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Cloud Rider

Fog Held More Terrors for Clark Ekvall than All the Planes in Germany—and Straight into the Fog He Headed for the Battle of His Life!

By Arthur J. Burks
Author of "Hair-Trigger Seconds," "'Hi, Soldier'," etc.

CLARK EKVALL, striding across the tarmac to Headquarters building, pulled his tunic up higher about his ears. Tentacles of the fog, creeping grey mist, skittered across the field.

A cold, biting wind came out of the north, like the breath from a mausoleum. Ekvall shivered in all his six feet. There were too many analogies to the tomb. The fog was too much like the shrouds of the dead.

"If I believed in signs," muttered Ekvall to himself, "I would think I was slated to go West for sure. I wonder what the Old Man wants."

Major Fauberg did not long leave Ekvall in suspense.

"Look here, Clark," he said. "This soup is so thick you could cut it with a knife. As long as it lasts there won't be any crates off any field. I know it and you know it, but Wing believes that the Germans deliberately started the fog in order to put something over on us. So we've got to keep patrols up. Jackson, Hobart and yourself are going out on solitary patrols. You leave at once. You won't mind the fog?"

Ekvall grinned.

"I was born under a lucky star," he said. "I'll never die by fire or water. Fire in the Spad or this fog—which is thick enough to be water—won't ever bother me!"

EKVALL saluted. His face was red from the walk across the field. Now he turned back into the tarmac, yelling for his Spad to be run out. The other two crates were already at the apron, their props ticking over, smearing the trailing tendrils of the fog which fled fearlessly into the spinning propellers.

Ekvall adjusted helmet, goggles and gauntlets, then bent to examine his crate.

This would be just a monotonous ride, nothing more, he reflected as he seated himself in the cockpit.

He signaled for his chocks to be kicked free.

His Spad started rolling. The fog swirled about him, now and again almost blotting the tips of his wings from view.

"Any fights aloft today," he told himself, "would have to be so close that we'd sure lock wings."

The Spad lifted into the fog. Instantly the field was blanketed as though it had never been.

"They think I can see through a shroud," he thought.

He flew in what he sensed to be the general direction of Hunland skies. His altimeter read five thousand feet. He was just one soul, lost in a white immensity, the drone of his motor his only companion. He couldn't distinguish the tips of his wings and there were times when he couldn't even see the place where his prop was supposed to be. Fog dribbled over his trailing edges like the flapping ends of white pennants. It lashed his cheeks as though it had been rain. He shivered, slid further down into his pit.

He guessed he was over the lines. His altimeter now said eight thousand feet. He cut his motor to listen. It was a horrible sensation, like riding on a feather pillow through white space.

The world below was nowhere. One had to decide whether one was right side up or upside down by the pull of the safety belt. He listened. The fog whispered against his superstructure.

Dully, as from a far distance, he heard a booming sound, as of waves against a beach.

The Archies were firing at the sound of his motor drone, and coming about as close as usual. His Spad rocked with the concussions. He couldn't even see the bursts of the high-flying projectiles. He grinned coldly to himself. The gunners down there couldn't see him.

He wondered how they would feel if he suddenly dived down, appearing to them like a ghost, wreathed in fog, his guns spitting tracers of death. But that was out.

He would see the ground only when he hit it.

He stepped on it again, cutting in his motor. On and on he drove in the white wilderness. He looked at his watch. He had been up fifteen minutes. Two hours and forty-five minutes to go. He tested his Vickers for lack of something else to do. The chatterin...

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