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The Sword And The Atopen



The Sword And The Atopen







From: The Sword And The Atopen

The conversion of light into electricity by spectrum is an
interesting possibility. The idea of using foreign proteins on the
human system to repel enemies, is also interesting. Do you get it?
We didn't either until we read the story. Read the yarn and you'll
get it too.


Although Divine intervention in human affairs passed into the realm of
the mythical toward the end of the twentieth or at the dawn of the
twenty-first century, one is almost inclined to give thanks to the
Supernatural for the marvelous efficacy of Dr. Rutledge's discovery and
stratagem which so recently freed us from the Oriental menace.

A year ago only the Mississippi and the most severe winter in many
generations was staying the complete invasion of the United States. In
an unbelievably secret manner our enemies had for five decades been
developing a scientific offensive against which our laboratories could
not in a short interval protect us. The vast and fundamental discoveries
made during the past hundred years by the Orientals (and now the
heritage of the whole world) can only be compared to the Industrial
Revolution of the nineteenth century. Without warning, through the
discovery of the cause of gravitation, the Mongols practically lifted
their Nangsi metal transports (which were built of a material combining
the lightness of aluminum with the strength and hardness of steel) out
of the sea; and in five days skimmed across the surface of the Pacific.
The whole West lay at their mercy, though we know with what gallantry
their forces were held in check from summer until winter, when the enemy
had reached the Mississippi.



Of course, one of the surprises which the Orientals had not counted on
was the providential inspiration of Dr. Mernick of the Hopkins, who
devised the now famous Mernickian transformer by which light from the
sun, received through a series of grates, is stepped from the
wavelengths of light into those of electricity. This gave us a sudden
limitless source of power on which the enemy had not counted. It
virtually lifted our forces off the ground and made them almost the
equal of an enemy who had succeeded in neutralizing the gravitational
drag.

The final and most disastrous card our subtle enemies played was dealt
on the prairies in Nebraska. They themselves were afraid of their weapon
and wanted plenty of space to try it in. I was personally present at its
debut, being at the time in General Sanford's stationary observing
helicopter which, through the agency of the power supplied by a
Mernickian transformer, hung motionless as a bee fifteen thousand feet
in the air. Only the treble hum of the air turbine could be heard
faintly through the transparent walls of the observatory constructed of
the annealed clersite, which has taken the place of the unsatisfactory
glass used by our forefathers. The toughness and tensile strength of
this element, comparable to the best chrome steels, combined with its
crystal clarity, made an ideal warfare observation unit. It was
practically invisible and likewise quite bullet proof. The great
strength of the material in our machine, and the rapidity with which we
could rise and fall, indeed made us difficult prey. In addition to this
we were hanging behind the great electric field that the Radio Defensive
Corps had spread like a screen before our forces, greatly to the
embarrassment of the enemy in the use of his anti-gravitational
machines.

As we stood at our posts, we saw the great degravitated bombs hurtled
against our lines suddenly come into contact with the fan-like electric
field, somersault a few times and fall. At the edge of the electric
screen the ground was excavated to an enormous depth by the bursting of
these intercepted degravitated bombs, most of which had been projected
from stationary batteries three or four hundred miles behind the enemy
lines. The local batteries bombarding with the old fashioned Sangsi
steel shell were still effective. On the whole, however, from our own
observation of the local front and from the television reports we were
constantly receiving, we judged that the American and Allied Caucasian
forces were more than holding their own.

General Sanford, the Chief of the Signal Corps, who stood by my side,
grasped my arm, and pointed to the west. Everyone crowded to our side in
excitement. Before we could gasp our amazement, the incandescent spot
which our Chief had mutely indicated on the distant horizon, zoomed in a
blazing arc across our zenith and plunged into the terrain of the
English forces which were occupying the little town of Ogallala about
six miles to our south. We held our breath. What next?

Only a faint throbbing seemed to pulse in the air above the spot where
the missile sank. I was about to pronounce the diagnosis of "a dud,"
when someone cried, "My God, General, they've turned hell loose this
time!" The whole atmosphere for a quarter of a mile radius about the
fatal bomb quivered as over a heated griddle. Even as we remarked this,
the area began to glow cherry red. A deafening thunder assaulted our
ears when to our horror the earth on which had stood the now burning
town of Ogallala, rose a gigantic incandescent ball and shot like a
meteor into the heavens. Our car was a feather tossed in the ensuing
hurricane, but even while we bobbed back and forth there was an
ear-splitting explosion as the land that was once an American village
burst into a blinding blue flare of hydrogen flame twenty-five miles
above us.

