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Sex Life of the Gods, The

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<h2 title="Chapter Nine"><SPAN name="p80" id="p80"></SPAN><span class="pagenum"><span class="ns">[p</span>80<span class="ns">]<br /></span></span>CHAPTER NINE</h2> <p>“Russian?” Brice asked, looking at Sam Morgan.</p> <p>The dark complected Fed pulled the mangled cigar from his mouth and pointed it toward the twisted wreckage. On the far side, Cartwell and Dickson were looking it over.</p> <p>“Why not?” Morgan asked.</p> <p>“It seems outlandish, somehow.”</p> <p>Morgan grinned, his peg-like teeth flashing. “You small town cops are good. I won’t take that from you. But you look at everything from a local viewpoint. In our business, you broaden, you might say.</p> <p>“Look at the facts, Nolan. The Defense boys spotted the thing up north. Radar locked on it and gave it a speed of over two thousand miles per. So it crashes and we find no wings, no tail assembly ... and I have the hunch that the damned<!-- TN: original reads 'damed' --> thing ran on nuclear power.”</p> <p>“Atomic?” Nolan whispered, amazed. While the Federal cop talked about nuclear power and fantastic speeds, all Brice could think of was the watch he’d found at the scene. How the hell could an artist learn to pilot a thing like that in a mere thirteen months, and what the hell was behind it all. “You mean, atomic power?”</p> <p>Morgan nodded. “See that funnel<!-- TN: no hyphen in original --> shaped gismo over there, with the round ball-like affair?” He was pointing to what was probably the tail of the ship, at least it was not the section that had absorbed the smash into the ground.</p> <p>Nolan nodded.</p> <p>“That’s a nuclear reactor,<!-- TN: original has period -->” Sam went on. <SPAN name="p81" id="p81"></SPAN><span class="pagenum"><span class="ns">[p</span>81<span class="ns">] </span></span>“Uncle Sam doesn’t have anything in the air with that kind of power. I think we’re testing a few engines, but nothing flying yet.”</p> <p>“Then it is Russian?”</p> <p>“That’s my guess. No other country would build it. Oh, Great Britain could, but if it was one of theirs, they would have plastered the red and blue targets on it. Offhand, it looks to me like a glorified version of the old U-2 thing, only on their side.”</p> <p>Brice didn’t answer. He stared at the wreckage as though it were some sort of demon, while a million thoughts burst in his brain. Nick Danson was in this? He flew it? Where did he get it? How did he get it? Was it Russian? Was Nick a Russian spy?</p> <p>He tried to cover the amazement on his face by lighting a cigarette. “How come it didn’t develop into a pint sized Hiroshima, if it has atomic power in it?”</p> <p>Morgan grinned at him, as though he was a kid. “I said it was powered by atomic energy, not atomic bombs. There’s a kind of difference in...”</p> <p>“Hey, Sam! C’mere!”</p> <p>Both of the men turned to look across the twisted mass of wreckage to where Cartwell and Dickson were standing. The blond Fed was holding up a piece of the wreckage and his face glowed with excitement that he didn’t try to cover.</p> <p>“C’mon, Nolan,” Sam grinned. “Let’s go see what my buddy dug up ... I’ll bet its a Russian manufacturer’s trade mark<!-- TN: two words in original -->.”</p> <p>They skirted the wreck and trotted up to where Cartwell stood with the piece of metal. “Russian, huh?” asked<!-- TN: original reads 'Asked' --> Sam.</p> <p><SPAN name="p82" id="p82"></SPAN><span class="pagenum"><span class="ns">[p</span>82<span class="ns">]<br /></span></span>“Russian, hell,” Cartwell snorted. “It looks like a cross between Chinese and Arabic.”</p> <p>Sam took the piece and looked at it, the cigar clamped belligerently in his jaws. After a tense moment, he grunted noncommittally and passed the thing to Nolan Brice.</p> <p>He knew nothing of Russian, Chinese or Arabic, but he knew what Chinese characters looked like. The imprinted marks on the metal bore a certain resemblance to the Chinese language, but yet were not the same. It consisted of strange marks that were like nothing Brice had ever seen before.</p> <p>“There are similar markings on the control panel,” Dickson said into the silence.