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THE IRON PILOT

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 ...

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