Monday, July 21, 2008

The Lizard - Men of Alpha Astra

by Lin Davies. From Planet Comics #3, March 1940.

Piloted by Capt. Dexter Ames, 21,000 A.D. outward-space Columbus, the rocket-ship lands on the mystery-planet of Astra, only to be overwhelmed by the rodent-faced Lizard Men.

Captain Dexter Ames caught his breath. The swirling vapors, miles in depth, had blown clear, and through the magnifying transparent shield of the space ship's control room he could see the feared mystery planet straight ahead. He turned exultantly to the white-haired man beside him.

"There she is, Doctor! Just where the observatory plotted her!"

Doctor Phillips smiled wistfully. And you think we can succeed in finding the secret of Alpha Astra's control over the Sun?"

Ames clapped a hand affectionately on the old man's shoulder. "I hope so, for all our sakes." There was meaning in his voice, and unconsciously his gaze shifted to the slim figure of the girl who stood a few paces away, staring at the strange newly-discovered Alpha Astra, first of the stars.

"There may be great danger ahead -- dangers that we of Earth have never known," Dr. Phillips reminded the captain.

"We'll have to take our chances," said Ames soberly.

The doctor turned to join Ames in an avid survey of the great star whose form grew in size even though the space ship was coasting through the heavens. Now that they were getting close, young Captain Ames wished that Cara Phillips, the doctor's daughter, was back on Earth, for the landing on Alpha Astra bade fair to be a memorable one.

He sounded the alert. "Stations!" he called through the control tube. "Prepare to land!"

As he adjusted his ray pistol the girl moved to his side. "Good luck, Captain."

"And to you, Cara," Ames rejoined. "Stay with the ship."

She nodded, her eyes troubled. The Ames turned and took the controls himself for the landing. He shot the rocket ship into a narrow but straight canyon and set her down with hardly a jar.

The landing crew, led by engineer Sept Morgan and Gunner Hatch, waited tensely behind the triple doors. Morgan opened a valve, and held a mouse-cage up to the hissing vapor. The white mouse inside sniffed, but continued to cavort.

"Atmosphere looks safe, but keep the air hoods ready!" called Ames. "Follow me!" He stepped upon the soil of Alpha Astra.

The air was clean and pure. The canyon seemed sliced by a god's knife, and sloping ledges offered a way up to the top. He started up.

The ledge was wide, the slope was easy. As he led his party of explorers along the grey, vegetationless canyon, Ames began to plan a long search for the secret of the star -- the strange force that Earth's scientists argued could subdue or intensify the heat of the sun so as to lessen tropical heat and Arctic cold, and stop the series of earthquakes that were taking heavy toll of life on Earth. But at the top of the canyon, after one glance down at the ship, he gave up all plans of further exploration.

"Morgan! Hatch!" he yelled. The urgency in his voice made them run to the dizzy edge.

Far below, a strange horrible thing had happened. Even as the Earth-men watched, gliding shapes passed in and out of the space ship's doors.

"They've captured the ship!" cried Hatch.

"And look at them!" gasped Morgan. "What are they? Captain, what in heaven's name are they?"

Ames brushed his hand over his eyes, and stared. "They're saurians," he said huskily. "Lizards. But look -- they can walk upright! And -- ah! Look! They're dragging Cara Phillips off!" He leaped back, pulled his ray-pistol and dashed for the ledge. "Come on!" he cried.

Morgan and Hatch followed, and it was well for them. For behind them rose loud cries of terrible fear. Ames knew what had happened; some of his men had been seized by other bands of lizards.

But he dared not stop. His duty was to the ship. Like an avenging demon he hurtled down the slope and leveled his ray-gun. Point-blank, he fired at the nearest slinking lizard. It collapsed with a whimpering cry, and Ames shuddered in amazement as he saw its half-human face.

Then Morgan and Hatch opened up, and saurians fell in heaps. The doors yawned, and Ames burst in. He found a white-faced Doctor Phillips still in the control room.

"It was all so sudden!" whispered the ashy-faced doctor. I saw the take her -- that way --"

Morgan burst in, "Everybody safe but the girl!" he cried. "And the boys have captured a lizard-man!"

In a flash Ames adjusted the precious aura-cap, jealously guarded though-transference marvel of Earth-rulers and Earth-police. "Let's see him," he said grimly. "He may not talk, but it won't be necessary."

"The lizard was half-stunned, and crowded behind a welter of steel boxes and wedged bars. He whined when Ames spoke, cackling and muttering a weird gibberish. But Ames paid no heed. He adjusted the aura-cap to suck the thoughts of the scaly green head. Hardly was the aura-cap adjusted before he cried out in relief. "She's held prisoner, with the others! We can save them all!"


On the ground outside lay the still bodies of the lizard-men. Ames called for volunteers for the chase. For a moment they hung back. "Come on!" he cried. "A woman's life hangs in the balance!"

Quickly twenty men stepped forward. Ames laughed harshly. "Here we go! Doctor, guard that door. Now, let's give it to them!"

They caught the lizard-men in a great cave, seated on a circle, thousands of them, mumbling and grunting in a chorus, while green jaws gaped as a dozen guards held the struggling Cara Phillips and eleven of the space-ship's crew.

Ames fired. But no lizard-man fell. He tried again. His men began to lag. "Come on!" he cried savagely, and rushed at the screaming saurians. At ten paces he fired at the first attacking lizard, an this time the shot told. The beast writhed and fell. Behind him the crew took heart, and rushed the cave. Lizards dropped by twos and threes, and soon the girl and white-faced Earth-men were free.

The race back to the ship was touch and go, for the hoard of lizards slithered swiftly at their heels. But once safe behind those doors, Dexter Ames slipped an arm over Doctor Phillips' shoulders and another around the waist of a trembling girl, and said happily, "Well, we made it. And we haven't yet finished with the Lizard Men of Astra. Before we're finished we'll unbear the secret of their world."

The original pages from which this story was transcribed are below (via Golden Age Comics)

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