JUST as the white man had nothing to be proud of in his early conquest of the Americas, so the human race will hardly look back with pride if it manages to conquer the solar planets. The dominating force of greed is not expected to suddenly vanish when enterprising men roam the interplanetary spaces.
It is unfortunate that after brave and unselfish men have opened up new lands, the great profits that they bring go to financiers and business men who risk neither their lives nor their money.
Suppose, as Mr. Hamilton shows so dramatically, the selfish exploitation of other planets was being accomplished for greedy exploiters, and to conquer those worlds meant the decimation of its harmless population, would you aid in that process? Read this absorbing story, and then write us your opinions of the conduct of Mart Halkett. We will print the best letters.
IMMY CRANE, Mart Halkett and Hall Burnham were students together in a New York technical school in the spring when Gillen’s flight changed the world. Crane, Halkett and Burnham had been an inseparable trio since boyhood. They had fought youthful foes together, had wrestled together with their lessons, and now read together, as an amazed world was reading, of Ross Gillen’s stupendous exploit.
Gillen, the stubby, shy and spectacled Arizona scientist, burst the thing on the world like a bombshell. For sixteen years he had worked on the problem of atomic power. When he finally solved that problem and found himself able to extract almost unlimited power from small amounts of matter, by breaking down its atoms with a simple projector of electrical forces of terrific voltage, Gillen called in a helper, Anson Drake. With Drake he constructed an atom-blast mechanism that would shoot forth as a rocket stream, exploded atoms of immeasurable force, a tremendous means of propulsion.
For Gillen meant to conquer space. Through that momentous winter when Crane, Halkett and Burnham had not a thought beyond their school problems and school sports, Gillen and Drake were constructing a rocket that would use the atom-blast mechanism for propulsion and could carry one man and the necessary supplies of air, food and water. There was installed in the ship a radio transmitter they had devised, which made use of a carrier-beam to send radio impulses through the earth’s Heaviside Layer from outer space. When all was ready Ross Gillen got calmly into the rocket and roared out into space to eternal glory.
Crane, Halkett and Burnham read as tensely as everyone else on earth the reports that came back from Gillen’s radio. He swung sunward first and reported Venus a landless water-covered ball, and Mercury a mass of molten rock. Landing was impossible on either. Then Gillen headed outward in a broad curve for Mars and on a memorable day reported to earth a landing on that planet.
Mars had thin but breathable air, Gillen reported. It was an arid world of red deserts with oases of gray vegetation wherever there were underground springs or water-courses. There were Martians of some intelligence moving in nomadic groups from oasis to oasis. They were man-like beings with stilt-like legs and arms, with huge bulging chests and bulbous heads covered with light fur. Gillen said the Martian groups or tribes fought some among themselves with spears and like weapons, but that they welcomed him as a friend. He reported signs of large mineral and chemical deposits before he left Mars.
Gillen’s radio signals became ever weaker as his rocket moved through space toward Jupiter. He managed a safe landing on that giant planet and found it without oceans, warm and steamy and clad from pole to pole with forests of great fern growths. A strange fauna inhabited these forests and the highest forms of life, the Jovians, as Gillen called them, were erect-walking creatures with big, soft hairless bodies and with thick arms and legs ending in flippers instead of hands or feet. Their heads were small and round, with large dark eyes. They lived peacefully in large communities in the fern forests, on fruits and roots. They had few weapons and were of child-like friendliness. Gillen stayed several days with them before leaving Jupiter.
Gillen said only that Jupiter’s greater gravitation and heavy wet atmosphere had made him ill and that he was heading back to earth. Saturn, Uranus, Neptune and Pluto were, of course, hopelessly cold and uninhabitable.
Crane, Halkett and Burnham were part of a world that was mad with excitement as Gillen swung back through space toward earth. And when at last Gillen’s rocket roared in through earth’s atmosphere and landed, it smashed, and they found Gillen inside it crumpled and dead, but with a smile on his lips.
To Halkett, Crane and Burnham, Gillen was the supreme hero as he was to all earth. Overnight, Gillen’s flight, the fact of interplanetary travel, changed everything. The new planets open to earthmen brought new and tremendous problems. Even as Anson Drake, Gillen’s helper, was supervising construction of ten rockets for a second expedition, the world’s governments were meeting and deciding that a terrific war between nations for the rich territories of Mars and Jupiter could only be avoided by formation of one government for the other planets. The Interplanetary Council thus came into being and one of its first acts was to make Drake’s expedition its official exploring party.
Drake’s expedition became the goal of all the adventure-minded young men of earth. Jimmy Crane, Mart Halkett and Hall Burnham were among these, but they had what most of the adventurous had. not, technical education and skill. The harassed Drake took the three on: and when Drake’s ten rockets sailed out with the commission of the Interplanetary Council to explore Mars’ mineral and other resources, to establish bases for future exploration on Mars and if possible on Jupiter, Crane, Halkett and Burnham were together in Rocket 8.
DRAKE’S EXPEDITION proved a classic in disaster. Two of his ten rockets perished in mid-space in a meteor swarm. Many of the men in the other rockets were struck down by the malign combination of the weightlessness, the unsoftened ultra-violet rays, and the terrific glare and gloom of mid-space. This space-sickness had put about a half of Drake’s men out of usefulness, Halkett and Burnham among them, when his eight rockets swung in to land near the Martian equator.
One of Drake’s rockets smashed completely in landing, and three others suffered minor damages. They had landed near one of the oases of vegetation, and Drake directed the establishment of a camp. The thin cold Martian air helped bring his space-sick men back to normal, but others were being smitten at the same time by what came to be known later as Martian fever. This seized on Hall Burnham among others, though Halkett and Crane never had it. The fever came as the result of the entirely strange conditions in which the earthmen found themselves.
Drake’s men were in a world in which nothing could be measured by terrestrial standards. The reduced gravitation made their slightest movements give grotesquely disproportionate results. But the thin air made even the slightest effort tire them quickly. The sun’s heat was enough by day to give moderate warmth, but the nights in Drake’s camp were freezing. Halkett, Crane and Burnham marveled at the splendor of those bitter nights, the stars superb in frosty brilliance, the two Martian moons casting ever-changing shadows.
Then, too, there were the Martians. The first contact of Drake’s party with them was amicable enough. The big, furry man-like beings, strange looking to the earthmen with their huge expanded chests and stilt-like limbs, emerged from the vegetation oases to greet Drake’s men as friends. News of Gillen’s visit had traveled over part of Mars, at least, for these Martians had heard of it.
Drake welcomed the Martians and ordered his men to fraternize with them, for he hoped to learn much from them concerning the planet’s resources. He was beginning to see that his expedition was far too small for even the sketchiest exploration of the planet. So Martians and earthmen mixed and mingled in the little camp at the oasis’ edge. Some of the men learned the rudiments of the Martians’ speech—Mart Halkett was one of these—and got from them a little information concerning location of mineral deposits. Although most of it was undependable, still Drake felt he was learning something.
But the whole state of affairs changed when one of Drake’s men foolishly told some Martians that Drake’s expedition was but the forerunner of many others from earth, and that the Interplanetary Council would direct the destinies of all the planets. It must have been a shock to the Martians, primitive as they were, to find that they were considered subjects of this new government. They withdrew at once from the earthmen’s camp. Drake radioed to earth that they were acting queerly and that he feared an attack.
Yet when the attack came three days later the earthmen brought it on themselves. When one of Drake’s guards wantonly slew a Martian, the natives rushed the camp. Drake had hastily made ready atom-blast mechanisms for defense and the attacking Martians were almost annihilated by the invisible but terrific fire of disintegrated atoms. Crouching behind their rude dirtworks, the earthmen, even those staggering from Martian fever, turned the roaring blasts this way and that to mow down the onrushing mobs of furry, big-chested stilt-limbed Martians. Halkett, Crane and Burnham did their part in that one-sided fight.
