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ASTOUNDING STORIES OF SUPER-SCIENCE


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VOL. IV, No. 3 CONTENTS DECEMBER, 1930

COVER DESIGN H. W. WESSOLOWSKI

_Painted in Oils from a Scene in "The Ape-Men of Xlotli."_

SLAVES OF THE DUST SOPHIE WENZEL ELLIS 295

_Fate's Retribution Was Adequate. There Emerged a Rat with a
Man's Head and Face._

THE PIRATE PLANET CHARLES W. DIFFIN 310

_It is War. Interplanetary War. And on Far-Distant Venus Two
Fighting Earthlings Stand Up Against a Whole Planet Run Amuck._
(Part Two of a Four-Part Novel.)

THE SEA TERROR CAPTAIN S. P. MEEK 336

_The Trail of Mystery Gold Leads Carnes and Dr. Bird to a
Tremendous Monster of the Deep._

GRAY DENIM HARL VINCENT 354

_The Blood of the Van Dorn's Ran in Karl's Veins. He Rode
the Skies Like an Avenging God._

THE APE-MEN OF XLOTLI DAVID R. SPARKS 370

_A Beautiful Face in the Depths of a Geyser - and Kirby Plunges
into a Desperate Mid-Earth Conflict with the Dreadful
Feathered Serpent._ (A Complete Novelette.)

THE READERS' CORNER ALL OF US 421

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* * * * *




Slaves of the Dust

_By Sophie Wenzel Ellis_

Fate's retribution was adequate. There emerged a rat with a man's
head and face.

_It's a poor science that would hide from us the great, deep,
sacred infinitude of Nescience, whither we can never penetrate, on
which all science swims as mere superficial film._

- _Carlyle_.

[Illustration: _Sir Basil showed his teeth in his ugly smile. "A creator
is never merciful."_]


The two _batalões_ turned from the open waters of the lower Tapajos
River into the _igarapé_, the lily-smothered shallows that often mark an
Indian settlement in the jungles of Brazil. One of the two half-breed
rubber-gatherers suddenly stopped his _batalõe_ by thrusting a paddle
against a giant clump of lilies. In a corruption of the Tupi dialect, he
called over to the white man occupying the other frail craft.

"We dare go no farther, master. The country of the Ungapuks is
bewitched. It is too dangerous."

Fearfully he stared over his shoulder toward a spot in the slimy water
where a dim bulk moved, which was only an alligator hunting for his
breakfast.

Hale Oakham, as long and lanky and level-eyed as Charles Lindbergh, ran
despairing fingers through his damp hair and groaned.

"But how can I find this jungle village without a guide?"

The _caboclo_ shrugged. "The village will find you. It is bewitched,
master. But you will soon see the path through the _matto_."

"Can't you stay by me until time to land? I don't like the looks of
these alligators."

"It is better for a white man to face an alligator than for a _caboclo_
to face an Ungapuk. Once they used to kill and eat us for our strength.
Now - " Again his shrug was eloquent.

"Now?" Hale prompted impatiently.

"The white god who put a spell on these one-time cannibals will bewitch
us and make us wash and rejoice when it is time to die."

* * * * *

He shuddered and spat at a cayman that was lumbering away from his
_batalõe._

Hale Oakham laughed, a hearty boyish laugh for a rather learned young
professor.

"Is that all they do to you?" he asked.

"No. All who enter this magic _matto_ die soon, rejoicing. Before the
last breath comes, it is said their bodies turn into a handful of silver
dust - poof! - like that." He snapped his dirty fingers. "Then the life
that leaves them goes into rocks that walk."

Hale sighed resignedly. There wasn't any use to argue.

"Unload your _batalõe_," he ordered testily, "and get your filthy
carcasses away."

The half-breeds obeyed readily. As the departing _batalõe_ turned from
the _igarapé_ into the open water of the river, the young man repressed
a sudden lifting of his scalp. He was in for it now!

His long body sprawled out in the _batalõe_, he paddled about aimlessly
for several minutes until he found an aisle through the jungle - the path
that led to the jungle village which he was visiting in the name of
science, and for a certain award.

