“Captain Williams, of course!” cried Hinkston,


“Captain Williams and his crew of three men! Or Nathaniel York and his partner. That would explain it!”

“That would explain absolutely nothing. As far as we’ve been able to figure, the York expedition exploded the day it reached Mars, killing York and his partner. As for Williams and his three men, their ship exploded the second day after their arrival. At least the pulsations from their radios ceased at that time, so we figure that if the men were alive after that they’d have contacted us. And anyway, the York expedition was only a year ago, while Captain Williams and his men landed here some time during last August. Theorizing that they are still alive, could they, even with the help of a brilliant Martian race, have built such a town as this and aged it in so short a time? Look at that town out there; why, it’s been standing here for the last seventy years. Look at the wood on the porch newel; look at the trees, a century old, all of them! No, this isn’t York’s work or Williams’. It’s something else. I don’t like it. And I’m not leaving the ship until I know what it is.”

“For that matter,” said Lustig, nodding, “Williams and his men, as well as York, landed on the opposite side of Mars. We were very careful to land on this side.”

“An excellent point. Just in case a hostile local tribe of Martians killed off York and Williams, we have instructions to land in a further region, to forestall a recurrence of such a disaster. So here we are, as far as we know, in a land that Williams and York never saw.”

“Damn it,” said Hinkston, “I want to get out into this town, sir, with your permission. It may be there are similar thought patterns, civilization graphs on every planet in our sun system. We may be on the threshold of the greatest psychological and metaphysical discovery of our age!”

“I’m willing to wait a moment,” said Captain John Black.

“It may be, sir, that we’re looking upon a phenomenon that, for the first time, would absolutely prove the existence of God, sir.”

“There are many people who are of good faith without such proof, Mr. Hinkston.”

“I’m one myself, sir. But certainly a town like this could not occur without divine intervention. The detail. It fills me with such feelings that I don’t know whether to laugh or cry.”

“Do neither, then, until we know what we’re up against.”

“Up against?” Lustig broke in. “Against nothing, Captain. It’s a good, quiet green town, a lot like the old-fashioned one I was born in. I like the looks of it.”

“When were you born, Lustig?”

“Nineteen-fifty, sir.”

“And you, Hinkston?”

“Nineteen fifty-five, sir. Grinnell, Iowa. And this looks like home to me.”

“Hinkston, Lustig, I could be either of your fathers. I’m just eighty years old. Born in 1920 in Illinois, and through the grace of God and a science that, in the last fifty years, knows how to make some old men young again, here I am on Mars, not any more tired than the rest of you, but infinitely more suspicious. This town out here looks very peaceful and cool, and so much like Green Bluff, Illinois, that it frightens me. It’s too much like Green Bluff.” He turned to the radioman. “Radio Earth. Tell them we’ve landed. That’s all. Tell them we’ll radio a full report tomorrow.”

“Yes, sir.”

Captain Black looked out the rocket port with his face that should have been the face of a man eighty but seemed like the face of a man in his fortieth year. “Tell you what we’ll do, Lustig; you and I and Hinkston’ll look the town over. The other men’ll stay aboard. If anything happens they can get the hell out. A loss of three men’s better than a whole ship. If something bad happens, our crew can warn the next rocket. That’s Captain Wilder’s rocket, I think, due to be ready to take off next Christmas. if there’s something hostile about Mars we certainly want the next rocket to be well armed.”

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