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Like a ghost he came onto the
battlefield. But no ghost fought as
this man did! Who-or what-was he?



"GIVE it to 'em, Joe!" Conny Martin yelled. "You got 'em in range!"

The muffled purr of the silenced hi-ex atomic bullets was sweet music in Martin's ears as he bent his tensed body over the vibrating machine gun and fed a seemingly endless belt of cartriges into its maw. The darkness of the little hollow in which they had set up their weapon was red now with the flash of the bullet-stream coming from the gun muzzle. Twelve shots a second were causing that red light; twelve bullets with enough atomic hi-ex in each of them to blow a two-hundred tonner to bits.

"You bet!" came Joe Jason's voice, vibrating a bit because his body was vibrating in tune with the gun he was firing. "Those blasted Japs will wish... umh—"

Abruptly his voice ceased. The gun stopped firing. Martin half-turned, thought he heard a body flop in the snow, then suddenly the gun was firing again. But Martin remained turned in a frozen attitude as he stared at something fluttering just on the rim of the area lighted by the red glare from the gun.

Off in the distance, four miles across the valley, behind him, a tremendous thundering was coming to his ears. A tremendous thundering that came because the whole valley-side was erupting under the burst of hundreds of bullets that exploded with all the vehemence of 16-inch naval shells. Jap land battleships were flying to bits over there. The light of the explosions revealed their shattered giant hulks, leaping into the air for hundreds of feet as they disintegrated. But Martin wasn't looking that way. He was staring at that waving thing behind them....

"A flag!" said Conny Martin, his voice queerly constricted. "An American flag! What the hell is a flag bearer doing here, and at night!"

Dimly Martin made out the forms of men, dim forms in the backness, charging past him, streaming into the darkness behind the flag.

Even when it was gone, the flag remained in Martin's vision like a retinal memory. Remained there because of something very strange about the starfield.

"Thirteen stars, in a circle!" Martin choked out. "Hey, Joe, a flag just went by. It had..."

The machine gun had stopped purring now, and the red glow had vanished. The terrific hell that was bursting across the valley stopped too, but the red flames over there didn't. Eighteen giant Jap land battleships lay in fiercely burning wreckage all up and down that fatal slope.

But once again Conny Martin wasn't looking in that direction. He was staring at the man behind the gun.

No weird, range-finder-helmeted figure tills! No gas-mask-hidden face! No warm-uniform-clad soldier! This wasn't Joe Jason!

Instead, the man whose intent eyes peered over the weapon his fingers still clutched to his breast by the firing handles was dressed in a fantastic tri-cornered hat and a primitive belted jacket which might have made up a uniform, or it might have been a theatrical costume.

Conny Martin just stared.

"My God," he gasped finally, "who..."

The man smiled oddly, looked across the valley at the destruction he had caused.

"Another life to give," he said in queerly triumphant tones. "And many more to take!"

He rose to his feet, seemingly oblivious of Martin's presence. He peered into the gloom behind him now.

"I must go," he muttered. "There is so little time—and so much to do..."

Then as Conny Martin stared, he was gone, following the strange vision of the flag.

Martin's eyes dropped to the silent machine gun, saw beyond it a prone body.

"Joe!" he gasped.

He leaped forward, bent over the limp form. Then he straightened in horror.

There was a Jap bullet through Joe Jason's head. He was dead.

"NICE shooting, boy!" came a jubilant voice from behind him. "I saw the whole thing! You'll get the Distinguished Service Cross for this action, soldier!"

A figure scrambled down into the snowy hollow beside Conny Martin. Martin saw the captain's bars on his shoulders as he turned and lifted himself to his feet.

"You saw...?" he began, but was interrupted when the captain caught sight of the limp form in the snow behind the gun.

"Holy smoke!" the captain exclaimed. "Is he dead?"

"Yeah," mumbled Martin, still befuddled. "Never knew what hit him. But you said you saw...?"

"Do you mean to tell me you operated that gun like that all by yourself?" the captain demanded in incredulous tones. "Soldier, you sure covered yourself with glory! I saw the whole thing: eighteen Jap land battleships blown up! You know what you did, lad? You saved our whole right flank from encirclement. We'd have had to fall back to Pittsburgh."

"I didn't do it," Martin said hoarsely. "You said you saw..."

"Don't be so damned modest! Certainly I saw. Eighteen Jap..."

"I didn't do it!" insisted Martin. "Didn't you see the guy in the funnylooking hat and the jacket? Took Joe's place when he got hit and kept the gun going—And didn't you see the flag with the stars in a circle on it—?"

The captain looked at him queerly. The darkness of pre-dawn was being dispelled now by a gray morning light, and the officer's lean face was visible. There was a puzzled look on his features.

"You been hit, soldier? You're talking kinda funny."

"No, I..."

"You sure?"

Conny Martin shut his lips tight and looked at the captain. Then he turned and looked at the scuffled snow behind the gun—behind Joe Jason's huddled body. He took several steps forward— up over the rim of the hollow. The captain followed him, stared down too at the footprints that, slogged over the rise, went on down the slope beyond and disappeared among the trees.

"Say, you did have help!" exclaimed the captain. "Who was he, soldier? He'll be up for a medal too."

Martin didn't answer at first. He was staring at the clean white snow beyond the hollow—the snow across which he had seen a group of men, one of whom was carrying a strange American flag. It was snow that was as smooth and untouched as the moment it had fallen. No sign of a foootprint marred its surface. Martin felt the hackles on the back of his neck stand up. A queer chill chased up and down his spine.

"Who was he, soldier?" repeated the captain. "One of your buddies?"

Martin turned to face the captain. His eyes held a dazed look.

"No, Captain," he croaked. "I never saw him before. He... he wasn't even a soldier! He..."

"A civilian!" the captain was incredulous. "How in the devil did a civilian get here? All civilians were evacuated weeks ago."

"Civilian?" Martin repeated the question stupidly. "Yeah, I guess he was a civilian. But he was dressed kinda funny. Like in a book I saw once..."

The captain nodded.

"We'll find him," he decided. "He'll be stopped before he goes far. And I guess the general won't be against pinning a medal on him, no matter how funny he's dressed. In fact, if I don't miss my guess, he'll be in uniform before you can say Jack Robinson.

"Come on, soldier. Let's pick up that gun and get back to the lines. It's still risky as hell out here—even if it'll be a while before the Japs try anything else!" He chuckled, slogged back through the deep snow to the gun. Conny Martin followed silently, his face a frown of puzzlement and wonder.

"TELL me the whole story, Private Martin," said the general.

"Yes, sir." Conny Martin hesitated a bit, wet his lips. "I guess I'd better go back to midnight, when we went out to our post—Private Joe Jason and I. We were supposed to set our gun up on the hill, hidden in the trees, to cover the slope. But Joe figured if we went down a ways into a little hollow that led to a ledge overlooking the whole valley, we'd be in an advance position, and if the enemy did start an attack, we could blast him before he got below the valley rim..."

The general interrupted. "You mean you set up an advance post in no-man's land, beyond the cover of your flanks?"

"Yes, sir," said Martin humbly. "We figured to withdraw to the hill just before dawn. The enemy couldn't see us in the dark and we couldn't see them. Not from the hilltop. We figured by getting closer, we would be able to spot any enemy tanks if they ventured out of the trees onto the white snow on the opposite slope. It was darker than our commanding officer told us it would be, and we were almost useless where we were told to set up station."

"Very good," commented the general. "Thinking soldiers. That's why those yellow bastards haven't driven us into the Atlantic!"

Martin went on:

"Well, at about 4:20 ack emma we spotted a Jap land battleship sneaking out of the black of the trees across the valley. We held our fire to let it come into more certain range, and discovered that it was a full-scale attack, and not just a sortie. We counted twelve big ones before we realized what was happening.

"The Japs had the range figured, and they knew our gunners, even if they spotted them sooner or later, would be out of effective range and by the time the alarm was sounded, they could cover the ridge with high explosive and then follow on over with no opposition. The only thing they didn't know was that one of our crews would come right down into the valley and wait for 'em.

"We held fire until we were sure the whole Jap force was in range, and that no more of the big babies would follow. We knew the infantry would be ready behind, but we weren't worried about them. They'd never make it up our side of the slope with our boys in action at the top.

