Astounding Stories of Super-Science, October, 1930 online

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_On Sale the First Thursday of Each Month_

W. M. CLAYTON, Publisher
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_Painted in Oils from a Scene in "The Invisible Death."_


_Dr. Bird, Scientific Sleuth Extraordinary, Goes After a Sinister
Stealer of Brains._


_With Night-Rays and Darkness-Antidote America Strikes Back, at the
Terrific and Destructive Invisible Empire._ (A Complete Novelette.)


_Fate Throws Two Young Earthians into Desperate Conflict with the
Primeval Monsters of an Electron's Savage Jungles._


_Into Remote Lowlands, in an Invisible Flyer, Go Grant and
Jetta - Prisoners of a Scientific Depth Bandit._
(Part Two of a Three-Part Novel.)


_Sealed and Vigilantly Guarded Was "Drayle's Invention, 1932" - for
It Was a Scientific Achievement Beyond Which Man Dared Not Go._


_A Meeting Place for Readers of Astounding Stories._

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Issued monthly by Publishers' Fiscal Corporation, 80 Lafayette St.,
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Entered as second-class matter December 7, 1929, at the Post Office at
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Vanderbilt Ave., New York; or 225 North Michigan Ave., Chicago.

Stolen Brains

_By Captain S. P. Meek_

[Illustration: _Two long arms shot silently down and grasped the
motionless figure._]

[Sidenote: Dr. Bird, scientific sleuth extraordinary, goes after a
sinister stealer of brains.]

"I hope, Carnes," said Dr. Bird, "that we get good fishing."

"Good fishing? Will you please tell me what you are talking about?"

"I am talking about fishing, old dear. Have you seen the evening

"No. What's that got to do with it?"

Dr. Bird tossed across the table a copy of the _Washington Post_
folded so as to bring uppermost an item on page three. Carnes saw his
picture staring at him from the center of the page.

"What the dickens?" he exclaimed as he bent over the sheet. With
growing astonishment he read that Operative Carnes of the United
States Secret Service had collapsed at his desk that afternoon and had
been rushed to Walter Reed Hospital where the trouble had been
diagnosed as a nervous breakdown caused by overwork. There followed a
guarded statement from Admiral Clay, the President's personal
physician, who had been called into conference by the army

The Admiral stated that the Chief of the Washington District was in no
immediate danger but that a prolonged rest was necessary. The paper
gave a glowing tribute to the detective's life and work and stated
that he had been given sick leave for an indefinite period and that he
was leaving at once for the fishing lodge of his friend, Dr. Bird of
the Bureau of Standards, at Squapan Lake, Maine. Dr. Bird, the article
concluded, would accompany and care for his stricken friend. Carnes
laid aside the paper with a gasp.

* * * * *

"Do you know what all this means?" Carnes demanded.

"It means, Carnsey, old dear, that the fishing at Squapan Lake should
be good right now and that I feel the need of accurate information on
the subject. I didn't want to go alone, so I engineered this outrage
on the government and am taking you along for company. For the love of
Mike, look sick from now on until we are clear of Washington. We leave
to-night. I already have our tickets and reservations and all you have
to do is to collect your tackle and pack your bags for a month or two
in the woods and meet me at the Pennsy station at six to-night."

"And yet there are some people who say there is no Santa Claus," mused
Carnes. "If I had really broken down from overwork, I would probably
have had my pay docked for the time I was absent, but a man with
official pull in this man's government wants to go fishing and presto!
the wheels move and the way is clear. Doctor, I'll meet you as

"Good enough," said Dr. Bird. "By the way, Carnes," he went on as the
operative opened the door, "bring your pistol."

Carnes whirled about at the words.

"Are we going on a case?" he asked.

"That remains to be seen," replied the Doctor enigmatically. "At all
events, bring your pistol. In answer to any questions, we are going
fishing. In point of fact, we are - with ourselves as bait. If you have
a little time to spare this afternoon you might drop around to the
office of the _Post_ and get them to show you all the amnesia cases
they have had stories on during the past three months. They will be
interesting reading. No more questions now, old dear, we'll have lots
of time to talk things over while we are in the Maine woods."

