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ASTOUNDING

STORIES

20ยข


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* * * * *




VOL. V, No. 3 CONTENTS MARCH, 1931


COVER DESIGN H. W. WESSO

_Painted in Water-Colors from a Scene in "Beyond the Vanishing
Point."_

WHEN THE MOUNTAIN CAME TO MIRAMAR CHARLES W. DIFFIN 297

_It is Magic against Magic As Garry Connell Bluffs for His Life with
a Prehistoric Savage in the Heart of Sentinel Mountain._

BEYOND THE VANISHING POINT RAY CUMMINGS 314

_The Tale of a Golden Atom - an Astounding Adventure in Size._
(A Complete Novelette.)

TERRORS UNSEEN HARL VINCENT 360

_One after Another the Invisible Robots Escape Shelton's Control - and
Their Trail Leads Straight to the Gangster Chief Cadorna._

PHALANXES OF ATLANS F. V. W. MASON 376

_Never Did an Aviator Ride a More Amazing Sky-Steed Than Alden on His
Desperate Dash to the Great Jarmuthian Ziggurat._ (Conclusion of
a Two-Part Novel.)

THE METEOR GIRL JACK WILLIAMSON 404

_Through the Complicated Space-Time of the Fourth Dimension Goes
Charlie King in an Attempt to Rescue the Meteor Girl._

THE READERS' CORNER ALL OF US 417

_A Meeting Place for Readers of Astounding Stories._


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Issued monthly by Readers' Guild, Inc., 80 Lafayette Street, New York,
N. Y. W. M. Clayton, President; Francis P. Pace, Secretary. Entered as
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* * * * *




When the Mountain Came To Miramar

_By Charles W. Diffin_

[Illustration: "_That'll be all from you," he told the black one._]

[Sidenote: It is magic against magic as Garry Connell bluffs for his
life with a prehistoric savage in the heart of Sentinel Mountain.]


The first tremor that set the timbers of the house to creaking brought
Garry Connell out of his bunk and into the middle of the floor. Then
the floor heaved and 'dobe walls swayed while the man fought to keep
his footing and pull himself through the doorway to the safety of the
dark night. The earthquake that came with the spring of 1932 was on.

He was nauseated with that deathly sickness that only an earthquake
gives, and he dropped breathlessly in the shelter of a date palm while
the earth beneath him rolled and groaned in agony. A deeper roar was
rising above all other sounds, and Connell looked up at the nearby top
of Sentinel Mountain.

The stars of the desert land showed clear; the grim blackness of
Sentinel's lone peak rose abruptly from the sand of the desert floor
in darker silhouette against the velvet of a midnight sky. And the
mountain was roaring.

Softened by the distance, the deep, grumbling bass sang thunderingly
through and above the other noises of the night, as if old Sentinel
itself were voicing its remonstrance against this disturbance of its
age-long rest.

The grumbling died to a clatter of falling boulders a hundred yards
away at the mountain's base, and Connell's eyes discerned a puff of
vaporous gray, a cloud of wind-blown dust, high up on the mountain's
flank.

"Holy cats!" said Garry explosively, "what a slide! That must have
ripped the old boy wide open."

His eyes followed the white scar far up on the mountainside, followed
it down to the last loosened stones that had crashed among the date
palms of Miramar ranch. "I don't just like the idea of the whole
mountain moving in on me," he told himself; "I'll have to go up and
look at that to-morrow."

* * * * *

It was afternoon of the following day when Garry rolled blankets and
food into a snug pack and prepared for the ascent. "Guess likely I'll
sleep out to-night," he mused and looked at the pistol he held in his
hand.

"I don't want that thing slapping against me," he argued; "too darned
hot! And there's nothing to use a gun on up on Sentinel.... Oh, well!"
He threw the holster upon his bunk and dropped the automatic into the
pack he was rolling. "I'll take it along. Might meet up with a
rattler."

