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WE take great pleasure in introducing to our readers, Mr. Ed Earl Repp, our new author, whom we consider one of the most promising science-aviation fiction writers of the day.

In his initial story, the author introduces so many new instrumentalities of science as applied to aviation, that it fairly takes your breath away. Stories of aviation of the future are always intensely interesting, because they bring to our vision in the most thrilling way, pictures of strange ways of conquering distance. And if the story is as good as the present one, it makes not only interesting reading but gives one a prophetic insight as well.

While some of the things mentioned in this story may sound improbable to-day, there is no denying that they may become commonplace long before the period mentioned in this story will have been reached.


by Ed Earl Repp

The Leviathan

IT was an exceptionally quiet afternoon in Denver, the sky was devoid of the usual swarms of private aircraft. Ordinarily these should be many afolt, transporting their owners, with bird-like grace and leisure, along their varied pleasure and business pursuits. But the absence of these swarms on this day was perplexing, at least to one who had been accustomed to watching the various types of craft darting hither and yon along the ordinary airlanes above Denver, the huh city of western aero travel.

On an ordinary day one would have seen a constant stream of trim-looking, graceful and swift craft of various types and proportions, forming a perfect cross as they sped along the governmental lanes to and from Los Angeles, Chicago and New York; or El Paso, Vancouver and Alaska.

Intently I scanned the air. I was standing at the time at my huge, specially built-in exposure on the eastern side of my hotel-apartment on the hundred and ninetieth floor of the new Orville Wright Aero Hotel and Terminal Building which had recently been erected in the memory of the early pioneer of aviation. It was my favorite spot, and I leaned lazily against the massive frame of the big window, while studying the oddly vacant sky in front of me. For miles and miles I could see over the rolling western plains. Far to the south I could see the white streak of the Great American Desert looming oddly against a background of solid green. Occasionally I could catch a glimpse of the Colorado, a silver thread, winding its way snakelike through a maze of mountains; and when the atmosphere was just right it was possible for me to see even the great inland sea formed by the reconstructed Boulder Dam.

Here and there were speeding craft which, by looking at my radio-controlled chronometer timepiece, I accepted as being the usual hourly planes bringing in the mail from outlying points off the lanes of ordinary travel. Needless for me to say, as early as 1950, the government had laid out a system of airways transversing the entire United States with direct lanes for air travel. This afforded the necessary protection to the countless planes that ordinarily should be soaring over Denver, and allowed them to avoid the treacherous atmospheres that made air travel over certain portions of the Rocky Mountains indeed dangerous. Only government planes were allowed to stray off the established lanes—the private craft being forced to observe the law rigidly. Moreover, privately owned planes were forbidden to rise above the 25,000 foot level, thus keeping them well below the upper levels of commercial travel. Planes violating the legislation, put into effect in 1975, were immediately brought to earth, their screws made dead and cylinders locked by a powerful system of radioactive forces broadcasted by the government observation and policing stations. The culprit piloting the offending craft was dealt with immediately and severely in accordance with the statutory provisions for such offenders. There was no place in the air for those who for sheer love of adventure endangered the serene souls traveling in the majestic air-liners in the higher levels. Presently my eyes roved to the east. Through the pale haze, that hangs like a ghostly curtain from the sky, over the country some miles east of Denver, I caught sight of a tiny speck that grew gradually in size until it loomed majestically and awesomely in the air like some terrestrial spectre. I was surprised to see that it was a gigantic air-cruiser and traveling at a terrific speed in a lane high above the usual level for ordinary commercial flight.

I watched the advancing leviathan of the air with growing interest as it sped like an arrow straight toward the hotel. Even at its distance of more than a score of miles I could see that its geometrically shaped nose was colored with the traditional insignia of the United States Air Forces. The craft was the first of its kind to have ever cruised in the direction of Denver and suddenly I remembered having seen it under construction through the screen of my super-sensitive 42 power television receiver. I was awed at the tremendous speed of the leviathan and intently watched its advance toward the great landing atop the Wright Aero Hotel. In a few seconds it shot to within three miles of my building and allowed me a chance to take in the graceful stream lines, rear aileron laterals and a rigid stabilizing fin rising from the rounded top surface of the craft's long, narrow cylindrical body. Unlike other modern craft, the leviathan displayed not a single screw! She seemed totally absent of propellers and I studied her undersurface for a glimpse of her propulsion principles. As the craft came closer, I noticed a dozen or more streaks of pale blue fire trailing. With a hissing sound that grew to a roar as the ship neared the landing, the streaks of fire slowly disappeared in a wraith of pale vapor. Suddenly the nose of the craft dipped downward, and just as suddenly, the blue streaks vomiting from underneath her rear aileron laterals and elevating aerofoils, vanished. From out of horizontal chambers constructed along the sides of the craft's body just below a long line of cabin windows, there appeared gradually, two wide stabilizing aerofoils, spreading like the wings of an eagle, that floated the ship to a graceful landing. I expected to feel a tremendous quake surge through the building as the craft landed, but there was not the slightest quiver.

A Pleasant Meeting

INTERESTED in this new type of ship, I dashed out of my apartment and in a minute I was standing on the landing beside it. Over the nose of the ship I noticed for the first time the controlling compartment enclosed entirely behind thick, transparently rigid asbestos gelatin, the new form of glass that I had read could withstand the terrific heat caused by the great friction through the atmosphere. This great craft I thought certainly needed that protection! Hadn't it come into view and landed from a distance of probably more than twenty-five miles in the space of a minute? I doubted, as I scanned the ship admiringly, that twenty-five miles per minute was all this great air-cruiser was capable of doing!

As I strode along the ship toward the narrowing tail, my nostrils dilated under a force of some strange gaseous substance. A thin wisp of vapor seemed to be issuing from a spot underneath the aileron laterals. Fourteen tubes in all protruded from under the laterals—in a diamond shape formation. They were thick and powerful-looking and glowed with a peculiar blue luminosity that, even at the distance where I stood, seemed to burn my skin sharply. Truly, there were the vents from which issued the propulsion explosions! Internal combustion engines with outlet manifolds extending to the tubes under the laterals, with the centrifugal force of a rocket, gave this great ship its astounding speed.

True, the combustion of gaseous substances to cause the "rocket" propulsion force was not entirely new. It had been evolved in 1927 by a German, and utilized for the first time to propel an old time racing car. I remembered seeing the historic machine in the International Museum for Mechanical and Scientific Expansion over in New York. But what I saw now was truly a great piece of work, the result, no doubt of years and years of steady research and experimentation. What really awed me was the absolute secrecy that the government used in preparing this leviathan of the air for service. Now, it was doubtlessly upon its maiden voyage or trial cruise out of the big station at Kitty Hawk. Now the world was going to really learn something about modern aviation! In comparison with this tremendous craft, our commercial ships seemed like mere pigmies in both longitudinal surface and velocity. This craft, I speculated, would be capable of outdistancing with little effort, even the fastest of our tiny sport model racing planes of the humming bird principle.

I was studying intently the under-carriage of the great ship, lost in absorbing the construction of the unusual claw-like grips, which, tightly clamped, apparently by suction, to the floor of the landing, held the ship firmly. Suddenly I felt a hand touch my shoulder. I jumped nervously.

"Come on, Mr. Holdon and I'll show you something worth looking at!" I heard a laughing voice. I was surprised at the mention of my name for I had kept close to my apartment and my amusing television since I had left New York for a summer vacation in Denver. I turned and found myself staring into the bright young face of Lieutenant Bob Allison, son of my lifelong friend and benefactor, Senator Allison.

"Bob!" I cried happily, for I was very glad to see the smiling features before me. "What——how on earth—what are you doing here? Your dad talked with me only this morning and he told me that you were stationed at Kitty Hawk. Of course he must have been mistaken for you couldn't be two places at once. Tell me about yourself, Bob. What do you think of this contraption of the United States Air Forces? Quite a ship, eh?"

"You bet, Mr. Holdon!" he replied eagerly. "She's a real boat. Dad was right too, for I am stationed at Kitty Hawk. I left there just exactly an hour and twenty minutes ago and here I am at Denver."

"You—y-o-u what?" I stared at him incredulously.

"Why sure, Mr. Holdon, I left Kitty Hawk at 2:20 this afternoon——in this ship, the U. S. A. F. Annihilator, and it is just 3:45 now. Surprised, aren't you? You ought to be, riding around in old tubs that can't do better than 550 miles per hour. Why, Mr. Holdon, this craft here can do sixteen hundred miles per hour without effort. Imagine Colonel Lindbergh doing the Atlantic in 36 hours in 1926! I don't envy him that flight after a cruise in the Annihilator!"

I laughed softly at his references to dear old Lindy who had performed such a wonderful feat in the old days. But of a certainty, our heroes of to-day were gaining new glories almost daily. Take Lieutenant-Colonel Brockenridge, for instance. He succeeded several years ago in an attempt to fly around the entire globe without a single stop and when he reached the starting point his plane was functioning with such perfectness that he continued around a second time. That was a wonderful feat for the advancement of aviation but of course it did not hold the dangers that confronted Lindbergh, considering the development of aircraft since his historical flight in "The Spirit of St. Louis."

"My lord, Bob, you young bloods will get yourselves killed yet!" I groaned, holding his steady hand in my nervous grip. "Why all the secrecy about this wonderful Annihilator? It will revolutionize all aviation!"

"Well, you see, Mr. Holdon, the government does not want to be caught again unprepared as it was fifty years ago when the Eastern Powers swooped down on us. With this ship and five thousand others like it we have the supremacy of the air at last. By that supremacy we can force the entire world to maintain perfect harmony in peace and no more will they attempt to add rich old Uncle Samuel to their long lists of conquests. To gain superiority over anything absolute secrecy must be practiced. Of course, the government gave the public an insight into the construction of the craft, but so far as mechanical principles are concerned, only a few have been thus far permitted to know them. I don't think it will revolutionize the aviation industry to any great extent, in view of the fact that the government will not permit ships of this type to be constructed for public use. At least not for the present."

Something About Joan

"AND you came here in the Annihilator, Bob? I'll bet your father will have a fit at you taking such chances." I said.

"No, Mr. Holdon, he won't." the young man smiled. "Confidentially, he is responsible for me being one of its commanding pilots. He saw to it that I received a commission on board the Annihilator. But, believe me, I had to work for it!"

"Certainly you did, Bob! I know you well. You are like your father in many ways. He wouldn't accept anything unless he was absolutely certain that he had earned it. Robert, your father is one of the finest men in this country and you should be proud of him!"

"Thank you, Mr. Holdon. I'm sure that the feeling is mutual all around. Naturally I'm proud of dad. He's the best fellow, and the finest friend I've ever had. But speaking of friends, Mr. Holdon, where's Joan?"

"Joan? Oh, you mean that death-defying young sprout of mine? Well, Robert, my boy, that girl is going to mean the end of me yet! I can't keep her out of the air. She left this morning for Los Angeles, to go bathing. Said she'd be back about mid-afternoon. I'll have to tame that young lady, Bob!"

Young Allison laughed delightedly, his even white teeth beaming softly. His trim, slightly upcurled mustache that was the fad among the smarter young officers of the day, did not add much to his handsome face. Bob Allison would have been handsome even under a six months' growth of whiskers.

"Tame her, Mr. Holdon? Do you think you could do it after all these years? She always was as wild as any of the youngsters in our set. You know I haven't seen Joan in ten years ? She was at school in Warsaw when I entered the Government Academy of Aviation at New Orleans. Does she still have that funny little nose that the youngsters used to kid her about?"

"That's right, Bob, it must be ten years since you saw her, at that! Joan was an odd youngster and that upturned nose was the main source of her worry. I'll bet she licked all the kids in Washington over it, but wait until you see Joan as she is now. Why Bob she's as ugly as a greasy accelerator!"

I squinted at the Lieutenant to see how he accepted my teasing word-picture of my untameable daughter. I expected to see his face cloud but he continued smiling pleasantly.