* * * * *

Late the next evening they left the Bangor and Aroostook train at
Mesardis and found a Ford truck waiting for them. Over a rough trail
they were driven for fifteen miles, winding up at a log cabin which
the Doctor announced was his. The truck deposited their belongings and
jounced away and Dr. Bird led the way to the cabin, which proved to be
unlocked. He pushed open the door and entered, followed by Carnes. The
operative glanced at the occupants of the cabin and started back in

Seated at a table were two figures. The smaller of the two had his
back to the entrance but the larger one was facing them. He rose as
they entered and Carnes rubbed his eyes and reeled weakly against the
wall. Before him stood a replica of Dr. Bird. There was the same six
feet two of bone and muscle, the same beetling brows and the same
craggy chin and high forehead surmounted by a shock of unruly black
hair. In face and figure the stranger was a replica of the famous
scientist until he glanced at their hands. Dr. Bird's hands were long
and slim with tapering fingers, the hands of a thinker and an artist
despite the acid stains which disfigured them but could not hide
their beauty. The hands of his double were stained as were Dr. Bird's,
but they were short and thick and bespoke more the man of action than
the man of thought.

The second figure arose and faced them and again Carnes received a
shock. While the likeness was not so, striking, there was no doubt
that the second man would have readily passed for Carnes himself in a
dim light or at a little distance. Dr. Bird burst into laughter at the
detective's puzzled face.

"Carnes," he said, "shake yourself together and then shake hands with
Major Trowbridge of the Coast Artillery Corps. It has been said by
some people that we favor one another."

"I'm glad to meet you, Major," said Carnes. "The resemblance is
positively uncanny. But for your hands, I would have trouble telling
you two apart."

* * * * *

The Major glanced down at his stubby fingers.

"It is unfortunate but it can't be helped," he said. "Dr. Bird, this
is Corporal Askins of my command. He is not as good a second to Mr.
Carnes as I am to you but you said it was less important."

"The likeness is plenty good enough," replied the Doctor. "He will
probably not be subjected to as close a scrutiny as you will. Did you
have any trouble in getting here unobserved?"

"None at all, Doctor. Lieutenant Maynard found a good landing field
within a half mile of here, as you said he would, and he has his
Douglass camouflaged and is standing by. When do you expect trouble?"

"I have no idea. It may come to-night or it may come later. Personally
I hope that it comes later so that we can get in a few days of fishing
before anything happens."

"What do you expect to happen, Doctor?" demanded Carnes. "Every time I
have asked you anything you told me to wait until we were in the
Maine woods and we are there now. I read up everything that I could
find on amnesia victims during the past three months but it didn't
throw much light on the matter to me."

"How many cases did you find, Carnes?"

"Sixteen. There may have been lots more but I couldn't find any others
in the _Post_ records. Of course, unless the victim were a local man,
or of some prominence, it wouldn't appear."

"You got most of them at that. Did any points of similarity strike you
as you read them?"

"None except that all were prominent men and all of them mental
workers of high caliber. That didn't appear peculiar because it is the
man of high mentality who is most apt to crack."

"Undoubtedly. There were some points of similarity which you missed.
Where did the attacks take place?"

"Why, one was at - Thunder, Doctor! I did miss something. Every case,
as nearly as I can recall, happened at some summer camp or other
resort where they were on vacation."

"Correct. One other point. At what time of day did they occur?"

"In the morning, as well as I can remember. That point didn't

"They were all discovered in the morning, Carnes, which means that the
actual loss of memory occurred during the night. Further, every case
has happened within a circle with a diameter of three hundred miles.
We are near the northern edge of that circle."

* * * * *

Carnes checked up on his memory rapidly.

"You're right, Doctor," he cried. "Do you think - ?"

