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´╗┐Title: The Old Martians
Author: Graham, Roger Phillips, 1909-1965
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "The Old Martians" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



                            The OLD MARTIANS

                             By Rog Phillips

[Transcriber Note: This etext was produced from If Worlds of Science
Fiction March 1952. Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that
the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed.]


[Sidenote: _They opened the ruins to tourists at a dollar a head but
they reckoned without The OLD MARTIANS_]


The man with the pith helmet had his back toward me. Hunched forward, he
was screaming at the girl in the lens of his camera. "Don't just stand
there, Dotty! Move! Do something! Back up toward that column with
inscriptions on it...."

The girl was tall and longlegged with ideal body proportions, her
features and skin coloring a perfect norm-blend with no throwback
elements. Right now she seemed confused and half-frightened as she tried
to comply with the directions of the man with the movie camera. She
smiled artificially, turned her head to look at the fragment of a wall
behind her, reached out with a finger and started tracing the lines of
an almost obliterated inscription in its stone surface.

The camera stopped whirring. Its owner straightened and grumbled,
"That's all."

Now the girl was allowed to go back to her worrying. Swiftly she
surveyed the crowd, but didn't find the person she was looking for. She
started moving toward one of the arches that led deeper into the ruins.

I followed her slowly.

She passed through the arch, stopped, and turned her head toward the
right, her eyes on something out of sight. She'd found him, but she saw
me at the same time and her worry deepened.

When she moved back into the crowd, I strolled casually through the
archway.

There was a vaguely defined passageway, the roof over it gone for half a
million years, of course. And twenty feet away, oblivious of his
surroundings except for what was directly in front of him, was my man.

His height and build were somewhat less than the norm. But it was his
profile that drew my attention. A remarkable throwback; a throwback of a
distinct type.

In fact, he might well have served as the model in the types textbooks
labeled British. The resemblance was subtle. Only one trained to
differentiate would ever have noticed it.

I let my attention take in his whole figure. His elbows had a habit of
making fluttery movements when his exploring hands paused so that a
strange birdlike impression was given. Also an air of ungainliness in
the lines of the lean body, rather than the feline smoothness and grace
of the norm-blend. It was so in keeping with his features that it served
to strengthen the psycho diagnosis.

A throwback to an era ten thousand years in the past, and therefore, as
the textbooks say, prone to mental instability. It was no wonder that
the girl called Dotty had had the air of being perpetually worried!

She appeared now, from the far side of the ruin and approached the man.

He sensed rather than saw her and straightened up, every line of him
etched with excitement.

"Dotty!" he said. "I've found it. I've found the proof. I've been here
before, thousands of years ago when this wasn't a ruins. I _remember_."

The girl's manner reflected weariness, "Please, Herb. You've got to
forget all about it. You'll talk too much!"

His shoulders stiffened. "Don't worry. I won't talk until I have proof
to convince even them. Somewhere around here something lies buried.
Something I will be able to remember. They will dig where the rocks
haven't been touched for five thousand centuries and find what I say is
there."

Dotty was shaking her head. "No, Herb, If it were on Earth I might half
believe you. But not here on Mars. These--these people weren't even
humanoid!"

"_Neither was I_," Herb whispered hoarsely.

I sighed regretfully. I'd seen too many cases like this one. I'd grown
to dread them. But it was a job and a man had to eat.

       *       *       *       *       *

The guide began herding the tourists back to the bus. I mingled with the
crowd, and when Dotty and Herb climbed aboard I managed to stick close
to them.

"Where'd you two go to?" the man in the pith helmet called from where he
was sitting. "Stick close to me. I put a new roll in the camera. At the
next place I want to get some shots of both of you together."

"All right, George," Dotty said obediently.

She and Herb were forced to find separate seats. They would do no
talking, so I faced around and studied the three alternately. The man in
the pith helmet, George, was a normal blend; totally unconcerned about
his reactions on others so long as he could pursue his hobby.

