- Author: Various
Read book online «Astounding Stories of Super-Science, March 1930 by Various (adult books to read txt) 📕». Author - Various
On Sale the First Thursday of Each MonthW. M. CLAYTON, Publisher HARRY BATES, Editor DOUGLAS M. DOLD, Consulting Editor
The Clayton Standard on a Magazine Guarantees:
That the stories therein are clean, interesting, vivid; by leading writers of the day and purchased under conditions approved by the Authors’ League of America;
That such magazines are manufactured in Union shops by American workmen;
That each newsdealer and agent is insured a fair profit;
That an intelligent censorship guards their advertising pages.
The other Clayton magazines are:
ACE-HIGH MAGAZINE, RANCH ROMANCES, COWBOY STORIES, CLUES, FIVE-NOVELS MONTHLY, WIDE WORLD ADVENTURES, ALL STAR DETECTIVE STORIES, FLYERS, RANGELAND LOVE STORY MAGAZINE, SKY-HIGH LIBRARY MAGAZINE, WESTERN ADVENTURES, MISS 1930, and FOREST AND STREAM
More Than Two Million Copies Required to Supply the Monthly Demand for Clayton Magazines.
Issued monthly by Publishers’ Fiscal Corporation, 80 Lafayette St., New York, N. Y. W. M. Clayton, President; Nathan Goldmann, Secretary. Application for entry as second-class mail pending at the Post Office at New York under Act of March 3, 1879. Application for registration of title as Trade Mark pending in the U. S. Patent Office. Member Newsstand Group––Men’s List. For advertising rates address E. R. Crowe & Co., Inc., 25 Vanderbilt Ave., New York; or 225 North Michigan Ave., Chicago.
“Confound it, Carnes, I am on my vacation!”
“I know it, Doctor, and I hate to disturb you, but I felt that I simply had to. I have one of the weirdest cases on my hands that I have ever been mixed up in and I think that you’ll forgive me for calling you when I tell you about it.”
Dr. Bird groaned into the telephone transmitter.
“I took a vacation last summer, or tried to, and you hauled me away from the best fishing I have found in years to help you on a case. This year I traveled all the way from Washington to San Francisco to get away from you and the very day that I get here you are after me. I won’t have anything to do with it. Where are you, anyway?”
“I am at Fallon, Nevada, Doctor. I’m sorry that you won’t help me out because the case promises to be unusually interesting. Let me at least tell you about it.”
Dr. Bird groaned louder than ever into the telephone transmitter.
“All right, go ahead and tell me about it if it will relieve your mind, but I have given you my final answer. I am not a bit interested in it.”
“That is quite all right, Doctor, I 296 don’t expect you to touch it. I hope, however, that you will be able to give me an idea of where to start. Did you ever see a man’s body broken in pieces?”
“Do you mean badly smashed up?”
“No indeed, I mean just what I said, broken in pieces. Legs snapped off as though the entire flesh had become brittle.”
“No, I didn’t, and neither did anyone else.”
“I have seen it, Doctor.”
“Hooey! What had you been drinking?”
Operative Carnes of the United States Secret Service chuckled softly to himself. The voice of the famous scientist of the Bureau of Standards plainly showed an interest which was quite at variance with his words.
“I was quite sober, Doctor, and so was Hughes, and we both saw it.”
“Who is Hughes?”
“He is an air mail pilot, one of the crack fliers of the Transcontinental Airmail Corporation. Let me tell you the whole thing in order.”
“All right. I have a few minutes to spare, but I’ll warn you again that I don’t intend to touch the case.”
“Suit yourself, Doctor. I have no authority to requisition your services. As you know, the T. A. C. has been handling a great deal of the transcontinental air mail with a pretty clean record on accidents. The day before yesterday, a special plane left Washington to carry two packages from there to San Francisco. One of them was a shipment of jewels valued at a quarter of a million, consigned to a San Francisco firm and the other was a sealed packet from the War Department. No one was supposed to know the contents of that packet except the Chief of Staff who delivered it to the plane personally, but rumors got out, as usual, and it was popularly supposed to contain certain essential features of the Army’s war plans. This much is certain: The plane carried not only the regular T. A. C. pilot and courier, but also an army courier, and it was guarded during the trip by an army plane armed with small bombs and a machine-gun. I rode in it. My orders were simply to guard the ship until it landed at Mills Field and then to guard the courier from there to the Presidio of San Francisco until his packet was delivered personally into the hands of the Commanding General of the Ninth Corps Area.
