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By Philip E. High

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The guard winked meaningly. "Sometimes he plays it stupid but don't let that fool you. He's quite a little genius in his way. See that blackboard behind him? " Gaynor realized that the sneer in the man's voice was nothing so much as an admission of inferiority. The Vrenka language resembled nothing so much as an attack of indigestion, a series of burps, rumbles and curiously muted honks. Mankind had never mastered it. The Vrenkas, on the other hand, not only understood the language of their enemies but had quickly mastered the written word.

Gaynor, as Kaft had once remarked, had a flair for factual reporting. He had discovered the gift on a particularly boring patrol during the war. He'd been a junior officer then and recorded a few impressions for amusement. Later, on impulse, he had submitted the tapes to a news syndicate which, to his surprise, paid him for them and asked for more. In the last two years he had developed a nose for news and here, surely - He could head the column "A Tale of Two Planets" for example and - but they'd never let him cover it.

Got a sort of contemptuous roll to it. " Pointless, of course, pointless writing and pointless suicide. Bravado he'd told the man, but it wasn't true; it was sheer nervous reaction. In point of fact the whole set-up scared him cold and this dangerous insolence was the last twitch of a dying courage. It had been easier back in the war where the danger was obvious and the issues simple. This danger back home was insidious. It crept up on you from behind and gradually sapped your nerve. He wasn't as bad as poor old Mendon, the subeditor, yet, but it was coming, he could feel it closing in.

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The Prodigal Sun by Philip E. High

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