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Title: Jet Plane Mystery
Author: Snell, Roy J. (Roy Judson)
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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                               JET PLANE
                                MYSTERY


                                   By
                              ROY J. SNELL

[Illustration: ]

                          WILCOX & FOLLETT CO.
                                CHICAGO
                                  1946

                          COPYRIGHT, 1944, BY
                          WILCOX & FOLLETT CO.
                          ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
                PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA



                                CONTENTS


  I Whistling Mystery                                                  1
  II Contact                                                          10
  III Friendly Enemies                                                20
  IV A Glorious Fight                                                 27
  V A Good Show                                                       34
  VI Plane Wrecked                                                    40
  VII A Night’s Adventures                                            49
  VIII A Look at a Mystery Plane                                      60
  IX The Tagged Monkey                                                70
  X “Hist There! You!”                                                78
  XI Night Fighters                                                   86
  XII Up at Dawn                                                      96
  XIII The Jet Plane                                                 105
  XIV Ted’s Gony                                                     115
  XV The Secret Book                                                 125
  XVI Mostly Memories                                                134
  XVII Voices in the Night                                           143
  XVIII Luck, Pals and Providence                                    152
  XIX Mysteries Deepen                                               158
  XX A Ship from Some Other World                                    165
  XXI Mary Brown from the U. S. A.                                   175
  XXII Star of the Mist                                              183
  XXIII Hot Cannibal Rivets                                          192
  XXIV Twilight Battle                                               200
  XXV Jack’s New Gunner                                              207
  XXVI Jack’s Jet Plane Wins Its Way                                 217
  XXVII Stratosphere Tactics                                         225
  XXVIII The Jet Plane’s Last Battle                                 234



                           JET PLANE MYSTERY



                               CHAPTER I
                           WHISTLING MYSTERY


Ensign Jack Steel sat on the edge of a life raft whittling a stick. A
strange place to whittle, one might say, on the deck of a great U. S.
aircraft carrier in mid-Pacific. But Jack loved to whittle.

“What do you make when you whittle?” someone once asked him.
“Shavings—just shavings—that’s all,” had been his prompt reply. Then,
feeling that this was not a real answer, he went on to say, “I whittle
and think. Thinking is what really counts.”

Jack was thinking now, not thinking hard—just letting thoughts drift in
and out of his mind. There was enough to think about, too; they were in
Jap waters right now. Something was bound to happen soon, perhaps at
dawn. Jack would be away before dawn, for his was a scout plane. Back at
the faraway training base at Kingsville he had put in his bid for a dive
bomber.

“Ah! A dive bomber!” he had said to Stew, his buddy. “There’s the plane
for me! You climb to twelve thousand feet, you get near the target, you
come zooming down at four hundred an hour, you let go your bomb, and—”

“Wham!” Stew had exclaimed.

“Yes,” Jack had agreed. “Then you get out of there fast, as if Old Nick
himself was after you.”

In the Navy you don’t talk back; so when the powers that be read off
Jack, or “Jackknife Johnny,” as some of the boys called him, for a scout
ship, a scout ship it had been—and still was.

And now, Jack thought, I wouldn’t trade my little old scout plane for
any ship that flies. To go skimming away before dawn, to watch the “dawn
come up like thunder” in those tropical waters, then to skip from cloud
to cloud, eyes ever on the sea, looking for the enemy—ah, that was the
life!

“Nothing like it!” he whispered as he carved off a long shaving and
allowed it to drop silently on the deck.

A moving shadow loomed up before him. He knew that shadow—“Old
Ironsides,” as the boys called him—Lieutenant Commander Donald Stone,
boss of the carrier _Black Bee_, Jack’s ship, was on his way to the
bridge.

“Must get a swell view of our task force from up there, eh, Commander?”
Jack spoke before he thought. He’d always been that way.

“Eh? What? Oh, it’s you, Jackknife Johnny.” The Commander gave a low
laugh. “Well now, on a night like this you don’t see much—a bit of white
foam after each ship, and a blink of light now and then—that’s all.”

“It’s enough, sir,” said Jack. “You know what’s there—cruisers,
destroyers, and maybe a tanker. Your mind must fill in the picture.”

“Oh! It does! It really does!” the Commander agreed. “Want to come up
and see for yourself?” he invited.

“That would be keen, sir!” said Jack, dropping to his feet.

“Come on up then,” the Commander urged.

As Jack mounted the steps to the Commander’s bridge, twenty-five feet
above the flight deck, he thought how strange life aboard a carrier
would seem to those who had never put to sea as a navy pilot. Routine
was strictly adhered to. When a flight of planes came in from a practice
flight, they came down in perfect formation like a flock of wild geese
landing on a pond.

Strict discipline, yes, he told himself, yet here I am following our
Commander to his bridge, and it doesn’t seem a bit strange; for he’s one
of us. We’re all one, all dressed in khaki, all tanned, trained to the
last degree, ready to act as a unit to beat the Japs.

“Life on a carrier surely is grand, sir!” he said aloud.

“Yes, son,” the hardy old Commander rumbled. “There’s never been
anything like it before.”

“Never has, sir,” Jack agreed.

“And now,” said the Commander as they reached the bridge, “there’s your
Navy task force on a moonless night. Have a seat. Take it all in. I’m
going to do a little meditating on the reality of the Absolute.” He
laughed, and Jack laughed with him. Jack didn’t know who or what the
Absolute might be, but he did know that the Commander was giving him a
real treat, and that was enough for him.

It was strange sitting up there feeling the throb of the ship’s mighty
engines, looking away at the blacker-than-black sea, and knowing that
they were racing along at twenty knots an hour toward some sort of real
trouble.

“Spooky,” he thought.

And indeed, it was just that, for they were definitely in Jap waters.
Everyone expected a fight at dawn. If some Jap snooper plane or
submarine sighted them now, there would be a mighty battle.

To the right and a little ahead he caught a white gleam on the water.
“That’s the _Black Knight_,” he told himself. The _Black Knight_ was a
fast and powerful cruiser. Three other cruisers, always close to the
carrier but not too close, sped along with them. Six destroyers lay
farther out.

“What a lot of power, sir!” Jack said aloud as the Commander strode past
him.

“What? Yes, a lot of striking power,” the Commander agreed. “We’re
likely to need it, too. They say the Jap navy won’t come out and fight.
You can’t count on that. They’re sly rascals, those Japs. They might
pounce on us with double our striking power any time. They....”

“What’s that, sir?” Jack broke in.

“What’s what?” The Commander paused.

“Don’t you hear it, sir?” Jack asked. “It’s like the howl of a dog, or a
train whistle far away.”

“All I hear is that banjo on the after deck,” the Commander laughed low.

“It’s not that, nor anything like it.” Jack was in dead earnest. “It’s
nothing on this ship. It comes from far away, sir. Listen hard.”

“You have good ears,” said the Commander. “Radio ears, perhaps. They say
there are people who can pick radio messages right out of the air with
their unaided ears. I’ve never believed that, but—say!” His voice rose.
“I think I do hear something out there!”

“Sure you do, sir!” Jack exclaimed. “It’s getting louder, closer!”

For a space of seconds the two of them, the aged Commander and the boy,
stood there listening with breathless attention.

“This may be serious!” the Commander exclaimed at last, as he dashed for
the intership telephone.

Jack heard him barking words into the phone. He at last exclaimed loud
enough to be heard, “Good boy, Steve! Keep a sharp watch!”

Jack wondered who Steve was, but more than that he wanted to know what
made that high-pitched, screaming whistle that had increased in volume
until it fairly filled the sky.

“It’s a bomb!” he exclaimed at last. “Sounds just like the ones those
Jap dive bombers threw at us!” He wanted to race down the companionway
to seek a safer spot. And then again he did not, for was not this a
first-class mystery? And was not the Commander standing by? You had to
be a real sailor.

“Could be a bomb from some stratosphere plane,” the Commander, who had
returned to his post, agreed. “But I doubt it.”

“What is it then, sir?” Jack asked.

“Some Jap trick I’d say,” the Commander rumbled. “They may be closer
than we think. The Germans claim they’ve got planes loaded with TNT that
they guide by radio. It might be one of those.”

From below came the murmur of many voices. All over the ship men were
calling, “What is it?” “What’s going on?” “Here it comes!” “Here she
comes!”

Jack wondered if they would be ordered to battle stations, but no order
came.

“It’s high up and coming fast.” There was a suggestion of huskiness in
the Commander’s voice.

“It will pass over quickly, sir,” Jack declared. “Unless....”

“Yes,” the Commander agreed.

To Jack, whose mind often conjured up strange things, all that lay about
him—the night, the black sea, the tiny lights blinking in from nowhere,
and the eerie scream from the night sky—seemed part of another world.

The Commander took a more practical view of it. “Maybe a meteor,” he
grumbled.

“A meteor!” Jack was startled.

“Yes, a shooting star that’s burned its way through the earth’s
atmosphere.”

“But I don’t see—”

Jack did not finish, for all of a sudden he realized that the thing,
whatever it might be, had passed directly over their heads and was now
speeding east.

“It—it’s gone by!” Jack exclaimed. “Danger’s over.” He experienced
intense relief.

“I wonder,” was the Commander’s strange reply.

“Whew! that was fast, sir!”

“Fast?” the Commander added in a lower tone. “Faster than any plane
you’ve ever flown, Jack my boy!”

“I wouldn’t doubt it, sir,” Jack laughed.

“Or ever will fly,” the Commander added.

In this last statement he was entirely wrong, as future events were to
prove.

“Who’d want to ride a meteor, sir?” Jack asked with another laugh.

“Meteor? Oh, yes. Quite a wild guess on my part,” said the Commander. “A
meteor speeding through the air would glow with the heat created by
friction. You didn’t see anything, did you?”

“Not a thing, sir. Whatever it might be, it’s black as night itself.”

“Well, that’s that.” The Commander sighed a moment later when the last
faint whistle had died away in the night.

“Just one of those things, sir,” Jack agreed. At that he wondered
whether he had spoken the truth. Or will there be more of them, many
more? he wondered. And will one of them at last make contact with the
broad side of the old _Black Bee_?

“Boy, oh boy!” he whispered to himself. “That would be something!”

A moment more of vast, black silence, and he was excusing himself to go
down the ladder to join his buddies.

“Got to turn in, sir,” he explained.

“That’s right,” the Commander agreed. “Tomorrow may be a great day for
us all. You never know.”



                               CHAPTER II
                                CONTACT


On the flight deck Jack joined a group of his fighting pals. Sprawled
about the deck, they were still discussing the mysterious something that
had gone screaming over their heads.

“It’s a Jap trick,” said Dave Dunn, a torpedo bomber pilot. “I tell you
they’re closer than you think!”

“They didn’t have to be too close at that,” Jack broke in. “I was on the
Commander’s bridge when the thing went over.”

“Oh, ho! Listen to Jackie!” Kentucky, a fighter pilot, exclaimed. “Been
hobnobbin’ with the Commander!”

“Shut up, Ken!” Red Sands, another fighter pilot, gave him a push. “What
does the Commander think about it, Jack?”

“It’s a sign. That’s what it is!” a bombardier exclaimed. “Sign of
trouble ahead!”

“The Commander thinks just what we all think.” Jack gave a low chuckle
as he dropped to the deck. “Might be just anything—a meteor, a Jap
nuisance trick—just anything!”

“Nuisance trick! Say! If that thing had hit us I’ll say it would have
been a nuisance!” Blackie, another fighter, exclaimed.

The talk went on, but Jack, who for the moment had lost interest in the
sky-screamer, was talking with his pal, Stew Sherman, radio gunner.

“The Commander thinks we’ll contact a Jap task force tomorrow,” he
confided.

“I shouldn’t wonder,” Stew murmured softly.

Unlike Jack, who was tall, slim, blond, and quick as the snap of a
jackknife blade, Stew was short, solid, and rather quiet.

“A message was picked up from a land-based plane,” Jack continued. “He
was reporting back to his own base. That base is a long way from here,
but those big old land-snoopers cruise long distances. He was reporting
a Jap task force headed south. Sounds like action ahead!”

“It’s our turn next,” Stew grumbled. “Last time Louie and Dave spotted
the Jappies. _We’ll_ find ’em this time, or bust!”

“We sure will!” Jack agreed.

“Which means we’d better turn in,” Stew suggested.

They were on their feet, when suddenly the squeaky notes of a badly
played violin reached Jack’s ears. “Oh! Ouch!” he exclaimed in mock
pain.

The two boys wandered back to find Ted Armour, a fighter pilot, doing
his best to murder “Turkey in the Straw.” Ted was the son of a rich
stockbroker, but a real fellow for all that.

“For Pete’s sake, tune that fiddle!” Jack exploded.

“Tune it yourself!” Ted held out the violin. “How are you going to do it
without a piano?”

Without troubling to reply, Jack accepted the challenge. Tucking the
fiddle under his chin, he began strumming its strings.

“No.... Now!” He exclaimed once. Then, “There, that’s better!” He hummed
a tune, tested a string, hummed again; then, after drawing the bow
across the strings, exclaimed softly:

“Not bad! Not bad! Really quite a fiddle!”

“Little you know about that!” someone laughed. “You’re just a scout
pilot.”

“Oh, yeah?” Jack laughed. Then, after one more testing of the
strings—seeming to forget his surroundings, the racing carrier, the
black sea, the murmuring men—he began to play the “Londonderry Air.”

At once the group became silent. Even the great ship’s motors seemed to
throb in a strange, new way as the plaintive strain drifted out into the
night.

Jack played it through to the end, while many a boy far from home seemed
to hear the voice of a woman singing the sweet and melancholy words of
“Danny Boy.” Finishing, he purposely made a harsh discord, then gave the
violin back.

“Bravo! Bravo!” came in a chorus. “More! More!”

“Here.” Ted held out the violin. “It’s yours, for keeps. If you can make
it do that, it belongs to you.”

“What? You don’t mean that!” Jack stared in astonishment.

“I certainly do.” Ted spoke soberly. “Dad paid good money for that
violin. It was wasted as far as I’m concerned. But you can really play!”

Yes, Jack could play. From his eighth birthday on, he had known but one
ambition—to become a really fine violinist. Then had come the war,
and—but why think of that? The war was here. He was a scout pilot.

For a moment he stood silently thinking. Then he said:

“Tell you what.” His voice was low and full of emotion. “You wanted my
radio. I’ll swap you.”

“It’s a go,” Ted agreed.

Then, fearing that his first tune had dug too deep into the souls of his
comrades, Jack struck out with the old “Virginia Reel.”

At once the whole gang was whirling about in a mad sort of dance.

“Concert’s over!” Jack exclaimed at last, tucking the violin under his
arm. “Tomorrow we fight.”

“Tomorrow we fight! Tomorrow we fight!” came echoing back. And so the
party broke up.

Jack had the precious violin, acquired in such a strange manner, tucked
under his arm as he and Stew strode down the deck toward the ladder that
led to a night’s repose.

As they rounded a life raft someone blinked a faint light upon them.
“Oh! It’s you, Jack?” It was the Commander who spoke. He was off for a
cup of coffee.

“Ay, ay, sir.” Jack grinned.

“Got a violin?” The Commander halted. “Weren’t you playing back there on
the deck?”

“I’m afraid I was, sir,” Jack admitted. “Trying to play, I mean. You
see, sir, I haven’t touched a violin in months. It—well—it didn’t seem
to fit in with my program. You see, sir, I really worked at my fiddling
from the time I was eight. Then—well, you know.”

“Sure, I know. The war came along. And you went all out for Uncle Sam.”

“Something like that, sir,” Jack agreed.

“That’s the proper spirit,” the Commander approved. “But let me tell you
something, son. You’ll be a better flier longer if you go back to that
violin for an hour or two every day.”

“What do you mean, sir?” The boy voiced his surprise.

“Ever draw a string tight and leave it for a long time?” the Commander
asked.

“Sure did, sir.”

“What happened?”

“It snapped, sir.”

“Of course. It’s the same with fliers. It’s the fellow with one string,
one thought, who snaps first. Relax, Jack my boy. Relax with your fiddle
and you’ll ride through this war right into a concert hall.”

“Sounds a bit strange. But I’ll try it, sir,” Jack agreed.

“Good night and good hunting to you tomorrow.” The Commander
disappeared.

Before turning in, Jack took a closer look at his new treasure, his
precious violin. “It’s a honey,” he told Stew. “Bet it cost a thousand
dollars.”

“Why not,” said Stew. “What’s a thousand dollars to a man like Ted’s
dad?”

“That’s just it,” Jack agreed. “Seems sort of wonderful, doesn’t it,
that you and I who’ve never had a lot of anything, and Kentucky and Red,
who’ve had even less, should be messin’ round with fellows like Ted and
two or three other rich guys on the old _Black Bee_?”

“Well, we’re all in the same boat, aren’t we?” Stew drawled.

“Yes, and the same-sized Jap bullet will down one of them just as quick
as it will one of us. For all that,” Jack paused, “it looks as if ours
should be a better world to live in after the war is over, all of us
getting along together the way we do.”

“Oh! It will!” Stew agreed. “And here’s one bombardier who’s going to
try to be around when it’s over. Fight hard, but take no fool chances,
that’s my motto.”

“Mine too,” Jack agreed. “I’ve got folks waiting for me back home.”

“Same here. And besides, we can’t help Uncle Sam much down there in Davy
Jones’s locker.” At that they lapsed into silence.

Jack slept with his violin that night, and next morning before dawn he
stowed it away in his plane. “Why not?” he asked himself. “Red’s got a
dog he takes along. Blackie carries a parrot, and Bill, a monkey. A
violin makes just as good a mascot, and not half the bother.”

When he and Stew worked their way to the flight deck that morning they
found it crowded with planes. The _Black Bee_ was one of the largest
carriers in the Navy and carried more than a hundred planes.

Because they required only a short run to clear the deck, and also
because in case of an attack they must be the first ships up, the
fighters stood in front of all the others on the deck. Back of these
were scout planes; next rode dive bombers; and last of all, torpedo
planes.

Already the air was filled with the roar of motors warming up. Fighters
would soon be taking off for a look at the skies close at hand and for
practice runs. Scout planes would cut the sky into a great
four-hundred-mile-wide pie and each would take its own sector of air and
sea for a close search. Lucky the scout-ship pilot who could announce,
“Enemy task force a hundred miles north by east.” Even the discoverer of
a Jap snooper, a huge four-motored flying boat, would receive his
reward, and besides, with luck, might send the air giant flaming into
the sea. Little wonder then that Jack’s fingers trembled as he gripped
the controls and waited for the flight officer’s signal for the
take-off.

Slowly at first, then more swiftly, their wheels rolled across the deck
until they glided out over the dark, gray waters into the approaching
dawn.

They climbed a thousand, two, three, five thousand feet. Jack examined
and tested his instruments. Stew swung his machine guns back and forth.
Then pressing the button, he sent a burst of fire into the limitless
blue-gray of the sky. “This is our day!” Jack exulted. “I feel it in my
bones.”

“Hope you’re right,” Stew grumbled. “We’re due for some luck. Three
months in the Pacific and we haven’t sighted a single snooper or
sneaking Jap ship. It’s rotten luck!”

“Cheer up, there’ll come a time,” Jack sang. He was in fine spirits. The
feel of violin strings under his fingers had done things to him. And
besides, there was much more involved in that simple ceremony of
swapping a cheap radio for a priceless violin than the onlookers
realized. He and the fighter Ted Armour had a secret all their own.

The two boys in their scout plane flew straight away for some time.
Fighter planes would guard the air close to their task force. At last
they began crisscrossing the sky. Each time, as they went farther out to
sea and their sectors widened, their crisscrosses increased in length.

“We’re heading into a mess of black clouds,” Stew grumbled. “Won’t be
able to see a thing.”

“Not so thick, at that,” Jack called back cheerfully. “Wait until the
sun is up and you’ll see.”

Soon dark clouds turned purple, faded into dark red, then pink, to take
on at last the fluffy white of full day.

“What a day for duck hunting!” Stew exclaimed.

“I’ll say!” Jack agreed. “But give me Japs, not ducks! The things they
did to our prisoners in the Philippines make my blood boil!”

“Mine too. I’m aching to get a crack at them. We—”

“Look!” Jack exclaimed. “Off there to the east!”

“Ships!” Stew exploded.

“Yep! And we’ve got no task force out there!”

“Duck into that long white cloud, quick!” Stew suggested.

Jack’s head was in a whirl as he gripped the controls, banked his plane,
then vanished from sight into the cloud.

“Contact,” he whispered hoarsely. “Contact at last! And there’ll be a
fight!”



                              CHAPTER III
                            FRIENDLY ENEMIES


“Boy, oh boy!” Stew exulted as they slid into the cloud. He set his
radio with trembling fingers. “Here’s where we score a scoop!”

“Wait!” Jack warned. “We can’t risk a false alarm. Might pull the entire
task force off its course for nothing!”

Jack was thinking. What a lovely cloud this is! There’s sure to be a
carrier in that Jap convoy down there, if they’re really Jap ships—a
carrier and Zeros. There’s sure to be a fight, and this ship of ours is
good for only 260 M.P.H. at most! But this is what she was built for,
and what we were trained for. This is our zero hour. He drew in three
deep breaths of air and felt better. Jitters, he decided. They all get
them. Old Ironsides says we’d be no good if we didn’t.

Stew had not advised going into a cloud without a reason. They were
still some distance from the task force—too far to be sure of anything.
By following it in the cloud they could obtain a better view.

The cloud was miles long and appeared to dip down toward the sea. They
were constantly running into thin filmy fringes and being obliged to
drop lower. They didn’t want to be spotted by a Zero. Not yet. They must
make sure that this was really a Jap task force, and get in a report.
Then let the Zeros come if they would. They’d give them a grand
exhibition of cloud hopping and, if need be, a glorious shooting match
as well.

“No shooting if we can help it,” Jack told himself. “Our job is to spot
the enemy task force and sit above them, sending in reports until our
bombers and torpedo planes come to attack. We—”

His thoughts broke off sharply. What was this he was hearing? A
high-pitched whistle like a country fire alarm. No doubt about it. It
was on the same key as the one they had heard the night before. Stew had
heard it too—Jack could tell by the look in his eyes.

“Some Jap trick!” Jack exclaimed, gripping the controls hard. “Got to be
ready for anything!” Stew was swinging his gun about as a ballplayer
swings his bat before a try at the ball.

The screaming noise increased. It filled the air, and seemed almost upon
them. Acting by instinct, Jack went into a sudden steep dive.

The next instant he looked up to see a shadowy bulk shoot through the
misty clouds above them to lose itself at terrific speed in the
distance.

“That,” said Stew, with a shudder, “was a torpedo. The Japs shot it at
us. If it had connected we wouldn’t be here.”

“I wonder,” said Jack.

There was little time for wondering, for suddenly they were out of the
clouds, not far from the sea. And directly beneath them lay the enemy
task force. So near was it that it looked almost like a cardboard
display against a field of blue.

“Zeros!” Stew warned suddenly. “Three of them over to the left!”

Jack dipped a wing, touched the accelerator, cut an astonishingly short
circle, and re-entered the same cloud.

“Ann to Mary! Ann to Mary!” Stew repeated in a strained voice, talking
into his mike. “Enemy task force southeast, hundred and eighty miles.
One carrier, five cruisers, eight destroyers, and three cargo ships.”

He waited ten seconds. He, you have guessed, was Ann. The operator on
the carrier was Mary. Twice, at brief intervals, he repeated the
messages.

“Watch it!” Jack exclaimed, banking his plane so sharply it stood on a
wing. In his excitement he had come so close to the edge of the cloud
that he had sighted a shadow. The shadow had a voice, a sudden
_rat-tat-tat_ that made small round holes in his right wing. A Zero had
nearly winged them.

“Close,” he murmured. “Got to have a care.”

They circled about in the cloud for fully five minutes. “What’s your
idea about that screamer?” Stew asked.

“I know what it can’t be,” was Jack’s reply.

“What?”

“It can’t be a meteor. You can see a meteor.”

“Probably a rocket from a plane. The Jerries have them.”

“I wonder!” Jack said once more. “Well, guess we’ll slip down for
another look. Tell you what—we’ll zoom out of this cloud full speed.
That’ll take the Zeros by surprise. By the time they close in we’ll be
safe in another cloud.”

Jack’s idea was a good one. Stew had one more good look at the task
force. He corrected his report—one less destroyer than he had thought,
and one more cargo vessel. The distance was shorter, perhaps nearer one
hundred and seventy miles. Their trick of dashing full speed from cloud
to cloud fooled the Japs. But they would soon run out at an edge of the
cloud they had just entered, small-circle it as they might.

“The Nips will corner us like rabbits in a hayfield,” Stew grumbled.

“Let ’em try it!” Jack’s spirits were rising. This was their day. “We’ll
come out shooting. We’ve just got to cut one notch in the handle of your
gun before this hour gets away.”

“Here’s hoping.” Stew patted his gun.

Despite his rising courage Jack’s knees began shaking when, for a second
time, they barely escaped a blast of fire from a Zero.

At last he exclaimed, “Shucks! This cloud is too thin and ragged. We’ll
make another run for it.”

Another run it was, and this time two Jappies were right after them. But
to his surprise Jack found the enemy unwilling to press home the attack.
They would make a run, then as soon as they were close enough for a
possible shot, circle away. The first time one did this Stew gave him a
short quick burst of fire, without result.

“Huh!” he grunted the second time, “I know their game. They want me to
shoot out my belts of ammunition. Then, while I’m reloading, they’ll
slip in for the kill. Oh no you don’t, Jappie!” He withheld his fire.

So interesting was the game that for the time being they forgot both the
clouds and the task force. But not for long. Suddenly Stew exclaimed:

“Say! Look! That Jap task force is smaller!”

Jack did not look, for suddenly he threw his plane into full speed.

“What the—”

“That fellow was sneaking in too close,” Jack exclaimed. “Tell you what.
We’ll take him on!”

“Take him on!”

“Sure. Let him try another sneak, then I’ll whirl on him with our left
wing lowered.”

“Say! You’re right! I’ll just swing this old twinflex gun around to the
front and fire across our wing while—”

“While I pepper him with my two guns in the nose. Watch now. On your
toes!” Jack warned.

He slackened his speed a little. The Jap pressed in. Suddenly Jack’s
motor roared like an attacking lion. The left wing dipped. The plane cut
a half circle. Its guns flashed in unison. The Zero faltered, fell away
to the right, began to smoke, then went into a spin.

Twenty seconds later, just as three Zeros dropped at them from above,
the boys lost themselves in one more cloud.

“Chalk up one Zero!” Stew exulted. “That’s one up for us!”

“And say!” he added, “that reminds me. I’ve got to get a message off.”

A few seconds later he was droning into his microphone:

“Ann to Mary! Ann to Mary! Task force split. Two cargo vessels, three
destroyers, going due east. Remainder of force same as before.”

“We’d better stick to this cloud for a while,” was Jack’s decision.
“It’s a good big one, and fairly thick. Those Zeros will be swarming
round it like angry bees, but they’ll never find us in here.”

“All the same, we’ve got to find out what that break in their task force
means!” Stew insisted.

Jack caught low words in his earphones:

“Jack! Where are you?”

Jack jumped. He knew that voice. It was Ted Armour speaking. “In a cloud
over a Jap task force.” Jack asked very quietly, “Where are you, Ted?”

“In a cloud over a Jap task force,” Ted laughed softly. “Picked up your
message. I was quite a ways east, so I came on out. Thought you might
need some help.”

“That—ah—that’s swell!” Jack swallowed hard. “We’re coming out for a
look.”

“Good! I’m coming too. I’ll be seeing you.”

That was all, but Jack felt a great uplift of spirits as he headed for
the edge of his cloud. “It’s a strange world,” he thought. “Friendly
enemies. War is terrible and wonderful!”



                               CHAPTER IV
                            A GLORIOUS FIGHT


“Good old Ted!” Jack exclaimed without thinking as he headed for that
dangerous fringe of mist. “He’s from my home town.”

“What?” Stew exclaimed. “You never told me.”

“I’ve told you now,” Jack snapped. “So keep it quiet. It’s our secret.”

They slid out into the clear blue sky to discover that while the main
Jap task force continued to glide serenely on its way, the two cargo
ships and three destroyers had lost themselves in a rain squall that
reached right down to the surface of the sea.

“Tough luck!” Stew exclaimed. “We’ve just got to locate them and see
where they’re going. They may be the grand prize. Very likely those
cargo ships are loaded with ammunition, and one of them is a
twenty-thousand tonner.”

Jack put his plane into a steep dive. Two thousand feet from the sea he
soon lost himself in the top of the rain squall.

They went through the squall and were out on the other side in no time
at all.

“There they are! Two ships, three destroyers!” Stew exulted. “Still
going due east. I’ll get in a report, and then—”

He stopped short to grip his machine gun and exclaim, “Jack! Quick! Back
into the cloud! Three Zeros are coming down at us from 5,000 feet.”

As Jack dipped his right wing to circle, he thought, “Looks like
curtains for us.”

Their plane, though a sturdy and dependable craft with some forty-five
feet of wing spread, was far from fast. The Zeros were small, light, and
fast. They seemed to drop with the speed of sound. It looked bad. At
that instant, there came a silver flash from just above the cloud, and a
U. S. fighter leaped at the three Zeros which were dropping straight and
fast and thus unable to change their course.

What followed was a beautiful thing to see. Seeming to stand in mid-air,
the U. S. fighter pilot handled his guns as a bird hunter does his
fowling piece. He picked off the first two Zeros and sent them flaming
to the sea below—then sent the third wheeling harmlessly away.

