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*** START OF THIS PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK THE HAMMER OF THOR *** Produced by Sankar Viswanathan, Greg Weeks, and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team at

Transcriber's Note:

This etext was produced from Astounding Stories March 1932.
Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that
the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed.







The Hammer
of Thor

By Charles

The Director General of District Three, Ural Division of the Russian States, was a fool. Danny O'Rourke had reached that conclusion some time before—a conclusion, however, that he was most careful to keep unexpressed.

Like the Hammer of Thor was the clash of Danny O'Rourke with the mysterious giant of space.


And then Danny not only thought it; he knew the Director was a fool; and the amazing incident that proved it took place in Stobolsk, the Governmental Headquarters of District Three. Although Danny's regular station was on a lonely peak in the Sierra Nevada Mountains in the United States, the occurrence was nevertheless observed by him; and this happened for two reasons.

The New Soviet Government that took over control of all the Russias in 1943 wanted, among other things, to install the most modern fire-fighting system, the equal of anything in the world. They turned, quite naturally, to the United States of America for their instruction; and this was reason number one why Danny O'Rourke, pilot of the Air Fire Force, was where he was on the morning of June 13th.

The second reason was the tremendous timber wealth in the Ural Division and the threat to destroy it by fire.

Perhaps there might be mentioned a third reason: that this same Danny O'Rourke, red-haired, smiling, and debonair was listed on the Air Fire Force of the United States with the highest rating that the A. F. F. has to give its pilots. But Danny would have grinned at such a suggestion and would have countered with a denial that he was better qualified than "the rest of the boys."

But Danny was there; he had been talking at length with the Director General on the technical differences of the hot and cold nitrogen blasts for controlling fires on a wide front when suddenly the big man was brought in.

The great figure stooped almost double to enter the room, and Danny ran a hand through his shock of red hair and stared open-mouthed at the giant when he straightened again and towered above the guard of Red soldiers who had brought him into the high-ceiled room.

He was clothed in a single garment of glinting blue that wrapped him about and fell in heavy folds to the floor. Danny felt the resemblance to the shimmering blue of steel that has passed through fire, and his eyes held to that garment in fascination until his gaze went on and up to the face.

The man's face was red, as if the flesh had been burned; here was one man Danny could not classify. He had met the people of many lands but never had he seen one like this.

In one quick staring glance, Danny caught a picture of heavy jaws—a flashing of yellow teeth when the mouth opened to emit guttural, unrecognizable words—nostrils that ran crosswise of the face in a nose broad and flat! The forehead above was low and sloping. From the straggling yellow hair it slanted down to brows that overhung deep-sunk and cavernous eyes.... And when Danny O'Rourke's own curious eyes met those of the stranger, they were held in a grip that was almost hypnotic.

"Like a dirty, crawlin' snake's!" he was telling himself over and over. "Heaven help us if that boy ever gets rough. Who he is or what he is, I don't know, but if I was the Director, I'd treat him nice till I found out."

Danny and the Director were standing side by side. The giant figure fixed a cold stare on Danny and barked short sentences that seemed to the listener to be an explanation.

But Danny motioned helplessly to the official at his side. "Maybe you can savvy that," he suggested; "it's new talk to me."

The newcomer repeated the guttural sounds. Upon the Director's face was a frown of suspicion and puzzled wonder; the Director General did not like to encounter either happenings or persons he could not readily understand; it was disturbing to one's official dignity. The giant must have read some of this, for he tried to make himself clear.

He repeated the sentences slowly. Then he waved one huge hand in air and pointed upward, and the hand moved up and up as if to indicate some tremendous distance. He pointed to himself; then brought one aiming finger down as if he were coming from that far-off place. And Danny got the significance.

"It's happened!" he told the Director explosively. "I knew it would come some day—I knew they'd get here! And us monkeyin' with our stratosphere ships and thinkin' we were beatin' the rest of the Universe!"

The Director regarded the young American with about the same degree of disfavor as he had shown the giant. "What is it you say?" he questioned. "You mean—what? I do not understand."

And, in careful words, Danny explained. He told the Director of District Three something of his dreams that space might not be an insurmountable bar; he told him, with enthusiasm driving his words out faster and faster, that here was a man—or if not a man, a living creature of some sort—that had come out of space.

"Where did they find him?" he demanded. "Where is his ship?"

But he ceased to ask questions as he noticed the Director's mirth. For that official was rocking with roaring laughter that had a distinctly uncomplimentary sound. And he added some words in Russian that were as incomprehensible to Danny as the growling talk of the giant man, but the O'Rourke temper flamed as he saw the other Russians in the room smiling appreciatively.

Then: "Take him away!" the Director thundered. "We'll see where he comes from. Search him! And if he hasn't any passports—" The unended sentence was suggestive.

But an hour later, Danny saw the giant furnish his own ending to the incompleted order. He had left the Director's room. Across the street was the gray stone building where prisoners were held for disposition by the courts. And once more Danny O'Rourke's jaw dropped in open-mouthed, unbelieving amazement as he saw a section of gray stone wall fall outward where the edge of it was sharply outlined in white-hot, dripping stone.

