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White Fang

by Jack London PART I CHAPTER I—THE TRAIL OF THE MEAT Dark spruce forest frowned on either side the frozen waterway. The trees had been stripped by a recent wind of their white covering of frost, and they ...

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The Imitation of Earth

by James Stamers: Once they had been human—now they shared a remarkable destiny on an incredible new planet.... He was in some dark, moving medium which pressed him gently and released him and pressed against him again with ...

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The Travels of Marco Polo — Volume 1

Author:  Polo, Marco, 1254-1323? Subject: Voyages and travels Download full book

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Metamorphosis

by Franz Kafka I One morning, when Gregor Samsa woke from troubled dreams, he found himself transformed in his bed into a horrible vermin. He lay on his armour-like back, and if he lifted his head a ...

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The Declaration of Independence of the United States of America

Author: Jefferson, Thomas, 1743-1826 Subject: This is the original PG edition. Download full book

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From the Earth to the Moon; and, Round the Moon

by Jules Verne CHAPTER I THE GUN CLUB During the War of the Rebellion, a new and influential club was established in the city of Baltimore in the State of Maryland. It is well known with what energy ...

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The Odyssey

by Homer BOOK I THE GODS IN COUNCIL—MINERVA'S VISIT TO ITHACA—THE CHALLENGE FROM TELEMACHUS TO THE SUITORS. Tell me, O Muse, of that ingenious hero who travelled far and wide after he had sacked the famous town of ...

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The Sea-Wolf

by Jack London CHAPTER I I scarcely know where to begin, though I sometimes facetiously place the cause of it all to Charley Furuseth’s credit. He kept a summer cottage in Mill Valley, under the shadow of ...

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THE TRAGEDY OF ROMEO AND JULIET

by William Shakespeare ACT I. Scene I. Verona. A public place. Enter Sampson and Gregory (with swords and bucklers) of the house of Capulet. Samp. Gregory, on my word, we'll not carry coals. Greg. No, for then we should ...

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ADVENTURES OF HUCKLEBERRY FINN

By Mark Twain CHAPTER I. YOU don't know about me without you have read a book by the name of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer; but that ain't no matter. That book was made by Mr. Mark ...

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The jungle book

By Rudyard Kipling MOWGLI'S BROTHERS I T was seven o'clock of a very warm evening in the Seeonee hills when Father Wolf woke up from his day's rest, scratched himself, yawned, and spread out his paws one after the ...

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The Troublemakers

by George O. Smith: What did Genetics and Hansen's Folly have in common? Why, everything ... Genetics was statistical and Hansen's Folly impossible! I The living room reflected wealth, position, good taste. In size it was a full ten feet ...

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Three Men in a Boat

by Jerome K. Jerome CHAPTER I. Three invalids.—Sufferings of George and Harris.—A victim to one hundred and seven fatal maladies.—Useful prescriptions.—Cure for liver complaint in children.—We agree that we are overworked, and need rest.—A week on the ...

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How to Live on 24 Hours a Day

Author:  Bennett, Arnold, 1867-1931 Contents: Preface -- The daily miracle -- The desire to exceed one's programme -- Precautions before beginning -- The cause of the trouble -- Tennis and the immortal soul -- Remember human ...

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David Copperfield

By Charles Dickens CHAPTER 1. I AM BORN Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station will be held by anybody else, these pages must show. To begin ...

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OLIVER TWIST

by Charles Dickens CHAPTER I TREATS OF THE PLACE WHERE OLIVER TWIST WAS BORN AND OF THE CIRCUMSTANCES ATTENDING HIS BIRTH Among other public buildings in a certain town, which for many reasons it will be prudent to refrain ...

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The Cosmic Computer

by H. Beam Piper I Thirty minutes to Litchfield. Conn Maxwell, at the armor-glass front of the observation deck, watched the landscape rush out of the horizon and vanish beneath the ship, ten thousand feet down. He thought ...

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The Return of Tarzan

by Edgar Rice Burroughs Chapter I The Affair on the Liner "Magnifique!" ejaculated the Countess de Coude, beneath her breath. "Eh?" questioned the count, turning toward his young wife. "What is it that is magnificent?" and the count bent ...

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THE REPUBLIC

By Plato INTRODUCTION AND ANALYSIS. The Republic of Plato is the longest of his works with the exception of the Laws, and is certainly the greatest of them. There are nearer approaches to modern metaphysics in the ...

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Don Juan

By Lord Byron DEDICATION Bob Southey! You're a poet, poet laureate, And representative of all the race. Although 'tis true that you turned out a Tory at Last, yours has lately been a common case. And now my epic renegade, what ...

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Oh, Rats!

by Miriam Allen DeFord

SK540, the 27th son of two very ordinary white laboratory rats, surveyed his world.

He was no more able than any other rat to possess articulate speech, or to use his paws as hands. All he had was a brain which, relative to its size, was superior to any rat’s that had hitherto appeared on Earth. It was enough.

In the first week of gestation his embryo had been removed to a more suitable receptacle than the maternal womb, and his brain had been stimulated with orthedrin, maxiton and glutamic acid. It had been continuously irrigated with blood. One hemisphere had been activated far in excess of the other, since previous experiments had shown that increased lack of symmetry between the hemispheres produced superior mentality. The end-result was an enormous increase in brain-cells in both hemispheres. His brain showed also a marked increase in cholinesterase over that of other rats.

SK540, in other words, was a super-rat.

The same processes had been applied to all his brothers and sisters. Most of them had died. The few who did not, failed to show the desired results, or showed them in so lopsided and partial a manner that it was necessary to destroy them.

