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By Orlando Rigoni

Captain Golightly wasn't going to let Ms star student throw his future away, even at the risk of losing his new invention

CAPTAIN Omar Golightly could boot 'em up, and bring 'em down alive—planes. Though his title of "captain" was an honorary one, he had earned it a hundred times over by his experiments and cooperation with the War Department.

His greatest love was his flying school, where he taught young men the art of aviation.

Today he walked around his operations office with that loose gait of his that was almost a shamble. He jerked stiff as he saw two men talking near the west crateshack. The slim, blond man was Jerry Cole, one of Golightly's honor pupils. The tough to whom he was talking was a plug-ugly named "Spud" Harris.

Golightly had ordered Harris to stay off the drome, and now his presence there, talking to Jerry Cole, was a bad sign. Cole looked scared.

In a guttural voice that wouldn't carry to Golightly, Harris was saying,

"Listen, kid, that's straight dope. She's in a bad fix and the only way you can help her is to help me."

"I can't go back on the captain," Cole Said desperately.

"Then you don't care much for the dame. I'm not the brains of this business—just the cluck who takes the chances. There's a million dollars at stake, an' it's worth a risk. If you doti't come through, you won't see her again. If we pull this without a hitch I'll see you get a soft berth with the B and M."

Golightly strode close, then, and Harris turned away with a last warning.

"Tonight at midnight, kid," he said in parting.

Cole, remained rooted to the earth, as though he was a little stunned and confused. His lean hand was closed tightly as though it clung onto life itself.

Golightly cleared his throat. "What did Harris want with you, Jerry?"

Cole looked away, spots of red rising to his cheeks.

"Noth—nothing, Captain," he said hesitantly.

Golightly scowled, and his big hand plucked at his collar.

"He isn't a special friend of yours, Jerry. He wouldn't drop in to pass the time of day after I'd ordered him to stay off my drome."

Jerry Cole seemed to stiffen. His head came up, and defiance blazed in his eyes.

"He offered me a job—with the B and M Airlines."

Golightly grinned.' "Kind of rushing the business, aren't you? You've had only forty solo hours. The B and M are a boomer outfit, cutting throats right and left, but they aren't dumb enough to turn over a fifty thousand dollar beetle to a short-feather turkey like you. Come clean, buddy."

COLE snapped, "He offered me a job, ^ that's all."

Golightly had a temper that sometimes got away from him. The kid's stubbornness riled him.

"You're lying!" he snapped.

Cole's face went white at Golightly's charge of lying. He raised his voice above the grumble of the engine that was ticking over on a crate just to the' left of him.

"I resent that, Captain!" Cole cried.

Golightly knew the kid was scared, but he meant to force the information out of him. His hand shot out for the kid's shoulder in the grip he used when in deadly earnest. The kid jerked back. At the same time, Golightly felt a big hand grab his arm, and jerk him around. He spun, to stare into the greasy, beetle-browed face of "Clip" Pinder.

Pinder was a gorilla of a man with a buffalo's shoulders. He was cranky, quick-tempered and didn't like to be bossed. Golightly put up with him, because he was a good man with a plane and a wizard on engines. Pinder took the kid's part, just out of orneriness.

"Mebbe you're not the little tin god you figure you are, Captain," he snarled. "The kid might not want to tell you all his secret sins."

Golightly jerked his arm free. "Stay out of this, Pinder. It doesn't concern you—it's none of your business."

"I might make it my business. You try to ride everybody. The hero stuff has gone to your head."

Pinder was blocking the space in front of Golightly.

"Get out of my way," Golightly said tensely, and went to push Pinder aside.

"Keep your hands off me—I ain't no glassy-eyed kiwi."

Golightly barged ahead. Then he crouched as Pinder's hairy fist slammed for his jaw. Golightly caught the vicious blow on his neck, shook it off, and darted in with the speed of light. A left and a right! Pinder tried to cover up, stumbled back. Golightly rocked over a left hook that keeled Pinder off his skids.

Pinder was falling back into the prop of the idling ship. The blond kid, Jerry Cole, cried,

"Lookout! the spinner—"

Cole acted as quick as his shout. Risking his own life, he dived toward the idling prop, struck Pinder in the middle and hurled him away from the danger. The steel blades missed them by inches.

Pinder's face was white as he scrambled up. He shot out a hand toward the kid.

"Thanks, buddy! You—you saved my life. I won't forget it."

