"Not yet," Cercy replied tonelessly.
"Don't forget to read the philosophy," the Ambassador urged them.
The men hurried from the room.
"Now look," Malley said, once they were back in the control room, "there are a few things we haven't tried. How about utilizing psychology?"
"Anything you like," Cercy agreed, "including black magic. What did you have in mind?"
"The way I see it," Malley answered, "the Ambassador is geared to respond, instantaneously, to any threat. He must have an all-or-nothing defensive reflex. I suggest first that we try something that won't trigger that reflex."
"Like what?" Cercy asked.
"Hypnotism. Perhaps we can find out something."
"Sure," Cercy said. "Try it. Try anything."
Cercy, Malley and Darrig gathered around the video screen as an infinitesimal amount of a light hypnotic gas was admitted into the Ambassador's room. At the same time, a bolt of electricity lashed into the chair where the Ambassador was sitting.
"That was to distract him," Malley explained. The Ambassador vanished before the electricity struck him, and then appeared again, curled up in his armchair.
"That's enough," Malley whispered, and shut the valve. They watched. After a while, the Ambassador put down his book and stared into the distance.
"How strange," he said. "Alfern dead. Good friend ... just a freak accident. He ran into it, out there. Didn't have a chance. But it doesn't happen often."
"He's thinking out loud," Malley whispered, although there was no possibility of the Ambassador's hearing them. "Vocalizing his thoughts. His friend must have been on his mind for some time."
"Of course," the Ambassador went on, "Alfern had to die sometime. No immortality--yet. But that way--no defense. Out there in space they just pop up. Always there, underneath, just waiting for a chance to boil out."
"His body isn't reacting to the hypnotic as a menace yet," Cercy whispered.
"Well," the Ambassador told himself, "the regularizing principle has been doing pretty well, keeping it all down, smoothing out the inconsistencies--"
Suddenly he leaped to his feet, his face pale for a moment, as he obviously tried to remember what he had said. Then he laughed.
"Clever. That's the first time that particular trick has been played on me, and the last time. But, gentlemen, it didn't do you any good. I don't know, myself, how to go about killing me." He laughed at the blank walls.
"Besides," he continued, "the colonizing team must have the direction now. They'll find you with or without me."
He sat down again, smiling.
"That does it!" Darrig cried. "He's not invulnerable. Something killed his friend Alfern."
"Something out in space," Cercy reminded him. "I wonder what it was."
"Let me see," Darrig reflected aloud. "The regularizing principle. That must be a natural law we knew nothing about. And underneath--what would be underneath?"
"He said the colonization team would find us anyhow," Malley reminded them.
"First things first," Cercy said. "He might have been bluffing us ... no, I don't suppose so. We still have to get the Ambassador out of the way."
"I think I know what is underneath!" Darrig exclaimed. "This is wonderful. A new cosmology, perhaps."
"What is it?" Cercy asked. "Anything we can use?"
"I think so. But let me work it out. I think I'll go back to my hotel. I have some books there I want to check, and I don't want to be disturbed for a few hours."
"All right," Cercy agreed. "But what--?"
"No, no, I could be wrong," Darrig said. "Let me work it out." He hurried from the room.
"What do you think he's driving at?" Malley asked.
"Beats me," Cercy shrugged. "Come on, let's try some more of that psychological stuff."
First they filled the Ambassador's room with several feet of water. Not enough to drown him, just enough to make him good and uncomfortable.
To this, they added the lights. For eight hours, lights flashed in the Ambassador's room. Bright lights to pry under his eyelids; dull, clashing ones to disturb him.
Sound came next--screeches and screams and shrill, grating noises. The sound of a man's fingernails being dragged across slate, amplified a thousand times, and strange, sucking noises, and shouts and whispers.
Then, the smells. Then, everything else they could think of that could drive a man insane.
The Ambassador slept peacefully through it all.
"Now look," Cercy said, the following day, "let's start using our damned heads." His voice was hoarse and rough. Although the psychological torture hadn't bothered the Ambassador, it seemed to have backfired on Cercy and his men.
"Where in hell is Darrig?"
"Still working on that idea of his," Malley said, rubbing his stubbled chin. "Says he's just about got it."
"We'll work on the assumption that he can't produce," Cercy said. "Start thinking. For example, if the Ambassador can turn into anything, what is there he can't turn into?"
"Good question," Harrison grunted.
"It's the payoff question," Cercy said. "No use throwing a spear at a man who can turn into one."
"How about this?" Malley asked. "Taking it for granted he can turn into anything, how about putting him in a situation where he'll be attacked even after he alters?"
"I'm listening," Cercy said.
"Say he's in danger. He turns into the thing threatening him. What if that thing were itself being threatened? And, in turn, was in the act of threatening something else? What would he do then?"
"How are you going to put that into action?" Cercy asked.
"Like this." Malley picked up the telephone. "Hello? Give me the Washington Zoo. This is urgent."
The Ambassador turned as the door opened. An unwilling, angry, hungry tiger was propelled in. The door slammed shut.
The tiger looked at the Ambassador. The Ambassador looked at the tiger.
"Most ingenious," the Ambassador said.
At the sound of his voice, the tiger came unglued. He sprang like a steel spring uncoiling, landing on the floor where the Ambassador had been.
The door opened again. Another tiger was pushed in. He snarled angrily and leaped at the first. They smashed together in midair.
The Ambassador appeared a few feet off, watching. He moved back when a lion entered the door, head up and alert. The lion sprang at him, almost going over on his head when he struck nothing. Not finding any human, the lion leaped on one of the tigers.
The Ambassador reappeared in his chair, where he sat smoking and watching the beasts kill each other.
In ten minutes the room looked like an abattoir.
But by then the Ambassador had tired of the spectacle, and was reclining on his bed, reading.
"I give up," Malley said. "That was my last bright idea."
Cercy stared at the floor, not answering. Harrison was seated in the corner, getting quietly drunk.
The telephone rang.
"Yeah?" Cercy said.
"I've got it!" Darrig's voice shouted over the line. "I really think this is it. Look, I'm taking a cab right down. Tell Harrison to find some helpers."
"What is it?" Cercy asked.
"The chaos underneath!" Darrig replied, and hung up.
They paced the floor, waiting for him to show up. Half an hour passed, then an hour. Finally, three hours after he had called, Darrig strolled in.
"Hello," he said casually.
"Hello, hell!" Cercy growled. "What kept you?"
"On the way over," Darrig said, "I read the Ambassador's philosophy. It's quite a work."
"Is that what took you so long?"
"Yes. I had the driver take me around the park a few times, while I was reading it."
"Skip it. How about--"
"I can't skip it," Darrig said, in a strange, tight voice. "I'm afraid we were wrong. About the aliens, I mean. It's perfectly right and proper that they should rule us. As a matter of fact, I wish they'd hurry up and get here."
But Darrig didn't look certain. His voice shook and perspiration poured from his face. He twisted his hands together, as though in agony.
"It's hard to explain," he said. "Everything became clear as soon as I started reading it. I saw how stupid we were, trying to be independent in this interdependent Universe. I saw--oh, look, Cercy. Let's stop all this foolishness and accept the Ambassador as our friend."
"Calm down!" Cercy shouted at the perfectly calm physicist. "You don't know what you're saying."
"It's strange," Darrig said. "I know how I felt--I just don't feel that way any more. I think. Anyhow, I know your trouble. You haven't read the philosophy. You'll see what I mean, once you've read it." He handed Cercy the pile of papers. Cercy promptly ignited them with his cigarette lighter.
"It doesn't matter," Darrig said. "I've got it memorized. Just listen. Axiom one. All peoples--"
Cercy hit him, a short, clean blow, and Darrig slumped to the floor.
"Those words must be semantically keyed," Malley said. "They're designed to set off certain reactions in us, I suppose. All the Ambassador does is alter the philosophy to suit the peoples he's dealing with."
"Look, Malley," Cercy said. "This is your job now. Darrig knows, or thought he knew, the answer. You have to get that out of him."
"That won't be easy," Malley said. "He'd feel that he was betraying everything he believes in, if he were to tell us."
"I don't care how you get it," Cercy said. "Just get it."
"Even if it kills him?" Malley asked.
"Even if it kills you."
"Help me get him to my lab," Malley said.
That night Cercy and Harrison kept watch on the Ambassador from the control room. Cercy found his thoughts were racing in circles.
What had killed Alfern in space? Could it be duplicated on Earth? What was the regularizing principle? What was the chaos underneath?
What in hell am I doing here? he asked himself. But he couldn't start that sort of thing.
"What do you figure the Ambassador is?" he asked Harrison. "Is he a man?"
"Looks like one," Harrison said drowsily.
"But he doesn't act like one. I wonder if this is his true shape?"
Harrison shook his head, and lighted his pipe.
"What is there of him?" Cercy asked. "He looks like a man, but he can change into anything else. You can't attack him; he adapts. He's like water, taking the shape of any vessel he's poured into."
"You can boil water," Harrison yawned.