</p> <p>“Crap,” Sam Morgan snorted. “I say Russian. How about you, partner?”</p> <p>Cartwell furled his blond brows. “I think I’d rather let an expert look this piece over before I make any kind of guess as to where that wreck flew from.” He turned to Nolan. “Where can we find an expert, Brice?”</p> <p>“Everett College would be the only place I know of.”</p> <p>“Okay, we’ll give them a try. Where’s Lieutenant Peters?”</p> <p>Morgan jerked a thumb over his shoulder toward the other side of the clearing. “Over there,” he said, “dressing down one of his Weekend Warriors.”</p> <p>“Sam. How about going over and remind him to keep any characters off the site. I have a horror of having the news boys scoop us on this.”</p> <p>Sam nodded and took off to talk with the Army. Dickson looked at Cartwell.</p> <p>“Anything for me?” he<!-- TN: original reads 'He' --> asked.</p> <p><SPAN name="p83" id="p83"></SPAN><span class="pagenum"><span class="ns">[p</span>83<span class="ns">]<br /></span></span>“No. Just continue with your investigators. You can make the arrangements about having this thing hauled down to Everett, but check with me before you do. Okay?”</p> <p>Dickson nodded.</p> <p>“C’mon, Brice,” Cartwell said. “Let’s get Morgan and find out what the college professors can tell us about this screwy thing.”</p> <p>They wrapped the piece of metal in Cartwell’s jacket and the three of them headed through the forest toward the road in the valley.</p> <p class="tb">&nbsp;</p> <p>Professor Nichols was a wisp of a man who peered at them through small, bright eyes nearly hidden in fleshy folds. Although his body was about the shortest Brice had ever seen on a man, the brain beneath his crop of white hair had made him a giant. A linguist all his life, Professor Nichols spoke a dozen languages fluently, in addition to reading and writing them. Brice knew him by reputation and grinned at him as he came into the empty Dean’s office.</p> <p>“Gentlemen?” He favored them with a smile. “I’m Nichols. Doctor Bendtolz said you wanted to speak with me.”</p> <p>Brice introduced himself and the Federal men and, after a round of handshaking, Cartwell handed the chunk of metal to the professor.</p> <p>“We’d like to know about the writing, Professor,” Sam put in.</p> <p>Nichols examined the etching on the metal for some time before he looked up. His small eyes searched their faces in turn, then he smiled thinly as though witnessing a very bad gag.</p> <p>“Are you gentlemen playing some sort of joke?” he<!-- TN: original reads 'He' --> asked.</p> <p><SPAN name="p84" id="p84"></SPAN><span class="pagenum"><span class="ns">[p</span>84<span class="ns">]<br /></span></span>“The Government doesn’t pay us to play jokes,” Cartwell informed him cryptically. “Do you know the language?”</p> <p>Professor Nichols shook his head. “I know every spoken language in the world, and I know many of the dead languages at least by sight. I don’t know this one.”</p> <p>“You’re serious?”</p> <p>The old man nodded. “This must be some sort of jest on me. There is no language on Earth, dead or alive, that matches this.”</p> <p>“We aren’t joking, Professor,” Nolan said seriously.</p> <p>“Then, my friend, someone must be playing a joke on you. No linguist can identify this language. I’ll stake my reputation on that. Where did you get this?”</p> <p>Cartwell smiled. “I’m sorry, professor, but we cannot disclose that information. We’ll also have to ask you to forget about it. Government business, you know.”</p> <p>“Yes, of course. Is there anything else? I have a class in three minutes...”</p> <p>“No, that’s all. Thank you, Professor Nichols.”</p> <p>“You’re welcome. Good day, gentlemen.”</p> <p>As the door closed behind him, a thick silence fell over the three men. Cartwell looked out the window and pulled at his lower lip with a blunt thumb and forefinger; Nolan sat on the edge of a desk, looking at the strange writing as an ethnologist might stare at the bones of the missing link.</p> <p>“What now?” Sam asked, softly. “Call in a Martian to get his opinion?”</p> <p>“It’s not funny, Sam.”