Binder’s ‘Son of the Stars’
Binder, E. (1940). Son of the Stars. In Famous Fantastic Mysteries. Volume 1, No. 5, February 1940. Accessed 9/09/16 from http://www.pulpmags.org/famous_page.html
Dave Standish looked down at the body of the old, silvery-haired scientist, and realized that he was all alone now.
More than any other human being had ever been!
For their ship was out in a space that knew the sun only as a dim, yellow star, no brighter than the other stars. For almost seventeen years, he and Dr Roscoe had hurtled away from the Solar System, on the strangest mission in man’s history.
The young man stepped away from the body after a moment, quietly. He left the large main cabin and made his effortless way down a corridor to the nearest port-window. He stared out into the void.
The immovable stars did not show that that ship was plunging through space at half the speed of light.
Dave Standish was not quite twenty-one years old. For the last seventeen of those years, he had seen the same changeless vista of star-spotted emptiness that he now viewed. How many countless times in the past, with nose pressed flat against the flawless quartz plate, his childish eyes and wondering mind had struggled to grasp the meaning of this abysm around the ship!
As a child of eight he had stood at this same port-window, certain that he was the center of the universe. This had been the only world he had really known.
He had memories of that other world in which he had lived to the age of four, but it was a dream world. A strange, fairyland world in which you walked around in a ship so big that you could not see the ceiling. And there had been an enormous, brilliant lamp up high that they moved over your head.
When they had hidden this big lamp under the floor at bedtimes, the big cabin had become dark. NO, not always dark, he remembered. Sometimes they had hung out another, softer lamp, one with a curious face on it. They had called it the Moon-light. The bright one was the Sun-light.
And then there had been the Star-lights, too, at night, such as he could see from his smaller cabin.
But that was a dream-world, faded in memory. This smaller cabin, surrounded only by Starlights, was real. This had been the child Dave Standish’s world for years, and he had not questioned its existence or reason. No more than a child of eight on Earth would have questioned the existence of Earth, or his life on it. He had asked questions, of course, but they had been idle ones of purely childish curiosity. But after the age of eight, deeper questions rose in his mind.
The chronometer in the main cabin had clicked on steadily. The hours grew into days, the days into years. A twelve year Old Dave Standish had stood before this same port-window and suddenly realized that a ship was something that went where. Dr. Roscoe, in the role of teacher, had begun on the history and geography of Earth, and the groundwork of science.
Dave Standish slowly realized that the other “ship” had been something more than a ship. It took him many, many months of thoughtful reasoning to finally accept the truth. The other “ship” had been a large world, tremendously larger and more complex in all its phases than he was able to conceive at first! He realized the Star-lights were no longer little lamps hung just around the ship. They -were big, blazing suns scattered far and wide!
And their ship was not hanging motionlessly. It was moving among these suns—
THE grown-up Dave Standish, thinking and staring out at the stars, could still remember the thrill of his sixteenth birthday. On that day Dr. Roscoe had darkened the cabin and given him his first taste of talking and moving pictures. They became an important part of Dave’s life in the next few years.
Once he had run through the hundreds of reels there were, he re-ran them again and again. His narrow, iron-bound world peopled itself with fantoms that became almost real as he viewed them over and over.
Almost but not quite. It was a strange, new world to Dave Standish, one before which there was always a cloud. He would never understand it fully till he saw it with his own eyes. He sighed when he thought of the remoteness of that event.
That it was a stupendous journey they were on, Dave Standish had come to realize, as his practical knowledge increased. At first he had taken it for granted. But now he realized what powerful engines the ship had, to achieve half the speed of light. The builders had had to design an engine and ship to carry two passengers almost twenty thousand times as far as the distance from Earth to Pluto.
This entailed a proportionate increase of fuel and food, to last for almost a half century. In the earthly scale of monetary value, the ship was as costly as a small war. Certainly the motive behind its launching must be gravely important, he had reflected many times. The entire project was for getting him, Dave Standish, to some destination and back. Everything had been planned to the last detail for that end.
