But this time, Lance swore, they'd not get away without paying dearly for it! Under the mesh of his gas-mask the lean lines of his jaw went taut. Tense, steely fingers flipped to the knobbed control instruments; the gleaming single-seater scout plane catapulted in a screaming somersault. Lance's ever-wary sixth sense told him the tongues of disintegrating flame had licked the plane's protected belly, and for the fact that it was protected he thanked again his stupendous luck.
He pulled savagely at the squat control stick; the four Rahl-Diesels unleashed a torrent of power; and the slim scout rose like a comet, and hurtled, the altitude dial's nervous finger proclaimed, to ten thousand feet. Lance eased off the power, relaxed slightly, and glanced below. They'd started off a squadron of fifteen planes. Thirteen had crumpled beneath that treacherous, stabbing curtain of disintegrating flame. Only two of them were left--he and Praed. Praed, of course! The fellow's plane was pirouetting nearby.
Lance was the squadron leader. He jammed his thin-lipped mouth close to the "mike" and rasped: "They trapped us again! There's some damn spy at our base. Stand by, Praed! They'll send up a few men to wipe us out, too Presently it came. Hall, Sewell Peaslee Wright, H. Thompson Rich, Charles Willard Diffin]. More information about this seller Contact this seller 8. Wesso] [Jack Williamson, H. Winter, H. Thompson Rich, A. Holmes, Nat Schachner, Arthur L. More information about this seller Contact this seller 9. Wesso] [D.
Hall, Anthony Gilmore, Captain S. Meek, F. First Edition; First Printing. Single Issue magazine. A good only copy with yellowed cellophane tape to the spine area, edge creasing and a few short edge tears to the cover, text paper tanned. See Photos ; Small 4to 9" - 11" tall; pages. Whbx 7. More information about this seller Contact this seller Item added to your basket View basket.
Proceed to Basket. View basket. Continue shopping. Title: astounding stories Results 1 - 10 of It was unjust to accuse a man of that without definite, positive proof. The little mechanic muttered some mysterious cockney curse, and then said, in an admiring tone: "'Ow many of the swines' planes 'ave you shot down now, sir? The cockney shot his breath out with a whistle. You'll be up to that there Captain Hay soon if you keeps it up, sir!
Hay, the almost legendary hero of the American Air Force—who had shot down, so latest rumors said, fifty Slav planes—was far above him. I'll be doing pretty well if I bag half as many! Praed's thin, sunblackened countenance was immovable, masklike. His blue-green eyes met Lance's steadily.
Finally Lance snorted and burst out: "Why the hell did you run away, Praed? Scared stiff? That lousy crack about your motors being shot! He's got a few ideas on the subject. What would Douglas say to him? Accuse him outright of his suspicions? Put him under arrest as a spy? But he couldn't do that: there was, after all, no proof. Lance swore to himself; then, feeling a wave of weariness surge over him, went to the shack he was quartered in, kicked off his battered boots, stripped away his Sam Browne, and flung his lean body out on the hard, gray-sheeted cot. Seconds later he was lost in the sleep that comes to the physically exhausted.
The desperate situation America was in, the whole savage war—everything, faded from his mind. But to right and left of that cot stretched others—empty. The brave squadron Lance had led into the blue sky that morning now lay charred skeletons around the flame-throwers that had struck them down. And in a dozen other aircraft bases behind the hard pressed lines were other empty cots. Time and time again the Slav planes shot down two to the Americans' one; time and time again the treacherous disintegrating flames—the weapon which baffled America's scientists—had struck down whole squadrons that had been lured into traps, even as Lance's had been lured.
And even the Slav forces pushed forward The night was hot and sticky; somewhere, miles to the rear of the base, the batteries of long-distance guns were beginning their nightly serenade. Lance followed the orderly's broad, chunky back to the colonel's office. The colonel gazed up with tired eyes from the welter of maps on his desk.
A fresh batch of youngsters came in this afternoon to fill the empty files; two dozen new planes arrived by transport, too. I'm sending ten of them over for the night patrol; Stephens will take your place. I've got another errand for you—and Praed. Douglas ordered him to attend to some errand and the orderly left. To-night we'll give him the acid test. There have been rumors that the Slavs are massing there, and we want positive information. There's sure to be a fight. Watch Praed carefully. If he steers clear of any scrapping, well have enough to court-martial him on.