The Martians had learned their lesson and attacked no more but hemmed in the camp and systematically trailed and killed anyone venturing from it. More of Drake’s men were going down with Martian fever and several died. Exploration was out of the question and Drake’s position became insupportable. He reported as much and the Interplanetary Council ordered his return to earth.
Drake foolishly sent four of his rockets, with Halkett and his friends in one, back to earth in advance. The other three and their crews, including himself, delayed to repair the damage done in landing. The Martians rushed them in force that night, and Drake and all his men perished in what must have been a terrific battle.
Halkett, Crane and Burnham got back to earth with the four advance rockets some time after Drake’s last broken-off radio-messages had told his fate. They found earth, which welcomed them as heroes, wrathful at the slaying of their commander and comrades by the Martians. The information Drake had sent back regarding Mars’ rich chemical and metallic deposits added greed to the earth-people’s anger.
Announcement was made immediately by the Interplanetary Council that another force would be sent back to Mars, one better equipped to face Martian conditions and powerful enough to resist any Martian attack. It was evident that the Martians would resist all explorations and must be subdued before a systematic survey of the planet could be made. Once that was done. Mars would become a base for the exploration of Jupiter.
Rockets to the number of a hundred were under construction, embodying all the lessons Drake’s disastrous expedition had learned. Instruments, to give warning of meteor swarms by means of magnetic fields projected ahead, were devised. Walls and window ports were constructed to soften the terrific ultra-violet vibrations of free space. Special recoil harnesses were produced to minimize the terrible shocks of starting and landing. These would reduce space-sickness, and Martian fever was to be combatted by special oxygenation treatment to be given periodically to all engaged in this new venture.
Weapons were not forgotten—the atom-blast weapons were improved in power and range, and new atomic bombs that burst with unprecedented violence were being turned out. And while crews were being enlisted and trained for this rocket fleet, the Army of the Interplanetary Council was organized. Most of the survivors of Drake’s disastrous expedition joined one department or another of the new force. Crane, Halkett and Burnham had joined at once, and because their Martian experience made them valuable they were commissioned lieutenants in the new army.
HALKETT COMMENTED on that. “I don’t know why we should be going back there to kill those poor furry devils,” he told Crane and Burnham. “After all, they’re fighting for their world.”
“We wouldn’t hurt them if they’d be reasonable and not attack us, would we?” Crane demanded. “We’re only trying to make of Mars something besides a great useless desert.”
“But the Martians seem to be satisfied with it as a desert,” Halkett persisted. “What right have we, really, to change it or exploit its resources against their wishes?”
“Halk, if you talk like that people’ll think you’re pro-Martian,” said Crane worriedly. “Don’t you know that the Martians will never use those chemical and metal deposits until the end of time, and that earth needs them badly?”
“Not to speak of the fact that we’ll give the Martians a better government than they ever had before,” Burnham said. “They’ve always been fighting among themselves and the Council will stop that.”
“I suppose that’s so,” Halkett admitted. “But just the same. I’m not keen on slaughtering any more of them with the atom-blasts as we did with Drake.”
“There’ll be nothing like that,” Crane told him. “The Martians will see we’re too strong and won’t start anything.”
Crane proved a poor prophet. For when the expedition, commanded by that Richard Weathering who had been Drake’s second in command, reached Mars in its hundred rockets, trouble started. There was never a chance to try peaceful methods—fighting with the Martians began almost immediately.
It was evident that since Drake’s expedition the Martians had anticipated further parties and had made some preparation. They had combined groups into several large forces and had devised some crude chemical weapons not unlike the ancient Greek fire. With these they rushed Weathering’s rockets on the equatorial plateau where they had landed. But Weathering had already brought order out of the confusion of landing and was ready for them.
His first act on landing was to have his men bring the rockets together and throw up dirtworks around them. Both of these tasks were enormously simplified by the lesser gravitation of the planet. He had then set up batteries of atom-blasts at strategic locations behind his works, Jimmy Crane commanding one of these and Halkett another. These opened on the Martians as soon as they came into range. The furry masses, unable to use their rather ineffective chemical weapons, were forced to fall back with some thousands dead. They immediately tried to hem in the earthmen as they had done with the Drake expedition.
Weathering did not permit this. He knew that the Martians’ source of existence was the gray vegetation of the oases. This vegetation was mostly a sage shrub which bore pod-like fruits about the time the polar snow-caps reappeared. Weathering sent parties forth, Lieutenant Jimmy Crane heading one, to devastate the oases for a hundred miles around the earth-post.
They carried out orders though the Martians in those cases made fierce resistance, and there were mad combats of brown-clad earthmen and furry Martians in brilliant sunlight of day or black, freezing night. But Crane’s and the other parties went stubbornly ahead, destroying the vegetation with atom-blasts. And in the end, with the vegetation that yielded their food-supply destroyed, the Martians in that hundred-mile circle had to retire across the red desert to other oases.
Weathering then split his forces into three divisions using his rockets to transport two of these divisions to points equidistant around Mars’ equator. At each point a post like Weathering’s own was established, with dirtworks in a square around it and atom-blast batteries mounted. Jimmy Crane, who had shown aptitude thus far in Martian campaigning, was made commander of one of these posts and a Lieutenant Lanson commander of the other. Halkett and Burnham stayed in Weathering’s own post.
Eighty of the ninety-seven rockets that had landed safely. Weathering now sent back to earth for more men and supplies. Word came from earth that fifty new rockets had been constructed and were on their way with men and materials. Weathering distributed them equally among his three posts when they came and sent them also back to earth for more. Crane and Lanson, under his orders, had devastated the oases around their posts to drive the Martians back from them.
The Conquest Of Mars
WEATHERING’S MEN were becoming acclimated to Martian conditions. The oxygenation treatments eliminated most of the Martian fever, and as the earthmen’s muscles attuned themselves gradually to the new gravitation their movements became more sure. It is worthy of note that some of those first venturers who went back from Mars to earth after a year on the red planet were stricken by a sort of earth-sickness due to earth’s different conditions.
As reinforcements came in. Weathering continued to distribute them among the three posts of Crane and Lanson and himself. He wanted to establish the three forts firmly before an overwhelming Martian attack swept them out of existence. There were signs that that could be expected from the Martians.
The Martian attacks were growing fiercer. The Martians could see plainly enough the course Weathering was following, and that each week brought more rockets from earth with more men, more supplies and more atom-blasts and atomic bombs. They determined upon a concerted attack to wipe out the earthmen’s three forts before they became too strong.
The attack broke against the three forts, so widely separated, at the same time. It did not catch Weathering and Crane and Lanson by surprise—their atom-blasts were ready. But even so, the Martian attack was almost irresistible in sheer weight. From far across the reddish desert surged the furry Martian masses toward the three little forts, coming on despite the atom-blasts that took toll of them by tens of thousands.
Weathering’s post and that of Crane withstood the attack by only the utmost endeavor. Halkett had charge of one of the atom-blast batteries at Weathering’s fort, on the side that the Martians attacked most determinedly. It was Halkett’s battery that wrought the deadliest destruction amid the furry hordes.
The third post, that of Lanson, fell. The Martians got inside with their chemical weapons despite the atom-blasts and bombs of the earthmen. Lanson and his garrison were massacred to the last man by the Martians. Only one of the three rockets stationed at Lanson’s post escaped, a little before the fort fell, and got to Weathering with the news.
Weathering acted at once, despite his own precarious situation. He assembled sixteen rockets from his fort and Crane’s, loaded them with men and weapons, and sent them under the command of Mart Halkett to reestablish the third fort. They did so, taking the Martians there by surprise, and managed to hold the place in the face of the Martian attacks that followed.
