Copyright 1956 by Carl L. Biemiller

Illustrated by Kathleen Voute

Chapter One Chapter Two Chapter Three Chapter Five Chapter Six
Chapter Seven Chapter Eight Chapter Nine Chapter Ten Chapter Eleven
Starboy's Home C.L. Biemiller's Home

Chapter Four

It was fine to be in bed after such a long day, decided Johnny. A boy could sort things out in the quiet darkness of his own bed. It had been a long day, and an exciting one. Burning barns, flying saucers, visitors from space, and then Applegate's bull… He and Remo had told Mother and Dad about that at the dinner table. They had to explain their bare feet.

Mother had mentioned Mr. Applegate's telephone call with some concern. "George," she had said to Dad, "it's going to be difficult to convince Mr. Applegate that everything is normal on the Jenks farm these days. He's a wonderful old man, but he has a wonderfully long nose and he loves to stick it in other people's business."

Dad had only looked like a man eating an ear of corn. He waved it at Remo.

"Don't throw any more bulls, son," he said.

Johnny yawned, but he wasn't too sleepy. He and Remo were sharing the big guest room in the attic, the one with the twin beds and all the old wicker furniture that Mother had banished from the rest of the house.

Johnny could hear the leaves of one of the elms brush the roof gently. Maybe the elm branches were brushing off the day's dust to tidy up for tomorrow. He could hear the water in the shower drip from the nearby bathroom. He wasn't a bit sleepy now.

"Remo," he called softly. "Hey, are you awake?"

There was no answer. Johnny thought he heard a little snorting chuckle. He sat upright and peered through the gloom at Remo's bed. He could barely see the hump in the pale sheets.

"Remo," he said.

Suddenly there was a floating pale light on the other side of the room. It looked like a round firefly. It winked and bobbed and circled. Then it came straight for Johnny's bed. It hung just beyond the reach of his outstretched hand.

"Remo," said Johnny with delight. "That's the marsquartz space-a-tron."

There was a giggle from the darkness.

"I'm glad you brought it,' said Johnny.

"Father said that it had made trouble for you before," said Remo. "But when I asked if I could bring it he said that a lesson taught in trouble is a lesson really learned and that the only way to trust a boy was to trust him completely. We just have to be pretty careful with it."

Johnny remembered the marsquartz ball, all right. It was the toy the Man from Out There had given him and then had taken away. It was made of a metal from space and it would do tricks. All a boy had to do was think of something for it to do, and the little marble was to do whatever that think told it to… It was dandy. The only special thing about the ball was that it had to be in tune with the person who owned it. Not everybody could make it work. And nobody could make it do anything silly like sending it out for ice cream or a new bicycle. It was a mind toy, and only that.

"Will this one work for me too?" asked Johnny.

"Try it," said Remo.

Johnny concentrated on the little ball. Go around the room again, he commanded, and turn red when you shine this time! The pellet moved. It circled the room and it looked like a brilliant crimson dot.

"Good," said Remo. "It's now tuned to both of us. Now we can play the game."

“What game,” asked Johnny.

"Well," said Remo, "I think you know that on my world we don't talk to each other very much with spoken words. When we want to communicate, we think of what we want to say. Then the other person hears it with his mind. But this is a skill that has to be learned and developed. So we practice with toys like the marsquartz, and we play games.

"Here's how it works. You think of something for the ball to do, and I'll think of something else for it to do. The boy with the strongest think operates the ball. It's easy, but there are tricks. You have to concentrate. And if you can make me think of something besides what I want the ball to do, you can take over. We'll do something easy. You take the ball and try to make it get into my bed. I'll try to take it away from you and push it down to the other end of the room. Are you ready?"

"Yes," said Johnny.

"Well, go then," said Remo.

Johnny thought. He frowned in the darkness. Get into Remo's bed, he thought. Go now! The little ball moved, then suddenly it halted. Johnny could feel a surging force. The ball started to move to the end of the room. Stop, he commanded. Get into the bed. The ball faltered again. It wavered. Then it moved steadily off and went right to the far wall. Remo had won!

"That's pretty good, Johnny," he said. "You've got the idea and your mind is stronger than I thought. Want to try it again?"

"Yes," said Johnny. "May I start it?"

"Sure," said Remo. The little ball moved, and Johnny guided it back.

The game started. Johnny thought hard, but try as he might, the little ball stayed in one spot, and then slowly began to move down to the end of the room. Remo was just too good.

What did you do to the bull, thought Johnny, the bull? The suggestion might be enough to hamper Remo's concentration.

The magic marble stopped suddenly.

Get into the bed, commanded Johnny quickly.

With one swoop the ball darted for Remo's sheets. It plunked in with a tiny thud.

"I won," cried Johnny. "I won!"

"You catch on fast," said Remo laughing. "I would have expected something like that at home, but I thought you were having enough to do just moving the marsquartz. Good work, Johnny."

Johnny was curious. "Remo, could we move anything else like we move the marsquartz? A chair, for instance, or maybe a baseball?"

There was a moment of silence. "That depends," answered Remo. "There are men at home who can command almost any material object, but not all the time. It can be done, and I've seen it."

"Can your father do it?" asked Johnny.

"Sometimes," said Remo proudly.

