By ARNOLD CASTLE
ILLUSTRATED by SUMMERS
Is there something wrong with you?
Do you fail to fit in with your group?
Nervous, anxious, ill-at-ease? Happy
about it? Lucky you!
Frank Pembroke sat behind
the desk of his shabby
little office over Lemark's Liquors
in downtown Los Angeles and
waited for his first customer. He
had been in business for a week
and as yet had had no callers.
Therefore, it was with a mingled
sense of excitement and satisfaction
that he greeted the tall,
dark, smooth-faced figure that
came up the stairs and into the
office shortly before noon.
"Good day, sir," said Pembroke
with an amiable smile. "I
see my advertisement has interested
you. Please stand in that
corner for just a moment."
Opening the desk drawer,
which was almost empty, Pembroke
removed an automatic pistol
fitted with a silencer. Pointing
it at the amazed customer, he
fired four .22 caliber longs into
the narrow chest. Then he made
a telephone call and sat down to
wait. He wondered how long it
would be before his next client
The series of events leading up
to Pembroke's present occupation
had commenced on a dismal,
overcast evening in the South
Pacific a year earlier. Bound for
Sydney, two days out of Valparaiso,
the Colombian tramp
steamer Elena Mia had encountered
a dense greenish fog which
seemed vaguely redolent of citrus
trees. Standing on the forward
deck, Pembroke was one of the
first to perceive the peculiar odor
and to spot the immense gray
hulk wallowing in the murky distance.
Then the explosion had come,
from far below the waterline,
and the decks were awash with
frantic crewmen, officers, and the
handful of passengers. Only two
lifeboats were launched before
the Elena Mia went down. Pembroke
was in the second. The
roar of the sinking ship was the
last thing he heard for some
Pembroke came as close to being
a professional adventurer as
one can in these days of regimented
travel, organized peril,
and political restriction. He had
made for himself a substantial
fortune through speculation in a
great variety of properties, real
and otherwise. Life had given
him much and demanded little,
which was perhaps the reason
for his restiveness.
Loyalty to person or to people
was a trait Pembroke had never
recognized in himself, nor had it
ever been expected of him. And
yet he greatly envied those
staunch patriots and lovers who
could find it in themselves to
elevate the glory and safety of
others above that of themselves.
Lacking such loyalties, Pembroke
adapted quickly to the situation
in which he found himself
when he regained consciousness.
He awoke in a small room in
what appeared to be a typical
modern American hotel. The wallet
in his pocket contained exactly
what it should, approximately
three hundred dollars.
His next thought was of food.
He left the room and descended
via the elevator to the restaurant.
Here he observed that it
was early afternoon. Ordering
a full dinner, for he was unusually
hungry, he began to study the
others in the restaurant.
Many of the faces seemed familiar;
the crew of the ship,
probably. He also recognized several
of the passengers. However,
he made no attempt to speak to
them. After his meal, he bought
a good corona and went for a
walk. His situation could have
been any small western American
seacoast city. He heard the hiss
of the ocean in the direction the
afternoon sun was taking. In his
full-gaited walk, he was soon approaching
On the sand he saw a number
of sun bathers. One in particular,
an attractive woman of about
thirty, tossed back her long,
chestnut locks and gazed up intently
at Pembroke as he passed.
Seldom had he enjoyed so ingenuous
an invitation. He halted
and stared down at her for a few
"You are looking for someone?"
"Much of the time," said the
"Could it be me?"
"It could be."
"Yet you seem unsure," she
Pembroke smiled, uneasily.
There was something not entirely
normal about her conversation.
Though the rest of her compensated
"Tell me what's wrong with
me," she went on urgently. "I'm
not good enough, am I? I mean,
there's something wrong with
the way I look or act. Isn't there?
Please help me, please!"
"You're not casual enough, for
one thing," said Pembroke, deciding
to play along with her for
the moment. "You're too tense.
Also you're a bit knock-kneed,
not that it matters. Is that what
you wanted to hear?"
"Yes, yes—I mean, I suppose
so. I can try to be more casual.
