IN a certain European capital, two proud and rapacious men talked behind the closed doors of a palace room. In the corridor, generals and admirals, and high-ranking officers of two hungry and militaristic countries waited on tenterhooks for the result of that momentous meeting.
Within, the two men sipped chilled wine. One of them, the host, showed his teeth in a vulture-like smile. "My dear Prince, I am the absolute ruler of my country, just as you are of yours. I can guarantee that I will follow through with Plan Z. I await only your approval and cooperation."
The prince stared speculatively out of the window, across the wide parade ground in front of the palace where the sun glinted on the metal of tanks and motor lorries and the helmets of thousands upon thousands of motorized troops marching in a giant demonstration of strength.
"My dear Grand Marshal," he said, "the reason for my visit is to assist you in putting Plan Z in operation. Let me just review it, so that everything shall be clear between us." He put down his wine glass, and began to tick off the facts on his fingers. "First, we have jointly and mutually pulled the wool over the eyes of the rest of Europe by causing them to think that our programs of land expansion embrace Europe and Africa—"
"Whereas," the grand marshal broke in, "in reality we have kept our eyes upon America during all this time!"
"Exactly!" said the prince. "Of what worth are savage colonies in Africa, which have already been sucked dry, when there lies across the ocean a rich and fertile land which is ours almost for the taking—thanks to Plan Z! Now, our plan is to destroy at a single stroke the nerve center of the United States, by razing New York to the ground. In the resulting stupefaction and panic at this totally unexpected blow, the Yankees will be too stunned to organize an effective resistance to the landing force which we shall immediately throw ashore. That landing force will be aided by thousands of our own nationals who have filtered into the country, and are ready with arms and munitions."
The prince paused, and raised the glass of wine to his lips.
The grand marshal leaned forward eagerly. "Already, I have everything in readiness for Plan Z. I have established secret floating bases in the Atlantic, where our ships can refuel. We will inform our—er—European friends in the chancelleries of the other countries that we have no thought of making war upon them. In order to prove this, we will show them that we are sending our combined fleets on a goodwill visit around the world."
The prince frowned. "But the Americans will be suspicious. They will move their own ships into defensive positions—"
"Not at all!" the grand marshal exclaimed. "I have planned this very carefully, Your Highness. We will not make this announcement until after our fleets have sailed. The American fleet is in the Pacific Ocean now, playing at their silly war games. The Americans fear attack from the Pacific, but not from the Atlantic. By the time their ships can reach the Panama Canal, we will have struck!"
The eyes of the prince twinkled wickedly. "That is very clever, my dear Grand Marshal. Sometimes, I am inclined to fear you, myself. But don't worry, my good friend," he added hastily. "I know that our interests are the same. Together, we can bait the world. Alone, each of us would perish!"
The grand marshal nodded. He rushed on. "Plan Z cannot fail. Each of our ships will carry five heavy bombing planes, loaded with the new explosive shells which the Americans developed, and which they foolishly sold to us. There will be two hundred of the planes, with enough explosive to bury New York in its own ruins!"
"But what about the American aircraft?" asked the prince. "They have good pursuit ships, and the Yankees are excellent airmen. They could shoot our heavy bombers out of the air."
"I have thought of that, too, Your Highness," said the grand marshal. "And I have taken steps to destroy the American air force before it can meet us in combat. Baron Kreuder is over there now. He has settled in America, and made all arrangements to take care of that end of it. See here."
The grand marshal drew a paper from his desk, and showed it to the other. "This is how Kreuder will do it."
For a long time the prince studied the document, carefully. At last he raised his head, and laughed. "I do not see how it can fail. I am with you, my dear Grand Marshal. My fleet is ready to sail. When New York is destroyed, the American flying force annihilated, our troops can land without opposition and occupy the country behind our bombing squadrons!"
He arose and picked up his glass. The grand marshal did the same. They raised the glasses solemnly, and the prince said, eyes glittering, "To the Day!"
"To the Day!" repeated the Grand Marshal. Both drank, then smashed their glasses.
