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The Invaders   By: (1896-1975)

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THE INVADERS

By MURRAY LEINSTER

It started in Greece on the day after tomorrow. Before the last act raced to a close, Coburn was buried to his ears in assorted adventures, including a revolution and an invasion from outer space!

We're not given to throwing around the word "epic" lightly, but here is one! Swashbuckling action, a great many vivid characters, and a weird mystery all spun for you by one of the master story tellers of our time.

On a certain day it may be in the history books eventually Coburn was in the village of Ardea, north of Salonika in the most rugged part of Greece. He was making a survey for purposes which later on turned out not to matter much. The village of Ardea was small, it was very early in the morning, and he was trying to get his car started when he heard the yell.

It was a shrill yell, and it traveled fast. Coburn jerked his head upright from the hood of the car. A whiskered villager with flapping trousers came pounding up the single street. His eyes were panic stricken and his mouth was wide. He emitted the yell in a long, sustained note. Other villagers popped into view like ants from a disturbed ant hill. Some instantly ran back into their houses. Others began to run toward the outskirts of the village, toward the south.

Coburn, watching blankly, found himself astonished at the number of people the village contained. He hadn't dreamed it was so populous. All were in instant frenzied flight toward the mountains. An old woman he'd seen barely hobbling, now ran like a deer. Children toddled desperately. Adults snatched them up and ran. Larger children fled on twinkling legs. The inhabitants of Ardea vanished toward the hills in a straggling, racing, panting stream. They disappeared around an outcrop of stone which was merely the nearest place that would hide them. Then there was silence.

Coburn turned his head blankly in the direction from which they had run. He saw the mountains incredibly stony and barren. That was all. No, not quite there was something far away which was subtly different in color from the hillsides. It moved. It flowed over a hill crest, coming plainly from somewhere beyond the mountains. It was vague in shape. Coburn felt a momentary stirring of superstition. There simply couldn't be anything so huge....

But there could. There was. It was a column of soldiers in uniforms that looked dark gray at this distance. It flowed slowly out of the mountains like a colossal snake some Midgard monster or river of destruction. It moved with an awful, deliberate steadiness toward the village of Ardea.

Coburn caught his breath. Then he was running too. He was out of the village almost before he realized it. He did not try to follow the villagers. He might lead pursuers after them. There was a narrow defile nearby. Tanks could hardly follow it, and it did not lead where they would be going. He plunged into it and was instantly hidden. He pelted on. It was a trail from somewhere, because he saw ancient donkey droppings on the stones, but he did not know where it led. He simply ran to get away from the village and the soldiers who were coming toward it.

This was Greece. They were Bulgarian soldiers. This was not war or even invasion. This was worse a cold war raid. He kept running and presently rocky cliffs overhung him on one side, a vast expanse of sky loomed to his left. He found himself panting. He began to hope that he was actually safe.

Then he heard a voice. It sounded vexed. Quite incredibly, it was talking English. "But my dear young lady!" it said severely. "You simply mustn't go on! There's the very devil of a mess turning up, and you mustn't run into it!"

A girl's voice answered, also in English. "I'm sure I don't know what you're talking about!"

"I'm afraid I can't explain. But, truly, you mustn't go on to the village!"

Coburn pushed ahead. He came upon the people who had spoken. There was a girl riding on a donkey... Continue reading book >>




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