FOR THE harbor area of Los Angeles, the day was normal enough--or so Tom Watkins thought as he pulled his little sport job into a parking lot and waited for the attendant to give him a ticket. Traffic seemed not quite as heavy as usual; perhaps there were fewer people on the streets. Strange rumors of some deadly danger in the Basin had been in circulation for months, with the result that tens of thousands of frightened people had already left the area. But things looked fairly normal. In the bay, a tug had a bone in its teeth; a great liner was coming in from the depths of the blue Pacific; and just beyond the parking lot, a huge concrete warehouse looked to be quite substantial and real.
"Here's your tick--" So far the attendant got, then stopped speaking as an intolerably bright light flared in the sky. Up toward Pasadena, the light might be over the Rose City, it might be over downtown Los Angeles. Its distance was hard to estimate but its brightness was not. It was brighter than the sun. When it flared in the sky, the sunlight seemed to fade away into a dim glow. Tom Watkins caught only a glimpse of the light out of the corner of his eyes. The parking lot attendant looked straight at it. Dropping the ticket, he clapped his hands over his eyes and began to scream, "I'm blind! I'm blind!"
No Sound accompanied the light. Not yet.
Tom Watkins did not need anyone to tell him what this light was. He knew instantly the source from which it came, knew this better than he knew his own name, knew it with an absolute sureness. He looked toward the street long enough to locate the round circle, the A, and the pointing arrow, then jerked the door of his car open and leaped out. "Come on, man! There's no time to waste."