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Charles L. Fontenay.

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breathing - _under water_.

"Shadow!" squeaked Happy helplessly.

Shadow appeared beside him.

"Shadow, it's alive," whispered Happy, desperately frightened.

The two stood side by side, staring breathlessly down into the water.
The creature in the vat moved its hands tentatively, it opened its mouth
and closed it. Then it stirred with purpose, turned and climbed up over
the side of the vat, dripping like a weird creature from the depths of
the sea.

It stood up before them, dripping.

The man bent slightly and belched forth a great quantity of water from
his lungs. He straightened, and breathed in the air in great, satisfied
gasps.

"I'm Dark Kensington," he said in a rusty voice. "Where is this?"

At his words, Shadow disappeared.

Dark Kensington. Had Maya seen him now, she could not possibly have
recognized him. The muscular body and dark, handsome face were bloated
and pale. The black hair was bleached to pale seaweed, and the blue eyes
were completely colorless now.

"This is the Canfell Hydroponic Farm," answered Happy, gaining a little
courage. "Under the surface of the Desert of Candor."

"The Desert of Candor?" repeated Dark, and the pale lips twisted in a
smile. "They hauled me quite a way. I was at Solis Lacus."

"How did you get here?" asked Happy with sudden eagerness. "Only dead
people are thrown in the vats, to make chemicals for the plants. How
could you stay alive under water?"

"I imagine I can breathe water for the same reason I can still live
after a heat beam burned my guts out, but I don't know what that reason
is. I imagine that the first step in finding out is to get out of this
place."

"You can't get away from here," said Happy positively. "Nobody ever
has."

"We'll see," said Dark confidently. "I gather you and your companion are
some sort of prisoners."

"Slaves," corrected Happy with unaccustomed bitterness. "The Jellies are
slaves, to work in the vats. I don't know if the Toughs are slaves, too,
but the Masters let them sleep in barracks on the surface. Shadow's not
either a Jelly or a Tough, and I don't know if he's a slave. Shadow's
just Shadow."

"Before you go on," interrupted Dark, "I seem to be extraordinarily
hungry."

Happy twittered and quivered. He moved hurriedly around a corner to one
of the storage vats, and returned in a moment with a supply of the
tasteless gelatin that was their food here. Dark fell to greedily, and
Happy, his tongue loosed by this new companionship, started feeding him
information in a steady stream.

"I don't know how they get us here," said Happy. "We aren't born here,
but something happens to our memories. We can't stay up in the dry air
very long, or our skin cracks and our flesh collapses. You see, our
tissues are mostly water.

"Everybody down here's like me. Everybody but the Toughs. You'll see
them. I don't know how they got here, either, or what use they are. They
don't work like we do.

"And Shadow. He's different. Shadow likes me. He stays with me all the
time. And then there's Old Beard. He hides down here, and I don't think
the Masters know he's here. He's very old and very wise."

"Who are the Masters?" asked Dark curiously, between mouthfuls. "And
what sort of work do you do for them?"

"They're the people who run the hydroponic farm. They're normal men,
like you - I mean, like you would be if you weren't swollen up and pale
like the bodies that are thrown in the vats.

"Old Beard knows; he's very wise. He calls the Masters 'Marscorp.' I
don't know why, but it seems that before I lost my memory I knew a
language where _corp_ meant _body_. Like _corpse_, you know. Maybe it
has something to do with the bodies they put in the vats.

"Old Beard says that the Masters are developing Martian foods that we
can eat without dying, and he must be right, because sometimes they
bring down some hard foods and make some of us eat them instead of
gelatin. But those who eat the hard foods always die, so I don't suppose
they've succeeded yet, except some of the Toughs. Some of the Toughs
have eaten the hard food without dying, sometimes, but they got pretty
sick. And then - "

"Hold on! Wait a minute!" exclaimed Dark, holding up a restraining hand.
"I know what Marscorp is, and I'm not surprised they're behind it. But
I'm trying to digest all this you're throwing at me."

Happy fell silent, reluctantly, and Dark cogitated deeply.

Happy fidgeted, anxious to speak but afraid to interrupt Dark's
thoughts.

And then Shadow reappeared. Shadow appeared out of nowhere, and made
gestures at Happy. Happy glanced at Dark, timidly. At last, he gained
courage to speak.

