The Martians and the Coys

by Mack Reynolds



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Transcriber's Note: This etext was produced from Imagination Stories of Science and Fantasy June 1951 Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed.

Maw Coy climbed the fence down at the end of the south pasture and started up the side of the creek, carrying her bundle over her shoulder and puffing slightly at her exertion.

She forded the creek there at the place where Hank’s old coon dog Jigger was killed by the boar three years ago come next hunting season. Jumping from rock to rock across the creek made her puff even harder; Maw Coy wasn’t as young as she once was.

On the other side she rested a minute to light up her pipe and to look carefully about before heading up the draw. She didn’t really expect to see any Martins around here, but you never knew. Besides, there might’ve been a revenue agent. They were getting mighty thick and mighty uppity these days. You’d think the government’d have more to do than bother honest folks trying to make an honest living.

The pipe lit, Maw swung the bundle back over her shoulder and started up the draw. Paw and the boys, she reckoned were probably hungry as a passel of hound dogs by now. She’d have to hurry.

When she entered the far side of the clearing, she couldn’t see any signs of them so she yelled, “You Paw! You Hank and Zeke!” Maw Coy liked to give the men folks warning before she came up on the still. Hank, in particular, was mighty quick on the trigger sometimes.

But there wasn’t any answer. She trudged across the clearing to where the still was hidden in a cluster of pines. Nobody was there but Lem.

She let the bundle down and glowered at him. “Lem, you no-account, why didn’t you answer me when I hollered?”

He grinned at her vacuously, not bothering to get up from where he sat whittling, his back to an old oak. “Huh?” he said. A thin trickle of brown ran down from the side of his mouth and through the stubble on his chin.

“I said, how come you didn’t answer when I hollered?”

He said, “You called Paw and Hank and Zeke, you didn’t holler for me. What you got there, Maw, huh?” His watery eyes were fixed on the bundle.

* * * * *

Maw Coy sighed deeply and sat down on a tree stump. “Now what you think I got there, Lem? I been a bringing your vittles to you every day since Paw and you boys started up this new still. Where’s Paw and Zeke and Hank?”

Lem scratched himself with the stick he’d been whittling on. “They went off scoutin’ around for the revenooers or maybe the Martins.” He let his mouth fall open and peered wistfully into the woods. He added, “I wish I could shoot me a Martin, Maw. I wish I could. I sure wish I could shoot me a Martin.”

The idea excited him. He brought his hulking body to its feet and went over to pick up an ancient shotgun from where it leaned against a mash barrel.

Maw Coy was taking corn pone, some cold fried salt pork, and a quart of black-strap molasses from her bundle and arranging it on the top of an empty keg. “You mind yourself with that gun now, Lem. Mind how you shot up your foot that time.”

Lem didn’t hear her, he was stroking the stock of the shotgun absently. “I could do it easy,” he muttered. “I could shoot me a Martin easy. I sure could Maw. I’d show Hank and Zeke, I would.”

“You forget about the Martins, son,” Maw Coy said softly. “Yore my simple son⁠—there’s at least one in every family, mostly more⁠—and it ain’t fittin’ that you get into fights. You got a strong back, strongest in the hills, but yore too simple, Lem.”

“I ain’t as simple as Jim Martin, Maw,” Lem protested.

“Son, they don’t come no more simple than you,” his mother told him gently. “And mind that gun. You know how you bent the barrel of Zeke’s Winchester back double that time, absentminded like.”

He stroked the gun stock, patted it, half in anger, half in protest. His lower lip hung down in a pout. “You stop talkin’ thataway, Maw,” he growled, “or I’ll larrup you one.”

Maw Coy didn’t answer. She reckoned she’d better set off into the woods and see if she could locate the rest of the men folks, so they could eat.

Lem said under his breath, “I could shoot me a Martin real easy, I could.”

* * * * *

To the Most High, the Glorious, the Omnipotent, Omnipresent,
and Omniscient, the Lord of the Seven, the Leader of the Chosen, Neo Geek XXXVIII:

In regard to: Testing of special weapons designed to eliminate present population of the third planet with the eventual view of colonizing.
From: Seegeel Wan, Commander of Space-cruiser 12B44.

