Astounding Stories of Super-Science, December 1930 online

. (page 2 of 19)
Online LibraryVariousAstounding Stories of Super-Science, December 1930 → online text (page 2 of 19)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

human. Every reptile, every insect, every queer, misshapen animal not
only looked human in some shocking manner, but also seemed to possess
human characteristics. It seemed as though some demented creator with a
perverted sense of humor had attempted to mock man by calling forth
monsters in his image.

At last the young man cried out: "How did you breed these freaks?"

"They are not freaks, and I did not breed them. They are nature's
parentless products whose basic elements were brought together in
this laboratory, and, by a scientific reproduction of the functions
of creation, endowed with the life principle, which is merely
mind-electrons." He smoothed his long tuft of hair nervously. "Would
you like to see how life springs from a wedding of matter, energy,
and consciousness?"

"I suspect I can stand anything now," Hale admitted.

"Then come and peep into a very remarkable group of apparatus I have
developed, where you can watch atoms building molecules and molecules
building living organisms."

"You say I can see atoms?"

"Not directly, of course. The light waves will forever prevent us from
actually seeing the atom. But I have perfected a system of photography
which magnifies particles smaller than light waves, and, separating
their images from the light waves, renders detail clear in the moving

* * * * *

He went to a huge machine or series of machines which took up all the
center floor space of the laboratory, where he busied himself in an
intricate network of wires, mirrors, electrodes, ray projectors, and
traveling metal compartments. Presently he called out to Hale.

"Let me remind you, Oakham, that while any scientist can break up any of
the various proteid molecules which are the basis of all living cells,
animal and vegetable, no scientist before me has been able to compound
the atoms and build them into a proteid molecule."

He bared his teeth in the smile that Hale hated.

"I am proud to tell you that the proteid molecule can be built up only
when the third element of nature's trinity is added - the mind-electron.
I have found a means of capturing the mind-electron and of bringing it
in contact with proteid elements. And now it is possible to bring forth
life in the laboratory. Come closer and watch proteid forming
protoplasm, protoplasm forming a cell, and the cell evolving into - well,
what do you want, an animal, plant, or an insect?"

Hale had fallen under the scientist's spell. He did not feel foolish
when he said:

"Let's have a rat!"

* * * * *

Hale became so absorbed in the wonders of the laboratory that when lunch
time came, Sir Basil had food brought to them. While they were eating a
very good vegetable stew, farina, and luscious tropical fruits, a
sudden, agonized scream rang out, followed by other screams and wails.

Sir Basil opened the door and looked out. Aña came running forward. Her
blue eyes were flooded with tears.

"Oh, Aimu!" she moaned. "A tree fell on Unani Assu."

She buried her beautiful face in her hands and sobbed aloud.

Sir Basil frowned heavily.

"I can't lose Unani Assu yet," he declared. "He is a wonderful help
around the laboratory. Is he dead?"

"No. We should rejoice if his time of release had come. But his legs,
Aimu! No one wants to suffer and be crippled."

Even in her distress, the girl's voice was rich and vibrant, and every
tone moved Hale curiously.

"Hurry!" cried the scientist. "Have them bring him here before he

The girl leaped to her feet and sped away.

"Come, Oakham," continued Sir Basil. "Here is a rare opportunity for you
to see how completely I have mastered the laws that govern organic
matter. Help me prepare."

* * * * *

For several minutes, Hale worked under the scientist's sharply spoken
directions. By the time the injured man was brought to the laboratory,
Sir Basil was ready for him.

Unani Assu was still conscious, but his pale face indicated that he had
lost much blood. When the improvised stretcher was lowered to the floor,
Sir Basil sent all the Indians away.

Unani Assu opened his eyes and called feebly, "Aña!"

"Be still!" ordered Sir Basil. "Aña is not here."

"Please!" gasped the dying man. "I want her - my Aña!"

Sir Basil sucked in his breath sharply. "What's this? Have you been
making love to Aña again, after my warning to you?"

The sufferer stirred uneasily. "No!" he panted. "But perhaps my hour of
release has come, and I want to look at her - once more."

The scientist smiled unpleasantly as he eyed the magnificent body which
looked like a broken statue in bronze.

"Some human characteristics are strange," he muttered. "In spite of
everything I do, this fellow continues to love Aña: Aña whom I intend
for myself."

He stepped to the apparatus and swiftly changed one of the adjustments.

