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DAVID WRIGHT O'BRIEN
(WRITING AS DUNCAN FARNSWORTH)

V IS FOR VENGEANCE

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RGL e-Book Cover

First published in Fantastic Adventures, January 1942

This e-book edition: Roy Glashan's Library, 2019
Version Date: 2021-10-03
Produced by Paul Sandery, Matthias Kaether and Roy Glashan

All original content added by RGL is protected by copyright.

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Fantastic Adventures, January 1942, with "V is for Vengeance"


Illustration

There came a rending roar, and the arch began to collapse.


"THE news has reached me, Tiberius. In the public center, today while I was coming from the baths, it was announced!"

The face of the bronzed young citizen of Rome was visibly excited. And as he spoke, his words were low and pitched in a tempo of tense caution. He took a deep breath, looking covertly over his shoulder.

"He is coming. It is official!"

"Coming here, to Goria?" the tall, gaunt, slightly older man drew his loose white toga closer around his lean bones. "Here? Are you certain?"

The lean, bronzed young man nodded excitedly with his response.

"It was announced in the public square, I tell you. It is positive."

The gaunt Tiberius reflected wonderingly on this. "It is more than we dared hope for. It fits the plans of our secret council perfectly. The madman, Nero, is already doomed."

The younger man looked furtively over his shoulder again.

"Not so loud," he whispered warningly. "Your servants might overhear."

The gaunt Tiberius started. "Right, Vintius. Sometimes I forget myself. However," he rose, and spoke softer, "our secret council will meet tonight at the edge of the town, on the first cliff of Vesuvius. There we will make our plans for the triumphal reception of Nero into Goria."

"I will be there," declared Vintius.

Tiberius nodded gravely.

"Good. Until then, my son, Vale!"

The young man, Vintius, raised his arm in salute.

"Vale!" he responded....


Account Taken from Interocean Press Dispatch—

HITLER TO LEAD GIGANTIC VICTORY DEMONSTRATION IN VICHY

(Special Dispatch, I/P, Berlin)

Culminating the widespread Axis counterattack against the underground "V" campaign throughout the Nazi dominated countries in Europe, Adolf Hitler's own press bureau, DNB, announced today that the Fuehrer will be on hand for the demonstration of "European solidarity" to be held in Vichy next Friday.

It is significant that, although Doctor Goebbels' Ministry of Propaganda has stated "V" is a letter of Germanic origin and points to Nazi victory, thousands of underground "V" saboteurs in the occupied nations have been "purged" merely for having symbols of the letter on their persons.

Nevertheless, Nazi plans for the demonstration have been similar in tone to anti-superstition club affairs held in the United States on such days as Friday the 13th, Halloween, etc. Where U.S. anti-superstition organizations hold their meetings on so-called "unlucky" days, open umbrellas in closed rooms, play with black cats, break mirrors, and walk under ladders, the Nazi demonstration will be on the fifth day of the Roman calendar, in a city whose first letter is "V", with huge Germanic "V" banners being flown beside the swastika, and "V" emblems tagged to all automobiles, including Hitler's own.

This symbolism, of course, is meant to be Nazi mockery of the underground "V" effort, which by now is almost completely wiped out through wholesale Gestapo killings. It is also noted that...


YOUNG Vintius found the secret council and Tiberius at the designated meeting place on the first cliff of Mount Vesuvius that evening. They had gathered in a semi-circular cave, lighted only by the ghostly flickerings of torches. Their talk was that of brave and desperate men.

The gaunt Tiberius held the center of the group.

"We must act now," he insisted. "This is our chance. It is what we have been waiting for. Far better, I say, to slay the tyrant here—in Goria—than to risk the failure of an assassination in Rome."

There was a murmur of agreement from the secret council.

Young Vintius, who had been silent until now, stepped forward.

"I have a plan," he said. "I think it foolproof. I wish to submit it to the wisdom of the council."

Tiberius looked at the younger man. "Speak, Vintius," he said. "We are eager to hear this plan."

Vintius cleared his throat.

"We all know the overwhelming vanity of the madman, Nero," he declared. "And we all know of his insane desire to imitate the long dead Caesar." The secret council muttered agreement and quickened interest. All sat forward a bit, to better hear the youth continue.

"And in line with this," Vintius declared, "it is also a fact that I am the only architect here in Goria, the only one able to build, to design, a monumental tribute to Nero on his visit here."

The frown on the face of Tiberius mirrored the bewilderment of the others in the group.

"And what has this to do with the assassination?" he demanded impatiently.

Vintius held up his hand.

