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HARVEY TODD, Director of the Department of Security, initialed two papers, put them aside and reached for another report. He didn't bother to look up. "Wish you'd make this brief as possible, Ross. I'm up to my ears."

"Chief," Ross Wooley said hesitantly. "suppose I wanted to investigate something on my own, follow up a hunch?"

His superior shot a quizzical look at the undersized agent. "What d'ya have in mind?"

"It's something screwy," the other answered, "something that'll sound like I'm around the corner."

Harvey Todd put down his pen and grinned at his best operative. "You must have a lulu this time, Ross, but your reputation's good and your hunches've been so far. What is it?"

Wooley scratched his chin with a thumbnail. "Chief," he said slowly, not sure how his words would be received, "I've got reasons to suspect there might be aliens in the United States."

The Department of Security head scowled at him. "Of course there're aliens here. What of it? That's not our jurisdiction."

"I mean aliens from space, some other planet, maybe."

"Are you drunk?"

"No, sir."

Harvey Todd stared at him for a long time without saying anything. Finally he muttered, "Let's hear it."

"I'd like permission to investigate. If I can't have it, I'd like leave of absence to probe around on my own. If I can't have that, I'll submit my resignation so that I'll be free to look into this as a private citizen." The little agent's eyes blinked rapidly behind his shell-rimmed glasses.

Todd glanced down at the pile of letters on his desk and sighed. He brushed them aside, reached into a drawer of his desk and brought out a prehistoric briar and a can of tobacco. He didn't speak again until the pipe was filled and lit and he was leaning back in his chair, puffing at it. Then he said, "This seems to mean quite a bit to you. What d'ya have?"

The agent stirred uncomfortably. "Not enough to make sense, chief. Ar article here, a news item there, some quotations from obscure scientists; more hunch than anything else. What I'd like is enough time to make a preliminary investigation. If I get anything definite, I'll report. Then it's up to you."

Harvey Todd let smoke trickle through his nostrils and squinted worriedly through it. "Give me more than that, Ross. I can't assign an agent to go around searching for characters out of Buck Rogers without having some idea of what he's working on."

"You said my reputation was good," Wooley reminded him.

Todd picked up his pen and doodled a series of cubes on a pad before him. "It's bad for the department to be held up to ridicule, Ross. We've been under fire several times this past year. I can think of several congressmen who'd like to know we assign agents to tail men from Mars."

"Then you'd prefer my resignation?" the dynamic little agent's voice was tight.

His chief granted disgustedly, then suddenly made up his mind. "No, damn it! Make your investigation. But, for heaven's sake, keep it quiet. If it gets into the papers, I'll have you counting your toes on Alcatraz before I'm through with you, Ross."

Ross Wooley grinned. "Thanks. Er... I'll have to do some traveling."

"See Smith about it on your way out. Now beat it. I think you're crazy." Harvey Todd took up his pen and another stack of letters, sighed, and went back to work.

A MAID ushered him into the study. He gave the room a quick once over and gained ...

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