 There was a full hour of triumph in Caribou City. Then the revenge came. There appeared a lot of Brains in the town. They used the weapons, which were of the same type as the decapitators, but much bigger and more powerful. Whole buildings were burned to the ground. In a short while Caribou City was completely destroyed...

294 After that the Brains returned to their practice of killing the world's scientists. Every day reports of new decapitations came from different parts of the world: from Athens and Tokyo, Lisbon and Vienna. Newspapers attacked the governments for doing nothing.

295 The British Prime Minister declared a state of emergency.

296 The police and Military Intelligence were looking for the Brains' base, but could not find anything. The Brains simply appeared, killed, and disappeared again.

- 19 -

297 Sitting in an armchair in the cabin of his yacht, Captain Christian raised his glass.

298 "It's nice to be a free man again. Thanks, Doc."

299 Doctor Fox, sitting opposite him, opened a fresh bottle of beer.

300 "You did it yourself, Chris," he said. "You got the decapitator."

301 "And you took it to Miller's chief. I could not do it without you."

302 They sat a few minutes in silence.

303 "The important thing now," said Christian, "is to find the Brains. We must get one of those crystals."

304 "I don't see, how you can do that," said Fox. "You can't catch people who disappear into thin air."

305 "We must try. We must catch one of them before he has time to use his decapitator or touch his crystal. If we work fast, we can do it. And then we'll separate. I'll take the prisoner to a hiding-place which will be prepared - and you will take the crystal somewhere else."

306 Fox laughed: "First catch your Brain."

Christian smiled.

307 "We'll make a trap," he said. "We can publish an article in the newspapers that some scientist has found out the mystery of the Brains. The newspaper article will mention the place where this scientist works - and it will be our hiding-place! I am sure the Brains will come to that place at once!"

The doctor thought.

308 "Maybe it will work," he said.

309 "I am sure it will work," said Christian. "One of them will come and we'll catch him. And I'll make him talk."

"Shall we ask the Old Man to help?"

310 "No! This is my show. Afterwards, if we do it, we'll tell him the good news. But I want to do it myself."

He took a note-book and began to write a plan.

311 "We shall need two fast cars and an empty house in some isolated place. Then two separate hiding places."

312 Christian worked out the details of his plan.

313 "Where do they come from?" he asked suddenly. "I don't agree with your theory that they come from interplanetary space. A spaceship large enough to carry fifty Brains cannot be hidden. The astronomers have searched the sky with their telescopes and found nothing. There must be some other explanation. But what?"

- 20 -

314 The house stood on a high hill. There were no houses or trees around. In a large room on the ground floor Fox and Christian sat in opposite corners; both were armed. Fox held one end of a nylon cord in his left hand. The cord was connected with a net, which was hanging from the ceiling. One pull - and the net would fall.

315 If only one Brain appeared, they were planning to try to take him alive; more than one - and they would open fire immediately.

316 They were sitting and waiting. They were sure that the Brains would learn of the supposed threat to their safety. Not only newspapers published the story, but radio and television had broadcast it, too; and people were talking in the streets...

317 Outside the house, in the garage, two cars stood ready. Two hiding-places were prepared. One was an underground laboratory - Fox was going to use it to investigate the crystal. The other was the cellar of an empty house - and Christian was going to take the prisoner there and question him.

318 Suddenly a Brain appeared in the room. Christian recognized him by the scar on his nose: it was Waldo. He was alone and armed with a decapitation. He saw Christian and raised his hand with the weapon at the moment when Fox pulled the cord.

319 The net fell. Waldo tried to touch the black crystal on his belt, but could not do it because of the net. Christian jumped at Waldo and hit him heavily with his automatic gun. The Brain fell on the floor. Christian unfastened the Brain's belt with the crystal and gave it to Fox.

320 "Go!" he said. "I'll take care of Waldo."

321 Doctor Fox put the belt with its black crystal into a metal box and locked the box. Then he quickly left the room.

322 Christian lit a cigar. Then he lifted Waldo from the floor, threw him over his shoulder and went out. He saw Fox's car in the distance. Reaching the garage, he put Waldo into the other car, got in himself, started the engine and drove off.

Waldo spat.

323 All the way to the hiding-place he spat and cursed Christian - and there were some words in his speech, which Christian did not understand. These words sounded English, but he did not know them.

324 The cellar of the house where Christian brought Waldo was empty. In the middle was a big barrel filled with water. It was very heavy, and Christian tied Waldo to it. In one corner of the cellar there were stone steps, which led to a massive door. Christian had locked this door, and the key was in his pocket.

325 The Brain's decapitator was pushed under Christian's belt. He looked at his prisoner, holding his automatic in his hand.

326 "Listen," he said. "You are going to answer my questions. We are quite alone, and I shall make you talk."

Waldo spat again.

327 Christian lit a cigar and held it close to Waldo's face.

328 "You will be sorry, Christian," said Waldo. "You will answer for it."

329 "Answer me!" said the captain. "I'm losing patience... Where do you come from? How many of you are there? How do your crystals work?"

330 He received no answer. He raised his hand and struck Waldo a heavy blow on his face.

"Talk, I tell you!"

331 He took the Brain's weapon from under his belt and pointed it at him.

332 "I am giving you three minutes," he said. "If you don't speak and answer my questions, I'll use your weapon on you. I'll decapitate you."

333 The telephone began to ring.

334 Christian was surprised. Only Fox knew that he was there. He took the receiver.

"Chris? Fox here. The crystal has disappeared. I kept looking at the box all the way here, and when I unlocked the box just now, it was empty. There was nobody near me. But the belt with the crystal has disappeared!"

- 21 -

335 Somewhere in the south of England a conference was taking place. A group of scientists were sitting and standing round the laboratory table. On the table there were parts of the weapon, which Christian had seized from the Brains and sent to Military Intelligence.

336 The Minister of War was looking at the parts of the weapon attentively.

337 "The weapon worked on quite a new principle," said the leader of the research group. "By some method - we don't understand it - power is taken directly from the atmosphere and changed into heat energy. This heat energy is emitted in a concentrated ray, which annihilates any material form."

The Minister of War thought.

338 "Can we make such a weapon?" he asked.

339 Outside the laboratory there was a strong guard of soldiers. They were ready for a possible attack of the Brains.

340 Suddenly the guard commander saw a great cloud of flame and smoke rising over the laboratory. A few minutes later nothing remained of the laboratory and the people who were inside it.

341 The guard commander sent a telephone message to Downing Street.

- 22 -

342 The Prime Minister looked tired. There were dark circles round his eyes, and his face was pale.

343 "It's a bad business," he said, "and I can't see the end of it."

The Old Man was sitting at the table opposite the Prime Minister.

344 "Our only hope is Captain Christian, sir," he said. "If his plan works, we may get useful information."

345 "True," sighed the Prime Minister. "And meanwhile the decapitations continue. We are losing the best men every day, and it's the same all over the world."

346 The Old Man said nothing, because he did not know what to say.

347 "And now the Minister of War," continued the Prime Minister. "It seems impossible! Only yesterday I spoke to him -"

348 "I am sorry," said the Old Man. "I know he was a personal friend of yours."

There was a short silence.

349 "I am waiting for news from New York," said the Prime Minister. "As you know, the United Nations are holding an emergency meeting now..."

- 23 -

350 The Secretary-General called again for order. "Gentlemen, please, the delegate from Great Britain has the floor."

351 It was noisy in the great hall. Delegates jumped from their seats and cried. Everybody accused everybody. The Asian Federacy accused Britain. The United States accused Russia. It seemed that the delegates would begin fighting any moment.

352 At last the British delegate was able to speak.

353 "This is no time for quarrelling among ourselves," he said. "An invasion from space is threatening us-"

There was a great noise again.

354 "- an invasion from space," continued the British delegate. "Our civilization is in danger. We must co-operate-"

355 It was useless. All the delegates were shouting again, and the Secretary-General declared the meeting closed.

- 24 -

356 A man was decapitated in New South Wales, three in Yucatan, four in Quebec. The murders continued in Africa, Pakistan and Denmark. Scientists who did original research were murdered all over the world.

357 And only one man had a contact with the enemy.

358 Christian put down the receiver, walked up to the Brain, stopped in front of him and raised the decapitator.

"Wait," said Waldo.

359 "No, I won't wait," said the captain. "Speak, or I'll shoot."

360 "Don't shoot! I'll answer your questions. We come from-"

361 Suddenly they were not alone. About ten Brains were standing around Christian, grey, dwarf-like figures, each armed with a decapitator.

Waldo laughed.

362 "That's the end, Captain..." He gave a command: "Take him alive - I want him alive!"

363 The next moment Christian was seized by a lot of hands, something heavy struck him on the head, and he fell on the floor.

364 "You interfered and spoiled our plans," said Waldo. "And for this you must die. But it will not be a pleasant death - I've something special for you. I am taking you back with me."

365 He took a belt with a black crystal from one of the Brains and fastened it round Christian's waist.

366 "Very soon all your questions will be answered..."

367 Waldo touched the crystal on Christian's belt, and laughed loudly.

"See you later, Captain Christian!"

368 The cellar disappeared. Christian was in complete darkness. It seemed to him that he was hanging in some empty place, between the stars - only there were no stars.

369 At last Christian saw a bright light and knew that he had arrived.

- 25 -

370 The Old Man and Doctor Fox were standing in the cellar.

371 "Are you sure it was Waldo and not another of the Brains?" asked the head of Military Intelligence.

372 "Yes. It was easy to see. I had seen him at the Fair, and recognized him by the scar on his nose."

373 "And after you seized Waldo, Captain Christian brought him here, and you took the crystal to a different hiding-place?"

374 "That's right," said the doctor, "And when I opened the box, it was empty."

375 "Scientists are studying your box," said the Old Man, "But I don't think they will learn anything from it."

376 "What do you think: is Christian still alive?" asked Fox. "Yes, I believe so," said the Old Man. "Up to now they have always left the decapitated bodies of their victims. So I think they have not killed Captain Christian. Evidently they have taken him with them - alive. But why? And where?"

Fox felt better.

377 "Then there is a chance," he said: "If Christian is alive, maybe he will escape and bring us the information that we need."

"I hope so," said the Old Man.

- 26 -

378 Christian was in a very large hall with a high ceiling and no windows. He had an impression that he was deep underground.

379 In the walls of the hall there were some doors through which he could see long corridors. The central part of the hall was occupied by a big construction with ladders and balconies. Two Brains stood near a large switchboard with red and green lights. The sides of the construction were covered with black crystals.

380 The crystals were placed in pairs. From time to time a Brain appeared from nowhere and put his black crystal into the construction, and then a red light on the switchboard turned into green. Sometimes another Brain took the crystal from the construction and fastened it to his belt. Then he touched the crystal and disappeared.

381 Christian understood that this construction was a kind of transmitter, with the help of which the Brains got to the earth and disappeared from it.

382 He wanted to jump to his feet and break the machine... but two Brains armed with decapitators were guarding him. The crystal, with the help of which he had got into that hall, was taken from his belt and put into the transmitter.

He began to wonder where he was.

383 Was he still on the earth but underground? Or was it another planet? Or maybe, he was on board a spaceship?

He decided that he must wait and learn all he could.

384 A woman came from one of the corridors. It was a very strange woman. She had long blond hair and was very beautiful. But she was at least nine feet tall.

385 She came up to Christian and said something very quickly, but Christian did not understand her. A Brain answered her, and she laughed. Then she bent and easily lifted Christian with one hand. She looked at him a few seconds, then lost interest and dropped him to the floor, like a child drops a doll.

She turned away and left the hall.

Christian stood up.

"We meet again, Captain Christian..."

386 It was Waldo's voice. And, indeed, the Brain was standing near Christian.

387 "Do you begin to understand now?" asked Waldo. "No? Well, it doesn't matter. You will never leave this place. You will die, but not easily..."

388 He called two other Brains who came up and stood on both sides of Christian, holding their decapitators ready.

389 "Follow me," said Waldo and went along one of the corridors.

Christian walked after him.

- 27 -

390 They walked along the corridor, sometimes crossing other corridors. On the side of the corridor there were cells in which Christian saw Brains and giant women. Finally they stopped near an empty cell.

391 "You can live here for some time," said Waldo. "Food will be brought to you. You are free to go anywhere, except back to the transmitter hall. If you try to get there, you will be immediately killed. I shall return later."

392 Christian was left alone in the cell. The cell was about ten feet in diameter. There was a chair and a low table. Christian sat down. The chair was very comfortable.

393 In a few minutes a giant woman brought a tray with food and water. The food was not very tasty, but Christian was hungry and ate it all.

394 He tried to speak to the giant woman, but she did not answer him.

395 Some other giant women come to look at him. They pointed at him and laughed, but the look in their eyes told Christian that they had very little intelligence.

396 In the days that followed Christian walked along the corridor, where he sometimes met Brains and giant women. He noticed that they spoke a language, which was very much like English, but still it was very difficult for him to understand them. Sometimes he tried to ask them where he was, but they never answered him.

397 One day he was standing in the corridor near his cell waiting for the giant woman who always brought him food. Suddenly he saw another woman who was running very quickly towards him. Some other women were running after her and beating her with metal whips.

398 The woman jumped into Christian's cell and stopped at the far wall. At that moment Waldo appeared in the corridor.

399 "You are a fool to interfere," he said to Christian. "Let them do what they like." He looked around the cell. "Do they give you enough food? Are you all right?" he asked.

"I am all right." replied Christian.

400 Waldo rubbed his hands and smiled. "Excellent, excellent," he said. "Not long now, you won't have long to wait..."

401 He walked away. His smile reminded Christian of a cat playing with a mouse.

402 The giant woman brought Christian his food. When she saw the woman in his cell, she said something to her and called her "Alma." Then she went away.