"Once in a while," replied Dr. Bird dryly, "I think enough to know the
futility of guesses hazarded without complete data. We are now located
within the limits of the amnesia belt and we are here to find out what
did happen, if anything, and not to make wild guesses about it. You
have the tent set up for us, Major?"

"Yes, Doctor, about thirty yards from the cabin and hidden so well
that you could pass it a dozen times a day without suspecting its
existence. The gas masks and other equipment which you sent to Fort
Banks are in it."

"In that case we had better dispense with your company as soon as we
have eaten a bite, and retire to it. On second thought, we will eat in
it. Carnes, we will go to our downy couches at once and leave our
substitutes in possession of the cabin. I trust, gentlemen, that
things come out all right and that you are in no danger."

Major Trowbridge shrugged his heavy shoulders.

"It is as the gods will," he said sententiously. "It is merely a
matter of duty to me, you know, and thank God, I have no family to
mourn if anything does go wrong. Neither has Corporal Askins."

"Well, good luck at any rate. Will you guide Carnes to the tent and
then return here and I'll join him?"

* * * * *

Huddled in the tiny concealed tent, Dr. Bird handed Carnes a haversack
on a web strap.

"This is a gas mask," he said. "Put it on your neck and keep it ready
for instant use. I have one on and one of us must wear a mask
continually while we are here. We'll change off every hour. If the gas
used is lethane, as I suspect, we should be able to detect it before
its gets too concentrated, but some other gas might be used and we
must take no chances. Now look here."

With the aid of a flash-light he showed Carnes a piece of apparatus
which had been set up in the tent. It consisted of two telescopic
barrels, one fitted with an eye-piece and the other, which was at a
wide angle to the first, with an objective glass. Between the two was
a covered round disc from which projected a short tube fitted with a
protecting lens. This tube was parallel to the telescopic barrel
containing the objective lens.

"This is a new thing which I have developed and it is getting its
first practical test to-night," he said. "It is a gas detector. It
works on the principle of the spectroscope with modifications. From
this projector goes out a beam of invisible light and the reflections
are gathered and thrown through a prism of the eye-piece. While a
spectroscope requires that the substance which it examines be
incandescent and throw out visible light rays in order to show the
typical spectral lines, this device catches the invisible ultra-violet
on a fluorescent screen and analyzes it spectroscopically. Whoever has
the mask on must continually search the sky with it and look for the
three bright lines which characterize lethane, one at 230, one at 240
and the third at 670 on the illuminated scale. If you see any bright
lines in those regions or any other lines that are not continually
present, call my attention to it at once. I'll watch for the first

* * * * *

At the end of an hour Dr. Bird removed his mask with a sigh of relief
and Carnes took his place at the spectroscope. For half an hour he
moved the glass about and then spoke in a guarded tone.

"I don't see any of the lines you told me to look for," he said, "but
in the southwest I get wide band at 310 and two lines at about 520."

Dr. Bird advanced toward the instrument but before he reached it,
Carnes gave an exclamation.

"There they are, Doctor!" he cried.

Dr. Bird sniffed the air. A faint sweetish odor became apparent and he
reached for his gas mask. Slowly his hands drooped and Carnes grasped
him and drew the mask over his face. Dr. Bird rallied slightly and
feebly drew a bottle from his pocket and sniffed it. In another
instant he was shouldering Carnes aside and staring through the
spectroscope. Carnes watched him for an instant and then a low whirring
noise attracted his attention and he looked up. Silently he caught
the Doctor's arm in a viselike grip and pointed.

Hovering above the cabin was a silvery globe, faintly luminous in the
moonlight. From its top rose a faint cloud of vapor which circled
around the globe and descended toward the earth. The globe hovered
like a giant humming bird above the cabin and Carnes barely stifled an
exclamation. The door of the cabin opened and Major Trowbridge,
walking stiffly and like a man in a dream, appeared. Slowly he
advanced for ten yards and stood motionless. The globe moved over him
and the bottom unfolded like a lily. Two long arms shot silently down
and grasped the motionless figure and drew him up into the heart of
the globe. The petals refolded, and silently as a dream the globe shot
upward and disappeared.

