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´╗┐Title: The Dope on Mars
Author: Sharkey, Jack, 1931-
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 Dope on Mars" ***

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[Illustration]

 THE DOPE
 on Mars

 By JACK SHARKEY

 _Somebody had to get the human
 angle on this trip ... but what
 was humane about sending me?_

                                                   Illustrated by WOOD


My agent was the one who got me the job of going along to write up the
first trip to Mars. He was always getting me things like
that--appearances on TV shows, or mentions in writers' magazines. If he
didn't sell much of my stuff, at least he sold _me_.

"It'll be the biggest break a writer ever got," he told me, two days
before blastoff. "Oh, sure there'll be scientific reports on the trip,
but the public doesn't want them; they want the _human_ slant on
things."

"But, Louie," I said weakly, "I'll probably be locked up for the whole
trip. If there are fights or accidents, they won't tell _me_ about
them."

"Nonsense," said Louie, sipping carefully at a paper cup of scalding
coffee. "It'll be just like the public going along vicariously. They'll
_identify_ with you."

"But, Louie," I said, wiping the dampness from my palms on the knees of
my trousers as I sat there, "how'll I go about it? A story? An article?
A _you-are-there_ type of report? What?"

Louie shrugged. "So keep a diary. It'll be more intimate, like."

"But what if nothing happens?" I insisted hopelessly.

Louie smiled. "So you fake it."

I got up from the chair in his office and stepped to the door. "That's
dishonest," I pointed out.

"Creative is the word," Louie said.

So I went on the first trip to Mars. And I kept a diary. This is it. And
it is honest. Honest it is.

       *       *       *       *       *

                                                     _October 1, 1960_

They picked the launching date from the March, 1959, New York _Times_,
which stated that this was the most likely time for launching. Trip time
is supposed to take 260 days (that's one way), so we're aimed toward
where Mars will be (had _better_ be, or else).

There are five of us on board. A pilot, co-pilot, navigator and
biochemist. And, of course, me. I've met all but the pilot (he's very
busy today), and they seem friendly enough.

Dwight Kroger, the biochemist, is rather old to take the "rigors of the
journey," as he puts it, but the government had a choice between sending
a green scientist who could stand the trip or an accomplished man who
would probably not survive, so they picked Kroger. We've blasted off,
though, and he's still with us. He looks a damn sight better than I
feel. He's kind of balding, and very iron-gray-haired and skinny, but
his skin is tan as an Indian's, and right now he's telling jokes in the
washroom with the co-pilot.

Jones (that's the co-pilot; I didn't quite catch his first name) is
scarlet-faced, barrel-chested and gives the general appearance of
belonging under the spreading chestnut tree, not in a metal bullet
flinging itself out into airless space. Come to think of it, who _does_
belong where we are?

The navigator's name is Lloyd Streeter, but I haven't seen his face yet.
He has a little cubicle behind the pilot's compartment, with all kinds of
maps and rulers and things. He keeps bent low over a welded-to-the-wall
(they call it the bulkhead, for some reason or other) table, scratching
away with a ballpoint pen on the maps, and now and then calling numbers
over a microphone to the pilot. His hair is red and curly, and he looks
as though he'd be tall if he ever gets to stand up. There are freckles
on the backs of his hands, so I think he's probably got them on his
face, too. So far, all he's said is, "Scram, I'm busy."

Kroger tells me that the pilot's name is Patrick Desmond, but that I can
call him Pat when I get to know him better. So far, he's still Captain
Desmond to me. I haven't the vaguest idea what he looks like. He was
already on board when I got here, with my typewriter and ream of paper,
so we didn't meet.

My compartment is small but clean. I mean clean now. It wasn't during
blastoff. The inertial gravities didn't bother me so much as the
gyroscopic spin they put on the ship so we have a sort of artificial
gravity to hold us against the curved floor. It's that constant whirly
feeling that gets me. I get sick on merry-go-rounds, too.

