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The Greatest Parody of the Greatest Space Opera


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More than half a century ago(in fact, now nearly four-fifths of one), a fan of E.E. Smith's cosmic-scale science fiction series, Lensman, which would later come to inspire the Silver Age Green Lantern Corps and several million other parts of thousands of other stories, decided to mock the sillier parts of the thing he so loved. This parody, titled 'Backstage Lensman', preceding the modern abridged series in both form and function, presents everything ghastly, ridiculous, unrealistic, tiresome and plain moronic about that laudable workhorse of a story as the stuff of high comedy. It is so good that Smith, upon reading it at a convention, was wracked with hilarity for the entirety of its brief page-space.


In honor of the recent surge of space adventures and the many more to come, and in honor of this, my last day of posting(besidesthetimeitwilltaketofinishmyGMthreadsandgetalltheNPCsandsoforthontothetable), I present to you, my comrades in Play by Post, the great, the ineluctable, the inexorable, the fantastic,



Edit 22/09/2015: Changed link, inserted text (within spoiler tags) in case of future link outages.


The Lensman series, comprising, as it does, some six hundred thousand words, is

still, to my mind, the greatest space opera yet written. It has, to use one of Doc
SmithтАЩs favorite words, scope.тАЭ
E. E. Smith, Ph.D., had more scope, more breadth and depth of cognizance of the
Cosmic All, than anyone beforeтАФor since.
He had his flaws; we all do. But the grandeur of his writing overpowered those
flaws, made them insignificant.
I first wrote Backstage Lensman nearly thirty years ago. The original is long lost.
There was no market for it in those days, and my moving about... well, it got lost.
This is a re-creation from memory. It was a test of memory in another way, too not
once, during the writing, did I look into the Lensman for descriptions or phraseology
or situations to parody. IтАЩve read those books so often over the years that there was
no necessity for it. The style came naturally.
Only once did my memory fail me. I was too accurate. I had to rewrite one
paragraph because, when I checked with the original, it was word-for-word. And
thatтАЩs plagiarism.
Doc saw the first version of Backstage Lensman in 1949, and laughed all through the
convention. It was his suggestion that I call the spaceship Dentless.

On a planet distant indeed from Tellus, on a frigid, lightless globe situated within an

almost completely enclosing hollow sphere of black interstellar dust, in a cavern far
beneath the surface of that abysmally cold planet, a group of entities indescribable
by, or to, man stood, sat, or slumped around a circular conference table.
Though they had no spines, they were something like porcupines; though they had
no tentacles, they reminded one of octopuses; though they had no wings or beaks,
they seemed similar to vultures; and though they had neither scales nor fins, there
was definitely something fishy about them.
These, then, composed the Council of the Meich, frigid-blooded poison-breathers
whose existence at temperatures only a few degrees above zero absolute required
them to have extensions into the fourth and fifth dimensions, rendering them horribly
indescribable and indescribably horrible to human sight.
Their leader, Meichfrite, or, more formally, Frite of the Meich, radiated harshly to
others of the Council: The time has now come to consider the problem of our
recent losses in the other galaxy. Meichrobe, as Second of the Meich, you will report
That worthy pondered judiciously for long moments, then: тАЬI presume you wish to
hear nothing about the missing strawberries?
тАЬNothing,тАЭ agreed the other.
тАЬThen,тАЭ came MeichrobeтАЩs rasping thought, тАЬwe must consider the pernicious
activities of the Tellurian Lensman whose workings are not, and have not been,
ascribed to Star A Star.
тАЬThe activities and behavior of all members of the never-to-be-sufficiently-damned
Galactic Patrol have, as you know, been subjected to rigid statistical analysis. Our
computers have come to the conclusion that, with a probability of point oh oh one,
the Lensman known as Gimble Ginnison either is or is not the agent whom we seek.тАЭ
тАЬA cogent report indeed,тАЭ Meichfrite complimented. тАЬNext, the report of Meichron,
Third of this Council.тАЭ
тАЬAs a psychologist,тАЭ Meichron replied, тАЬI feel that there is an equal probability that
the agent whom we seek is one whose physical makeup is akin to ours, rather than to
that of the fire-blooded, oxygen-breathing Tellurians. Perhaps one of the immoral
Palanians, who emmfoze in public.тАЭ
тАЬThat, too, must be considered,тАЭ Meichfrite noted. тАЬNow to Meichrotch, Fourth of
the Meich...тАЭ
And so it went, through member after member of that dark Council. How they
arrived at any decision whatever is starkly unknowable to the human mind.

On green, warm Tellus, many mega parsecs from the black cloud which enveloped
the eternally and infernally frigid planet of the Meich, Lensman Gimble Ginnison,
having been released from the hospital at Prime Base, was talking to Surgeon-Major
Macy, who had just given him his final checkup.
тАЬHow am I, Doc?тАЭ he asked respectfully, тАЬQX for duty?тАЭ
Well, you were in pretty bad shape when you came in,тАЭ the Lensman surgeon said
thoughtfully. тАЬWe almost had to clone you to keep you around, son. Those Axlemen
really shot you up.тАЭ
тАЬCheck. But how am I now?тАЭ
The older Lensman looked at the sheaf of charts, films, tapes, and reports on his
desk. тАЬMmm. Your skeleton seems in good shape, but I wonder about the rest of
you. The most beautiful nurses in the Service attended you during your


convalescence, and you never made a pass-never even patted a fanny.тАЭ
тАЬGosh,тАЭ Ginnison flushed hotly, тАЬwas I expected to?тАЭ
тАЬNot by me,тАЭ the older man said cryptically.
тАЬWell, am I QX for duty? I have to do a flit.тАЭ
Surgeon-Major Macy handed Ginnison an envelope. тАЭTake this to the Starboard
AdmiralтАЩs office. HeтАЩll let you know. Where are you flitting for?тАЭ
тАЬIтАЩm not sure yet,тАЭ Ginnison said evasively, taking the envelope.
тАЬRight. Clear ether, Gimble.тАЭ
тАЬClear ether, Macy.тАЭ
True to an old tradition, these two friends never told each other anything.