"Joan couldn't be as ugly as all that, Mr. Holdon. I might say frankly that I believe you're having some fun at ray expense. Go right ahead and have it because it does not alter my brain-picture of Joan. I've always admired her in spite of die fact that she used to think that I was put on this earth for the sole purpose of making fun of her nose."

I whistled softly.

"Don't tell me you're in love with a girl you haven't seen in ten years, Bob!"

His face colored under the taunt. He stared down at his neat-fitting boots.

"Wel-l-l, Mr. Holdon, I don't just know whether I am or not. I've always admired Joan. I thought her little nose was cute."

"No, my boy, Joan no longer has that nose. Nature took its course and developed a nose that would cause the Statue of Liberty to hang her head in shame. Joan is as good to look at as she is wild and fearless, Bob. It'll take a good man——a damn good man to tame that youngster! If you can do it, you have my blessing!"

Bob's face brightened perceptibly and his steel blue eyes snapped eagerly. He gave my hand an appreciative squeeze and grinned bashfully. I scanned the western skies searching for a glimpse of Joan's trim little areospeedster with its brilliant red and orchid color-scheme. The air was queerly vacant except for commercial planes.

"Darn funny, Bob," I remarked uneasily, "that on a day like this there are so few planes in the air! What do you think is keeping the swarms in their hangars?"

"Why, Mr. Holdon, didn't you get the government bulletin over the television requesting pleasure ships to remain out of the air to-day?"

"No, I didn't!" I said, surprised.

"Well that's the reason why the sky seems so deserted. The government broadcast a bulletin this morning requesting that all air travel with the exception of necessary flight, be suspended for twelve hours. That was a protective measure to give the Annihilator right of way from Kitty Hawk to points west."

"So that's it, eh? And that Joan had to take-off in the face of a government order prohibiting it! I must have fell asleep after she left this morning, Bob, and failed to hear the gong on my television receiver. If I had known, you bet Joan would not have hopped off."

Joan Arrives

"OH well, you needn't be alarmed over that. She's in no danger of crossing our combustion exhausts because we are not going farther west than Denver. When we take to the air this evening we cut a straight line across the Divide for New York to map a new route for official aircraft."

"I'm a little bit worried about Joan—in fact, Bob, I'm always worried about the little rapscallion! Here it is four o'clock! She should have been back by now." "Leave her alone and she'll come home, dragging her little plane behind her!" laughed Bob. "I'd like to see her before we take off, though. We hop off at seven."

"I suppose Joan would like to have a look at the Annihilator, Bob," I teased him. "I'm not so sure about its officers. She might not care to see any of them, especially one who used to tease her about her nose."

"You don't think then that she'd be glad to see me, Mr. Holdon? Then you and I will look over the Annihilator."

"Oh come on, my boy, don't take it so hard," I said, "She'll be tickled to death to see you! We'll wait for her. I know she'll enjoy it. Don't worry about me. I'll trail along with my eyes closed. Let's go down to my apartment, perhaps I can find out where Joan is at this time. She has a small aero-television system on her plane. By the way, what brought the Annihilator to Denver when it could have flown El Paso or some other city?"

Lieutenant Bob Allison blushed profusely and turned his head skyward.

"Well now, Mr. Holdon, I really don't like to say. I'm not the ship's commander you know. I'm just a pilot. But if you really want to know, I'm not too bashful to tell you confidentially. Dad thought it would be a good idea if I came out here to Denver to renew old acquaintances. Denver was as good as any other destination to the War Department. Dad arranged that too. And I wanted to see Joan. There you have it all in a grease-cup. The Annihilator cruised out here for my personal benefit, but nobody knows it."

"Well I'll be damned!" I expostulated, "You young bloods seem to have control of everything. Why in my day——"

Suddenly a blood-curdling shriek sounded overhead like the wail of a tropical tornado. I looked up, wondering what sort of a craft was demanding the right of way to land on top of the Wright Aero Hotel. Swooping in graceful circles at a terrific speed, Joan's trim little aerospeedster, with its tiny, transparent aerofoils, whined above with muffled twin-screws in preparation for a drop landing. The tiny ship, glistened under the glare of the sun, zoomed upward in three daring half-cockle turns to slow its speed. We watched it breathlessly.

"That's Joan, my boy!" I said proudly, nudging Bob. "She's certainly in a hair-raising mood today." "She can handle that mosquito alright, Mr. Holdon," Bob Allison said, admiringly. "She's got plenty of landing space. She must be getting a bird's-eye view of the Annihilator. Here she comes!"

Instantly Joan's tiny plane stopped dead above the landing, the twin-screws on each of its two small, gyroscopic motors, rigid and still. Over the enclosed cockpit rose a series of small, whirling blades that held the aerospeedster in the air with the ease of a humming bird. Gradually the whirling heliocoptic screw slowed down as the speedster settled toward the landing. It came to a gentle standstill between the leviathan Annihilator and a huge trans-continental airliner with a few scant inches to spare on either side of her tiny ship. She looked like a tick nestling under the belly of a wolf-hound. Immediately she stepped out of the cockpit, a vari-hued dressing robe around her slender form and a tight-fitting helmet covering her head, and there arose a great applause from the crowds of officers and civilians grouped around the Annihilator.

True to the traditions of eternal femininity, Joan accepted the plaudits joyously as though she expected men to slap their hands together in appreciation of her flying ability if not the exciting warmth of her beauty. As she walked blithely toward the elevators which would carry us down to our apartment floor, she waved at an occasional acquaintance or spoke to a casual friend. She seemed to show little interest in the huge leviathan of the air although I could see, as she neared us, that she was bubbling over with excitement.

"Joan!" I called, with my usual severity that expressed more of a habit than actual wrath. "What do you mean by stunting like that over the airdrome? Don't you know that I have to pay your fines everytime you get caught performing like an idiot? Where on earth did you get that crazy siren? Come here, dear!"

"Come along, daddy, be a good sport. Gosh! The siren? You mean my new Right-of-Way whistle! I bought it over in Los Angeles at the Sky-Hi. They have the nicest things there, daddy! I just had to stop off for a few minutes and I couldn't look without buying a new whistle."

Bob Allison stood aside as I remonstrated with Joan. He was smiling happily. I wondered if Joan would recognize him after a lapse of ten years. She grasped the lapel of my jacket and shook it playfully.

"Father," she whispered, "who is that handsome young Lieutenant standing over there? His face seems familiar. Why the idea! He's even flirting with me! How brazen!"

She stamped a daintily-clad foot, still encased in her narrow, orange and red bathing slippers.

"Why Joan, dear!" I said, feigning an expression of astonishment. "Don't you know that young man? I'm ashamed of you, Joan. Think hard, and see if you can't remember the young man you used to think was put into this world for the sole purpose of teasing you."

Making Plans

I WINKED at Bob, who maintained his distance, taking pleasant amusement out of the situation. He smiled broadly behind a gloved hand that hid most of his face.

"You don't mean to tell me that he is that little shrimp of a Robert Allison, do you, daddy ?" she asked, excitedly. "Why the very idea! He still laughs at me, too! I hate him!"

"It's Bob Allison and no other, darling," I said, patting her gently. "He piloted the Annihilator here from Kitty Hawk just to see you, Joan. He's going to be our guest until the ship departs at seven. Come here, Bob!"

In several swift strides Bob reached us, fiat in hand, his dark brown hair ruffled by a slight breeze blowing in from the west.

"Joan," I said, turning her head around after she had deliberately swung her upturned face toward the Annihilator. "This is Robert Allison, son of my very dear friend, Senator Allison. You remember Bob from your childhood days back in Washington, don't you? He thinks your nose is very pretty now, don't you Bob, my boy?"

"I think it is adorable, Mr. Holdon," he replied, enthusiastically. "In fact I think it is the prettiest nose I ever saw! Honest, Joan! If you'll give me a chance to appraise it I'll———-"

"You'll laugh at it, Bob Allison," she interrupted impudently. "I'll never forgive you for teasing me about my funny little nose!"

"Ah, Joan," said Bob, appealingly. "That was only kid play. How could you hold any bad-feelings toward me for something I did when I wasn't responsible? You seem to forget that you always called me 'that little shrimp of a Bob Allison', don't you?"

The sides of Joan's pretty, clearly-arched lips twitched in an effort to suppress a laugh that was struggling to find an outlet. I noticed it but Bob could hardly have seen the slight movements, for he continued, ill at ease over her impudent attitude toward him. I felt that Joan was enjoying the situation at his expense. She is a chip off the old block when it comes to teasing people who appealed to her.

"Just think, Joan," he said, softly. "It's been ten years since I laughed at your nose. I've never forgotten and I am here really to ah-a-ah er-er apologize for making fun of it. Honest, Joan!"

"Well do you expect me to stand out here freezing to death while you stumble all over yourself trying to apologize?" she said. "I never accept apologies in public anyhow, Mr. Allison. You may accompany us to the apartment."

I shot a wink at the young man as we entered the radio-controlled elevator. His discomfiture under the stinging lash of Joan's ready words was amusing indeed, and I understood perfectly that Joan was merely playing with him. It was her way of enjoying the companionship of her most cherished friends, and of course Bob could not know this. She was not unlike any other woman—she made a man feel as miserable as she possibly could; then would bring him back to normalcy with soft words and sympathy.

Following its usual sudden drop, the elevator's automatic doors swung open and we found ourselves in the broad, spacious hall of our apartment floor. A few seconds walk carried us to my apartment. During the rapid drop in the elevator Joan maintained a stoic attitude toward Bob. He seemed very uneasy because apparently Joan still resented the taunts that he had playfully heaped upon her during their younger days together. I was enjoying it hugely, although I felt that poor Bob should not be made to suffer just to satisfy Joan's coquettishness.

"You've a nice comfy apartment here, Mr. Holdon," Bob volunteered as he seated himself in the spacious divan in the living room.

Without a word Joan made haste toward her own chamber. I did not doubt but that she was chilled coming into the open air out of the warm control cabin of her little plane.

"Yes, Bob," I said, handing him my humidor of favorite cigars. "Joan and I like it here. I'm content to remain here for the rest of my days if I can keep that female upstart out of mischief."

"I don't seem a very welcome guest to her, Mr. Holdon," he said disconsolately.

I could not suppress a laugh.

"Don't pay any attention to her attitude, my boy! She is just trying to tease you—trying to have some fun in her own way."

"Oh! So that's it?" Bob said, brightening, "She's still the same old Joan."

"That's right, Bob!" I said, grinning. "She was laughing at you up on the landing!"

He chuckled softly and his face lightened as he settled himself into a more comfortable position.

"I'm a dud with women, Mr. Holdon," he said smiling. "But I—I——"

"But you're one of the best pilots in the United States Air Forces, is that it?" I interrupted.

"Nothing like that," he smiled modestly. "There's a lot of pilot-navigators better than I, and I don't hold any medals. I meant to say that I have not had much experience with the fair sex. I've been too busy trying to get ahead. Yet I always cherished a secret feeling for Joan that killed any desire to mingle with others."

"That's heroic, my boy," I said with admiration. "I've watched you all these years, through my own and your father's eyes. I'm convinced that there's not a cleaner or more upstanding young man in this country than you, Bob."

"It's nice of you to say that. I appreciate it sincerely," he smiled.

"Oh I have reason enough for saying that," I said, seriously. "I've always figured that someday you and Joan would——"

"What's that you say, daddy?"

A Warning

AT the sound of Joan's musical voice I turned. Bob arose politely, delight written plainly on his tanned features. Joan had silently entered the living room and was smiling radiantly.

"Wh-y-y Joan," Bob stammered, his eyes sparkling happily.

"Don't stammer like that, Mr. Allison," she said. "Haven't you ever seen a woman before?"

"Listen, little girl," I said, seriously, "Let Bob alone! He's leaving with the Annihilator at seven and we just have time for a quiet dinner and an inspection tour of the ship before he departs."

"I'm sorry, Robert," she said, apologetically. "You don't know how glad I am to have you with us. Let's forget all that childhood silliness. How do you like this evening frock? Isn't it pretty?"

