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Title: Venus Has Green Eyes
Author: Selwyn, Carl
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 "Venus Has Green Eyes" ***

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



                         VENUS HAS GREEN EYES

                            By CARL SELWYN

                Space-trotting Flip Miller was prisoner
                of the lovely, cruel Venusian queen. It
             looked like star's end for the stubborn-jawed
               young Earthling until he remembered that
                women are women--on Earth or on Venus!

           [Transcriber's Note: This etext was produced from
                       Planet Stories Fall 1940.
         Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that
         the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed.]


Charlie Mead, trapper, and Flip Miller, ex-prospector, started a
forty-day drunk. Charlie just liked the idea. Flip had reasons.

"In a few hours it'll be wetter'n a swamp duck's gullet," said Charlie,
grinning behind his whiskers. "And darker'n West Pluto!" Charlie
had been trapping otters here for five years and accepted the long
nights as resignedly as the mud, the eternal fog and the heat. He
poured another glass of _loku_, squinted at its blue sparkle in the
tube-light. The gray mists swirled through the open door and the raw
wind whistled through the rusty holes in the wall.

Flip leaned back against the bundles of fur and held up four fingers.

"To hell with the following," he counted, "I.M.C., radios, fuel
tanks, and this soggy planet of yours, Venus!"

       *       *       *       *       *

Noted for his wild-goose chases and wilder ideas, Flip Miller was
always running into trouble. In fact it was just two months ago that
the Space Patrol found him marooned on Pallas. He had one pint of air
left when they found him, said he fell out of his plane while looking
for diamonds. The Patrol took him to Mars. There, he immediately got
in a poker game and made a fortune--and immediately got in another and
lost it all. That is, all except a doubtful map of a Venusian xanite
mine which nobody else would accept as stakes. Which was his reason for
being here, if Flip ever needed a sane reason for being anywhere.

For once however his screwball ventures panned out.

"And I've been here all these years without knowing a billion dollars
was in my back yard," said Charlie who considered the matter very
funny. "Leastwise it was a billion till--"

"Shut up, you blinking old veedle-chaser," said Flip. People always
laughed at his misfortunes. Maybe it was because he did too....

Charlie's island was in the middle of the Black Swamp. The mine was
a few hundred miles east. Fused with asphalt and deep in the mire,
thousands of miles from nowhere, it was small wonder it had lain there
unvisited since its original discovery. The map had passed through the
hands of sundry dissolute, short-lived sourdoughs till the location
became as dubious as other bar-room talk. It was Flip's luck that the
map eventually got around to him. He was probably the only man in the
system who would have believed in it.

Filled with quick visions, he'd figured his treasure up on the spot. It
would cost about fifty dollars a ton to get it out of the swamp, smelt
the asphalt and ship the ore to Earth. On Earth xanite ore was worth
over a thousand dollars a ton.

Then the fates ran amuck.

His plane's fuel tank sprang a leak. Flip lost every drop of the
reserve that was to carry him back to the mainland. The mainland was
25,000 miles away. Then his sending set blew a transformer and he
couldn't radio for help. Last, while trying to ascertain his position
on the receiving set, he heard that I.M.C.--Interstellar Metallurgical
Company--had just opened a gigantic xanite deposit on Mars. The Market
quoted xanite now at twenty dollars a ton. Venusian xanite suddenly
wasn't worth swamp water.

"It shore is too bad," continued Charlie with smiling sympathy.

"You probably wished it on me," said Flip, "so you could have company
on this mildewed damn island."

That was the one blessing in his barrage by malevolent fates--he'd
glided to Charlie's island and the old fellow, one of many of his kind
in the Venusian swamps, had placed his metal shack, his canned beans
and his _loku_ at Flip's disposal. To all of which he was doomed till
the supply ship came around after the rains--forty days ahead.

"I wish one of your pirates would show up," mused Flip. "I might could
bum a ride out of here."

"Don't wish that, boy," said Charlie with quick seriousness. "I've been
pretty lucky so far but I told you about the fellow who used to be
here--he's buried out yonder in the mud. These here Venusian pirates're
about the meanest critters you find anywheres."

"They come around during the nights, huh."

"Yeah, when the season's catch is ready for packing. They kill the
fellow and take his pelts. You quit talking about pirates, boy. They'd
just as soon skin you as an otter."