403 Alma quickly took some food from the tray and ate it.

404 "You can eat all of it if you like, Alma," said Christian, and she ate some more and drank the water. Christian tried to speak to her, but she did not answer, and soon ran out of his cell and along the corridor.

Все ребята, как сказал инспектор в первой главе "Show out", я думаю, вы убедились, что язык книги очень простой, и надеюсь, далее моя помощь вам не потребуется.

Ну, я то знаю, что будет дальше, интересно, догадались ли вы, где находится Кристиан, а ему предстоит еще много приключений, ведь это только половина книги.

Успехов!

w_cat.

- 28 -

Christian thought about Alma. It was clear that she was very hungry and afraid. But why? Why did the other women run after her and beat her?

He decided to walk along the corridors in the direction in which Alma had run away.

As he was walking, the corridor was getting wider and wider. At last he could not see the walls. It was already not a corridor, but a large underground cave.

Everywhere there was tall grass. It was hot and wet. The grass was becoming thicker and taller, it was like a grass jungle.

Suddenly Waldo walked up to him.

"A man can hide here," said the Brain.

"Or a woman..."

"Or a woman," Waldo agreed and laughed. "You are quite right, Captain - Alma is somewhere here."

Christian did not want to talk to him and walked away, back to the corridor.

When he was going along the corridor in the direction of his cell, he noticed that many Brains were standing at the walls of the corridor and looking at him. Instinct told him that his time was running out...

He saw a group of giant women walking towards him. They were all carrying metal whips with which they had attacked Alma. One of them gave a command, and they ran to him with loud shouts, waving their metal whips.

Christian turned and ran. The Brains were standing along the walls and laughing. He ran as fast as he could. He reached the grass jungle and ran into the tall grass.

He was running through the thick tall grass and heard laughing and shouting behind him.

He was breathing hard. He began to understand how an animal feels during the hunt. He was running and changing directions, but he heard that the Brains were surrounding him on all sides. He stumbled and fell. When he raised his head, he saw Waldo standing over him.

"You were running well, Captain," said the Brain, "but this is the end!"

He raised his weapon -

Something lifted Christian. He looked up and saw a giant figure. Alma! She threw him over her shoulder and jumped into the green jungle. She did it so quickly, that Waldo had no time to shoot.

Alma was running very fast, and soon the cries of the hunters died away.

She stopped near a huge old tree, about twenty feet across, and put Christian down on the grass.

"We can hide inside this tree," she said. "Get in."

Christian got after her into the hollow trunk. Alma sat down on the grass that was on the bottom.

"You are safe here," she said.

"Thanks," said Christian. "Thanks for saving my life."

He was looking at her and thinking what questions to ask her.

- 29 -

Suddenly Alma said: "Why do you use the archaic language?" Can't you speak properly?"

"Archaic?"

"Yes, archaic. Don't think I am a fool. I am intelligent."

She looked at him.

"You are not one of us - your body is too big and your head is too small. Where are you from?"

"From Earth," Christian said. "Earth is the third planet revolving round -"

"Do you take me for an idiot?" said Alma angrily. "I know that."

Christian looked at Alma in silence. He did not know what to say. Finally he asked: "What planet is this?"

"Why, Earth, of course!"

"If this is Earth," said Christian, "it is certainly not the Earth which I know. We are underground, I suppose?"

"Of course. No one lives on the surface now... it is forbidden."

"Now?"

Alma answered nothing. She was just sitting and looking at him. It seemed to Christian that she was losing interest.

He said:

"The Brains brought me here using a black crystal. I arrived in the hall where there was a giant machine with a lot of such crystals. Do you know anything about this machine?"

Alma nodded. Christian saw that she was falling asleep.

"Do you know how this machine works? Or what it is?"

"Oh, some kind of transmitter..."

"What kind of transmitter?"

Alma lay down and prepared to sleep.

"What kind of transmitter?" he repeated.

Alma was almost sleeping now.

"A time machine..."

- 30 -

Christian woke up. Alma was sitting near him and looking at him.

"I know who you are," she said. "You are from the past - a prehistoric man."

Christian began to understand. A time machine... and he was somewhere in the future.

"How far in the future?" he asked.

But Alma was not interested. She climbed out of the hollow trunk of the tree and Christian followed her She walked through the tall grass, then sat down and began eating some leaves.

"It was nineteen hundred and sixty-six when Waldo fastened a crystal on me and brought me here," he said. "What year is this?"

"I don't know," said Alma.

Christian felt very sad. Brains and blond giant women - this is what mankind came to in the end!

"Are there no other people?" he asked.

"There is no one else."

"And on the surface?"

"It is forbidden," said Alma.

"I want to reach the surface," said Christian. "It there a way? Can you show me?"

"It is forbidden," Alma repeated. "It is too cold there, and there are the Watchers and others..."

"What others?"

"Insects"

"And men?"

"No men - only the Watchers."

"I must see for myself," said Christian. "Show me the way, Alma."

She stood up and walked. Christian followed her. They walked a long time. Suddenly Alma said: "The Watchers will help you if you can reach them."

They came to a high metal wall.

"There is a door in this wall," said Alma. "I don't know what is on the other side of the door, but legends say that there is a moving room there that rises to the surface."

Soon they saw the door. There was a button in the wall near the door. Christian pressed the button and the door opened. And just at that moment they heard shouts behind their backs.. There was a flash of a decapitator, and Alma fell dead. Somebody's hands caught Christian from behind. He turned and hit the Brain with all the weight of his body. The Brain slipped on the wet grass and fell, and in falling dropped his decapitator. Christian seized the weapon and, quick as lightning, jumped inside. The door closed behind him.

It was a lift, and it went up as soon as the door closed.

- 31 -

The lift stopped, and the door opened. Christian saw a black sky and the ground on which nothing grew. It was very cold.

He stepped out of the lift cabin.

The sun was huge, an orange-red disc which hung low on the horison. He could see not a house, not a tree: all around him was desert.

Christian looked at the world's end and felt very sad.

Then he turned and walked towards the bloody-red disc of the sun. There was only sand around. An icy-cold wind was blowing. Who were the Watchers? Perhaps only a legend from the long dead past...

It was a world of silence. He was the last man alive.

Far ahead he saw a wall. It looked small, but as he was walking nearer and nearer, it grew in size. It took him many hours to approach the wall, and when at last he came near it, he stopped in great surprise. He had never seen such a huge construction. It rose high into the sky and he could not see the sun behind it. It stretched left and right beyond the horison.

It was old, very old. Who built this wall? And for what purpose?

He did not know how to get to the other side. He was walking along the base of the wall, and suddenly fell into a hole which he had not noticed in the darkness. The hole was deep and ended in a tunnel. He walked along it. The darkness was complete. By and by the tunnel began to go up, and Christian saw light at the end of it. Finally he got out on the other side of the wall.

The landscape was the same. There was desert all around him, and the huge red sun was still hanging over the horison. In the distance he saw a little hill and walked to it. From the top of the hill he saw something which looked like ruined buildings. He turned and looked in another direction. And then he saw it. Far across the desert something was moving.

- 32 -

Christian began to run, shouting and waving his arms. Movement meant life - he was no longer alone -

But a minute later he stopped. The thing that was running towards him was certainly not human. He raised his decapitator and waited.

It was a giant ant the size of a dog, and it was running on its six legs straight at Christian. Christian pressed the button on his weapon, and the giant insect fell dead.

He looked around. Several other ants were approaching from the distance. He turned and ran in the direction of the ruins.

Looking back, he saw that the ants had stopped beside the dead body of their comrade and were pulling it to pieces. He ran on, trying to reach the ruins as soon as he could.

Once it had been a very large house. Now there were only half broken walls with no ceilings and remains of columns.

Christian was running from room to room, with the insects hurrying after him. He came into a large hall and ran across it to the opposite wall. When he reached it, the first ants appeared in the doorway through which he had entered. He could not climb over the wall because it was too high. Rather high over the floor there were some niches in the wall big enough for him to get in. With a great difficulty, using cracks in the wall as steps, he managed to climb into one of these niches. The ants came up to the wall and were trying to climb to him. Every minute more and more insects gathered at the wall.

His situation was desperate. Then he had an idea - to try to burn a hole in the wall with his decapitator. Of course, he did not know how thick the wall was and how much energy was remaining in the decapitator. He did not know what he would find of the other side of the wall if he managed to burn a hole through it. But it was the only way to try to get away from the terrible insects.

He turned his decapitator to the wall and pressed the energy button. A narrow hot beam touched the wall, and it slowly began to melt.

It took him a long time to make the hole large enough to get through. Then he had to wait for the wall to cool. At last he jumped out on the other side.

There were no ants... but he saw far on the horison moving lights. What was it? The Watchers who were coming to save him? Or some new enemies?

The moving lights were quickly approaching. He saw two machines. They were round, the size of small cars, and they were moving on caterpillars, like tractors.

Christian was running towards the moving machines, because the ants had already found their way around the wall and were running after him. When the insects noticed the moving machines, some of them turned and started running away, other, tried to hide into the sand. Both machines put out metal discs which were quickly turning, and attacked the insects with them, cutting them to pieces. Soon all the ants which had not run away were killed.

Both machines pulled back their discs, moved to the place where Christian was standing and stopped.

Five minutes passed, and nothing happened. Christian walked round each machine. There were no doors or windows in them. He knocked on the side of one of the machines and shouted: "Is there anyone inside?"

There was no answer. He understood that the machines were robots.

Robots! Robots directed by remote control - from where? And by whom?

Evidently they were controlled by the Watchers...

He climbed on the top of one of the machines hoping that it would carry him to the people who operated them. The machine did not move. Then he climbed down and began walking in the direction from which the machines had come.

Immediately the machines started moving in the same direction, too. He stopped, and the robots stopped, too. He went on, and they followed him again.

At least he was safe from the danger from insects. But he walked more and more slowly. He was tired, hungry and thirsty. Every new step was more difficult.

Finally he could walk no more. In despair he fell down on the sand. The two robots stopped beside him.

Suddenly it became much darker. He looked up and saw something big which was falling from the sky...

- 33 -

Waldo and other Brains were standing at the door of the lift.

"We must follow him," said one of the Brains.

"No! He cannot live on the surface. It is too cold there, and then there are giant mutated insects. He will certainly die," said Waldo.

"But what if he gets to the Watchers?" said another Brain. "What will happen then?"

Waldo hesitated. He wanted to take revenge on the captain, but was afraid of the Watchers.

"If the Watchers find out what we are doing in the past," he said, "they will try to stop us. We must try to complete our work before it is too late."

"Yes, we must hurry," the others agreed.

They went back. Soon all the Brains gathered in the hall of the transmitter with crystals.

"Captain Christian has run away to the surface," said Waldo. "He may meet the Watchers. We must act immediately. As you know, our purpose is to throw off the yoke of the Watchers. We can do it if we change the course of history from the past. We must concentrate our efforts on the scientists of the past who are working on the problems of space travel. If we stop all experiments with space travel, that are going on in the twentieth century, people will never fly into space - and we shall be masters of Earth."

Waldo was speaking louder and louder and finished with the words:

"Our plan is clear. We must go into the year nineteen hundred and sixty-six and completely destroy the satellite bases and everything that is connected with them!"

The Brains were very excited. Someone shouted: "To the past - destroy the satellites!"

They took their crystals from the transmitter and fastened them to their belts. Each Brain was armed with his decapitator.

Waldo gave a command:

"Follow me - into the past!"

He touched the crystal on his belt, the other Brains did the same - and one by one they disappeared.

- 34 -

Active work was going on in the United States Rocket Research Centre in New Mexico. Under the hot sun ten red and silver rockets stood in the large field ready to fly up. Somewhere a man counted loudly:

"Ten... Nine... eight... seven..."

The rockets were part of the artificial satellite project. In a few minutes they would fly up into space, orbit Earth and send information back to the Earth base. They were the first steps of man to other planets and stars.

The sky was bright blue and completely cloudless. There was no wind.

The man had his finger on the starting button. He continued to count:

"Four... Three... Two..."

Suddenly a great explosion shook the field. Great columns of flame and smoke covered the rockets.

The next moment a lot of Brains appeared in the field. They sent bright hot beams of fire from their energy weapons. In a few minutes all the laboratories were destroyed and all the people were killed. The Brains left nobody alive.

Telephones rang in the United Nations. The same thing happened in all the rocket bases of the world. The rocket research centres in Russia, Australia, China, and everywhere else were completely destroyed.

"For the first time in history the nations of the world are united, and we can do nothing," complained the Secretary-General.

He was standing at a high window and looking at the sky and stars. He could not see any way out of the situation. Nothing could stop the Brains... except, perhaps, Captain Christian. He was the only man who really knew about the Brains...

- 35 -

Christian opened his eyes and saw that he was lying on a bed in a room with white walls. Through a round window he could see the desert covered with black sand. The huge red sun hung in the black sky.

A door opened, and a man walked in.

"I am Paul, one of the Watchers," he said. "And you are, I think, from the twentieth century?"

"Captain Arthur Christian."

"Nice to meet you. I hope you are feeling well. Lunch is almost ready."

Christian stood up.

"There are a lot of questions - " he began.

The door opened. The woman who walked in was young and pretty. Christian noticed that both she and the young man had very wise eyes. Both Watchers were young - about twenty-five years old, Christian thought.

Paul said: "Barbara - Captain Arthur Christian."

Barbara smiled.

"It is an honour," she said, "to meet one of our ancestors."

They led Christian along a brightly lit corridor.

"Is this a spaceship?" the captain asked.

"Yes. We have just come from our base on the moon."

They came to a small comfortable room and sat down. Barbara brought lunch. Christian was very hungry and ate with pleasure.

"I wonder," said Christian after lunch, "how far away I am ahead of my time."

Paul looked at him carefully.

"You must prepare yourself for a shock, Captain," he said."...About one hundred thousand years!"

Christian put his glass on the table. One hundred thousand years! That was really a shock. He looked through the window at the black sand and the dyring sun. This, then, was the winter of Earth.