"It is pretty, Joan, but it doesn't make you any more beautiful than you really are," complimented Bob, meaningly. "You are beautiful, Joan!"

"Do you think so, Robert? Father sometimes says I'm a little hellcat with horns on. But I guess I am a little wild at times," she laughed.

"Your father don't seem to realize that youth must have an outlet for its bubbling vitality, Joan." Then he turned to me as I sat regarding them through half closed lids. "You've got to expect youth to be wild at times, Mr. Holdon. I'm sure Joan knows what she's doing."

"Humph!" I grunted. "You might be right but I'm not going to admit it! I had a young colt once out in California that was as wild as Joan and——"

"Oh daddy dear, I've heard about that colt for fifteen years," Joan laughed, dashing over to my side and placing a sweet-scented hand over my lips. "Haven't you ever thought of burying it?"

"Alright, youngsters, have your fun while I order dinner sent up. Just make yourselves happy and forget about everything but bubbling and silly youth. I'll call you when dinner is ready."

"Filet mignon et table d'hote for Bob and daddy," Joan called after me as I walked toward the Automaton Service Control hidden behind a beautifully-carved closet door in the dining salon. The Automaton service had become a boon to hotel and apartment dwellers in 1941, lowering the cost of living considerably and doing away with whatever maid and valet relief that was required in the earlier days by fashion and leisure.

I glanced over the menu board, controlled automatically from far below in the chefs' kitchens, pressed a series of buttons on the panel and a few minutes later a low buzzing sound issuing from an announcing cowl, told me that our dinners had arrived. I busied myself setting the table. Usually Joan's nimble hands decorated the dining table, but on this occasion I undertook to perform those details myself, allowing Joan and Bob to enjoy a few quiet moments in the living room before his departure in the Annihilator.

Frequently, as I busied myself in the dining salon, I could hear their laughter. I conjectured that they were discussing their younger days together and I listened intently, for it is the gay spirit of vigorous youth that makes life worth living for the elder generation.

"Don't be silly, Robert," Joan was laughing, "Ralph Jordan never did mean anything to me."

"Well, all the kids in our set considered him your beau," Bob said, seriously.

"Ralph was a nice boy, and he was the only one who did not take great delight in teasing me. But Ralph isn't the kind of a man that appeals to me. He simply cannot keep up my pace. He's too old-fashioned and still clings to a slow old plane that has been in his family for years." Joan said, meaningly.

"That's comforting, Joan," Bob whispered, "Maybe I'm not too late."

"I never dreamed you felt that way toward me, Robert," Joan replied.


"You always seemed too interested in aero-dynamics and physics to pay any attention to me after we outgrew our childhood bitternesses."

"But I always had an indelible picture of you stamped in my mind, Joan. I always hoped that perhaps someday——well, that we might meet again in a more pleasant manner."

"Why, Robert——"

"Oh, I've always loved you, Joan!"

Joan was searching his eyes intently. I had a guilty feeling as I watched, unobserved. Bob's face was flushed but his eyes were on Joan, glowing with admiration. Dinner was ready and waiting on the table yet I hesitated to interrupt them. A feeling of content surged through me. What could be better than a match between the son of my dearest friend and my own wild, impulsive Joan? I turned away and sat down in front of my television for the news of the day, leaving the two in the living room to their own thoughts and aspirations, although I wanted Bob to explain to me the principles of the great Annihilator.

At the touch of my fingers on the tiny button switch, the television screen glowed before me. I moved the single dial control gently and as has been my habit, I tuned in on the government weather bureau in Washington. Softly the features of the official announcer appeared on the screen. He began his usual droning report. I throttled down the volume of his voice.

"All aircraft flying lanes over the Divide are advised to shift 43 kilometers to the south of the Denver summits to avoid a terrific up-draft of air sweeping upward from latitude 17 today," the announcer was saying. "This upward pressure, P/Po density of o-375 velocity, is lifting from 50 feet, to an elevation beyond the surface of the earth's atmosphere. All craft are warned against the up-draft, for its upward suction is reported by the Rocky Mountain weather observer to be more rapid and pronounced than it has been for many years. A powerful electrical storm is reported raging in that vicinity at an elevation of 80,000 feet, 0.90 to 1.4 kilograms per centimeter of width. Stay clear! All craft pulled into the draft will be drawn up into the outer atmospheres with no hope of returning to earth. D.M. announcing. Please stand by for further storm warnings!"

Allison Boasts

"LORD," I whistled, "I'd hate to get caught in that up-draft! It's a wonder that science has not found some way of breaking the force of it. That pressure forming a down-draft on one side of the Divide over the ridge and an up-suction on the other with a wide ratio, causes more serious accidents than all the air-pockets over the Pacific between San Francisco and Hawaii. Oh, well, that warning will keep planes away from the draft. They'd be fools to fly into it!"

"What's the matter, daddy, your face is the color of chalk?"

Joan was standing beside the set dining table with a hand looped through Bob's arm. They were smiling happily.

"The Washington bureau just announced that a high-velocity up-draft is sweeping upward over the Divide. I was thinking what a terrible thing it would be to be drawn up into the outer reaches of the earth's atmosphere with no hope of getting back to earth. That means any ship caught in it would be shot out of the earth's orbit where the absence of gravity would pull the craft into the infinite, probably to spin around the globe eternally like a new satellite."

"Oh, daddy! Your imagination is running away from you! Nothing like that could happen, Joan said, with a shudder. "Have you got dinner ready? We've just time to eat and inspect the Annihilator."

"Nevertheless, my dear," I said, "you are not going into the air tonight! No telling just what direction that up-draft will shift. I'm not taking any chances of you attempting to explore the outer atmosphere of the earth!"

"That's right, Mr. Holdon," Bob said, holding a chair for Joan at the table. "Such explorations should be confined to the Annihilator."

"You don't mean, Bob," I inquired, "that the Annihilator could navigate that powerful Divide pressure?"

"The Annihilator can conquer anything but interplanetary travel, Mr. Holdon," he answered, proudly. "She's not quite strong enough for that."

"But you wouldn't attempt to fly through the pressure of a high-velocity up-draft, would you, Robert?" Joan asked, nibbling daintily at a wafer, plainly alarmed.

"I wouldn't, of course, Joan," Bob said, smiling affably, "but if our orders were to fly a straight course from Denver to New York we could hardly escape the draft. I'm sure the Annihilator can pass through it under the force of her powerful driving exhausts."

"You have a lot of faith in that ship, Bob," I said. "Aircraft have been destroyed in Divide drafts for years."

"That's true too. But no craft as powerful as the Annihilator has ever been drawn into them," he smiled, enthusiastically.

"Just the same I am, proverbially, a Missourian. I've still got to be shown," I said with an uneasy laugh. Following the very pleasant dinner, we donned our jackets and helmets and were lifted up to the port of landing on top of the towering Wright obelisk. The sky to the east was murky with a heavy mist. Black clouds hovered high overhead and the ominous roar of distant thunder could be heard frequently. The sun had set in a horizon of blood-colored clouds and the very atmosphere seemed foreboding. Yet in spite of a pending storm, commercial craft dotted the sky hurrying to reach their destinations and discharge their cargoes and passengers. From the murk high overhead came the periodical hooting of some huge craft's right-of-way horn. Ordinarily, the usual storms and uncertainty of the elements would not prevent craft from keeping aloft, for air vessels were constructed to withstand them. But the ominous warning from the Washington Weather Bureau had obtained results in so far as pleasure flight was concerned.

Presently, Lieutenant Allison obtained the necessary passports permitting Joan and me to enter the Annihilator. He ushered us into a receiving elevator that had been dropped from the interior of the craft to the floor of the landing and we were lifted into a spacious and luxurious reception room. Joan paused to greet an acquaintance while Bob handed our passes to the Officer of the Day sitting at a little desk near a rigid, metallic door that opened into the central chambers of the ship.

"Pardon me, Joan." Bob smiled, taking her by the arm. "We've got to hurry. The ship leaves on schedule."

I trailed along behind them as they entered the ship's huge interior.

Considering the arrangements of the cabins in the big craft, it was not so terribly different from the usual palatial airliners in hourly service between New York and Paris or Los Angeles and Shanghai across well-established airlane routes. It contained a great, luxuriously decorated dining hall for commanding officers and guests, well up forward. Officers' cabins, spacious and neat, with double white metal bedsteads, lined a network of wide hall-like companionways.

Occasionally it was necessary for us to drop down small flights of rigid stairs and cross over metal webbings to get to other sections of the main deck. I inquired why this was necessary and I was astonished to learn from Bob that all decks were suspended on a gyroscopic principle, like the old-time floating compasses of the early mariners. By this principle, he explained for my benefit, the decks would remain on an even, flat surface, regardless to whatever angle the body of the craft might be tilted.

"You see, Mr. Holdon," Bob explained, hardly removing his eyes from Joan's enticing features, "this ship is constructed on a sort of a fourth dimensional principle. There are many new features that have heretofore been untried. The gratings which we just crossed over are more or less heat radiators. It gets mighty cold above the 50,000 foot elevation and we must have warmth. The Annihilator departs abruptly from the old type of airship and is of rigid construction throughout its exterior.

Something New In Aeronautics

"THE Annihilator is constructed entirely of cobalt-steel with the interior structure of four-electron Beryllium, the strongest and lightest metal known. The cobalt-steel structure is highly magnetic and to a great extent conquers gravity through magnetic repulsion. This is the first vitally important step of science toward the expansion of phenomena of electromagnetism. To be perfectly frank, this ship can actually fly without the use of the exhaust drive or any other mediums of propulsion. Magnetized cobalt-steel, with its power to repulse the gravitational pull, can carry this craft through the air at an astounding velocity. But by adding the exhaust driving system, much has been added to the speed of this type of aircraft. The velocity is increased some six hundred miles per hour.

"You are probably aware, Mr. Holdon, that these equations of gravitational repulsion are not entirely new. The famous Einstein theories of the old days on relativity have just been developed. American scientists, working secretly in the Washington Laboratories of the government, have at last succeeded in insulating against gravity, proving the Einstein theory that electromagnetism and gravitation are actually the same thing. According to the theories of Dr. Bryce B. Sheldon, head of the Department of Physics at the Kitty Hawk Laboratories, we need not be surprised if interplanetary travel will shortly become a reality through the medium of electromagnetism."

"Now, daddy, you understand everything about the construction and gravitational repulsion of the Annihilator," said Joan with an excited laugh. "Lets see if you can remember it all. Robert, you certainly understand your physics and aero-dynamics, don't you?"

"And blamed little about women!" I put in.

Bob's skin colored under a flush.

"I don't know about that, father," said Joan in his defense. "He isn't so shy as one would think."

"All the same he's not a ladies' man, Joan," I said, "else he would have had a fine time trying to explain the development of electromagnetism, cobalt-steel and Einstein theories. By the way, Bob, what are the collapsible aerofoils along the side of the ship used for when it can rise and land by gravitational acceptance and repulsion?"

"Oh, you mean the safety aerofoils? We were testing them out on landing. They are used for a gliding landing if anything goes wrong with the electromagnetism generating system. It does take a lot of work to absorb all that stuff, Mr. Holdon, but now that I'm beginning to learn something about eternal femininism, I think I shall ask for a transfer to the San Diego station so I can fly over here in an hour or so.

"I see! I hadn't thought of the aerofoils as safety units," I said. "It would be nice to have you near here. We could see you often. What do you think about it, Joan?"

"I wouldn't mind it at all, daddy," she replied, looking at Bob squarely. "But didn't I hear you say yesterday that you intended to visit Kitty Hawk for a month or so?"

"Really, Mr. Holdon?" Bob asked, eagerly. "Of course you both will be my guests when you come. I'll be waiting for you."

"I'm not certain yet, Bob. I'll think it over tonight and let you know in the morning," I returned. Bob looked at the chronometer strapped to his left wrist.

"I'm afraid we'll have to take a hurried glimpse at the under-decks, control cabin and mechanical compartments, Mr. Holdon," he said, excitedly. "It's almost time for us to take off and I want you both to see them."