"Say! What about this female pirate I heard about on the mainland?"

"Captain Vixen? I never seen her--never knew nobody that had. She
don't come out here and the natives won't talk about her. But you can
bet your Sunday space-togs she's behind this swamp raiding--she runs
everything on the mainland, about ruined the big industries there.
Supposed to be a native queen back in the hills; hates foreigners. They
say she's nursed scorpions and killed men with her fingernails."

"Pretty tough date, huh."

And now the twilight was coming on, it was starting to rain--and soon
it would be blackness and constant rain for forty dreary days.

"Oh, hell," yawned Flip. "And I didn't bring my bathing suit." He
joined Charlie in a drink.

       *       *       *       *       *

The thirty-eighth century Haliburton and the Black Swamp Bacchus were
doing nicely with the sixteenth verse of _Lulu Drank Loku on Pluto_
when one of the more technical gestures necessary to the famous ditty
caused the bottle to be overturned.

"Now look what you've done," said Flip. "We've got only enough left for
thirty-nine days."

"Sho shorry," said Charlie.

Flip felt in his shirt pocket for a cigarette and found the ill-starred
map which had brought him here. The lines were blurred with sweat but
he could still make out the circle designating the mainland port, the
crow's feet designating the swamp, the large X in the upper left where
the xanite was. He didn't need the map any more; for the location was
stark in his mind. In fact he wished he could forget it.

"Ah, well," he said. He opened the tube-light, held the map over the
hissing jet. It turned brown, then black and he crumbled the ashes in
his fingers. "I sometimes wonder what'll happen to me next...."

He heard something above the wind at the door; probably a stray veedle,
one of the mud-mice which infested the swamp. Then he noticed Charlie's
eyes. They were very big and slowly his mouth fell open. He's gone
_loku_ loco, thought Flip. Charlie was staring past him, over his
shoulder. Flip whirled around.

A woman stood in the door.

Flip dropped his glass. Behind the woman stood three men. The woman
said something in Venusian. Flip couldn't understand and there was a
dumb pause as he stared with eyes that grew wider. The woman wore
hip-high swamp boots, two guns on her belt, a filmy shirt open at the
throat. Her hair, uncovered and flowing, was golden, vaporous as the
mist. Flip heard Charlie replying in the native language. The woman
stepped into the room. Eyes flicking into every corner, the three men
followed her. In the hand of each was an .03 pistol.

She halted before them and Flip rose from his chair like a ghost.
Charlie sat very still. His face was pale, eyes narrow.

"Sit down." It was a command and Flip sank back down helplessly. In his
amazement he'd probably have done anything she said. She spoke English,
in the liquid tones of a native. And she was Venusian, in all its
ancient connotation. Her eyes met Flip's evenly, calmly. Her eyes were
emerald green.

"You are Flip Miller," she said. "You have a map. Give it to me." She
held out her hand, as if refusal to her easy words was unthinkable.
Flip found his voice.

"Who--?" he began. Her eyes were cold, commanding; his ego rebelled and
he stood up quickly. With a swift hand, one of the men pushed him back
down. Flip came up again with fists balled. A pistol was jabbed in his
side.

"Jupiter's jumpers!" cried Flip. "What is this?"

"Captain Vixen...." breathed Charlie.

       *       *       *       *       *

The .03 gun was persuasive and Flip sat down. The man was huge,
ugly with a welted blue scar across his cheek. He stepped back and
stood with feet wide apart, the gun pointed at Flip's chest. Another
stationed himself at the door, the other stood behind Charlie. The
woman leaned against the table, crossed her legs.

"The map?" she said and produced a cigarette. Bravado was the word for
Flip, naturally or _à la loku_, and forgetting his anger he struck a
match for her. She ignored him, lit the cigarette herself. Without
changing his expression, Flip thumped the burning match toward the man
with the gun.

"So you're Captain Vixen," he said, meeting her gaze. "Perhaps I should
ask for your autograph."

"I should brand it on your mouth, Earthman. But the map, please?"

She wasn't beautiful, thought Flip; her eyes were too far apart,
her lips too large--sensual. And her green eyes, her eyebrows long
and slanting, her firm lithe sleekness--they were more feline than
feminine. Which was dangerously feminine, thought Flip, and perhaps she
was beautiful.