Before plunging into that waiting tangle where life and death carried on
a visible, unceasing struggle, he hesitated. Instinctively he shrank
from losing himself in that mad green world.

* * * * *

He had first heard of the Ungapuks at the convention of the Nescience
Club in New York, that body of scientists, near-scientists and
adventurers linked together for the purpose of awarding the yearly
Woolman prizes for the most spectacular addition of empiric facts to
various branches of science. One of the members of the club, an
explorer, had told a wild yarn about a tribe of Brazilian Indians,
headed by Sir Basil Addington, an English scientist, who was conducting
secret experiments in biochemistry in his jungle laboratory. The
explorer had said that the scientist, half-crazed by a powerful
narcotic, had seemingly discovered some secret of life which enabled him
to produce monsters in his laboratory and to change the physical
characteristics of the Ungapuk Indians, who, in five years, had been
transformed from cannibals into cultured men and women.

And now Hale Oakham, hoping to win one of the Woolman prizes, was here
in the country of the Ungapuks, entering the jungle path that lead to
the unknown.

Fifty feet from the _igarapé_, the path curved sharply away from a giant
tree. Hale approached the bend with his hand on his gun. Just before he
reached it, he stopped suddenly to listen.

A woman's voice had suddenly broken forth in a wild, incredibly sweet
song. Hale stood entranced, drinking in the heady sounds that stirred
his emotions like _masata_, the jungle intoxicant. The singer
approached the bend in the path, while the young man waited eagerly.

The first sight of her made him gasp. He had expected to see an Indian
girl. No sane traveler would imagine a white woman in the Amazon jungle,
with skin as amazingly pale as the great, fleshy victoria regia lilies
in the _igarapé_.

When she saw Hale, she stopped instantly. With a quick, practiced twist,
she reached for the bow flung across her shoulders and fitted a barbed
arrow to the string.

* * * * *

She was a beautiful barbarian, standing quivering before him. In the
thick dull gold braids hanging over her bare shoulders flamed two
enormous scarlet flowers, no redder than her own lips pouted in alarm.
There was a savage brevity to her clothing, which consisted only of a
short skirt of rough native grass and breastplates of beaten gold, held
in place by strings of colored seeds.

The girl held out an imperious hand and, in perfect English, said:

"Go back!"

Hale drew his long body up to its slim height, folded his arms, and gave
her his most winning smile. His insolence added to his wholesome good
looks.

"Why?" he exclaimed. "I've come a couple of thousand miles to call on
you."

He saw that the eyes which held his levelly were pure and limpid, and of
an astonishing orchid-blue.

"Who are you?" Her throaty, vibrant voice was a thing of the flesh,
whipping Hale's senses to sudden madness.

"I'm Hale Oakham," he said, a little tremulously, "a lone, would-be
scientist knocking about the jungle. Won't you tell me your name?"

She nodded gravely. "I am Aña. I, too, am white." Her rich voice was
quietly proud. "Come; I'll see if Aimu will receive you."

With surprising, childlike trust, she held out her little hand to him.
The gesture was so delightfully natural that Hale, grinning boyishly,
took her hand and held it as they walked down the jungle path.

"Sing for me," he demanded abruptly. "Sing the song you sang just now."

"That?" asked the girl, turning the virgin-blue fire of her eyes on him.
"That was my death-song that I practice each day. Perhaps soon I shall
be released from this." She passed her hands over her beautiful,
half-clothed body.

* * * * *

Hale's warm glance swept over her. "Do you want to die?"

"Yes; don't you? But you do not, or you would not have retreated from my
poisoned arrow."

"No, Aña; I want to live."

"To live - and be a slave of _this_?" Again her hand went over her slim
body. "A slave of a pile of flesh that you must feed and protect from
the agonies that attack it on every side? Bah! But I am hoping that my
turn will come next."

"Your turn for what, Aña?"

"To enter the Room of Release. Perhaps, if Aimu approves of you, you,
too, may taste of death." Her gentle smile was beatific.

"Do you speak of Sir Basil Addington?"