The grand marshal strode to the door, flung it wide open. A general in full uniform, who was standing in the corridor, hastened to his side at his summons. "General," said the Grand Marshal, "you will immediately take steps to put Plan Z in operation!"
ROBERT CORVAN swung his roadster over to the edge of the road, and turned off the ignition. He switched off the headlights, then got out of the car, stood for a moment peering into the darkness to the right. At his left the dull rumble of the Atlantic Ocean, beating against Staten Island, gave the night an ominous undertone as of unlimited power held in leash.
Corvan shut the noise of the ocean from his ears. His eyes had spotted the little flicker of light about a hundred yards off the road, which he was seeking. He moved across the field toward that light, stepping noiselessly, with the lithe, effortless grace of a jungle beast. "Wolf" Corvan they called him. Men who had not heard the stories whispered about him would have doubted that this slim man with the dark eyes and the black hair could swing into instant deadly action when occasion required it.
It was only behind his back that they called him "Wolf" Corvan. Otherwise, he was Major Robert Corvan, United States Military Intelligence.
He pressed forward, heading directly toward the flickering light. It proved to be a flashlight, blinking on and off at intervals.
Corvan nodded in the darkness. That would be Emory. Emory would have seen the headlamps of his car, and was now signaling for him to come along.
As Corvan neared the other side of the field, he could see that there was another road, running parallel to the one over which he had come. On the far side of the road was a high stone fence, running illimitably in both directions—the fence enclosing the estate of Baron Kreuder. That estate, five hundred and twenty acres in size sprawled across the flat Jersey terrain, hemmed in on every side by the tall fence. Corvan knew there would be spikes set into the concrete at the top of the fence. He also knew that guards were patrolling those grounds.
He moved forward cautiously now, blinking his own hand torch once to indicate to Emory that he was coming.
Now Emory had put out his own flashlight, waiting for him silently in the dark, satisfied that the major would find him.
Corvan reached the road. He stopped, standing immovable alongside a tree, blending with its shadow, while he studied the wall opposite. Emory was somewhere along there. But perhaps it was not Emory. Perhaps it was a trap. There were many men in America now who would like to be able to report to their espionage headquarters in Europe that "Wolf" Corvan was dead. There would be a handsome payment for such news—and many a spy-master would breathe easier.
Corvan spotted Emory at last. He saw him crouching in the shrubbery at the foot of the wall. Emory did not know it, but the moon was sending a pale glow against the concrete fence, and its reflection was illuminating his face.
"Wolf" Corvan frowned. Emory was a good man, but careless—as now, for example. True, the moon made it easier for Corvan to find him. It would also make it easier for those within the estate of Baron Kreuder to spot him. Yet Emory had done a good piece of work, trailing that shipment of bogus farm machinery to this place.
"Farm Machinery" had been the lettering on the huge packing cases unloaded at the dock in New York. But Corvan had somehow, by his magic gift of divination—or perhaps through his European channels of information—discovered that these were no innocent farming implements, but the parts of huge 109-mm guns, dismantled for shipping. Ostensibly, from the bill of lading, they were experimental machinery sent to the United States for testing. They had been consigned to a jobber in the Middle West.
Anyone else but "Wolf" Corvan would immediately have confiscated the bogus machinery, and launched an investigation, arresting the jobber and grilling him as to why anyone would want to bring 109 mm guns into the United States.
But Corvan knew better than to do that. He first examined records at the custom house, and found that this was only one of dozens of such shipments in the past few months. There were many more such guns somewhere in the country, unknown to the military authorities. Those arrested now would keep their mouths shut, and give no information.
Instead of attempting to make arrests therefore, Corvan kept his counsel, reported to General Aubry in charge of Military Intelligence, and received permission to handle it in his own way. He assigned Emory to the task of following up that shipment, learning its ultimate destination.
Emory had called Corvan only two hours ago. After trailing those crates for two weeks through devious routes, he reported that they had at last been delivered back in the east, at the estate of Baron Kreuder, a diplomatic attaché of a foreign country!
Search warrants were out of the question. Kreuder enjoyed diplomatic immunity. Corvan had therefore made this trip here to find out what he could—unofficially.