"Perhaps," he resumed, with a gleam in his eyes that chilled Hale, "this
will forever cure him."

* * * * *

In another moment, the still, half-dead body was lifted and gently
slipped into a compartment.

Before Hale's horrified gaze fastened on the eye-piece which revealed
moving pictures of every process that went on within, Unani Assu's body
was reduced almost instantly to a fine, silvery dust.

"Good God!" he cried. "You have killed him."

The scientist's teeth showed in his wide smile. "Think so? Does a woman
destroy a dress when she rips it up to make it over?"

"Do you mean me to understand that you can reduce a living body to its
basic elements and then rebuild these elements into a remade man?"

"Watch!" warned the scientist.

Hale looked again and saw the silver dust that was once a living body
being whirled into a tiny, grublike thing. He saw the grub expand into
an embryo, and the embryo develop into a foetus. From now on the
development was slower, and he often stopped to talk with Sir Basil.

Once he asked: "If this man had died naturally, could you have brought
him back to life?"

Sir Basil shook his head. "No. When once the mind-electron is completely
freed from its enslavement by matter, it is forever beyond recall by the
body it has just vacated. Like atomic electrons, whose equilibrium
disturbed break away from their planetary system and go dashing off into
space, only to be drawn into another planetary system, the mind-electron
may be enslaved almost immediately by extraneous matter. Had Unani Assu
died, his liberated mind-electron might at once have been captured by a
jungle flower going to seed. Immediately a new seed would be started.
And now the former Unani Assu would be a seed of a jungle flower, later
to find new life as a plant."

Suddenly the scientist threw up his hand and cried: "You see? The Mind
will be eternally enslaved as long as there is life! Oh, for the time of
deliverance!" He gazed fanatically into space, as though he dreamed

Hale observed him thoughtfully. When that great brain weakened, the
consequences would be frightful.

* * * * *

Sir Basil, as though he had made a sudden decision, went over to that
part of his machine which he called the molecule-disintegrator.

"Oakham!" he called out. "I have taken you partly into my confidence.
Now I want to show you something. Come here."

Hale obeyed with misgivings. The scientist pointed out the window to a
group of Indians, anxious relatives of Unani Assu.

"Watch!" he ordered.

Turning one of the projectors on the machine toward the window, he
sighted carefully and pressed a button.

Immediately one of the Indians fell to the ground and struggled. His
companions began dancing around him in evident joy. Faintly to the
laboratory came a familiar chant, which Hale recognized as Aña's death

Dust to dust
Mind to Mind -
He will shed his body
As the green snake sheds his skin.

As Hale watched, the struggling Indian's body seemed to shrink, and
then, instantly, it disappeared.

"Watch them scatter the dust!" said the scientist.

One of the Indians stooped and blew upon the grass.

"What have you done!" Hale gasped. "You've killed this one. Oh, I see
now! These poor devils are totally ignorant that you are killing them
for practice. They worship you while you turn them to - silver dust!" He
turned angrily on the scientist as though he longed to strike him.

"Keep cool, young man!" Sir Basil held up his fleshless hand. "There is
no death! Change, yes; but no permanent blotting out of consciousness.
Can't you see the horror of it as nature works? When your time for
release comes, as it inevitably will, your mind-electron might find new
enslavement in a worm!"

* * * * *

Hale's reply came hotly. "If that is true, why do you murder these poor
devils deliberately!"

"My dear Oakham, perhaps you are not so brilliant as I had hoped! All
that I have done thus far is only child's play, in preparation for my
real work. Haven't you guessed by now what I am getting ready to do?"

"No; I'm a poor guesser."

The scientist made a gesture of mock despair. "Then let me tell you. The
molecule-disintegrator is active only on organic structures. When I
concentrate it so" - he reached out again, sighted the projector on some
point beyond the window and pressed a button - "one single living
organism passes out. See that jupati tree by the rock disappear?"

Before Hale's eyes, the tall, slender tree melted into air.

"But," continued Sir Basil, "if I should _broadcast_ my
molecule-disintegrator on electron magnetic waves, destruction would
pass out in all directions, following the curve of the earth's surface,
penetrating earth, air, water." He wet his lips carefully. "You

Hale stiffened suddenly. "I understand. No life could survive these
vibrations of destruction? Through every corner of the earth where life
lurks, they would reach?"