The Starboard Admiral slit open the envelope and took in its contents at a glance.
тАЬAccording to Macy, youтАЩre fit for duty, son. Congratulations. And, in spite of
everything, that was a right smart piece of work you did on Mulligans II.тАЭ
Ginnison looked at the tips of his polished boots. тАЬGee whiz,тАЭ he said, blushing.
Then, looking up: тАЬIf IтАЩm fit for duty, sir, IтАЩd like to make a request. That mess on
Cadilax needs to be cleaned up. IтАЩm ready to try it, sir, and I await your orders.тАЭ
The Starboard Admiral looked up into the gray eyes of the young, handsome,
broad-shouldered, lean, lithe, tough, hard, finely-trained, well-muscled, stubborn,
powerful man who stood before him.
тАЬGim,тАЭ he said firmly, тАЬYou have disobeyed every order I have ever given you. It
always came out all right, so I canтАЩt gripe, but, as of now, IтАЩm getting out from
under. IтАЩve talked to the Galactic Council, and they agree. We are giving you your
Release.тАЭ The Release! The goal toward which every Lensman worked and so few attained!
He was now an Unattached Lensman, responsible to no one and nothing save his
own conscience. He was no longer merely a small cog in the mighty machine of the
Galactic Patrol
He was a Big Wheel!
тАЬJeepers!тАЭ he said feelingly. тАЬGoshtimighty!тАЭ
тАЬItтАЩs all of that,тАЭ the Starboard Admiral agreed. тАЬNow go put on your Grays, take
the Dentless. and get the hell out of here!тАЭ
тАЬYes, sir!тАЭ And Ginnison was gone.
He went to his quarters and took off his black-and-silver uniform. Then he proudly
donned the starkly utilitarian gray leather uniform which was the garb of the
Unattached Lensman. And as he did so, he made that curious gesture known as
Gray Seal. No entity has ever donned or ever will don that Gray uniform without
making that gesture. It is the only way you can get the zipper closed.

In his office, solidly sealed against both thought and spy-ray beams, the Starboard
Admiral sat and stared at the glowing Lens on his wrist, the Lens which was, and is,
the symbol of the rank and power of every Lensman of the Galactic Patrol.
But it is far more than merely a symbol.
It is a lenticular structure of hundreds of thousands of tiny crystalloids, and each is
built and tuned to match the ego of one individual entity. It is not, strictly speaking,
alive, but its pseudolife is such that when it is in circuit with the living entity to whom
it is synchronized, it gives off a strong, changing, characteristically polychromatic
light. It is a telepathic communicator of astounding power and range, and kills any


being besides its owner who attempts to wear it.
Thus, it is both pretty and useful.
Manufactured and issued by the mysterious beings of dread and dreaded Arisia, it
cannot be counterfeited, and is given only to those entities of the highest honor,
integrity, honesty, and intelligence. That knowledge made the Starboard Admiral, as,
indeed, it did all Lensmen, feel smug.

The mighty Dentless. from needle prow to flaring jets, was armed and armored,
screened and shielded as was no other ship of her class and rating. Under the almost
inconceivable thrust of her mighty driving jets, she drilled a hole through the void at
her cruising velocity of a hundred parsecs per hour.
Not in the inert state could she so have done, for no body with inertial mass can
travel faster than the velocity of light, which, in the vast reaches of the galaxy, is the
veriest crawl.
But her Bergenholm, that intricate machine which renders a spaceship inertialess, or
тАЬfree,тАЭ permitted her to move at whatever velocity her ravening jets could achieve
against the meager resistance of the almost perfect vacuum of interstellar space.
Unfortunately, the Bergenholm, while it could completely neutralize inertial mass,
never quite knew what to do with gravitational mass, which seems to come and go as
the circumstances require.

As the Dentless bored on through the awesome void toward her goal, Ginnison and
Chief Firing Officer Flatworthy checked and rechecked her mighty armament. Hot GinnisonтАЩs door
opened and there entered a leatherwinged, crocodile-headed, thirty-foot-long,
crooked-armed, pythonish, reptilian nightmare. He draped himself across a couple of
parallel bars, tied himself into a tasteful bow-knot, and extended a few
weirdly-stalked eyes. тАЬWell?тАЭ
Ginnison looked affectionately at the horribly monstrous Lensman. тАЬConcerning
lтАЩaffaire Cadilax,тАЭ he began.
тАЬI know nothing about it, fortunately,тАЭ Woozle interrupted. тАЬThat gives you a chance
to explain everything.тАЭ
тАЬVery well, then. As you well know, I have spent a long time searching for clues that
will lead me to the top echelon of Boskonia-Boskonia, that frightful, inimical.
soul-destroying, intergalactic organization which is so ineradicably opposed to all the
moral values which we of Civilization hold so dear.тАЭ
Woozle closed a few eyes. тАЬYes. Continue.тАЭ