There followed a lull in the fighting, with Weathering, Crane and Halkett holding grimly on in the three forts. The Martians had lost tremendous numbers without dislodging the earthmen, and were in no mood for further attacks in force. Yet they did not retire but continued to encircle the forts.
But steadily the earthmen’s strength grew as more rockets came in. Earth was aflame over the situation, cheering Weathering as the upholder of terrestrial honor. The gallant fight of earth’s lonely outposts there amid the Martian hordes had appealed to the popular imagination and there were insistent demands that the Interplanetary Council use all its powers to reinforce them.
It meant to do so. It sent Weathering a message stating as much, advancing him from colonel to general, promoting Jimmy Crane to colonel, and Halkett and Burnham and a number of others to captaincies. The enlistment bureaus of the Council on earth could not handle the flood of recruits.
Rockets were now pouring from the factories in a steadily increasing stream. Atomic weapons were also being produced in quantity and every few days saw rockets laden with supplies and men taking off for Mars. Many perished still in the dangers of the void but most arrived safely. Weathering continued to distribute the men and supplies they brought among his three posts.
When the three forts were strong enough to be impregnable to any Martian attack. Weathering began the establishment of new posts. He proceeded methodically to dot Mars with small but strong forts, each covering a certain portion of the planet’s surface. Hall Burnham was made commander of one of the first of these. Crane and Halkett retaining command of their posts.
Within a year Weathering had a network of fifty forts stretched over Mars’ surface from the north polar snow-cap to the southern one. He had in them strong garrisons of bronzed earthmen thoroughly acclimated to the Martian gravitation and atmosphere, and well seasoned in fighting with the stilt-limbed Martians. By then Halkett and Burnham were commanding two of the fifty forts, while Jimmy Crane was now Weathering’s second in command. The two worked together distributing, according to their plan, among the fifty posts, the streams of men and materials arriving from earth.
With the next melting of the polar snow-caps. Weathering was ready to begin the final subjugation of Mars. From a circle of six of his forts he sent out strong forces to attack and drive together the Martians in that circular territory. This was the plan evolved by Weathering and Crane, to concentrate forces upon one section of the planet at a time, using the forts around that section as bases, mopping up the Martians in that section thoroughly and then proceeding to another.
CRANE HAD charge of the first operation and it worked perfectly. The Interplanetary Council had directed Weathering to offer the Martians peace if they promised to obey the Government’s authority. But Crane’s men had no chance even to make the offer, so utterly fierce was the Martian resistance.
The Martians had never expected what happened. The furry, stilt-limbed men had ceased their attacks on the earthmen’s forts some time before, save for occasional raids, and had retired to take up existence in the vegetation oases remoter from the forts. There they had lived as they had for ages, moving in nomadic fashion through the oases gathering the fruits upon which they subsisted, digging as ages of experience had made them skillful in doing for the underground springs. Now the earthmen were attacking them! The Martians rose madly to the fight.
But Crane’s forces were strongly armed and with atom-blasts and atom bombs against their crude weapons the Martians had no chance. Those in that section were mostly killed in the fighting and the few remaining were herded into prison camps. Crane went on under Weathering’s order to another section and repeated the maneuver. Halkett’s fort was one of the posts around that section, but Halkett and Crane had small opportunity of seeing each other in the midst of the grim business of rounding up the Martians. With that section subdued like the first, the forces of Crane concentrated on another.
Within another year Weathering could send word back to the Council that the plan had succeeded and that except for a few remote wastes near the snow-caps, Mars was entirely subjugated. In that year approximately three-fourths of the Martian race had perished, for in almost every case their forces had resisted to the last. Those who remained could constitute no danger to the earthmen’s system of forts. The Council flashed Weathering congratulations and gave Crane command of the expedition then fitting out on earth for the exploration of Jupiter.
Crane went back to earth to take charge of it, first taking warm leave of Mart Halkett and Hall Burnham at the posts they commanded. Crane spent a half year on earth preparing his expedition of two hundred rockets to meet conditions on Jupiter. For Jupiter presented a greater problem to earth explorers than had Mars, and biologists and chemists had been working to overcome the obstacles.
The greatest difficulty, Crane saw, was Jupiter’s gravitation, almost twice that of earth despite the swift-spinning planet’s counteracting centrifugal force. Gillen’s visit to Jupiter on his epochal flight had been terminated by sickness brought on by that greater gravitation and the heavy damp atmosphere. Crane’s men must be strengthened to withstand these influences.
Earth’s scientists solved the problem to some extent by devising rigid metallic clothing not unlike armor which would support the interior human structure against Jupiter’s pull. Crane’s men were also administered compounds devised by the biochemists for the rapid building of bone to strengthen the skeleton structure, while respirators which absorbed a percentage of the water vapor in air would solve for Crane’s men the problem of the heavy wet atmosphere.
So equipped, Crane’s expedition sailed in its two hundred rockets for Jupiter, choosing a time when the asteroid zone between earth and Jupiter was comparatively clear. Even so, sixteen of the two hundred rockets never reached their destination. The others landed safely in the fern forests of the southern half of Jupiter, and Crane began there establishment of the first earth-post.
He found himself with troubles enough. For though the metal armor and other protections safeguarded the earthmen fairly effectively from the greater gravitation, they found it still difficult to make the simplest motions. It took weeks for Crane’s men, against the drag of the Jovian gravity, to clear the fern forest around them and turn up dirtworks of the oozy black Jovian soil.
Sickness was rife among them, for the respirators did not work as well as the safeguards against gravitation. The heavy wet air worked havoc with the earthmen’s lungs and the so-called Jovian croup became soon as well-known and much more feared than Martian fever. Men toiling in the thin sunlight were stricken by it. Crane’s forces were decimated by it. The fern forests, too, held weird forms of life that proved a problem, some of them disk-shaped things of flesh that enveloped anything living in their bodies and ingested it directly. There were also strange huge worm-like things existing in the oozy soil, and others stranger still. Crane’s men had to work with atom-blasts constantly ready to repel these strange predatory forms of life.
OUT OF the fern forests, too, came to watch the earthmen hosts of the big, soft-bodied creatures Gillen had called the Jovians. These had bodies eight feet high and six feet around, like big cylinders of hairless brown flesh supported on thick flipper-like limbs, with similar flipper-like arms. Their small round heads had dark mild eyes and mouths from which came their deep bass speech. Crane found they were perhaps as intelligent as the Martians but were rather more peaceful, their only weapons spears with which they fought off the things in the fern forests that attacked them.
They were quite friendly toward the earthmen and watched their operations with child-like interest. Crane intended to avoid Drake’s mistake and not clash with the Jovians in any way while his men toiled to establish first one post and then others over southern Jupiter. He reported to the Council that he would only operate in South Jupiter for the time being. And while earth followed Crane’s work on South Jupiter with intense interest, a host of changes were occurring on Mars.
Mart Halkett, still commanding his equatorial Martian post, saw a new kind of migration now going on from earth to Mars. Hitherto the rockets had carried hardly anything but the reinforcements of the Council and their supplies. But now Halkett saw crowds of civilians pouring into the newly subjugated planet. They were magnates, speculators, engineers, mechanics, for the Council was now granting concessions in the great Martian mineral and chemical deposits.
Halkett saw those forts nearest the deposits, including his own, grow rapidly into raw mine towns packed with earthmen of all kinds. Martian fever had been completely conquered by earth’s scientists and some of these crude new towns contained thousands of earthmen. There could be seen among them occasional stilt-limbed, huge-chested Martians moving about as though bewildered by the activity about them, but most of the remaining Martians were on certain oases set aside for them as reservations. Refining and extracting plants were set up as mining operations grew, and Halkett saw the rocket fleets that arrived with men and machinery going back to earth laden with metals and chemicals.
Halkett went up to Burnham’s post in northern Mars sick at heart. He told Burnham he had secured a transfer to Jupiter to serve there in Jimmy Crane’s expanding system of forts.