"Gad! They lost no time!" commented Dr. Bird. "Come on, Carnes, run
for your life, or rather, for Trowbridge's life. No, you idiot, leave
your gas mask on. I'll take the spectroscope; it'll be all we need."

Followed by the panting Carnes, Dr. Bird sped through the night along
an almost invisible path. For half a mile he kept up a headlong pace
until Carnes could feel his heart pounding as though it would burst
his ribs. The pair debouched from the trees into a glade a few acres
in extent and Dr. Bird paused and whistled softly. An answering
whistle came from a few yards away and a figure rose in the darkness
as they approached.

"Maynard?" called Dr. Bird. "Good enough! I was afraid that you might
not have kept your gas mask on."

"My orders were to keep it on, sir," replied the lieutenant in muffled
tones through his mask, "but my mechanician did not obey orders. He
passed out cold without any warning about fifteen minutes ago."

"Where's your ship?"

"Right over here, sir."

"We'll take off at once. Your craft is equipped with a Bird

"Yes, sir."

"Come on, Carnes, we're going to follow that globe. Take the front
cockpit alone, Maynard; Carnes and I will get in the rear pit with the
spec and guide you. You can take off your gas mask at an elevation of a
thousand feet. You have pack 'chutes, haven't you?"

"In the rear pit, Doctor."

"Put one on, Carnes, and climb in. I've got to get this spec set up
before he gets too high."

The Douglass equipped with the Bird silencer, took the air noiselessly
and rapidly gained elevation under the urging of the pilot. Dr. Bird
clamped the gas-detecting spectroscope on the front of his cockpit and
peered through it.

"Southwest, at about a thousand more elevation," he directed.

"Right!" replied the pilot as he turned the nose of his plane in the
indicated direction and began to climb. For an hour and a half the
plane flew noiselessly through the night.

"Bald Mountain," said the pilot, pointing. "The Canadian Border is
only a few miles away."

"If they've crossed the Border, we're sunk," replied the doctor. "The
trail leads straight ahead."

* * * * *

For a few minutes they continued their flight toward the Canadian
Border and then Dr. Bird spoke.

"Swing south," he directed, "and drop a thousand feet and come back."

The pilot executed the maneuver and Dr. Bird peered over the edge of
the plane and directed the spectroscope toward the ground.

"Half a mile east," he said, "and drop another thousand. Carnes, get
ready to jump when I give the word."

"Oh, Lord!" groaned Carnes as he fumbled for the rip cord of his
parachute, "suppose this thing doesn't open?"

"They'll slide you between two barn doors for a coffin and bury you
that way," said Dr. Bird grimly. "You know your orders, Maynard?"

"Yes, sir. When you drop, I am to land at the nearest town - it will be
Lowell - and get in touch with the Commandant of the Portsmouth Navy
Yard if possible. If I get him, I am to tell him my location and wait
for the arrival of reenforcements. If I fail to get him on the
telephone, I am to deliver a sealed packet which I carry to the
nearest United States Marshal. When reenforcements arrive, either from
the Navy Yard or from the Marshal, I am to guide them toward the spot
where I dropped you and remain, as nearly as I can judge, two miles
away until I get a further signal or orders from you."

"That is right. We'll be over the edge in another minute. Are you
ready, Carnes?"

"Oh, yes, I'm ready, Doctor, if I have to risk my precious life in
this contraption."

"Then jump!"