“Good old Ted!” Jack exclaimed as he slid his plane into the small cloud
that hung above the rain squall.

“He handles his plane as though he were dancing,” Stew said. There was
admiration in his voice.

“Of course,” said Jack. “That’s Ted for you. He was the finest dancer in
our school, or our town, for that matter. He played basketball and
tennis the same way, with perfect rhythm.”

“Just think what the war has done to the world,” Stew murmured. “Sets a
fellow teaching a fighter plane to dance!”

Stew got off his message. He thought it hard that all this radio
reporting should be one-way stuff, but of course it was necessary for
the carrier to maintain radio silence, otherwise her position might be
given away and she herself might be attacked.

“Why don’t the bombers come?” Stew was growing restless with the delay.
Since their job was to shadow the Jap task force until the dive bombers
and torpedo planes arrived, they would not be free to leave until the
others put in an appearance.

“The Commander will hold the bombers and their fighter protection until
all scouts are heard from,” said Jack.

“Why?” Stew was puzzled.

“Because there may be other Jap task forces lurking about the sea
waiting to send their air fleets after the _Black Bee_. She must not be
left unprotected. She—”

“Listen!” Stew broke in. To their ears came the sound of machine-gun
fire.

“Ted’s in a fight. We’ve got to get out and help him!” Jack exclaimed.
“Can’t let that swarm of Zeros gang up on him.” He set their plane
climbing. “We’ll just get some altitude, have a look, then fly right
down onto them.”

“Good stuff!” Stew agreed. “We can dive with the best of them.”

It was only after they had climbed out of their cloud on up to the one
above, and out at the top of that one, to a height of five thousand
feet, that Jack took time out for a downward glance. Then, what he saw
all but cost him the chance of a grand fight. What’s more, much of his
life might have been radically changed, had he failed to come to a
decision in the next sixty seconds. Almost directly beneath them, a
little to the left, an air battle raged between four Zeros and a
single-seated U. S. fighter.

Jack did not need to be told that the lone fighter was the boy from his
own home town, Ted. It could be none other, for the broad, sweeping
circles his plane made appeared to be timed to the tune of a Strauss
waltz.

At the moment they sighted Ted he was being followed by a Zero that
spouted fire. The distance was too great; the shots did not take effect.

Instead of turning on his opponent, Ted swung up and under an enemy
coming from above and, seeming to stand his plane on its tail, sent a
burst of fire into the enemy’s engine. The Zero wavered. Something hung
from it for a space of seconds, then rocketed downward.

“Shot off his motor!” Jack exulted.

Stew did not hear. His mind was still on the task before him. The rain
squall was over. He spotted the two groups of enemy ships, also some
small islands off to the east. With a strange sense of finality coursing
through his being, he reported all this to the _Black Bee’s_ radioman.
As he listened after that, he thought he heard the low rumble of many
distant planes. He could not be sure; too much was going on directly
beneath them.

Continuing his magnificent circles, Ted came up behind the very Zero
that seconds before had been following him. He let out a burst of fire.
Smoking badly, the Zero limped into a cloud.

“Now! Now we’ve got to get down there!” Jack tilted his plane for a
steep dive, then set his motor at top speed.

The two remaining Zeros were closing in on Ted. At the same time three
others were swinging in on him from the left. The three were flying in
formation, rather far apart.

“Get ready with your twinflex,” Jack ordered. “We’ll go right into that
trio and break it up.”

Did the Japs see them coming? No matter. They came in too fast for the
Japs to dodge. At just the right instant Jack pulled up short, then let
out a burst of fire that cut squarely across the lead plane of the Japs.

At the same time Stew swung his twinflex gun on the second plane and let
him have it for all he was worth.

What happened after that came so quickly that it remained a blur in
Jack’s memory. Afterward he seemed to recall seeing two Jap planes
falling, and Ted, with a damaged plane, disappearing into a cloud. At
the same time something had creased his forehead. He went dizzy for an
instant, then he was all right again.

“They got our radio!” Stew reported.

“She doesn’t steer right!” Jack headed her into a cloud.

“Well, that’s that,” Stew sighed. “No radio. No more work for us.”

Jack scarcely listened. He was hearing a rumble. It came from the west.
“Bombers! Our bombers!” he exclaimed.

“Our work is finished!” Stew exulted.

“All but getting back. And that we can’t do.” There was an air of
finality in Jack’s voice. “That Jap did plenty to this plane. Nearly got
me too. Take a look at my right temple.”

Stew leaned forward, then whistled. “Burned you, all right. Bleeding a
little. Wait. I’ll fix you up.”

They circled slowly in their cloud while first aid was applied.

“There are some islands off to the east,” Stew suggested.

“How far?”

“’Bout fifty miles.”

“Good! That’s our best bet.”

“Then what are we waiting for?”

“Nothing.” Jack eased his plane over toward the edge of the clouds.

“What about the Zeros?” Stew asked.

“It’s a chance we have to take,” Jack replied soberly. “This old kite
won’t stay up too long. Be prepared to give them the works if they show
up.”

“The works it shall be,” Stew replied grimly as he reloaded his powerful
weapon.



                               CHAPTER V
                              A GOOD SHOW


The Zeros, it seemed, were engaged elsewhere. When Jack and Stew emerged
from their cloud none were in sight, nor were the islands that Stew had
seen.

“A rain squall has hidden the islands. They’re there, all the same,”
Stew insisted.

“It’s our only chance.” In vain Jack tried to get more power from his
disabled motor. It coughed, sputtered—all but died—then carried on.

Heading due east, he started to climb. He had gained a thousand feet or
more when he began losing again.

“Look over your parachute,” he said to Stew. “Be sure you can get hold
of our rubber raft at a second’s notice. This motor may die at any
moment.”

“It’s all done,” said Stew. “All in order. Let’s have a look at your
chute.” He worked over Jack’s chute and harness. “It’s okay. Be sure to
pull the cord,” he joked. “That’s always a necessity, you know.”

“Sure I know,” Jack’s voice was cheerful. “I’m glad we got our job done
before this thing happened.”

“The sea’s fairly smooth. We’ll get on. Some kind of a bird will light
on us. They always do—booby, gull—something.”

“Sure, they light on anything that stands out above the water.” Jack set
his ship climbing again. They were inside the rain squall. From not too
far away came the sound of sudden battle.

“Zeros and our fighters have tangled.” Stew became tremendously excited.
“Boy! This is going to be terrific! Wish we could see it!”

“Like taking in a world-series game from behind a high board fence,”
Jack agreed. “But leave it to our bombers!”

“They’re sure good! They took that other carrier we discovered a week
ago.”

“They’re tops, those bombers!” Jack had a great love for his ship and
her men. “There never was a carrier like the _Black Bee_!”

The roar of bombers coming on in formation filled the air.

“They’re climbing! I can tell by the sound!” Stew exclaimed. “Boy! Just
you wait!”

Stew all but stood up in his place while Jack divided his attention
between the bombers and his disabled motor.

“Now!” Stew exclaimed at last. “Now they’re diving! Listen!” He held his
breath, counting “One—two—three—four—five—six—seven—”

He had reached twenty when there came a roar. “Oh! Too bad! That one
missed!” Hardly were the words out of his mouth when there came a second
roar. “Right on the beam! Boy! Oh boy!”

Six bombers dumped their loads. “Three connected,” was Stew’s decision.
“That’s a very good record.”

Then all of a sudden they emerged from the screening rain squall to find
themselves over a bright, blue sea. In the center of this sea, two large
cargo ships and three destroyers steamed rapidly toward the east.

“Oh!” Stew groaned. “They’ll get away! And I have a hunch they’re the
most important of all.”

For a space of seconds Jack considered turning back in an effort to
direct some of the bombers toward this target. “No use,” he grumbled.
“We’d never make it in time.”

“Besides,” Stew’s voice went husky, “here come three of our torpedo
bombers. They got my message after all! Boy! We’re some use in the
world, you and I! And we’re really going to see a show.”

“A grandstand seat! No high fence this time.” Jack’s voice expressed his
joy.

At sight of the torpedo planes the two cargo ships began zigzagging,
while the destroyers darted in close to them.

Like catbirds after hawks, four Zeros followed the torpedo planes, but
as yet were too far away to count.

“Man! Oh man!” Jack exclaimed. “Suppose those Zeros come after us!”

“Let them come!” Stew looked to the loading of his gun. “We’ll be
waiting for them. We can’t run, but we still can fight.”

Two destroyers lay between the torpedo planes and the cargo ships. Their
pom-pom guns began throwing up shells. The boys could see them explode
in mid-air. Disregarding these, the torpedo pilots came sailing straight
in, dropping rapidly as they approached their target.

Jack held his breath as one by one they passed through shellfire. That’s
Dick, I imagine, he was thinking. Dick, Bert and Phil. All swell boys!

One shell, exploding beneath the second plane, lifted it into the air,
but the plane came straight on.

At just the right moment, not five hundred feet from the sea, the first
plane released its “tin fish.” Jack saw it hit the sea and speed away.

“Bull’s-eye!” he shouted. But the torpedo acted strangely. It leaped
into the air, then dove like a playing porpoise. At last it reached the
side of a cargo ship.

“Now!” Stew breathed.

But there came no sound. “Oh!” Jack exclaimed, as he saw the torpedo
speed away beyond the ship. “It went right under her! What a—”

He did not finish, for suddenly a mighty explosion fairly tore the sky.

“Did you see that!” Stew exclaimed. “The second torpedo took that ship
right on the beam! And did she explode! Must have been loaded with TNT.”

Jack had not seen. What he did see was a tower of black smoke and pieces
of debris falling over the sea. And he saw the second ship, attacked by
the last torpedo plane, meet the same fate.

All this had happened in the space of seconds, and all the time their
disabled plane was chugging its way toward three small islands that
stood out like green stones set in a field of blue.

“I hope they raise chickens on those islands,” said Stew.

“Chickens and no Japs,” Jack agreed. At that moment his eyes swept the
sky for the Zeros. “Gone,” he murmured at last. “I guess they’ve seen
enough for one day.”

After that Jack was silent for a time. He was thinking: Those ships were
loaded with ammunition intended for Japs on some island. If they had
gone through safely, hundreds, perhaps thousands, of our Marines and
Army men might have died. We got them. A feeling of pride in a job well
done, a task in which he and Stew had played a large part, coursed
through his being.

“We found them. The torpedo planes destroyed them,” he said aloud. At
that moment he would not have traded his job as a scout for any other in
the service.

But what of the attack on the Jap carrier and her escort? Only sound
could tell them the story, for the rain squall still hid that battle
from their sight.

“Our radio is gone,” he said to Stew. “We’re headed for an unknown
island. No one will know where we are.”

“That’s right,” Stew agreed soberly. “Even those three torpedo planes
have gone to join the attack on the carrier. We’re in the sky alone.” A
strange wave of loneliness swept over him. “It may be months before we
know how that battle ended.” Jack nodded in the direction from which
came a continuous roar of motors, machine-gun fire, bursting shells, and
exploding bombs. “We’re on our own, and I don’t mean maybe!”



                               CHAPTER VI
                             PLANE WRECKED


The plane rattled, sputtered, and roared. Stew threw back the hood,
climbed out to the wings to see what, if anything, might be done to keep
her aloft. Then he threw back his seat to drop flat on his stomach and
poke around in the fuselage. His hand touched Jack’s violin. He shoved
this forward within easy reach.

“Jack can play for the birds, the lizards, and the land crabs on our
island,” he said to himself with a grim laugh.

There was not much he could do. The main trouble was with the motor. It
had taken a slug or two, and was beginning to smoke.

Alternately they gained and lost altitude. Each time they lost more than
they had gained.

“There’s a Zero!” Stew exclaimed, righting his seat and gripping his
gun.

The Zero kept poking its nose in and out of the rain squall that was
moving slowly toward them.

“Scouting for their lost cargo ships,” said Jack.

The three destroyers, now robbed of their charges, were beginning to
slip from sight. “Going to that other fight,” Jack thought. He and Stew
were leaving the fight behind, and under the circumstances he was not
sorry. It seemed less violent now. Had their comrades won or lost? Had
the Jap carrier been put out of action? He did not know the answer.

His motor coughed hoarsely, then was silent. They lost altitude rapidly.

“Get ready to bail out!” he snapped.

The motor coughed, rumbled, then thundered afresh.

They climbed once more, then slowly sank.

The islands were much closer now. “We’d better head for the middle one,”
Jack said. “It’s the largest. Got quite a peak in the middle of it.”

“Must be several hundred feet high,” Stew said. “There’s sure to be
good, fresh water there. Natives too. There’s an island around here
somewhere, they say, where the natives eat shipwrecked Chinamen, or used
to.”

“Well, we’re not Chinamen!” Jack’s laugh was a bit doubtful.

“Could be they’re not choosy.” Stew’s laugh was doubtful too.

“Have to take a chance, that’s all war is after all—just one risk after
another. We—”

The motor went dead again. One more struggle, one more victory.

Twice more this was repeated. The last time they were not much more than
ten miles from the islands.

“That’s all she’ll do,” Jack decided. “Get ready to tumble out if we
land too hard. We’re going down.”

Gripping the half-inflated lifeboat, Stew shoved back the hood, and
stood there, with the wind in his eyes, as they circled downward.

The time was surprisingly short. They hit the water hard, bounced,
struck again—then with a final splash, the plane almost nosed over into
the sea.

Stew had the life raft ready in a twinkling—none too soon at that, for
their left wing was all but torn away.

Stew was on the life raft, with paddle in hand. Jack was prepared to
drop down onto the raft when he stopped suddenly.

“Wait a second,” he said, climbing into the plane again.

He came back after a while with the violin. “After what Ted did for us
today,” he confided, “I couldn’t leave it.” And they paddled away toward
the middle island.

“That Ted must be a real guy,” was Stew’s comment.

“You don’t know the half of it. I’ll tell you about it some time.” Jack
settled back against the circular side of the raft. “Boy! Am I tired!”

“Take it easy,” Stew advised.

“We’ll have to paddle ten miles at least. A Jap plane may spot us on the
way.”

“We don’t really need to paddle at all,” Stew said. “There’s a strong
current running toward the islands.”

“How do you know?” Jack sat up.

“While you went back for the violin I threw a stick into the water. It
started right for the island.”

“That,” said Jack, “was my whittling stick.”

“Too bad!” Stew said. “But then, there must be a million sticks on our
island. Seems to be covered with trees.”

The current was not all that Stew had hoped for. It carried them along
at no more than two miles an hour. And the distance was far greater than
they had imagined. For several hours they were obliged to paddle beneath
hot, tropical skies. Finally, when the sun had gone to rest and the moon
had taken up its watch, they found themselves listening to the easy wash
of the surf against the mysterious shore.

As they came close it seemed that the island’s one mountain leaned over
like a vast giant for a look at them.

“Be just our luck to land close to a native village.” Stew shuddered as
they neared the shadowy shores. The moon still was low.

“They might have chickens,” Jack suggested.

“I’ll be content with emergency rations,” Stew decided.

Once Stew imagined that he caught a glimpse of a flicker of light along
the shore. “Cannibals,” he whispered.

“Might be worse.” Jack fingered his automatic. “Could be Japs.”

And then, a long, sweeping wave picked up their small raft with
startling suddenness and they found themselves on a gravel beach. Before
the next wave arrived they had dragged the raft to safety.

“That’s service!” Jack exclaimed. “Now let’s have a look.” He snapped on
a small flashlight.

They discovered the beach to be very narrow. Back of it were tumbled
piles of massive rocks, and behind these, a solid, stone wall.

“Look!” Stew pointed to tangled masses of logs, seaweed, and broken
palms that lay on the rocks far above their heads. “Some storm to do
that!”

“Yes, and another storm may do the same to us. We’d better ramble.”

To the right the beach ended abruptly in a stone wall, but to the left
it broadened. Tramping over the rocks for a quarter of a mile, they came
at last to a spot where the land sloped away, offering enough soil to
support coconut palms and other tropical trees.

“This will do,” Jack decided.

Climbing up the slope, Stew gathered ripe coconuts from the ground.
After striking off the husks, he bored holes through the eyes with his
sheath knife and drank the milk.

“Um-m-m!” he breathed. “Not bad.”

When they had drained four coconuts dry, they turned their attention to
other matters.

They broke open their rations and ate sparingly. They cracked a coconut
and ate its meat. Then they stretched out side by side on the rubber
raft, pillowed their heads against the round outside, drew a
mosquito-bar canopy over themselves, and lay there looking at the stars.

“If we were on the shore of Lake Superior,” Jack sighed, “I could like
this for a long time.”

“I suppose it’s great,” said Stew. “I’ve never been there.”

“Great’s the word, all right!” Jack became enthusiastic. “We used to
have a regular gang, half a dozen fellows and more girls. Campfire
parties, canoeing in the moonlight, sings—all that....” His voice
trailed off. Then, “Patsy was up there once.”

“Who’s Patsy?” Stew asked.

“Just a girl I used to know. We grew up together.”

“Uh-huh,” Stew drawled.

“Ted took her away from me at last, or at least I think he did.”

“Our Ted?” Stew sat up. “The one who came out today to help us fight the
Japs? The Ted who saved our lives? Hm-m-m! Sounds a little bit queer.”

“Yes, but we practically saved his life too. That might also seem
strange. It’s that way in war. War changes a lot of things.”

“You see,” Jack said, sitting up, “Ted and I were rivals. He was what
the girls call ‘smooth’. I wasn’t. You know how I am.”

“Oh sure.”

“He beat me in some things, and I beat him in others. Then he went after
Patsy.”

“But you weren’t smooth?” Stew drawled.

“That’s what I said.”

“Then how come you’re pals now?”

“We’re not really, you see. Ted and I both joined the Navy air force. We
went to different training bases. I never saw him again until we met on
board the _Black Bee_. Then he dragged me off to one side and said—”

“Listen!” Stew’s voice was tense. “There’s that screaming again! It’s
coming this way like the wind.”

Jack listened with all his might. How weird it was, that screech coming
in out of the silence of the night. “Some witch riding a broomstick.” He
laughed uncertainly.

“Some Jap trick,” Stew muttered.

“I’m not so sure,” Jack said thoughtfully. “I’ve got a brand new notion
about that thing.”

“What’s that?”

“I’ll tell you later.”

“Makes one want to be in an air-raid shelter.”

“Well, you won’t. We haven’t even got a cave. But there’s no need
really. It’s got the whole island to strike, and it must be five miles
long. The law of averages gives us one chance in a million of being
hit.”

At that Stew settled back.

“That law of averages is mighty comforting sometimes,” Jack went on.
“Take this war. We’ve eleven million men in uniform. How many do you
think will get killed?”

“Maybe a million.”

“Not half that many, I’ll bet. That gives you and me one chance out of
twenty-two of getting home alive. But maybe only a quarter of a million
will be killed.”

“Forget that, can’t you?” Stew begged. “Death and that infernal howl
don’t go so hot together.”

By this time the screech filled the air.

Then all of a sudden it dropped to become a mere whisper. “Say! That’s
funny!” Jack exclaimed softly.

“I’ll say!” Stew drew a deep breath.

The voice of the unknown rose again, but this time the sound rose and
fell.

“Something like the sound of a plane circling for a landing,” Jack told
himself.

Then suddenly there was no sound at all. And though he wasn’t sure, Jack
thought he caught a glimpse of a dark shadow darting low over the water
some distance away.



                              CHAPTER VII
                          A NIGHT’S ADVENTURES


For a full three minutes after the sound had ceased abruptly, the two
boys sat in absolute silence. Stew was waiting for the sound of a
violent explosion. More minutes ticked away, and still silence over
their tropical isle.

“Well, I’ll be—” Stew sprang to his feet.

“We’re not the only ones on this island,” Jack said in a husky whisper.

“Why? What makes you think that?” Stew was startled.

“That thing is not a torpedo,” Jack said, speaking slowly. “Nothing of
the sort. It’s an airplane.”

“But such a sound!” Stew protested. “You can’t hear the propeller or the
motors either. Whoever heard of a plane that made a noise like that?”

“Who knows?” Jack’s tone was thoughtful. “Perhaps a lot of people heard
of it. We don’t know everything.”

“What people? Japs?”

“Perhaps. But I doubt that. Japs are clever imitators, but they don’t
invent things.”

“Oh! Then it’s all right,” Stew breathed. “If they’re white men they’re
friendly to us. Perhaps they’ll take us off this island.”

“We can’t be too sure of that.” Jack pricked Stew’s bubble of hope.
“They might be Nazis. Don’t forget that there were a lot of Germans in
these islands before the war—promoters, prospectors, traders, spies—all
sorts. Now that Japan has the Malay Peninsula and the Dutch East Indies,
do you think the Germans are staying away? Not on your life! They’re
right in there getting theirs. You often hear of a German blockade
runner being caught trying to sneak into Germany with badly needed raw
materials. Where did the cargo come from?”

“Right over there,” Stew pointed to the west. “We’ve got to be careful.”

“You bet your sweet life we have! We’ll take turns keeping watch
tonight.”

“We certainly will,” Stew agreed. “All the same, before I leave this
island I’m going to have a look at that squealer if it costs me a leg.”


At that same moment back on the carrier, in the Commander’s cabin, Ted
Armour was saying to the Commander:

“I think, sir, that something should be done about those two boys, Jack
and Stew. They did a magnificent job, sir, watching that Jap task force
up to the minute our bombers arrived.”

“Magnificent!” the Commander agreed. “I shall recommend that they be
given a citation.”

“But that’s not what I mean, sir.” Ted was in dead earnest. “Their plane
was damaged, but they were not on fire when I last saw them. They
couldn’t have had a bad crackup. My theory is that they made a try for
those islands off to the east.”

“We’ll hope they made it.” The Commander was pleased; for after all, he
liked Jack very much and admired the courage the young Ensign had
displayed that day.

“But, sir, all the islands in this region are held by the Japs, are they
not?” Ted asked.

“Yes, all of them. But they are not all occupied by Japs. The smaller,
rougher islands have been passed up by them as of little or no
consequence.”

“There are natives?”

“Yes, perhaps.”

“Wild natives, cannibals—”

“Oh, I don’t know about that. There have been missionaries.” The
Commander tapped his desk.

“Don’t you think we should make a search for them, sir?” Ted asked.

“A search at night is impractical. Tomorrow,” the Commander’s voice
dropped, “we hope to be two hundred miles from here, bent on a dangerous
mission. This Jap task force we encountered today was in the nature of
an accident, a fortunate accident.”

“Then nothing will be done, sir,” Ted’s voice fell.

“Oh, I wouldn’t say that. In a few days we should be passing this way
again. Then we’ll look them up, if such a thing is possible.”

“A few days!” Ted exclaimed. “A lot can happen in a few days, sir!”

“Quite right, my son. But this is war. In war we must all face the
consequences.” The Commander rose. “I appreciate your interest in your
friends. You, yourself did splendid work today. It shall not be
forgotten.”

“Oh, that!” Ted waved a hand. “Add it to Jack’s share of glory, sir.”

“In the Navy,” the Commander smiled, “there can be no reflected glory.
Don’t be too greatly disturbed by the plight of your comrades,” he
added. “They’re probably eating native-fried chicken at this very
moment.”

“Here’s hoping.” Ted smiled uncertainly. “Many thanks, sir. Good night,
sir.”

“Good night.” The interview was at an end, but for Ted the incident was
not closed, nor would it be until Jack and Stew were safely back on the
carrier, or known to be gone forever.


In the meantime, sitting there beneath their mosquito-bar canopy on the
dark mysterious island, Jack was finishing the story he had been telling
to Stew.

“Queer thing is,” he was saying, “though you might not say it was so
queer, either; but when Ted found me on the carrier he dragged me off to
a dark corner. He seemed pretty excited.

“What he said was, ‘Look here, Jack. We’re not from the same town—not
any more, we aren’t.’

“I didn’t like that kind of talk. ‘How come?’ I demanded.

“‘Look, Jack, don’t get me wrong.’ He seemed very much in earnest. ‘I’ll
do anything I can for you, just anything. But you know how we’ve always
been?’

“‘Yes. Fighting.’ I said.

“‘Well, not fighting,’ he said, ‘but rivals. That was all right back
there,’ he went on. ‘But here it’s different. Here we’re working for
Uncle Sam. We’ve no time now for personal rivalries. It’s a mighty
serious business.’

“‘It sure is, Ted,’ I told him.

“‘All right then, look.’ He grabbed my hand. ‘We’ve got just one rival
in this business.’

“‘Tojo,’ I said.

“‘You’re dead right. And look,’ he gripped my hand, ‘we can’t fight Tojo
and one another at the same time, so what do you say we don’t tell
anybody we’re both from Pineville?’

“‘That’s okay with me,’ I said. ‘The telling part, I mean. But anyway
we’re from the same old town, all the same, and that’s the next thing to
coming from the same family, so if I ever see two fellows in trouble,
and one’s you, I’m going to help you first.’

“‘Same here.’ He pumped my hand up and down.

“Well, what do you think of it, Stew?” Jack asked after a time.

“Strikes me you’re two grand guys,” said Stew. “But what about that girl
Patsy?”

“That doesn’t matter so much any more, I guess.” Jack paused. “Of course
the home folks mean a lot to a fellow when he’s out here. Patsy writes
to me, quite a lot, just the home town news. Wants to know what I’m
doing, and tells me what she’s doing. Half a dozen other girls do the
same. It’s their patriotic duty. Mighty nice of them, but it’s just
their homework, that’s all.”

“Don’t be too sure!” Stew was in dead earnest. “You just keep on writing
to Patsy.”

“Oh, sure I will!” Jack laughed. “And all the rest of them. But it may
be a long time between letters just now. Lie down and rest,” he
suggested. “I’ll call you when I feel like changing places.”

“Don’t wait too long.” Stew stood up and yawned.

After a short walk up and down the pebbly beach Stew stretched out for a
few winks of sleep. Jack gripped his automatic and patrolled the beach.

As he walked he thought of all the circumstances that had brought him to
this wild spot. He had always wanted to fly. Flying toy airplanes had
been his favorite occupation in grade-school days. The strange,
gypsylike life his family had lived in summer, camping in some Indian
cabin or roughing it on an island, with canoes, rowboats and sailboats
always at hand, had prepared him for all this. After high school he had
spent a winter on an island as assistant ranger. His only contact with
the outside world had been by radio. For five months no boat came to the
ice-locked island. Snowshoes, long inspection marches, nights in
deserted cabins, wolves, moose, and snow buntings. He had loved it all.

“Now we haven’t even a radio,” he thought. It was strange how the jigsaw
puzzle of his life appeared to fit together.

“I have always had my violin,” he thought. “And I still have one,” he
reminded himself, with a start.

When midnight came and went with no sign of life on the island, he at
last took the violin from its case and began playing “Ave Maria” softly.

“Ave Maria.” How strange it sounded there in the silent night.

He played on. For a full hour he was lost to his surroundings. The
simple things he had played as a small boy came back to him. So, too,
did the more difficult selections he had played with the college
orchestra in his home town, and the one that had won first place for him
in the state high-school contest.

“That’s all in the past,” he thought once. But he wasn’t sure. He sat on
a fallen palm tree, with the violin across his knee, and dreamed of a
great concert orchestra and of a funny little conductor with a shock of
white hair—a very fine musician. And in that dream he saw himself
playing as the soloist of the performance.

Then he took up his violin and played again. Though his strings were
muted, the low melodies carried far in the still night. It was during
the playing of his last piece that two figures appeared on the ledge far
above him. Standing there in the moonlight, their light garments turned
them into ghosts. Realizing this, perhaps, they moved back into the
shadow of a great rock, but still they lingered. All unconscious of
this, Jack played on. Then suddenly he was wakened from his dream by a
wild shout from Stew, a cry of pain and fright.

The two figures on the rocks darted away so quickly that they loosened a
stone which went tumbling down to stop with a crash a short distance
from the spot where Jack sat.

“Stew! What’s up?”

“It was a Jap!” Stew exclaimed. “He tried to carve me up.”

“A Jap!” Jack laughed as he came dashing up. “There wasn’t any Jap.
Couldn’t have been. I would have seen him.”

“But look! My ear is bleeding!” Stew rubbed his ear.

After a hasty glance up the rocky ridge Jack turned on his flashlight.

“Here’s your Jap,” he laughed. He pointed to a huge land crab with
pincers six inches long. “He was looking for something soft.” Jack
seized the crab by its back and tossed it far up on the slope.

“All the same,” Jack snapped off the light. “There was something up
there on that ridge, and it wasn’t a crab.”

“Why? How do you know?” Stew’s voice was low.

“A rock came tumbling down. Thought I caught a flash of something white.
I might have been mistaken.”

“We’ve got to watch our step.” Stew spoke in a solemn tone.

“We sure must,” Jack agreed.

But something more than the thought of danger was troubling Jack at this
moment.

“If we don’t get off this island in a day or two,” he said gloomily,
“we’re almost sure to miss the Big Show.”

“Oh, yes,” Stew breathed. “Say! That’s right!”

“And I’d about as soon be dead as to miss that.” Jack’s gloom deepened.
Occasionally during his watch, when he listened in vain for the sound of
a rescue plane, the thought of the “Big Show” and the part he wanted to
play in it became a definite goal.

Only the night before, the ship’s commander had said to him, “We’ve got
a little job to do down south of here. Then, I hope, we’re due to join
the big push for the grandest show of all.”

