yamul studied his image in the full-length mirror and looked away in disgust. He was ugly to the point of being repulsive. To think that on his home planet of Ovahn he had once been considered a highly attractive male, admired by Ovahni females and envied by Ovahni males. That was when he was Hyamul the Ovahni, but Hyamul the Ovahni was no more.
He was now Jake Stewart the Human. Those same Ovahni females who had adored him would now revile him. But he could blame nobody but himself. For hadn’t he volunteered to have his psyche transferred into a human body so that he could spy on and study the people of Earth? Hadn’t he dreamed of the chance to go on such a mission? And hadn’t he coveted the honor and glory that would be bestowed upon him on his return to Ovahn?
But something had gone wrong during his psyche transfer. The day that the techs had performed the transfer procedure was still fresh in Hyamul’s mind.
Hyamul had volunteered in the name of science. As a sociologist, he jumped at the chance to study an alien culture first hand, even if it meant inhabiting the body of such a detestable creature.
The chief tech misread the disgust on his face as anxiety. “There is no need for concern,” she said, “This is a routine, almost risk-free procedure that we have performed many times without complications.”
Hyamul knew that there was no need for concern. He knew several colleagues who had undergone the psyche transfer procedure. They had gone on missions to study alien cultures and returned without mishap.
“I am not concerned about the procedure,” he replied. “I was just thinking that I would be living in that ugly creature’s body for the next six months.”
The tech laughed. “I can understand your concern about that. But I can assure you that we will keep your body preserved while you are gone, and we will reverse the procedure and restore your psyche to your own body when you return.”
“I’m curious,” said Hyamul. “What happens to the human when I return to my own body?”
“The human’s mind was wiped clean before the procedure. Once you are returned to your own body, the human’s body will be but a shell, and must be destroyed--as were all the other aliens before him.”
Hyamul suspected that was the case. He didn’t like to think about it, even if the humans were repulsive creatures.
“We’re ready for the procedure to begin,” said the tech. “In a few moments you will drift into unconsciousness, and you will awaken in the body of the human.”
yamul awakened to see several techs by his bedside, looking down at him. Their faces showed deep concern.
“What is it?” He asked. “Has something gone wrong?”
“We regret to tell you that your own body did not survive the shock of the transfer. It was a one in a million chance that such a thing would occur.”
The tech continued to talk, but Hyamul did not hear her. All he could think about was that he must spend the rest of his life in this repulsive body.
So now he must live the life of the body he had been given in the transfer, the repulsive body he was now gazing at in the mirror. Its name was Jake Stewart, an electronics engineer for Hitek Industries. That was an identity he had no trouble assuming. He had done well in his studies of electronics on Ovahn, and since Earth was
so far behind Ovahn in the field of electronics, he had little trouble in performing his job. As he turned away from the mirror, the phone rang.
“Jake, this is Tina.”
“What do you want?”
“Jake, you’ve said we’re through, and I accept that. But the way you ditched me, with no explanation at all other than to say that you didn’t want me anymore. I sometimes stay awake at night wondering what I did to offend you.” Her voice broke, and she sobbed. “After all the times we’ve had together, is it too much to ask for an explanation? Please, Jake, it’s all I ask.”
“If I say I don’t want you anymore, then that is explanation enough. I just don’t want to see you anymore. This is the second time you’ve called since I first told you that, and I would appreciate it if you didn’t call anymore.”
He hung up. Just being near humans was disgusting enough, but intimate relations with one would be more than he could stand. Before the psyche transfer procedure, he had found humans disgusting, but since the procedure he had developed an outright phobia of them.
In the first few weeks of his stay on Earth, he had avoided contact with humans as much as possible. He avoided crowds. He didn’t go to parties. He even avoided Jake Stewart’s relatives. He attended
official meetings at work only when it was unavoidable. He knew that Jake’s friends wondered why he had become a loner, but that didn’t concern Hyamul.
If not for the prospect of returning to Ovahn, he would have committed suicide.
Almost six months had passed since his arrival on Earth, and it seemed like an eternity. He had to endure but one more week, and then he would rendezvous with an Ovahni ship and return to his home world.
On Ovahn, among his own people, he would be a freak, but it would be better than staying here on Earth among these human creatures.
Hyamul and his colleagues were only interested in alien cultures from a scientific point of view. But the military leaders who controlled the entire planet of Ovahn, and always coveting other planets, demanded that the scientists do intelligence gathering work in addition to their scientific studies.
He knew that his phobia greatly hampered his work. He forsook his studies of humans altogether, and concentrated only on gathering information for the military intelligence people. He dared not go back without some kind of information for them.