It's a dangerous errand, Lance, but I'm confident you'll come through, as always. There's no one else who could handle the job. God, man, you're getting close to Hay's record! You'll be the top-notcher of the service soon! When do we take off, sir? Come and get the dope from these maps.
Hill 's rather difficult to find. He said quietly: "Yes. The Slavs took twenty-five miles from us down in the lower sector. Just wiped our boys out. Those damnable flamethrowers and bullet-proof tanks, supported by God knows how many hundreds of planes. It's hell, Lance! Headquarters thinks they're going to unleash a general attack all along the line in the next few days. And our resources—well, our back's against the wall. We're coming to death grips, man. Lance pressed the starting button. His four motors choked, sputtered, then burst into a sweet, fullthroated roar.
He glanced over at Praed's plane, spun the small helicopter props over and pushed down the accelerator. The plane quivered, stuck its snout up and leaped like an arrow into the clean, darkening air. Lance gunned it to ten thousand feet, Praed following him neatly. Praed was a good pilot, no doubt about that. The two fighting machines hung for a second side by side; Lance eased off his helicopters and streaked away into the gloom at a breath-taking five hundred.
They're the men to do it, anyway. No better pilots in the whole service. Colonel Douglas smiled. Lance, at thirty thousand feet—the Rahl-Diesels, with their perfected superchargers, were easily capable of a ceiling of sixty—had hovered above the position of Hill , pulled on his gas-mask and said through the microphone to Praed: "Power dive to three thousand feet.
Release your flares and take in all you can before they send up planes. We'll take 'em by surprise, but there's bound to be a fight. Got it? Nothing doing! Like angry hornets five Slav planes pounced on them at ten thousand feet. They'd been waiting there! Lance cursed savagely. He flung off his flares, Immelmanned up, and in less than two seconds had sent one Slav shrieking to the ground in flames.
For the moment forgetting Praed, Lance followed after his flares, three Slavs attempting to sight their guns on the twisting, writhing, corkscrewing body of his Goshawk.
He knew there were disintegrating flame-throwers below, but gambled on their not shooting because of the enemy scouts diving with him. Flattening out at perhaps a thousand feet, Lance threw a rapid stare at the bulk of Hill He drew his breath in sharply. Lit dazzlingly by the bleaching white of the slow-floating flares, huge rows of the dreaded Slav tanks were clustered all around the hill! As he looked, ten more Slav planes came soaring up from the ground.
This was too hot! The thought of Praed stabbed through Lance's whirling brain; he pulled the scout around, doubled over the three closing in on his tail, and belched lead for an instant at one he'd caught off guard. It collapsed like a punctured paper bag. Lance grinned and bounded to the upper regions. The two other Slavs let the crazy Yank go for the instant, joining forces with the ten brothers coming to help them out. Lance, again at ten thousand, looked for Praed. Far above, he glimpsed two planes, circling and diving. Praed seemed to be fighting, at any rate!
As he watched, the two scouts catapulted still higher; became tiny, almost imperceptible dots, visible only in the reflected light of the flares. Then Lance felt a shaft of ice along his spine. The two planes had practically hugged each other for a second. Then one of them fell away, somersaulted, tumbled down wildly—out of control. It passed Lance like a falling rock. And it was Praed's scout! Motors roaring, Lance stood them off—flinging a burst of lead here, dropping out of range here, looping, catapulting, zooming— fazing them with every trick he knew. A dozen times he sensed the zinging wrath of storms of bullets, a dozen times he escaped death by the breadth of a hair.
Not for nothing was he called one of the best pilots in the service, second only to Hay. He bagged another of the Slavs, and began to think of getting away. Praed had proved himself, but had been killed in doing so. He's got the dope on Hill Now for the getaway.
As he whirled, another Slav plane—the one that had got Praed—dove down from above. And, in the last second of the ghostly light of the flares, Lance's bewildered eyes saw the face of the man inside it. That face was Praed's! Praed, inside an enemy scout! Praed firing at him! Praed, not dead! Lance was dumbfounded. He almost died, just then, for he felt his senses stagger, and relaxed his maneuvering.
What—how—He couldn't begin to reckon it out. If the flares hadn't died at that instant, Lance must have been shot down. Luckily, they expired; pitch darkness washed over everything. The lights on the Slav planes switched on, their prying beams fingering the sky for Lance's plane.
But Lance was somewhat himself again. He jammed the accelerator down, dove headlong, flattened out and streaked for home. The speed of the Goshawk snatched him faithfully from the jaws of the Slavs. He left then milling behind. Left Praed with them! Lance's face must have been a study, for the elder man laughed shortly.