They're having pork for dinner today. Not me.

       *       *       *       *       *

                                                     _October 2, 1960_

Feeling much better today. Kroger gave me a box of Dramamine pills. He
says they'll help my stomach. So far, so good.

Lloyd came by, also. "You play chess?" he asked.

"A little," I admitted.

"How about a game sometime?"

"Sure," I said. "Do you have a board?"

He didn't.

Lloyd went away then, but the interview wasn't wasted. I learned that he
_is_ tall and _does_ have a freckled face. Maybe we can build a
chessboard. With my paper and his ballpoint pen and ruler, it should be
easy. Don't know what we'll use for pieces, though.

Jones (I still haven't learned his first name) has been up with the
pilot all day. He passed my room on the way to the galley (the kitchen)
for a cup of dark brown coffee (they like it thick) and told me that we
were almost past the Moon. I asked to look, but he said not yet; the
instrument panel is Top Secret. They'd have to cover it so I could look
out the viewing screen, and they still need it for steering or
something.

I still haven't met the pilot.

       *       *       *       *       *

                                                     _October 3, 1960_

Well, I've met the pilot. He is kind of squat, with a vulturish neck and
close-set jet-black eyes that make him look rather mean, but he was
pleasant enough, and said I could call him Pat. I still don't know
Jones' first name, though Pat spoke to him, and it sounded like Flants.
That can't be right.

Also, I am one of the first five men in the history of the world to see
the opposite side of the Moon, with a bluish blurred crescent beyond it
that Pat said was the Earth. The back of the Moon isn't much different
from the front. As to the space in front of the ship, well, it's all
black with white dots in it, and none of the dots move, except in a
circle that Pat says is a "torque" result from the gyroscopic spin we're
in. Actually, he explained to me, the screen is supposed to keep the
image of space locked into place no matter how much we spin. But there's
some kind of a "drag." I told him I hoped it didn't mean we'd land on
Mars upside down. He just stared at me.

I can't say I was too impressed with that 16 x 19 view of outer space.
It's been done much better in the movies. There's just no awesomeness to
it, no sense of depth or immensity. It's as impressive as a piece of
velvet with salt sprinkled on it.

Lloyd and I made a chessboard out of a carton. Right now we're using
buttons for men. He's one of these fast players who don't stop and think
out their moves. And so far I haven't won a game.

It looks like a long trip.

       *       *       *       *       *

                                                     _October 4, 1960_

I won a game. Lloyd mistook my queen-button for my bishop-button and
left his king in jeopardy, and I checkmated him next move. He said chess
was a waste of time and he had important work to do and he went away.

I went to the galley for coffee and had a talk about moss with Kroger.
He said there was a good chance of lichen on Mars, and I misunderstood
and said, "A good chance of liking _what_ on Mars?" and Kroger finished
his coffee and went up front.

When I got back to my compartment, Lloyd had taken away the chessboard
and all his buttons. He told me later he needed it to back up a star
map.

Pat slept mostly all day in his compartment, and Jones sat and watched
the screen revolve. There wasn't much to do, so I wrote a poem, sort of.

    _Mary, Mary, quite contrary,
    How does your garden grow?
    With Martian rime, Venusian slime,
    And a radioactive hoe._

I showed it to Kroger. He says it may prove to be environmentally
accurate, but that I should stick to prose.

       *       *       *       *       *

                                                     _October 5, 1960_

Learned Jones' first name. He wrote something in the ship's log, and I
saw his signature. His name is Fleance, like in "Macbeth." He prefers to
be called Jones. Pat uses his first name as a gag. Some fun.

And only 255 days to go.

[Illustration]

       *       *       *       *       *

                                                       _April 1, 1961_

I've skipped over the last 177 days or so, because there's nothing much
new. I brought some books with me on the trip, books that I'd always
meant to read and never had the time. So now I know all about _Vanity
Fair_, _Pride and Prejudice_, _War and Peace_, _Gone with the Wind_, and
_Babbitt_.

