The Swordsman of Mars

Chapter I

Otis Adelbert Kline

YOU have heard of telepathy, of course—in fact, Mr. Thorne, you experimented with it at one time.”

“How did you know that, doctor?”

“You wrote a letter about your experiments to the editor of a popular magazine. It was published under your own name two months ago.”

Thorne rubbed his brow. “That’s right, I did—been so busy I forgot all about it. But my results were negative.”

Dr. Morgan nodded. “So were mine, for nearly twenty years. It was a hobby when I was in practice, but since my retirement, I’ve devoted my full time to it. Let me brief you on the basics.

“Telepathy, the communication of thoughts or ideas from one mind to another without the use of any physical medium whatever, is not influenced or hampered by either time or space. That is fundamental, but I had to amend it. I failed to achieve anything until I succeeded in building a device which would pick up and amplify thought waves. And even then I would have failed had this machine not caught the waves projected by another machine which another man had built to amplify and project them.”

“You mean you can read minds by radio, as it were?” Thorne asked.

“To a very limited extent. If you had a projector in this room, and I had my receiver here, I could pick up any thoughts you sent me, but only those you consciously projected. I could not read your mind in the sense of picking up anything you did not want me to know.”

Thorne took a cigarette from the box on the table to his right and lit it. “Interesting,” he admitted, “but what has this to do with Mars?”

“I made only one amendment to that basic theory, Mr. Thorne. The rest of it holds true: the communication of thoughts or—ideas from one mind to another is not influenced or hampered by time or space. The man who built the thought-projector is on Mars.”

“Men on Mars—you mean Martians, or human beings like us? Excuse me, doctor, but that is spreading it a bit thick. I’m well enough up on present-day studies of the planets . . . ”

“ . . .  to know that the existence of a human civilization on Mars today is hardly credible,” Morgan broke in. “You are quite right. None such exists.”

“Then how . . . ?”

“Space or time. I was incredulous, too, when I got in touch with someone who identified himself as a human being, one Lal Vak, a Martian scientist and psychologist. And I might add that Lal Vak found the idea of a human civilization on Earth a bit thick, too. But the explanation, fantastic as it may seem, is quite simple: Lal Vak is speaking to me from the Mars of some millions of years ago, when a human civilization did exist there.”

Morgan raised his hand. “Don’t interrupt now—hear me out. From that simple exchange of visual and auditory impressions which marked our first communications, we progressed until each one had learned the language of the other to a degree that enabled us to exchange abstract as well as concrete ideas.

“It was Lal Vak who suggested that if we could find a man on Earth and one on Mars whose bodies were similar enough to be doubles, their brain patterns might also be similar enough so that consciousness could be transferred between them. Thus, Earth of the 20th Century could be viewed through Martian eyes, while the (to us) ancient Mars culture—we cannot yet place it in time relative to Earth—could be seen at first hand by a man from Earth. First Lal Vak projected to me many thought images of Martians willing to make this exchange—so clearly that I was able to draw detailed pictures of them. But that was not enough. I could spend the rest of my life without finding any counterparts of these Martians here. The second thing Lal Vak did was to tell me how to make what we call a mind-compass, and gave me the brain- patterns of his volunteers. I followed his directions and fed the first brain- pattern into the mind- compass.”

Thorne leaned forward intently. “What happened?”

“Nothing. The needle rotated aimlessly. This meant that either there was no physical counterpart of this Martian now alive on earth, or any such double did not have a similar brain-pattern. I fed in the second and third patterns with the same result. But with the fourth pattern, the needle swung directly to a given point and remained there.” Morgan opened a drawer in the little table and took out some pencil sketches. “Recognize this man?” he asked, handing a sketch to Thorne.

“Your assistant—Boyd, you called him?”

“Correct. Under the influence of Lal Vak’s thoughts, I drew a picture of Frank Boyd. To shorten the story, I found him in an Alaskan mining camp. He was interested in the venture I proposed—he is now on Mars.”

“But—I just saw him..

“You saw the body of Frank Boyd, which is now inhabited by Sel Han, a Martian. On Mars, Sel Han’s body is occupied by Frank Boyd, an Earthman. But I made one terrible mistake.”

“What was that?”

“In my eagerness to find a volunteer, I did not investigate Frank Boyd. Sel Han has cooperated with Lal Vak and me, but once on Mars, Frank Boyd broke contact—and without his cooperation, it could not be maintained. I have learned through Lal Vak that Boyd has allied himself with a group of Martians who are out to seize power and set up an empire over the entire planet. Mars is presently in a state roughly analogous to our middle ages, socially, though in some branches of science they are in advance of us. But theirs is not a machine civilization, and an adventurer who is also a fighting man—or adept at intrigue—can go far there.”

Harry Thorne grinned. “Let me see if I can guess the rest of the story. You’ve loosed an unsavory character on Mars and feel you’ve wronged your friend, Lal Vak, so you want to undo the damage if you can. You fed more brain- patterns into the object compass, and eventually the brain-pattern of . . . ”

“ . . . This man,” Morgan agreed, passing him another sketch. Thorne took it and saw a drawing of himself in minute detail.

“But that was not enough,” he said. “You didn’t want to repeat your error, so you spent some time investigating me first.”

Dr. Morgan smiled. “And the results were most satisfactory—to me. You had a good war record in Korea, you’ve been on hunting expeditions to Africa, and you’ve been in business. Your recent difficulties, which resulted in the loss of your fiancée and your business—left you a pauper, in fact—came out of your refusal to go along with your partner’s dubious (though legal) manipulations. He wiped you out and took your girl, too . . .  In short, you are a man who might well do what Lal Vak and I feared impossible.”

Harry Thorne nodded. “Assuming that you can send me on this strange mission, what would you want me to do?”

“Only two things. Remain in touch with me, through Lal Vak, as much as possible, and, if you can, kill Frank Boyd—the Martian Sel Han. Otherwise, your life on Mars will be your own, to live as you choose, or as the Martians choose to let you live. If you are able to rise above your environment—as I think you will be—you will find opportunities there you could never hope for here. You will find a world of romance and adventure undreamed of outside of fiction. And if you are not equally quick with sword and wits, you will find death. Knowing you to be an expert fencer—yes, I found out that you had tried to get a job with a fencing instructor and was turned down because you beat him, too easily—I don’t think I need worry about you on the first count.”

“The prospect appeals to me,” Thorne admitted. “But I refuse to murder a man I have never seen.”

“If you oppose Sel Han’s designs, I assure you that you will have to kill him or be killed. There’s no question of murder—it will be simple and justifiable self-defense . . .  Then—you’ll go?”

“I’ll at least make the attempt, with your assistance. How does this personality-transfer take place?”

“I can only describe it as a sort of phasing of similar vibrations, represented by your brain-pattern and that of the Martian volunteer. But first I must put you under hypnosis. Then I will contact Lal Vak, and we will work together. He will be on hand to meet you when you awake in the body of a Martian. Now come over here and lie on the sofa.”

Thorne did as Dr. Morgan directed, and found that he was looking into a mirror painted with alternate circles of red and black. The doctor touched a button and the mirror began to rotate slowly. Morgan’s voice came to him, “Now think of that distant world, far off in time and space. Think of it beckoning you.”

Thorne obeyed, his eyes fixed on the mirror. He began to feel drowsy, a pleasant lassitude stealing over him. The doctor’s voice faded . . . 

The Swordsman of Mars    |     Chapter II

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