Hour of the Gremlins
THREE FULL-LENGTH NOVELS
OF FAST-MOVING ADVENTURE
— AND SIDE-SPLITTING HUMOR
— IN ONE BOOK
Hour of the Horde by Gordon R. Dickson: The Horde roved the galaxies,
stripping whole star systems of life. As they advance on our galaxy, the Milky Way, a galaxy-wide force hastily arrayed to stop them. But Miles Vander, the warrior sent by Earth to join the defense, must first convince his alien crew/members that he is just as good a soldier as they.
Wolfling by Gordon R. Dickson: Earth was a primitive outpost, its people dubbed "wolflings" by the rulers of the galactic empire. Jim Kell was sent to the High-Born ruler's Throne World, with orders only to observe—until he cast away
his orders from Earth and proved himself a Wolflinq indeed.
Gremlins Go Home by Gordon R. Dickson and Ben Bova: Suppose that elves, gremlins, and leprechauns are really tiny aliens marooned on Earth for hundreds of years. They want to go home, and human technology finally can make it possible—if they_can
get aboard NASA's Mars rocket and hijack it! Pity the poor human who has to help them. . . .
The three novels comprising this volume, Hour of the Horde, Wolfling, and Gremlins Go
Home, are unconnected, except perhaps by the theme of aliens vs. humans on the close-encounter level. Each has been published separately, but Hour of the Gremlins is their
first combined publication. The publisher is solely responsible for the title, Hour of the
"Dickson is among the best storytellers we have ever had."
"I believe that by far the author that will have the greatest effect on the scientific world and the world as a whole is Ben Bova."
— Ray Bradbury
"[Bova's] excellence at combining hard science with believable characters and an attention grabbing plot makes him one of the genre's most entertaining storytellers. — Library Journal
Cover art by Csanad Novak
This is a work of fiction. All the characters and events portrayed in this book
are fictional, and any resemblance to real people or incidents is purely
First printing, December 2002
Distributed by Simon & Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas
New York, NY 10020
Printed in the United States of America
Gremlins Go Home ? 1974 by St. Martin's Press, 1983 by Ben Bova & Gordon R.
Hour of the Horde ? 1970 by Gordon R. Dickson;
Wolfling ? 1968 by Gordon R. Dickson.
All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book or portions
thereof in any form.
A Baen Books Original
Baen Publishing Enterprises
P.O. Box 1403
Riverdale, NY 10471
Production by Windhaven Press
Electronic version by WebWrights
Baen Books by Gordon R. Dickson
The Magnificent Wilf
Hoka! Hoka! Hoka!
(with Poul Anderson)
(with Poul Anderson) Baen Books by Ben Bova
The Exiles Trilogy
Hour of the Gremlins
Table of Contents
Gremlins Go Home
HOUR OF THE HORDE
Wolfling Chapter 1 Chapter 2 Chapter 3 Chapter 4 Chapter 5 Chapter 6 Chapter 7 Chapter 8
Chapter 9 Chapter 10 Chapter 11 Chapter 12 Chapter 13
Gremlins Go Home
It was a week before the Mars launch.
THE launch, everybody was calling it around Cape Kennedy.
Big deal! thought Rolf Gunnarson as he opened the garage door. The door slipped out of his hands and rattled noisily up on its tracks, slamming against the end of the tracks with a loud thump! For a moment Rolf winced, thinking the noise would wake his baby sister, then he set his jaw. Let it!
Rolf squeezed past his father's white official NASA car to get to his old three-speed bicycle. So, I don't need a ten-speed, do I? he muttered to himself. He's just too busy with his space shot to listen to me. I really need that bike to get back and forth to the Wildlife Refuge. But he doesn't care about the ecology, the Refuge, or anything—except being
Launch Director for this Mars flight!
