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LATHAM. Which was?

NIEMAND. In every case of a simultaneous attack the Sun was shining at both New York and California.

LATHAM. You mean if it was cloudy-- NIEMAND. No, no. The weather had nothing to do with it. I mean the Sun had to be above the horizon at both places. A person might undergo an attack soon after sunrise in New York but there would be no corresponding record of an attack in California where it was still dark. Conversely, a person might be stricken late in the afternoon in California without a corresponding attack in New York where the Sun had set. Dr. Hillyard and I had been searching desperately for a clue. We had both noticed that the attacks occurred only during the daylight hours but this had not seemed especially significant. Here we had evidence pointing directly to the source of trouble. It must have some connection with the Sun.

LATHAM. That must have had you badly puzzled at first.

NIEMAND. It certainly did. It looked as if we were headed back to the Middle Ages when astrology and medicine went hand in hand. But since it was our only lead we had no other choice but to follow it regardless of the consequences. Here luck played somewhat of a part, for Hillyard happened to have a contact that proved invaluable to us. Several years before Hillyard had gotten to know a young astrophysicist, Henry Middletown, who had come to him suffering from a severe case of myositis in the arms and shoulders. Hillyard had been able to effect a complete cure for which the boy was very grateful, and they had kept up a desultory correspondence. Middletown was now specializing in radio astronomy at the government's new solar observatory on Turtle Back Mountain in Arizona. If it had not been for Middletown's help I'm afraid our investigation would never have gotten past the clinical stage.

LATHAM. In what way was Middletown of assistance?

NIEMAND. It was the old case of workers in one field of science being completely ignorant of what was going on in another field. Someday we will have to establish a clearing house in science instead of keeping it in tight little compartments as we do at present. Well, Hillyard and I packed up for Arizona with considerable misgivings. We were afraid Middletown wouldn't take our findings seriously but somewhat to our surprise he heard our story with the closest attention. I guess astronomers have gotten so used to hearing from flying saucer enthusiasts and science-fiction addicts that nothing surprises them any more. When we had finished he asked to see our records. Hillyard had them all set down for easy numerical tabulation. Middletown went to work with scarcely a word. Within an hour he had produced a chart that was simply astounding.

LATHAM. Can you describe this chart for us?

NIEMAND. It was really quite simple. But if it had not been for Middletown's experience in charting other solar phenomena it would never have occurred to us to do it. First, he laid out a series of about thirty squares horizontally across a sheet of graph paper. He dated these beginning March 1, 1955, when our records began. In each square he put a number from 1 to 10 that was a rough index of the number and intensity of the attacks reported on that day. Then he laid out another horizontal row below the first one dated twenty-seven days later. That is, the square under March 1st in the top row was dated March 28th in the row below it. He filled in the chart until he had an array of dozens of rows that included all our data down to May, 1958.

When Middletown had finished it was easy to see that the squares of highest index number did not fall at random on the chart. Instead they fell in slightly slanting parallel series so that you could draw straight lines down through them. The connection with the Sun was obvious.

LATHAM. In what way?

NIEMAND. Why, because twenty-seven days is about the synodic period of solar rotation. That is, if you see a large spot at the center of the Sun's disk today, there is a good chance if it survives that you will see it at the same place twenty-seven days later. But that night Middletown produced another chart that showed the connection with the Sun in a way that was even more convincing.

LATHAM. How was that?

NIEMAND. I said that the lines drawn down through the days of greatest mental disturbance slanted slightly. On this second chart the squares were dated under one another not at intervals of twenty-seven days, but at intervals of twenty-seven point three days.

LATHAM. Why is that so important?

NIEMAND. Because the average period of solar rotation in the sunspot zone is not twenty-seven days but twenty-seven point three days. And on this chart the lines did not slant but went vertically downward. The correlation with the synodic rotation of the Sun was practically perfect.

LATHAM. But how did you get onto the S-Regions?

NIEMAND. Middletown was immediately struck by the resemblance between the chart of mental disturbance and one he had been plotting over the years from his radio observations. Now when he compared the two charts the resemblance between the two was unmistakable. The pattern shown by the chart of mental disturbance corresponded in a striking way with the solar chart but with this difference. The disturbances on the Earth started two days later on the average than the disturbances due to the S-Regions on the Sun. In other words, there was a lag of about forty-eight hours between the two. But otherwise they were almost identical.

LATHAM. But if these S-Regions of Middletown's are invisible how could he detect them?