The swaying of the car gradually subsided in the tortured atmosphere,
and a gentle rain began to fall. Ogallala had been chemically "stepped
down" into the most primitive element, combined with the oxygen above
and was condensing back to earth again as a few globules of H{2}O. That
day was a sort of crisis; the enemy had discovered and turned upon us
the power of atomic degeneration! And I, as assistant chief chemist of
the American Army, felt my heart become heavy within me as I soared back
to the Central Laboratory.

* * * * *

Even as I watched the advent of the electronic detonator two days
previously the inspiration had come to me. What had happened to the
doomed Nebraskan town had been so obvious. Through some unexplained
agency discovered by the Orientals, the electronic restraint of the
normally stable elements had been removed. In a brief time Ogallala had
degenerated through all the steps of the periodic table until it became
hydrogen, at which point, owing to the terrific air current and
incandescent heat, it had recombined with the oxygen of the air as
simple molecules of water.

I thought I had a clue as to how it had been accomplished. The Central
Chemical Laboratory was the focus of feverish excitement. The air was
tense with the expectancy of tremendous things. Every scientist there
felt that we were on the verge of discovering the principle of the
Mongols' new weapon. "Give us time!" "Time" was the plea we sent daily
to the Defense Headquarters. "Only six weeks more, only a month," we
begged, "and then we'll make a boomerang out of the enemy's invention."
Anderson, Mahaffey, Dr. Spritz--all the great physicists and chemists of
the present age--labored at my side endeavoring to trick Nature into
giving us that saving secret.

The television 'phone called my name. I immediately hurried to the booth
and saw General Loomis, the Commander-in-Chief of the American and
Caucasian Armies, standing in his helicopter headquarters. He seemed
haggard and worn. "How much longer, Johnson?" he asked. "The enemy has
pretty well eaten out the country and with the advent of winter and lack
of food, are bending all their efforts to crush us. Besides, we cannot
tell just how long it will be before they begin turning out their new
bomb in other than experimental quantities. Two weeks, I should
estimate, is about all the longer I can hold them."

"If that is the case, General Loomis," I replied, "we may as well give
up. Two months will see us ready. But two weeks--!"

I felt a hand laid on my shoulder. Dr. Rutledge, my science chief, had
stepped into the booth behind me and overheard the conversation.

"General Loomis," Dr. Rutledge spoke, looking for all the world like a
patriarch of olden times, "until five minutes ago what Johnson has just
said would have sealed our fate. But now, I think, I believe, we have
one more card to play. I have only this moment completed a series of
reactions which have resulted (as I calculated they should) in the
production of a new protein, similar in appearance to flour. It should,
although of course I have not yet had time to verify this statement, be
a practical substitute for flour; and indeed, it is my belief that it
will easily be mistaken for that substance. Its particles are laminated
similar to starch, of an identical size, and the nutritive factor should
be greater than that of bread. It is, in short, a new, a foreign protein
never before found in this world of men!"

"Very interesting, I am sure," replied General Loomis, with a trace of
bitterness and sarcasm in his voice. "Your noble efforts will result in
feeding the yellow devils an excellent artificial fare. They will be
grateful, I know!"

"Exactly my object, general," Dr. Rutledge replied. He continued
impressively: "You have until now relied upon me largely in the waging
of this war to save the white race from the menace of the yellow. Since
all is lost at any rate, grant me one last effort in behalf of my
country. At all costs, Loomis, hold your present lines for two days,
preparing to suddenly retire to the west bank of the Mississippi. I
leave it to your strategy to make a sudden retreat (which should extend
over a period of at least ten days) appear as if enforced by the enemy
themselves."

"There should be no difficulty in that direction," General Loomis
interpolated, smiling wryly on the television screen.