“I can’t stand this any longer. Burn,” he said. “I mean what we’ve done to this world—the Martians, its people, almost wiped out and those left treated the way they are.”
Burnham looked keenly at him. “You’re taking it too hard, Halkett,” he said. “It’s been a tough time, I admit, but that’s all over now the Martians are conquered.”
“Conquered—wiped out, I say again,” Halkett said bitterly. “Burnham, I dream about it sometimes—those waves of furry stilt-men coming on and on toward certain death, and my atom-blasts mowing them down like grass.”
“They had to be conquered,” Burnham argued. “Isn’t it worth it? Look at all this planet’s resources thrown open to real use now instead of lying unused.”
“Thrown open to a lot of speculators and financiers to extract a profit from,” Halkett amended. “The Martians are killed off and we do the dirty work of killing them and all for what? So this bunch swarming into Mars now can enrich themselves.”
“That’s too narrow a view,” Burnham told him. “It’s inevitable that there’ll be certain evils in the course of an expansion like this.”
“Why expand, then?” asked Halkett. “Why not stay on our own planet and leave these poor devils of Martians and Jovians keep theirs?”
Burnham shook his head. “Expansion is as inevitable as a full tank overflowing into an empty one. Anyway, Halk, the fighting’s over here now so why go on to Jupiter?”
“Because I feel like a murderer haunting the scene of his crime,” Halkett told him. “When I see some of these degraded Martians hanging around our towns, begging for food and getting cuffed and kicked out of the way by earthmen, I want to get out of here to I don’t care where.”
Halkett went on to Jupiter. He found by then Crane had established a dozen posts over the southern half of the vast planet, following Weathering’s Martian system. Jovian croup was giving Crane more trouble than anything else and the dreaded disease was often fatal, the death list sometimes appalling while the earth scientists worked frantically to control the disease. They finally succeeded in evolving a serum which was an effective preventive. Halkett was inoculated with this immediately on reaching Jupiter.
Halkett found that Crane was, despite the difficulties, strengthening his system of posts as reinforcements arrived constantly from earth. He had been successful in avoiding trouble with the Jovians so far—the strange forms of life that came out from the steamy fern forests to attack the earthmen were of more concern than the numberless but peaceful hosts of the Jovians
Crane commented on the Jovians to Halkett the night after the latter’s arrival. The two had been outside the post and Halkett had met the Jovians for the first time, the big, soft-eyed flipper-men clustering around him like interested children. Now he and Crane sat in Crane’s lamp-lit office, whose windows looked out across the post to the mighty wall of the surrounding fern forest. Halkett could hear the calls and screams of the forest’s various weird tenants, and could see its steamy mists rising into the light of the two moons then in the sky, Callisto and Europa.
“These Jovians aren’t a bad bunch, Halk,” Colonel Jimmy Crane told his friend. “They seem too mild to give us any real trouble, though God knows how many millions of them there are.”
He was enthusiastic about Jupiter’s possibilities. “I tell you, this is the planet of the future. Stick a seed in the ground and in a week you’ve a tree—this planet will be supporting trillions of humans some day when earth and Mars are overcrowded.”
“Where will the Jovians be when that day arrives?” Halkett asked him. Crane looked at him.
“Still holding to that viewpoint? Halkett, we have to let some things take care of themselves. Be sure we’ll not harm the Jovians if they don’t try banning us.”
“Well, we may be able to get along with them,” Halkett said thoughtfully. “They seem rather more peaceful than the Martians.”
BUT TROUBLE came soon after Halkett’s arrival, with the Jovians. Crane had been engaged in strengthening his dozen posts scattered over the southern half of Jupiter. He had not tried to establish any forts in North Jupiter, realizing the insufficiency of his resources, for even the dozen on the huge planet’s southern half were separated by tremendous distances. Rocket communication between them was fairly quick but Crane preferred to strengthen the twelve forts before establishing more.
Then came the trouble. It began as on Mars—a bad-tempered earthman at one of the forts beat a flipper-man for some reason and in a brawl that ensued one earthman and five Jovians were killed. Word must have spread somehow in the fern forests for the Jovians retired from the forts of the earthmen. Jimmy Crane cursed in private but acted, punishing the earthmen concerned and sending Halkett to the Jovian communities to patch up matters.
Halkett had learned the Jovian language and proved a good ambassador for he was sympathetic with the flipper-men. He did his best to fulfill his mission but could not succeed. The flipper-men told Halkett that they had no hard feelings but would prefer to avoid the earthmen lest further trouble develop.
Halkett went back with this word and Crane realized that trouble was ahead. He flashed word back to the Interplanetary Council and it ordered him to hold all his posts and await reinforcements from earth and Mars. Weathering would send on most of the Martian divisions of the Council’s Army as rapidly as possible.
Soon after the arrival of the first reinforcements the storm broke. The Jovians had come to see, despite Halkett’s attempt at reassurance, what Crane’s expanding system of posts would mean in time. They sent to Crane asking from him a promise that no more earthmen would come to Jupiter. Crane curtly refused to make such a promise. Even so the flipper-men might have remained inactive had not by some inconceivable brutality an atom-blast been turned upon their envoys as they left the fort. Crane’s summary execution of the men responsible for the action could not mend matters.
For the Jovians, aroused at last, rose upon the earthmen. Over all South Jupiter they poured out of the fern forests in incalculable masses upon the forts of the earthmen. They had not even the crude chemical weapons the Martians had used, their only arms spears and great maces, but there were tens of thousands of them to every earthman. Crane set himself grimly to hold his dozen posts against the floods of the flipper-men.
He had given Halkett command of one of the posts on the other side of South Jupiter. Halkett gripped himself and used all his experience to hold the post. He fought as all of Crane’s twelve posts were fighting, to hold back the endless Jovian masses. The atom-blasts scythed them down, the atomic bombs burst in terrific destruction among them, but the Jovians came on to the attack with a sort of mild but resolute determination.
Crane now was fighting to maintain earth’s hold upon South Jupiter until reinforcements could come. He sent brief reports back to the Earth. The Council appreciated the situation, commandeered all rockets for the sole purpose of transporting their legions and weapons to South Jupiter. Only skeleton garrisons were left in the Martian posts. Yet it seemed that by sheer numbers the Jovians would overwhelm the earthmen.
One of Crane’s twelve posts they did indeed take. A strange sidelight on the nature of the Jovians is that after losing hundreds of thousands in the long attack on the fort, they contented themselves with razing it to the ground when they had captured it and holding the earthmen in it prisoners. There was no massacre as had been the case on Mars. Crane, however, managed with the coming of further reinforcements to reestablish the fort.
The tide was turning in the earthmen’s favor. Every day brought in new rockets of men and supplies to Crane and the flipper-men could not face the atom-blasts and bombs forever, even with their in-calculable numbers. Their attacks died away as the twelve forts grew stronger and they retired into the great forests. Any parties venturing from the forts they fell upon. It was the same situation as on Mars three years before, and Crane dealt with it in the same way. Halkett was one of his own aides now, and so too was Hall Burnham who had come on from Mars with the reinforcements.
Crane held his hand until he had strengthened his twelve posts beyond danger of attack, then established at gradual intervals no less than ninety more posts in a network around South Jupiter. He was going to proceed on Weathering’s Martian plan, subjugating the planet section by section, except that Crane was operating only in South Jupiter and leaving the northern half of the great planet quite untouched. Patiently he established and strengthened his hundred-odd posts.
When his network of strong forts around South Jupiter was complete, Crane went ahead to conquer it section by section as he had planned. It was a Herculean undertaking for the earthmen. Their greatest obstacle was not the Jovians themselves, who could offer no effective resistance to the atom-blasts and bombs of Crane’s men, but the terrible Jovian gravity that made each movement an effort, that required them to wear the metal body-support armor and made their movements still more difficult.
