They came to Mars inquiring after the stuff of Empire. They got—TheTERRIBLEANSWER
his voice. "When I talk--you jump! Get that? All of you!"
He fired three bullets into the Martian's brain. The latter slumped grinning to the ground. Larkin, his breath coming jerkily, stood poised on the balls of his feet. The men at the table sat frozen--waiting. Around them--on the plain--some two hundred Martians stood motionless.
The final test, Smith thought. To prove they're cattle.
* * * * *
A full minute passed after the echo of the gun faded out. Silence.
The Earthmen picked up their breathing where they'd dropped it. Larkin's breath exploded in savage voice--triumphant voice. The Martians were his.
"Come on, some of you! Dig a hole and bury that carrion! And if anybody still wonders who's boss around here--let him step forward!"
"They took it!" Cleve whispered. "Glory be--they took it!"
Four Martians climbed grinning from the trench. They faced Larkin and stood as though awaiting instructions.