But I don't know what to do
about my knees," she said wistfully,
staring across at the
smooth, tan limbs. "Do you think
I'm okay otherwise? I mean, as a
whole I'm not so bad, am I? Oh,
please tell me."
"How about talking it over at
supper tonight?" Pembroke proposed.
"Maybe with less distraction
I'll have a better picture of
you—as a whole."
"Oh, that's very generous of
you," the woman told him. She
scribbled a name and an address
on a small piece of paper and
handed it to him. "Any time
after six," she said.
Pembroke left the beach and
walked through several small
specialty shops. He tried to get
the woman off his mind, but the
oddness of her conversation continued
to bother him. She was
right about being different, but
it was her concern about being
different that made her so. How
to explain that to her?
Then he saw the weird little
glass statuette among the usual
bric-a-brac. It rather resembled
a ground hog, had seven fingers
on each of its six limbs, and
smiled up at him as he stared.
"Can I help you, sir?" a middle-aged
"Oh, good heavens, whatever is
that thing doing here?"
Pembroke watched with lifted
eyebrows as the clerk whisked
the bizarre statuette underneath
"What the hell was that?"
"Oh, you know—or don't you?
Oh, my," she concluded, "are you
one of the—strangers?"
"And if I were?"
"Well, I'd certainly appreciate
it if you'd tell me how I walk."
She came around in front of
the counter and strutted back
and forth a few times.
"They tell me I lean too far
forward," she confided. "But I
should think you'd fall down if
"Don't try to go so fast and
you won't fall down," suggested
Pembroke. "You're in too much
of a hurry. Also those fake flowers
on your blouse make you look
"Well, I'm supposed to look
frumpy," the woman retorted.
"That's the type of person I am.
But you can look frumpy and still
walk natural, can't you? Everyone
says you can."
"Well, they've got a point,"
said Pembroke. "Incidentally,
just where are we, anyway?
What city is this?"
"Puerto Pacifico," she told
him. "Isn't that a lovely name?
It means peaceful port. In Spanish."
That was fine. At least he now
knew where he was. But as he
left the shop he began checking
off every west coast state, city,
town, and inlet. None, to the best
of his knowledge, was called
He headed for the nearest
service station and asked for a
map. The attendant gave him one
which showed the city, but nothing
"Which way is it to San Francisco?"
"That all depends on where
you are," the boy returned.
"Okay, then where am I?"
"Pardon me, there's a customer,"
the boy said. "This is
Pembroke watched him hurry
off to service a car with a sense
of having been given the runaround.
To his surprise, the boy
came back a few minutes later
after servicing the automobile.
"Say, I've just figured out who
you are," the youngster told him.
"I'd sure appreciate it if you'd
give me a little help on my lingo.
Also, you gas up the car first,
then try to sell 'em the oil—right?"
"Right," said Pembroke wearily.
"What's wrong with your
lingo? Other than the fact that
it's not colloquial enough."
"Not enough slang, huh? Well,
I guess I'll have to concentrate
on that. How about the smile?"
"Perfect," Pembroke told him.
"Yeah?" said the boy delightedly.
"Say, come back again,
huh? I sure appreciate the help.
Keep the map."
"Thanks. One more thing,"
Pembroke said. "What's over
that way—outside the city?"
"How about that way?" he
asked, pointing north. "And that
way?" pointing south.
"More of the same."
"That we ain't got."
The kid shook his head.
"Yeah, it's kinda isolated. A
lot of ships dock here, though."
"All cargo ships, I'll bet. No
passengers," said Pembroke.
"Right," said the attendant,
giving with his perfect smile.
"No getting out of here, is
"That's for sure," the boy said,
walking away to wait on another
customer. "If you don't like the
place, you've had it."
Pembroke returned to the
hotel. Going to the bar, he recognized
one of the Elena Mia's paying
passengers. He was a short,
rectangular little man in his fifties
named Spencer. He sat in a
booth with three young women,
all lovely, all effusive. The topic
of the conversation turned out
to be precisely what Pembroke
"Well, Louisa, I'd say your
only fault is the way you keep
wigglin' your shoulders up 'n'
down. Why'n'sha try holdin' 'em
"I thought it made me look
sexy," the redhead said petulantly.
