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THE HORMONE MENACE

A Complete Novelette of Future Conflict

By Eando Binder

Author of "Spawn of Eternal Thought," etc.


CHAPTER I
The Giants

WINGING its way down from the clouds, a snub-nosed Boske leveled at two thousand altitude. It was a hell-dark night, no moon or stars, and, below, a few twinkling lights marked a habited spot in the general desolation of that region. The airplane, its motor purring almost noiselessly, crawled along—warily, it seemed."

When it was almost directly over the cluster of lights a figure dived from its rear cockpit and disappeared, falling rapidly. The quiet little Boske went onsteadily. A while farther its purring deepened and the airplane rose, disappearing into the heavy cloud-bank.

James Wistert, secret operative S-23 United North America, extricated himself from his parachute harness and stood erect to breathe deep of the air over enemy land.

"Well," he mused, "here I am. Hope the rest is as easy."

He knew it wouldn't be. Not daring to light a match, he fumbled on the ground in the pitch darkness for a bulky bundle heavily wrapped in oil-skin which he unleashed from the parachute straps. With it under one arm, he felt around his middle.

"Food pellets—flashlight—ammunition—automatic—okay."

He was not far, apparently, from his destination, for he could see a glow of hidden lights beyond a rise of the ground. The parachute would occasion suspicion when found the next day. But Wistert expected to be safely away before the night had passed. If not—well, such was fate.

Topping the rise, the spy saw, not a quarter of a mile away, a large brick building from whose windows lights glowed. A lone building in a boulder-strewn, uncultivated region in the heart of the Allied States of Europe. What purpose did it serve? What mysterious connection did it have with the terrific war going on between Europe and America?

When the building loomed close, Wistert stopped in the shadow of a large rock. He undid his package, and draped about himself a hooded suit of a peculiar crinkly material. It seemed made of metallic fiber, and a half-dozen insulated wires ran from various parts of it to a heavy, flat, rubberized case which he strapped to his chest. The suit covered him completely from head to foot. It had two small glass-shielded peepholes for his eyes, and its hem dragged on the ground.

Snapping a small switch at the side of the case on his chest, the spy felt a tingling sensation. But that was all. Somehow, he had expected more. They had assured him back at headquarters that, wearing the suit, he was invisible to others except for a faint, indistinct halo. Such a thing did not seem possible, but in these remarkable days of the late twentieth century anything could happen, This Invisibility Cloak was one of the enemy inventions. The one he was wearing was the only one his country ever confiscated. That alone bespoke the importance of his present mission.

Anxious to test the thing—but apprehensive at the same time—Wistert stepped from the rock's shadow and strode warily toward the large brick building.

THE side he approached was unbroken by even a single doorway. I Rounding the corner, the spy muffled a gasp as a uniformed man shouldering a rifle came toward him. Instinctively his gauntleted hand dove for his automatic; then he relaxed sheepishly. For the soldier passed not ten feet away, staring straight at him. Yet not at him, but through him!

His nerves somewhat shaken, Wistert followed the wall. Under the first doorway he reached stood another guard. The spy paused. To enter this portal he must open the door and shove past the guard.

Wistert thought of a dozen and one plans in the space of a minute. The dilemma was still unsolved when he stiffened suddenly at the sound of a motor. The guard came to attention as a big black sedan whirled down the tar road, coming to a stop thirty feet away. Two figures stepped from the car and approached.

Wistert's eyes grew big as the foremost figure was revealed in the light over the door. Baron Laiglon, ordnance chief of the North African sector! The mysterious building took on a new significance in the American's mind.

The guard now knocked on the door, and stood aside. It was opportunity knocking for Wistert. He followed the two men in like their shadows' shadow; fate was still with him. Beyond the door he quickly edged to one wall of a corridor as the two officers strode ahead.

Careful not to scrape his shoes on the hardwood floor, the spy followed down the hallway, which seemed to stretch interminably. Finally the two officers paused before a great steel door.

The baron's companion stood before a Ronaldson scanning disc and pressed the button below it. There was a click of relays, the interplay of photo-electric beams, and then the steel portal rolled aside like a dinner plate. Perhaps it was fortunate that the two officers were speaking as they stepped beyond the threshold; else they might have heard the hurried tread of their invisible follower as he squeezed through with them. The ponderous steel valve rolled back into place.

The one man spoke a few low words to the guard standing at attention—he who had scanned the transmitted image and opened the seal upon seeing who it was—and then motioned for the baron to follow. Like a ghost, Wistert slipped along in their wake.

A staircase led below at the end of this new corridor. Wistert paused at the bottom to see the two officers enter an elevator car, which immediately descended. The spy stared around, surprised. There were no less than ten elevator shafts opening upon the room. From the opposite side led half a dozen large corridors. What lay below this mysterious brick building?

The spy became aware of a steady vibration in the floor, as of ponderous machinery. Speculatively he eyed the sentinel leaning against the wall. Perhaps; if the guard were out of the way, Wistert might get on an elevator himself, for they were automatic.

Prepared to take the risk involved, he was about to step forward when one of the elevators came up. As its grillwork door was pulled aside, a dozen men stepped out. The spy gasped.

Those men were giants! Each was eight feet tall and built proportionately. Their faces were brutish in cast, thick-lipped. They were obviously witless creatures, mere mountains of strength. Dressed in baggy jumpers of denim, they trudged forward silently and awkwardly, followed by two guards who had ready pistols and barked sharply in tones of command....

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