The Dark Intruder by Marion Zimmer Bradley by Marion Zimmer Bradley - Read Online

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Xanadu. Not the Xanadu of Coleridge's poem, but-to the half-forgotten space drifter who discovered the place thirty years ago-a reasonable facsimile. It was a cloistered nun of a city, hidden behind a wide skirt of the most impassable mountains on Mars. And the city was more impassable than the mountains. No human being had ever entered it-yet. They'd tried. Two expeditions, twelve years apart, had vanished without trace, without explanation other than the dusty notebook Andrew had unearthed, today, from the rotted shreds of a skeleton's clothing.
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ISBN: 9781682999448
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The Dark Intruder

by Marion Zimmer Bradley

Start Publishing LLC

Copyright © 2015 by Start Publishing LLC

All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book or portions thereof in any form whatsoever.

First Start Publishing eBook edition July 2015

Start Publishing is a registered trademark of Start Publishing LLC

Manufactured in the United States of America

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ISBN 13: 978-1-68299-944-8

Andrew Slayton snapped the dusty leather notebook shut, and tossed it into his blanket roll. He stood up, ducking to avoid the ridgepole of the tent—Andrew, who had grown up on low-gravity Mars, was just over seven feet tall—and stood up, his head a little bent, looking at the other men who shared this miniature outpost against the greatest desert ever known to man.

The flaps of the tent were tightly pegged against the fierce and unpredictable sandstorms of the Martian night. In the glow of a portable electric lamp, the four roughnecks who would do the actual digging squatted around an up-ended packing box, intent on tonight’s installment of their perpetual poker game.

A dark oblong in the corner of the tent rose and fell with regular snores. John Reade, temporary leader of this expedition, was not young, and the day’s work had been exhausting.

The men glanced up from their cards as Slayton approached them. Want to sit in, kid? Mike Fairbanks asked, Kater’s losing his shirt. We could use a new dealer.

No, thanks. Not tonight.

Fat Kater shook with laughter, and jeered The kid’ud rather read about Kingslander’s men, and how they all went nuts and shot each other up!

Spade Hansen flung down his cards, with a gesture of annoyance. That’s nothing to joke about, Kater. He lowered his gruff voice. Find anything in the logs, Andy?

Andrew squatted, elbows on thighs, beside the big foreman. Nothing but what we know already, Spade. It beats me. As near as I can figure out, Jack Norton’s expedition—he only had ten men—was washed up inside a week. Their rations are still cached over there. And, according to Kings-lander’s notebook, his outfit went the same way. They reached here safely, made camp, did a little exploring—they found the bodies of Norton’s men and buried them—then, one by one, they all went insane and shot each other. Twenty men—and within ten days, they were just twenty-corpses.

Pleasant prospect, Kater glowered, slapping down his cards on the improvised table and scowling as Rick Webber raked in the pot. What about us?

Rick Webber meticulously stacked his winnings and scaled his cards at Hensen. Quit your worrying. Third time lucky— maybe we’ll get through, all right.

And maybe we won’t, Fairbanks grunted, raking the cards together and shuffling them with huge fists, "You know what they call this outfit back in Mount Denver? Reade’s Folly."

"I’d hate to tell you what they called the first men who actually tried living on Mars, said a sleepy, pleasant voice from the corner, and John Reade thrust up his shock of white hair. But we’re here. The old man turned to Andrew. Wasn’t there even a clue in the logs, some notion of what might have happened to them?"

Andrew swivelled to face him. Not a word, sir. Kings-lander kept the log himself until he was shot, then one of his men—Ford Benton—kept it. The last couple of pages are the most awful gibberish—not even in English. Look for yourself—he was obviously but of his head for days. Andrew unfolded his long legs, hauled up a corner of the tent flap, and stood, staring morosely across the dark wasteland of rocks and bare bushes, toward the looming mass of Xanadu.

Xanadu. Not the Xanadu of Coleridge’s