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DAVE STANDISH looked down at the body of the old, silvery-haired scientist, and realized that he was all alone now.

More alone than any other human being had ever been! 

For their ship was out in a space that knew the sun only as a dim, yellow star, no brighter than the other stars. For almost seventeen years, he and Dr. Roscoe had hurtled away from the Solar System, on the strangest mission in man's history.

The young man stepped away from the body after a moment, quietly. He left the large main cabin and made his effortless way down a corridor to the nearest port-window. He stared out into the void. The immovable stars did not show that that ship was plunging through space at half the speed of light.

Dave Standish was not quite twenty-one years old. For the last seventeen of those years, he had seen the same changeless vista of star-spotted emptiness that he now viewed. How many countless times in the past, with nose pressed flat against the flawless quartz plate, his childish eyes and wondering mind had struggled to grasp the meaning of this abysm around the ship!

As a child of eight he had stood at this same port-window, certain that he was the center of the universe.

This had been the only world he had really known.

He had memories of that other world in which he had lived to the age of four, but it was a dream world. A strange, fairyland world in which you walked around in a ship so big that you could not see the ceiling. And there had been an enormous, brilliant lamp up high that they moved over your head.

When they had hidden this big lamp under the floor at bedtimes, the big cabin had become dark. No, not always dark, he remembered. Sometimes they had hung out another, softer lamp, one with a curious face on it. They had called it the Moonlight. The bright one was the Sunlight. And then there had been the Star-lights, too, at night, such as he could see from this smaller cabin.

But that was a dream-world, faded in memory, This smaller cabin, surrounded only by Star-lights. was real. This had been the child Dave Standish's world for years, and he had not questioned its existence or reason. No more than a child of eight on Earth would have questioned the existence of Earth, or his life on it. He had asked questions, of course, but they had been idle ones of purely childish curiosity. But after the age of eight, deeper questions rose in his mind.

The chronometer in the main cabin had clicked on steadily. The hours grew into days, the days into years. A twelve year old Dave Standish had stood before this same port-window and suddenly realized that a ship was something that went somewhere. Dr. Roscoe, in the role of teacher, had begun on the history and geography of Earth, and the groundwork of science.

Dave Standish slowly realized that the other "ship" had been something more than a ship. It took him many, many months of thoughtful reasoning to finally accept the truth. The other "ship" had been a large world, tremendously larger and more complex in all its phases than he was able to conceive at first! He realized the Star-lights were no longer little lamps hung just around the ship, They were big, blazing suns scattered far and wide!

And their ship was not hanging motionlessly. It was moving among these suns—

THE grown-up Dave Standish, thinking and staring out at the stars, could still remember the thrill of his sixteenth birthday. On that day Dr. Roscoe had darkened the cabin and given him his first taste of talking and moving pictures. They became an important part of Dave's life in the next few years.

Once he had run through the hundreds of reels there were, he re-ran them again and again. His narrow. iron-bound world peopled itself with fantoms that became almost real as he viewed them over and over.

Almost but not quite. It was a strange, new world to Dave Standish, one before which there was always a cloud. He would never understand it fully till he saw it with his own eyes. He sighed when he thought of the remoteness of that event.

That it was a stupendous journey they were on, Dave Standish had come to realize, as his practical knowledge increased. At first he had taken it for granted. But now he realized what powerful engines the ship had, to achieve half the speed of light. The builders had had to design an engine and ship to carry two passengers almost twenty thousand times as far as the distance from Earth to Pluto.

This entailed a proportionate increase of fuel and food, to last for almost a half century. In the earthly scale of monetary value, the ship was as costly as a small war. Certainly the motive behind its launching must be gravely important, he had reflected many times. The e...

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