"Captain Vixen, the Legend does you an injustice," he observed. "The
complexion! Like swamp lilies in the mist...." Then he laughed, for
lovely women weren't danger to Flip Miller. Quite on the contrary. "Now
what's all this about a map? My xanite mine?"

"Fool, did you think your arrival on Venus was not made known to
me--and your purpose here?"

"You followed me to get that map!" Flip threw back his head with mirth.
Charlie made shushing noises. But it was too funny, Flip thought.
Didn't she know the mine was worthless? She must! But she had come out
here after him in person. Perhaps she didn't know the bottom had fallen
out of the xanite market.

The woman motioned to the man with the scar. "Search him," she said,
smoke curling from her lips. The fellow came forward, reached out a
hairy hand. Flip slapped it aside, annoyed.

"Oh, drop the mask, Viki, and let's be friends," he said. "And I don't
like the company you keep."

"Oh, Lord!" groaned Charlie. The man looked at the woman, waited for
orders.

"I said search him," she repeated.

The man holstered his gun, snatched at Flip's collar. The shirt ripped
and Flip's fist came up as he rose. _Spat!_ The man staggered backward,
hit the wall and slid to the floor. In the same second Flip hurled his
chair at the man in the doorway. The woman was between him and the
other fellow's gun, which probably saved him. He saw Charlie get to his
feet as he whirled upon the woman--to find her pistol only inches from
his belly.

Charlie turned upon the man behind him and was struck in the face by a
gun barrel. He fell across a pile of fur, was struggling up when the
heavy man deliberately placed a foot upon his wrist. Flip heard the
bone snap.

He ground his teeth in rage, started to lunge at the man and felt the
woman's gun press into his ribs. She had not moved from the table and
her face was calm as ever. She had merely changed the cigarette to her
left hand.

Fingering their bruises, the men Flip had dealt with came up. The other
had his gun leveled on Charlie. Flip saw the little trapper get slowly
to his feet, holding his limp arm. His face was very white. It was then
that Flip became quite sober to the situation. Suddenly he forgot this
woman's beauty, and what had been admiration turned to burning hate.

He told her so.

"For the last time," she said, "I'm asking for that map." Her eyes were
green ice and her hand did not waver on the gun.

"I burned the map."

"Then you will tell me the location."

"I will tell you nothing."

"Perhaps we can change your mind," she said. "Bring a rope, Thorg."

       *       *       *       *       *

After being thoroughly searched, they were pushed through the door.
Charlie didn't say anything and Flip knew his wrist must be agony.

Twilight had come, the long twilight of Venus which precedes the longer
night, and the mist was wet with drizzling rain. Visibility was poor;
Flip could see only a few yards ahead. The sun, never seen on this dank
planet, was now below the horizon leaving a dull gray afterglow--like
false dawn on Earth. He did not know where they were going nor what
mad torture the woman had conceived. He knew only that hate flamed in
his chest and her white throat in his hands would be a great pleasure.
Never before had Flip desired to harm a woman. But never before had he
seen one like this.

They passed a trim strato-plane, vague in the fog, and Flip discovered
how the pirates managed to land so noiselessly. On their craft's
power jets were the slim serpentine coils of Doxim silencers, exhaust
mufflers banned for years by Interstellar Law. If only a veedle would
crawl in one of those tubes, he thought; it might blow up the ship.

Slashing through the rain at Charlie's side, the threatening guns
close behind, Flip was jerked from his heated musings by an .03 shot.
He whirled around, saw smoke curling from the pistol in the woman's
hand. A dead veedle, an exceptionally small mud-mouse, lay at her feet.
Lordy, thought Flip as he was pushed on; the woman was heartless,
mercilessly cruel for the sport of it....

The edge of the little island halted them. Here the rock fell away for
several feet to the sickening ooze. Covering half of Venus, it was the
Black Swamp which stretched off in the dismal fog.

"Tie a rope around his neck and throw him over," came the woman's
impassive voice. "He will become quite loquacious before he sinks...."

So this was it. Flip looked at Charlie and Charlie looked at the swamp.
Flip followed his gaze and the dark viscous mire rippled in a passing
breeze, hissed against the rock and sucked hungrily like a live thing
waiting to feed. The swamps were bottomless.