"Shadow tells me - " he began, then cringed when Dark looked up in
surprise. Dark gestured to him to go on.

"Shadow tells me," said Happy, "that Old Beard wants to see you. Will
you go with us to Old Beard?"

"Certainly," agreed Dark. "From what you tell me, I'm rather anxious to
meet Old Beard, too."

He followed Happy and the alternately visible and invisible Shadow along
the paths that twisted among the vats for some distance. At last they
ducked into some luxuriant foliage that hung over to form a bower above
the space between two vats.

Old Beard sat there, in a corner of the dimness, pale eyes fixed
silently on the trio. Old Beard was not so very old. He appeared to be
in robust middle age, although his skin was very pale from long
existence underground. His hair and heavy beard were long and untrimmed,
and were a deep iron-gray.

"Thank you for coming," said Old Beard in a deep, resonant voice that
bespoke strength and bore an undertone of bitter determination. "It is
safer for me not to move around too much in the open except at certain
hours."

"I was glad to come, because I'm sure you can help me and I may be able
to help you, too," said Dark. "I'm Dark Kensington."

"So Shadow told me. I find this extremely interesting."

"You've heard of me, then?" asked Dark.

Old Beard laughed, deeply.

"More interesting than that," he said. "Once, before I was marooned here
and Happy's people came to know me as Old Beard, I had a name of my
own."

He stroked his beard, and favored Dark with a shrewd look from his pale
eyes.

"Yes," said Old Beard, "I've heard of Dark Kensington, and there never
was but one Dark Kensington, as far as I knew. That's why I find it so
interesting. You see, I'm Dark Kensington!"




11


The Xanthe Desert stretched red and barren on all sides of the plodding
couple, the sands unbroken by the form of plant or stone or any living
thing, all the way to the tight horizon of Mars. Above them, the small,
glittering sun slid down the copper-hued sky slowly toward the west.

It was remarkable, thought Maya, how smooth and flat the desert looked
from the air, and how rough and rolling it was when one had to walk
across the packed sand. They had been walking for hours and, despite the
gentle gravity of Mars, she was getting very tired.

"It's farther than I thought," said Nuwell, his voice distorted by the
marshelmet speaker. "Distances on the chart are deceptive. We may not
reach Ultra Vires by night."

Maya did not answer. Again, as she had many weeks before, she was in the
grip of a sensation that this desert through which they walked was only
a surface thing, a shimmering mask to the reality which lay behind it.
That reality seemed very deep, very significant, and she felt that she
was on the verge of comprehending it, but could not quite grasp it.

She was a little irritated at Nuwell for speaking when he did. If his
voice had not interrupted her probing emotions, she felt, she might have
broken through to that reality she sensed.

"Nuwell," she said, giving it up, "I'm going to have to rest a while. If
we don't make it by night, we don't make it. There's always tomorrow,
and I'm tired."

Reluctantly, he consented, and they sat down together on the sand.
Nuwell pulled a chart out of his marsuit pocket and began to study it.
Maya lay back, clasped her hands behind her helmet and closed her eyes,
gratefully feeling the tired muscles relax and the perspiration that
bathed her begin to dissolve in the gentle circulation of the marsuit's
temperature-control system.

"Maya!" exclaimed Nuwell suddenly. "Look! We're going to be rescued!"

She sat up and looked in the direction of his pointing finger. On the
horizon to the northeast was a cloud of dust, too placid and stationary
to be a sandstorm.

They stood up, and Nuwell spoke hastily into his helmet radio on the
conventional emergency band.

"Attention, groundcar! Attention, groundcar! We're afoot and in trouble.
We're afoot, due southwest from your position. Help, please. Attention,
groundcar!"

There was no radio reply in the ensuing silence. But all at once it was
as though a deep and alien voice spoke within the depths of Maya's mind:

"_We see you._"

Startled, she looked curiously at Nuwell. But he evidently had not had
the same experience. He was chattering into the radio frantically again.

"They're evidently not tuned in on the emergency band, Nuwell," she said
to him. "But they're coming almost directly toward us. They're bound to
see us soon, if they haven't already."