NIEMAND. The S-Regions are invisible to the eye through an optical telescope, but are detected with ease by a radio telescope. Middletown had discovered them when he was a graduate student working on radio astronomy in Australia, and he had followed up his researches with the more powerful equipment at Turtle Back Mountain. The formation of an S-Region is heralded by a long series of bursts of a few seconds duration, when the radiation may increase up to several thousand times that of the background intensity. These noise storms have been recorded simultaneously on wavelengths of from one to fifteen meters, which so far is the upper limit of the observations. In a few instances, however, intense bursts have also been detected down to fifty cm.

LATHAM. I believe you said the periods of mental disturbance last for about ten or twelve days. How does that tie-in with the S-Regions?

NIEMAND. Very closely. You see it takes about twelve days for an S-Region to pass across the face of the Sun, since the synodic rotation is twenty-seven point three days.

LATHAM. I should think it would be nearer thirteen or fourteen days.

NIEMAND. Apparently an S-Region is not particularly effective when it is just coming on or just going off the disk of the Sun.

LATHAM. Are the S-Regions associated with sunspots?

NIEMAND. They are connected in this way: that sunspot activity and S-Region activity certainly go together. The more sunspots the more violent and intense is the S-Region activity. But there is not a one-to-one correspondence between sunspots and S-Regions. That is, you cannot connect a particular sunspot group with a particular S-Region. The same thing is true of sunspots and magnetic storms.

LATHAM. How do you account for this?

NIEMAND. We don't account for it.

LATHAM. What other properties of the S-Regions have you discovered?

NIEMAND. Middletown says that the radio waves emanating from them are strongly circularly polarized. Moreover, the sense of rotation remains constant while one is passing across the Sun. If the magnetic field associated with an S-Region extends into the high solar corona through which the rays pass, then the sense of rotation corresponds to the ordinary ray of the magneto-ionic theory.

LATHAM. Does this mean that the mental disturbances arise from some form of electromagnetic radiation?

NIEMAND. We doubt it. As I said before, the charts show a lag of about forty-eight hours between the development of an S-Region and the onset of mental disturbance. This indicates that the malignant energy emanating from an S-Region consists of some highly penetrating form of corpuscular radiation, as yet unidentified.[A]

[Footnote A: Middletown believes that the Intense radiation recently discovered from information derived from Explorer I and III has no connection with the corpuscular S-radiation.]

LATHAM. A question that puzzles me is why some people are affected by the S-Regions while others are not.

NIEMAND. Our latest results indicate that probably no one is completely immune. All are affected in some degree. Just why some should be affected so much more than others is still a matter of speculation.

LATHAM. How long does an S-Region last?

NIEMAND. An S-Region may have a lifetime of from three to perhaps a dozen solar rotations. Then it dies out and for a time we are free from this malignant radiation. Then a new region develops in perhaps an entirely different region of the Sun. Sometimes there may be several different S-Regions all going at once.

LATHAM. Why were not the S-Regions discovered long ago?

NIEMAND. Because the radio exploration of the Sun only began since the end of World War II.

LATHAM. How does it happen that you only got patients suffering from S-radiation since about 1955?

NIEMAND. I think we did get such patients previously but not in large enough numbers to attract attention. Also the present sunspot cycle started its rise to maximum about 1954.

LATHAM. Is there no way of escaping the S-radiation?

NIEMAND. I'm afraid the only sure way is to keep on the unilluminated side of the Earth which is rather difficult to do. Apparently the corpuscular beam from an S-Region is several degrees wide and not very sharply defined, since its effects are felt simultaneously over the entire continent. Hillyard and Middletown are working on some form of shielding device but so far without success.

LATHAM. What is the present state of S-Region activity?

NIEMAND. At the present moment there happens to be no S-Region activity on the Sun. But a new one may develop at any time. Also, the outlook for a decrease in activity is not very favorable. Sunspot activity continues at a high level and is steadily mounting in violence. The last sunspot cycle had the highest maximum of any since 1780, but the present cycle bids fair to set an all time record.

LATHAM. And so you believe that the S-Regions are the cause of most of the present trouble in the world. That it is not ourselves but something outside ourselves-- NIEMAND. That is the logical outcome of our investigation. We are controlled and swayed by forces which in many cases we are powerless to resist.

LATHAM. Could we not be warned of the presence of an S-Region?

NIEMAND. The trouble is they seem to develop at random on the Sun. I'm afraid any warning system would be worse than useless. We would be crying WOLF! all the time.

LATHAM. How may a person who is not particularly susceptible to this malignant radiation know that one of these regions is active?

NIEMAND. If you have a feeling of restlessness and anxiety, if you are unable to concentrate, if you feel suddenly depressed and discouraged about yourself, or are filled with resentment toward the world, then you may be pretty sure that an S-Region is passing across the face of the Sun. Keep a tight rein on yourself. For it seems that evil will always be with us ... as long as the Sun shall continue to shine upon this little world.