"Hear me out," he pleaded. "I come to that."

The secret council leaned closer still to catch the words of the young architect of Goria. The flickering torches threw tall shadows of foreboding doom against the walls of the cavern as the death of a tyrant was plotted...


Excerpt from the syndicated newspaper column of the widely-
read. U.S. commentators Shaw and Sinclair, News and Views:

When we stated, purely as a hunch, that Benito Mussolini would try to horn in on Adolf Hitler's "V" demonstration in Vichy, next Friday, it seems we hit the nail on the head. The Italian Dictator won't personally appear at the ceremonies, but he has just donated—to be shipped intact—an ancient Roman arch which supposedly dates back to the time of Julius Caesar.

This arch, only recently unearthed and in an excellent state of preservation, will be assembled in Vichy exactly as it was found by Benito's digger-uppers. Then it will be placed over the avenue of parade so that Der Fuehrer can ride triumphantly beneath it, in the manner that it is supposed Julius Caesar once did. All of which further proves Musso to be but a second-rate stage hand for Adolf...


IT was four days after the meeting of the secret council in the cavern on Mount Vesuvius when the gaunt leader of that group, Tiberius, summoned the young architect, Vintius, to him.

"It is arranged," said Tiberius, when they were alone. "I have persuaded the Town Senate of Goria that some especially fitting tribute should be paid Nero when he makes his visit here."

Young Vintius was elated.

"Good. I had been praying that there would be no obstacle."

Tiberius smiled a little grimly.

"There was no obstacle. Most of the fools in the Town Senate are anxious to get on the good side of their madman emperor. They seek favors and positions. They were happy to sponsor such a suggestion."

"And I?" There was anxiety in Vintius's half query.

"You have been appointed to build the edifice that will honor Nero. For as you pointed out, you are the only architect in Goria. It was simple to suggest your name for the honor," Tiberius reassured the young man.

"And it will be an honor," Vintius said half aloud. "It will be more than an honor to be instrumental in the assassination of the madman, Nero."

Tiberius nodded.

"All of us feel that way." He paused. "I will see to it that you have the details of the parade. According to your plans it is important to know that before beginning your design and construction of the triumphal archway for the emperor."

Vintius smiled.

"Most important. My calculations must be exact. An error would mean disaster."

"You have thought of an appropriate legend to put across the top of the archway?" Tiberius asked.

The young architect nodded.

"An exquisitely ironic one. It is based on the idiot tyrant's love for imitation of the deceased Julius Caesar. It will quote from the great Caesar himself—'Veni, vidi, vici!' It should please the addle-pated Nero immensely."

Tiberius smiled.

"There is no doubt but that it will swell the fool's vanity. And I have a further suggestion that you might inscribe at the very top of the archway—the insignia of Nero's personal Legion, the Fifth."

Vintius smacked his hand on his thigh.

"Excellent!"

Tiberius half closed his eyes.

"I can see it now. Nero riding down the crowded streets of Goria, his Fifth Legion before him. His pig eyes will gleam in insane satisfaction as he sees the triumphal archway ahead of him. He will feel that he is mightier than Julius Caesar ever was."

"And at the very top of the archway will be the despot's own Legion's insignia 'V', while just below that there will be the inscription, 'Veni, vidi, vici!'," young Vintius cut in.

The two smiled at one another then, in the grim satisfaction of sharing an ironic jest...


Excerpts from news ticker tape, Interocean Press Radio Service—

(Vichy, France)

Benito Mussolini, Adolf Hitler's Axis partner, not only injected an Italian note into next Friday's Nazi 'V' demonstration here in the French Capital when he presented Der Fuehrer with an ancient Roman archway to be used in the ceremonies; he also added to the symbolism of the gigantic demonstration. It has just been revealed that the archway gift bears a great 'V' at its very top and underneath carries the three-vee slogan, 'Veni, vidi, vici!'

Fascist archaeologists who unearthed the historic archway claim that, from the inscription contained thereon, it must have been used in celebration of Julius Caesar's Fifth Campaign. The archway was found in the little, long-dead hamlet of Goria, at the base of Mount Vesuvius. This town once prominently figured in ancient Roman...."


THROUGHOUT the little town of Goria there was much excitement in the week preceding the visit of the Emperor Nero. The narrow streets were given over to wine festivals, and the public square became the scene of almost daily orations by members of the Town Senate who wanted their praise of the mad emperor recorded in advance of his coming.

But in the workshop of the young architect, Vintius, at the edge of the village, there was no evidence of the festive spirit that had seized the hamlet.