They didn't take as long as I thought they would, except for _Vanity
Fair_. It must have been a riot when it first came out. I mean, all
those sly digs at the aristocracy, with copious interpolations by Mr.
Thackeray in case you didn't get it when he'd pulled a particularly good
gag. Some fun.

And only 78 days to go.

       *       *       *       *       *

                                                        _June 1, 1961_

Only 17 days to go. I saw Mars on the screen today. It seems to be
descending from overhead, but Pat says that that's the "torque" doing
it. Actually, it's we who are coming in sideways.

We've all grown beards, too. Pat said it was against regulations, but
what the hell. We have a contest. Longest whiskers on landing gets a
prize.

I asked Pat what the prize was and he told me to go to hell.

       *       *       *       *       *

                                                       _June 18, 1961_

Mars has the whole screen filled. Looks like Death Valley. No sign of
canals, but Pat says that's because of the dust storm down below. It's
nice to have a "down below" again. We're going to land, so I have to go
to my bunk. It's all foam rubber, nylon braid supports and magnesium
tubing. Might as well be cement for all the good it did me at takeoff.
Earth seems awfully far away.

       *       *       *       *       *

                                                       _June 19, 1961_

Well, we're down. We have to wear gas masks with oxygen hook-ups. Kroger
says the air is breathable, but thin, and it has too much dust in it to
be any fun to inhale. He's all for going out and looking for lichen, but
Pat says he's got to set up camp, then get instructions from Earth. So
we just have to wait. The air is very cold, but the Sun is hot as hell
when it hits you. The sky is a blinding pink, or maybe more of a pale
fuchsia. Kroger says it's the dust. The sand underfoot is kind of
rose-colored, and not really gritty. The particles are round and smooth.

No lichen so far. Kroger says maybe in the canals, if there are any
canals. Lloyd wants to play chess again.

Jones won the beard contest. Pat gave him a cigar he'd smuggled on board
(no smoking was allowed on the ship), and Jones threw it away. He
doesn't smoke.

       *       *       *       *       *

                                                       _June 20, 1961_

Got lost today. Pat told me not to go too far from camp, so, when I
took a stroll, I made sure every so often that I could still see the
rocket behind me. Walked for maybe an hour; then the oxygen gauge got
past the halfway mark, so I started back toward the rocket. After maybe
ten steps, the rocket disappeared. One minute it was standing there,
tall and silvery, the next instant it was gone.

Turned on my radio pack and got hold of Pat. Told him what happened, and
he told Kroger. Kroger said I had been following a mirage, to step back
a bit. I did, and I could see the ship again. Kroger said to try and
walk toward where the ship seemed to be, even when it wasn't in view,
and meantime they'd come out after me in the jeep, following my
footprints.

Started walking back, and the ship vanished again. It reappeared,
disappeared, but I kept going. Finally saw the real ship, and Lloyd and
Jones waving their arms at me. They were shouting through their masks,
but I couldn't hear them. The air is too thin to carry sound well.

All at once, something gleamed in their hands, and they started shooting
at me with their rifles. That's when I heard the noise behind me. I was
too scared to turn around, but finally Jones and Lloyd came running
over, and I got up enough nerve to look. There was nothing there, but on
the sand, paralleling mine, were footprints. At least I think they were
footprints. Twice as long as mine, and three times as wide, but kind of
featureless because the sand's loose and dry. They doubled back on
themselves, spaced considerably farther apart.

"What was it?" I asked Lloyd when he got to me.

"Damned if I know," he said. "It was red and scaly, and I think it had a
tail. It was two heads taller than you." He shuddered. "Ran off when we
fired."

"Where," said Jones, "are Pat and Kroger?"

I didn't know. I hadn't seen them, nor the jeep, on my trip back. So we
followed the wheel tracks for a while, and they veered off from my trail
and followed another, very much like the one that had been paralleling
mine when Jones and Lloyd had taken a shot at the scaly thing.