"He was called that once, before he came to us. Now he has no name. We
can find none holy enough for him; and so we call him Aimu, which means
good friend." Her beautiful face was sweet with reverence.

And now, in the distance, Hale saw that the path led into a large
clearing. He slowed his pace, for he wanted to know this lovely girl
better before he joined the Ungapuks.

"Who are you, Aña?" he asked suddenly, bending closer to the crinkled,
dull-gold hair.

"I am Aña, a white woman." She looked at him frankly.

"But who are your parents, and how did you get among the Ungapuks?"

Aña's red lips curved into a dewy smile. "I thought all white men were
wise, like Aimu. But you are stupid. How do you think a white woman
could appear in a tribe of Indians who live in the jungle, many weeks'
journey from what you call civilization?"

Hale looked a little blank and more than a little disconcerted.

"I suppose I am stupid," he said dryly. "But tell me, Aña, how did you
get here?"

"Why," she exclaimed, "he made me!"

"Made you? Good Lord! What do you mean?"

"Just what I said, Hale Oakham. If he can take a few grains of dust and
make a shoot that will grow into a giant tree like yonder monster
itauba, don't you think he can create a small white girl like me?" Her
orchid-blue eyes glowed innocently into his.

* * * * *

The eager questions that he would have asked froze upon his lips, for a
party of Indians approached.

The six nearly naked red men came close and surveyed him, toying
nervously with their primitive, feather-decorated weapons.

A tall, handsome young fellow who possessed something of the picturesque
perfection of the North American plains' Indian stepped forward and, in
perfect English, said:

"Good morning, white stranger. What is it you wish of the Ungapuks?"

"I came to see your white _cacique_," said Hale.

"Aimu? What is it you wish of Aimu? He is ours, white stranger."

"Yes, he is yours. I come as a friend, perhaps to help him in his great
work."

"Perhaps!" The young Indian folded his bronze, muscular arms over his
broad chest and continued his cool survey of Hale. "White men before you
have come: spies and thieves. Some we poisoned with curari. Others Aimu
took into the Room of Release."

He turned to Aña, who was still standing by Hale, and his expression
softened.

"What shall we do with him, Aña?" he asked the question, a fleeting look
of hunger swept his fine, flashing eyes.

Aña flushed beautifully, and, moving closer to Hale, with an impulsive,
almost childish gesture, slipped her arm through his.

"Let us take him to our village, Unani Assu!" she suggested. "I like
him."

It was Hale's turn to flush, which he did like a schoolboy.

* * * * *

Unani Assu's brows drew together in a scowl. The hand holding his
blow-pipe jerked convulsively.

"Aña! Come away!" he growled. "You mustn't touch a stranger!"

Aña's blue eyes stretched with astonishment. "But I like to touch him,
Unani Assu!"

The tall Indian, with a half comical gesture of despair, said:

"Don't misunderstand her, stranger. She is young, very young, ah! And
she has known only the reborn men of the Ungapuks."

He stepped firmly over to Aña, and, taking the girl by the arm, drew her
away.

"Run ahead," he commanded, "and tell Aimu that we come."

Aña, her feathered bamboo anklets clicking together, sped away.

Unani Assu bowed courteously to Hale.

"Come, stranger. If you are an enemy, it is you who must fear." He
motioned for him to proceed down the jungle path.

The path ended at a clearing studded with _moloccas_, the Indian grass
huts made of plaited straw. Altogether the scene was peaceful and sane
and far removed from the strange tales that Hale had heard concerning
the Ungapuks.

Hale was conducted to a long, low stone building, where, in the
doorway, stood a tall and emaciated white man.

"Aimu!" said the Indians reverently, and bowed themselves.

Over the bare, brown backs, the white man looked at Hale.

"Sir Basil Addington?" asked the young man.

"Yes. You are welcome. Come in."

Hale entered the building.

* * * * *

He was in a book-filled study, furnished with hand-made chairs and a
desk. Sir Basil asked him to be seated. He offered the young man long,
brown native cigarettes and a very good drink made from yucca.

After several minutes of conversation, Sir Basil suddenly changed his
manner.