"Once on the west bank," went on Dr. Rutledge seriously, not noticing
the interjection, "make a stand for a day or two and then suddenly
retreat across the river to the east bank as if again forced to do so.
Now, General, two days from this time--before your retreat begins--I
shall, I trust, have your armies all along the lines supplied with my
new artificial, foreign protein flour. This you will leave in the
enemy's hands, which, you have intimated, will be much to their delight.
You will do the same at the stand which for a while you held on the west
bank. But, mind you, let none of your men use any of this perfectly
harmless food. I will personally see to it that you will receive it in
such containers that none will come in contact with your persons."

"Doctor," Loomis said after staring at the old scientist some time in
astonishment, "except for years of personal acquaintance, I would say
that you were suffering a mental shock. Knowing you as I do, however, I
pray to God you're making no mistake this time. I'll do as you wish."
His figure faded from the screen.

The next fortnight was one of black despair. I myself doubted on
occasions whether or not the old doctor was mentally accountable--even I
who had trusted him so long. General Loomis and his staff called up
daily to inquire if Dr. Rutledge had any change of plans. As for the
army and the populace, they were one in calling on the President to make
terms with the enemy. The allies truly were on the point of collapse.
All that kept up what morale was left in the chemical division was the
unrelenting demands made on us by Dr. Rutledge to continue to ferret out
the electronic detonator. Until then, he had scarcely bothered with our
work; now he would hear of nothing else. "Today's the Day!" was the
slogan he had displayed above every bench.

Finally the fatal day arrived. The retreat across the Mississippi was
consummated. This time it was not feigned. The Mongols were hungry, and
their appetites were whetted for more flour such as had sustained them
for the past twelve days. Moreover, new electronic bombs were beginning
to be supplied them.

My name leapt at me across the room: I was being called by that almost
human instrument, the television 'phone. Both my superior and I hurried
to the cabinet. It was, as we had guessed, Loomis. "It's all up," he
said wretchedly. "The fresh supply of atomic degenerating bombs, for
which the enemy has been holding back, has now arrived. They matched and
neutralized our electric field defense screen just an hour ago, leaving
us at their mercy. You've had your chance, Doctor, and failed. I advise
you both to make your way north and wait until these fiends forget the
inconvenience you both have caused them. As for me, I'm leaving this
instant to offer unconditional surrender in the name of all the allies."

* * * * *

It was about ten o'clock in the morning, just after he had transported
all his forces hurriedly to the east bank, and as the Mongols were
occupying the old entrenchments on the west, that General Loomis closed
his conversation with the Chemical Laboratory. He turned to an aerial
officer who stood at attention beside him. "Major Maniu," he said,
"trail a white banner of truce on your plane and tell the enemy I will
parley with them. Tell them that we will serve rations presently to our
men who have worked all night without food or rest, and that if it is
agreeable to them, both sides shall simultaneously discontinue activity
at one o'clock. At that time I shall cross the river to offer them our
terms of surrender."

The officer saluted and hastened to his near-by plane. General Loomis
ascended into his helicopter to confer with his staff to draw up in
documentary form the surrender, and give the necessary orders relative
to lowering of fire that afternoon. He also spoke to the President and
to the crowd outside the White House, and then began nervously waiting
the crucial moment. About twelve-thirty, however, a remarkable fact
forced itself on his attention. Whereas the allied batteries continued
to thunder away, the fire from the Orientals became irregular and
sporadic. "Celebrating their victory beforehand," the French commander
remarked bitterly to his chief. Loomis nodded. "And getting careless,
too," another of the Staff added as he saw one of the enemy's detonator
bombs disintegrate three or four hundred acres of a Mongolian base
encampment fifty miles to the northwest and shoot it a monstrous blazing
rocket twenty or thirty miles into the midday sky.

By twelve forty-five the enemy's barrage had fallen completely all along
the line. Our battery nevertheless continued until the set time but
elicited no answer. Exactly at one General Loomis with two aides stepped
into his air-car. He was a picture of grief and despair. Three minutes
late the party landed forty miles across the river before the
headquarters and armored dining hall of the Oriental General Staff.

Loomis and his officers stepped out of their car and looked about. No
one was in sight. Not even a sentry guarded the mess room door. The
General paced back and forth a few minutes in indecision.

"Evidently they mean to make us feel our defeat," he said. "They
apparently do not even think it further necessary to observe rudimentary
diplomatic courtesy. Come on, boys, beggars can't be choosers, as the
antique saying goes." He led the way to the dining hall through a window
of which a light was seen shining.

