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Charles L. Fontenay.

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her.

"Before you settle down to charts and questions, Dr. Hennessey, do you
mind showing us to our rooms so we may wash away some of the travel
dust?" she asked icily, black eyes snapping.

At this, Goat jumped to his feet, sincere contrition in his face wiping
out all traces of his irritated gruffness.

"I'm very sorry!" he exclaimed. "I hope you will forgive my manners, but
I've lived and worked here alone in the desert so long that I had
forgotten the niceties of civilization."

This apology cleared the air. Goat showed them their overnight quarters,
adjoining rooms which were not luxurious but were reasonably
comfortable, and after a time the three of them congregated once more in
Goat's study, all of them in better humor.

"Let us have some wine first," suggested Goat. "This is very good red
wine, imported from Earth."

He went to the door and shouted into the corridor.

"Petway!"

Goat returned to his chair. A few moments later, a twittering noise
sounded in the corridor, then a horrible little apparition appeared in
the door. It was a child-sized creature, naked, grotesquely
barrel-chested and teetering on thin, twisted legs. Its hairless head
was skull-like, with gaping mouth and huge, round eyes.

Maya gasped, profoundly shocked. The little creature looked more like a
miniature Martian native than a human, but the Martians themselves were
not so distorted. She saw her own shock reflected in Nuwell's face.

"Petway, get us three glasses of wine," commanded Goat calmly.

Petway vanished and Goat turned briskly back to his guests.

"Now," he said, "I shall outline the progress of my experiments to you
and answer any questions you may have."




3


Maya's education was extensive, but it did not include the genetic
sciences. She was able to follow Goat's explanations and his references
to the charts he hung, one after another, on the wall of his study, but
she was able to follow them only in a general sense. The technical
details escaped her.

Nuwell seemed to have a better grasp of the subject. He nodded his dark,
curly head frequently, and occasionally asked a question or two.

"Surgery is performed with a concentrated electron stream on the cells
of the early embryo," said Goat. "I call it surgery, but actually it is
an alteration of the structure of certain specific genes which govern
the characteristics I am attempting to change. Such changes would, of
course, then be transmitted on down to any progeny.

"The earlier the embryo is caught, the easier and surer the surgery,
because when it has divided into too many cells the very task of dealing
with each one separately makes the time requirement prohibitive, besides
multiplying the chance for error. The Martians have a method of altering
the physical structure and genetic composition of a full-grown adult,
but this is far beyond the stage I've reached."

"The Martians?" repeated Nuwell in astonishment. "You mean the Martian
natives? They're nothing but degenerated animals!"

"You're wrong," replied Goat. "I know that's the general opinion, but I
had considerable contact with them a good many years ago. Perhaps most
of them are little more than strange animals. No one really knows. They
live simple, animal-like lives, holed up in desert caves, and they're
rarely communicative in any way. But I know from my own experience that
some of them, at least, are still familiar with that ancient science
that they must have possessed when Earth was in an earlier stage of life
than the human."

"This ... child ... that brought us the wine is one of the products of
your experiments?" asked Nuwell.

"Yes. Petway's pretty representative of the children, I'm afraid. I've
been trying to determine what went wrong. It could be an inaccuracy in
dealing with the genetic structure itself, or a failure to follow
exactly the same pattern of change in moving from one cell to another in
the embryo. If I could only catch one at the single cell stage!

"None of the children has turned out as well as my first two
experiments, Brute and Adam. Both of them were born about twenty-five
years ago - terrestrial years, that is - and developed into normal, even
superior physical specimens. Unfortunately, their mental development was
retarded. Adam was the brighter of the two, and Brute killed him
tonight, shortly before your arrival."

Maya shivered.

"Somehow, it seems horrible to me, experimenting with human lives this
way," she said.

"It's being done for a good cause, Maya," said Nuwell. "Dr. Hennessey's
objective is to help man live better on Mars. After all, there is
nothing nobler than the individual's sacrifice of himself for his
fellows, whether it's voluntary or involuntary."

"But what about the mothers of these children?" asked Maya.

"The big problem is to reach them as soon as possible after conception,"
said Goat, misinterpreting her question. "We do this by magnetic
detectors, which report instantly the conjunction of the positive and
negative. The surgery is performed, as quickly as possible, utilizing
the suspended animation technique which is being developed toward
interstellar travel."