"Just be yourself, gal," Spencer
drawled, jabbing her intimately
with a fat elbow, "and
"Me, me," the blonde with a
feather cut was insisting. "What
is wrong with me?"
"You're perfect, sweetheart,"
he told her, taking her hand.
"Ah, come on," she pleaded.
"Everyone tells me I chew gum
with my mouth open. Don't you
"Naw, that's part of your
charm," Spencer assured her.
"How 'bout me, sugar," asked
the girl with the coal black hair.
"Ah, you're perfect, too. You
are all perfect. I've never seen
such a collection of dolls as parade
around this here city.
C'mon, kids—how 'bout another
But the dolls had apparently
lost interest in him. They got up
one by one and walked out of the
bar. Pembroke took his rum and
tonic and moved over to Spencer's
"Okay if I join you?"
"Sure," said the fat man.
"Wonder what the hell got into
"You said they were perfect.
They know they're not. You've
got to be rough with them in this
town," said Pembroke. "That's
all they want from us."
"Mister, you've been doing
some thinkin', I can see," said
Spencer, peering at him suspiciously.
"Maybe you've figured
out where we are."
"Your bet's as good as mine,"
said Pembroke. "It's not Wellington,
and it's not Brisbane, and
it's not Long Beach, and it's not
Tahiti. There are a lot of places
it's not. But where the hell it is,
you tell me.
"And, by the way," he added,
"I hope you like it in Puerto
Pacifico. Because there isn't any
place to go from here and there
isn't any way to get there if
"Pardon me, gentlemen, but
I'm Joe Valencia, manager of the
hotel. I would be very grateful if
you would give me a few minutes
of honest criticism."
"Ah, no, not you, too," groaned
Spencer. "Look, Joe, what's
"You are newcomers, Mr.
Spencer," Valencia explained.
"You are therefore in an excellent
position to point out our
faults as you see them."
"Well, so what?" demanded
Spencer. "I've got more important
things to do than to worry
about your troubles. You look
okay to me."
"Mr. Valencia," said Pembroke.
"I've noticed that you
walk with a very slight limp. If
you have a bad leg, I should
think you would do better to develop
a more pronounced limp.
Otherwise, you may appear to
be self-conscious about it."
Spencer opened his mouth to
protest, but saw with amazement
that it was exactly this that
Valencia was seeking. Pembroke
was amused at his companion's
reaction but observed that Spencer
still failed to see the point.
"Also, there is a certain effeminateness
in the way in which
you speak," said Pembroke. "Try
to be a little more direct, a little
more brusque. Speak in a monotone.
It will make you more acceptable."
"Thank you so much," said the
manager. "There is much food
for thought in what you have
said, Mr. Pembroke. However,
Mr. Spencer, your value has failed
to prove itself. You have only
yourself to blame. Cooperation is
all we require of you."
Valencia left. Spencer ordered
another martini. Neither he nor
Pembroke spoke for several minutes.
"Somebody's crazy around
here," the fat man muttered
after a few moments. "Is it me,
"No. You just don't belong
here, in this particular place,"
said Pembroke thoughtfully.
"You're the wrong type. But they
couldn't know that ahead of time.
The way they operate it's a
pretty hit-or-miss operation. But
they don't care one bit about us,
Spencer. Consider the men who
went down with the ship. That
was just part of the game."
"What the hell are you sayin'?"
asked Spencer in disbelief.
"You figure they sunk the ship?
Valencia and the waitress and
the three babes? Ah, come on."
"It's what you think that will
determine what you do, Spencer.
I suggest you change your attitude;
play along with them for a
few days till the picture becomes
a little clearer to you. We'll talk
about it again then."
Pembroke rose and started out
of the bar. A policeman entered
and walked directly to Spencer's
table. Loitering at the juke box,
Pembroke overheard the conversation.
"That's right," said the fat
"What don't you like about
me? The truth, buddy."
"Ah, hell! Nothin' wrong
with you at all, and nothin'll
make me say there is," said Spencer.