The ceremonious protocol of the Yills was impressive, colorful--and, in the long run, deadly!


Jame Retief, vice-consul and third secretary in the Diplomatic Corps, followed the senior members of the terrestrial mission across the tarmac and into the gloom of the reception building. The gray-skinned Yill guide who had met the arriving embassy at the foot of the ramp hurried away. The councillor, two first secretaries and the senior attaches gathered around the ambassador, their ornate uniforms bright in the vast dun-colored room.

Ten minutes passed. Retief strolled across to the nearest door and looked through the glass panel at the room beyond. Several dozen Yill lounged in deep couches, sipping lavender drinks from slender glass tubes. Black-tunicked servants moved about inconspicuously, offering trays. A party of brightly-dressed Yill moved toward the entrance doors. One of the party, a tall male, made to step before another, who raised a hand languidly, fist clenched. The first Yill stepped back and placed his hands on top of his head. Both Yill were smiling and chatting as they passed through the doors.

Retief turned away to rejoin the Terrestrial delegation waiting beside a mound of crates made of rough greenish wood stacked on the bare concrete floor.

As Retief came up, Ambassador Spradley glanced at his finger watch and spoke to the man beside him.

"Ben, are you quite certain our arrival time was made clear?"

Second Secretary Magnan nodded emphatically. "I stressed the point, Mr. Ambassador. I communicated with Mr. T'Cai-Cai just before the lighter broke orbit, and I specifically----"

"I hope you didn't appear truculent, Mr. Magnan," the ambassador said sharply.

"No indeed, Mr. Ambassador. I merely----"

"You're sure there's no VIP room here?" The ambassador glanced around the cavernous room. "Curious that not even chairs have been provided."

"If you'd care to sit on one of these crates----"

"Certainly not." The ambassador looked at his watch again and cleared his throat.

"I may as well make use of these few moments to outline our approach for the more junior members of the staff; it's vital that the entire mission work in harmony in the presentation of the image. We Terrestrials are a kindly, peace-loving race." The ambassador smiled in a kindly, peace-loving way.

"We seek only a reasonable division of spheres of influence with the Yill." He spread his hands, looking reasonable.

"We are a people of high culture, ethical, sincere." The smile was replaced abruptly by pursed lips.

"We'll start by asking for the entire Sirenian System, and settle for half. We'll establish a foothold on all the choicer worlds. And, with shrewd handling, in a century we'll be in a position to assert a wider claim."

The ambassador glanced around. "If there are no questions----"

Retief stepped forward. "It's my understanding, Mr. Ambassador, that we hold the prior claim to the Sirenian System. Did I understand your Excellency to say that we're ready to concede half of it to the Yill without a struggle?"

Ambassador Spradley looked up at Retief, blinking. The younger man loomed over him. Beside him, Magnan cleared his throat in the silence.

"Vice-Consul Retief merely means----"

"I can interpret Mr. Retief's remark," the ambassador snapped. He assumed a fatherly expression.

"Young man, you're new to the Service. You haven't yet learned the team play, the give-and-take of diplomacy. I shall expect you to observe closely the work of the experienced negotiators of the mission. You must learn the importance of subtlety."

"Mr. Ambassador," Magnan said, "I think the reception committee is arriving." He pointed. Half a dozen tall, short-necked Yill were entering through a side door. The leading Yill hesitated as another stepped in his path. He raised a fist, and the other moved aside, touching the top of his head perfunctorily with both hands. The group started across the room toward the Terrestrials. Retief watched as a slender alien came forward and spoke passable Terran in a reedy voice.

"I am P'Toi. Come this way...." He turned, and the group moved toward the door, the ambassador leading. As he reached for the door, the interpreter darted ahead and shouldered him aside. The other Yill stopped, waiting.

The ambassador almost glared, then remembered the image. He smiled and beckoned the Yill ahead. They milled uncertainly, muttering in the native tongue, then passed through the door.

The Terran party followed.

"---- give a great deal to know what they're saying," Retief overheard as he came up.

"Our interpreter has forged to the van," the ambassador said. "I can only assume he'll appear when needed."

"A pity we have to rely on a native interpreter," someone said.

"Had I known we'd meet this rather uncouth reception," the ambassador said stiffly, "I would have audited the language personally, of course, during the voyage out."

"Oh, no criticism intended, of course, Mr. Ambassador."

"Heavens," Magnan put in. "Who would have thought----"

Retief moved up behind the ambassador.

"Mr. Ambassador," he said, "I----"

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