«Once and fur all,» said Stormgren angrily, «let me make my position perfectly clear. Karellen is working for a united world, and I’ll do nothing to help his enemies. What his ultimate plans may be, I don’t know, but I believe that they are good.»

«What real proof have we of that?»

«All his actions, ever since his ships appeared in our skies. I defy you to mention one act that, in the ultimate analysis, hasn’t been beneficial.» Stormgren paused for a moment, letting his mind run back through the past years. Then he smiled.

«If you want a single proof of the essential -how shall I put it?- benevolence of the Overlords, think of that cruelty-to-animals order which they made within a month of their arrival. If I had any doubts about Karellen before, that banished them – even though that order has caused me more trouble than anything else he’s ever done!»

That was scarcely an exaggeration, Stormgren thought. The whole incident had been an extraordinary one, the first revelation of the Overlords’ hatred of cruelty. That, and their passion for justice and order, seemed to be the dominant emotions in their lives – as far as one could judge them by their actions.

And it was the only time Karellen had shown anger, or at least the appearance of anger. «You may kill one another if you wish,» the message had gone, «and that is a matter between you and your own laws. But if you slay, except for food or in self-defence, the beasts that share your world with you – then you may be answerable to me.»


No one knew exactly how comprehensive this ban was supposed to be, or what Karellen would do to enforce it. They had not long to wait.

The Plaza de Toros was full when the matadors and their attendants began their professional entry. Everything seemed normal: the brilliant sunlight blazed harshly on the traditional costumes, the great crowd greeted its favourites as it had a hundred times before. Yet here and there faces were turned anxiously towards the sky, to the aloof silver shape fifty kilometres above Madrid.

Then the picadors bad taken up their places and the bull had come snorting out into the arena. The skinny horses, nostrils wide with terror, had wheeled in the sunlight as their riders forced them to meet their enemy. The first lance flashed – made contact – and at that moment came a sound that had never been heard on Earth before.

It was the sound of ten thousand people screaming with the pain of the same wound – ten thousand people who, when they had recovered from the shock, found themselves completely unharmed. But that was the end of that bull-fight, and indeed of all bull-fighting, for the news spread rapidly. It is worth recording that the aficionados were so shaken that only one in ten asked for their money back, and also that the London Daily Mirror made matters much worse by suggesting that the Spaniards adopt cricket as a new national sport.

«You may be correct,» the old Welshman replied. «Possibly the motives of the Overlords are good – according to their standards, which may sometimes be the same as ours. But they are interlopers – we never asked them to come here and turn our world upside-down, destroying ideals -yes, and nations- that generations of men have fought to protect.»

«I come from a small nation that had to fight for its liberties,» retorted Stormgren. «Yet I am for Karellen. You may annoy him, you may even delay the achievement of his aims, but it will make no difference in the end. Doubtless you are sincere in believing as you do: I can understand your fear that the traditions and cultures of little countries will be overwhelmed when the World State arrives. But you are wrong: it is useless to cling to the past. Even before the Overlords came to Earth, the sovereign state was dying. They have merely hastened its end: no one can save it now – and no one should try.»