Read Captain Future 26 - Earthmen No More (March 1951) Online

Authors: Edmond Hamilton

Tags: #Sci-Fi & Fantasy

Captain Future 26 - Earthmen No More (March 1951)

 

 

 

#26 March 1951

 

Introduction

 

A Curt Newton Novelet

Earthmen No More

by
Edmond Hamilton

When Curt Newton and the Futuremen revived John Carey from his deep freeze, he wanted to go home — but where in space was home?

 

Meet the Futuremen!
— A Department

We acquaint you further with the background of Captain Future: The Metamorphosis of Simon Wright and the Amazing Creation of Otho.

 

 

 

Radio Archives • 2012

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Copyright © 1951 by Better Publications, Inc. © 2012 RadioArchives.com. All Rights Reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form.

 

 

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ISBN 978-1610817097

Introduction

The original introduction to Captain Future as it appeared in issue #1

 

The Wizard of Science! Captain Future!

The most colorful planeteer in the Solar System makes his debut in this, America’s newest and most scintillating scientifiction magazine — CAPTAIN FUTURE.

This is the magazine more than one hundred thousand scientifiction followers have been clamoring for! Here, for the first time in scientifiction history, is a publication devoted exclusively to the thrilling exploits of the greatest fantasy character of all time!

Follow the flashing rocket-trail of the
Comet
as the most extraordinary scientist of nine worlds have ever known explores the outposts of the cosmos to the very shores of infinity. Read about the Man of Tomorrow today!

Meet the companions of Captain Future, the most glamorous trio in the Universe!

Grag, the giant, metal robot; Otho, the man-made, synthetic android; and aged Simon Wright, the living Brain.

This all-star parade of the most unusual characters in the realm of fantasy is presented for your entertainment. Come along with this amazing band as they rove the enchanted space-ways — in each issue of CAPTAIN FUTURE!

 

Earthmen No More

A Curt Newton Novelet

From the January 1950 issue of Startling Stories

by Edmond Hamilton

 

When the Futuremen revived John Carey from his deep freeze, he wanted to go home

but where in space was home?

 

 

Chapter 1: The Awakening

 

STILL and cold in its lightless vault of bone, the brain stirred feebly. Slowly, slowly, it began to wake and remember — timeless memories, flowing across it in a dark inchoate tide from nowhere into nothingness.

He was alone in space. Quite alone, floating, turning, drifting. He had no destination and he was in no hurry. He had lost the Sun and the planets. There were not even any stars.

He did not worry. The dead do not insist on stars. He had forgotten how he came to die and he was glad.

After a long while, far distant in the infinite night, he saw a tiny gleam. He regarded it without curiosity or fear and then he realized that some inexorable current had caught him and was sweeping him toward the light, hurling him at it in a swift relentless rush. He knew that he did not want to go to it — but there was no escape.

The little point of light leaped and spread into a sun, a nova, a shattering glare. Terror overcame him. He clawed at the comforting darkness as it fled past but he could not hold onto it and it seemed to him that he could hear the small thin shrieking of his body against the void as it was sucked into the devouring brilliance.

There was a face between him and the light, huge and awesome. He cried out but no sound came and then it was gone, the light, the face, even himself, swallowed up in the quiet night.

Memories — the aloneness, the remembering, the timeless drift. A sound like the rustle of far-off surf that boomed louder and louder and became a voice speaking out of the heavens, saying, “Wake up, John Carey! Wake up!”

And he thought he answered, “But I am dead.”

How had he come to die?

 

MEMORIES, groping, uncertain, coming faster, clearer, clothed in vivid color. A girl’s face, a girl’s red mouth saying, “Don’t go. Don’t go if you love me. You’ll never come back.”

Men and a ship — a little ship, a frail and tiny craft, it seemed, for the long way it was going and the high dreams it had. Hard-faced iron-handed men, braver than angels and more hungry than they were brave, hungry for new worlds and the unknown things that lay beyond the mountains of the Moon, beyond the still canals of Mars, beyond the glittering deadly Belt.