To what detail Dave only realized when Dr. Roscoe told him he had been chosen, for perfect health and strong mind, from thousands of other children. And before he had been put aboard the ship, doctors had given him a mild attack of each of the childhood diseases, for the purpose of filling his blood with the natural anti-bodies. Every precaution had been taken to increase his chances of surviving the long trip into the void.
But just why the trip, and where were they going? That had been the great mystery. On his twenty-first birthday, Dave Standish was to be told.
But before that time came, Dr. Roscoe had a siege of weakness and sank fast. He grew gaunt and thin. He had always shunned the port-windows. His staring eyes seemed ever to have a lurking terror in them. He did not like to look out into abysmal space.
Dave, bringing his thoughts now to the recent past, was not quite sure what Dr. Roscoe had died from. He had been fairly young, not more than fifty, and exceptionally vigorous in health, at the start. He too had been chosen carefully. Something more in this stupendous trip than advancing senility had brought him to his death-bed.
He had been more or less in a delirium for, the past week. For hours at a time he had babbled to the younger man about Earth. It seemed to give him a sad pleasure to tell of moonlit nights, and the gentle breezes of spring, of laughter, and crowds, cities, and sun-drenched countrysides.
Dave had listened attentively, faintly stirred. But he didn’t really understand. He was no part of that world.
Then, in the last hour, the old scientist’s mind had cleared. He had taken the boy’s hand in a bony clasp and whispered hoarsely, with a queer, terrified light in his sunken eyes.
“I will never see Earth again!” he had said. “The void has taken its toll. It has shattered my mind! You have no fear of the abysses of space, have you, Dave? You couldn’t have—it’s your world, the only one you really know. Thank God for that!”
Dave had not understood more than the bare words. He saw nothing about space to frighten one. Dr. Roscoe had gone on, fighting off the death rattle in his throat.
“I must reveal to you, before I go, the destination and purpose of this trip. It is something I’ve delayed telling you because your mind was not fully —not fully prepared to understand. I had hoped to be with you longer.”
He had waved limply with his thin hand, bitter lines etched in his old face. Eyes burning, he had spoken on:
“Our ship is heading for the binary star 61-Cygni, in the Constellation Cygnus, The Swan. It is eleven light-years from Earth. Sixty-six trillions of miles—if you can conceive such a number and distance.
At our velocity of half the light speed, it is a trip of twenty-two years! Five years from now, when you are twenty-six, you will reach 61-Cygni.”
Dave had not been too surprised at the revelation of their destination. With his astronomical knowledge, he had already suspected their goal. He nodded silently, as Dr. Roscoe resumed:
“You will land on one of 61-Cygni’s planets, for a greater than any before, in the history of the human race!”
A deeply tragic look had come into the scientist’s face. His voice croaked on in almost defeated tones.
“You remember, from your history lessons, that after the Second World War of 1939—a century ago—a world state was formed. A supreme ruling body was elected. They were scientists as well as statesmen. Under their leadership, the world and science forged ahead rapidly.
“Then disaster came! All sciences had advanced, but particularly biology. Drunk with a certain vital discovery, a group of biologists brought a doom to mankind. Doom!”
Dr Roscoe’s voice had choked. His eyes had reflected a deep agony. Dave stood before him bewildered, vaguely aware of some grave problem eating like an acid in the scientist’s soul. He had recovered himself and gone on in a bare whisper.
“They radiated artificial cosmic-rays all over Earth, in order to speed up mutational evolution. It was planned that all humanity at once, in one or two generations, would mutate to a higher level. A year later they examined the new crop of babies eagerly. And then it was seen that something had gone wrong!”
A living horror came over the scientist’s haggard features. He clenched his bony hands tightly.
