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By Tom Pace

Malevolent death reared out of inky space before the hurtling liner. From it a frantic voice reached Commander Gray—"You know what to do!" He smiled grimly. Yes, he knew what to do . . .

THE FIFTH SECTOR COMMANDER was known as a rigid man, that was true. And yet no one could say exactly how rigid.

His office, aboard the Polaris, was a rather grim place. All command offices were, essentially, being limited pretty much to regulation furnishings, but rare was the Commander who did not manage to plant some of his personality there. It was perhaps characteristic of Commander Gray that there was only one item in his office which could be said to reveal anything about him.

He sat now behind the cubical steel desk and looked down at the glowing screen of the television set. The face in it was not at ease. Far from it.

Ordinarily, Jon Brullar, the Commissioner over Gray, was a self-important, unconsciously comical person. Now he looked neither comical nor important. He just looked very, very frightened.

He licked his trembling lips and said, in a voice hoarse with fear, "Of course there is something you can do, Commander! After all," he brightened faintly, "there are important people on the Stella. Important people." He emphasized "important."

"I am aware of that, Commissioner Brullar," said the Commander. "Yet, what can I do?"

"You have authority!" sputtered Brullar. "And you know what you can do! Get through to Interstellar Command ...

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