"We opened fire, and then..." Conny Martin hesitated, and an embarrassed look spread over his face. "We got 'em, sir," he finished hurriedly. "Joe took a bullet in the head, and first thing I knew, a civilian was at the gun, helping me. He finished the job, sir, then beat it."

Martin was silent.

THE general glared at him.

"Martin, you're covering something. Do you mean to stand there and tell me a civilian just popped out of nowhere and manned that gun, then beat it and you didn't even try to stop him, or find out who he was?"

The captain spoke up.

"You mentioned something about a flag, Martin. A flag with stars in a circle..."

Martin swallowed hard.

"I musta been seeing things, sir. There couldn't have been no flag. Besides, we both looked, and there wasn't any footprints in the snow. I saw a bunch of men following the flag too. It was like a dream. I musta got a shot of radiations from the gun, or something...."

The general regarded Martin with a frown, then his face smoothed out.

"Martin," he said, rising to his feet, "you're a fine soldier. First, you and your companion showed brilliant common sense in advancing your post when observation was impossible. You saved us from a crushing attack. Next, you showed extreme tactful sense in ascertaining the full strength of the enemy and holding fire until he was trapped. Finally, you showed plenty of guts finishing the job, no matter who helped you, even when you were suffering hallucinations. We've had gunners get a shot of radiations before, and it's bad business. Befuddles some of them so much they are likely as not to fire on their own men.

"I'm putting you up for a citation, Martin. The President will hear of this action. And I wouldn't be surprised if it meant a promotion..."

"Sir!" Martin shot the word from his lips with an embarrassing emphasis.


"Sir," Martin repeated, in lowered tones, face flushing. "If you don't mind, sir, I'd rather not have a promotion. I'd like a transfer."

The general's face darkened.

"A transfer? You mean to another command? I don't get it, Martin..."

"No, sir! I want a berth in the Commando Division, your own pet command. It's the best spot in this man's whole army!"

The general's eyes lighted. He looked pleased.

"Son," he said warmly, stepping forward and clasping Martin's hand in his own. "If that Division wasn't strictly a volunteer group, I'd have asked you to join it. You can count on it, lad."

"Thanks, sir! " said Martin. "Thanks!"

AN ORDERLY popped into the tent, spoke in a low voice to the captain.

The captain turned to the general.

"Sir," he said. "Our outposts picked up a civilian just beyond the lines. It seems he killed two Jap infantrymen in a hand-to-hand encounter when our boys came to the rescue. He's outside now!"

The general's face lighted up. "Bring him in! It looks as if we've got our man! And still out there killing Japs! My God..."

Conny Martin wheeled to face the flap of the tent, an unexplainable tightness at the back of his neck, and a crawling sensation up and down his spine. In his mind's eye, he pictured again the ghostly flag fluttering in the light from the machine gun; saw once more the silent forms following it into the darkness. He'd seen them, he was sure of that, and yet there had been no marks in the snow...

The tent flap opened once more, and a soldier with a gun at the ready motioned an erect form ahead of him. The man entered. The soldier remained outside at a signal from the captain.

Martin stared.

"That's him!" he said in a tense voice. "He's the guy who took Joe Jason's place at the gun."

The general spoke:

"Who are you?"

The man removed his queer tricornered hat, held it respectfully in his hands. His leather jacket was open at the neck, and he should have been cold. But if it was true, he ignored the fact. He was covered with snow, and there was blood on one sleeve. He wore rough, heavy shoes that seemed handmade. He wore heavy, knitted woolen socks into which his trouser legs were stuffed, making ridiculous bulges around his calves.

"My name is... John Smith," he said.

"Where do you come from?"


"Boston? That's a long way from here. How'd you get here?"

John Smith shrugged, smiled.

"I walked."

The general snorted.

"That's just fantastic enough to be true," he said. "More damn people asleep at their posts... But what are you doing here—and did you assist this soldier in operating the gun that wiped out that Jap attacking force?"

Smith nodded.

"To the first question, I came here because I was needed, and because I wanted to do something to help my country. I wanted to do more than I was able to do... so far. To the second question, yes. I very fortunately arrived on the scene when I was needed, so I lent a helping hand."

"WHERE in the hell did you go then?" exploded the general. "Don't you know you've been running around in no-man's land? It's a mystery to me why you weren't blasted a hundred times by snipers. It's suicide out there in daylight."

"I'm not dead, General," said the civilian with a grin. "And a few of the enemy are; although..." he frowned... "I do admit they fight in an exceedingly strange manner. They almost overcame me by surprise. I am not used to the weapons they use. As to why I went, it was for information. On the way here, I saw signs of an enemy concentration of supplies. I merely went to confirm it."

The general stared. His voice came with queer intensity.

"And did you?"

John Smith nodded.

"Yes, sir," he said. "I did. And I believe that by a bold attack we could acquire those supplies, which might be needful."

"Needful!" the general exclaimed. "Damn right we need 'em!" If we don't get food and medical supplies soon, we'll be sunk! Where's this supply dump?"

"Just over the ridge on the other side of the valley. And if I can request the honor, sir, I would like to don the uniform of your army, sir, and fight under you for our country. I have waited long for this chance..."

"Waited long?" said the general in puzzlement. "Couldn't you have joined up in Boston?"

"There is little action where I come from," said Smith quietly. "I wouldn't say I came exactlj' from Boston, sir. Nearby. And I don't think I have the time to go through a training period."

"Good enough," grunted the general. "Lord knows I need soldiers. You'll get your uniform, and if I'm not mistaken, there'll be a medal to pin on it..."

"Oh, by the way, General," said Smith, "I'd like to be attached to the special division with Mr. Martin here. I've fought with him already, you know, and I'm sure we'll get along well."

"Certainly, certainly!" said the general genially. "Now get to the Officer of Supply and get your equipment. Then we're going to make plans for a commando raid on that supply dump!"

Conny Martin followed the captain and the mysterious civilian, John Smith, out of the tent. As he walked, he stared at the man's broad back.

"How did he know my name?" he whispered to himself. "And how did he know I was going to be one of the Commando Division?"

Once again the hair on the back of his neck rose.

John Smith couldn't have known, and yet—he had!

Aerial Commando Raid

"TRULY, a marvelous mechanism," said John Smith. "What did you say it was called?"

Conny Martin stared at his newly-commando-uniformed companion in incredulous exasperation.

"You mean to say you never heard of the bee-wing before? Good Lord, man, even Boston can't be that backward! Why a dozen books have been written about the exploits of the beewing commandos!"

John Smith looked apologetic.

"I don't come from Boston, exactly," be said. "I come from..."

"I know," supplied Conny Martin. "You said that yesterday; in the general's tent. But I don't get it at all. You couldn't possibly know anything about the war and not know what a bee-wing is."

"My ignorance is unforgivable," said Smith. "But if you will, please explain it to me. You know, you are to teach me its use so that we can accomplish our raid on the supply base."

Martin looked down at the fantastically human-looking machine on the ground before them. Human-like, it appeared in the sense that a diving suit looks human. But bee-like it looked, because of the peculiar wings that were attached to it where the shoulders joined the helmet, which was of transparent plastic. These wings were reproductions in metal of a bee's wings. They were geared up with the drive shaft of a compact little atomic motor, and also geared to a tiny helicopter-like propeller. In the rear, at the portion where a bee's sting would be located, was a streamlined tail complete with rudder and ailerons, and tiny rocket tubes.

"This suit," Martin said with an explanatory frown, "is a bee-wing commando suit. In it, a man becomes a bee —if I can be so literal—and stings like a bee. Not with the tail of course, but with weapons that are as potent as the armament of the old-time dive bombers and Lightning fighter planes. In destructive power, they might be likened to the navy's mosquito boats. "The motive power of this flying suit is in the atomic motor on the back. It provides the energy which allows the operator to perfectly control his movements in all directions. He can rise vertically or horizontally, hover in mid-air, dart forward with the speed of a rocket, dive with terrific speed and accuracy, or perform a series of maneuvers that would put a bee to shame..."

"I've watched the bees," put in Smith enthusiastically. "I can easily see where this machine would be a terrible weapon. Imagine traveling through the air with all the ability of a bee!"

Martin stared again at his strange companion. Once more the peculiar chill of something unknown coursed up and down his back.

"Why do you know so little of things that everybody knows about?" he asked.

JOHN SMITH looked at Martin squarely.