“Of the first group of babies, half were normal—the same as before. But half the remaining were mutations insane at birth and the rest were atavists—throwbacks to the subman! Man’s tampering with the normal course of evolution had resulted in catastrophe. It was too-easily calculated that in less than a century, there would be only the two mutations left – large-headed insane creatures and the ugly, half-apelike submen!
“They realized it must be stopped, this terrible misdirection of evolution. First of all, the two mutations were killed off as fast as they were born. But then the ghastly truth became known. The cosmic-ray process had destroyed an important, delicate hormone in every living soul on Earth. Without this hormone, the mutations could not be checked. Worst of all, the biologists did not know its chemical composition!”
Dr. Roscoe had leaned back for a moment, exhausted by his emotional strain. Then he went on weakly.
“You knew nothing Of this, Dave. You were too young. You are one of the last of the normal babies born on Earth in the past fifty years. If this mission fails -”
The scientist broke off and began again.
“Realizing the doom, the biologists tried to undo their evil. But there seemed no salvation in Earthly science. They could not determine the complicated chemical molecule which no longer existed on Earth.Finally it was decided that the last hope must lie away from Earth, away from the solar system. Perhaps among the nearer stars might be found an answer to the problem. It was, and is, a forlorn hope. But no possibility could be left untried.
“61 -Cygni is the only star within reach with planets. Every Scrap Of Earth’s radium went into this ship’s engines. Therefore on us—on you, Dave—depends the entire fate of the human race!”
Dr. Roscoe’s voice had become very weak then.
“I have written out very carefully what you must do when you reach 61-Cygni. Your return to Earth, supposing all is successful, will be just in time to forestall the inevitable end. Atavism and false mutation.”
His voice became suddenly anxious.
‘”Do you understand, my boy? Sometimes you have stared at me so blankly. Perhaps it was a mistake to take you from Earth at the age of four. It was thought best to take one at that age, so that his young mind might be easily molded into the harsh mental rigors of a lifetime of space travel. Vou will return to Earth a man of forty-eight! But on the other hand, you have no real conception of life on Earth, or of the grave importance of this mission.”
His thin voice rose almost to a shriek.
“But you must understand, Dave! ”
“I will do everything as you have told me,” Dave had promised emotionlessly.
“My spirit will be with you, my boy!”
These were the last sane words Dr. Roscoe had spoken. His mind snapped then. A few minutes later, babbling endlessly of the things of Earth, he had fallen into the final coma, never to awaken.
Following instructions, Dave shoved the body out of the air-lock, out of the ship.
For five more years the super-ship plummeted into the void.
All things save his own existence became like a dream to Dave. He was not lonesome in the true sense of the word. He did miss Dr. Roscoe for a time, but had no terror of being alone in the yawning space that would have driven any other human being to utter insanity. He methodically ate, slept, read scientific books, inspected the air and heat meters, and had little sense Of time passing.
He noticed the arrival of Dec. 26th on the automatic calendar, and remembered that Dr. Roscoe had attached some particular significance to that date. But to Dave Standish, son of the stars, it meant nothing. He ran what few of the movie films were not already worn out, for diversion, till they, too, were useless. His main interest in those five years was to look out at the stars, hours on end.
Dave Standish had never read a book of fiction. He had never, since the age of four, seen, another human being outside of Dr. Roscoe. Had never seen the workings of a mind similar to his own. Had never felt a wind on his face, a laugh in his ears, a kiss on his cheek. Had never pondered his place in a society of many others, or read a newspaper or heard a radio. Had never experienced the full emotions of fear, hate, love, anger, pity or happiness.
The mind of Dave Standish was a world of its own.
But it was a mind admirably suited to its task, as cold and unformed as space itself. And by that token, as stable.
A month before he was twenty-six years old, he sat himself at the pilot board and brought the mighty atomic-engines to roaring life. The ship had previously been turned around so that its rocket-side pointed toward 61-Cygni. Long streamers of flame shot ahead of the ship and drifted past the port-windows. The universe seemed on fire.