"Perhaps we'd better just look at the controlling system, Robert," Joan put in. "You can explain the mechanical units as we go along."

"Well, to tell the truth, there really isn't much to see in the mechanical compartment," he said, smiling. "In fact there's nothing in the way of open apparatus— it's all rigid and stationery and operated along the air-current principle. Everything is encased in Beryllium housings and various gases are forced from supply tanks into the explosive chambers and vented through the driving exhausts. There are several generating dynamos operated from special air-pressure tanks, that furnishes the electro-magnetic power for the. repulsion of gravity. Of course you understand that the ship is not capable of nullifying gravity in its entirety. But to a large extent, the insulation against it makes it possible for us to rise straight up to a certain elevation where a diminished gravitational pull exists. We will eventually insulate against that too."

We walked along a wide, central promenade toward the sharply pointed nose of the Annihilator. Joan watched Bob's face intently as he explained some of the more important principles in the construction of the great ship. Frequently he gave her arm a gentle squeeze and they both smiled. As fine a couple and as healthy and vigorous a pair as I have ever seen, I said to myself, admiring Joan's shapely figure, and Bob's squared military shoulders.

The Take-off

WE had no more than entered the control cabin and concentrated on the maze of instruments it contained, when a loud gong sounded somewhere within the ship. I was disappointed when Bob explained that it was the signal for all members of the crew and officers' staff to report at once for the take-off. I glanced around the control cabin trying to appraise the many and varied instruments that it contained but Bob's voice called my attention from them and we returned to the craft's discharging elevators. Night had fallen when we found ourselves deposited on the landing. In spite of the glaring flood-lights that bathed the entire airdrome and its brood of aircraft in white, I could see occasional flashes of lightning flaring jaggedly from behind banks of ominous black clouds toward the east. For miles and miles the Divide appeared to be blanketed with a cloak of milling, twisting cloudbanks, outlined clearly by the jagged streaks of electricity. Few planes were in the air and they were marked with their own brilliant aileron and aerofoil lights, typical of restless commercial craft. They scudded through the air swiftly, like scattered nightbirds.

"I'm sorry, folks," Bob said with a resigned gesture as we stood for the last few minutes with him before the scheduled departure of the Annihilator, "I'm sorry you didn't have a chance to see the controlling system of the Annihilator. Really it's worth seeing."

"That's perfectly alright, Robert," said Joan, placing a hand on his sleeve, "that will be an incentive for you to come again—to show father the controls."

"Don't listen to her, my boy," I said, "It will be an incentive for us to visit you at Kitty Hawk! I've got to see through that ship and I'm sure Joan would like to go through it again with you."

"That's great, Mr. Holdon! I'll tell dad that you are coming and he'll be down from Washington to see you." Bob said, pleased. "I've got to get aboard now. I don't want to be left——as much as I'd like to remain here. I'll be expecting to see you both in Kitty Hawk sometime tomorrow." He turned to Joan. "Good-bye, Joan," he said. "You'll come, won't you?"

"We will, Robert," she replied, earnestly. "We'll leave in the morning and be in Kitty Hawk in time for afternoon tea. My speedster can do it in three hours!"

"Will you go to the Officers' Club dance with me tomorrow night?" he asked, eagerly.

"If you want me to," she whispered, softly.

"Thank you, Joan! Good-bye, Mr. Holdon. See you tomorrow. By the way, we'll broadcast our voyage to New York. You can pick us up with your television, if you wish, but we will not be able to talk. With your 42 power receiver you ought to be able to follow the ship through. We broadcast at 24,500 Kilocycles on the 14 channel band."

"Good-bye, my boy," I said, as he took Joan's small hand affectionately. "I'll watch you all the way to New York. My regards to your father."

With that, Lieutenant Allison entered the open shuttles of the receiving lifts and was wafted up into the control room of the Annihilator. Presently we saw his face at a control cabin window. Joan waved a hand. I smiled up at him pleasantly and nodded.

Suddenly a hissing sound surged through the Annihilator and I hustled Joan away. Spectators had already taken to a safe distance. The body of the ship seemed to glow for an instant as the magnetic energy passed into its cobalt-steel casing. Insulation, repelling gravity, had been contacted and the ship rose into the air gracefully and swiftly, her driving exhaust tubes silent and dead. With an eagle-like swoop she turned her nose upward in a half loop and headed eastward into the thick, murky haze. Long streamers of brilliant light shot ahead of the ship and from the cabin windows along her trim stream-lines, there came the constant glow of her internal lights.

We watched the Annihilator as she passed out of vision into the eastern blackness. She raced more than five miles eastward before she suddenly opened her exhaust tubes. Where we stood we could hear the steady roar of her propulsion explosions. The roar gradually died away as the great craft gained momentum. Occasionally we caught a glimpse of the streaks of fire trailing along in her wake. Gradually they too disappeared into the blackened eastern heavens. Quickly, Joan and I walked into an open elevator and soon found ourselves in the apartment, glad to feel the warmth of the automatic heaters, for it had grown chilly on the landing.

Presently I found myself studying Joan's radiant features. Her dark brown hair hung in thin, curling whisps around her temples. She had donned a comfortable dressing grown and was seated on the divan, scanning over the pages of the Aero-Chronicle. Oddly she seemed a very different girl from her usual confident, impulsive self. Ordinarily at this time she would have been scudding across the sky to visit some friend miles away or transporting her chums to a party in her snappy little aerospeedster. Now she remained at home for a quiet evening for the first time since we had taken up our abode in Denver.

"What's the matter, Joan dear?" I asked.

"Nothing, father," she replied without lifting her face. "I just feel like staying home this evening. Why do you ask?"

"No reason at all, dear. I thought it rather odd that you would elect to remain home with me so suddenly. It's going to be a bad night, isn't it?" I said, walking over to my eastern exposure to scan the sky.

What the Television Showed

THROUGH an almost constant display of lightning I could see the black clouds in the east, tumbling violently under an upward pressure. The heavens over the Divide were in an uproar. Thunderous claps reached my ears and lightning flashed in long, jagged streaks that seemed alive with fire. A terrible, frightful night over the Rocky Mountain summits! But aircraft would avoid the upheaval of the elements at merely the cost of a slight delay.

Hardly more than ten minutes had elapsed following the departure of the Annihilator until I donned my smoking jacket and sat down at the television receiver. Slowly I adjusted the controls and gradually the long shape of the air-leviathan loomed on the screen, glistening under a coat of ice, which was very unusual for this season. She seemed to be in the very center of a terrific storm and while the atmosphere seemed void of snow, the ship was actually encrusted by ice! She was traveling at an amazing velocity and I tuned in the powerful radio reception units of the television. Suddenly the hissing roar of her driving exhausts came in through the super-dynamic reproductive coils. The suddeness of its roar and volume caused Joan to jump, nervously, stifling a little cry. I throttled the instruments until the roar was barely audible. Claps of thunder frequently caused the coils to sputter, and flashes of high-tension lightning created an occasional glow along the reducing units.

Joan walked to my side and sat down. I turned on the double-wave screen in front of her and tuned it on the 14 channel band. The Annihilator, pitching perilously and fighting to retain even keel, glowed on the screen. The great craft was at last above the Divide, enveloped by upward tumbling clouds that whirled toward the infinite like the spinning cone of a tornado. The roar of a terrific suction-pressure and the low steady moan of the ship's driving exhausts, sounded ominously in the reproduction units. Yet in spite of the maddened elements, the Annihilator seemed to be holding her own and I patted Joan's tensed hands assuringly. She stared at the glowing screen, a worried look on her ordinarily joyously alive features.

"They'll make it, Joan!" I said, although I was keenly afraid that the terrific up-draft would win over such a huge craft as the Annihilator. Despite her super-powers to combat the elements, I felt that she was meeting her match in the whirling, upward pressure!

"But, daddy," Joan said suddenly, "she doesn't seem to be moving ahead at all!"

I stared fixedly at the screen. The Annihilator was pitching and rolling dangerously, her nose leaping in quick jerks toward the upper levels! Her pilots were fighting madly to keep her nose pointing to earth but with each terrific upward jerk, she was lifted skyward at an increasing angle. The Annihilator had encountered an up-draft, more terrible in its form than it had been for nearly a century!

"My God, Joan!" I gasped, "They're in it! Tune your screen in on 24,500 Kilocycles slightly under the 14th channel band and pick up the ship's control cabin!"

Instantly Joan's quick fingers manipulated the dials and the surface picture of the Annihilator, rolling and tumbling madly, disappeared from the screen. She switched on the reserve reproduction coils, automatically breaking the circuit in the coils at my hand, and, simultaneously with the sound of shouting voices, her screen glowed with a clear picture of the cabin's interior! Together we watched the perilous motion of the craft and the excited pilots controlling the ship from her cabin. Alternating my gaze between the two glowing screens, I immediately saw that Lieutenant Bob Allison was sitting at the wheel controlling the stabilizing aerofoils at her tail, his face grim, determined and pale. His hands clung to the jerking wheel with a grip of steel. He manipulated the control forward occasionally and just as often the tremendous force of the up-draft shot it back. He groaned once when the controlling wheel shot back, pinning him between it and the rigid accommodation in which he sat. He worked the wheel forward slowly. Each movement of the controlling system was clearly defined on the screen in front of me, for each time Bob shoved it forward, the Annihilator smoothed out, her nose pointed slightly to earth.

Joan watched Bob Allison intently as he strove to prevent the ship from shooting into the upper atmospheric reaches. I glanced at her face. It was white. Her lips quivered slightly as though stifling a sob. I said nothing, and concentrated on the scenes before us.

That Bob was weakening at the stabilizing control was easy to be seen. I groaned and Joan placed a shaking hand on mine. Suddenly his voice, weak and shaking, calling for assistance, came to us through the coils. Again the wheel shot back and struck him across the chest with such force that it caused his face to color with a bluish tint. I noticed a thin trickle of blood oozing from the corner of his mouth. Joan screamed and hid her eyes. Bob slumped in his seat, his hands frozen tightly on the wheel. There was a scurry of activity in the cabin as other pilots dashed for the snapping control. I tore my eyes from the cabin scene and glanced at the ship entangled in the whirling elements.

Scarcely had my eyes settled on the tumbling craft than her nose shot upward with a terrific jerk! Instantly the Annihilator rolled over, on end, and plunged like a comet toward the upper reaches. I cast a rapid glance at the other screen. The cabin was in an uproar and men were milling frantically back and forth across the even surface of the gyroscopic floor. Bob still sat in the pilot accommodation while two relief pilots clung rigidly to the wheel, snapping them back and forth like whip-lashes. Bob was senseless from the steady pound of the whipping control against his breast. I stifled a groan. There was the son of my dearest friend, in mortal agony and perilous danger, before my very eyes, and I was powerless to aid him! Joan stared at the scene through wide eyes that were moist and red. I felt a lump rise in my throat. Here was the end of the Annihilator, I thought, and——the abrupt passing of Robert Allison who seemed as much of a son of my own as he was of my friend, Senator Allison. I wondered if the Senator was aware of the catastrophe. He probably was, I decided, and like ourselves, was watching through his television screens, each sickening plunge of the huge craft.

Beyond Gravity

SUDDENLY a bright flash crossed our screens, and from the coils at Joan's side came a quick, sharp voice. I listened intently. Joan bent over slightly, dabbing her eyes with a tiny square of silk. Crisp and curt came the words through the coils.

"Official government orders," the voice said authoritatively, "All radios and television receivers and broadcasters are ordered off the air at once! Annihilator lost in terrific Rocky Mountain up-draft! Government demands all broadcast and reception right-of-ways at once for communication with the ship without interference! Anyone disregarding this official command will be dealt with accordingly. Off the air until further notice!"

With a muffled oath I switched off the receivers and turned toward Joan. She had gotten up and had gone over to sit upon the divan. Her face was buried in her arms and her form was convulsing with sobs. I sat down beside her.

"Joan, darling," I said, struggling to swallow the lump that had risen in my throat, "he'll come out all right. Don't cry, Joan!"