"I wasn't asking about the technical aspects," said Maya. "What I want
to know is, what sort of mothers will permit you to experiment this way
on their unborn children, especially seeing the results you've already
obtained?"

Goat started to answer, but Nuwell forestalled him.

"There are some things that are none of your business, darling," he
said. "The terrestrial government sent you here on a specific
assignment, and I don't think you should inquire into matters which are
classified as secret by the local government, which don't have anything
to do with that assignment. Now, Dr. Hennessey, just what sort of
survival qualities have you been able to develop in these experiments?"

"There's no witchcraft involved," retorted Goat, with a sardonic
grimace.

"I haven't accused you," said Nuwell quickly.

"No, but I keep up with events, even out here, well enough to know that
you're the Mars City government's chief nemesis where there's any
suspicion of extrasensory perception. I doubt that you chose to make
this trip yourself without reason, Mr. Eli."

"It's merely a routine inspection," murmured Nuwell.

Goat indicated one of his charts, showing a diagram of genes and
chromosomes in different colors.

"This is my original chart," he said. "I copied it from one belonging to
the Martians many years ago, and my genetic alteration of Brute and Adam
were based on it. But I must have miscopied it, or else the Martians
didn't have the objective I thought they did in it, because I could find
no alteration of genes affecting lung capacity or oxygen utilization. My
own subsequent charts, on which later experiments were based, are
alterations of this."

"But just what is your objective, and how well have you succeeded?"
persisted Nuwell.

"Ability to survive under Martian conditions."

"I know. This is stated in all previous inspection reports. I want
something more specific."

"Why, ability to survive in an almost oxygen-free atmosphere, of course.
As well as can be determined, the Martians do this by deriving oxygen
from surface solids and storing it in their humps under compression,
very much like an oxygen tank.

"I've succeeded to some degree with my children. All of them can go an
hour or two without breathing. What I don't understand is that no
capacities like that were included in the genetic changes on Adam and
Brute, and yet they've gradually developed an ability to do much better.
Both of them were out on the desert the entire day today without
oxygen."

Nuwell was silent for a moment, tapping the tips of his fingers
together, apparently in deep thought. Then he said:

"Maya, I think we've reached the point where you had better retire to
your room and let us to talk privately. You can question Dr. Hennessey
in the morning about any attempts the rebels may have made to contact
him."

Maya obeyed silently, rather glad to get away and think things over
alone. When she had come to Mars as an agent of the Earth government, it
had not occurred to her that there would be areas of information from
which the local government would bar her. She recognized that such a
prohibition was perfectly valid, but she was a little offended,
nevertheless.

Her room was a spacious one on the ground level, and boasted one of
Ultra Vires' few large windows. Maya unpacked her bag, and gratefully
stripped off her boots and socks, her tunic and baggy trousers. In
underpants, she went into the small bathroom, washed cosmetics from her
face and brushed down her thick, short hair.

Donning her light sleeping garment, she sat down on the edge of her bed.
She was very tired from the long drive and, almost without thinking, she
did not get up to turn out the light. She thought at it.

The switch clicked and the light went out.

She felt foolish and a little frightened. She had never told Nuwell of
this sort of thing. Can a woman ask her witch-hunting lover: "Do you
think I'm a witch?"

With almost total recall, as though she heard it spoken, she remembered
the summation speech Nuwell had made the first time she had seen him in
action. He was prosecuting a man charged with conducting experiments
similar to the historic and outlawed Rhine experiments of Earth.

"_Gentlemen, we sit here in a public building and conduct certain
necessary human affairs in a dignified and orderly manner. We follow a
way of life we brought with us from distant Earth. Apparently, we are as
safe here as we would be on Earth._

_"I say 'apparently.' Sometimes we forget the thin barriers here that
protect us against disaster, against extermination. A rent in this
city's dome, a failure in our oxygen machinery, a clogging of our
pumping system by the ever-present sand, and most of us would die before
help could reach us from our nearest neighbors._

_"We live here under certain restrictions that many of us do not like.
Certainly, no one likes to be unable to step out under the open sky
without wearing a bulky marsuit and an oxygen tank. Certainly, no one
likes to be rationed on water and meat throughout the foreseeable
future._