тАЬOn Leanonabar,тАЭ Ginnison continued, тАЬI got a line through Banjo Freeko, the
planetary dictator, but only after I blew up the mining industry on his planet and
killed a few thousand innocent peopleтАФregretfully, of course. But I do that all the
time. It revolts me, but I do it.тАЭ
тАЬWhat boots it?тАЭ Woozle asked. тАЬYou got your line, didnтАЩt you? You humans are
so squeamish.тАЭ
тАЬTo continue,тАЭ said Ginnison. тАЬThis is the line I traced.тАЭ
And in WoozleтАЩs mind there appeared a three-dimensional representation of
intergalactic space. Two galaxies floated there in the awesome awfulness of the
unimaginable vastness of the intergalactic void.
From Leanonabar, in the First, or Tellurian, Galaxy, a thin, hard red line ran straight
through and past the Second Galaxy, out into the vast reaches of the intergalactic
space beyond.
тАЬIsnтАЩt that rather overdoing it?тАЭ came WoozleтАЩs thought. тАЬYou think this line may
extend beyondтАФ?тАЭ
Ginnison shook his head. тАЬNot really. ThereтАЩs nothing along that line for half a
billion parsecs, and thatтАЩs a Seyfert Galaxy.тАЭ
тАЬTough about them,тАЭ Woozle opinioned. тАЬLetтАЩs get back to Cadilax.тАЭ
тАЬOh, yes. Well, Cadilax is clear across the Galaxy from Leanonabar, so that would
give us a good baseline for our second triangulation.тАЭ
тАЬI trust,тАЭ Woozle thought, тАЬthat you have a better reason than that for picking
тАЬCertainly.тАЭ Rising from his seat, Ginnison paced across the deck of his cabin,
turned, and paced back. тАЬIn the past several months, all hell has broken loose on
Cadilax. The drug trade has gone up three hundred percent. Thionite, heroin, hashish, nitrolabe, cocaine, bentlam, and caffeineтАФall of them have increased
tremendously, and Narcotics canтАЩt find the source. The adolescents have gone wild;
the boys are wearing their hair long, and the girls have given up perms. Illicit sex is
rampant. They live in unstructured social groups.тАЭ He took a deep breath, and said,
in a hushed voice: тАЬThere have even been demonstrations against the way the Patrol
is running the Boskonian War!тАЭ
тАЬMadness, indeed,тАЭ Woozle agreed, тАЬbut are you certain that your information is
тАЬReasonably certain,тАЭ Ginnison pondered. тАЬThe latest information we haveтАФтАЭ
At that point, a sharp, cold, Lensed thought intruded.
тАЬLensman Ginnison, greeting. I humbly request communication with you.тАЭ
Ginnison recognized that thought. It was that of Shadrack, a poison-blooded,
frigid-breathing Lensman he had known of yore.
тАЬSure, little chum; what is it?тАЭ
тАЬI do not interrupt?тАЭ Shadrack quavered.
тАЬNot at all. Go ahead.тАЭ
тАЬI trust I do not intrude upon matters of far greater importance than that of my own
meager and faulty information?тАЭ
тАЬCertainly not,тАЭ Ginnison reassured.
тАЬAs is well known,тАЭ continued the soft thought, тАЬI am a yellow-bellied,
chicken-livered, jelly-gutted coward тАФa racial characteristic which I cannot and do
not deny. Therefore, I most humbly apologize for this unwarranted intrusion upon
your thoughts.тАЭ
тАЬNo need to overdo it, little chum,тАЭ said Ginnison. тАЬ A simple grovel will be


тАЬThank you, Ginnison,тАЭ Shadrack snivelled gravely. тАЬThen may I inquire, in my own
small way, if you are aware of the existence of an entity known as Banlon of
Downlo? He is, like myself, a creature accustomed to temperatures scarcely above
zero absolute, but of far greater courage and bravery than any of my race possess.тАЭ
тАЬBANLON!тАЭ GinnisonтАЩs Lensed thought fairly shrieked. тАЬKlono, yes, I know of
him!тАЭ Then, more calmly: тАЬHeтАЩs been out after my hide since we destroyed
тАЬThat, I fear, is true,тАЭ Shadrack commented. тАЬEven now, he has, according to the
information which my poor powers have allowed me to glean, englobed the Dentless
with a fleet of twelve ships which are prepared to blast you out of the ether.тАЭ
тАЬKlonoтАЩs curving carballoy claws arid gilded gadolinium gizzard!тАЭ Ginnison roared
mentally. тАЬWhy didnтАЩt you say so in the first place?тАЭ
тАЬI am devastated,тАЭ Shadrack replied. тАЬIt is, again, a racial characteristic which I
cannot avoid. It took me too long to apologize.тАЭ A pause, then: тАЬI fear, even now,
that I may have been too late,тАЭ Shadrack apologized. тАЬClear ether, Ginnison.тАЭ
тАЬClear ether, little chum,тАЭ
The Lensed connection cut off, and Ginnison flashed a thought to the control room,
only to discover that, indeed, the Dentless was surrounded.
In a black, indetectable, refrigerated speedster, many parsecs from the soon-to-be
scene of battle, that entity known as Banlon of Downlo gloated over his instruments
as he watched the englobement of the Dentless take form.
Like the Meich, and like Shadrack, he was of a race whose normal temperature was
near that of boiling helium, and thus required extra-dimensional extensions in order
to gather enough energy to survive. Superficially, that sounds glib enough, but,
unfortunately, your historian knows less about dimensional analysis than you do, so letтАЩs drop it right there.
To return to our narrative, Banlon, a safe distance away from the impending conflict,
observed minutely the behavior of the Boskonian squadron which had englobed the
Dentless. Each captain of the twelve Boskonian warships had done his job to
тАЬVery well,тАЭ Banlon radiated harshly to his minions, тАЬenglobement is now complete.
Tractors and pressors on! Cut your Bergenholms and go inert! Blast that ship out of
the ether!

Inertialess as she was, the mighty Dentless, caught in a web of tractor and pressor
beams, could not continue at speed against the resistance of an inert combined mass
twelve times that of her own. Relative to the Boskonian squadron, she came to a
dead halt in space, easy prey for the Boskonians.
At BanlonтАЩs order, all twelve Boskonian ships fired at once toward the center of their
englobement, where the apparently helpless Patrol ship floated.
Beams, rods, cones, stilettos, icepicks, corkscrews, knives, forks, and spoons of
energy raved against the screens of the Dentless. Quasi-solid bolts of horrendous
power chewed, gnawed, flared, snarled, and growled against he energy screens of
the Patrol ship, seeking eagerly to blast through them to the hull metal. All of
circumambient space was filled with the frightful discharge of those tremendous
bolts of power.
The screens of the Dentless flared red, orange, yellow, green blue, and into the
violet. From there, they went into the ultraviolet and x-ray spectrum. But still they


