"There's no profit in them one-shot deals."
"It's the repeat business you make the dough on."
"Maybe you got something there. You can kill a jerk only once."
"But a jerk can have relatives."
"We're talking about legit stuff. All the rest has been taken care of."
"With the Martians I've seen, a bar of soap could be a big thing."
From this random suggestion, there sprang up a major interplanetary project. If the big soap companies are wondering where all that soap went a few years ago, we can tell them.
It went to Mars.
Soap caught on immediately. It was snapped up as fast as it arrived.
But several questions popped into the minds of the Mafia soap salesman.
Where was it all going? A Martian, in line for a bar in the evening, was back again the following morning for another one.
And why did the Martians stay just as dirty as ever?
The answer was, the Martians stayed as dirty as ever because they weren't using the soap to wash with. They were eating it!
It cured the hangover from sugar.
Another group cornered the undertaking business, adding a twist that made for more activity. They added a Department of Elimination. The men in charge of this end of the business circulate through the chocolate and soap bars, politely inquiring, "Who would you like killed?"
Struck with the novelty of the thing, quite a few Martians remember other Martians they are mad at. The going price is one hundred carats of diamonds to kill; which is cheap considering the average laborer earns 10,000 carats a week.
Then the boys from the more dignified end of the business drop in at the home of the victim and offer to bury him cheap. Two hundred and fifty carats gets a Martian planted in style.
Inasmuch as Martians live underground, burying is done in reverse, by tying a rocket to the tail of the deceased and shooting him out into the stratosphere.
ONE UNIVERSE CONFIDENTIAL.
Mars is presently no problem to Earth, and will not be until we have all its gold and the Martians begin asking us for loans.
Meanwhile, Lait and Mortimer say let the gangsters and communists have it. We don't want it.
We believe Earth would weaken itself if it dissipated its assets on foreign planets. Instead, we should heavily arm our own satellites, which will make us secure from attack by an alien planet or constellation.
At the same time, we should build an overwhelming force of space ships capable of delivering lethal blows to the outermost corners of the universe and return without refueling.
We have seen the futility of meddling in everyone's business on Earth. Let's not make that mistake in space. We are unalterably opposed to the UP (United Planets) and call upon the governments of Earth not to join that Inter-Solar System boondoggle.
We have enough trouble right here.
THE APPENDIX CONFIDENTIAL:.
Blast-off: The equivalent of the take-off of Terran aviation. Space ships blast-off into space. Not to be confused with the report of a sawed-off shot gun.
Blasting pit: Place from which a space ship blasts off. Guarded area where the intense heat from the jets melts the ground. Also used for cock-fights.
Spacemen: Those who man the space ships. See any comic strip.
Hairoscope: A very sensitive instrument for space navigation. The sighting plate thereon is centered around two crossed hairs. Because of the vastness of space, very fine hairs are used. These hairs are obtained from the Glomph-Frog, found only in the heart of the dense Venusian swamps. The hairoscope is a must in space navigation. Then how did they get to Venus to get the hair from the Glomph-Frog? Read Venus Confidential.
Multiplanetary agitation: The inter-spacial methods by which the Russians compete for the minds of the Neptunians and the Plutonians and the Gowaniuns.
Space suit: The clothing worn by those who go into space. The men are put into modernistic diving suits. The dames wear bras and panties.
Grav-plates: A form of magnetic shoe worn by spacemen while standing on the outer hull of a space ship halfway to Mars. Why a spaceman wants to stand on the outer hull of a ship halfway to Mars is not clear. Possibly to win a bet.
Space platform: A man-made satellite rotating around Earth between here and the Moon. Scientists say this is a necessary first step to interplanetary travel. Mars Confidential proves the fallacy of this theory.
Space Academy: A college where young men are trained to be spacemen. The student body consists mainly of cadets who served apprenticeships as elevator jockeys.
Asteroids: Tiny worlds floating around in space, put there no doubt to annoy unwary space ships.
Extrapolation: The process by which a science-fiction writer takes an established scientific fact and builds thereon a story that couldn't happen in a million years, but maybe 2,000,000.
Science fiction: A genre of escape literature which takes the reader to far-away planets--and usually neglects to bring him back.
S.F.: An abbreviation for science fiction.
Bem: A word derived by using the first letters of the three words: Bug Eyed Monster. Bems are ghastly looking creatures in general. In science-fiction yarns written by Terrans, bems are natives of Mars. In science-fiction yarns written by Martians, bems are natives of Terra.
The pile: The source from which power is derived to carry men to the stars. Optional on the more expensive space ships, at extra cost.
Atom blaster: A gun carried by spacemen which will melt people down to a cinder. A .45 would do just as well, but then there's the Sullivan Act.
Orbit: The path of any heavenly body. The bodies are held in these orbits by natural laws the Republicans are thinking of repealing.
Nova: The explosive stage into which planets may pass. According to the finest scientific thinking, a planet will either nova, or it won't.
Galaxy: A term used to confuse people who have always called it The Milky Way.
Sun spots: Vast electrical storms on the sun which interfere with radio reception, said interference being advantageous during political campaigns.
Atomic cannons: Things that go zap.
Audio screen: Television without Milton Berle or wrestling.
Disintegrating ray: Something you can't see that turns something you can see into something you can't see.
