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The Solar Magnet   By: (1894-1972)

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Transcriber's Note: This e text was produced from Astounding Stories October 1931. Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed.

[Illustration: Pistol in hand, the two men watched the oncoming lights. ]

The Solar Magnet

By Capt. S. P. Meek

Another episode in Dr. Bird's long scientific duel with his country's arch enemy, Saranoff.

The milling crowd in front of the Capitol suddenly grew quiet. A tall portly figure came out onto the porch of the building and stepped before a microphone erected on the steps. A battery of press cameras clicked. A newsreel photographer ground away on his machine. Wild cheers rent the air. The President held up his hand for silence. As the cheering died away he spoke into the microphone.

"My countrymen," he said, "the Congress of the United States has met in extraordinary session and is ready to cope with the condition with which we are confronted. While they deliberate as to the steps to be taken, it is essential that you meet this danger, if it be a danger, with the bravery and the calm front which has always characterized the people of the United States in times of trial and danger. You may rest assured "

A slightly built, inconspicuous man who had followed the President out onto the porch was surveying the crowd intently. He turned and spoke in an undertone to a second man who mysteriously appeared from nowhere as the first man spoke. He listened for a moment, nodded, and edged closer to the President. The first man slipped unobtrusively down the Capitol steps and mingled with the crowd.

" that no steps will be neglected which may prove of value," went on the President. "The greatest scientists of the country have gathered in this city in conference and they undoubtedly will soon find a simple and natural explanation for what is happening. In the meantime "

The President paused. From the crowd in front of him came a sudden disturbance. A man sprang free of the crowd and broke through the restraining cordon of police. In his hand gleamed an ugly blue steel automatic pistol. Quickly he leveled it and fired. A puff of dust came from the Capitol. The bullet had landed a few inches from one of the lower windows, fifty feet from where the President stood. He raised his weapon for a second shot but it was never fired. The man who had come down the Capitol steps sprang forward like a cat and grasped the weapon. For a moment the two men struggled, but only for a moment. From the crowd, stunned for a moment by the sheer audacity of the attack, came a roar of rage. The police closed in about the struggling men but the crowd rolled over them like a wave. The captor shouted his identity and tried to display the gold badge of the secret service but the mob was in no state of mind to listen. The police were trampled underfoot and the would be assassin torn from the hands of the secret service operative. Every man in reach tried to strike a blow. The secret service man was buffeted and thrown aside. Realizing that the affair had been taken out of his hands, he made his way to the rear of the Capitol where his badge gained him ready passage through the cordon of police. He entered the building and reappeared in a few moments by the side of the President.

Two hours later he leaned forward in his chair in Dr. Bird's private laboratory in the Bureau of Standards and spoke earnestly.

"Dr. Bird," he said, "that bullet was never meant for the President. That man was after bigger game."

The famous scientist nodded thoughtfully.

"Even a very rotten pistol shot should have come closer to him," he replied. "He must have missed by a good forty feet... Continue reading book >>




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