Yes! The “Big Show”! Whispers had gone around the ship. For two whole
weeks rumors had been crystallizing into facts. They would join other
task forces, a dozen carriers, some big battle wagons, a hundred—perhaps
two hundred—fighting ships, scores of transports and cargo ships, as
well as many fast PT boats. Then all together, with the greatest
fighting force the world had ever known, they would go after Mindanao.

And what was Mindanao? For the fiftieth time Jack got out a map, and
flashing his pinpoint light on a spot said:

“There it is, one of the largest of the Philippine Islands.”

“MacArthur said he’d go back, and now we’re going,” Stew said soberly.

“What do you mean, ‘we’?” Jack demanded bitterly. “Looks as if we’re
stuck right here.”

“I’ll be there if I have to swim!” Stew vowed.

“All right. Suppose you sit up for a while and think that one over,”
Jack suggested, “while I grab three winks of sleep.”



                              CHAPTER VIII
                       A LOOK AT A MYSTERY PLANE


Jack awoke with a start. The hot tropical sun shone on his face. Despite
the threat of danger, he had slept soundly.

“Huh!” He sat up suddenly to find Stew laughing at him.

“That dream of yours must have been a humdinger!” Stew exclaimed. “You
were grinning from ear to ear in your sleep.”

“Quite a dream,” Jack admitted. “I was back on my uncle’s farm. It was
morning. Birds were singing, and a rooster crowing.”

“He still is.” Stew chuckled.

“Who still is what?” Jack stared.

“The rooster’s still crowing. Listen.”

Jack listened, and sure enough, there came the lusty crow of a rooster.

“People!” Jack stood up. “Our island has inhabitants! Where there’s
chickens there’s folks! What do you know about that? Shall we look them
up?”

“Wait a minute!” said Stew in a puzzled tone. “You can’t be sure there
are people on these islands. Those chickens may be wild.”

“Perhaps they are,” Jack agreed. “But that fellow who flies the howling
plane must be human, so we’d better watch our step, since that means
there’s someone on the island.”

“I meant native people,” Stew corrected. “Many of these small islands
are deserted now. The natives went to larger islands, or the Japs have
taken them off. Perhaps it’s true here.”

“Could be,” said Jack, “but if we don’t look up the natives or whoever
is on this place, how’ll we eat?”

“I guess it’s emergency rations for us,” Stew replied. “But that’s not
so bad. We’ve got matches for a fire and there’s powdered coffee.”

“Coffee! Boy! Lead me to it!” Jack jumped up. “If you’ll make a small
fire and get the coffee ready, I’ll look around a little and see what
our possibilities are.”

“And I’m going to have a look at that screamer today or know the reason
why!” Stew told himself as he collected dried shreds of palm fronds,
coconut shucks, and splinters of wood for a fire.

The crowing rooster had become mysteriously silent. Convinced by this
fact that he must be wild, Jack climbed over boulders and forced his way
through briar patches to reach at last the crest of the ridge.

Not wishing to expose himself to so broad a view, he threw himself down
on a broad rock, then dragged himself forward for a view of the land
that lay beyond. He let out a gasp of surprise.

Beneath him was a lower ridge, and on outcropping rocks, with their
backs to him, gazing off at the sea, were two native girls. He knew too
little about native girls to judge their ages, but both seemed fully
grown. They wore short, loose dresses of bright-colored cotton.

The two girls were so strangely different that it seemed they could
hardly belong to the same tribe. “And yet,” the boy reasoned, “they
must.” Both were quite dark, but there the similarity ended. One was
short and stocky, with a mop of black hair that stood out all around her
head.

“Regular fuzzy-wuzzy,” Jack told himself.

The other girl was rather slender, and her hair, though black and curly,
had a tendency to lie down.

The short stout one held a live chicken by its feet. “There goes our
rooster,” Jack thought.

The tall girl had a bunch of small wild bananas slung over her shoulder.

“Oh, well,” he thought, “they may have left a bunch of bananas still on
the stalk near here.”

Just then the tall, slender girl, turned halfway around. Startled, not
wishing to be seen, Jack drew back.

When he looked again the two girls were walking along the rocks. He got
a profile view of them. “Yes,” he thought, “they are very different.”
Both were barefoot, but the tall one walked with a joyous spring, while
the other one just plodded along. With a laugh the tall girl lifted the
bunch of bananas to her head, then, with this crown, she moved away as
regally as a queen.

When they had vanished into the bushes he slid back down the rock to his
own side of the ridge. After following the ridge for a short distance he
took a different route toward their beach.

To his great joy, half way there he came upon a cluster of banana plants
growing in a narrow run.

A small stream went trickling and tumbling down the center of the run.
Taking a collapsible drinking cup from his pocket, he bent over a pool
to fill the cup, then started in surprise. In the soft sand by the pool
was the fresh imprint of a bare foot.

“They’ve been on our side of the ridge,” he told himself. “Half way down
the slope. I wonder if they saw us?” This discovery disturbed him. One
never could tell about natives in these wild islands.

The water was fresh and cold.

“Umm! Cold spring!” he murmured. “Water supply.” He made a mental
note—he must follow that stream back to its source.

When he arrived at the banana patch, he discovered more evidence of
their visitors, if they might be called that. One banana plant was minus
a freshly cut bunch of bananas.

Selecting a fine bunch that was still green, he cut it off with a sheath
knife, shouldered it, and went back down the ridge.

“We’re not alone here,” he said, when he reached camp.

“How come?” Stew asked.

“Natives beat us here. I saw two of them. They had our rooster. But I
got some bananas.”

“I see,” said Stew. “How come you picked green ones?”

“They’ll be all right when they ripen,” Jack explained. “When they ripen
on the plant, bananas are not fit to eat. They lose their flavor and
become tasteless; also the skin bursts open and the ripening pulp is
attacked by insects. We’ll hang this bunch up to ripen in the shade, and
eat them as they ripen.”

They drank coffee and nibbled at the chocolate.

“Were those natives armed?” Stew asked.

“Oh, sure!” Jack smiled.

“Spears or clubs?”

“Knives,” said Jack. He might have added, “and smiles,” but did not.

“What’ll we do about the natives?” Stew asked.

“Nothing. At least, not till night. You can’t tell about natives. They
must live in a village or a camp.”

“Sure. We’ll have to find out where it is.”

“We’ll slip around at night and have a look at them.”

“Then we’ll know better what we’re up against. That’s a good idea,” Stew
agreed. “But when it comes to seeing that screamer, I’m in favor of
having a long-distance look in the daytime. If it’s a plane, and they’re
Japs or Germans, we’ve got to see what can be done about it.”

“We’ll wander up along this side of the ridge after a while,” Jack
replied. “That plane, or whatever it is, must be on this side. I think
the native village is on the other side. We’ll try to dodge the natives
for the present.”

Eager to explore the island and solve its mysteries, they were soon
working their way along the sloping side of the ridge. Almost at once
they came upon a hard-beaten trail that ran along the smoothest portion
of the slope.

“Native trail,” was Jack’s verdict.

“That doesn’t sound too good to me,” said Stew. “We may meet some of
those big boys with long spears. They have a playful way of fastening
flying squirrels’ teeth to the point of a spear, for barbs. If you do
get the spear out, the teeth stay in.”

“Look!” Jack stopped suddenly to examine a soft spot in the trail.

“Hoof prints!” Stew exclaimed. “But shucks! They’re small. Those animals
can’t be very dangerous!”

“Can’t they?” Jack laughed. “Little wild boars with long noses and
curved ivory tusks. Let me tell you, a palm tree makes pretty tough
climbing, but if you ever hear one of those little porkers grunting
behind you, you’ll climb one easy enough. We don’t dare fire a shot.”

In the end, their fears proved groundless. They walked the length of the
slope, some three miles, and came at last to a place where the island
sloped away in a series of treeless ledges.

On the last ledge, which sloped very gradually into the sea, there was
something resembling a plane. Two men were moving about it. Since they
were still half a mile away, they could make out very few details of
this strange setup.

Pulling his companion into the shadow of a rock, Jack unslung his small
binoculars for a look. Instantly his lips parted in surprise.

“That plane has no propeller!” he exclaimed.

“Probably took it off for repairs,” Stew suggested.

“Who knows?” Jack was clearly puzzled. “It doesn’t look quite like any
plane I ever saw.”

“What are the men like?” Stew asked. “Give me a look.”

“Huh!” he grunted, when he held the binoculars to his eyes. “White
men—not Japs. Not in uniform. Might be anybody.”

“Probably German traders who stayed here,” Jack suggested. “These
islands were full of them before the war.”

“In that case I’m for getting off this island mighty quick!” Stew
declared.

“How?”

“Natives might help us. But say! What’s going on?” Steve’s voice rose.
Jack hushed him up.

“Look!” Stew insisted in a whisper, handing back the binoculars.
“They’re gassing her up! Aren’t those kerosene barrels?”

“Sure are,” Jack agreed, after a look. “But you could put gas in them.”

Fascinated, the boys watched until the strangers had finished fueling
the plane and had rolled the barrels into a crevasse, where they covered
them with driftwood and dry palm fronds.

“Mighty secretive,” Stew whispered.

“So are all the islanders these days. This is war. We—look!” Jack’s
whisper was shrill. “They’ve climbed in to take off and they haven’t any
propeller!”

“Good joke on them!” Stew chuckled. “They won’t get far.”

The plane was facing the sea. When the brakes were released, it slid
slowly down the slope into the water. Ten seconds later the plane let
out a low squeal, then started gliding over the blue sea. The squeal
rose to a howl. Faster and faster went the propellerless thing until at
last it left the water to sail away at tremendous speed.

“What do you know about that!” Jack stood staring until the plane was a
mere speck in the sky. “That’s something I won’t believe—a plane without
a propeller that squeals and howls and goes faster than any plane you or
I ever saw. Come on! Let’s go down there for a better look at those fuel
drums.”

“But there might be more men.” Stew hung back.

“Nonsense! If there were others they wouldn’t have hidden the drums!”

“Guess you’re right.” Stew followed Jack.

Once they were at the spot the plane had just left, they were convinced
at once that the mystery plane actually burned kerosene, for the air was
filled with kerosene fumes and the buckets and barrels smelled of it.
“Kerosene, beyond a doubt,” Jack exclaimed. “Think of doing four or five
hundred miles per hour on kerosene!

“Come on! Let’s get out of here! They may come back.” He led the way
rapidly up the slope.



                               CHAPTER IX
                           THE TAGGED MONKEY


There was little room to doubt that the trail they had followed was used
by natives as well as by animals, for on their way back they came upon
fresh prints of bare feet in the soft earth.

Stew had uncomfortable visions of poisoned arrows and darts from
blowguns flying at them through the brush, but Jack, gripping his
automatic, marched straight ahead.

Arriving at the spot where the narrow stream tumbled down, they decided
to follow it to its source. In just a moment they found themselves
confronted with a problem. They had come to a thicket of thorny bushes.
These formed an arch over the stream.

“Just one thing to do—pull off our shoes and wade it,” Jack decided.

“Go native.” Stew laughed as he kicked off his G.I. brogans.

“Whew! Cold!” he exclaimed as he plunged his feet into the water. But on
they went. Tumbling down a steep slope the stream formed many pools,
some fairly large. As he waded through one of these up to his knees,
Jack exclaimed:

“There are fish in this pool! I feel them tickling my toes!”

“Great!” Stew was an ardent, though usually an unlucky, fisherman. “Got
a line?”

“I sure have!” Jack pulled a hook and line from his pocket. “I took it
from the rubber raft. They all carry them now, just in case.”

“And you brought one along, just in case,” Stew laughed. “Wait till
we’re out in the clear and we’ll hook our dinner.”

Just then Jack paused to listen. From up stream there came the sound of
splashing water, then of rocks rolling down, and after that a hoarse
grunt.

“Wild pigs!” Stew whispered.

“Probably doing a little fishing on their own,” Jack suggested.

“Boy! Wouldn’t a young porker taste good roasted over the coals! And
here they don’t take ration points!” Stew laughed.

“But they do take shots,” Jack protested. “And shots are out. We’re not
going to bring those natives down on us, not before we’ve had a good
look at them.”

“Boy! Oh boy! Are we in a pickle!” Stew exclaimed. “If some old boar
comes down this stream looking for trouble he’ll force us into a fight.
If we shoot and miss, he’ll tear us up.”

“Tell you what!” Jack decided after a moment’s thought. “We’ll keep
going as long as we can. Then we’ll work our way back up the bank into
the bush and let that drove of porkers pass.”

“As long as we can” was only another ten yards, for suddenly the old
guardian of the drove caught their scent and came charging down upon
them.

By a mighty struggle they forced their way back into the brush just
before the ugly beast with chop-chopping jaws and gleaming tusks came
charging past.

The lesser fry, about a half dozen of them, had just stampeded past,
when the old boar turned and came charging back upstream. This time he
made no mistake. His beady eyes were upon Stew.

As he lowered his ugly head preparing for a charge, Stew drew his
automatic, but Jack, swinging a knife that was a cross between a sheath
knife and a machete, struck the angry beast a cutting blow across his
ugly snout.

With a loud squeal and an angry grunt, the mad creature came on. Jack
let him have it again, neatly carving out a curled ivory tusk.

Before he could swing again the pig reared, gnashed its teeth, then
tumbled back into the stream, to go rushing away.

“Boy! But that was close!” Stew exclaimed, when after a short wait they
resumed their journey upstream.

At the top of the brush canopy, to their surprise they came upon a tiny
lake. All rimmed round with gray rocks, it was blue as the sky above,
and in its clear water many tropical fish were moving.

“Boy! Any rich man in America would give a fortune to have this in his
back yard!” Jack exclaimed.

“Yeah, sure,” Stew agreed. “But a fish is a fish and I’m having some
broiled for supper.”

“Here’s the line.” Jack held it out to him. “Try your luck. I’m going up
higher to find the spring.”

A few yards farther up, the stream forked, and at the head of the first
fork he sought and found a cool, bubbling spring. And beside that spring
was the telltale mark of a human foot.

“Must be a big village of natives,” he told himself. “Sooner or later,
we’ll have to cast our lot with them, but I’m bound I’ll have a look at
them first.”

Jack filled his canteen and stood for a time staring off at the sea.
Once he imagined that he caught the scream of that mysterious,
propellerless plane, but in the end he decided that it was a wild
parrot’s call.

At last his gaze was fixed on one spot. Raising his binoculars he took a
good look.

Something out there on the sea, all right! he assured himself. Pretty
far out. Looks like a raft or a partially submerged plane. It’s sure to
drift this way. Current and wind are both right. If it were only a plane
we could put in working order.

When he returned to the small lake, he found Stew the proud possessor of
a fine string of fish.

“Grubs,” he explained. “I got grubs out of a rotten log and used them
for bait.”

“Come on,” said Jack. “We have enough fish for this time. In this
climate they won’t keep.”

“Just one more,” Stew begged as he cast in his line. He had the fish at
once, so with a sigh he gathered up his catch, strung on a crotched
stick. Then they were off.

“The thing that burns me up,” said Jack, as they made their way down the
slope, “is that the old _Black Bee_ may at this very moment be ganging
up with a lot of other fighting ships for a whack at Mindanao.”

“And if she is,” Stew groaned, “we’ll miss the biggest show of the whole
war.”

“That’s right,” Jack agreed. “Biggest and best.”

“‘Remember Pearl Harbor,’” Stew quoted. “How can we forget? We’ve just
_got_ to get off this island—even if we have to borrow that
propellerless plane or walk right in on the natives and say, ‘Here! Give
us a lift in your canoes.’”

“We’ll have to make haste slowly,” Jack replied thoughtfully. “We
probably couldn’t fly that plane if those fellows gave it to us as a
present. Imagine a plane that flies without a propeller!”

“I can’t,” said Stew.

“But you saw it, didn’t you?”

“I sure did, on the outside. Sometime I’ll see the inside of it, too.
You watch my smoke!”

“I’ll watch.” Jack laughed.

“But they may not come back.”

“Something tells me they will. There’s still enough kerosene hidden away
in that giant crevasse to take them round the world. Looks like their
base.”

After that the boys tramped on in silence.

The fish, broiled over a fire of coals, were delicious. When they had
devoured the whole string, Stew thought of dessert.

“How about a banana?” he suggested.

“They haven’t had time to ripen yet,” replied Jack. Stew sprang to his
feet, took one look at the tree from which the bananas hung, then
exclaimed in a whisper:

“Jeepers! Look who’s here!”

On top of the bunch, holding a banana, sat a small monkey with a
dried-up manlike face.

“Wait!” Jack whispered. “I’ll give him a surprise!” Creeping up very
softly, he suddenly popped up within five feet of the monkey.

Oddly enough, the monkey did not appear to be the least bit startled.
Looking Jack in the eye, he stared at him solemnly for a space of
seconds, then with both tiny hands gripping it, he held out the banana.

“Somebody’s pet!” Stew exclaimed.

“He sure is!” Jack agreed. “And look! There’s a silver chain around his
neck!”

“Here, monk!” Going closer, he patted his shoulder, and said in a quiet
voice:

“Jump, boy, jump!”

And the monkey jumped. A moment later the little monkey was nestled in
Jack’s arms.

“What do you know about that!” Stew exclaimed.

“And what do you know about this?” Jack echoed. “This chain on his neck
is tagged. Why, it’s the identification disk of an Army nurse. What do
you suppose that means?”

“Might mean almost anything,” said Stew. “Perhaps she came ashore here,
shipwrecked, or something, and the natives ate her.”

“That, in my estimation, is out,” Jack said, stroking the monkey’s head.

“How come?”

“If that were true, this monkey must have belonged to the natives. The
theory would be that they saved the tag and put it round the monkey’s
neck.”

“What’s wrong with that?”

“Just this. Monkeys are very particular about the company they keep. If
this one belonged to the natives he’d never make friends with a couple
of plane-wrecked white men.”

“All right then, he belonged to the nurse. The monkey escaped, but the
nurse was eaten.”

“I still think you’re wrong,” Jack insisted. “It will be dark in a short
time,” he added. “We’ll just wander over for a look at the natives. Then
perhaps we’ll know what to think.”

“And perhaps we won’t,” Stew laughed softly. “Anyway, it’s worth
trying.”



                               CHAPTER X
                           “HIST THERE! YOU!”


Two hours later, peering from a thicket of tall ferns and sprouting
palms, the two boys were witnessing one of the most fascinating moving
pictures from real life that they had ever chanced upon. About a broad
fire of coals was a group of thirty or forty natives. Some were seated
on palm logs, and some were standing. All were talking and laughing.

“Um-m-m! Lead me to it!” Stew whispered.

The object of his desire hung dripping over the glowing coals. A small
porker, bound to an iron rod that slowly turned him over and over, had
reached a shade of delicious, golden brown.

“And barbecued pork is the thing I am fondest of.” Stew’s whisper
betrayed real agony.

“We’ll barbecue one some time,” was Jack’s only reply. He had been
studying the group intently. They were a motley throng. There were big,
dark-skinned men in the group who could have placed him across a knee
and broken his back. There were dark-eyed, laughing children that anyone
could love.

The men, for the most part, wore cotton trousers. Some of the women wore
dresses, some only cotton skirts, and some were in native grass skirts.

“There’s that tall, slim one turning the roast,” Jack whispered.

“What tall, slim one?” Stew replied.

“Oh! I didn’t tell you!” Jack laughed softly. “I’ve seen her before.”

“You would!” Stew mocked.

Over near one corner of the fire two dusky maidens were baking some sort
of cakes and stacking them in appetizing piles. The roasting of the
porker appeared to have been left to the tall, slim girl. She turned and
twisted it, prodded it with a huge fork, then turned it again. At last,
taking up a large knife, she cut off a slice, held it up, and blew on it
to cool it.

At once from the throng rose an expectant murmur. Stew joined in.

“Keep still, Stew!” Jack warned in a whisper.

Without really knowing why, Jack had brought the monkey on his shoulder.
Now the little fellow stirred uneasily.

The girl at last handed the slice of bronzed pork to an old man with a
long, wrinkled face.

Carving off a small portion, he put it in his mouth. For a space of
seconds his face was a study. Then it was lighted by a wide grin. He
said a single word. At that the crowd exploded with joyous anticipation.

“It’s done. The porker is roasted. And we don’t get even a bite,” Stew
groaned. “What a life!”

Then a strange thing happened. The crowd lapsed into silence. Only the
snapping of bursting coals could be heard as the natives bowed their
heads while the girl said a few words in a low tone.

“Grace before meat,” Stew whispered. “What more can you ask?”

“Plenty,” was Jack’s reply. “The Nazis and the Japs also pray. Then they
go out to massacre women, children, and helpless prisoners of war. We’ll
wait and see.”

As if this scene awakened memories in his small brain, the monkey on
Jack’s shoulder stirred, danced for a second, then gave an immense leap
that landed him almost in the center of the throng.

“Now we’ve got to beat it! They’ll be looking for us! Let’s scram!”

It was a disconsolate Stew who trudged along the native trail toward
their camp. “Lot we gained by that!” he grumbled. “Just a look at a
grand feed! They were putting slices of pork between cakes when we left.
Besides, we lost our monkey!”

“We know more about the natives now,” said Jack.

“Lot more. They say grace and eat nurses!” Stew mocked.

“We couldn’t prove that. Perhaps the nurse gave them her dog tag.”

“Fine chance!” Stew lapsed into silence.

Jack was not thinking of the natives now, but of Ted, Kentucky, and all
the other fellows on the _Black Bee_. “If they attack Mindanao before we
get back to the ship, I’ll never recover,” he thought.

“Hush!” Stew stopped to listen.

Faint and far away they caught a long-drawn wail like a bow drawn slowly
over the C string of a violin.

“The Howler is coming back to roost,” said Stew.

“Sounds that way,” Jack agreed.

“Boy! I’d like to have one more look at that plane!” Stew said eagerly.

“We’ll take a good look one of these times,” Jack assured him. “We’ve
seen enough for one day.”

They stood there listening until the howl of the rapidly approaching
mystery plane had reached its height, then, as on that other night,
wavered and ceased.

“They’re here all right,” Stew said, as they paused on a tall, barren
rock to look back. On the spot where the plane had been parked before,
they caught the gleam of a wavering light.

When they reached the beach, ready to start on the last quarter mile of
their walk, they paused once more. The tide was coming in. Above the
rushing sound of the breakers on the beach they had caught a
_bump_—_bump_—_bump_. After ten seconds of listening, they heard a loud
crash.

“What’s that?” Stew asked in surprise.

“Don’t ask me. Let’s go see.” Flashlight in hand, Jack was clambering
over the rocks.

“It’s a life raft,” he called back a moment later. “Waves threw it on
the rocks. Come on! Let’s grab it before a bigger wave carries it back.”

It was a large raft, wet and slippery. They got a good ducking before
they had the raft high and dry. They were soon to learn that it was
worth their effort.

“It’s a Jap raft!” Stew exclaimed. He had discovered Japanese characters
on a sealed metal cannister.

“Must have come from a carrier,” suggested Jack. “Too big for a cruiser
or a destroyer.”

“I’ll bet it came from that carrier we spotted!” Stew exploded, becoming
greatly excited. “Boy! Oh boy! Our bombers got them!”

Jack was not too sure of this. However, they soon established the fact
that the raft was undamaged and had no broken lines attached to it, so
it could not have been blown from the carrier by a bomb. Then Jack was
convinced that the Japs must have lost the raft in trying to launch it
while under fire, and that the carrier must have been sunk.

“That’s swell!” he sighed. “Means we’ve been some use to our country. I
hope Ted and all the rest got home safely.”

“It’s great news!” Stew agreed. “But that means our task force finished
that job twenty-four hours ago, so where are they now?”

“You tell me,” Jack sighed.

“But say!” Stew exclaimed. “There are three or four big sealed cans
attached to the raft. Let’s cut them loose and take them in.”

“Sure! That’s what we’ll do!” Jack agreed. “Then we’ll open them and see
what kind of luck we’ve had.”

They carried away the three large cans, to open them later by the light
of a small fire built among huge rocks, where the glow would not show.

One can they found to be filled with food—packages of rice and tea, bars
of bitter chocolate, and small tins of fish. They put away these
supplies against some evil day.

The second can also contained some food. Besides this there was a
quantity of first-aid material. Finding this in good condition, they
stowed it away carefully.

The last can promised to be the grand prize, provided they could figure
it out. It was a small radio sending set, powered by electricity
generated by turning a crank.

“It’s an imitation of our American emergency radio,” Jack declared after
looking it over. “Take a lot of doping out, but it’s our best bet for
getting in touch with our ship. We’ll get busy on it first thing in the
morning.

“And now,” he added in a changed voice, “how would you like to grab a
few winks of sleep while I guard camp and solve some of the problems of
the universe?”

“Nothing would suit me better.” Stew yawned. “It’s been a long day.”

It was a gloomy little world Jack watched over that night. Dark clouds
had come rolling in at sunset. They had thinned out a little now, giving
the moon an occasional peek at him.

“Just enough to give some prowler a shot at us in the night,” he
grumbled to himself. He wished he knew who those men were with the
propellerless plane. How was he to find out? Ask the natives? But were
these natives to be trusted? Missionaries had beyond a doubt been here,
but they weren’t here now. “How long does it take these primitive people
to drop back into their old ways?” he asked himself. But he found no
answer.

“Things will work themselves out,” he reasoned hopefully.

After that he gave himself over to thoughts of the folks at home. Dad
and Mom seated by the fire—Patsy in the house next door, studying
perhaps, or entertaining one of the 4-H boys. How shadowy and far away
it all seemed now.

He was deep in the midst of all this when suddenly, as the moon cast a
patch of light on his beach and the cluster of palms not twenty yards
away, he was startled by a voice at his very elbow.

“Hist there! You!” it whispered.

Startled, but standing his ground, he gripped his automatic, then in his
hoarsest whisper answered:

“Hist back to you!”



                               CHAPTER XI
                             NIGHT FIGHTERS


Jack’s conclusions regarding the _Black Bee’s_ fight with the Jap task
force were correct. After he and Stew had been driven from the scene of
fighting and had abandoned their plane on the sea, the U. S. dive
bombers had come in for their deadly work. Diving from twelve thousand
feet, they had released their bombs at a thousand feet. Some bombs
missed their mark. Others made contact. One fell forward on the Jap
carrier, killing a gun crew. Two fell almost directly on the propeller,
rendering it useless. While the carrier ran around in wide circles, the
torpedo bombers closed in. Judging the enemy’s probable position at a
given moment, they released their “tin fish” with such deadly accuracy
that one side of the carrier was blown away. Just as the Japs began
abandoning ship, the carrier blew up.

A squadron of U. S. dive bombers that had arrived too late to work on
the carrier, went after the fleeing cruisers, which did not pause to
pick up their own men struggling in the water. Two cruisers were sunk,
and one left in flames.

Ted had limped back to his own waters to make a crash landing in the sea
close to the _Black Bee_, and to be picked up by a PT boat. All in all
it was a glorious fight. One U.S. fighter and his gunner were
permanently lost. They had been seen to fall flaming into the sea. A
service was read for these men by the chaplain.

The Commander lost no time in letting his men know that this battle was
in the nature of an accident and that the real goal of the task force at
that time still lay ahead.

All day they steamed rapidly toward the west.

“It’s Mindanao,” Kentucky, Ted’s flying partner, said to him. “We’re
going to hit them where they live, in the Philippines. And will we take
revenge!” Kentucky’s eyes were half closed as he looked away to the
west. Ted knew that at that moment he was thinking of “the best pal I
ever knowed,” as Kentucky had expressed it to him, whose grave had been
dug the day after the smoke cleared from Pearl Harbor.

“Did the Commander tell you it was going to be Mindanao?” Ted asked.

“No. But I’m plumb certain it has to be from the course we’re taking,”
was the answer. “Just you wait an’ see! Some evening about sundown we’ll
be meetin’ up with another task force. An’ then, man! You’ll really see
some fightin’ ships!”

They did fulfill a rendezvous at sunset, but the force they met did not
fit into Kentucky’s picture. It consisted of four transports, three
cargo vessels and their escorts, two cruisers, and three destroyers.

The two forces moved into position, then steamed on toward the west. Two
hours later the Commander called Kentucky into the chart room. Since Ted
was with him at the time, he invited him to accompany them.

“You too may be in on this,” he said to Ted as they entered the brightly
lighted cabin. “So you might as well know what it’s all about.”

Wasting no time, he led the boys to a large chart spread out on a table.

“This is where we are,” he said, pointing to a spot on the chart with a
pencil.

“And this is about where we were during the battle with the Jap task
force, is it not, sir?” Ted too pointed.

“Right,” said the Commander.

“Then Jack and Stew, if they made it, are on one of these three
islands?” Ted pointed again.

“That seems probable.” Then, reading the look of longing on Ted’s face,
the Commander added, “Everything in its time, son. We do not desert our
boys if it can be helped. I am sure you shall yet play a part in the
rescue of your buddies.

“But now,” his voice changed, “there is other work to be done—dangerous
work. This island,” he pointed once again, “is our present destination.”

“Not Mindanao then, sir?” Kentucky heaved a sigh of disappointment, for
the Commander had pointed to a small island just inside a coral reef.

“Not Mindanao this time.” The Commander smiled. “This is to be a step in
that direction. At present we do not have a force large enough for that
undertaking. But some time we’ll hit Mindanao, and hit it hard,” he
added.

“That’s good news, sir,” said Kentucky.

“Now we have another mission.” The Commander’s voice dropped. “The
troops we are convoying tonight are to be landed shortly after dawn.
Just before dawn we shall attack, using planes and warships.”