Dave was soon annoyed with the steady rumble and throb of the rockets. He had liked the perfect silence of Space better. However, there was no choice. For six months the rockets belched their braking energies, slowing the ship down from its titanic velocity of ninety-three thousand miles a second.
When five months of deceleration had passed, 61 -Cygni grew rapidly brighter till it was the most brilliant star in the firmament. After a time it bulged out at the two sides, to his eyes, and eventually split into two separate components. One was a huge red sun, the other a smaller yellow one. When the latter, which was nearer, began to display a disk, the planets appeared.
The ship had now come to a full stop and Dave Standish turned off the rockets. He made rapid calculations and found the outermost planet was five billion miles from the yellow sun, a cold airless body.
He turned the ship by offside rockets and blasted closer to the yellow sun. Another planet appeared, still two billion miles from its primary, also frozen and sure to be utterly lifeless by all earthly standards. The ship passed five more planets, two ringed like Saturn, and finally reached a position about one hundred million miles from the central sun.
Dave took up a planetary orbit. He was following instructions left by Dr. Roscoe. In a narrow zone between eighty-five million and one hundred and ten million miles must be found a planet, if there were one. If it were further out, it would be comparable to Mars, and would probably be as desiccated and deserted of life. If it were closer, it would be a steamy planet like Venus, no fit abode for higher evolutionary life.
On that one chance—a planet in the right orbit—rested the hopes of accomplishing the mission for which the giant ship had been sent sixty-six trillion miles through the gulfs of space.
Dave Standish felt no particular emotion when he finally did sight a planet in an orbit one hundred and five million miles from the yellow sun. He suspected that if Dr. Roscoe had been living, he would have gone wild with joy. But Dave himself felt little beyond a certain scientific satisfaction.
The planet grew in size as he laid a direct course for it. It soon appeared a large, greenish ball surrounded by hazy, white atmosphere. It stirred a deep memory, within Dave, though he did not know quite why. He eased the ship into the atmosphere and took up an orbital course in what would be its stratosphere.
After circling the globe twice and seeing definite signs of civilization below, he lowered the ship toward the largest of what must be cities. But it was a fantastic city that his ship hovered over finally—strange and beautiful. It covered hundreds of square miles of territory along a sea-coast and shone green with the great areas of park-like spaces in its confines. The Iow, widely-separated buildings were all of iridescent stone, magnificently architectured, and perforated with endless rows of windows into which warm sunshine poured. There was no smoke or grime in this wonderful city.
Dave increased the drumming of his rockets and turned the pancake ship flat side down, lowering away carefully. He landed in a wide meadow-land just out-side the city limits, with cushioned jar that was taken up mainly by the system of pneumatic landing skids. Then he turned off the engines that had performed such prodigious labors, and ran to the nearest port-window.
For an hour he gazed out, lost in a staring trance.
For the first time in twenty-two years, was on a world. Vague memories stirred in him, memories of a long eternity ago when as tiny child he had lived on such a world. But his best imagination had never pictured for his adult mind what a world was really like.
He felt utterly bewildered. He could scarcely believe that there could be a stretch Of unmetallic matter reaching to all the horizons, as his eyes saw.
And sunlight—what an amazing thing that was! The whole sky was filled with its blazing light, hiding the stars. For a moment Dave was frightened, for the stars had been his companions almost all his life.
It was all like a dream to Dave Standish, after the landing. And yet it was a vivid dream, much more so than that other faded dream of Earth.
Soon a line of human-like figures appeared from the city and came up to the ship. They were so startlingly like himself that Dave gasped in astonishment. They had delicate pointed ears, narrow mouths, long greenish hair, and rather long arms and legs, but outside of those things were essentially human.
The beings stopped before the ship and stared in obvious amazement, talking excitedly to one another. Then they spied Dave’s face at the port-window and waved for him to come out. He instinctively understood the gesture.
