THERE'S A KEY.
Man has been hunting for it ever since Man was Man. That curiosity, I suppose, is a trait inherited
from our simian ancestors. Had our forebears been of canine or of feline stock it is probable that we
should not be spending so much of our time asking, Why? Dogs and cats are not of an enquiring nature,
unless food is involved. Monkeys are. But if our ancestors had been dogs or cats we should not be Men,
not in the true sense of the word, and our intellectual energies would be directed only towards the more
efficient production of food and shelter, and it is highly probable that we should never have left the
surface of our own planet.
But we are Men, close cousins to the monkeys, and we did leave the surface of Earth, and that is
how I came to be drinking in Susie's Bar and Grill in Port Forlorn, on Lorn, most dismal of the Rim
Worlds, that night, and that is how Halvorsen came to find me there.
I'll say this for Halvorsen; he didn't look like a monkey's cousin. He looked like a monkey. He didn't
need to put his hands over his eyes or his ears or his mouth to look like one of the three wise monkeys,
however. He looked like a smallish, gray ape that has lived long enough to achieve and, even, to surpass
human intelligence. He was skinny, but carried a pronounced pot belly. His dark, wizened face was
framed by bushy gray side whiskers, and from it stared two large, mournful, brown eyes.
I felt those eyes staring at me. I felt them for seconds before I lifted my head from my arms and
looked into them, across the table with its filled-to-overflowing ashtrays, its dirty glasses, its little,
stagnant pools of spilled drinks.
I was in no mood for company. That was why my friends—Second and Third Mates of the
Rimhound, their girls and my girl—had left me. I was feeling disgusted with everything and everybody,
including myself, and the more that I drank the more disgusted I was feeling.
"Go away," I said to Halvorsen. "Go away. I don't know what you're selling, but I don't want any