He looked at the Watchers again.

"There must be more than just the two of you," he said. "So far I've seen only the Brains and their giant women. What's happened to the rest of humanity?"

Paul rose and went to a wall with a large screen. He pressed a button, and Christian saw space with lots of stars.

"The humanity is there," said Paul. "Man has reached the stars"

Christian felt proud. After all, the human race was not really represented by the Brains. The stars... he dreamed a little, then remembered the reality.

"Do you know that the Brains have traveled into the past?" he said. "That they have come into the twentieth century and are murdering the best scientists of my time? Can the future be changed?"

Paul frowned. "That is a big question," he said, "even bigger than you think. I am not sure that I know the answer. Perhaps, it is a terrible mistake to try to change the past."

"But that's just what the Brains are doing!" said Christian. "Can you stop them?"

Perhaps," said Paul and rose from the table. "Let us go to the control room."

They came into a large round room with a large screen on the wall and a switchboard before it.

Paul said: "We can send the robots from here, and they will act as our eyes. We shall see on this screen all that they will see on the ground and underground."

He pressed some buttons on the switchboard, and the screen came to life.

The desert started moving before their eyes.

"Our robots could not help you before," said Barbara. "They can only see. As soon as we saw you, we came."

The robots approached the high wall near which Christian had been attacked by the ants.

"Why was this huge wall built?" asked Christian.

"It was an attempt to keep back the insects," said Paul. "Before people left this planet, these giant insects threatened them. They had mutated from small forms because of atomic radiation."

The robots came up to the lift and went underground. Christian saw the jungle in which he was hunted by the Brains.

"At first it was a cultivated hydroponic garden," said Paul, "but the Brains did not take care of it, and now it is wild."

The robots passed the jungle and moved along the corridors to the transmitter hall.

The time machine looked like a monster with many red lights. There were very few crystals in it now...

"It means," said Christian, "that they have gone into the past."

Paul nodded.

"Can you destroy this time machine?" asked Christian.

"Of course," answered Paul. "But what then?" You will remain here for ever - and the Brains will be destroying life in your time. Our problem is to reverse the situation."

He frowned.

"It is a problem which is not easy to solve," he said.

- 36 -

Paul asked Christian to tell them what the Brains were doing in his time, and he told them all he knew.

"It is clear," said Paul when Christian had finished, "that the Brains are trying to change the course of history, to remake the world and be its masters. If they do it, the result will be-"

"the end of civilization," finished Barbara. "No star colonies. Only the Brains and their giant women. It's awful!"

Paul nodded.

"We must do something to stop them," he said. "But what?"

He looked at the time machine on the screen.

"It is necessary to understand how this machine operates," he said. "I must concentrate... I will leave you with Barbara now, Captain. Later we'll speak again. Excuse me now."

Paul left them.

Barbara said:

"If you like, I will tell you about our history since your time."

"I'll be interested to hear that," said Christian. "I want to know more about you and Paul, and this ship and the star colonies."

"The time period is great," she began, "so I can only mention the main events that have brought us where we are today. First you must know that there was a war - the last terrible war, when atomic radiation flooded the planet, and whole continents were dead.

"This was the time of the insects: they mutated and became very big. The people who remained alive now divided into two camps: the true men and the Brains. It was impossible to live on the surface. We saw hope in leaving the planet and flying into space to look for other worlds. The Brains decided to go underground.

"We built our spaceships and flew to other planets, but found that it was quite impossible to live on both Venus and Mars.

"Try to imagine Earth as it was then, ruined and radioactive, and full of giant insects. The Brains had already gone underground and organized their colony there. Even at that time they were already beginning to degenerate. And you have seen the results of that wrong idea. Knowledge alone is worthless - there must be wisdom to control it.

"Finally we succeeded in building powerful spaceships which could fly far into space and reach stars.

"We flew into space and organized the first star colonies. Since that time we have organized many colonies. We have studied a lot of worlds and got a lot of knowledge.

"We wanted to help the Brains, but they rejected our help and did not want to co-operate. By our standards they were dangerous. So we set up a base on the moon to watch over them. You must understand that it is quite impossible for us to kill them...

"There are always two Watchers on this moon base. Our period of duty lasts twelve months."

Shocked, Christian exclaimed: "So there are only two of you? But of course, you can call for help."

Barbara smiled

"You have no idea, Captain, how great is the distance that separates us from the nearest colony. No. Paul and I must solve this problem alone."

- 37 -

Paul joined them.

"I have studied the time machine," he said, "and now I understand the principle on which it works. The black crystals are the main part of it. They appeared many thousand years ago as a result of the great atomic radiation of the Third World War. They are products of multi-dimentional hyperspace. The Brains discovered and studied them, and learnt to use them for moving through time. But they cannot make new crystals. So when we return all the Brains back into their time, I shall destroy their time machine and crystals, and they won't be able to travel through time and bother you."

"What shall we do now?" asked Christian.

"We shall go into your time and look for the Brains."

"All right, let's go!"

In their spaceship Paul and Barbara had a machine which looked like the robots, but could carry passengers. They got into it and started in the direction of the lift

In the underground jungle and corridors they met some giant women, who looked curiously at them, but no one tried to stop them. In the big hall the two robots were still standing near the time machine. Several Brains were looking down at them from the top of the machine.

Paul raised his voice.

"We are the Watchers. You must return to your cells and remain there till I call you."

One of the Brains raised his decapitator and fired at Paul. But nothing happened.

"There is no danger." said Paul. "I have just erected an invisible energy barrier around us. Nothing can pass through it."

Paul spoke to the Brains again. "You must go at once, before I lose patience," he said. The Brains got down from the top of the time machine and left the hall.

"Well," said Christian, "what shall we do now?"

"Our task is simple," answered Paul. "To bring back the Brains who are now in your time and then to destroy the time machine."

He turned to Barbara.

"I am afraid you must remain here, my dear," he said. "One of us must be here to guard the machine."

Barbara nodded.

Paul took a crystal out of the machine and fastened it to his belt. Then he took another crystal and fastened it to Christian's belt.

Barbara held out her hand.

"I don't think we shall meet again, Captain," she said, "so I wish you good luck" To Paul she said: "Take care of yourself."

Paul took a small metal box. Then he touched the crystals on his and Christian's belts. There was darkness again. Christian wondered what was waiting for him in his own time.

- 38 -

Christian and Paul were sitting at the table in front of the Old Man, head of Military Intelligence.

"Glad to see you, Captain," said the Old Man. "And your friends. I hope you have brought good news. Cigar?"

"Thanks." Christian took a cigar from the wooden box and lighted it. "This is one thing they haven't got in the future," he said with pleasure.

The Old Man was looking at Paul.

"So you are a man from the future?

"One hundred thousand years in the future," said Paul.

Christian told his story. The Old Man listened attentively and did not interrupt him.

You've done well, Captain," he said when Christian finished. "At least we know now who are our enemies." He turned to Paul. "Do you think you cap help us?"

Paul nodded.

"I think so," he said. "It won't be easy, but I think I can do something."

"Good," said the Old Man. "We will give you any help you need. Our situation is desperate," he continued. "We cannot do anything with the Brains because they disappear immediately. And appear in other places, destroy, kill, and disappear again. I have here - " he lifted some papers from the table, "details of murders in all parts of the world - Cuba, Turkey, Russia, other countries. And all the victims were scientists. All our rocket bases have been destroyed. It is clear that they want to stop us from getting into space."

"It will all be different now," said Christian.

"I hope so," said the Old Man. "By the way," he continued, "I have let your friend Fox know that you have come back. He wants to see you. I think he has a surprise for you -"

Christian smiled.

"And I have a surprise for him - Paul"

The Old Man said: "It will be better if Mr. Paul stays with us."

Paul stood up

"I am going with Captain Christian," he said

The Old Man opened his mouth to speak - and changed his mind.

- 39 -

Christian and Paul came to Doctor Fox's house in a taxi. The door opened, and Doctor Fox jumped out and shook Christian's hand.

"Chris! It's good to see you again... come in, come in!"

He ran along the corridor. At the door of the living room he stopped.

"Surprise!" he shouted.

Christian saw a small figure with dark hair.

"Why, Jo!" he exclaimed.

"Mrs. Fox," the doctor said proudly. "We have been married a whole week."

Christian laughed.

"Well, congratulations!"

"Welcome back, Sailor," said Jo.

"This is Paul," said Christian "Paul, these are two good friends of mine."

Paul stepped forward, smiling.

Fox and Jo were listening with great interest while Christian was telling them about his adventures.

"The Brains will find you," said Paul to Christian when they left Fox's house. "You have interfered with their plans too often, and they will not forgive you that. They will come to you soon, I am sure. And when they come, I want to talk to them."

They drove to Reading, where the captain's yacht was still standing in the quiet place in the Thames.

In the cabin of the yacht Paul put his metal box on the table and opened it.

"You need not be afraid, Captain," he said. "My energy barrier will protect you."

Christian pulled out a box of shells and loaded his automatic.

"If the Brains come," he said, "let them be afraid."

Paul looked at him.

"There will be no more shooting, please," he said. "I don't want any more killing."

- 40 -

They had visitors the next day.

Christian was standing on deck and smoking his cigar.

Suddenly he was no longer alone. A voice said:

"At last, Captain!"

He turned and saw many big bald heads. The Brains! One of them was Waldo. He raised his decapitator. There was a flash - and nothing happened. Paul's energy barrier protected Christian.

Waldo was shaken.

There is a Watcher here," he said - and then Paul came up on deck.

Waldo spat. All the Brains were standing and looking at Paul

"You must return to the future," said Paul quietly. "If you don't. I shall have to use force."

Waldo laughed.

"It is well known," he said, "that the Watchers do not kill. You can do nothing. We are not afraid of you!"

Christian was angry. He threw away his cigar and raised his automatic.

"I am not a Watcher," he said," and I kill."

Paul turned his head.

"It is useless to shoot, Captain," he said. "My energy barrier works both ways - it will protect them, too"

"I'll kill you one day!" shouted Waldo to Christian. "You shan't always escape me."

Paul looked at Waldo.

"Your time machine is in the hands of the Watchers," he said. "You are free only while you remain here - and I shall make this age unbearable for you."

Waldo was looking at him with angry eyes.

"You Watchers have done what you liked too long," he said. "You have upset our plan - but that won't save you. We'll see what happens -"

Paul interrupted: "I shall not allow you to interfere with the natural course of history. Return to your own time, and I'll do what I can to help you."

"Help!" Waldo spat. "We want no help from the Watchers. You will see what will happen - we shall destroy Earth completely!"

Paul looked troubled, and Christian said: "Switch off your barrier and shoot them!"

"He won't do that!" Waldo laughed. "A Watcher will never kill!" He touched the crystal on his belt and disappeared with the rest of the Brains.

Christian turned to Paul.

"You heard what he said - the'll destroy Earth. There won't be any future if we don't kill them. There is no other way."

Paul sighed unhappily.

"There must be another way," he said.

He went down into the cabin. He took some wires out of his metal box and began making some complicated device

"It will be good if you inform your government of this new threat of the Brains," he said to Christian. "It will take me some time to build the weapon which I am making, and who knows what the Brains may do during this time."

"This weapon which you are making - will it stop the Brains?"

"Yes, it will stop them."

Christian ran up on deck, jumped on the shore and hurried to the nearest telephone.

- 41 -

The Imperial Technical Institute occupied a very large territory; hundreds of specialists worked in its laboratories and workshops; and its stores contained materials for production of anything from shampoo to an atomic bomb.

The Brains came there at night. The guards were decapitated at once, and behind the Institute's massive walls the Brains began making weapons of destruction.

They worked hard. In the stores of the Institute they found all the necessary materials. The Brains were very many, and they all were clever specialists, so their work went on very fast.

- 42 -

Christian was back in London. He was speaking to the Prime Minister and the head of Military Intelligence. He had just finished telling them about Paul's meeting with the Brains, when the telephone rang. The Prime Minister took up the receiver and listened. Then he put down the receiver.

"Operation Finish," he said, "is starting now."

The Old Man jumped up.

"Have they found the Brains?" he asked

"Yes," said the Prime Minister, walking to the door. "We must go to the Headquarters of the Operation. Captain Christian, you may go with us."

They hurried along the corridor and up a staircase. They entered a room and went up to a large table in the middle. There were several officers of high rank near the table. On the table there was a large map, and two girls moved coloured pieces of plastic on it, as the radio-telephone announced coordinates.

"Good!" exclaimed the Prime Minister, rubbing his hands. "Now we can finish this business without Mr. Paul. The enemy has seized the Imperial Technical Institute, and they are all there now. And that is just what we want."

He looked at Christian.

"This plan has been ready for some time," he said to the captain, "but we had to wait for the right moment. A jet plane loaded with an atom bomb is standing not far from the Institute. We are now evacuating people from the area around the Institute. As soon as all the people are evacuated - we shall strike."

The radio-telephone brought reports every minute.

"Section E-one cleared. Transport moves along route North-East."

"Section A-ten cleared. Section E-three cleared. Section..."

Christian thought that perhaps the Brains would leave the Institute long before the end of the evacuation. The Prime Minister watched the map and every now and then looked at the clock on the wall

The radio-telephone continued bringing new reports.

"Section M-eleven cleared. Transport for the last section is ready."

Tension was growing in the operation room. It seemed that the time had stopped. Then -

"Final clearance," announced the radio-telephone. "Repeat final clearance."

The Prime Minister said: "Connect me with the airfield."

"Waiting, sir," said the operator and gave him the phone.

"Commodor Bateson?" said the Prime Minister into the phone. "This is the Prime Minister speaking. Begin the last phase of Operation Finish."

He sat down, smiling nervously.

"Well, gentlemen, we can only wait now. The flight will take seven minutes."

They were the longest seven minutes in Christian's life. Now, he hoped, was the end of the Brains.