"Perhaps if we find his xanthic highness after a good meal he will be
inclined to be a bit more lenient," Loomis whispered with a forced
laugh, trying to cheer his glum companions.

He opened the unguarded door of the hall. An instant later he reeled
back horror-stricken. Instead of a feasting gathering of officers
attached to the Mongolian Staff he saw before a feast of men contorted
in grotesque shapes by some violent death. Many lay beside the table,
some on it, their faces blotched with great, unsightly wheals, their
chests bloated until they seemed about to burst. Only one poor wretch
had any life left in him--he lay exhausted on the floor with great
streams of frothy mucous pouring from his nose and throat.

A possibility dawned in Loomis' mind. He dashed away to search the other
mess tents, shouting to his aides to follow suit. It was as he guessed:
they had landed in a camp of dead and dying; stricken by some mysterious
power. Hope suddenly surged back into his soul. He felt dizzy and faint.
Could a similar fate have caused the unaccountable silence of the
enemy's cannonade? Even as the thought came to him, he knew it must be
so. His marvelous old friend, Dr. Rutledge, had risen to the need of the
world and crushed the yellow menace.

* * * * *

Such, truly, had been the case. In a single hour, through the agency of
a harmless food, the subtle scientist had crushed a nation. The
principle involved had been discovered nearly two centuries before, when
it was well-known that if an animal were injected with a small quantity
of a protein foreign to his body, a subsequent dose a hundred million
times as weak would cause its immediate and violent death. Even the
quantity that might be flying in the atmosphere and become dissolved in
the fluids of the nose or eyes would act as the most virulent of known
poisons. Through the ages, however, the human race had more or less come
in contact with all the proteins in their world and hence rarely became
highly sensitized to any protein occurring in nature. The terrible
toxicity of a protein which had never before occurred in nature and to
whose power mankind had never been even partially desensitized had up to
the time of Dr. Rutledge only entered the minds of a few scientists. His
strategy was the working out of a new maxim: Nature is terrible, but man
makes it more so.

* * * * *

Foreign protein sensitization or anaphylaxis was the basis of Dr.
Rutledge's coup. The laws governing this reaction had been more or less
worked out by a group of scientists in the twentieth century. They had
demonstrated that if a guinea-pig or rabbit were injected with the blood
serum of another species, a subsequent dose of an infinitely small
quantity of this substance would cause convulsions, collapse and rapid
death. Inasmuch as there were many proteins in the atmosphere at that
time due to the unrestrained pollination of plants of every description,
it was not surprising that they found as many as ten per cent of the
white race afflicted with a slight pollen sensitivity which showed up
seasonally by causing spasms of the smooth muscle of the respiratory
system, a disease popularly called "hay-fever."

Since, however, the proteins of the world had always been present, the
human race had, by constantly coming into contact with them, become more
or less immunized to the majority. Only occasionally a case of violent
sensitivity came to light and was recognized as such. Two or three cases
there had been which the old scientist discovered while searching the
archives of ancient medicine and these gave him the clew he needed.

One was the case of a little girl who had somehow or other become
sensitized to the protein of wasp toxin and who suffered almost
immediate death from anaphylactic "choc" as the result of being stung by
that insect. A second instance concerned a woman who went into violent
asthmatic paroxysms if a mouse entered the room where she was, and whose
skin broke out into large wheals if touched with mouse hair. Finally,
and most outstanding in his mind, was the case of a child who was
thought to be sensitive to the fish protein in glue and who died almost
immediately when the physician testing her had brought a small quantity
of the dry protein into contact with a scratch on her arm.

These had, however, been rare cases, but they pointed out the method. It
had already been proved over and over again that animals could be
sensitized experimentally by treating them with foreign proteins,
provided that after the initial dose they did not come into contact with
the same protein until after a lapse of about two weeks. If they
happened to do so the first injection or treatment was frequently
neutralized and failed to give the desired sensitivity.

With the discovery of a new, highly pure and synthetic protein by Dr.
Rutledge the situation with the enemy could be put on a close parallel
with the laboratory condition. The enemy could be fed the protein when
they were in need of food and had little else, but since it was
synthetic, they could not get a second supply until the Doctor was able
to put the fatal meal in their way.





Next: The Plant Men

Previous: At The Moment Of Marriage



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