MAJOR CORVAN was about to step out of the shadow of the tree and cross to Emory, when he was halted by a familiar sound. It was the sudden droning of an airplane motor. He saw Emory start suddenly at that sound, come to his feet and stare around in search of the machine.
Corvan could see the source of the sound from where he stood, but Emory could not. A single-seater pursuit plane was leaping up from somewhere in the grounds of the estate, taking off into the wind. It did not rise very high, but banked and began to make a circle of the outside wall.
Suddenly, a magnesium bomb dropped from the plane, striking the ground two hundred yards from where Emory stood, and flaming out into a turgid glare that illuminated the road and the ground around the estate. As the plane sang around the wall, it dropped other flares, until the whole length of that concrete fence was as bright as daylight.
Then the single-seater banked once more, flew back over its course, keeping very low. Corvan could see the helmeted head of the pilot, peering over the side, evidently seeking something. Wolf Corvan's blood ran cold. He could guess what that pilot was looking for. In some way, they had learned of Emory's presence, and were out to find him.
Emory must have understood this, too, for he dropped to the ground, lying flat on his face alongside the shrubbery. Corvan groaned, for Emory's figure was clearly outlined to the pilot's vision. He was panicky, no doubt, and had done the first thing to come to his mind.
There was no question but that the pilot saw him, for he looped sharply, coming back in a power-dive directly for the spot where Emory lay.
Corvan would have shouted a warning to his assistant, but no voice could have carried above the roar of the motor. Now it was too late. The plane was less than fifty feet from the ground now, and a burning streak of tracer bullets was stuttering from the machine gun mounted in the propeller.
Corvan saw those fiery lines of flame burn into the prone body of Emory as the rat-tat-tat of the gun vied with the droning engine.
Now the plane started to swoop upward, its bloody work done.
Wolf Corvan, his face a mask of cold fury at the merciless murder, sprang from the shadow of the tree. A .45 calibre U.S. Army automatic pistol lay flat in the palm of his hand. He raised it and sent seven quick, steady shots into the cockpit of the plane, following its swift upward flight. He saw the pilot slump in the seat. Then the plane floundered in the air, lost its upward course, wallowed uncertainly for a moment. It hung suspended above the road for a breathless second, then dropped, striking the road on its side, and bursting into flames.
It had fallen about two hundred feet from the spot where Emory lay, and Corvan paid no further attention to the hot, lurid flames that sprang from it. He darted across the road and knelt beside Emory.
The wounded counter-espionage agent lay on his face. The back of his coat was bloody in a straight line across the waist, where the line of bullets had cut. His fingers were clawing spasmodically at the ground.
Corvan raised his head, saw that Emory's lips were moving. He bent low, and a faint whisper came to his ear. "They saw me watching. I—I'm paying for carelessness. Corvan!" He pushed himself up with a frenzied effort. "For God's sake, stop them. Guns... guns..." His voice trailed off into a gurgle.
Corvan's eyes were bleak. They sped to the burning plane down the road. As he watched, the plane shivered, and there was a terrific explosion. Pieces of aluminum and canvas littered the air. Then the fire petered out.
Corvan lifted Emory's body to his shoulder without apparent effort, and struck out across the field. He heard sounds of running and shouting from behind the wall of the estate but did not turn back. He reached his car, and carefully placed Emory in the seat alongside his own.
The agent's last words were running through his head, "For God's sake, stop them. Guns!"
Emory must have seen more than the destination of the shipment. He had no doubt exceeded orders by effecting an entrance into the estate, and had been seen making his exit. That was the reason for the plane. Now he must make Emory talk.
But Emory would talk no more. He saw that as soon as he bent over him.
THE palpitating, fitful flames of the burning plane across the field etched the figures of a number of men who had come running out of the estate grounds. These men were now dancing madly about the ruined ship in helpless attitudes. From here, they looked like comic opera characters. Corvan could see that they were attired in trim uniforms with Sam Browne belts, holstered guns at their sides, and natty caps with visors.