"You deserve an explanation," he admitted. "The fact is, I have been... imprisoned. For many years. In fact, for so long that I have had no idea of what was going on. Not until I was... released... did I know what great danger faced my country. I knew nothing of things as they are in this day, but I did know that my country's armies were fighting a strange and terrible enemy. Given another chance, I came straight to the place I was needed, the fighting front. I know you are curious, but I see no sense in telling you things that you will not, or cannot believe. Suffice it to know that I was held impotent in a place that is far from here—and from Boston—and that I have been released at my request... to fight again for my country. I am an American, Martin, and I would be proud to give my life in defense of my country. My only regret is that it is so little to give..."

Abruptly John Smith stopped speaking, turned toward the bee-wings.

"Come, let us get at the task of teaching me to fly in this thing. We must hurry. Now is the time to strike a blow for our independence..."

Martin stepped forward, climbed into his bee-wing, and in a few moments stood awkwardly inside it. His voice came to Smith's ears over the inter-communicator set.

"Close all the openings with the zippers as I have done..."

Martin watched with a frown as Smith struggled with the plastic zipper-fastened suit, stepped forward and helped him make them secure.

Smith smiled apologetically.

"Very clever gadgets indeed," he said.

Martin pointed to the studs on the belt and chest of the suit. He indicated one.

"Turn it. It'll give you oxygen. This suit is gas-proof. There, now turn this other one. It'll start the motor."

He turned the knob on his own suit, and the motor began to hum almost inaudibly. At his instructions, Smith turned other knobs, and they rose slowly into the air, in a vertical rise that carried them above the trees.

"Not too high," warned Martin. "We don't want the enemy to see us. The smoke screen is out, of course, but they mav be able to penetrate it higher up..."

FOR the next two hours, John Smith operated his bee-wing suit under the watchful guidance of Conny Martin; and at the end of that time, Martin's voice broke on his eardrums.

"Smith, if I ever see a man learn to fly a bee-wing faster and more expertly than you I won't believe my eyes. And for a guy who says he never even heard of one before...

"But come on, let's get back to camp; it's getting dark. And we'll be taking off early, before dawn, for the raid. I guess you know more than I do now, about operating these things. I don't know how you do it..."

"You are an excellent teacher," said Smith.

Inside his bee-wing, as they soared back to camp, Martin drew his brows into a doubtful frown.

"That's not the truth," he muttered to himself. "Either he's a genius, or a liar..." Martin's thoughts came to a dead stop, and his throat tightened. "...or a liar," he repeated. Into his eyes came the light of suspicion, and into his mind came worried fear.

"What if...?" he began to whisper to himself. Suddenly he clamped his lips tightly together. Conny Martin, soldier, would keep his eyes open, and keep on guard. If his suspicions were true, here was one man who wasn't going to be caught napping!

IN THE cold light of the winter dawn, the commando unit presented the appearance of a group of visitors from another world. So fantastic were they that even Conny Martin, standing in his place in the company, stared about him with awe and with a strange thrill coursing through his body.

There seemed nothing human about the line of men standing at attention in the eerie light. They looked more like monster insects out of a madman's dream. Huge, fearsome creatures with wings and poised stingers. Transparent plastic helmets seemed not helmets, but casings that held, horribly, human heads. Squat, swollen legs, segmented like those of insects, held each commando erect. Weapons and controls on the bee-wing suits provided fantastic, menacing mystery that set them aside from true chitin-armored insects. No insect ever had the appendages that these suits had!

Martin knew the power of these weapons. Each suit was armed with a tiny built-in replica of the machine gun which he had been servicing when the Jap land battleship armada had been destroyed. Perhaps one-tenth the size of that weapon, this little rapid-fire gun was the equivalent of a five-inch naval gun. Its minute shells were as potent as those of a heavy field-piece, and the rapidity with which they left the muzzle made their destructive power that of a minor inferno.

These bullets, contained in tiny belts mounted somewhere in the bulky suit, were the size of twenty-calibre derringer bullets of the ancient days. And the suit's capacity was several thousand shells.

Attached to the shoulder of the suit was a powerful concealed sling operated by compressed air, which would be withdrawn and extended along the metal arm, for aiming purposes. This sling hurled grenades which destroyed everything in the area of a city block, like the block-buster bombs that the British night bombers used in the conquest of Nazi Germany and its satellites, years before.

Built into each suit was a two-way radio communicator, an oxygen and purifier apparatus, and a heating unit.

Martin knew what these suits could do. They could carry their operator to heights of fifty-thousand feet and more. They had a top speed of four-hundred miles per hour. Their compact atomic motors provided enough power, and enough fuel was available, to travel as much as three thousand miles and return.1

1: On May 18th, 1953, the most famous of all bee-wing commando raids look place. American commandos, raiding from their base in Chicago, before the Japs took that city by aerial storm from Alaska, took off in force, and made a nonstop flight to San Francisco and in a four-hour attack, completely wiped out that enemy base. In the stupendous destruction, almost the whole Jap Pacific naval fleet stationed on this side of the Pacific was destroyed, caught napping. One-hundred-nineteen enemy ships, mostly battleships, cruisers and light cruisers were sunk. Ten enemy armored divisions were wiped out, and the attack that might have carried America to destruction was forestalled for many months. These months were used by America to prepare a Rocky Mountain defense that slowed up the Japs until the battle of Denver. America, however, paid a heavy price for its surprise commando raid with the new bee-wings. Almost to a man the raiders were shot down, and the secret of the bee-wing fell into the Jap hands. Only because the Americans were the inventors, and knew more about atomic power than the Japs, were they able to keep ahead of the Japs, in bee-wing science. It was the beewing, converted from commando use to regular army divisions, panzer units of the skies, that saved the day after the disaster of Chicago, and finally held the Japs at bay west of Pittsburgh. It was on the Pittsburgh front that Conny Martin and Joe Jason, aided by the mysterious John Smith, broke up the initial spearhead of attack of the Jap final push. What happened in the ensuing weeks is history.—Ed.

OVERHEAD now a single bee-wing flashed, its wings beating in a blur as the occupant caused it to hover over the line of men drawn up in tense waiting.

"Ready, men," came the metallic voice in Martin's ears. "Prepare to take-off. Follow my guide light through the log-screen, and be prepared for action. Ground troops will attack just before we arrive, and destroy the rayscreen. Naturally, the secondary screens will come on, but the energizing units will be clearly visible to all of you through the electronic scanner. Before the screen can build up, destroy the energizers! When that is done, follow your leader. Our objective is a supply dump located just beyond the ridge. We don't want to destroy that dump!"

The voice coming from the hovering bee-wing paused for a moment and then went on.

"Destroy its defenses, and the garrison as quickly and efficiently as possible, taking care not to destroy the supplies and munitions. Then proceed westward, to take up a defense ring around the dump while our supply tanks move in, load the captured material, and return to our lines. We need those supplies, men! If we get them, it will stop the enemy in his tracks, and give us what we need for a counterattack that is aimed... well, boys, we're going to push 'em into the Pacific, aren't we?"

The last sentence, in the calm voice of the hovering bee-wing's occupant whom Martin now recognized with a start was that of the general himself, was not a question, but a simple statement of fact. It was met by ringing cheers from the assembled commandos. Martin himself joined in. There was a fighting man! No back-seat driving in this army!

"You bet we'll follow you!" said Martin softly to himself. And at the same time his eyes took in the second bee-wing that now rose to take its place beside the general. It was the mysterious John Smith.

"And I'll watch you, too!" Martin swore. "There's something about that guy..." Once again the unaccountable chill coursed down Conny Martin's spine. His face drew up in a worried cast. "How can a guy you like so much make you feel like this?" he asked himself. "It's just that there's no explanation of where he comes from, why he's here, and how he got here..."

THE command came now to take-off, and Conny Martin forgot his suspicions for the moment in his concentration on getting into formation above the camp.

A few minutes later, he pressed the stud that sent his bee-wing racing forward just behind the general and the bee-wing of John Smith.

They entered the fog-screen, and the wavering, eerie blue light of the fog-penetrating beam carried by the general spread its glow in an unmistakable beacon.2 They plunged on, and Martin saw his ray-indicator begin to glow on his instrument panel. They were nearing the enemy ray-screen.

2: Invisible to the enemy, because only specially treated glasses worn by the commandos made it visible to the ordinary eye's spectrum-range.-Ed.