The pilot's voice sounded on the radio: "Approaching target area."

A pause. Then -

"Bomb is thrown!"

The Prime Minister stood up. He was very excited. Second after second passed. Then the radio spoke again.

"It's the operator speaking. The bomb did not explode..."

The Prime Minister's face turned grey. It seemed that he was ready to burst into tears.

Christian left the operation room. He was very sad. Once again the Brains had shown that they were clever. People could do nothing against them. The only hope was Paul.

- 43 -

The Brain's answering attack came very soon.

In New York, the Security Council of the United Nations was in session. The conference hall was full of delegates. They were discussing the latest events. The Secretary-General stood up.

"Senor Mendez has the floor," he announced.

Mendez, a big man with dark hair and moustache, rose and looked around the hall at the faces of outstanding politicians. Bright sunlight came in through the large windows. Outside the sky was clear and blue.

"We must attack again," said Mendez, "but not from the sky - from the ground..."

It seemed to him that it was very hot in the hall. Or was it only his imagination? He touched his collar.

"...a big attack from the ground..." he continued.

It was really hot. The temperature in the hall was quickly rising.

"...use heavy tanks..."

Mendez could not speak any longer. The people in the hall had also noticed the rise of the temperature. They were jumping up from their seats and running to the doors. The glass walls began to melt. A woman screamed: her dress suddenly began to burn...

In a few minutes the great building of the United Nations was burning. The New York firemen could not put out the fire because the water in their pipes was turning into steam. Nobody could do anything... and many of the world's outstanding statesmen perished in the great fire.

- 44 -

The tanks were moving forward. There were three rows of them, the most modern heavy tanks with powerful guns. They were making a circle around the buildings of the Imperial Technical Institute.

The commander was watching them through field-glasses from his observation post. He was a thin, grey-haired veteran, very sure of himself and very proud of his tanks.

The commander smiled to himself, remembering the bomb which had not exploded. Such things sometimes happened to bombs. But he was sure that nothing could stop his tanks. He continued watching them through his field-glasses. They were already near the Institute. Another second or two - and he was going to give the signal to open fire.

Suddenly something was wrong. The first row of tanks stopped. They began to change their shape. They were melting, like ice.

The commander seized his microphone. "Open fire!"

The second and third rows of tanks stopped, too. The commander saw through his field-glasses that they were melting. They were melting very quickly In a few minutes there were no more tanks. There were great pools of melted metal in their place.

- 45 -

Captain Christian threw the end of his cigar into the Thames and stepped down into the cabin. Paul was still working on his apparatus. It was a small box with wires, and it was difficult for Christian to believe that it could be an effective weapon against the Brains.

"Have you read the report about the tragedy in New York?" Christian asked.

Paul nodded.

"Do you understand how the Brains did it?"

"They have modernized their decapitation weapon. They release the energy of the air by remote control."

"Can your energy barrier hold out against that?"

"Yes."

"Then you must teach our scientists to erect this energy barrier. The Brains may attack with their new weapon again."

Paul shook his head.

"No, Captain, I will not interfere. The people of your time are not ready for such a weapon. But my apparatus is nearly ready - the Brains will not bother you any longer."

Paul connected his apparatus to the energy source. A high-pitched sound came from the little box. It was getting higher and higher. It was resounding in the captain's head. Christian felt that he wanted to scream. The sound was getting still higher... higher... then Christian could not hear it any more. But the needle moving across the dial on the machine told him that the sound was still coming from the little box.

Paul explained: "I have built a high-frequency oscillator. It broadcasts sound waves which cannot be heard by a human ear. The sound is continuous and will last indefinite time."

"Well?"

"The structure of the Brains' ear is different from yours. -They will hear the sound, and it is impossible for them to stop it. From this moment they will always have this noise in their heads. I don't think they will be able to stand it for a long time.. and to escape from this noise, they must return to the future."

Christian shuddered.

"For me a few seconds were enough!" he said.

"Quite so," said Paul. "So the Brains will have to return to their time. When they return, I shall destroy their time machine, and you can live in peace."

Christian went up on deck and lit a cigar. He was sure that the Brains would strike back. He only hoped that Paul's energy barrier would be effective enough to hold out against their attack.

- 46 -

Waldo trembled and screamed and held his big head with his small hands. That high-pitched note was sounding in his head without stopping. He felt sharp pain, a red curtain was hanging before his eyes. He could not think clearly

The Brains suffered greatly. Their science could find nothing to stop that terrible noise in their heads. They could not stand that noise any longer. Some of them went mad and killed each other.

Where was the source of the noise? If the Brains knew where the noise was coming from, they could try to stop it. Waldo was sure that it was the Watcher's work. But where was the Watcher?

This was all Christian's fault, Waldo thought; Christian brought the Watcher here - and suddenly Waldo understood. The Watcher and his terrible transmitter were on the captain's yacht.

He turned to the other Brains and shouted:

"The yacht! The noise is coming from the yacht! We must attack at once. We must go there and destroy the transmitter - or perish!"

The grey dwarfs seized their weapons.

"Destroy the transmitter, Christian and the Watcher!" shouted Waldo. Every weapon must be used on the yacht!"

"But the energy barrier," said one of the Brains. "How can we break the Watcher's energy barrier?"

"We shall overload it. We shall use all the power of our weapons, and the barrier will collapse."

- 47 -

Christian was sitting in his chair in the cabin and smoking his cigar. Paul was lying on the bed and reading.

Suddenly a brilliant flash lit the cabin, and the yacht shook

"They are here," said Paul and stood up. "They will try to break the energy barrier. But don't worry - we are safe here."

"I am going on deck," said Christian

"Put on your dark glasses to protect your eyes," said Paul

Christian put on a pair of sun-glasses and went up the steps. Now he could see the energy barrier - a sphere of light, fifty yards across

He was surrounded by bright light. It seemed that a thousand lightnings were flashing outside the energy barrier at the same time. The air was filled with loud roar, the energy barrier was shaking as the Brains were trying to break it with their heat weapons. The water in the Thames was boiling hot, the yacht began going down and soon settled on the dry river-bed

The attack stopped, and the Brains disappeared

"I don't think they will try again," said Paul

"We must get out of here and go to a high place on the bank of the river," said Christian. "The water will come here soon."

"We'll go at once," said Paul

Together they left the yacht and went up to the high bank - and then the water came in a great wave that completely covered the yacht

"I shall visit my own time," said Paul, "to make sure that the Brains have returned there."

He touched the crystal at his belt and disappeared. In a few minutes he was standing near Christian again.

"Only a few of the Brains have returned," he said, "and Waldo is not among them. I don't know where the other, are... in another time, I suppose."

So it was not the end, Christian thought sadly.

"Have you are idea where they can be?" he asked.

Paul sighed unhappily.

"No. I suspect that they are preparing some new attack in another time. But where? It is clear that they are trying to change the course of history and become the only masters of Earth. And if they manage to change history, then, of course, our race will diappear."

The captain tried to remember all that he knew about the Brains. The Brains had decided to stop all progress by murdering research scientists. Then they concentrated on the satellite bases. Evidently, Fox was right, that the main task of the Brains was to prevent mankind from flying into space.

The future of the human race lay among the stars. But this future had a beginning - when the first star ship left Earth

"Of course!" exclaimed Christian. "The first star ship - that's what the Brains will try to destroy now!"

Paul looked at him.

"You are right," he said. "If the Brains destroy the star ship, there will be no star colonies... only the Brains and their giant women. Yes, you are right."

"We must stop them!" said Christian. "Do you know the time period?"

Paul nodded.

"We must hurry," he said.

He touched the crystals on Christian's belt and on his own.

Again there was darkness before Christian's eyes.

And then they saw the star-ship.

- 48 -

The Third World War had ended long ago, and Earth lay ruined. The continents were lifeless and covered with radioactive dust. The water in the oceans was poisoned.

Far in the north, in a valley, which was surrounded with mountains, a few hundred people who had survived were struggling for existence. They ate what they could grow in half frozen ground and what they could get from a small number of animals which they took care of, and they were always half hungry.

From time to time storms brought death to the valley - clouds of radioactive dust - and then men fell ill and died, and women gave birth to monsters. Not long ago a new danger had appeared: the giant mutated insects had found a way into their valley.

These weak and hungry people worked at their rockets...

They had made flights to Mars and Venus, but found that it was impossible for humanity to live on these planets. They had to go to the stars. And they had built a new rocket: the new star-ship was now standing in the valley, pointing its nose to the sky.

In the shadow of the great ship a man raised his eyes and smiled.

"This is our last chance," he said. "Somewhere in space we'll find another earth - and then we can start again."

The woman standing near him said:

"And if we don't find it?"

"We must find," he answered. "There are millions of stars in space - certainly one of them must have a planet like Earth. Maybe, it will take us a long time to find it -"

"A long, long time," said the woman.

"The ship can remain in space indefinitely long," said the man. "Our children will be born in it, and their children, and the ship will go on. And at last, one day, men will land on a planet and built a new world."

All the people gathered round the star-ship. They were ready to get in.

And at that moment they saw strange figures in grey clothes with very big heads. They were approaching the ship.

- 49 -

Christian and Paul saw the great star-ship and the people who were standing round it. From a short distance the Brains were approaching. Waldo was walking at the head of the Brains.

Paul opened his box and pressed some buttons. The high-pitched sound came at once, rose higher and higher - and stopped. But for the Brains it did not stop - it continued in their heads.

"The Watcher again!" shouted Waldo

Paul shouted to them: There is no escape for you - return to your own time!"

Waldo fired his decapitator. "Destroy the ship!" he shouted

Christian turned to Paul. "You must do something," he said

But the Watcher hesitated: he did not want to interfere into the battle, which had already begun. The Brains were firing their decapitators and killing star men, trying to get to the star-ship, the star men were defending the star-ship.

Christian raised his automatic gun and ran to Waldo. At that moment somebody shouted:

"The insects - the insects are coming!"

Christian turned. From the hills, a dark crowd of giant mutated insects were coming into the valley. They quickly approached and attacked both the Brains and the star men...

Christian was trying to find his way to Waldo. Paul shouted:

"A radioactive cloud is approaching!"

The leader of the star men gave a command: "Into the ship - hurry!"

The star men began to get into the ship. The Brains continued to struggle with the insects.

At last Christian stood face to face with Waldo. Waldo aimed his decapitator at the captain, but he was half mad because of the continuous noise in his head - and missed. Christian shot at him - and the Brain fell dead.

Christian heard Paul's voice and ran towards him. Paul erected his energy barrier to protect them from the radioactive cloud.

"Return to your own time," the Watcher shouted to the Brains. "You will be safe there."

The Brains hesitated for only a moment. They had lost their leader. The terrible high-pitched sound never stopped in their heads. They were afraid of the radioactive cloud, and the giant

insects were attacking and killing them. They touched their crystals and disappeared...

Christian and Paul were standing in the valley and looking at the star-ship

"This is a historic moment," said Paul.

The ship rose a little, great flames of fire appeared under it. Faster and faster it was rising - and in a few seconds disappeared in the dark sky.

"It is over," said Paul. They looked at each other and smiled.

"Do you think the Brains have returned to your time?" asked Christian. "I think so." said Paul, "but I shall make sure as soon as I have taken you back to your own time."

He touched the crystals on Christian's and his own belts - and then Christian found himself on the bank of the Thames near his yacht. It was dirty and greatly damaged. But it was all right, he thought. The great and most important thing was that the Brains were no longer there. As to the yacht, he would repair and clean it.

Paul appeared beside him.

"All the Brains are in their time," he said. "Now the only thing I have to do is to destroy their time machine. I shall do it at once. So - I must say good-bye, Captain"

Christian took the crystal off his belt and gave it to Paul. He felt that he must make a speech, but could not find words.

"Thanks," he said. "Thank you for all you have done - from all the people of Earth."

They shook hands.

"Now you can be sure of your future," said Paul. "So - good-bye and good luck to you."

He touched his crystal and disappeared.

Christian stood a long time, looking down at the Thames and his yacht. The adventure was over. At last people could breathe a sigh of relief. He felt good. He thought about his friends - Doctor Fox and Jo, who were waiting for him.

He turned and walked away.

Примечания


1

- Это интересная история, доктор. - вежливо сказал инспектор полиции.

2

- Интересная!? - доктор Фокс, вскочил со стула и возбужденно замахал руками.

- Позвольте мне напомнить вам, они убивают людей!

3

В возбуждении Фокс начал метаться из угла в угол. Это был коротышка с очками на пухлом лице, типичный ученый. Он славился тем, что имел собственное мнение обо всем на свете.

4

- И какова ваша теория, доктор? - сказал инспектор. - Эта организация, о который вы говорите, какой у них мотив? А если вы скажете мне, каким оружием они убивают, я буду очень благодарен.

5

Фокс отрицательно покачал головой.

6

- Я знаю только то, что прочел в газетах. Какой-то вид энергетического разряда, это ясно.

7

Инспектор посмотрел на настенные часы, ясно, чай остыл. Он вздохнул. Фокс внезапно сел.

8

- Вы не обязаны признавать мою теорию, - сказал он, - но вы должны признать факты. Я тщательно проверил. Каждый раз когда имеет место убийство, поблизости находится ярмарка Буркхолдера. Каждый раз - это не может быть совпадением.

9

Инспектор кивнул.

10

- Доктор Фокс, первая жертва - профессор Лич - был ваш друг, я понимаю. Признайте, этот факт немного влияет на ваши суждения.

11

Фокс вскочил опять. Он не мог быть спокойным.

12

- Так, вы думаете, я говорю чепуху, инспектор! Позвольте мне сказать вам -...

13

Инспектор нажал кнопку на столе, и сержант в униформе открыл дверь.

14

- Шоу закончилось, доктор Фокс - сказал инспектор.

15

Возмущенный доктор покинул полицейский участок. Он шел разговаривая сам с собой.

