"... obtuse minds, a pyramid of stupidity," –the text began. "Anxious to preserve its authority, the Council – more precisely Shannahan and Timolis (Trahier's vote doesn't count) – has rejected my recommendations. Now I am taking the matter up directly with the Institute; but, as you can well imagine, my protestations won't convince anybody. Bound as I am by oath, I can't, alas, reveal to you what Berton told me. If the Council disregarded Berton's testimony, it was basically because Berton has no scientific training, although any scientist would envy the presence of mind and the gift of observation shown by this pilot. I should be grateful if you could send me the following intormation by return post:

i) Fechner's biography, in particular details about his childhood.

ii) Everything you know about his family, facts and dates – he probably lost his parents while still a child.

iii) The topography of the place where he was brought up.

I should like once more to tell you what I think about all this. As you know, some time after the departure of Fechner and Carucci, a spot appeared in the centre of the red sun. This chromospheric eruption caused a magnetic storm chiefly over the southern hemisphere, where our base was situated, according to the information provided by the satellite, and the radio links were cut. The other parties were scouring the planet's surface over a relatively restricted area, whereas Fechner and Carucci had travelled a considerable distance from the base.

Never, since our arrival on the planet, had we observed such a persistent fog or such an unremitting silence.

I imagine that what Berton saw was one of the phases of a kind of 'Operation Man' which this viscous monster was engaged in. The source of all the various forms observed by Berton is Fechner – or rather, Fechner's brain, subjected to an unimaginable 'psychic dissection' for the purposes of a sort of re-creation, an experimental reconstruction, based on impressions (undoubtedly the most durable ones) engraved on his memory.

I know this sounds fantastic; I know that I may be mistaken. But do please help me. At the moment, I am on the Alaric, where I look forward to receiving your reply.