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I, Captain Daniel J. Hanley, chief meteorologist of the General Rocket Corporation, had no intention of going to Mars when I stepped into the new space car and pressed gently but with finality on the gravity-screen lever.I was conscious only of a great urge to get as far away as possible from a certain young woman who had--but why go into details about that? It is enough that I didn't fully realize what I was doing.And as a result, here I was, the first man ever to pass beyond the stratosphere of Earth, actually hovering a scant mile above a Martian landscape, trembling with suppressed excitement and giving not a thought to the girl who had driven me to my mad, premature plunge into space.
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Chapter 1 To Mars
Chapter 2 Lil-rin of the Ta n'Ur
Chapter 3 The Birrok
Chapter 4 I Wed Lil-rin
Chapter 5 Honeymoon And Disaster
Chapter 6 Intrigues of Gakko
Chapter 7 I Trail Gakko's Villains
Chapter 8 I Rescue Lil-rin
Chapter 9 I Become a Legend
Chapter 10 Danan of the Atl Antin
Chapter 11 In the Desert
Chapter 12 Attacked!
Chapter 13 The Tables Are Turned
Chapter 14 We Reach Gakalu
Chapter 15 Condemned by Gakko
Chapter 16 The Crash of Doom
Chapter 17 Alar-Lur of Mars
At last the significance of that tube, pointed at my chest unhesitatingly, broke through my stunned thoughts. I dropped my axe, held out my empty hands in a gesture of friendliness.
"Can't we be friends?" I smiled, knowing full well my language would not be understood, but hoping that my tone might.
Her reply, uttered in a soft, euphonious tongue, was obviously a question. And feeling a bit foolish, I tried to indicate by gestures that I could not understand her.
For a moment she watched me. A quizzical look crept into her green-blue eyes. Then she laughed and lowered the tube a bit, but quickly covered me again as I stepped forward. She was taking no chances, it seemed, for again her eyes flashed a warning as I sought to recover my axe.
She motioned me back. As I complied, she walked over and picked up the axe herself, never taking her eyes off me. Next she motioned toward my knife. I tossed it at her feet, and she picked this up also. The automatic strapped to my leg meant nothing to her, seemingly. She did not demand it.
Feeling safer now, she stood back and surveyed me speculatively. At length she motioned me to precede her in the direction of the distant mountains. This I did willingly enough, for I felt that with my two guns I could always command the situation, even if her people did not prove as friendly in their attitude as I hoped.
I had been eyeing those tubes she carried in the quiver, and had come to the conclusion, both from their appearance and their peculiar, twanging, metallic quality, that they hurled their bullets by the force of a coiled spring.
As I marched on, occasionally turning to look at my fair captor, the vegetation became thicker, and the hills and ravines more pronounced. Coming to the top of one of these ridges she called out, and by gestures commanded me to turn sharply to the right. A bit later she paused and gave a peculiar whistling signal. This was replied to from some point ahead, and we went on.
I hardly know what I expected to see. It certainly was not the type of structure we finally came upon.
Sheer walls of a glassy, translucent, solid material rose to a height of fifty feet or more. At least I judged them to be solid. I could see no joints or crevices.
There was a triangular opening. Through this peculiarly shaped gateway I strode on a pavement of material similar to the wall, which was worn smoothly and deeply as though by centuries of countless feet.
The space inside the wall was diamond-shaped, about a thousand feet long and probably three-quarters that distance at its greatest width. The entire space was paved with a solid sheet of the glassy material, in which smooth troughs or channels had been worn.
In contrast with the solid and permanent nature of the walled space, which gave evidence of high engineering skill, there was no shelter inside except some two or three dozen tents, not unlike Indian tepees, of pale green leather over metal framework.
There were a score of men and women about, all garbed exactly like my captor: golden-haired, blue-eyed people of somewhat slighter build than the average on Earth, but otherwise remarkable only for the uniform perfection of their physique.
Men and women were of about the same height, none of them coming within several inches of my six feet. The men were only slightly sturdier than the women, and all seemed in perfect physical condition, like trained athletes. I did not see a fat nor a flabby individual among them.
Our appearance caused no great excitement, though a number gathered around us and my captor was questioned with mild curiosity. But they made way for us readily enough at her explanation.
Quite at ease now, she walked beside me, having sheathed her "gun," touching my arm occasionally to direct me toward a tent in the center, somewhat larger than the others. It was about thirty feet across, of a high, conical shape. A large translucent disc, set in the top of the metal framework, let in a soft light.
I don't know what she said to the blond-bearded man who sat at the carved, light metal table, but from her tone and the little gesture with which she called his attention to me, it must have been something like:
"Look what I found in the forest, Father!"
There ensued some rapid conversation in that peculiarly mellow tongue. Then, to my considerable embarrassment, they began to examine my apparel and myself with a critical scrutiny, finally motioning me outside where there was more light.
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