Once they had properly tied me up and set me in a chair–not to mention making unambiguous gestures with their weapons–I was willing to listen to the Elrinists’ demands. “What’s it called?”

The lead Elrinist withdrew a piece of paper from his pocket and reverently unfolded it. “Dirk Chiseler and the Gilded Alchemist of the Sargasso Sea,” he said. “Parts I-XIV, in Astounding Tales magazine. July 7, 1938 thru January 17th 1939.”

I stared at him, thunderstruck.

“Well, do you have it in the archive or don’t you?” he cried. “It’s on the list on your website.”

“Well…” I said, examining the instruments of pain, both blunt and explosive, the Elrinists carried. “Let me get this straight. You want a run of a lousy pulp adventure story from a half-rate magazine?”

“It is the only copy in existence,” the head Elrinist said. “We seek it for the wisdom it carries, delivered from our Mission Commander’s mind before he began his great work. Surrender it to us…or die.”

The deadly seriousness in his voice was too much, and I couldn’t restrain my laughter any longer.