"That's true," said Nuwell, and added sourly: "But they ought to be
tuned in. It's required by law."

The dustcloud moved closer slowly, too slowly for a groundcar. They were
able to discern a dark nucleus below and in front of it. Then Nuwell
said:

"In the name of space! It isn't a groundcar, Maya. It's a band of
Martians! Let's get out of here!"

He started to walk on swiftly, but Maya stood her ground.

"Don't be silly," she said. "Martians won't hurt us. I was raised among
them."

Nuwell stopped and returned reluctantly to her side.

"They may not hurt us, but why wait for them?" he demanded, and there
was a touch of hysterical fright to his tone. "Let's go on, Maya!"

"We may very well have gotten off course in trying to go straight to
Ultra Vires," replied Maya logically. "That may be why we've not sighted
it yet. The Martians will know where it is, and meeting them may prevent
us from getting lost in the desert."

Nuwell subsided, but she could see from the expression on his face that
he was in a blue funk. This puzzled her. She could not understand why
anyone would be afraid of Martians. They were huge, and ugly, and alien,
but they were not inimical to humans.

When the Martians came near enough, Maya waved her arms at them and
started off to meet them, Nuwell following her at a little distance. The
Martians changed course slightly and came toward them.

Maya called childhood memories to her aid. She turned her helmet speaker
to its maximum volume, and spoke to them in their own language, in the
deepest tones possible to her.

"Children of the past, we seek that place in the desert which is called
'Ultra Vires' by humans," she said. "Can you show us the direction in
which we must travel?"

The Martians gathered around her, towering over her. There were four of
them. Their huge chests moved slowly, mixing oxygen from their great
humps with the surrounding air. Their thin arms hung limp at their
sides, and their big ears were pricked forward toward her. Their huge,
dark eyes seemed to look through her and beyond her.

"The sun moves toward this place, but there are no humans there now,"
boomed one of the Martians. "Nothing lives there now except small
animals in the walls and corridors."

"This we know," answered Maya. "We wish to go there that we may
communicate with other humans and have them come and get us."

She wanted to say that the supplies of oxygen in their marsuit tanks
were inadequate to take them anywhere other than Ultra Vires, but she
did not know how to say this properly in the Martian language.

But, to her astonishment, the Martian answered as though she had said
it.

"If the breathing chemicals which you carry are at such a depleted
stage, you cannot chance going astray," said the creature. "Rather than
tell you the direction of this place, we shall accompany you there."

Throughout this conversation, Nuwell had been standing at Maya's side,
his face bearing an expression of mingled curiosity, irritation and awe.
Maya turned to him.

"The Martians say they will go with us to Ultra Vires, so we won't get
lost," she told him.

"No!" he exclaimed vehemently. "Tell them we don't want them along. Tell
them just to show us the way, and we'll go alone."

"Don't be ridiculous," replied Maya coldly, and indicated to the Martian
that they were ready to accompany the group.

They moved off together toward the west, the four Martians and the two
humans. Maya, feeling somewhat relieved that now they had expert help in
reaching their goal, attempted to talk to Nuwell, but he refused to
answer except in monosyllables. He was angry that she had agreed for the
Martians to accompany them, and obviously was still very nervous at
their presence.

So she talked instead with the Martian who had acted as spokesman for
the group. Its name, she learned, was Qril.

"The place to which you go lies under an evil atmosphere," said Qril.
"The human who abode there many years attempted to do things wrongly."

"We were there in the season before this one," answered Maya. "This was
just before that human left."

"I already had read this in you," said Qril. "I also read in you that,
as a child, you lived among us who are children of the past. Therefore,
perhaps you knew before I spoke that an evil atmosphere remains at this
place and has not yet been washed away by time."

"No, I was not taught such matters as a child," answered Maya. "But tell
me, it is true that this man tried to do evil things, by human
standards, but were Goat Hennessey's genetic experiments also evil by
Martian standards?"

"You do not read what I have said quite correctly," replied Qril. "The
evil atmosphere is left by the man, because what he did was evil by his
own standards. I said only that he attempted to do things wrongly."

"What do you mean?" asked Maya.

