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Slaves of Mercury   By: (1895-1955)

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Transcriber's Note:

This etext was produced from Astounding Stories September 1932. Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed.

[Illustration: A blinding beam sheared through Peabody's middle .]

Slaves of Mercury

A Complete Novelette

By Nat Schachner


The Space Wanderer Returns

[Sidenote: Hilary returns to find alien diskoids in Earth's stratosphere, and out world lords patrolling her cities.]

Hilary Grendon piloted his battered, time worn space flier, the Vagabond , to the smiling Earth that rose rapidly to greet it. Only the instinctive ease of long practise prevented a smash up, his hands trembled so at the controls.

Home again the old familiar Earth! He could scarcely believe it! Perhaps it was only a dream, and he'd wake up among the unhuman glittering cylinders of Saturn, shuddering and crawling with the iciness of their fixed regard.

Hilary's eyes blurred with unaccustomed mistiness as he drank in the warm sunlight, the soft green of the grass and the gracious lines of the slender birches as they fluttered their leaves daintily in the unhurrying breeze. How different it all was from the harsh red angularities of Mars!

He was outside, breathing deeply, inhaling the perfumed air with delight. This was the only heaven; beyond that far flung immensity of planetary orbs was hell! He, Hilary Grendon, the carefree, smiling skeptic of old, was a Fundamentalist now.

How long was it since they had started out on the first flight that man had taken into outer space he and those stanch comrades? Five years? God! Had it been so long? Yet here he was, back on Earth again, the kindly, blessed Earth their eyes had clung to when they were fighting desperately for their lives against the protoplasmic things that inhabited Ganymede.

Hilary brushed a tear away as he thought of those brave, loyal friends. Dick lay as he fell on Saturn, transfixed by an icicle dart; Martin had been engulfed in an unholy maw on Ganymede; Dorn was a frozen idol to the spiral beings of Pluto; and poor Hurley, his fate was the worst of all: his hideously bloated body was swinging in an orbit around Mars, a satellite through all eternity.

He, Hilary Grendon, was the sole survivor of that tremendous Odyssey!

Hilary shook his head vigorously to clear away the flood of recollections. Enough that he had returned. Then a sudden eagerness surged through him, a joyous intensity of emotion. What a story he had to relate how the Earth people would hang with bated breath upon his adventurings! And Joan his heart gave a queer leap at the thought of that slender ardent wisp of a girl with her shining head and steady gray eyes. She had promised to wait for him, forever, if need be. She had said it simply, without heroics; yet Hilary knew then that she would keep her promise.

A rush of impatience succeeded the inaction of his memories. He must get to New York at once. He could not wait any longer. Joan first then Amos Peabody, the venerable President of the United States to report his return. He smiled at the stupefaction that would greet him. No doubt he had long been given up for dead. The world had been skeptical of the space ship he had invented; had, except for a faithful few, mocked at his plans. Indignantly he had taken his calculations, his blue prints of the spheroid, along with him. If the flight was a success, well and good; if not, they would not be worth much anyway.

In spite of his fever to be off, he carefully locked the controls, sealed the outer air lock. Hilary Grendon was a methodical man: that was the reason he had survived.

Then he struck across country, walking very fast... Continue reading book >>

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