The man Thorg, the one who had broken Charlie's wrist, threw a loop
over Flip's head, pulled it tight about his neck.

Flip fingered the rope and stared at the woman. Would she really do
this? And would he talk? No! Damned if he would! He'd sink first. But
the mine was worthless. Why not tell her where it was? But he had no
reason to expect a lesser fate if he did. Besides it was a matter of
honor now--and he knew one way to enhance that honor.

"Hold the rope when you shove him in," said the woman, her eyes mere
slits against the mist. "Let him sink slowly." The other two men had
their guns trained upon Flip. He met Thorg's beady eyes.

"Son of a veedle!" Flip said in his face. Suddenly he swooped down and
upward with one long arm. The man was shoved forward, to the brink of
the rock. He tottered there a long second, waving his arms frantically.
Flip sprang toward the woman. Flame burst around him, he wasn't hit.
He heard Thorg scream. He crashed into the woman as he heard a splash,
more screams. Then there was silence and he was struggling on the
wet-rock, the woman fighting like a tiger.

Flip found her gun hand, wrenched the weapon from her. He got to his
knees. The two men stood before him, one holding his gun on Charlie.
They couldn't fire at Flip for fear of hitting the woman. Flip started
to blast them, then turned the pistol upon their Captain Vixen beside
him.

"Drop your guns or I'll kill her," he said. He leveled his pistol, got
to his feet and backed away from the group. "Take their guns, Charlie,"
he grinned. "We're not licked yet."

"No?" said the woman.

His eyes flicked to her. She had a pistol in her hand. Flip had his
sights dead upon her. Damn, he thought; he'd forgotten she carried two
guns. They stared at each other--stalemated. The very wind was still.

"I've never killed a woman--" Flip said.

"I've never killed a man," she said quietly, "before." For the first
time she smiled. Flip's gun was suddenly jerked away, fire streaked
toward him, he heard the crash.

She had shot the gun from his hand.

       *       *       *       *       *

He stood there, helpless and dumb. Captain Vixen lit a cigarette, her
gun still ready. She looked at him a long moment.

"Well," she said, green eyes never leaving his, "what are we waiting
for?" She motioned to the man with the scar. "Take the end of the rope,
Voss. Our Earthian friend hasn't tasted the mud yet, you know."

Charlie hadn't said anything. A gun at his back, his white mustache
ruffled by the wind, he stood silently watching Flip, holding his
broken arm. The choice was up to Flip.

"Look at the mud, Flip Miller," said the woman. "There is not even a
ripple where Thorg went down. He went quickly. You shall dip slowly,
that the conceit of your tongue and the rashness of your mind may be
reflected upon with regret." Flip glanced over the rock's edge. There
was only the quiet, waiting mire; no trace of Thorg's body.

"Vixen--" he began. He never finished for Voss pushed him over with
both hands.

The black surface of the mud rushed up at him. Arms flailing off
balance, he hit on his side with a heavy splash. He heard Charlie's
yell from above. He raised his head from the mud, tried to brush the
stuff from his eyes. A soft and clinging pressure was warm against his
legs, his waist. Through the mud in his eyes, he saw the dark flat
plain of the swamp stretching away into the mist. Turning, he saw the
perpendicular rock wall of the island rising above him. The hot ooze
crawled up to his chest and in his nostrils was the fetid smell of the
swamp, dank with the warm breath of ancient decay.

The mud crawled higher. He struck out with his hands against it,
struggled to pull himself upward but a grim suction tugged at his feet
and legs, slowly drew his body downward. Then his wrists were caught in
the irresistible pull. He couldn't move his arms. Looking down, he saw
the black mire high on his chest. As he watched, fascinated, the mire
rose higher. It was at his shoulders.

Keen and swift, panic struck like a knife in his belly and his arms
strained, every muscle in his body trembled with mad flight. But he
couldn't move and the mud climbed to his throat. This is _it_, he
thought, and pictures paraded through his mind, irrelevant flashes. He
saw faces, dim in the mist above him, blurred with water and the mud
in his eyes. He shook his head violently, the faces cleared. There was
choking pain in his throat. The faces were of three men, and a woman.

It was Vixen, looking down from the rock above. His head was strained
back and upward against the rope, tight on his throat. He had stopped
sinking.