The pace slowed as the general hesitated...

Then hell broke loose below. Charging land-battleships painted with the American Star became visible in the dawn. Their guns flashed. The roar of exploding shells came to Martin's ears even through the insulation of his bee-wing suit. Great eruptions of flame came up ahead, just at the crest of the ridge.

Abruptly the tiny glow of the indicator on his panel faltered, then died.

"Charge!" came the general's voice in his ears.

Martin sent the bee-wing forward at flashing speed, saw ahead of him the wavering orange glow that indicated the enemy secondary ray was being brought into being. That took an interval of time, before the ionized carrier beam could be built up to carry the lethal rays. It was necessary to break down the atmospheric resistance first, and it was this resistance that caused the orange glow.

Martin saw one of the fanning beams spreading up from a point on the ground just ahead, and dove for it at top speed. He sighted through his range-finder, and in seconds, got his bearing. He pressed the firing button of his weapon. The bee-wing jolted horribly, at high speed, and Martin almost blacked out under the buffeting of conflicting forces. But ahead of him a crimson light spread, and a stream of hi-ex atomic bullets went straight from the muzzle of his weapon to the base of the spreading orange fan.

There was a terrific burst of brilliant light. The base of the orange fan erupted into a hell of exploding atoms. Martin ceased his fire, and sent his beewing up into a screaming zoom, to carry him out of his dive at the target, and to the comparative safety of the upper-air.

There, from his vantage point, he saw that others of the commandos had followed his lead, and all over the place, orange beams were vanishing in an erupting hell of explosions. Not one remained.

AHEAD, the blue beacon of the general's bee-wing became a blinding violet glow that extended for hundreds of feet. Martin dove for it, fell into formation with the rest of the bee-wings, and shot forward toward the enemy supply dump, now clearly visible in the dawn. They were over it then, and hell broke loose!

Martin could hardly remember how he fought, but his one aim was to destroy the installations to which his particular unit was attached, and then return to the general's beacon and to John Smith.

Shells exploded all about him, and for a moment, from the intensity of the fire, Martin thought that the commandos had been led into a. trap. But almost miraculously, the fire died down, then ceased altogether. Down below, a beewing was darting about with fantastic speed, and where it paused, an enemy gun emplacement went up in flaming hell. Gun after gun was replaced by a smoking crater as the bee-wing darted about. It was joined now by other beewings, and in a startlingly short time, the thunder of action was replaced by silence.

Smoke hung in a pall over the scene, and here and there crippled enemy soldiers tried to crawl away. Systematically bee-wing commandos picked off everything that moved. Radio installations were wiped out upon identification.

"Take up defense positions!" a voice rang in Martin's ears.

Startled, Martin looked down. That voice had been the voice of John Smith!

He dove down swiftly. The general's blue light had vanished.

Martin brought his bee-wing close to a bee-wing which stood on the ground. Beside it was another. It was that of the general!

"Help me, Martin," came John Smith's relieved voice. "The general's been hit. He's wounded."

Stunned, Martin recognized the beewing of John Smith as the one which had been so destructive to enemy installations.

"Sure thing!" he gasped, alighting beside Smith. "Is he hurt bad?"

The general's weak voice came to his ears.

"Get to the defense, lad. I'm all right. Just winged me, and put my radio out of commission. I had to have Smith, here, give the orders. Only my local communicator works..." The general's voice ended in a gasp of pain, then resumed.

"Get going, you two. The supply tanks will pick me up..."

Smith looked at Martin and nodded. "We've got to," he said. "This means everything to our cause..."

SMITH'S bee-wing darted up, and Martin leaped in pursuit. Deep inside him. suspicion still lurked. Now that the general was wounded, he had to keep an eye on Smith.

"There's one thing I don't get about all this," he muttered to himself. "How in hell could Smith have spotted this dump in the few hours between the time he helped me fire the gun in the hollow, and the time he was rescued in the valley from those Jap infantrymen? It's twenty miles to this dump, and nobody, not even a civilian on foot, could have gotten through the rayscreens..."

Yes, beyond all doubt, there was something about John Smith that wasn't as simple as he claimed to be.

Grimly Martin soared off behind John Smith, to take up his defense station alongside the man who had come out of nowhere to fight like no other man, and yet who inspired such lurking distrust. It wasn't his actions, but the mystery that surrounded him that put to naught all his incredible deeds For what purpose... ?

Surprised at the question in his mind, Martin traced it back to a cryptic statement John Smith had made... Something about...

Released! That was it! Who had released him? Obviously not Americans, because there would be no reason for Americans to hold an American— if he was loyal. And if he was not, no reason to release him. Therefore, it must have been the enemy who released him!

"And the Japs don't release anybody without a damn good reason!" breathed Martin.

"What did you say, Martin?" came John Smith's voice in his inter-communicator? "Did you say something about Japs?"

"Yes!" shouted Martin, pointing ahead. "I said, here they come!"


THE rising sun was behind Martin and Smith, and they must have been invisible to the score of Japs in flying suits darting forward over the ridge, intent on attacking the giant land transport tanks now engaged in loading up captured enemy supplies in the supply dump. They had come, with characteristic Jap deceptiveness, through a gap in the defense lines that had been caused by the two American's delay in getting to positions.

Beside Martin, John Smith didn't answer, but instead, his flying suit darted forward, outstripping his companion who acted a split second later in getting into battle motion.

The enemy was clearly visible over the ridge-top against the pinkish clouds that were now brilliantly lit by sunlight from the east. They were perfect targets, and a thrill of exultance went through Martin as he realized the opportunity that had offered itself. The Japs, thinking they had slipped through the defense ring, were now abandoning caution and leaping to the attack.

John Smith opened fire before Martin. Almost as quickly as the eye could wink, three Japs exploded with terrific concussions in a group at the right of the advancing formation. The explosions blew two more Japs aside so violently that they lost control. At this low elevation it was fatal. They dove into the ground at six hundred miles an hour and completely buried themselves beneath the white snow. Martin pictured, for a fraction of a second, their bodies crushed to a pulp against the frozen, rock-like earth beneath that snow...

His own suit was bucking now as his gun opened up, and he picked the left side of the startled Jap attacking formation. His results were not quite as good. Two Japs exploded, and two more shot straight toward the zenith, warned by the fate of their fellows. One of them exploded before he had attained a height of a mile, and Martin realized with incredulous surprise that Smith had picked him off with a lightning shot.

Martin sent a spray of bullets after the other ascending Jap and had the satisfaction of seeing him dissolve in a brilliant red puff there in the blue. Japs at altitude were dangerous, because they could dive down, spraying bullets in a cone that covered an area of many acres. Anyone caught below such a cone was almost a sure casualty.

Martin swung his suit around in a spiral, swirling his fire in a huge sweep toward the center of the Jap formation, and Japs burst into flaming brilliance one after the other like toy soldiers going down in a row. Abruptly from above a cone of fire came down, wiping out the balance of the Jap salient to the right. Up above, Martin saw Smith's suit zooming down in a dive, and he watched in wonderment as the fellow came out of it and shot over toward the spot where he now waited.

"GOT them all," said Smith in jubilance. "That was nice work, Martin."

"Nice work!" gasped Martin. "You complimenting me? How in the devil did you get up there so quick for a dive?"

"You gave me the opportunity. Your sweeping attack from behind—how did you get behind them so fast!—drew their attention, and I took advantage of it to loop up through the smoke of that fellow I caught going up. Besides, if I'd stayed where I was, you'd have completed that sweep and picked off all the Japs, and myself included!"

Martin grinned to himself.

"That would have been my fault in a number of ways," he said. "Poor time to be telling you, but the tactic on a maneuver of this kind is to sweep around both ends of a formation, firing inward, and to meet again directly behind. Thus both of us are safe from the other's fire, and we sweep the whole 360 degree arc of space occupied by the enemy. But you needn't have worried. I would have stopped at 180 degrees."

"That's a great idea, Martin," said Smith seriously. "I can see there is much you can teach me about this kind of fighting..."

"You don't need much teaching," said Martin drily. "That maneuver of yours is a new one in the books. And it worked like a miracle. Obviously the Japs lost you, expecting you to come around as I did."

They were at the top of the ridge now, and in formation. Ahead of them stretched the Jap rear lines, and here and there encampments, gun placements, and camouflaged areas were obvious to Martin's trained eyes.