"Oh, I'm so afraid, daddy," she sobbed, nestling her head on my shoulder, "that Bob will never return to me. Think of the sadness in the loss of all those brave men in the Annihilator."

"I know, dear," I said, forlornly, "but we've got to expect such things——we've got to accept them like genuine men and women. Aviation must progress and develop. Life does not count!"

"Life counts with me, father," she sobbed, sternly and seriously. "I never was more happy in all my life than I was this evening with Robert!"

"Do you care for Bob, Joan?" I asked, tilting her tear-dampened features up to me.

"I've always cared for Robert, daddy!" she said without hesitation and with feeling. "You know that I've talked about him always."

"Bob Allison is a man, Joan dear," I said, feeling the lump in my throat more than ever. I had denied Joan nothing in all her life but here was one time when I could not help her obtain her heart's desire. I could not bring Robert Allison back to her. I would have gladly done so were I capable!

"He's like his father! Both are good men and true! I'm glad, Joan darling, that you feel that way for Bob."

Suddenly the Automaton Service System in the dining salon buzzed. I patted Joan on the shoulder and walked over to the panel and pressed a button over the mail receiving tubes. Instantly the latest edition of the Aero-Chronicle shot out into its reception chamber. I tore it open and read the headlines nervously.

"U.S.A.F. Annihilator Lost in Terrestrial Storm. Government Reports Ship Located Out of Globe's Orbit. Racing at High Velocity Opposite to Earth's Motion. Hold Little Hope For Its Return To Field of Gravity."

Stunned, I sat down again beside Joan and handed her the paper. I turned my head away to hide hot, stinging tears that had welled up suddenly in my eyes. The reaction left me in a daze and it was with an effort that I rid myself of it.

For long, torturous minutes that seemed like eternal ages, we Sat there, Joan reading aloud the Aero-Chronicle's account of the disaster. The lines, as she read them, were punctuated with deep, long-drawn sobs.

Presently she grasped my arm and shook it.

"Look, daddy!" she sobbed. "Read this about Robert!"

I winced as I accepted the paper and read a short paragraph in black agate type. Slowly I read the paragraph again to escape nothing.

"'Lieutenant Robert Allison, chief pilot of the craft, and son of Senator Allison, was seriously injured when the stabilizing control wheel snapped back and crushed several of his ribs, according to radio-telepix reports received from the Annihilator by the Government station at Washington. Lieutenant Allison's condition is considered serious by attending physicians on board the ship as the result of slight lung puncture caused by a fragment of bone. He is reported to be resting easily, however, in the Annihilator's hospital and arrangements have been made for an operation. Physicians are prepared to operate at any moment, the report stated!"

I cast the paper aside and stood erect. Joan sat, staring straight ahead through wet, unseeing eyes. I began a ceaseless march back and forth across the living floor. It was impossible for me to sit still in the face of such a sudden and unexpected tragedy.

Unable to withstand the torture of inactivity, I walked swiftly over to the television receivers and sat down. What was patriotism anyhow when the son of my dearest friend——our own Bob, lay hovering between life and death beyond hope of ever being seen on this earth again? The government would not know if I switched on the current of the receivers for a glimpse at the Annihilator and her difficulties! What if it did! I could afford to pay the heavy fines exacted for ignoring government commands of this order, and surely I would not interfere with official communication.

Decisively I lifted a hand to the circuit switch and pressed it up. Instantly the screens glowed, showing two contacts——the government station at Washington and the Annihilator! Nervously I watched the huge ship, now on even keel and racing at terrific velocity across the heavens at an elevation high above the range of ordinary aircraft. In an instant the ship passed out of the screen——only the Washington station remained fixed. I turned the dial gradually to the left and slowly the ship's rear aileron laterals crept onto the screen. I continued to move the dials to maintain the ship's presence on the screen. From the reproducing coils came the droning voices and I listened intently.

"Hello, Washington," an understandable voice was saying. "Are you still with us?"

"Yes, Annihilator, we are with you!" came another voice, louder and more distinct, in answer. I knew it was the Washington operator speaking. I looked around for Joan. She had disappeared. The Washington man continued.

"Senator Allison inquires about his son, Lieutenant Allison. How is he getting along?"

There was a brief pause then——

"Hello, Washington!" the Annihilator operator called. "Dr. Banksley reports that Lieutenant Allison is doing nicely after a fourth dimensional operation. Atomic Argonite has been injected into his blood and he's coming along fine. But what good——"

"That's fine, Annihilator! Report to Commander Rankin that we are doing all we can to bring you down. What? Your oxygen generators are out of commission? Talk louder, Annihilator!" the Washington voice cut in.

A Ray of Hope

MY sudden joy at hearing of Bob's improving condition was short lived. I hesitated to call Joan to tell her what I had heard. I continued to listen. The voice of the Annihilator's operator was becoming weak.

"Oxygen generators are out of commission due to some atmospheric pressure," he said, weakly. "Commander Rankin reports that the electromagnetising units are working perfectly and they are trying to obtain enough gravitational force for a drop through the narrow pocket over San Diego, California, latitude 30, longitude 9dc. We exhausted our reserve driving explosives bucking the up-draft head on. He says if you can get to us about a pound of concentrated nitro-radium we might be able to force the ship through the atmospheric stream into the pocket and bring it down. He believes we can do it with nitro-radium in the exhaust system. But for the love of God, hurry! We'll be over San Diego at five o'clock sharp in the morning! Rankin says if you get it to us through the pocket we'll pick it up in the nets as we pass over it and drop down to earth, if we can, on the next revolution! If you fail it's good-bye!"

There was a buzz of conversation in the Washington station as the Annihilator shut off her radio-telepix system. I thought I heard Senator Allison's voice and was half tempted to make contact with that station but thought better of it. I felt overjoyed at the unexpected developments, although I had a guilty feeling for having deliberately disregarded the stern orders from the government to keep all radio and television currents shut off. But no matter, if my offense had been detected, my rising hope would be more than Worth the cost. I switched off the receivers and looked for Joan.

Scarcely had I rose from my chair in front of the television, than the Automaton Service buzzed again. I fairly ran to it to receive the latest edition of the Aero-Chronicle containing up-to-the-minute developments and official governmental bulletins.

Quickly I glanced over the single page of type. The headlines glared with encouraging hope. Statements by many prominent scientists hailed the possibilities of future craft along similar principles of the Annihilator. Government officials openly complimented the ship's officers and men for their heroic bravery in the face of certain destruction. My mounting joy stopped suddenly however, when my eyes read swiftly over a notice that the ship had not yet been saved and that scientists and government officials ought to be working out ways and means of bringing it to earth instead of raving about heroism and infinitesimal possibilities with many valuable lives hanging in the balance. But nevertheless, hope was plainly written all over the sheet and I called Joan.

She came into the living room from the door of her chamber, her eyes dry but strangely blank. She smiled weakly and I placed an arm around her shoulders. We sat down on the divan and I explained to her in detail just what I had heard of the official communications between the Washington station and the Annihilator. Her face brightened perceptibly as I held the latest issue of the paper before her eyes. A short story in the center of the page told her that Lieutenant Allison was improving steadily after the operation and radium injections. She gave a happy little cry.

"Oh, I'm so glad, daddy dear!" she said. "I had given up all hope for him!"

"There's always a silver lining behind all the black clouds, Joan." I said, remembering the old saying of earlier days. I glanced at my wrist-chronometer. Joan straightened abruptly.

"What time is it, father?" she asked, impulsively.

"Why, darling, it's well past two o'clock," I replied. "Then we've time to get to San Diego!" she exclaimed. We can get there before five to watch the rescue work!"

I stared at her, gaping.

"Why Joan, you are not thinking of flying to San Diego tonight———in this terrible weather, are you?" I asked, incredulously, but knowing that if she had decided to do that very thing, it would be beyond my ability to prevent her.

"I am, father," she said, rising from the divan, "and you're going with me! Run along now and put on your flying togs!"

"But, Joan——", I protested.

As usual I became the victim again to Joan's impulsive determination.

The flight from Denver to San Diego was nothing short of a nightmare for me. Joan's little streamlined aerospeedster sped through the sky like an arrow, its twin-screws with reversal motion, spinning at a terrific revolution. Rain and sleet beat down upon the tiny, transparent aerofoils of the plane with such force that I could not understand how such a frail-looking craft could bear up under it. But Joan paid no attention to the storm whirling around us. She kept her eyes glued to the instrument board, looking by turns at the glowing compass, the altimeter and the barograph.

I watched the barograph for a moment. The magnesium-tugsten-alumino propellers of the plane were revolving faster than ever before and were registering 16,542 revolutions per minute. The altimeter gave our height at approximately 21,000 feet. I drew Joan's attention to the Velocity-Indicator. She smiled and gradually increased the acceleration. The tiny ship shot ahead with a jerk and the Velocity-Indicator needle stopped at 750 miles per hour!

"Joan!" I said, heatedly. "You'll rip the plane to pieces with that speed! Hadn't you better slow it down? We've plenty of time to get to San Diego!"

"Don't fear, daddy," she answered. "This little speedster is capable of doing even better than that. I want to be in San Diego with time to spare. Isn't the moon pretty straight ahead?"

Far to the west the moon appeared through a bank of gray, seething clouds. Stars surrounded it and I felt relieved at knowing that better weather lay ahead of us.

A Mad Flight

GRADUALLY, as Joan's aerospeedster skudded westward, the heavens brightened. The plane shot like a comet through banks of murky clouds and finally I scanned the earth through the transparent plates set in the floor. We were over the long, white stretch of the Mojave Desert. A sand-storm was racing to the north over the desert but we were high above it, the little ship bathed in the phosphorescent glow of the moon. Behind us a wall of black, tumbling clouds illuminated with frequent flashes of lightning, hung down from the higher reaches.

Joan deliberately disregarded all established airlanes and drove the plane in a straight line toward San Diego, the whine of the twin-screws muffled to escape detection by any Aero-Traffic Police who might be hovering in the air within the borders of California. Far ahead I could see, through the clear moonlit skies, a faint glow that guided aircraft to the landing on top of the towering, obelisk-like Lindbergh Aero Hotel, in San Diego. It glowed incandescent hovering on the edge of the far-off horizon. I could see the glow despite the fact that we were yet an hour from it. I glanced at the chronometer on the instrument board. We had been in the air slightly less than an hour. By computing the velocity of the plane I concluded that we would arrive in San Diego a good half hour before the time the Annihilator would pass over the perpetual air-pocket high above San Diego.

I scanned the space below us. We were passing over the central level of airlanes. Dozens of craft of all kinds were skimming along the usual routes; and to me, at our great elevation, they appeared like long lines of eagles and gulls, passing each other in independent flight. I heard the roar of powerful screws overhead. I looked up in time to see a huge airliner pass over us.

Presently I found myself silently speculating on the seeming impossibility of rescuing the Annihilator. My mind likened the disaster with the historical catastrophe of the submarine S41 lying at the bottom of the Atlantic beyond the aid of man. Then I began wondering how the San Diego rescuers would be able to compute the exact moment required in their attempts to deliver the driving-exhaust fuel to the Annihilator as she shot over the pocket, just outside the earth's atmosphere. It seemed an utter impossibility—as impossible as it was for deep-sea divers to go beyond their depth to attach oxygen-tubes to the S41, and to raise it to the surface before life had fled from its human cargo!

With those dire thoughts in my mind, I dozed. Joan was too intent upon controlling the plane to engage in conversation with me, and as the aerospeedster sped toward its destination I slept, exhausted by worry and grief.

After what seemed an exceptionally brief period, I was awakened by a sudden shriek from the plane's right-of-way siren. I sat bolt upright, bewildered. Joan was smiling at me and motioned for me to look down through the floor squares. It was daylight and San Diego lay directly below us, its tall flat-topped buildings rising like monumental obelisks. Hundreds of aircraft skudded through the air at various elevations. Another day of activity had begun over the Southwest's aero-metropolis! The bay was dotted thickly with amphibian craft and the government aerodrome, with its swarms of fighting planes, stood out in bas-relief against the green of the area surrounding it.