Gimble Ginnison, teeth clenched and jaw muscles knotted, stared with unblinking
gaze of grey eyes at the plate before him, listening to the reports from the officers
commanding the various functions of the ship. But only one of those reports was
really important.
тАЬScreens holding, Lensman!тАЭ
тАЬFire secondariesтАЭ the Lensman ordered crisply.
The prodigious might of the Patrol shipтАЩs secondaries flared out toward the twelve
Boskonian ships. Those screens, too, blazed up the spectrum toward the ultraviolet,
then toward blackness.
тАЬPrimaries one through twelve! Ready?тАЭ
тАЬReady, sir!тАЭ
тАЬAt my order, then.тАЭ Ginnison watched his plate closely.
тАЬFive seconds! Four...Three...Two...One...FIREтАЭ
Twelve primary batteries flamed forth as one, each ravening beam smashing into,
through, and past the already weakened shields of the Boskonian battleships. Like
tissue paper in the flame of an oxyhydrogen torch, the dozen ships dissolved into
whitehot gas.
As far as his detectors could scan, Ginnison could see that there was not a single
threat in the ether about the Dentless.
тАЬNavigator,тАЭ he ordered crisply, тАЬcontinue toward Cadilax.тАЭ

From his coign of vantage, so many parsecs away, Banlon stared in unbelief at his
instruments, knowing to the full what they had reported. But after that first
momentary shock, the ultrahard logic of his ultracold brain reasserted itself. тАЬShit,тАЭ he thought. And, flipping his speedster end-for-end, he turned around and
Came, betimes, to Cadilax, a bum.
He showed up, unobtrusively, in the streets of Ardis, the capital of that disturbed
planet. He was, apparently, a man approaching sixtyтАФgraying, flabby, rheumy-eyed,
alcoholic, and not too bright. He was so typical of his kind that no one noticed him;
he was merely one of ten thousand such who wandered about the streets of the
various cities of Cadilax. He hung around the bars and bistros of the spaceport,
cadging drinks, begging for small change, leering innocuously at the hookers, and
telling stories of the days of his youth, when he was тАЬsomebody.тАЭ He claimed to
have been a doctor, a lawyer, a pimp, a confidence man, a bartender, a judge, a
police officer, a religious minister, and other such members of highly respected
occupations, but he could never produce any proof that he had ever been anyone of
And no one expected him to, for that was the sine qua non of the spaceport bum.
He was what he was, and no one expected more of him. He called himself Goniff,
and, because of his vaguely erudite manner of speech, soon became known as
тАЬProfessorтАЭ Goniff.
He was never completely sober, and never completely drunk.
The student of this history has, of course, already surmised that beneath this guise
lay the keen mind and brain of Gimble Ginnison, Gray Lensman, and he is right.
Throughout this time, Ginnison was searching out and finding a wight bedight
It had taken time. The Gray LensmanтАЩs mind had probed into the depths of
degradation, the valleys of vileness, the caverns of corruption, in the dregs of the


noxious minds of the foulest folk of a planet before finding that name and that
individual. He might have found him earlier, had he not been enjoying himself so
At first, only vaguely had he been able to construct from the clues available a picture
of the all-powerful drug baron and pirate who ruthlessly ruled the underworld of
Cadilax. Then, as time went on and more and more data came in, his visualization of
Gauntluth became complete.
Gauntluth was tall, lean, and tough, with the all-pervading cadaverous blue of a
Kalonian. His headquarters were in the Queen Ardis Hotel, the biggest luxury hotel
on the planet, which catered only to the top fringe of the upper crust of the
There, in his superbly screened and shielded suite of offices, Gauntluth controlled,
through an intricate webwork of communicationsтАЩ and by a highly efficiently
organized army of minions, the drug traffic of half a dozen solar systems.
For long Ginninson pondered, and came to the obvious conclusion that тАЬProfessorтАЭ
Goniff could in no wise gain admission to the elite society of the Queen Ardis Hotel.
Therefore Goniff the bum vanished.
Instead, it was Lester Q. Twodyce, cosmopolitan, and wealthy playboy, who
checked into the Queen Ardis with an entourage of flunkies and yes-men, not one of
whom could easily be detected as an officer of the Galactic Patrol. As was de rigeur
on Cadilax, everyone of TwodyceтАЩs men wore a thought-screen.
Carefully, step by step, Ginnison laid his trap. Through the highest ranks of
GauntluthтАЩs organization, it became known that Lester Q. Twodyce had something
valuable that he was eager to sell. It became clear, even to Gauntluth, that whatever it
was Twodyce had, it was certainly worth investigating. Thus it came about that one evening, when the impeccably dressed Mr. Twodyce
was seated at a table in the grand dining room of the hotel with two of his hard-faced
gunmen, he was approached by two equally well-dressed men who bowed politely
and smiled pleasantly.
One of them said: тАЬGood evening, Mr. Twodyce. I trust we do not interrupt your
Twodyce looked up. тАЬNot at all,тАЭ he said. тАЬWill you be seated?тАЭ
Then, almost as an afterthought: тАЬMay I order you drinks? Such distinguished men
as yourselves deserve only the best, of course.тАЭ
тАЬYou know, then, who we are?тАЭ asked the spokesman.
тАЬCertainly, Mr. Thord,тАЭ replied the Lensman suavely, тАЬyou and Mr. Thield are
hardly anonymous.тАЭ Drinks were brought.
тАЬTheseтАФтАЭ he gestured toward the men on either side of him. тАЬтАФare my associates,
Mr. Kokomo and Mr. De Katur.тАЭ
After several minutes of preliminary conversation, the apefaced Thord finally
broached the subject which they had all been anticipating.
тАЬI hear, Mr. Twodyce,тАЭ he said, тАЬyou are here to do business.тАЭ
тАЬNot primarily,тАЭ said the Lensman nonchalantly. тАЬI am here to enjoy myself.
Business is not a primary concern of mine.тАЭ
тАЬI understand,тАЭ said Thord, тАЬfor such a man as yourself...тАЭ
тАЬNevertheless,тАЭ continued Ginnison, тАЬI do have a small trifle which I am willing to
dispose of for a proper price.тАЭ
The lizard-like Mr. Thield spoke. тАЬAnd that is?тАЭ
Twodyce said off-handedly, тАЬFifty grams of clear-quill thionite.тАЭ
There was a stunned silence from Thord and Thield.