“Tear them to pieces!” Kentucky beamed.

“We hope to. But first,” the Commander weighed his words, “we may run
into trouble. And that’s where you boys come in.”

“What sort of trouble, sir?” Ted asked quickly.

“Land-based torpedo planes, perhaps.” The Commander spoke slowly. “We
are not quite sure the Japs have them. We do know there’s a landing
field on the island.”

“We’ll take them fast enough if they come after us, sir.” Kentucky
squared his shoulders.

“At night it is not so easy,” was the quiet reply.

“Night!” Ted stared.

“Your squadron has been making practice flights at night recently,” said
the Commander. “That wasn’t for fun.”

“I—I suppose not.” Ted was trying to think what going after torpedo
bombers at night would be like. “Exciting,” he told himself. “And very
dangerous.”

“In the past,” the Commander spoke once more, “our task forces have been
destroying their torpedo planes long before they reached us in the
daytime. So—”

“So they’re going to come after us in the dark, sir?” Kentucky
suggested.

“Our Intelligence Service has strongly hinted at it,” said the
Commander. “So,” he drew a deep breath, “I thought you, Kentucky, would
like to call for four volunteers to be ready for night fighting, just in
case they come after us.”

“Count me in on that, sir—that is, if you think I’m good enough,” Ted
volunteered.

“You’re plenty good,” said Kentucky. “Your plane was shot up. Got a new
one yet?”

“Sure have, same kind of a plane,” said Ted.

“Good. Then you’re on,” Kentucky agreed.

“We’ll be in the vicinity of the island by midnight,” said the
Commander. “Have your planes in position ready to take off at a moment’s
notice. Two destroyers will move in close far ahead of us. If Jap planes
take off they will notify us. You won’t forget the soldiers crowded on
those transports? Transports are vulnerable.”

“We won’t forget, sir.” There was a look of determination on Kentucky’s
lean face as he left the chart room.

It was an hour after midnight when word came from the radio cabin that
twelve night torpedo bombers had left the shore of the Jap-held island.

At once there was hurried, excited action, but no confusion. The four
night fighter planes were warmed up. The fliers took their places,
tested their guns, studied their instruments, then settled back.

Besides Kentucky and Ted, there were Red Garber and Blackie Dawson. The
ship carried no better fighters than these.

“Remember, fellows,” Kentucky called just before they parted, “the thing
to do is to rip right in and get them confused. That way they’ll think
there are a lot of us.”

“And they’ll start shooting one another up,” Red laughed.

One by one they cleared the deck to soar away into the night.

The night was not all dark. The moon came out at times, but not for
long. Clouds went scudding across the sky.

“We’re not a moment too soon,” Ted thought as in a brief period of
moonlight he caught sight of a dark bulk against the night sky.

“There they are!” came in a quiet tone over his radio. It was Kentucky
speaking. “Let’s bear down on them. Can’t hold formation. Every man for
himself. Choose your targets carefully. We can’t have lights on. They’d
get us sure. But let _us_ not shoot one another up.”

They bore down upon the advancing enemy.

It was an exciting moment, but to Ted everything seemed strangely
unreal.

“Like a dream,” he told himself.

He knew soon enough that it was no dream. Underestimating their combined
speed, he almost ran into the foremost enemy plane. He was seen, but by
the time guns rattled, he was not there. Going into a stall, he circled
left, then came up below the bomber formation.

“Well, I had a look at them,” he told himself. They were powerful
two-motored planes. He had tried as he passed under them to estimate
their speed.

Suddenly, off to the right there came the quick rat-tat-tat of
machine-gun fire.

“That’s Kentucky!” He thrilled to his fingertips. “I wonder what luck!”

That was all the time he had for speculation. He was now behind the
enemy formation, swinging into position. And there, again, was the moon.
To his great joy, he found that the bombers were between him and the
moon, where they could be clearly seen.

With a sudden increase in speed he came up on the last plane, let out a
burst of fire, then, swinging right, poured a second volley into the
next plane. Then again all was dark.

To his surprise, in the midst of this darkness he heard gunfire—heard it
again, and yet again. “They’re at it!” he exulted. “Fighting one
another.”

Then suddenly the sky about him was all alight. A hundred yards away a
big Jap plane had burst into flame.

With a gasp, he pointed his plane’s nose down and dropped into space. He
was not a second too soon, for the exploding plane all but blew him into
the sea.

When he had righted himself, he wondered momentarily whether or not that
plane was his kill.

Then the moon came out. By that time some of the bombers, now badly
scattered, were some distance away. Once again the moon painted a
picture. A small plane, like a catbird after a hawk, darted at the
bomber.

“Kentucky!” he shouted aloud. “Good old Kentucky! Give it to him!” He
saw the flash of fire, heard the rattle, then his picture was gone.

Ten seconds later the sky was lighted once again by a burning bomber
sinking toward the sea.

Off to the left another bomber exploded with a roar. One of the other
night fighters had gotten his man.

“They’re scattered now,” Ted thought as he set his plane climbing.
“Their torpedoes will never reach their marks. They—”

His thoughts were interrupted. The moon having come out once more, he
found himself above a Jap torpedo plane. Tilting his plane at a rakish
angle he fired straight down. His shots were answered by a burst of fire
from a small free machine gun. The slugs ripped into his motor.

He caught his breath. Banking sharply, he swung away to the right, then
started climbing. Up he went, a thousand—two thousand feet. He smelled
smoke, saw a tiny flame play about his motor, and that was all.

With care and speed born of much training, he dragged out his life raft,
inflated it, looked to his parachute, threw back the hood, stood up,
climbed upon the fuselage, jumped far and wide, then shot downward.

Five seconds later he felt the pull of his parachute, then settled back
to drift silently down toward a blue-black sea.

“What luck!” he muttered. “What terrible luck!”

In that moment all that he had hoped for seemed lost—his part in the big
show of the morning, the rescue of his pals, the great attack on
Mindanao. If he survived, where would he land? Would he be picked up?
How soon? And by whom? To these questions he found no answers, so
settling back he prayed for what he needed most—a bit of moonlight
before he hit those black waters. And his simple prayer was answered.



                              CHAPTER XII
                               UP AT DAWN


When Jack was still in grade school he had often visited his uncle’s
farm. In summer he had stayed for weeks at a time. There were ghosts
that haunted the lonely country roads at night. Old Jock Gordon, the
hired hand, and Maggie MacPherson, the cook, often told weird tales
about these ghosts as they sat by the kitchen fire at night.

When he was out late playing with some neighbor boy and had to brave the
dark roads alone, Jack had gone on tiptoe. But that didn’t always help,
for more than once he saw weird white things moving in the hedge or the
willows.

“Ghosts!” he would think, scared to death. But he never ran. A ghost at
your back is much more terrible than one you can see. Jack always walked
straight toward the ghosts, and always they vanished into thin air.

As he caught the hoarse whisper there on the lonely mysterious island,
he thought of those ghosts, and it steadied his mind. He answered the
hoarse whisper, then walked straight toward the spot from whence it
came. He had gone a dozen paces when a low voice said:

“Don’t come closer.”

Gripping his gun, he stopped.

Out of the brush and the shadows stepped a figure that even in the dim
moonlight appeared familiar.

“What are you doing here?” a woman’s voice asked. “How did you come? And
why?”

The woman was tall, and rather slender. She wore a broad hat that hid
her face.

It’s that slim queen of the island, was Jack’s thought. He had come to
think of her as just that, but was astonished to discover that she spoke
English fluently.

“Who are you? And what are you doing here?” he countered, taking two
steps.

“It doesn’t matter who I am,” came slowly. “It will pay you to stay
where you are. I am not alone.”

Jack remained where he was. He seemed to catch sight of shadowy figures
in the brush. Visions of flying spears and arrows haunted him.

“We’re two fliers from the United States Navy,” he said, having decided
to tell the truth. “Our plane was wrecked. We came ashore on a rubber
raft. Now, who are you?” he repeated.

“How are we to know that you are speaking the truth?” the girl asked,
ignoring his question. “There’s a Jap raft drawn up on the beach,” she
went on.

“Yes. We drew it up.” Jack’s throat went dry.

“Then perhaps you came in it.”

“Do I look like a Jap?” He played his flashlight on his own face.

“Not like a Jap, but you might be a German. All the traders were Germans
before the war.”

“All right. Have it your way!” He threw a flash of light into her eyes.
By doing this, he discovered an added pair of eyes—small, monkey eyes.
The monk was on her shoulder.

“Is that your monkey?” he asked.

“Yes.”

“How did you get that American nurse’s identification tag the monkey
wears?” He asked without thinking.

“That!” There was anger in her voice. “That’s none of your affair.”

She went on after a moment, “We want to know about you.”

“And now you know.” He laughed softly.

“Do I?” She returned the laugh.

“Do you know all about those fellows who come here in that queer sort of
plane?” he asked.

“Do you?” she came back at him.

“No.”

“Well then, that makes two of us. Thanks for listenin’. Good night.” She
was gone.

She’s heard that farewell off here on the radio, Jack thought. Did
missionaries have radios? He supposed they did. Queer little world he
had dropped into. So she didn’t know much about those two men and the
mystery plane? Well, one way or another, _he_ was going to learn more.
If they turned out to be Australian, British, or Dutch, they might give
the boys a lift to some spot held by the United Nations. Then Stew and
he would get back in time for the big push against Mindanao, he thought.
Worth taking a chance for that, he assured himself. A very long chance.


When Kentucky and two of his night fighting comrades made their way back
to the carrier they were greeted with enthusiasm.

“You did it!” The Commander gripped Kentucky’s hand. “You broke up their
formation! Not a torpedo found its mark. But where is Ted?” His voice
dropped.

“We don’t know, sir,” said Kentucky, wrinkling his brow. “We had to
scatter, and go on our own.”

“Of course.”

“Red saw him climbing for altitude, sir—thought his motor might have
been smoking.”

“Yes, sir. That’s the way it was,” Red put in. “After that the moon went
under for quite a while. When it came out his plane was gone. I thought
I saw a white gleam like a parachute in the moonlight quite close to the
water, but I wasn’t sure.”

“We’ll hope he made a safe landing,” said the Commander. “We have to go
in about a hundred miles. The Marines go ashore at dawn. We must furnish
them a protecting screen. You boys have done a fine job. Now get some
chow and rest. We’ll need you again soon. It’s going to be a long pull
for you, but this is war.”


The moon had come out just in time for Ted’s landing. He sank beneath
the sea, lost his grip on the rubber raft, then came up for air.

The moon was still out. His raft was some ten yards away. After
disengaging himself from his chute, he swam to the raft, then worked
himself into it with great care. This accomplished, he paddled to his
chute, squeezed the water out of it as best he could, then deposited it
on one end of the raft.

He took off his clothing. The air was warm. He was not uncomfortable.
After wringing out his clothes he put them all on again except his heavy
flying jacket. He was warm enough without wearing the jacket.

Then, with feet on the chute and head on the inflated edge of the raft,
he sprawled out in absolute repose.

“Nothing I can do right now,” he assured himself. “Might get a little
sleep.” He recalled the words of his father.

“You may have to bail out and land on the sea,” his father had said. “If
you happen to find yourself in a fix like that,” his father had rambled
on, “you may feel like praying that there will be no violent storms,
that God may send birds to light on your raft so you can catch and eat
them, that He’ll send fish, not sharks—all that sort of thing.

“Well, if you feel that way about it,” his father had paused, “it won’t
do you any harm. But for my part, I’d rather pray for wisdom and skill,
for the good sense to relax and take it easy, to save my strength and my
skill for catching fish and birds and preparing them for food. I’m
convinced that there is a power within us or about us that does give us
both skill and wisdom if we only ask for them.”

“A power within us or about us,” Ted repeated slowly, “that gives us
skill and wisdom.” At that, rocked by small waves, he fell asleep.

Kentucky never needed much rest when he was in a fighting mood. Two
hours of sleep, a stack of pancakes, three cups of black coffee, and he
was ready to lead his fighters out over the island that lay like a dark,
gray shadow rising out of the sea in the first flush of dawn.

One by one the planes left the carrier. Fighters, scout planes, dive
bombers, torpedo planes—all thundered away toward their target.

Leading them all, Kentucky felt important and very happy.

“Hot diggity!” he exclaimed to the morning air. “This is what I call
life! And here’s where we pay the Japs a little on account for Pearl
Harbor.” He was thinking of little Joe Kreider, his pal from Kentucky.

He’s gone, Kentucky thought soberly. Japs got him in that sneak attack
on Pearl Harbor. Gone, but not forgotten. He gave his motor a fresh
burst of gas.

Then he saw it, a big old four-motored Jap snooper slipping out for a
look at their carrier.

“Hot dog!” Kentucky’s plane shot skyward and then came plunging down in
a steep curve. His two guns poured hot lead into the snooper’s right
outside motor. The motor, almost cut away, hung by shreds.

Before the snooper could right itself, Kentucky was back, firing away at
the other right motor. He set it smoking. The big plane tilted, rolled
over, then went plunging toward the sea.

All this had happened in the space of seconds. Enough time had elapsed,
however, for other things to be brewing. Suddenly two of his fighting
pals joined him, while from up beyond there came the sharp
_rat-a-tat-tat_ of machine-gun fire.

Rubbing his eyes, Kentucky peered into the brightening dawn. A half mile
or so before him he made out the shadowy forms of several planes
circling wildly, with guns blazing.

His triggerlike mind took in the situation in an instant. “Hey! Red!
Blackie! Jean!” he roared into his radio. “Hold up! Circle Back! BACK!”

As they began swinging back, speaking in a low tone, he continued:
“That’s only a bunch of Zeros putting on a show for us. It looks like a
fight, but it’s only a sham battle. None of our planes are in there.
We’re in the lead.”

Through his earphones he caught low grumbles and some unprintable words.

“Come on, now,” he invited. “Get into formation. You know the lineup.
We’ll join in their game, all right, but on our own terms.”

They climbed rapidly and joined in wing-to-wing formation, Kentucky in
the lead and Red bringing up the rear. Red carried a gunner, the best
the Navy knew, in his rear cockpit.

“Now! Come on down! And give it to them for my old pal Joe and all the
American boys lost at Pearl Harbor!” Kentucky shouted into his mike. And
down they came.



                              CHAPTER XIII
                             THE JET PLANE


In the meantime Jack had decided on a bold stroke. He was not sure that
at this time it was a wise thing to do, but his burning desire to make
his way back to the carrier and resume his post of duty there had all
but driven him to it.

As he paced back and forth on the beach, guarding camp and wondering
about his strange night visitor, he recalled the words of his uncle Dan
who had fought in the first World War:

“You’ll be in danger many times,” he had said in a serious, friendly
voice. “Your superior officers will not always be present to make
decisions for you. You’ll sometimes have to make them for yourself.
Always keep this thought uppermost in your mind: you are worth a great
deal more to your country alive than dead. Don’t take unnecessary
chances.”

“Am I planning to take unnecessary chances now?” he asked himself.
Though he did not know the answer, he was willing to take the risk.

One more thing had made a lasting impression on him. “Jack, my boy,”
said his uncle, who limped as a result of wounds received in France,
“the thing I want most to tell you is this. While you are in service you
will have comrades, many boon companions, and if you treat them right,
as I know you will, you’re sure to make attachments that will last as
long as you live. You see, Jack, you’ll be living under difficult
conditions, enduring hardships, and facing great dangers together. Your
souls will be tried as by fire and you’ll be welded together, the way
steel is welded.”

Yes, Jack thought now, Uncle Dan was right. We have grown closer and
closer to one another. There’s Stew and Ted, Kentucky, Red, the
Commander, and all the others. We’ll never forget one another. That’s
one reason why I’m so eager to get back to the _Black Bee_.

Yes, he decided finally, I’ll do it, even if it does mean taking a
chance. I’ll do it the first thing in the morning.

Then he awakened Stew for his watch, stretched himself out, and fell
asleep at once.

He was up again before dawn. “Tell you what!” he exclaimed over a cup of
coffee. “I’m going to find out who those fellows are.”

“The men with that queer plane?” Stew asked.

“Yes. We’ve got to know. They might help us get back to our ship.”

“And then again they might not—they might do just the opposite,” Stew
suggested.

“That’s a chance we’ll have to take. You’d better stay here and sort of
look after things,” he suggested. “I may discover something big. We
might want to get off this island in a hurry.”

“Get off?” Stew stared. “Yes, but how?”

“There’s the Jap raft, you know. It’s seaworthy. We’ve got supplies of a
sort, enough to last us weeks with the birds and fish we’d catch. If it
seemed the thing to do, we could slip the raft out into the current and
get away rather rapidly.”

“I suppose so,” Stew agreed.

Jack stood up. Should he tell Stew of the night visitor? After a
moment’s thought he decided against that.

A half hour later, after hurrying over the native trail, he found
himself slipping silently through the brush toward the camp of the
strangers. “I’ll just look before I show myself,” he whispered to the
empty air.

All of a sudden he stopped to listen. A low, whispering wail had reached
his ear.

“Too late.” His hopes fell. “They’re off.” Yet as he listened the wail
died away.

“Probably testing their motors,” he assumed. Once more he crept through
the brush. Three times the wail rose and fell, but he pushed straight on
until the smoke from a campfire told him he was close to the edge of the
tangled mass of palms and tropical brush beside the strangers’ camp.

Choosing a young date palm, whose fronds sprouted close to the ground,
he crept to it and crouched there a minute. Rising to his knees, he
parted the slender fronds to look away to the sloping rock.

The mysterious plane was some distance away. The two men talked and
laughed while they refueled the plane. The language they spoke seemed
strange to Jack, though he was too far away to understand what they
said, even if they had spoken English.

“Wish I hadn’t come,” he observed. Then, “But I really must know about
them. No sense beating about the bush.”

The men ceased laughing. The sound of their words changed. One of them
climbed to the plane’s cockpit. The motor howled once more. So loud was
its final scream that it hurt Jack’s ears. Then it faded away.

“They’ll be off in a minute,” he breathed, rising to his feet. “It’s now
or—”

No. He settled back. The man on the rock hurried away.

“Oh Jerry!” the one in the plane called in perfect English. “Bring an
alligator wrench.”

Jack heaved a sigh of relief. So they spoke English! They must be okay.
At that he stepped boldly out from the brush and walked straight toward
the plane. The man in the cockpit was bent over working on something. He
did not raise his head until Jack was within three yards of the plane.
When he did look up, he started at the sight of Jack. His figure
stiffened. His right hand dropped.

“Stand where you are!” he commanded. “Who are you? What do you want? And
how did you come here?” The man spoke with a decided accent.

“My uniform should tell you what I am,” Jack replied evenly.

“In war, uniforms mean nothing!” the man snapped. His gray eyes matched
the gray of the bushy hair about his temples. He was no longer young.
Between his eyes were two lines that told of work and strain.

“I’m sorry.” Jack apologized. “I had no intention of startling you. I’m
an American fighter pilot, whether you believe it or not. I was shot
down nearly two days ago and floated ashore here.”

“That’s okay, son.” The man’s smile was not unfriendly. His accent, Jack
thought, made him English or Australian. “We have to be careful, that’s
all. This plane is a secret weapon.”

“It must be,” Jack grinned. “I never before saw one that burned
kerosene, had no propeller, and yet went like the wind.”

“Of course not,” the man admitted. “There aren’t a dozen of them in the
world.”

“May I look at it?” Jack took a step forward.

“Not a glance. Stay where you are.” The man’s lips formed a straight
line. “We’re not allowed to show anything. In fact, you’re too close
right now.”

“Oh, that’s all right.” Jack stepped back. “I’m just naturally curious.”

“Oh, sure.” The man smiled again. “Wait. I’ll climb down and we’ll have
a cup of coffee. My partner’s gone for some tools. The hiding place is
quite a distance away, just in case.”

“I see,” said Jack. “Just in case the Japs happen along.”

“Something like that,” the man agreed. He took a step down, then paused.
“You might be wondering how we got our supply of kerosene in here right
under the Japs’ noses,” he suggested.

“It does seem odd,” Jack agreed.

“It happens to have been here,” the stranger went on. To his own
surprise Jack found himself wondering if the man was telling him the
truth or raising a smoke screen of falsehood.

“You see, my partner and I once had trading concessions on some of these
islands. The Japs forced us off, but before they did that we hid our
fuel. Thought we might want to come back, which we did. But we hardly
expected to come in a craft like this.” He laughed softly.

The man climbed down, poured two cups of hot black coffee from a gallon
thermos jug, then invited Jack to a seat on a large flat rock.

“So you like our little ship!” the man said, warmed by the coffee. “It’s
really a honey. Nothing in the world was ever like it.”

“It sure walks on air,” Jack agreed.

“So you’ve seen it fly?” He gave Jack a sharp look.

“Yes.” Jack told of seeing it leave the island.

“You’d like to know a lot about it?” The man smiled.

“Naturally.”

“Some things I can’t tell you. All I can tell you has been printed in
magazines all over the world. Strange you haven’t read them.”

“We’ve been at sea for a long time.”

“Yes, of course.” The man appeared to have accepted Jack’s story as
true. “And the facts about our jet plane haven’t been out very long.”

“Jet plane? Is that what you call it?” Jack studied the plane with
redoubled interest.

“That’s what it is. It gets its power from jets of air mixed with
exploding gas. The jets come out from some part of the plane. I’m not
permitted to tell exactly what part. You’ve often watered a lawn, I
suppose?”

“Yes, quite often.”

“Remember how the hose sort of kicked back when the water came rushing
out?”

“Sure,” Jack grinned. “I’ve been soaked more than once by just that.”

“That’s the sort of thing that makes our ship go. The jets come out at
great speed and just push the plane along. It practically flies itself.”

“How about taking me along on your next flight?” Jack held his breath.

“Impossible. We can’t take a soul on board. No, not even if he were
wounded and would die if we left him. It’s that much of a secret. So
much—so very much depends upon this plane.

“But I’ll tell you a little more about it,” the man went on, sensing
Jack’s disappointment. “It burns kerosene. You’ve noticed that, I
suppose?”

“Yes.”

“It’s hard on fuel. We have to carry a belly tank if we want to go far.
The Italians made a plane somewhat like this one. But it just ate up the
fuel. If you’ve got to land every half hour for fuel, your plane’s no
good. We’ve overcome that. But this plane still has weak spots.”

Jack wondered what the weak spots were, but dared not ask. “Should be
fine in the stratosphere,” he suggested.

“Say! You _do_ know planes, don’t you?” the man answered with respect in
his tone.

“A little,” Jack admitted.

“Of course it’s good in the stratosphere. That’s where a
propeller-driven plane breaks down.”

“Nothing for the propeller to get its teeth into,” suggested Jack.

“That’s right. But our baby here goes fastest when there’s the thinnest
sort of air in front of her to create friction. Five hundred miles an
hour? Say! That’s nothing!”

Jack stared at the plane with sheer admiration.

Suddenly Jerry, the stranger’s partner, came up with an alligator wrench
in his hand.

“Got to get busy and step out on the air.” With that Jack’s newly found
friend was gone, just like that. Nor did he return. Not five minutes had
passed when the mystery plane let out the squeal of an expiring porker,
lifted its voice to the pitch of a fire siren, started to glide, touched
the sea, cast back a spray, then was in the air and flew swiftly away.

Jack had searched for the plane to make whatever discovery he could
concerning it, but he was not sure that he had accomplished anything.



                              CHAPTER XIV
                               TED’S GONY


On that same morning, as the _Black Bee_ and her escort of fighting
ships knifed in close to their target, Kentucky and his short, tight
formation cut through the masquerading Japs like a reaper through a
field of wheat. When their guns had ceased blazing away and they swung
around for one more sweep, they saw two planes falling in flames, and a
third rolling over and over.

The remaining Japs had time to recover partially from the sudden shock,
but when the “grim reapers” came roaring back, the Zeros were again
swept by a whirlwind of fire.

One wise little brown boy in goggles, who had climbed high, came
swooping down on the tail of a plane, but its gunner took care of him
with neatness and dispatch.

With their number cut in half, the Zeros faded away.

But here were the U. S. bombers and torpedo planes. They were coming in
fast. It was time now to join the covering screen escorting the big boys
to their target, and Kentucky wheeled his four-plane formation about to
shoot away and join their comrades.

The bombers had been shown maps and photographs of the island they were
to attack. “This,” their Commander had said, pointing at a map, “is the
air field, quite a distance from the beach. You will go after that
first, destroying all planes on the ground. Then you will attack their
headquarters here, and their fortified positions there.

“I need not tell you,” he had said, addressing all his men—pilots,
fighters, bombardiers, torpedo men—“that the life of many a Marine
depends upon the manner in which you perform your task. I know that to a
man we can count on you.”

There had been a low murmur in response.

“I might say,” the Commander had added, “that this island is to be a
steppingstone to Mindanao.”

“Oh! Mindanao! Mindanao!” had come in a chorus.

“Yes, Mindanao, only a few hundred miles away, in the Philippines,” he
went on. “And with this island in our possession we shall be able to
soften up Mindanao for the final attack.”

“Mindanao,” Kentucky thought now as he gripped the controls. “They say
the Japs have a prison camp there, where our men are starving and dying.
We’ll walk in there some day and take that big island. We’ll free the
prisoners. What a day that will be! Then it’s Manila, and after that the
China coast. Boy! Will we harvest a sweet revenge for the things those
Japs have done to the American prisoners!” He studied his instruments,
looked to the loading of his guns, glanced back at his formation, then,
drawing a long breath, murmured:

“Well, Tojo, here we come!”

The dive bombers climbed to twelve thousand feet. Kentucky and his
fighters kept straight on. As they neared the island he spoke a few
words of instruction through his mike to his three companions. Words
came back to him. Then, opening his throttle wide, he set his motor
roaring. Coming in fast and low, they took the Japs by surprise. Scores
of little brown men were racing for the airfield when they came in,
nearly grazing the palm trees. Some thirty planes were still on the
field.

Breaking formation, the “four horsemen” zoomed in upon the planes and
the racing pilots. With machine-gun fire they sent the Japs scurrying
for shelter. Then with tracer bullets they riddled the grounded planes.

Leaving the field in flames, they swung skyward to rejoin the screen of
fighters, bombers, and torpedo planes.

Ten minutes more and the air was filled with the rattle of machine-gun
fire and the island became an inferno of bursting bombs.

The torpedo planes discovered three cargo ships and two destroyers in
the small harbor and, coming in low, released their “tin fish.”

Bursting torpedoes added their horror to the general confusion of sound.
A ship exploded, another keeled over and sank, and a third was run
aground. Jap destroyers streaked away, but even their top speed was no
match for Kentucky and his followers.

“After them, fellows!” he shouted. “Remember Pearl Harbor!”

Skimming in over the sea, they peppered the deck of a destroyer with
slugs until not a man was left standing on deck. Lowering their aim,
they began to puncture the destroyer’s thin hull.

A film of oil appeared on the water. “Give it to her!” Kentucky shouted
into his phone. “We’ve struck oil. Let’s make it a gusher!”

Just then a dive bomber came screaming down to lay its egg squarely on
the destroyer’s deck.

“That got her!” Kentucky exulted, as the craft exploded. “Come on now.
Gas is low. Let’s beat it back home for chow.”

It was such a day as a flier would never forget.

As they sped away, Marines from barges and small boats were swarming
ashore. The stepping stone to Mindanao was now all but won.

“Jeepers!” Kentucky exclaimed into his mike. “I wish Jack and Stew—yes,
and Ted too—could have been in on this. Wonder where Ted is right now?
We’ll have to take a look.”


Ted was not faring badly. The balmy breezes had dried out his clothes,
and dawn had come, but there was no sign of their task force.

“Gone in for the kill and then the landing,” he thought. “And I’m out of
it. Worse luck!”

“But then,” he reflected. “Things might be worse.” He had done his bit.
He had helped block the attack of those enemy torpedo bombers, and he
had shot down two of them—he was quite sure of that.

He munched a chocolate bar for a time. Then he examined the fishline
packed in his emergency kit. “Think I’ll try it out,” he murmured.
Taking a strip of pork rind from a small bottle, he fastened it on his
hook. Then, paying out the line little by little, he watched the white
spot as it sank.

“Yes, there are fish!” He became greatly excited as three big blue
fellows came cruising in. One of them made a dive for the bait, but
changed his mind and shot away.

Ted lifted the line a yard, causing the white spot to shoot upward. A
second fish made a dive for it, but before he made contact the first one
circled back like a plane aiming at a target, and grabbed the lure.

“Got you!” Ted breathed, giving the line a quick jerk.

He had hooked him, but the fish was game. He shot this way, then that,
then circled round and round.

I don’t want him any more than a little, Ted thought. I’m not hungry
enough to eat raw fish, and in this sun he wouldn’t keep. He began
playing the fish, trying him out.

Then, all of a sudden, a large blue shadow appeared in the water, a
darting shadow. No, it wasn’t a shadow—it was a ten-foot shark.
Streaking through the water, sleek and ugly, the shark hypnotized the
boy. This lasted only ten seconds, but long enough. Too late Ted
realized that he was about to exchange his blue fish for a shark.

The shark swallowed the fish, hook and all. At once Ted felt the line
shoot through his fingers. Gripping desperately, he checked the line. He
felt his raft being towed rapidly through the water.

The shark went down. The raft tilted at a dangerous angle. A hundred
thoughts sped through the boy’s mind. He might be lost for days, perhaps
weeks. Without food he must perish. No line, no fish, no food. But if
the raft went over? What then? Soaked to the skin, he would in the end
be obliged to yield his line. Then a happy thought struck him. In his
emergency kit were other hooks, and in his parachute many lines. He
opened his hands, the line slid through his fingers. The raft settled
back. He was safe. The shark was gone.