Cole didn't bat an eye.' "It was nothing, Pinder. Lucky I could knock you off the egg-beater before it scrambled you."

GOLIGHTLY scowled as be watched them. He disliked losing Pinder, but now he had to fire him.

"You can call—" he began.

"Save your breath," Pinder growled. "I'll get my time as soon as I get out of these grease-hog rags."

As the two men walked away, Golightly saw a folded paper the kid must have dropped when he had tackled Pinder. He snatched it up and legged to his office. When he was seated at his battered desk, he scanned the note, and his eyes burned at what he read.

Jerry: I'm being held prisoner. If you love me, do as tbe bearer says.


That night Golightly sat in his darkened office, and waited. Cole was in a mixup, and Golightly meant to get to the bottom of it. There were a dozen airlines that would give their eyeteeth to learn of the captain's inventions. Could those B and M blowflies have gotten at the kid in some way?

Golightly snuffed out his cigarette, rose to his lean height. He looked like a hungry bear in his flying suit. He hitched his shoulders into the 'chute pack and legged out across the dark tarmac. Behind the east hangar, he halted at the side of his slick Tobias Special racing plane. The ship had a long cockpit with tandem seats. The rear seat had been removed to make room for an extra gas tank, and had never been replaced.

Golightly climbed into the front seat. From around the corner of the crateshack, he could see the door of the test hangar. He waited, hidden by the darkness. Near midnight, two forms eased over to the test hangar. Golightly saw the door open; saw the Zephyr allmetal with the 420 Wasp Junior motor, which he used for his test ship, rolled out on the go-cart.

Still Golightly didn't move. He had a scheme for gathering in the whole swarm of stinger wasps who hoped to benefit by this robbery. Golightly listened intently. He couldn't identify the men in the other ship. One thing he was sure of—that unless Jerry Cole was one of those men, they could never get the Zephyr to kick over. Golightly had a special airlock on the supercharger that had to be released before the engine would start.

Suddenly the Wasp roared into life. Golightly bit his lip. The kid was in that plane!

AS the Zephyr lifted, Golightly kicked in the starter on the Tobias. The seven-hundred horse engine on the racing plane boomed into life. Its deepthroated roar rocketed across the field, slammed back in reverberation.

Golightly taxied onto the runway, jabbed the throttle up the brass and tore a hole through the dark. He left the ground in a great leap that hurled him up a thousand feet at a sixty-degree angle. He circled once, then flattened.

The captain caught a glimpse of the Zephyr's tail-light slashing through the sky, and headed for it. It seemed to coast toward him. Suddenly it went out, and he could see the dark blotch of the big ship rising, rising. The men in the Zephyr had discovered that Golightly was following them. They must have caught the glint of his wings in the moonlight, for he was flying without lights.

Golightly looked at his compass and directional gyro and frowned. They were heading outside the beams, heading toward the hills to the south and a little east. He pushed his air speed to 260, revved the twin-banked engine up to twenty-four hundred and kicked the Tobias into a climb.

Anxiously he watched the altimeter needle. Twelve—fourteen—sixteen thousand! He jerked his head up saw the Zephyr still climbing. Golightly had prepared for this. He broke open his oxygen bottle and bit on the tube.

Eighteen thousand!

At last the Zephyr started to lose altitude. She was coming down as lightly as the name she carried. He jerked a look down and tensed. A green light was showing on the ground, and farther on a red light. Here was a secret landing field!

Golightly made a sudden decision. He would beat the Zephyr down and meet the two men with a gun when they rolled up. He shoved the stick away from him, spilled the Tobias into a screaming dive. And at the same instant, a small, round object jabbed into his back!

"Belly-up on the pole, Captain!" a thick voice growled into his ear.

Golightly cursed and felt his skin crawl. He recognized that voice.

"Pinder!" he gasped. "How in hell—"

"Never mind that," Pinder growled. "Head down easy, say about fifty feet to the left of the green light."

Golightly obeyed. There was too much at stake to take chances. His mind raced for ways of gaining control of the situation. As he struck ground, close to the trees, he reached under the dashboard and jerked the gas pressure line loose. That would keep the ship on the ground.

Golightly legged out at the point of Pinder's gun. He looked up to see the big Zephyr killing altitude in a series of slips. It flattened off over the green light, and the retractable gear slid down. The Zephyr struck hard, bounced awkwardly under Cole's unsteady hand, struck again and corked down as the brakes grabbed.