Behind them, agile mechanical scoops were finishing the job of loading the Jap supplies into the great transport tanks, and already many of them were lumbering over the ridge on the other side on the return trip to the American lines.

"We've done it," said Martin quietly. "Those supplies are ours. But that little skirmish we just had is going to seem like a picnic in a few minutes. The Japs are launching a full-scale attack! We'd better..."

Smith's voice rang loudly in Martin's startled ears as it came from the command communicator.

"Up, men!" he shouted. "As high as you can go. The tanks are on their way back, and that job is done. But now we've got to stop this attack, or they'll cross the ridge and put all our work to naught. Everybody up, and be ready to dive with guns set for conespray when I give the signal. The general has been injured and he has given me command..."

Martin gasped. The audacity of the man! Once more, in spite of what he had seen this stranger do, suspicion rose in Martin's mind.

Another voice broke in on the communicator.

"Do as he says, men," came a weak voice. It was the general's voice! "He has my instructions. Stop the Jap attack, boys, or it'll mean..." The general's voice died away in a low moan. The communicator was silent for a second, then:

"Up, men!" came Smith's urging voice. "Here they come!''

LIKE magic, across the terrain ahead camouflage was disappearing, and in its place numerous Jap tanks, planes, aerial infantry divisions came into view. The Japs were advancing in full force.

Overhead, Jap observers were obviously giving the signals for the advance. Martin realized suddenly that these observers were basing their instructions solely on the retreating land battleships and transport tanks in the valley behind. They thought the whole American force was retreating!

"Smith!" said Martin swiftly. "There are Jap observers upstairs! They can't see us. Obviously they don't know we exist. But if they do spot us—"

"All alert!" called Smith. "Every man watch above him for Jap observers. When sighted, fire instantly! They must not detect us..."

Martin grinned suddenly.

"Just what I was about to say," he whispered to himself. "What the hell am I suspicious of this guy for?"

He scanned the heavens above him, and almost instantly saw a black speck in the blue. He drew a careful bead on it, but suddenly it dissolved in a bright orange flash. Chagrined, he looked over at Smith's suit, and saw the man toss him a grin. In that moment his suspicions vanished completely.

"Whoever you are, and wherever you come from," muttered Martin, "from now on, you're okay with me!"

Several more orange puffs above denoted other Jap observers being checked off by the rising and invisible —from the air—American commandos.

"Looks like we got them all," said Martin.

Off to his left, one of the Americans exploded violently. The concussion rocked Martin, and he took several seconds getting under control again.

"They've sighted us from the ground, men!" shouted Smith. "Dive to the attack! We don't have more than a few minutes now before they fill this area with flak!"

Martin sent his suit in a screeching dive toward the ground, at the same time opening up with his guns, spraying the powerful hi-ex atomic bullets in a sweeping cone of destruction below him.

"Give them everything you've got, men," came Smith's calm voice. "We've got time for only one dive. Then, run for our own lines. Your final instructions are to reach safety if at all possible. That is all."

A cheer broke from the communicator—a cheer from the men of the command—and Martin found himself joining in. But a moment later he was too busy to pay any more attention to the others.

HE LOOSED his bombs one after the other, placing them carefully spaced in the conic area just below him. He knew that others of the commandos were doing the same, and the result in a moment more would be a vast sea of flame engulfing the whole area of perhaps twenty square miles directly below the attackers.

A thrill of exultance was choking Martin's heart up into his throat as he stared down at the rapidly nearing ground and realized that the area that would vomit into an inferno in a few seconds covered the entire Jap attacking force! It would be a massacre!

"And all because of a man from nowhere!" breathed Martin. "How could I have ever distrusted him? I don't care now if he came from hell...

In spite of himself, Martin felt a chill course up and down his spine. Once more that nameless eerie feeling swept over him, and he swallowed hard.

"John Smith!" he whispered. "What are you?"

Abruptly a sea of red spread out below, and Martin found himself blinded by the holocaust. Hurriedly he loosed every remaining bit of ammunition in his belts, set his guns to fire till empty straight toward the ground no matter what his own position, then streaked toward the east and home with the full speed of his suit. He had only time to check his altitude indicator and realized with a thrill of horror that he was too low to clear the ridge toward which he was rushing before destruction beat against him in a terrible wave as the earth below erupted to the smashing charges of more hi-ex atomic fury than had ever been loosed in one single area before.

Blackness swept in upon Martin, in spite of the insulation and shock absorbers of his flying suit, he felt himself hurtling upward like a cork in a tossing sea. He spun around violently for many minutes, while destruction reigned below. Eventually Martin's suit automatically righted itself, shot off toward the horizon once more. After a few moments he regained consciousness and when he realized where he was, discovered that he was hurtling deep into enemy lines. At the same time, his helicopter blades faltered, and he began to lose altitude.

"Damn!" he said. "This will never do."

But in a few more minutes he found that it had to do. If he continued on, the helicopter would fail altogether, and he would plunge to his death.

He sent the suit down in a steep glide, nursing the helicopter along, aiming for a clump of trees on a slope not far away. He came nearer to them watching closely for signs of enemy occupation. There were none. The trees were only trees, and no camouflage was visible.

Satisfied, Martin leveled off, sank down. Eight feet from the ground the helicopter failed, and he dropped prone. For an instant he lay, dazed by the shock, then scrambled to his feet. Ringed around him were a dozen Jap infantrymen, weapons leveled.

Prisoner of the Japs

IT WAS cold in the barbed wire enclosure that surrounded Martin. He was in a Jap prison camp. All about him were the huddled figures of other prisoners. Most of them looked half dead; several of them were dead— frozen stiff. Their bodies had been covered with mounds of snow by their fellow prisoners.

"Those blasted Japs never bury them," said a listless man when Martin asked him. "We have to bury them right here in the enclosure—when the ground is soft enough."

"How long have you been here?" asked Martin.

"About a month. But nobody's been in here over two months."


"Because if you don't die before that—you usually do—they just quit feeding you. The Japs don't keep prisoners long—just enough to get what information they can out of them."

"They get much?"

"Sometimes. They have some mighty effective tortures." The man held up his hands, and Martin saw with horror that his fingernails had been torn out. The stumps of his fingers were frozen, and they looked green. "I gave them information," finished the prisoner.

Martin looked at the man steadily. He looked back just as steadily.

"They don't know it isn't true," he said to Martin. "And by the time they find out, I'll be dead. Meanwhile they aren't torturing me any more."

The man's head dropped down and he huddled his body up in an effort to keep warm. He didn't speak again.

DAYS passed. Days in which Martin paced up and down inside the enclosure to keep warm, or burrowed into the snow to sleep. Meagre rations, barely enough to keep alive, were tossed across the fence once a day. There was no scrambling for the food when it came; no competition for it. Instead the prisoners counted off, divided the food into equal piles according to the number of them still remaining alive, and each ate his share.

Several times prisoners were removed for questioning. Some of them did not come back. Those that did were carried in unconscious and dumped callously to the ground. Martin and others able to move about much, tended to the horrible mutilations of these unfortunates as best they could.

Martin wondered when they were going to come for him.

"Your turn will come," said a prisoner. "They really don't believe we can tell them much, and I think they only bring us out as the mood strikes them for sport. Torturing a man is sport to them."

More days passed, and Martin began to believe that he would simply be allowed to starve to death in the enclosure. Rations were being diminished as men died. There were about twenty men in the enclosure now.

"Martin?" a harsh voice called his name, and Martin looked up. A Jap officer stood at the gate, waiting for him with a detail of men.

"Come out!"

Martin clambered to his feet stiffly, beating his arms across his chest to restore circulation. He walked slowly over to the gale, and a Jap guard opened it. The Jap officer was garbed in a greatcoat with a fur collar which came up about his face. He wore glasses. A fur cap on his head further concealed his features.

"March!" said the Jap in perfect English.

Martin marched. Guarded by the rifles of his escort, he walked through the snow toward a low hill. As he went along, he saw the dark opening of a dugout shored up by logs in its side. The path led up to the dark opening.

In a' moment they were inside, and Martin found it pleasurably warm. They went through several doors, and finally emerged in a large room which was electrically lit. There was a table, several chairs. Behind the tables sat two officers.