“Whew!” he exclaimed, rubbing his burned fingers. “This life on a raft
is not all it’s cracked up to be. You—”

His thoughts were interrupted by the rumble of thunder off in the
distance. Or was it thunder?

He listened more closely. “Bombs!” he exclaimed. “They’ve made contact!
Hurrah! Hit ’em hard and often, boys! Hit ’em hard!”

Would they take the island? He knew they would. No stopping the
victorious Americans now. Island after island had fallen into their
hands.

Other victories would follow. This island today, he thought. Mindanao
the day after tomorrow. If only I can get back to the fleet before we
tackle Mindanao, he thought with a touch of despair. “God, send someone
to pick me up,” he prayed. “Please God, I don’t know much. Give me
wisdom. Help me to get food from the sea and the sky. Send me back to my
buddies.”

After that there didn’t seem to be much left to do but rest, relax, and
watch for smoke on the horizon or a plane in the sky.

The rumble from the west died away, then rose again. The battle might
last all day. Cruisers and destroyers would move in to shell Jap
positions. The carrier would stand by. Perhaps the task force would slip
away under cover of darkness. “If it does that, I’ll be sunk,” he
murmured disconsolately.

He had managed to bring along a small canteen. He took a sip of water.
He recalled that you were supposed to be able to get water by pressing
out fish meat. He’d have to try that.

The sun was hot. It had been a tough night. He was tired and his head
ached. Finally he stretched himself out and fell asleep.

A little more than an hour later he awoke with a start, clutched at his
head with sudden violence, and grasped something hard and horny with
each hand. He held on grimly, though his head and shoulders were being
beaten unmercifully by something hard and sharp as a crowbar. He let out
a gasp as some knifelike thing cut at his wrist, but still he held on.

At last, half standing up, he gave a mighty heave to bring a great bird
with a ten-foot wing spread, down upon his raft.

“Oh! A gony!” he exclaimed. “You rascal! You nearly wrecked me! What
were you doing on top of my head? Resting? Well, I’ll give you a good,
long rest!”

The bird was an albatross, largest of all sea birds. Ted had learned a
great deal about them from the old sailors, who called them gonies. They
followed ships for thousands of miles, sleeping on the sea, or soaring
miles on end, with their long, narrow wings spread wide.

This one, beyond a doubt, had been following their task force, but had
been frightened away by the big guns.

“What’ll I do with you?” he demanded of the bird.

His answer was a snap on the ankle from its powerful jaws.

“I should kill and eat you,” he exclaimed. “You’re worse than a Jap! But
I won’t—not yet. Men don’t eat gonies unless they have to. It’s supposed
to bring bad luck. I’ll tie you up, that’s what I’ll do. Then we’ll try
our luck together. If I’m rescued, you go free. If not, you get eaten.”

The gony winked as if he really understood. Then for good measure, he
nipped at Ted’s ankle once more.

“You’ll be some company,” Ted said, as after binding the bird’s feet, he
fastened a wide strap taken from his parachute about its wings and body.

Late in the afternoon he caught a fairly large fish. After pressing
water from its meat, he drank a little. “Not impossible,” was his
verdict. He ate some of the meat, then offered a bite to his gony, who,
to his surprise, swallowed it.

“You must be a young fellow,” he said. “Friendly and green, like
myself.” He laughed, and felt better.

Just as the sun was sinking in the west he saw a dark smudge that soon
obscured the sun. “A ship!” He became greatly excited. Another smudge,
and yet another. “The task force!” he exclaimed, standing up and nearly
overturning his raft. “If only it would come this way!”



                               CHAPTER XV
                            THE SECRET BOOK


On the island of mysteries Jack watched with increasing astonishment as
the jet plane soared away. It climbed up until it looked to be the size
of a star, let out a scream, then faded with the speed of sound into the
blue sky.

“Some plane!” he exclaimed, straining his eyes for one last glimpse of
it. A plane like that could change the whole science of aviation. Yes,
it’s a military secret, but whose secret? That’s the question. He was
about to begin his homeward journey when a book, lying on the rocks,
caught his attention.

_Murder at Midnight_, he read on the cover. “So that’s what they read!”

Picking up the book, he flipped it open, then a whistle escaped his
lips. Two thirds of the pages of the original book had been replaced by
pages on which clippings had been pasted. “A scrapbook! How strange!” He
stood staring at it.

A moment later he nearly dropped it in his excitement. “It’s all about
that mysterious plane! What a find!” he whispered.

Sitting down upon a flat rock, he began to read. There were articles in
English, French, German, and Italian. Many he could not read at all, but
the articles in English were more than enough to satisfy his curiosity.
Much that he read about equalizers, reflecting blades, direpeller
blades, slip streams, and burbles he understood only in part. At last he
came to an article which gave him the desired information. This article
read in part:

“Rocket propulsion, of course, is not a new thing; the basic idea is
centuries old. As applied to aerial warfare it was employed on a crude
basis even in World War I. The Italians made public an experimental
flight of a propellerless jet-type plane several years ago. Long before
that, automobiles were driven by rocket engines, and special rockets for
making meteorological soundings in the substratosphere were in use....

“Nevertheless, the Anglo-American jet-propelled airplane represents the
broadest application of the principle yet achieved.

“The jet plane carries no oxygen for its engine: its jet propulsion
engine uses oxygen from the air. This engine has fewer parts and is of
simpler construction than the traditional engine. It operates a
mechanism which compresses the air. This air is mixed with atomized
fuels such as gasoline, kerosene, alcohol, or some other fuels of the
hydrocarbon family, rich in hydrogen. From that point forward the
operation is the same as in the rocket engine; that is to say, the gas
is released and ignited, the resulting expansion and emission through
the jet providing the power....

“The development of the jet engine was made possible by a number of
recent scientific achievements. One was the development of new alloys
capable of withstanding extreme heat. The gases in combustion produce
temperatures of 1500 degrees and over, and it is only in recent years
that materials to resist such temperatures have been produced....

“Smoothness, simplicity, and evenness of power are three of the
principal characteristics reported by pilots who have flown the new
fighter plane powered by jet propulsion....

“Says one flier who has flown this plane: ‘It is the smoothest ride I’ve
ever experienced in any plane. The first time I climbed into the cockpit
I was naturally a little nervous about first contact with an entirely
new method of propulsion. My nervousness persisted while I started the
engines and until I started to taxi across the field for the take-off;
then it dawned on me that this plane was even simpler to operate than a
primary trainer. I flew it through all the maneuvers I wanted for twenty
minutes, then landed, and taxied up to the line.

“‘I wanted to check the fuel before resuming flight, so before turning
on the main switch to read the electrical fuel gauges, I stuck my head
out of the cockpit and shouted, to warn the mechanics to stay clear of
the propeller, completely forgetting that I didn’t have any
propeller.’...

“Jet propulsion is necessary if we are to exceed the possibilities of
propellers. A propeller literally screws its way through the air. The
blades cause a partial vacuum. The greater the density of the air, the
greater is the efficiency of the propeller. As we rise, the air becomes
thinner. Finally a point is reached at which no propeller will ‘bite.’
The ceiling has been attained.

“With jet propulsion, exactly the opposite holds good. The less air
there is, the more efficient is the motor. If the ejected gas has an
expansion efficiency at rest of 40 feet in one-hundredth of a second—a
rate of 4,000 feet a second—the same force exerted in motion would
increase the speed up to a point where the maximum efficiency is reached
at something like 10,000 miles an hour. Jet propulsion gets better and
better as speed and height increase.

“As a matter of fact, with a fuel composed of liquid oxygen and
gasoline, jet velocities of 12,000 feet a second have been obtained.”

There was one important question the article did not answer. How was the
plane operated? Could he drop into the pilot’s place, set the plane
screaming, and sail away at once? Jack wanted very much to know. Already
he pictured himself slipping into the mystery plane and soaring away.
“For,” he told himself, “we must get away from this island and back to
our ship. We can’t miss the attack on Mindanao.

“Besides,” he added, catching his breath, “what a sensation I would
create if I were to come swooping down to land that plane on the deck of
the old _Black Bee_!

“I’d probably get myself shot up before I landed.” His face sobered.
“But that could be taken care of some way.”

He tried to think what it would mean to come into possession of such a
plane. “All depends upon who those fellows are,” he mused. “If they are
our allies and I swiped their plane, I would very likely be put in the
brig. But if they are Germans, and I got their secret weapon away from
them, my picture would make the front page of every paper in America.
I’d probably be made an admiral.” He laughed huskily. “What a life!”

A protracted search was at last rewarded. An insignificant sketch
clipped from some British magazine told him that it had not been
necessary to change the manner of operation for this plane. “You turn on
the gas, release the brakes, step on the accelerator, and away you fly,”
he read.

“Just like that!” he exclaimed. “Perfect!”

As he returned the book to its place on the rock, then turned to go up
the trail, he realized that though the mystery of the strange plane had,
in part, been solved, that mystery had been supplanted by even more
important problems. Who were these men who came and went so
mysteriously? They had told him very little. The book had told him less.
Since the clippings were printed in four languages, and these men had
collected them, they might be friends or enemies—Englishmen,
Australians, or Germans. These islands were in enemy waters, but were
too small and rugged to be considered important. Perhaps these men were
Germans placed here to spy on Allied ships and to watch the islands.

But in that case they’d have nabbed me, he thought. Well, maybe not.
They knew I couldn’t get away. Perhaps they thought they could find out
things from me, the ship I’d sailed on, number of ships in the task
force, and all that.

But then, they spoke English. He laughed lightly. Probably Englishmen.
But why are they here? He gave it up and started back toward their camp.

On his way back to camp he made discoveries that deepened the already
ominous mystery of the island. He had covered half the distance when a
fluttering bit of white against the dark trunk of a huge teakwood tree
caught his eye. He hurried toward it.

He discovered that it was pinned there by three thorns. It was a note
written on paper made from a thin slice cut out of the stem of a palm
frond and bleached in the sun. The message was printed, but not crudely
done. It read:

  Don’t trust those men with the strange plane. We think they are
  dangerous. We have heard them talking German.

That was all. The note was not signed. Who were “we”? To this there was
no answer.

Jack felt a warm wave of friendliness sweep over him as he pocketed the
note. Some one on this island wished to befriend him. A vision of the
tall, slender girl whose roast pork had so excited the natives, and
whose smile was most engaging, came before his eyes.

She might have written it, he told himself. Then again, perhaps not.
There might be white people hiding on the island. Who knows?

Suddenly, as he rounded a coco plum bush, he caught a glimpse of that
same girl. She was on her knees at the foot of a great coconut palm
tree.

Seems to be praying to the spirit of the palm, he thought, as he watched
her from the shadows.

He knew soon enough that his guess was poor. The girl was removing dried
leaves and palm fronds from a spot at the foot of a tree. After throwing
aside a square of brown canvas, she carefully lifted something white
from its place of hiding.

Jack could not see what this was, but he was not long in finding out,
for the girl stood up and held before her a white dress.

“An Army nurse’s uniform,” Jack whispered to himself. He shuddered
involuntarily.

In a twinkling, without removing her thin, one-piece garment, the girl
had the white dress on, and a cap of white on her hair.

After that, attired as a nurse, she did a strange little dance all by
herself. Stooping over, she took a small square mirror from the hiding
place. This she hung against the tree. Standing there, she surveyed
herself in the mirror. Jack too, caught a glimpse of her face in the
glass. Her dark face stood out strangely against the stark white of her
dress. There was a curious look of animation and amusement on her face.
Once she laughed, then shook her fist at the face in the mirror.

Then, as her shoulders drooped in an attitude of utter sadness, she
removed the dress and nurse’s cap, to return them to their hiding place.

Realizing that she might come out on the trail at any moment, Jack
hurried past the spot while she was covering her treasures. Jack
hurriedly and quietly put some distance between them.

His head was in a whirl. Who was this girl? Why had she come here, and
how had she come into possession of the nurse’s costume? It was all very
strange and disturbing. Dark forebodings took possession of him as he
hurried along over the damp, heavily shaded path.



                              CHAPTER XVI
                            MOSTLY MEMORIES


Darkness was falling as the carrier _Black Bee_, escorted by cruisers
and destroyers, sailed away from the scene of her latest triumph, her
attack on the unnamed island that meant so much to the Allied cause on
its way to Tokyo. Not one U. S. ship had been sunk or damaged. Jap
installations had been smashed and the airfield taken. The Marines had
stormed ashore in great waves, accomplishing the occupation of a greater
part of the island with a minimum of loss.

“It was a great day!” Kentucky murmured as he sat with his fighter pals
on the flight deck.

“Yes, a big day,” Blackie echoed.

The elevator trap opened and from below came the sounds of voices and
music. Men were singing and radios blared popular music or announced
more victories.

The elevator rose. It carried a new fighter to the flight deck.

“That’s for Ted or Jean,” Kentucky rumbled, “if one of them comes back.”

“Yes, if only one of them does come back,” Red agreed soberly.

It had been a truly great day. The men below decks were happy and
hilarious. But the trio on the flight deck, Kentucky, Blackie and Red,
were for the most part silent. Ted was gone. No one knew when he would
be seen again, if ever.

Jean, too, was gone. He had somehow been lost from his formation.
Kentucky had heard him say, “I am being attacked by a superior force.
Notify my nearest of kin.”

Had Jean been joking? There was no way to know. Men did joke in the
midst of battle. That was the one way of keeping your nerves steady.

Kentucky did not believe that Jean had been joking. He had scant hope of
ever seeing him again.

But Ted—that was different. Kentucky believed that Ted had made a safe
landing on the water.

“The course we are taking,” he said soberly, “should bring us in about
two hours over the spot where Ted went down. I’m going to ask for
permission to make a search.”

“At night?” Blackie voiced his astonishment.

“Sure! Why not?” Kentucky’s tone was confident. “Ted’s smart. He’ll know
the sound of our planes and he’ll find something to use as a flare. If
he’s there and I get near the spot, I’ll bring him in.”

“I’m with you,” said Red.

“Count me in.” Blackie made it three.

Darkness came down like a black curtain. Through this curtain the task
force plowed on. “What’s our destination?” was the question passed from
man to man. Mindanao was often mentioned, but only one man—the
Commander—knew what lay ahead, and he wasn’t telling.


On being told of Jack’s discoveries—the book that gave him so much
information about the jet plane, the note of warning attached to a tree,
and the native girl who paraded in an Army nurse’s uniform—Stew found
himself torn between two desires: one to fit out the Jap raft and leave
the island immediately; the other, to remain to help Jack try to
commandeer the jet plane and fly away.

“Must be a marvelous new invention,” he commented excitedly. “Think of
doing the stratosphere at 500!”

“And then dropping down upon some unsuspecting Japs!” Jack added.

In the end Stew decided that it would be wise to put the Jap raft into
condition for immediate escape, if flight became necessary.

“Who knows what might happen?” he argued. “If those men speak German,
they could easily be Nazis, and they may bring in a whole boatload of
Japs to hunt us down.”

Jack was not so sure of all this. Those men in charge of the jet plane
had been friendly enough and did not seem like Nazis. Nevertheless he
did realize that it was best to be prepared for any emergency. So, after
a rather cheerless breakfast of cold fish and coffee, they spent the
morning putting the raft in order.

When they returned at lunchtime, they found that the bananas had not yet
begun to ripen, so they lunched on chocolate bars.

“But just you wait!” Stew exclaimed. “I’m going to have a real dinner
tonight, if I have to run down a wild pig.”

“Okay,” Jack agreed. “I’ll gladly join you. In fact, I’ll even roast the
pig. But you’d better take the fishline with you. There are worse meals
than fish.”

“Oh, fish!” Stew snorted. “Just you wait and see!” However, he did take
the fishline as they climbed up the slope for one more look at their
island home.

“I’ll charm one of those wild roosters into sitting on my knee,” Jack
laughed, as he tucked the violin under his arm.

“Or some wild maiden,” Stew joked.

“None of that!” Jack replied, soberly.

Stew paused half way up the ridge to examine some fresh wild pig tracks,
but Jack kept straight on, until he reached the crest of the ridge.
There, seated on the highest pinnacle of rock, he surveyed the scene,
and was enchanted.

Save for a few white clouds, the day was clear. On the dark, blue water
there was a slight ripple that made it seem alive.

Off to the right and lower down he suddenly discovered the small native
village, a few tiny grass huts clustered about a larger one. As he
watched, two long, slender canoes with outriggers shot from the shore.
He looked at them through his binoculars and discovered that one was
manned by two native boys, the other by two native girls.

As the paddles flashed and the canoes sped away in a wild race, he
thought, if things should get worse here, those people could take us to
the next island, or elsewhere. He glanced away to the south. It couldn’t
be more than ten miles to that next island.

At last, charmed by the scene that lay before him, he took up his violin
and began to play.

He had once supposed that much of the music he had known might by this
time have escaped him, but now, in this moment of rest and inspiration,
they all came back to him—“Londonderry Air,” “Ave Maria,” “O Sole Mio,”
and many others. How long he played, he could not tell.

Had he paused to listen as he played, he might have heard movements in
the brush directly beneath him. The snapping of a twig, the swish of a
branch, even the low murmur of a voice might have reached his keen ears.
At last, with a sigh, he replaced the violin in its case.

Brings back memories of home, he thought, as he sighed again. Here’s
hoping I get back there some time.

Memories! How strange his life had been! Thousands cheer, he thought
grimly. Thousands had cheered his music, and now he played to the rocks,
the birds, and the broad sea. But the war is a thrilling adventure—he
squared his shoulders—I wouldn’t have missed it for worlds!

From the moment he had passed his tests and joined the Navy, his life as
a flying cadet had been thrilling. He thought it by far the finest
branch of the service.

First had come his civil aeronautics training. An instructor had taken
him up and scared him almost to death. Next time he went up, he was
given the controls and told to fly. And he had flown!

Two months of this and he had thought himself a finished flier. He did
not know then that he needed to gain a great deal more knowledge than he
had. He had wanted all the world to know how good he was, especially
Mom, Pop, and the home-town folks.

The old home town was “out-of-bounds” for him, but what of that? When he
was given two hours of free flying, he had headed for home, thirty miles
away. It had taken a lot of treetop clipping to get Mom and Pop out to
see him fly, for he had not written them he was coming. He got them out
at last, and waved them a salute. Then he had flown over the golf course
where only a year before he was a mere caddy. Stalling his plane, he had
come zooming down from three thousand feet to scare caddies and golfers
half to death, then had zoomed away.

Some of the older golfers who had never taken a chance in all their
lives, who had never flown a mile nor been obliged to fight for their
country, had taken the number of his plane and threatened to report him
for reckless flying. Had they? He did not know. All he did know was that
he had flown gloriously on.

Next came Iowa City. No flying there, but plenty of study and hardening
up. It was summer and hot as an oven. The trainers were relentless.
Marches, races, hurdles, football, boxing, and all the rest he took in
his stride. He got a broken nose from football, a black eye from boxing,
and a sprained ankle in high hurdles.

There was little time for social affairs and when there was, one was
almost too hot and tired to care. One bright spot stood out in that
whole summer—the night he took the Commandant’s daughter to the banquet
and dance given for his group as their training ended. He remembered
still her gay laughter and the bright sparkle of her eyes.

He drew Minneapolis for preflight training. What a camp that had been!
He was flying again, real combat planes. Formations, sham dogfights,
night flying, following the light of the plane ahead round and round.

A truly great camp. A grand USO with bowling, billiards, a movie every
week, warm-hearted city folks, and plenty of girls. How he had hated it
when the day came to pack up and leave.

And then there was the long, hard pull in Texas. Some of the boys
“washed out.” Jack was determined not to let that happen to him. It did
not.

He disliked the heat and the great, flat plains of Texas, but most of
the time he had been too busy to notice them.

Before long it was time for that new suit of blues and the brief
ceremony that made him an ensign and gave him his wings.

Deck training at Great Lakes, then a short leave to bid farewell to the
folks at home.

Those fleeting days in the old home town left delightful, exciting
memories. The good folks of the little city had done their best to show
him that they really appreciated the sacrifices he must make to fight
for them. He even forgave the old golfers who had threatened to report
him when he had scared them half to death on his flying visit to the
golf course months before.

When it came time to go he had told Pop and Mom good-by at home because
he wanted it that way. At the last moment Patsy had insisted on walking
to the depot with him.

When the train whistled, she had put out a hand for a good, honest
handshake, and had said, “Well, so long old pal. Have a good time. Take
good care of yourself, and plea—please come back, for we all need you so
much!”

Patsy’s voice had sounded a bit strange. He could hear her still,
“Plea—please come back.” It was strange about him and Patsy.

He looked off toward the sun now hanging low over the dark, blue sea,
and at the green jungle at his feet. Yes, this was a great little world
over here. He’d like to come back some time. But just now, how he’d like
to be back in the old home town!



                              CHAPTER XVII
                          VOICES IN THE NIGHT


Jack dreamed until the sun was low; finally he heard Stew giving the
call of a parakeet, the signal they had agreed upon.

He squawked in answer, then gathered up his violin and went hurrying
down the hill.

“What were you going to do,” Stew exclaimed when they were together
again, “dream up there all day and half the night?”

“Not quite,” Jack laughed. “But you have to take time to relax, even in
war, or you’re likely to crack up.”

“You’ll never crack!” Stew was tired. “Look what I got for supper!” He
held up his catch.

“Fish! Oh, boy!” Jack made a brave attempt at expressing joy.

“You’d be thankful for fish,” said Stew, “if you’d been through what I
have!”

“What happened?” Jack was curious.

“Plenty. I saw a small porker and followed him. He really looked young.
But when he got all hot and bothered he turned and squealed angrily at
me. And boy! His tusks seemed to be at least two feet long. I went up a
tree, which was a job in itself. Anyway, there was a strange bird up in
that tree. I wanted to have a look at that bird,” Stew ended with a
drawl.

“Not a rooster?” Jack grinned.

“The rooster came later,” Stew sighed. “He was a dandy! But he refused
to be caught. So—o,” Stew sighed once more, “I decided on fish for
supper. And one thing more,” he grinned. “While you played the violin, I
saw two huge, dark-skinned men with six-foot spears all set along the
points with flying squirrels’ teeth. They were looking up at you. They
didn’t spear you, did they?”

“It’s a wonder they didn’t let me have it!”

“Probably thought they might injure the violin,” Stew chuckled. “Come
on. Let’s go down.”

In silence they trudged down the ridge and through the shadowy forest.

They approached their camp in the bright afterglow, and in that sudden
burst of light Jack thought he caught a glimpse of a figure darting into
the shadows of a great mango tree. He could not be sure, so he tramped
on in silence.

“I’ll bet you were so lost in your dreams you never even heard that jet
plane return,” said Stew.

“That’s right. I didn’t,” Jack admitted. “Did it really come in?”

“It sure did. And do you know,” Stew said thoughtfully, “their landing
was so different from the one they made the other day that you’d have
said another pilot was at the stick. He made two false landings, then
zoomed up, and finally seemed to come in straight from the sea.”

“But he made it?” Jack was puzzled.

“I suppose so. I didn’t see him land. He—”

“Look!” Stew’s voice fell to an excited whisper. “There’s a glow of
coals in our fireplace!”

“Can’t be!” Jack was incredulous. “I remember putting the fire out.”

“It’s burning now, all right,” Stew insisted.

And so it was. There was a fire, and something more, besides.

When the boys reached the spot they stood gazing in speechless
astonishment, for there, held over the fire by an impromptu spit of
teakwood, was a roast of pork loin, done to a delicious brown and
sizzling in its own fat. Beside it, kept warm on a rack close to the
fire, was a stack of brown cakes.

“Brownies,” Jack whispered.

“Dark brownies. Natives,” Stew murmured.

“Brownies, all the same!” Jack insisted.

Stew tossed his catch upon a rock. “How’d you like to wait until
tomorrow for your fish?”

“Suits me,” said Jack.

The fish did wait, and the two boys sat down to enjoy a feast such as
they had not eaten in months.

“Do you know, Stew,” Jack said as he reclined against a rock, with the
blue-black sea before him, “I think we picked the wrong party to help us
get off this island.”

“What do you mean?” Stew sat up.

“Those natives have some swell outrigger canoes that would take us to
some other island in less than an hour,” Jack confided. “I saw them.
They’re really fast.”

“And then we’d just be on another island,” Stew drawled. “What I want is
to be sitting on the flight deck of our ship hearing the engines warming
up. Or I’d like to be down below where jazz music and radios make night
hilarious on the old _Black Bee_.”

“All the same, I’d feel better if I were sure I could leave this island
in a hurry if I needed to,” Jack insisted.

“Tell you what!” He sprang to his feet. “This feast of ours came from
the native village. It’s a peace offering. What do you say we go and
smoke a pipe of peace with them?”

“Oh-o-o no! Not me!” Stew did not move. “They might not be as civilized
as you think. Don’t forget that girl and the nurse’s costume. Besides,
I’ve got something else I want to do.”

“What’s that?”

“Try out that radio we found on the Jap raft.”

“I cranked it for an hour last night.” Jack’s interest was slight. “Not
a peep out of it. But go ahead, try it.”

“Sure I’ll try it.” Stew walked away. “Give my regards to that
head-hunter’s queen,” he added, with a low laugh. “She’s a regular
pin-up girl, don’t you think? Tell her to put a ring in her nose and
I’ll take her picture.”

Jack joined in the laugh. Then, after tucking his violin under his arm,
he trudged away into the dark forest and over the trail leading to the
village.

Guided by his pinpoint flashlight he followed the leafy trail, where his
steps made no sound, and listened to the croak of a great frog that
seemed to say, “Why? Why?” He dropped down into a valley, where some
startled porkers went snorting away, then climbed again to cross the
ridge and come down on the other side.

“Spooky business, following these trails at night,” he told himself.
“Anything might happen.”

When he found himself close to the native village, he went on tiptoe
until the light of their campfire, burned down to a dull glow, was
practically in his eyes.

No feast now. It was too late for that. The natives were seated in a
half circle. Close by the fire sat a stout young hunter. His fine brown
face, with its gleaming white teeth, was a study. He was smiling broadly
as jokes were passed back and forth. Before him lay a freshly killed
pig. He had returned late from the hunt, no doubt, and was recounting
his adventures. The others with one exception appeared happy. The tall,
slim girl sat by herself. On her face was a look of loneliness, perhaps
of sadness. The people were talking in their strange native tongue. The
girl did not speak at all.

Then Jack did something that even to him seemed strange. Slipping
silently through the brush, he came close to the girl and, more than
half in shadow, unnoticed, took a seat beside her.


At that same moment, two hundred miles away, Kentucky, Blackie, and Red
were out over the sea in their planes. Having obtained permission to
conduct a night search for their lost comrade Ted, they were on their
way. Talking over a radio of very low power that was not likely to be
picked up at any distance greater than 300 miles, Blackie was saying to
the others:

“Just about ten seconds more and we should be near the spot.”

“Twenty or twenty-five is my guess,” said Kentucky.

“Be great stuff if Ted were still on his plane there in the water and
picked us up on the radio,” Red suggested.

“No chance.” Kentucky’s voice was low. “He’s lucky if he’s got his
rubber raft.”

Ted did not hear them, but someone else, vastly excited, did.

“Got ’em!” Stew, on the island, tinkering with the Jap radio, cranked
furiously as he murmured. “Now if only I can make them hear me.

“Kentuck—Kentucky!” he called into the small mike. “This is Stew. Do you
get me? Stew. Come in!”

Kentucky did not come in. He kept right on with what he was doing. Stew
could hear the three of them talking, heard Red say, “I think I see a
light off to the right.”

“You sure?” was Kentucky’s excited answer. “Don’t lose it. That may be
Ted.”

“It’s sure to be Ted,” Blackie broke in. “Don’t lose it.”

Just then Stew’s Jap radio took on a sudden burst of power to break
through space and fall on Kentucky’s ears:

“Kentuck! This is Stew! Come in, Kentucky!”

Kentucky heard, and sat up quickly.

“Stew! Where are you?” Kentucky came back in a steady drawl. “Where’s
Jack?”

“We—well, you might say we’re back in the old home town.” Stew made up a
code as he went along. He didn’t want those fellows on the jet plane to
understand, nor some prowling Japs, either. “Remember those three
houses? Do you get me?”

“Maybe I do,” Kentucky growled. “Continue.”

“Well, I live in the biggest house—the middle one—three stories—get me?”

“I get you.” Kentucky thought he understood that Stew was talking of
three islands.

“Jack is with me,” Stew went on. “Our room is in the southwest corner.
See?”

“I get you,” Kentucky came back again. “All okay?”

“Yes. Only we miss our boat. We—” Just then Stew heard Blackie break in.
“Kentucky, there is a light. Must be Ted. I’m putting on my landing
lights. Going down.”

“We’ll be right over you,” Kentucky assured him.

Stew understood it all, and was silent, even at a time when he wanted
terribly to talk. And so, as he listened, the minutes ticked themselves
away, and once again his radio went dead. Far away, Kentucky was
thinking, “I wish Stew had talked straight. I think he meant he was on
the biggest of those three islands, and on this end of it. But how’s a
fellow to be sure?”



                             CHAPTER XVIII
                       LUCK, PALS, AND PROVIDENCE


Scarcely had Jack seated himself beside the slim girl in the shadows
away from the campfire when she whispered:

“I hoped you’d come. I have something tremendously important to show
you. First you must play for these people, for they love it.”

