Saturday, May 8, 2021

"The Virus Finds the Loopholes in His Armor, the Flaws in Each Organism"

HERE'S A VARIATION on the Mad Scientist trope, but the scientist in question isn't remotely mad; what he has concocted, however, most certainly is . . .

"The Mad Virus."
By Paul Edmonds (Henry Kuttner, 1915-58).
First appearance: Science Fiction, June 1940.
Reprints page (HERE).
Short story (13 pages as a PDF).
Online at Faded Page (HERE).
(Parental caution: Mild profanity and some violence.)

     "Kedrick and his mad band of gangsters seize Dr. Morgan and force him to reveal a great scientific secret that the criminal plans to use to bring horrible death to his enemies! Teague, the reporter, is about to inform the authorities and thus save a city from disaster—but Kedrick is too quick!"

Far too many have been the victim of extortion, but a go-getting newspaperman uncovers an extortion plot that just might be unique . . . .

Main characters:
~ Kedrick:
  ". . . a lean, well-dressed greyhound, with a handsome, expressionless face and very cold black eyes. He gripped a cane in bronzed, strong fingers."
~ Bill Teague:
  ". . . you’ve got a gun. Do me a favor. Use it on me."
~ Norma Morgan:
  "You can’t control the virus!"
~ Malley:
  "Take it! Don't hurt me—don't!"
~ The blond youth:
  "Holy smoke! He’s gone slap-happy. Are yours grand notes, too?"
~ The teller:
  ". . . didn’t look up. He leaned on the marble counter, slumped over, his shoulders sagging beneath a wrinkled coat. Teague noticed that the man’s clothes seemed much too large for him."
~ Stephen Morgan:
  ". . . looked older than his thirty-odd years. Grey hair frosted his temples. His thin, scholarly face was worn and haggard."
~ Baldy and Jevne:
  "One was a nervous, skinny, bucktoothed man with a tic under his left eye. The other was huge, stolid, dull-faced and quite bald."

References and resources:
- "virus": There are a lot more of them than there are of us: "A virus is a submicroscopic infectious agent that replicates only inside the living cells of an organism. Viruses infect all types of life forms, from animals and plants to microorganisms, including bacteria and archaea. Since Dmitri Ivanovsky's 1892 article describing a non-bacterial pathogen infecting tobacco plants and the discovery of the tobacco mosaic virus by Martinus Beijerinck in 1898, more than 6,000 virus species have been described in detail of the millions of types of viruses in the environment. Viruses are found in almost every ecosystem on Earth and are the most numerous type of biological entity." (Wikipedia HERE).
- "Not even a shiv": You get the point: "The word is prison slang for an improvised knife. The word generally applies to both stabbing and edged weapons. A shiv can be anything from a glass shard with fabric wrapped around one end to form a handle, to a razor blade stuck in the end of a toothbrush, to a simple toothbrush handle, filed into a sharp point." (Wikipedia HERE).
- "the protein molecule": The machinery of life itself: "Like other biological macromolecules such as polysaccharides and nucleic acids, proteins are essential parts of organisms and participate in virtually every process within cells. Many proteins are enzymes that catalyse biochemical reactions and are vital to metabolism." (Wikipedia HERE).
- "his parathyroid gland": We all need them: "Parathyroid glands are small endocrine glands in the neck of humans and other tetrapods. Humans usually have four parathyroid glands, located on the back of the thyroid gland in variable locations. The parathyroid gland produces and secretes parathyroid hormone in response to a low blood calcium, which plays a key role in regulating the amount of calcium in the blood and within the bones." (Wikipedia HERE).
- "There’s an antitoxin": It can save your life: "An antitoxin is an antibody with the ability to neutralize a specific toxin. Antitoxins are produced by certain animals, plants, and bacteria in response to toxin exposure. Although they are most effective in neutralizing toxins, they can also kill bacteria and other microorganisms. Antitoxins are made within organisms, and can be injected into other organisms, including humans, to treat an infectious disease" (Wikipedia HERE).
- "extortion": Its definition can vary depending on where you are: "Extortion is distinguished from robbery. In robbery, whether armed or not, the offender takes property from the victim by the immediate use of force or fear that force will be immediately used. Extortion, which is not limited to the taking of property, involves the verbal or written instillation of fear that something will happen to the victim if they do not comply with the extortionist's will. Another key distinction is that extortion always involves a verbal or written threat, whereas robbery may not. In United States federal law, extortion can be committed with or without the use of force and with or without the use of a weapon." (Wikipedia (HERE). Ian Fleming dreamed up what might be the ultimate extortion ring, SPECTRE. (Wikipedia HERE).
- Just the other day we featured Henry Kuttner's time travel tale, "The Transgressor" (HERE).
- It's surprising how many crime stories that we've featured on ONTOS involve news reporting, just a few of them being:
  . . . George Dilnot's "Silverdale of Brain Street" (HERE)
  . . . Stephen Leacock's "Who Do You Think Did It? or, The Mixed-Up Murder Mystery" (HERE)
  . . . Will F. Jenkins's "Headline" (HERE)
  . . . Those "Plucky Girl Reporters" (HERE)
  . . . David Goodis's "It's a Wise Cadaver" (HERE)
  . . . Carl Jacobi's "Enter the Nebula" (HERE)
  . . . and Robert R. Mill's "Mrs. Murder" (HERE).


  1. I'm tempted to pick up a copy of Kuttner's novel FURY. Have you read that one?

    1. I'm hoping to get around to it, but it might be a while.