In the Centre of the Galaxy by Clark Darlton

Pucky stared alternately at the pin and at the button.

The pin was safely anchored, and the button had not been pressed.

The Arkon atom bomb had never been detonated.

At first Pucky experienced something like relief, even if it was only robots who might have been destroyed. But then he thought of what Homunk had said, had prophesied.

And Homunk himself was a robot.

It was perhaps the greatest battle that Pucky had fought during his entire life. It was a battle with himself, with his conscience. Till now he could always comfort himself that it was the robots themselves, after all, who had activated the detonator. But now no one could take the responsibility from him. He had to carry the load himself on his not exactly broad shoulders.

At this moment Pucky felt he had grown older for the first time in centuries. In the past, he would not have hesitated a second before pressing the button. The hyper-impulse would have sped through space at a speed greater than light and would have reached the tiny receiver of the Arkon bomb. The impulses could not be delayed nor deflected by the influences of the suns. Unerringly they would have reached their target and detonated the bomb.

Pucky only stared at the button.

In the radio there was a crackling.

“Pucky,” said Maj. Koster with concern. “What’s happened?”

“Nothing. I’m standing in front of the dummy.”

“Good. You’ve won your bet. Let’s go on.”

“I’ll be there right away. I just have a few details to take care of.” Pucky turned off the radio equipment.

Then he bent down and pressed the detonating button.

As he straightened up, his usual happy­go­lucky face was dead serious. He knew that with a single push of his hand he had condemned an entire civilization to death. In but an hour the atomic fire would eat its way to the surface of the central planet, break through and go wild. Nothing could stop it.

Only now was the universe saved from the onslaught of the Metalix.

Pucky threw a last glance at the bomb, then teleported back to the EX-238.

At the moment he materialized, Axo raced through the door, ran along the arc of the semicircle of the control room and ran back out into the hallway. Breathing hard, Wullewull and Ooch were right behind him. Whenever they wanted to make their telekinetic powers felt, Axo countered with the same kind of block.

Pucky threw a puzzled look after them.

“There’s something for you,” Iltu piped up in indignation. “If you must know, Axo had nothing to do with it. Fippi lied to you. She was the one!”

Pucky shook his head as if to ward off evil spirits. “What a witch!” he murmured. “Women—!”

“Pucky!” Iltu cried, piqued.

Pucky ducked and looked around helplessly for Homunk. The android came up to him and patted him on the shoulder. “She won’t hurt you; after all, I’m with you,” he said. “Don’t be angry with Fippi. Or haven’t you ever in your life got out of a bad situation by lying?”

Pucky shook his head emphatically. “Never!”

Homunk changed the subject.

“Well, what was in the Silver Arrow? Did you find the dummy bomb?”


“Everything alright?”


“Sure everything’s OK?”

“Devil take it, yes!” Pucky turned away in anger and strode to the door. “Everything really was OK. Any more questions?”

Homunk looked at him steadily. “No thanks. It’s not necessary, Pucky. If you say so, it must be so. I believe you.”

Pucky came back, took Iltu by the arm and pulled her out of central control. The door snapped closed behind them. For a moment Axo’s piercing shrieks could be heard for Ooch and Wullewull had finally caught up with him.

With expressionless features, Homunk sat down next to Maj. Koster in front of the controls. He looked at the screens. “The course, sir?”

“Direct course to Terra, Homunk. You can take over now. I’m going to sleep. Wake me when you think it’s necessary.” Koster stood up. “Funny, don’t you think?”

“What’s funny?”

“Pucky’s funny! Since he came back from the Silver Arrow, he’s behaved very strangely. Don’t you think so?”

Homunk stared at the screens. “You must be mistaken, sir. I haven’t noticed any change.”

“Really? Well, then I’m mistaken. See you later.”

Homunk, who did not turn around, heard the door close. He nodded to the navigation officer. “Course clear, Lieutenant?”

“Course clear, sir.”

A few hours later the EX-238 had reached the border of the central constellation and passed through it. In front of it lay free space, and at a distance of more than 40,000 light-years there was a small, yellow sun, not yet visible, but undoubtedly there.

The EX-238 increased its speed.

The concentration of stars in the Milky Way grew less. They had also left behind them the light of the stars to the stern, where it had gone dark.

Homunk began to wonder whether the destruction of the central planet, something like the navel of the galaxy, would substantially influence the gravitational conditions of the Milky Way.

He hoped not.

Page: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32

Categories: Clark Darlton