Dave stepped out.
He took his first breath of pungent air that did not come from a tank, and it made him dizzy, like wine. He felt a breeze on his skin and a tingling went through his whole body. He stooped to the ground and picked up a handful of dirt and grass, letting it trickle through his fingers. He did not know why, but a saltiness stung his eyes.
Then he noticed that the people had crowded around him, staring open-mouthed. Dave stared back just as avidly, wondering how there could be so many different faces and yet all essentially alike. They were dressed in colorful, flowing robes. Finally a tall being stepped forward and spoke. The of the voice was pleasant and soprano, but the words were quite incomprehensible to Dave.
With a shock that swept all through his body, Dave was suddenly aware that this creature was a woman! Furthermore, most of the crowd round about were women. They were all tall. There were some men, but they were shorter and hung back as though quite timid.
And then Dave’s eyes struck the face of one certain girl near him, and a new sensation went through him. Not quite a new sensation, for he had felt the same warm throbbing when viewing a girl in a movie-reel, years and years ago in the ship. Only now the sensation was intensified—almost overpowering.
Though he did not know it, Dave Standish stood there pouring out his whole soul into the eyes Of that girl. They were laughing, violet eyes. On Earth, it would have been known as “wearing his heart on his sleeve.”
The effect on the crowd was almost electrical. All the women began talking softly to one another and looking from him to the violet-eyed girl. Finally the one who had tried to speak to him went smilingly to the girl, took her hand and led her close to Dave/ giving him the hand.
Dave felt a new, terrifying rapture tingle through his nerves at that contact. The hand was warm, soft, clinging. The violet eyes were close now, and in them, too, was a strange light. Dave could not realize it then, but by the custom of this matriarchal civilization, he-had already been married to the violet-eyed girl, in their eyes. Their human relationships, as he was to learn, were far simpler than those of Earth. But Dave knew nothing of those things at the time. He knew only that he wanted the violet-eyed girl more than anything else in the universe.
The girl now tugged at his hand, toward the city. Dave went along, unresisting, and the two were followed by the great crowd that had come to see the ship. The crowd sang. Dave was led through their arboreal city, lit by warm sunshine and perfumed by the thousands of varieties of flowers which bordered every walk. There was no clap-trap of cars, or vehicles of any kind, nor any noise. By any earthly comparison, it was a Utopian city with laughing, happy inhabitants and simple but magnificent surroundings. It was a completely unmechanical civilization, blessed by a kind climate.
People that passed stared curiously at the strange, tan man with drab clothes, but they smiled, too. Dave found himself smiling back, though it hurt the muscles of his mouth. He had not smiled for five years, in the ship. At last the violet-eyed girl led him into a tiny house. She turned at the door to wave at the crowd and it dispersed.
When they were -alone together, they looked into one another’s eyes and spoke a language that made no use of words. Then the violet-eyed girl laughed, and the man from space laughed with her. She disappeared into another to come back with a heaping bowl of strange, luscious fruits. They ate, laughing in each other’s eyes.
Time passed with the swiftness of a beautiful dream for Dave Standish.
He learned their simple language quickly and soon came to know what an idyllic existence the woman-ruled civilization of this planet was. He knew a happiness, in his simple life with Tara, his wife. that he had always subconsciously hungered for.
When he tried to explain to her his presence on their world, he became confused. All that had passed before in his previous life was a forgotten dream. He even lost curiosity in the great ship in which he had come. It was still there where he had landed it, viewed daily by thousands of people of this garden planet, called Rendora.
At times, Dave would have a disturbed feeling that he should remember something in connection with the ship. It had something to do With the man who had once lived in it with him. They had come from another world, where he had been born, and he was supposed to go back for some reason.
Dave was quite clear in one part of his mind what it was all about, but in another part of his mind, the whole thing seemed inconsequential. What did that world mean to him, so far away in the void? He had barely lived on it a few years. Its troubles were no concern of his. He had never really been a part of that world, had never understood what its complex life was.
