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Oomphel In The Sky
by [?]

Since Logic derives from postulates, it never has, and never will, change a postulate. And a religious belief is a system of postulates … so how can a man fight a native superstition with logic? Or anything else…?

Miles Gilbert watched the landscape slide away below him, its quilt of rounded treetops mottled red and orange in the double sunlight and, in shaded places, with the natural yellow of the vegetation of Kwannon. The aircar began a slow swing to the left, and Gettler Alpha came into view, a monstrous smear of red incandescence with an optical diameter of two feet at arm’s length, slightly flattened on the bottom by the western horizon. In another couple of hours it would be completely set, but by that time Beta, the planet’s G-class primary, would be at its midafternoon hottest. He glanced at his watch. It was 1005, but that was Galactic Standard Time, and had no relevance to anything that was happening in the local sky. It did mean, though, that it was five minutes short of two hours to ‘cast-time.

He snapped on the communication screen in front of him, and Harry Walsh, the news editor, looked out of it at him from the office in Bluelake, halfway across the continent. He wanted to know how things were going.

“Just about finished. I’m going to look in at a couple more native villages, and then I’m going to Sanders’ plantation to see Gonzales. I hope I’ll have a personal statement from him, and the final situation-progress map, in time for the ‘cast. I take it Maith’s still agreeable to releasing the story at twelve-hundred?”

“Sure; he was always agreeable. The Army wants publicity; it was Government House that wanted to sit on it, and they’ve given that up now. The story’s all over the place here, native city and all.”

“What’s the situation in town, now?”

“Oh, it’s still going on. Some disorders, mostly just unrest. Lot of street meetings that could have turned into frenzies if the police hadn’t broken them up in time. A couple of shootings, some sleep-gassing, and a lot of arrests. Nothing to worry about–at least, not immediately.”

That was about what he thought. “Maybe it’s not bad to have a little trouble in Bluelake,” he considered. “What happens out here in the plantation country the Government House crowd can’t see, and it doesn’t worry them. Well, I’ll call you from Sanders’.”

He blanked the screen. In the seat in front, the native pilot said: “Some contragravity up ahead, boss.” It sounded like two voices speaking in unison, which was just what it was. “I’ll have a look.”

The pilot’s hand, long and thin, like a squirrel’s, reached up and pulled down the fifty-power binoculars on their swinging arm. Miles looked at the screen-map and saw a native village just ahead of the dot of light that marked the position of the aircar. He spoke the native name of the village aloud, and added:

“Let down there, Heshto. I’ll see what’s going on.”

The native, still looking through the glasses, said, “Right, boss.” Then he turned.

His skin was blue-gray and looked like sponge rubber. He was humanoid, to the extent of being an upright biped, with two arms, a head on top of shoulders, and a torso that housed, among other oddities, four lungs. His face wasn’t even vaguely human. He had two eyes in front, close enough for stereoscopic vision, but that was a common characteristic of sapient life forms everywhere. His mouth was strictly for eating; he breathed through separate intakes and outlets, one of each on either side of his neck; he talked through the outlets and had his scent and hearing organs in the intakes. The car was air-conditioned, which was a mercy; an overheated Kwann exhaled through his skin, and surrounded himself with stenches like an organic chemistry lab. But then, Kwanns didn’t come any closer to him than they could help when he was hot and sweated, which, lately, had been most of the time.