_"But what we have to remember is that absolute discipline has always
been a requirement for those courageous souls in the vanguard of human
progress._

_"Witchcraft - the practice of extrasensory perception, if you prefer the
term - is forbidden on Mars because to practice it one must differ from
his fellow men when the inexorable dangers of our frontier demand that
we work together. To practice it, one must devote time and mental effort
to untried things when our thin margin of safety makes concentrated and
combined effort necessary for survival. That is why witchcraft is
forbidden on Mars._

_"Let those who yet cling to the wistful liberalism of Earth label us
conformists if they will. I say to you that until Mars is won for
humanity, we cannot afford the luxury of nonconformity._

_"Gentlemen, I give you the prosecution's case."_

Maya stared out the window. This whole side of Ultra Vires was dark,
except for a rectangle of light cast from a window a little distance
away - the window of Goat Hennessey's study. In this rectangle, the red
sand of the desert lay clear and stark.

Near the end of the rectangle lay an indistinct, crumpled, oblong
figure. Puzzled, Maya studied it. It looked like a body to her.

* * * * *

In the study, Nuwell gazed at the skinny doctor with angry brown eyes.

"The bulletins sent to you, as well as other researchers, gave specific
instructions that research was to be directed toward human utilization
of certain foods now being developed," accused Nuwell.

"I thought this was more important," replied Goat.

"You thought! You're not on Earth, where scientists can get government
grants and go jaunting off on wild research projects of their own."

"I still think this is more important," said Goat stubbornly. "I know
that all of us are expected to co-operate and stick to tried and
accepted lines so we won't be wasting time and material. Perhaps I was
wrong in not doing that initially. But now I've proved that this line
of research can be followed profitably, so its continuance now can't be
looked on as a waste of time."

"Scientists should leave political direction to more experienced men,"
said Nuwell in an exasperated tone. "This is not merely a matter of time
waste, or nonconformity. The Mars Corporation operates our sole supply
line to Earth, Dr. Hennessey, and that supply line brings to man on Mars
all the many things he needs to live here. The Earth-Mars run is an
expensive operation, and it's important that it remain economically
feasible for Marscorp to operate it.

"No matter how altruistic you may be about it, you get man to the point
that he doesn't depend on atmospheric oxygen here, and domes,
pressurized houses and groundcars, oxygen equipment - a great many things
are going to be unnecessary. But there'll still be a lot of other things
we'll have to have from Earth. Don't you realize what a disaster it
would be if Marscorp decided to drop the only spaceship line to Earth
because its cargo fell off to the point that it was economically
unsound?"

Goat looked at him with shrewd blue eyes.

"I think I can jump to a conclusion," he remarked mildly. "Marscorp has
some sort of control over the 'foods' you're trying to make practical
for human consumption in the approved experiments, doesn't it?"

"Well, yes. Marscorp wants to make man gradually self-sufficient on
Mars, and I think it's legitimate that Marscorp derive some economic
benefits from its efforts in that direction."

"I've wondered for some time just how close Marscorp and the government
were tied together," said Goat dryly. "Obviously, if I don't do as you
say, my supplies here will be cut off. So I have no choice but to
discontinue this work and turn my attention to the approved line."

"That isn't quite adequate now," said Nuwell. "You're going to have to
leave here and come to Mars City where you can do your research under
supervision. Your experimental humans here will be destroyed, of
course."

"Destroyed?" There was an agonized note to Goat's voice. "All of them?
How about the two mothers I have who haven't given birth yet?"

"You'd destroy them anyhow, as you have the others, not long after the
births. And that brings up another thing. When you get to Mars City,
watch your tongue. You almost revealed to Miss Cara Nome that the
government has been kidnapping an expectant mother now and then for your
experiments."

"Years of work, gone to waste," mourned Goat somberly. "When must I do
this?"

"As soon as possible. You'll be expected in Mars City within two weeks.
Now, I'd like to see these experimental humans."

A few moments later, they made their way together through a large
dormitory in which all of Goat's charges were sleeping. Nuwell shuddered
at the sight of the small, deformed bodies.