He brushed the sandy hair from his wet forehead and straightened to
his full six feet of slender height before he slipped the straps of
his pack about his shoulders. And a broad grin made pleasant lines
about his gray eyes as he realized the boyish curiosity that was
driving him to a stiff climb in the heat of the day.

There was no real trail up the thousand-foot slope of Sentinel
Mountain. Prospectors had been over it, doubtless, in earlier days,
but in all of Garry's twenty-one years no one besides himself had ever
made the ascent.

There was nothing in all that solitary, desolate peak to call them;
nothing, for that matter, to beckon Garry, except the hot desert days,
the cool breath of evening and the glory of nights when the stars hung
low over all the miles of sand and sagebrush that reached far out to
the rippling sand-dunes shimmering in the distance. Nothing, that is,
but the "feel" of the desert - and young Garry Connell was desert-born
and bred.

He stopped once and dropped his pack while he mopped his wet face.
From this point he could see his own ranch spread below him. Miramar,
he had named it - "Beautiful Sea." The name was half an affectionate
mockery of this land where the nearest water was fifty miles away, and
half because of the sea of blue that he looked at now. Garry had never
ceased to wonder at the mirage.

It was always the same in the summer heat - a phantom ocean of water.
Garry's eyes loved to follow the quivering blue expanse that seemed so
cool and deep. It rippled softly away to end in a line of white, like
distant breakers on the horizon's rolling dunes.

This had been the bed of an ocean in some distant past, and that
ancient ocean could never have seemed more real than this; yet Garry
knew that this sea would vanish with the setting sun. He had watched
it often.

* * * * *

A hundred yards farther and he stopped again. It was no well-trodden
path that Garry followed, but he knew his landmarks. There was the big
split rock a half mile ahead, and the three-branched cactus beside it.
But between these and the place where Garry stood was a fan-shaped
sweep of boulders - and this where smooth going had been before.

He forgot for the moment all discomfort. He stood staring under the
hot sun that cast purple shadows beside the weathered rocks, and his
eyes followed up the scarred mountainside.

"That whole ledge that stood out up there - that's gone!" he told
himself. "The whole side of the mountain just shook itself loose...."

Far above, his eyes found another towering mass that reared itself
menacingly. "That will come down next time," he said with conviction,
"and I don't want to be under it when it breaks loose." Then his
searching eyes found the lower ledge and its shattered remains.

It had held a welter of rocks above it as a dam holds the pressure of
water - and the dam had burst. The torrent of stone from above had
swept into motion and carried with it the accumulation of loose rubble
below. Where the ledge had been was now a cliff - a sheer wall of rock.
It had been covered before by the talus that was swept away.

Garry's eyes narrowed to see more plainly under the sun's glare. He
was staring not alone at the cliff but at a shadow within it - a black
shadow in the white face of the cliff itself.

"That was all covered up before," Garry stated; "buried for thousands
of years, I suppose. But it can't be a cave; not a natural one, at
least. There are no caves in this rock."

He stopped at times for breath, and his wonder grew as he climbed and
the black mark took clearer form. At last he stood panting before it,
to stare deep into the utter blackness of a passageway beyond an
entrance of carved stone.

It was carved; there was no mistaking it! Here was a passage that
nature had never formed. He took a quick stride forward to see the
tool marks that showed on hard walls where symbols and figures of
strange design were carved. An intrusion of harder rock had formed a
roof, and they had cut in below -

"They!" He spoke the word aloud. Who were "they?"

* * * * *

He remembered the scientist who had stopped at the ranch some time
before, and he recalled enough of the talk of Aztec and Toltec and
Mayas to know that none of these old civilizations could explain the
things he saw.

"This goes way back beyond them - it must," he reasoned. And there were
pictures, long forgotten, that came to his mind to show him a vision
from the past - figures whose coppery faces shone dark above their
brilliant, colored robes - slaves, toiling and sweating to drive this
tunnel into solid rock. He was suddenly a-quiver with a feeling of the
presence of living things. His breath seemed stifled within him as he
stepped into the dark where a pencil of light from his pocket-flash
made the blackness more intense.

