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FUTURE COMBINED WITH SCIENCE FICTION STORIES, November 1950

CARIDI SHALL NOT DIE!

by Walter Kubilius

The relics of the Caridi civilization
were the greatest archeological find in the
Solar System. And they were right on top of
the richest power-source mine in the system, too
!

CAPTAIN FULSOM of the Solar Museum Expedition dropped his beam wand in despair. "It's no use," he said, discouragement in his voice, "Can't find the slightest trace of artificially-created structures. The radio waves reflect nothing but the same old crust of Pluto."

"Then those hieroglyphics on Mars..." Morely began to say.

"Fakes," Fulsom broke in bitterly, "If there ever was a civilization on Pluto we would have found a trace of it by now."

Wearily, struggling with the clumsy movement of their spacesuits, they made their way back to the Rocketship Darwin.

Captain Fulsom was lost in thought, thinking of the millions invested in the expedition and wondering how he would face his colleagues back on Earth. A lost civilization on frozen Pluto! Even now he could see them laughing in the laboratories and museums of Earth. He could even hear them as they jeered.

"What!" they would ask laughingly, "traces of a lost civilization on icy Pluto? On the planet that receives 1/3600 of the sun's rays that Earth receives? So, Captain Fulsom, chasing the ghosts of the past?"

A buzzing within his helmet interrupted his reverie. Someone was trying to call him. He turned around and saw, far on the bleak snowy mountain, a small figure leisurely, waving a greeting to them.

"Must be one of the prospectors," Morley said, "hunting for barrite-crystals, the source of atomic powder."

"He's probably starving for a chance to talk," Fulsom replied, "Here's hoping he hasn't got space-madness, or we'll never hear the end of his adventures."

"You can hardly blame them for talking so much. Seme of them spend months all alone on a planet."

The prospector soon bounded up to them. He wore the usual apparatus. On his suit's legs were strapped pickaxes, rods and blasting equipment. On his back were two double-sized concentrated oxygen tanks; this meant he was prepared to spend more than a month away from a spaceship or camp.

He was an old man—they could see his wrinkled face and white-streaked beard through the visor of his space suit. "Hi ya friends," he greeted them warmly, "ya prospecting?"

His voice came weakly over the suit-to-suit radio. H'm, thought Fulsom, he must have been here quite some time. His powerized battery is almost shot. "Not exactly," he said aloud; "we're from the Solar Museum. We're hunting for traces of lost civilizations on Pluto."

A flicker of suspicion shone in the prospector's eyes and then died away. He forced a smile to his lips. "Scientists, huh? You don't say!" he crackled, "Use ta be a scientist myself. I'm the fellow who invented the automatic meteor-warner. Yes sir!" he added proudly, "That's me!"

Fulsom smiled. The meteor-warner was invented by nobody; it was only the logical result of years of space-traveling. Each rocketeer who ever left the Earth added something—each giving what he knew so that others would follow in the dread recesses of space. But the old prospector was a pleasant sort of liar nonetheless.

"How long have you been here?" Morely asked.

"Nigh unto twenty years!"

"Twenty years! That's impossible! How do you get air, food and materials?"

"Oh, easy enough," the prospector said as his face wrinkled into a smile again. "I buy 'em from occasional prospectors and expeditions who come along. There's one around here every year or so."

"But suppose no one came for over a year?"

The prospector shrugged his shoulders...

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