Lt. Minns runs through the jungle and observes the enemy attack. He then radios his location into base. As Minns walks away, a soldier opens fire and hits Minns in the head, and Minns collapses.
Later after Minns is found and recovered, he's flown back to the states and surgeons operate to save his life. Adam Ballard, the Assistant to the Secretary of Science, is watching from the gallery as the surgeon wonders why Minns isn't dead after fourteen hours in transit with a bullet in his head. The surgeon points out the lethargic brain waves on the monitor, and they watch as a second brain wave pattern takes over.
Seventy-two hours later, Ballard goes to DC and Science Secretary Randy E. Branch into his office as Ballard finishes his presentation. The agent shows Branch Minns' brainwave patterns. He now has two separate brainwave patterns. Next, Ballard brings up the patterns of Sgt. James Conover. Conover was wounded the same way and has a duplicate brainwave pattern. Two other soldiers, Private 1st Class Francis Hadley and Private Robert Renaldo, have identical wounds and symptoms. Ballard superimposes the four alien patterns to show that they're identical.
Ballard tells Branch that when the bullets was removed from each man's brain, an alien intelligence took over. Three of the men have developed IQs over 200, and Ballard doesn't know what they're doing. They each walked out and disappeared even though precautions were taken with Renaldo, the third man. The guards didn't stop him when he left nine days ago, and there's no sounds of violence. Ballard explains that each of the bullets has a handstamp on it, and they go to the metallurgical lab. He figures that the handstamp indicates the place of origin.
In the lab, Ballard shows the Secretary an enlarged photo of the honeycomb-like metallic structure. Professor Whitsett says that the pattern is like nothing he's ever seen, and says that it looks like there was something in the cells but it leaked out. Branch asks Ballard what he has in mind, and Ballard wants the Federal Bureau of Security help them find the missing men without publicity. He also wants to put guards on Minns, and the ore from which the bullets are made. Ballard says that he has to assume the worse.
Ballard goes to Minn's room and asks how he's doing 11 days after surgery. Minns says that he has a sense of wonderful well being, and has learned that his IQ is going up. He tells Ballard that he has no special interest in biochemistry, physics, and metallurgy like the other three men. Minns wonders what Ballard suspects about him, noting all of the guards watching him. Ballard asks what Minns is going to do when he gets out and if anyone is waiting for him. Minns points out that he has no family, and admits that no one is waiting for him. Ballard points out that the other three men don't have any personal ties, either, and that there is something alien in Minns' head. He notes that Minns is reading a book on the theorem of finance.
Later, Ballard flies to Vietnam and meets with AIO Captain Newa. His soldiers have captured an enemy guerrilla tasked with sniper duty. The prisoner doesn't speak English but he knows where the bullets were manufactured. The prisoner told Newa that the ore came from the place of the "great fire in the sky". Ballard wants to go there, but Newa says that it's behind enemy lines and Ballard can't go. The captain says that it would be suicide, but realizes that Ballard won't be swayed and drives him there.
The two men make their way on foot toward the ore site. A guerilla attacks them and Newa manages to kill him. Continuing on, the two men reach a crater, and Newa says that there's not much of the meteorite since it crashed during his childhood. Ballard finds a piece of metal and says that it's enough.
Ballard takes the ore back to DC, and Whitsett says that the matter inside of the comb pockets isn't familiar. He recognizes an RNA factor like that found in humans, and suggests that the particles affect mentality and intelligence. He suggests that the four men may achieve capacities beyond anything mankind has ever known.
In his room, Minns packs his things. A nurse comes in and Minns stares at her for a moment. He telsl her not to disturb anyone and has her remove the bandags on his head. She readily agrees and there's no sign of the injury or operation. A guard knocks on the door, and Minns has the nurse let him in. The MP notices Minns ready to go, and Minns mentally dominates him as well. Minns says that he doesn't want to cause a disturbance when he leaves, and has the MP take his suitcase.
Later, Federal Agent Art Harris informs Branch and Ballard that no one reports seeing Minns as he left. Ballard suggests that it's some form of hypnosis, and figures that Minns is a part of whatever is going on. Branch concedes the possibility that there is a common design, and tells Ballard to dedicate all of his efforts to finding the men and learning what they're doing.
Minns goes to the New York Stock Exchange and approaches a broker, Mr. Jessup,. to invest his $500 in speculative futures. The broker advises him not to do it, but Minns insists. The money soon grows and Minns continues telling Jessup what to sell and buy. Minns soon has $21,000 and Minns has him invest in mining stock. Jessup wonders if he's heard any insider information, but Minns says that it's just his theory.