Your Omnipotence:
Upon the receipt of your orders, we proceeded to the planet in question (known to its inhabitants as Earth, or Terra) first touching at its satellite (Luna) in order to pick up the observation group which has been studying the potential foe for several decals.

Commander of the observation group, Baren Darl, has enjoyed the reputation of being our most outstanding authority on Earthlings. It has been principally through his recommendations that the secret, supplementary weapons, worked upon for the past “decal,” were devised. Baren Darl has successfully deciphered the principal language of Earth and though listening to their radio emanations has compiled a formidable work on his findings. But of his abilities, more later.

It might be added here that Baren Darl and all his group were more than ready to proceed to Earth and begin the slaughter of its inhabitants. It seems that these investigators have for decals listened most carefully to every radio emanation possible to pick up. This has evidently led them to the edge of complete frenzy⁠—especially those who have been assigned the morning programs, sometimes known as “soap operas” by the Earthlings.

Baren Darl inspected the newly created weapons with considerable care and proclaimed them excellent for our purposes. In particular he was impressed with the I.Q. Depressor; the deadly poison, nark; and the lepbonic plague carrying fleas. He was convinced that these secret weapons would give our forces that advantage we seek before launching our all out attack upon Earth.

Acting on Darl’s suggestions, we avoided the more heavily populated areas of Earth and landed our Space-cruiser in a mountainous area of the planet known as Kentucky, a subdivision of the United States of America, one of the more advanced Earth nations.

Our plans did not work out exactly as expected.

* * * * *

Keeping well in mind the need for secrecy, we made every attempt to land the Space-cruiser without detection. We settled in a small valley near a stream and immediately sent out scouts to determine if there was any sign that our craft had been sighted in descent.

Evidently, the population of the vicinity was so small that our plans were successful. Our patrols reported only one small group of Earthlings in the immediate area.

Deciding to test the new weapons on this gathering, we disembarked a force of a dozen warriors, all disguised as Earthlings and with myself as commander and Baren Darl as our technical advisor.

“We must keep our senses alert for Sam Spade, Superman and the Lone Ranger,” Baren Darl said nervously, peering around among the strange exotic trees and other vegetation that grows on Earth.

I was somewhat surprised at his tone and obvious unease.

“Who?” I asked. “What?”

“Three Terran warriors of amazing ability and viciousness,” he told me. “I have been gathering reports of their activities from the radio for some time. They seem to have clairvoyant minds; one or the other of them almost invariably appears on the scene of violence.”

I said impatiently, “Without doubt, our weapons would mean the end of these warriors.”

I did not share his belief that any Earthling warriors might be our equals or superiors, but to remain on the cautious side, I immediately ordered that the Elect-no be switched on. This weapon, one of the several designed for the Earth campaign, as your Omnipotence is undoubtedly aware, is so constructed as to prevent the use of any internal combustion engine within a dozen miles of the Elect-no. In this case, no aircraft, nor landcraft, utilizing internal combustion, could enter our zone.

Baren Darl seemed somewhat relieved at this precaution, but his attitude to a certain extent began to affect the rest of us. To prepare for any eventuality, I had the Fission-Suppressor activated. This, of course, automatically made it impossible for nuclear fission to take place within a hundred miles of our ship.

* * * * *

That measure pleased Baren Darl exceedingly in view of the fact that the Earth nations seemed to be spending practically all of their military appropriations on their so-called A-Bombs and H-Bombs. According to the radio emanations our Luna base had picked up, the Earthlings were interested in little else in a military way, except possibly bacteriological weapons, and, of course, we were prepared to deal them a strong blow along that line with our lepbonic plague spreading fleas.

At any rate, knowing that we had suppressed the use of their major weapon, the fission bomb, and had prevented transportation from entering the vicinity, we proceeded toward the clearing where the Earthlings had gathered, determined to test the I.Q. Depressor, nark, and the lepbonic plague fleas, for it was upon the success of these weapons that our Earth campaign depended.

We proceeded with care toward the clearing on the edge of which our scouts had detected the Earthlings, and carefully approached from behind the one specimen we saw there. Evidently, the others had gone off.

Baren Darl, the only member of our little group who was familiar with the language, acted as spokesman, and we concealed for the moment at least, the purpose of our “visit.” The following conversation was recorded by Baren Darl himself and later translated as literally as possible into our own superior language.