And at that moment Golightly turned suddenly on Pinder, to make a fight for the gun before the others could get to him. He dropped to one knee, spun as Finder's gun lashed down, grabbed Pinder's leg and jerked with all his strength.

Pinder went down, cursing. His gun flew into a thicket of brush. Before Golightly could release his hold and dive for the weapon, a voice from behind them snapped:

"Hold it, amigos!"

Golightly crouched to his feet. He was facing another gun, held by a skeleton of a man who looked weird in the moonlight. The captain noticed other things, too. He could see a small ship hidden in the trees—an open pit Waco.

The thin man growled, "All right, shake your hardware."

"It's gone—in the brush," Pinder said flatly.

Golightly was a little confused. It appeared that Pinder wasn't a friend of this new man. If Pinder wasn't in with the crooks, they had a chance to get clear of this mixup. The captain was about to signal the surly mechanic for a concerted attack upon the thin man, when he heard the crunch of boots on gravel. He was aware that the engine on the Zephyr had stopped throbbing.

Harris's guttural, ugly voice came from behind Golightly.

"How's this for bringin' 'em in alive, Bart?" he rumbled a laugh.

The thin man said flatly, "You brought too many of 'em in, Harris. This ain't no zoo. We were going to work this thing out simple. You know that nobody will touch the booty if we cause a ruckus."

HARRIS snorted, "I had to bring the A kid because he understood the motor gadgets. Golightly came of his own curiosity, which is just too bad for him. Remember what a long nose did for the cat?"

"Cut the riddles," Bart broke in. "What about this other bird?"

"Him? That's Pinder, first-class mech. Hard to get on with. Mebbe we could sell him tire idea of wrappin' a wrench around a few nuts for the B and M if he gives us a hand here."

Pinder growled, "I'm open for offers, gents. The captain kicked me out today."

"Stick 'em in the shack," Harris said bluntly, "while we take a gander at his mystery ship."

"Frisk 'em for guns, first," Bart insisted cautiously.

Golightly was relieved of his automatic, and his lips drew tight. Any fight just then would be foolish. Then he heard Jerry Cole's voice say in a broken half-sob:

Where--where is she, Harris? I've done your dirty work--"

Pipe down. You'll see here."

They were herded up to a small building built of stone, with windows that were boarded up. Harris unlocked the door, while Bart herded them inside. Golightly heard a movement as he entered the shack.

Harris turned to Bart. "You guard this bird and the dame. I'll take the kid and Pinder back to the ship with me. The kid savvies the do-hickies, and Pinder is a wise Willie if he'll play our game."

Golightly said evenly, "What the hell is all this?"

You'll iearn soon enough, smart guy," Harris growled.

Golightly heard the door slam and click as the lock caught. He was alone in the opaque darkness. He had hoped for a chance to talk to Pinder and the kid. In his own mind he decided that Harris was working for some higher-ups and by a cowardly trick had forced Jerry Cole to help him steal the inventions. In addition to the supercharger the Zephyr was fitted with a special automatic robot control that would take over in case the pilot was suddenly stricken ill.

Again Golightly heard a movement in the dark room. His matches had been removed with his gun, and the boarded windows shut out even the moonlight. He called, but received no answer. The movement became louder, as of someone struggling, and he remembered Harris' mention of a "dame."

His groping hands found the girl. He felt her face and discovered a gag tied in her bruised mouth. He removed the gag, and a sobbing gasp issued from the bruised lips. He tore the ropes from her hands and feet.

"Who are you?" Golightly asked quickly, keeping his voice low.

"I—I'm Elaine Saunders."

"You—you mean Jerry's Elaine? His girl—"

"Yes! Yes! You're Captain Golightly, aren't you?"

"Sure, but what--"

"Oh, it's awful! They abducted me-made me write a note to Jerry. They've used me to force him to betray you, Captain. He was afraid to say anything, and had to do what they demanded.

GOLIGHTLY remembered that note. Rage boiled through his lean frame.

"Poor kid—are you hurt?" he said through tight lips.

"Not—not much. You've got to stop them, Captain. Jerry couldn't help it—"

There was a dull explosion out on hidden flying field-a gunshot. Golightly heard excited voices. Harris was yelling at Bart, and Bart was yelling back:

"I can't stop him!"

Golightly acted on a hunch. While Part's attention was directed elsewhere, now was the time to make a break. He felt for the boarded window at the front of the room. The glass had been broken from it. Golightly gritted his teeth, launched himself at the boards nailed across the outside.

