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Cum Grano Salis
by [?]

Just because a man can do something others can’t does not, unfortunately, mean he knows how to do it. One man could eat the native fruit and live … but how?

“And that,” said Colonel Fennister glumly, “appears to be that.”

The pile of glowing coals that had been Storage Shed Number One was still sending up tongues of flame, but they were nothing compared with what they’d been half an hour before.

“The smoke smells good, anyway,” said Major Grodski, sniffing appreciatively.

The colonel turned his head and glowered at his adjutant.

“There are times, Grodski, when your sense of humor is out of place.”

“Yes, sir,” said the major, still sniffing. “Funny thing for lightning to do, though. Sort of a dirty trick, you might say.”

You might,” growled the colonel. He was a short, rather roundish man, who was forever thankful that the Twentieth Century predictions of skin-tight uniforms for the Space Service had never come true. He had round, pleasant, blue eyes, a rather largish nose, and a rumbling basso voice that was a little surprising the first time you heard it, but which seemed to fit perfectly after you knew him better.

Right at the moment, he was filing data and recommendations in his memory, where they would be instantly available for use when he needed them. Not in a physical file, but in his own mind.

All right, Colonel Fennister, he thought to himself, just what does this mean–to me? And to the rest?

The Space Service was not old. Unlike the Air Service, the Land Service, or the Sea Service, it did not have centuries or tradition behind it. But it had something else. It had something that none of the other Services had–Potential.

In his own mind, Colonel Fennister spelled the word with an upper case P, and put the word in italics. It was, to him, a more potent word than any other in the Universe.

Potential.

Potential!

Because the Space Service of the United Earth had more potential than any other Service on Earth. How many seas were there for the Sea Service to sail? How much land could the Land Service march over? How many atmospheres were there for the Air Service to conquer?

Not for any of those questions was there an accurate answer, but for each of those questions, the answer had a limit. But how much space was there for the Space Service to conquer?

Colonel Fennister was not a proud man. He was not an arrogant man. But he did have a sense of destiny; he did have a feeling that the human race was going somewhere, and he did not intend that that feeling should become totally lost to humanity.

Potential.

Definition: Potential; that which has a possibility of coming into existence.

No, more than that. That which has a–

* * * * *

He jerked his mind away suddenly from the thoughts which had crowded into his forebrain.

What were the chances that the first expedition to Alphegar IV would succeed? What were the chances that it would fail?

And (Fennister grinned grimly to himself) what good did it do to calculate chances after the event had happened?

Surrounding the compound had been a double-ply, heavy-gauge, woven fence. It was guaranteed to be able to stop a diplodocus in full charge; the electric potential (potential! That word again!) great enough to carbonize anything smaller than a blue whale. No animal on Alphegar IV could possibly get through it.

And none had.

Trouble was, no one had thought of being attacked by something immensely greater than a blue whale, especially since there was no animal larger than a small rhino on the whole planet. Who, after all, could have expected an attack by a blind, uncaring colossus–a monster that had already been dying before it made its attack?