There will be fine, glittering,
streamlined automobiles in
2000 A.D. Possibly they will
run themselves while the driver
sits back with an old-fashioned
in his hands. Perhaps they will
carry folks down the highways
at ninety miles an hour in
perfect safety. But picking up
a hitch-hiker will still be as
dangerous as it is today.
By H. B. CARLETON
He was standing at the side
of the glassite super-highway,
his arm half-raised, thumb
pointed in the same direction as
that of the approaching rocket
car. Ordinarily Frederick Marden
would have passed a hitch-hiker
without stopping, but there
was something in the bearing
and appearance of this one that
caused him to apply his brakes.
Marden opened the door next
to the vacant seat beside him.
"Going my way?" he asked.
A pair of steady, unsmiling
blue eyes looked him over.
"All right, then. Hop in."
The hitch-hiker took his time.
He slid into the seat with casual
deliberateness and slammed the
car door shut. The rocket car got
under way once more.
They rode in silence for half
a mile or so. Finally Marden
glanced questioningly at his companion's
"Where are you headed for?"
"Dentonville." He spoke from
the corner of his mouth, without
turning his head.
"Oh, yes. That's the next town,
Not very communicative, reflected
Marden, noticing the
rather ragged condition of the
other's celo-lex clothing.
"Have much trouble getting
The passenger turned his
head, his blue eyes without emotion.
"Yeah. Most guys are leery
about pickin' up hitch-hikers.
Scared they'll get robbed."
Marden pursed his lips, nodded.
"Something to that, all right.
I'm usually pretty careful myself;
but I figured you looked
"Can't always tell by looks,"
was the calm reply. "'Course us
guys mostly pick out some guy
with a swell atomic-mobile if
we're goin' to pull a stick-up.
When we see a old heap like this
one there's usually not enough
dough to make it pay."
Marden felt his jaw drop.
"Say, you sound, like you go
in for that sort of thing! I'm
telling you right now, I haven't
enough cash on me to make it
worth your while. I'm just a
salesman, trying to get along."
"You got nothin' to worry
about," his passenger assured
him. "Stick-ups ain't my racket."
An audible sigh of relief escaped
"I'm certainly glad to hear
that! What is your—er—racket,
The blue eyes frosted over.
"Look, chum, sometimes it
ain't exactly healthy to ask questions
"Pardon me," Marden said
hastily. "I didn't mean anything.
It's none of my business, of
The calm eyes flicked over his
"Skip it, pal. You look like a
right guy. I'll put you next to
somethin'. Only keep your lip
"I'm Mike Eagen—head of the
"No!" Marden was plainly
awed. "The Strato Rovers, eh?
I've heard of them, all right."
The other nodded complacently.
"Yeah. We're about the toughest
mob this side of Mars. We
don't bother honest people,
though. We get ours from the
crooks and racketeers. They
can't squeal to the Interplanetary
"There's a lot in what you
say," agreed Marden. "And of
course that puts your ... mob
in the Robin Hood class."
"Robin Hood—nuts! That guy
was a dope! Runnin' around with
bows and arrows. Why, we got
a mystery ray that paralyzes
anybody that starts up with us.
They're all right when it wears
off, but by that time we get
Marden was properly impressed.
"A mystery ray! With a weapon
like that, you should be able
to walk into a bank and clean
it out without any trouble."
His passenger's lips curled.
"I told you, we don't bother
honest people. We even help the
S.P. sometimes. Right now we're
workin' with the Earth-Mars
G-men in roundin' up a gang of
fifth-columnists that are plannin'
on takin' over the gov'ment.
They're led by the Black Hornet.
This Black Hornet goes around
pretendin' like he's a big business
man, but he's really a internatural
"A internatural spy," repeated
Marden's companion, shortly.
"The E-M G-men say he's the
most dangerous man in the country.
But he won't last long with
the Strato Rovers on his trail."
"I can believe that. Tell me,
Eagen, what are you doing out
here around a small Earth town
"The gov'ment's buildin' some
kind of a ammunition place near
here, and I understand the Black
Hornet's figurin' on wreckin' everything.
'Course he won't get
away with it."
Scattered plasticade houses on
either side of the road indicated
they had reached the outskirts of
Dentonville. Mike Eagen pointed
ahead to a small white house set
back among a cluster of trees.
"There's where I'm holed up.
Drop me off in front."
A young woman in a faded
blue satin-glass house-dress was
standing at the gate of the white
picket fence. She watched in silence
as the passenger stepped
from the rocket car and lifted his
hand to the driver in careless
"Thanks for the lift, chum,"
said Mike Eagen.
"Not at all," replied Marden.
"Glad to have been of service to
The woman smiled to him.
"He's told you his name, I
Marden lifted his hat.
"Indeed he has."
"Michael is all right," she said.
"I do think, though, that he
reads too many Buck Gordon
Interplanetary comic books for a
boy of eleven."
This etext was produced from Amazing Stories April 1956 and
was first published in Amazing Stories November 1942. Extensive research
did not uncover any evidence that the U.S. copyright on
this publication was renewed.