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"Poised between intransigent scepticism and uncritical credulity, it [science fiction] is par excellence the literature of the open mind."
- John Brunner

Mercy Gas  
  Breathe it and die.  

A girl passenger screamed. Pelican whirled and saw a figure at the door, a gas mask over its face, its fingers upon the pet cock of a long, black cylinder reposing in its arms. Petrified, the group stared at the mercy-gas container and at its goggle-eyed bearer.
From The Saga of Pelican West, by Eric Frank Russell.
Published by Astounding Science Fiction in 1937
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