“Stand in the execution chamber,” said the bailiff. He pressed the prisoner’s hands on the silver knobs in front of him. A clicking and a small surge of yellow light held the man in his position. He seemed resigned to whatever fate was dealt him in the coming moments.
An honor guard in light blue and red preceded the man’s executioner with a regal grace. The executioner waited for the honor guard to form two lines on either side before approaching the circular dock.
“Sardath of Ranagar,” the executioner intoned from underneath his featureless red helmet. “You have been found guilty of treason and sedition against the government of Rann. Do you have any last words before your sentence is carried out?”
The blond Sardath shook his head in the negative.
“Then, by order of the Council,” said the executioner, “you are to be put to death by lethal fall.”
The man grasped a lever and pulled the switch.
The bottom of the dock irised open. The two holders slid down on slender rods so that Sardath was lowered through the floor. A cloud passed by underneath his feet as he looked down. The executioner rotated the lever, and the prisoner’s hands were released so that he could fall to his death.
Sardath tried to remain calm as he fell rapidly toward a hard impact, but he was sure the thing that had got him into this situation could get him out.
He felt the surface of his arm. A control pad revealed itself to his fingers. He worked the keypad until a small numeral lit along a receptor in his eye. He hoped he had timed it just right.
A beam shot from the ground and wrapped around Sardath. He vanished in its embrace.
Sardath appeared in the middle of a highway, with oncoming vehicles speeding at him. He didn’t pause to think but ran for the side of the road as fast as he could.
Horns roared in anger as drivers tried to miss the suddenly appearing alien. He threw himself off the road as a BMW almost clipped him.
Sardath found himself sitting beneath a yellow sign. He marveled that he was still alive as he gazed at it. It was a strange, black picture of four humanoid figures, each pulling the one behind as they seemed to run.
He got to his feet, brushing off his green convict suit with his hands. Time to study the environment for a way to get home.
Sardath worked the keypad in his arm as he walked. He was out of range of his lab for another teleportation beam. That was expected, but it was still something that needed to be checked.
A few finger pushes, and a small screen appeared in his oracular receptor. The random noises he heard were roughly translated as Rannian standard on the screen. He hoped to be able to take the time to examine the natives and have the computer learn the language as he looked for a means to survive and return home.
Sardath wandered the city streets for long hours. He finally settled in a park. Numerous humans went about their business as he listened and built a vocabulary of English from guesstimated scraps of conversation.
His gaze finally fell on two men playing some kind of board game. He watched as each sought advantage over the other. Game after game went by before the Rannian noticed his implants were giving him a play-by-play commentary on what he could hear in the neighborhood. Sardath knew his translator had a margin of error, but he felt he was on the way of being able to blend in with the city life.
Leaving the park, Sardath wandered for some time until he found a three-story building across from some kind of torture place. He hoped he would never meet the thing in yellow and red with the large teeth.
Sardath looked at the sign on the inside of the building. He wondered what a Hall of Heroes meant as he stepped inside. He heard loud voices as he looked around.
Walking toward the voices cautiously, he heard one of three young humans demanding something called green from an older human. The old man shook his head, denying the existence of green. The younger man slapped the older man furiously.
As Sardath stepped forward with a frown, one of the thieves tried to warn him off with a drawn knife. The alien grabbed his opponent’s wrist and pulled the man toward him, allowing him to strike the man’s face with his forearm. Then he reversed his arm, knocking his elbow into the man’s other cheek. The knife slipped out of the man’s grasp. Sardath let the stunned thief drop to the floor, then kicked the knife across the floor.
The two remaining thieves had not seen what had happened to their comrade, since it had happened so quickly; they were merely angry at the interruption of their questioning. The interloper calmly stepped forward, putting a slippered heel in the fallen man’s face as he did so.
“Who do you think you are, #$@@$er?” asked the spokesman. “Wildcat?”
“Yes… I… am… #$@@$er… wildcat,” said Sardath, his face neutral as he stepped forward again.