Thionite! Thionite, that dreadful and dreadfully expensive drug which, in microgram
doses, induces in the user clear, three-dimensional, stereosonic visions in which he
indulges in his every desire to the point of ecstasy. Every desire, base or noble,
mental or physical, conscious or subconscious. Whatever pleasurable experience he
wishes for himself, he experiences. It is addictive to the nth degree. It is the ultimate
high, but the slightest overdose is deadly.
It is also purple.
One milligram of that dire drug was enough for a thousand doses, and the insouciant
Mr. Twodyce was offering fifty thousand times that amount!
тАЬGad!тАЭ murmured Mr. Thield.
тАЬIndeed?тАЭ said Thord. тАЬIf that is true, we are prepared to offer...тАЭ
тАЬYou will offer nothing,тАЭ Ginnison said calmly. тАЬI do not deal with underlings.тАЭ
ThordтАЩs face darkened. тАЬUnderlings? Underlings? To whom do you think you are
speaking, Mister Twodyce?тАЭ
тАЬTo underlings,тАЭ said the unruffled Twodyce. тАЬAnd you may tell Gauntluth I said
There was a momentary silence from Thord and Thield as their eyes darted from
GinnisonтАЩs face to those of the bodyguards. Each bodyguard was fingering his
necktie, his right hand only inches away from the DeLameter that was undoubtedly in
a shoulder holster concealed by the loose-fitting dress jacket that each man wore.
Thord and Thield rose, superficially regaining their composure. тАЬWe will speak to
you later, Mr. Twodyce,тАЭ said Thord.
тАЬYou will not,тАЭ said Ginnison in a low, deadly voice. тАЬI have no desire to see either
of you again. Gauntluth may contact me if he so wishes. Tell Gauntluth that I caution
him to think of a hamburger.тАЭ тАЬA...a hamburger?тАЭ gasped Thord.
тАЬPrecisely. A hamburger.тАЭ
тАЬYou may not be able to figure it out,тАЭ Ginnison said coldly, тАЬbut your boss will.
Now go.тАЭ
Without another word, the two underlings turned and went.

That night, in his own suite, Lester Q. Twodyce was Lensing a thought to
Lieutenant-Admiral Partisipple, the Lensman in charge of the Patrol base on Cadilax.
тАЬYes, Ginnison, what is it?тАЭ came the Lensman-AdmiralтАЩs thought,
тАЬThis thingтАЩs about to bust wide open,тАЭ Ginnison declared, тАЬand IтАЩll need some
тАЬAnything you want, Gray Lensman.тАЭ
тАЬGood. Can you get me about fifty logons?тАЭ
тАЬLogons?тАЭ Lensed the base commander in astonishment. тАЬLOGONS!тАЭ
There was reason for his astonishment, for the logon, or Cadiligian rateagle, is one
of the nastiest, most vicious, and intractable beasts in the galaxy. Its warped mind is
capable of containing but one emotion: HATRED! The Cadiligian rateagle hates
anything and everything living, the only desire in the small compass of its mind being
to reduce that life to something edible.
The logon resembles the Tellurian rat at its worst, but it is the size of a Tellurian
terrier and has the wings and claws of an eagle. Logons do not make nice pets.
тАЬYes, logons,тАЭ Ginnison replied. тАЬI can control them.тАЭ


тАЬWith your superior mental equipment,тАЭ the base commander thought humbly, тАЬI am
sure you can. How do you want them packaged?тАЭ
тАЬPut them in a тАШcopter. Have the pilot ready to release them on my order, within one
kilometer of the roof of the Queen Ardis Hotel.тАЭ
тАЬCertainly. Clear ether, Gray Lensman.тАЭ
тАЬClear ether, Partisipple.тАЭ
Then, another Lensed thought to Woozle, in the Dentless, hovering invisibly in orbit
high above the surface of Cadilax. тАЬWoozle, old serpent, hereтАЩs the story so far.тАЭ
And in flashing thoughts he told the reptilian Lensman his plans. тАЬSo have Lieutenant
Hess von Baschenvolks and his company of Dutch Valerians down here and ready
to go.тАЭ
тАЬWill do, Ginnison. Clear ether.тАЭ
тАЬClear ether.тАЭ

In the office on the top floor of the Queen Ardis Hotel, the inscrutable face of
Gauntluth stared thoughtfully at the banks of screens, meters, switches, dials,
indicators, knobs, buttons, and flickering lights on the panels and control boards
which surrounded him.
Finally, after long pondering, he touched a button on one of his control panels.
тАЬGive me suite 3305,тАЭ he said.
Ginnison was waiting for the call when it came. The cadaverous blue face of the
gaunt Gauntluth appeared on his visiscreen. тАЬYes?тАЭ he said calmly.
тАЬI am told,тАЭ came GauntluthтАЩs rasping voice, тАЬthat you are in a position to deal with
me concerning a certainтАФahтАФarticle.тАЭ тАЬAs long as the deal is on the up-and-up, I am,тАЭ replied Ginnison. тАЬOf course, the
usual precautions must be taken on both sides.тАЭ
тАЬOf course, my dear fellow,тАЭ Gauntluth said agreeably. тАЬShall we, then, make
arrangements that are agreeable to both sides?тАЭ
тАЬLet us do so,тАЭ said Ginnison.

