The Project Gutenberg eBook of Welcome, Martians!

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Title: Welcome, Martians!

Author: Evan Hunter

Release date: January 7, 2019 [eBook #58639]

Language: English

Credits: Produced by Greg Weeks, Mary Meehan and the Online
Distributed Proofreading Team at


Welcome, Martians!

By S. A. Lombino

Only one question seemed important in this huge space venture:
Who was flying where?

[Transcriber's Note: This etext was produced from
Worlds of If Science Fiction, May 1952
Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that
the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed.]

The only sound was the swish of the jets against the sand as the big ship came down. Slowly, nose pointed skyward, a yellow tail streaming out behind the tubes, it settled to the ground like a cat nuzzling its haunches against a velvet pillow.

Dave Langley peered through the viewport.

"I feel kind of funny," he said.

A tremor of excitement flooded through Cal Manners' thin frame. "Mars," he whispered. "We made it."

Gently, the fins probed the sand, poking into it. Cal cut the power and the big ship shuddered and relaxed, a huge metal spider with a conical head.

Cal peered through the viewport, his eyes scanning the planet. Behind him, Dave shrugged into a space suit, gathered up his instruments.

"I'll make the tests," Dave said. "Keep the starboard guns trained on me."

Cal nodded. He walked Dave to the airlock and lifted the toggles on the inner hatch. Dave stepped into the small chamber, and Cal snapped the hatch shut.

He walked quickly to the starboard guns, wiggled into the plastic seat behind them and pitched his shoulders against the braces. Outside, like a grotesque balloon, Dave stumbled around on weighted feet, taking his readings.

What's out there? Cal wondered. Just exactly what?

He tightened his grip on the big blasters, and trained the guns around to where Dave puttered in the sand. Dave suddenly stood erect, waved at Cal, and started lumbering back toward the ship. Cal left the guns and went to the airlock. He stepped into the chamber closed the toggles on the hatch behind him, and twirled the wheel on the outer hatch. He was ready to move back into the ship again when Dave stepped through the outer hatch, his helmet under his arm.

"It's okay, Cal. Breathable atmosphere. And the pressure is all right, too."

Cal let out a sigh of relief. "Come on," he said. "Get out of that monkey suit. Then we'll claim the planet for Earth."

They went back into the ship, and Dave took off the suit, hanging it carefully in its locker. Both men strapped on holsters and drew stun guns from the munitions locker. They checked the charges in their weapons, holstered them, and stepped out into the Martian night.

It was cold, but their clothing was warm and the air was invigorating. Cal looked up at the sky.

"Phobos," he said, pointing.

"And Deimos," Dave added.

"Ike and Mike."

"Yeah." Dave smiled.

"How do you feel, Dave?" Cal asked suddenly.

"How do you mean?"

"Mars. I mean, we're the first men to land on Mars. The first, Dave!"

They were walking aimlessly, in no particular hurry.

"It's funny," Dave said. "I told you before. I feel kind of—"

The music started abruptly, almost exploded into being, tore through the silence of the planet like the strident scream of a wounded animal. Trumpets blasted raucously, trombones moaned and slid, bass drums pounded a steady tattoo. Tubas, heavy and solemn like old men belching. Clarinets, shrill and squealing. Cymbals clashing.

A military band blaring its march into the night.


Dave's mouth hung open. He stared into the distance.

There were lights, and the brass gleamed dully. A group of men were marching toward them, blowing on their horns, waving brilliant banners in the air.

"People," Cal said.

"And music. Like ours. Music just like ours."

The procession spilled across the sand like an unravelling spool of brightly colored silk. Children danced on the outskirts of the group, hopping up and down, screaming in glee. Women waved banners, sang along with the band. And the music shouted out across the sand, a triumphal march with a lively beat.

A fat man led the procession. He was beaming, his smile a great enamelled gash across his face. The music became louder, closer, ear-shattering now.

"Welcome," the shouts rang out. "Welcome."


"English!" The word escaped Dave's lips in a sudden hiss. "For God's sake, Cal, they're speaking English."

"Something's wrong," Cal said tightly. "This isn't Mars. We've made a mistake, Dave."

The fat man was closer now, still grinning, his stomach protruding, a gold watch hanging across his vest beneath his jacket. He wore a white carnation in his buttonhole. A homburg, black, was perched solidly atop his head.

"They're human," Dave whispered.

The fat man stopped before them, raised his hands. The music ceased as abruptly as it had begun. He stepped forward and extended his hand.

"Welcome home," he said.

Welcome home! The words seared across Cal's mind with sudden understanding.

