The barkeep's face was pure sunshine when he turned to the aliens again. "Gentlemen, with this kind of a substitute you don't need money in my place. Drink up!"
"Thank you ex-ceed-ing-ly," said Sartan.
Okie arbitrarily judged the gold piece to be worth ten dollars. "The management invites you to try your luck, gentlemen. Go on give it a whirl."
Toryl and Sartan wore blank expressions as Okie slapped seven dollars and fifty cents change on the bar--four silver dollars, four half-dollars and six quarters.
"Don't be bashful, gentlemen. Okie's machines are friendly to one and all," said the barkeep.
Toryl removed the change and gave his companion two silver dollars, two half-dollars and three quarters.
"What is the purpose of the machines?" thought Sartan as they approached the one-armed bandits.
"I suppose that is what the one called Okie wishes us to learn."
"Perhaps it is some type of registration machine."
"It is doubtful. The gentleman you disturbed has been at the same machine since we arrived."
Sartan gripped the handle of a vacant machine. "Do you think it might be a kind of intelligence test?"
In lieu of an answer Toryl focused his attention on a small card, above the machine, which gave the winning combinations.
"There is that term again."
"Gambling." Toryl pointed to a line on the card warning minors not to gamble. A look of perplexity fell upon his face. "I am no longer sure the term has anything to do with fraternizing," he observed mentally.
"Let us find out."
Sartan placed a quarter in the coin slot. The three little wheels went spinning. Cherry. Lemon. Lemon.
Toryl and Sartan looked at each other, their faces blanker than ever.
"Try it again."
Sartan disposed of another quarter. They waited. Lemon. Plum. Plum.
Toryl inspected the machine from every angle, like a man on the outside trying to figure a way in. "Let me try it."
He put a quarter in the slot.
"It isn't very interesting, is it?" thought Sartan.
"Why don't we try the larger pieces?"
"A splendid idea, Brother."
The larger coins did not fit. Toryl proceeded to report this sad state of affairs to Okie and was amazed when, for the eight large coins, Okie rewarded him with twenty-four smaller ones. He went back to his companion at the one-armed bandit.
They then dropped twenty consecutive quarters into the appropriately named machine without getting so much as a single quarter in return.
"It is puzzling, is it not, Brother?"
"Yes, Sartan. From all indications it would seem to be a machine totally without purpose."
"It does consume money."
"But why would one build a machine whose sole purpose is to consume money?"
Sartan gave it some hard thought. "I don't know!"
"Remarkable!" Toryl concluded. "But nothing is done without a purpose."
"Obviously we've found something that is."
"No, I do not believe that. Let me have the electro-analyzer."
The aliens were so engrossed in their problem as to be unaware that Okie and two men at the bar were casting suspicious eyes on them.
Sartan fished around in his pocket and produced a small object in the shape of an irregular triangle. Toryl took the electro-analyzer from him, removed the cover and moved his finger around inside. He replaced the cover and slapped the electro-analyzer against the side of the one-armed bandit. When he took his hand away the small object stuck to the machine like a leech.
Okie scratched his head and addressed one of the two men at the bar. "What the hell you suppose they're doin', Sam? What's that gadget for?"
"Search me," replied Sam, a well dressed, stoop-shouldered gent, "but if you want my opinion it doesn't look legal."
"Hey, Nugget!" yelled the barkeep.
Again the little old prospector hustled himself over to the bar.
"Nugget McDermott at your service! What'll it be, Okie?"
"Go on over and get the sheriff. Tell him there's two queer characters here trying to jimmy one of my machines in broad daylight."
The old man's feet kicked up sawdust as he scampered out the door. Okie kept his attention riveted to the two aliens.
Toryl was busy adjusting the electro-analyzer to the best possible position.
"What if it does not respond to this machine?" Sartan wanted to know.
"I do not think the machine contains any type of metal with which we are unfamiliar. We will have a reading in one minute."
The aliens took a step backward and waited.