Geiger counter: Something used to count Geigers. Interstellar space: Too much nothing at all, filled with rockets, flying saucers, advanced civilizations, and discarded copies of Amazing Stories.
Mars: A candy bar.
Pluto: A kind of water.
Ray guns: Small things that go zap.
Time machine: A machine that carries you back to yesterday and into next year. Also, an alarm clock.
Time warp: The hole in time the time machine goes through to reach another time. A hole in nothing.
Terra: Another name for Earth. It comes from terra firma or something like that.
Hyperdrive: The motor that is used to drive a space ship faster than the speed of light. Invented by science-fiction writers but not yet patented.
Ether: The upper reaches of space and whatever fills them. Also, an anaesthetic.
Luna: Another name for the Moon. Formerly a park in Coney Island.
THE RUNAWAY SKYSCRAPER.
by Murray Leinster
The whole thing started when the clock on the Metropolitan Tower began to run backward. It was not a graceful proceeding. The hands had been moving onward in their customary deliberate fashion, slowly and thoughtfully, but suddenly the people in the offices near the clock's face heard an ominous creaking and groaning. There was a slight, hardly discernible shiver through the tower, and then something gave with a crash. The big hands on the clock began to move backward.
Immediately after the crash all the creaking and groaning ceased, and instead, the usual quiet again hung over everything. One or two of the occupants of the upper offices put their heads out into the halls, but the elevators were running as usual, the lights were burning, and all seemed calm and peaceful. The clerks and stenographers went back to their ledgers and typewriters, the business callers returned to the discussion of their errands, and the ordinary course of business was resumed.
Arthur Chamberlain was dictating a letter to Estelle Woodward, his sole stenographer. When the crash came he paused, listened, and then resumed his task.
It was not a difficult one. Talking to Estelle Woodward was at no time an onerous duty, but it must be admitted that Arthur Chamberlain found it difficult to keep his conversation strictly upon his business.
He was at this time engaged in dictating a letter to his principal creditors, the Gary & Milton Company, explaining that their demand for the immediate payment of the installment then due upon his office furniture was untimely and unjust. A young and budding engineer in New York never has too much money, and when he is young as Arthur Chamberlain was, and as fond of pleasant company, and not too fond of economizing, he is liable to find all demands for payment untimely and he usually considers them unjust as well. Arthur finished dictating the letter and sighed.
"Miss Woodward," he said regretfully, "I am afraid I shall never make a successful man."
Miss Woodward shook her head vaguely. She did not seem to take his remark very seriously, but then, she had learned never to take any of his remarks seriously. She had been puzzled at first by his manner of treating everything with a half-joking pessimism, but now ignored it.
She was interested in her own problems. She had suddenly decided that she was going to be an old maid, and it bothered her. She had discovered that she did not like any one well enough to marry, and she was in her twenty-second year.
She was not a native of New York, and the few young men she had met there she did not care for. She had regretfully decided she was too finicky, too fastidious, but could not seem to help herself. She could not understand their absorption in boxing and baseball and she did not like the way they danced.
She had considered the matter and decided that she would have to reconsider her former opinion of women who did not marry. Heretofore she had thought there must be something the matter with them. Now she believed that she would come to their own estate, and probably for the same reason. She could not fall in love and she wanted to.
She read all the popular novels and thrilled at the love-scenes contained in them, but when any of the young men she knew became in the slightest degree sentimental she found herself bored, and disgusted with herself for being bored. Still, she could not help it, and was struggling to reconcile herself to a life without romance.
She was far too pretty for that, of course, and Arthur Chamberlain often longed to tell her how pretty she really was, but her abstracted air held him at arms' length.
He lay back at ease in his swivel-chair and considered, looking at her with unfeigned pleasure. She did not notice it, for she was so much absorbed in her own thoughts that she rarely noticed anything he said or did when they were not in the line of her duties.
"Miss Woodward," he repeated, "I said I think I'll never make a successful man. Do you know what that means?"
She looked at him mutely, polite inquiry in her eyes.
"It means," he said gravely, "that I'm going broke. Unless something turns up in the next three weeks, or a month at the latest, I'll have to get a job."
"And that means--" she asked.
"All this will go to pot," he explained with a sweeping gesture. "I thought I'd better tell you as much in advance as I could."
"You mean you're going to give up your office--and me?" she asked, a little alarmed.
"Giving up you will be the harder of the two," he said with a smile, "but that's what it means. You'll have no difficulty finding a new place, with three weeks in which to look for one, but I'm sorry."
"I'm sorry, too, Mr. Chamberlain," she said, her brow puckered.
She was not really frightened, because she knew she could get another position, but she became aware of rather more regret than she had expected.
There was silence for a moment.
"Jove!" said Arthur, suddenly. "It's getting dark, isn't it?"
It was. It was growing dark with unusual rapidity. Arthur went to his window, and looked out.
"Funny," he remarked in a moment or two. "Things don't look just right, down there, somehow. There are very few people about."
He watched in growing amazement. Lights came on in the streets below, but none of the buildings lighted up. It grew darker and darker.
"It shouldn't be dark at this hour!" Arthur exclaimed.
Estelle went to the window by his side.
"It looks awfully queer," she agreed. "It must be an eclipse or something."
They heard doors open in the hall outside, and Arthur ran out. The halls were beginning to fill with excited people.
"What on earth's the matter?" asked a worried stenographer.