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Jerry Morgan, fed up with Earthly frustrations, found plenty to occupy him when he swapped bodies with a hot-headed Martian from that red planet’s era of glory. For Jerry’s first moment there involved him in a costly mistake which was to throw him into conflict not only with the forces of evil and Mars’ many monsters but also against the trained weapons of a haughty empire!
197 pages, with a reading time of ~3.0 hours (49,491 words), and first published in 1961. This DRM-Free edition published by epubBooks, 2017.
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As the powerful car plunged up the mountain road, Jerry Morgan wondered what sort of reception awaited him at the end of this drive. Would the mysterious, eccentric man who was his uncle, and who lived in this mountain retreat which his nephew had never been permitted to visit, turn him away now?
It was not until he had reached the highest limit of timber growth that he came upon a log habitation built against the mountainside which rose steeply behind it, rugged and bare of vegetation. He stopped the car in front of the log porch, off the road enough to avoid blocking it. No one was around; no one appeared as he slammed the car door shut, climbed the steps and crossed the veranda. No one answered his knock; the door swung open at the impact and Jerry entered.
He found himself in a large living room, finished and furnished in pioneer style, the walls decorated with trophies. Despite the chill at this altitude, there was only cold, gray ashes mingled with bits of charcoal in the fireplace. Jerry had the feeling that the place had not been lived in for some time.
Exploration confirmed his initial impression. Shelves in the kitchen were empty save for a few dishes and utensils. There was no sign of food, and a thin film of dust had settled over everything, even the sink.
Puzzled, he returned to the living room and seated himself on a birch settee before the cold fireplace. Obviously, though this was the nominal residence of his uncle, Doctor Richard Morgan did not really live here. Where, then, did he live? As far as Jerry had been able to see in every direction there had been no sign of a building of any kind, save this one.
As he sat there, reflecting on these mysteries, he suddenly heard the door open, and turning, saw his uncle.
Like his nephew, Richard Morgan was tall and powerfully built. The remaining black among the silver hair and beard was as jet as Jerry’s, and though he did not look like a military man, his presence radiated authority. His forehead was high and bulged outward over shaggy eyebrows that met above his aquiline nose; and he wore a pointed, closely cropped Vandyke.
“Glad to see you, Jerry,” boomed the doctor in his resonant bass voice. “I’ve been expecting you.”
Jerry Morgan stared in amazement as he took his uncle’s proffered hand. “Expecting me? Why, I told no one—intended to surprise you. It sounds almost like thought-transference.”
“Perhaps you are nearer the truth than you imagine,” replied the doctor, seating himself.
Jerry brushed this aside, mentally, as he groped for the proper words with which to frame his next speech. “I’m afraid you’re not going to like what I have to tell you, Uncle Richard,” he began. “The fact is, I’ve disgraced … ”
“I know all about it, Jerry,” said the doctor gently, and then proceeded to give a detailed account of the episode the young man had been about to tell. He ended with: “You knew the colonel would never believe a story about your being framed in a manner reminiscent of nineteenth century melodrama, so you had no choice but to resign. What you didn’t know was that it was not Lieutenant Tracy, your rival, who arranged the affair but Elaine herself.”
“Impossible, uncle … ”
“Think, Jerry. Had you told anyone—anyone but Elaine—that you were not going directly back to your quarters as usual, but were stopping at the drugstore in town first? Someone had to know you would be in town at a certain time that night in order for the plan to succeed. It couldn’t have worked in any other place, although it could have happened at a later time. And Lieutenant Tracy was in the field that night, and could not have been privy to it. In fact, he knew nothing of it at all.”
“Then I misjudged them both—Tracy and Elaine.”
“Not too badly in Tracy’s case, I should say. He just wouldn’t have done it that way though. He couldn’t have been as sure of the colonel’s reaction as the colonel’s daughter was, you see. Well, don’t fret about them, my lad. They’re two of a kind and they richly deserve each other…. And now will you believe me if I tell you I know everything you’ve done since? Good.” He stood up. “You have guessed that I don’t live here—that this place is only a dummy habitation to keep the folk who live hereabout from prying into my affairs. Follow me.”
He led the way through the kitchen, and thence down a stairway into the garage. At the back was a tier of shelving. The doctor reached behind a shelf and pulled. Instantly, the whole tier swung back from the wall, revealing a dark passageway, hewn from the rock, leading into the mountainside.
“Enter,” said the doctor.