The bus detoured a roped-off area in the center of the ancient city, the
part considered too dangerous because of cave-in possibilities, and made
its way out to the northern edge of ruins to the part that resembled the
ancient cemeteries on Earth. The only major difference was that there
were no remains under the evenly spaced stones. There was some doubt
that it had been a cemetery. But the guide announced it as one. And that
announcement as the bus came to a stop had a pronounced effect on Herb.
He began his fluttery elbow movements again and looked around at Dotty
with a triumphant smile. I moved up quickly to keep him in earshot.

He protested when George insisted on taking camera shots, then gave in
and cooperated in order to get it over with.

Finally George snapped his camera shut. Herb mumbled something to Dotty
that I didn't catch, and started down one of the lanes between rows of
stones as though headed for a definite goal.

I couldn't very well follow after they left the main group. It would
have been obvious. Instead, I veered off to one side, gambling that when
they reached their destination I would be able to read their lips.

I got well away from stragglers and took out my mirroscope, pointing if
off in the distance and swinging the objective lens around until it
centered on them. I was lucky. They were facing in my direction.

"It isn't a cemetery," Herb was saying with emphatic motions of his
hands. "It was a parking area, and this stone was where I parked my
airsled. I can remember it as though it were yesterday."

[Illustration: _If this was a cemetery, the old Martians should have
been here. But there were no voices--no bones._]

I had to admire the man's subconscious. It was a remarkably shrewd
guess. The experts wouldn't play along with it, but they would probably
never be able to prove him wrong on that count. But Dotty was arguing
with him. "How can you prove it was a parking area?" Her eyes roamed
over the large field with its regularly spaced stones. "It certainly
looks impractical for a parking lot."

"Just the same, that's what it was. I wish I had a shovel here. I seem
to remember burying something near my stone. If I could find that it
would prove I really remember."

"Why don't you forget it?" Dotty pleaded. "After all, even if it were
true, what does it matter _now_?"

"It matters to me. Ever since we arrived here I've seen familiar things.
Too familiar to be coincidence. I never felt this way before. I always
considered reincarnation as ancient superstitious belief, just like
everyone else. But not any more. I _know_. I lived here when all this
was new."

"But can't you just be satisfied to feel that you did and let it go at
that?" Dotty asked. "I'm afraid of what they would do to you if they
found out what you're thinking."

"Hah!" Herb snorted. "I have a feeling that before we leave Mars I'll be
able to prove it to them. Somewhere in this city is something that only
I know exists. It's hidden under stones that haven't been disturbed
since man first set foot on the planet. It isn't entirely clear yet, but
it will come--it will come. Then I'll make them listen. They'll dig, and
they'll find what I say is there. You wait and see."

"They'll lock you up, darling," Dotty said. "They won't believe you."

The guide was calling everyone back to the bus. I watched Herb scowl
fiercely at the stone marker that he believed to have been his, open his
mouth to say something, then turn away so that his lips were out of
sight. Regretfully I put the mirroscope away and went back to the bus.

       *       *       *       *       *

I knew where we were going next, and I was uneasy about it. Herb and
Dotty managed to sit together and I got a place right behind them where
I could eavesdrop. But they sat in silence.

The bus had left the ancient city behind, to head out over the desert
toward one of the few structures on Mars which had withstood the ravages
of time without crumbling. An immense dome of solid concrete reinforced
with pure copper rods harder than steel. The Martians had known what
Earth civilization didn't learn until around the year three thousand:
that copper can't be tempered, but pure copper becomes tempered of
itself in a thousand years.

That immense dome was a honeycomb of passageways and rooms, some of
which were not open to tourists. It would be a natural for Herb.

The bus stopped. The people were piling out and staring curiously at the
smooth surface of the dome. Especially at places where the reinforcement
rods were protruding and glittering like tarnished gold.

Two of the permanent guards had come out to take charge of the tour. I
caught the eye of one of them and nodded toward Herb. The guard caught
my meaning, edged over to his partner, and soon both men were warned
that Herb was to be closely watched.