Lance downed it with a nervous gulp and sprawled in a chair, the glass held weakly in quivering fingers. Dead silence brooded over the whole base. Even the muttering guns were still. One green-shaded light threw the maps on Douglas' desk into glaring prominence; besides that, there was no illumination anywhere in the 'drome. Lance knew he had a thumping headache and that his eyes were lumps of pain.
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The glass fell from his hand and crashed on the floor. It seemed to stir the young captain, for at last he looked up and met the colonel's inquiring gaze. After glancing to right and left, with an explanatory "Walls sometimes have ears, you know! How about Hill ? They must be intending an attack on that sector. But—but—Praed—" "What happened? He concluded: "I figured that Praed was all right, that he'd proved himself, that he wasn't a spy, as we'd thought. But the next moment I saw him in the Slav plane that had bagged his!
Lance expected to see it express amazement, incredulity. It didn't, though. He laughed! He clasped the earphones over his head, and spoke into the mike: "Headquarters, Air Force, Washington, Douglas, Base 5, speaking. Presently a green light flashed on the board. Douglas said swiftly: "Headquarters? Base 5, Colonel Douglas. Tanks massed around Hill ; enemy evidently contemplates full attack on corresponding sector of our line.
They know a scout of ours observed it, however; perhaps that will induce them to change their plans. This next is extremely important: The first step of the Torpedo Plan has been successful! Then he hung the headphones up and turned to the bewildered Lance. Colonel Douglas laughed again and rubbed his hands exultantly. The other pulled out a drawer of his desk and took from it a small placard.
Lance looked at it. It was the picture of a man in the uniform of a captain of the Air Force, a row of battle ribbons on his straight, khaki-clad chest. But it was the figure's face that Lance stared at. But what—" "Not Praed," corrected the colonel. Captain Basil Hay. The same man! Then that was the secret; that explained things! Hay, the hero of the force! There's no need to tell you that it must be guarded with your life. The man you knew as Praed in reality is Captain Hay. You see, Lance, headquarters was taking no chances with what I just called the Torpedo Plan.
Every move had to be conducted with the utmost secrecy. Had to be! For the Torpedo Plan is, in some ways, America's last hope. The two best pilots in the service were needed. You and Hay were chosen. So, officially, he was sent to the hospital; in reality he came here, under the name of Praed. Because there's a spy somewhere—we don't seem to be able to track him; he's infernally clever—and if the famous Captain Hay was switched to Base 5, putting the two best pilots in the service together, that spy'd know something was in the air.
A great light was beginning to shower him. And it was a damned hard job! The real spy, whoever he is, and wherever he is, would thus be additionally fooled; for all he'd know, the Slavs might have sent another over to back him up.
That's why Hay never shot down an enemy plane. Says something about his skill as a pilot, doesn't it? Never able to defend himself, save by maneuvering. He's a great flyer! You, unintentionally, would thus occupy the enemy planes while Hay attended to the real business of the evening. And you did splendidly! I thought the real business was to get the dope on Hill But also to take the first step of the Torpedo Plan, which was for Hay to switch over to a Slav plane.
Lance's square jaw dropped abruptly.
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Two experts from Washington arrived with that batch of new recruits this afternoon. A tiny sliding door was cut in the fuselage of the scout and a sort of folding ladder put inside. It was motivated by some rather complex spring-work; but the really ingenious thing about it was the powerful electro-magnet at its base. But, at any rate, it worked like this: "Hay lures, or maneuvers, a Slav plane away from its fellows, and while you're down below entertaining the others, flies wing to wing with it.
He touches the spring of his ladder and it shoots out, powerfully magnetized, and clamps onto the steel fuselage of the Slav. The automatic control keeps Hay's scout steady, and the ladder is so highly attractive that the Slav simply can't get away. Hay crosses the gulf, taking with him the cord which controls the electro-magnet.
He forces his way into the Slav, shoots down its pilot, releases the pull of the magnet, and—there you are! Our best pilot in possession of a Slav plane, and clad in a Slav officer's uniform! Do you get the idea now? And to think I tried to start a fight with Hay! I wish I'd known before. But I suppose," he added, "it was best to let not even me in on it, to keep it absolutely secret. We're holding the United Slavs, but only just.
