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´╗┐Title: It's a Small Solar System
Author: Howard, Allan
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 "It's a Small Solar System" ***

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    _Frederik Pohl wrote recently about the time, when he was young,
    when he spent more time in Barsoom than in Brooklyn. Allan Howard,
    Director of the Eastern Science Fiction Association in Newark, takes
    us back to those nostalgic days in this vignette of man's first
    hours on Mars._



 Soon the three representatives of Earth were walking
 shoulder to shoulder, the Captain first to touch soil.

Know him?

Well you might say I practically grew up with him. He was my hero in
those days. I thought few wiser or greater men ever lived. In my eyes he
was greater than Babe Ruth, Lindy, or the President.

Of course, time, and my growing up caused me to bring him into a
perspective that I felt to be more consonant with his true position in
his field of endeavor. When he died his friends mourned for fond
remembrance of things past, but privately many of them felt that he had
outlived his best days. Now with this glorious vindication, I wonder how
many of them are still alive to feel the twinge of conscience....

Oh, we're delighted of course, but it seems incredible even today to us
elated oldsters. Although we were always his staunchest admirers, in
retrospect we can see now that no one believed more than we that he did
it strictly for the dollar. It is likely there was always a small corps
of starry-eyed adolescents who found the whole improbable saga entirely
believable, or at least half believed it might be partly true. The
attitude of the rest of us ranged from a patronizing disparagement that
we thought was expected of us, through grudging admiration, to
out-and-out enthusiasm.

Certainly if anybody had taken the trouble to consider it--and why
should they have?--the landing of the first manned ship on our satellite
seemed to render him as obsolete as a horde of other lesser and even
greater lights. At any rate, it was inevitable that the conquest of the
moon would be merely a stepping-stone to more distant points.

Oh, no, I had nothing to do with the selection of the Red Planet. Coming
in as head of Project P-4 in its latter stages, as I did when Dr.
Fredericks died, the selection had already been made. Yes, it's quite
likely I may have been plugging for Mars below the conscious level. A
combination of chance, expediency and popular demand made Mars the next
target, rather than Venus, which was, in some ways, the more logical
goal. I would have given anything to have gone, but the metaphorical
stout heart that one reporter once credited me with is not the same as
an old man's actual fatty heart.

And there were heartbreak years ahead before the _Goddard_ was finally
ready. During this time he slipped further into obscurity while big,
important things were happening all around us. You're right, that one
really big creation of his _is_ bigger than ever. It has passed into the
language, and meant employment for thousands of people. Too few of them
have even heard of him. Of course, he was still known and welcomed by a
small circle of acquaintances, but to the world at large he was truly a
"forgotten man."

It is worthy of note that one of the oldest of these acquaintances was
present at blast-off time. He happened to be the grandfather of a
certain competent young crewman. The old man was a proud figure during
the brief ceremonies and his eyes filled with tears as the mighty rocket
climbed straight up on its fiery tail. He remained there gazing up at
the sky long after it had vanished.

He was heard to murmur, "I am glad the kid could go, but it is just a
lark to him. He never had a 'sense of wonder.' How could he--nobody
reads anymore."

Afterward, his senile emotions betraying him, he broke down completely
and had to be led from the field. It is rumored he did not live long
after that.

The _Goddard_ drove on until Mars filled the viz-screen. It was planned
to make at least a half-dozen braking passes around the planet for
observational purposes before the actual business of bringing the ship
in for landfall began. As expected the atmosphere proved to be thin. The
speculated dead-sea areas, oddly enough, turned out to be just that. To
the surprise of some, it was soon evident that Mars possessed, or had
possessed, a high civilization. The _canali_ of Schiaparelli were indeed
broad waterways stretching from pole to pole, too regular to be anything
but the work of intelligence. But most wonderful of all were the
scattered, but fairly numerous large, walled cities that dotted the
world. Everybody was excited, eager to land and start exercising their

One of the largest of these cities was selected more or less at random.
It was decided to set down just outside, yet far enough from the walls
to avoid any possibility of damage from the landing jets in the event
the city was inhabited. Even if deserted, the entire scientific
personnel would have raised a howl that would have been heard back on
Earth if just a section of wall was scorched. When planet-fall was
completed and observers had time to scan the surroundings it was seen
that the city was very much alive.

"What keeps them up!" marvelled Kopchainski, the aeronautics and
rocketry authority.

The sky swarmed with ships of strange design. The walls were crowded
with inhabitants, too far away for detailed observation. Even as they
looked an enormous gate opened and a procession of mounted figures
emerged. In the event the place was deserted, the Captain would have had
the honor of being the first to touch Martian soil. While atmospheric
and other checks were being run, he gave orders for the previously
decided alternative. Captain, semanticist and anthropologist would make
the First Contact.

With all checks agreeing that it was safe to open locks, soon the three
representatives of Earth were walking shoulder to shoulder down the
ramp. It was apparent that the two scientists purposely missed stride
inches from the end, so that it was the Captain's foot that actually
touched ground first.

The cavalcade--though these beasties were certainly not horses--was now
near enough to the ship for details to be seen. Surprise and wonderment
filled the crew, for while the multi-legged steeds were as alien as
anyone might expect to find on an alien world, the riders were very
definitely humanoid. Briefly, brightly and barbarically trapped as they
were by earthly standards, they seemed to be little distinguishable from
homegrown homo saps.

The approaching company appeared to be armed mainly with swords and
lances, but also in evidence were some tubular affairs that could very
well be some sort of projectile-discharging device. The Captain suddenly
felt unaccountably warm. It was a heavy responsibility--he hoped these
Martians wouldn't be the type of madmen who believed in the "shoot
first, inquire later" theory.

Even as he stood there, outwardly calm but jittering internally, the
Martian riders pulled up ten feet from the Earthmen. Their leader, tall,
dark-haired, and subtly lighter in hue than his companions, dismounted
and approached the Captain. With outstretched hand he took the Captain's
in a firm grip.

Let it be recorded here, to the shame of an Earth where reading for
pleasure is virtually a lost pastime, that not one man on the _Goddard_
realized the significance of what followed.

"How do you do?" he said in perfect English, with an unmistakable trace
of Southern accent.

"Welcome to Barsoom! My name is John Carter."

Transcriber's Note:

    This etext was produced from _Fantastic Universe_ September 1957.
    Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that the U.S.
    copyright on this publication was renewed. Minor spelling and
    typographical errors have been corrected without note.

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