Yet in section after section the divisions of Crane’s mobile forces, Halkett and Burnham among their commanders, crashed through the steamy fern forests with atom-blasts and drove the Jovians slowly but resistlessly until they were hemmed in and brought to action. There were fights of terrific fury in the green twilight of the huge damp forests, for few of the Jovians surrendered, the great majority fighting with immovable resolution until the atom-blasts and bombs slew them.
Crane’s grip upon South Jupiter tightened with each section subjugated by the superhuman endeavors of his men. He flashed word to the Interplanetary Council that his plan was following schedule. He was conquering sections in such a way as to cut off from each other by subjugated territories, the larger Jovian masses. Then in the midst of this tremendous task occurred an astonishing incident, one that made earth first incredulous and then wrathful. Halkett became a traitor.
THE FIRST reports of Halkett’s treachery that got back to earth were confused and contradictory. Later ones stated that Captain Halkett was under guard in one of the South Jupiter posts. He had been the cause of the hard-fought subjugation campaign in one of the sections failing, and of a large Jovian force escaping. That was all that was known certainly at first.
Then came details. Three forces under Halkett and Burnham and an officer named James had been operating against the Jovians in that section. Halkett commanded a heavy atom-blast battery and Burnham and James had been driving the Jovian forces toward it. For a score of the short Jovian days and nights the men of Burnham and James had pushed the Jovians in the desired direction, toiling against the relentless gravitation’s drag, through the endless fern forests they had to cut through and against the weird beasts they dislodged from those forests. They had without question done their part against the Jovians.
But Halkett had not. He had deliberately ordered his men not fire on the Jovians and the flipper-men had escaped past him. Earth could hardly credit the news. There came from soldiers and civilians alike a swift demand for Halkett’s punishment. The Council ordered Crane to send Halkett home for court-martial.
Crane told Halkett that in the guardhouse on South Jupiter, and told him much more for he was half-crazed with the thing.
“Halk, how could you have done it?” he kept saying. “I’ve got send you back now and God knows what a court-martial will do to you with feeling against you so strong on earth.”
“Don’t worry about it, Crane,” said Halkett steadily. “I did as wanted and I’m willing to take my medicine.”
“But why did you do it?” Crane demanded for the hundredth time. “Halkett, if you’ll only plead that you didn’t know the Jovians were coming through—that it was some kind of blunder—”
Hall Burnham seconded him. “A blunder on your part would lose you your commission but you’d escape a sentence,” he told Halkett. “Surely it was partly that, at least.”
Halkett shook his head. “It wasn’t. I can’t explain just what it was, why I did it—but if you’d have seen those Jovians coming through the forest there, weary, terrorized, hunted onward for days yet somehow unresentful—I couldn’t turn the atom-blasts loose on them!”
Crane made a gesture. “Halkett, I understand what you felt but even so you shouldn’t have done it. I’d go back with you to earth for the trial but I can’t leave here now.”
“It’s all right, Jimmy,” Halkett told him. “I’m willing to take what comes.”
Halkett departed for earth under guard in one of the next detachment of rockets, while Crane and Burnham and the rest went on with the subjugation of South Jupiter. During the voyage the rocket’s officers were careful to show Halkett consideration but no man of them spoke a word to him except when necessary. Feeling in the army against its first traitor was intense.
When Halkett reached earth after that strange voyage from Jupiter, the heads of the Council ordered an immediate court-martial. It took place in the great Army building. Halkett’s trial occupied four days and during those days the building was surrounded by crowds waiting to hear his fate.
Popular indignation at Halkett ran high, and many cries for his summary execution were being voiced. People contrasted the gallant struggles of Crane and the rest to hold South Jupiter for humanity with this treachery on the part of a trusted officer. Halkett might have been lynched if he had been less well guarded.
INSIDE THE great building Halkett stood up and heard his conduct judged. The officers who heard the case gave him a fair trial. His counsel argued ably concerning Halkett’s previous gallant record, the possibility of temporary aberrations and the like. Halkett might have escaped but for his own testimony a little later.
“I was quite in command of all my faculties when I ordered the atom-batteries not to fire,” he said quietly.
“Did you realize, Captain Halkett,” asked the presiding officer crisply, “that in so doing you were betraying your sworn oath?”
Halkett said that he had realized. “Then what reason can you give for your deliberate breach of trust?”
Halkett hesitated. “I can’t give any reason that you’d understand,” he said.
Then he burst out with sudden white passion—"Why shouldn’t I have done it? After all, Jupiter belonged to the Jovians, didn’t it? What were we there but invaders, interlopers? How could I order those hunted flipper-men destroyed when all they were trying to do was to keep their own world?”
His counsel made frantic signals to him but Halkett was beyond restraint. “What right have we Earth races on Mars or Jupiter either? What right had we to wipe out almost all the Martians as we did, and to repeat it now on Jupiter? Because their planet has resources, the Jovians have to be killed!”
That outburst removed any chance of Halkett’s acquittal. The presiding officer read gravely the sentence of ten years in military prison.
“It is only consideration of your former record on Mars and South Jupiter and the fact that you were one of Drake’s historic party,” he stated, “that keeps this court from giving you a life-sentence or even the extreme penalty.”
Halkett took the verdict without any show of emotion and was led back to his cell. Burnham, who had come in from Jupiter in time for the trial’s end, went to see him before he was taken to the military prison. Halkett shook hands with him in silence—the two had nothing to say.
With Halkett in prison the world’s wrath was appeased. His name was stricken off all the records of the Council’s Army. Burnham went back to Jupiter. Halkett spent his days in the shops of the military prison, helping manufacture atom-blasts and bombs and other army supplies. He stood imprisonment quietly.
Crane had moved heaven and earth to get Halkett acquitted but had found his influence useless. Burnham came back and told him how Halkett had taken the verdict. For a long time these two sat silent, perhaps thinking of three thrilled youngsters in technical school who had followed Gillen’s flight and rushed to join Drake.
Crane went grimly on with the business of subduing South Jupiter. In the excited activity of that campaign the world forgot Halkett quickly. Crane’s plan was working with the precision of a machine, section after section of the great planet being subjugated. Over all South Jupiter those Jovians not yet attacked were moving up into the planet’s northern half as yet unvisited by the earthmen’s forces.
In four earth years South Jupiter was under earth control. It was gripped tightly by Crane’s system of forts, most of its forests had been destroyed by atom-blasts, and as towns grew slowly around the forts great grain-planting projects were getting under way. There were some reservations of Jovians, but the greater part of the Jovians not slain during the subjugation were in North Jupiter. There the fern forests still stretched untouched from the equator to the northern pole, the same as when Gillen first had seen them. But now Crane was looking north toward them.
Jimmy Crane was now General James Crane, thirty-one years old and with gray showing at his temples from nine years of strenuous campaigning on Mars and Jupiter. He had been back to earth twice from Jupiter, once with Burnham who was now a colonel, and both times had tried to see Halkett but had been prevented by strict regulations. Halkett had for four years now worked quietly on in the prison shops making atom-blasts, bombs and rocket parts.
Crane and the Council laid plans for the subjugation of North Jupiter. It was to be done peacefully if possible—the Jovians were to be offered great fern forest reservations and other inducements. But peacefully or not, the planet had to come under control. Crane, who knew the Jovians, began assembling forces on South Jupiter, even as he sent Burnham into North Jupiter to offer the Jovians the Government’s terms.
Burnham failed absolutely, as Crane and almost everyone else had expected, to win the Jovians to peaceful settlement. The flipper-men had no faith at all in the earthmen’s promises, and no desire to live on reservations. Crane flashed word of that to the Council, which authorized him to proceed by force. A great preparation began on earth and on South Jupiter.