"Have you found your tongue?" It was the woman's voice. "Where is the
mine? Speak! Tell me or you sink!"

Flip stared at her and could say nothing. He was smothered with the
noose on his neck. His eyes burned with the pain, with red hatred of
the woman.

"Let him down slowly." Her voice again. Flip stared up at her with mute
passion.

The mud caressed his chin, repulsive and warm. Slowly, he felt it creep
higher, moist against the back of his head.

"Speak, fool! Where is the mine?"

He stared up at her with bulging eyes, couldn't speak. Her words were
meaningless. He felt only the pain in his throat, the pressure of the
mire against his body. He knew only that he hated the voice that spoke
and that his body was weak with that hatred. The mud crawled into his
ears and the voice stopped. The mud rose to his lips. He could taste
the thick salty warmth of it. He closed his mouth tightly but the taste
remained. The mud bubbled at his nostrils. He couldn't breathe. He saw
the vast flat plain of black become level with his eyes.

The mud covered his eyes.

       *       *       *       *       *

The air was good and he gulped at it. He was lying on the rock. He felt
his throat, wiped his face and saw somebody standing over him in the
rain. The man had a scar across his cheek.

"Try the other one." It was the woman's voice. "Perhaps the muddy
Earthian will talk to save his friend if not himself."

Flip sat up and stared at them, gathering his wits. Charlie had a rope
about his neck. The man Voss held a pistol at his back. Charlie grinned
at him.

"Proud of you, boy," he said. His right arm dangled at his side.
Failing the first time, Flip's scene was to be repeated with a new
performer.

"No," said Flip. "No! Charlie doesn't know where the mine is--he had
nothing to do with this."

"No matter," said the woman. "Perhaps seeing him in the mud will affect
your obstinacy."

"That mine's worthless," Flip said. "It's no good any more. Since
I.M.C.--"

"I know," she replied.

"Hush, Flip," said Charlie. "There's more going on than we know about.
Don't tell her. I'm an old man and--"

"Throw him in," said the woman impatiently.

Flip got to his feet, ignoring the gun in his face. Voss picked up the
end of the rope around Charlie's neck.

"Stop," said Flip. "I'll tell you." He couldn't let Charlie go through
with this. It wasn't his problem and he had a broken wrist already.

"Be quiet," said Charlie. "I don't--"

"Talk," the woman told Flip. The mine must mean a lot to her, Flip
thought. Why? He was positive about the present market price. Could the
radio report have been wrong? No. Not in a quotation affecting five
planets.

"What do you want with that mine?" Flip stalled. "You know the market
price."

"Your questions are unhealthy, Earthman. Tell me the mine's location or
your friend goes in the swamp--without a rope."

Flip told her. He didn't lie. He gave the exact Venusio-magnetic
direction he'd taken to find it. But he was sure of one thing--that
there was more here than he knew. The radio report must have been
wrong....

"You shouldn't of told her, Flip," said Charlie.

"Your life will be short if he lied," said the woman. She glanced up at
the fog. It was a shade darker than when they had come and the rain was
stronger. The mist was thickening and it was much cooler, Flip noticed.

"Come," said the woman, "we must prove his words while there is light."
She turned, walked up the rock toward the ship. "Tie them in the
cabin," she ordered over her shoulder. "If he lied, we shall return.
If he spoke truth--they have only to free themselves before they
starve...."

       *       *       *       *       *

When the men left, Flip immediately tried the rope. Pulling with all
his strength, he couldn't slacken it and, with the pain in his arm,
there was little Charlie could do.

"Lordy!!" said Flip. "What now?"

"We're lucky to be alive," said Charlie. "Captain Vixen must have taken
a fancy to you."

Flip strained at his ropes with the thought of her. Venusian women were
the beauties of the Universe and this woman had surpassed them all, but
in her dull beauty, thought Flip, there was nothing feminine. She had
no heart. She had but one emotion--the pursuit of her goal.

"It gets pretty chilly during the nights," said Charlie happily. "We'll
get pneumonia before we starve."

Flip looked helplessly about the room. They were bound to their chairs
and the ropes looped through holes in the wall. There was no way Flip
could get to Charlie and perhaps untie him. The house was of metal and
through the rusty walls and the open door came the increasing chill of
night. Captain Vixen's men had made them "comfortable," left them to
the whistling wind.