Earthling: “Huh? What’s that?”

Baren Darl: “Have no fear.”

Earthling: “Revenooers! Paw! Hank!”

(The meaning of the word revenooers was completely unknown to Baren Darl but from the Earthling’s tone of voice it is to be assumed that the term is a derogatory one.)

Baren Darl: “We are not revenooers. We are friends.”

Earthling: “Huh?”

Baren Darl: “We are not revenooers. We are friends.”

Earthling (suspiciously): “Well, you can’t have no free corn, if that’s what you’re looking for. Can’t buy none neither. Paw won’t sell no raw corn. Says corn ain’t fitten to drink unless it’s been aged a week.”

(This conversation seemed to puzzle Baren Darl and I was beginning to suspect already that his knowledge of the Earthlings was somewhat less than he had led me to believe.)

Baren Darl: “Where are the others?”

Earthling: “Huh?”

(This continual inability on the Earthling’s part to understand the questions put to him by Baren Darl also caused me to wonder whether or not the decals spent on Luna in observing Earth were quite as fruitful as they might have been.)

Baren Darl: “Where are the others?”

Earthling: “Oh, you mean Maw and Paw and Hank and Zeke. They’re off looking for Martins.”

(Your Omnipotence is of course aware that in the language of the Earthlings our glorious planet is known as Mars, and we as Martians, or, evidently, as this Earthling pronounced it, Martins.)

* * * * *

This information was, as you can well imagine, startling, since we had supposed that our landing had been made in the most complete secrecy. What means they had utilized to discover us is unknown.

Baren Darl: “Ahhhhh. And, er⁠ ⁠… what made them suspect there were Martians in the vicinity?”

Earthling: “Huh?”

Baren Darl: “What made Maw and Paw and Hank and Zeke think there were Martians around?”

Earthling: “Oh.”

Baren Darl: “What made them think there were Martians about?”

Earthling: “Paw says he can smell him a Martin from most twenty miles away. Paw’s got a regular feelin’ for Martins, like. Paw’d rather shoot him a Martin than eat fried chicken. I wish I could shoot me a Martin, I wish. Yup, I sure wish I could shoot me a Martin. I wish⁠—”

(This sixth sense of some of the Earthlings had been unsuspected by Baren Darl in spite of his decals of investigation. Evidently, the Earthlings have an unusual ability to detect the presence of alien life forms. Also surprising was the fact that the Earthlings were evidently aware of our plans to conquer their planet and were already worked up to a pitch of patriotism which made them extremely anxious to destroy us.)

Baren Darl turned to me and explained that there were four more of the Earthlings in the woods searching for us and that undoubtedly they would soon return. He suggested that we immediately try some of our weapons upon this specimen.

The plan seemed feasible enough so I ordered one of the warriors to find a suitable liquid in which to place a portion of the poison nark.

Ultimate plans, as you are aware, had been to drop, by spacecraft, small containers of nark in the reservoirs, rivers and lakes of the Earthlings. One drop was designated to be, as your Omnipotence knows, sufficient to poison a reservoir capable of supplying the water needs of a hundred thousand Earthlings.

Although water was not available, the warrior was soon able to find what was obviously a container for some type of beverage. It was nearly full of a colorless fluid.

The following conversation then took place between Baren Darl and the Earthling:

Baren Darl: “What is this?”

Earthling: “Huh? Oh, that’s white mule. Yup, sure is.”

Baren Darl (puzzled): “I thought a mule was a four legged animal of burden particularly noted for kicking.”

Earthling (vaguely): “Paw’s white mule’s got lots of kick in it. Yup.”

* * * * *

Upon finding it was a beverage, as we had suspected, a small quantity of nark was quickly inserted.

Baren Darl: “Try a drink.”

Earthling: “What say?”

Baren Darl: “Have a drink?”

Earthling: “Uhhhhh. Maybe I will, but don’t tell Paw. Paw says I’m simple enough without no white mule.”

(Here he took a long draught without seeming effect, although we were expecting him to fall dead at our feet. We stood there staring at him, unbelievingly.)

Earthling: “That tasted mighty good. Got more of a kick than usual. Yup, sure did. Tasted like maybe somebody put in a wallop of turpentine.”

He seemed perfectly at ease. I turned to Baren Darl and snapped, “The type of poison you recommended seems less than effective.”