On cold and distant Jugavine, the planet of the Meich, the First of the frightful
Council, Meichfrite, radiated harshly to the others: тАЬyou have all scanned the tapes
containing the report of our agent, Banlon of Downlo. Somehow, by what means we
know not, the Lensman, Ginnison, escaped the trap Banlon set for him. Twelve of
our ships have vanished utterly, and BanlonтАЩs report is neither complete nor
conclusive. I would now like to hear your comments. Meichrobe.тАЭ
тАЬIt seems to me,тАЭ that worthy radiated, тАЬthat the strawberries areтАФтАЭ
тАЬForget the goddam strawberries!тАЭ Meichfrite riposted. тАЬWhat about Ginnison?тАЭ
тАЬWell, then,тАЭ Meichrobe thought raspingly, тАЬour computers have calculated that with
a probability of point oh oh four, Gimble Ginnison has either gone to Cadilax or
somewhere else.тАЭ
тАЬIndeed,тАЭ Meichfrite thought thoughtfully. тАЬMeichrodot, Fifth of the Meich, give us
your thoughts on this subject.тАЭ
тАЬOur reports from Cadilax,тАЭ informed Meichrodot, тАЬindicate that all is going
smoothly. There is no trace of the Lensman on or near the planet. However,
BanlonтАЩs agent Gauntluth has reported through Banlon that he is running short of
thionite. He wants to make a buy.тАЭ
Meichfrite turned his attention to the Sixth of the Meich. тАЬMeichroft, this is your


тАЬBanlon,тАЭ Meichroft emitted, тАЬmust go to Trenco.тАЭ
Trenco! That planet was, and is, unique. Its atmosphere and its liquid are its two
outstanding peculiarities. Half of the atmosphere and almost all of the liquid of the
planet is a compound with an extremely low heat of vaporization. It has a boiling
point such that during the day it is a vapor and it condenses to a liquid at night. The
days are intensely hot, the nights intensely cold.
The planet rotates on its axis in a little less than twenty-six hours; during the night it
rains exactly forty-seven feet, five inches-no more and no less, every night of every
The winds are of more than hurricane velocity, rising to some eight hundred miles
per hour, accompanied by blinding, almost continuous lightning discharges.
What makes the planet unique, however, is that, with compounds of such low latent
heat, the energy transfer is almost nil. Theoretically, the hot days should evaporate
that liquid as quietly and gently as a ghost evaporates in a spotlight, and during the
night it should condense as softly as dew from heaven falling upon the place
beneath. Thermodynamically speaking, the planet Trenco should be about as
turbulent as a goldfish bowl. Nobody can figure out where those winds or the
lightning come from.
Be that as it may, Trenco was, and is, the only planet where the plant known as
Trenconian broadleaf grows, and that plant is the only source of thionite in any of
several galaxies.
In addition, Trenco has a strong Galactic Patrol base, manned by Rigellian
Patrolmen whose sole job it is to kill anyone who comes to Trenco. One can well
understand why thionite was, and is, so expensive. тАЬAh, a cogent thought indeed!тАЭ radiated Meichfrite. тАЬVery well, then, relay to Banlon
that he is to proceed at speed to Trenco and pick up a cargo of broadleaf, to bring
here for processing. Meantime he is to order his underling Gauntluth to report
directly to us.тАЭ

In his office atop the Queen Ardis, Gauntluth the Kalonian watched with hard,
steel-blue eyes as a figure on his spy-ray plate moved toward his suite of offices.
Twodyce, with the exception of the DeLameter in his shoulder holster, was unarmed;
he was carrying nothing else but the hermetically sealed container which bore within
itself fifty grams of almost impalpable purple powder.
A smile twisted GauntluthтАЩs face. тАЬFool!тАЭ he gritted harshly under his breath.
He continued to watch as Twodyce came to the outer door and activated the
announcer. He activated the door-opener. тАЬCome in, Mr. Twodyce,тАЭ he spoke into a
microphone. тАЬDown the hall and first door to your left.тАЭ
Gimble Ginnison, fully alert, strode down the corridor and opened the door. Alone
behind his desk sat the unsuspecting Kalonian.
тАЬI perceive,тАЭ said the zwilnik, [A zwilnik is anyone connected with the drug trade.]
тАЬthat you have brought the thionite with you.тАЭ
тАЬI have,тАЭ said the Lensman. тАЬHave you the payment ready?тАЭ
тАЬCertainly. Half in bar platinum, half in Patrol credits, as specified. But first, of
course, I must test the thionite.тАЭ
тАЬFirst I test the platinum,тАЭ said Twodyce impassively.
Gauntluth blinked. тАЬWe seem to be at an impasse,тАЭ he murmured. тАЬHowever, I think
I see a way around it. Know, Twodyce, that you stand now in the focus of a


complex of robotic devices which, with rays and beams of tremendous power, will
reduce you to a crisp unless you hand over that thionite container instantly.тАЭ
тАЬSince it is inevitable,тАЭ Ginnison said calmly, тАЬI might as well enjoy it.тАЭ He carefully
put the thionite container on GauntluthтАЩs desk.
Gauntluth needed no further check. Directing his thought toward a lump of force in a
nearby corner of the room, he sent a message to Jugavine.

This was the moment for which Ginnison had been waiting. In an instant, he
effortlessly took over the zwilnikтАЩs [A zwilnik is still a zwilnik.] mind. He allowed
Gauntluth to send the message, since it would only further confuse all those
concerned. Gauntluth reported in full to Meichfrite that he had, indeed, obtained a
goodly supply of thionite.