16

- Черт побери, что же я могу сделать? Вот если бы Кристиан был здесь...

17

Он застыл столбом. "Почему бы и нет?" подумал он. Действительно, почему бы и нет! Он может вызвать Кристиана сейчас же.

18

Он поспешил в почтовое отделение, чтобы послать телеграмму.

19

Тем временем, инспектор, наконец, пил свой чай и раздумывал над тем, что только что слышал. Конечно, это абсурд. Ну, Фокс же ученый... Инспектор не видел связи между жертвами, кроме метода убийства. В целом казалось, что мотивов нет. Инспектор был озадачен.

20

Весело сияла неоновая реклама:

ЯРМАРКА ЯРМАРКА ЯРМАРКА

21

Все было заполнено шумом и суетой. Толпы двигались между палатками и навесами, постоянно мигали разноцветные лампочки, звуки музыки смешивались с визгом девчонок.

22

На деревянной трибуне перед большой палаткой высокий человек говорил в микрофон:

23

- Леди и джентльмены, добро пожаловать на величайшее в мире шоу! Меня зовут, Буркхолдер и я лично гарантирую, что вы никогда не видели и не слышали прежде, что-либо подобное. Заходите и посмотрите на Умников! Они ответят на любой вопрос, какой бы вы им не задали, любой вопрос на любую тему! Я настолько уверен, что предлагаю, пять фунтов любому кто сможет победить их. Заходите леди и джентльмены. Цена один шиллинг. Только один шиллинг, чтобы узнать тайны вселенной!

24

Буркхолдер достал из кармана банкноту в пять фунтов и показал ее всем.

25

- Вот они, леди и джентльмены, пять фунтов тому, кто задаст вопрос, на который Умники не смогут ответить. Платите, ваши шиллинги и занимайте ваши места.

26

Все больше и больше людей входили в палатку. Внутри была приподнятая платформа, сейчас закрытая занавесом. Когда все лавки были заняты, Буркхолдер вошел и поднялся на платформу.

27

- Леди и джентльмены - сказал он, - я надеюсь, вы приготовили ваши вопросы. Спрашивайте все что пожелаете. А теперь, перед вами... Умники!

28

Занавес поднялся, и люди увидели трех мужчин, которые сидели на сцене.

29

Умники были одинаковы. Все они были карликами, одетыми в серые костюмы. Но, прежде всего, привлекали всеобщее внимание их головы. Они были очень большие, не пропорционально большие по сравнению с их маленькими телами.

30

Умники смотрели на зрителей сверху вниз безо всяких эмоций.

31

Буркхолдер сказал: - Задавайте ваши вопросы, пожалуйста. У вас только пол часа.

32

Пауза затянулась. На заднем ряду леди прошептала своему мужу: - Мне они совершенно не нравятся.

33

Действительно, чувствовалось какое-то зло в Умниках; казалось они были лишены всего человеческого.

34

Наконец школьник спросил: - Космос действительно пуст?

35

- Нет, - ответил Умник в центре. - космос пуст только относительно. Существует множество пыли и газа между звездами. Также много типов излучений.

36

После этого вопросы посыпались:

37

- Рыба ли морская лошадь?

38

- Назовите столицу Пакистана?

39

- Кто написал "Граф Монте-Кристо"?

40

- Существуют ли приведения?

41

Умники по очереди отвечали на вопросы. Пол часа прошли быстро, и занавес опустился.

42

Миллер был крупный мужчина с короткой стрижкой и мягким голосом. Он никогда не суетился. Когда он пришел в офис, его вызвали к Старику. Он прошел по коридору постучался в дверь и вошел.

43

- Садитесь Миллер - сказал Старик.

44

- Я хочу, чтобы вы провели расследование - сказал Старик - У меня есть рапорт полиции. Рапорт касается этих убийств. Вы читали о них?

45

- Я читаю газеты, - сказал Миллер.

46

Все жертвы были обезглавлены. Ни одной головы не найдено, шея каждого обезглавленного тела была обожжена. Полагают, что головы были совершенно уничтожены. Конечно, мы интересуемся, какой тип оружия был применен.

47

- Убийства - продолжал Старик, - имеют один почерк, работал один человек или одна организация...

48

И еще у них есть рапорт от некого доктора Фокса. Он считает, что убийства связаны с Ярмаркой Буркхолдера. Сейчас она в Рединге. Я хочу, чтобы вы отправились в Рединг и разузнали что к чему.

49

Очень необычная личность. Он ученый, который имеет собственное мнение обо всем на свете. Он написал множество статей о летающих тарелках, телепортации и т.п.

50

- Я пришлю отчет, как можно скорее.

- Хорошо - сказал Старик - И, еще, Миллер, не теряйте голову.

51

Моторная яхта "Морской Туман" находилась в тихом месте Темзы. Это было хорошее судно, окраска безупречна, металлические части хорошо отполированы. Все указывало на то, что владелец хороший моряк и гордится своим кораблем.

52

В большой каюте капитан Кристиан просматривал свежие газеты и курил тонкую черную сигару. Это был хорошо одетый высокий человек с русой бородой и голубыми морскими глазами. Он перевернул страницу, луч фонаря высветил заголовок

53

Молодая исследовательница новая жертва загадочного убийцы

54

Очаровательная Маргарет Гринвейс, ученый биолог, новая жертва убийцы. Ее тело было найдено этим утром, обезглавленным, как и все жертвы этого сумасшедшего.

55

Мисс Гринвейс работала над секретным методом улучшения качества картофеля.

56

Как обычно, голова не найдена - пятое убийство такого вида. Когда же полиция произведет арест. Общество имеет право...

57

Кристиан припомнил газетные статьи о других убийствах этого типа.

58

Безголовое тело... обоженная шея.

59

Он отложил газету в сторону, встал, поставил чашку на место и поднялся по трапу. Он почувствовал необходимость в свежем воздухе.

60

Когда он вышел на палубу, он услышал звук мотоцикла. Вскоре он увидел посыльного с телеграфа едущего к нему.

61

- Это я. - Кристиан взял телеграмму и быстро прочел ее. - Без ответа, - сказал он.

62

Молодой человек уехал, и Кристиан запустил дизель своей яхты и направился вверх по Темзе. Стоя у штурвала, он перечитал телеграмму от своего старого друга:

63

Нуждаюсь в немедленной помощи тчк Дело жизни или смерти тчк Встречаемся в Булл отеле Рединг тчк.

64

Как только Кристиан вошел в Булл Отель в Рединге, Фокс выбежал ему на встречу.

65

Кристиан улыбался, пожимая руку друга:

- Хорошо, что на этот раз? Дождь из лягушек? Огни на небе? Или какая-то служанка которая зажигает огонь, только подумав об этом?

66

- Убийство, - тихо ответил Фокс ведя Кристиана в бар. Они взяли два пива и сели к столу.

67

- Я думаю - сказал Кристиан - у тебя есть теория объясняющая убийства - Он зажег сигарету и приготовился слушать.

68

- Это так, Крис, - сказал Фокс - Я побывал в полиции, но - ничего хорошего, конечно. Они не восприняли меня всерьез.

69

Капитан слегка улыбнулся, в прошлом, много раз он смеялся на теориями своего друга, на потом, как правило, все поворачивалось так, что доктор был прав.

70

- Хорошо, что же ты обнаружил?

71

- Я думаю я знаю кое-что, - сказал Фокс - Каждый раз когда происходит убийство, Ярмарка Буркхолдера находится поблизости. Каждый раз - я проверил тщательно. Ярмарка сейчас здесь.

72

- Поэтому мы встретились в Рединге - сказал Кристиан.

73

- Я сходил на ярмарку и видел шоу называемое Умники... три карлика с огромными головами отвечают на вопросы. Что то странное есть в них, но несмотря на их внешний вид знают они много.

74

- Ты знаешь меня Крис. Не так то просто обмануть меня. Я обстрелял вопросами Умников - вопросы по физике, истории, литературе, математике, обо всем, что пришло в голову, и на что я знал ответы. Они знали все ответы.

75

- Итак? - спросил Кристиан.

76

- Я хочу, чтобы ты посмотрел их сам. Мне они не нравятся, как и публике. Они зло. Я чувствую это. Я хочу знать кто они, откуда появились и как получили свои огромные знания.

77

- Это будет не трудно сделать - сказал Кристиан.

78

- Возможно труднее чем ты думаешь - сказал Фокс - Профессор Лич был мой друг. Он был первый. Он исследовал гидропонику.

79

- Я интересовался другими жертвами. Груллер, вторая жертва, был астроном. Он сделал новое открытие о звездах и был готов опубликовать его - секрет умер с ним.

80

- Третий был Роберт Джеймс химик. Он изучал влияние радиации на жизнь насекомых. Четвертый, Борн, психолог. Он разработал новую теорию структуры мозга. Последняя конечно Маргарет Гринвейс.

81

- Ты же видишь, Кристиан? Все убитые люди науки... и все работали над чем-нибудь новым!

82

- Есть идеи об оружии?

83

- Только то, что это что-то новое - какой-то громадный разряд энергии с большим нагревом: вот почему шеи обожжены.

84

- Убийцы очень самоуверенны - сказал Фокс - Ты увидишь такое, когда ты встретишь Умников. Я думаю, они убийцы.

85

Но почему ярмарка? Здесь так много людей и все знают их.

86

- Какой может быть наилучший путь, путешествовать по стране? - сказал Фокс. Вспомни, они физически очень отличаются от любого из нас, и их просто заметить. Ярмарка служит видом укрытия для них.

87

- Но, почему они убивают ученых? - спросил Кристиан. - Может быть они группа людей которые против любой формы прогресса.

88

- Это большой вопрос, Крис - мы только в начале. Будут еще убийства. Где они взяли такое оружие? Современная наука не знает такого мощного ружья...

89

- Итак, - усмехнулся капитан - они приземлились в летающей тарелке! Твои обычные теории.

90

- Мне думается, межпланетная организация. Они знают, что происходит на земле. Они видят успехи нашей науки, и они не хотят пустить нас в космос. Они хотят остановить нас.

91

Его охватило воодушевление.

92

- Подумай о нашем прогрессе. Через двадцать лет мы будем готовы выйти в космос, - и кто знает, что бы можем найти там? Наверное, они не хотят, чтобы мы покидали землю.

93

- Поэтому они убили молодую женщину, которая выращивала картошку - сказал Кристиан.

94

- Ты не понимаешь. Маргарет Гринвейс открыла что-то новое. Что-то новое - вот что они пытаются остановить. Остановить любой прогресс - и оставить человека на этой планете навсегда!

95

- Кристиан смотрел на своего друга с открытым восхищением. Никто иной не смог бы создать такую теорию из столь малочисленных фактов.

96

- Хорошо, Кристиан, - сказал Фокс, глядя на капитана, - ты человек действия. Что мы должны делать?

97

- Обследовать ярмарку Буркхолдера, - сказал Кристиан. - Утром я пойду на ярмарку и поищу там работу.

98

Герберт Тюрстон заработался допоздна в своем доме на окраине Ридинга. Он сидел у стола. На столе лежали станицы рукописи и много блокнотов.

99

Он делил одиночество с кошкой. Экономка уехала к родственникам и вернется только утром.

100

Тюрстон был доволен своими достижениями. Многолетняя работа была близка к завершению. Он устал, но спать не хотелось. Он опять полюбовался на заглавие своей работы.

101

Он был уверен, что публикация его теорий вызовет большой шум. Это наполняло его гордостью.

102

Что-то зашумело. Кошка подняла голову, глядя в окно.

103

- Ничего там нет - сказал Тюрстон - спи.

104

Он пересек комнату к маленькому столику и взял сэндвич. Когда его рукопись будет опубликована, это будет сенсация. Он был уверен.

105

Звук возник опять, на этот раз от черного хода. Тюрстон решил не обращать внимания. Он выпил молоко и посмотрел на манускрипт опять.

106

Кошка вскочила, выгнула дугой спину и зашипела. Она смотрела на дверь.

107

Тюрстон схватил кочергу от камина и открыл дверь.

108

- Стоять на месте - закричал он - Я вас вижу.

109

Фигура была в тени, но Тюрстон заметил отблеск металла. Он замахнулся кочергой и прокричал:

110

Фигура двинулась вперед. Странное оружие нацелилось на него...

111

Ослепительная молния ударила в лицо, один ужасный момент громадного жара, затем ничего...

112

Убийца переступил через обезглавленное тело Гильберта Тюрстона и вошел в кабинет. Там он уничтожил рукопись.

113

Следующим утром Кристиан пришел к Ярмарке Буркхолдера с мешком за плечом. Он надел брюки и темно-голубой жакет. Он выглядел как обычный матрос, ищущий работу. Он бродил, глазея по сторонам. Он увидел человека кормящего животных, рабочие убирали территорию, несколько детей игрались, и мужчина косил лужайку.

114

- Эй, вы! Ищете работу?

115

Хорошо одетый мужчина с длинными усами, направлялся к нему. Кристиан понял, что это был Буркхолдер.

116

- Да, сэр - сказал он - я отстал от корабля. Я мог бы поработать несколько недель.

117

Буркхолдер посмотрел на капитана внимательно и увидел сильного мужчину с русой бородой и ясными голубыми глазами.

118

- Хорошо - сказал он - вы будете делать все что вам скажут.

119

Вы позавтракали?

120

Очень большой человек подошел к ним.

121

Буркхолдер повернулся к Миллеру.

122

- Кристиан будет жить в твоем трейлере. Покажи ему где это и проводи его в кухню. Затем возвращайся к работе.

123

Буркхолдер ушел. Исполин отвел капитана в маленький трейлер. Внутри были две кровати.

124

- Оставь вещи - сказал Миллер, - и я прокажу тебе, где можно поесть.

125

- Давно ты здесь работаешь? - спросил Кристиан.

126

- Начал вчера.

