The Martians Are Coming can be found in






Cosmic Stories, March 1941

The Martians Are Coming

by Robert W. Lowndes

(Author of "A Green Cloud Came," "The Abyss," etc.)

When the inebriated experimenters invited the Martians to come to Earth, they didn't really mean it, but when the Martians took them at their word and sent a thousand armed ships....

WHITLOWE'S EYES bulged; as if in a trance he continued working the can opener around and around the container of beans. "Gary," he called softly. No answer from the cellar. "Gary!" he repeated, raising his voice slightly. At the noise, the wicked serpentine head before him swayed and grew nearer. A sidewinder, thought Whitlowe, and here am I with nothing more lethal than a can opener near me. What was holding up Gary?

A big head poked through the cellar door. "What's eating—?" his colleague began. Abruptly he glimpsed the rattler and disappeared down the cellar again. "Traitor!" hissed Whitlowe from the corner of his mouth. The snake darted its tongue convulsively and the man cranked at the beans convulsively, not stirring a centimeter from the kitchen chair. One move, he thought, and—

Blam! The snake collapsed as if it had been cut from a string; Whitlowe dropped the beans, and the can went clattering along the floor. "Thanks," he said not turning. Then he stood up shakily, reached for a bottle. When a full half-pint of the stuff had gurgled down his throat, he mutely passed it to Gary. The big man frowned and put it down.

"No time for comedy," he commented. "Do you see any more around?"

"Wasn't that one enough?" asked Whitlowe, spurning the limp corpse of the rattler. "I spilled the beans for its sake."

Gary was reloading his pistol. "Now that's settled," he said, "let's start unpacking. I don't think there's anything more dangerous around now than mosquitoes."

"That's okay—I'm well anointed with citronella." They passed into the living room of the shack and attacked divers well-padded boxes and crates. Whitlowe tore off the top of a huge case and smiled happily. "Sweet of you," he murmured, lifting from its depths one of many gleaming bottles.

"Okay," said Gary shortly. "If you can't work when you're sober, then I have to do the logical thing."

There was silence for a long while as the two scattered haphazard bits and sections of apparatus on the plank floor of the shack. A yellow-jacket buzzed aimlessly about until, having made up its mind that Gary was planning it no good, it veered from its course and stung him on the elbow. "Dammit!" roared the big man, slamming his huge palm against the insect. He turned slowly on Whitlowe. "You!" he said, breathing heavily.

"Cut it out, Gary," begged his colleague. "We've gone over it all a dozen times."

"You miserable little drunk," whispered Gary poisonously; "not enough that you lose us a good job, but you have to publish a declaration to the world that we—just a couple of half-baked feature writers—are going to communicate with Mars!"

"Well," hedged Whitlowe, "it seemed like a good idea at the time." Then, with a flash of spirit, he snapped: "And what's more, we can do it! We didn't work three years of overtime for nothing— you'd be just content to stick at the grind until people got tired of us and we were canned. Our Public! What a prize collection of chumps and mutts they must be to swallow the tripe we've been dishing out. 'Will Future Man Be Bald?' 'Will Giant Ants Rule the World?' 'When the Moon Falls, What?' It's about time we quit that junk and did something. You'd never have dared to publish our findings, so I did."

Gary grinned sourly. "So here we are in the great North woods," he stated, "the eyes of the world on us, and loaded down with scads of equipment paid for by subscription. And if we don't communicate with Mars, where are we? In jail, that's where—fraud—obtaining money under false pretenses. Hell! Let's get to work!"

ABOUT THREE HOURS later empty bottles and a maze of gleaming tubes indicated that something had been accomplished. "And a good job, too," proclaimed Whitlowe, rocking on his heels.

"It'll do," grunted the other. "How about power?"

Whitlowe unpacked a ...

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