We simply can't break their line or make any headway against them; and when they do unleash their big push, there's nothing to stop them! Damn it, I actually feel sorry for the poor devils it bursts on! It's a sort of riposte to their disintegrating flame. Picture a few dozen of them! Picture them crammed to overflowing with tons of glyco-scarzite, the most destructive explosive the mind of man has yet conceived.
An explosive that can't be hurled in a shell and can't be dropped in a bomb from a plane. A pound or so of it, man, lays waste a square mile of anything! Even our scientists are a bit afraid of it. They've been trying to think up a way of unleashing it at the Slavs. And these flying torpedoes seem to be the answer. Therefore, they can soar to any height whatsoever. Twenty, thirty, even forty miles.
All right. Now, picture a dozen or so of these torpedoes soaring over the most important Slav bases and headquarters, thirty miles above the earth, at night, of course, and absolutely invisible to the most powerful search-rays. They fly without the slightest sounds. Get that? Well, when this squadron of awful death arrives at the exact point over the place to be demolished, the motive force switches off and down they crash.
Imagine what will happen when they collide with the ground! Unleashed, without warning, from miles above! Thirty of these torpedoes, each a hundred feet long, dropping down on the very heart of the Slav invasion! Killing, blowing to bits, rather, every living thing, every fortification, every tree, every tank, every gun, every flame thrower, every plane in a radius of hundreds of miles!
And then Lance's clean young face smiled. In the second, the power that releases them to hurtle downwards must come from the enemy base itself, to permit of no possible error. This must not fail! What motivates them? I know that it is an adaptation of that discovery of Professor Singe, two years ago—cosmic attraction. Eventually, perhaps, it will permit interplanetary travel. This use of it is simply the beginning. But it is to America's everlasting glory that a scientist of hers developed it.
Vibrations of the water, really. Well, evidently there are somewhat similar vibrations in the ether, cosmic force. Each one of these flying torpedoes contains a highly expensive, intricate mechanism which transforms this invisible vibration-power into material propulsion. The mechanism is adjusted to propel the torpedo at such an altitude in such a direction. We possess no means of setting the machines to stop at a certain place and so tumble earthwards.
That's where you and Hay come in. He speaks the tongue.
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Two nights from now, you, Lance, keep a rendezvous with Hay at an isolated ranch in the Lake Tahoe country—the Sola Ranch, where we staged that big fight a few months back. It arrives here to-morrow. It's a device which shoots an invisible beam fifty miles into the air, a negative beam, in sympathy with the machinery on the torpedoes.
Hay sets this device near the Slav headquarters. The torpedo squadron takes off from a few hundred miles behind here, flying in the direction of the heart of the Slav forces. When they run into the beam, their motive power is nullified, and down they fall. The Slavs are wiped out. Our troops charge forward in a grand attack; the Slavs, with no armament, no reinforcing troops, no supply of tanks and flame throwers, crumple. The invasion of America is put to an end! His face was alight, his eyes burning with strong, unquenchable fire.
It can't fail! By God, if it takes every last drop of my blood, I'll help Hay put this through! In the thick silence they stood thus for some minutes. Then, without moving so much as a cheek muscle, the colonel whispered, his eyes tense: "The door! Fling it open! I think someone's been listening! His muscles went taut. The next moment he had leaped half across the room, jammed back the lock, and ripped the door wide. At the other end of the dim passageway he glimpsed a scurrying figure! Lance sprang after it with a shout to Douglas.
Tearing out his automatic, he flung a burst of lead at the figure, but that instant it wheeled and sped from sight down another passage. And when Lance got there, no one was in sight. The base slept. Sorely troubled, he returned to find the colonel just coming back from an equally barren search: "Don't think he heard much," said Douglas grimly. I'll have the guards redoubled to prevent him from getting anything through. He couldn't have heard much—the walls are sound-proof and the door fairly tight. Now, you go and rip off some sleep!
You need it! No more work for you till Wednesday night—you're too important! Lance only wished he could. But the thrill of what he'd just heard was too fresh, too new; the blood pumped surgingly through his veins; his brain whirled with the thought of the glorious enterprise he and Hay were aiding so vitally. Then, too, the night was humid and sweaty.
For a while Lance lay on his cot, other sleeping figures to left and right of him, but his own eyes simply would not stay closed. Finally, after perhaps an hour of trying to doze off, he arose and, clad only in breeches and undershirt, wandered outside again with a cigarette glowing in his mouth. The war might not have been, the night was so silent. Lance strolled lazily around the plane hangars, revelling in what little breeze there was. He seemed to be the only living thing abroad in the night. Then, suddenly, he flung down his cigarette and ground the butt out quickly.