"Yes!" cried Sir Basil. "There would be not a blade of grass, not a
living spore, not a hidden egg! Think of it, Oakham! No more would the
clean air and the sweet earth reek with life, and at last the ultimate
mind-electron would be released forever."

He was breathing fast, and his emaciated face burned with two red

Hale thought rapidly. He was convinced now that the fate of all life lay
within that diabolical network of chemical apparatus.

At last he said: "And what of you and I, Sir Basil? Shall we, too, be
caught in this wholesale destruction?"

"Not immediately," replied the scientist. "Of course, I want to
remain in the flesh long enough to be sure that my purpose has been
accomplished. I have provided a way for my own safety. If you desire,
you may remain with me." He smiled craftily. "I have planned to keep
Aña also, the woman whom I called into life and made as I wished."

* * * * *

His words pounded against Hale's tortured ears with almost physical
force. With a supreme effort, the young man controlled his rage and
despair. Aña needed him too much now for him to risk defeat by showing
his emotions.

To Sir Basil he said: "But if all life disappears from the earth, what
shall we do for food - you, Aña, and I?"

Sir Basil lifted his brows. "You don't think I overlooked that, do you?
What is food? Various combinations of the basic elements. I who have
conquered the atom need never worry about starving to death."

All this time, the machinery had been humming, and now the humming
changed its note to a shrill whistle. Sir Basil went to the eye-piece
and looked into it. Opening a door in the machinery, he disappeared
inside. He came out soon, flushed and evidently elated.

"Bring the stretcher, Oakham," he ordered.

Hale brought the stretcher, placing it close to the machine. Then Sir
Basil opened a metal door and gently eased out a human body.

It was Unani Assu, unconscious but alive and breathing. Hale, helping
the scientist to get the man on the stretcher, noticed that the crushed
legs were perfectly healed. Together they bore him to a long seat. The
Indian's eyes were still closed, but his even breathing indicated that
he was only sleeping.

Suddenly Hale pointed a finger and cried out. "My God, Sir Basil, look
at his hands and feet!"

* * * * *

Unani Assu, still lying like a recumbent bronze statue sculptured by a
master, was perfect from shoulder to wrist, from thigh to ankle. But,
somewhere in that diabolical machine through which he had passed, his
hands and feet had undergone a hideous metamorphism which had
transformed them from the well-formed extremities of a splendid young
Indian into the hairy paws of a giant rat!

Hale turned away his head, sick with disgust.

Sir Basil cut the silence triumphantly:

"Now he'll never again face Aña with love in his eyes!"

"What!" broke in Hale. "Did you plan this monstrous thing?"

"Of course! I told you I should forever cure him of his mad

"But why didn't you kill him, as you killed the others? It would have
been the most merciful way."

Sir Basil showed his teeth in his ugly smile. "A creator is never

A quiver passed through the Indian's body and presently, he sighed
deeply and opened his eyes. He seemed dazed, puzzled. He looked from
Hale to the scientist, and turned seeking eyes to other parts of the

"Aña!" he called weakly. "Where is Aña?"

He pulled himself a little unsteadily to his feet - to the spatulated,
hairy _rodent_ feet that had come out of the life-machine. Staggering,
he would have fallen, had he not thrown out his arm to steady himself.
Instinctively he tried to grasp something for support, and then, for the
first time, he discovered his deformity.

* * * * *

Hale was never to forget that expression of horror and disgust that
swept over the Indian's face as he spread open his revolting extremities
and stared at them.

A sudden, wild roar of despair rang through the room. "Aimu! My hands!"

The scientist smiled with evident amusement. "You are a grotesque sight,
Unani Assu. Do you want to see Aña now?"

The fright and horror faded from the Indian's face, for now he glared
with hate into the mad, mocking eyes.

"You did it!" the Indian ground out. "You've made me into a thing from
which Aña will run screaming."

Through the quiet rage of the perfectly spoken English ran a thread of
sorrow. "Aimu, whom we considered too holy to name!"

Choking, he hobbled away to the door, which he unbolted. As he passed
out into the open, Sir Basil went over to the machine and began sighting
the projector which cast forth the ray of destruction.

"No!" cried Hale. "You've done enough murder for to-day."

The scientist paused. "I was trying to be merciful. And then, I wonder
if it is safe to let him go, hating me? Oh, well!" He shrugged his
narrow shoulders. "I seldom leave the laboratory, and certainly nothing
can harm me here." He touched the death-projector significantly.