127

Значит, этот великан не сможет ничего рассказать, подумал Кристиан. Хорошо, по крайней мере, он был на месте, теперь он должен смотреть, что он может обнаружить.

128

До вечера он не видел Умников. Вечером они вышли из большого трейлера. Все они были одеты в серое. Они шли, не обращая внимания на людей вокруг. У них было маленькие тела и очень большие головы. Они были низкими, не более чем четыре фута ростом. Они выглядели очень неприятно.

129

Глядя на Умников, он решил "Фокс должно быть прав, как всегда"

130

Около 10 часов представления закончились, и публика уходила с Ярмарки. Кристиан пошел к кухне, взял ужин и сел на скамью.

131

Вскоре вошли две миниатюрные девушки. Одна из них села рядом с Крисианом и заговорила с ним.

132

- Ты новенький, не правда ли?

133

- Начал сегодня, мисс - только теперь Крисиан понял, что она не была ребенком, а очень маленькой взрослой женщиной.

134

- Я, Джо, - сказала она, смеясь - Не смущайся. Мы отличаемся только наружностью, внутри мы такие же, как все.

135

У нее были мягкие темные волосы, и носила она розовое платье.

136

- Ты моряк, не правда ли? Расскажи нам о море - Я уверена у тебя было масса приключений.

137

- Ты не поверишь, - ответил Кристиан - Однажды, после крушения, я оказался на скале посреди океана, и каждый вечер русаки приносили мне еду и пели колыбельные. А как-то раз меня проглотил кит, но мой нож был со мной, и я прорезал дыру в боку кита и спасся.

138

- Только не говори мне про акул - рассмеялась она - Я не поверю пока не увижу твою деревянную ногу!

139

Кристиан оглянулся.

140

- Я не вижу Умников, - сказал он - Я полагаю, они едят что-либо.

141

- Не с нами - сказала Джо с презрением - они слишком высоки для общения с нами. Они не настоящие карлики, не такие как Мейбл и я.

142

- Если Умники не карлики - спросил Кристиан - кто они?

143

- Я не знаю. Никому из нас они не нравятся. Они никогда не выходят из своего трейлера, кроме своих выступлений. Но они умные... и бесчеловечные!

144

Она содрогнулась.

145

- Интересно, выйдут они прогуляться ночью - спросил Кристиан.

146

- Я не думаю, - сказала Джо. - похоже они боятся темноты - по крайней мере, они запирают дверь своего трейлера на ночь, и зажигают свет.

147

Вскоре Кристиан попрощался с Джо и пошел к своему трейлеру. Когда он вошел, Миллер готовился к уходу.

148

- Я вернусь поздно - сказал Миллер. - Но не беспокойся, я постараюсь не шуметь.

149

Кристиан был рад слышать это, потому что он хотел выйти и сам, чтобы проследить за Умниками, а так он не должен был ничего объяснять Миллеру.

150

Кристиан провел почти всю ночь, следя за трейлером Умников, но безуспешно, они не выходили.

151

На следующий день, вечером, когда выступления закончились, Кристиан стоял у стенки большого тента и ждал Умников. Было холодно и сыро. Когда они вышли, он сказал:

152

- Ну и ну, типичная английская погода.

153

Умники не ответили. Кристиан сделал еще одну попытку.

154

- Я полагаю - сказал он - там, откуда вы прибыли, климат теплый.

155

Теперь, когда они стояли близко к нему, он мог видеть индивидуальные различия в них. У одного был более острый подбородок, чему остальных, у другого уши плотно прилегали к голове, третий имел шрам на носу.

156

- Действительно, мы привыкли к более умеренной температуре - сказал Умник со шрамом.

157

Он говорил со странным акцентом.

158

- Что это за страна - спросил капитан.

159

Он не получил ответа. Трое Умников молчали. Рассматривая их, Кристиан заметил, что каждый из них носил пояс, и на каждом поясе был большой черный кристалл со странной гравировкой.

160

Он протянул руку, желая, прикоснутся к ближайшему кристаллу, и воскликнул: - Я никогда не видел ничего подобного!

161

Реакция была мгновенна. Все трое отскочили от него, как от большой опасности.

162

- Руки прочь - вскричал один из них сердито - Не трогать!

163

- Извините - сказал Кристиан. Он был заинтригован.

164

Они замерли на мгновение, затем быстро пошли к своему трейлеру. Капитан стоял в растерянности, что же это, черт побери, было?

165

Курт Лауренс посмотрел на часы снова. Было уже больше полуночи, а Грейс еще не вернулась домой.

- Она уделяет слишком много времени Стейси... - подумал он.

166

Он попытался сосредоточиться на работе. Это был высокий шатен, он казался старше своего возраста. Его работа была почти завершена. Он разработал новый метод запуска ракет. Это был гигантский шаг вперед.

167

Он глянул на часы опять. Двадцать минут первого. Где же Грейс. Он подумал, что надо бы уделять больше времени жене.

168

Он вернулся к столу, добавить еще несколько деталей. Когда он, наконец, закончил, был уже час. Он услышал что-то у двери. Он открыл дверь своей комнаты вышел и крикнул:

169

- Грейс? Это ты Грейс?

170

Крут Лауренс, не знал этого, но его волнения завершились...

171

Три автомобиля остановились у входа в Ярмарку. Из каждой машины вышли по четверо мужчин в штатском. Они нашли Буркхолдера и объяснили, что они хотят. Владельцу Ярмарки это не понравилось, но выхода не было.

172

Через десять минут, все кто входил в Ярмарку, отводились внутрь громадного тента. Люди в сером (шутка) допрашивали пришедших. Тем временем другие люди обыскивали тенты и трейлеры.

173

Кристиан тоже был допрошен. К его удивлению Миллер был среди дознавателей.

174

Позже, Миллер отвел Кристиана в сторону и сказал:

- Теперь я должен представится.

175

Он показал Кристиану удостоверение, в котором говорилось что он оперативник МИ-6.

176

- Как вы видите - сказал Миллер, - мы не игнорировали теории вашего друга Фокса. Но нам надо серьезно поговорить. Я знаю, что вы следили за Умниками. Видели ли вы их вчера между полуночью и двумя часами? Выходили ли они из трейлера?

177

- Очередное убийство? - спросил Кристиан.

178

- Да, седьмое - человек по имени Курт Лоуренс. Он работал с ракетами. Он убит, и уничтожены наиболее важные бумаги.

179

- К сожалению, не могу вам помочь - медленно сказал Кристиан - Я наблюдал за трейлером, но Умников не видел совсем. Свет в трейлере горел - я думаю, они были внутри.

180

- Хм. - Миллер сел и махнул громадной рукой - Устраивайтесь поудобнее - никто нас не побеспокоит.

181

Капитан сел и достал сигару.

182

- Требуется помощь - сказал Миллер - теперь я не могу оставаться здесь - он задумчиво посмотрел на Кристиана - Не могли бы вы остаться? Они вас не подозревают.

183

- Я сделаю все что могу - сказал капитан.

184

- Хотелось бы найти орудие убийства - сказал Миллер - Вы знаете, что самое странное в Умниках? Они не имеют прошлого!

185

Ну, перевод этой фразы, ВЫ должны бы и знать!

186

- Я имею в виду, что Умники появились внезапно, ниоткуда. До этого, никто не видел и не слышал о них. У них не прошлого. Может, они упали с неба...

187

Прошло несколько дней, вечером выступления закончились, и публика разошлась. Было поздно, звезды ярко сияли в морозном небе. Кристиан в одиночестве выполнял некую работу, когда он услышал громкий крик от трейлера Умников. Он сразу побежал.

188

Вскоре он был у трейлера Умников, и в свете луны он увидел Умников и Джо. Они окружили карлицу. Умник с плоскими ушами держал ее за темные длинные волосы, другой зажимал ей рот, какой то тряпкой и третий выкручивал ей руки.

189

На бегу Кристиан закричал: - Остановитесь, вы, дьяволы - оставьте ее в покое!

190

Умники были слишком заняты, чтобы слышать его. Он схватил одного из них - со шрамом на носу и отбросил его в сторону.

191

Остальные Умники повернулись к нему, и забытая ими Джо, упала на землю. Умник со шрамом вскочил на ноги и ринулся к Кристиану. Его трясло от ярости.

192

- Я научу тебя вмешиваться - завизжал он (это отрицательный герой и просто закричать он не мог).

193

Он готов был, набросится на Кристиана, когда Виктор, Умник с плоскими ушами, который как казалось, был их лидер, сказал тихо:

194

Это прозвучало как команда. Умник со шрамом мгновенно остановился. Все трое холодно изучали капитана, затем они развернулись и промаршировали в их трейлер.

195

Кристиан склонился над Джо и сказал:

196

Кристиан помог ей подняться. Ее лицо было бледным, но она смеялась.

197

- Вот, что, значит, не лезь не в свое дело, - сказала она - Видя, что они знают ответы на все вопросы, я решила спросить их, кто совершает убийства. Они ни ответили мне, просто стояли и смотрели на меня как на насекомое. Мне сразу это не понравилось. Затем один из них схватил меня за волосы. "Маленькие девочки не должны задавать вопросы - сказал он - мы научим тебя этому." Вальдо начал выкручивать мне руку и я закричала. Затем появился ты.

198

Кристиан проводил Джо к ее трейлеру. У двери он остановился и сказал - Джо, не подходи больше к Умникам. Они опасны. И не беспокой их больше вопросами.

199

Она посмотрела на него снизу вверх.

200

- А ты? Они не простят тебе. Будь осторожен. Они сделают что-то ужасное.

201

- Я справлюсь - сказал капитан - Как ты, нормально?

202

Кристиан пошел к своему трейлеру. Он был уверен, Умники ничего не забудут... Когда он был в трейлере, он вытащил пистолет из рюкзака и проверил механизм. Он немного подумал, затем решил, что в эту ночь оружие ему не понадобится.

203

Он положил пистолет под подушку и вышел. Он пошел в старый, добрый паб, где была назначена встреча с Миллером.

204

Когда капитан подошел к пабу, он увидел машину Миллер у входа. Было поздно, и дверь была закрыта. Он обошел здание, к заднему ходу который оставляли открытым для него, и вошел в дом. Было темно и тихо. Свет горел где-то наверху.

205

Он поднимался по лестнице, когда внезапный выстрел разорвал тишину. Кристиан устремился наверх. Он оказался в маленьком коридоре заканчивающимся дверью. Дверь была приоткрыта, и свет падал оттуда.

206

Он рванулся к двери и вбежал внутрь. Миллер лежал на ковре. На рубашке была кровь. Пистолет лежал рядом с ним, в комнате больше никого не было.

207

Кристиан наклонился над Миллером. Мужчина был мертв. Он посмотрел на оружие.. оно было очень похоже на... Он поднял и посмотрел номер, он не верил своим глазам, это был его собственный пистолет.

208

Кристиан переводил взгляд с пистолета на Миллера. Он ничего не понимал, он же оставил пистолет...

209

Дверь позади тихо закрылась, в замке повернулся ключ. Кристиан прыгнул к двери и дернул, все напрасно. Он был заперт.

210

И сразу старый паб ожил. Он услышал движения, голоса и шаги в коридоре.

211

Кто-то постучал в дверь и крикнул - Мистер Миллер, у вас все в порядке?

212

Кристиан ответил - Откройте дверь - Миллер мертв, и его убийца скрылся.

213

После паузы, ключ повернулся и дверь открылась. Краснолицый владелец паба стоял с тяжелой палкой в руке. Он посмотрел на Кристиана, который все еще держал пистолет и на тело Миллера.

214

- Разрешите пройти - сказал Кристиан.

215

- Не так быстро - вы должны кое-что объяснить.

216

- Послушайте, я работал с Миллером. Он ждал меня. Кто-то застрелил его и...

217

- Может быть - сказал краснолицый. Он отступил назад и быстро запер дверь - Вы должны остаться там до прихода полиции - сказал он.

218

Только теперь Кристиан осознал свое положение. Он был обнаружен один в запертой комнате, с мертвым человеком, держащим пистолет - его собственный пистолет. Да, будет трудно убедить полицию, что он не убийца.

219

И как пистолет попал сюда из трейлера?

220

Кристиан понял, что сейчас не время раздумывать об этом. Он открыл окно, внизу стояла машина Миллера.

221

Он выпрыгнул из окна, и побежал к машине. Краснолицый хозяин паба выскочил из дверей и закричал, размахивая палкой. Кристиан на полной скорости (покинул сцену).

222

Он направился обратно к Ярмарке. Он решил поговорить с Умниками. Инстинкт говорил ему, что они замешаны в деле, Миллер следил за ними, и они убили его. Убили из пистолета Кристиана потому что хотели отомстить ему, они не забыли случай с Джо.

223

Он запарковал машину у Ярмарки. Было темно. Только один огонек виделся в отдалении, он шел от трейлера Умников. Кристиан пошел туда.

224

Дверь была закрыта. Капитан достал проволоку из кармана, немного работы и дверь открыта. Капитан вошел внутрь, держа пистолет наготове.

225

Он остановился в разочаровании. Трейлер был пуст.

226

Кристиан сердито оглянулся. Где же эти Умники? Он не имеет времени дожидаться их. Он был уверен, что владелец Перекрещенных ключей поднял тревогу и полиция разыскивает его. И первое место, где они будут его искать - Ярмарка.

227

Он должен убраться до появления полиции. Это абсолютно необходимо остаться на свободе, пока он не докажет свою невиновность. Да, тут больше нечего было делать, Кристиан решил: он должен исчезнуть.

228

Он быстро и тихо пошел в свой трейлер и собрал вещи. Он заглянул под подушку, как и следовало, ожидать пистолета там не было. Не было сомнений, это Умники повесили на него убийство Миллера.