His face set in an unhappy scowl, Rolf wheeled the three-speed out of the garage and through the half-dozen cars parked along the driveway. Out on the street a big TV truck was parked. Inside the house the TV men were laying cables and setting up lights and cameras. They were going to interview his father. THE launch was only a few days away. "You'd think he was one of them—one of the astronauts going to Mars," Rolf said to
Shep, who was lying in the shade of the orange tree in the Gunnarsons' front yard. Shep looked like a ball of brown and white wool with a red tongue hanging out. It was as hot a day as Florida can produce in August. The sun blazed out of a brilliant blue sky that was flecked here and there with gleaming white, puffy clouds. But Rolf couldn't hang around the house any longer. First it was his father telling him, "Not now, Rolf! Can't you see I'm busy? After THE launch we'll talk about it." Then it was the TV crew bustling around the house, saying, "Hey kid, wouldya mind gettin' outta the way?" Rolf whistled for Shep to come along, and started pedaling for the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge. He had been going to stay home from it today. But now . . . "I should've brought some lemonade or something," he told himself as he pumped along the street, passing the neat little houses with their lawns and flowering bushes and trees.
For a moment he thought about going back, but then he shook his head. Maybe I'll
never go back, he thought grimly, as he turned off the street and headed for the Old Courtney Pike.
He rode for several miles in silence, with Shep scampering along beside him. Hot as it was, the speed of his travel put a breeze in his face and set his unbuttoned shirt flapping loosely behind him, so that he felt the air slipping over his bare chest, blowing out the armholes of his sleeves, like his own personal air conditioner. Just like the astronauts, he
thought, picturing in his mind how they must feel inside their air-conditioned space suits. Riding the bike felt good—even in the heat. Not that any kind of heat could bother
Rolf, really. He was used to it. Just like old Shep, looking as woolly as any other English sheepdog anywhere in the world, trotting along beside the bicycle with his red tongue hanging out. Anybody who didn't know better would think Shep was ready to melt. But Rolf knew the sheepdog could keep up with him like this all day. They were both
Floridians born and bred. Shep would guess they were headed toward the Wildlife Refuge, a place he liked as well as Rolf did.
Most people didn't even realize that the Refuge existed. All they cared about, like Rolf's dad, was the Space Center part of Cape Kennedy. Actually, the Refuge was almost 85,000 acres in size. That was about ninety-nine percent of all the land the Space Agency owned on the Cape. The launching Center took up the remaining one percent. The Refuge was a haven for birds. Officially there were 224 different species of birds visiting there regularly—although Rolf himself had checked off 284 species last year. And there were the permanent residents, too; tough wild pigs, snakes, bald eagles and even alligators. A good place to get away to, when things at home got to the point where you wanted to kick holes in the wall.
Right now, however, the desire to kick holes in the wall was diminishing in him. As usual, the exercise of the ride and the prospect of getting back to the Refuge were working their good influence on him. Now that he was beginning to feel better, Rolf admitted to himself that it was not really things like not having a ten-speed bike that were bothering him. It was . . . he could not seem to say what it was. Sometimes, when he was away from home, like this, he would make up his mind not to let things get to him when he went home again. But they always did. Or at least, since this summer started, they always did. Remembering the past weeks, Rolf scowled again. Summer vacation was supposed to be something you looked forward to. But nothing seemed to have gone right this year—from his slipping off the diving board and hurting his leg, right up until now. First there had been that accident, then the upset of the house after his baby sister was born. Now THE launch . . .
Busy thinking, he reached the edge of the Refuge almost before he knew it. But then, suddenly, the road was in among the acres of wild land, and he looked around himself feeling good. Most people might have seen nothing much to enjoy. There were only sandy little hillocks covered with coarse grass and scrubby brush, in all directions, with an occasional bigger tree pushing crookedly higher against the glittering sky. But to Rolf it was a remarkable and fascinating place, busy with plant, bird and animal life, all of which were particular friends of his. From the wild sow with her four piglets right now trotting along in plain sight beside the road he was riding, to a brown hen pelican, nesting in a secret pool he knew of, far out among the brush—and who already had lost one of
her three eggs because of the thinness of its shell, due to DDT—they were individuals
with whom he was concerned.
The sow led her family off back into the brush, and a little farther on Rolf turned his bike from the concrete highway onto the asphalt road that led down in the direction of the Playalinda Beach part of the Refuge. Then, a short distance down the asphalt, he cut off the road entirely and bumped along on one of the old foot trails that wound through the Preserve.
Officially, no one was supposed to be here, right now. That was why he had not planned to come today. Playalinda Beach was officially closed when there was a rocket on the pad at LC-39, as the Mars rocket stood right now.
But who cared? All that the Beach's being closed meant was that nobody else would be around. And who wants anybody else around? Rolf asked himself. It's good to be
alone. Nobody here except me and Shep.