* * * * *

Side by side, Carnes and the doctor dropped toward the ground. The
Douglass flew silently away into the night. Carnes found that the
sensation of falling was not an unpleasant one as soon as he got
accustomed to it. There was little sensation of motion, and it was not
until a sharp whisper from Dr. Bird called it to his attention that he
realized that he was almost to the ground. He bent his legs as he had
been instructed and landed without any great jar. As he rose he saw
that Dr. Bird was already on his feet and was eagerly searching the
ground with the spectroscope which he had brought with him in the

"Fold your parachute, Carnes, and we'll stow them away under a rock
where they can't be seen. We won't use them again."

Carnes did so and deposited the silk bundle beside the doctor's, and
they covered them with rocks until they would be invisible from the

"Follow me," said the doctor as he strode carefully forward, stopping
now and then to take a sight with the spectroscope. Carnes followed
him as he made his way up a small hill which blocked the way. A hiss
from Dr. Bird stopped him.

Dr. Bird had dropped flat on the ground, and Carnes, on all fours,
crawled forward to join him. He smothered an exclamation as he looked
over the crest of the hill. Before him, sitting in a hollow in the
ground, was the huge globe which had spirited away Major Trowbridge.

"This is evidently their landing place," whispered Dr. Bird. "The next
thing to find is their hiding place."

* * * * *

He rose and started forward but sank at once to the ground and dragged
Carnes down with him. On the hill which formed the opposite side of
the hollow a line of light showed for an instant as though a door had
been opened. The light disappeared and then reappeared, and as they
watched it widened and against an illuminated background four men
appeared, carrying a fifth. The door shut behind them and they made
their way slowly toward the waiting globe. They laid down their burden
and one of them turned a flash-light on the globe and opened a door in
its side through which they hoisted their burden. They all entered the
globe, the door closed and with a slight whirring sound it rose in the
air and moved rapidly toward the northeast.

"That's the place we're looking for," muttered Dr. Bird. "We'll go
around this hollow and look for it. Be careful where you step; they
must have ventilation somewhere if their laboratory is underground."

Followed by the secret service operative, the doctor made his way
along the edge of the hollow. They did not dare to show a light and it
was slow work feeling their way forward, inch by inch. When they had
reached a point above where the doctor thought the light had been he

"There must be a ventilation shaft somewhere around here," he
whispered, his mouth not an inch from Carnes' ear, "and we've got to
find it. It would never do to try the door; if any of them are still
here it is sure to be guarded. You go up the hill for five yards and
I'll go down. Quarter back and forth on a two hundred yard front and
work carefully. Don't fall in, whatever you do. We'll return to this
point every time we pass it and report."

The operative nodded and walked a few yards up the hill and made his
way slowly forward. He went a hundred yards as nearly as he could
judge and then stepped five yards further up the hill and made his way
back. As he passed the starting point he approached and Dr. Bird's
figure rose up.

"Any luck?" he whispered.

Dr. Bird shook his head.

"Well try further," he said. "I think it is probably beyond us, so
suppose you go fifteen yards up and quarter the same as before."

* * * * *

Carnes nodded and stole silently away. Fifteen yards up the hill he
went and then paused. He stood on the crest of the hill and before him
was a steep, almost precipitous slope. He made his way along the edge
for a few yards and then paused. Faintly he could detect a murmur of
voices. Inch by inch he crept forward, going over the ground under
foot. He paused and listened intently and decided that the sound must
come from the slope beneath him. A glance at his watch told him that
he had spent ten minutes on this trip and he made his way back to the
meeting place.

Dr. Bird was waiting for him, and in a low whisper Carnes reported his
discovery. The doctor went back with him and together they renewed the
search. The slope of the hill was almost sheer and Carnes looked
dubiously over the edge.

"I wish we had brought the parachutes," he whispered to the doctor.
"We could have taken the ropes off them and you could have lowered me
over the edge."

Dr. Bird chuckled softly and tugged at his middle. Carnes watched him
with astonishment in the dim light, but he understood when Dr. Bird
thrust the end of a strong but light silk cord into his hands. He
looped it under his arms and the doctor with whispered instructions,

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Online LibraryVariousAstounding Stories of Super-Science, October, 1930 → online text (page 1 of 19)