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PROLOGUE

The first battles of the war with the Gizmos took place in deep wilderness, and human beings knew nothing about them. Cities were not attacked, in the beginning. The initial skirmishes were fought by bears and wildcats and mountain sheep, and other creatures blood-kin to men. Those battles were often magnificent, but they were usually disastrous, and few of them were ever reported.

There was, though, a bear found dead in the high Sierras, killed after a fight of epic proportions, as was shown by torn-up earth and crushed brushwood and toppled saplings. There was a mountain lion found slain in Colorado after no less desperate a conflict. A slaughtered wildcats furious struggle for life was noted in northern Michigan, where the signs of the conflict were clear. And a fisherman on a stream in Pennsylvania saw the death of a four-point buck. It fought with splendid courage. It used horns and hoofs and pure desperation against an invisible antagonist, but it finally sank to the ground and died while the angler looked on, appalled and unbelieving.

These were battles with Gizmos. The signs were unmistakable. The dead creatures had not a wound or a mark upon them. The battlegrounds showed plainly their tracks, but no trace of a thing or things with which they had fought. In one case, as was noted, a man saw the fighting, but he didnt see the bucks antagonist. He only saw that the buck deer died. Its murderer could not possibly have been anything but a Gizmo.

There is no point, now, in reviewing the controversy about the Gizmos origin. Some still insist that they came from outer space. This is hard to believe, because a spaceship under Gizmo control is almost impossible to imagine. Some authorities consider that Gizmos are native to Earth. They point to primitive fears of evil spirits as proof of their presence on Earth since time beyond remembering. But the objection to this is that primitive man could not have survived had he been attacked by the Gizmos who made war on us. In effect this argument is that since our ancestors were not exterminated by Gizmos, there were no Gizmos in ancient days. Yet the legends of fiends and djinns and efrits and ghuls, and of eerie inhabitants of remote, are singularly convincing when one considers them in connection with Gizmos.

In any case the Gizmos seemed to appear with the suddenness of a thunderclap. They had the enormous advantage of being totally unreasonable. These days we believe only in highly scientific things. Highly scientific opinions change continually, and so do the things we believe in. But Gizmos were not flesh and blood, and therefore not scientific, so we would not notice such signs of their presence as must have existed before the war. However they appeared, they were able to marshall their forces without interference; they established bases in our forests, pickets in our woodlots, and observation posts in the parks of towns and cities. Gizmo patrols moved wherever they pleased without anybody crediting their realityeven when they committed atrocities. They had every possible advantage in their preparations for war.

In military terms they secured almost complete surprise. Apart from atrocity reports there is no evidence that anybody noticed anything the Gizmos did not want noticed. Even the word Gizmo was a slang term applied to blips on radar screens for which no cause could be established. We knew that these blips were not caused by solid objects; we also knew that the blips moved independently of the wind. Some radar stations observed many of them, and others very few. There was a flying-saucer scare, once, when six unidentified flying objects were reported over Washington, D.C. Armed forces radar stations admitted reluctantly that they had been detected. But, said the armed forces, they were only Gizmos. It was guessed that they were areas of excessive ionization in the air, of no importance.

This was the error of the century, but a very natural one. A Gizmo had been spotted by radar over a flying field in Texas. It hung stationary over the center of the installation at fifteen hundred feet, as if leisurely surveying the activities below. Nothing was visible where the radar insisted the Gizmo was. A plane took off and, guided by instructions from the ground, dived squarely through the space occupied by the Gizmo. Neither the plane nor its pilot detected anything at the moment of impact. The Gizmo vanished. After that, it seemed reasonable to disregard Gizmos altogether, which was a catastrophic blunder.


War with the Gizmos by Murray Leinster | War with the Gizmos | Chapter 1