The guards stayed outside, and only the officer who had fetched him entered the room with him. Martin stood stiffly erect, waiting. The officer who had brought him here removed his greatcoat, took off his fur cap, and stood revealed in his uniform. But it was with a shock of surprise that Martin saw he was a white man!

And further, he was none other than John Smith!

"AH," said John Smith. "I see you recognize me?"

Martin choked, looked at the others in the room uncomprehendingly for the moment, then, as he saw their grinning faces, realized the truth.

"You dirty spy!" he said, again facing John Smith.

Smith turned suavely to the Jap officers.

"I had the great pleasure of spending some time in this gentleman's company while in the enemy lines," he explained. "He was completely taken in by my disguise as an officer of the American army, and I may say, it was from him that I obtained most of the valuable information I have been enabled to pass on to you."

Martin stared.

"From me...?" he began.

Smith went on as though Martin had not interrupted.

"I feel quite sure that we can learn much more from him. If I may suggest it, gentlemen, I would like to have a chance to get it out of him in my way before we resort to the—er—usual methods?"

One of the Jap officers looked thoughtful.

"I see no reason to deny your request, Captain Kruger," he said hesitantly. "However, I have found that these American prisoners are quite recalcitrant. They do not divulge information without—ah—persuasion."

"Perhaps this one is different," Smith hastened to say. "Remember, I have already received much information from him without—ah—persuasion. I think I can do it again. At least..."

The Jap officer waved a hand.

"Do with him what you will," he said. "When you are finished, bring him back to us, and we will extract anything he has neglected to tell you willingly!" He laughed sardonically, evilly.

John Smith, or as Martin now knew him, Captain Kruger, saluted sharply and wheeled to Martin.

"March!" he spat. "Outside!"

Martin's eyes blazed at Smith with cold fury before he turned, and blood boiling, stepped from the room. Outside, the guards sprang to attention, resumed their attitude of custody.

"Bring him to my quarters," commanded Smith. He walked off down the corridor.

As the Jap soldiers prodded him down the corridor, Martin's fury began to be replaced by bewilderment, and once again the eerie chills began to chase up and down his spine.

Captain Kruger... spy... got most of his information from Martin himself! What did all that gibberish mean? Obviously it was a lie. Smith had gotten no military information at all from Martin, back there in the American camp. Then why had he told the Jap officers that he had?

What did the name Kruger mean? Obviously he was a spy. The Japs recognized him as such, and apparently thought much of him, because they acceded to his request even though they felt it would be a fruitless procedure. And Smith had given them information which they deemed valuable in the past. Information that he had received in the American camp, even though he had not received it from Martin.

And what was his purpose now? He should know as well as anyone that Martin had no information that he, Smith, did not also have. Then what did it mean when he suggested to the Japs that he could persuade Martin to tell him still more?

MARTIN'S brain whirled with the confusion his thoughts produced. All this was getting too complex to comprehend. He gave up thinking about it, and returned to the more satisfactory mental exercise of building up his hate for the treacherous John Smith. But even that failed him as a strange vision rose once more into his mind. That vision was the mental image of an American flag, with its red and white stripes, and its field of blue. The only incongruous part of the memory was the circle of stars on that field of blue. And he remembered too the motley army of men following that flag—an army that left no prints in the snow!

John Smith? Even the name was phoney! Captain Kruger? That certainly wasn't Japanese—no more than Smith himself, was Japanese. One thing about this strange man, though; he certainly switched uniforms with great facility—and often!

Martin was led now into a smaller room. He found John Smith sitting beside a small table. There was another chair against the wall. Smith dismissed the soldiers and pointed to the chair.

"Sit down, Martin," he said casually, lie toyed with a pencil on the table, the w'hile watching Martin with studied innocuousness.

Martin sat down, baffled. Smith got up, walked to the door, opened it, and peered into the corridor. Then with a grunt of satisfaction, he sat down again.

"Now, Martin, I'll try to explain..."

"It'd better be good!" Martin burst out angrily.

"First," said Smith. "I realize you don't understand a lot of things, and I must repeat, there are some things I can't tell you. But I've got to make you believe what I do tell you, because, frankly, I need your help."

Martin sat stonily silent.

"My name," said Smith, "is neither Smith nor Kruger. Captain Kruger is dead and buried. Buried where I killed him when I landed my wrecked commando suit after the blast that destroyed the Jap attacking force. Kruger was a Jap spy, a native of Germany, who fled from his country after the Nazis were overthrown. He joined up with his country's previous allies, the Japs, and became a spy, going into the American lines as a civilian or as an American soldier. When I found him, he was changing from an American officer's uniform to a Jap uniform, and had uncovered a cached flying suit. He had on his person a wealth of detail about American forces.

"I was forced to kill Captain Kruger, because he tried to kill me. Otherwise, I might have thought he was an American. But he let loose a stream of German oaths—I understand German—and drew his gun. I shot him.

"When I had read the papers I found on him, I realized the opportunity that lay before me. Once before I was an American spy..."

"When?" asked Martin in surprise. Smith ignored his question.

"I made certain changes in the papers of Captain Kruger, assumed his uniform, got into the flying suit, and made my way to the destination given in the papers. It was a destination to which Kruger bore a letter of identification and introduction, which I also altered to fit myself. Thus I knew I was not likely to be exposed through recognition.

"During the past few weeks I have been gathering information which I must get back to the American lines. That is why I need you."

Martin stared.

"I WILL have finished my work in a few days," Smith went on. "Then I will arrange for your escape. You will take the papers I will deliver to you, make your way out of here in a flying suit, and give them to your commanding officer. He will know what to do with them."

"Why can't you deliver them yourself?" asked Martin suspiciously.

Smith shook his head.

"That isn't possible. I have an obligation to fulfill..."

"What sort of an obligation?"

"That is one of the things that I can't tell you."

"Why?" Martin's voice was harsh.

"Because you would not believe."

"I don't believe a word you've already said."

Smith looked at him steadily.

"I know," he said. "But you will. I will give you sufficient proof. But meanwhile, you will take advantage of the opportunities I offer you. You will die, anyway, after much torture, in that concentration camp, so you have nothing to lose, except perhaps an advancement of your death by a few hours —if I have a trap in mind for you. And if not, you will have everything to gain.."

"I won't carry any phoney information from you to the American lines," said Martin grimly.

"I will prove to you that it is not phoney," said Smith calmly. "Prove it to you beyond all doubt. Then you can act as you believe right. Is it a bargain?"

Martin frowned.

"I don't get it," he said. "But what have I got to lose? If I don't think the information you give me is true, I won't deliver it, and that will be that. Yes, Smith, or Kruger, or whatever your name is, I'll do it."

Smith rose to his feet and extended a hand.

"Then that is that, as you say," he smiled. "Now I will return you to your prison camp. And to show you that I intend to keep my word, I'll see that you get sufficient food..."

"For twenty men," finished Martin.

"Yes. For twenty men! "

Martin hesitated a moment, then asked a question.

"Tell me, Smith, do you understand Japanese?"

Smith smiled.

"No. They didn't teach Japanese in the school I went to in Boston. I was lucky to be able to learn German— and that was only because old Professor Van Huyten knew it himself and so loved to teach it."

Martin bit- his lip thoughtfully and turned to the door. Guards entered, obviously at some signal from Smith, and he accompanied them back to his prison. Once inside the barbed wire fence he sat down to think long and deeply.

A Visitor in the Night

A WEEK passed by that seemed almost an eternity to Martin. More and more in his mind the mystery of John Smith grew to towering proportions. He became more and more convinced that there was something more strange than the strange things that had actually happened. That eerie feeling grew constantly stronger. At times the feeling grew to the proportions of actual fear.

The extra food had come. And quite good food too. Certainly better food than had ever been fed to prisoners in this stockade before. Martin had found himself in a rather peculiar position upon his return, uninjured, to the enclosure, and with the coming of the food ration, actual suspicion had grown up among the prisoners. It was a conviction of most of them that he was, if not a spy, at least a stool pigeon. As a result, they refused even to speak to him, although they readily ate the better food, and continued the fair system of dividing it among them all—although at times this division was unnecessary, because some of the food was not consumed.

IT was during the middle of the night, at the end of the week, that a break came in the monotony. Martin, huddled in his snowy bed, heard the challenge of the guard, then the approach of footsteps in the snow. A light shone on him and the guard prodded him erect.