тАЬExcellent,тАЭ the cold thought returned. тАЬThere will be more coming. End
By main force and awkwardness, Ginnison held GauntluthтАЩs mind in thrall. He now
had his second line to the Boskonian base, but Gauntluth, although taken by surprise
at first, was now fighting GinnisonтАЩs mental control with every mega-erg of his hard
Kalonian mind.
тАЬThink you can succeed, even now?тАЭ sneered the still-rigid Kalonian mentally. And,
with a tremendous effort of will, he moved a pinkie a fraction of a millimeter to cover
a photocell. Every alarm in the building went off.
GinnisonтАЩs mind clamped down instantly to paralyze the hapless zwilnik. [See above.] With a mirthless smile on his face, Ginnison said: тАЬI permitted that as a
gesture of futility. You did not, as I suggested, contemplate a hamburger.тАЭ

тАЬBah!тАЭ came GauntluthтАЩs thought. тАЬThat childishness?тАЭ
тАЬNot childishness,тАЭ said the Lensman coldly. тАЬA hamburger is so constructed that
most of the meat is hidden by the bun. My resources are far greater than those which
appear around the edge.тАЭ
Then Ginnison invaded GauntluthтАЩs mind and took every iota of relevant information
therein, following which, he hurled a bolt of mental energy calculated to slay any
living thing. Perforce, Gauntluth ceased to be a living thing.
Meanwhile, from a hidden and shielded barracks in a subbasement of the Queen
Ardis came a full squadron of armed and armored space-thugs, swarming up
stairways and elevators to reach the late GauntluthтАЩs suite. Closer, and, at this point
in space and time, far more dangerous, were the DeLameter-armed,
thought-screened executives and plug-uglies who were even now battering down the
doors of the suite.
Calmly and with deliberation, Ginnison flashed a thought to Woozle:
тАЬAt speed, Ginnison,тАЭ came the reply.
Ginnison went into action. Snatching the hermetically sealed thionite container from
the desk at which lay the cooling corpse of Gauntluth, he broke the seal and emptied
the contents into the intake vent of the air conditioner. He had, of course, taken the
precaution of putting anti-thionite plugs in his nostrils; all he had to do was to keep
his mouth shut and he would be perfectly safe.


The impalpable purple powder permeated the atmosphere of the hotel. There was
enough of the active principle of that deadly drug to turn on fifty million people;
since the slightest overdose could kill, every person in the hotel not wearing
anti-thionite plugs or space armor died in blissful ecstasy. Most of GauntluthтАЩs thugs
were wearing one or the other, but at least the Galactic Patrol need no longer worry
about interference from innocent bystanders.
With lightning speed, Ginnison grabbed a heavy-caliber, water-cooled machine rifle
that just happened to be standing near GauntluthтАЩs desk, swiveled it to face the
doors of the office, and waited.

At the same moment, a borazon-hard, bronze-beryllium steel-prowed landing craft
smashed into the side of the Hotel Queen Ardis at the fifteenth floor. Steel girders,
ferroconcrete walls, and brick facing alike splattered aside as that hard-driven,
specially-designed space boat, hitting its reverse jets at the last second to bring it to a
dead halt, crashed into and through the bridal suite. The port slammed open and
from it leaped, strode, jumped and strutted a company of Dutch Valerians in full
space armor, swinging their mighty thirty-pound space axes.
No bifurcate race, wherever situate, will voluntarily face a Valerian in battle. Those
mighty warriors, bred in a gravitational field three times that of Tellus, have no ruth
for any of CivilizationтАЩs foes. The smallest Valerian can, in full armor, do a standing
high jump of nearly fifteen feet in a field of one Tellurian gravity; he can feint, parry,
lunge, swing, and duck with a speed utterly impossible for any of the lesser breeds
of man. Like all jocks, they are not too bright.
Led by Lieutenant Hess von Baschenvolks, they charged in to block off the armed and armored space-thugs who were heading toward the top floor. As they charged
in, the Lieutenant shouted their battle-cry.
тАЬKill! Bash! Smash! Cut! Hack! Destroy! Bleed, you bastards! Bleed and die!тАЭ And,
of course, they did.
A thirty-pound space axe driven by the muscles of a Valerian can cut its way
through any armor. Heads fell; arms were lopped off; gallons of gore flowed over
the expensive carpetry. Leaving behind them dozens of corpses, the Valerians
charged upward, toward the suite of offices where the Gray Lensman awaited the
assault of GauntluthтАЩs men, fingers poised, ready to press the hair triggers of the
heavy machine rifle.
The news of the attack, however, reached those winsome wights long before the
Valerians did. They knew that, unarmored as they were, they stood no chance
against those Patrolmen. They headed for the roof, where powerful тАШcopters awaited
them for their getaway.
It was not until they were all on the roof that the logons, released from the special
тАШcopter less than a kilometer away, and individually controlled by the mighty mind of
Gimble Ginnison, launched their attack. The zwilnik [Forget it.] executives and
plug-uglies had no chance. Only a few managed to draw and fire their ray guns, and
even those few missed their targets. Within a space of seconds, the entire group had
been slashed, cut, scratched, bitten, killed, and half-eaten by the winged horrors that
had been released upon them.
In GauntluthтАЩs office, Ginnison waited behind the machine rifle, his fingers still
poised on the hair-triggers. The door smashed and fell. But Ginnison recognized the
bulky space-armored eight-foot figure that loomed before him. His hands came away
from the triggers as he said: тАЬHi, Hess!тАЭ


тАЬDuuuhh...Hi, Boss,тАЭ said Lieutenant Hess von Baschenvolks.