But Rendora was a world he could understand. One that he belonged in.
Daily, he went out into the fields with Tara and the others, and tilled their bountiful soil. Rendora had no Severe winters and gathered harvests all through the year. At night, in the city, there was music and dancing, and gaiety and friendship and comfort. There were no wars, or struggles, no tyranny, misadjustments or poverty. Everyone had a place in this life and everyone was happy.
What could draw Dave back to a world sixty-six trillion miles away? One whose salient features had been warfare, suffering, misery and a terrible, never-understandable complexity. One part of Dave’s mind knew a word called “duty,” but no part of his mind could interpret that word into human terms.
One day, when he had lived almost a year on Rendora, Tara revealed a secret with a shining light in her eyes. Dave felt almost weak at the news. They awaited the event eagerly, happier than they had been before.
The day came, and Dave Standish felt as though the universe had crashed about his head when the news was delivered to him. In a blind panic, he went to see for himself. There it was, an ugly, hairy little creature with an apelike face, making little grunting sounds! Tara was weeping as though she would never stop, and avoided his eyes.
Dumfounded, unbelieving, Dave stared at his offspring. Then suddenly it came at him, like a bolt of lightning.
The doom of Earth!
How had he hoped to escape it? For he too had been bathed by that unfortunate cosmic ray process that had destroyed the regulating hormone Of evolution. By the progressive Mendelian laws, which he knew to the last letter, he might have two normal babies out -of ten, but the others would be like this and the insane mutants Dr. Roscoe had told him about!
This was a living symbol of the doom that faced all Earth, and in his sudden anguish, Dave realized what the doom meant to Earth people. Millions like himself, back there on Earth, had gone through this same turmoil that seemed to be tearing his soul to shreds. And millions more would, till Earth was eventually tenantless by true man entirely, populated only by vast hordes of sub-creatures and horrible mutants. That was the doom that Dr. Roscoe had tried to impress him with and which up till now, Dave had not been able to sympathize with.
Earth’s mankind was doomed!
Dave Standish suddenly sprang from his moaning wife’s bedside and ran all the way to the ship, arriving half dead with fatigue. He climbed the steps and ran to the central cabin. Feverishly he pulled a notebook from what had been Dr. Roscoe’s desk and read its contents. The words would have had little meaning to him an hour before. Now they did—a wonderful, glorious meaning.
Dave ran back to the city, stood himself on the steps of the central building and addressed the crowd that quickly gathered as his male voice thundered over the crowd of women. For an hour he talked and knew that the ruling matriarchs above, on the balconies, were also listening.
When he had finished, most of the crowd were weeping, and Dave knew that he would have no trouble. He shouted instructions and a great mass of them followed him to his ship. He ran to the supply rooms and hauled out crated mechanisms with which he drew a pint of blood from each person. With the willing help of others, this blood was sealed into waiting cans that had been made on Earth for that purpose. Thousands of cans were filled in the next day, till there were no more left.
This life-blood of one world, given to another, would save Earth, for in it were contained traces of the subtle hormone lost to human life. The hormone that made all the difference in the universe between wild, unbridled evolution and normal life. Earth’s eager chemists would isolate that hormone that had been completely destroyed on Earth through folly, and would manufacture it in huge quantities, to be given to all Earth people.
All that was in Dr. Roscoe’s notebook. But he had not even known if such a planet could be found with an evolution similar to Earth’s. And he had not known that Dave Standish, finding it, would not begin carrying out this project until driven to it by the finger of fate.
Dave did not waste a minute. When the cans had all been filled, sealed and stored in the ship, he prepared immediately for take-off. He was leaving Rendora, a world he would never see again, and in which he had been supremely content. He was leaving Tara, and knew that he would never again love another woman. He was leaving happiness itself. But he did not hesitate.