He was led to the gate, and found several guards waiting for him. He walked ahead of them in silence, stumbling along in the darkness. He wondered why they used no lights. Finally they halted him before a small dugout. A low' voice in the dark reached his ears. It. was John Smith.

"Come inside," said Smith.

Martin entered and stood shivering.

"I wondered if you'd ever come," he said.

"I had some trouble getting what I wanted," said Smith in low tones, "but I've got it all now. Also, I had to wait for some new recruits to arrive. Several of them have been detailed to this sector, and we're going to intercept one when he comes to report for duty at dawn."


"Yes. You're going to take his place..."

Martin snorted.

"As a Jap soldier? I'd make a fine Jap, wouldn't I? All I need is a case of yellow jaundice, because I speak Japanese like a native of Kokomo— Indiana!"

"Kokomo, Indiana?" Smith looked blank. "Where is that?" He ignored Martin's frown, went on. "You won't have to speak. And you won't have to look like a Jap. You will be a renegade German, just as I am."

"I can't talk German either!"

"Some of the Japs talk English—none of them German. You also talk English. You will get by just as I have. Because you wall be vouched for by me"

Martin sighed.

"All right. But what's the purpose of all this?"

Smith sat down.

"I'll tell you as much as I dare. First, you are going to become a soldier of Nippon, ostensibly a German volunteer, who can converse w'ith his officers in English. You are going to be a member of the flying corps, and will have a flying suit. You will use that flying suit to escape. All this takes place this morning.

"Next, or rather, before all this can happen, we must overcome a new volunteer arrival, take his place. I will see that you are assigned to the unit necessary. Then you will await orders from your superior officer.

"After that, you will find yourself standing guard duty at a special event —an event which will prove conclusively to you that I am being honest with you, and that the papers I am about to give you right now are legitimate, and of tremendous importance to the American General Staff.

"Finally, when you have decided on my loyalty, and on the truth and value of the information in the papers, you will wait until you are dismissed from guard duty, return to your barracks— except that at the first opportunity while passing through the forest, you will step off the trail, hide, and with the coming of night, fly back to the American lines with the papers. You will be free; Japan will be tricked; America will be able to smash the Nipponese army, and America will once more be free! "

"And you?" asked Martin dubiously.

"I will have fulfilled my part of a solemn pact. And I assure you I shall not regret it!"

MARTIN shook his head in bewilderment.

"I don't get it. Smith, for Pete's sake, who, or what, are you?"

Smith smiled strangely.

''That is one of the things I cannot tell you, because you would not believe anyway."

Martin grew red.

"Why do you keep on insisting I wouldn't believe?" he snapped. "How do you know I wouldn't?"

"I think I'll let you answer that question yourself—tomorrow morning." said Smith. "But now, no more talk. We have work to do."

Smith rose to his feet, procured a small water-proofed silk packet, and handed it to Martin.

"Conceal this beneath your belt. It contains victory for American arms. In it are all the secret plans of the Japanese army, the disposition of their troops, the names of all spies, the strength of all their units, the location of air fields, supply dumps, ammunition dumps and so on."

Martin took the packet, slid it inside his shirt. His voice was hoarse as he spoke.

"If all that is true..."

"You will have proof of that in a few hours," said Smith. "And now, we must prepare."

He put on his greatcoat, his cap, his glasses, and led Martin into the night. It was just shortly before dawn, and as the first gray light appeared in the east, Martin found himself concealed beside the trail that led toward the camp.

"We wait here," said Smith.

Martin's thoughts raced as he huddled in the snow. Several times his fingers touched the parcel inside his shirt. Several times he looked at the calm face of his companion—and each time an eerie sensation stole into the marrow of his bones. And still it was as unexplainable as it had ever been.

Down the trail the crunch of approaching feet in the snow came to their ears. Martin froze into alertness. A man's fur-coated form came into view. He was a Jap. He was the first of a group of perhaps twenty men marching in single file. Smith let them go by. They were spaced about thirty yards apart.

When the last man approached, came abreast, Smith rose, peered back down the trail, and nodded.

"Last one," he said. "Let's get him!"

He led the way softly out of their concealment. Their feet made no noise in the soft snow beside the trail. The squeak of the shoes of their intended victim on the packed snow of the trail was the only sound. Smith leaped on the man's back, and his gun butt crashed down on the back of his skull, the blow muffled by the fur cap. Without a sound the man went down.

Martin helped carry the unconscious man into the thicket, then stood by while Smith calmly choked him to death.

"TO THE animal a humane death," said Smith. "Now, Martin, put on his clothes as fast as you can and follow that platoon of men. Join them without a word. Each has his orders. Yours are here..." Smith passed Martin a slip of paper which had a number on it. "This paper will put you in the unit I have selected for you. When you reach there, you will be outfitted as an aerial infantryman. Then you will wait further orders. And now, I must bid you farewell..."

John Smith shook Martin's hand, looked at him levelly for a second, then whirled and disappeared the way he had come.

Completely baffled, Martin turned to the task of donning the dead Jap's clothing, took up his gun, made sure the little packet was safe inside his belt, then made his way at a shambling run up the trail in pursuit of the singlefile of men of which he was now a part.

He caught up in a few minutes, assumed his distance thirty yards behind the last man, and walked on, his mind in a turmoil.

Not long afterward, he reached an encampment. Without a word he surrendered his slip of paper to an officer, and was directed to a barracks. Inside he was given a complete aerial infantryman's uniform and equipment, and led to his station He was assigned a flying suit, and ordered to put it to tests and see that it was in perfect condition.

Still in a daze of bewilderment, Martin did as he was bid. All the while, however, an exultance was growing in him. No mattter what those plans contained, at least he was now in possession of a means of escape. If it was a trap, he would stand a fighting chance of avoiding it. But if it was a trap, it was not understandable. Why such a roundabout way just to kill him?

The more he thought of it, the more he became aware of the fact that John Smith wanted those plans to reach the Americans, and that he wanted and wrould allow Martin to escape.

The only question that remained to be answered was why? Because the plans were phoney, and would mean disaster to the Americans if they followed the information? Or, hardest of all to believe, because they were true, and John Smith was what he claimed to be, a loyal American?

There was only one thing to do; and that was to wait. Already the morning sun was high in the heavens. Another hour or so would tell the story...

THE notes of a bugle call startled Martin into action. All around him his fellow soldiers were leaping into action. Martin joined them and in a moment he stood in line, in his flying suit, at attention.

An officer appeared, began barking commands in Japanese. There were no commands in English, and Martin was all at sea. But when the company ascended slowly into the air, in flying formation, Martin took his place with accomplished ease. Secretly he was amused at the crude way in which some of the recruits handled their suits. He caught the officer in command regarding him approvingly as he maneuvered, obeying the orders by familiarity, rather than by recognition.

Then they were on their way, flying in formation just over the tree-tops. For several minutes they continued on in this way, then they reached a clearing. Here they descended and assumed guard positions. It was with a shock that Martin saw the object they were to guard.

It was a hangman's gibbet!

Death of a Spy

MARTIN began to see now why...his bunch of recruits had been chosen to do guard-of-honor duty as their first assignment. It was to impress on them the fate of any slips from the straight-and-narrow. It was to instill fear into them, and to insure discipline. Martin's eyes narrowed just the slightest, and his lips tightened. The dirty...!

An officer strode up to the platform before the gibbet and began addressing the men. Again he spoke in Japanese. He went on for several minutes. Martin stole a glance, saw that the yellow faces of his companions were expressionless and turned straight ahead. The officer began speaking in English now. His voice was harsh.

"Today we are about to witness the death of a spy," he said. "You, the brave fighters of Nippon, the loyal soldiers of the Son of Heaven, will see what we do to those who betray the Rising Sun." The officer looked straight at Martin. "And to one of you especially, we are offering an object lesson in loyalty.

"The man who will die by the hangman's noose here today is a soldier of Nippon, but he is not a Japanese. He is a German soldier, a volunteer to our ranks. This morning, smitten by his conscience, filled with remorse because of the treacherous things he had done and contemplated doing against the Son of Heaven, he confessed his traitorous deeds and thoughts.

"Because of this, no tribunal is necessary, but the Son of Heaven is just. He will be tried now, before you all. And if found guilty, he will be hanged until dead. It is to your great honor that you have been called upon to participate in the infinite mercy and justice of the Son of Heaven."

The Jap officer's voice ceased, and he turned and saluted sharply.