In a totally black, intrinsically undetectable, ultrapowered speedster, towing three
negaspheres of planetary antimass, Gimble Ginnison cautiously approached the
hollow sphere of light-obliterating dust which surrounded the dread planet Jugavine
of the Meich.
With his second line of communication, it had been a simple job to locate exactly
and precisely the planet which had been the source of the disruption which had hit
the planet Cadilax.
Further, that mental communication had given Ginnison all the information he needed
to wipe out this pernicious pesthole of pediculous parasites on the body politic of
The negaspheres were an integral part of the plan.
The negasphere was, and is, a complete negation of matter. To it, a push is, or
becomes, a pull, and vice versa. No radiation of whatever kind can escape from or
be reflected by its utterly black surface. It is dense beyond imagining; even a
negasphere of planetary antimass is less than a kilometer in diameter. When a
negasphere strikes ordinary matter, the two cancel out, bringing into being vast
quantities of ultrahard and very deadly radiation. A negasphere is, by its very nature,
inherently indetectable by any form of radar or spy-ray beam. Even extra-sensory
perception reels dizzyingly away from that vast infinitude of absolute negation...
Like the Bergenholm, the negasphere can never really make up its mind about
gravity; gravity is, was, and always has been a pull, and it should act as a push
against a negasphere; since it does not do so, we must conclude that there is something peculiar about the mathematics of the negasphere.
It is to GinnisonтАЩs credit that he had perceived this subtle, but inalterable, anomaly.
Into the hollow cloud of black interstellar dust that surrounded frigid Jugavine, there
was but one entrance, and into that entrance the Gray LensmanтАЩs speedster, towing
with tractors and pressors those three deadly negaspheres, wended its intricate way.
In his office, the Starboard Admiral glowered. тАЬI donтАЩt like it. Ginnison should have
taken the full fleet with him.тАЭ
The personage he was addressing was Sir Houston Carbarn, the most brilliant
mathematical physicist in the known universe. He was one of a handful of living
entities who could actually think in the abstruse and abstract language of pure
тАЬI donтАЩt like his going in there alone,тАЭ the Starboard Admiral continued. тАЬIf that
hollow sphere of dust is as black and bleak as he says it is, he will have nothing to
guide him but his sense of perception.тАЭ
тАЬDIV B = O; CURL B = je-+ (dE/dt); DIV E = Pe; CURL E = O тАУ (dB/dt ).тАЭ said
Sir Houston Carbarn thoughtfully. тАЬTrue,тАЭ agreed the Starboard Admiral. тАЬbut I can
see no way for him to illuminate such a vast amount of space with the means at his
command. That hollow globe is two parsecs across, and contains within it only a
single solid body-the planet Jugavine. How can he possibly get enough illumination
to find the planet?тАЭ
тАЬX2+ y2 + Z2 = r2,тАЭ murmured Sir Houston, тАЬE = MC2.тАЭ
тАЬYes, yes, obviouslyтАЭ snapped the Starboard Admiral, тАЬbut in order to illumine the
interior of that hollow globe, he will have to find Jugavine first, and to do that he
needs illumination. It seems to me this involves a paradox.тАЭ
тАЬpq ? qp.тАЭ Sir Houston snapped forcefully.


тАЬAh, I see what you mean,тАЭ said the Starboard Admiral. тАЬBut what about Banlon of
Downlo? According to GinnisonтАЩs report, Banlon is returning to Jugavine with a
cargo of Trenconian broadleaf which he somehow managed to steal from under the
very noses of Trigonemetree, the Rigellian Lensman in charge of our base on
Trenco. If Ginnison destroys Jugavine, BanlonтАЩs sense of perception will
immediately tell him that the planet no longer exists, and he will not fall into
GinnisonтАЩs trap. How is he going to get around that?тАЭ
тАЬ?тАЭ mused Sir Houston abstractedly.

Gimble Ginnison, Gray Lensman, had no need of slow, electromagnetic radiation to
locate the planet of the Meich. His tremendous sense of perception had pinpointed
that doomed planet exactly. Calculating carefully the intrinsic velocity of his first
negasphere in relation to that of the planet of the Meich, he released that black,
enigmatic ball of negation toward its hapless target.
The negasphere struck. Or perhaps not. Is it possible for nothing to strike anything?
Let us say, then, that the negasphere began to occupy the same space as that of
Jugavine. At the hyperdimensional surface of contact, the matter and antimatter
mutually vanished. Where the negasphere struck, a huge hole appeared in that
theretofore frigid planet. The planet collapsed in on itself, its very substance eaten
away by the all-devouring negasphere. The radiation of that mutual annihilation
wrought heated havoc upon the doomed planet. Helium boiled; hydrogen melted;
nitrogen fizzed; and all fell collapsingly into the rapidly diminishing negasphere.
When the awful and awesome process had completed itself, there was nothing left.
Thus perished the Meich. When the process was completed, the Gray Lensman hurled his two remaining
negaspheres toward the exact same spot in space.
Then he sat and waited for Banlon of Downlo.
Time passed. Ginnison, ever on the alert with his acute sense of perception, at last
detected BanlonтАЩs speedster entering the globe of dust. Banlon could not detect, at
that distance, the flare of radiation which had resulted from the destruction of
Jugavine. That radiation, struggling along at the speed of light, would require years to
reach the interior surface of the globe.
Ginnison, waiting like a cat at a mouse hole, pounced at the instant that Banlon
entered the globe. One flash of a primary beam, and Banlon of Downlo was forced
into the next plane of existence. He ceased to be, save as white-hot gas, spreading
and dissipating its energy through a relatively small volume of space.
Immediately, Ginnison Lensed his report back to Prime Base, then made his way out
of the hollow globe and back to the Dentless.

The Starboard Admiral frowned and looked up at Sir Houston Carbarn. тАЬIтАЩm afraid
I still donтАЩt understand. After Jugavine was destroyed, Banlon, with his sense of
perception, which is instantaneous and is not hampered by the velocity of light,


should have detected the fact that the planet no longer existed. Why did he continue
on in toward a non-existent planet?тАЭ
Sir Houston Carbarn smiled. тАЬ(-1)(-1) = +1,тАЭ he informed.
The Starboard Admiral slammed his palm on the desk. тАЬOf course! The principle of
the double negative! Two negaspheres made a posisphere! Banlon thought it was
Jugavine! Our Gray Lensman has genius, Sir Houston!тАЭ
тАЬ!тАЭ agreed Sir Houston.
When Gimble Ginnison strode into his quarters aboard the Dent less, Woozle was
waiting for him. тАЬWhat now?тАЭ queried that sapient serpent.
тАЬNow for a decent meal, Woozle.тАЭ He activated a communicator. тАЬGalley? Send up
a two-inch-thick steak, rare. Mashed potatoes and thick brown gravy. And a quart of
black coffee.тАЭ
тАЬYes, sir,тАЭ came the reply. тАЬAnd what about dessert, sir?тАЭ
Ginnison sat down in his chair with a triumphant sigh of relief. тАЬNow, at last,тАЭ he
said, тАЬI can enjoy that for which I have waited so long.тАЭ
тАЬThe strawberries, sir?тАЭ
тАЬExactly. The strawberries.тАЭ

Edited by Ari
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