In the midst of his preparations Crane learned that Halkett had been released, his sentence halved for good behavior. He tried to locate Halkett through agents but no one knew where Halkett had gone on leaving prison. Crane was doing the work of two men in the great preparations for the North Jupiter campaign, and could not for the time institute any search for his former comrade.
ROCKET FLEETS arrived ceaselessly, pouring men and materials into South Jupiter from earth and Mars. The recruiting offices on earth were working night and day. Crane took the men they sent and mixed them with his veterans, drilled them, trained them in Jovian fighting, made disciplined armies of them. He concentrated men and materials at the equatorial posts.
For Crane was going to follow a different plan in North Jupiter. Instead of establishing a network of posts as on Mars and South Jupiter, he was going to encircle Jupiter with a thin band of earth forces and then push that band northward toward the pole. His circle. Crane saw, would grow smaller and stronger the farther north it pushed, and would drive the Jovians in North Jupiter onward until those not slain were hemmed in in the warm north polar region.
It took two years of preparation before Crane deemed his forces sufficient. Neither he nor Burnham had in that time heard anything of Halkett, nor had anyone else. Burnham thought that Halkett must be dead. But both had other things enough to think of when Crane began the long-planned campaign. With his forces encircling the equator of the planet, he ordered an advance. The band around the planet began to crawl north.
Fighting with the flipper-men began in days. The Jovians by that time knew better than to charge atom-blasts or expose themselves to the barrage of atomic bombs. They tried a kind of guerrilla fighting which was not ineffective in the dense fern forests. But Crane’s forces simply blasted the forests out of the way as they advanced, and the Jovians had either to flee or be slain.
Crane moved his headquarters north behind his band of forces. He directed the band’s northward movement by radio, sending reinforcements in rockets to whatever part that was held back by fiercer resistance. Crane chose to advance slowly and avoid undue losses. There was no haste—the Jovians were being pushed ever northward by the contracting circle. Within a half-year earth heard that its forces had advanced half the distance between Jupiter’s equator and northern pole.
Then came to earth surprising news of a check to Crane’s advance. His band had been flung back with heavy losses by the Jovians at a half-dozen places around the planet! Incredibly, it had been done by Jovians armed with atom-blasts and atomic bombs! They had prepared a circle of rude trenches and earthworks at strategic locations around the planet and had inflicted terrible damage on Crane’s band of men when it advanced to that circle!
Earth was aflame instantly with apprehensive excitement. Until then it had taken Crane’s final success as certain—the Council had even granted future concessions to the North Jupiter territories. How had the primitive Jovians come to use the atomic weapons? From Crane, who had hastily halted the advance of his circle, came the answer. The Jovians were being led by a renegade earthman who for the past two years had been training them in the production and use of the atom-blasts and bombs. And this renegade was Mart Halkett!
HALKETT HAD been recognized unmistakably by some of Crane’s officers during the attack on the Jovian works, had been seen directing the Jovian defense. Halkett! The man who seven years before had played the traitor and who now had become renegade, leading the flipper-men against his own race! It was evident that on his release from prison Halkett had got to South Jupiter in some rocket and then had made his way into North Jupiter and used his technical skill and prison factory experience to set the Jovians making atom-blasts and atomic bombs and digging defenses for the coming struggle.
Halkett became immediately the supreme malefactor to the earth peoples. On earth and on Mars and on South Jupiter men flamed with rage at his name. A thousand deaths were advocated for Halkett if ever he were captured. Crane and Burnham and the rest of the Council Army’s men appeared even greater in heroism against the black background of this renegade’s treachery. A fierce desire to crush the Jovians and execute Halkett swept earthmen everywhere.
“You will enter into no treatments whatever with the Jovians’ renegade leader,” flashed the Council to Crane. “Proceed with the North Jupiter campaign according to your own judgment.”
Crane read the message. He and Burnham had been stunned by the news about Halkett and Crane for a time would not believe it. “It can’t be Halkett,” he had said over and over. “I tell you, he wouldn’t fight against the Council—against us.”
“It’s beyond doubt,” Burnham told him. “Halkett was recognized by men who knew him well there with the Jovians. And you know what his views have always been on the Jovians.”
“Yes, but to become a renegade against his own race! I tell you, Burn, Halkett could never have done that!”
Yet by the time the Council’s message reached him, even Crane was convinced that Halkett was the renegade Jovian leader. He called his officers. “We will begin the advance again tomorrow,” he said grimly. “Radio all headquarters to make ready.”
The advance started again, this time not calmly as before but in deadly earnest. The band of earth forces crawled forward until it met again the line of Jovian defenses. Crane had flung all his forces forward in that attack against Halkett’s line, and the battle was terrific. But this time the earthmen were attacking, and the Jovians fighting from cover.
THE JOVIAN atom-blasts and bombs, though comparatively few in number and inefficiently handled, yet did terrific execution among the advancing earthmen. Halkett’s line held all around the planet though the earthmen attacked like mad beings. Crane at last gave the order to withdraw. Earth was appalled by the casualty lists that were sent home. But though Crane was checked he was not stopped.
He let Halkett’s Jovians alone until enough reinforcements had come in to make up his losses. Then he started the attack again, but this time not in a steady wave but in a series of punches. Great spearheads of men and atom weapons were thrust at Halkett’s line in a dozen different places. Crane’s plan was to shatter the Jovian defenses by repeated concentrated thrusts until it had to withdraw.
Halkett fought fiercely to hold that line. His communications were poor though it was known he had trained some of the Jovians in radio and was directing their fight all round the planet. He had no rockets and could not parry Crane’s smashing thrusts by rushing reinforcements to the points attacked. He foresaw inevitable retreat and had the Jovians prepare other lines of defenses farther north toward the pole. The flipper-men followed him with absolute faith.
Soon Halkett was forced to withdraw the Jovians to the next of these hastily prepared defense lines. Crane made no attempt to pursue the Jovians but spread his forces again into a band and advanced northward, destroying forests and mopping up stray groups of Jovians. When his band reached Halkett’s new line Crane did not attack but began again his strategy of punching at the line.
The battle-lines on the Jupiter globes by which earth’s people followed the struggle crept steadily northward toward the pole in the following year. Ever Halkett’s Jovians were forced to retreat to new defenses and ever after them came Crane and Burnham and the hosts of the Council’s Army, contracting upon them in a steadily diminishing circle. They would ultimately press the Jovians together near the pole and Halkett fought to prevent that.
It was in some ways a strange situation. The three inseparable friends of boyhood and youth become men and fighting the war of races there on North Jupiter, one of them renegade to an alien race and the other two advancing always with their forces on him. No one could accuse Crane of letting his former friendship affect him, in the face of his grim determination. He pushed Halkett’s line unrelentingly northward.
And as Halkett’s line, the defenses of the Jovians, reached the warm polar regions, Halkett’s own military genius flamed. He commanded the Jovians in a way which, despite the meagerness of their atomic weapons, held Crane’s forces to the slowest advance. The once-mild flipper-men fought like demons under his leadership. Crane, of all men, appreciated Halkett’s supreme generalship in those grim days on North Jupiter. But he punched grimly on, and Halkett’s circular line grew smaller and smaller as the Jovians retreated.
It was the retreat of a race—the weary hosts of the Jovians ever backing northward through the steamy fern forests that had been theirs for untold time, throwing up new dirtworks and digging new trenches always at Halkett’s command, using every sort of ambush device Halkett could think of to hold back the earthmen. The fern forests resounded with the roar of atom-blasts and crash of atom bombs, strange things flopping this way and that in the green depths to escape the battle, the Jovians all round the planet fighting bitterly now for existence.
And ever after them Crane’s men, the metal-armored hosts of earthmen struggling against every obstacle of heat and gravitation and illness. For days they would toil through the giant ferns without meeting resistance and then would come upon the new line Halkett had massed the Jovians upon. And then again the blasts would be roaring in death from Jovians and earthmen as the earthmen attacked. And ever despite their desperate resistance the Jovians were pushed back northward, toward the pole.
