"What do you want?" he demanded, dimly aware that the head showman,
Johnny Johnson had stepped inside the room and was glaring at him. Only a short time ago they had finished their act and were now resting. The bar was under the domed roof of the Martian city. The stage was empty of actors.
"I thought I told you to leave that poisonous Martian drink alone!"Johnny's mustache waggled angrily as he spoke. He towered over Pap like a mountain.
Pap shrugged his thin shoulders miserably. "So I drink too much! You going to fire me from the show?"
"No! But you can't appear out in public and let them see you looking like a haggard fool!"
know," Pap answered, sitting up straight on the bar stool "Guess I haven't done anything but hold up the tour. If you are going to make all the Martian settlements, you'd better go without me. At least we finished our act in this city!"
"I'd like to," Johnny answered, looking openly defiant. "But I can't abandon you in a Martian town. You know that! Some of the Martians haven't been so friendly. They claim they'd like their independence, and sooner or later may be willing to fight for it. You'd just better get to bed and sleep that 'kick' drink off before it kills you."
Pap smiled after the retreating figure of Johnny. Now there was a great guy! He was always looking out for the members of his crew. And one could tell that all the Martians liked the show. They went crazy with laughter, showing up by the hundreds at every performance. Johnny was also an unusual guy; running a completely honest show.
Pap knew he had a terrible weakness. He hated himself because of it. But without the liquor he sometimes went crazy inside like a man on fire. Without it, he could never have gone with the tour.
Johnny had some temporary furniture; a desk, table, and three chairs at the back of the stage where he conducted business. Going over to the desk and taking a pencil and paper, Pap wrote, 'I won't be a drag on you any longer. I'm quitting the show. Good by and good luck!'
He pushed the paper aside and arose unsteadily to his feet and went over to get Tolly. She could run, jump, turn flips and even talk when he asked her a question. But despite her human like speech and actions, she was only a fancy robot with built in equipment to handle such things.
"Want to go along, Tolly?" he inquired
Tolly nodded her blonde pigtails. "I'll go with you, Daddy!" she answered, "Besides I don't have much choice with you pulling me along."
"Good!" Pap said, smiling. "At least I can depend on you even if my brain is all fogged up with liquor. We'll go out on the desert and think things out." He picked up his space suit and tightened the fastenings as he put it on. He heaved a sigh of despair.
Tolly walked in jerky robot strides to accompany him as he left the building.
n hour later, Pap found himself clinging to a large boulder in a canyon with an icy howling wind throwing flurries of sand in his view. He could see the giant whirl winds moving about like tornadoes. The wind in these could tear him almost to bits. He also had to avoid the gully washes that had gone dry longer than a million years ago. Some of these were deep and had rocky bottoms that might smash him to pieces if he happened to fall into one. High mountains, taller than anything on Earth, seemed to hold up the sky and frightened him until sand hid them from his view.
He clutched Tolly to his chest as if to protect her. How he had ever gone into this hell hole was beyond him. He shook his head over his own foolhardiness.
"What's wrong?" Tolly asked.
ap licked his dry, swollen lips. "You know, Tolly! Only a drunken fool would come to this place. But you can go back to that city we left since you don't need oxygen or heat, and don't tire out like a human does."
She looked pretty with her blonde curls. She also stood taller and leaner than him and was athletic in her abilities.
"I'm going!" she said and started out across the desert, her metallic hands and legs swinging in jerky strides.
He felt worried when she didn't look back. He had never known that she could be so cruel and unfeeling before this. But there was purpose in her stride, unknown to him.
e knew there was no use trying to think out his problem now. Yet even in his tired old body he knew there was strength. He would never give up trying to find his way back to the Martian city; not as long as he could move. If he ever got back, he'd find Johnny and tell him that he was quitting the show for good and that he wanted to go back to Earth where he belonged.
Pap left the boulder and struggled against the wind and sand, trying to find his way out of the canyon. He leaned forward, forcing himself to take one hard won step after another, unable to see or move more than a few feet at a time. The hours blended into each other in a monotonous pattern until he was nearly out of oxygen in his tank. The wind finally died. It was nearly sunset. Pap sat down under a scraggly rock on the floor of the canyon, too tired to go further. He felt almost too exhausted to move, but knew it was out of the question. He had to keep going if he could. To do anything else would be like committing suicide.
wo hurtling moons whipped over the top of the canyon and then disappeared. Pap felt terribly lonely and afraid. He remembered what Johnny had said about the natives. If they found him, he wouldn't stand much of a chance. He found the night to be cruelly bad and the oxygen in his tank difficult to breathe. His throat felt hoarse from lack of water.