He remembered now the men and the ship, how they had gambled their lives against glory and lost. “We shot the Asteroids,” he muttered, in the silence of his mind. “Jupiter was there ahead of us, a big golden apple almost in our hands. I remember how the moons looked, swarming like bees around it. I remember...”

The meteor — the tearing agony of metal, the last glimpse of horror in the ship before the air-burst took him with it into space, through the riven pilot-dome. The brief, bitter knowledge that this was death.

“Dead,” he said again. “I’m dead.”

The strange voice answered, “If you want to you can live again.”

He thought about that. He thought about it for a long time in the darkness. To live again — the light and the warmth, the hunger and pain and hope, the wanting, the being able to want. He thought and he was not sure and then at last he whispered, “How? Tell me
how!”

“Open your eyes and come back, back where the light is. You were here before, don’t you remember? Open your eyes, John Carey!”

He did or thought he did and there was nothing but mist, heavy darkling clouds of it. Far, far away he saw the gleam of light beyond him and he tried to grope toward it but the mists were very thick.

“I can’t,” he moaned. “I’m lost.”

Lost forever, in darkness and cold. “Come back!” cried the voice strongly. “Come back and live!”

He heard the sound of a hand striking smartly against flesh. After a while he felt it. That little sharp pain somehow managed to bridge a colossal gulf and make him aware that he had a body.

His brain oriented itself with a dizzying lunge. The mists tore away. He woke.

It was a full awakening. The exploding nova resolved itself into a light-tube, glowing against a low ceiling of metal. The countenance that had loomed so hugely above him became the face of a man. A lean face, deeply bronzed with the unmistakable burn of space, topped with red hair and set with two level grey eyes that looked straight into Carey’s and made him feel somehow safe and unafraid.

“Lie still,” said the red-haired man. “Get your breath. There’s no hurry.” He turned aside and his hands, very strong but delicate of touch, busied themselves with a vial and a gleaming needle.

Carey lay still. For the moment he had not the strength to do anything else. The room was small. It was fitted as a laboratory, incredibly compact, and many of the objects that his wandering gaze passed over were strange to him.

One of these objects was a small cubical case of semi-translucent metal, resting on a table. The surface nearest Carey was fitted with twin lenses and a disc, so that it bore an unsettling resemblance to a face. Carey thought vaguely that it must be some sort of a communicator.

Suddenly he said, “I’m in a ship.”

The red-haired man smiled. “How can you tell? We’re in free fall.”

“I can tell.” Carey tried to struggle up. “But there are no ships beyond the Belt! How...” Then he began to tremble violently. “Listen,” he said to the stranger. “Listen, I was killed, trying to reach Jupiter. A meteor hit us and I was blown clear, out into space with no armor. I’m dead. I’m a dead man. I...”

“Steady on,” said the red-haired man. “Easy.” He set the needle into a place already swabbed on Carey’s naked arm. Carey flinched. He sobbed a little and then the trembling quieted.

“I was dead,” he whispered, again.

“No,” said the red-haired stranger. “Not really dead. What we call the space-death isn’t true death but cold shock — an instantaneous stoppage of all life processes. There’s no time for deterioration or cellular damage, no possibility of decay. The organism stops short. It can, by certain means, be started going again.”

He looked thoughtfully down at Carey and added, “Many lives are restored that way, lives that would have been considered ended in your time.”

Carey said numbly, “Then you found me, floating in space, in frozen sleep? You — revived me?”

“Yes. Space law requires that any ship-wreckage encountered on radar must be investigated. That’s how we found you.” The stranger smiled. “Welcome back to life, Carey. My name is Curt Newton.”

It was only then that it penetrated Carey’s stunned mind, the phrase that had been used so casually a moment before.

“You said, ‘In
my
time’,” he repeated. “How long...” He stopped. His mouth was dry. He tried again, forcing out the words that did not wish to be spoken.
“How long was I asleep out there?”

The man who called himself Curt Newton hesitated, then asked, “What year was it when you met disaster, Carey?”

“It was nineteen ninety-one. It was June, nineteen ninety-one, when we left Earth.”

Newton reached for a calendar pad, held it up. He did not speak and there was pity in his eyes.