Hale made a mental decision. "I must find out how the damned thing works
and put it out of commission."

* * * * *

With this determination uppermost in his mind, he assumed a more intense
interest in the strange laboratory. For the next two days, he assisted
Sir Basil so assiduously that he learned much about the operation of the
life-machine. And gradually he stopped being horrified as the
fascination of producing life in the laboratory grew upon him.

After he had assisted the scientist in building living organisms from
basic elements, he ceased to cringe when he remembered that perhaps it
was true that Aña was created in the mysterious life-machine.

Once the scientist declared, "She is untainted with inheritance. She is
the perfect mate that I called into life so that before I pass from the
flesh I may taste that one human emotion I've never experienced - love."

That very night Hale kept a secret tryst with Aña after the village
slept. Sweet, virginal Aña, who knew less of the world than a civilized
child of twelve - what a sensation she would create in New York with her
beauty, her culture, her natural fascination! With her in his arms and
an orange tropical moon hanging low in the hot, black sky, he ceased to
care that she had no ancestors, for now his one passionate desire was to
save her from Sir Basil and to hold her forever for himself.

He might have been content to go on like this for months, tampering with
creation in the day time, courting Aña in secret at night, had not Unani
Assu come back for revenge.

* * * * *

On the fourth night after Unani Assu had disappeared into the jungle,
Hale went to the _igarapé_ to meet Aña. He had gone only half the
distance when he encountered her, running frantically up the path toward

"Hale!" she gasped, falling into his opened arms, where she lay panting
and exhausted.

Hale gently patted the long braids, shimmering in silver tangles under
the moonlight, and, crushing the soft little trembling body close, he

"What's the matter, darling?"

She dug her face deeper into the bend of his arm. "Oh, Hale! I saw Unani
Assu a few minutes ago." For several moments she was unable to go on,
for sudden sobs cut off her breath. "It's terrible, Hale, what Aimu did
to his hands and feet, but what Unani's going to do to Aimu is still
more terrible."

Hale placed his hand gently under her chin and tilted up her small,
pale, tear-drenched face.

"Be calm, Aña, and tell me plainly."

Still clinging to him, she went on. "He told me that Aimu is a devil,
Hale. He showed me his hands and asked me if I could ever get used to
them and be - his squaw." The round gold breastplates and the necklace of
painted seeds clinked together over her panting bosom. "I told him about
you, Hale. And then he seemed to go mad. He said he'd kill Aimu

"But, Aña! Why did he let you go, knowing that you would give the

"He didn't let me go." Her petaled lips parted in a faint smile. "I
escaped. Unani Assu tied me to a tree by the _igarapé_. Because he
doesn't ... hate me, he could not bear to tie me too tightly."

"Then he must be close to the laboratory now. If he breaks in upon
Aimu - oh, my God!"

Hale remembered the death-projector. If Sir Basil were in danger of
attack, he would not hesitate to touch the waiting button that would
broadcast death throughout the world.

He seized Aña's little hand and cried out: "Run, Aña! The only safe
place now is Aimu's laboratory. Run!"

* * * * *

As they dashed on madly, Hale opened wide his nostrils to scent the
heavy, flower-laden air of the jungle. Any moment all this sweet, rich
life might vanish instantly. He had a horrible vision of a world devoid
of life, a world of bare rocks, dry sand, odorless, dead waters. For it
was life that greened the landscape, roughened the stones with moss and
lichen, thickened the ocean with ooze, and turned the dry sand into
loam - life that swarmed underfoot, overhead, all around!

And now, just as they reached the laboratory door, panting and frantic,
a hoarse shriek broke forth. Dragging Aña after him, Hale dashed
forward, conscious of two masculine voices raised in passion.

The door to the room where the life-machine performed its vile work was
locked. Hale pounded against it and called out to Sir Basil, but only
curses and the sound of tumbling bodies came from beyond the door.
Although originally the door had been thick and strong, the destructive
forces of the tropics had pitted and rotted the wood. A few blows of
Hale's shoulder broke it down.

Under the brilliant electric light, Sir Basil and Unani Assu were
fighting upon the blood-spattered floor. The struggle was uneven: the
scientist's emaciated body was no match for the splendid strength of the
young Indian.

"Help Aimu!" cried Aña, pushing Hale forward.