I felt better, knowing that a couple of others knew about him. Maybe it
would have been smarter to have taken him in custody right then. But it
would have meant a scene.

The procedure of the tour was for the guide to do all the talking,
leading the procession through the roped off parts of the dome, while
the two guards followed along behind to make sure no stragglers got
left.

I let three or four people move in front of me so Herb wouldn't get
suspicious. Dotty was sticking close to him, plainly worried. And he was
more excited than he had been at any of the other spots. He fairly
quivered, his eyes caressing the walls with a fevered look.

Dotty didn't miss his increased agitation. Especially after he whispered
in her ear a couple of times.

The guide took the usual path. Straight into the dome, pausing at half a
dozen small rooms with carved walls, to arrive at a bank of elevators
installed in the exact center; then straight up to the roof and the
observation platform from which miles and miles of desert and ruins
could be seen. Then back down to the second level, a zig-zag course
through other rooms, and finally down a flight of steps to where the
tour started.

I kept my eyes on the back of Herb's head. You can tell a lot by doing
that. At first his head turned this way and that, indicating he was full
of curiosity. I was waiting for that telltale sudden tensing, with the
head directed at some spot, that would tell of a sudden "memory"
stirring in the man's mind.

I almost missed it when it came, because it was between two passages--a
blank wall. The briefest pause, then Herb was going on again as though
nothing had happened.

But now his head had stopped its curiosity-motivated pivotings. It was
the head of a man who was no longer curious--who has made up his mind
about something. I didn't like it.

And when the group emerged into open air once more without Herb having
tried anything I knew as certainly as I had ever known anything that he
intended coming back here, and soon.

In the comfort station before boarding the bus I scrawled a hasty note
to the guards to investigate the spot halfway between passageways 14 and
15 on the first level, and slipped it to one of them as I passed him to
get on the bus.

We visited four other spots on the tour. When Herb showed no real
interest in them it only clinched what I was already sure of, that he
planned on returning.

       *       *       *       *       *

At the Ancient City Hotel once again, I gave the high sign, and shortly
Herb and Dotty were being watched by capable men, leaving me free to go
to my room.

Once there, I called the dome. They were just getting the X-ray setup in
place to explore that wall and promised to call me as soon as they were
finished. Next I called C.I. and made my report. I was still making it
when the operator broke in.

"Steve Merrit wants to talk to you," she said crisply.

"Make the circuit three way," I said.

Steve's voice came in. "I had to get to you, Joe. This guy Herb and his
wife just left the hotel."

"C.I.'s listening too," I said. "Did they say anything that would point
to where they're going?"

"To the cemetery first. He swiped a couple of knives and forks when they
finished eating their dinner. Maybe for weapons."

"I doubt that," I said. "But I think it's time to pick him up. He's got
to be committed."

"Wait a minute," C.I. said. "Joe, you catch up with them. Join them and
play along. Tell this guy Herb you overheard him and guessed what was
going on. Gain his confidence if you can."

"That's pretty dangerous!" I replied. "That guy's--"

"It's orders," C.I. said. "Steve, you lay the net so that whatever
happens we can contain it."

That was that. Orders. But I still didn't like it.

I went to the desk and took out my compact paralysis tube. Then,
reluctantly, I put it back. I would have to play the part. The paralysis
tube would give me away as an agent. It would have to be up to Steve and
the others to contain the threat.

Down in the lobby I saw Steve waiting impatiently. He was uneasy, too.
"What's come over C.I.? They're toying with dynamite on this."

"I think I know what they want, they want to let him go far enough so we
can see more of the nature of the danger. And I hope nobody gets killed.
They should have spotted this Herb guy and not let him come here at all.
I suspect they did spot him, and let him come to conduct another of
their damned experiments. They don't want to leave well enough alone."

We were outside now. No one was around. The sun was just beginning to
set, and the instant it disappeared the night would be pitch-black. Even
if one of the moons was out.

"We'll be watching on the standard C.I. band," Steve assured me.
"They're at the temple right now, waiting for it to get dark." He
grinned. "Good luck." There was a mixture of genuineness, half mockery,
and worry in his voice.