Suddenly Joan tilted the aerofoil controls and the plane plunged headlong toward the earth. At a terrific speed it shot, plummet-like, toward the landing atop the Lindbergh Aero-Hotel. The building seemed to shoot up to meet us like some gigantic rocket. Wind whistled and whined along the narrow aerofoils of the speedster as it sped in a perpendicular nose-dive, toward earth. I sat in my chair rigid, struggling for breath. I cast a frightened glance at Joan. A determined smile played around her lips and her eyes sparkled with the joy of the thrilling drop.

"For God's sake, Joan!" I managed to say between choking gulps. "Remember that I'm an old man!"

"This will make you young again, daddy," she smiled. "But I promise not to do it any more with you in the plane. You're old-fashioned—like Ralph Jordan!"

"I'd rather be an old-fashioned fogey than an up-to-date corpse, Joan!" I said, as she twisted the speedster out of its nose-dive and pointed its whining airscrews toward the government aerodrome across San Diego Bay.

"We'll go direct to the government field, daddy," she said.

"But you can't make a landing there, Joan. You know they don't allow private craft to land on the reservation," I said.

"Just the same we land, father!" she replied, determinedly. "I'm going to be on the inside of the barricades when they begin to rescue the Annihilator. It will be up to you to get us out of any difficulties."

"I haven't any friends there, Joan." I complained. "I don't believe you ought to————"

"I don't care, daddy!" she said. "We are going to drop there! Tell them you are former Congressman Holdon and everything will be alright, I'm sure."

"Well, alright, Joan. Go right ahead!" I said with resignation.

Begin Firing

JOAN shot the tiny plane toward the government aerodrome, shut off the twin-screws and elevated the heliocopter blades. The plane hovered over the field for an instant and then dropped slowly to the ground without so much as a warning from its siren to tell of its arrival. It settled between two gigantic combat ships, their big guns casting long shadows that almost completely hid the streamlined speedster from the rising sun. But the plane had been observed on landing, and before we could get out of the cabin, armed guards had come up. I stepped out first, Joan hopped down beside me.

"I'm sorry, sir," said a debonair young naval officer as I dropped down to the ground. "I have an order for your arrest, sir."

"What are the charges, son?" I asked.

The young guard smiled.

"Landing on a government reservation, sir," he said.

I turned to Joan, grimacing.

"See what you've done, young lady?" I said, severely. "You've led us before a firing squad—it will serve you right if they shoot you at sundown!"

"It's not that serious an offense, sir," the guard said with a grin. "We don't shoot beautiful young ladies at sundown or any other time, sir. Though you will have to explain yourselves to the Officer of the Day."

"Oh, never mind the O.D., son," I said. "Take us direct to the Officer in command. I am Congressman Holdon and this is my daughter, Joan. We'll explain to the commander."

The officer gulped and his face reddened beneath his tan.

"Very well, sir. Follow me," he said, nodding to the other guards to disband. He turned on his heel and walked swiftly toward the administration buildings nearby. We followed.

"This is indeed an honor, Mr. Holdon," Commander Wilkins said after I introduced Joan and myself and explained our visit. "But I am very sorry that such an urgent cause brought you here. I have very grave hopes for our men recovering the Annihilator. You and Miss Holdon are welcome to remain to watch the work."

"Thank you, Commander," Joan said, pleasantly, glancing at her wrist chronometer. "Isn't it time the work began?"

"We begin firing at 4:50, Miss Holdon," Commander Wilkins replied. "And will continue at brief intervals until shortly after five. The Annihilator is expected to pass over here at exactly 4:59."

"Begin firing?" I asked, awed. "Do you intend to create a downward vacuum in the outer atmospheres with high explosives?"

"Not at all, Mr. Holdon," the commander smiled. "Our largest anti-aircraft guns in battery formation, are loaded with gravity nullifying cobalt-steel projectiles. Each one contains ten pounds of concentrated nitro-radium. These projectiles, insulated against gravity as they are, will be given greater impetus from the earth by the added force of high-explosives in the guns. As the Annihilator races along the other airstream, magnetized steel nets will be hanging from her belly to pick up any of the missiles that might be in her path. Therefore our guns will hurl shells into the air through the pocket over which she will pass, five feet apart and at intervals of 30 seconds."

"Lord!" I exclaimed with apprehension and alarm. "Suppose she fails to pick up any of the projectiles? Then what?"

"Oh, father!" Joan cried. "They must not fail!"

Commander Wilkins hung his head and stared down at the toe of a restless, booted foot. I turned at the sound of a voice in back of me.

"Pardon me, sir," said a white-coated orderly. "Radiogram for Commander Wilkins from the Annihilator. I beg to report, sir, that the batteries are ready to begin firing."

Commander Wilkins dismissed the orderly and tore open the envelope containing the radiogram from the Annihilator. After a second he handed it to me and I read it aloud to Joan.

"Annihilator Will Pass Over San Diego Pocket, Longitude 9dc, Latitude 30° at Exactly 4:59, World Time. Everything Is Ready to Accept Your Deliveries of Nitro-Radium. Eight Members of the Crew and Staff Are Dead From Lack of Oxygen. If We Fail to Pick Up Your Deliveries We Cannot Hope To Last More Than Six Hours Or One More Revolution Around the Globe. Please Stand By For Results. We Are Coming!"

Joan stifled a cry of alarm. I handed the radiogram back to Commander Wilkins. Without a word he strode swiftly past us. We followed him to the antiaircraft batteries. Like a long line of towering steel shafts the guns pointed to the heavens in a fan shape, in readiness to hurl barrages of projectiles into the path of the oncoming Annihilator.

Commander Wilkins mounted a steel platform and looked out over the towering batteries. I glanced at my chronometer and looked overhead. The sky above the airdrome was entirely void of any aircraft. High up, in the higher levels, a great white cloud floated lazily across the sky. Over the city of San Diego itself, their heliocopters maintaining perfect balance, rested thousands of aircraft, their occupants intent upon watching developments in the rescue work of the great Annihilator. Joan clung to my arm, tightly, as we stood some distance away from the batteries.

SUDDENLY the batteries roared as one with such terrific explosion that the earth rocked and trembled. The concussion lifted us from the ground and set me down with a thump, Joan sprawled across my legs. I shot a rapid glance skyward. The heavens were depthless. But a gradually vanishing series of whining notes told me that the first discharge of fuel for the Annihilator was on its way. I pulled Joan down as she attempted to rise, and clapped my hands over my ears. Again and again the batteries roared at intervals of seconds. Joan hid her face against my breast, sobbing. I looked over toward the platform. Commander Wilkins was standing close to a waisthigh railing, clutching it tightly. Other men sat on the floor of the platform. He alone was standing.

Hope Gone!

EVENTUALLY the firing ceased and I helped Joan to her feet. Commander Wilkins, followed by a knot of gesturing officers and civilians, was walking toward us. His face was grave as he came up and saluted politely.

"I should have warned you and your daughter, Mr. Holdon," he said, "that the concussion would knock you down. I am happy to see that you were not injured."

"That's all right, Commander," I said. "I couldn't have kept Joan away."

"Do you think you will have any success, Commander?" Joan asked, apprehensively.

"I can only hope for the best, Miss Holdon," he said.

Joan smiled with rising spirits.

"We are going to watch the Annihilator on the television screen, would you like to join us?" Commander Wilkins continued. Joan nodded. He turned to the knot of waiting men standing a short distance away. "Gentlemen," he said, "This is Miss Holdon and her father, former Congressman Holdon. They will watch the Annihilator with us."

With that informal introduction we accompanied the group to the Radio-Television Headquarters. As we strode toward the building I felt a hand touch my shoulder. I turned my head and observed the serious, set features of Professor Stilsen, Director of Astronomical Research of the Washington University.

"Why Professor Stilsen," I greeted him, "I didn't recognize you in the group! What are you doing here?"

"Have been vacationing up at La Jolla, Mr. Holdon," he said. "The government radioed me early this morning to come down here and help out as much as I could in gravitational and atmospheric details. I'm glad to see you, Mr. Holdon!"

"Thank you, Professor," I said. "It was nice of you to help out. Of course you know that Senator Allison's son is on board the Annihilator. He is a very close friend of the family. We flew over from Denver this morning to watch the rescue work. What do you think about it?"

"Well, to tell the truth, I'm a little doubtful," he replied, shaking his head seriously. "It is and has been my opinion that when the projectiles reach the same atmospheric stream that holds the Annihilator, they will either continue on through it or be swept along the same course as the ship. There is a slight chance that the Annihilator will pick up one of the shells, providing it passes over the pocket at precisely the same second the projectile reached the air-stream. On the other hand, the projectiles might strike the ship and damage it."

Hardly three minutes had passed after the firing of the last salvo from the batteries, before we arrived at the Radio-Television Headquarters. Commander Wilkins ushered us into the rather large room containing the powerful radio-telepix apparatus. The room beyond the reception and broadcast panels was something like a small theatre with a fairly large screen on the wall in front of several rows of chairs. We sat down, Joan on one sides of me and Professor Stilsen on the other. Around us sat the remainder of the group, silent and tense. Commander Wilkins remained near the panels and its operators.

During the few seconds that followed, the silence in the room was oppressive. I watched Joan. She sat in stony immobility, her eyes boring into the blank, dead screen. Professor Stilsen likewise stared at the screen, his lips twitching nervously and beads of perspiration standing out on his brow.

Presently the reproductive coils somewhere near the panels in back of us sputtered. A dim outline appeared on the screen before us. Joan grasped my arm tensely. Gradually the glistening body of the Annihilator loomed and quickly passed out of sight. The operators twisted the television dial-controls and slowly the leviathan moved back into the oblong square in front of us. Professor Stilsen let loose a groan and pointed with shaking hand along the tail of the huge ship. The aileron laterals and elevating aerofoils had been tom from their sockets and were trailing along behind the craft at a distance that, on the screen, appeared to be several feet!

"My God!" the Professor shouted almost in a frenzy. "They're done! The controlling aileron and aerofoils have been shot away! One of our projectiles must have gone through the tail of the ship!"

Joan screamed and suddenly went limp. An officer sitting at her side got up and returned with a glass of water. I chafed her hands automatically, unable to tear my eyes from the screen. The Annihilator was racing across the sky like a comet, a mass of wreckage that had been her aileron laterals, following her! Around her, traveling at precisely the same velocity, were several tiny shapes that glistened under the glare of the sun. Some of the projectiles hurled into the air a few moments before had been wafted into the atmospheric stream circling the earth! There they remained near the Annihilator and yet too far away to be of any help to the distressed leviathan!

I felt Joan's hands quiver. I glanced at her quickly. She was reviving. I looked again at the screen. In the instant the scene had changed and in place of the Annihilator's surface, the craft's control cabin confronted us. God, what a sight! Men and officers alike, naked except for their trousers, sprawled on the gyroscopic floor! They tore at their throats with frenzied hands. Several still, immobile forms lay at one side of the deck, hands across their rigid breasts, embraced by death!

The reproductive coils howled suddenly and the operators throttled down the volume. From behind us came words that were punctuated with deep groans and wheezing coughs. We sat tense in our chairs. Joan's face was hidden behind my back to shut from her eyes the terrible sufferings of the dying men in the Annihilator.

"H-h-ello, San Diego," came the rasping words from the Annihilator's choking operator.

"We've got you, Annihilator!" came Commander Wilkins' voice from behind in answer. "What's wrong, Annihilator?"

"We're done——finished!" the ship's operator said in a dry, weakening voice that was filled with soulsearing sadness but void of fear. "One of your shells tore away the aileron laterals and elevating aerofoils. We have no control over the Annihilator! We picked up two of your projectiles but we cannot make use of them because your shell also destroyed the exhausts of the driving system! There's a gaping hole under the tail stream lines and what oxygen we had in the compartments is escaping. We can't last for another six hours, San Diego! Thanks for the nitro-radium. You did your level best. I guess its good-bye to every————"

"Wait a minute, Annihilator!" Commander Wilkins' sharp, crisp voice shot through the speaking tubes behind us. "Don't give up like that! Where's Commander Rankin? This is Commander Wilkins speaking. I want to talk with him!"