For he saw he was not the only living thing abroad in the night. Sliding rapidly away from the end hangar was a dark form! Lance crouched instinctively and crept forward. Who was the other wanderer? Not a sentry: they paced a regular beat closer to Douglas' office. Not another, who, like himself, could not sleep and had sought the open. This figure was going somewhere!
It had a definite object in mind! Sheltering himself behind the hangars' bulk, Lance advanced as stealthily as he could. Coming to the end one, he peered round its blunt corner. Fifty yards ahead, crossing a stubbly stretch of open ground, the mysterious prowler hurried onward.
Lance bent almost double and left the shelter of the black hangar. Feeling his way carefully, he followed the other. Was this the unknown spy? The spy, going to transmit the news he had overheard? Lance muttered a curse. He had no weapon with him; the spy, if he were a spy, would certainly be armed. But that didn't matter; it was merely unfortunate. He must track the other down, at all cost. For some minutes he crept on in this manner. The other kept hurrying forward. Lance noted a clump of brush far ahead; the figure was evidently making for this.
And sure enough, as if acting directly on Lance's thought, the dark form entered the patch of growth—and did not come out on the other side. Lance broke into a trot, eyes wary and alert for sign of his prey. At any second he might be greeted by a salvo of bullets, and every fiber of his lean body was taut.
As he approached the clump of brush he dropped to the ground, and came finally to it on his belly. From a distance of about ten feet, he rose and charged. Expecting each moment to hear the spit of a revolver, he was more alarmed by what actually did greet him. The patch of brush was empty! The growth of bush was about ten feet wide. On either side the flat Nevada plain stretched away—empty. No figure was visible.
Lance was utterly baffled. The fellow had vanished as if by magic. Flown away into thin air! Then, like a cat, he dropped to the ground again, and pressed an ear to it. For his ears had caught a tiny betraying hum. A hum! There was a machine of some type near him. He listened intently. The hum came from the ground on which he lay. There had to be a trap-door. Lance's fingers scrabbled around, and presently found what they looked for. He seized the ring which enabled one to pull the trap-door back, and was just about to pull when he heard, from below, a voice speaking in Russian.
It was, then, the spy! Lance grasped the ring anew, and, exerting all his strength, hauled the trap-door back. A narrow passageway was revealed, lit by a lamp. The hum burst with doubled force on his ears. He plunged down, fists clenched, and half tumbled into a tiny room gouged from the soil. At one end was a mass of machinery, and a microphone hung suspended before it.
And speaking into the microphone was the heavy-set form of a man in American uniform, his back to Lance. As the latter charged down, he rose with an alarmed shout, and wheeled around. It was Ranth, Colonel Douglas' orderly! His dark face flushed with fury, he came leaping from his seat. The wicked little revolver hung at his belt sprang out, but Lance's right fist shot forward, knocked Ranth's hand high and sent the gun clattering to the ground.
Then, for a moment, they faced each other, the hum of the radiophone droning an ominous accompaniment. There were no niceties to that combat. It was a matter of life and death, and each knew it. Ranth would kill him, Lance knew, if he possibly could; and he, he had to kill or capture Ranth. Otherwise the news of the Torpedo Plan would go through, Ranth would return to the base, and the secret of the hidden radio never be known. Another would be put in Lance's place; and when Hay kept his rendezvous at Sola Ranch He had to win.
No effort was made at defense, for those first few furious minutes. A veritable fusillade of hurtling fists stormed through the air. They each gave and took equally. Then Ranth's heavy shoulders bunched; cunningly he feinted, then, whirling, swung a vicious right hand smash to Lance's chin.
Lance reeled, fell, seeing Ranth's hate-contorted visage dance queerly in the close air before him. The orderly clutched for his revolver, and Lance bounded up as if spring-impelled, nailed the other with two lightninglike jabs and unleashed all his strength in an uppercut which sprawled Ranth in a limp, quivering heap. He felt the shock of thudding flesh in his legs, and fell again with Ranth scrambling on top of him. Steel-ribbed hands pounced on his throat, gouged savagely, while the man above grunted thick curses from his slavering mouth.
Lance struggled fiercely; saw a curtain of black rush down. Desperately he hooked a booted leg up, craned it over Ranth's back, tugged. The terrible fingers loosened. Lance shook them off, rolled the other over and leaped once more to his feet, right hand clenched and ready.