"We'd better get them on the radio," said Jones, turning back toward the
ship.

There wasn't anything on the radio but static.

Pat and Kroger haven't come back yet, either.

       *       *       *       *       *

                                                       _June 21, 1961_

We're not alone here. More of the scaly things have come toward the
camp, but a few rifle shots send them away. They hop like kangaroos when
they're startled. Their attitudes aren't menacing, but their appearance
is. And Jones says, "Who knows what's 'menacing' in an alien?"

We're going to look for Kroger and Pat today. Jones says we'd better
before another windstorm blows away the jeep tracks. Fortunately, the
jeep has a leaky oil pan, so we always have the smears to follow, unless
they get covered up, too. We're taking extra oxygen, shells, and rifles.
Food, too, of course. And we're locking up the ship.

       *       *       *       *       *

It's later, now. We found the jeep, but no Kroger or Pat. Lots of those
big tracks nearby. We're taking the jeep to follow the aliens' tracks.
There's some moss around here, on reddish brown rocks that stick up
through the sand, just on the shady side, though. Kroger must be happy
to have found his lichen.

The trail ended at the brink of a deep crevice in the ground. Seems to
be an earthquake-type split in solid rock, with the sand sifting over
this and the far edge like pink silk cataracts. The bottom is in the
shade and can't be seen. The crack seems to extend to our left and right
as far as we can look.

There looks like a trail down the inside of the crevice, but the Sun's
setting, so we're waiting till tomorrow to go down.

Going down was Jones' idea, not mine.

       *       *       *       *       *

                                                       _June 22, 1961_

Well, we're at the bottom, and there's water here, a shallow stream
about thirty feet wide that runs along the center of the canal (we've
decided we're in a canal). No sign of Pat or Kroger yet, but the sand
here is hard-packed and damp, and there are normal-size footprints
mingled with the alien ones, sharp and clear. The aliens seem to have
six or seven toes. It varies from print to print. And they're barefoot,
too, or else they have the damnedest-looking shoes in creation.

The constant shower of sand near the cliff walls is annoying, but it's
sandless (shower-wise) near the stream, so we're following the
footprints along the bank. Also, the air's better down here. Still thin,
but not so bad as on the surface. We're going without masks to save
oxygen for the return trip (Jones assures me there'll _be_ a return
trip), and the air's only a little bit sandy, but handkerchiefs over
nose and mouth solve this.

We look like desperadoes, what with the rifles and covered faces. I said
as much to Lloyd and he told me to shut up. Moss all over the cliff
walls. Swell luck for Kroger.

       *       *       *       *       *

We've found Kroger and Pat, with the help of the aliens. Or maybe I
should call them the Martians. Either way, it's better than what Jones
calls them.

They took away our rifles and brought us right to Kroger and Pat,
without our even asking. Jones is mad at the way they got the rifles so
easily. When we came upon them (a group of maybe ten, huddling behind a
boulder in ambush), he fired, but the shots either bounced off their
scales or stuck in their thick hides. Anyway, they took the rifles away
and threw them into the stream, and picked us all up and took us into a
hole in the cliff wall. The hole went on practically forever, but it
didn't get dark. Kroger tells me that there are phosphorescent bacteria
living in the mold on the walls. The air has a fresh-dug-grave smell,
but it's richer in oxygen than even at the stream.

We're in a small cave that is just off a bigger cave where lots of
tunnels come together. I can't remember which one we came in through,
and neither can anyone else. Jones asked me what the hell I kept writing
in the diary for, did I want to make it a gift to Martian archeologists?
But I said where there's life there's hope, and now he won't talk to me.
I congratulated Kroger on the lichen I'd seen, but he just said a short
and unscientific word and went to sleep.

There's a Martian guarding the entrance to our cave. I don't know what
they intend to do with us. Feed us, I hope. So far, they've just left us
here, and we're out of rations.

