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The Man of Tomorrow clashes in fierce combat with mankind’s deadliest enemy—the Linid!
“The Return of Captain Future” was originally published in 1950. No part of this book may be reproduced or utilized in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, without permission in writing from the publisher.
THERE were four of them, and only one of them was a man. One had been a man once, but only his brain and mind still lived. One looked like a man, but was born of no woman. And one was mighty, and metal, and only rudely manlike.
“There were four of them—the man, the brain, the android and the robot. And that strange quartet of inseparable comrades blazed a trail that the System will never forget. They rocked worlds, in their time. They pioneered the ways to the stars. And then they went beyond the stars, they went out into the outer darkness—and never returned.”
The teleview commentator’s voice was full of hard, bright drama that went no deeper than his lips. To him, it was just another story, to be exploited and forgotten as soon as it was told.
To Joan Randall, sitting alone in an office of Planet Patrol Base in New York, the words he spoke had the icy finality of a Requiem.
With a gesture of denial, her hand moved to switch off the televiewer. Yet she paused a moment, as though yearning to hear again the name that was coming.
“They went out into the extra-galactic darkness three years ago today—those four whom the System called Captain Future and the Futuremen. No one knows the purpose of their quest, unless it be those two members of the Patrol who alone had their complete confidence. But it is known that they promised to return in less than a year.
“They did not return. They have never returned. Did Curtis Newton and his three strange comrades, somewhere out there in the infinite, meet foes or forces too formidable even for them? Did they, out there, find a tomb in endless space where—”
“No!” the girl cried, and snapped the switch.
Silence. But the echoes fled across her heart, asking, Did they? Did they? And her heart could not answer.
She rose and walked restlessly to the long windows that opened on a tiny balcony. Presently she went outside and stood there, looking up into the dark night sky, not seeing it, seeing only the blacker eternity of space and a ship that drifted there forever, lightless and silent as the void itself.
HER fingers closed hard around the metal railing. She said again, to the whole universe, “No!”
The universe did not answer. There was no answer anywhere, and as she watched, the silent Moon arose and mocked her.
The sound of her office door brought her to herself again. She turned and then called out, “Ezra!”
The man who had just come in said, “Hello, Joan.” He flung himself into a chair and watched her with bleak eyes, as she came toward him. He was a stocky man, worn hard and lean and gray with years of service. He was Marshal Ezra Gurney of the Planet Patrol, and he was a tired, beaten man.
“I talked to them, Joan,” he said. “I took it right up to the top brass. I even cussed the President.”
“What did they say?”
He told her, brutally, because the words hurt him. “They said Curt Newton and the Futuremen are dead. They were nice about it. They understood how I felt. But they can’t run the Government on sentiment. The vote has been taken, and they won’t change it. They’re going to take over the Moon-laboratory.”
His voice was curiously fat. He would not meet Joan’s eyes.
“I’ve done all I can, Joan. They won’t listen.”
The girl said, “I thought they might wait, just a little longer.”
“They’ve already waited. Two years is the legal limit for men lost in space. And it’s been three.”
“But not Curt!” she flared. “He’s not like other men. And Grag, and Otho, and Simon Wright—”
She bent over the old marshal, forcing him to look at her. “You do believe that, Ezra? You do believe they’ll come back?”
Gurney’s massive shoulders sagged. He seemed suddenly shrunken, looking all his age, again avoiding her gaze.
“They went too far, Joan,” he muttered. “They tried to burst barriers no one could get through, in that attempt to reach Andromeda galaxy. We ought never to have let ’em go.”
“I tried to stop them!” cried the girl. “But you know yourself how little chance I had!”
Little chance, indeed! Captain Future and Simon Wright, the Brain, had been too eager to solve the secret of humanity’s galactic past.
They had, for years, been penetrating deeper and deeper into that past, had uncovered the story of the Old Empire, the great human civilization that had ruled the stars a million years ago. They had even learned dimly of the pre-human races before that, the legendary Linids and the others.
Curt Newton and the Brain had been afire to learn the rest of the story. They had discovered that the first humans of the Old Empire had come from Andromeda galaxy. It had been inevitable that they would try to go there, to track down that cosmic secret of human origins.
“But no danger they might meet, even out there, could be great enough to overwhelm the Futuremen!” Joan cried.
The old marshal spoke heavily. “The Futuremen were only mortal, Joan.”
He looked up at her now, and his face was gray and sick.
“We might as well face it. We might as well quit feeding ourselves false hopes. If they were coming back, they’d have come by now.”