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Lensman Kimball Kinnison has attained the goal which every Lensman seeks, and so few attain, that of Unattached Lensman, a Lensman who is accountable to no one anywhere, completely independent, completely free. Further, he is learning how to fully use his lens. This knowledge is crucial, because as he works his way up through the ranks of the enemy the problems are growing more and more complex and dangerous. Coming face-to-face, and mind-to-mind, with the multi-tentacled scaley creature in his corpse-littered domain, Kimball Kinnison must use everything he has learned to defeat the beast or die trying.
378 pages, with a reading time of ~5.75 hours (94,661 words), and first published in 1940. This DRM-Free edition published by epubBooks, 2014.
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Among the world-girdling fortifications of a planet distant indeed from star cluster AC 257-4736 there squatted sullenly a fortress quite similar to Helmuth’s own. Indeed, in some respects it was even superior to the base of him who spoke for Boskone. It was larger and stronger. Instead of one dome, it had many. It was dark and cold withal, for its occupants had practically nothing in common with humanity save the possession of high intelligence.
In the central sphere of one of the domes there sparkled several of the peculiarly radiant globes whose counterpart had given Kinnison so seriously to think, and near them there crouched or huddled or lay at ease a many-tentacled creature indescribable to man. It was not like an octopus. Though spiny, it did not resemble at all closely a sea-cucumber. Nor, although it was scaly and toothy and wingy, was it, save in the vaguest possible way, similar to a lizard, a sea-serpent, or a vulture. Such a description by negatives is, of course, pitifully inadequate; but, unfortunately, it is the best that can be done.
The entire attention of this being was focused within one of the globes, the obscure mechanism of which was relaying to his sense of perception from Helmuth’s globe and mind at clear picture of everything which was happening within Grand Base. The corpse-littered dome was clear to his sight; he knew that the Patrol was attacking from without; knew that that ubiquitous Lensman, who had already unmanned the citadel, was about to attack from within.
“You have erred seriously,” the entity was thinking coldly, emotionlessly, into the globe, “in not deducing until after it was too late to save your base that the Lensman had perfected a nullifier of sub-ethereal detection. Your contention that I am equally culpable is, I think, untenable. It was your problem, not mine; I had, and still have, other things to concern me. Your base is of course lost; whether or not you yourself survive will depend entirely upon the adequacy of your protective devices.”
“But, Eichlan, you yourself pronounced them adequate!”
“Pardon me–I said that they seemed adequate.”
“If I survive—or, rather, after I have destroyed this Lensman–what are your orders?”
“Go to the nearest communicator and concentrate our forces; half of them to engage this Patrol fleet, the remainder to wipe out all the life of Sol III. I have not tried to give those orders direct, since all the beams are keyed to your board and, even if I could reach them, no commander in that galaxy knows that I speak for Boskone. After you have done that, report to me here.”
“Instructions received and understood. Helmuth, ending message.”
“Set your controls as instructed. I will observe and record. Prepare yourself, the Lensman comes. Eichlan, speaking for Boskone, ending message.”
The Lensman rushed. Even before he crashed the pirate’s screens his own defensive zones flamed white in the beam of semi-portable projectors and through that blaze came tearing the metallic slugs of a high-calibre machine rifle. But the Lensman’s screens were almost those of a battleship, his armor relatively as strong; he had at his command projectors scarcely inferior to those opposing his advance. Therefore, with every faculty of his newly- enlarged mind concentrated upon that thought-screened, armored head behind the bellowing gun and the flaring projectors, Kinnison held his line and forged ahead.
Attentive as he was to Helmuth’s thought-screen, the Patrolman was ready when it weakened slightly and a thought began to seep through, directed at that peculiar ball of force. He blanketed it savagely, before it could even begin to take form, and attacked the screen so viciously that the Boskonian had either to restore full coverage instantly or else die there and then.
Kinnison feared that force-ball no longer. He still did not know what it was; but he had learned that, whatever its nature might be, it was operated or controlled by thought. Therefore it was and would remain harmless; for if the pirate chief softened his screen enough to emit a thought he would never think again.
Doggedly the Lensman drove in, closer and closer. Magnetic clamps locked and held. Two steel-clad, waning figures rolled into the line of fire of the ravening automatic rifle. Kinnison’s armor, designed and tested to withstand even heavier stuff, held; wherefore he came through that storm of metal unscathed. Helmuth’s, however, even though stronger far than the ordinary personal armor of space, failed; and thus the Boskonian died.