He tried to shake off the feeling, but an indefinable oppression was
heavy upon him; the weight of the uncounted centuries these walls had
seen filled him with strange forebodings.

His feet stumbled and scuffed over chips of stone; he steadied himself
against the wall at times as he followed the corridor that went down
and still down before him. It turned and twisted, then leveled off at
last, and Garry Connell drew himself up sharply with a quick-drawn
breath.

His flash was making a circle of light a dozen steps ahead, and showed
a litter of sharp stone fragments. And, scattered over them, a tangle
of bones shone white; one skull stood upright to stare mockingly from
hollow sockets. The sudden white of them was startling in the black
pit.

"Bones!" he said, and forced himself to disregard the echoes that
tried to shout him down; "just bones! And the old-timers that wore
them haven't been using them for thousands of years." He moved forward
with determined steps to the end of the passage that finished in solid
stone. He stopped abruptly. At closer range was something that froze
him to a tense, waiting crouch.

This wall of solid stone - it was not solid as it had seemed. There was
a doorway; the stone was swung inward; and at one side in a
straight-marked crack, he saw a thread of light.

He snapped off his own flash. Someone was there! Someone had beaten
him to it! He held himself crouched and rigid at the thought. But who
could it be? The utter silence and the steady, unchanging, pale-green
light showed him the folly of the thought. There was no one there;
there couldn't be anyone.

* * * * *

His hand, that trembled with excitement, reached across and over the
skeleton remains posted like a ghostly guard before the door. He threw
his weight upon the stone.

Its bearings groaned, but it moved at his touch. The stone swung
slowly and ponderously into a silent room, and Garry Connell stared
wide-eyed and wondering where rock walls, in carved and colored
brilliance reflected the softest of diffused light.

A great room, hewn from the solid rock! - and Garry tried to see it and
all that it held at one glance. He grasped the extent of the stone
vault, a hundred feet across; the distant walls were plain in the soft
light.

One high point of flashing color caught his eye and held it in
marveling amazement. A thing of beauty and grace. It was a shining,
silvery shape like a mushroom growth; it towered high in air, almost
to the ceiling, a slender rod that swelled and opened to a curved and
gleaming head. Graceful as a fairy parasol, huge enough to shelter a
giant, it was like nothing he had ever seen.

But there was no time now for conjectures. He made no effort to
understand; he wanted only to see what might be here; and his eyes
flashed quickly over sculptured walls and a stone floor where metal
boxes were arranged in orderly rows.

Hundreds of them, he estimated; huge cases, some eight or ten feet
long. Two nearby were raised above the floor on bases of carved stone.
Lusterless gray in color - metal, unmistakably - and in them....

"No use getting all hopped up over treasure hunting," Garry had told
himself. But under all his incredulous amazement had been flickering
thoughts of what he might find.

He stared hungrily at those two boxes near him. Each of the hundreds
was big enough to hold a fortune. He reached for a metal bar beside
the scattered bones, and, like a man in a sleep-walking dream, he
stepped across those relics of earlier men and entered the room that
they had guarded.

The light stopped him for a moment. He puzzled over it; stared
wonderingly at a circle of glowing radiance in the roof of stone. It
reminded him of something ... the watch on his wrist ... yes, that was
the answer - some radio-active substance. His eyes came back to the
nearest chest, and he jammed the point of his corroded bar beneath the
flange of a tight-fitting lid.

* * * * *

The hidden room was cool, but Garry Connell wiped the sweat from his
eyes when he ceased his frantic efforts. The metal bar clanged loudly
upon the floor beside him. He stood, breathing heavily, his eyes on
the metal cover that refused to move. And in the silence there came to
him again that strange, prickling apprehension. He caught himself
looking quickly behind him as if to find another person there.

His eyes were accustomed now to the pale light, and the sculptured
figures on the walls stood out with startling distinctness. Garry
turned to look at the nearer wall and the figure that was repeated
over and over again.