The bright July moonlight spilled into the bedroom.

"Lets go look out the window," said Johnny.

Together they got out of bed and went to the open window. They looked out at the fields, all greenish-silver, and at the dark trees starkly black against the pale light. In the cornfields far away on the Applegate farm a million fireflies winked their lanterns between the furrowed rows. There was the swooping shadow of an owl whisking hurriedly around the corner of the barn pursuing a scrambling mouse. And above them the stars blazed, some of them dimmer than usual in the bright moonlight, but others steady and white against the night. Below them a corridor of yellow lamplight spilled from the living room windows where Mr. And Mrs. Jenks sat talking. The radiance outlined a big forsythia bush against the lawn. Two eyes caught fire in the lamplight, glowed green and then winked out as a prowling cat backed off into the darkness. The air was as soft as flour in a kitchen bin and almost heavy enough to hold in the hand.

"Tell me about your world, Remo?" asked Johnny. "What's it like Out There?"

"I can't tell you too much, Johnny," said Remo softly.

He was suddenly quiet, and Johnny caught a vagrant thought of sadness. Johnny put his hand on Remo's shoulder. The starboy was homesick! He was thinking about a world so very far away, about his mother whom he missed more than he cared to admit. He was a boy away from home. No matter how much of an adventure that is, or how exciting new places are, a boy can miss his home very much.

There were pictures in Johnny's mind. Some of them he understood. Others he did not. He saw Remo's world as a person would see it first from a space ship. It was a great, swirling cloud of bright gases shot through with vast tongues of flame. It was a place of strange stars, of slowly circling planets, a universe. Then, as the space ship approached it and vanished within it, it seemed to shrink and become a succession of skies that men could navigate. And when Remo's world hove into sight on the view screens of the ship, it looked much like the earth itself, a planet revolving around a star, which was its sun. Then the ship flashed through the air of Remo's world and Johnny could see heaving seas and great land areas. Later there were cities white and shining in the sun and small outpost towns in what could only be farm areas.

The fields seemed different on Remo’s world, all pinks and oranges, though just as lush with grasses as those of Earth. Johnny had an idea of great and heavy masses of dense irons and minerals, a heavier core at the center of Remo’s world, a heaviness of mass. It gave him the impression that walking was harder there.

Then he saw a room, a boy’s room oddly curving and exposed to the sky beneath a shining bubble of glass tinted to keep out glare. He saw strange toys and what looked like a little movie projector, which held spools of stories and lessons. He saw Remo’s mother smiling and tender, and hugging Remo. Then the pictures vanished. He was still looking out the window, and his hand was still on Remo’s shoulder.

“Let’s go back to bed,” he said.

There were automobile headlights turning into the Jenks’ driveway from the main road. They watched them. There were three cars, one behind another, and they cruised into the turn-around place in the yard and stopped. Remo and Johnny could smell the faint, dry odor of the dust they raised. The porch light snapped on and reached out to touch the cars. They could see men get out of the cars and hear Mr. Jenks’ voice. “Hi,” he said. “Come on in. I’ve been waiting for you.”

“Hi George,” said one of the men. “How’s the magic?”

Johnny knew that voice. It belonged to Mr. Murphy, one of the men his father worked with, a man from Washington, a friend of Johnny’s and the real rocket expert who had given Johnny his model. Mr. Murphy was fun. Remo would like him.

Johnny ran back to Remo’s bed and got the space-a-tron, the little marsquartz marble.

“What are you doing?” asked Remo anxiously. “Don’t, Johnny, don’t.”

“This is all right,” said Johnny. “Mr. Murphy knows things.” He leaned out of the window and held the little ball in his hand, then he thought to it. Remo only watched.

The little ball glowed brightly. It swooped down from the attic into the yard. It circled Mr. Murphy’s head. It tapped him on the shoulder. It hung before his eyes and then it rose back to the attic window and vanished.

“Johnny Jenks,” shouted Mr. Murphy. “I’m scared out of my wits!”

Johnny laughed and Remo did too. They went back to bed as all the men clumped into the house, but they sat in the dark expectantly. They were not disappointed.

The bedroom door opened, and light shone from the hall, and in came Mr. Murphy. He was grinning from ear to ear, a tall man wearing a rumpled sports shirt, slacks, and a pair of smudged and dirty white shoes.

“Ho, ho,” he said, “playing tricks, eh?”

He crossed over to Johnny’s bed, reached down and heaved Johnny into his arms. He mussed his hair. “I can’t stay and talk or your mother will shoot me,” He said. “This is hello and good night.”

Johnny wiggled away from him. “Mr. Murphy, this is Remo,” he said.

Mr. Murphy walked between the beds. He put his hand on Remo’s shoulder. “I’m glad to meet you, son,” he said. “I’ll talk to you in the morning.” He turned. “Now the pair of you get to sleep.”

The lights went out as Mr. Murphy left the room.

Johnny yawned. “Night Remo,” he muttered.

“Night, Johnny,”

Tomorrow, thought Johnny, we’ll have some fun.

Chapter One Chapter Two Chapter Three Chapter Five Chapter Six
Chapter Seven Chapter Eight Chapter Nine Chapter Ten Chapter Eleven
Starboy's Home C.L. Biemiller's Home