Cradle of the World
by Lin Davies from Planet Comics #8, September 1940.
by Lin Davies from Planet Comics #8, September 1940.
Fighting the power-drag of the time-warp, Captain Ames' space ship Discoverer is again smashed back to Earth -- this time in the dangerous days of the hard clouting Cave Men.
The space ship Discoverer hummed and groaned from the force of the shock. Half stunned, Captain Dexter Ames picked himself off the deck of the control cabin. Sprawled in the corner, Doctor Phillips, his second in command, was rising with a face distorted by alarm.
"It can't be a meteor!" cried Ames.
Phillips shook his head, as much to clear his thoughts as to answer the captain's question. "We weren't able to break out of the time warp," he muttered gloomily.
Ames set his teeth. "Let's see what the damage is." He leaned against the speaking aperture. "Morgan! Are the motors dead?"
"As a door-nail, sir," came the muffled voice of Morgan. "We're dropping, but slow -- the gravity resistors are still working."
"That's luck!" breathed Ames, and hurried to the great telescope. He peered down steadily, and gave a cry. "Doctor! It's Earth again -- or am I wrong?"
The little Scientist took his place and peeref through the great quartzite lenses. He blinked, "Yes, that's Europe -- and yet the land outlines don't seem just right! Do you know, Dexter, I have a feeling that we're journeying back into an older age!"
"Not the Ice Age, I hope," grinned Ames with a dubious grin.
"Decidedly not the Ice Age," reproved the scientist. "You should remember that in those times no such land configuration was possible.
Ames nodded. "Well whatever it is, we're stuck with it."
The Discoverer, battered and bent, sank into a long, narrow valley hedged in by snow-capped mountains. Engineer Morgan and his experts began there work at once.
Ames told off a scouting party, hoping to replenish the ship's dwindling food supply. "Remember," he warned, "keep together, and each man in communication by space-phone with the ship." The twenty, led by Gunner Hatch, trooped out the great door.
They climbed a gentle slope above a winding river. No man or beast appeared, and the scouts disappeared from Ames' view.
Two hours later a lookout cried out. Men of the scouting party had appeared on the brow of the hill. They were moving fast, as if in retreat. Another appeared, and then two who were helping an injured man. Hatch ran up as Ames stepped from the ship.
"We were attacked," he gasped. "By giants! Cave-men!"
Ames and Phillips exchanged a glance. "Centuries!" cried the scientist. "We've slipped past centuries of time."
Ames had been counting heads. "You're two mwn short," he rapped.
Hatch nodded. "And one man hurt. He was hit by a great rock thrown by a giant. The others are dead."
"How were they killed? Hit by rocks?"
Hatch's face bore a strange look as he spread his hands. "Nothing hit them. They just dropped after we shot one of the giants. Nothing hit them!"
"Nonsense!" cried Ames, but as he saw the stubborn lines in the Chief Gunner's face he wondered. "Come on Doctor, you and I will do a scout."
He picked six men of proved daring and discretion, and the eight followed the tracks of the food hunters. One man sighted a goat, but Ames shook his head. He wanted to see those bodies -- the two slain shipmates, and the giant -- if the had not been dragged away.
First they found the airmen. Doctor Phillips studied the unmarked still faces with pursed lips, then bade the men strip both. There was not a mark on them. The doctor, shuttling his hand through his thinning hair, said not a word.
A little farther away lay the giant. His death was no mystery. The ray of the ship man's pistol had caught him fairly in the face.
"We'll pick up our men on our way back," decided ames. "Now for food."
They had caught four goats before the giants appeared. One, the nearest, seemed to be a sort of leader. He carried a great club, swung on his shoulder above a craggy, scowling face framed with a mat of long hair. his only garmet was a bear hide hung off one shoulder and caught at the loins with a piece of bone. He came on slowly, teet bared, club balanced for a crushing blow.
Ames gripped his pistol. At that instant another giant leaped from the underbrush to make a flank attack on the party. The menaced ship man fired his ray-pistol. The giant's arms fell, the great body slumped.
And then a startling thing happened. The ship-man beside Ames gave a little sish and sank to the ground. Ames and Phillips knelt by him and saw that he awas dead.
"Ah!" cried the doctor, his face working, his eyes gleaming. "Captain, I --"
The leading giant had paused, astonished the sudden death of two men. His scowl left his face, and a thrill coursed through Ames' whole being. Why, this cave-man's face resembled his own! His pistol wavered from its target as he marveled.
Two giants forward from a fringe of woods. Three ray pistols spat, and they fell. And if by magnetism, three of Ames' party slumped and lay still.
"Ames!" cried the little scientist in anguish. "Stop them! Stop the firing! And don't shoot that big leader"
"Cease firing!" roared Ames. He turned wildly to the Doctor. "He looks like me, that Cave Man."
"Of Course," babbled the doctor. "Don't you see? The time-warp! These are the First Men! That's why our men died!"
Ames passed a hand over his brow, half lifting his pistol as the giants slowly advanced. "You mean --" he cried incredulously.
"Our men shot there own ancestors!" cried the doctor. "And so, without ancestors, how could they be alive? They died!"
"It's crazy!" cried Ames.
"It's the law of time!" retorted Phillips.
"And that big fellow --"
"Is your ancestor!"
Shuddering, Ames holstered his pistol. "Fall back!" he ordered his men. They paused only to lift their dead, and retreated towards the ship. Ames looked back. The big leader had stopped, and stood, leaning on his club, staring stupidly after Ames.
From the original fiche scans of Planet Comics #9 at Golden Age Comics, uploaded there by Rolster.