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D.J. Mencer’s The Dead Planet

Stories from Worlds of Fantasy #4 (John Spencer and Company 1951)

“The Dead Planet” by D.J. Mencer opens with deadpan incitement: “Jem Carson stood on the bridge of the Space Patrol ship, XK573, and his square jawline was grimly set, for Jem well knew that this wasn’t any routine check flight. This was the real thing. Trouble. With a capital T.”

The trouble is a distress call from Lira K, where Vasso Stornaway was reassigned to lead a Development Project after he was asked to resign from the prestigious Space Commission for “something [that] cropped up.”

Lira K is a rocky orb, devoid of plant life, located beyond the Barrier, and its native inhabitants, the Lizardmen, “aren’t too friendly.” During the flight, communications with the Project is cut off, triggering unvoiced conjecture from Jem and second officer Drex Gar, a Martian.

After a dangerous landing on a narrow strip surrounded by jagged rocks, Jem orders Drex to stay aboard while he and a crew investigate the development base, which is strangely quiet. When they reach the nearest building, a storehouse, they find it has been ransacked. They move on to what looks like barracks and find: “Torn, mangled bodies . . . ripped and clawed, as if animals had been at work.”

They move on only to find similar horrors in the communications centre and administrative building, with no one left alive. But as their survey nears its end they find a lone surviver hidden away in a small metecrete structure, Vasso Stornaway’s assistant, Franz Heschel.

He may sound innocent in their first exchange, and the massacre may seem like the work of
the hideous Lizardmen, but this yarn was penned in 1951 England, and Franz Heschel is German. Jem soon pieces together a plot between Heschel, the very much alive and bitter Stornaway, and the “flabby, bloated Venusians,” who have hidden a massive deposit of Duronium from the Space Commission, and are stealing it for themselves.

Suffice to say, Jem, Drex and crew soon obliterate the savage Venusians and the traitorous Earthmen and make a full report to Lunar Control: Trouble expunged!

Worlds of Fantasy #4 cover
Worlds of Fantasy #4 1951