There was a draft on Flip's neck and he turned to see the rust had
eaten away a small crack behind him. Just another thing, he thought.
He was still caked with mud. Then he almost turned over his chair with
excitement. He craned his neck, saw where the rope binding him was
looped through the wall. They were two small holes, rusty as the rest.

"Charlie," he said hoarsely, "these dumb Venusians! They've tied us to
a _knife blade_!"

"What?"

"The holes they put the rope through! Look at the edges!" He began
see-sawing back and forth with his chair. The rope rubbed against the
rusty edges as he did so. "Maybe I can make it in time. It's been only
a few minutes and they've got to warm up the ship."

"You mean you're going to face them again. Saints o' Saturn! Leave well
enough alone, boy!"

Flip kept at his work. If he could get this part of the rope cut the
rest would be simple. "And let 'em get that mine? Hell no! There's
something about that xanite I don't understand and I'm going to find
out what. I'd like a nice long chat with Miss Vixen too."

Charlie gave up trying to dissuade him and Flip kept sawing. With the
mufflers, he couldn't hear the ship leave but he was sure they hadn't
gone yet. Those high-power planes took a lot of warming up, especially
with Moxims. What to do when he got there? Flip Miller's mind never
strayed far from the present.

The rope broke. It was a matter of minutes before he was free.

"Try the same thing, Charlie," Flip said at the door. "You wouldn't be
much good out there with a busted wrist and I'll be back before long."

"Maybe," said Charlie doubtfully as Flip streaked out into the rain.

       *       *       *       *       *

The ship loomed before him in the mist and Flip halted, some degree of
sanity entering the elation of his escape. He couldn't see through the
fogged windows, but there were three skillful guns inside and he was
unarmed. They had taken all the guns from the shack when they left.
Besides, the ship's door was closed and a strato-plane's hull is solid
metal. Though he considered it, he couldn't just go up and knock.

The rise-rockets were idling. A pink glow appeared at each blast but
there was only a soft hissing with the mufflers. The power jets hadn't
started; they were geared with a synchronized heat progression which
ignited them only when the proper temperature was reached.

A veedle scampered across Flip's foot and he jumped. If a veedle
crawled into one of those muffler tubes it would explode, he remembered
thinking when he first saw the ship. Flip snapped his fingers. If a
veedle could cause it, why not he? With mud! He could fill a power
jet and when the ignition started, it would burst like a clogged gun
barrel. They couldn't leave. Perfect!

Keeping well below the windows, he approached the ship. The power jets,
as usual, were outside and forward of the glowing rise-rockets so he
could work in safety. That is, unless the jets started while he was
near them. But he would never know it if they did.

Flip scooped up a handful of mud, stuffed it into the five-inch
opening. It was like pouring water in a veedle hole but he kept at
it, and heat from the smaller tubes blistering his hands. He could
hear people moving about inside the plane. Finally he packed one more
handful to make sure, grinning to himself.

The door in the side of the ship suddenly opened.

Flip dropped down beside the hull. It was the big fellow with the
scarred cheek. He jumped down, walked toward the rear of the ship where
Flip was. Making a take-off inspection, Flip decided. What should he
do? He could make a break across the rocks, lose himself in the mist.
No--they'd track him down, get Charlie again too. Well, there was one
thing to do then.

The man was silhouetted against the open door as he walked forward. In
the heavy mist, he couldn't see Flip yet. Crouched on hands and toes,
Flip sank lower. The muscles in his knees tensed. The man came on. Flip
shot toward him, hands outstretched.

His fingers found the thick throat, squeezed with all their might as
the force of his spring carried them both to the ground. Flip landed on
top, kept his hold on the man's neck. The fellow brought up his hands,
plucked frantically at Flip's wrists but he made only soft gurgling
sounds and soon his hands fell away. Flip turned him loose. He wasn't
dead; a little out of breath. Flip took his pistol from its holster.
To keep him quiet a while longer, he slugged a finishing touch on his
chin.

With a grin at this aesthetic work, he got to his feet. He had a gun
now. But it was still two against one--he'd learned to count the
woman--and they were inside. It would be risky entering the ship.
Better wait till somebody else came out. They'd be out looking for this
fellow soon enough. The door was still open.