"Don't give up?" the Annihilator's operator said scornfully. Then his voice came to us in shrill, hysterical laughter. Presently he seemed to get control of his reasoning. "Rankin, sir? I am sorry to report, Sir, that Commander Rankin has been unconscious for an hour. I'll send for Lieutenant David—" Before the Annihilator operator could finish, our reproductive coils sputtered and went dead! The screen before us became suddenly blank.

"Hello, Annihilator!" Commander Wilkins called frantically into the speaking tubes. "What's wrong, Annihilator? We've lost you!"

The screen glowed for an instant and went blank again. I sat stunned at a few broken words that had come in through our reproductive coils, during the instant flash. The Annihilator's radio-television units had suddenly ceased to function——her electrical current exhausted! The operator had yelled at the top of his weakened lungs his final good-bye to the earth he had loved so dearly. Commander Wilkins cursed softly. Joan's form convulsed in spasmodic jerks.

"That's the end!" I said aloud, dropping my chin on my chest forlornly. Professor Stilsen's hand found mine and gave it an abrupt squeeze. I nodded, unable to lift my head.

A Mad Plan

FOR what seemed ages we sat there. The room was silent except for the sound of Joan's convulsive sobs and the heavy breathing of the others. I looked sideways at Professor Stilsen. His features were working oddly and his eyes glittered. Suddenly he arose, the scraping of his chair against the floor broke the stillness.

"By God!" he said, pounding his hands together in quick, steady claps. "That's not the end! We are going to save those men!"

Commander Wilkins eyed him with growing interest. "Do it, Professor Stilsen," he said, tensely, "and you will have the eternal gratitude of mankind!"

"To hell with gratitude, Commander!" he shouted, almost running toward the officer. "If the government would listen a little more attentively to science this disaster would not have occurred!"

"What is your plan, Professor?" several officers asked simultaneously and eagerly.

"You wouldn't understand!" he shouted hotly. "I told you in the first place that there was danger of destroying the Annihilator with your projectiles. You wouldn't listen to me. But here's my plan."

Eagerly and intently the entire room gave its attention to Professor Stilsen. I placed an arm around Joan as I watched his perspiring features. He continued.

"That operator said they couldn't last longer than six more hours! Evidently they have enough oxygen for some of them to survive that long. In six hours the Annihilator will pass over this aerodrome again! I know that for certain! With the earth rotating at a velocity of 25,000 miles every twenty-four hours and the outer atmospheric stream racing in reverse of the earth's motion at twice the velocity of the earth, only six hours are required for the Annihilator to make the complete revolution! The very fact that it passes directly overhead is a phenomenon exactly in our favor. We've got to make use of it now, for at the next rotation of the earth the outer atmospheric stream will shift its course and the Annihilator will be gone forever!

"Listen to me! Laugh later if you want to but listen to me now! Commander Wilkins, you will order your ground shops to begin work immediately on constructing twenty-four huge cobalt-steel, kettle-shaped drums. I will give you exact specifications. Your mechanics will fit onto the open end of each of these drums, a six-inch thick, circular plate of steel! Socket-clamps will be attached to the rounded bottoms of the cobalt-steel drums to accommodate stationary cables and high-tension electrical lines! Get twenty-four large Pinkerton winches each complete with cable enough to reach a distance of 85,000 feet. Weld cables together if necessary. By my plans and figures the cables need not be more than an inch thick.

"We will attach these cables to the socket-clamps. By electro-magnetizing the cobalt-steel drums you will insulate against gravitational force and they will voluntarily rise into the air, held captive to the anchored winches. The electrical energy will pass through the steel plate and produce a high degree of magnetism, forming a powerful electro-magnet. All twenty-four of the magnetic drums will be sent up to an elevation slightly below the atmospheric stream in which the Annihilator is held captive. I have figured that the magnetism in the twenty-four drums will exceed whatever gravity insulation that might exist in the ship. Consequently it will be attracted to the electro-magnets and be drawn down through the pocket into the earth's heavier atmospheres. By slowly reducing the electro-magnetism from the drums, leaving the current flowing through the steel plates, they can be lowered with the Annihilator resting on them under the influence of magnetic attraction. We will anchor out the ground winches at fifty feet apart, and permit the drums to rise directly in the path of the ship! I feel certain that this method will bring successful results by drawing it back into the earth's orbit!

"That is my plan, gentlemen, and if you agree with me let us get started at once! We have but five hours to finish all ground work and thirty minutes to raise the magnetic drums!"

Immediately the Radio-Television Headquarters quaked with resounding applause. I glanced at Joan. Her face was brightening. I felt somewhat relieved. Surely this plan, formulated in the active brain of Professor Stilsen while he watched the terrible scenes on the television screen, would result in the rescue of the Annihilator and its men————if any still lived when it reached again the pocket over the airdrome. Professor Stilsen held up his hand impatiently to stave the continued plaudits of those in the room.

"Gentlemen! Gentlemen!" he shouted. "I am not entitled to your plaudits or praise! Save it for those brave men in the Annihilator and let us begin work at once. We need every single second!"

Commander Wilkins held out his hand. Professor Stilsen grasped it in a firm grip.

"Professor Stilsen," he said with exhilaration, "We will do exactly as you bid! Everything under my command is at your service. We have the men and the facilities necessary to carry out your plans, I congratulate you for the most feasible plan offered. My command is yours!"

"I couldn't do anything without your help, Commander," the Professor said, modestly. "Let us proceed with the work before us!"

Immediately Commander Wilkins spun on his heel and issued crisp orders to his subordinates in the room and then excused himself to the civilians. Professor Stilsen followed him out of the room. The others, representing various papers, remained in discussion while Joan and I made a hasty retreat. With five hours hanging on our heads, we had no desire to loaf around the airdrome in the agony of dragging minutes.

The airdrome had suddenly become a scene of ceaseless activity as we walked from the Radio-Television Headquarters toward our plane nestling under the shadows of the big guns mounted on the huge, combat cruisers. Men and officers were hurrying hither and thither, clearing the field or executing the crisp orders of Commander Wilkins. Great ships were being taxied off the field and as we arrived at Joan's little speedster and entered its comfortable cabin, the triple screws of the big combat cruisers beside us roared. They raced across the landing toward their hangers.

Joan shot her aerospeedster into the air vertically and headed its screws across the bay. Within a minute we dropped down on the landing on top of the Lindbergh Aero-Hotel, registered and went to the seclusion of our suite.

The Last Effort

NEEDLESS for me to tell what transpired between us at the Aero-Hotel. The minutes dragged slowly and we were at the point of nervous exhaustion when finally the hands on my chronometer indicated that the time had arrived for the rising of the magnetic drums over the airdrome. Quickly we donned our helmets and jackets and were soon up on the landing. Joan's plane had been hauled into a hangar and she stamped a foot impatiently as it was being brought out for flight.

Joan had long since recovered control of herself although her face bore an expression of pallid rigidity. She had offered silent prayers for the man she loved since childhood, hovering between life and death in the Annihilator. That he would still be living if the leviathan was actually brought to earth, was improbable. From her expression I presumed that she had resigned him to whatever fate held in store for him. With the choking words of the Annihilator's operator ringing in my ears, I could not see how Bob Allison, injured as he was, could survive without sufficient oxygen to maintain life in his already weakened lungs. And six hours is a very long time to live under those, circumstances, I thought.

Presently Joan reversed the screws of her speedster and it halted over the airdrome with heliocopter blades whirling for a gradual descent. The little plane settled on the vacant field and we stepped out. A figure came running toward us with a warning to move the plane from the landing. Joan entered it again and taxied it into position near massed government ships at the end of the field. I was walking across the landing under the guidance of the guard when Joan came up to us, panting. She had ran across the field and the effort had returned some of the color to her cheeks.

As we neared a row of low, white buildings at the side of the landing I noted that they were strangely silent. The shriek and groan of machinery that was creating an uproar when we had departed for the hotel, had died down. The very atmosphere seemed tense. Eventually we entered the buildings and the guard led us at once to Commander Wilkins. He was holding a conference with Professor Stilsen and nodded as we came up to him. Professor Stilsen's face was grimy with perspiration and dust. The professor excused himself and walked away swiftly. Commander Wilkins turned nervously. Joan grasped his coat sleeve.

"How are you progressing, Commander?" she asked, tensely.

He smiled assuringly.

"Excellent, Miss Holdon," he said, his voice filled with excitement. "We had a little delay with the cables but everything is shipshape now. In a moment we will be ready to elevate the magnetic drums. The winches are anchored on the other side of the landing so as to pull the Annihilator down against the air-currents, and the drums are being welded to the cables. We've worked ceaslessly with this job, Miss Holdon, and I feel confident that Professor Stilsen's plan for the rescue of the Annihilator will work out satisfactorily."

"That's great, Commander!" I said, enthusiastically. "The whole world will appreciate your efforts and I'm certain that the government will, too!"

"As long as we succeed, and Professor Stilsen gets his due rewards, I will be content, Mr. Holdon," he replied. "That Professor Stilsen is a veritable mountain of energy and knowledge! It is a shame that men like him are not in command of the government's powers instead of us who know practically nothing but militarism!"

There came suddenly from the outside, a shrill siren blast. Joan jumped nervously. I looked questioningly at Commander Wilkins.

"It is time! he said. "Will you join me on the observation platform?"

Before we reached the observation platform, Professor Stilsen had mounted it and was standing by the rail. A long table-like bench had been built on one side of the platform for newspaper representatives. They sat in a line, radiophones on their ears, talking steadily into individual speaking tubes that carried their words direct to the offices of their respective sheets, and automatically set the type from the vibration of their voices. The drone of their voices mingled together in a jumbled, unintelligible cacophony of unamalgamated sounds.

I helped Joan up the platform steps. Commander Wilkins followed close behind. Suddenly there came a distant hissing sound. Professor Stilsen had signaled for the high-tension electrical current to be turned into the magnetic drums. I hurried Joan to the top of the platform. On the far side of the landing stood a row of huge winches, their cables taut and rising skyward rigidly. I looked up. High overhead at an equal elevation floated a row of odd looking objects held captive by the taut cables. Even under the brilliance of the sun, they gave off a distinctly discernible glow. The magnetic-drums were in the air at last!

I glanced at Professor Stilsen. His grimy features were set. He held up an arm for an instant and then brought it down rapidly. Instantly there came a high-pitched shriek from the spinning winches, and the gravity nullifying magnetic drums were on their way skyward! I held Joan close to me as we watched the rising drums. They gradually disappeared into the fathomless skies and we could see them no more. We turned to Professor Stilsen. He stood tensely at the rail, staring into a small glowing screen in front of him that told clearly the upward progress of the drums. Commander Wilkins was at his side. Presently he gave another signal and the shrieking of the winches died down to a low moan and finally became quiet and still, their cables taut and rigidly motionless. The voices at the speaking tubes on the table-like bench droned excitedly.

Suddenly there came a loud snapping roar from the line of winches. Professor Stilsen groaned. One of the cables had parted several feet from the spindle and its frayed end, in contact with the high-tension wiring was shooting vivid, blue sparks into the ground. The winch glowed for an instant and crumpled under the force of the short circuited current. Joan covered her eyes as several limp forms were carried away from the spot.

"I've prepared against that," Professor Stilsen volunteered. "Our doctors will probably bring them to shortly."

Pulled Toward Earth

COMMANDER Wilkins patted him gently on the shoulder. I glanced at my chronometer nervously, and toyed with a wisp of curling brown hair that hung from underneath Joan's helmet. She clung to me pathetically, her eyes on Professor Stilsen's broad back as though watching for some move that would indicate the presence overhead of the Annihilator. I too, found myself watching the tense form of the professor. Suddenly he stiffened and bent over sharply to stare into the screen in front of him.