"You're the guy, all right. Too
bad, Mac," said the cop.
Pembroke heard the shots as
he strolled casually out into the
brightness of the hotel lobby.
While he waited for the elevator,
he saw them carrying the body
into the street. How many others,
he wondered, had gone out on
their backs during their first day
in Puerto Pacifico?
Pembroke shaved, showered,
and put on the new suit and shirt
he had bought. Then he took
Mary Ann, the woman he had
met on the beach, out to dinner.
She would look magnificent even
when fully clothed, he decided,
and the pale chartreuse gown she
wore hardly placed her in that
category. Her conversation seemed
considerably more normal
after the other denizens of
Puerto Pacifico Pembroke had
listened to that afternoon.
After eating they danced for
an hour, had a few more drinks,
then went to Pembroke's room.
He still knew nothing about her
and had almost exhausted his
critical capabilities, but not once
had she become annoyed with
him. She seemed to devour every
factual point of imperfection
about herself that Pembroke
brought to her attention. And,
fantastically enough, she actually
appeared to have overcome every
little imperfection he had been
able to communicate to her.
It was in the privacy of his
room that Pembroke became
aware of just how perfect, physically,
Mary Ann was. Too perfect.
No freckles or moles anywhere
on the visible surface of
her brown skin, which was more
than a mere sampling. Furthermore,
her face and body were
meticulously symmetrical. And
she seemed to be wholly ambidextrous.
"With so many beautiful
women in Puerto Pacifico," said
Pembroke probingly, "I find it
hard to understand why there are
so few children."
"Yes, children are decorative,
aren't they," said Mary Ann. "I
do wish there were more of
"Why not have a couple of
your own?" he asked.
"Oh, they're only given to maternal
types. I'd never get one.
Anyway, I won't ever marry,"
she said. "I'm the paramour
It was obvious that the liquor
had been having some effect.
Either that, or she had a basic
flaw of loquacity that no one else
had discovered. Pembroke decided
he would have to cover his
"What type am I?" he asked.
"Silly, you're real. You're not
a type at all."
"Mary Ann, I love you very
much," Pembroke murmured,
gambling everything on this one
throw. "When you go to Earth
I'll miss you terribly."
"Oh, but you'll be dead by
then," she pouted. "So I mustn't
fall in love with you. I don't want
to be miserable."
"If I pretended I was one of
you, if I left on the boat with
you, they'd let me go to Earth
with you. Wouldn't they?"
"Oh, yes, I'm sure they would."
"Mary Ann, you have two
other flaws I feel I should mention."
"Yes? Please tell me."
"In the first place," said Pembroke,
"you should be willing to
fall in love with me even if it
will eventually make you unhappy.
How can you be the paramour
type if you refuse to fall in
love foolishly? And when you
have fallen in love, you should be
"I'll try," she said unsurely.
"The other thing is that, as
my mistress, you must never
mention me to anyone. It would
place me in great danger."
"I'll never tell anyone anything
about you," she promised.
"Now try to love me," Pembroke
said, drawing her into his
arms and kissing with little
pleasure the smooth, warm perfection
of her tanned cheeks.
"Love me my sweet, beautiful,
affectionate Mary Ann. My paramour."
Making love to Mary Ann was
something short of ecstasy. Not
for any obvious reason, but because
of subtle little factors that
make a woman a woman. Mary
Ann had no pulse. Mary Ann did
not perspire. Mary Ann did not
fatigue gradually but all at once.
Mary Ann breathed regularly
under all circumstances. Mary
Ann talked and talked and talked.
But then, Mary Ann was not
a human being.
When she left the hotel at midnight,
Pembroke was quite sure
that she understood his plan and
that she was irrevocably in love
with him. Tomorrow might bring
his death, but it might also ensure
his escape. After forty-two
years of searching for a passion,
for a cause, for a loyalty, Frank
Pembroke had at last found his.
Earth and the human race that
peopled it. And Mary Ann would
help him to save it.
The next morning Pembroke
talked to Valencia about hunting.
He said that he planned to go
shooting out on the desert which
surrounded the city. Valencia
told him that there were no living
creatures anywhere but in
the city. Pembroke said he was
going out anyway.