After a short nap, Pap struggled back to his feet. He knew that he would freeze to death if he went to sleep and didn't keep the temperature adjusted. Then just where they came from, he had no idea. Quite suddenly he found himself with a group of Earthmen who had sworn their allegiance to Mars--not Earth. He knew this because of the rebel red uniforms they wore under their space suits.
"You are from Earth," a tall, savage appearing man said who was obviously the leader. "I am Macon, and we don't trust new-comers from Earth. It appears that you are spying on us. We will have to kill you! You will come now to our headquarters."
"How did you find me out here?" Pap wanted to know.
"We followed you!" Macon answered. "We saw you leave the city and picked out your trail. We will put enough oxygen in your tank to keep you alive for now."
Pap didn't say any more. He knew how many Martians felt. They hated the Earthmen because they hadn't been granted independence. They took him across the Martian desert canyon, half dragging him at times when his legs grew weak, causing him to falter. He felt that he had already reached beyond the limits of his endurance.
The sun finally broke over the horizon and flooded the area with red light. They soon reached an outpost building that housed the Martian group. When they took him inside, he fell into a corner, but was glad to be able to remove his helmet flap and breathe plenty of warm oxygen from the room.
Like a basketball stadium, the room had a large number of seats that stretched almost to the ceiling in measured rows. The seats were filled with an audience of men and women. Macon stood in front of the bottom row, having apparently given a speech about independence.
"So you finally showed up!" a familiar voice said scornfully.
Pap looked across the room, too startled to believe his eyes. Johnny Johnson was sitting there in a chair, glaring at him with accusing eyes.
"How'd you get here?" Pap blurted out.
"I saw your note. Like a fool, I thought I'd rescue you out of this confounded desert! The Martians caught me last night," Johnny answered
"Me too! Pap answered resignedly. "You shouldn't have followed me way out here. You've got a weakness too, and it's worse than mine. Like that time five years ago on Earth! You found me and Tolly going broke on a New Mexico dude ranch. We put on a little act there."
"I know!" Johnny answered. "But it doesn't matter now. The Martians will kill us."
ap shuddered. "Anyway Tolly and I are thinking about quitting the show business if we ever get out of here alive. I used to be her owner but I've grown so fond of her I'm going to treat her as an equal companion from now on. She thinks the same way. Going to quit drinking too, even if it tears my heart out!"
They were startled when Macon clapped his hands, and after getting everyone's attention, gave an order. "Line those two spies up against the wall. I'll give the signal to shoot." Pap felt horrified. It looked as if both Johnny and he would die in a couple of minutes.
He tried to pray but the words would not come. He looked at his companion.The same frightened look covered Johnny's face. What happened then was almost beyond anyone's belief.
The door suddenly burst open and Tolly entered the room. She moved forward in her robot stride and said, "Everyone stand still! I came to rescue Pap, and Johnny too. I'll kill anybody that makes a move to harm these two." She carried an automatic weapon.
"I knew she could speak!" Johnny cried out, completely surprised. "But this required her to think!"
"Sure!" Pap answered, grinning. "But few people ever knew it. In fact I'm the only one who did!"
"Great jumping jacks!" Johnny answered. "She sure fooled me, but I am happy about all this"
"We will now put on a show for everyone," Tolly said, pointing her gun at them. "You too, Johnny!"
Pap went into his act with Tolly. He chased after her, but she started pointing the gun at him. She also turned flips, high off the floor, and did all sorts of queer actions and antics. Johnny ran out to calm her, but she squirted ketchup in his face.
It was the best show Pap could remember. He was happy now; probably the happiest man on Mars. "We did it, Johnny. But if Tolly hadn't done what she planned, we'd be dead by now! We put on a great act here! And I didn't need any Martian 'kick' to put on a show. And Tolly kept that gun in her hands the whole time."
"Then you and Tolly will stay?" Johnny asked hopefully.
"Yes!" Pap answered, smiling.
acon stepped forward and said, "you will come back won't you? Please keep your acts going for us. We won't be trying to plan a revolution if you keep us entertained. At least not for now!"
"You can count on it," Johnny answered. "And I'll bring Pap and Tolly along. They really make the show! I couldn't do without them."