It was a man, tall and lean, his robes, undimmed by the years, blazed
in crimson and gold. But the face above! Garry shivered in spite of
himself at the devilish ugliness the artist had copied. It was dead
black in color, with slitted eyes that had been touched up artfully
to bring out their venomous stare. The head itself rose up to a
rounded point that added to the inhuman brutality of the face.

He was seated on a throne, Garry saw, and other figures, less
skilfully carved, were kneeling before him. Again, he was standing
above a prostrate enemy, a triple-pointed spear raised to deliver the
final blow.

Silently, Garry let his eyes follow around the room with its
repetition of the horrible being who was evidently a king. Then he
whistled softly. "Nice kind of hombre, he must have been," he said.
And, "Boy," he told the carved image familiarly, "whoever you were,
you've been dead a long time, and I don't mind telling you I'm glad of
it."

He was slowly circling the first casket. Beyond it was the slender rod
with its mushroom head that seemed more like a bell as he looked from
below. The head's inner surface was emblazoned, like the figures on
the wall, with crimson and gold in strange designs. He saw now that
the base of it was connected with a smaller box, placed like the two
beside it on a stone pedestal.

He came slowly beside it to study the box with narrowed eyes. He
expected the metal cover would be as immovable as the others, and he
started back and caught his breath sharply as the metal raised at his
touch and the green radiance from above flashed back from within the
box in a thousand scintillant lights. Then he stooped to see the
brilliant, silvery sheen of metal wheels that moved on jeweled
bearings.

* * * * *

A mechanism of some sort - but what? he wondered. He had some knowledge
of the stream of electrons that discharged continuously from the light
above, and he knew how they could charge an electroscope that would
automatically discharge to produce motion. He nodded in
half-understanding as the fluttering gold-leaf fell and allowed a
tiny wheel to move one notch in its escapement.

"Clockworks!" he told himself - it was as near as he could come to a
name for the machine - "and it's been running here all this time....
What for, I wonder? What was it supposed to do?"

He stared again at the bell-shape towering above him, but its purpose
was beyond guessing: it was a part of the machine. His eyes came back
to the mechanism itself. There was a splinter of stone.... Garry
reached for it unthinkingly, but his hand was checked in mid-air.

The fragment was wedged beneath a tiny lever, holding it erect.
"That's the answer," Garry whispered. "The machine was left open," - he
felt of the cover that had been dented by some heavy blow, and saw
sharp splinters of rock beneath his feet - "a rock fell from the roof,
flaked off and dropped onto the machine, and a splinter jammed this
little lever. But the machine has been ticking along...."

His fingers reached for the stone.

"Let's go!" he said, and grinned broadly at the thoughts that were in
his mind. "Let's see what the machine would have done!"

The fragment came away within his hand, and he saw the lever fall
slowly. There was motion within the case - wheels and shining spheres
that touched one upon another were spinning in gleaming circles of
silvery green - and from above he heard the first faint whisper of a
sound.

It came from the bell, and Garry drew back to stare upward. The first
soft humming of the clear bell-note was incredibly sweet. It rose in
pitch while the volume increased, till the musical note was lost in
the rising roar that resounded from walls and roof. Higher it rose; it
was a scream that was human in its agony, prodigious in its volume!

* * * * *

Garry Connell stood trembling with unnamed fear. This sound was
unbearable; it beat upon his ears; it battered his whole body; it
searched out every quivering nerve and tore at it with fingers of
fire. Still higher! - and the scream was piercing and torturing his
brain. He felt the jerk of uncontrollable muscles.

The whirling machine was a blur of light, and he longed with every
fibre of his tortured mind to throw himself upon it - into
it! - anything to end the unbearable impact from on high. His body,
assailed by a clamor that was physical torment, could not move; the
vibrations beat him down with crushing force, while the shrieking
voice rose higher, then grew faint, and, with a final whisper, died to
nothingness.