At that she clapped her hands and at the same time gave a sharp
exclamation. Some native word, thought Jack. He was startled by this
sudden turn of affairs.

The natives were on their feet in an instant. Three brown warriors,
doubtless misunderstanding the call, seized their spears.

Like figures done in bronze, with the firelight playing on their dark
faces, these three stood there, silent and alert, ready for action, as
the girl said a few words to them in their own language. Then the men
relaxed and a low murmur ran round the campfire.

“Play now!” the girl commanded, turning to Jack.

A louder murmur came from the natives as they settled back in their
places and Jack tuned his violin.

Deciding that some simple tunes would suit these people best, the boy
played “Turkey in the Straw.” Pleased by their dancing eyes, he did the
“Arkansas Traveler,” then “Deep in the Heart of Texas.”

When he swung into “Old Man River,” the natives seemed to sense the
meaning of the song, for their faces were somber and sad. But now some
one was singing the words.

He listened carefully. It was the girl who sang.

“Sing it all,” he whispered. He started once more at the beginning and
she sang with him to the end.

After that he played on and on, wondering, Where did this girl learn
that song? She had said, “These people.” Were they not her people? It
was mighty strange.

When the fire had burned low and some of the native children were asleep
at their mothers’ sides, Jack put his violin away. Then, as if he were
in church and had preached a good sermon, the older members of the group
came forward for a solemn handshake.

After a few words to the natives, the girl turned to Jack. “I’ll show
you a new way back to your camp,” she said in a quiet voice.

A moment later, without a light, she was leading him through the inky
blackness of a jungle trail.

“There are only two of us, my pal and I,” Jack said to the girl after a
time. “We may get into a tight spot any time!”

“Oh, you are in a tight spot right now!”


In the meantime, some distance to the south, things were happening on
the dark waters of night. Catching the drone of airplane motors and
recognizing them as those used in U. S. fighter planes, Ted on his raft
had become greatly excited. That’s Kentucky and my other pals, he
thought. They’re out looking for me. How can I signal to them?

A flare. The thought came to him at once. In his emergency outfit were
matches in a sealed tin. With trembling fingers he opened the can.

But what could he use for a torch? He thought of his gony. Its feathers
would burn. But no. He couldn’t do that. His parachute? Yes, it would
burn. But what a waste. If other things failed, he’d use it. But
meanwhile he’d tie his shirt to one of the paddles and light it. He
wadded it tightly around the paddle blade so it would burn for some
time. He lighted it, and moved it about in the air.

“It makes so little light. They’ll never see it,” he despaired.

But they did see it. Soon Kentucky came zooming down while the others
circled above him.

“Boy! Am I glad to see you!” Ted put out a hand to Kentucky when the
plane was down and he had paddled to it.

“That makes two of us!” Kentucky gripped his hand excitedly.

“I’ll be with the old _Black Bee_ after all when we make that big push!”
Ted exulted.

“You won’t be in anything if you don’t get busy and climb up here!”
Kentucky laughed.

“Wait. I’ll have to take care of my gony.” Ted reached down.

“Hey! Ouch! Quit it!” he exclaimed. “Ungrateful creature! I should have
used you for a torch.”

“What is it?” Kentucky asked in surprise.

“Just a gony—an albatross,” said Ted. “He lit on my head and now he
bites me for the tenth time. Give me a light.”

Kentucky held a light on it while Ted cut the strap that held the huge
bird. Then he tossed the gony into the sea. “I was keeping it for
emergency rations,” he laughed.

Five minutes later he was in the plane, and they were roaring away.
“Just one more incident in the great war,” Ted said. “Some get rescued
and some don’t.”

“It’s all a matter of luck,” said Kentucky.

“Providence, luck, and pals,” Ted added.

“There’s more work of the same kind to be done,” said Kentucky. “I think
I’ve got Jack and Stew located on one of those three islands.”

“Great stuff! How did you do it?”

“Stew’s got some kind of radio. Not very strong, but I got him. He told
me in a sort of code that they were on this end of the biggest island.”

“That’s swell!” Ted exclaimed. “Going after them is my job. Jack’s from
my home town.”

“Say! That’s keen!” said Kentucky. They flew on.


At the same time, on the island, with the aid of the girl, Jack was
making a startling discovery. She walked with surprising speed over the
jungle trail. Only now and then did she take his hand for an instant to
whisper, “Over a log here” or “Up a low ledge now.”

“I didn’t want the natives to know,” she murmured low. “There might have
been trouble if they saw what you are going to see. I didn’t want a
fight—not now.”

“Know what?” Jack wanted to ask, but did not. What a queer girl this
was! Her skin was dark, her nose was rather broad, and her lips seemed
thick, yet she was surely not like the others.

“Been raised by some missionary,” he told himself. He knew well enough
that there were such girls. He had seen some of them in the Solomons.
Some were nurses. He thought again of the nurse’s uniform hidden at the
foot of a huge palm. Had the girl been a native nurse?

“Up now,” she whispered, gripping his hand.

They climbed straight up a rocky ledge. At the crest she pushed him down
to a place beside her.

“Look down,” she whispered.

He looked, then stared. Almost directly beneath them, surprisingly close
and all lit up by a near-by campfire, was the mystery plane. Seated
around the fire were not two men, but five. Three were small, the others
large. Just then the two large men stood up. One was tall and rather
thin, the other short and stout.

“Not the same men!” Jack whispered in astonishment.

“No, they’re not,” she agreed. “The three little men are Japs.”

“Japs!” Jack could feel prickles at the back of his neck. “What does it
mean?”

“Danger!” came in a low whisper.



                              CHAPTER XIX
                            MYSTERIES DEEPEN


Standing beside the girl of “Mystery Isle,” Jack stared down at the five
men and the jet plane in silence. “Here’s a ticklish situation,” he
thought. He was glad he had established friendly relations with the
natives. He and Stew, with only their sidearms, would be no match for
those five men.

Jack’s amazement at this turn of affairs was great. He had been inclined
to accept the men who first had the jet plane as Englishmen or
Australians trying out a secret weapon. One thing was sure. This plane
was no haphazard affair built from parts of other planes. It was
brand-new and had been created in some up-to-date factory. There were
little points about it that seemed to say, “Made in America,” but if it
had been, how had these fellows gotten hold of it? It was a priceless
possession, Jack was sure of that, for he had seen it perform. He’d seen
many types of planes climb toward the stratosphere, but none had become
a speck in the upper air as quickly as this one.

“I’d like to get my hands on it,” he whispered to the girl.

“Wouldn’t you, though!” she whispered back.

Then the tall man nearest the jet plane did what to Jack seemed a
strange thing. After lighting a large gas lantern that spread a white
circle of light all about him, he climbed to the plane’s fuselage, threw
back the canopies, hung the lantern on a pole propped against the inside
of the cockpit, and then began tinkering with the controls.

“He certainly isn’t afraid,” Jack whispered to the girl. “Working in a
flood of light on a strange island. What an easy mark he would make!”

“Perhaps he does not know you are on the island,” she returned.

“Wouldn’t those other men tell him?” he wondered.

“Who knows?” The girl’s words gave him the impression that she knew more
than she cared to tell. “The Germans are not afraid of natives,” she
went on. “Besides, they have machine guns.”

“On the plane?” Jack looked closely at the plane.

“Yes, two. I have seen them.”

Jack unslung his binoculars. They brought the plane and the men closer
to him. A look of intense concentration came over the boy’s face. He
watched every move the man on the plane made, studied and memorized the
instruments on the board, noted that they were fewer than on most
planes, then gave his attention to the controls.

As if conscious of the boy’s intense interest, the man threw on the
power. The motor squealed. A fine, misty smoke half hid the plane. The
man threw off the power. The mist drifted away.

“That plane has no propeller,” Jack whispered, half to himself and half
to the girl.

“No,” she agreed.

“It’s run by jets going out from the back,” he went on. “If you held a
large balloon before you and it exploded, it would push you over. That
plane works something like that. The Italians tried it. Their jet went
straight back out of the fuselage. It ran the plane, but took too much
fuel. This one takes air from the sky into a large compressor. When it
is under high pressure it is mixed in a chamber with explosive gas from
kerosene. This mixture is ignited under terrific pressure, then carried
round a right-angle bend and blown through fans that somehow give it a
lot more power.”

The girl was silent. Did she understand? He wondered.

But now the man in the cockpit was ready for one more move. Once again
he set the motor howling. This time however he released the brakes,
dropped his lantern into the cockpit, touched the accelerator, and went
gliding away into the night.

Jack had watched his every move. “That,” he whispered, “is about the
easiest flying plane in the world. I could fly it right now.”

“So could—” The girl stopped, then added, “Yes, yes, I am sure you
could.”

“I will, too,” Jack told himself, but did not say it aloud. No use
telling too much.

They listened to the plane until its strange wail faded into nothing.

“He’s gone,” the girl said, half rising.

“I think he will be back,” Jack said, remaining in his place. “I want to
find out all I can,” he added. The girl settled back in her place.

“That’s the fastest plane in the world,” Jack whispered. “I have seen it
take off in daylight. In the air close to earth, it takes lots of fuel,
but in the stratosphere, where other planes can’t travel because there’s
no air for the propeller to bite into, this jet plane goes like the wind
on just about no fuel at all.”

“O-o-o!” the girl murmured excitedly.

“They left a scrapbook telling all about it down there on the rocks,” he
explained. “I got a look at it. Wish I’d taken it with me, but you see,
I thought those first two men might be our friends. You don’t take books
from friends.”

“No, you don’t,” she agreed.

“Say!” he exclaimed in a hoarse whisper. “Who are you? Where did you
come from? Those natives are not your people.”

“They are not my people,” she agreed. “My home is far away. When you
need to know more you shall be told. Is that fair?”

“Fair enough,” said the boy.

The jet plane came screaming back. Jack watched intently while the pilot
put the ship to bed for the night. Then he said:

“We’d better go.”

When they reached the well-beaten trail he said, “Thanks a lot. I’ll be
seeing you.”

“I’ll be seeing you,” she repeated. He went one way, she the other, into
the night.

As he approached his own camp Jack saw no sign of life there. The fire
had burned out. Nothing moved. All was silence and darkness.

“It’s like returning to an empty house at midnight,” he told himself.

Dark forebodings took possession of his mind. Had those original pilots
of the jet plane told the others of their camp here on the island, and
had the three Japs put an end to Stew’s carefree life?

“Stew!” he called softly. “Stew! Where are you?”

“Can’t have those fellows hearing me,” he murmured. “What’s happened to
Stew?”

All of a sudden there came the clatter of boots on the rocks. Instantly
he snapped out his light.

“That you, Stew?” he asked.

“Sure is,” came in a familiar voice. “I thought they got you for sure.”

“Who? Those jet plane fellows?”

“No. The cannibals.”

“Forget that cannibal stuff,” Jack laughed. “Those people are our
friends. But we’ve got trouble, all the same.”

“Why? What’s up?” Stew dropped to a place beside Jack on the rock.

“Plenty. There are five men over at the jet plane now, two Germans—”

“Ger—”

“Two Germans and three Japs, and they’ve got machine guns.”

Stew whistled, then he exclaimed: “It’s a good thing Ted’s going to look
us up.”

“Ted? Look us up? Where’d you get that idea?” Jack demanded in sudden
surprise.

“I got that Jap radio to work. There’s been some sort of fight. Ted was
down in the water. Kentucky and his crew located him. They were talking
back and forth, Kentucky and Red were, so I butted in. I fixed up a sort
of code and told them where to find us.”

“But I still don’t see where Ted comes in.”

“Kentucky located Ted and took him in his plane. He left his mike open,
so when Ted was in the plane I heard him say, ‘Now that I’m rescued I’m
going to find Jack and Stew.’

“Kentucky said, ‘That may require a lot of looking,’ but Ted will find
us, never fear.” Stew drew in a long deep breath of relief.

“Boy!” he sighed. “It will be great to get off this island and onto the
deck of the old _Black Bee_!”

“Good old Ted! He’s a real pal,” Jack murmured. “But whether he finds us
or not, I’ve picked my manner of leaving this island.”

“How’s that?” Stew sat up.

“I’m going in that jet plane,” Jack declared stoutly.

“Sure. As a prisoner of the Germans and Japs.” Stew laughed.

“On my own,” Jack insisted.

“Sure! On your own.” Stew did not laugh this time. “Two Nazis and three
Japs with machine guns! On your own! In the jet plane! No sir! Me? I’m
going to wear out my eyes looking for Ted.”



                               CHAPTER XX
                      A SHIP FROM SOME OTHER WORLD


Realizing that matters must soon come to a head, Jack and Stew slept
lightly that night, hidden away among the palms. Anything might happen
on the morrow and they were prepared for the worst.

In the meantime, on board the _Black Bee_ Lieutenant Commander William
A. Brady, leader of the Navy Air Force, was briefing his men.

Before him on the wall were maps and blown-up air photographs.

“I need not tell you,” he said to the bomber pilots, fighters, torpedo
men, gunners, radio men, and all the rest assembled before him, “what
our next great objective is to be.”

There came a mingled murmur of words, “Mindanao—Mindanao, the
Philippines. We’ll give it to ’em good this time.”

“Well now, here we have it,” said the air commander, pointing at the
map. “Here is a map of the Philippine Islands. And right over here at
the extreme east is Mindanao.

“We go in here.” He pointed again. “Behind this wide, deep harbor, where
every fighting ship in our Navy might ride at anchor, is a large city.
There the Japs have established a base of great importance.

“It is necessary that you study this chart with great care. Everything
is plainly marked. Here,” he pointed once more, “is the air field, large
enough for our heavy bombers. Here is the dry dock, there the docks for
shipping, there the army barracks, and here their supply depots.

“You will each be given targets, and with your bomb sights you should
not—must not—miss, for the people of this city are native Filipinos.
You’ve heard of a brown boy named Joe?”

“Yes, sir! Sure! You know it, sir!” came in a chorus.

“He’s in that city, a thousand brown boy Joes and their families waiting
deliverance from the Jap. When our troops swarm ashore they’ll be there
waiting to give the soldiers a hand.

“Here,” he pointed to a spot away from the city, “is the prison camp.
There, housed in huts, poorly fed and in rags, are hundreds of the boys
who fought so bravely at Bataan and at Corregidor. Each dawn they face
the sun and pray for deliverance. Shall their prayer be answered?”

An uproarious affirmative came from the men.

“Are there big Jap battle wagons, aircraft carriers, and supply ships in
that harbor?” the Commander asked. “This we cannot know. It’s up to the
scouts to tell us about that. And if they’re there—” he paused.

“We’ll take ’em!” came in a big, hard voice. “They got my pal at Pearl
Harbor. Nothing’s too bad for them!” There came a roar of approval.

“We’ll have more of this as we approach the target,” the Commander
promised. “You will be given smaller copies of this chart. I suggest
that you memorize it in detail. Much depends on this undertaking. It may
even be spoken of in the future as the turning point of the war, for
after Mindanao comes Manila. From Manila we go to the China coast.”

“And then Tokyo!” the big voice roared.

“Yea! Yea! Yea! Tokyo! Tokyo!” came like a college football yell.

“That’s the spirit, and that, for the present, is all I have to say,”
the Commander concluded.

“Oh, one more word.” The Commander turned about once more to face them.
“We shall not be alone. We are to be part of what may be the greatest
fighting force ever assembled in these southern seas. You should
consider yourselves highly honored by being made a part of this great
fighting force.”

He moved away. There was no cheering now, for this was war—and one of
the solemn moments of their lives.

As the Commander left the cabin his eyes fell on Ted standing in a
corner.

“Congratulations on your escape.” He held out a hand.

“Thank you, sir. I’m glad to be back.” Ted smiled.

“What about Jack and Stew?” the Commander asked.

“We’ve heard from them, sir. They’ve got some sort of radio. They’re on
a small island not far from the spot where we sank that Jap flat-top.”

“Good! We’ll be passing within a hundred miles of the spot early
tomorrow morning. Perhaps you would like to have a try at rescuing
them.” The Commander gave Ted a friendly smile.

“Nothing would please me more, sir!” was the quick reply. “Jack’s from
my home town, you know.”

“I didn’t know, but then you certainly shall have the assignment.”

“I shall take off at dawn, sir.”

“Good! And here’s luck to you. Do your best. We shall need those men in
our next effort.”

“I’ll bring them back, sir.” Ted saluted. The Commander returned the
salute, and they parted.

“Wonder if that was a rash promise?” Ted thought. “Not if I can help
it!” He clenched both hands hard, then opened them and flexed his
fingers. “Have to relax,” he told himself. “That’s part of the game.”

He was up before dawn. He gulped coffee and doughnuts, and was ready for
his plane, already warming up.

Blackie and Red were there to see him off. “Wish we were going along,”
said Blackie.

“Don’t we, though!” Red agreed. “No such luck. We’ve got to lead some of
those rookie fliers in practice maneuvers. They’re pretty good, but for
what we’re going into next they’ve got to be better.”

“Mindanao, that’s right.” Ted had one foot on his plane. “Mindanao seems
to be what we were born for. We’ve dreamed of it for weeks now. Well, so
long, boys! Wish me luck!” He climbed into his plane.

“So long! Best of luck!” Red called.

“Yes, and have a fine trip!” Blackie added.

In his light, powerful fighter Ted climbed for the clouds. There weren’t
many, but those he saw were immense. “Once you’re inside one of those
babies you’re as good as lost,” he told himself.

Climbing through one of these he soared away, glorying in the wonderful
beauties of the sunrise.

“The heavens declare the glory of God,” he repeated slowly. “And the
firmament showeth His handiwork. Day unto day uttereth speech, and night
unto night showeth knowledge.”

If we could read half the things written in the skies we’d be mighty
wise, he thought. After that for quite some time he sailed on, not
thinking much about anything, just storing up energy for what lay ahead.
And he was to need all the energy and wisdom he possessed.

He had covered the greater part of the distance to his destination, had
picked out the island on which he believed his friends to be marooned,
and was heading straight for it when he began to hear a strange, low,
screaming noise.

“Rats!” he exclaimed. “Something’s wrong with my motor!”

Shutting off the gas, he glided silently downward, but still that
strange sound reached his ears.

“Not my motor,” he thought, sending his ship shooting forward once more.
“That’s the queerest thing I ever heard.”

Puzzled and disturbed by this strange phenomenon, he gave his ship a
fresh burst of speed and headed straight for his island goal.

With every second the peculiar howling sound, which at first was little
more than a whistle, increased until it was like a fire alarm.

Thirty seconds had not passed before an airplane such as he had never
seen came shooting out of a large cloud to go darting across his path.

“Lost its propeller,” was his first thought. “It will crash into the
sea.”

When suddenly the plane banked sharply, began to climb, and then came
darting at him like a hornet, his astonishment knew no bounds.

He was a good pilot. There were few better, and he had a cool head.
Giving his ship all the gas it would take, he shot down in a vertical
dive.

With plenty of altitude between his plane and the water, he was safe for
a second but what would happen after? A glimpse of the plane as it shot
across the sky above him told that it carried no markings. “Nobody’s
plane,” he thought. “A flying Dutchman of the sky.”

Hardly had he thought this than he realized that, circling like a
darting humming bird, the ship was preparing to come at him again.

This time he resolved that in a way he should hold his ground. Dropping
a few hundred yards he banked hard in an attempt to come up beneath the
plane for a try at a burst of fire. But when he reached the spot the
ship was some distance away.

“Such speed!” he muttered. “Wonder if she’s armed?”

Vain question. A burst of slugs swept across the sky. Holes appeared in
his right wing.

“Declaration of war!” he shouted. “Well, then, I accept the challenge.”
He began an all but vertical climb to get above them in the hope of
dropping on their tail.

“If that creation has a tail,” he thought with a touch of desperation.
“A regular headless horse of the air! No propeller, a sound like a
siren. What can you expect?”

One thing he could expect was speed. They were after him and climbing
like the wind. They were nearly upon his tail before he knew it.

Banking sharply to the left, he went into a terrific dive. As he flashed
past them they fired from some swinging gun, and missed.

“I’ll make the island before they get me or crash,” he swore to himself.
Then he saw a cloud. It was just ahead of him, not large, but at least a
haven. He darted into it, and for the moment was safe.

But the enemy was persistent. The freak began crisscrossing the cloud.
Circle as he might, Ted could not quite escape contact. There came the
_rat-tat-tat_ of machine-gun fire.

“Shooting at my shadow,” Ted guessed. “That’s a game two can play.” Ten
seconds later, catching a dark streak passing through the misty cloud,
he released a burst of fire. The shriek of the enemy plane changed
instantly. Had he registered a hit? He dared hope so.

But the fight was not over. The wild terror still circled, its shriek
becoming sharper and more piercing each instant.

“There never was such a plane as that,” Ted mused desperately. “It’s
supernatural, an inhuman thing, the work of no man, but of the devil
himself. I’ll dive and keep right on going, level off at last, and land
on the sea. It’s my only chance.”

Going into a steep dive, he found himself almost at once in bright,
tropical sunlight. The change was startling. Like going to a party with
no clothes on, he thought.

He went straight on down, and the shrieker followed him.

For ten desperate seconds he skimmed over the sea. Then he hit
it—_bump—bump—bump_. He taxied along at last. Having shut off his motor
before his plane was at a standstill, he pushed back his hood and
plunged into the sea.

He was not an instant too soon, for again came the rattle of the
machine-gun fire. The enemy was shooting up his plane on the sea, trying
to kill him while he was down. Ted, for the moment, was safe enough. He
had gone beneath the surface.

When he came up blowing, he saw the screamer circle for another try.
Then an amazing thing happened. Some heavy object came hurtling down
from the enemy plane.

“What is it?” he asked himself. Then, “Good grief! It’s a man!”

The body hit the water with killing force, if indeed the man was not
already dead. It sank from sight.

“The dirty dogs!” Ted exclaimed, when his head had ceased whirling.
“They tried to kill me after I’d made a crash landing! Looks like one of
them got paid off, though.”



                              CHAPTER XXI
                      MARY BROWN FROM THE U. S. A.


Jack and Stew had heard Ted’s battle with the jet plane without seeing
it. They had become tremendously excited but were unable to do anything
about it.

Before Ted’s adventure began, Jack was just sitting up, rubbing his eyes
sleepily after only three hours of rest. He said:

“Life on this island has become impossible. There are five of those
beasts against us. They have machine guns and plenty of ammunition. We
have automatics with just the slugs that were in their chambers when we
arrived.”

“There are the natives,” Stew suggested.

“Those Germans and Japs would mow them down like grass,” was the quick
reply. “It will be better for the natives if they’re never discovered.”

“They’ll be discovered all right,” Stew declared. “You can’t hide for
long on this island. It’s too small. I’m surprised that those fellows
haven’t hunted us down long before this,” he added.

“Well, they won’t do that just yet.” Jack drew in a deep breath of
relief. “There they go, or at least the Germans must be leaving. If they
go we should be able to handle the Japs.” He had caught the low whistle
rising into a scream that told of the jet plane’s departure.

“If only I could get my hands on that baby!” Jack exclaimed, thinking of
the jet plane. “I’d fly her right to the deck of the old _Black Bee_.”

“And get yourself good and shot up by your own pals,” Stew laughed.
“There’s no mark of identification on that jet plane.”

“That’s right,” Jack admitted. “But she does carry a radio. I’d announce
my arrival.”

“Well, you haven’t got her yet. You—”

Stew stopped suddenly to listen. Jack cocked his head on one side. Back
of the high-pitched scream of the departing jet plane they could hear
the low roar of an approaching plane of quite another character.

“That’s Ted!” Jack exclaimed. “Great Scott! I hope he doesn’t meet that
jet plane!”

“Be a swell fight. Ted is really good. I’d like to see that fight.”
Stew’s eyes shone.

“Yes, Ted is good, all right,” Jack admitted. “But something tells me
that jet plane is a natural for fighting. It’s got amazing speed.
Besides, I’ll bet it’s as easy to handle as a bicycle.”

Three minutes later they went racing for the rocky beach. The silence of
their island had been torn to bits by the rasping _rat—tat—tat_ of
machine-gun fire. Since it came from the sea they guessed that Ted had
met the jet plane.

“That wasn’t Ted’s gun,” Stew said.

“No, it wasn’t.” Jack agreed solemnly.

The wind was toward the island. A large cloud hid the battle, but every
sound of it came to them. Jack could picture it all in his mind. Ted’s
effort to gain the advantage, the terrible speed of his enemy, the flash
of fire, the dip of wings, the sudden downward plunges and the upward
sweeps in an effort to get on top—all this came to his mind.

With lips parted and hearts pounding, Jack and Stew stood there in
silence, listening. They knew from the thunder and scream of the planes
just what was going on. “It’s as if a pilot in a man-made plane were
fighting with one of those prehistoric flying reptiles,” Jack murmured
huskily.

“Reptiles all right,” was Stew’s comment, “but not prehistoric.”

Jack held his breath as he heard Ted make his dash for that smaller
cloud. He understood perfectly that Ted was heading for the surface of
the sea when he took his final plunge and sensed, with a deep pang of
regret, that the end of the fight had come.

When once again they heard the short, sharp, rattle of the jet plane’s
gun, both Jack and Stew knew that there must still be something left on
the water to shoot at—realized, too, what sort of fighter this jet plane
fellow was, and at once vowed vengeance.

The two boys had stood in silence as the jet plane sailed away. Not a
word was said until the screamer’s motor was silenced for a landing on
the island. Then Stew muttered, “The dirty coward!”

Nothing more was said as they walked slowly back to their camp. So
downcast were they that they failed to notice the smell of wood smoke
rising from their fireplace. Nor did they see the figure standing by the
fire until a voice said, “Good morning.”

Startled, they looked up to see the slim girl from the native village.

“Your breakfast is served,” she said cheerfully, pointing to a wooden
bowl filled with hot fried chicken, a board on which steaming cakes
rested, and a big pot of coffee.

“Well!” said Jack, smiling in spite of his disappointment and grief.
“This really is a fine surprise!”

“Japs,” said the girl, picking up the bowl of chicken, “have an
unpleasant habit of ambushing people and shooting them in the back. How
about a little seclusion?”

“Suits me.” Jack picked up the tray of cakes. “It’s been a long time
since I had fried chicken for breakfast. Let’s not be interrupted.”

Stew followed them with the coffee as they hiked away.

In a shady, well-hidden spot among the palms, the girl spread broad palm
leaves for a table.

“Now,” she laughed. “Make a long arm and help yourselves.”

“Where’d you get that expression?” Jack demanded.

“I think,” her brown eyes twinkled, “that it was in Kentucky.”

“Kentucky?” Jack exclaimed. “Then you—”

“Sure!” she laughed. “You’re getting warm now.” She pulled wads of palm
fiber from her nostrils and from under her lips. They had been put there
to make her nostrils seem wider and thicker. Then she drew a small
bottle from a pocket in her native belt to rub the brown from the backs
of her hands.

“So you’re an American!” Stew exclaimed.

“Just plain Mary Brown from the U. S. A.,” she said proudly.

“Great Scott!” Stew exclaimed. “How’d you get here, anyway, and what’s
the meaning of the disguise?”

“It’s a long story.” She hesitated. “I’d tell it to you now, but first,
you tell me if you can, what that shooting was about out there on the
water?”

“That,” Jack’s face grew tense, “that was a friend of ours named Ted who
tried to rescue us.”

“And he was shot down by the Germans in the jet plane?” Mary Brown
asked.

“That’s what we think,” Jack replied soberly.

“Why don’t you try to rescue him?” she asked.

“Probably he’s past rescuing. Those fiends shot him up while he was on
the water.” Jack’s words came slowly. “Besides, we have no boat, no
plane, nothing.”

“You forget the native canoes,” she said.

“Say! That’s right!” Jack exclaimed. “Would the natives help us?”

“They’ll do anything I say. Besides, it will be a good thing to put them
to work just now.”

“Why?” Jack asked in surprise.

“I’m trying to keep them from knowing there are Japs on the island,”
said Mary. “They hate the Japs worse than snakes. Not long ago a Jap
torpedo boat came across a big canoe loaded with these natives and
killed every one of them, for no reason at all.”

“Come on! Hurry!” Stew exclaimed, swallowing half a cup of black coffee.
“Let’s get out there and have a look for Ted. He’s the best pal we ever
had, and if those fiends got him—” He did not finish, but the others
understood.

By the time they had rounded up three stout canoes manned by husky
natives and made their way around the end of the island, the large
morning clouds had dropped to water level and become rain squalls.

“This is terrible!” Jack groaned. “We’ll never find him now.”

“You don’t know these natives.” Mary Brown settled back in the stern.
“They can find any living thing on the sea.”

“It will be keen if they find Ted and his plane in this rain,” said
Stew. “That way, if his plane is still afloat, we can tow it ashore and
hide it in some cove without being seen by the Japs or the Germans. And
then! Boy! If that plane can be made to fly we’ll leave your little old
island, Mary Brown, and we’ll take you along!”

“That sounds wonderful to me,” she laughed. “I’ll become the mascot of
your carrier, or maybe its jinx.”

“I’m leaving the island in that jet plane.” Jack did not laugh.

“How will you manage it?” Mary asked soberly.

“Don’t know yet,” Jack admitted. “But you wait! We’ll manage it some
way. It just has to be done!”

In a surprisingly short time Mary had her natives in their canoes around
the end of the island and ready to undertake the search.



                              CHAPTER XXII
                            STAR OF THE MIST


For an hour, with the brown natives bending their stout backs to send
the canoes shooting forward, they glided along through the mist. It was
not raining hard—only a fine spray coming down. They were soaked to the
skin, but no one minded that for the air was warm.