Reconnoitering rockets brought word to Crane that Halkett had established a refugee camp near the pole that held several millions of the Jovians and that he was collecting atom-blasts and bombs there and digging works around it. Crane sought to cut this base out of Halkett’s circle but Halkett saw the maneuver and occupied the place with most of his remaining forces. To do so he had to abandon his circular line of defense except for some smaller bases. So at last the circle of Halkett’s line around North Jupiter was gone, and the Jovians held only those fortified bases.
Earth flamed with gladness as Crane went systematically about the work of reducing these bases. He sent Burnham with a force of earthmen large enough to hold Halkett and his Jovians inside the main base, while he reduced the smaller ones. There was bloody fighting before he took them. Those Jovians, miserably few in number, who survived in them, were sent to temporary prison-camps pending their removal to the reservations established. Then with that done, Crane came with all his forces and joined Burnham in front of the last Jovian base in which sat Halkett and his battered remaining Jovians, fighters and refugees.
Crane surprised Burnham and his officers by stating he would treat with Halkett for surrender, though the Council had ordered otherwise.
HE SENT in a messenger summoning Halkett to surrender and avoid further bloodshed, promising the Jovians would be sent to reservations and pointing out the futility of resistance.
Halkett’s reply was calm. “There will be no surrender unless the Jovians are given their rights as natives and owners of this planet. Nothing the Jovians endure now can be worse than what they’ve already gone through.”
Crane read the answer to Burnham, his bronzed lined face set. “Halkett and the Jovians mean it,” he said. “They’ll resist to the last and we’ll have to attack.”
Burnham leaned to him. “Crane, tell me,” he said, “are you trying to save the Jovians in there or Halkett?”
Crane looked at him, heartsickness on his face. “Burn, it’s not Halkett. Better for him if he died in an attack rather than to be taken back to earth and executed. But those Jovians—I’m tired of killing them.”
Burnham nodded thoughtfully. “But what are you going to do? Order the attack tomorrow? The men are impatient to start it.”
Crane thought, then surprised him. “Burn, you and I are going in to see Halkett and try to get him to take these terms. He won’t come out but we can go in safely enough.”
“But the Council——” Burnham began. Crane waved him impatiently aside. “I’m conducting this campaign and not the Council. I say we’re going in.”
He sent a message through the works to Halkett, and Halkett replied that he would be glad to confer with General Crane and Colonel Burnham regarding terms, but anticipated no change of mind. Crane ordered all hostilities suspended and at sunset he and Burnham went with two Jovians and a white flag toward the Jovian defenses. The misty red sun was sinking behind the horizon, so distant from the huge planet, when they reached the Jovian works.
The two flipper-men blindfolded them before taking them through the dirtworks and entrenchments, no doubt at Halkett’s order, and took off the bandages when they were inside. Crane and Burnham saw before them the great enclosure that held the innumerable masses of the Jovian refugees. There was no shelter for most but at some sheds small portions of fruit and makeshift vegetable foods were being rationed out to some of them. The crowds of flipper-men, bulky strange figures in the dying light, looked mildly at Crane and Burnham as they were led through the great enclosure.
As they followed their guides Crane saw for himself the battered Jovian forces he had pushed north for so long, with their crudely made atom-blasts and bombs, many standing guard round the inner works. Here and there in the enclosure were large dumps of atomic bombs, protected by shelters. Near one of these was a small hut toward which the two Jovians led them.
Halkett and three Jovians came out of the hut as Crane and Burnham approached. Halkett and his aides waited for them and the two earthmen went on toward them, with the slow laborious steps against the gravity-drag that were second nature to earthmen on Jupiter now. It was a strange meeting. The three had not met together since they had parted on South Jupiter eight years before.
Halkett wore an old suit of the metal body-strengthening armor and had a bandage round his lower left arm. His face was bronzed, and was lined and worn looking, but his eyes were calm. He was a contrast to Crane and Burnham, trim in their metal body-protection with on it the insignia of the Council Army that Halkett once had worn.
Halkett did not offer to shake hands with them, but waited. Crane’s first words were confused and stiffly formal. He mentioned the terms.
“We can’t accept them,” Halkett told him calmly. “We’ve fought against them from the first and these Jovians would rather die than go to your Jovian reservations.”
“But what else can you do?” asked Crane. “You know as well as I do that I’ve enough forces to take this place and that we’ll do it if you don’t give in.”
“I know,” said Halkett, “but the Jovians wouldn’t do it if I told them to, and I’m not going to tell them. Besides, I’ve a way out for these Jovians.”
“A way out?” Burnham said. “There’s no way out with your works completely surrounded.”
One of the Jovians beside Halkett said something to him in his odd bass voice. Halkett replied to him patiently, almost gently. Crane was watching him. Halkett turned back to him.
“Be reasonable, Halkett,” Crane urged. “You can’t save the Jovians and there’ll be just that many more of them killed in the attack.”
“Do a few more Jovians killed now make any difference?” Halkett asked. “After all those killed on South and North Jupiter?”
He looked beyond them, thoughtful. “I wonder if Gillen foresaw any of this that’s happened on Mars and Jupiter when he made his flight? What would Gillen think, I wonder, if he came back and saw all this that he started?”
They were silent for a little while. The short Jovian day was over and with the sunset’s fading, twilight was upon them. Callisto and Io were at the zenith and Ganymede was climbing eastward, the three moons shedding a pale light over the great enclosure. Dimly they disclosed the masses of dark flipper-forms about Crane and Burnham and Halkett.
BURNHAM AND Crane could hear with Halkett the occasional bass voices of the Jovians that were the only sounds. Most of them were silent and did not move about, huddling in masses for the night. By the inner works the Jovian fighters still stood calmly, big, dark motionless shapes seen strangely through the dim-lit darkness.
Crane spoke with an effort. “Then that’s your last word on the terms, Halkett?”
Halkett nodded. “It’s not mine, but that of the Jovians themselves.”
Crane’s restraint broke momentarily. “Halkett, why did you do it? Why did you become renegade to your own race, no matter what happened? Why have you made us hunt you north this way, fighting against you and with a duty to kill you?”
“I’m not sorry. Crane,” said Halkett. “I’ve come to love these Jovians—so mild and child-like, so trustful to anyone friendly. It just seemed that somebody ought to stand up for them and give them at least a chance to fight. I don’t care what you call me.”
“Hell, let’s get a rocket and the three of us will head for somewhere else together!” cried the Jimmy Crane of ten years before. “Some other planet—we’ll make out without this damned Jupiter and earth and everyone on them! How did we three ever get into this, against each other, trying to kill each other?”
Halkett smiled, grasped Crane’s hand then. “Jimmy!” he said. “You and Burn and I, back with Drake’s expedition, three kids—you remember? But we can’t change things now, and none of us are to blame, perhaps no one at all is really to blame, for what’s happened.”
Jimmy Crane with an effort became General James Crane. “Goodbye, Halkett,” he said. “I’m sorry you can’t accept the terms. Come on, Burnham.”
Burnham tried to speak, his face working, but Halkett only smiled and shook his hand. He turned and went with Crane and the two Jovian guides, to the inner edge of the enclosure’s defenses.
They saw Halkett standing with his three Jovian aides where they had left him. He was not looking after them. One of the Jovians was saying something and Crane and Burnham could see momentarily in the dim light Halkett’s tanned, worn face as he turned to listen.
Crane and Burnham got back to their own camp and Crane called his officers. “We’ll not delay attack until tomorrow but will start in two hours,” he said. “They’ll not expect an attack so soon.”