</p> <p>“Don’t I know it,” Sam shot back. “We’ve got <SPAN name="p85" id="p85"></SPAN><span class="pagenum"><span class="ns">[p</span>85<span class="ns">] </span></span>some kind of tiger by the tail in this case ... a tiger bigger than the Kremlin, and I’m wondering how this will all sound in a report to the capital.”</p> <p>Cartwell snorted and ran a hand through his blond hair. “I’ll let you write the report, Sam.<!-- TN: original lacks period -->”</p> <p>“You go to hell. I like my job and I don’t want to get booted out because of a science fiction twist on an otherwise normal investigation.”</p> <p>“What’s the next move?” Nolan asked, trying to ignore the sinking feeling in his stomach.</p> <p>Cartwell shrugged. “Go back to the wreck, I guess and try to figure out something.”</p> <p>Sam suddenly slammed his fist on the table and several textbooks danced. “John,” he exploded. “You <em>know</em> what this means, don’t you? If the professor’s right, and this gibberish on this chunk of metal <em>isn’t</em> an Earth language, then we got problems! You know what we got up there? We got a Flying Saucer! A space ship!”</p> <p>“Oh, my God, Sam cut it out! I don’t believe in the damned things, I refuse to.”</p> <p>Sam snickered. “It looks to me as though you haven’t any choice in the matter. It’s like refusing to believe in a Ford V-8; it don’t make any difference whether you believe it or not, it’s there.”</p> <p>“Jesus,” Cartwell said softly.</p> <p>“And that isn’t the payoff. We didn’t find a body in the wreckage. Unless that ship traveled by remote control, it had a pilot who is wandering around the country right now. I can see it now. A wounded little green man running around trying to hitch a ride back to Mars. It’d be funny if it wasn’t so damned serious.”</p> <p>Cartwell nodded at his partner. “We’d better get back up there to the site. Maybe the air <SPAN name="p86" id="p86"></SPAN><span class="pagenum"><span class="ns">[p</span>86<span class="ns">] </span></span>search or the rescue squads picked something up. Coming, Brice?”</p> <p>Nolan forced a grin. “With little green men running around?” Then he became serious. “I’ll be up a little later. I have something to do down here.”</p> <p>Morgan snorted as they headed for the door. “See if you can locate a Buck Rogers ray gun. We might need it.”</p> <p>They went back to their cars and Nolan Brice wedged himself behind the wheel but he didn’t start the engine. He sat there, instead, watching the Government men drive off down the street, his mind whirling with a million jangling thoughts that tore through him viciously. Flying saucers, Martians, little green men! The whole damned thing was impossible, ridiculous...</p> <p>But true. A man just couldn’t sit down and say “I refuse to believe in lightning.” It didn’t make sense. You had to believe what your mind told you ... and his mind was telling him wild things.</p> <p>It all fit. Hell, it fit with a perfection that was absolutely fantastic, but crazy enough to be the truth. Nick Danson, commercial artist, disappeared thirteen months ago and every police agency in the country can’t locate him. It was as if the earth had opened and swallowed him; but it hadn’t been the earth, it had been the sky. <em>They</em> had done it ... the Martians, or whatever the hell they were.</p> <p>Why? Why steal a Terran?</p> <p>To replace him? To send an alien being down to take the place of the Terran they had stolen. That took care of the confusion the watch had represented. For awhile it had looked as though Nick had piloted that space ship, but now Nolan <SPAN name="p87" id="p87"></SPAN><span class="pagenum"><span class="ns">[p</span>87<span class="ns">] </span></span>knew better. It wasn’t Nick. It was an alien!</p> <p>Beth!</p> <p>Had an alien, posing as Nick, located Beth and was now engaged in using her to help in whatever they had come here to do? How many other Missing Persons cases were wrapped up in this thing? How many aliens were walking the streets of earth right now? To hell with that, Nolan, he roared at himself. The important thing is Beth. You’ve got to find out about this thing and stop it, before something happens to her.</p> <p>He started the car, slammed it into gear and gunned it out onto the street, the tires screaming a protest...</p> </div> <div class="chapter">
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