Baren Darl was obviously shocked. “It is inconceivable,” he said. “Possibly the fluid in which we dissolved the nark acted as an antidote.”

I turned my back on him angrily. “I begin to wonder about the effect of your other weapons!”

He waved to one of the warriors who had been burdened with the I.Q. Depressor. “We’ll try this immediately,” he said, anxiety in his tone.

While the machine was being readied, Baren Darl explained its workings to me in some detail. Meanwhile, the Earthling continued to sip at the jug which supposedly contained sufficient poison to eliminate an average large Terran city.

“As you know,” Baren Darl told me, “the mind, whether of Earthlings or Martian type, is capable of being either stimulated or depressed. For hundreds of decals our race has possessed chemicals capable of such depression or stimulation. However, to my knowledge, this device is the only one yet developed which can suppress the intelligence quotient of anyone within an area of many square miles.

“The plan for utilizing it is a simple but effective one. When we confront a body of Earthling soldiery, our men need only to turn on the I.Q. Depressor to turn the enemy into brainless idiots. Their defeat would then obviously be quite simple.”

“Very well,” I told him stiffly, “let us proceed to try it on this Earthling.”

* * * * *

The device seemed quite elementary in construction. Baren Darl activated it by the simple flicking of a switch. We ourselves, of course, were immune to its workings since it was tuned only to the Earth type brain.

“It is now in operation?” I asked Baren Darl.

“Definitely. Watch the Earthling.”

“I am watching.”

The supposed top authority on Earth and Earthlings approached the specimen and eyed him carefully. The following conversation ensued:

Baren Darl: “How do you feel?”

Earthling: “Huh?”

(Baren Darl seemed pleased at this response, and, indeed, it would seem that the subject was on the verge of idiocy.)

Baren Darl: “How do you feel?”

Earthling: “I guess I feel fine. Yup, yup. Feel fine.⁠—How’d you feel, stranger?”

Baren Darl (scowling): “Does your head feel somewhat different? Does your mind seem more sluggish?”

Earthling: “Huh?”

Baren Darl: “Does your thinking seem weaker?”

Earthling: “Nope. Can’t say it does, stranger. Fact is, it’d be purdy hard to make my thinking much weaker. Yup, sure would.”

Baren Darl stared at him for a long period, unbelievingly. Obviously, the I.Q. Depressor had been worthless as far as undermining the earthling’s intelligence is concerned.

Finally this alleged authority on Earthlings and upon Earth affairs flashed a look of despair at me, and at the others of us who stood around him.

“The fleas,” he blurted finally, “the lepbonic plague fleas. This weapon alone might well destroy the whole population of earth. Bring the fleas.”

I said coldly, “We shall see, Baren Darl.” Then to one of the warriors, “Bring the fleas that carry this so deadly⁠—so Baren Darl tells us⁠—lepbonic plague.”

* * * * *

The Earthling was ignoring us now and had gone back to taking an occasional drink from his jug. Our warrior approached carefully from behind him and dropped a half dozen of the supposedly deadly insects upon the Earthling’s back.

We then stood back and watched cautiously. According to Baren Darl, the fast spreading disease should take effect almost immediately.

The Earthling sat there, the I.Q. Depressor still tuned on but obviously unable to lower his intelligence an iota. He continued to sip from the jug of white mule, which had enough nark in it to kill thousands. Occasionally, he scratched himself.

“I guess I’ll take me a nap,” he said thickly, his words slurred. He scratched himself once again, yawned deeply, and slumped against the tree, obviously in sleep.

Baren Darl looked at me triumphantly. “The reaction is somewhat different than we’d expected, but obviously the fleas have given him lepbonic plague. This weapon at least is as successful as we had⁠—”

I peered down at the Earthling suspiciously. His clothes were disarrayed and torn. I pointed at a speck on his uncouthly hairy chest.

“And what is that?” I snapped at Baren Darl.

He bent down to see what I indicated.

“It seems to be one of the fleas,” he told me.

“Then what is it doing on its back with its feet up in the air?”

“It seems indisposed.”

“It seems dead you numbskull!” I roared at him. “After biting this Earthling your fleas have died!”

