The Mad Martian
from Space Squadron issue #3
Published by Timely Marvel 1951
GEORGE ASHTON had been there in the bar for several hours. It was late and the rain was beating down outside in heavy windswept sheets. The man had come stumbling in, wide-eyed and disheveled, a long black poncho covering all but his flaming red hair and long-nailed fingers
He had come up to George and said, "You've got to help me. I'm from Mars."
George hadn't said anything,
Saliva drooled from the Martian's lips. Please, sir. You've got to believe me! I escaped, but they'll be after me soon. Just tell me who I can tell about the invasion. I can help the Earth. I can show them how to build force screens that will protect the Earth against the invasion.
George said. "Go away."
The Martian cried out. "You! don't believe me, do you? Well, it's true. It's true. I tell you it's a matter of life and death. Not only mine but yours and the entire world's." The Martian. started to pace up and back. "I know it's a difficult thing to believe, but this ..." he indicated his body with open, long-nailed palms, “this is not my true form ... "
He looked straight into George's eyes. "... Actually we Martians are an advanced crustacean life-form, but we do have the ability to identify with any other life-form and can assume their same shape and language-thought patterns.
"You've got to understand," he hissed, "that I am a traitor to Mars, and that they are coming here to keep me from telling Earth of their invasion secrets."
George looked at the Martian and shook his head. "My good man, I'm afraid you're a little off your rocker. I don't believe your crazy story, and I'm certain no one else will."
The Martian sank down in the chair at the table alongside George. He put his head on the table and both hands over his head. By my Claws!" he wailed. "By my Claws! I will be caught and destroyed."
George looked at the man and said, "If you're on the level, you won't mind my calling the local mental hospital to make sure you're not an escaped psychotic, will you?"
The Martian waved his hand in a gesture that said, "Go ahead."
A few minutes later George returned. "It's too fantastic," he said. "We don't know that there is life on Mars, and even if there were, there is no space travel. How could you have gotten here? And how would the Martians get here to invade the Earth?"
''But," said the man, pleadingly, “Mars does have space travel, and I could help you save the Earth. On Mars, I was a scientist, and I discovered the perfect—the only—defense against any interplanetary invasion. The force-screen."
Two men came in the door. They looked at the bartender asleep in the corner, and then to George. They wore white intern coats, and they were wet from the rain. One of them carried a strait-jacket. The other looked at George and winked. He pointed to the Martian.
"This the guy? You the one that called?"
"C'mon, Joe!" said the one with the jacket, to the Martian. "We got a nice paddy-wagon outside, and we're going to take you to a nice quiet place where you can be a Martian all you want."
The Martian cowered. "No no, you mustn't lock me up. I'm not crazy. You must believe me. Look," he said desperately. "I can even show you my space ship. It's out on the sound. That'll prove I'm telling the truth. Won't it?"
They closed in on him, and he started to run—knocking over tables as he ran. He pleaded with George.
"Please don't let them take me. Please, don't!"
The noise woke up the bartender. "What the blazes is going on here?" he roared. "Who is breaking up my place?"
The attendant with the jacket said, "It's okay, we're just picking up a customer for the booby-hatch."
The Martian screamed. "I'm not crazy. I'm not—"
The big one caught him and held him while the other slipped the strait-jacket around him. He was securely bound, and they carried him out between them.
He shouted at George. "You will be sorry. Wait until they come. You will learn what it is to be a slave. When you see the spaceships in the sky you will know, you will know."
They carried him out kicking and screaming
"Some nut," grunted the bartender, as he placed George's drink on the table. "Tryin' to wreck my place. Why didn't you wake me up? I'd a tossed the bum out on his ear." He started putting the tables and chairs back into place.
George sat there for about an hour, smoking cigarettes, and drinking his drink slowly. Then he got up, left the money on the table and walked out into the street.
The rain had stopped and the streets smelled clean and sharp. The moon was clear and bright and its light threw long shadows on the pavement. He walked towards the park to see the trees that would be sparkling with the wet rain-filled leaves. He breathed deeply and walked fast.
He thought of the Martian and the attendants, and he wondered what they would do to the long-nailed creature from out in space. He wondered what horrible things were in store for the creature that had come to him for help.
He wondered, also, how many more of such persons were wandering the streets these days telling everyone about a planned invasion from Mars.
George thought of his faraway home, of the purple fields and the orange rivers, and the buildings that were suspended about a mile up in the air. He wondered when his job would be done, and when he'd be allowed to return to his wife and child.
A policeman passed by and nodded to him in a friendly way. He was always a little afraid when an arm of the law came too close to him. Although there was no reason to. His disguise was perfect. At least it was as perfect as that of the man who had come into the bar and asked George for help.
George felt a little sorry for the poor misguided fellow. That's what happened when scientists forgot that their job was to create and to leave invasions and politics to the military. There was no escape for traitors from Mars. Not when the Martian intelligence had spies and collaborators on every planet in the Solar System.
He heard a distant roar, and it brought him sharply back to reality. In the distance—between two tall buildings—he saw the rocket fire of a space ship that trailed blinding white and orange flame. Soon it was overhead and he saw it silhouetted, torpedo-like against the yellow moon. His pulse beat faster, and there was a lump in his throat. Soon his brothers from Mars would be here, and he could go home. Very soon.