"And now," he shot out, eyeing the young man through narrowed lids,
"will you please state the purpose of this visit?"

Hale looked squarely at his questioner. "Frankly, Sir Basil, I have
called on you because I am so intensely interested in your work among
the Ungapuks that I wish to offer my services."

He gave in detail his family history, his education, and his experience
as a teacher and a scientist.

Sir Basil tapped his teeth thoughtfully with a pencil.

"But why do you think you can be of assistance to me?"

"That, of course, is for you to decide."

Hale thought that the scientist looked like a huge, starved crow in his
loose-fitting coat. He was so fleshless that, when the light fell
strongly on his face as it now did, the bones of his head and hands
showed through the skin with horrible clearness.

Hale, under Sir Basil's scrutiny, decided instantly that he did not like
him.

"I need a helper," the scientist went on, with the air of talking to
himself. "A white assistant who neither loves nor fears me. Unani Assu
is good enough in his way, but I need a helper who has had technical
training." Suddenly he wheeled on Hale and asked sharply, "How are your
nerves, young man?"

* * * * *

Hale started, but managed to answer calmly. "Excellent. My war record
isn't half bad, and that was surely backed with good nerves."

"And you say you have no close relatives, no ties of any sort to
interfere with work that is dangerous - and something else?"

"Not a soul would care if I passed out to-day, Sir Basil."

"Good! And now tell me this: are you one of those scientists whose minds
are so mechanical, so mathematically made, as it were, that your entire
outlook on science is based on old, established beliefs, or do you
belong to that rare but modern type of trained thinker and dreamer who
refuse to permit yesterday's convictions to influence to-day's
visions?"

Hale smiled quietly. "I recently lost my chair in a famous university
because of my so-called unscientific teachings regarding ether-drift."

Expressing himself in purely scientific terms, he went into an
elaboration of his revolutionary theory. When he had finished, Sir Basil
reached out his clawlike hand to him.

"Good!" he approved. "You have dared to think originally. Now listen to
my theory of mind-electrons which has grown into the established fact
that I have discovered the secret of life and death."

The long, thin hands reached into a pocket for a box of pills. He
swallowed one greedily, and immediately his emaciated face seemed
charged with new virility.

He spoke out suddenly. "Our world, you know, is made up of three powers:
matter, energy and what you call life. I might really say that there are
but two powers, for matter, in its last analysis, is a form of energy.
And what is life? You can't call it a form of energy, for every
inorganic atom has energy without having life. Life, Mr. Oakham, is
mind or consciousness."

He began pacing the floor restlessly. "Everything that lives has this
consciousness, and I say this in defiance of some fixed scientific
views. The amoeba in a stagnant pool, a thallophyte on a bit of old
bread, any of the myriads of trees and plants that you see in the jungle
all have consciousness as well as you. And why?"

* * * * *

He brought his fist down upon the table. "Because they issue from the
same source as you and I, the almighty mind, eternal, indestructible,
which has permitted itself to be enslaved by matter. You are Hale
Oakham. I am Basil Addington, yet we are one and the same. Let me
illustrate."

He seized a glass and poured it full of _masata_. "Look! Two portions of
_masata_. But I pour what is in the glass back into the bottle. The
molecules cohere and the two portions become one again. Some day you and
I - our individual consciousnesses - will flow back to the Whole. That
sounds mystical, but listen.

"We scientists hold that the electron explains nearly all the physical
and chemical phenomena. I go further and say that it explains _all_.
Matter, electricity, light, heat, magnetism - all can be reduced to the
ultimate unit. So, Mr. Oakham, I am going to make clear to you how life
itself is electronic."

His long finger touched Hale's arm. "You, I, yonder mosquito on your
sleeve, even one of the germs that is causing my malaria, all being
individual living things, are the ultimate units of what I shall
personify as the Mind. When I say _you_ I do not speak of that mound of
flesh in which you exist, and which can be reduced to the same familiar
basic elements and compounds as make up inorganic structures; I speak of
your mind, your consciousness - for that is the real you. Are you
following me?"

