The Magic Ball From Mars

To Chapter One To Chapter Two To Chapter Three
To Chapter Four To Chapter Six To Chapter Seven
C.L. Biemiller's Home

Chapter 5

The flying saucers had disappeared. Dad took Johnny's hand and pulled him, in an awful hurry, back to Mr. Murphy's office, where Mr. Murphy was shouting into the telephone. "Get those planes off in a rush!" Mr. Murphy ordered. "Right now, I tell you. We saw them. They were on a course about four degrees north-northeast. About thirty thousand feet by now. Move, boy, move!"

Mr. Murphy was panting from his long run. Johnny could tell that he was excited. So was Dad. So was he himself, for that matter. Flying saucers! Jeepers! But Johnny was sure that the Man from Out There had not been in these saucers. He wondered how many saucers were flying around anyhow.

When Mr. Murphy hung up, Dad said, "What do you think they'll find Murph?"

"Nothing," said Mr. Murphy. "But we have to look, and they'll have those jets upstairs quick."

"Real jet planes?" asked Johnny breathlessly.

"Yes, sir," said Mr. Murphy. "Come on. Lets go out and see if we can spot them."

They went out through the big window again and walked down the lawn. They looked into the bright blue sky. It was empty for a few minutes. Where the model rocket had risen and then higher, where the saucers had whirled into sight, they could see three specks. They were the jet planes and each left a feather of white smoke which Dad called a vapor trail. The tiny plumes crisscrossed and the planes moved even higher, until they, too ran across the sky and hid in its blue brightness.

"Can they catch up to the saucers, Daddy?" asked Johnny.

"Don't think so son," said Dad gravely. "They never have yet."

"Well the show's over," said Mr. Murphy. They went back to his office and sat down again.

Dad reached over and patted Johnny on the shoulder. "O.K., son," he said. "Tell us what happened when you used the little ball. Did you talk to the Man from Out There again? And why did you laugh so hard?" Dad's voice was gentle, but Johnny knew that he was serious.

"I thought real hard, Daddy," said Johnny. "But the Man wasn't in those saucers." He paused. He was not sure how to say it. "I heard some singing," he said softly.

Mr. Murphy leaned forward and sort of crouched over his desk. "Singing?" he asked. "Singing, Johnny?" "I don't know all the words," said Johnny,, "but it was a song, and I heard it right inside my head."

"Can you tell us what it said?" Daddy asked.

Johnny sort of hummed to himself a minute. "All right," he said, "but I might not remember all of it.

"Out in the Coal Sack there's nothing but dust,
And nebulanic storms make instruments bust.
Patrols head through, but only on trust-
We'll be back in old Andromeda in the mor-r-rning!"

"Well!" said Dad.

Mr. Murphy said nothing at all, but he made a funny sound.

Johnny continued with the saucer song and, surprisingly enough , he remembered all of it.

This cybernetic pilot is only a hack,
The ship's on its course, but he's off his track.
A robot cannot care if we never get back-
Back to old Andromeda in the mor-r-rning!"

Mr. Murphy reached for the telephone and then he pulled his hand back. "No," he said. "I won't. Not right this minute anyhow."

"What's the matter?" asked Johnny.

The phone rang and Mr. Murphy answered it.

"Yes, yes, yes," he said. "Oh, it's you, Kimber. So you know all about it. Well, did the planes sight anything? Of course not, eh? The usual, eh? Hold your hat, Kimber."

Mr. Murphy seemed more like himself, thought Johnny-more like a man who could wrestle a gorilla. Johnny noticed that Dad, too, was listening to Mr. Murphy as he talked on the telephone.

"It seems that Johnny used the little ball and tried to talk to the Man from Out There. He heard singing. Yes, I said singing. I'll tell you some of the words later."

Mr. Murphy was quiet for a while. His face suddenly looked hard and stern. Then he spoke. "Well, don't lose any time. I'll tell George before they go." He hung up.

Daddy stood up. "Johnny," he said, "there's a soft-drink machine down the hall. How would you like to take this dime and get yourself a drink? I'll show you where it is."

"O.K.," said Johnny. He knew that Dad wanted to talk to Mr. Murphy-grown-up talk that Dad didn't want him to hear. He knew that Dad and Mr. Murphy wanted to talk about him, just as Dad and Mother sometimes did when they sent him out to play. After all, he was a secret. The little ball was a secret, and the Man from Out There was a big secret. There was a fight going on, and the people against us wanted to find out about secrets.

Dad walked to the door with him and showed him where another door led to the soft-drink machine. As Johnny walked down the hall, he wished that the little ball could tell him what Daddy was thinking, but then he guessed that listening to another person's thoughts was rude. Anyhow, the ball only worked for his own thoughts and the thoughts that the Man from Out There wanted him to hear. He wished that he could have a rocket toy like Mr. Murphy's. He wished that he could have a ride in a flying saucer. He hoped that the soft-drink machine had root beer. He put his hand in his pocket. The little ball felt cool and slippery and nice.

The machine did have root beer. It foamed right up in a paper cup, and Johnny enjoyed every drop of it. Dad and Mr. Murphy were all finished with their talk when he got back to Mr. Murphy's office.

"Well, sonny," said Dad, "we're about ready to go. We're going to drive home from here and have some lunch on the way, but before we go I want to ask you if you remember the two men who came to live at our house two years ago when I was so busy and had my own laboratory at home."

"Sure," Johnny said.