229

Он раздумывал, где скрыться. Это не может быть его яхта, он был уверен, полиция посетит ее. Это не может быть Фокс, полиция знает, что они друзья. У него были друзья, которые могли спрятать его, но он хотел оставаться неподалеку от Ярмарки, это его единственный шанс доступа к Умникам. Да, Ярмарка отправится в Кембридж утром - Буркхолдер решил найти новое место после визита разведки.

230

Поэтому Кристиан решил отправиться в Кембридж и спрятавшись там ждать своего шанса.

231

Он взял рюкзак и покинул трейлер. Он пошел на кухню. Там он взял пустой мешок и положил туда провизию, которую смог найти. Закинув мешок за плече он покинул кухню.

232

Полиция знает номер машины Миллера, поэтому ее нельзя использовать. Он быстро пошел по тропинке. В свете луны он увидел женский велосипед у забора. Без колебания он оседлал его и поехал по направлению к Кембриджу.

233

Он ехал все ночь, и с первыми лучами солнца он решил остановиться и поискать место для укрытия. Он стоял у заброшенного перекрестка и осматривался. Сквозь деревья, растущие у дороги, виднелось поле и в отдалении, река. У реки он заметил полуразрушенная лодочная станция.

234

Он поднял украденный велосипед на плече, и пошел через поле к реке. Он приблизился к дому. Высокая трава росла перед дверью, ясно, что место было заброшенно.

235

Он открыл дверь, испуганная крыса быстро скрылась в темноте. Он увидел лестницу ведущую на чердак он взобрался туда и притащил за собой велосипед. Он оказался в меленькой комнате с небольшим окном, через которое отрывался вид на подходы к дому. Т.е. если люди будут подходить к дому, он увидит их.

236

Кристиан был доволен. Он сел на пол и съел немного холодного бекона и хлеба с сыром. Все утро он смотрел в окно, но никого не увидел. Днем он поспал несколько часов.

237

Когда настала ночь, он отправился дальше, и утром был уже около Кембриджа.

238

На доске объявлений он увидел новую газету. Кристиан остановился и посмотрел на первую станицу. Там была его фотография и текст под ней:

239

Полиция разыскивает Капитана Артура Кристиана для беседы по поводу перестрелки в Рединге.

240

Кристиан - высокий голубоглазый блондин с небольшой бородой. Он вооружен. Полиция полагает, что он может находиться около Кембриджа.

241

Кристиан встревожен. Он решил, что он должен найти укрытие немедленно. Он не должен оставаться на улице в течение дня.

242

Он поехал дальше. Скоро он увидел большую афишу:

243

Там был рисунок Умников и текст - красными буквами:

244

Пять фунтов получит тот, кто задаст вопрос, на который Умники не смогут ответить.

245

Ниже был адрес Ярмарки.

246

Кристиан оглянулся. Длинный, местами, поврежденный забор огораживал одну сторону улицы. За забором он увидел сад и старый сарай. Сад зарос сорняком, ясно было, что он заброшен. Кристиан оглянулся опять и убедился, что никто его не видит, затем он взял велосипед и прошел в сад через пролом в заборе.

247

Дверь сарая был закрыта, но Кристиан легко сломал ее и вошел внутрь. Он сел на пол и немного поел, из своих запасов.

248

В течение дня он спал. Вечером, в темноте он покинул сарай и пошел к Ярмарке Буркхолдера.

249

Джо вышла из кухни после позднего ужина и пошла к своему трейлеру. Луны не было и звезды были скрыты облаками. Вокруг никого не было.

250

Затем она услышала мягкий голос - Джо.

251

Она узнала голос Кристиана и остановилась.

252

Здесь не безопасно - прошептала она. - Все под наблюдением полиции в штатском.

253

- Я знаю. - Он наклонился к карлице. - Джо, я не убивал Миллера.

254

- Конечно, - сказала она быстро. - Я не верила этому ни минуту. Скажи, чем я могу помочь. Доктор Фокс был здесь утром, я знаю, где он сейчас. Но полиция следит за ним.

255

Кристиан указал на свет, который шел от одного из трейлеров.

256

- Умники дома?

257

- Думаю, да - ответила она - Что ты хочешь делать?

258

- Я собираюсь поговорить с ними - ответил он - Я уверен, что они убили Миллера.

259

- Будь осторожен, Моряк!

260

- Кристиан пожал ее руку.

261

- Не приближайся к Умникам - сказал он. Он повернулся и пошел к трейлеру Умников.

262

Он бесшумно приблизился к двери трейлера, вынул кусок проволоки и открыл дверь.

263

И опять он не видел никого!

264

Кристиан вошел внутрь и закрыл дверь за собой. Он приготовил пистолет, и уселся, глядя на дверь. Это время он решил провести в ожидании возвращения Умников.

265

Бежали минуты. Кристиан думал о Фоксе и Джо, они оба верили в него и были готовы помочь ему. Как хорошо, что у него есть такие друзья. Затем он подумал об Умниках. Может быть сейчас, в этот самый момент, они убивают другого человека, и скоро они вернуться с их орудием убийства..

266

Он не заметил, как глаза закрылись. Послышалось движение, и он открыл глаза. Умники стояли перед ним - но он был уверен, что дверь не открывалась. Некоторое время Умники и Кристиан смотрели друг на друга, затем Кристиан направил пистолет на них.

267

- Вы знаете, зачем я здесь - сказал он - Говорите, но помните, что я могу выстрелить. - Внезапно Виктор, лидер Умников поднял руку. В его руке было орудие убийства...

268

Кристиан вскочил на ноги, с быстротой молнии он схватил Виктора за руку и сжал ее. Оружие упало на пол, и Кристиан пнул его под кровать. Он направил пистолет на Умников опять.

269

Умники стояли и смотрели на него. Затем Виктор сказал тихо - Мы должны уходить.

270

- Вы не уйдете... - Кристиан не успел закончить.

271

Каждый Умник прикоснулся к черному кристаллу на своем поясе, и... все исчезли. Капитан был в трейлере один, он не верил своим глазам. Это же невозможно...

272

Фокс был прав. Это не люди.

273

Он достал из-под кровати оружие Умников. Оно было сделано из какого-то твердого металла.

274

Было очень важно отправить оружие шефу Миллера, как можно быстрее. МИ-6 должна узнать, что их враги могут исчезать в никуда. Но поверят ли ему...

275

Раздумывая, Кристиан ходил из угла в угол. Затем он сел к столу и написал отчет о том, что произошло в Перекрещенных Ключах, как он добыл оружие Умников, и как они исчезли у него на глазах.

276

Он закурил свою черную сигару и перечитал написанное. Затем упаковал свое сообщение и трофейное оружие в картонную коробку и покинул трейлер. Во тьме ночи он бесшумно прошел к трейлеру Джо. Он постучал, и Джо открыла дверь.

277

- Можешь передать этот пакет Фоксу? - спросил он тихо - Попроси его послать это руководству Миллера. Так же скажи ему, что я буду скрываться в Гиртоне, он знает, что у меня там есть друзья.

278

- Я выхожу сейчас же - сказала Джо - Удачи, Моряк.

279

Кристиан взял велосипед и выехал... Ранним утром, еще во тьме он прибыл в поселок Гиртон.

280

Он проник в дом друзей через заднюю дверь. В доме было тихо, и завтрак ждал на столе. Кристиан поел, и лег в приготовленную для него постель.

281

Было уже поздно, когда он проснулся. Яркое солнце светило сквозь окно. На столе лежала газета. Он прочел:

ОБЕЗГЛАВЛИВАНИЕ В КЕМБРИДЖЕ

282

Тело профессора Дювала было найдено рано утром в его кабинете. Дювал один из наиболее известных в мире математиков, был доцентом Кембриджского Университета, он работал над новой теорией пространства-времени. Все его рукописи исчезли...

283

- Проходите - скала Старик - Пожалуйста, садитесь доктор Фокс.

284

Фокс с интересом смотрел на главу МИ-6. Старик подтолкнул коробку с сигаретами к нему.

285

- Не стесняйтесь, доктор. Во-первых, я думаю, вы принести нам оружие -.

286

Фокс прервал его:

287

- Кристиан добыл оружие для вас. Не думаете ли вы, что пора освободить его от подозрения в убийстве?

288

- Ну это дело полиции, но я верю в его историю. Я думаю, я способен помочь. - Старик просмотрел, какие то бумаги - У меня тут отчет об оружии. Это декапитатор использующий новый вид энергии. Пока нет подробностей, но группа ученых работает над этим. Отпечатки пальцев на оружии показывают, что оно использовалось кем-то с очень маленькими руками.

289

- Умники! - воскликнул Фокс.

290

- Возможно. Как вы знаете, Умники совершенно исчезли - мои люди наблюдают за Ярмаркой, и они не наши их. Я не думаю, что они вернутся.

291

- Мы должны получить один их этих кристаллов - сказал Фокс. - Лауренс работал над ракетами. Дюрал разрабатывал новую теорию пространства-времени. Ты видишь, кто нам противостоит. Эти убийцы не собираются останавливаться - уверяю тебя у Умников не один декапитатор. Это межпланетное дело. Земля борется за право выйти в космос.

292

Старик выглядел мрачным.

293

- Если вы правы, - сказал он - позиция серьезна. Что мы имеем? Вторжение существ из другого мира, которые могут исчезать по желанию и которые имеют смертельное оружие - сильнее, чем наше. Мы должны найти их. Если бы мы знали, где их искать.

294

- Они где-то спрятали космический корабль - сказал Фокс - Найдите корабль и вы найдете Умников. Я советую проверять все НЛО которые появятся в небе.

295

Я так и сделаю. А сейчас, простите меня, я должен немедленно встретиться с Премьер Министром.

296

Фокс сказал быстро - А Кристиан? Вы обелили его?

297

Да, я поговорю с министром внутренних дел. Позже, я буду рад встретиться с капитаном лично.

298

Когда Фокс прошел по коридору и покинул здание МИ-6, он услышал голос разносчика газет:

299

Очередное обезглавливание! Маньяк ударил опять! Специальный выпуск!

300

Фокс купил газету, в ней говорилось, что итальянский ученый был найден мертвым в своей лаборатории. Фокс понял, что настоящие проблемы только начинаются. Сначала Британия теперь Италия...

301

Из окна офиса, на шестьдесят четвертом этаже, Мишеля Бранта открывался отличный вид на центр Манхеттена. Но он не смотрел в окно, он сидел спиной к окну. Это был толстяк с множеством колец на пальцах и большой сигарой во рту.

302

- Это интересно - сказал он медленно - Конечно, это интересно, но где здесь деньги? Вы согласитесь надо вложить массу денег, чтобы сделать, что-то значимое из вашей модели, не так ли?

303

Он смотрел на изобретателя стоящего перед ним.

304

- У меня нет денег, что бы сделать все самому - сказал изобретатель - Только поэтому я пришел к вам. Мне нужна исследовательская лаборатория. Но я уверяю вас, вы вернете деньги, в конце концов.

305

- В конце - Брант цинично усмехнулся - Слушайте, Мартин, я финансист, а не филантроп. Я хочу результаты - сейчас. Ну ладно - продолжал он - Я дам вам 5 тысяч.

306

В этот момент, хотя дверь была закрыта, фигура наподобие карлика, одетая в серое, внезапно появилась в комнате. Незнакомец поднял руку и прицелился из странного оружия в Мартина. Ослепительные лучи вырвались из ружья.

307

В следующий момент обезглавленное тело Мартина упало на пол. Оружие повернулось к Бранту...

308

Потом фигура в сером направила лучи на изобретение Мартина, а затем исчезла.

309

Пять человек убиты в Южной Америке.

310

В Африке и Мексике, в Швеции и Мадагаскаре обезглавливания продолжались. Слухи из-за Железного Занавеса говорили, что процесс захватил весь мир. Умников видели в Берлине, Гавайях и прочих местах. Все больше людей были убиты, и все они были учеными - пока не тот инцидент в Карибу.

311

Карибу был маленький городок на берегах реки Пис в Канаде. В окрестностях был открыт уран, и несколько ученых проводила исследовательские работы. Однажды ночью ученый был обезглавлен в присутствии большой группы людей, но на этот раз Умнику - убийце не удалось скрыться.

312

У ассистента ученого был пистолет, и он застрелил Умника.

313

Это был час триумфа для Карибу. Затем пришло отмщение. В городе появилось множество Умников. Они использовали оружие подобное прежнему, но больше и мощнее. Целые здания были сровнены с землей. И вскоре город Карибу был совершенно уничтожен.

314

После этого Умники вернулись к практике убийства мировых ученых. Каждый день из разных частей мира приходили вести о новых обезглавливаниях: из Афин и Токио, Лиссабон и Вена. Газеты атаковали правительства за их беспомощность.

315

Премьер Министр Британии объявил чрезвычайное положение.

316

Полиция и МИ-6 разыскивала базу Умников, но тщетно. Умники просто появлялись, убивали и исчезали опять.

317

Сидя в кресле в каюте своей яхты, Капитан Кристиан поднял стакан.

318

- Как хорошо быть опять свободным. Спасибо, Док.

319

Доктор Фокс, сидящий напротив его, открыл бутылку пива.

320

- Ты все сделал сам, Крис - сказал он - Ты добыл декапитатор.

321

- А ты доставил его шефу Миллера. Я ничего не сделал бы без тебя.

322

Несколько минут прошло в молчании.

323

- Сейчас важно, - сказал Кристиан, - найти Умников. Мы должны получить один из этих кристаллов.

324

- Я не вижу, как ты это сделаешь - сказал Фокс. - Ты не можешь поймать тех, кто растворяется в воздухе.

325

- Мы должны пытаться. Мы должны поймать одного из них до того как он использует оружие или дотронется до кристалла. Если мы будем быстры, мы можем сделать это. И затем мы разделимся. Я спрячу пленника в заранее приготовленном месте - а ты спрячешь кристалл где-нибудь еще.

326

Фокс рассмеялся - Сначала поймай своего Умника.