From the darkness of the coupe where he sat beside the body of Emory, he watched them only for a moment. Bleakness was in his dark eyes, and a hard twist on his thin lips. Those uniforms were part of the accoutrement of the soldiers of the country which Baron Kreuder represented. Though Corvan could not distinguish so small a mark at this distance, he knew that the insignia upon their armbands were the emblem of the autocratic upstart who had made himself grand marshal of that same country.
But the guns. Why the guns? It would be madness on Kreuder's part to think that he could bombard New York from here. For ten minutes or a half hour perhaps—yes. But even sooner than that, the heavy twelve-inch guns of Fort Hancock, Fort Hamilton, and of the Coast Defense batteries nearby would have him bracketed. They could blow this five-hundred-acre estate off the map. True, Kreuder's few shots might damage New York. But the fury of America would be invoked against Kreuder's master. The American people were slow to fight. But they would be eager to pay off for such a terroristic action.
Such action on Kreuder's part would be folly, gaining him or his country nothing—and Kreuder was no fool. What was his real scheme?
Corvan did not sit there idly thinking these things. While he was analyzing the situation, he had carefully noted, also, that his car must be invisible to those men near the burning plane. They were searching the surrounding grounds minutely. His lips twisted in a wry grin, because he knew they would not find what they sought. They were looking for Emory's body, hoping that the pilot had got him before he was, himself, shot down. Soon they would spread out, thinking that Emory might have fled across the field. But there were a few more moments.
His long, facile fingers had already opened the left hand compartment of the dash-board, revealing a small, compact sending and receiving set, powered by super-charged batteries in the rear trunk compartment.
He slipped on the headset, plugged it into the radio, and twisted the dial to the short-wave length used by Military Intelligence. He spoke into it repeatedly, "R.C. calling M.I.H.Q... R.C. calling M.I.H.Q.!"
He swung back to "receiving" and waited. In a moment, a voice drummed into his ears. "This is Military Intelligence H.Q. Hold on, R. C. General Aubry wants you!"
The usually sedate voice of Major General Aubry came over the air, quivering now with dismay. "Corvan! Good God, man, I need you! Drop that silly gun business and come in fast. We're being attacked—invaded. Those two fleets—the grand marshal's and the prince's—are twenty miles off our coast. Our observers report that every ship is carrying planes. They could take off and fly around in a circle, and strike New York from any angle they want. We don't know whether to consider them an enemy or not. What do you know of their intentions?"
He didn't stand by for Corvan to answer, but rushed on. "The air corps has ordered every available fighting plane to be ready to take off at a moment's notice. They're concentrating at Mitchell Field and Newark Airport. But we don't know how to act. That fleet may just be passing a little too close on the way to South America. Come in at once, Corvan!"
Now Corvan got a chance to talk. There was a sinking sensation in his stomach. He knew that the bulk of the American fleet was in the Pacific Ocean on maneuvers, having taken with it all the effective navy planes. That left only the army air corps ships to defend the coast in the event of attack.
"Treat them as an enemy, sir!" he barked. "I'm sure they—"
He realized all at once that his voice wasn't registering. He switched abruptly to receiving, and understood why. Some one was blanketing the air with a powerful transmitter, filling the waves with static. He hadn't even been able to tell Aubry where he was or beg him to send troops here.
Corvan tore the headset off, thrust it away from him. He threw a quick side glance at Emory's lifeless body, then swiftly inserted a new clip in his automatic.
HE GOT out of the coupe, and saw that the searchers from the estate had spread out over the field, as he expected they would. Floodlights from a tower within the walls were throwing the outside grounds into vivid illumination, and the uniformed men were searching with naked revolvers.
One of those searchers was near the coupe.
Corvan dropped to the ground, and waited. In a moment, the man saw the car, uttered a low, guttural exclamation, and began to cat-foot toward it, with his gun advanced. He came around to the rear, and Corvan, measuring his distance and timing himself with uncanny accuracy, came leaping at him, smashing down with the butt of his gun in a crashing blow to the side of the man's skull. The uniformed man started to cry out, but no sound ever left his lips. He fell like a poled ox, his head bashed in.