Halkett must have expected it, though, for when the earth-forces moved upon the Jovian works from all sides they were met by every atom-blast of the Jovians. Europa had climbed into the sky by then and Jupiter’s four moons looked down on the terrific assault. Blasts roared deafeningly and the thundering detonation of atomic bombs followed each other ceaselessly as the hosts of earthmen clambered into the Jovian works.
The Jovians beat back the attack. Crane concentrated forces in an attack on the enclosure’s west side. He sent his rockets overhead to add to his barrage of atom bombs and managed to make a breach in the western defenses. Halkett, though, flung all his Jovians to close these openings and Crane’s forces were beaten back from it after terrible losses on both sides.
Dawn was breaking after the brief night as Crane ordered the third attack, one from all sides again with the heaviest forces on the western side. This time Halkett could not concentrate his forces to hold the western breach. The ground heaved with the roar of bombs and blasts as the earthmen struggled in with high-pitched yells and with hand blasts spitting.
They poured into the breach despite the mad resistance of the remaining Jovian fighters, while on the eastern side the earth hosts also were penetrating the Jovian works. Then, as Crane and Burnham watched from the camp outside, they saw with the rising of the sun the sudden end.
The whole interior of the great circular Jovian enclosure went skyward in a terrific series of explosions that wiped out not only all of Halkett’s Jovian followers and massed refugees but most of the Jovians and many of the earthmen fighting in the surrounding works. There was left only a huge crater.
“The dumps of atom bombs there in the enclosure!” cried Burnham. “A blast must have reached them and set them off!”
Crane nodded, his face strange. “Yes, a blast and in Halkett’s hand. He set them off to wipe out his Jovians rather than see them sent to the reservations.”
“My God!” Burnham cried. “That was Halkett’s way out for the Jovians, then——old Halkett——”
Crane looked stonily at him. “Didn’t you see that that was what he meant all the time to do? Give orders to round up those last Jovians in the works and bring them in.
“Then send this message back to earth. ‘Last Jovian base taken and renegade Jovian leader Halkett dead. Jupiter under complete control. Accept my resignation from Council Army. Crane.’ ”
Looking back at “A Conquest of Two Worlds” from the time of this writing, it would seem that the actions of Halkett are well justified—the exploitation and destruction of any group of living beings is just plain wrong. Yet, if we turn our attention back to the US of the 1930s during the time the story was written, the opinions of the people of the time might have been a tad different.
The US was in the midst of the Great Depression at the time the story was written and the population was dependent on the government (an authoritarian figure) to find a way out of their poverty. Veterans of various wars dating back to the Civil War were still alive and the proportion of those who had served, or were serving, in the military to the general population was higher than it is today. Most importantly, the government’s forced relocation of Native Americans, and the armed conflicts that followed, were far from a dim memory in 1932, having been nearly continuous from the 1800s into the early 1900s. Basically, society had a mindset that you followed those in charge and did not question authority regardless of whether you felt they were right or wrong—a mindset that did not begin to alter until the 1960s. It is no wonder, then, that the editors of Wonder Stories, in their introduction to the story, asked their readers for their opinions about the content of “A Conquest of Two Worlds” (and even used the word “treason” in their reply to one of the letters below.
A perusal of a few months of Wonder Stories after the story was published show that it was not a controversial as might have been expected and we were only able to uncover three letters of comment.
This first letter appeared in the April, 1932 issue of Wonder Stories:
An Example of NobilityEditor, WONDER STORIES:
Edmond Hamilton’s “Conquest of Two Worlds” was a knockout; and with this letter I am writing my approval of the actions of Mart Halkett in fighting with the Jovians against his own earth people.
I assuredly would not aid in the selfish exploitation of other planets, if to conquer those worlds meant the massacre of a harmless population. When the American pioneers pushed westward they found their advance barred by a race of savage red men, who were instinctively fighting to protect their homes and country.
However, in this situation, the aborigines had in the most cases an equal chance with the whites, for the manner in which they fought was one of stealth and cunning. This offsets the fact that the white men were better armed.
But in the cases of the invasions of the planets Mars and Jupiter, by the earth soldier, we have a different situation. The warriors of earth were better armed and completely prepared for the exploitation of the planets. Earth had tremendous powers of scientific warfare at her command. The people of Earth took advantage of the innocent friendliness of the Martians and Jovians.
We cannot blame the Martians and Jovians for fighting for their homes. What if puny man were attacked by an invading race, of a highly advanced civilization? What would we do? Of course we would fight if we were treated in the same manner as the Martians and Jovians were treated by us.
There are those who may argue the “survival of the fittest” as the highest law? But man’s love of conquest and domination has caused the downfall of more than one nation. But even though one may say that expansion of the human race is inevitable and the “survival” law is the highest law, I will still defend Mart Halkett.
Halkett died fighting for an ideal. He hated oppression and greed. He could not stand to see innocents being slaughtered because of the money-and power-mad men of earth. So even at the expense of his own life he tried to right the wrong that had been done. He failed, but why did he fail! He was foolish, by the standards of those minds lost among the shadows of lust for power and greed. But to those minds that are idealistic in attitude, who do not place mere things of earth above spiritual values, he was a noble and inspiring figure.
There have been many men like Mart Halkett. There were the men of science during the middle ages who held out against scorn and punishment by the Church; and in our own day Woodrow Wilson dreaming of a peaceful world of united nations.
Mark Halkett was true to his ideals. Although his efforts may seem futile to most minds, to me he is an example of inherent nobility in the human mind.T. M. King,(Mr. King’s enthusiastic defense of Mart Halkett should stimulate other of our readers to write pro and con on his treason to the earth.— Editor)
The next two letters both appeared in the May, 1932 issue of Wonder Stories:
Might Makes RightEditor, WONDER STORIES:
As a comment on Edmond Hamilton’s “Conquest of Two Worlds,” I believe Mark Halkett was both right and wrong.
Right, because he sympathized with the meek, innocent Jovians and sought to prevent their wanton slaughter. To him, war was hell—something that caused only suffering and regret.
Wrong, because in renegading, he pitted himself—a single intellect—against the mighty hordes of earth. His cause was doomed from the start. Then—he turned traitor to his own race, his life-time friends. That, in itself is a moral and military offense—punishable by death.
Conquests have been since time began—as they will always be. Might makes right—never the reverse. Halkett died a martyr to a noble and worthy cause, but it was a futile sacrifice.Frank R. Moore.(Many will disagree with Mr. Moore’s statement that “might makes right.” Some people fondly believe that if “might does make right” that it is only for a time. Then the forces of right become mighty in defence of right, and eventually right becomes might. However we invite our readers to give us their own feelings on the matter.—Editor)
Remains Sane and HumanEditor, WONDER STORIES:
Although WONDER STORIES is very interesting, lately the stories have been lacking in something which I could not define. But the February issue gave me the idea. It was after reading the story of Edmond Hamilton’s, “A Conquest of Two Worlds” that I found out what it was.
To me, Hamilton’s story was the most extraordinary you have ever published. First, because there was not the “professor’s daughter”; second because even the most unscientifically inclined reader could understand it perfectly; and third, because Mr. Hamilton is a writer who even in a fiction story remains sane and human.
His hero Halkett is my idea of a solar explorer and adventurer. We can’t call ourselves human and act as wild beasts. Hamilton's story is a vivid picture of the future, if we stay on the level of this so-called civilization. I was a soldier and I know what war is like. The danger to humanity is not one from outer space but is within us. Our civilization, if we may call it that, won’t be destroyed by any except ourselves.
I have noticed in war that the more educated a man was the worse he acted. So it seems to me that our education must be wrong.Carl Lipensky,(Perhaps Mr. Lipensky is right in his statement that our education is wrong. However, we have an idea that the trouble is that for once the politicians who control our affairs are much behind and have not yet caught up with the idea of the people they govern. For once, the populace is more enlightened, more sane and understanding than those who govern them.—Editor)
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