At the temple ruins I found them easily enough and took the simplest
course. I walked right up to them.

"Hello," I said. "I thought I'd find you here. I want to go along with
you. I'm interested."

"What do you mean?" Herb was hostile and suspicious.

"You remember me. I was on the tour this afternoon. I accidentally
overheard you. It would _be_ something if reincarnation could be
proven."

"Do you believe in reincarnation?"

I frowned as though being cautious. "I don't know." Then I put a
disarming grin on my lips. "Since believing in it is legally classified
as insanity, for the records, no." It was a nice statement. It could
imply that I did, and Herb took that implication. He accepted me. Dotty
was different.

"How do you know he isn't an agent?" she asked Herb uneasily.

"If I am, the fat's in the fire," I told her. "But wouldn't I be locking
him up?" This quieted, but didn't satisfy her. "Anyway," I said, "if you
can dig up something that you remember burying, an extra witness won't
do any harm. That's what you're after, isn't it? Proof that will end the
last bit of doubt?"

"That's right," Herb said. "And you can help me dig."

"Okay then," I said. And it was settled. We introduced ourselves, then
lapsed into silence while we waited for the sun to set. It wasn't long.

       *       *       *       *       *

The place looked more like a cemetery than ever in the eerie glow of
black light pencils as we made our way along a row of stone markers.
Herb strode purposefully. Dotty stuck close to him, still a little
suspicious of me. I trailed half a step behind.

Finally Herb stopped beside one of the markers. "This is it," he said
softly. I blinked at the marker, then at Herb. It wasn't the one he had
singled out in the afternoon. Was he mixed up?

If he wasn't he was a good actor. He took out one of the dinner knives
and squatted down and started to probe the soil, loosening it so that it
could be scraped out by hand.

I watched him dig. Part of the time I helped him. We found nothing.
After a reasonable amount of this Herb stood up with a resigned sigh.
"Guess I was wrong," he said.

"Poor Herby," Dotty said.

"Yeah, poor Herby," Herb said with every appearance of tiredness and
defeat. "But--that's that. Sorry to have gotten you all excited about
nothing, Joe. Guess it was too much to expect anything." He turned to
Dotty. "As long as we're out here, let's take a walk by ourselves. Huh?"

That was as obvious a cue as I had ever been handed. Neat. I was
confronted with the alternatives of scramming or calling him a liar.

"Guess I might as well go back to the hotel," I said cheerfully. "See
you in the morning."

I headed back the way we had come until I was sure they couldn't hear me
or see me with their black light pencils. Then, ducking down next to a
marker I waited. After a couple of minutes I heard cautious footsteps.

"It's me, Joe--Steve."

"Good," I grunted. "What are they doing now? They gave me the
brush-off."

"I got the play," Steve said. "Slick. Should we close in now, or wait?"

"I think I'll play my part a little further. Don't want C.I. to think
we're timid."

"Okay," Steve said. "The next funeral we attend may be our own."

"Yeah," I said. "It might."

I moved into the darkness, not using my black light pencil, but keeping
my sensitized glasses on so I could see Herb's if I got close enough.

I reached the spot where we had done the digging. I hesitated, then kept
on, toward the spot where Herb and Dotty had been so engrossed that
afternoon. In my mind's eye I knew exactly where it was.

My hands explored ahead of me, searching out each stone marker along my
path, clinging to it as I passed it, and slipping off as I went on to
the next. They were my only contact with reality in this total
blackness.

I was thinking, too. I was thinking of what Herb had said about this
being a parking area for airsleds back before the earliest known records
of man on Earth when this city was alive. He was probably right about it
at that. Analysis had shown the presence of copper and aluminum in the
top surface of some of the markers that could only be accounted for by
some metallic object setting atop each one long ago, and remaining so
that molecular and atomic creep could set in, carrying such atoms deep
into the surface crystals of the stone.

