“Reunion at The Circus”
“Go along, Cloudd,” a voice said within his head. It was Nadreck. “Go along with them.”
Cloudd looked up at the compartment Nadreck was in. The monster seemed to be waving his tentacles or arms.
“I’m not invited, Nadreck,” Cloudd said. “That’s the entrance to the private reception hall. Nobody goes there without an invitation.”
“You are invited. I invited you. You will be my representative,” Nadreck said. “Don’t waste time, Go!”
“You?” Cloudd said, startled, “You invited me? But they have to invite me — don’t you understand?”
“I understand. It’s been arranged. The conference is to take place now. I’ll be there by my sense of perception. You must be there physically. There are documents to look at. What’s the matter with you — don’t I make myself clear?”
“Oh, yes, Nadreck. You do. I’m sorry.” Cloudd shook his head as though to clear it, The whole past half hour had been bewildering. But Nadreck was a Second Stage Lensman, and Nadreck knew what he was doing.
Cloudd went into the room at the end of the long corridor. The reception hall was just large enough to hold the dozen people comfortably. It was luxuriously furnished in ancient earthly style, with thick carpets, upholstered furniture, pictures in gilt frames on the paneled walls. It was a room strictly for Tellurians and their kin, with one wall of full-length wooden folding doors suggesting it could be made larger.
Almost everyone was seated on the soft couches and in the easy chairs when Cloudd came in. Kallatra stood at the far right. Kinnison stood in the center, holding a sheaf of papers in his hand. When Kinnison saw Cloudd enter, he gave him a cheery wave of his hand and a big smile. Then he became serious again.
“We have received these reports since we’ve been in The Circus,” Kinnison said, waving the sheaf of papers to emphasize his point, “and they are all garbled. We have done our social duties in the past hour, We have just the graduation ceremonies tomorrow. I think we can all attend. I believe there is no suspicion as to our real purpose for being here. You have all been convincing in your reasons for coming to Wentworth Hall. Let’s keep it this way.”
Kinnison leaned against the edge of the heavy table and rested informally in his favorite lecturing pose.
“The garbled reports are proof, if we needed any more. Our machines are playing funny tricks. Patrol communications are in a shambles. We’ve got interference and aberrations in all our equipment.”
Kinnison tossed the papers down next to him and put his hands on his thighs, bending over in that between-you-and-me posture, massive head tilted up, dark eyes under his frowning eyebrows peering at each person individually.
“Friends, we’ve lost contact with ten percent of our forces on the other side of this galaxy. I concur with the majority of you. This galaxy is about to be invaded by some, as yet, undetectable enemy.”
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