Flip dragged the unconscious man under the rounded hull. Eyes on the
door, he crouched down beside him to wait.

Suddenly he remembered the mud he'd stuffed in the power jet. Wow! If
that thing exploded with him near it--! He leaped up, stuck the gun
in his belt. He reached down to drag the man away too. As he turned,
something jabbed hard in his side.

"So you haven't had enough, Earthman?" It was the other fellow, Voss.
He must have come out the other side, circled around the back.

The rockets were glowing cherry red now. The power jets would ignite
any moment.

       *       *       *       *       *

"Get away!" cried Flip. "I clogged a tube! It'll explode--"

"No more of your tricks, Earthman," said Voss. He yanked Flip's gun
from his belt, stuck both of them in Flip's belly.

"You fool, we'll be blown to bits."

"Shut up," said Voss, eyeing his comrade lying beside the ship. He
poked him with the toe of his boot. The man groaned, moved slightly.

Flip saw bubbles ooze from the jet he'd stopped up. It was a matter of
seconds.

Ignoring the gun, Flip hit Voss in the face. The man staggered back.
Flip whirled to run. As he turned, the mist exploded red. Something
crashed into him. An ear-splitting roar.

His head hit the rock and he was stunned for a moment. Something large
and heavy lay across him. It was quiet in the mist and the rain was
cool. It was a man's body across him. Something hot and sticky seeped
through his clothes.

Flip shoved the man aside, sat up. He looked at the man's face. It was
Voss. The back of his head was gone. His shoulders were a crimson mass
and his back and legs were shredded.

Flip got to his feet. He was covered with blood too but could find only
slight cuts. Voss had received the full force of the explosion and his
body had protected him.

"Are all Earthians so lucky?" said a voice.

Flip looked up. The woman, Captain Vixen, was standing before him in
the rain. One hand was on her hip. The other held a pistol.

Flip stared at her a long time and neither spoke.

"Lady," he said finally, "must this game go on forever?"

"Not for you," she replied.

       *       *       *       *       *

"Earthman," said the woman, "in the hills, I am Queen. On the mainland,
I am Terror. In the swamps, I am Death. Whatever defies me on this--my
planet--dies. It needs be so, for the resources of Venus have been
plunder to the Universe. Imperialism ruled until my father, king before
me, died fighting it. You, Earthman, are a symbol of those that killed
him, those that drove my people to poverty--until I came. I am a symbol
of the Venus that _was_--and, as I live, shall be again. You understand
now why you die...."

Flip looked at the woman and the rain molded her hair into golden
ringlets, the wind shaped her body in the sheer lines of an ancient
goddess. The mist softened the chill beauty of her face and her green
eyes were misty in the deepening twilight.

The wind was keen and Flip shivered.

"You are the coldest woman I ever knew," he said.

"And you are the coolest man."

"Since I am to die," said Flip, "you may tell me why you wanted that
worthless mine."

"The xanite is worthless--" She paused. "The asphalt mixed with it is
pitchblende. It was a secret of my father's that the lost Swamp Mine
holds enough _radium_ to buy the Universe--to return Venus to her
rightful place again."

She raised the pistol, took aim at his chest. Her hand was without a
tremor.

"At the swamps," said Flip, "you said you'd never killed a man."

"I spoke truth. Now I am alone--I must."

Flip heard a splash. A veedle scurried across the woman's boots. She
screamed. The mud-mouse streaked off into the mist. The woman's arms
dropped to her sides. Her eyes were wide. For a fleeting second, the
epitome of womankind was on her face. And the warmth of irrational
helplessness. Then quickly it was gone, the mask returned. She jerked
up her gun and fired. The shot went over Flip's head as he dived. His
lunge knocked her down. He snatched the pistol from her hand, hurled it
into the mist.

Pinning her arms to the ground, Flip sat upon her and laughed.

"You're a woman," he gritted, "you're a woman--afraid of a mouse!" She
struggled violently to free herself. "You're a woman, forced into a
deadly legend--a persecution complex. You're beautiful...."

He bent, kissed her full upon the lips.

She freed one arm, slapped him across the face. He didn't feel it.
There were tears in her emerald green eyes. Flip threw back his head,
roared his laughter to the wind.

He'd forgotten Captain Vixen carried two guns.





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