All of this, of course had been mere preparation and experimentation with a view to later developments in human subjects. What SK540’s gods had not anticipated was that they would produce a creature mentally the superior, not only of his fellow-rats, but also, in some respects, of themselves.

He was a super-rat: but he was still a rat. His world of dreams and aspirations was not human, but murine.

What would you do if you were a brilliant, moody young super-rat, caged in a laboratory?

SK540 did it.

What human beings desired was health, freedom, wealth, love, and power. So did SK540. But to him health was taken for granted; freedom was freedom from cages, traps, cats, and dogs; wealth meant shelter from cold and rain and plenty to eat; love meant a constant supply of available females.

But power! It was in his longing for power that he most revealingly displayed his status as super-rat.

Therefore, once he had learned how to open his cage, he was carefully selective of the companions—actually, the followers—whom he would release to join his midnight hegira from the laboratory. Only the meekest and most subservient of the males—intelligent but not too intelligent—and the most desirable and amiable of the females were invited.

Once free of the cages, SK540 had no difficulty in leading his troop out of the building. The door of the laboratory was locked, but a window was slightly open from the top. Rats can climb up or down.

Like a silver ribbon they flowed along the dark street, SK540, looking exactly like all the rest, at their head. Only one person in the deserted streets seems to have noticed them, and he did not understand the nature of the phenomenon.

Young Mr. and Mrs. Philip Vinson started housekeeping in what had once been a mansion. It was now a rundown eyesore.

It had belonged to Norah Vinson’s great-aunt Martha, who had left it to her in her will. The estate was in litigation, but the executor had permitted the Vinsons to settle down in the house, though they weren’t allowed yet to sell it. It had no modern conveniences, and was full of rooms they couldn’t use and heavy old-fashioned furniture; but it was solidly built and near the laboratory where he worked as a technician, and they could live rent-free until they could sell the house and use the money to buy a real home.

“Something funny happened in the lab last night,” Philip reported, watching Norah struggle with dinner on the massive coal-stove. “Somebody broke in and stole about half our experimental animals. And they got our pride and joy.”

“The famous SK540?” Norah asked.

“The same. Actually, it wasn’t a break-in. It must have been an inside job. The cages were open but there were no signs of breaking and entering. We’re all under suspicion till they find out who-dunit.”

Norah looked alarmed.

“You too? What on earth would anybody want with a lot of laboratory rats? They aren’t worth anything, are they—financially, I mean?”

“Not a cent. That’s why I’m sure one of the clean-up kids must have done it. Probably wanted them for pets. They’re all tame, of course, not like wild rats—though they can bite like wild rats if they want to. Some of the ones missing are treated, and some are controls. It would just be a nuisance if they hadn’t taken SK540. Now they’ve got to find him, or do about five years’ work over again, without any assurance of as great a success. To say nothing of letting our super-rat loose on the world.”

“What on earth could even a super-rat do that would matter—to human beings, I mean?”

“Nobody knows. Maybe that’s what we’re going to find out.”

That night Norah woke suddenly with a loud scream. Philip got the gas lighted—there was no electricity in the old house—and held her shaking body in his arms. She found her breath at last long enough to sob: “It was a rat! A rat ran right over my face!”

“You’re dreaming, darling. It’s because I told you about the theft at the lab. There couldn’t be rats in this place. It’s too solidly built, from the basement up.”

He finally got her to sleep again, but he lay awake for a long time, listening. Nothing happened.

Rats can’t talk, but they can communicate. About the time Norah Vinson dropped off after her frightened wakening, SK540 was confronting a culprit. The culprit was one of the liberated males. His beady eyes tried to gaze into the implacable ones of SK540, but his tail twitched nervously and if he bared his teeth it was more in terror than in fight. They all knew that strict orders had been given not to disturb the humans in the house until SK540 had all his preparations made.

A little more of that silent communication, and the rat who had run over Norah’s face knew he had only two choices—have his throat slit or get out. He got.

“What do you know?” Philip said that evening. “One of our rats came back.”

“By itself?”

“Yeah. I never heard of such a thing. It was one of the experimental ones, so it was smarter than most, though not such an awful lot. I never heard of a rat with homing instinct before. But when we opened up this morning, there he was, sitting in his cage, ready for breakfast.”

“Speaking of breakfast, I thought I asked you to buy a big box of oatmeal on your way home yesterday. It’s about the only thing in the way of cereal I can manage on that old stove.”

“I did buy it. Don’t you remember? I left it in the kitchen.”

“Well, it wasn’t there this morning. All I know is that you’re going to have nothing but toast and coffee tomorrow. We seem to be out of eggs, too. And bacon. And I thought we had half a pound left of that cheese, but that’s gone too.”

“Good Lord, Norah, if you’ve got that much marketing to do, can’t you do it yourself?”

“Sure, if you leave the car. I’m not going to walk all that way and back.”

So of course Philip did do the shopping the next day. Besides, Norah had just remembered she had a date at the hairdresser’s.

When he got home her hair was still uncurled and she was in hysterics. One of the many amenities great-aunt Martha’s house lacked was a telephone; anyway, Norah couldn’t have been coherent over one. She cast herself, shuddering and crying, into Philip’s arms, and it was a long time before he got her soothed enough for her to gasp: “Philip! They wouldn’t let me out!”

“They? Who? What do you mean?”

“The—the rats! The white rats. They made a ring around me at the front door so I couldn’t open it. I ran to the back and they beat me there and did the same thing. I even tried the windows but it was no use. And their teeth—they all—I guess I went to pieces. I started throwing things at them and they just dodged. I yelled for help but there’s nobody near enough to hear. Then I gave up and ran in our bedroom and slammed the door on them, but they left guards outside. I heard them squeaking till you drove up, then I heard them run away.”

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Second Variety
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