In a high rage, I strode up and down the clearing trying to coordinate my thoughts to the point where I could make an intelligent decision on this situation. Obviously, a crisis was at hand. Using these weapons devised by our scientists, after detailed instructions on their construction by Baren Darl and his group of efficient “experts,” would obviously be suicidal. They were completely worthless.

I came to a snap conclusion. Our plan must be to reveal ourselves to the Earthlings as Martians and pretend to come bearing them only good will and desire for peace and commerce. A few months on their planet, closely⁠—but unbeknown to them⁠—studying their life form, should give us ample opportunity to plan more effective weapons against them.

This then was my decision.

I snapped to Baren Darl. “Awaken the Earthman; tell him that we are Martians and that we seek peace with the inhabitants of Earth.”

* * * * *

There was some difficulty in the awakening, but finally Baren Darl succeeded. The Earthling shook his head groggily and scowled at my interpreter. The following conversation ensued:

Baren Darl: “Awaken. We have a message of great importance for you.”

Earthling: “Huh?”

Baren Darl: “We have a message for you.”

Earthling (Rolling over on his other side): “Oh.”

Baren Darl said impressively: “In the name of the Most High, the Glorious, the Omnipotent, Omnipresent, and Omniscient, the Lord of the Seven, the Leader of the Chosen, Neo Geek XXXVIII; we bring you greetings from the Martians.”

Earthling: “Huh?”

Baren Darl: “We Martians offer you the friendship and the good will of a people that⁠—”

Earthling: “Martins! Are you’uns Martins?”

Baren Darl: “That is correct. We Martians come with the greetings and⁠—”

At this point, your Omnipotence, my account must of necessity be somewhat vague, for even after we had made good our escape back to the space-cruiser, bearing our more serious casualties with us, we were unable to agree among ourselves on just what had happened.

Baren Darl, who is now under arrest and in the darkest recess of the Space-cruiser 12B44 laden down with chains, is of the opinion that the Earthling was none other than either Superman or the Lone Ranger in disguise. He contends that both of these earthling warriors are prone to adopt disguises in this manner, revealing themselves only at the last moment to their enemies.

Suffice to say, however, that we were all successful in making good our retreat to the space-cruiser although all of our equipment and supplies were destroyed in the melee. Upon regaining the spacecraft we blasted off hurriedly, to return to our own sacred planet.

I recommend, your Omnipotence, that the plans to subjugate the planet Earth be indefinitely postponed in view of the fact that our specially designed weapons proved worthless and in particular view of the abilities of Earthling warriors.

I further recommend that the unspeakable Baren Darl, who obviously frittered away his time during the decals spent on Luna supposedly studying the Earthlings, be sent to the Nairebis Salt Mines.

Yours, Obediently,
Seegeel Wan
Commander Space-cruiser 12B44.

* * * * *

Maw and Paw Coy and Hank and Zeke came back into the clearing wearily. The boys had done a lot of tramping and were hungry for their vittles, and Maw was feeling bodacious about their taking off to go hunting for Martins. Paw had told her to shut up two or three times but it hadn’t been much use.

Lem was sitting on an upended mash barrel loading his old shotgun and grinning vacuously. He seemed unaware of the fact that the stock of the gun was a splintered ruin.

“Guess what, Paw,” he yelled. “I got me a Martin. I got me a whole passel of Martins, Paw, I sure did. Yup, I⁠—”

Paw Coy grunted, and started poking around in the vittles Maw had brought up from the cabin.

The boys leaned their rifles up against the oak and each picked up a handy fruit jar of corn squeezins.

Hank said nastily, “Sure you got a whole passel of Martins, Lem. In yore sleep, you got a passel of Martins.”

Lem said belligerently, “Don’t you go a talkin’ thataway Hank, or I’ll⁠ ⁠… I’ll throw you up into the tree the way I did that time you hit me with the ax. I did so get me some Martins. I was a sittin’ here when a whole passel come outen the woods. Didn’t know they was Martins at first. Then⁠—”

Maw Coy handed him a chunk of corn pone. “Now you be quiet, Lem, and eat your vittles. Sure you got yourself a Martin, Lem.”

A thin trickle of brown ran down from the side of Lem’s mouth. He spit on the ground before him, with an air of happy belligerence.

“I sure did, Maw. I sure got me a passel of Martins. Yup, I sure did.”