And I was wondering what it was he hoped to dig up. If it were some sort
of weapon it probably wouldn't work after all this time. It couldn't! Or
could it? A few things had been pieced together about the ancient
Martian civilization. Not much, but enough to be sure that they knew a
few things we had never discovered. They had been masters at creating
machines with no moving parts. The electronic devices we had found had
proven they knew far more about V.H.F. than we did.

I could see what C.I. was aiming at now. We might not even recognize
what Herb was searching for. It would be better to let him find it, and
get it from him before he could use it. If it was a weapon.

And it probably was a weapon. I was pretty sure his main objective was
hidden in the wall in the dome, and that this thing in the cemetery was
something that would help him get to that objective.

My thoughts came back to my surroundings. I was less than a dozen feet
from where Herb and Dotty should be. I stopped. There was no trace of
black light. I held my breath and listened. And I heard the faint
scraping of the knife against stone.

       *       *       *       *       *

I wished fervently that I had a standard C.I. infrascope so that I could
see. Steve probably knew more of what was going on than I did. I had
counted on watching Herb by his own black light pencil, and he was
working in darkness.

Carefully I stole forward, inch by slow inch, my ears tuned for the
faintest significant sound such as a grunt of satisfaction that would
tell of finding what he was digging for.

And a million thoughts taunted me, thoughts about the latest discoveries
in disintegration frequencies, thoughts about how little we knew of that
ancient Martian civilization.

But also I was figuring what Herb would do. He would find the object he
was digging for. Unwittingly he would grunt his triumph. Dotty might
forget his strict warnings to be quiet, and say something. Regardless of
that, he would stand up slowly, fondling what he had found, remembering
what it was and how it worked. There would be a few seconds before it
would become a weapon in his hands, seconds that I had to make the most
use of, and be ready for.

"Uh!" It was the triumphant grunt I had known would come.

Sudden panic made me cast aside whatever vague plan of action I had had.

I turned on my pencil, bathing the two in its black light. At the same
time I said, "I _thought_ it was a scheme to get rid of me."

It was the element of surprise that saved me. A still picture of the
scene the black light disclosed etched itself into my mind. There was an
object in Herb's hand. A strange, meaningless object, dirty, yet with
definite form. It was cradled in his hand like a weapon. It was pointed
almost at me.

I dropped my pencil and went in low, diving for his legs. I felt the air
crackle where I had just stood. As my arms encircled his legs I heard
thunder exploding nearby.

Training has its advantages. The moment I felt contact with Herb that
training took over. I jerked and rolled in a movement calculated to
throw him to the ground face down, the motion ending in a backbreaker
hold.

But only a part of my mind was concerned with that. The other part was
frozen with horror. Approximately a half acre of the cemetery was
glowing. I saw Steve in the center of it with Herb's weapon pointing his
way. The very inertia of matter held Steve together for that brief
instant, then he was falling apart, melting and evaporating at the same
time, just like the stone markers and the ground around him.

I had the thing away from him suddenly, and I wondered what to do next.
Running footsteps gave me the answer. It was other C.I. agents closing
in.

Seconds later they had Herb under control. Dotty was wringing her hands
and crying.

Me, I was holding the thing, afraid to let go of it and afraid to keep
on holding it. But as the seconds passed without it exploding into
destructive action again I began to let myself think I might live a
while longer.

The area of destruction was molten now. Its heat was like that of an
open blast furnace.

We skirted it and headed toward the road, lights in the distance telling
us that cars were on the way to get us.

I saw Dotty stumble. I took her arm. She looked up at me, recognized me
in the light from the glowing pool of bubbling lava, and tried to pull
away.

"Take it easy," I said gruffly. "I'm your friend. Maybe the only friend
you've got here."

Her look told me she didn't believe me, but she didn't pull away any
more.

We walked along, and after a moment she seemed to struggle up out of her
mental paralysis.

"Herb was right!" she said in a low, wondering tone. "He really did
remember."

"It was plain coincidence," I said sharply, "and don't ever let yourself
think differently. He's insane. It's a recognized form of insanity.
He'll be sent to a good mental hospital, and in a year or two he'll come
out good as new."