"There's some mistake ..." he started.

"Mistake?" The fat man chuckled. "Nonsense, nonsense. I am Mayor Panley. You're back in New Calleth, gentlemen. The city is yours. The world is yours! Welcome home."

"You don't understand," Cal persisted. "We've just come from Earth. We've just travelled more than 50,000,000 miles through space. We're from Earth."

"I know," the mayor said, "I know."

"You know?"

"But of course. Isn't it wonderful?"

The crowd cheered behind him, telling the night how wonderful it was.

Cal blinked, turned to Dave. The mayor put his arms about the two men. "We've been watching your approach for weeks. I'll have to admit we were a little worried in the beginning."


The mayor began chuckling again. "Why yes, yes. Not that we didn't think you'd make it. But there were some who ... ahh, here are the television trucks now."

The trucks wheeled across the sand, just like the thousands of trucks Cal had seen back on Earth. The television cameras pointed down at them, and the men stood behind them with earphones on.

"Smile. Smile," the mayor whispered.

Cal smiled. Dave smiled, too.

"Ladies and gentlemen," Mayor Panley said to the cameras, "It is the distinct honor of New Calleth...."

The crowd raised their voices, drowning out his voice. The banners waved, yellow, red, blue, orange. Welcome, welcome, welcome.

"... the distinct honor of New Calleth to be able to welcome home Bobby Galus and Gary Dale."

"Galus! Dale!" the voices sang, "Galus! Dale!"



"Just a second," Cal interrupted. "You don't understand at all. Those aren't our...."

"Four years in space," the mayor continued, "four years among the stars. To Earth and back, fellow citizens, for the glory of Mars."

"You've got that twisted," Cal said. "We didn't...."

The mayor took Cal's elbow and turned him toward the cameras.

"You were in space for four years, weren't you Captain Galus?"

"Yes, we were. But it wasn't...."

"Space!" the mayor gushed. "Limitless space. The first men to land on Earth."

Again the cries of the crowd split the night.

"Across the stretches of sky," the mayor continued. "Across the unchartered wilderness above, across the...."

There were banquets and more banquets, and women of every size and shape. The city of New Calleth went all out to welcome the space travellers. Bobby Galus and Gary Dale.

At the end of a week of festivity, the mayor came to Cal and Dave.

"Have you enjoyed your stay, boys?" he asked.

"It was swell," Cal said, "but you've got things all...."

"I was wondering when you planned on leaving for the capitol. Don't misunderstand me. We'd like you to stay as long as you want to, but...."

"For God's sake," Cal snapped, "will you please listen to me?"

Mayor Panley was visibly shaken. "Why, of course, Captain Galus. Of course. Why, certainly."

He lapsed into silence.

"I'm not Bobby Galus," Cal said. "And this isn't Gary Dale."

The mayor nodded his head. "You're ... not ... Galus and Dale," he said slowly.

"That's right," Cal said. "We didn't go to Earth. We came from there. This is the first time we've ever been on Mars. Do you understand? We're Earthmen."

"Earthmen?" The mayor considered this for a second and then burst out laughing. "Why, that's preposterous. Absolutely preposterous!" His laugh rose in volume to a bellow. "Oh, you're joking. I should have known. You're only joking."

"We're not joking. This is all some kind of a horrible mistake. We're the first men to land on Mars. You've got to understand that," Dave pleaded.

The mayor was still laughing. He walked to the door and opened it. "All right, boys, have your little joke. You've earned the right to it. I'll make arrangements for you to leave for Dome City in the morning." He shook his head and chuckled again. "Earthmen. Tch-tch." And then he was gone.

They sat alone in the hotel room. It looked like any Earth hotel they'd ever been in. A big soft bed. A wall telephone. Two dressers. Two armchairs. A big mirror over one of the dressers. A television set on the other dresser.

"This is screwy," Dave said. "Is it possible we're back on Earth? Is it possible the joke is on us? Maybe everyone is just ribbing us. Maybe we've been going around in circles for four years. Maybe...."

"No," Cal said. "We're on Mars all right. I don't know exactly how to explain it, but I've got an idea."

"What's that?" Dave asked.

Cal shrugged. "Probably all wrong, of course. But it has something to do with comparable development of cultures on different planets."

"You mean Mars is in exactly the same state of development as Earth?"

"Something like that. You know the theory. Give two different places the same materials to start with, and their cultures will run parallel to each other for the rest of their existence."

"Sure," Dave said. "But these guys Galus and Dale. How the hell could we possibly be mistaken for them?"