Jack really enjoyed it. For a time at least they were free from danger.
The war seemed unreal and far away. It was as if they had left it behind
forever, and he almost wished he had!

He thought of the folks at home, of his father working harder than ever
because there was a war, of his mother doing her own work, helping the
Red Cross and selling bonds in a booth on Saturdays. It was all very
strange how a war started by a few very stupid men could change the
lives of more than half the people in the world—strange and terrible.

“Look!” Mary exclaimed suddenly. “A star!”

“Where?” Jack looked up.

“Not up. Over there!” she pointed.

“You wouldn’t see a star through the mist in the daytime. You must be
dreaming,” Jack protested.

“But look! Look closely! It’s rather faint, but quite real. A white
star!” She was leaning forward, straining her eyes as if looking for a
vision.

“Yes,” he agreed at last. “I see it.”

“Star of hope,” she murmured. “If you’d lived on that island for two
years as I have, you’d know what that means.”

“Two years! You haven’t been there that long! It’s impossible!” He
stared at her in unbelief.

“Is it?” She laughed. “In this war anything is possible. Listen!” Her
face tensed with memories. “I was on Corregidor when we surrendered to
those terrible Japs.”

“Corregidor?” Jack gasped. “Corregidor in the Philippines? Say!” His
voice dropped. “That’s where the _Black Bee_, our carrier, is headed for
next.”

“Corregidor!” It was her turn to stare.

“Well, not Corregidor just yet, but the Philippines—Mindanao, to be
exact.”

“Oh! Take me with you!” she exclaimed softly.

“We’re not on board ship yet,” he smiled. “We’re just hoping. But say!”
he exclaimed. “How’d you ever get way over here? Tell me about it, will
you?”

“Yes, sure I will.” She leaned forward. “I was a nurse, and just before
the surrender I was told by a native that one of my best friends lay in
a boathouse somewhere along the shore. He was a flier and had been badly
wounded.

“I slipped away to find him.” She drew in a deep breath. “I found him
and did what I could. He lived six hours.” She paused to gaze away at
the sea.

“And in the meantime the fortress was surrendered?” Jack suggested.

“Yes.” She went on. “That same native came all the way to tell me. They
were wonderful, those Filipinos!” She paused again, to stare away at the
white star that every moment grew closer.

“And then?” Jack prompted.

“The native told me that my friend’s seaplane, all gassed and ready, lay
hidden in a tiny bay among the mango trees. I went there. I could fly,
not too well, but enough to keep going. I climbed in, started the motor,
then flew away from all that terror.” She shuddered.

“I headed for America. Of course,” she laughed, a sort of choking laugh,
“I knew I couldn’t make it, not all the way, but I did want to be nearer
home if I had to die. You know—”

“Yes,” Jack whispered. He knew. Every homesick American boy in all this
vast Pacific knew.

“I kept going,” she continued. “I don’t know how many hours I flew. Then
my gas ran low. The sun was bright. I dropped down low to discover a
dark speck on a broad sea. It was a large native canoe. I landed close
to them. It was my only chance.”

“They took me in and brought me here. There had been missionaries on the
island, but they were gone. They liked me, those natives, because I
could roast a pig just right and make fine cakes,” she laughed.

“Because the Japs might come at any time, the natives painted me up,
dyed my hair, and made me the daughter of the chief. And now,” she drew
in a long breath, “here I am.”

“Yes, and look!” Jack pointed. “There’s your lucky star. It’s on the
side of Ted’s plane. It’s going to bring luck to you after all.”

He had spoken the truth. The star that had shone through the fog was the
white star on a blue circle that identifies American planes.

Their boatmen gave a few more lusty strokes, and they were alongside.

And there, sitting on the fuselage grinning at them, was Ted.

“I start out to rescue you.” He laughed. “And now look! You come to
rescue me and my plane!”

“Is your plane badly damaged?” Jack asked anxiously.

“Not so far as I can see.” Ted slid down into the canoe. “She’s got a
few slugs in her. Her tail needs a bit of trimming. Three or four hours’
work should put her in shape.”

“Then why didn’t you taxi in?” Jack asked.

“Taxi? Move? Make a noise? Say!” Ted laughed hoarsely. “If you’d been
attacked by a flying freak as I was, you wouldn’t even dare to breathe!”

“The jet plane got you,” Stew put in. “That’s what I thought.”

“The what plane?” Ted stared.

“The jet plane,” Jack grinned. “It’s pushed about by a jet of hot
kerosene blown up into gas and mixed with air. We know all about it.”

“Have you been flying it?” Ted questioned. “Perhaps that was you flying
it today! Well, if it was, I think I got your pal.”

“You’re not serious?” said Jack.

“Sure, I am. At least about that fellow falling out of the thing,” Ted
grinned. “I got in a burst of fire back there in a cloud. Then when they
came down to shoot me on the water, this Jerry tumbled out. I sort of
figured he’d been hit and had gone crazy, or something.”

“That’s good news!” Stew exclaimed. “There were two Germans and three
Japs. Now there’s only one German. We should be able to handle them.
They—”

“Jap—Jappie!” a grizzled giant among the boatmen broke in excitedly.
“You think Jappie on our island?”

“Sure, there are!” Stew insisted. “Three Japs.”

“What you think, Mary Brown?” The old man turned to the girl. “Jappie on
our island? Maybe this boy he lie. What you think?”

“He isn’t lying,” Mary said in a steady voice. “Three Japs came on that
plane last time.”

“Why you not tell me? I go kill them!” There was an angry and puzzled
look on the aged native’s face.

“That’s just it.” Mary smiled soothingly at the old man. “You would have
tried to kill them. They would have killed you. They have machine guns.
You must not die, for you are my father.”

“By-um-by I kill ’em.” The old man settled back in his place. “They not
kill me. You see.”

By this time Ted was looking from one speaker to another and then back
at Jack.

“What’s all this?” he asked in a low tone.

“Well, first of all,” Jack put a hand on Mary’s shoulder, “let me
introduce Nurse Mary Brown. She’s a native of the South Sea Islands from
Ohio.”

“Kentucky,” the girl corrected.

That called for a lot of explaining. Jack was only half through when
Mary exclaimed:

“Those beasts must have winged you!” She pointed to a splotch of blood
on Ted’s sleeve.

“Only a flesh wound, really nothing.” He tried to toss it off. “I didn’t
even feel it at the time. I’ve sort of got it fixed up.”

“That may be,” said Mary, moving toward him. “But where I come from
wounds don’t stay ‘sort of fixed up.’ That’s too dangerous.”

Producing a small first-aid kit from beneath her native dress, she went
to work.

“I’m going to get this war paint off as soon as I can,” she confided to
Ted as she worked. From the tone of her voice Jack guessed that Ted had
made a hit.

“You look swell just as you are,” Ted joked. “I doubt if I could stand
seeing you all whitened up and dressed in a nurse’s uniform.”

“You’ll see me that way all right,” was her reply. “I’ve got my uniform
safely hidden away beneath a palm.”

“Huh!” Jack thought. “One more perfectly good mystery all shot to
pieces!”

For all this, he realized that life at the battle front had not lost its
interest. Mystery and adventure still lay before him.

Many questions remained to be answered. How had it happened that two men
who seemed to be British left the island in the jet plane, and five—two
Germans and three Japs—came back? Were those first two men Germans
posing as Britishers? Could they be renegade Britishers, traitors to
their country? Or were they loyal to their country, and had the jet
plane been stolen from them?

One more thing Jack wanted to know. Who had manufactured that plane? In
the scrapbook there had been articles in four languages, so it could
easily have come from any of these lands. Of one thing he was certain.
Give him a chance at it and he would fly that plane, first thing. And
did he want to try it? Oh man! Did he!

“Suppose it’s a German plane of a design unknown to the Allies, what a
scoop it would be if I could drop it down on the deck of the old _Black
Bee_,” he thought. “Even if it were an American-built plane, I would be
performing a great service if I snatched it from the enemy before they
had used it as a model.” Yes, he must have that plane!

But first, he thought with a start, we’ve got to get Ted and his plane
ashore before this mist clears and that jet plane fellow is out after
us.

“How about getting this plane over to the island?” he demanded.

“All right. We got canoes. We pull ’em. No fly ’em,” said the Chief.
“You fly ’em pretty soon.”

“He got the idea,” Ted agreed. “Let’s go.”

Lines were attached to the plane; then with a low chant the natives were
paddling in perfect rhythm and drawing the plane silently toward the
island.



                             CHAPTER XXIII
                          HOT CANNIBAL RIVETS


Ted’s plane was heavy, a dead weight in the water. Progress toward the
island was slow, but the protecting screen of mist held on. Noon came,
and Mary produced cold meat sandwiches and bananas for their lunch.

As Jack watched her give a banana to the monkey perched on her shoulder,
he caught the gleam of the chain and the tag the monkey wore about his
neck.

“Oh!” he exclaimed. “That’s _your_ dog tag the monk is wearing!”

“Sure,” she flashed him a smile. “What did you think?”

“Almost anything before I knew you were a white girl,” he admitted.

“I’ll bet you thought the natives had eaten me,” she laughed, “and that
all that was left of me was the dog tag.”

“That, and your white uniform,” he supplemented.

“Oh! So you saw me dig it out from its hiding place!” she accused him.
“Aren’t you ashamed, spying on a lady while she tries on a new dress?”

“It wasn’t too shocking. Besides, you were just one more dusky maiden,
and still are.” He touched her dark cheek.

“All that will change,” she replied soberly. Then recited:

  Turn, turn my wheel.
  All things must change.
  The blue eggs in the robin’s nest
  Will soon have wings and beak and breast and flutter and fly away.

“Robins and appleblossoms and home,” Jack murmured huskily. “Glorious
thought! But I say! You’d better get that dog tag back on your neck, for
we are once more on our way to war, and unless I miss my guess our next
stop will be the Philippines.”

“Oh! The Philippines! Lead me to them!” she exclaimed, unsnapping the
dog-tag chain from the monkey’s neck.

It was midafternoon by the time the natives had dragged Ted’s plane
between towering rocks to a small, well-hidden cove where they might
make needed repairs unmolested.

“We’ve got to get out of here just as soon as we can.” Ted’s brow
wrinkled. “Look! I’ve got a chart that shows the course our task force
is taking.”

“Wouldn’t the Japs like to get their hands on that!” Mary whispered when
he had the chart spread out on a rock.

“Well, they won’t. I’ll eat it first.” Ted was deeply in earnest. “Look.
This is the way they are going.”

“Straight away from here,” said Jack.

“And straight for Mindanao.” Mary danced a jig. “Please! Oh, please take
me along!”

“We’ll all go—or none,” Jack said seriously. “But we’d better get busy
or we’ll never catch up with our task force.”

All three boys pitched into the task of examining and overhauling Ted’s
plane. At length Jack came up with a very long face.

“You must have hit the water mighty hard, Ted,” he said soberly.

“Well, yes, I suppose I did,” Ted replied. “I don’t remember that part
of the adventure very well. When you’ve been chased all over the sky by
a plane that’s a freak and faster than anything you’ve ever seen on land
or in the air, you’re not likely to notice a tough landing. Why? What’s
the matter?”

“Matter enough!” said Jack. “Your right wing is half torn away. Some of
the rivets are actually gone. Many more are loose. You’ll never get me
up in this kite, not until a lot of work has been done on it.”

“Great guns!” Stew exploded. “We’ll never catch up with the _Black Bee_
now! And that means we miss the big show!”

“There’s that jet plane,” Jack suggested.

“Yes, sure!” Stew scoffed. “And who’s got it? Two Germans, three Japs,
and two machine guns!”

“One German, I think,” said Ted. “I’m positive that one of them fell or
jumped from the plane. I saw him hit the water. Still,” he added slowly,
“there are four of them, and with machine guns—that’s a lot.”

“What do you need for fixing the plane?” Mary asked.

“Rivets,” said Jack. “Hot rivets. Got any in your outfit?”

“We might have.” The girl did not smile. “I’ll ask my dusky godfather.”
She hurried down to the canoes, where the natives were having a sun
bath.

The boys could see her talking to the men. They found it interesting and
amusing. She would ask a question of the Chief. At once they would all
explode into wild talk. This would die down abruptly. Then the Chief
would say a few words to Mary.

This was repeated a dozen times. Then she came rushing back.

“Yes,” she said, “we have hot rivets, copper ones, this big.” She held
up an inch-long section of wood. “Will they do?”

“Nothing better,” said Ted. “But, I say—”

He did not say it, for she was away like a flash and ten seconds later
the natives in their canoes were making the foam fly.

“Can you beat that!” Stew exclaimed. “Hot copper rivets in a cannibal
village!”

“I can’t,” said Ted. “But I believe we’ll get them all the same.”

And they did. Not half an hour had passed when the girl and her dusky
crew once more entered the harbor.

“Great Scott!” Stew exclaimed at sight of their heavily laden canoes.
“Where’d you get all that equipment?”

“I think we have all it takes,” Mary said, smiling.

“You certainly have!” Jack exclaimed. “A portable forge with coal to
fire it, a vise, an anvil, and all sorts of tools. Where did they come
from?”

“Let’s not go into that now,” Mary replied in a most professional
manner. “It was my understanding that you were in a great rush.”

“Sure! Of course, we are!” the boys agreed.

“Well, then, let’s get busy.” She motioned her men to unload.

“We don’t have rivets,” she went on, “but we do have several sizes of
copper pipes and these boys will make you the finest rivets you ever
saw—any size—any length.”

That this was no idle boast the boys soon discovered, for in an
incredibly short time the forge was glowing and the anvil ringing.

“I only hope those Japs don’t hear that noise.” Jack’s brow wrinkled.

“They won’t,” was Mary’s reply, “for there’s a high stone wall between
them and us. But if they did, and came over here without their machine
guns, we would be a match for them. My natives took their rifles from
hiding. There are six of them with good rifles. And believe me, they can
shoot!”

With the natives to forge out hot copper rivets of just the right size
and the young airmen to hammer them into place, the work progressed
rapidly.

So busy were the boys that they failed to miss Mary Brown, who had
slipped away almost at once. They failed, too, to note that night was
falling.

“Three more rivets,” Ted breathed, “and we’re through. What luck!”

At that instant Mary appeared at the crest of a huge rock. Without
speaking, she beckoned to Jack.

When he reached her side he realized that she was greatly excited.

“Tell them you’re going with me,” she whispered. “Say you’ll be right
back.”

Jack told them. They assured him that they could finish the job by
themselves in jigtime. Then they’d have a bite to eat.

As Mary and Jack vanished over a low ridge she said in a low, tense
voice:

“You said you’d like to fly the jet plane away.”

“Would I!”

She gripped his arm to silence him. “There is just a chance that you
might if only—”

“If only what?”

“If only you could beat that Nazi to the controls.”

“But the Japs?”

“That’s all right,” she whispered. “The natives were roasting pork. The
Japs smelled it. They like pork. So they came over with their rifles and
took over the village. The men were with you. If they hadn’t been, there
might have been trouble. I told the women to feed them and give them
coffee. They put a powder in the coffee. The Japs will fall asleep.”

“Great! But the German?” Jack asked.

“That’s what you’ve got to find out right now. It’s not far. We’ll be
there in ten minutes—I mean to the ridge—looking down on the plane.”

“And then?” Jack caught his breath.

“Then we can decide what is to be done.”

After that they walked on in silence. Only once Jack whispered,
“Listen!”

They stood still listening.

“What was it?” she whispered.

“I thought I heard a motor, not like a plane motor, but one on a boat.
Guess I was mistaken.”

Once again they moved forward in the growing dusk.



                              CHAPTER XXIV
                            TWILIGHT BATTLE


They came at last to the crest of the ledge hanging over the spot where
the jet plane rested on the rock beside the sea. Since the surface of
the ledge sloped, it was possible for them to remain some thirty feet
from the brink of the hundred-foot drop and still see the plane.

Jack would have walked to the brink of the cliff for a clearer view, but
Mary pulled him back.

“Wait!” she whispered. “It is still light. If that man is down there he
may see you. You’d stand out against the sky. Sit down here. We’ll watch
to see if anything moves down there. There’s a steep path round this
ledge. We can reach the jet plane in two minutes.” She pulled him to a
seat beside her.

“There’s no one down there,” Jack said in a low voice after half a
minute of silence. “This is my chance. We might as well go down.”

“No! Wait!” the girl insisted.

A minute passed—two—three minutes. Jack was restless. Darkness was
throwing thin shadows over the plane, half hiding it.

He rose and walked almost to the brink of the cliff and stood there
staring down.

“There’s no one,” he called softly without turning. “We’ll go down.”

At that instant a bulky figure shot past the girl and straight at Jack.
Only the girl’s quick, piercing scream saved the young flier. Turning
quickly, Jack threw out his arms to meet the man head on and to bring
him crashing to earth close to the brink.

Realizing his perilous position, Jack fought desperately. He was no mean
fighter.

His opponent was larger and older than he and slower in his movements.
The battle raged over the surface of the cliff. Now they were close to
the ledge, now away. Now Jack was up, and now down again. This man was a
beast. Once he bit Jack’s finger to the bone. He tried to knock him
senseless by banging his head on the rocks. Jack’s head was hard, but
this beating made him groggy.

It was then that the big man snatched a knife from its sheath to kill
Jack. His hand was up. The end appeared certain now. But suddenly
something hard crashed against that upraised arm. The knife rang as it
hit the rocks.

The stout hardwood club swung by the plucky girl—that for the moment had
saved Jack’s life—did not stop with the knife. It came crashing down on
the German’s head.

Stunned, the big fellow staggered to his feet, made a lunge at Mary, and
lost his balance. He fell to the rocky surface and started to roll
slowly down the slope. Ten seconds later he had disappeared over the
edge of the cliff.

“Wha—what happened?” Jack rose groggily.

“No ma—matter what happened.” The girl was a bit shaky. “Come on back
and sit down.”

“Wh—where is he?” Jack stammered.

“He’s gone for good. Come on,” she urged.

They returned to the shadows. Having regained his vantage point, Jack
rubbed his battered head. “I must have practically gone out,” he
murmured. “What happened to that Nazi?”

“Plenty!” said Mary. “But nothing he did not deserve. Besides, this is
war, and war is—”

“No picnic.” Jack was himself again.

“How do you feel?” she asked.

He stood up, balanced himself for a moment, then went through the
motions of skipping a rope.

“You’ll do.” She sprang to her feet. “We haven’t a moment to lose. Come
on!”

Jack followed her over the steep, uncertain trail. Since she was
barefoot, native style, her feet appeared to cling to the rocks. From
time to time she gripped his hands to whisper, “This is a bad spot.”

And then they were on the level rock, racing for the plane.

“Are you sure?” Jack hesitated with his hand on the jet plane.

“Yes, sure!” she whispered. “He fell too far. Couldn’t possibly bother
us now. I’ll send the natives to look him up later. But now, please
hurry!”

She joined him in climbing to the plane’s top. While Jack dropped into
the pilot’s place, she swung down into the gunner’s seat.

“Why!” she exclaimed in a whisper. “This is an American twinflex gun!
I’ve fired them often!”

“Is it loaded?” Jack asked anxiously.

“Sure is.”

“That’s good. Keep a sharp lookout. Don’t shoot unless it is absolutely
necessary.”

“Trust me!”

He did trust her, more than she knew.

After pulling down his canopy he switched on a pale light. “Just like my
old scout plane,” he murmured.

As he studied the instruments and controls his amazement grew. At last
he exclaimed in a hoarse whisper, “This is an American plane, every bit
of it. The instruments even have the makers’ trade marks on them. How do
you account for that?”

“I don’t,” said the girl.

Cautiously Jack tried out the controls. He set the motor whispering,
that was all. He released the brakes. They glided forward three or four
yards. He clamped on the brakes again.

As he tested the instruments Mary whispered:

“Someone’s coming down the trail. I heard a rock rolling down.”

“Good grief!” came back in a hoarse whisper. “The Japs! We may have to
light out just as we are! I’m practically ready to give it a try!”

“Wait,” she whispered. “I haven’t said good-by to the natives. They’ve
really been wonderful.”

“Yes, but—” Jack did not finish. That’s a woman for you! he thought.

“I will wipe out the Japs if I must.” She turned the machine gun
noiselessly.

“That’s the thing to do.”

“Yes, but I must be sure first. It might be— There!” Her whisper rose.
“I saw one of them duck into the shadows.”

“Let them come on out into the open so you can get all three. We can’t—”

He stopped short. From the foot of the rocky cliff had come the call of
a parakeet where no parakeet should be.

“Thank goodness!” Jack exclaimed. “That’s Stew! Phew! What a close
call!”

Pushing back his hood he answered the call. A moment later Stew was
climbing to Jack’s side.

“What’s up?” he demanded. “What’s happened, anyway? I thought you’d been
killed, and here—”

“You didn’t miss it by much,” Jack broke in. “Now you’re here, let’s
forget the talking and get this jet plane into the air.”

“I’m staying here!” Mary declared.

“Oh! Must you?” Deep consternation was registered by Jack’s voice.

“I must.” Her voice was husky. “But not for long. I’ll come with Ted.”

“If he doesn’t beat you to the gun,” said Jack.

“He won’t do that,” Stew broke in. “He told me to hurry. He’s all set,
but said he would wait unless he was driven off by the Japs.”

“Not much chance of that,” Mary laughed lightly. “The Jappies are being
royally entertained by my friends, and after that—well, you fill in the
picture.

“So long!” She was on the rock. “It’s nice having known you.”

“We’ll see you in the air and on the deck of the _Black Bee_.” Jack gave
the ship the gun. The plane whistled. He released the brakes. She slid
into the sea. Giving her another spurt, he felt her rise into the air.

“We’ve got plenty of fuel,” he said to Stew. “We’ll just circle a bit
and see if we can pick up Ted and that girl.”

“That’s the best thing to do,” was Stew’s comment. “I’ll feel a lot
easier if Ted hits the old _Black Bee’s_ deck ahead of us.”

“And sort of prepare the gang for this freak,” said Jack. “Not a bad
idea.”



                              CHAPTER XXV
                           JACK’S NEW GUNNER


In the meantime Ted was growing impatient. Having taxied his plane
through the gap into the open sea, he had made a practice run and found
her perfect. Then he had sent the plane gliding back into hiding.

But what had become of Jack and Mary, and now Stew? When he heard the
wail of the jet plane he feared the worst. They had been killed or taken
prisoner. Only the fact that six husky natives armed with powerful
rifles were hidden away in the shadows beyond his small harbor kept him
there.

Then suddenly he heard a loud “Yoo—hoo! Yoo—hoo! I’m here! Taxi over!”
He recognized the voice. It was Mary.

When he slid in close to a flat rock he found her surrounded by a score
of natives. She was embracing them and calling them pet names as if they
were her brothers and sisters.

At last, grabbing up a battered overnight bag and Jack’s violin, she
called out a native word that Ted thought must mean “good-by,” then made
a flying leap for his left wing, which very nearly touched the rock.

From the rock came a roar of farewells. Then two bronze giants leaped
into the water to push the plane away.

Ted set his motor roaring, slowed it to a crawl, then sent his fighter
gliding out onto the moonlit sea.

A moment later, like wild birds separated for a time, two planes—one a
fighter, the other a freak—came close to one another, then streaked away
toward the western night skies.

Ted was in the lead. From time to time Jack banked this way and that,
testing the jet plane. He went into a short spiral, then righted the
plane to climb back into position.

“Boy!” he exclaimed. “This is the smoothest flying kite I ever hope to
see!”

He wanted to tilt her nose and aim at the stars, to try out the plane in
the stratosphere, but he could not be sure of the oxygen, and besides,
he did not wish to lose contact with Ted. Ted had the chart showing the
course the task force was taking. It would be easy to become lost on the
vast Pacific, to run out of gas and fall into the sea. What a climax to
an exciting adventure that would be!

The sky had cleared. The moon shone in all its glory. “No trouble
finding the task force on such a night,” he said to Stew.

“None at all,” Stew agreed.

They zoomed along until Jack’s dial indicated that they had passed the
halfway mark in their journey. Should overtake the _Black Bee_ in
another hour at the most, he thought.

Meanwhile in the plane ahead a transformation was taking place. The
battered overnight bag that Mary had taken aboard contained all the
small civilian articles she had possessed before leaving Corregidor—also
her nurse’s uniform.

While Ted watched his instruments, consulted his chart, and thought of
many things, her fingers had been busy. First, to be sure, she had
performed quite an unfeminine duty—she had studied the swinging machine
gun before her, making sure that it was properly loaded and that, if
necessity demanded, she could do her full duty by it.

Then she had turned to lighter tasks. A bottle of dye-remover, which had
been furnished her, came first. This made her white again. After this
came face cream, a manicure set, and cosmetics.

When this was done, by worming and wriggling like a snake coming out of
its skin, she succeeded in completing her transformation from a South
Sea native to an Army Nurse. That the transformation was quite complete
was proven by the “For Pete’s sake!” that exploded from Ted’s lips when
at last, having solved all the problems of the universe, he turned to
see if she were really there.

“Smile!” he commanded. She smiled.

“That’s swell. Thanks,” he exclaimed. “I just wanted to see if you were
real.”

He was to know much more about that a few moments later.

“Listen! I think I hear the roar of a heavy plane!” Mary exclaimed
suddenly.

Ted listened. The drone of his own motor was in his ears. He heard
nothing else. “Guess you imagined that,” he said. “Strange things happen
to you in the sky. There are mirages of sound as well as of sight.”

She made no reply. The steady drumming was still in her ears. She was
tired. It had been a long, exciting day. She wondered vaguely what they
would do with her when she got aboard the _Black Bee_, if she ever did.
She hoped there was a tiny cabin where she could sleep forever and ever.
Thinking of this, she nearly fell asleep when Ted exclaimed:

“Look at that! The light of the moon blinked out and there’s not a cloud
in the sky!”

“But it’s on now!” she laughed.

“Yes, it came right back, but—”

“There!” she exclaimed. “It’s off again! No! Now it’s on—”

Ted did not answer. He was beginning to think he knew what was up. He
hoped the moon would blink again. And he was not disappointed.

“Look at the moon! Quick!” He was all excited.

“It’s out!” she protested.

“Look closer! There’s a Jap snooper between us and the moon. Now it’s
below the moon! Once you get it spotted, you can see it anywhere.”

“What’s a Jap snooper?” she asked.

“A big four-motored flying boat looking for a U. S. convoy.”

“Oh!” she breathed. “We have to get that one, don’t we?”

“I’ll say we do! Wonder if Jack’s radio works?” Then, “No matter. Don’t
dare call him. We’ll get after that snooper alone.”

The girl’s hair seemed to rise and stand up like a fuzzy-wuzzy’s, but
she was game. “Get them!” she hissed. She was thinking of the horrors of
Corregidor and Bataan.

Giving his ship the gun, keeping an eye on the giant’s shadow, Ted began
to climb. The big ship was slow. They gained rapidly. At just the right
moment Ted came racing down upon the snooper. They were almost upon it
when Ted let out a burst of murderous fire.

He shot past the big ship, swung back, felt his way until the snooper
was again between him and the moon, then went straight at her. Again at
very close range he pressed the firing button. But what was this? The
gun fired a few shots, then jammed.

“Bum outfit—not my ship nor my gun,” he groaned.

All of a sudden, to his astonishment, he caught the _rat—tat—tat_ of a
gun behind him. It was Mary. They were passing beneath the enemy. She
was firing the rear gun, straight up.

“Good girl!” he exclaimed. “Give it to them!”

Flashes of fire came from the enemy, but the shots went wild.

“We’ll swing about and meet them almost head on,” he said in a steady
voice. “I’ll dip down just in time and you give them all you’ve got.”

“I—I’ll do my darndest.” She braced herself for the ordeal.

They very nearly missed going low enough. It seemed to Ted that they
must have scraped the big boat’s keel, but Mary got in her good work.

And it was very good, for scarcely had they passed on to safety when
there was a great flash and an explosion as the giant blew up.

“Good work! Great stuff!” sounded in Ted’s ears. Jack was speaking.

“Better keep radio silence,” was Ted’s answer.

All the while Ted and Mary were engaged in the fight, Jack and Stew had
been standing by to come in if they were needed.

Stew had been all for stepping in at the very start, but Jack had ruled
against it. “We don’t know our ship, our guns, or our instruments well
enough to risk it,” was his verdict. “Besides, our capture of this
secret plane may be of more importance than we think.”

“Not much help at the bottom of the sea,” Stew agreed.

The fight over, they got back into line, then zoomed on through the
night.

Ted was astonished when at last, flying high, they sighted the white
specks on the sea that would be their task force. And a greatly
reinforced one it was.

“Three times as many fighting ships as we had before,” he said to Mary.
“Three carriers and scores of cruisers and destroyers. This is it! We’re
off to the big show!”

“This is it!” Stew was saying to Jack.

“Only part of it,” Jack replied. “We’ll pick up two other task forces.
In all there will be hundreds of ships—more than you have seen in all
your life!”

Even at that, Jack was thrilled to his fingertips at sight of this great
battle armada. “We’ll be back on the deck of the _Black Bee_ in just no
time,” he said to Stew.

“With luck we shall,” Stew agreed. “But you’d better let the gang know
that we’re coming in a freak plane that eats no gas and carries no
propeller—or they’ll be shooting us up for wild game!”

“I’ll tell Ted to take the lead,” said Jack.

So, breaking radio silence, he said:

“Go on in ahead of us and tell them who we are, Ted.”