Across the clearing an armed guard marched, thirty-six men forming a square with ten men on a side. At the center of this square the prisoner walked. He was dressed only in trousers and shirt and shoes. His hands were tied behind him, and his shirt collar was open at the neck. His long hair tossed on his head in the morning breeze, shone in the sun.

Martin could only see the group out of the corner of his eye, because he had to continue staring straight ahead. Directly in his line of vision was the scaffold and the gibbet with its noose swinging in the breeze.

All around the clearing other Jap soldiers were marching into formation, to witness the execution. The Japs were really making a show out of it. Martin's blood boiled in him. Even if the condemned man was a Nazi, Martin felt sorry for him. Confessed? Of his own accord? Perhaps. The Japs had a peculiar code...

The prisoner marched into view now, and Martin stared for a moment before the startling fact registered on his brain. The prisoner was not a Nazi. He was John Smith!

STUNNED by the unexpectedness of the sight, Martin stood paralyzed while cold chills ran up and down his spine. And mad thoughts raced through his brain. So this was why he had been given this post! So it was a trap! A trap from which there was no escape!

Now, at last, he knew the truth. Smith had planned it this way. Martin knew that the officer had looked at him strangely. Now he sensed why. And also why his remarks in English had been directed at him, almost personally, just a moment before. He, Martin, was going to die, too, on that gibbet! A double lesson for the assembled troops. And actual proof of the omniscience of the Son of Heaven! They would find those plans on his person...! And it would all be over!

But once again the eerie sensation swept over Martin. What kind of a man was this, who could plot his own death, just to impress the rank and file with a fanatic loyalty? And a man who was not even a Jap!

Martin's tongue became sand in his mouth, and he stood there stiffly, waiting, with the certainty of death hanging over him. He was hardly aware that John Smith had been placed up on the scaffold, and that the Jap officer was speaking.

He became aware of the proceedings only when a murmur ran through the ranks of the assembled soldiers.

The trial, the fair trial, of the self-confessed prisoner by the Son of Heaven's justice was on. And although he could not understand the words, Martin caught the meaning of it all.

Accusation, evidence, acknowledgement (a nod of John Smith's head) and condemnation. All with dramatic showmanship designed to impress the attendant soldiers.

When would his part in this weird drama be uncovered? Martin waited with tensed muscles for the finger of accusation to point toward him. And as he waited, a grim resolve came into his mind.

There was one thing these mad, but diabolically clever yellow men had forgotten. He, Martin, was possessed of one great power—the power to die fighting! He wore a flying suit, had the ability to fly it with ingenuity, and he was fully armed! He would not be the only one to die in this clearing! And he wouldn't die in any hangman's noose!

Fingers tensed on the controls of his suit, Martin waited for the slightest indication that would swing the eyes of all to him. When that happened, he would act. But as the moments sped by, and the august wheels of Nipponese justice rolled on, nothing happened. Martin stared at John Smith, standing calmly on the scaffold, and their eyes met.

And all at once, John Smith smiled at him.

Martin was baffled.

This was not the face of a madman. Nor was it the face of a traitor. It was the honest, clear, courageous face of an American!

"But why...?" whispered Martin helplessly to himself.

ABRUPTLY the trial was over. A hush of expectancy fell over the assembly. The officers fell back to positions before their commands. The cordon of execution soldiers drew around the base of the scaffold. The executioner mounted the steps, strode toward the prisoner.

Martin stood, shocked. It was going to happen! John Smith, of his own accord, was going to give his life to the hangman's noose!

Stiff with horror, Martin stood there while the hangman adjusted the noose around John Smith's neck. For a moment there was no movement. Everyone waited in hushed expectancy, obviously for some last word from the prisoner.

Martin waited too. The words came.

They came clearly from John Smith's lips. And he spoke in English. Only the officers present understood what he said. But what he said was not intended for their ears; it was intended for those of Japanese Aerial Infantryman Martin.

"My death is your proof!" he said. "Now you will go to victory, and to justice, and to freedom!"

"Proof," muttered Martin dazedly. "Hanged, just to prove to me... it isn't reasonable! "

Other words were coming from Smith's lips now; words that were not directed at Martin. They were not directed at anyone in the clearing. John Smith's eyes held a faraway look in them, and he spoke with a glad smile on his lips.

"I do not regret giving this life to my country!" he said.

The hangman sprang the trap and John Smith's body dropped through. Several times his body jerked spasmodically, then it was still, twisting and swinging in the breeze.

The sound of a bugle broke on Martin's ears, and he fell into formation in a stunned manner. His mind was a turmoil of thoughts. Out of the turmoil a pattern was coming.

He, Martin, had on his person true information that would mean victory to the American cause. He, Martin, and not John Smith, had to deliver it, so that the Japs would never realize that the information had gone back to the Americans, believing with their queer creed of behavior, that John Smith had not carried his spying to its completion, but had been smitten with conscience and had confessed and died, for the honor and glory of the Son of Heaven, the Rising Sun, and for the victory of Nippon.

No suspicion, save that of desertion, would accrue to Martin when he disappeared. The Nipponese would carry out their original plan of action, and run into American traps. They would be defeated!

Abruptly Martin realized that his next act was on schedule. In the next few moments, while his company flew over the forest, he must drop behind, float lower and lower, until finally he could drop out of sight and hide until night. Then he could soar into the stratosphere, streak to the east and the American lines.

He watched his chance. Reducing speed, he gradually dropped back until he was last in line. He dropped lower until he was nearly touching the treetops. Casting a quick, searching glance behind him, he saw that he was last of the company. He saw that no other of the flying infantrymen was looking back, then dropped plummetlike to the ground.

Skimming through the air, he evaded the boles of trees, made his way without leaving tracks deeper into the forest. Several miles he went until no sound broke the stillness of the forest depths. He was alone.

Even if they sent out a searching party, they might scour this forest for days and not cover the particular spot in which he now hid. And to make sure, he dove his suit into a snowbank, deep in a thicket. Completely covered, he lay there, warm in his suit. He waited...

HOURS later, when his chronometer told him the sun had gone, he emerged from his snowy bed, peered around in the darkness. Nothing was visible. Up above, through the trees, he saw the deep purple of the night sky, and the brilliance of millions of incalculably distant stars, shining in the purple depths.

He drove his flying suit toward the zenith at top speed, an invisible inverted meteorite. Once at ceiling, he flew toward the east and freedom.

As he sped along, thoughts continued to crowd through his mind. Thoughts of John Smith. What was the strange pact that he so often referred to? Why had he said so often that there were things he couldn't explain because Martin would not believe them anyway?

Where had he come from?

Who was he anyhow?

Certainly his name was not John Smith. Just as certainly as it had not been Kruger. Martin remembered Smith's hesitation that first time he had given the name of Smith. Obviously he had deemed it wise to conceal his real name. But why?

And again the memory of the eerie way John Smith had come into Martin's life came into his mind—in the redlit darkness of a machine-gun nest on a hillside, just in time to take poor Joe Jason's place at the gun, and wreak havoc in the Jap land battleship fleet that was attacking. He had come out of nowhere like a ghost.

And behind him had been a strange American-flag—with not enough stars in its blue field. Behind the flag had been many men—men who marched by, yet left no footprints.

Then how had John Smith disappeared into the dawn, discovered an enemy supply dump twenty miles away, and returned, all within four hours? A strong man might have walked that distance. He might have...

All those strange moments when familiar things, or things that should have been familiar, were mysteries to John Smith; the reference to the school teacher in Boston... Van Huyten, was it?... the statement that once before he had been a spy...

And what had his cryptic last words on the scaffold meant?

"I do not regret giving this life to my country."

Once before someone had said something like that on a hangman's scaffold...

Martin's body was swept by the cold breath of that familiar eerie feeling, but he thrust the thought aside.

Yes, there were things that were too fantastic to believe! The man's name had not been John Smith, of that Martin was sure.

But then, what had been his name? Some things are too fantastic to believe...

Today there is a statue in Boston. The figure of a man, dressed in the uniform of the American Flying Commandos. Beneath the statue is the inscription: "Because he did not regret to give his life, America owes him its freedom!"

And many free Americans wonder at the incongruity of the statue, for the figure on the pedestal wears a peculiar tri-cornered hat which is entirely out of keeping with his modern commando uniform.

John Smith was his name.