Aimu was being choked to death.

Hale acted fantastically but efficiently. Catching up a bottle of
ammonia, he moistened a handkerchief and clapped it against Unani Assu's
nose. Instantly the Indian choked, released Sir Basil, and fell back,
gasping for breath.

Hale thrust the handkerchief into his pocket.

"Get out!" he ordered Unani Assu. "Quick!" He threatened him with the
ammonia bottle.

But Unani Assu was not looking at the bottle. "Aimu!" he screamed,

* * * * *

When Hale saw and understood, he leaped across the room to plant his
body in front of Aña; for Sir Basil was behind the life-machine,
reaching for the controls of the ray projector.

Suddenly, from behind Hale, a silver streak shot across the room. Sir
Basil groaned and sank to the floor of the laboratory.

A keen-bladed dissecting knife, thrown by Aña, stuck out from his left

Aña ran forward, sobbing wildly. "Oh, Aimu! I'm sorry! I didn't mean for
it to strike you there. Only your hand, Aimu! I didn't want Hale to die,
Aimu. I didn't - oh!"

She was on her knees by the scientist's side, his head held in her
slender arms.

"He's breathing!" she rejoiced. "Some _masata_, Hale, quick!"

Hale found a bottle of good brandy which he had contributed from his own
supplies. Soon Sir Basil gasped and opened his eyes. He stared about him
wildly, then gasped:

"I'm dying, Hale Oakham! Quick, the life-machine, before my mind-electron

He tried to pull his body up, but fell back, weak and panting.

Hale hesitated, looking doubtfully at Aña.

"For God's sake, quick!" screamed Sir Basil. "I'm dying, I say! I must
have - rebirth. Lift me to the disintegrator. Hurry!..." His voice
trailed off faintly.

"He is dying," snapped Hale. "We might as well try it." He jerked open
the door to the disintegrator. "Here, Unani Assu! Lend a hand!"

* * * * *

Instantly the Indian came forward, a peculiar, pleased expression on his
handsome face. In a moment, Sir Basil's body was inside, and the machine
began its weird humming, the humming that indicated the transformation
of a human body into dust.

"Now!" cried Unani Assu exultingly, going behind the machine. "I have
helped him enough to understand that if one changes this - and this - and
this" - he made some rapid adjustments on the machine - "something that is
not pleasant will happen."

"Stop!" cried Hale. "What did you change?"

The Indian laughed mockingly. "Wouldn't you like to know? But, yet, you
should not worry. You have no cause to love him, have you?"

"I can't be a traitor, Unani Assu! Arrange the machine as it was
originally, and I give you my word of honor than when Sir Basil comes
out, I'll wreck the damned thing beyond repair. See, Unani Assu? You and
I together will smash it."

The Indian folded his arms so that the repulsive things that should have
been hands were hidden.

"It's too late now," he admitted, shaking his head. "Yet I've done no
more to him than he did to me."

Hale went to the eye-piece in the machine and started to look inside.
Unani Assu stepped forward, tapped him on the shoulder, and, fingering
significantly the dissecting knife which he had picked up, said:

"I am operating the machine. Will you sit over there by Aña and wait? It
won't be long. And, white stranger, remember this: I am your friend. I
am turned against none but our common enemy." He pointed significantly
to the machine.

* * * * *

Two hours passed, long, silent hours for the watchers in the laboratory.
Aña fell asleep, in a sweet, childish bundle upon the piled cushions,
her golden hair, still decorated with the red flowers which she always
wore, crushed and withered now. Several times Hale caught Unani Assu
gazing at her sadly, and his own look saddened when it rested on the
Indian's strong, outraged body.

The humming of the machine changed to a whistle. Placing his fingers on
his lips in a signal of quiet, Unani Assu whispered:

"Let Aña sleep. She mustn't see this."

Opening a door in the machine, his handsome face lighted with a grim
smile, he whispered exultingly:


A scuttling sound issued forth and then, half drunkenly, an enormous rat
tumbled out - one of those horrible rats with the hairless, humanlike
faces that had so frequently come from the life-machine.

Hale could not crush back the cry that issued from his throat.

"Where is Sir Basil?" he gasped.

"There!" cried the Indian, pointing to the kicking rat, which was fast

2 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19

Online LibraryVariousAstounding Stories of Super-Science, December 1930 → online text (page 2 of 19)