"I don't know." Cal leaned back on the bed and stared at the ceiling. "Maybe we'll find out in Dome City."

"Maybe," Dave repeated hollowly.

The president of the planet greeted their ship in Dome City. There were more parades, banners, bands, banquets, reporters, cameras, confetti, women, speeches, presentations.

And at last, they stood before the President's desk, two bodyguards standing on either side of him. He was a thin man, slightly balding, with rimless glasses.

"Gentlemen," he said, "I don't have to tell you how pleased I am."

Cal took a deep breath. "We've been trying to tell Mayor Panley," he said, "that we are not Galus and Dale."

The President smiled. "I know. He told me of your little joke."

"It's not a joke."

The President cocked an eyebrow. "No?" He looked at his bodyguards. "Has space affec ... did you feel any ill effects in space?" he asked.

Cal grimaced. "Oh great! Now he thinks we're psycho. Look, can't you get this through your heads? We are from Earth. We never heard of Galus and Dale. My name is Calvin Manners, and this is David Langley."

"Very interesting," the President said. He tapped his finger on the back of his other hand and stared at the two Earthmen.

He reached over toward the intercom on his desk then and pressed a button.

"Yes?" a woman's voice asked.

"Miss Daniels, will you bring in the photos of Capt. Galus and Lt. Dale, please?"

"Yes, sir."

The President turned to the two men again. "Those are your ranks, are they not?"

"Yes, but we're in the United States Army."

"The what?"

"The United States Army. The United States is a country on Earth."

"Really? Now we're getting somewhere. What else does Earth have? What is it like? Are the inhabitants intelligent?"

"Yes, we are. We're Earthmen, can't you understand that?"

"I think you're carrying this joke a little too far, gentlemen. A joke is a joke, but we've spent millions of dollars on your trip. Really, this is no time for banter."

Cal opened his mouth, ready to protest, just as the outside door swung wide. An attractive blonde in a smart suit stepped into the room and walked to the President's desk. She kept her eyes glued to the two Earthmen, dropped two large photographs on the desk, and turned. She stared over her shoulder at Cal and Dave until she was gone.

The President smiled knowingly. "The women are falling all over you two, I imagine."

"We're both married," Cal said drily. "We don't care for all this...."

"Married?" The President was shocked. "I thought we'd distinctly chosen unmarried men for the job. Strange."

"We've got wives on Earth," Dave said.

"Ah-ha," the President said. "Then they are intelligent beings. Pity, pity."

A twinge of anticipation curled up Cal's spine. "Pity? Why a pity? Why do you say that?"

"Well, you know. Surely you realized this was the only flight we could afford."


"For the meantime, anyway. We may attempt another flight in fifty years, sixty perhaps, maybe more. But you've already proved space travel, Capt. Galus. The achievement is ours. All we need now is money to...."

"Damn it, I'm not Capt. Galus," Cal shouted. "And we've got to get back to Earth. I've got a kid, Mr. President. He's six years old and...." Cal stopped abruptly. "Oh, this is all nonsense. Why am I arguing with you? Can't you understand that we are Earthmen? What do we have to do to prove it?"

The President sighed and turned over the photographs on the desk. They were glossy prints of two men in uniform. They were young men, in khaki, smiles on their faces.

One man looked exactly like Calvin Manners.

The other strongly resembled David Langley.

"Here are your photographs," the President said. "This is you, captain, and you, lieutenant. They were taken before the trip. You're younger, of course."

Cal stared at the photograph. It could have been he. The nose was a little sharper, perhaps, and the face thinner. But it could have been he. It could have been he!

"It's a freak accident," he shouted. "A coincidence in two parallel cultures, a...."

He saw the look on the President's face then. It was a cold look, and a suspicious one. Cal stopped speaking, sweat staining the armpits of his uniform shirt.

The President grinned again. "That's better. I understand the strain of space, gentlemen, but we must be practical, mustn't we?"

He paused. "Shall we talk about Earth now?"

The only sound was the swish of the jets against the grass as the big ship came down. Slowly, nose pointed skyward, a yellow tail streaming out behind the tubes, it settled to the ground like a cat nuzzling its haunches against a velvet pillow.

In the distance, the lights of New York danced crazily, gleaming from a thousand spires that scratched the sky. The radios blared forth excitedly, and the police cars screamed through the night as they rushed to City Hall to pick up the mayor.

Inside the ship, Gary Dale peered through the viewport.

"I feel kind of funny," he said.

A tremor of excitement flooded through Bobby Galus' thin frame.

"Earth," he whispered. "We made it."