"To explain to you, I must speak to you about things about which you
already know partially," answered Qril. "Before you were born, the human
you call Goat was one of a group of humans who sought ways to make
humans independent of the spaceships which bring materials from Earth to
Mars and create small islands of terrestrial conditions in the midst of
the Martian environment. When they met the natural resistance of those
humans who gain material advantage through operation of the spaceships,
they came into the desert to be free to work.

"Seeking to get far from the men who resisted their work, this group of
humans went to that area which you know as the Icaria Desert. Some of us
who are children of the past live at that place sometimes, and these
humans sought our help, knowing that we possess many remnants of the
knowledge that our forefathers had.

"But we had difficulty helping them. They were attempting to follow two
courses simultaneously, and both of them were wrong."

"I know something of those two courses," said Maya. "Some of them were
trying to develop human extrasensory powers so that materials could be
teleported from Earth, and the others were trying to change the human
body physiologically so that humans could live under Martian conditions.
But you say they were both wrong?"

"In each way that they followed, they sought to make humans partly like
us, the children of the past," said Qril. "We have the power to
communicate with our minds over a distance, and some of us are able to
transport things with our minds over a distance. We do not need your
rich terrestrial air, because we take oxygen directly from the soil and
store it in our bodies for combustion purposes.

"But humans and the children of the past are different forms of life,
and they cannot be made so much alike. It is possible for humans to
develop mental powers similar to ours, but this course would leave them
dependent upon importing materials from Earth, even though this would be
by mind transmission instead of by spaceship. The other course they
followed could not succeed, because the human body cannot be altered so
that it is able to take oxygen from the soil and store it for later
use."

"But you're wrong!" exclaimed Maya. "Goat Hennessey had succeeded in
developing some humans who could live without oxygen in the air for a
time. His experiments were imperfect, it's true, but they were able to
do that."

"The imperfect humans that the human called Goat had developed were not
what he thought," replied Qril. "We tried to help the humans to find the
right course, but they could not understand us well. We tried to show
them, by charts and example, that the proper way to adapt a human to
Martian conditions was a different way.

"Because Earth is nearer the Sun, humans have a possibility that we do
not have. What we tried to show these humans was a method whereby they
could change the embryonic physiology so that the adult human would be
able to use the energy of solar radiations directly, instead of
depending on the energy of combustion of those chemicals you call oxygen
and carbon. This makes the body independent of both air and food, and
has the advantage also of giving a far superior regenerative power to
the bodily tissues.

"The human, Goat, for reasons that are not known, stole some of our
charts and two of the pregnant female humans, and continued his work at
this place to which we are going. But he thought he was still attempting
to change the physiology so that oxygen could be stored, and therefore
his experiments went wrongly."

"But he had your charts," objected Maya. "Even though he was not making
the alterations he thought he was, how could he go wrong if he followed
the charts?"

"The charts showed the changes to be made in the embryonic cells, but
they could not show the method whereby the changes are made," replied
Qril. "The human, Goat, attempted to make these changes by mechanical,
surgical methods but these are too crude to be successful. The method we
utilize to make such changes, which is the only right method, is to
focus the mental forces upon the embryo. I believe you would call it
psychokinesis."

Maya was vastly excited at this revelation.

"Then Goat's oldest experiments, the ones he called Brute and Adam, were
actually the ones on whom you children of the past had performed the
embryonic changes!" she exclaimed. "They must have been the sons of the
pregnant women he kidnapped. That's why they were more successful than
the others!"

"That is true," said Qril. "We had completed the change on only one of
the two, therefore only that one would develop into an adult who could
live in complete independence of air and food, if necessary. The other
one would never be able to do it for more than a short period without
returning to terrestrial conditions."

The party now came over a long low ridge, and the mass of Ultra Vires
rose from the desert ahead of them. The sun was near setting, and the
black walls of the stronghold huddled sullenly under its crimson rays.

The Martians left them here, and Nuwell and Maya went on alone toward
their goal. Nuwell expelled an audible sigh of relief.

"I'm glad we're free of those monsters," he said. "I don't understand
how you could carry on a conversation with such creatures, Maya. It
sounded like a series of animal grunts and cries to me. I caught an
occasional word, like 'oxygen' and 'psychokinesis.' What were you
talking about?"

"He was telling me about Goat Hennessey's experiments, and how they
differed from the rebels' experiments before Goat came to Ultra Vires,"
answered Maya.