Corvan knelt beside him with glittering eyes. He saw others of the searchers moving in his direction. He had perhaps three or four minutes before he would be discovered, before he could put into effect the thing which he contemplated. Suddenly, in a flash, it had come to him why Kreuder would want guns on this estate. Aubry's mention of Mitchell Field and Newark Airport had given him the clue. 109 mm guns—not field guns, but antiaircraft batteries!
From here the range was perfect to strike at any body of American planes that might take the air to repel an air attack. Five minutes of sudden, unexpected archie fire from those anti- aircraft guns could demolish the American squadrons, leave the air free for the enemy bombers.
One thing stood out clearly in his mind as he stripped the natty uniform from the unconscious man. He must get inside these walls. There was no way to communicate with Aubry now—also, he was afraid, no time. The fact that the enemy was filling the air with interference meant that they must be ready to strike. If their planes took off from the fleet, twenty miles off the coast, they could be over New York in a quarter of an hour.
He got the tunic and puttees off the inert man, and taking off his own clothes, slipped into them. He put on the cap, strapped the Sam Browne belt in place, and was ready. Instead of the Luger in the holster of the Sam Browne belt, he inserted his own military .45, which he had used since the world war. The Luger he slid under his waistband.
Four or five of the searchers were within fifteen or twenty feet now. It was imperative to keep them away from the car, so they wouldn't find their companion. Corvan opened the door of the coupe, looked down at Emory's dead body.
"Sorry, old man," he said softly. "I know you wouldn't mind my doing this to you."
He heaved out Emory's lifeless form, and slung it across his shoulder. Then he started across the field.
The searchers saw him, and raised a shout. It was too dark to distinguish faces, for the searchlights from the estate did not reach this far. But they recognized the uniform, and one of them called to him, "You have found the Yankee?"
Corvan answered, using the same language in which he had been addressed, speaking it with a fluency that rivaled that of a native. What he said aroused them.
"It is he—he is dead," Corvan called. "Our pilot must have killed him before he was brought down."
The others raised a shout, and soon the news was carried back to an officer near the gate of the estate. Corvan joined the others, trudging with the body of Emory over his shoulder. He listened to the conversation of these men, learning little of importance, except that they were all natives of the grand marshal's country, and all trained gunners from crack artillery regiments back home.
They were halfway across the field when a siren somewhere within the estate began to keen shrilly.
Immediately, the men about Corvan began to chatter with excitement.
"It is the signal! Our planes will attack!"
The officer standing near the gate cupped his hands and shouted, "All men inside and to your stations!" He saw Corvan carrying Emory, and called to him, "Put that carrion down and hurry to your station. We don't need to worry about him any more!"
Corvan laid Emory's body gently down on the ground. He murmured, "I'll be back to bury you properly, Jack—if all goes well!"
HE was tingling, the blood coursing swiftly through his veins. The moment had come. He could visualize those bombers taking off from the enemy ships at sea, flying in formation toward New York to drop their deadly load of explosive upon the greatest metropolis of the nation. He could also picture the American squadrons taking off to meet them in battle, only to be swept from the air by the batteries within those gates.
Only he—Wolf Corvan—could stop them. How to do it? What could he do? When he had donned the uniform of the trooper, he had hoped to have time to reconnoiter the estate and plan a course of action. Now there was no time for anything. He would be lost on this vast estate, powerless to stop the great guns from belching their destruction into the air.
Grimly, his face showing nothing of the turmoil that went on inside him, he followed the others past the still burning plane, and through the gate into the estate.
There was a wide swath of pine trees running all around the estate just within the gate. A concrete road led through these trees. The road was wide enough for two large trucks to pass, and at its left there was a single-gauge track. An electric car was pulled up here, and it was into this that the uniformed men were piling. Corvan crowded in with them. The officer mounted last, gave a signal and the car started.
They passed swiftly through the trees, and emerged into an immense cleared area that measured perhaps ten square acres, with a long low concrete building at the far end.
The men all about him were talking excitedly in their guttural language, but Corvan paid no attention to them now. His eyes widened at sight of the long lines of concrete emplacements running all around the cleared area. Mounted upon each of these emplacements was a long, wicked anti-aircraft gun. There must have been fifty of them in all.