Kroger tried talking to the guard once, but he (or it) made a whistling
kind of sound and flashed a mouthful of teeth. Kroger says the teeth are
in multiple rows, like a tiger shark's. I'd rather he hadn't told me.

       *       *       *       *       *

                                              _June 23, 1961, I think_

We're either in a docket or a zoo. I can't tell which. There's a rather
square platform surrounded on all four sides by running water, maybe
twenty feet across, and we're on it. Martians keep coming to the far
edge of the water and looking at us and whistling at each other. A
little Martian came near the edge of the water and a larger Martian
whistled like crazy and dragged it away.

"Water must be dangerous to them," said Kroger.

"We shoulda brought water pistols," Jones muttered.

Pat said maybe we can swim to safety. Kroger told Pat he was crazy, that
the little island we're on here underground is bordered by a fast river
that goes into the planet. We'd end up drowned in some grotto in the
heart of the planet, says Kroger.

"What the hell," says Pat, "it's better than starving."

It is not.

       *       *       *       *       *

                                             _June 24, 1961, probably_

I'm hungry. So is everybody else. Right now I could eat a dinner raw, in
a centrifuge, and keep it down. A Martian threw a stone at Jones today,
and Jones threw one back at him and broke off a couple of scales. The
Martian whistled furiously and went away. When the crowd thinned out,
same as it did yesterday (must be some sort of sleeping cycle here),
Kroger talked Lloyd into swimming across the river and getting the red
scales. Lloyd started at the upstream part of the current, and was about
a hundred yards below this underground island before he made the far
side. Sure is a swift current.

But he got the scales, walked very far upstream of us, and swam back
with them. The stream sides are steep, like in a fjord, and we had to
lift him out of the swirling cold water, with the scales gripped in his
fist. Or what was left of the scales. They had melted down in the water
and left his hand all sticky.

Kroger took the gummy things, studied them in the uncertain light, then
tasted them and grinned.

The Martians are made of sugar.

       *       *       *       *       *

Later, same day. Kroger said that the Martian metabolism must be like
Terran (Earth-type) metabolism, only with no pancreas to make insulin.
They store their energy on the _outside_ of their bodies, in the form of
scales. He's watched them more closely and seen that they have long
rubbery tubes for tongues, and that they now and then suck up water from
the stream while they're watching us, being careful not to get their
lips (all sugar, of course) wet. He guesses that their "blood" must be
almost pure water, and that it washes away (from the inside, of course)
the sugar they need for energy.

I asked him where the sugar came from, and he said probably their bodies
isolated carbon from something (he thought it might be the moss) and
combined it with the hydrogen and oxygen in the water (even _I_ knew the
formula for water) to make sugar, a common carbohydrate.

Like plants, on Earth, he said. Except, instead of using special cells
on leaves to form carbohydrates with the help of sunpower, as Earth
plants do in photosynthesis (Kroger spelled that word for me), they used
the _shape_ of the scales like prisms, to isolate the spectra (another
Kroger word) necessary to form the sugar.

"I don't get it," I said politely, when he'd finished his spiel.

"Simple," he said, as though he were addressing me by name. "They have a
twofold reason to fear water. One: by complete solvency in that medium,
they lose all energy and die. Two: even partial sprinkling alters the
shape of the scales, and they are unable to use sunpower to form more
sugar, and still die, if a bit slower."

"Oh," I said, taking it down verbatim. "So now what do we do?"

"We remove our boots," said Kroger, sitting on the ground and doing so,
"and then we cross this stream, fill the boots with water, and _spray_
our way to freedom."

"Which tunnel do we take?" asked Pat, his eyes aglow at the thought of
escape.

Kroger shrugged. "We'll have to chance taking any that seem to slope
upward. In any event, we can always follow it back and start again."

"I dunno," said Jones. "Remember those _teeth_ of theirs. They must be
for biting something more substantial than moss, Kroger."

