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Weird Tales

MARCH, 1939

Comrades of Time

By EDMOND HAMILTON

A thrill-tale of our world a million years from now, and of the aged Wise One who craved the boon of death 

1. Men from the Past

ETHAN DREW'S rifle was hot in his hand, and not from the scorching desert sun but from desperate firing. There were just two of them left, just two of this patrol of the Foreign Legion that had been ambushed here deep in the Sahara.

As he crouched in the scant shelter of the sandy gully, firing at the white-burnoosed riders out there in front of him, he laughed harshly. His browned, aquiline young face was taut, his nostrils flaring, gray eyes icy, as he called to his single companion.

"They're going to charge, Emil! Looks as if we won't be seeing the cafés at Sidi again."

"We're going to die!" wailed the other legionnaire, a swarthy, stocky Swiss, terror on his features. "We're going to——"

Thuck! The Swiss tumbled sidewise with a hole in his face, and lay sprawled half across the bodies of the other dead men. And the Tuaregs were now riding forward in their charge, white-garbed, veiled demons, flourishing their rifles and sabers and yelling like fiends as they came on.

Ethan Drew savagely aimed and pulled trigger. At the first shot, a horse and rider crashed. The second time he squeezed the trigger, there was only a click. The Lebel was empty. He grabbed a sword from a dead officer and stood up, his blond head bare in the blazing sunlight as he yelled recklessly.

"Come on, damn you!"

"Muhammad rasul Allah!" screamed the Tuaregs, racing each other for the honor of cutting down this last survivor.

Ethan Drew had a momentary vision of them thundering down on him, horses' eyes rolling wildly, upraised sabers glinting, veiled riders leaning forward. Then the whole world seemed suddenly to explode in blinding light, and he knew nothing more.

HE awoke to dim consciousness that he was lying on a cold, hard surface. The air was chill, with a pungent, unfamiliar quality. Now this was a strange thing, Ethan thought dully, to awake from death. For he knew the Tuaregs must have killed him in that charge—indeed, he had wanted to be killed rather than to be captured and tortured.

Yet he did not feel dead, at all. He could feel the cold floor under him distinctly, and was also aware that his head was aching badly. Also he could hear the voices of men close beside him.

He lay, feeling too dazed to open his eyes, and listened.

"No use buttin' your horns aginst a tree, Pedro," a dry, nasal voice was drawling. "This Injun don't like bein' cooped up here no more than you do, but thar ain't anything we can do about it."

"But, Dios, I shall go mad in this cursed cell!" swore another, angry voice with a strong Spanish accent. "It's no place for a conquistador. I'd welcome the devil himself if he got me out of here."

"Cease blaspheming, man," commanded a harsh, deep voice. "If it is the Lord's will that we escape from here, we shall do so."

Ethan Drew listened with gathering amazement. Then he stirred, struggling to sit up.

"The new one is awakening!" someone called. There was a rush of feet toward the young American as he sat up and looked around. He found that he still held the officer's sword clutched in his hand.

He was sitting on the floor of a large room of black stone. There was but one window, a tiny, heavily barred one through which came an oblique shaft of dusky red sunlight. The only door was a small metal trap-door in the ceiling, sixteen feet overhead.

The men in the room were crowding eagerly around Ethan Drew. The dazed young American looked bewilderingly at the foremost of them, who was bending keenly forward.

He was a tall, lank man of forty, dressed in greasy buckskin shirt, trousers and moccasins, and a shabby coonskin cap. A big hunting-knife was stuck in his belt, and he held a long, old-fashioned muzzle-loading rifle in the hollow of his arm. He had a weathered, saturnine face with jutting jaw and cool, wise blue eyes.

"Feelin' all right?" he asked Ethan. "It shore takes the tucker out of you when you first get here. This child knows."

"Who—who are you?" Ethan asked haltingly.

"Me, I'm Hank Martin, the best trapper an' scout in the Rockies, barrin' my friend, Kit Carson," drawled the tall figure.

"A mountain-man of Kit Carson's time?" gasped Ethan Drew. "Why, you're crazy! That was a hundred years ago!"

"That's what you think," drawled Hank Martin dryly. "You've got a lot to learn, young feller. Why, just a week ago, it seems, I was trappin' up in the Utes with Kit and ol' Bill Williams and the rest."

Ethan stared at the man unbelievingly. His stare became more incredulous as he saw the man standing beside the trapper. This was a stalwart, broad-shouldered figure with a stern, somber, massive face, dressed in drab homespun uniform, high leather boots and a plain black hat. A huge broadsword swung at his wide belt.