He picked up Mary Ann at her
apartment and together they
went to a sporting goods store.
As he guessed there was a goodly
selection of firearms, despite the
fact that there was nothing to
hunt and only a single target
range within the city. Everything,
of course, had to be just
like Earth. That, after all, was
the purpose of Puerto Pacifico.
By noon they had rented a
jeep and were well away from
the city. Pembroke and Mary
Ann took turns firing at the paper
targets they had purchased. At
twilight they headed back to the
city. On the outskirts, where the
sand and soil were mixed and no
footprints would be left, Pembroke
hopped off. Mary Ann
would go straight to the police
and report that Pembroke had attacked
her and that she had shot
him. If necessary, she would conduct
the authorities to the place
where they had been target
shooting, but would be unable to
locate the spot where she had
buried the body. Why had she
buried it? Because at first she
was not going to report the incident.
She was frightened. It
was not airtight, but there would
probably be no further investigation.
And they certainly would
not prosecute Mary Ann for killing
Now Pembroke had himself to
worry about. The first step was
to enter smoothly into the new
life he had planned. It wouldn't
be so comfortable as the previous
one, but should be considerably
safer. He headed slowly for the
"old" part of town, aging his
clothes against buildings and
fences as he walked. He had already
torn the collar of the shirt
and discarded his belt. By morning
his beard would grow to
blacken his face. And he would
look weary and hungry and aimless.
Only the last would be a deception.
Two weeks later Pembroke
phoned Mary Ann. The police
had accepted her story without
even checking. And when, when
would she be seeing him again?
He had aroused her passion and
no amount of long-distance love
could requite it. Soon, he assured
"Because, after all, you do owe
me something," she added.
And that was bad because it
sounded as if she had been giving
some womanly thought to the situation.
A little more of that and
she might go to the police again,
this time for vengeance.
Twice during his wanderings
Pembroke had seen the corpses
of Earthmen being carted out of
buildings. They had to be Earthmen
because they bled. Mary Ann
had admitted that she did not.
There would be very few Earthmen
left in Puerto Pacifico, and
it would be simple enough to locate
him if he were reported as
being on the loose. There was
no out but to do away with Mary
Pembroke headed for the
beach. He knew she invariably
went there in the afternoon. He
loitered around the stalls where
hot dogs and soft drinks were
sold, leaning against a post in
the hot sun, hat pulled down over
his forehead. Then he noticed
that people all about him were
talking excitedly. They were discussing
a ship. It was leaving
that afternoon. Anyone who
could pass the interview would
be sent to Earth.
Pembroke had visited the
docks every day, without being
able to learn when the great
exodus would take place. Yet he
was certain the first lap would be
by water rather than by spaceship,
since no one he had talked
to in the city had ever heard of
spaceships. In fact, they knew
very little about their masters.
Now the ship had arrived and
was to leave shortly. If there was
any but the most superficial examination,
Pembroke would no
doubt be discovered and exterminated.
But since no one seemed
concerned about anything but his
own speech and behavior, he assumed
that they had all qualified
in every other respect. The reason
for transporting Earth People
to this planet was, of course,
to apply a corrective to any of
the Pacificos' aberrant mannerisms
or articulation. This was
the polishing up phase.
Pembroke began hobbling toward
the docks. Almost at once
he found himself face to face
with Mary Ann. She smiled happily
when she recognized him.
That was a good thing.
"It is a sign of poor breeding
to smile at tramps," Pembroke
admonished her in a whisper.
"Walk on ahead."
She obeyed. He followed. The
crowd grew thicker. They neared
the docks and Pembroke saw that
there were now set up on the
roped-off wharves small interviewing
booths. When it was
their turn, he and Mary Ann
each went into separate ones.
Pembroke found himself alone in
the little room.
Then he saw that there was
another entity in his presence
confined beneath a glass dome. It
looked rather like a groundhog
and had seven fingers on each of
its six limbs. But it was larger
and hairier than the glass one
he had seen at the gift store.