The two thieves looked at each other. They rushed the blond Sardath. If they could get him on the floor, they could pound him while he was trapped beneath them.
Sardath took one step forward, thrusting a hand out. One of the thieves ran into the open hand and fell.
The other tried a swing. The Rannian swiveled the man’s thrusting arm, directing the blow from his face. When the thief swung a punch with his other hand, Sardath reversed the direction of his block, knocking the hand away.
The thief on the floor tried to stand, but another man brought a golden shield the shape of a police badge down to smash against the back of his head with a bong. The thief went down and stayed there.
The second thief tried to push past Sardath, who merely brought two straight arms to crash against the thief’s chest, knocking him down. Then the alien exile brought his hand down in a hammer blow, causing his attacker to bang his head against the floor, knocking him out.
Sardath stood back, trying to catch his breath from the exertion. His stomach growled at him.
“Name’s Harry Carter,” said the man who had used the shield, which he hung back up on the wall. “Thanks for the assistance.”
“No… worries,” said Sardath.
“Not from around here, are you?” said Carter. “Watch them while I call the cops, and I think I can get some Chinese from down the street.”
“No… worries,” Sardath repeated. He wondered why Car-ter would want people from the avenue now. His translator must have lost some connection.
It was an hour later before the two could sit down and eat a delivered meal. The police came and took statements. The thieves were placed in the back of a prowl car and driven off.
Sardath had taken the time to look the museum over while they waited. One exhibit in particular drew his attention more than any other. It was a finned, red helmet with a winged golden star on the front of the graying white front.
“You got a story you want to tell?” Carter asked as he devoured his noodles.
Sardath told him as much as he could in his limited command of English. Carter had to puzzle some of it out, because the blond alien often used the wrong words. Finally, he thought he had a picture of the events that had brought his strange visitor to his doorstep.
The alien exile called Sardath had been researching the science of teleportation from the lost scientific knowledge of the distant past of his own planet, called Rann. The secrets were forbidden, because Rann’s super-science had been blamed for the destruction of most of its civilization in a civil war many centuries ago. He had been found out and had been scheduled for execution. But he had escaped by using the prototype beam he had constructed to teleport to Earth. But he was stranded until he found a way home.
“How… did… acquire… guardian… helmet?” Sardath asked Carter, showing his host the display while he ate the last of his meal with his fingers. He hadn’t realized how hungry he had been until he had wolfed the Terran food down.
“I got that in ’65 or ’66, I think,” said Carter. “Matter of fact, this whole display case was donated by a small group of adventurers led by Adam Blake that had broken up a couple of years earlier. I think that helmet came from one of their cases in Australia.” (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See Adam Blake: Times Past, 1955: Blake’s Bullet.]
Carter showed him the continent on a nearby globe.
“Where are we?” Sardath asked.
Carter spun the globe, pointing out California. Sardath frowned in thought.
Carter let Sardath stay at the museum for the night. He hoped to find a place for the exile to stay and a job to pay his bills while he was on Earth.
Sardath did not sleep. Instead he wandered the halls, inspecting the exhibits. He smiled as he hit upon a plan. It was risky. He could be scattered across the Earth in a trail of molecules miles long. Still, if his theory about that helmet was correct, it was a chance to return home. He couldn’t pass that up.
Sardath took numerous devices from the display cases. He found a tool kit and went to work, assembling his machine from the parts.
His keypad gave him a coordinate to load into the primitive processing unit he had devised. He would have to thank this Luthor, whoever he was, if he returned to Terra, assuming he survived his plan.
Sardath found a stylus and some paper. He wrote a note for the curator as well as he could with the unfamiliar language.
Linking the device was to a source of power called a socket, Sardath made sure the processor was locked on to the proper coordinate. He then grabbed the ancient helmet before he took his place in front of the barrel-like projector.
He closed his eyes and triggered the activating pulse with his keypad. He vanished in a spray of light, leaving behind a faint afterimage that slowly faded away.