Death Rides a Test Flight can be found in






It took tragedy and the contempt of a woman to
show Scott Colvin that life without honor is
more difficult to face than danger in the sky

DEATH RIDES A TEST FLIGHT

by Chester S. Geier

THE youngster gazed up at, the sign over the gate ASTRA AIRCRAFT CO., it announced in chrome letters bright in the afternoon sunshine. He straightened his trim AAF uniform, set his cap at a more rakish angle over his red-glinting brown hair, and strode briskly through the gate.

A man in a belted khaki uniform came out of a red and white striped guard shelter, folding a newspaper. His large red face broke into a wide smile at sight of Colvin.

“Well, now, if it ain’t Scott Colvin!” he exclaimed. “And what do you know, a first Lieutenant to boot! ”

Colvin shook the other’s great freckled hand. “Hello, Teague. Still on the job, eh?”

“And sure, what else would I be doing?” Teague countered.

Colvin’s tone became confiding. “Look, Teague, this is a surprise visit. Don’t announce me.”

A surprise it will be,” Teague chuckled. “Go right in, Mr. Scott.”

The gravel driveway led to a long single-storied stucco building bordered by box hedges. Gold lettering on the double glass entrance doors announced this as housing the offices. Beyond sprawled the numerous other buildings of the plant, the engineering laboratories, machine and assembly shops, warehouses, and storage hangers. A portion of a small flying field was visible with two parked planes, one of which seemed to be a military craft. The scene was permeated by a low clamor, the mingling of a hundred noises of industry.

Colvin pulled open one of the two glass entrance doors) and strode into the office. A receptionist at a switchboard behind a wheat-blonde veneer railing finished plugging in a number and flashed him a smile of inquiry.

“I'd like to see Mr. Colvin,” he told her.

“Who should I say is calling?”

“His son. But if you don’t mind, I’d rather tell him that myself.”

The receptionist smiled understandingly. “Go right in, then.”

Colvin pushed open a gate in the railing and followed a long door-lined hall which ran between the two halves of the building. A door at the end gave in to a pine-paneled reception room. The slim fingers of a girl with auburn hair were flashing over the keys of a typewriter. She looked up as Colvin entered. Her mouth shaped itself into a red 0 of surprise, and her eyes stretched wide. They were nice eyes, a velvety brown with golden lights deep inside them.

“Scott!” She flashed to her feet, darted around the desk, and all but fell in Colvin’s arms. He held her tight a long moment, his cheek pressed to the tumbled wealth of her hair. Then he held her at arm’s length, looking at her.

“Hello, Bea. Surprised?”

Bea Vincennes laughed breathlessly. “Surprised is hardly the word for it.” She sobered. “Scott, what ever have you been doing with yourself? I received your last letter almost five months ago. I sent you a perfect stream of mail—but you never answered. I was afraid something had happened.”

“Things did,” Colvin said. “Too fast for mail to keep up with me. I was transfered to the front in the Philippines, and cracked up just a few weeks later. I’ve been in so many different hospitals, I couldn’t begin counting them. Anyway, I’m out of the scrap now, Bea. Honorably discharged.”

Bea’s quick glance of alarm up and down his straight body spoke for itself.

Colvin’s face tightened. “I broke some bones, but the real reason is that I’d become a psychopathic case.

“Why, what do you mean, Scott?”

“I developed a fear of airplanes as a result of the crash in which I was hurt. Bea looked incredulous. “But you've been among airplanes all your life!”

“I know,” Colvin muttered. “I practically cut my first set of teeth on an old Spad control stick Dad kept as a souvenir of his days as a flyer in the first rumpus. Maj'be things would have turned out differently if I hadn’t had so much to do with flying. It was like being double-crossed by an old friend.”

A DOOR across the room opened. Two men appeared. One was short thick-set, with bristling black hair and steel-rimmed spectacles. The other was tall, husky, carefully groomed and expensively tailored, the veritable personification of a dynamic business executive. Colvin knew him. He was Wallace Rempert, the president of the Company. Colvin’s father was nominally the vice president, but he prefered to leave the details of management to Rempert while he busied himself with designing planes which would travel faster, higher, and further. The firm had originally been started on a partnership basis, with Rempert supplying the finances and business brains, and Colvin senior the necessary engineering knowledge.

At sight of Colvin, Rempert beamed delightedly and strode forward with outstretched hand.

“Scott, old man! This is a surprise.” He pumped Colvin’s arm, then turned to draw attention to his companion. “Scott, I want you to meet Chief Engineer Gus Doering. Gus, this is Scott Colvin, John Colvin’s son.”

The two men shook hands. Doering smiled politely, but his eyes were dark and inscrutable behind their gleaming lenses. Colvin had the impression that the other’s friendliness was only surface. He felt himself being appraised ,by a mind that was shrewd and cold.

Doering said, “Well, I hope you’ll excuse me, Mr. Rempert. And you, too, Mr. Colvin. I have to look over some plans for a proposed tail fairing change.” He turned and left the room.

Colvin asked, “Where’s my father keeping himself?”

“He’ll be at Hanger Two, I suppose, working on one of his latest experimental ships,” Rempert said. “Come on, I’ll take you there.”

“I’ll see you later,” Colvin told Bea Vincennes. He looked at her a moment, wistfully, then turned and hurried after Rempert.

WITHIN Hanger Two a spare gray-haired man in oil-stained dungarees stood on a wing of a trim speedylooking airplane, his hands working busily at something beneath the opened engine cowling. He looked down as Colvin and Rempert appeared beside the wing. His begrimed lean face stretched into a wide grin.

“Well, spin my prop, it’s Scott!” He jumped to the ground and grasped Colvin’s hand eagerly. “What’s this, boy? Furlough?”

Colvin shook his head, sobering. “No—permanent.”

John Colvin stared. “You were discharged?”

“Honorably. I made a forced landing in action and broke some bones. It sort of made me allergic to planes.”

“What! Am I hearing right?” John Colvin looked at once puzzled and dismayed. “Why, you learned to fly almost as soon as you were out of knee pants. Better explain yourself, boy.”

Colvin took a deep breath. This was the moment he had been dreading. He began, “I was escorting a flight of bombers home from a raid. We had just reached our own lines when the engine of my plane stalled. A short time before I’d been in the thick of things, helping to fight off a squadron of enemy interceptors, and a bullet from a Zero must have given the engine indigestion.” Colvin moved his lean shoulders in a shrug. “We were over a mountainous rocky region. There just wasn’t any place to land—and I had to land whether I wanted to or not. In those few minutes, I went from one end of Hell to the other. I crash landed and managed to come out alive—only broke a half dozen bones or so. I’d got off light, but I couldn’t touch a plane afterward. All I had to do was look at one, and my stomach would tie itself in knots.”

John Colvin gestured impatiently. “Stuff and nonsense, boy! You’ll get over it in time.”

Colvin looked away despairingly. How could he make his father understand? This thing that had happened to him couldn’t be dismissed so easily. Just standing near this plane now made him feel all tight and breathless.

Rempert said, “I suppose you’ll be coming back with us, Scott?”

“He certainly will!” John Colvin affirmed.

Colvin shook his head with slow doggedness. “I wouldn’t be too sure about that. I told you I was through wit...

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