"I am John Crewe, formerly corporal in the Ironsides of that man of God, Oliver Cromwell," he said in his deep, harsh voice. "Say, do you know anything of how we were brought here, or for what reason?"

"Aye, if you know who has done this, just tell me his name!" roared another voice before Ethan could answer. "Por Dios, I'll gut him like a rat, whoever he is! I'll teach him what it means to play his enchanter's tricks upon Pedro Lopez!"

Lopez was a fierce-mustached, eagle-eyed, swearing Spaniard who wore the iron helmet and breastplate and baggy boots and long sword of a Sixteenth Century conquistador.

"I'll make the wizard who played this trick on me wish he'd never been born!" he roared. "Am I, one of the valiant followers of the peerless Don Hernando Cortez, to be snatched out of my own time by black magic, without slitting a few throats in return?"

"Aw, cool down, Pedro," drawled Hank Martin. "Can't you see I want to interduce the rest of the boys to this tenderfoot?"

"This must be a crazy joke of some kind!" Ethan exclaimed hoarsely. "You men—from times centuries apart—it's impossible!"

"Shore, mebbe it's impossible, but it's true," Hank Martin drawled coolly. "We've been in here for days together, most of us, and we've got pretty well acquainted, and Crewe and I hev larned the others some English. Speak up, boys, and tell our new pardner who you are.

A small, wiry man with a dark face and cunning eyes, wearing the bronze armor and short sword of a soldier of ancient Egypt, stepped forward and spoke calmly to the dazed Ethan in halting English.

"I am Ptah, soldier of the great Thothmes the Third," he said proudly. "I followed him to the conquest of Syria."

"And I," added a heavy, rumbling voice, "am Swain Njallson, seafarer and raider, whose beaked ships have been feared from my own Northland south even to Mikligard."

Swain was a huge giant of a man, a Tenth Century viking whose blond hair flowed from under his horned helmet, whose blue eyes were icy cold as his native seas. An enormous axe was gripped in his hand.

ETHAN DREW'S eyes roamed dazedly over the weirdly assorted five men. He still felt that all of this was utterly unreal, yet the men before him were no hallucination. Ancient Egyptian and viking and Spanish conquistador, Rocky Mountain trapper and Puritan trooper, they stood before him as real as himself.

"I'm Ethan Drew, and I'm from a later time than any of you," he said unsteadily. "From the year 1938. I was fighting off enemies, about to be killed, when there was a blaze of light; then I awoke here."

"Same thing happened to all of us," Hank Martin told him. "Me, I was heelin' it out of Ute Pass with a bunch of redskins after me when somethin' hit me and I woke up here. I was alone at first—later on, the trap-door in the ceilin' opened, and they let down this little fellow Ptah, from Egypt. The others here came the same way, one after another, through the trapdoor. And now you, too."

"Then you've never seen the person or persons who brought us here?" Ethan cried bewilderingly.

Hank Martin shook his head. "Nary once. The trap-door is opened and grub and water are let down to us once a day, but that's all."

"Isn't there any way to escape from here?" Ethan exclaimed. "What about that window?"

"Look for yourself," Hank drawled. Ethan went to the little window. He saw at once that escape by it was impossible. It was only a foot square and barred with heavy rods of metal. But he was stricken with awe and wonder by the weird vista outside.

Before him, black rock cliffs sloped down steeply toward a vast expanse of flat country thickly blanketed by dense green jungle. As far as the eye could reach stretched that silent, mighty wilderness, unearthly and forbidding. Across the limitless jungle struck the level crimson rays of the descending sun. Huge and blood-red and weirdly glowing, it was sinking toward the horizon. It might have been a different sun entirely, setting upon a wild and unknown planet.

"This isn't my own time—this isn't 1938," Ethan Drew muttered in awe. "We've all been drawn somehow into the far future."

"The future?" repeated John Crewe, frowning. "What makes you think that?"

"Look at the sun," Ethan said quickly. "It is far redder, which means it is older—millions of years older."

"How in the devil's name could we be dragged across millions of years?" Pedro Lopez demanded loudly. "It is impossible."

"It is the work of Loki, the demon god," rumbled Swain Njallson with conviction. "Only he could do this to us."

John Crewe, the big Puritan, cast a gloomy glance at the huge viking.

"Talk not of your heathen gods doing this," he said harshly. "No vain idols brought us here but Satan, the Evil One, himself."

"Wal, how we got here don't bother me much," drawled Hank Martin. "What bothers me is how we're going to get back to our own times. Me, I don't cotton to the looks of this world much—I'd ruther be back in the Rockies, trappin' beaver and dodgin' Injuns."

Ethan Drew looked up kee...

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