The boards gave under his weight. He struck the ground rolling, caught his feet like a great cat and turned on the surprised Bart. Bart was raising his gun, but he didn't have a chance to fire. Golightly piled into him, struck out viciously with lefts, rights, lefts! Bart went down under a whistling uppercut to the button that laid him out cold.

Golightly snatched up the fallen gun and rammed it into the belt of his pants. He heard a plane starting—his Tobias! Footsteps drummed across the gravel. Golightly glared through the moonlight, saw Pinder's bulky figure lumbering toward him.

"The kid—he's gettin' away in the Tobias!" Pinder cried.

Golightly tensed. "No—for God's sake! That ship is crippled. It can't go far. It'll burn just as sure as hell! You tie this bird up, Pinder, and help the girl!"

Golightly lit out across the field. As he legged out upon the runway, he heard the Zephyr roar into life. Harris was taking a chance on flying the mystery ship and heading the kid off before he could bring help and ruin his crooked plans.

In the moonlight, Golightly saw the Zephyr start down the field like a silver shadow. He flung himself at the tail, managed to catch the edge of the stabilizer. The Zephyr gathered speed. The wind whipped back like a wall from the twin props as the captain drew himself up to the turtleback.

The Zephyr roared full out, slanted up under the Tobias. Golightly knew the Tobias couldn't go far, and he had to stop Harris from attacking the kid if he could, without injuring the Zephyr at the same time. The dreams of his life were built into the big ship.

Golightly caught the radio mast, steadied himself. He wriggled his shoulders to get his 'chute pack up high, and clung to the top of the slick fuselage. The gleaming metal was like ice under him. He edged forward—forward. With one hand clinging to the aerial wire, he reached a spot over the cabin windows.

He stopped a moment to get his bearings. Glaring ahead, he caught his breath as he saw the Zephyr flatten alongside the Tobias. Golightly waited for the Tobias to explode. He had jerked the pressure line loose, and the gas was pumping from the tanks through the broken line, most of it slopping over the hot engine.

He shot a look at Jerry Cole hunched in the pit of the Tobias. The kid was staring forward. Then Golightly saw a streak of flame knife from the window of the Zephyr. Harris, the fool, was shooting at Jerry Cole! In the moonlight, the kid made a poor target.

CAPTAIN GOLIGHTLY felt the sweat stand out on his face even in that icy wind, as he made his next move. He slid down the off-side of the Zephyr, groped blindly for the edge of the window. His fingers caught hold. He heard Harris shooting again. Harris knew that if the kid got away, his plans would be ruined.

Golightly's heart stopped as he eased up his hold on the aerial and slid down over the side of the Zephyr cabin. He took a desperate chance, but landed on the step-board of the low wing. He crouched at the window and tore the celluloid out with the butt of his gun. But before he could get a bead on Harris, the crook saw him.

Things were a little jumbled after that. Golightly saw Harris take another wild shot at the kid, but the Tobias was bucking badly. Golightly knew the gasoline was draining out, that the kid was doomed. He tried to get in a shot at Harris, at the same time hoping to squeeze his big body through the window he had broken out. It was impossible to reach the door which was behind the wing, and which locked from the inside.

To get through the window, he would have to drop his 'chute pack. If he did that, he'd have one chance in a hundred of getting down alive.

Harris was looking back at him, leering like a madman. The crook had the advantage, and he knew it. He raised his gun, pointed it back toward Golightly. The captain had just started to jerk his 'chute strap loose, and as Harris shot, Golightly dodged down on the wing and the shot screamed over his head.

Before he could straighten up, the Zephyr jerked into a vertical, and slammed over a wing! Golightly clung on dizzily, tried to get a look at the Tobias. The racing ship was bucking to the uneven zoom of the big engine. Harris was heading around on the tail of the Tobias, and now the man aimed his gun down the groove at the hunched head of the kid, who was fighting the stick of the racing piane.

Golightly knew he alone could save Jerry Coles life, though it might cost him his own the attempt. He had no time to discard his 'chute. He raised his gun, rammed it through the window and squeezed trigger The sIug creased Harris arm and threw the crook's aim off.

With a curse Harris slammed the wheel over, kicked the stirrup boot and tore the Zephyr into a whip-roll. Goligbtly was unprepared for the movement. His feet skidded out from under him. For one tense moment of eternity he clung on with his fingers, but as the big ship whipped over, the force of the maneuver hurled the captain through the air!