Because of his limited contact with humans, his intelligence gathering consisted mostly of reading newspapers, watching TV, and conducting research on his computer.
There was no need to record anything he saw or heard. Military intelligence experts would extract all the information they needed from his mind by using drugs and a mind-scanning device.
“You seem to have forgotten that we wanted to learn something of the human mentality--their psychological makeup. We expect no trouble in conquering Earth. Our technology is far superior to that of Earth, as are our weapons.
“But we need to know what to expect from them once they are conquered. Will they submit meekly? Or will they continue to resist? What kind of psychological propaganda can be used to influence them? There are a lot of things our psychological warfare teams need to know.
“The information they need is best obtained by personal contacts, such as in bars, parties, sporting events, and other social gatherings. Our psychological operations teams can learn much by studying such information. Our team has agreed that you must return to Earth for three additional months to obtain the information that we require.”
Hyamul was devastated. He was too benumbed to respond. He merely stared blankly at Major Hanzi and nodded.
Major Hanzi started to leave, but then turned to face him. “Hyamul, speaking unofficially, I know your feelings toward humans, and I can sympathize with you. But for the good of the Ovahni cause, you must strive to overcome your phobia.” With that, she left.
yamul was returned to the spot on the beach where he had been picked up, with instructions to return to the same spot in exactly ninety days, Earth time. As before, he would be picked up at midnight. He made his way to his car and returned to his apartment.
Three more months posing as the human Jake Stewart would be more than he could endure. The first six months had been almost unendurable, but now they expected him to socialize. He could not do it; he would rather die. Suicide would be easy.
Ammonia, a deadly poison to the Ovahni, was readily available everywhere on Earth. The ammonia solution used as a cleaning agent here on Earth contained enough to kill him. He would buy a container, apply a few drops to his skin, and he would be dead in minutes.
But it dawned on him that he no longer possessed an Ovahni body--ammonia would be harmless to the human body he now occupied. Perhaps it would kill him if he drank it.
He began to have second thoughts. Major Hanzi had said that he should strive to overcome his phobia for the good of the Ovahni cause. He decided that at least he owed them a try.
The weeks went by. Jake Stewart had lost his reputation as a loner. He was going to company parties and picnics. He was going out on the town with friends. And he discovered that something very strange was happening to him. He was beginning to enjoy himself.
He was finding humans less and less repulsive with each passing day. He was even beginning to feel an attraction for human females. He was beginning to think of himself as Jake Stewart, not as Hyamul-pretending-to-be-Jake Stewart.
He started remembering bits and pieces of Jake’s past. It was as if the two identities were merging, he thought, that of Hyamul and that of Jake Stewart.
The techs claimed that they erased the minds of aliens before the psyche transfer procedure. But Jake-Hyamul suspected that the minds of those aliens were not erased, but their psyches were merely pushed back into the inner recesses of their minds, capable of reemerging.
Six months had always been the maximum time that an Ovahni possessed an alien mind. Hyamul had exceeded six months, and he noticed that it was shortly after six months that he began to notice a change.
A few more weeks passed, and Hyamul knew that the identity of Jake Stewart was not only reemerging, but was becoming dominant. And he did not mind that this was happening. In fact, he welcomed it.
As Jake’s psyche reemerged, Hyamul’s psyche began to be pushed into the inner recesses of Jake’s mind. Hyamul found that he was now sharing Jake’s emotions and memories. To Hyamul, this was a far better situation than it had been when he was walking among humans that disgusted and revolted him. And it was also better than the humiliation he would endure as a freak on Ovahn.
The transition was complete now. Jake Stewart was himself now, with his own personality and memories.
He was back among his circle of friends. He resumed contact with
his relatives. He made up with Tina Wells--he was surprised that she accepted him back so readily--and they were once again getting serious about each other.
But Hyamul was still there. Though his psyche was buried deep in Jake’s mind now, he had become a permanent part of Jake’s mind. Jake was himself now, the same person he had always been, but he was aware of Hyamul’s presence in a part of his mind. Jake even shared Hyamul’s memories. He was also aware that, to a small degree, Hyamul was sharing his life with him.
But a serious problem confronted him now. It had been almost ninety days since the Ovahni had left him on the beach. In another four days he would be expected to rendezvous with the Ovahni ship. Of course, that was now out of the question. But the part of him that was Hyamul knew what to expect from the Ovahni.
If Hyamul was not there to rendezvous with the ship, the Ovahni would assume that Hyamul had been found out and captured. They would most likely call in the invasion force and launch an attack before Earth had time to prepare.
Jake thought of keeping the rendezvous with them to avoid an invasion. Again, the Hyamul part of his mind warned that when the Ovahni discovered that Jake had recovered his mind, they would not believe that it happened spontaneously; they would suspect that Earth scientists were involved. An invasion would likely ensue in any case. And the Ovahni would kill him immediately.