"I don't worry that you could ever take any of these to Mars City
undetected. But," he said, pointing to Brute, "that one looks too near
normal. I want to see him destroyed before I leave."

"Brute? But he's the most successful one I have left!"

"Exactly. That's why I want to see him destroyed, tonight."

Goat awoke Brute, and the monster man sleepily followed them back to the
study.

Goat picked up the huge knife, still stained with Adam's blood, and
looked Brute squarely in the face. Brute returned the gaze, no
comprehension in his dull blue eyes.

"You think I can't kill you, Brute?" said Goat coldly. "I'll show you!"

With a surgeon's precision, Goat plunged the sharp point between Brute's
ribs and into the heart.

_Shock swept over Brute's mind._

_Father kills me!_

_Reject! Reject!_

_Father, all kindness, all hope, all wisdom and love, wants me no more.
Father rejects me! Father kills me!_

_Despair!_

_Reject! Reject!_

_Blackness swept fading through Brute's despairing brain._

One agonized note of pleading in the pale-blue eyes, and they closed in
acceptance. Brute swayed and fell forward, crashing to the floor,
driving the knife into his chest to the hilt.

Brute shuddered and rolled over on his back. He lay sprawled, arms flung
out limply, the knife hilt protruding upward. He sighed, and his
breathing stopped.

Goat stared down at him. He picked up Brute's wrist and held it. There
was no pulse.

* * * * *

Shortly after dawn, Maya awoke. Remembering what she had seen dimly the
night before, she went curiously to the window.

There were two of them now. They were bodies, human bodies, naked and
unquestionably dead. In the night, the dry, vampirish Martian air had
dessicated them. They were skeletons, parchment skin stretched tightly
over the lifeless bones.

Even as she stood and looked, a group of figures appeared on the horizon
and came slowly nearer. They were Martians - monstrous creatures,
huge-chested, humpbacked, with tremendously long, thin legs and arms,
their big-eyed, big-eared heads mere excrescences in front of their
humps.

Trailing slowly through the desert toward Aurorae Sinus, they passed
near the skeleton bodies. One of the Martians saw them. He boomed
excitedly at the others, loudly enough for Maya to hear through the
double window.

The Martians stopped and gathered around the bodies.

What, she wondered, could interest them in two corpses? There was no
guessing. Martian motives and thought processes were alien and
incomprehensible, even to one who had lived among them and communicated
with them as a child.

One of the Martians picked up one of the corpses, and the whole group
moved away toward the lowland, the Martian carrying the body easily with
one long-fingered hand. Wisps of sandy dust trailed them as they
dwindled and slowly vanished.

The second body lay where they had left it. A gaping wound in its throat
seemed to mock her.




4


Fancher Laddigan made his way down a long dim corridor in the rear
portion of the Childress Barber College, in Mars City's eastern quarter.
He stopped and hesitated, with some trepidation, before an unmarked door
near the end of the corridor.

Completely bald, bespectacled and well up in years, Fancher looked like
a clerk and he had the instincts of a clerk. Yet he utilized that
appearance and those instincts in a perilous cause.

Fancher knocked timidly on the door. On receiving an indistinct
invitation from inside, he pushed it open and entered.

Fancher had a tendency to shiver every time he had occasion to see the
Chief, whose real name was unknown to Fancher and to most others here at
the barber college.

Small as a child in body, wagging a thin-haired head larger than
lifesize, the Chief surveyed Fancher with icy green eyes. The eyes were
large and round as a child's, but there was nothing childlike about
their expression. As though to deny his physical smallness, he smoked
one of the fragrant, foot-long cigars produced only in the Hadriacum
Lowlands.

"Sit down," commanded the Chief in a high, piping voice.

Fancher swallowed and sat, facing his superior across the big desk. The
Chief opened a drawer, took out another of the long cigars, and handed
it to Fancher. Fancher did not like cigars, but he had never dared say
so to the Chief. He lit it gingerly, coughed at his first inhalation,
and smoked at it dutifully and unhappily.

"You recognized this man certainly as Dark Kensington?" asked the Chief.

"Well ..." Fancher began, and started coughing again. The Chief fixed
him with an unwinking green stare. When the coughing spell ended,
Fancher sat silent, his eyes stinging with tears, fumbling at what he
wanted to say.