A sudden noise, like that of a television tube exploding, jolted everyone in the room, including Toryl and Sartan. The blackjack table emptied. Gamblers left their machines. A semi-circle of the curious formed around the two aliens. Okie lit out from behind the bar and elbowed his way through the crowd.
The aliens' concentration was unbroken by the attention they had aroused. With all the single mindedness of religious fanatics they continued to observe the strange mechanical device.
Okie was dumbfounded to find the machine still in one piece and doubly dumbfounded to discover it was behaving in a most unconventional manner. It was emitting a low steady gurgling sound and an occasional sputter or burp. The legs of the machine seemed unsteady. Its body shifted back and forth in herky-jerky motions like an old-fashioned washing machine. The three little Bell Fruit wheels were spinning at the speed of an airplane propellor. Okie thought they might never stop again.
"What the hell are you crazy galoots doing to my machine!" he bellowed.
Before the aliens could answer there was another explosive sound, causing the crowd to jump back several steps. Quarters fell from the mouth of the machine, slowly at first, then at an alarming rate. The coins fell, bounced and rolled all over the floor. The crowd gulped with fascination.
"Holy catfish!" said one of the men, "how long since that blasted thing's paid off?"
"Looks like this is the first time," said one of the others.
"You guys keep quiet!" yelled Okie.
The coins continued to fall for what seemed like a record time. The crowd was spellbound. Okie watched in silent fury.
And the aliens were more confused than they had been when the machine wasn't paying off.
The one-armed bandit finally coughed out its last quarter. The three Bell Fruit wheels came to an abrupt halt, as though an inner spring had snapped. The machine broke down. Certain observers later reported that the poor thing actually looked exhausted.
The sheriff burst in the door with Nugget McDermott close behind.
"Sheriff, I want you to arrest these two tinhorns!" cried Okie.
"Tinhorns??" Sartan's face was creased with bewilderment.
"What's wrong, Okie?" asked the sheriff.
"Take a look for yourself! These two bugged my machine and then broke it down! Look at that money all over the floor!"
Toryl smiled. "We meant no harm, sir--"
"The hell you didn't mean no harm! You were out to rob me!"
"We were only ex-per-i-ment-ing--"
"There's their crooked experimenting right there!" said Okie, pointing a finger at the deactivated one-armed bandit. "I want them locked up until that machine's paid for!"
"All right," said the sheriff, "you two better come with me."
"But, sir," Sartan protested, "we merely wanted to know how the machine functioned. You see, we are from Capella and--"
"Capella!" exclaimed the sheriff. "Where is that? I never heard of the place."
"Well, it is not a part of your Earth."
"Oh, well why didn't you say so before!" The sheriff winked at the crowd. "You mean you boys are from out of this world?"
"That is correct," Sartan grinned proudly.
"Well, well! That makes a big difference!" The sheriff turned to the crowd. "All right, boys, grab them and hustle them over to the jail house!"
A group of men slowly closed in on the two aliens.
Toryl and Sartan backed away toward the wall.
"I believe they are angry, Brother," thought Sartan.
"But why?" inquired Toryl.
"I do not know. Do you suppose the machine represented some form of religious deity?"
"Exceed-ing-ly possible," Toryl answered.
As the men came closer Okie yelled, "Just get them two crackpots! I'll plug the first man that touches that money!"
The men were diverted by Okie's warning. They didn't notice, until it was almost too late, that the two strangers were halfway out the door.
"Get after them!!" the sheriff bellowed.
The aliens ran as though their lives were at stake, which was true, following the same route they had taken into town.
The crowd followed them as far as the edge of town. From there they hurled rocks.
Toryl and Sartan continued to run at breakneck speed, praying they would reach the safety of the ship. Once they looked behind them and saw that the crowd of angry men had given up the chase.
Halfway back to their ship they passed a sign, though they didn't bother to stop and read it.
YOU ARE NOW LEAVING JUBILATION, U.S.A.!!.
The doggondest, cheeriest little town in America! Come back soon!!