And still Garry felt himself sinking; the room was blurred; the
excruciating agony of tortured nerves melted into a lethargy that
swept through him. Dimly he sensed that the monstrous, quivering,
bell-topped thing was still launching its devastating rain of
vibrations; they were above the range of hearing; but he felt his body
quivering in response to the unheard note. Then even these vague
fragments of understanding left him. The towering, soundless thing was
indistinct ... it vanished in the darkness that closed about....

He was upon the floor in a crouching heap when the tremors that shook
him ceased. His mind, in the same instant, was cleared, and he knew
that the soundless vibrations from the bell had ended. A wave of
thankfulness flooded through him, and he luxuriated in the utter
silence of the room - until that silence was broken by another sound.

It was hard and metallic, like the click of a withdrawn bolt, and came
first from the case at his side. A second sharp rap replied from the
other raised casket, then an echoing tattoo of metallic impacts
rattled and clattered in the resounding room. Each of the hundreds of
caskets was adding its voice to the clacking chorus.

* * * * *

The paralysis that had held Garry's muscles was gone, and he came
slowly to his feet to see the edge of the cover he had tried vainly
to move, rising smoothly in the air. His eyes darted about; the second
casket was opening; beyond were countless others; the room was alive
with silent motion where metal lids lifted like petals of flowers
unfolding to the sun.

The machine had done it! The conviction came to him abruptly. Those
vibrations that had beaten him down had done this: some unlocking
mechanism within each case had been actuated when the vibrations
reached the proper pitch. Then the thoughts were driven from his mind
by a more thrilling conviction: The caskets were open! The treasure!
Who could know what some of them might contain? He took one quick step
toward the nearer of the two.

One step! - and his reaching hands stopped motionless above the open
case. The contents of the box were plain before him - and he stared in
horror at the black, half-naked figure of a man as silent and unmoving
as its counterpart upon the wall.

Black as a carving in ebony, it was the face that held Garry's eyes.
He saw the pointed head, the thin lips half-drawn from snarling teeth,
the expression of brutal savagery that even this frozen stillness
could not conceal.

The eyes were closed; Garry saw their slitted lids. He was looking at
them when they quivered and twitched. The lids opened slowly, drew
back from staring eyes that were cold and dead - eyes that came
suddenly to life, that turned and stared unwinkingly, horribly, into
his.

* * * * *

Garry's lips were moving as he drew back in slow retreat, but he heard
no sound of his own voice, only a husky whisper that said over and
over again: "Mummies! Caskets of mummies! And they're coming back to
life!"

Suspended animation. He had heard of such things. Dim, fleeting
remembrance of what he had read came flashingly to him - toads that had
lived a thousand years sealed up in rock - but this, a human thing, a
man! - no, no! - it couldn't come to life; not after all this time!

The pointed head, the ugly, menacing face and the body of dead black
that rose slowly within the casket gave his argument the lie. In
dreadful, living reality he saw the thing before him as it stretched
its corded neck, extended and flexed its long, black arms and breathed
deeply through lips drawn thin. Then, with a bound of returning
energy, it leaped out and down to stand half-naked and black, towering
threateningly above his head.

And Garry, too stunned to feel a sense of fear, looked first at the
living face before him and then at the carvings done in stone. There
was too much here for instant comprehension; his reason could not
follow fast enough where facts were leading, and his mind seemed
groping for some certain, proven thing.

"It's the same one that's on the wall," he explained painstakingly to
himself. "It's the king, the old boy himself! I said he would be a bad
hombre; I said he was a bad one - "

He saw the other raise his hands threateningly, and he crouched to
meet the attack. But the black hands dropped, and the scowling face
turned, while Garry's eyes followed toward a sound of movement in the
second casket.

The green light flooded down, and Garry Connell glanced quickly at the
doorway. Too many of these blacks and this would be no safe place for
him. He was expecting another apparition like the first; he would have
thought himself prepared against any further surprise, but his gray


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