Later, Ballard arrives and questions Jessup. Jessup informs him that Minns made $405,000 and that he never did anything wrong. The broker hasn't seen the other three men. When Ballard returns to DC, Harris informs him that Minns sent drafts to the other three men in cities in Switzerland, Japan, and Wichita. Minns didn't do anything dishonest and was complete open about who he was and what he was doing.
In Wichita, E.F. Larkin drives to Hadley's room in an abandoned factory. He goes inside and finds advanced lab equipment, and Hadley greets him. He says that he's working on experiments and tells Larkin that he has a plane to catch. Larkin says that the draft from New York came through for $188,000, and is surprised Hadley has so much money after he haggled for the room rent. Hadley says that he's experimenting with gas compounds and pressure atmospheres. Larkin has him sign the papers to buy the entire factory, and asks if it's some kind of air conditioning. Hadley says that it is, and Larkin asks if Hadley's backers would let him invest in the project. the soldier says that he has no backers and it's just experimenting. He's going on the trip to look for a special herb in Brazil, and Larkin says that he's having second thoughts and asks for $200,000. He figures Hadley can get more money, but Hadley says that he doesn't have time. Larkin draws a gun on him, and Hadley says that Larkin can use the gun on himself or sign the papers. Larkin agrees to sign the papers and Hadley tells him to lower the gun.
Later, Larkin takes Ballard and Harris to Hadley's laboratory after Ballard tracks Hadley down. Ballard excuses Larkin, and the two agents discover that Hadley was experimenting with inert gasses. They figure that he'll come back, and Ballard says that he's going to Stockholm in Switzerland while Harris concentrates on Minns. He worries that he's the only one who sees reason for concern, and tells Harris that the four men could be a terrible threat. Ballard shows photos of the four men to Larkin, but he only recognizes Hadley.
Conover goes to a factory in Stockholm. Ballard in inside, having picked up Conover's trail, and the shop superintendant explains that Conover showed him how to make the things he detailed. Conover senses Ballard insides and leaves.
The superintendant explains that Conover created a new alloy, and shows him two pieces of the allow joined so smoothly that it's barely visible. The parts are polarized together and fit as if they were one piece. The result is an allow stronger and lighter than any allow that he knows of. The superintendant says that Conover is brilliant and sad, troubled by what he's doing. Conover can't explain what he's up to, and the superintendant says that Conover acted like possessed. The man realizes that Conover is later, and Ballard fiogures that Conover knew he was there.
Conover goes to a church, kneels at the altar, and wonders if he's doing God's will. He figures that what he's doing is good based on the beauty of the images, but isn't convinced.
In Tokyo, Ballard goes to Renaldo's lab and knocks at the door. An exhausted Renaldo finally wakes up and answers the door. Renaldo addresses Ballard by name and lets him in, and Ballard looks at a compact device on the workshop bench. Renaldo pours himself a drink and says that he's just finished his mission, whatever it is. Ballard deduces that the device is some kind of motive device, and tells Renaldo that he guessed bnased on what Conover and Hadley are working on. Renaldo doesn't know about Minns, but Ballard explains that Minns sent the money and that's how Ballard found him. Furious, Renaldo says that whatever he and the others need, knowledge or money, appears. They just can't escape the compulsion in their heads.
Renaldo insists that Ballard take a drink, and says that the device has no fuel and no moving parts. he turns it on and the object levitates into the air until Renaldo shuts it off. Ballard tells him that they're going to put an end to the project, and Renaldo stares at him.
Two weeks later, Ballard finds himself in Indianapolis at the Memorial Day race. He calls Branch and says that he lost two weeks, and he's heading back to DC. When he gets there, Ballard and Harris tell Branch what they've discovered. Ballard figures that each of the four men are subservient to the intruder in their brain, and they hate what they're doing even as they do it.
Minns goes to the home of a boy, Johnny Subiron. Johnny is waiting for him at the door and calls to Minns by name. He runs out and looks at Minns, who knows what Johnny's name is. Johnny says that he wants to go with him, even though he doesn't know where Minns is going. Minns says that he's leaving on a starship, smiles, and assures the boy that he wants to take him.
Harris finds out where Minns is staying. When Ballard arrives, Harris tells him that he has men covering the area. They go into the apartment to wait for Minns. When Minns returns, he senses the agents inside but goes in anyway.
Written by Gadfly on Feb 4, 2018