"We'll risk it," said Pat. "It's better to go down fighting than to die
of starvation."

The hell it is.

       *       *       *       *       *

                                             _June 24, 1961, for sure_

The Martians have coal mines. _That's_ what they use those teeth for. We
passed through one and surprised a lot of them chewing gritty hunks of
anthracite out of the walls. They came running at us, whistling with
those tubelike tongues, and drooling dry coal dust, but Pat swung one of
his boots in an arc that splashed all over the ground in front of them,
and they turned tail (literally) and clattered off down another tunnel,
sounding like a locomotive whistle gone berserk.

We made the surface in another hour, back in the canal, and were lucky
enough to find our own trail to follow toward the place above which the
jeep still waited.

Jones got the rifles out of the stream (the Martians had probably
thought they were beyond recovery there) and we found the jeep. It was
nearly buried in sand, but we got it cleaned off and running, and got
back to the ship quickly. First thing we did on arriving was to break
out the stores and have a celebration feast just outside the door of the
ship.

It was pork again, and I got sick.

       *       *       *       *       *

                                                       _June 25, 1961_

We're going back. Pat says that a week is all we were allowed to stay
and that it's urgent to return and tell what we've learned about Mars
(we know there are Martians, and they're made of sugar).

"Why," I said, "can't we just tell it on the radio?"

"Because," said Pat, "if we tell them now, by the time we get back we'll
be yesterday's news. This way we may be lucky and get a parade."

"Maybe even money," said Kroger, whose mind wasn't always on science.

"But they'll ask why we didn't radio the info, sir," said Jones
uneasily.

"The radio," said Pat, nodding to Lloyd, "was unfortunately broken
shortly after landing."

Lloyd blinked, then nodded back and walked around the rocket. I heard a
crunching sound and the shattering of glass, not unlike the noise made
when one drives a rifle butt through a radio.

Well, it's time for takeoff.

       *       *       *       *       *

This time it wasn't so bad. I thought I was getting my space-legs, but
Pat says there's less gravity on Mars, so escape velocity didn't have to
be so fast, hence a smoother (relatively) trip on our shock-absorbing
bunks.

Lloyd wants to play chess again. I'll be careful not to win this time.
However, if I don't win, maybe this time _I'll_ be the one to quit.

Kroger is busy in his cramped lab space trying to classify the little
moss he was able to gather, and Jones and Pat are up front watching the
white specks revolve on that black velvet again.

Guess I'll take a nap.

       *       *       *       *       *

                                                       _June 26, 1961_

Hell's bells. Kroger says there are two baby Martians loose on board
ship. Pat told him he was nuts, but there are certain signs he's right.
Like the missing charcoal in the air-filtration-and-reclaiming (AFAR)
system. And the water gauges are going down. But the clincher is those
two sugar crystals Lloyd had grabbed up when we were in that zoo.
They're gone.

Pat has declared a state of emergency. Quick thinking, that's Pat.
Lloyd, before he remembered and turned scarlet, suggested we radio Earth
for instructions. We can't.

Here we are, somewhere in a void headed for Earth, with enough air and
water left for maybe three days--if the Martians don't take any more.

Kroger is thrilled that he is learning something, maybe, about Martian
reproductive processes. When he told Pat, Pat put it to a vote whether
or not to jettison Kroger through the airlock. However, it was decided
that responsibility was pretty well divided. Lloyd had gotten the
crystals, Kroger had only studied them, and Jones had brought them
aboard.

So Kroger stays, but meanwhile the air is getting worse. Pat suggested
Kroger put us all into a state of suspended animation till landing time,
eight months away. Kroger said, "How?"

       *       *       *       *       *

                                                       _June 27, 1961_

Air is foul and I'm very thirsty. Kroger says that at least--when the
Martians get bigger--they'll have to show themselves. Pat says what do
we do _then_? We can't afford the water we need to melt them down.
Besides, the melted crystals might _all_ turn into little Martians.

Jones says he'll go down spitting.