Tara begged to come along, no matter what the sacrifice. But Dave, with a deep wisdom, forbade it. Her mind would not stand the harshness of a trip through empty void for twenty-two years. Only he, nurtured and inured by the void already, could do it.
His ship soared up and away, glinting brightly in a yellow sunlight that would not again shine on it for twenty-two years. Rendora dwindled and Dave Standish felt as though he had left his soul behind. But within himself he felt a deep, calm satisfaction. Earth’s prodigal son was returning, though he had been a son of the stars for most of his life.
Twenty-two years and four months later, the giant pancake ship lowered toward Earth.
The sight of it opened a wound in Dave’s heart, by its very resemblance to Rendora, the paradise he had left to fulfill his mission. Dave Standish was forty-nine years Old now, his hair streaked with gray. Forty-four of those years had been spent in harsh space. Yet Dave could not feel bitter at this sacrifice of his normal life. The tremendous importance of his journey was now clear to him. That grunting, hairy little creature born to Tara—
He only hoped and prayed it wasn’t too late, for Earth. The false mutation had had almost fifty years full play. Perhaps in that time humanity’s numbers had been greatly depleted. They had probably maintained a rigid birth-control, to keep from spawning more and more Of the undesired mutants. He would save them.
By use of an old map, Dave was able to orientate himself over the world he had never seen except with childish eyes of four. He picked out New York City and landed on its huge Long Island spacedrome. Attendants ran up to his ship when he had turned off the hot blasts, and began fastening hooks to drag it out of the way of other descending craft. It was a busy place. Dave was rather amazed.
He had hardly expected to see this much activity in a race faced with extinction. Dozens Of ships were being loaded and unloaded. Figures scurried by ceaselessly.
As soon as Dave opened his hatch, he shouted aloud in pure exuberance at being back safe and sound, and with the means in his hands of saving mankind. Then he shouted above the noises to the attendants below, who didn’t seem to notice his ship was any different from the hundreds of others that came and went in the interplanetary trade routes.
“I’m Dave Standish! Don’t you know me? I’m the one who went to 61-Cygni With Dr. Roscoe. I’m backl And in’ my hold I have thousands of cans of red blood—life-giving blood from Rendora! The mission was completely successful! Humanity is saved! Bring me to the officials! ”
He was baffled at their lack of enthusiasm. They looked at one another strangely. Then one of them shouted back:
“Come down. We will take you before the Masters.”
As Dave strode among them toward the drome’s offices, he saw the men looking at him sorrowfully, as though they pitied him for something he did not know, rather than the frightful journey he had made.
Dave was mystified even when he saw the queer, large-headed man into whose presence he was ushered.
“Dave Standish! ” murmured the tall, thin official. His bulging cranium and lofty brow, fully twice that of an average man’s, gave him a severely intellectual look. Dave began to feel a crushing inferiority.
“So you have returned!” went on the strange man. “Too bad!”
“What do you mean?” gasped Dave. “I have the hold of my ship filled with cans of blood from Rendora. From 61-Cygni. Surely you remember.”
“That blood is being spilled already into the ground! ” announced the official. “Dave Standish, your mission was a mistake, a worthless trip. The large-headed mutation, at first thought to be an insane type, was in reality a new species of man so infinitely superior that they did seem insane! Former man, like yourself, is a comparative atavist.
“I am of the new species. We run Earth now. We outnumber former man, your fellows, five to one. They are our servants, menials, subordinates. But we treat them kindly. However, we are letting them die out. They have all been sterilized. You are among the last of former mankind.”
The large-headed man stopped suddenly. Startled, he peered closely at his listener, at his queerly distorted face—
The lips of Dave Standish moaned. Then they writhed open to issue a horrible laughter that made the large-headed man shudder and feel sick with pity.
Binder, E. (1940). Son of the Stars. In Famous Fantastic Mysteries. Volume 1, No. 5, February 1940. Accessed 9/09/16 from http://www.pulpmags.org/famous_page.html