A full crew at each gun was loading with the precise efficiency of crack artillerists. The whole extent of the grounds was brightly illuminated by floodlights and magnesium flares, so that it seemed to be daylight.
The electric car passed close behind the emplacements on its way across the estate. Corvan could see that this vast project had been planned and built along the latest military lines, even to having the track run close enough to the guns to deliver ammunition with the least loss of time.
It was evident to him that these men with whom he was riding were not attached to any of the guns, but must be part of the staff of the headquarters buildings. He was right in his surmise, for the car pulled up before a side entrance of the structure, and the men began to stream out.
The officer exchanged a few words with an orderly, and then turned, shouted, "You all know your stations. Take them at once. We must be prepared for fire orders In ten minutes!"
Ten minutes! Corvan's dark eyes glowed, and his whole lithe body was taut with anxiety. Ten minutes was so little time.
He followed the officer and the others into the building, and saw that it was fitted out like a small fort. Two years ago he had made a tour of France's famous Maginot Line.
He had gone through the maze of underground pill-boxes and concrete emplacements, with their air chambers and gun batteries, and gas-protection equipment. This resembled one of the key forts of the Maginot Line.
The men about him dispersed in every direction, to assume their fire duties. Corvan slipped toward a small door at the end of a corridor, and saw the officer watching him, in a puzzled sort of way. He froze. Either the officer found his face unfamiliar, or else Corvan had no business going this way.
Corvan put his hand on the door, and the officer called after him sharply, "You! Where are you going? You are not assigned to the executive staff!"
Corvan's eyes glittered. The officer was striding toward him with long steps, frowning.
Corvan waited till the man came up to him and repeated, "What are you doing here?"
The American Intelligence major said, "Only this, my lieutenant!" With a motion so fast that it dazzled the other, he drew the automatic from its holster, jammed it into the officer's belly. "Stand still!" he ordered.
The lieutenant paled, but did not move. He was stunned by the suddenness of the action. In a moment his brain would begin to function again. He would realize that this was no trooper of his. He might decide to be brave, to risk death in order to capture the spy.
Corvan gave him no chance to get that far. He opened the door with one hand behind him, and stepped back through it. He reached forward, grasped the lieutenant by the front of his tunic, and yanked him in after him. Then he raised his gun, brought it down sharply behind the man's ear.
The officer dropped.
Corvan left him there, and hurried along the passageway into which he had stepped. He had learned one valuable thing. This was the way to the executive staff. Precious minutes had already been wasted. He must lose no more time.
HE found an iron spiral staircase, which he mounted rapidly. It brought him out on a mezzanine, brilliantly lighted. There were four offices opening into this mezzanine, and his blood began to race more rapidly. In one of those offices there was an array of technical instruments which he recognized at once. They were the range-finding and directional equipment for directing the fire of all of the batteries outside.
There were six or seven men on this floor, all in uniform, all working in tense excitement. In one office, at a desk, sat a man in the full uniform of a major-general of the enemy armies. Corvan recognized him at once as Baron Kreuder. The American's lips twitched. He stepped quickly past the open doorway of that office, and walked into the range-finding room. Two men were here.
One was peering through the telescopic attachment of a Barr & Stroud monostatic short base range-finder. The other was testing the controls of a torque-amplifier at the other side of the room.
A loud-speaker near the ceiling was evidently the means by which Kreuder issued his commands. That speaker now blared out in Kreuder's voice, "Miklos and Siglith! Prepare for fire. As soon as you have the range, I will come in and give the word."
Corvan knew and understood thoroughly the use of the equipment at which these two men were working. His value as the ace Intelligence officer of the military branch arose from the fact that he had spent many years since the world war in active service with each of the other branches of the army and the navy. The man at the Barr & Stroud range-finder would sight the American planes, figure the range and altitude, then give them to the other. The other man would then set the torque amplifier, and that would automatically set the range of every gun in the battery. Then it would only be necessary for the crews to pull the firing lanyards, and the huge shells would strike their targets unerringly. The gun crews, themselves, worked blindly—could not see the targets at which they were firing.