"Coincidence?" she echoed. Then she laughed. It was mirth that drifted
quickly into hysterical hopelessness. I dug my fingers into her flesh
until the pain brought her to her senses.

"Coincidence," I said. "Nothing more. I've seen seventeen cases just
like his. How else did I spot him? I recognized the type. None of the
others found what they rationalized themselves into thinking they
remembered from the time they were Martians. Eventually one of them
would stumble onto something. That's coincidence. Not incarnated
memory."

She turned her head and blinked at me. I nodded grimly. "I'm an agent,"
I said. "I go out on the tours for one purpose only--to spot psychos and
make sure they don't get out of control. You'd be surprised how many
there are. Some of them, like your husband, probably show no sign of
instability until they get here. They look around at the evidence of a
civilization that existed before _homo sapiens_ had evolved on the
Earth, and it throws them. If you want to understand more about it read
the medical books. They get irrational pre-memories. They look at
something and the idea of familiarity associates with the new
impression. They look around a corner and see something, and build up
the conviction that they had consciously known what was there before
they looked around the corner."

I felt that I was making headway with her. I wanted to. I had to.

"You--you say there were others, and they didn't find anything?" she
said. She was groping for something logical to grasp. I had to give her
that something.

"That's right," I said. "And the law of averages said that someday
someone would uncover something that's been missed."

She was nodding slowly now, accepting what I was saying. It was
authoritative. She would find confirmation in authoritative books. If
she wanted to pursue the subject she would find plenty of evidence, real
evidence, to support it. It is a common form of insanity. It was
important that she believe that.

We reached the road. C.I. had been prepared. There was a car to take her
back to the hotel, a stationwagon for Herb who was now very submissive
and somewhat dazed, and a third car for me and my precious cargo.

       *       *       *       *       *

Ten minutes later I was in the Science Building basement, laying the
thing on a wooden table, very gently. It seemed solid, each integral
part of its form being of a different metal.

None of the men watching me lay it down discounted the danger it
contained. They knew too much about how shape and dimension can affect
the electronic properties of metal. They knew the thing probably didn't
contain an erg of power of its own, but probably triggered and directed
the release of cosmic energies as yet unknown to them.

They stared at it. One of them reached out to touch it, then slowly drew
his finger back.

I could see the decision crystallizing in their minds behind their
serious eyes. This thing would go with the other strange and
incomprehensible machines locked in vaults in a concrete building far
out on the Martian desert away from the tourist trails of this dead
planet. It would remain there until the day when human science advanced
far enough to understand it.

"What about the wall in the dome?" I asked.

"They roped it off. They're afraid of it."

"Did you convince his wife he's insane?" one of the science staff asked.

I nodded. "I used the same old line. Told her there were dozens like
him, and the law of averages made it certain at least one of them would
find something."

He nodded, grinned without humor. "How we love to lie."

I turned away. There was a bitter taste in my mouth from all the lies
I'd told--all the bilge.

But I knew the truth, too. I was as sure of that as I was of anything.
It wasn't insanity, of course. And it wasn't reincarnation. It seemed to
be, because the mind has a habit of _possessing_ for its very own
anything that enters it.

The truth of the matter was that somehow, in some incomprehensible way,
the Martians were still with us. They hated us and they knew how to use
our weak ones.

The old Martians--and their science.

I took a last look at the weapon lying on the table, then left the room
and climbed the stairs to the first floor. I walked down the silent,
empty hall to the exit and out into the night.

I let my eyes roam the blackness of the lifeless Martian desert. With an
effort I pulled them away and fixed them on the warmth, the human
warmth, beckoning from the hotel.

I started walking toward that bit of comfort, and as I walked the
eternal question that haunted all of us in C.I. hovered in the
background of my thoughts.

Would we be able to _contain_ the Martians until we understood the
terrible machines they had left as a deadly heritage?

Tonight we almost hadn't....

I thought of Steve.





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public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.



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