Thursday, July 31, 2008

Slave of the Lizard-Men.

By Don Varick.

Ravaged by quakes and floods, Earth sends Captain Dexter Ames through outer space to discover the mysterious secret of Sun-control.

Captain Dexter Ames, guiding the spaceship Discoverer out of gloomy canyon walls for a survey of the mystery planet Alpha Astra, wheeled eagerly when Doctor Phillips, his second in command, sputtered in amazement as he stared groundward through the powerful, squat telescope in the wing of the control cabin.

"Well, Doc?"

"There! Down there -- among the Lizard-Men!" stuttered the little scientist, staring.

"What!" exclaimed Ames, "More of the scaly devils? Like the ones we fought off in the canyon?"

"Yes, yes," snapped the doctor. "But that's not all!" He fidgeted at the scope. There he is! A giant, Captain, a giant!"

"A what?"

The bald little doctor danced a jig about the scope. "See for yourself! An amazing fellow! He might be an Earth-man like us, but for his size."

"Sure the light hasn't fooled you?" asked Ames, stepping to the scope as Chief Gunner Hatch took over the controls.

"No! The Lizard-Men are all around him, rearing up to their six feet. You can judge his hight by them!"

It was so, Ames saw. Down on the level plain a horde of the scaly green Lizard-Men swarmed about a great platform. And chained to the middle of was the doctor's giant.

Ames eyes sparkled. "A giant!" he cried. "There's other life, than, on the oldest star of them all! A giant! Perhaps it's his people who know the secret of Sun-control -- his people who just now are touching off quakes and floods on Earth!"

"If we can rescue him," the doctor began, "and take him aboard --"

"We'll rescue him, all right," snapped Ames. "Our ray-guns can take care of those Lizard-Men. We proved that in the canyon."

The Discoverer was cruising slowly over the plain. Ames called to Hatch. "Turn her toward that platform, Gunner. Then give her to me, and call your gun-crew to battle stations!"

Hatch swung the ship dexterously, then relinquished the controls with a gleam in his eyes. "Are we landing, sir?"

"We are," Ames assured him. "More of those green targets Hatch!"

"The more the better, sir," Hatch grinned, and vanished.

Ames, peering down, saw the plain so thickly swarming with the half-human saurians as to appear green to his eyes, loom nearer as the ship glided down. The scene on the platform was clearer now.

"He's a prisoner of the Lizard-Men," he guessed. "We may have a hot fight, Doc. but we must have him! We'll cut him loose and give him a chance to help us find the ray-machine that's thrown the Sun out of gear. If he's hostile, your thought-transference magnet may read his mind enough to point us to his city, or cave, or whatever may be the base of that disastrous ray-work." He settled the space hood closer to his head, called through the speaking tube "Are you ready gunner?" and heard the clear answer, "Ready, sir!' Ames nodded significantly to Phillips, punched the decent lever and steered the ship to the ground beside that broad platform.

The Lizard-Men saw the ship all at once. The larger mass parted swiftly. Hundreds of the green creatures darted out of the ship's path, toward cave mouths. But other hundreds swarmed up and over the platform, as if they planned to thwart any attempt to rescue their captive.

"Gunner Hatch!" cried Ames "Fall in twenty men with ray-guns!" And he set the Discoverer down ten paces from the first low step that led to the platform floor.

"Take over the ship, Doc," grunted Ames. I'm going to open the starboard and clear the way to our giant." His eyes glowed. "I never could see those Lizard-Men playing the scientific role up here! The giant is the answer! If the lizard boys won't hand him over, they get theirs!" He moved to the right wing of the control cabin and through the corridor to the main gangway.

Hatch and his men waited, eager and expectant. "They may rush the doors," Ames warned them. "If they do, mow they down!" A score of voices murmured tensely, and Ames touched the buttons that swung the doors with a click into their sockets.

Instantly, a roar of hissing sounded through the ear-tubes in the Discoverer's crew space hoods. It was like the hissing thunder of a great cataract, yet Ames knew it was the venomous voice of the lizard people. A dozen scaly snouts thrust forward, wicked little eyes gleaming, long curved claws reaching for Earth-men's throats.

"Fire!" roared Ames.

The ray-guns spoke, and every rearing snout fell away. They were picked men, these twenty.

But their work was just begun. Now came the main rush of the spitting, leaping green devils. The very press of their rush threw several through the very doors. There they died, forming a barricade over which their followers tried to slither. But the ray-guns piled the dead in heaps. A high-pitched whine sounded in their rear, and they fell away, scurrying to the far caves. In ten minutes not a movement was to be seen in the wide space surrounding the platform.

"Now!" cried Ames. "To the platform!" Kicking a dead scaly one aside, he leaped for the platform. In three strides he was on the top, staring at the giant.

He was a monster of a man. A full ten feet tall, he strained at the massive chains that held him by wrists and ankles to the stone floor, while he stared with gleaming eyes under shaggy brows at Ames. Naked save for his leather loin-cloth, he was a powerful figure.

Ames halted beyond the reach of the convulsively closing hands. "We are friends!" he cried.

The giant seemed to understand. He relaxed, growling, and touched a manacled hand to his breast.

Doctor Phillips appeared at Ames' elbow. "Let me try the thought-detector," he begged.

Ames cast a worried glance backward. "Who's guarding the ship?" he asked in reprimand.

"Not a lizard in sight," the doctor assured him cheerily. He fiddled with a tube under his ear, and squinted his eyes. Instantly he cried out. "It's very clear! He's a prince of his people, betrayed into the lizard's hands by personal enemies."

Ames called for a blow-torch, and soon a man came running. The young captain applied the flame, and in a trice the chains fell away from the giant's limbs. He stared at the strange device, lifted his hands, then grinned in his wild beard.

"Okay, pal," Ames assured him. "Now how about a cruise with us?" He turned to lead the way to the ship.

It was then that the Lizard-Men rallied to the attack. Under cover of the ship, unguarded on the far side by reason of the little scientist's defection, the swarmed around bow and stern and barred the way to the Discoverer's doors. Screaming, spitting, clawing, they charged with a slithering, lumbering rush.

Hatch and his men formed a hollow square, with Ames, Phillips and the giant inside, and the ray-guns took toll until the light tubes glowed white-hot. But the lizards came on. Half of Hatch's men went down. Phillips vanished under a surge of green snouts.

Ames moved like lightning. He played his blow-torch, and a dozen green snouts turned away with cries of pain and fear. But a claw fastened on the captain's ankle, and he felt himself tottering. Fear gripped him -- not fear for himself, but a cold realization that he had failed in his mission to save the Earth.

He had forgotten the giant. With a roar that seemed to shake the green devils off their feet, he charged. Ugly snouts disintegrated under his swift triphammer blows. Ames felt the clutch on his ankle lessen. Then the big fellow caught up a Lizard-Man by the scaly tail and swung the creature like a club.

That was enough. Hatch and his men, bleeding but elated, rose and the ray-guns spoke again. In two minutes the party was at the space-ship's doors.

"Great work old scout!" Ames cried clapping the giant on the rump. "Come aboard!"

The big hairy one grinned and obediently stooped to enter, while the Earth-men formed a double line and cheered him to the echo.


Below are the original pages. The full scan is available at Golden Age Comics.

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