Neither of the two officers was as yet aware of Corvan's presence. He heard the one at the range-finder exclaim, "I see them, Siglith! I see the American ships. They are flying in solid formation. This will be a massacre!"
Quietly, Corvan closed the door to the corridor. He drew his gun and said, "Gentlemen, please don't move."
They both whirled, hands darting to their holsters. Corvan remembered Emory's twitching body after the plane had machine- gunned him, and he pulled the trigger twice, with steady hand. He shot to kill. Both men fell.
Corvan turned and tried to lock the door, but found there was no lock. He shrugged, and stepped to the range-finder. He couldn't waste time now. He applied his eyes to the twin telescopes.
Dawn was just breaking in the east, and in the eerie light he saw the impressive sight of the massed American pursuit ships, droning in perfect formation toward the coast.
Grim-lipped, Corvan swung his telescopes toward the east. He quartered the sky, and grew tense as he found the enemy ships. They were out over the lower bay, flying low and arrogantly, paying no attention to the threat of the American squadrons.
Corvan smiled grimly. No wonder they were so confident. They expected that in a moment the guns from the Kreuder estate would belch death into those closely massed American ships, leaving them free to proceed with the destruction.
Corvan twisted his cogs to bring the two halves of the images in the telescopic sights into line. He focused on the central ship of the enemy formation. As soon as he had its two halves in line he took the reading from the gauge. He was working fast now, sweating a little. He had the range—four thousand yards. Now for the height. The height-finder, which was built into the Barr & Stroud machine, worked easily and smoothly on its toothed cam gear. The logarithmic tables were all worked out on the chart, and in a moment Corvan had the height.
A loud-speaker at his left burst into violent sound. Kreuder's voice was coming through it. "Siglith! Miklo! I am coming right in. Prepare for firing!"
Corvan let the loud-speaker rave. He stepped across the body of Siglith to the torque-amplifier. He had calculated his figure deviation, and his directional data. His fingers flew over the delicate adjustments of the torque-amplifier. It was set at last. He had found the target—and the crews, who had no telescopic direction-finder, would fire as he directed!
He reached for the lever that would automatically set the range and direction for all the batteries below, when the door behind him opened, and Baron Kreuder stepped into the room. Kreuder saw the two bodies on the floor.
"Spy!" he spat out, and fired.
THE bullet caught Corvan in the back, under the right arm. It sent him crashing forward against the wall. He felt a surge of weakness and despair. Kreuder fired again, and the slug smashed into Corvan's leg. The leg buckled under him. He slid down, but his right hand was still frozen to that lever. As he dropped, the lever came down with him, until there was a little click, and a great signal bell outside began to clang. That was the signal that the range was set, and the crews could pull the firing lanyards.
Kreuder must have guessed, from the direction of the telescopes on the range-finder, in which direction Corvan had sighted. He uttered a ghastly oath, and sprang to the torque- amplifier. He could twist the dials and change the range before the lanyards were pulled. That would send the charge of archie off into the sky without hitting the enemy air flotilla.
Kreuder's hand was almost on the dial when Corvan, half sitting and half lying on the floor, got his gun out with his left hand, and shot the baron through the head.
Kreuder fell away from the torque-amplifier, and just then a roar as of a thousand volcanoes filled the air, as the guns of the enemy batteries discharged.
Corvan's trick had worked!
With a grim smile, he crawled across to the telescopes, and lifted himself up by sheer will power, regardless of the blood that was spattering everything. He put his eyes to the glasses, and saw that the sky over the lower bay was filled with crazily spiraling, burning machines that fell and nose-dived and collided with each other in horrible disorder. Almost a third of that great flotilla of enemy bombers was destroyed.
And as Corvan watched, the rest banked around in sheer panic and fled into the night, with the American pursuit ships close on their tails.
Corvan pulled himself to the door, and crawled out on the balcony. It was deserted, and he could see, by peering down on the floor below, that the uniformed men were streaming out of the building in mad, blind panic. They had no doubt witnessed the destruction of their own ships, and realized that the great invasion would never take place.
Corvan's smile tightened. He sank down on one elbow and closed his eyes. His work was done!