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Happy Ending
written by "Reynolds, Mack, 1917-1983"
.... There was no threat, for him, in that throbbing that was like the beating of the jungle's heart. Mr. Smith knew that, for although his choice of destinations had been a hasty choice, yet there had been time for him to read the available reports. The natives were harmless and friendly. A Terran missionary had lived among them some time ago—before the outbreak of the war. They were a simple, weak race. They seldom went far from their villages; the space-radar operator who had once occupied the shack reported that he had never seen one of them. So, there would be no difficulty in avoiding the natives, nor danger if he did encounter them. Nothing to worry about, except the bitterness. Not the bitterness of regret, but of defeat. Defeat at the hands of the defeated. The damned Martians who came back after he had driven them halfway across their damned arid planet. The Jupiter Satellite Confederation landing endlessly on the home planet, sending their vast armadas of spacecraft daily and nightly to turn his mighty cities into dust. In spite of everything; in spite of his score of ultra-vicious secret weapons and the last desperate efforts of his weakened armies, most of whose men were under twenty or over forty. The treachery even in his own army, among his own generals and admirals. The turn of Luna, that had been the end. His people would rise again. But not, now after Armageddon, in his lifetime. Not under him, nor another like him. The last of the dictators. Hated by a solar system, and hating it. It would have been intolerable, save that he was alone. He had foreseen that—the need for solitude. Alone, he was still Number One. The presence of others would have forced recognition of his miserably changed status. Alone, his pride was undamaged. His ego was intact. The long days, and the marigees' screams, the slithering swish of the surf, the ghost-quiet movements ...

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