For a moment he was stunned. A hundred thoughts slapped against his brain. The kid would be doomed, now. Harris was a madman and would make sure of the Tobias—

It was then Golightly heard the other ship zooming past him as he fell. The sound of the engine seemed to clear his mind, and he realized he was falling through the icy moonlight. He jerked the ripcord. The 'chute mushroomed out. Above to his left he caught a glimpse of two other ships. Against the sky they were sharply outlined. The ship he had heard zoom past him was the Waco that had been hidden in the trees. If Bart was in that ship, then the kid's life wasn't worth a nickel.

Golightly tensed, and a curse ripped from his lips. The Zephyr was closing in upon Jerry Cole again. The Tobias was beginning to spin as the big engine conked out. It would only be a minute now. The Waco was tearing in from the side. Then Golightly saw it happen.

THE Waco headed for the narrow A groove between the Zephyr and the Tobias. It tore in with its engine roaring full out. There was one way to stop Harris from killing the kid, and the man in the Waco was taking that way.

Golightly knew that man must be Pinder—surly Pinder, who owed the kid a debt for saying his, life, was writing off that debt in a desperate try against death!

Even from where he was oscillating below them, the captain saw every detail of the crash. The Waco rammed in. Its wingtip fouled the prop on the Zephyr s motor. The prop exploded in chunks of metall The motor, relieved of the drag, screamed into a frenzy of power and then cut out!

Pinder was fighting the Waco, trying to pull ft out of a spin, but the shattered wing was against him.

Golightly, suspended in his 'chute, saw the ground rush at him and bent his knees to break the impact. He braced himself as he struck, spilled his 'chute. Looking up, he saw that Pinder was in a bad fix. He couldn't break the spin of the Waco. Jerry Cole, in the Tobias, was safe from fire, for he had cut the switch. The Zephyr was circling down gently under half-throttle. Golightly decided that Harris had had all the fight taken out of him.

Pinder struck first. Golightly slipped his 'chute and raced to the wreck as the flames mushroomed over it when the gasoline tank burst. He fought his way in, grabbed Pinder and heaved him out of the Waco.

"No—no," Pinder gasped. "I—I don't deserve this! You'll get killed—"

"Shut up!" Golightly cried. Gasping, choking, he got Pinder clear of the flames. "You made up for your rotten temper, Pinder, the way you saved the kid up there.

Pinder grabbed Golightly's hand. "I didn't have anything to do with Harris and this robbery. I knew the kid was in a jam, and was afraid you might go off half-cocked before the whole story came out. That's why I hid in your plane—to look out for the kid."

The Tobias had landed, and Jerry Cole was limping over, his face white and tense. In the course of that wild fight, they had flown out of the hills and were in flat farming country.

"He—he tried to kill me!" the kid gasped. "I didn't want to sell you out, Captain—but God, be had Elaine! Where is she?"

Pinder grunted a laugh. "She's all right, kid. I left her holding a rod on Bart in case I didn't tie him tight enough. I figure he can give us the lowdown on this steal—"

Golightly was watching the Zephyr, and the actions of that all-metal monoplane puzzled him.

"Harris is taking it damned easy," he muttered. "Guess he's decided to give up his helling around."

Pinder cried suddenly, "Look, he's not dropping the wheels!"

Golightly started to run toward* the spot where the Zephyr was squashing down. The retractable gear hadn't been let out. Golightly shouted.

"Kick'em out, Harris!"

The Zephyr ironed off on her guts, skidding across the grass and fouled a fence with her left wingtip. She skewered around and stopped, trembling under the throb of the idling engine. Golightly drew his gun, which he had managed to hold on to, and ran to the cabin door. He jerked it open and jumped inside. Then he drew back. He was conscious of Pinder and Jerry Cole looking over his shoulder.

There was a jagged hole in the left side of the Zephyr cabin near the nose. A chunk of the shattered prop had torn through that hole—and had almost completely decapitated Spud Harris, who had sprawled forward over the instrument panel, dead.

GOLIGHTLY said softly, "My inventions worked, anyway. The robot cut in automatically and brought the ship down."

Pinder grunted. "You even got an automatic crook killer there, Captain." He indicated the chunk of the steel prop lying against the opposite wall.

Jerry Cole broke in, "I've got to get to Elaine, Captain. There must be something I can do for her."

"Sure," Golightly grinned, "you can marry her. Then you'll know where to find her when you want her!"