"Perfectly, Sir Basil." Hale reached for another drink. "But do you
mean to say that you and I are no more than a mosquito, a malaria
protozoan, or even one of those trees in the jungle?"

Sir Basil's dry skin slipped back into a long smile. "Startling,
isn't it? You, I, and all other living organisms are nothing but
matter, energy and consciousness. You and I have a larger share of
consciousness, because our organic structure permits the mind-electrons
greater freedom over the matter than composes our bodies. We are more
acutely aware of the universe about us, have a greater facility for
enjoyment and suffering, a more intricate brain and nervous system.
Yet when our bodies die and our consciousness is released, the
mind-electrons enslaved by our atoms go back to the elemental Whole.
This holds good for the protozoan, the tree, the man - for all things
that live."

* * * * *

Hale was drinking again. "You mean, Sir Basil, that there is a sort of
war waged against what you personify as the Mind by matter; that matter
is constantly seeking to enslave mind-electrons, so that it may become
an organism which, for awhile, may enjoy what we call life?"

Sir Basil pushed back his tufted hair and looked happy. "Yes! And it's
Nature's supreme blunder! In the end, the Mind always conquers and gains
its release, yet the eternal chain of enslavement goes on and on, and
will continue to go on as long as there is a living organism in the
world to bind mind to matter."

Hale was excited now, as much from the fiery intoxicant as from the
scientist's weird revelation. "I get you," he said, rather inelegantly
for a professor. "You mean that if every living thing in the world
should pass out, every man, every plant, every animal, even down to
microscopic infusoria, the Mind would collect all its electrons, and
through some more jealous law of, er, cohesion hold these electrons
inviolate from matter and energy?"

"Right! And again, as in the beginning, the Mind would rule supreme. By
what I have proved, you and I and all other creatures that now have life
may, as separate unfleshed electrons, enjoy eternal consciousness as a
part of the Mind." A new passion leaped to his dark eyes. "When I have
finished my mission, no more need we be slaves of the dust, subject to
all the frightful sufferings of this dunghill of flesh."

He brought his fist down upon his skinny leg with a resounding blow.

"But you cannot reduce your theory to fact, Sir Basil!"

"No?" Again came that frightful grin to his cadaverous face. "Can you
withstand shock?"

"If you mean shock to the eye, let me remind you that I served two years
in the big fight."

"Then come to my laboratory. Better take another drink."

While Hale helped himself again from the _masata_ bottle, Sir Basil
swallowed another pellet.

Then the two went into the adjoining apartment.

* * * * *

Sir Basil, his hand over the doorknob, paused.

"Before we go in," he said, "I want you to remember that we call natural
that which is characteristic of the physical world. Everything alive in
this laboratory was produced by nature. I merely made available the
materials, or, rather, I made the conditions under which matter was able
to enslave mind-electrons."

He opened the door, slipped his body through, and, with his ugly,
teeth-revealing grin, gestured for Hale to follow him.

Hale steeled himself and looked around half fearfully. The first glance
took in a large and well-equipped laboratory, somewhat fetid with animal
odors. The second lingered here and there on cages, aquariums,
incubators, and other containers where creatures moved.

Suddenly, as something scuttled across the floor and disappeared into a
hole in the wall, Hale cried out and covered his eyes with a hand.

Sir Basil laughed aloud. "Why didn't you examine it closer?"

Hale looked nauseated. "My God, Sir Basil! A rat with a man's head and
face!"

Sir Basil's voice was sharp, decisive. "Before you leave this
laboratory, you're going to come out of your foolish belief that man is
a creature apart from other living organisms. You - the conscious you - is
no greater, no more important in the final balance than the spark of
consciousness in that rat. When your body and the rat's body give up
their atoms to nature's laboratory, the little enslaved mind-electron
that is you and the one that is the rat will be identical."

Again Hale shivered and turned away from that cold, too-thin face.

The scientist was speaking. "Step around to all those cages and pens. I
want you to see all my slaves of the dust."

* * * * *

But long before Hale had encircled the room, he was so disturbed at what
he saw that he could scarcely complete his frightful inspection. In
every enclosure he viewed a monstrosity that in some way resembled a


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