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Martians Never Die   By:

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martians never die


It was a wonderful bodyguard: no bark, no bite, no sting ... just conversion of the enemy!

At three fifteen, a young man walked into the circular brick building and took a flattened package of cigarettes from his shirt pocket.

"Mr. Stern?" he asked, throwing away the empty package.

Stern looked with hard eyes at the youthful reporter. He recognized the type.

"So they're sending around cubs now," he said.

"I'm no cub I've been on the paper a whole year," the reporter protested, and then stopped, realizing his annoyance had betrayed him.

"Only a year. The first time they sent their best man."

"This ain't the first time," said the young man, assuming a bored look. "It's the fourth time, and next year I don't think anybody will come at all. Why should they?"

"Why, because they might be able to make it," Beryl spoke up. "Something must have happened before."

Stern watched the reporter drink in Beryl's loveliness.

"Well, Mrs. Curtis," the young man said, "everyone has it figured out that Dr. Curtis got stuck in the fourth dimension, or else lost, or died, maybe. Even Einstein can't work out the stellar currents your husband was depending on."

"It's very simple," replied Beryl, "but I can't explain it intelligibly. I wish you could have talked to Dr. Curtis."

"Why is it that we have to come out here just once a year to wait for him? Is that how the fourth dimension works?"

"It's the only time when the stellar currents permit the trip back to Earth. And it's not the fourth dimension! Clyde was always irritated when anyone would talk about his traveling to Mars in the fourth dimension."

"It's interdimensional," Stern put in.

"And you're his broker?" asked the reporter, throwing his cigarette down on the brick floor and stepping on it. "You're his old friend from college days, handled his financial affairs, and helped him raise enough money to build his machine?"

"Yes," Stern replied, a little pompously. "It was through my efforts that several wealthy men took an interest in the machine, so that Dr. Curtis did not have to bear the entire expense himself."

"Yeah, yeah," the reporter sighed. "I read an old story on it before I came here. Now I'm out of cigarettes." He looked hopefully at Stern.

Stern returned the look coldly. "There's a store where you can buy some about three blocks down the road."

"Is that the room where he's expected to materialize with his machine?" The reporter pointed to an inner door.

"Yes. Dr. Curtis wanted to be sure no one would be injured. This inner circular room was built first; then he had the outer wall put up as an added precaution. The circular passageway we're in leads all around the old room, but this doorway is the only entrance."

"And what are those holes in the top of the door for?"

"If he returns, we can tell by the displaced air rushing out. Then the door will open automatically."

"And when is the return scheduled for?" asked the reporter.

"Three forty seven and twenty nine seconds."

"If it happens," the reporter added skeptically. "And if it doesn't, we have to wait another year."

"Optimum conditions occur just once a year."

"Well, I'm going out to get some cigarettes. I've got time ... and probably nothing to wait for. I'll return though."

He walked briskly through the outer door.

"This is the hardest part of the year, especially now. Suppose he did come back," Beryl said plaintively.

"You don't have to worry," Stern assured her. "Clyde himself said that if he didn't come back the second year, he might not make it at all." Stern opened his gold case now and offered Beryl a cigarette.

She shook her head. "But he made two trial runs in it first and came back."

"That was for a short distance only that is, a short distance astronomically. Figuring for Mars was another story. Maybe he missed the planet and ..."

"Oh, don't! It's just not knowing that I can't stand."

"Well," he said drily, "we'll know in " he stopped and looked at his wristwatch "in just about fifteen minutes... Continue reading book >>

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