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Poisoned Air   By: (1894-1972)

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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.

[Illustration: Dr. Bird fell back under the ferocity of her attack. ]

Poisoned Air

By Capt. S. P. Meek

[Sidenote: Again Dr. Bird closes with the evil Saranoff this time near the Aberdeen Proving Ground, in a deadly, mysterious blanket of fog.]

A telephone bell jangled insistently. The orderly on duty dropped his feet from the desk to the floor and lifted the receiver with a muttered curse.

"Post hospital, Aberdeen Proving Ground," he said sleepily, rubbing his eyes.

A burst of raucous coughing answered him. Several times it ceased for an instant and a voice tried to speak, but each time a fresh spasm of deep chested wracking coughing interrupted.

"Who is this?" demanded the now aroused orderly. "What's the matter?"

Between intervals of coughing difficultly enunciated words reached him.

"This is uch! uch! Lieutenant Burroughs at the uch! Michaelville range. We have been uch! caught in a cloud of poison uch! uch! gas. Send an ambulance and a uch! surgeon at once. Better bring uch! gas masks."

"At the Michaelville range, sir? How many men are down there?"

" Uch! uch! uch! five all help uch! uch! helpless. Hurry!"

"Yes, sir. I'll start two ambulances down at once, sir."

"Don't forget the uch! uch! gas uch! masks."

"No, sir; I'll send them, sir."

Five minutes later two ambulances rolled out of the garage and took the four mile winding ribbon of concrete which separated the Michaelville water impact range from the main front of the Aberdeen Proving Ground. On each ambulance was a hastily awakened and partially clothed medical officer. For three miles they tore along the curving road at high speed. Without warning the leading machine slowed down. The driver of the second ambulance shoved home his brake just in time to keep from ramming the leading vehicle.

"What's the matter?" he shouted.

As he spoke he gave a muttered curse and switched on his amber fog light. From the marshes on either side of the road a deep blanket of fog rolled up and enveloped the vehicle, almost shutting off the road from sight. The forward ambulance began to grope its way slowly forward. The senior medical officer sniffed the fog critically and shouted to his driver.

"Stop!" he cried. "There's something funny about this fog. Every one put on gas masks."

He coughed slightly as he adjusted his mask. His orders were shouted to the ambulance in the rear but before the masks could be adjusted, every member of the crew was vying with the rest in the frequency and violence of the coughs which he could emit. The masks did not seem to shut out the poisonous fog which crept in between the masks and the men's faces and seemed to take bodily possession of their lungs.

"I don't believe we'll ever make the last mile to Michaelville through this, Major," cried the driver between intervals of coughing. "Hadn't we better turn back while we can?"

"Drive on!" cried the medical officer. "We'll keep going as long as we can. Imagine what those poor devils on the range are going through without masks of any sort."

On through the rapidly thickening fog, the two ambulances groped their way. The road seemed interminable, but at length the flood lights of the Michaelville end of the range came dimly into view. As the vehicles stopped the two surgeons jumped to the ground and groped their way forward, stretcher bearers following them closely. Presently Major Martin stumbled over a body which lay at full length on the concrete runway between the two main buildings. He stooped and examined the man with the aid of a pocket flashlight... Continue reading book >>

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