Vintius worked swiftly, grimly, and cunningly. There would have been more than time enough to prepare an ordinary triumphal arch for the visit of Nero that week. But the labors of Vintius were additionally difficult because of the task he had at hand.

This was to be no ordinary archway. "This is to be my masterpiece," the young man told the townspeople who flocked curiously to watch him at work.

And they nodded, and marveled, not realizing what he really meant by his words.

Tiberius, however, stayed far from the workshop. It was better that he do so. And it was better that the conversations he had with the young designer be held in private in the flickering torchlight of the cavern of Vesuvius where they met late at night.

And it was on the night that preceded Nero's visit by three days that Vintius was able to tell his older fellow conspirator quietly.

"It is finished, Tiberius. I made my final tests today."

The gaunt Tiberius nodded in satisfaction.

"I have but to order it transported to the public square," Vintius went on. "There it will be ready to wreak vengeance on the blood-thirsty knave who calls himself Emperor of the Romans."

Tiberius spoke gravely.

"Good. I shall pass the word on to the others. Our victory is almost at hand. We will hold a final meeting on the eve of the tyrant's arrival. I think it will be safe for you to be on hand. The archway will be erected in the square by then."

Young Vintius rose. He held up his hand in salute.

"Until then, my friend," he said.

Tiberius placed his hand on the younger man's shoulder.

"I am proud of you, my son," he said with sudden emotion. "You do much for Rome."

"What I do, I do for freedom, for the elimination of blood and madness and tyranny on this earth," Vintius replied simply.

They parted then, at the mouth of the cavern on Vesuvius, agreeing to meet again on the eve of Nero's arrival...


From an Interocean Press Dispatch

LONDON SCIENTISTS SCOFF AT MUSSOLINI ARCH ACCOUNT

(London, Special I/P Dispatch)

Prominent archaeologists here today issued a statement branding the archway donated by Mussolini to the Vichy anti-V demonstration next Friday as historically fraudulent.

Sir Gifford Stone, noted Oxford scientist, speaking for a group of his fellows at Queen's College declared, "The much publicized triumphal archway which Benito Mussolini has donated to his fellow blackguard's anti-V demonstration in Vichy, next Friday, is historically fraudulent."

"Claiming that it was used by Julius Caesar," Sir Gifford went on, "the Italian archaeologists are tossing the truth about like a propaganda bureau. Scientific record shows that the little town of Goria, in which the archway was unearthed, was never at any time visited by Caesar during his reign. Scientific record also proves that the words 'Veni, vidi, vici!' were as then unspoken by Caesar if the arch was constructed to celebrate his Fifth Campaign—which the Italians claim."

Sir Gifford concluded, "Obviously the archway must be of later origin if it is authentic. Possibly it is of the Nero period in Roman history. If this is true, then the similarity between the bloody idiot Emperor, Nero, and Der Fuehrer needs no comment. Both loved to ape the great Julius Caesar."


THE secret council met in the same cavern of Vesuvius on the eve of Nero's visit to Goria. Vintius was there, as he had promised Tiberius he would be. And while the torchlights flickered eerily once again, the young man described his final machinations on the archway.

"The archway is so constructed," Vintius declared, "that we are assured of success. Nero's Fifth Legion marches before him—that is the plan—and he follows immediately behind in the great chariot. The vibrations caused by the marching Legion will set up the destruction of the arch, shake the vulnerable points in its construction."

"But how," objected one of the council, "are we to be absolutely assured that it will crash when Nero is beneath it? Supposing it crashes before or after that moment?"

"It will not," Vintius assured him. "Nero's chariot follows the Fifth Legion at a distance of less than ten strides. The sudden pause in the vibration of the marching that will occur, just as the madman's chariot rolls under the arch, will be enough to send the great stone blocks of the structure tumbling down upon the despot."

Tiberius spoke for the council.

"It is clear, Vintius. You are clever. Obviously that pause in vibration, once the feet of Nero's soldiers are no longer thudding beneath the structure, will be enough." He looked around the cavern. "I am sure that—"

The last of Tiberius's sentence was drowned in the sudden deafening rumble beneath the floor of the cavern. And suddenly the walls and ceiling of the cave were swaying, cracking, as the noise grew greater and greater.

Vintius was on his feet.

"The Mount!" he shouted, unheard. "The Mount is quaking everywhere around us!"

Tiberius had been thrown to the stone floor of the cavern by another and greater shock. At the far end of the cave the rocks were already giving under the tremendous pressure above them.