"You knew Dark Kensington before his disappearance twenty-five years
ago," said the Chief, with a trace of impatience in his tone. "I am told
that you saw this man and talked to him. You are qualified to recognize
Dark Kensington. Is this man Dark Kensington, or not?"

"Well," said Fancher again, "the man was walking alone across the
desert, and when someone picked him up he asked how he could find the
Childress Barber College, and of course our men heard of it and went out
to - "

"I have received a full report on the man's appearance and our initial
contact with him. I asked you a question."

"Well, Chief, it's a peculiar thing. If this man, as he is now, had
reappeared twenty-five years ago, I'd _know_ it was Dark Kensington. But
he looks exactly as Dark did when he disappeared, not one day older. And
he doesn't remember a thing beyond his disappearance except events of
the past two weeks, he says.

"Yet his memories of Dark's activities before his disappearance are
unquestionably accurate and clear. It's as though Dark had been put on
ice at the time of his disappearance and just now thawed out, without
any aging or memory during the interim."

"Perhaps he was," said the Chief dryly. "But is it possible that this
man, looking so much like Dark Kensington, could have studied
Kensington's personality and activities carefully and be posing as
Kensington?"

"No, sir," said Fancher promptly. "Dark and I were very close friends at
one time. He remembers that, although he had difficulty recognizing me
since I'm so much older. We went through some experiences together that
I never told to anyone, and I'm sure he didn't. He remembers them in
every detail. Like the way we trapped a sage-rabbit once when we'd run
out of supplies out in Hadriacum."

Fancher chuckled.

"Then we couldn't eat the thing," he reminisced.

"Very well, if you're sure of his identity, that's all I wish to know,"
said the Chief. "I don't want to be trapped by a Marscorp trick with
plastic surgery. But if this man is Dark Kensington, it's the best
fortune the Phoenix has met with in a long time."

He fell silent, and busied himself with papers on his desk, paying no
more attention to Fancher. Fancher waited, then concluded reasonably
that the interview was at an end. And, since the long cigar agonized
him, he rose and moved quietly toward the door.

"I have not given you permission to leave," said the Chief, without
raising either his eyes or his voice. "Kensington is due to arrive in a
few moments, and I want you here when I talk to him. If any of his words
or actions appear inconsistent in any way to you, I want you to let me
know."

Fancher sighed silently, returned to his chair and puffed disconsolately
on the cigar.

Some five minutes passed. Then there was a firm rap on the door.

"Come in!" called the Chief in his reedy voice.

The door opened, and in walked a man whose entire presence radiated
strength, confidence and the potentiality of instant violence. Dark
Kensington was tall and broad-shouldered, clad in dark-blue tunic and
baggy trousers. His face was darkly tanned, strong, handsome. His hair
was black as midnight. His eyes were startlingly pale in the dark face;
eyes of pale blue, remote and filled with light.

"I'm Dark Kensington," he said, striding up to the Chief's desk. "You're
the man known as the Chief?"

"Yes," answered the Chief, and waited.

Dark nodded to Fancher. Fancher, feeling rather green about the gills,
returned the greeting.

Dark turned his attention back to the Chief, and he, also, waited. There
was a long silence. The Chief broke it first.

"What do you know about Dr. G. O. T. Hennessey - Goat Hennessey?" asked
the Chief calmly.

Fancher blinked at this unexpected line of questioning. A cloud passed
over Dark's face, as though the name had triggered something in him
that he could not quite remember.

"He was a very good friend of mine," answered Dark, "although it seems
that something happened between us that I can't quite recollect. He was
one of the most brilliant geneticists of Earth, and came to Mars with an
experimental group that was to try to develop a human type that could
live more comfortably under Martian conditions. The project was backed
by the government."

He stopped. It was the Chief who added:

"Then Marscorp stepped in."

The expression on Dark's face was blank.

"You don't know what Marscorp is, do you?" asked the Chief curiously.

"The name's familiar," replied Dark. "It's a spaceline, isn't it?"

"If your amnesia is genuine, you might very well react in such a
fashion," said the Chief reflectively. "Marscorp is the Mars
Corporation, and it's the only spaceline that serves Mars now. It's a
giant combine on Earth which has a virtual monopoly on the spacelines


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