“The trip was quiet and monotonous until after we left Salt Lake City at dawn this morning. Nothing happened until we were about a hundred miles east of Reno. We had taken elevation to cross the Stillwater Mountains and were skimming low over them, my plane trailing the T. A. C. plane by about half a mile. I was not paying any particular attention to the other ship when I suddenly felt our plane leap ahead. It was a fast Douglas and the pilot gave it the gun and made it move, I can tell you. I yelled into the speaking tube and asked what was the reason. My pilot yelled back that the plane ahead was in trouble.
“As soon as it was called to my attention I could see myself that it wasn’t acting normally. It was losing elevation and was pursuing a very erratic course. Before we could reach it it lost flying speed and fell into a spinning nose dive and headed for the ground. I watched, expecting every minute to see the crew make parachute jumps, but they didn’t and the plane hit the ground with a terrific crash.”
“It caught fire, of course?”
“No, Doctor, that is one of the funny things about the accident. It didn’t. It hit the ground in an open place free from brush and literally burst into pieces, but it didn’t flame up. We headed directly for the scene of the crash and we encountered another funny thing. We almost froze to death.”
“What do you mean?”
“Exactly what I say. Of course, it’s 297 pretty cold at that altitude all the time, but this cold was like nothing I had ever encountered. It seemed to freeze the blood in our veins and it congealed frost on the windshields and made the motor miss for a moment. It was only momentary and it only existed directly over the wrecked plane. We went past it and swung around in a circle and came back over the wreck, but we didn’t feel the cold again.
“The next thing we tried to do was to find a landing place. That country is pretty rugged and rough and there wasn’t a flat place for miles that was large enough to land a ship on. Hughes and I talked it over and there didn’t seem to be much of anything that we could do except to go on until we found a landing place. I had had no experience in parachute jumping and I couldn’t pilot the plane if Hughes jumped. We swooped down over the wreck as close as we dared and that was when we saw the condition of the bodies. The whole plane was cracked up pretty badly, but the weird part of it was the fact that the bodies of the crew had broken into pieces, as though they had been made of glass. Arms and legs were detached from the torsos and lying at a distance. There was no sign of blood on the ground. We saw all this with our naked eyes from close at hand and verified it by observations through binoculars from a greater height.
“When we had made our observations and marked the location of the wreck as closely as we could, we headed east until we found a landing place near Fallon. Hughes dropped me here and went on to Reno, or to San Francisco if necessary, to report the accident and get more planes to aid in the search. I was wholly at sea, but it seemed to be in your line and as I knew that you were at the St. Francis, I called you up.”
“What are your plans?”
“I made none until I talked with you. The country where the wreck occurred is unbelievably wild and we can’t get near it with any transportation other than burros. The only thing that I can see to do is to gather together what transportation I can and head for the wreck on foot to rescue the packets and to bring out the bodies. Can you suggest anything better?”
“When do you expect to start?”
“As soon as I can get my pack train together. Possibly in three or four hours.”
“Carnes, are you sure that those bodies were broken into bits? An arm or a leg might easily be torn off in a complete crash.”
“They were smashed into bits as nearly as I could tell, Doctor. Hughes is an old flier and he has seen plenty of crashes but he never saw anything like this. It beats anything that I ever saw.”
“If your observations were accurate, there could be only one cause and that one is a patent impossibility. I haven’t a bit of equipment here, but I expect that I can get most of the stuff I want from the University of California across the bay at Berkeley. I can get a plane at Crissy Field. I’ll tell you what to do, Carnes. Get your burro train together and start as soon as you can, but leave me half a dozen burros and a guide at Fallon. I’ll get up there as soon as I can and I’ll try to overtake you before you get to the wreck. If I don’t, don’t disturb anything any more than you can help until my arrival. Do you understand?”
“I thought that you were on your vacation, Doctor.”
“Oh shut up! Like most of my vacations, this one will have to be postponed. I’ll move as swiftly as I can and I ought to be at Fallon to-night if I’m lucky and don’t run into any obstacles. Burros are fairly slow, but I’ll make the best time possible.”
“I rather expected you would, Doctor. I can’t get my pack train together until evening, so I’ll wait for you right here. I’m mighty glad that