Pat says why not dismantle interior of rocket to find out where they're
holing up? Fine idea.

How do you dismantle riveted metal plates?

       *       *       *       *       *

                                                       _June 28, 1961_

The AFAR system is no more and the water gauges are still dropping.
Kroger suggests baking bread, then slicing it, then toasting it till it
turns to carbon, and we can use the carbon in the AFAR system.

We'll have to try it, I guess.

       *       *       *       *       *

The Martians ate the bread. Jones came forward to tell us the loaves
were cooling, and when he got back they were gone. However, he did find
a few of the red crystals on the galley deck (floor). They're good-sized
crystals, too. Which means so are the Martians.

Kroger says the Martians must be intelligent, otherwise they couldn't
have guessed at the carbohydrates present in the bread after a lifelong
diet of anthracite. Pat says let's jettison Kroger.

This time the vote went against Kroger, but he got a last-minute
reprieve by suggesting the crystals be pulverized and mixed with
sulphuric acid. He says this'll produce carbon.

I certainly hope so.

So does Kroger.

       *       *       *       *       *

Brief reprieve for us. The acid-sugar combination not only produces
carbon but water vapor, and the gauge has gone up a notch. That means
that we have a quart of water in the tanks for drinking. However, the
air's a bit better, and we voted to let Kroger stay inside the rocket.

Meantime, we have to catch those Martians.

       *       *       *       *       *

                                                       _June 29, 1961_

Worse and worse. Lloyd caught one of the Martians in the firing chamber.
We had to flood the chamber with acid to subdue the creature, which
carbonized nicely. So now we have plenty of air and water again, but
besides having another Martian still on the loose, we now don't have
enough acid left in the fuel tanks to make a landing.

Pat says at least our vector will carry us to Earth and we can die on
our home planet, which is better than perishing in space.

The hell it is.

       *       *       *       *       *

                                                       _March 3, 1962_

Earth in sight. The other Martian is still with us. He's where we can't
get at him without blow-torches, but he can't get at the carbon in the
AFAR system, either, which is a help. However, his tail is prehensile,
and now and then it snakes out through an air duct and yanks food right
off the table from under our noses.

Kroger says watch out. _We_ are made of carbohydrates, too. I'd rather
not have known.

       *       *       *       *       *

                                                       _March 4, 1962_

Earth fills the screen in the control room. Pat says if we're lucky, he
might be able to use the bit of fuel we have left to set us in a
descending spiral into one of the oceans. The rocket is tighter than a
submarine, he insists, and it will float till we're rescued, if the
plates don't crack under the impact.

We all agreed to try it. Not that we thought it had a good chance of
working, but none of us had a better idea.

       *       *       *       *       *

I guess you know the rest of the story, about how that destroyer spotted
us and got us and my diary aboard, and towed the rocket to San
Francisco. News of the "captured Martian" leaked out, and we all became
nine-day wonders until the dismantling of the rocket.

Kroger says he must have dissolved in the water, and wonders what _that_
would do. There are about a thousand of those crystal-scales on a
Martian.

So last week we found out, when those red-scaled things began clambering
out of the sea on every coastal region on Earth. Kroger tried to explain
to me about salinity osmosis and hydrostatic pressure and crystalline
life, but in no time at all he lost me.

The point is, bullets won't stop these things, and wherever a crystal
falls, a new Martian springs up in a few weeks. It looks like the five
of us have abetted an invasion from Mars.

Needless to say, we're no longer heroes.

I haven't heard from Pat or Lloyd for a week. Jones was picked up
attacking a candy factory yesterday, and Kroger and I were allowed to
sign on for the flight to Venus scheduled within the next few
days--because of our experience.

Kroger says there's only enough fuel for a one-way trip. I don't care.
I've always wanted to travel with the President.

                                                        --JACK SHARKEY



Transcriber's Note:

    This etext was produced from _Galaxy Magazine_ June 1960. 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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