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The Floating Island of Madness   By:

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This etext was produced from Astounding Stories January 1933. Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed.

The Floating Island of Madness

By Jason Kirby

[Sidenote: Far above the Arabian Desert three Secret Service men find an aerial island whose inhabitants are madmen.]

Above us curved the pale, hot bowl of cloudless sky; below us stretched the rolling, tawny wastes of the great Arabian Desert; and away to the east, close to the dipping horizon, scudded the tiny speck we were following. We had been following it since dawn and it was now close to sunset. Where was it leading us? Should we go on or turn back? How much longer would our gas and oil hold out? And just where were we? I turned and saw my questions reflected in the eyes of my companions, Paul Foulet of the French Sureté and Douglas Brice of Scotland Yard.

"Too fast!" shouted Brice above the roar of our motors. I nodded. His gesture explained his meaning. The plane ahead had suddenly taken on a terrific, unbelievable speed. All day it had traveled normally, maintaining, but not increasing, the distance between us. But in the last fifteen minutes it had leaped into space. Fifteen minutes before it had been two miles in the lead; now it was barely visible. A tiny, vanishing speck. What could account for this burst of superhuman speed? Who was in that plane? What was in that plane?

I glanced at Foulet. He shrugged non committally, waving a courteous hand toward Brice. I understood; I agreed with him. This was Brice's party, and the decision was up to him. Foulet and I just happened to be along; it was partly design and partly coincidence.

Two days before I had been in Constantinople. I was disheartened and utterly disgusted. All the way from the home office of the United States Secret Service in Washington I had trailed my man, only to lose him. On steamships, by railway, airplane and motor we had traveled always with my quarry just one tantalizing jump ahead of me and in Constantinople I had lost him. And it was a ruse a child should have seen through. I could have beaten my head against a wall.

And then, suddenly, I had run into Foulet. Not ten days before I had talked to him in his office in Paris. I had told him a little of my errand, for I was working on the hunch that this man I was after concerned not only the United States, but France and the Continent as well. And what Foulet told me served only to strengthen my conviction. So, meeting him in Constantinople was a thin ray of light in my disgusted darkness. At least I could explode to a kindred spirit.

"Lost your man!" was his greeting. And it wasn't a question; it was a statement.

"How did you know?" I growled. My humiliation was too fresh to stand kidding.

"Constantinople," said Foulet amiably. "You always lose them in Constantinople. I've lost three here."

"Three?" I said, "Like mine!"

"Exactly," he nodded. Then he lowered his voice. "Come to my hotel. We can talk there."

"Now," he continued fifteen minutes later as we settled ourselves in his room, "you were very circumspect in Paris. You told me little just a hint here and there. But it was enough. You the United States have joined our ranks "

"You mean "

"I mean that for a year we, the various secret service organizations of the Continent and that includes, of course, Scotland Yard have been after Well, to be frank, we don't know what we're after. But we do know this. There is a power there is someone, somewhere, who is trying to conquer the world."

[Illustration: A white speck took shape beneath the rising Island. ]

"Are you serious?" I glanced at him but the tight lines of his set mouth convinced me. "I beg your pardon," I murmured. "Go ahead."

"I don't blame you for thinking it was a jest," he said imperturbably, "But, to prove I know what I'm talking about, let me tell you what this man has done whom you have been pursuing... Continue reading book >>

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