Carey saw the date on it, and at first it was too incredible to touch him. “Oh, no,” he said. “Not all that time, all those generations. No, it’s not true.”

“It is.”

“But it can’t be...” His voice trailed off. The numbers on the pad, the awful sum of years blurred and darkened before him. Once more he began to tremble and this time it was for fear of life, not of death. “Why did you bring me back?” he whispered. “I have no place here. I’m still a dead man.”

 

ABRUPTLY, from beyond the closed bulkhead door, there came the sound of footsteps. Strange steps, ponderous and clanking, as though someone enormously heavy walked in metal boots. Curt Newton turned his head sharply.

“Grag!” he called. “Hold on there.
Wait!”

The footsteps hesitated and a voice from beyond the door said mockingly, “I told you so. What do you want to do, frighten the poor chap out of his wits?” The voice had a peculiar soft sibilance of tone.

It was answered by a rumbling metallic growl, an utterly unhuman sound, that seemed to have words in it. Carey got up. He clung to the edge of the surgeon’s table, fighting the weakness that was on him, his eyes fixed on the bulkhead door.

“Carey,” said Curt Newton, “things have changed and science has come a long way. There are three others aboard this ship besides myself. They’re not — well, not quite human, as men of your day understood the term. Even now, in our time, they’re unique, created by techniques far beyond the general knowledge. But you must not be afraid of them. They’re my friends and will be yours.”

A chill came over Carey, creeping into his bones. He continued to stare at the door. What waited behind it, what monstrous things —
not quite human, not quite human.
The words repeated themselves in his brain, scuttling across it like spiders spinning icy webs, tightening until he could barely hear Newton’s voice talking on.

“Robot...” Faintly the voice came and Carey stared at the door. The drops of sweat ran slowly down his face. “Robot, human in intelligence, created by scientific genius...”

There were sounds behind the door. There were presences not of the flesh. Carey’s mouth was dry with the taste of fear.

“... android, human in all respects but created also in the laboratory...”

Carey began to move toward the door. What dreadful facet of the future had he been cast into? What uncanny children of this undreamed-of age were lurking there behind that panel? He could not bear to know but somehow not knowing was worse. Not knowing and wondering and thinking...

“... the brain of a great scientist, a human, kept alive for many years in a special case...”

Robot, android, living brain. A red-haired man and a date on a calendar. A ship where there are no ships, a life where there is no living. A dream, Carey — a dream you’re dreaming, drifting along
w
ith the endless tides, the dark night tides beyond the Belt. Open the door, Carey. What difference in a dream?

A
human figure, lithe and graceful, whose face had the unhappy beauty of a faun, green-eyed and mocking. And beside it a shape, a towering gigantic manlike form built all of gleaming metal. A shape that bent toward him, reaching out its dreadful arms, glaring at him with two round, flashing eyes.

A harsh, toneless voice spoke close behind Carey, saying, “Catch him, Curtis.”

Carey looked for the source of the strange voice. The cubical box that he had taken for a communicator had risen from its shelf, hovering upon tenuous beams. And he saw that the surface with the twin lenses and the disc was indeed a face.

“No,” said Carey. “Don’t touch me. Don’t any of you touch me.”

He made his way back into the little laboratory. The room had closed in on him. The darkening air pressed against him like water. He was conscious that his hands were cold, that his feet were very heavy, treading on a surface he could no longer feel.

“I tried to soften the shock for him,” Curt Newton was saying somewhere across the universe.

And the harsh voice of the cubical metal case replied without inflection, “Poor fellow, he has many shocks in store.”

Carey sat down. He put his face between his cold palms, and the knowledge came to him, the truth that he had not quite believed before but from which now there was no escape.

He had bridged the gulf of time. He had left his own past in the dust of centuries behind him and he stood face to face with a future that was beyond his knowing. He was brother to Lazarus, come forth into an alien world.

 

 

Chapter 2: Return from Space

 

HE COULD hear them talking. He did not want to hear them. He did not want to lift his head and see them again. He did not even want to be alive. But he could not help hearing.

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