The Old Martians

Publisher: DigiLibraries.com
ISBN: N/A
Language: English
Published: 1 month ago
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The man with the pith helmet had his back toward me. Hunched forward, he was screaming at the girl in the lens of his camera. "Don't just stand there, Dotty! Move! Do something! Back up toward that column with inscriptions on it...."

The girl was tall and longlegged with ideal body proportions, her features and skin coloring a perfect norm-blend with no throwback elements. Right now she seemed confused and half-frightened as she tried to comply with the directions of the man with the movie camera. She smiled artificially, turned her head to look at the fragment of a wall behind her, reached out with a finger and started tracing the lines of an almost obliterated inscription in its stone surface.

The camera stopped whirring. Its owner straightened and grumbled, "That's all."

Now the girl was allowed to go back to her worrying. Swiftly she surveyed the crowd, but didn't find the person she was looking for. She started moving toward one of the arches that led deeper into the ruins.

I followed her slowly.

She passed through the arch, stopped, and turned her head toward the right, her eyes on something out of sight. She'd found him, but she saw me at the same time and her worry deepened.

When she moved back into the crowd, I strolled casually through the archway.

There was a vaguely defined passageway, the roof over it gone for half a million years, of course. And twenty feet away, oblivious of his surroundings except for what was directly in front of him, was my man.

His height and build were somewhat less than the norm. But it was his profile that drew my attention. A remarkable throwback; a throwback of a distinct type.

In fact, he might well have served as the model in the types textbooks labeled British. The resemblance was subtle. Only one trained to differentiate would ever have noticed it.

I let my attention take in his whole figure. His elbows had a habit of making fluttery movements when his exploring hands paused so that a strange birdlike impression was given. Also an air of ungainliness in the lines of the lean body, rather than the feline smoothness and grace of the norm-blend. It was so in keeping with his features that it served to strengthen the psycho diagnosis.

A throwback to an era ten thousand years in the past, and therefore, as the textbooks say, prone to mental instability. It was no wonder that the girl called Dotty had had the air of being perpetually worried!

She appeared now, from the far side of the ruin and approached the man.

He sensed rather than saw her and straightened up, every line of him etched with excitement.

"Dotty!" he said. "I've found it. I've found the proof. I've been here before, thousands of years ago when this wasn't a ruins. I remember."

The girl's manner reflected weariness, "Please, Herb. You've got to forget all about it. You'll talk too much!"

His shoulders stiffened. "Don't worry. I won't talk until I have proof to convince even them. Somewhere around here something lies buried. Something I will be able to remember. They will dig where the rocks haven't been touched for five thousand centuries and find what I say is there."

Dotty was shaking her head. "No, Herb, If it were on Earth I might half believe you. But not here on Mars....