“Right. I hope they believe me!” Ted laughed into his mike.

“Make ’em a speech, boy! Make ’em a speech!” Jack urged. “And it better
be good!”

Ted’s speech was a good one, at least good enough, for fifteen minutes
later Jack and Stew set the jet plane down quite neatly on the _Black
Bee’s_ deck.

It would have been hard to tell which created the most excitement—Jack’s
freak plane or Ted’s white girl, rescued after having spent two years on
a wild cannibal island.

Mary dropped out of the competition rather soon, for the ship’s
Commander carried her away to a late dinner such as she had not known
for two long years. Then he instructed his orderly to attend to all her
needs, and to stow her away at last in a small cabin behind the bridge,
where she might sleep as long as she pleased.

Lieutenant Commander Donald Stone had been asleep when Jack came on
board, but an hour later he came up to the flight deck. When he saw the
jet plane he stared, rubbed his eyes, and then looked again.

“Jack! How did you get it? And where?” he demanded.

So, once more Jack told his story.

“It seems almost unbelievable!” said the Commander. “Before I was
assigned to the _Black Bee_, I was sent to England to study an English
plane that was an exact duplicate of this one!”

“But this is an all-American plane, sir,” said Jack. “The maker’s name
is on each instrument.”

“That means we are considering going into production, or would be,” the
Commander corrected, “if this plane had been shipped to us for a tryout.
But now—h’m—what are we to make of it? You say the first men who flew it
seemed to be British?”

“Yes, sir, and the last two were Nazis. They even had three Japs with
them.”

“Well, anyway,” the Commander said, “we have the plane. What to do about
it, that’s the question.”

“I’d like to fly her in the big push!” Jack leaned forward eagerly.
“She’s a natural for scouting and bombing. No Zero could ever catch her.
And in the stratosphere she’d bring you home faster than the wind.”

“Tired? Had a hard day?” the Commander demanded.

“Practically just rolled out of my berth, sir,” Jack grinned.

“Then we’ll try her out right now. Night’s the time for that. We’ll not
be spotted.”

They did try the plane out. Jack went up alone at first with one pale
light showing. The Commander, watching and listening on the deck, was
sometimes on tiptoe and sometimes doing a jig as Jack put the screamer
through its paces. An ardent enthusiast was the Commander.

“Boy! What a plane!” he exclaimed the moment Jack leaped from the
cockpit. “What a kite! Have her gassed. I’ll go get my flying jacket and
we’ll go up together!”



                              CHAPTER XXVI
                     JACK’S JET PLANE WINS ITS WAY


“I’ve used up all my kerosene, sir!” Jack declared in sudden
consternation. “And I’m quite sure this jet plane won’t run on gas.”

“Oh, don’t let that worry you!” was the Commander’s instant reply.
“You’ve been around this old flat-top long enough. You should know that
we carry a greater variety of goods and supplies than you’d find in a
department store. We service the entire task force.”

“Sure, I know. But kerosene—”

“We carry that for land operations. You can’t set up an electric light
plant overnight—you have to go back to the lamp-and-lantern age.
Besides, many of the small island crafts burn kerosene in their motors.
We’ll have a drum up from below at once.”

“One thing I want to know,” said the Commander, “and that’s the range of
this ship. I’ve heard they’re hard on fuel. We’ll have the boys rig up a
belly tank on your jet plane. Then you and I will give the ship a good
tryout together.”

“That’s okay with me, sir,” said Jack.

“It’s not just for fun, or to try out a new toy. I want to warn you,”
said the Commander, “that if this jet plane has enough range she’ll be
the first scout sent out over Mindanao. It’s going to be very important
that we have accurate information regarding ships in the harbor. With
this plane you should be able to get that information and come back
alive.”

“It will be a great honor, sir!” Jack replied soberly.

When the belly tank had been rigged and the jet plane fueled, they took
off.

“If I were sure of the oxygen equipment, sir,” said Jack as he set the
jet plane climbing, “I’d take you to the stratosphere. There we’d really
have distance aplenty.”

“That can wait,” was the answer. “Climb to five thousand, level off,
then follow the course the task force has just covered. Our fighters are
maintaining a night watch for snoopers, but if our fuel holds out we’ll
cover a much greater distance than they.”

Jack followed instructions, then, having set the ship at an economical
speed, settled back to think of many things—of the island they had left,
of the three Japs, and of the German who had gone over the cliff. He
could easily imagine what had happened to them. However, to guess how
they had come into possession of this American-made jet plane was not so
easy.

He thought of Mary Brown and Ted. Mary was a good-looking girl—with her
island brown off and a touch of an American lady’s war paint on. He
thought Ted had rather fallen for her. Had he done the same? There was
Patsy. There was always Patsy back home.

“How’s your fuel, Jack?” the Commander asked.

“I’ll have a look, sir.” Jack studied his gauge. “Not bad,” he reported.
“Under present conditions we should do eight hundred miles.”

“That’s all anyone can hope for. How do you account for this ship’s
efficiency?” the Commander asked.

“Well, you see, sir, it’s my understanding that a new alloy has been
developed that will withstand a very high temperature. Then the jets are
deflected by setting them at right angles to the air stream. Of course,”
he demurred, “I only learned a little—I read it in a scrapbook. All I
really know is that this plane’s got speed and can carry enough fuel to
take you places and permit you to do things,” Jack laughed happily.
“That’s all I ask of any plane.”

“It’s all anyone can ask,” said the Commander. “But let me tell you one
thing, son, if a cannon ball or even a slug from a machine gun ever
penetrates the wall of the combustion chamber in this plane, with all
that heat she’ll burn like a match!”

“It’s protected partially, at least, with steel plate, sir,” Jack
replied soberly. “But why let the enemy get a crack at you when you’ve
got a ship like this?”

“Why, indeed?” agreed the Commander. “All you have to do is turn on the
oxygen and climb for the stars. You—”

The Commander broke off to listen intently. “Jack!” he said. “Shut off
that squeal and drift down a bit.”

Jack silenced his engine. Then he heard it. The thunder of a powerful
plane.

“A snooper!” he exclaimed.

“He’s up ahead some distance.” The Commander listened again. “Coming
this way. That’s my judgment.”

“He’s a good two hundred and fifty miles from our task force, sir,” Jack
suggested.

“Too close. Start your motor.”

Jack obeyed. “And now, sir?”

“Pick up speed. We’re going after that big Jap plane.”

“But, sir! You are a key figure! A hundred planes, hundreds of men
operate at your direction! There’s time enough to get back and send out
a patrol!”

“We’re taking no chances!” the Commander snapped. “No single man is too
important. If I were unwilling to risk going with you in a flight of
this nature, I should not be worthy of commanding a bomber, let alone
all the planes of a carrier.”

“How’s this gun I have here?” he asked in a casual tone.

“It’s first-class, sir. The same type of gun we use in our own planes,
and in top condition.”

“And your gun?” asked the Commander.

“There are two fifty-millimeter guns in fixed position. Having no
propeller simplifies things, sir. I’ve never fought in this plane, sir,
but I think we shall take them.”

“Even if we can’t shoot the beggars down,” the Commander laughed, “the
wail of this plane should frighten them to death.”

After that they howled on through the night.

Twice Jack silenced his motor. Each time the rumble was louder.

“We’re on the right track,” was the Commander’s comment.

The third time, Jack said, “Very close, sir.”

“Above or beneath us?”

“Beneath, I believe, sir,” Jack answered.

“Good! We’ll run right above them. Then we’ll swing about and down, so
we can get them in the light of the moon.”

Jack was following instructions and was, he thought, just about over the
snooper, when a strange thing happened. A dim light shot squarely across
his path.

“Did you see that, sir?” he exclaimed.

“See what?”

“A light! It crossed my path!”

“Strange!” was the answer.

Yes, Jack thought it strange. Instinctively he banked hard to follow the
light, but already it was circling. “Coming back!” His heart skipped a
beat. He felt for his gun grip.

Automatically charting the course of that mystery plane whose light had
blinked out, Jack cut a slow circle. Suddenly, as his eyes caught a
shadow, he let out a burst of fire from both guns, counted three, then
fired again.

All of a sudden the sky was alight. The thing before him—a Zero, he
believed—had blown up.

“Those snoopers carry fighter protection now, sir,” he said.

“How could they?” The Commander was amazed. Then, “Probably have a
carrier not too far away. Maybe others. We must keep a sharp lookout.
But we must have the big snooper all the same.”

“Yes, sir, we must.” Jack started jockeying for a position that would
give him a picture of the snooper against the moon.

“There!” he murmured. “No, now!” And then again, “Now! There he is! I’ll
climb up to give it to him in the tail, then I’ll bank sharply right.
Perhaps you’ll get a whack at him, sir.”

He lost the big flying boat once more, then, suddenly, there they were,
right upon the enemy.

Once again his twin guns roared. He banked sharply to catch the rattle
of the Commander’s gun.

He caught something more. From behind came the rattle of a Zero’s
weapon.

“Another fighter!” he groaned.

Putting his plane into a steep dive, Jack dropped a thousand feet—then
swinging, started to climb.

“What luck! You’re just beneath him!” exclaimed the Commander. “Climb
right on up and give me a whack at him as we pass.”

It would be a difficult shot. There was the danger too that the Zero
pilot had a pal. But up they flew. And at just the right moment the
Commander poured murderous fire into the enemy, who, for three seconds,
had no chance of escape.

It was enough. He disappeared from sight, and to Jack’s nostrils came
the stench of burning oil.

“You got him!” Jack breathed. “But the snooper?”

“There’s a bright spot over to the left,” said the Commander. “Might be
a burning motor.”

It was a burning motor of the big Jap ship. It burned more and more
until the whole plane burst into flames and white parachutes bloomed
against the night sky.

“I think,” said the Commander, “that we should start back. There’s such
a thing as going too far in this matter of testing out a plane’s
cruising capacity.”

“As you say, sir.” Jack spoke calmly, but inside he was all pure joy.
His jet plane had proved its worth.



                             CHAPTER XXVII
                          STRATOSPHERE TACTICS


“Do I fly this jet plane in the big show, sir?” Jack asked as he and the
Commander stepped down on the _Black Bee’s_ deck half an hour later.

“Not only that,” was the instant response, “but you’ll lead the parade.

“And now,” the Commander ordered, “hit the hay!”

Jack was too excited over past and future events to sleep long that
night. He awoke with the dawn to find the sea blanketed in fog.

“Just what the doctor ordered,” he said to Stew. “We’ll be able to get
through the day unobserved by the enemy. And tomorrow, unless I miss my
guess, we strike at dawn.”

With coffee, hot cakes, and bacon stowed away, Jack made his way to the
flight deck. There he obtained permission to take his jet plane below
for study, inspection, and if need be, repairs.

He had plenty of help with this task. There wasn’t a flier or mechanic
on the _Black Bee_ who would not gladly have taken the jet plane apart
piece by piece just to see what made it go.

The best mechanics on the carrier were assigned to the task of going
over the plane. With an eagle eye Jack watched their every move. He made
sure that the oxygen equipment was in perfect order and the tubes filled
to capacity.

“You’re flying with me,” he said to Stew. “We’re to be the first scouts
over the target. Those are the Commander’s orders. And we’ll go there in
the stratosphere, fastest trip you ever made, if our jet plane holds
together.”

“That’s Jake with me,” Stew grinned.

That was a busy day on the _Black Bee_. Every plane was inspected and
given minor repairs. Fliers were given last day-before-the-battle
instructions. Anti-aircraft crews went through dress rehearsals. Every
man on the ship was on his toes and ready to go. No night before was
ever like this.

That evening Jack hunted up Mary, who had joined the Medical Corps in
the sick bay, and retrieved his violin.

To relieve his tension he went to the flight deck, tuned up his violin,
and then walked slowly back and forth playing all the melodies he
knew—while with every tune memories of other days came back.

Then he locked the violin safely in its case and wandered up for one
more look at the jet plane before retiring for the night.

“Tomorrow,” he whispered.

Jack and Stew were up two hours before dawn. The hour that preceded dawn
was their zero hour.

As they came down for their coffee they were surprised to find Ted and
Mary waiting for them.

“We thought we’d like to be with you at the last meal before the big
moment,” said Mary.

“That’s sure swell of you,” said Jack.

“You’d want to do that if we were the ones to go,” said Ted.

“That’s right,” Jack agreed. “We’ve been through a lot together, all of
us. But Ted, what’s your assignment?”

“That’s just it.” Ted made a long face. “Our fighter squadron, Kentucky,
Blackie, and the rest are to stick with the ship just in case we’re
attacked. Tell you what.” Ted leaned forward. “When you get over that
harbor just send word back that there isn’t a Jap carrier in sight and
no bombers on the airfields.”

“Oh! Sure!” Jack grinned. “In fact, we’ll do better than that. We’ll
just circle around over the sea, then make our report without even
looking at that old Jap harbor.”

“Say! What is this? Mutiny?” Mary demanded.

“No.” Stew grinned. “It’s just a case of jolly good lying ‘just before
the battle, mother.’”

“Don’t sell yourself short just yet,” Jack said to Ted. “You may see
plenty of fighting before this day is over, yes, and find yourself in
need of a ‘woman’s gentle nursing,’ as the old poem goes, before the sun
sets.”

Zero hour came. The jet plane began its predawn song. Jack and Stew were
off.

The fog was gone, and the moon bright. Jack was astonished as he climbed
into the sky. As far as he could see there were white dots telling of
ships plowing their way through the dark sea.

“More fighting ships than the world has ever seen in one place,” he said
to Stew.

“Sure—carriers, probably a dozen of them; big battle wagons, cruisers,
destroyers, cargo vessels, transports, oilers, tankers, repair ships, PT
boats—everything. We’re going back to the Philippines, boy! And we’re
going back to stay.”

After that they soared again. With oxygen masks in place they climbed to
the substratosphere, then headed for Mindanao at incredible speed.

“Wonderful!” Jack breathed. “No Zero will ever catch up with us now.”

“And we’d better not let them,” Stew warned. “You remember the orders—no
dogfights with those cookies today.”

The first faint streaks of dawn were showing when a gray bulk close to
the surface of the sea loomed up ahead of them.

“There!” Jack exclaimed. “Take a good look! It’s the Philippines!”

“My first glimpse of the islands,” Stew murmured with a touch of
reverence. “But not my last, I hope.”

By studying his chart Jack learned that the land ahead was the north
entrance to a deep bay.

“We follow the shore line until we are at the center of the bay. The
target is right there.”

They dropped to ten thousand feet, then slowed down their plane and
zoomed along over the shore line.

They arrived at the target too soon for a clear view. For all that, they
found something to do.

“There’s a nasty little Zero on our tail,” Stew exclaimed. “Whatever
shall we do?” he asked in mock terror. “It’s wicked to fight, besides,
we promised not to.”

“Put on your oxygen mask,” Jack commanded with a grin. “We’ll go up into
the attic and talk it over.”

They began climbing steeply. The Zero pilot came after them. They left
his plane far behind.

“Not so fast!” Stew warned. “He’ll get discouraged.”

As if experiencing high altitude blues, Jack slowed his plane down to a
crawl. Encouraged, the Jap put on full speed and came on for the kill.

But Jack, as if by some miracle, put on a burst of speed to climb
higher.

This was repeated four times. Jack was beginning to wonder whether he
was playing the game too long with a plane he did not entirely
understand, when something appeared to go wrong with the enemy plane. It
began to wobble, then to smoke. It lost altitude, then began turning
over slowly. Faster—faster—faster it turned as it fell, until at last it
was a mere black spot.

“I think,” said Jack, “that this jet plane is the berries. And now,” he
added in the next breath, “we’ll just go down and see what ships there
are in the harbor. Get your pencil ready. Make the count as accurate as
possible. Can’t tell about those Japs. They might not give us another
chance.”

“Accurate it shall be,” Stew replied grimly.

“All right, here we go.” Jack tilted his plane. “We’ll come down so fast
they can’t intercept us. We’ll level off at two thousand and skim along
over the port and the bay. After that we’ll circle until the Zeros get
tough, then we’ll reach for the stars.” They were away, with their plane
singing a lovely tune as they rocketed downward toward the port and the
sea. To Stew, the speed of their downward course was breath-taking,
staggering; but he hung on, offered up a prayer, and before he knew it
they were leveling off, gliding away, while he caught his breath at
sight of the ships in the harbor.

“Boy! We caught them with their steam down!” he exclaimed.

His pencil was racing—two flat-tops, one big battle wagon, five
cruisers, seven destroyers. In vain did he try to count the cargo ships
and tankers anchored in the harbor or tied up to the docks. “Fifty or
more,” he scribbled.

“Ready for action!” Jack barked. Ten Zeros were coming at them. Stew
threw back his canopy, gripped his gun and waited.

Once again Jack started climbing. But two Zeros were above and others to
the right of him. Like football players rushing to stop an end run, they
were coming in fast.

“Got to fight,” Jack decided. He headed straight for the nearest enemy,
caught him on the side, gave him a burst of fire, then plunged down to
go under him. Luck was with him, for he came up behind the other plane.
The Zero fled without a shot.

Jack did not follow, but again started climbing.

“What a pity! Such easy meat!” Stew exclaimed.

“No dog fights!” Jack reminded him. “Besides, there are eight more Zeros
coming up.”

“Let them come!” said Stew. “I’ll drop the belly tank on them.”

That was just what he did. When both they and their pursuers were well
up in the substratosphere, he let go the empty tank and, with luck,
tipped the wing of a fighter, sending him whirling over and over.

“Oh!” he breathed ten seconds later as the enemy righted himself. “We
get no medals for belly tanks.”

As they climbed higher and higher their pursuers one by one dropped
back, giving up the race. At last none remained.

“Their ships just can’t take it,” Jack explained. “Something freezes up
and then they’re sunk.”

“Yes, or their propellers find the air too thin,” Stew added.

Tilting his plane, Jack drifted slowly downward while Stew reported to
the radio cabin of the _Black Bee_.

“Great work,” was the commendation they received. “Think you can get
down there once more for a check?”

“Can we go down again?” he asked Jack.

“Down to five thousand,” was the quick reply. “More would be suicide.
You can use binoculars.”

Down they went once more with the jet plane singing its wild song.

Stew had just completed his check at five thousand when Jack warned:
“Here they come!”

This time he was above the enemy. When he had gained sufficient
altitude, he leveled off and soared away.

“That’s all,” he exclaimed. “Have to go back for more fuel.”

Once again Stew radioed his report, with corrections. Then he settled
back with a sigh. “Boy! What a life!” He was at ease, but not for long.



                             CHAPTER XXVIII
                      THE JET PLANE’S LAST BATTLE


They met a lone U. S. scout plane from another carrier and dipped a wing
in salute.

They had covered more than half the way to the task force when, coming
from behind a very small cloud, Jack let out a howl:

“Torpedo planes in formation, dead ahead!”

“Enemy planes?” Stew rubbed his eyes.

“Easy. They slipped out of the harbor during our stratosphere battles.”
Jack gave his ship the rein.

The situation was clear. For many weeks Jap task forces in harbors had
been refusing to fight. It had been assumed that they would once again
attempt flight. But at least one carrier had sent out its torpedo planes
to do battle.

“Get on the radio! Quick!” Jack exclaimed. “Not a second to lose!”

Almost the next breath Stew was droning into his mike: “Twelve enemy
torpedo planes approaching task force at top speed. Should strike soon.”

His report exploded on the _Black Bee_ like a bombshell. Having received
his earlier report, all carriers had dispatched their dive bombers and
torpedo planes, with fighter escort, to the enemy harbor, where they
hoped to wreak havoc on the fleet before it could escape.

On the _Black Bee_ there remained only a small fighter squadron under
Kentucky’s command. Half the fighters were on patrol duty, the rest were
on the flight deck.

“If those torpedo planes hit us it’s just going to be too bad!” Ted
exclaimed as he and Kentucky raced for their planes.

In the meantime Jack and Stew were shadowing the enemy squadron.

“It’s no use taking them on alone,” Jack said.

“I should say not! They’ve got a dozen Zeros protecting them,” Stew
agreed.

“But if they go after the _Black Bee_,” Jack added, “we’re bound to step
in and do our bit.”

“And the _Black Bee_ it is!” Stew added a moment later when the powerful
planes, as if drawn by a magnet, headed straight for the master prize,
the _Black Bee_, largest ship in the convoy.

“You’ve got to hand it to ’em!” Stew exclaimed. “They’ve got plenty of
nerve!”

“Lot of good it will do them!” Jack growled. “I’ll wreck this jet plane
in a suicide dive before I’ll see the old _Black Bee_ sunk!”

Silently Stew offered up a prayer for the _Black Bee_, and for Jack as
well.

“Here comes Kentucky and his gang!” he exclaimed exultantly.

“Too few and too late,” Jack growled. “Curse the Japs!” Meanwhile Jack
was edging in closer to the approaching Japs. Stew was holding his
breath, for he knew well that if the Zeros turned to go after him, Jack
would not run for the stratosphere this time, but would stay and fight.

Kentucky, with his small band of fighters, came zooming on in formation.
The Zeros dashed ahead to engage them. At once there was a whirling
battle, as hard to watch as a three-ring circus. Three fighters,
Kentucky, Ted, and Red, remained in formation. When a Zero went after
them it was like hitting a stone wall. Three Zeros went down in smoke.
But the deadly torpedo planes roared on.

Now, shaking themselves free from the Zeros, Kentucky’s three zoomed
aloft to come in behind the torpedo planes. Striking the last of these a
slanting blow, they sent it whirling and rolling toward the sea. Two
others followed in quick succession.

By this time the torpedo planes were nearing the _Black Bee_. Ack-acks
and pom-poms began pouring bursting shells at them. Two were downed
before they dropped their tin fish. But the third, seeming to bear a
charmed life, came straight on. It dropped its fish, then zoomed aloft.

With sinking heart Jack saw its torpedo tear a gaping hole in the _Black
Bee’s_ side.

“Got to get into this!” he growled. Screaming aloft he raced at
tremendous speed past the enemy planes, then whirling, came at the next
torpedo plane in line.

Just as he prepared to brave his own ship’s fire, the enemy plane blew
up. A shell from the ship had gotten her.

“Good work!” he exclaimed, once again roaring aloft.

Other torpedo planes were coming in. Kentucky’s trio was strafing them,
but still they came.

“Only one hit so far. They’re thinning!” Jack exclaimed. “If my—”

“There! That’s the one! We’ve got to get that one!”

Once again the Jap came whirling in. This time nothing stopped the
enemy, that is, nothing but the fire from Jack’s twin guns. The big
plane nosed down into the sea.

“That’s got them!” Jack breathed deeply as he passed out of range of the
_Black Bee’s_ fire.

“Ted crashed!” Stew declared. “I saw him go down. Not a bad crash, but
his ship’s gone.”

“Where?” Jack demanded.

“Over there to the right.”

The jet plane banked, then sped away.

“There he is!” Stew exclaimed.

A moment more and Jack’s plane was taxiing in close to Ted’s wrecked
fighter.

Ted sat astride the fuselage, which was all but covered with water.

“Are you hurt?” Jack asked.

“Not—not so bad,” Ted replied, hesitatingly. “Sort of got a bump or
two.”

“Climb over and help him onto our plane,” Jack said. Stew was on the
sinking plane in an instant. A moment more and they were rising from the
water.

Nearing the _Black Bee_, Jack signaled that he had a wounded man and was
coming aboard. He got the all-clear at once.

The first person to reach the plane was Mary. She had seen it all. There
was a look on her face that Jack had never seen there before as she
called, “Ted! Is he badly injured?”

“He’ll pull through,” Jack admitted. “But why only Ted? Can’t you give
another fellow a smile?”

“Jack, I could kiss you for saving Ted,” she exclaimed. And that was
just what she did.

In landing on the sea, and again on the deck of the _Black Bee_, Jack
had experienced unusual difficulty in controlling the jet plane, but was
at the time too excited to think much about it. When at last he had time
to look the plane over, he found that it had, at some time during the
fight, been seriously damaged.

“You picked up some of our flak,” was the verdict of the commander of
the deck crews. “That plane’s through.”

When Jack came to his own commander to ask for another plane, the
Commander put a hand on his shoulder and in a gruff voice said:

“Forget it, boy! You’ve done your part. You’ve pitched five innings, and
never a man got to first base. It’s you for the showers.”

And so it was showers for Jack and Stew, and sick bay for Ted, with a
smiling Mary hovering over him. But the battle went on. Every carrier
sent its full quota of dive bombers and torpedo planes to sink ships in
the harbor and wreck shore installations. Speedy cruisers, destroyers,
and PT boats came in next to put on the finishing touches. After these
came troop transports and landing barges. Marines and GI Joes swarmed
ashore by the thousands. By late afternoon they were ten miles inland.
The battle was won.

That was not all. They reached the prison camp, knocked down the gates,
and set free more than five hundred prisoners who had not looked on the
Stars and Stripes for two long years.

Two hundred of the prisoners were put aboard the _Black Bee_, for she
would be the first ship to reach Pearl Harbor. The hole in her side had
been shored up, making her safe for a journey, but not for combat.

As Jack watched the prisoners—ragged, unshaven, and lean-faced, with
hungry looks in their eyes—line up on the deck, he recalled a song he
had sung back in school days:

  Tramp! tramp! tramp! the boys are marching,
  Cheer up, comrades, they will come,
  And beneath the starry flag
  We will breathe the air again
  Of the freeland in our own beloved home.

Others watched too. All of a sudden Mary let out a cry: “Tom! Tom! Oh!
My dear!” She threw her arms about a slim, bearded youth who could have
been but a boy on Bataan.

“It’s her brother,” Jack whispered to Stew. “She told me about him. War
is wonderful,” he murmured. “Wonderful and terrible.”

The _Black Bee_ held her position for the night. Early next morning,
while Jack was pacing the deck, he saw a small craft flying the Union
Jack come alongside. A rope ladder was let down and two men climbed
aboard. One of the two men glanced about the deck. When his eyes fell on
Jack, he said:

“Ah! There you are!” Staring, Jack made no reply. Then suddenly he
recognized the men. They were the British pair he had first seen with
the jet plane.

“We’ve come for our jet plane,” the man explained, advancing. “Those
bloody Nazis and Japs stole her from us. We went after them with a
boatload of fighting men, only to find that they were all dead and that
you had gone off with our plane. But now here we are. Thanks for saving
our plane, old boy! That was bully!”

“Oh! Gee!” Jack exclaimed. “Somebody’s always taking the joy out of
life! I suppose there’s no way I can talk you out of it?”

“Not a chance,” was the smiling answer. “You see, this jet plane idea
was all worked out in England. Then the United States asked for a chance
to develop it. They were given the right and manufactured a few of them
for experimental purposes. Australia asked for one of these and got it.
My partner and I were given the task of testing the plane. We were
traders before the war and so had a few caches of kerosene and other
trade goods scattered among the islands.”

“That’s why you were on our island,” said Jack.

“Exactly why. But those Germans surprised us while we were on another
island, and hijacked our plane. Now I’m afraid we’ll have to ask to have
it returned. However, we’ve brought you a consolation award.”

“What’s that?” Jack stared.

“Twenty sacks of first-class mail for the men on your carrier. There
should be a letter or two for you in that lot.”

“Oh, a dozen, I hope!” Jack exclaimed. “We haven’t had any mail for a
month.”

It turned out that there were fifteen letters for Jack. The one he
prized most came from Patsy. In part it ran:

  Oh, Jack! Do take care of yourself and come back soon. It’s only since
  you’ve been gone that I’ve learned how much you mean to my young life.
  You’re the only boy I ever really cared for, and the only one I ever
  shall.

“Boy!” Jack exclaimed. “That fixes things just about hunkydory! ‘Take
good care of yourself.’ That’s just what I’ve been doing. ‘Come back
soon.’ Wouldn’t I love it! Even just for a day!”

Did a good gremlin whisper, “Sooner than you think”? If he did, he spoke
the truth. The old _Black Bee_ had been tied to the repair dock at Pearl
Harbor for three days. Ted, who was practically himself again, and Mary,
who was enjoying a new lease on life, had been making good use of the
Hawaiian moonlight. One morning Jack and Stew were taking in the sights,
when Jack was called back to the ship by his commander.

“Get your things together,” the Commander ordered. “You’re going back to
the States by plane.”

“What’s that, sir?” Jack stared. “What have I done now?”

“Plenty!” The Commander smiled. “It happens you’re the only living man
who has flown a jet plane in actual combat! Since our people are soon to
put this new type of plane into production—”

“They want my expert advice, sir?” Jack laughed. “Why not, sir? It will
be a real pleasure!”

“You leave by plane in three hours, so you’d better start packing.
Good-by and good luck.” The Commander extended his hand. “The _Black
Bee_ will be shipshape about thirty days from now. We shall hope to have
you back by then. And if you can talk them out of about ten of those jet
planes for our carrier, I’ll recommend your promotion to a Lieutenant’s
rank.”

“Then I’m as good as a Lieutenant right now, sir!”

Jack’s arm went up in a snappy salute and, executing a right-about-face,
he went off to pack; though he hated the thought of leaving the _Black
Bee_ and all the splendid men aboard, he could not still the song in his
heart as he visioned the excitement of his next adventure.



                          Transcriber’s Notes


--Copyright notice provided as in the original—this e-text is public
  domain in the country of publication.

--In the text versions, delimited italics text in _underscores_ (the
  HTML version reproduces the font form of the printed book.)

--Silently corrected palpable typos; left non-standard spellings and
  dialect unchanged.





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