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ISFDB.org Magazine Entry



THE MERCURIAN MENAGE

By Nelson S. Bond
Author of "The Message form the Void," etc.

Perils that seemed a part of fantasy faced Buzz Carson on that chill necromantic dark side of Mercury as he sped to meet the macabre creatures of flame who would enfold him, his animate-ball companions and a lovely Earth-girl in the inexorable fury of an anti-hell!

"BUZZ" CARSON, chief space scout for Galactic Metals, Inc., tucked the wire mesh container under one arm and leaped lightly across the last of the jagged forty foot crevasses between him and his cruiser. Through his green quartzite headpiece, from the permalloy hull shimmered weirdly in the relentless sunlight. As he approached the ship, a group of round, brown little shapes clustered about the airlock began to bounce and wriggle expectantly. Buzz grinned.

"The reception committee," he muttered in amusement. "Carson of Galactic makes big hit with Mercurian marbles. Oh, well—Hey! Take it easy there, Rollie!"

One of the excited Rollies was bouncing up and down gleefully; joggling his tough, rubbery body against Carson's space suit in paroxysms of delighted anticipation. At the space scout's words he subsided into a trembling ball of hot leather; rolled smoothly and easily to the cruiser's entrance. Carson laid down his burden.

"All right, Rollies," he said good naturedly. "You know the rules around here. Which one of you is today's guest of honor?"

The Rollie nearest the airlock bounced up and down exuberantly. The others rolled back wistfully; spread circle-wise about the cruiser. Buzz took the tiny Mercurian in one hand.

"Okay," he grinned. "Come on in, pal, and get cool."

He took up his sample crate and pushed the button on the airlock. The other Rollies watched him disappear behind the wall of smooth metal, then swiftly rolled across the hard, sunbaked Mercurian plain to conceal themselves in ragged, shadowy caverns.

Inside the space-ship, as Buzz stripped himself of the cumbersome refrigerated suit that life on the innermost planet demanded, the guest Rollie tossed himself madly about the smooth, cool metal floor. Ballwise, he propelled himself around the room in giddy circles, his tough little body slap-slapping against the floor and walls in a frenzy of delight as he reveled in the delicious coolness of normal Earth temperature. Buzz chuckled as he watched.

"You're a nice little guy, Rollie," he said, "even if you do look like a hot basketball. How's for a nice, cool shower?"

The Rollie bounced crazily across the floor; hobbled about his bare feet.

"Wow! Beat it! You're hot!" exclaimed Carson. He grinned again.

"All right, my spherical comrade, let's go sprinkle ourselves with some good Earth water." Together the Earthman and the creature from Mercury sought the luxury of the spaceship's shower-room.

BUZZ, reveling in a riot of foamy soapsuds and cool water, dimly became aware of another sound pounding through the hiss of the shower. A metallic hammering sound. As of someone knocking at the hull of the cruiser. He pulled a wry grin.

"Hearing things!" he muttered mirthlessly. "And no wonder, after two years alone on this blasted hotbox planet! Sorry, Rollie. No offense to you and your buddies. But—"

Again the sound reached his ears. This time it was unmistakable. There was someone—or something—pounding on the airlock! But what? Who? On the lonely planet of Mercury? Buzz frowned. If it was those darned Rollies—

Hastily he tossed a bath-towel about his loins and strode through the spaceship to the airlock. He paused near his workbench to pick up a metal meterstick, then pushed the lever that operated the lock from the inside. The airlock wheezed and hissed; swung slowly open. Buzz stepped forward angrily.

"I told you fellows," he began impatiently, "you could only come in here one at a time. I've got half a notion to—"

His mouth, stopped in midsentence, became a round O of astonishment. The figure standing before him was that of a human! What was more—a girl human! Buzz gulped and turned brick-red; suddenly conscious of his scanty bath-towel.

"Whoa! Hold everything!" he gasped. "Come on in and sit down. I'll be right back!" Clutching the towel about him desperately, he fled across the floor to the shower-room. To the great disgust of the placid Rollie, he snapped off the water, flung himself into his ...

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