"Well," said Dad, "I just wanted you to know they're coming back. I want you to tell them where you are going when you go out and play and tell Mother and me, too. They'll be home when we get there and they'll stay awhile. You see, Johnny, we think that somebody might try to take your little ball away from very soon or bother me about it."

"We don't know what the little ball is made of," said Mr. Murphy. "If it is a new metal, maybe we could use it in many ways. We might even use it to build a big rocket to help us get out there where it came from. Johnny, I want you to promise me and your father that if you see anything at all…well different…you'll tell him or the two men who'll be staying at your house."

"Sure," said Johnny.

Mr. Murphy grinned. "If I didn't have to take my ten pet giraffes for a walk this afternoon, I'd ride home with you."

Johnny knew Mr. Murphy much better now. "If one of them has pups, can I have one?" he asked.

"Good-bye son," laughed Mr. Murphy. "So long, George. Stay in touch. I'm going home and take a nice warm bath and put a cool cloth over my eyes. For some reason, I need a rest."

The car was waiting for them when they walked out on the big porch. Dad waved at the man who had brought it. They got in and rolled away. After about two hours, they stopped in Baltimore for lunch. Then they started off again, and Daddy drove fast. They had crossed the hump-backed bridge over the Delaware River and were on the New Jersey Turnpike, right in the heart of the flat farm land, when Johnny happened to turn around and look out of the back window.

He was surprised. Right behind them again was the car with the dented fender, and it was coming closer. Anything you notice that is different, Mr. Murphy had said, tell your father. This was certainly different.

"Daddy," Johnny said, "the same car is still following us."

"What?" said Dad.

"That car behind us," said Johnny. "It followed us from the hotel this morning. It was behind us when we went to Mr. Murphy's place. And here it is again."

"Are you sure?" asked Dad.

"Yes," said Johnny.

Daddy stepped on the gas hard, and the car shot forward. All of a sudden, Johnny was frightened. Daddy looked pale and thin-lipped, and his jaw stuck out.

The car behind was gaining on them. Now it was alongside and edging over, until the dented fender almost touched their own car. Then there was the sudden squeal of brakes. The car rocked so hard that Johnny bumped his head. Then it stopped. The other car stopped too, and there was a banging noise as its fenders hit theirs.

Three men got out of the car that had followed them and ran toward Daddy, who had jumped out to meet them. Then Daddy and the men were a tangle of flying fists. One of the men hit Daddy on the head with something, and Daddy fell to the road. Johnny started to cry.

One of the men opened the door beside Johnny and reached in and lifted him from the seat. A big hand was clamped over his mouth. His head was swimming and he felt half sick at his stomach. Then he was being carried to the other car. All three men got in and they drove away. Johnny tried to wiggle and kick out of the grasp of the man who held him, but it was no use. He was sobbing now.

Nobody said a word. That was a strange and scary thing. The silence which surrounded his own sobs made them sound very loud. Then the man slapped him, and Johnny stopped crying. It was very quiet on the Jersey Turnpike, and somewhere far behind him was Daddy, lying on the road.

Johnny sat still as a mouse and began to think. He remembered Mr. Murphy and Mr. Kimber and the Colonel. He remembered the jet planes streaking across the sky and the saucers and his little ball. He remembered that he was a secret. He was still shaky, but somehow he felt more like himself. He reached into his pocket and clutched the little ball. Then the man who still held him, though more loosely now, seized his elbow and dragged Johnny's hand out of his pocket. He put a thumb and finger on Johnny's fist and opened it with a squeeze.

The man spoke. It was the first sound any of them had made. "A marble," he said in disgust.

"Give it to me," said the driver. "Anything at all you find, give it to me." He slipped the little ball into his trousers pocket.

"That's mine," said Johnny. "Where are you taking me?"

The man sitting next to the driver spoke. "Keep still. Nobody's going to hurt you. But you're going to stay with us till we hear from your father or find out something we want to know," He spoke quietly, but Johnny did not like the sound of his voice.

The car fled across the farm lands. It was going very fast again. And now Johnny had an idea. The paper in the ash tray in Mr. Kimber's office had burned when he made the little ball get hot. The little ball was in the driver's pocket now, and the car was going very fast. And these men had hurt Daddy and left him lying on the road.

Johnny closed his eyes and thought. He thought hard. Burn, little ball, he thought. Get very hot. Make a flame.

There was a hissing crackle in the car. The driver screamed. It was a terrible sound. Then the car was off the road. It was rocking. It was headed for a ditch and the banked edge of the highway. It hit hard. There was a bang and a topsy-turvy motion. Without knowing quite how he got there, Johnny was suddenly lying, unhurt, on some grass. He knew he had to get away. He stood up and ran. He ran up the bank and up the gravelly cliff alongside the road. Then he turned around for a second. Two of the men were crawling out of the car, which lay on its top. Johnny looked up and saw him. Johnny ran as fast as he could an found himself in a woods.

The little ball! It was still in the man's pocket. Johnny was still frightened and he kept on running. But he also kept on thinking. Come to me, little ball, he thought. And as he ran, it came-cool and slippery and comforting. It came right into his hand, just before he tripped and fell into a thicket at the edge of a big field. He lay with the grasses covering him and the top of the bushes waving over his head. He sobbed once and lay very still. And after awhile he fell asleep.

Copyright 1953 by Carl L. Biemiller. Illustrated by Kathleen Voute.

To Chapter One To Chapter Two To Chapter Three
To Chapter Four To Chapter Six To Chapter Seven
C.L. Biemiller's Home