A great figure stepped forth. In his hand was a rod like an elongated pencil attached to a heavy butt. And though nothing visible came from the rod, Danny saw it pointed back at the building where iron bars softened till they sent rivulets of molten steel splashing upon the pavement.

A squad of soldiers in the blood-red color of their service stood nearby. One gave an order, and a dozen rifles were swung toward their shoulders. But the rifles never came to rest.

Danny saw the quick swing of the slender rod. And he saw the men's mouths opened in screams that were never uttered. For, quicker than nerves could send their message to human brain and muscles, some unseen force had slashed their bodies in two as if a fiery sword had been swung by invisible hands.

The pointing rod lingered upon the huddled bodies for an instant, while that which had been human flesh vanished in a bursting cloud of smoke; while the stones beneath turned to a seething pool of molten rock.... Then the rod moved slowly toward the frozen figure of Danny O'Rourke.

Did the strange being sense that Danny had not been disbelieving like the rest? Danny could never know. He knew only that he stood rigid with horror, entirely unable to move, while that rod swung upon him; he knew that the hand that held it released something that clicked, wherefore his life had been spared; and he knew that the savage face above wrinkled into something resembling a snarling, triumphant smile, as the rod was returned to its hiding place under the garment of shimmering blue, and the mysterious figure turned and strode savagely down the Avenue Stalin in the city of Stobolsk.

Danny O'Rourke was to carry that picture clearly in his mind—the figure that moved unhurriedly on, towering above the others, men and women, who scurried fearfully from his path. But he was to retain yet more vividly the recollection of a group of red-clad bodies that were severed at their waists as a slim tube swung—then a bursting cloud of oily smoke, and a pool of molten rock where they had been.

Something of this, perhaps, was clouding the eyes of Danny O'Rourke, Pilot of the A.F.F. a month and more later, as he sat at lookout duty in a gleaming white tower on a high peak of the Sierras. Not that the job of lookout was part of O'Rourke's duty, now that he was back in the U. S. A., but a cylinder of scarlet rested on a great rack at the base of the tower, and Danny had no wish to hear the roar of that cylinder's stern exhaust for a time.

Even the novelty of flying the newest rocket-ship in the service had worn off. Besides, he had patrolled his route, and he told himself that the "Infant" needed a rest.

The "Infant," better known on the records of the A. F. F. as Morgan, David E., Lookout, Station 39-G, was sleeping soundly on the elevating table where a map of the district was mounted under glass. His cherubic face was pink and white, more suggestive of the age of three than of twenty-three. And O'Rourke, glancing at him protectingly, hung up a paper to keep the sunlight from striking the young man's face.

The Infant had been Danny's special charge from the day he entered the service, and now, except for the Chief and some other officials, only Danny knew that the Infant was there to teach and not to learn. For behind those eyes that might have been taken from one of Rafael's cherubim lay a brain that Danny had learned to respect.

"Fifteen minutes more. I'm givin' you," he said inaudibly; "then I'll be on my way, and you'll do your own squintin' and peekin'." But the Infant's fifteen minutes were cut to that many seconds—

Danny had been looking toward the south before he had turned to gaze at the Infant: his eyes came back to the same point to take up their reconnaissance. But now, where clear sky had made a blue back-drop for rugged peaks, was a line of black. And the line, while Danny watched in disbelief, moved like a smoky serpent: its head stretched out and out while from behind it there came the ominous line of black.

All this happened in a matter of seconds, and the moving head ceased at last to move; the line no longer grew. But, where it had been at first a thin mark of black, it changed now to billowing gray.

It was fifty miles away at least; but it showed clear and sharp. And the first gray had hardly bloomed from its black beginning before the long arm of Danny O'Rourke had swept the sleeping Infant to the floor, while, with the other hand, he swung an instrument of telescopic sights upon distant smoke.

He set it in careful focus—took a reading for distance—another for direction—and while he was doing it he was vaguely conscious of one single sharp flash in the sky above that far-off cloud. In his range-finder it showed once, like a glittering star; then it vanished, but the trained eye of O'Rourke observed its passage like a ray of light overhead.

The pink-faced youngster on the floor was still protesting sleepily when O'Rourke slammed down a switch and heard a voice answer promptly from an instrument on the wall. Danny shouted out his bearings on the fire:

"Thirty-nine-G! O'Rourke speaking for Morgan. Reporting fire on a wide front—bearing Two-O-Seven to Two-Four-Nine! And for God's sake, Chief, get a line on this quick. The whole thing shot up in a second—fifty miles of fire!"

Another voice broke in excitedly. "Station Fourteen-Fourteen-Fourteen!" The voice was stammering in evident confusion. "The whole earth has exploded—it's on fire now! I—I—"

The Chief's voice broke in with a quiet, "Bearing, please! Report your bearing, Fourteen!"

And the stammering voice steadied to give a figure.

"Headquarters speaking," said the quiet voice. "Orders for O'Rourke. For the love of Pete, get on that fire, Danny. Every instrument in the office is chattering. Every patrol ship has spotted that blaze. You can't all be crazy. It's in

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