327

- Мы сделаем ловушку - сказал он - Мы опубликуем сообщение в газетах, что некий ученый разгадал загадку Умников. В статье будет упоминаться место, где работает ученый - и это будет наш тайник. Я уверен, что Умники явятся туда немедленно.

328

- Возможно, это сработает - сказал он.

329

- Я уверен, все получится - сказал Кристиан - Один из них появится и мы поймаем его. И он у меня заговорит.

330

- Нет! Это мое представление. После, если мы сделает это, ты сообщим ему добрые новости. Но я хочу сделать это сам.

331

Нам нужно два быстрых автомобиля и пустой дом в пустынной местности. Затем 2 раздельных скрытых места.

332

Кристиан прорабатывал детали своего плана.

333

- Откуда они явились? - внезапно спросил он - Я не согласен с твоей теорией, что они инопланетяне. Космический корабль достаточно большой для полсотни Умников нельзя спрятать. Астрономы постоянно обыскивают небо, но ничего не находят. Должно быть другое объяснение, но какое?

334

Дом стоял на высоком холме. Вокруг не было ни домов, ни деревьев. В большой комнате на первом этаже в разных углах сидели Фокс и Кристиан, оба вооружены. Фокс держал конец нейлоновой веревки в левой руке. Веревка была связана с сетью, подвешенной на потолке. Один рывок - и сеть упадет.

335

Если появится один Умник, они планировали захватить его живым, больше чем один - и они немедленно откроют огонь.

336

Они сидели и ждали. Они были уверены, что Умники узнают о предполагаемой угрозе их безопасности. Не только газеты опубликовали новость, но радио и телевиденье распространили ее, и люди говорили об этом на улицах...

337

За домом, в гараже, стояли две готовые машины. Были приготовлены два скрытых места. Одно было в подземной лаборатории - Фокс собирался там исследовать кристалл. Другое было в подвале пустого дома - и Кристиан хотел доставить туда пленника и допросить его.

338

Внезапно Умник появился в комнате. Кристиан узнал его по шраму на носу: это был Вальдо. Он был один и вооружен декапитатором. Он увидел Кристиана и поднял оружие, в этот момент Фокс дернул веревку.

339

Сеть упала. Вальдо попытался прикоснуться к черному кристаллу на поясе, но сеть помешала ему. Кристиан прыгнул к Вальдо и врезал ему пистолетом. Умник упал на пол. Кристиан отстегнул ремень с кристаллом и кинул его Фоксу.

340

- Вперед - крикнул он - а я позабочусь о Вальдо.

341

Доктор Фокс положил пояс с кристаллом в металлический ящик и запер его, затем он быстро ушел.

342

Кристиан закурил сигару, затем он поднял Вальдо с пола, закинул его на плечо и вышел. Он увидел удаляющуюся машину Фокса. В гараже он бросил Вальдо в другую машину, завел мотор и отправился в путь.

343

Весь путь до убежища Вальдо ругал и проклинал Кристиана - в его речи были некоторые слова, которые Кристиан не понял. Слова звучали по-английски, но он их не знал.

344

Подвал дома, куда Кристиан доставил Вальдо, был пуст. В центе его стояла большая бочка, заполненная водой. Она была очень тяжела, именно к ней Кристиан привязал Вальдо.

345

Декапитатор Кристиан засунул за пояс. Он смотрел на своего пленника, держа пистолет в руке.

346

- Значит так - сказал он - Сейчас ты ответишь на мои вопросы. Мы здесь одни и я заставлю тебя говорить.

347

Кристиан зажег сигару и поднес ее к лицу Вальдо.

348

- Ты об этом пожалеешь, Кристиан - сказал Вальдо - Ты ответить за все это.

349

- Отвечай - крикнул капитан - я теряю терпение... Откуда вы явились? Сколько вас? Как работают кристаллы?

350

Он не получил ответа. Он размахнулся и ударил Вальдо по лицу.

351

Он выхватил оружие Умников из-за пояса и направил не его.

352

- Я даю тебе 3 минуты - сказал он - Если ты не заговоришь, я опробую ваше оружие на тебе. Я обезглавлю тебя.

353

Зазвонил телефон.

354

Кристиан удивился. Только Фокс знал, что он здесь. Он снял трубку. - Крис? Это Фокс. Кристалл исчез. Коробка была у меня на виду всю дорогу, и когда я открыл ее, вот сейчас, она пуста. Здесь нет никого. Но ремень с кристаллом исчез!

355

Где-то на юге Англии состоялась конференция. Группа ученых сидела и стояла вокруг лабораторного стола. На столе лежали части оружия, которое Кристиан захватил у Умников и отослал в МИ-6.

356

Военный министр внимательно осмотрел разобранное оружие.

357

- Оружие работает на совершенно новом принципе - сказал руководитель исследовательской группы. - К сожалению, мы его не знаем - энергия извлекается напрямую из атмосферы и преобразуется в тепловую. Тепловая энергия излучается концентрированными лучами, которые уничтожают любой материал. \ лазеры еще были не известны \

358

- Можем мы изготовить подобное оружие? - спросил он.

359

Снаружи лаборатория охранялась большой группой солдат. Все были готовы к возможной атаке Умников.

360

Внезапно охранники увидели громадное облако дыма и пламени вырывающееся из лаборатории. Через несколько минут ничего не напоминало об лаборатории и людях находившихся внутри.

361

Командир охраны послал телефонограмму в Даунинг-стрит.

362

Премьер министр выглядел уставшим. Темные круги вокруг глаз, и бледное лицо.

363

- Дела наши плохи - сказал он - и я не знаю, чем это кончится.

364

- Наша последняя надежда Капитан Кристиан, сэр, - сказал он - Если его план сработает, мы получил важную информацию.

365

- Да, - вздохнул Премьер министр - Но тем временем убийства продолжаются. Мы теряем лучших людей, и тоже происходит во всем мире.

366

Старик промолчал, он не знал что сказать.

367

- А теперь военный министр, - продолжал Премьер министр - Это кажется невозможным! Только вчера я говорил с ним -

368

- Я соболезную вам - сказал Старик - я знаю что он был ваш друг.

369

- Я жду новостей из Нью-Йорка, - сказал Премьер министр - Как вы знаете, ООН созвала чрезвычайное заседание.

370

Генеральный секретарь призвал к вниманию - Джентльмены, внимание, слово предоставляется делегату из Британии.

371

Громадный зал взорвался шумом. Делегаты с криками вскочили с мест. Каждый обвинял другого. Азиатская федерация обвиняла Британию. Соединенные штаты обвиняли Россию. Казалось, каждую минуту может начаться драка.

372

Наконец британский делегат смог говорить.

373

- Не время нам ссорится - сказал он - Нам угрожает вторжение из пространства -

374

- вторжение из космоса - продолжал Британский делегат - Наша цивилизация в опасности. Мы должны объединится-

375

Все был бесполезно. Все делегаты опять кричали, и Генеральный секретарь закрыл заседание.

376

Один бы обезглавлен в Новом Южном Уэльсе, 4 в Квебеке. Убийства продолжались в Африке, Пакистане и Германии. Ученые, которые делали оригинальные разработки, уничтожались во всем мире.

377

И только один человек имел связь с врагом.

378

Кристиан положил трубку, подошел к Умнику, остановился перед ним и поднял декапитатор.

379

- Не буду ждать - сказал капитан - Говори или я стреляю.

380

- Не стреляй! Я все скажу. Мы пришли из -

381

Но они были уже не одни. Около 10 Умников стояли вокруг Кристиана, серые, карликовые фигуры, каждый с декапитатором.

382

- Это конец, Кристиан... - он скомандовал - Взять его, я хочу получить его живым!

383

В следующий момент Кристиан был схвачен множеством рук, что-то тяжелое ударило его по голове, и он упал на пол.

384

- Ты вмешался и расстроил наши планы - сказал Вальдо - За это ты умрешь. Но это будет нелегкая смерть - у меня есть для тебя кое-что особенное. Теперь моя очередь спрашивать.

385

Он взял ремень с черным кристаллом у одного из умников и повязал на пояс Кристиана.

386

- Очень скоро ты получишь ответы на все свои вопросы...

387

Вальдо прикоснулся к кристаллу на поясе Кристиана и громко рассмеялся.

388

Подвал исчез. Кристиан был в абсолютной темноте. Ему казалось, что он висит в пустом пространстве между звезд - но тут не было звезд.

389

Наконец Кристиан увидел яркий свет и понял, что он куда-то прибыл.

390

Старик и доктор Фокс стояли в подвале.

391

- Вы уверены, что это был Вальдо, а не другой Умник? - спросил глава Военной Разведки.

392

- Да, это совершенно точно. Я видел его на Ярмарке, и опознал его по шраму на носу.

393

- И после захвата Вальдо, Капитан Кристиан доставил его сюда, а вы отвезли кристалл, в другое место?

394

- Да это так, - сказал доктор, - но когда я открыл коробку, там ничего не было.

395

- Специалисты изучили коробку - сказал Старик - Но я не думаю, что они что-нибудь прояснят.

396

- Как вы думаете, Кристиан еще жив? - спросил Фокс. - Да, я надеюсь, - сказал Старик - До сих пор они всегда оставляли тела. Поэтому я думаю, они не убили Капитана Кристиана. Очевидно, они взяли его с собой - живым, Но почему? И куда?

397

- Тогда есть шанс - сказал он - Если Кристиан жив, возможно, он спасется и принесет нам информацию, в которой мы так нуждаемся.

398

Кристиан был в очень большом зале с высоким потолком, но без окон. У него возникло впечатление, что он глубоко под землей.

399

В стенах было несколько дверей через которые были видны длинные коридоры. Центр зала занимала большая конструкция с лестницами и балконами. Два Умника стояли у пульта управления, на котором горели красные и зеленые лампочки. Сбоку конструкцию заполняли черные кристаллы.

400

Кристаллы были разделены по парам. Время от времени из пустоты появлялся Умник и укладывал свой черный кристалл на место в конструкции и тогда красная лампочка меняла цвет на зеленый. Иногда другой Умник брал кристалл из конструкции и закреплял его на поясе. Затем он касался кристалла и исчезал.

401

Кристиан понял, что конструкция это вид передатчика, с помощью которого Умники посещают Землю и исчезают оттуда.

402

Он хотел вскочить и разбить машину... но два Умника вооруженные декаптаторами сторожили его. Кристалл посредством которого он попал сюда, был отобран и воодружен на место в трансмиттере.

403

Был ли он по-прежнему на Земле, только под землей? Или он на другой планете? Или, возможно он на борту космического корабля?

404

Из одного из коридоров вышла женщина. Это была очень странная женщина. У нее были длинные светлые волосы и она была очень красива. Но она была по крайней мере девяти футов ростом.

405

Она подошла к Кристиану и сказала что-то очень быстро, но Кристиан не понял ее. Умник ответил ей, и она рассмеялась. Затем она наклонилась и легко подняла Кристиана одной рукой. Она рассматривала его несколько секунд, затем потеряла интерес и уронила его на пол, как ребенок уронивший куклу.

406

Это был голос Вальдо. И действительно, Умник стоял перед Крисианом.

407

- Ну, ты начал теперь понимать? - спросил Вальдо. - Нет? Хорошо, это не имеет значения. Ты никогда не покинешь этого места. Ты умрешь, но не просто...

408

Он подозвал двух Умников, которые встали по бокам от Кристиана, держа свое оружие наготове.

409

- За мной - приказал Вальдо и пошел по одному из коридоров.

410

Они шли по коридору, от которого отходили другие коридоры. По сторонам коридора были клетки, в которых Кристиан увидел Умников и гигантских женщин. Наконец они остановились у пустой клетки.

411

- Некоторое время ты поживешь здесь - сказал Вальдо. - Пищу тебе принесут. Ты можешь свободно ходить везде, кроме зала трансмиттера. Если ты попытаешься появиться там, ты будешь немедленно убит. Я вернусь позже.

412

Кристиан остался в клетке один. Клетка была около 10 футов в диаметре. Здесь был стул и низкий столик. Кристиан сел. Стул был очень удобен.

413

Через несколько минут гигантская женщина принесла поднос с едой и водой. Пища была не очень вкусна, но Кристиан был голоден и съел все.

414

Он попробовал поговорить с женщиной, но она не ответила.

415

Несколько гигантских женщин пришли посмотреть на него. Они указывали на него и смеялись, и глядя в их глаза Кристиан понял, что они не слишком разумны.

416

Несколько последующих дней Кристиан ходил по коридорам, где он иногда встречал Умников и гигантских женщин. Он заметил, что они говорят на языке очень похожем на Английский, но по-прежнему понимал их с трудом. Иногда он пытался спросить, где он находится, но они никогда не отвечали.

417

Однажды он стоял в коридоре рядом с его клеткой в ожидании женщины, которая всегда приносила ему пищу. Внезапно он увидел другую женщину, которая очень быстро бежала в его направлении. Несколько других женщин преследовали ее и били ее металлическими кнутами.

418

Женщина вскочил в клетку Кристиана и остановилась у дальней стены. В этот момент в коридоре появился Вальдо.

419

- Не вмешивайся - сказал он Кристиану - Пусть они делают что хотят. - Он осмотрел клетку - Тебе дают достаточно пищи? Ты в порядке?

420

Вальдо потер руки и захихикал. - Отлично, отлично - сказал он. - Теперь, ждать тебе осталось недолго.

421

Он ушел. Его ухмылка напоминала кота играющего с мышью.

422

Гигантская женщина принесла Кристиану его пищу. Когда она увидела женщину в его клетке, она что-то сказала ей и назвала ее "Альма". Затем она ушла.

423

Альма быстро схватила немного пищи с подноса и съела ее.

424

- Ты можешь, есть все что хочешь, Альма. - сказал Кристиан, и она съела еще немного и запила водой. Кристиан попытался поговорить с ней, но она не ответила, и скоро убежал из его клетки и скрылась в коридоре.