"That kind of talk serves no good purpose," said Nuwell irritably. "The
rebel movement has been broken now, and there's no point in thinking
about the illegal things they tried to do."

They came down the slope and approached the southern airlock of Ultra
Vires. The airlock was still sealed. Nuwell activated it, and they went
through it into the big building.

It was dark inside. Nuwell fumbled around a wall and found a light
switch. He pressed it, but nothing happened.

"The electrical system isn't operating," he said. "We'll have to use our
marsuit torches."

He switched on his flashlight. It cast a long beam down the dusty
corridor. Far ahead of them, a small animal scurried across the faint
light and vanished into the darkness.

Nuwell checked his atmosphere dial.

"The oxygen in here is all right," he said. "The air has been
maintained, anyhow. We can take off our helmets."

They took off the marshelmets and walked down the corridor. They checked
each side door, looking for the communications room, but found only
empty chambers or abandoned rooms in which books, papers and broken
furniture were scattered in complete disorganization.

It took them nearly an hour to find the communications room. And there
they met disappointment.

Ultra Vires' radio transmitter and receiver had been dismantled. There
was nothing there but a jumble of broken tubes, discarded parts and bare
wire ends dangling from the walls. Nothing but an overturned table and
two bent metal chairs.

"That settles that," said Nuwell, more philosophically then Maya would
have expected. "Our only hope is to find a groundcar."

That necessitated another search, but at last they found the motor pool.
And there were three groundcars, all in various stages of breakdown or
dismantlement.

"It looks like we'll have to walk, Nuwell," said Maya.

Nuwell shook his head.

"I checked the chart carefully," he said. "The oxygen supply of a
marsuit won't take us either back to the Canfell Farm or to Ophir, even
with extra tanks. We're just going to have to cannibalize two of these
machines and repair us a groundcar."

"But, Nuwell, how long will that take?"

"I don't know," he admitted. "It looks like it may be quite a job. I
expect it will take two or three weeks, but that's the only way we're
going to get out of here."

He looked at her speculatively.

"It's a shame we aren't already married," he said. "This would provide
us with a honeymoon, of a sort, out here by ourselves in the desert."

"Well, we aren't," she said flatly. "And we won't be until we get back
to Mars City."

"That's true," he said. "Well, the only thing we can do for tonight is
to have supper and find the rooms that Goat assigned us when we were
here before. I hope he left some beds intact in those, or some of the
other rooms. If not, we may have some uncomfortable nights ahead of us."




12


The two Dark Kensingtons and Happy Thurbelow walked along one of the
pathways between the vats, Happy trailing a bit behind. Somewhere near
them, they knew, Shadow accompanied them.

The place was dim, with the moist dimness of a swamp. The source of the
light that filtered through the faint mist and seemed to permeate the
air was not discernible, and the roof of this underground world was lost
in the darkness above them. The placid surface of the water gleamed
vaguely in the vats they passed, and the pale-green tangle of vegetation
rose above and around them, sometimes drooping over the paths like
skinny arms that sought to detain them.

"What I don't understand," said Dark the younger, "is that our memories
coincide exactly, up to a point which you say is a time twenty-five
years ago. My memories are just as genuine as you say yours are; they
aren't something someone told me, but real memories of things that
happened to me, things I felt and did. If they're both genuine sets of
memories, how can it be explained? Are we the same person, who was
somehow split into two distinct individuals?"

"I can only guess at the explanation, but I have a theory," answered Old
Beard. "You are much younger than I am. I would estimate that you're
twenty-five years younger than I am. My memories are consecutive and
complete: I remember not only the earlier things you say you remember,
but the events of these past twenty-five years, without a break. You say
you suffered a period of amnesia, and your next consecutive memory is of
being with Martians in the Icaria Desert."

"That would appear to give you an advantage in claiming to be the real
Dark Kensington," agreed Dark with a smile. "But, if you are, who am I?
How is it that I remember being Dark Kensington?"

"It's entirely possible that, for some reason, my earlier memories were
grafted onto you as your own," replied Old Beard. "I don't know how this
would be done, perhaps through very deep and extensive hypnosis. The
Martians, as well as we can tell anything about them at all, are experts


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