"There she comes!" he shouted exultantly. "Her nose is dipped and she's standing still above the line of drums! The magnets are fighting the atmospheric stream and the Annihilator is being attracted down to them!"

With a shout of joy he broke away from the rail and danced wildly on the platform. Commander Wilkins continued to watch the screen as a cheer arose from the men stationed at the winches. Joan threw her arms around my neck and hugged me tightly. I felt a feeling of exhilaration surge through me and I offered a silent prayer that fate had not been too severe on the brave men inside the Annihilator.

I looked again at Professor Stilsen. He was standing at the screen once more, his hands gripped firmly on the rail.

"She's resting horizontally on the drums!" he cried. "One more second for the magnetic attraction to circulate through the ship and we will haul her down!"

He raised a hand over his head in preparation for the signal that would start the uniformly controlled winches rewinding the cables.

"We'll retract the electric-magnetism from the cobalt-steel of the drums," he said as if to himself, slowly lowering his hand. "They will fall gradually of their own volition, the attraction in the plating will captivate the magnetic body of the Annihilator and we will wind in the cables."

Despite the tremendous weight of the cables, the drums and the huge leviathan of the air resting on them, the winches rewound the lines without apparent effort. They hummed softly as the incoming cables wound around the huge spindles. High in the air hung a speck so infinitesimally small that my eyes could scarcely observe it. There came the roar of a million voices from across the bay and suddenly the atmosphere was torn with the shrieking of sirens and the shrill blasts of whistles. The Annihilator had been seen——she was being hauled to earth! The voices of the news reporters continued their ceaseless droning as they acquainted the world with the facts as they stood. Professor Stilsen sat down on a stool in front of the screen, mopping his brow with trembling hand.

Gradually the Annihilator was drawn earthward. It loomed in the heavens like a great bird suddenly stricken in flight. Hundreds of aircraft hovered over it like swarms of locusts attacking an eagle. They followed it at a distance as it came slowly down.

Without warning and with a suddenness that caused my breath to cease, the Annihilator literally tore itself free from the magnetic-drums and leaped back into the sky! It shot heavenward, ploughing through a swarm of aircraft like an unleashed demon. The magnetic drums hung in position, deserted. I stood stricken, unable to tear my eyes from the terrible scene. Joan screamed, and at the sound of her voice I withdrew my eyes from the rapidly rising Annihilator and tumbling wreckage. I expected to see Professor Stilsen sitting on the stool, with his head buried in his hands. Instead he was once again at the rail, waving a hand frantically at the men lined along the winches. Instantly there came a rapidly mounting shriek as the cables spun from the spindles.

Professor Stilsen grasped a sparking tube that was lying beside the screen and yelled into it. I looked overhead. Rising rapidly and gradually decreasing the distance between them and the Annihilator, the magnetic-drums were shooting into the higher reaches at a terrific velocity. They glowed like green balls of fire under an increase of electrical current. Professor Stilsen yelled again into the speaking tubes and the drums vomited green sparks under additional current that was meant to hold the Annihilator at all costs should they make the magnetic contact again.

Slowly, very slowly the Annihilator checked its upward rise and rapidly the drums shot up under it. The huge leviathan finally floated motionless and then began a downward descent to meet the attraction of the magnetic drums. There came another thundering roar of voices from across the bay, and this time the Annihilator was alone——no swarms of aircraft followed her as she was being drawn slowly but surely earthward.

I turned to Commander Wilkins who was standing beside Joan, watching intently the downward course of the huge ship.

"They are either dead or unconscious from lack of oxygen, Miss Holdon," the Commander was saying "Otherwise she would not have torn herself loose from the drums."

"What has that to do with it?" Joan said, drying her tears.

"Well you see," he answered, "the ship's electric-magnetizing units must have been working perfectly, sending constant current through the cobalt-steel hull, creating an insulation against gravity. They could not have known they were over the pocket or did not care for that matter, otherwise they would have shut off the units in consideration of the possibility of unexpectedly dropping through it into the earth's heavier atmosphere. Had the units been shut off the Annihilator would not have shot upward. It would have crashed to earth."

"I understand, Commander," Joan said. "If the electro-magnetizing units had not been functioning, the ship would not have broken loose. The magnetic drums would have held it."

"That's right, Miss Holdon," he replied, looking up. "Do you really believe they are dead, Commander?" she asked, her eyes filling again with tears.

"That is hard to tell," Commander Wilkins answered. "They may be unconscious or very near so. Probably those who are alive do not know that they are inside the earth's orbit again. They may have all the compartments closed to keep what oxygen they had in them."

Gradually the Annihilator dropped earthward, her huge body casting a long shadow over the airdrome. The winches groaned as they rewound the cables. Professor Stilsen sat like a marble image, watching....

As a precaution against further disaster, he grabbed up the speaking tubes suddenly and yelled into them.

"Don't break the current in the magnetic plates until I order you!" he said, holding a tube to his lips and apparently speaking to the operators handling the electrical control systems of the magnetic drums. "Release the gravity insulation slowly from the drums and stand by your posts for further orders!"

Hopes and Fears

PRESENTLY the Annihilator touched the earth and rolled over gently, the magnetic drums still attached tightly to her glistening body. Immediately she became surrounded by milling workmen and there came to us where we stood on the observation platform the resounding beat of compressed air hammers and cutters as they strove to make an opening in the huge, cobalt-steel hull. There seemed to be nothing to indicate that any life existed within the Annihilator, and I hung my head. Joan clung to my arm, her body sagging.

Commander Wilkins nodded to me and I half carried her down the platform steps to the ground. With faltering steps she walked with us toward the Annihilator. Apparently from nowhere had come automotive ambulances and hospital planes. White-coated and trousered figures scurried past us carrying stretchers. I hustled Joan along to keep up with the rapid steps of Commander Wilkins and finally we arrived at the side of the ill-fated leviathan.

There came an exultant shout from a gaping hole in the side of the ship as the first' limp form was handed through it into eager, waiting hands. I noticed a peculiar sound of whirring machinery issuing from the ship as we came up to it. Suddenly it ceased. The electro-magnetizing units had been shut down, but the magnetic drums still remained in position.

In a constant stream, limp human forms were handed through the gaping hole made in the side of the Annihilator. Joan tore her eyes away in time to forego the sight of one man, screaming wildly and hysterically, being brought from the bowels of the ship. As terrible as it was, it caused my hopes to rise suddenly, for if one man lived, there was an odd chance that life existed in others. Joan kept her face hidden behind my back. I continued to watch and presently my eyes beheld the familiar features of Lieutenant Allison. His face was pale as though in the embrace of death and I held Joan tightly as his inert form was given to waiting arms.

I had not wanted her to see that face but I could not withstand the agonized torture of standing there without learning of his fate. I decided that if Bob was dead we should know of it, and I hustled Joan from the milling crowd to follow the two men carrying his inert, death-like form across the field.

Slowly we followed and as we walked along in the direction of a long, white building over which rustled a Red Cross flag, I explained to Joan what I had seen. She gave a little cry and fairly flew toward the hospital. I struggled to keep up with her. The two men were just entering a door with Bob's limp form as we came up. We followed immediately into a long room filled with rows of white-sheeted cots, some with pale, agonized faces showing from the coverings, others covered entirely.

Joan dashed forward as Bob's form was being laid upon a cot, but two white-capped nurses halted her.

"I'm sorry, Miss," one of them said. "You will have to wait until we have observed his condition before you can see him. Will you please wait in the anteroom? We will call you after the examination."

"That's right, Joan dear," I said, taking her by the arm, "Perhaps Bob should not be disturbed now. Let us wait."

As we walked toward the end of the long ward, I noticed signs of life in the forms laying between the sheets on the cots. Nurses here and there were holding glasses of water to the patients' lips and I felt encouraged. But Bob Allison had been injured, I remembered. These men, I presumed, had not. That much out of his favor, yet I could not suppress a feeling that he would live.

For what seemed hours, we sat in the anteroom of the government hospital nestling almost under the rising dome of Point Loma. Joan stared straight ahead of her in stony silence, I toyed apprehensively with my helmet. Occasionally the door opened and nurses entered the room and departed, saying nothing to us. Presently the knob on the door leading out into the field opened and I was surprised to see the portly frame of my dear friend Senator Allison, enter it. With a stride I was at his side, gripping his hand. Joan sat unmoved.

"Jim Holdon!" my friend said, surprised. "Where's Bob, Jim? Don't tell me he is————. Have you seen him, Jim?"

"Well, Frank," I said. "I cannot say. Joan and I are waiting until he has been examined. But I have a feeling that he'll get along."

"You've seen him, Jim? He asked, staring at me questioningly.

"Y-y-yes, Frank," I answered, evading his eyes, "II-have seen him."

"Is that Joan sitting over there, Jim?" he asked, suddenly.

"It is, Frank," I answered. "She's taking things pretty hard. Bob stopped to see us in Denver just before the Annihilator took off and was drawn into the up-draft."

I turned to Joan and nodded. She came forward falteringly.

"Joan, dear," I said, placing an arm around her waist. "This is Bob's father. You remember him, don't you?"

"I'm pleased to see you, Senator Allison," she said, "and I am very glad you are here. I was wondering if you'd come."

"I came as soon as I could," he said. "You've grown to be a beautiful woman, Joan. You were just a' little child when I saw you last back in Washington."

"Thank you, Senator," she said, hanging her head modestly. "I'm getting impatient waiting for them to tell me that we can see Robert. Can't you do something? This suspense is terrible!"

I winked at Senator Allison. His brows went up in understanding surprise.

"I want to see him too, Joanie," he smiled, anxiously, "But I think it best to wait until they call me."

"I think so, too, Joan." I put in.

"Well, alright I'll have to————"

Before Joan could finish her resigned sentence, the door opening from the ward swung wide and a nurse stepped in, smiling. We stared at her questioningly. Her smile made my hopes race high.

"Lieutenant Allison is doing nicely," she said. "You may see him now." She beckoned us to follow her. Not knowing what to expect, we walked tensely through the door and into the ward. The cots were filled with sitting and reclining men, some smoking and chatting with their friends. How quickly they had cast off the death-like embrace of unconsciousness, I thought as we walked between the rows of cots.

Finally the nurse halted in front of a door beyond the ward and stood by while we entered. I held Joan back just inside the room, while Senator Allison walked noiselessly to his son's bedside. Bob lay motionless and pale and I was suddenly filled with fear. Joan sobbed softly. Senator Allison bent over and kissed his son's white forehead, sudden tears streaming down his cheeks. A lump rose in my throat and I looked away.

I felt tempted to take Joan by the arm and hustle her from the doorway. It would be very hard to look upon the death mask that I felt had closed Bob's eyes forever, and in reverence I wanted to depart and leave his father alone with him. I lifted my hanging head and looked out into the hallway for an instant and then Joan tugged at my arm. I turned. There was a movement under the bed coverings as Bob lifted a hand out of their confines. His eyes opened and closed weakly as his hand met his father's shaking palm.

"Dad!" he said, weakly. "You've come!"

"Yes, son," his father whispered. "I flew here as fast as I could. How do you feel, Bob?"

"Oh, I'll get along alright, dad," he managed to smile. "My chest pains a little, but that's to be expected. Have you seen Joan Holdon?"

"I have, son," Senator Allison replied with a happy grin. "She's here waiting to see you."

Joan flew from my arms to the bedside and kneeled down beside it, sobbing.

"Joan!" Bob cried, softly. "I've been hoping you would come."

"Oh, Robert!" she sobbed, "You don't know what I've gone through——with you hurt and beyond my reach. It's been so terrible!"

"Everything is alright now, Joan," he whispered, placing a hand on her head and lifting her face up to him. "I think it was rude of me to get hurt after asking to take you to a dance with me. Perhaps you will dance with me later, Joan——will you?"

Senator Allison motioned me to follow him out of the room. We stepped out as Joan kneeled closer.

"Yes, Robert," she said, blushing. "I'll dance with you——all through life if you will hurry and get well."

"I can't help but get well now, Joan dear." Bob smiled happily.