The torches had been knocked from their places in the walls, and all was darkness now, save for the entrance to the cavern, which was sprayed by drenching red flashes of fire. Vintius was beside Tiberius, desperately trying to lift the older man to his feet.

"The Mount," whispered Tiberius, gray faced, "is erupting!" He choked, smoke was filling the place. "Those sparks, the flame, volcanic fury, boy. Get out while you can!"

Vintius lifted Tiberius in his arms, and stumblingly carried him to the door of the cavern. The rest of the secret council were milling there, not daring to brave the steady shower of flame and sparks that screened the exit.

Vintius was about to shout at them, to scream that they should flee while there was still time, when he saw the thick, boiling flood of lava that was everywhere outside. No man could dash through it. And through the sparks and flame, Vintius could see down the mountainside, where the entire village of Goria lay helpless beneath the rushing stream of boiling death that cascaded down from the volcano mouth onto the village. Goria was doomed.

"It is the end, my son," Tiberius said. His face was ashen, sweat streaked, but his eyes faced death calmly. "There is no escape for us. We'll not live to destroy the tyrant."


VINTIUS placed the older man gently down on the floor.

"Don't," he pleaded. "Don't say that. Goria is doomed, yes. Nero will not be here tomorrow, and the town will be buried beneath this black boiling hell. But we might survive, if we but stay here. We might survive to seek out Nero on another day."

Tiberius coughed again, pointing a thin hand at the ceiling of the cavern above them.

"Those cracks," he husked, "tell me that it is over."

Vintius looked up, saw the gaping rents in the stone above growing wider. His face paled. But like the older man at his feet, he, too, could meet death with eyes that showed no fear.

"You are right," Vintius whispered hoarsely. "We are doomed, and Goria too." He coughed in the smoke. "It will be the task of others than ourselves to eliminate the tyrant. Some day, perhaps."

"Some day, perhaps," Tiberius agreed weakly. And then he closed his eyes. Seconds later the huge stone ceiling of the cavern crashed down, crushing all life within it ....

The following is a transcription taken from the on-the-scene pickup
of the now historic happenings at the gigantic anti-V demonstration
in Vichy, France, Friday, April 10th, 1942. It is recorded only in part.

ANNOUNCER: For almost an hour, now, the crowds have been lined along the great wide thoroughfare, awaiting the beginning of the parade. The triumphal arch, donated to the ceremonies by Benito Mussolini, is right down below my vantage point from the hotel roof. "V" pennants are draped everywhere around, and the arch itself is symbolically full of "Vees." I can read the 'Veni, vidi, vici!' inscription from here.

(Sudden Martial Music Is Heard in Background)

ANNOUNCER: (EXCITEDLY) There's the band, a military band, starting the strains of triumphal music that will begin the parade! And yes, far down to my right I can see the famous column of Hitler Guards, Der Fuehrer's own personal regiment, helmets and bayonets gleaming in the sun. Yes, they're marching down the thoroughfare, now, goose-stepping in precision, heading toward the triumphal archway. Just directly behind them, I am told, will be the big limousine in which Adolf Hitler will be riding, about ten yards behind, an observer just told me.

(Martial Music Grows Louder)

ANNOUNCER: (MORE EXCITEMENT) I can look right down on the parade, now. And I see the limousine in which the German Leader stands, one arm raised to the crowds grouped along the sides of the street. Yes, he's just about ten yards behind his personal regiment. And behind Hitler's car, of course, is much, much, more of the parade. But all eyes are fixed on the personal guard and Der Fuehrer, of course.

The first lines of the famed personal guards of the Nazi Leader are now goose-stepping under the huge, old archway. The thrub-thrub-thrub of their steps is plainly audible, even up here. Maybe it's an echo caught in a sort of sound box under the archway. Line-after-line, there they go, thumping under the arch and down the shining street. The steady rhythm of their marching is absolutely uninterrupted.

And now, for just a moment, it grows fainter as the last line of the Hitler Guard steps through and out of the archway. Der Fuehrer's limousine is right under the archway, now, and the echo of the high-powered motor can almost be heard. It's—

(Tremendous crashing noise blends with band and crowd)

ANNOUNCER: (HYSTERICALLY) The arch! My God in heaven, the arch—


THE END


Roy Glashan's Library
Non sibi sed omnibus
Go to Home Page
This work is out of copyright in countries with a copyright
period of 70 years or less, after the year of the author's death.
If it is under copyright in your country of residence,
do not download or redistribute this file.
Original content added by RGL (e.g., introductions, notes,
RGL covers) is proprietary and protected by copyright.