With four of its limbs it tapped
on an intricate keyboard in front
"What is your name?" queried
a metallic voice from a speaker
on the wall.
"I'm Jerry Newton. Got no
middle initial," Pembroke said in
a surly voice.
"I work a lot o' trades. Fisherman,
fruit picker, fightin' range
fires, vineyards, car washer. Anything.
You name it. Been out of
work for a long time now,
though. Goin' on five months.
These here are hard times, no
matter what they say."
"What do you think of the
Chinese situation?" the voice inquired.
"Which situation's 'at?"
"Seattle? State o' Washington."
And so it went for about five
minutes. Then he was told he
had qualified as a satisfactory
surrogate for a mid-twentieth
century American male, itinerant
"You understand your mission,
Newton?" the voice asked. "You
are to establish yourself on
Earth. In time you will receive
instructions. Then you will attack.
You will not see us, your
masters, again until the atmosphere
has been sufficiently chlorinated.
In the meantime, serve
He stumbled out toward the
docks, then looked about for
Mary Ann. He saw her at last
behind the ropes, her lovely face
Then she saw him. Waving
frantically, she called his name
several times. Pembroke mingled
with the crowd moving toward
the ship, ignoring her. But still
the woman persisted in her
Sidling up to a well-dressed
man-about-town type, Pembroke
winked at him and snickered.
"You Frank?" he asked.
"Hell, no. But some poor
punk's sure red in the face, I'll
bet," the man-about-town said
with a chuckle. "Those high-strung
paramour types always
raising a ruckus. They never do
pass the interview. Don't know
why they even make 'em."
Suddenly Mary Ann was quiet.
"Ambulance squad," Pembroke's
"They'll take her off to the buggy
house for a few days and bring
her out fresh and ignorant as the
day she was assembled. Don't
know why they keep making 'em,
as I say. But I guess there's a
call for that type up there on
"Yeah, I reckon there is at
that," said Pembroke, snickering
again as he moved away from the
other. "And why not? Hey?
Pembroke went right on hating
himself, however, till the
night he was deposited in a field
outside of Ensenada, broke but
happy, with two other itinerant
types. They separated in San
Diego, and it was not long before
Pembroke was explaining to the
police how he had drifted far
from the scene of the sinking of
the Elena Mia on a piece of
wreckage, and had been picked
up by a Chilean trawler. How he
had then made his way, with
much suffering, up the coast to
California. Two days later, his
identity established and his circumstances
again solvent, he was
headed for Los Angeles to begin
his save-Earth campaign.
Now, seated at his battered
desk in the shabby rented office
over Lemark's Liquors, Pembroke
gazed without emotion at
the two demolished Pacificos that
lay sprawled one atop the other
in the corner. His watch said
one-fifteen. The man from the
FBI should arrive soon.
There were footsteps on the
stairs for the third time that
day. Not the brisk, efficient steps
of a federal official, but the hesitant,
self-conscious steps of a
junior clerk type.
Pembroke rose as the young
man appeared at the door. His
face was smooth, unpimpled,
clean-shaven, without sweat on a
warm summer afternoon.
"Are you Dr. Von Schubert?"
the newcomer asked, peering into
the room. "You see, I've got a
The four shots from Pembroke's
pistol solved his problem
effectively. Pembroke tossed his
third victim onto the pile, then
opened a can of lager, quaffing
it appreciatively. Seating himself
once more, he leaned back in
the chair, both feet upon the
He would be out of business
soon, once the FBI agent had got
there. Pembroke was only in it to
get the proof he would need to
convince people of the truth of
his tale. But in the meantime he
allowed himself to admire the
clipping of the newspaper ad he
had run in all the Los Angeles
papers for the past week. The
little ad that had saved mankind
from God-knew-what insidious
menace. It read:
ARE YOU IMPERFECT?
LET DR. VON SCHUBERT POINT OUT
IT IS HIS GOAL TO MAKE YOU THE
AVERAGE FOR YOUR TYPE
MONEY BACK IF NOT SATISFIED!
This etext was produced from Amazing Science Fiction Stories
January 1960. Extensive research did not uncover any
evidence that the U.S. copyright on this publication was