Rebels of the Red Planet
Chapter 14

Public Domain

Dark and Maya sat with their backs against the wall of Ultra Vires, and Qril squatted before them, towering huge above them. A little distance away the other three Martians were grouped, playing some sort of game, doing some sort of work or participating in some sort of joint demonstration. Dark could not be sure which.

Qril boomed out a long, rolling sentence and Maya broke into laughter. She turned to Dark and translated:

“He said he didn’t understand why I’m wearing a helmet, when you aren’t. I explained that I have to wear a helmet to breathe, and he said that, since you and I are alike, it appears that we’d dress alike. So you see, darling, even the Martians recognize that we’re made for each other.”

Dark shook his head in wonderment.

“No human has ever been able to figure out Martian thinking processes, and I doubt that one ever will,” he remarked. “This is the Martian who explained to you the physiological structure that permits me to live without oxygen, and yet he asks a question like that!”

“There’s one thing that puzzles me,” said Maya curiously. “Without a helmet, you can’t use your marsuit heater, and you said you walked here naked. But the temperature out here right now is well below freezing. Aren’t you cold?”

“No,” answered Dark. “I get cold in temperatures that are uncomfortable to anyone else when I’m in a dome or a building and breathing. But out here, when I’m not breathing, I’m aware of temperature changes but they don’t cause me any discomfort. It must be that switching to direct utilization of solar power alters my reactions to temperature.”

“Well,” said Maya, “I can understand that utilization of solar power when you’re in the sunshine. But how can you keep operating when you’re in shadow, or at night, and not breathing?”

“I don’t know. Maybe Qril does.”

Maya asked the Martian, and relayed his answer to Dark:

“Qril says that you store excess energy in the tissues, very much as the Martians store oxygen. In a sense, direct sunlight’s your generator, and it charges your batteries for power when it isn’t operating. Now, Dark, why don’t you ask him anything you want to know about your origin, and I’ll act as translator.”

“All right,” agreed Dark. “But first, it was among Martians that I awoke when I returned to life the first time in the Icaria Desert. That’s pretty far away, but I understand Martians have a weird sort of sympathetic communication among themselves. Does he know anything about how I got there?”

Maya talked with Qril and translated:

“Qril is one of the Martians I saw come by here and pick up your body the morning after Goat killed you and threw your body out in the desert. Qril says they recognized you from your genetic pattern--and don’t ask me how they did this!--as being the one they had completed embryonic alteration on years before, so they picked you up and took you with them to give you a chance to regenerate and revive.”

“But how and why did I turn up after my revival with Dark Kensington’s memories?”

“He says they gave you a memory pattern by a deep telepathic process,” answered Maya after talking with Qril, “because your memory pattern as Brute was of no value to you in meeting a new environment. It seems that there was some blockage in the operation of your brain as Brute, because of a slight fault in the embryonic alteration, and they corrected that before you revived.”

“But why Dark Kensington’s memory pattern?” asked Dark. “It turned out to be a valuable one for me, but I’ve met the real Dark Kensington since then, and he’s a much older man. Why did they choose his memory pattern?”

Maya talked with Qril.

“He says names mean very little to them,” she said then. “That’s something I learned as a child: that Martians often interchange their names, and the names evidently refer to a state of experience and being rather than to a specific individual. But he says that the memory pattern they chose to give you was that of your father!”

Dark stared at her, stunned.

“Then,” he said slowly, “Old Beard is my father. I should have known! I think I felt it.”

“I’m not surprised if you did,” said Maya. “From what Qril tells me, Dark, this prenatal alteration they performed on you gave you even more extensive powers than we realized. He says that you have extraordinary extrasensory ability, if you would only make an effort to use it.”

“Oh, I do, do I?” murmured Dark thoughtfully.

He looked over at the other Martians, seated in a circle in the morning sunshine. They were taking turns tossing some small polygons, and evidently the objective of whatever they were doing lay in the way the polygons fell.

Dark felt a sudden surge of power in his brain. He concentrated it, he focused it, and one of the polygons rose slowly from the ground and drifted into the air above the Martians’ heads.

Dark could feel the strength that went out and raised the polygon, like an invisible extension of himself. Then he felt another force seize the polygon, and it was drawn back firmly and without hesitation to its former place.

Dark turned his head back to look into Qril’s huge eyes, and at once he was in mental contact with the Martian.

Qril was laughing at him. There was no change of expression on Qril’s face, but in his mind was the atmosphere of high humor. Qril’s thoughts came to him without words, in no language, silently but clearly:

You have not practised your power. Experience will be necessary before you can compete with the simplest effort of one of our race.

Dark turned to Maya.

“He’s right,” said Dark. “I do have extrasensory powers, but they’ll need some development.”

“I know,” said Maya. “The telepathic voltage in the atmosphere must be very high right now, because even I sensed your effort in lifting that object, and I understood Qril’s communication to you.”

Maya and Dark took their leave of Qril, and went back into Ultra Vires. As they did so, Qril and the other Martians arose and began to drift away into the desert, as though they had had a mission in staying here, which was now accomplished.

“I hope you know something about mechanics,” said Maya as they walked down the corridor together. “Because if you don’t, it looks like we’re stuck here for a while. At least I am, unless you can run one of these groundcars with psychokinetic power.”

“No, apparently I’m not that good at it yet,” said Dark. “Maybe I could teleport in any parts you need. No wait! I just remembered something! Come with me.”

They turned off into a side corridor, found stairs and climbed to the top floor of the building. There they followed another corridor until Dark stopped and opened a door.

It was the door to a small airlock. Dark led Maya through it into a huge room.

A helicopter stood in its center.

“Goat did leave it here!” exclaimed Dark joyfully. “I’d forgotten that he had this. He must have just packed the most necessary things when he left the place, planning to send trucks and a crew back and clean it out later at his leisure. Now, if this copter’s only in good flying shape, we’re set.”

He checked the machine over. Everything was in order.

“How do we get it out of here?” asked Maya curiously, looking around the room. “That little airlock’s too small for a copter to go through it.”

“The roof rolls back,” said Dark. “Put on your helmet, and I’ll show you.”

Maya donned her marshelmet. Dark went to the wall and pulled a switch. Nothing happened.

“I forgot,” he said. “The electricity’s off. Well, let’s try something.”

Dark concentrated his mind intensely on the movable ceiling. For a moment, there was resistance, then, very slowly, it began to open. A crack appeared in its center, and the air of the room hissed out with the swish of a minor tempest. After that, it was easier. The crack widened swiftly, and the roof rolled back to the walls, leaving the room open to the heavens.

“All we have to do now is to climb into it and go,” said Dark with satisfaction. “You fill the fuel tanks, and I’ll run down to the motor pool and pick up those other two marsuits. One of them is for my friend Happy, who is very fat, and he couldn’t wear either of the emergency suits in the copter.”

Maya uncoiled the hose from one of the fuel drums in the room and poked it into the copter’s tank. Dark left the room, walked down the corridor and descended the stairs.

He made his way to the motor pool. Maya was wearing one of the three marsuits he had brought down, but the other two were still lying on the floor. He picked them up and started back.

He was walking down the first floor corridor, carrying the marsuits, when there crashed in on his mind a terrifying, silent scream:

Help!

 
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