At least he would have a chance if he stayed on Earth. Of course, after conquering Earth, the Ovahni would seek him out, and if they found him, they would learn the truth and kill him.
He knew that he must warn the nations of Earth. He knew that Earth could not hope to repel the invasion, but they would have time to unite and prepare an underground resistance against the Ovahni occupation force.
It was time for a reality check, he realized. No one would listen to a warning of an invasion from space. He would be ridiculed.
He needed someone to talk to. He picked up the phone and called Tina. “I know it’s late, Hon, but there’s something I’ve got to get off my chest. I need to come over right away.”
The inviting smell of fresh brewed coffee hit him when she opened the door. She was in her pajamas. “I wasn’t in bed yet,” she said, with just a trace of a German accent. “I was just getting ready.” She was born in the U.S.--Minneapolis--but her Mother was from Germany.
Even her loose fitting PJs couldn’t hide her attractive figure, he thought. He wondered how even the alien Hyamul could have rejected such a beautiful, blue eyed blonde. Jake often wondered what she saw in a tall, gangling, craggy featured southerner like himself.
She poured two cups of coffee, placed some assorted cookies on a serving tray, and sat down beside him on the couch. He remained silent. He wanted to tell her everything, but he couldn’t think of a way to do it without seeming foolish. Maybe he should apologize and tell her it wasn’t very important after all.
She smiled and reached for his hand. “What’s on your mind, Jake?”
“What I’ve got to say is so far out that I don’t know how to start. You’d think I’m a cotton pickin’ nut.”
She was silent for a moment. “Will you let me take a guess?”
He chuckled. “Sure, but ain’t no way you’ll even get close.”
“Okay. How’s this--you want me to move in with you.” She laughed and held up her hands in mock defense. “Just kidding. But I see I did get a smile on that gloomy puss of yours.”
Jake was fairly old-fashioned in his thinking, and Tina sometimes ribbed him about it.
He laughed. “Guess I have been pretty gloomy. But what I got to say is pretty gloomy stuff.”
“Okay, I was just kidding around. But I’m serious about making a guess. Let’s try this. It has to do with your boating accident.”
Jake’s face showed his surprise. He looked at her. “Go on,” he said.
“When you had your boating accident, you were found three days later, lying unconscious on the beach. No life raft. No life preserver. About the same time, there was an article buried in the back pages of the newspaper about a UFO sighting in the vicinity. Nobody connected the two events.”
“But apparently you did,” he said.
“I really didn’t think too much about it until I noticed that you became a totally different person after the accident. You even lost your southern accent, and that got my attention. After a while I started to suspect that the two events were related.
“I honestly began to suspect that you had been abducted by the aliens in the UFO, and that they did some kind of experiments on you.” She paused. “How am I doing?”
Jake was stunned. “I can’t believe it. It ain’t exactly what happened, but you’re damn close, Tina. After my boat turned over, I clung to the wreckage for only a few minutes before a UFO showed up and plucked me out of the water. The aliens--they looked like big bugs--did something to my mind. They drugged me and scanned my mind to learn my history, then one of them took over my mind. I knew what was going on, but I was helpless to do anything about it. I remember everything that it did while it controlled my body. I don’t know how it happened, but I gradually regained control.”
“Deep inside, I somehow knew that it wasn’t you,” she said.
Jake grinned. “It’s kinda funny. To think that I used to poke fun at you for believing in UFOs and such foolishness. Did you tell anybody about your suspicions?”
“No. Who would have believed me? Everyone noticed that you had changed, but if I had even hinted that a UFO might be involved, they would have laughed at me.”
Jake told her of his scheduled rendezvous with the aliens and of the probable invasion if he did not show. She agreed that it would be a waste of time to notify the authorities.
She took in a deep breath and exhaled slowly. “But we’ve got to get away from here, Jake. If the aliens scanned your mind, they know everything about you, including where you live and work. They’ll probably know to look here, too. Where can we go, Jake?”
Jake shook his head. “I ain’t gonna drag you into this. They’ll be looking for me, not you.” Now he was regretting that he had even called her. He only wanted someone to talk to--not to get her involved. “I’ll find a place to hide, and it would be best if I didn’t even tell you where I’m going. That way, if they scan your mind they won’t learn anything.”
“I’m afraid, Jake. I don’t want to have to face these bugs. If you go without me, I swear I’ll find a hiding place of my own. Can you be sure that they’ll stop at just scanning my mind?”
Again, the Hyamul part of his mind warned that the Ovahni would likely use Tina to try to flush him out of hiding. He held her close to him. “Are you willing to go on a long trip, Hon?”
“Willing and able,” she said, “and speaking of travel, I have an idea. Remember my uncle that died recently? As his closest relative, he left me all he owned--including a well-equipped camper. It turned out that he had a whole lot more assets than I thought he had. I planned to sell the camper, but maybe it would make a good hiding place.”
Jake thought it over. “I sure couldn’t think of a better place to hide. We could stay on the move. But dammit, I don’t want to squander your inheritance. I’ve got some investments in stocks and a little in the bank.”
“When I said he had a lot of assets, I meant it. He didn’t believe in investing, so all his money was in a savings account and a box full of savings bonds. I’m talking of nearly a million, Jake. Don’t worry, we’d really have to go wild to squander it.” She laughed. “You’ve never asked me to move in with you, so I guess this will have to do.”
The next day was spent getting the camper checked out and serviced, and the following day they got their supplies and equipment ready.
They set out from Tampa at 7:00 Am on a Thursday morning, two days before the rendezvous time with the Ovahni. Their destination was Montana. They decided to travel a full day and night before stopping at an RV campsite, and agreed to take turns driving.
“They’ll be looking for me Friday night at midnight. If they call in the invasion fleet immediately after they find out I’m not there, it’ll take their fleet six days to get here. They’re a long way from Earth, but they can shortcut by jumping through time space warp fields.”
Tina looked at him quizzically. “How can you know all this, Jake?”
“Remember, I can call on Hyamul’s memory almost like my own. We’d better plan on the invasion taking place in about eight days or so, give or take.”
At 10:00 PM that evening they pulled into a truck stop to rest, get a bite, and change drivers. They were hungry, and the delicious smells coming from the kitchen whetted their appetites. They found an empty booth and ordered.
“I’ve been thinking of what you said about the invasion,” she said. “Isn’t there anyone that we can warn? I feel guilty that we have all this information and aren’t telling anyone about it.”
“Ain’t no way anybody would take us seriously, Hon. But it’ll be a different story after the invasion happens. We’ll be in Montana then, and I’ve been thinking of organizing a resistance up there.”
“After the invasion, won’t it be too late start any kind of resistance?”
“The invaders will concentrate on heavily populated places to start with. It’ll take them a while before they get to places like Montana.”
“But you said that their weapons are far superior to ours. How can we hope to resist them?”
“Determination, ingenuity, and ammonia.”
She raised her eyebrows. “Ammonia?”
“They’re scared stiff of the stuff. A little drop on the skin’ll kill them. We could sprinkle areas with ammonia-filled mines and booby traps. The mortar is a good guerilla weapon, so we could fill mortar shells with ammonia. We could make life miserable for them. They have protective suits, but hate wearing them for long periods of time.”
“It’s too bad we couldn’t have warned the world,” said Tina. “We could have sprinkled the whole world with booby traps. That would have made them think twice about invading us.”
Jake slapped his hand on the table. “You just gave me an idea. We can’t set ammonia booby traps all over the world, but maybe we can make the bugs think we did. If they believe it, they won’t bother us--they’ll look for a better place to invade.”
“But how on Earth could we ever be able to fool them like that? They will be looking for you on the Gulf coast tomorrow night. There’s no time to do anything.”
“We’ve got time if we act now. We’re gonna turn around and head back to Tampa. We should get back there by early tomorrow afternoon.”
“Jake, have you lost your mind? What can you possibly do to convince them we are ready to use ammonia to fight them?”
“I’ve got Hyamul’s memories, and I can write in the Ovahni language. I can write a note, attach it to a dummy, and leave it at the rendezvous point. They’ll think the dummy is me--Hyamul--and pull it up.”
“I suppose it’s worth a try,” she said. “If it doesn’t work, we’ll still have a few days to get away.”
They reached Tampa a little past 2:00 PM. As they drove through the city, Tina spotted a clothing store and they stopped. Jake waited while Tina went into the store.
A few minutes later she emerged from the store followed by a sales clerk carrying a mannequin. They loaded the mannequin into the camper and continued on their way to Tina’s duplex.
“Any problem?” He asked.
“At first he insisted mannequins weren’t for sale, but when I showed him a handful of twenties, he asked what kind I wanted. I chose the gentleman lying in back of the camper.”
ake checked his watch as they pulled into Tina’s driveway. “Three-fifteen. We still have plenty of time.”
They went in, and Tina immediately stepped into a hot shower. Then, while Jake showered, she put on the coffee and popped a couple of lasagna dinners in the microwave.
After the meal, Jake sat down and composed the note to the Ovahni. He read a translation to her:
Major Hanzi, Intelligence Team Leader: