WHERE DID RAFE MADISON GO?
The Canadian super jet was top secret. The pilot took it up and vanished. When he came back he didn’t know he’d been gone nearly six months. Now the RCAF and the world were demanding...
In a tense, angry, but completely silent courtroom the prosecutor completed his examination-in-chief of the fourth witness.
"Therefore, Mr. Stewart, you gave the accused. Madison, the clear to take off at ten fifty-four on the morning of the seventh of May?"
"That’s right, sir.”
"You saw Madison climb into the C'F-108. taxi to the runway and leave the ground'.’“
"Yes. sir. He went straight out and up.”
"It being a local flight, you would have expected him to return to this base?"
"Having ahead) established that Madison had fuel for two-minus hours flight, you swear his jet had not returned by the end of your tour ot duty as flying-control officer?"
"No. sir. I never saw him again until today."
The defending otlicer. Wing C ommander Minnell. his dark bush) eyebrows drawn together, crossed to Stew art.
"You were friendly with Rate Madison, weren't you, Stewart'?''
"Well ves. sir."
"You were chatting with him in the servicing otfice not long before he took off?"
"He was acting about the same as usual?"
"1 think so—yes."
Minnell nodded and sat down. The prosecutor didn't even bother to rise.
"Just a minute. Stewart. Were you very friendly with Madison?"
"Oh no. sir." Stewart said hastily.
“So you wouldn't really know whether he was behaving normally or otherwise?"
As Stewart left the court he saw Madison looking at him sadly.
"C'a 11 Colonel Cirievess."
He was a handsome man in USAE' uniform and he testified that the C'F-108 had not flown below the border and into the United States. He had allí -davits from radar stations to prove it. Cirievess was followed b\ mail) other witnesses who testified along the same lines.
". . . well, they’re busy lengthening the com-
mercial runways for the DC'-Ss. but even then there’s very few long enough to take a C'F-108-
"Very few; so it wasn't difficult to check whether a C'F-108 made an unscheduled landing on Max seventh?"
"No. sir. Apart from anvthing else, it would have caused a sensationthere were onl) three operational C'F-I08s at that time. And it was such a highlv secret aircraft-
Therefore Madison s jet slid not land on am airfield in C anada on Max seventh of this vear?"
The president and the judge-advocate looked at the defending officer e.xpectantlv.
A restless movement stirred the courtroom. Rafe passed a hand uneasilv over his face; and even the cold-eyed seeuritv men at the back of the large, lofty but poorly illuminated hall could sense his aching despair. The ultimate despair of a man on trial for treason.
continued on page 60
continued from page 27
Only one possible landing place is unaccounted for . . . Siberia!'
By three o’clock on the third day of the court-martial the prosecution had completed its examination-in-chief.
The prosecutor’s case was perfectly clear. He had unrolled a large map and placed it on a stand—a map of Canada and adjoining territories. A brilliant red circle on the map centred on Bluerange Airdrome, representing the range of the CF-108 according to the amount of fuel it had taken on board.
The prosecutor had said: “Follow the red circle. You can see that with the fuel Madison had in his tanks, it was possible for his jet to have traveled to” —and here he had traced the circle with his finger—“Greenland. But we know he did not go to Greenland. Across the Atlantic? But we know he did not cross the eastern seaboard; neither did he cross the U. S. border, nor the Pacific. To Alaska, then? No. He did not 11 y to Alaska. In fact, only one possible landing place is unaccounted for.”
Dramatically he had pointed to where the red circle intersected the Taimyr Peninsula.
A thrill of excitement had rippled through the hall.
“And at this very point, within the r; nge of Madison's jet, there is a Russian airfield. But this is no ordinary airfield. We have heard evidence showing that the Russians have, by some snowpacking process, succeeded in building a jet-bomber base out of ice and snow, complete with high-speed runways of no less than six thousand yards length. And one of them is in the Taimyr Peninsula.
“Oh yes, the Russians have denied all knowledge of the movements of the secret jet. However, we know what reliance to put on their word—they denied all knowledge of the British traitors Burgess and MacLean too. didn’t they, right up to their sudden re-appearance two years or so later in Moscow?
"Moreover, Madison's jet showed clear signs when it returned that it had been tampered with; and how can it be tampered with except on the ground?
"And finally—this CF-108 was seen flying over Leningrad.
“The evidence points conclusively, without the faintest shadow or suspicion of doubt that the officer seated before you, on the seventh of May of this year deliberately tlew his CF-108 to a destination that could only have been the snow runways of Taimyr, to hand over for examination and analysis an advanced weapon not only secret in itself but crammed with ingenious devices unduplicated by any other air force. I hat this trusted airman, Flying Officer Rafe Madison, incubating a dark, embittered and treacherous anger in his breast against what he imagined to be an injustice over his promotion, is a traitor of the very vilest kind.
“Until the action of this honorable gentleman, the CF-108 was undisputably the main weapon of our defensive forces.”
The prosecutor had paused dramatically.
“Just how effective it is now, 1 leave you to work out for yourselves.”
To the amazement and disgust of the court the case for the prosecution had been virtually unchallenged and unopposed by the defending officer, Wing
Commander Minnell. He had crossexamined only two witnesses in three days: Stewart, the llying-control officer; and the squadron leader who had claimed to see the CF-108 flying over Leningrad in June.
“You were an Admin, type with the military mission?”
The witness caught Minnell's point. He bristled. “I know as much about recognition as you flyers!”
“I have here,” Minnell said, taking out
five w'hite cards, “some aircraft silhouettes—all delta-wing jobs. One of them is a CF-108. The members will check me if I'm wrong: even at its lowest safe flying speed the CF-108 would flash across the identifiable visual range in ten seconds.” Minnell had been talking in quiet confident tones. Now he whirled on the witness. “But to be fair I’ll give you fifteen seconds. Identify the CF108!” And he thrust the cards, fanwise, into the squadron leader’s hands—and uttered a silent prayer.
The officer’s eyes flickered along the
cards, and after ten seconds, with a disconcertingly relaxed air, pointed to one of them.
“I believe it's this one,” he said, smiling grimly.
“Pick it out and hand it to the president!”
The president took the card.
“Please look on the back, sir, and read out the details.”
The president, with agonizing slowness, took out his glasses and adjusted them on his nose with precision. He turned the card over.
“Dassault Mirage III,” he read. “French.”
On the morning of the fourth day, the case for the defense began.
WALKING across the sheep pasture, zig-zagging through the blazing reds and yellows of the Quebec countryside, the farmer heard a lark singing, and looked up. What he saw made him stop dead.
There was a white ring in the cloudless sky. At first he thought it was a vapor trail; but immediately rejected this
interpretation. The inner edge was too sharp, the outline too perfect.
In order to know the relative distance or size of a phenomenon, you have to know what you are looking at. But the farmer, Merl Barnes, of RR1. Aylmer East, Quebec, was unable to give the size or altitude of the white ring when later he was examined at the court-martial of Rafe Madison.
All he could say was that after he had been staring at the ring for about two minutes, an aircraft had suddenly appeared in the exact centre, and had
moved, very slowly it seemed, away from it. Even the airemft, which was more within his perceptual experience, had not given him a clue as to the height of the ring, for the plane was no more than a pinpoint of light, glittering in the sun.
Two trained observers from the National Research Council, fifteen miles away in Ottawa, had also seen the white ring.
The dazzling brightness of the sky began to blind Merl Barnes, and he covered his eyes with his hands for a moment in order to adjust his vision. When he looked up again, the white ring had gone, and he had to search the sky very carefully before he was able to locate the aircraft again. Just as he did so he heard the faint sound of its engines.
The farmer frowned to himself and walked thoughtfully up the hill toward the farmhouse, searching the sky every now and then for the mysterious ring. By the time he had reached the paddock the countryside was silent again, except for the lark which twittered joyfully, invisibly, above his head.
BY THE time Rafe had pulled out of the dive his pressure suit was holding him in a crushing embrace. As the jet flattened out he had a sudden feeling of unreality. Dazedly he looked through the canopy over the anti-glare panel, and the emptiness of space for a moment increased his sense of loss. But then the feel of the column under his hand began to bring him around from the trance.
He spoke to his navigator, joking over the intercom, and waited in strange anticipation for the reply. But there was none.
Twisting with difficulty in his seat he turned around and saw with a sense of shock that he was alone. It was only with some effort that he remembered that he was making a local, and had not brought a navigator with him.
What's the matter with me? he thought, casting a wary professional eye over the panel. He saw that he had come down to forty-nine thousand feet and that his speed was dropping.
But the needle was still registering in the uncalibrated portion of the dial above Mach 3. Faintly surprised. Rafe watched the speed continue to drop below two thousand miles an hour. At last the pointer steadied at 2.4. the correct indication for this altitude. He checked the other instruments methodically. then turned back to the Machmeter, steady at 2.4. He must have dived from a great height to have reached so far beyond Mach 3. The peculiar thing was he couldn't remember starting the dive.
He looked around; and as he looked the discomfort of doubt was replaced by a feeling of elation. Forty-nine thousand feet above the earth, alone but not lonely, he felt the surge of infallibility that amounted almost to ecstasy — “break-off” the aviation medicine people called it—as if he were detached from his flimsy body and had become pure mind, pure spirit. He took a deep breath of rich oxygen, and his head swam pleasurably. Although there was no cloud, below him the land seemed no more than an uncertain haze, seemed almost to merge and become a part of the great bowl of space that swept and sparkled infinitely around him.
With a deep sigh of joy he smiled to himself; but his reflection in the canopy, helmeted and masked, stared back inhumanly.
A few minutes later he switched on the VHF transmitter and reported to Yorke Centre. Outbound over the
Glazeberg Beacon he lilted the big fighter through the penetration turn, cleared for Glazeberg let-down. Thundering inbound under descent power at seven thousand feet a minute he passed the beacon at low altitude.
As the jet hurtled in toward its home base, casting a delta-planform shadow over the rushing earth, Rafe set power and altitude for approach-to-entry circuit and headed for the runway at three hundred knots. He switched to Visual Flight Rule, then called the tower, checking his fuel-pressure gauge simultaneously.
“Bluerange 9 zero 6, 15 north west 3000, VFR, landing instructions. Over.” In the Bluerange control tower, Flying Officer Ibsin was just finishing the last of his cheese sandwiches. As the message came in over the RT he was moistening a forefinger, about to dab it onto the wax paper and collect the last of the rye-bread crumbs. But his finger remained poised in mid-air. He looked at his assistant.
“Did you hear what 1 heard?”
“Has Y.C. reported this movement?” “No, sir.”
“Where’s he from?”
The assistant shook his head just as the message came in again, with an edge to it.
Tapping a finger impatiently on the IAP book on his knee, Rafe waited impatiently for the reply. The drome was already in sight.
The reply came hesitantly at first and then strengthened: “Nine zero 6 Bluerange, check you 15 north west at 3. Runway one live, wind 17 zero at 10 to 15. Altimeter 3626 call 3 out for 15.” His eyes jumping over the instruments. Rafe replied, “Bluerange 9 zero 6, 3 out on initial.”
“Roger, 9 zero 6, call on the break.” Ibsin and his assistant stepped out on the roof from the tower and stared toward the north. The aircraft was already in sight, thundering over the countryside dead in line with the northsouth runway; and their eyes widened in surprise when they saw it was a CF-108.
A quarter way down the runway, Rafe did he break, a sharp turn to the left, then round again to the north.
“Nine zero 6, landing clearance, gear down and locked.”
“Nine zero 6. clear to land, check gear down and locked.”
When the speed had dropped to two hundred and twenty knots he lowered twenty-five degrees of flap, closed the dive brakes, checked that the landing wheels were free, and increased power seventy percent. As the thirty-ton triangular fighter made a short descending turn to the left, llaps full down. Rafe took his eyes for a few seconds from the instruments to watch the green fields rise and sweep below him and felt the thrill of landing at high speed. The long wide runway was flashing up to meet him. The concrete became a grey blur, inscribed with skid marks.
He moved the stick back slightly, throttled to idle, and at its characteristically higji angle of attack, the CF-108 settled fast but gently onto the runway. Its tires howled.
Ibsin was searching his local-traffic sheet hurriedly. The air was filled with the crackle of RT and as the interceptor turned onto the ramp it added the shriek of its Iroquois engines to the bedlam of sound.
But there was nothing in the localtraffic sheet.
Ibsin turned to the daily traffic record and ran his finger down the list. Nothing. Absolutely nothing.
Frowning, he looked out onto the ramp as the marshaler guided the super jet to a halt, and squinted closely at the pressure-suited airman who climbed out. But the airman wore a green helmet; it was impossible to identify him from such a high angle.
Air Force Jet 9 zero 6 ... ?
The driver kept glancing sideways at this slightly built man of less than average height, who still had the angry creases of the tight-fitting oxygen mask on his cheeks. It was an interesting face, pale, intelligent and reserved, with penetrating blue eyes and lips so thin they were almost fleshless. At the moment there was a slight frown on it as the llyer turned to LAC Johnstone.
“The place seems deserted. Where is everyone?”
“Lunch?” Rafe looked at his watch and held it to his ear. “It’s only halfpast eleven.”
"Are you sure?”
"Well, I've just had my lunch.”
Looking around, nothing seemed to be quite as it was when he had taken off at ten to eleven that morning. As they moved slowly round a sharp turn toward the Acrophysics Lab with its gleaming silver ball like a fortune teller's crystal cradled in steel fingers, he was surprised to see a new white-andblue siun by the side of the road. It read; SPECIAL SECURITY DETACHMENT. And an arrow pointed down a side road.
And this road they were traveling—he felt sure when he had bumped over it two hours ago it had been crumbling and pitted from the action of the permafrost.
But now it was smooth.
Rafe turned to the LAC and was about to say something, but changed his mind and sat in uneasy silence until they were at the main gates. The barrier was raised as soon as the guard saw the small truck approaching, and they turned onto the main road.
"I’m going into the city, sir.”
"If you'll let me off at Haines Road
As he walked toward his own house at the end of the road he kept glancing from side to side, half expecting to find changes even in these familiar surroundings.
But there was nothing out of the ordinary. There was a new car standing outside the Barlows’ house. But new cars appeared in the district almost daily. As he approached his own bungalow, a great yearning to see his family came over him. But even this was something he could not fully account for; it was only three—no, four—hours since he had set off for the aerodrome after breakfast. He always came home for lunch, usually walking most of the way for exercise.
A few yards away he saw his daughter wander along the side of the house and into the front garden. She was wheeling her battered baby carriage and was talking to herself. Rafe stopped and looked at her, and his heart leaped as he studied her round, pale face and mop of dark curls. She at least had not changed—at least no more than usual. He was growing used to the continuous surprise of watching a child develop from day to day.
Sensing that someone was watching her. Marion looked up and around, and saw her father. With a wide smile, Rafe
“In dead silence Rafe crossed the room to stand in front of the commanding officer. ‘You swine!’ ”
spread his arms as a signal for her to leap into them. But she did not. She stared at Rafe for a moment, then looked down at her carriage and for a moment rocked it back and forth self-consciously.
His smile fading. Rafe lowered his arms and thought: Eleanor must have been scolding her—sulking.
As Marion looked up again. Rafe moved closer.
“Well, aren’t you going to say hello to your Daddy?”
“Will you give me a kiss?”
Marion walked slowly up to him and embraced his leg, pressing her face into his thigh.
"Have you come home?”
"Just for lunch.”
"Mother said you’d gone a long way away."
He became aware that someone was staring at him. Mrs. I.ey. his next-door neighbor. He looked up with a formal smile.
She did not reply, but continued to stare at him and his daughter. Irritated, he tried to make his way to the front door. Marion was still clinging to his leg. He picked her up and kissed her.
“I've got a new ding-dong.”
"Oh?” He looked at her in surprise. "Ding-dong” was her name for a tricycle.
Mrs. I.ey said indistinctly, "Rafe? You’re supposed to be dead . . . dead
Just as he put his hand on the door his wife opened it to find out who her daughter was talking to. When Eleanor saw Rafe she screamed. Her face went grey.
It was only after he had called the doctor that he realized what the woman next door had said.
rTAHE car hurtled down Haines Road X and swung onto the highway with burning tires. It jammed to a halt near the barrier and the horn blared violently.
The guard came out and was about to say something when one look at the driver’s face made him change his mind.
The striped bar swung into the sky.
The mess was crowded and noisy. He stood in the doorway, and his fury was palpable. Conversation began to die.
The commanding officer was sitting in an armchair with his back to the door, talking to the adjutant. Suddenly aware of the silence, he stopped and looked around with a smile, as if anticipating a practical joke. Seeing all faces turned toward the door he twisted in his seat and the smile faded from his dark benign features. He jumped up.
In dead silence Rafe crossed the room and stood in front of the GO.
There was a united gasp. Wing Commander Minncll’s bushy eyebrows came together.
Rafe was choking with rage. “You swine!” he said. "How could you? How could you play such a joke! Did your twisted mind think it was funny, telling my wife I was dead?”
A steward entered the mess. He stopped as if he had walked into an invisible wall.
Rafe was almost strangling. He clawed at his collar, and beads of sweat
stood out on his forehead. “A death
joke! Yes, oh yes, that was amusing! You know what you've done to her. don’t you? There's a doctor with her—”
But Rafe was staring blindly at the others. “The rest of you—-how could
you have let him do it? l et him do a thing like that?" He passed his hand,
trembling, over his forehead in a gesture which, under different circumstances, might have seemed theatrical. He swayed and had to hold onto an armchair.
"What are you all—are you ghouls, that you could . . His voice faded and the darkness and strain on his face was so vivid that involuntarily Squadron Leader Allen moved closer to him.
“Madison.” The CO’s voice was low but distinct. "Where have you been?”
Rafe slumped down in the armchair and stared sightlessly at the floor. “What kind of a joke ...”
Minnell and Allen looked at each other. Minnell sat opposite Rafe.
"Where have you been, Madison?"
“Flying . . . flying . . . dead . . “Where?”
Rafe looked at the CO and now his anger was gone, leaving only wretchedness and bewilderment. "You ordered me up on a—”
“This—this morning. Why?”
“What are you trying to pull, Madison?”
Rafe looked at Minnell in hatred. “Is this another of your jokes?”
Allen had been watching Rate’s face intently. He sat beside the CO. The shocked silence of the other officers continued.
The CO said, “Are you trying to tell us that you were here this morning, and that you went up at ten fifty?”
“Ten fifty-four—yes! Why don’t you ask Vince in the tower?” His voice rose. “For God's sake, sir, hasn’t this gone far enough!"
“Vince Stewart,” Minnell said, his voice hardening, “was posted three months ago.”
Rafe leaped up. He tried desperately to speak.
“1 saw him this—”
Rafe sagged back into the armchair— and he suddenly remembered the trees. The trees. The trees at the airfield perimeter. They were yellow.
“I was—I tell you I was talking to him.”
The CO brought his blue-jowled, usually genial face close to Rafe. “Madison, are you telling us you don’t know you’ve
been absent for more than five months?” Rafe stared back sickly. “What do you mean?” he said stupidly.
Allen said, “Rafe, what month is this?”
“I tell you it’s May. May the seventh!” He looked around wildly. Not a face had even the trace of a smile on it.
Minnell went on quietly, "You were one of the first three pilots to receive the operational CF-108.”
“Go and look out the window.”
Allen followed Rafe to study his expression. The pilot looked down—and cried out.
“It's impossible! Seven, eight, nine— nine 108s! But there are only three!” “Yes, there were three.” Minnell walked up to him and his eyes were hard. “And when you took off on Mayseventh there were two.” His faced worked. He whirled on the adjutant. “Get the CSO.” He turned back to Rafe. “Flying Officer Madison, you are under arrest.”
“On a charge of treason.”
A flight lieutenant came up to him and thrust his distorted face close.
"You dirty traitor.”
WHITE mist and orange fire in the stratosphere, strange warm metal at his temples, voices soft and incomprehensible growing louder, louder, waves of heat and chill, strange dreams of space ... He woke up sweating and shivering.
It seemed an eternity of minutes before he remembered where he was. For a moment he sat on the side of the cot and stared at the floor, in turmoil. Treason? How can it be treason when you clear with Control at ten fifty-four, light up and leap off into the stratosphere, and put down two hours later to find that it is not two hours hut almost six months—and with no knowledge of how, or why.
But with abject bewilderment he already knew why they thought it was treason. For the last three days he had been questioned by so many different agencies that he had lost count—service police, government representatives, air force and special security. No, he had not lost count; he had lost interest. For their questions were always the same.
But so were his replies. Yet although the stern interrogators had retired, baffled, they had not changed their minds: he was a disaffected officer, the worst kind of betrayer.
Amnesia? Surely if he lost his memory he would also lose his ability to fly. Hcul he flown to another country? Had they developed some means of neutralizing his mind and guiding his plane into their analytical embrace?
He stiffened, his eyes bloodshot and staring. Had he somehow flown so high as to leave the earth zone of time, and ... He clutched his head, trying to drive out the fantastic thoughts. And yet, what sensible explanation was there? The facts stared him in the face: he had lost half a year of time. Something must have happened during those months.
His guard, a sergeant, came in with the breakfast tray, set it down, glanced curiously at the prisoner and departed without a word. Rafe stared at the rapidly cooling meal and thought, almost with panic, of home. He walked up and down in anguish. Only four days ago he was a normal man, without a thing to worry about.
Four days? He pressed his face to the wall as he remembered.
After several minutes he turned drearily away. When he had finished dressing and had rubbed the toes of his shoes against a trouser leg, he sat down to wait.
But it was almost eleven o’clock before the first visitor of the day arrived. Rafe stood to attention as Wing Commander Minnell entered the cell. “Everything you want, Madison?” "Except understanding.”
“You really believe you're innocent, don’t you?”
"Until you show me anything to the contrary, sir.”
Minnell sat on the bed. took out a packet of cigarettes and offered one. Rafe hesitated, then accepted and inhaled hungrily.
“1 thought you’d given up smoking?” “I had—until now.”
Minnell tossed the packet onto the cot. He spoke abruptly. “You’re in a mess. Rafe.”
Rafe said nothing.
“What made you do it?”
“Do what? My God, sir, do what?” Rafe burst out. "What did I do?” He walked up and down, despising the tremor in his voice but unable to control it. "If you’d only prove something instead of asking questions—if you’d only prove something! It'd be a relief to know what was going on, even if it proved me guilty of treason—-but 1 don’t know what happened!”
The CO was silent for a minute. When he spoke it was in a wondering tone. "You know, Rafe, your defense is so senseless 1 almost believe you. No one, especially you, could invent so stupid a story.” He stopped, sighed and ground out his cigarette. "Was it your promotion?"
Rafe turned. "What?”
"1 suppose you considered you had a grievance because you’d been waiting so long for a promotion.”
Rafe stared at him uncomprehendingly. "Do you—?” He could hardly speak. “You don’t think 1 would hand over military secrets because of that?”
"But you know, with the set-up as it is, promotion must necessarily be slow. You were talking of forming a club for Perpetual Flying Officers ...”
"But—but it was a joke!” Rafe was breathing quickly. “Sure Ed been moaning about being an FO for so long, but that didn't mean—ask anyone!”
"I know. But with some people . . .” Minnell took out his pipe and ran his fingers around the bowl. “Yes, I know it’s ridiculous. But there’s no other mot ¡ve.”
“There’s no motive because there’s no crime.”
Minnell stood and looked out of the window. “By the way,” he said, “where did you get this?”
He turned, holding a piece of cloth.
“What is it?”
“You tell me.”
Hesitantly, Rafe took the cloth and ran it through his fingers. It was of green material, about fifteen inches square, and although it looked like cloth it felt like metal.
"We noticed that.” For a moment there was silence. “We had it in a refrigerator for an hour—and then six hours.”
Rafe stared at Minnell, wondering if the CO was delirious or, perhaps, something worse—for Rafe.
“Each time we took it out—it was still warm.”
Rafe looked at the cloth again. He telt distinctly, specifically uneasy without knowing why. "Has it something to do with me?"
"It was found in your helmet.” The
CO prodded his pipe again and said offhandedly. "Where did you get it. Rafe?” "Don't try that stuff with me!" Rafe said furiously. "I've had as much as 1 can stand! 1 don’t know anything about it. I didn't put it in my helmet. 1 didn't know it was there. Where would 1 get a thing like—” He stopped suddenly and stared at the button in the CD's lapel. A muscle twitched in his face. "Is that a transmitter, sir?” Minnell faced him. "Yes."
Minnell started to say something. Rafe
sprang up. “You’re like the rest of them! You've got a stupid idea in your head and you won’t see the truth!”
“What is the truth, Madison?” the CO said harshly.
“1 don’t know! But it’s something more than your dirty politics.” His voice rose to a scream. “Get out!”
The strain he had been under for three days and the nightmares that had disturbed his exhausted sleep overcame him. He began to sob. He fell on the cot and said into the pillow, “Leave me alone, please leave me alone.”
The wing commander looked down at Rafe, suppressed a sigh and, edging the mysterious cloth gently from the pilot’s fingers, called the guard and left the cell.
It was mid-afternoon when Eleanor entered the cell. Rafe stood up quickly and took a step toward her joyfully. But her face was barren.
After a long silence: “I suppose you’ve got a micro-transmitter, too? And everything we say will be listened to in another office?”
She spoke lifelessly. “Everyone’s
wrong but you. They’re all lying when they say you've been missing for five and a half months.”
A muscle rippled in his cheek. He was deathly pale.
“Well, you abandoned us, didn’t you? That’s how much it was worth. There—there may have been some reason for—for me. But little Marion . . . Every day she asked for you.”
“‘Daddy doesn’t love me any more.’” “Eleanor, please, please.”
A tear ran down her cheek. “What
are we going to do now? What can we?” “Oh, Elly!” He took her in his arms and buried his face in her hair. “Don't go on!”
She clutched him convulsively, awkwardly, about the neck, kissing him on the cheeks, on the lips.
"Rafe, what’s happening, what have we done?”
A little later they were sitting on the cot, fingers tightly intertwined, talking earnestly.
“Elly, I don’t know what’s going to happen.”
“Don’t worry, darling, please don’t worry, it'll all come right in the end. Oh. sweetheart, you look so tired and ill.”
“I'm all right.”
She remembered what Allen had told her. “Rafe,” she began. Her eyes flickered over his face, uncertainly. “Mr. Allen told me you’d refused to be—” Analyzed. She couldn’t say it. Rafe tried to move away. She took hold of his arm and made him face her. “He wants to help you, that’s all.”
“He’s paid to help us. He makes me uneasy.”
“He’s the best psychologist in the air force. If anyone can help you—”
“Do you think I’m mad?”
“No, no, darling, of course not! But there may be something he can get at.“ “I don’t believe in that claptrap. They’re still in the dark ages of psychoanalysis.”
“They’ve had spectacular successes.” “They’re not messing about with me.” Eleanor stared at him, shocked. She said in a low voice, “Rafe, I don't believe you want to find out what happened.”
“That’s what makes you uneasy—because you’re afraid.”
“Then why don't you help yourself? What harm can it do?”
When he did not reply she got up and moved to the window and looked out. She could see a white vapor trail slashed across the sky.
THE air officer commanding, Air Vice-Marshal Simmons, was a big handsome man with three rows of bright ribbons on his tunic. He found the interceptor squadron commander in the university laboratory at the airfield perimeter. He listened in silence as the lab chief spoke excitedly to Minnell.
“It’s the most fabulous material we’ve ever come across,” said the scientist. “It won’t crease, melt, burn or dissolve. We've had it at minus ninety and it still retains its warmth. It defies every attempt to analyze it. And listen to this, John: it has sound.’’
“It has what?”
“Come along and I’ll show you.”
The scientist conducted them to a small unit attached to which was a cable ending in a handle and black disc.
“It’s tin amplifier. However, it’s a little more sensitive than usual.” He took up a tiny pin and dropped it onto the disc.
Simmons jumped at the sound. “But what's it got to do with the cloth?” “Ah,” the lab chief said. “Listen." He draped the material carefully over the disc, adjusted the volume and cocked his head on one side, listening.
From the amplifier came a faint noise, something like the sound of bacon frying. Simmons and Minnell looked at each other. Simmons took the green material and studied it.
“It's like a microscopically woven chainmail.”
"Yes, that's a good description — except that it appears to be n times stron-
ger than any chainmail. Literally it’s indestructible.”
"How do you account for it?”
"1 can't. 1 understand this lad Madison denies all knowledge of it.”
"He couldn't have made it himself?” Simmons asked Minnell.
“No, no." the chief said, shaking his head vigorously. “This metal, cloth or whatever it is. is derived from no known material, synthesis, or metal, or alloy of metals.”
They squinted at him in astonishment. “What do you mean?”
"Just what I say.”
There was a long silence. Everyone looked at the cloth. At last the AOC said, “How do you account for the sound it gives out?”
"I can’t,” the chief said, blinking.
There was another silence, broken at last by Allen's quiet uncertain tones. "Have you tried tuning in to it?"
They gaped at him. Minnell said. “Wha* do you mean, Rob?"
"Well, maybe it's like quartz crystal
One of the lab technicians sniggered.
A T THREE-THIRTY on the fourth TV.day after Air Torce Jet 906 had landed, I. AC Johnstone made an astounding discovery.
He was one of a group of hand-picked mechanics who had been ordered to take the CE-108 to pieces. This big complicated delta-wing aircraft had been stripped of all removable parts, including the giant Iroquois engines which lay in special cradles on either side of the long, sharp nose. Scattered around on benches and carefully screened on the floor of the hangar lay the various components of the plane. Experts from Air Defense Command, from the Central Experimental Proving Establishment and from the manufacturers. Avro Canada, had for three days and nights been going over the plane from the airspeed needle to the tip of the tail, probing, examining it for signs that it had been tampered with. Although Johnstone did not know it until he made his discovery, the experts had failed to find anything to arouse their suspicions. And they were necessarily suspicious people.
At five to five Simmons. Minell and Allen entered the hangar, talking worriedly. Warrant Officer Hardy stiffened to attention.
“Sir.” He came closer and said in a low voice. “I think we’ve got something, sir."
Allen's heart leaped unpleasantly.
Johnstone looked up from the bench and stood to relaxed attention when he saw the gold braid. Minnell nodded to him.
"LAC Johnstone,” Hardy began nervously. "came to me and told me something very peculiar. I thought he was up to his tricks, but it's true. sir.
“What's true?" Minnell asked.
"This is Madison’s jet. sir."
"Some of it weighs less than it should."
The three officers stared at Hardy as if he had gone mad. Simmons glanced around at the other technicians. "Everyone seems to be taking it very well, he said.
"They don't know yet, sir."
"Why not?” snapped Minnell.
"We didn’t want to say anything until we were sure, sir. We’ve just finished weighing ten different components and parts.”
Simmons looked at the large rusty scales on which a section of the fuselage was resting. He recognized it as one of the dive brakes. “Go on,” he said
quietly glancing at Minnell’s dark face.
“LAC Johnstone here, sir." the warrant officer said stiffly, "had cause to be suspicious of the radio compass, sir. He weighed it and found it to be approximately two thirds the weight it should be. He weighed the stick, the elapsedtime clock and one of these little oxygen demandéis, sir, and six other parts — with the same result."
Minnell grated. “Are you trying to tell me this jet weighs less than it did on May seventh? Hardy, if you’re fooling about with us, you're for it!”
Attracted by the concentration of the group and its air of suspense, several other technicians began to gather around discreetly. A small, neatly dressed man with beady eyes pushed through. "Afternoon. Minnell," he said briskly. "What’s going on?"
They told him.
"Impossible. The weights have been standard since the Mark 11 version." He saw the dive brake lying on the scales and turned red. "Just what do you think you're up to. Hardy?"
Simmons stepped in smoothly. "Hold
on a moment, if you will. Mr.—er—?”
"This is Mr. Greensaw, of A. V. Roe, sir," Minnell said shortly.
"Let’s not argue.” Simmons said. "Let us"—he coughed—"let us just weigh the facts. What is the figure on the dive brakes. Hardy? Let me see the book.” He took the manual from a sweating Hardy and referred to the figures. "Eorty-four pounds. Right. Are these scales accurate?"
"They’re a pound out." Johnstone said.
"A pound out . . . well, that won't
make much difference. Go ahead and weigh the panel, Johnstone.”
Johnstone removed the weights from one of the scale trays and began to replace them slowly. The others watched in silence. When the counterweights reached thirty pounds the scales abruptly tilted over and came to rest, with the counterweights on the scale base.
Mr. Greensaw’s eyes almost fell out of his head.
KAFE MADISON lay on the couch.
his face pale and haggard, his sleeve rolled up. The room was in darkness except for the beam from an anglepoise illuminating two tape recorders with transparent lids.
In the background Wing Commander Minnell shifted uneasily in his chair and stared at his fingernails.
“Is he ready?”
“He looks ill, poor devil.”
“You know, John,” Allen said quietly, “whether these two hours tell us anything or not, I’m already convinced there’s something here quite outside our experience. Scientists are supposed to be cold hard warriors in the cause of scientific truth, men who live by balanced diets of mathematics and immutable laws. But you know we have just as many doubts as any philosopher or poet. What is time? What is space? What, for that matter, is life? Fundamentally we don’t know. We argue effectively in support of today’s theses, but the very ease with which we are able to adapt our thinking to new concepts is some evidence that our earth-bound mathematics and the rules of our imagination are not abiding.”
“What are you getting at?”
Allen moved uncomfortably. “Well—”
He broke off as Rafe gave a deep sigh and moved his head restlessly from side to side. Allen crossed to him.
“Ready to go on. Rafe?”
“Is the CO still there?”
“Yes. he is.” Minnell approached. He glanced at Allen. Allen switched on the machines and made sure they were recording. “You realize, Madison, that if you’re hiding anything it’ll almost certainly come out?”
“Are you sure you want to go through with it, then?”
” We’re going to record you. The machines are on at this moment. When you’ve finished, one of the recorders will be sealed in the presence of yourself and three witnesses, and kept in safe keeping.”
Rale stared up glassily.
“Í don’t want you to say later that there’s been any coercion.”
“I’m doing this of my own free will, sir. Let’s get on with it,” Rafe said dully.
Allen swabbed Rafe’s arm and deftly thrust home the needle.
“Will you count, please?”
Rafe began to count in a dreary voice. He had reached only thirty when he faltered and stopped.
Rafe began again, but from the beginning. Allen looked at him anxiously and bit his lip. For a moment he considered postponing the session.
“Rafe, can you hear me?”
“It is May seventh. It is seven o’clock in the morning on May the seventh. You are finishing breakfast. You get up, put on your uniform.”
There was a long, introspective silence.
“Now you are walking to work. You have just entered the main gates. What time is it?”
“Twenty-five to eight.”
“What are you thinking?” Allen asked. “One of my shoes hurting ...” “Yes?”
“Can I afford the movie camera . . .?” “What movie camera?”
“Lofty has a sixteen-mil job he wants to sell. Has a one-point-five wide angle . . . wants two hundred for it . . . Be nice to see Marion on the screen.” “Arc you going to buy it?”
“1 don’t know.”
“J only have a hundred and ten dollars . . . It’s a good camera . . .
Elly wouldn’t be very pleased . . .” “What arc you going to do today, Rafe?”
“Flying at ten and at two ...” “What else?”
“Throw away the cigarettes . . .” “What?”
“Had a standby pack for weeks — given up smoking. When I get home I’m going to throw away ...”
“What else are you going to do today? Is anything worrying you, anything on your mind?”
“Baseball . . . 400 against Com
“Is that all you’re going to do today?” “Sunbathe ...”
Allen and Minnell looked at each other. Minnell turned up the volume of his transmitter. As the tape wound slowly onward Allen took Rafe through many of his actions and thoughts of that day, but not in great detail until he arrived at the point where Rafe turned onto the runway, moved the throttles forward and the dart-shaped jet leaped off under its fifty-six thousand pounds of thrust.
As he talked, Allen was relieved—and a little surprised—to see no trace of strain on the face of the pilot. Rafe continued to remain calm throughout most of his recital of what happened when the jet reached its peak altitude of sixty-nine thousand feet, to talk tranquilly and without emotion of the extraordinary events that followed his sighting of the mile-wide ring that spun and tilted in the burning sky.
TRAVELING at Mach 2.4 and I’m nearly on the ring before I see it. Spinning and tilting on its axis, dead ahead, at about thirty degrees. I think it’s some queer cloud formation, but it’s too sharp. Haven’t much time to pull away but i can dodge it, but I don't want to make a sharp change of course. Not at 2.4 I don’t. I go toward it. It’s about a mile distant. I’m on it in seconds. Whatever it is, I’m going right through.”
“What are you thinking?”
“Thinking . . . I’m an arrow and
it’s a target and I'm going for the bull’seye ...” The pilot laughed suddenly. But just as abruptly he stopped. A tremendous spasm shook him, and he gave a cry.
“What’s happening? Rafe! What’s happening?”
With sweat trickling inside his collar, Minnell stared at the pilot incredulously. Rafe’s lips were moving.
“As I go through the ring I feel a shock, like electricity . . . and then
everything goes. The sky, the ground, the plane ...” There was another pause, then; “Lying in a room not a room, on a couch not a couch. Everything is misty ... I don’t know whether the walls are walls or curtains, or a
spray of water, or mist. I can see through.”
“How do you feel?”
“I feel . . . very happy, and quiet and peaceful. There are shapes approaching.”
“Approaching. Formless, fluid . . . no, gaseous . . . They are flowing
around me ... I can see through them ... I see through the walls . . . like a honeycomb of sunlight with the . . . the curtains one behind, one behind another, and into the distance . . . It’s not sunlight, though . . . ” A puzzled frown crossed Rafe’s face. “It’s a color I’ve never seen before ... I don’t know if it is a color—J feel it is . . . One of the shapes touches me ... I feel nothing. I don’t seem to want to get up. There is something soft on my head . . . it’s warm . . . Why, I hear them! They speak in music!”
“Not words but music . . . and yet it seems to mean something. I find my-
self speaking in reply, as if in response to some request ...”
The pilot now began to speak in a different tone, sonorously. “O for a muse of fire, that would ascend the brightest heaven of invention; a kingdom for my stage, princes to act, and monarchs to behold the swelling scene . . . ” And so he went on. Minnell looked at Allen.
“It’s the beginning of Henry the Fifth!”
"... for the which supply, admit me Chorus to this history; who prologue like, your humble patience pray, gently to hear, kindly to judge, our play.” “Why, why?”
Allen motioned Minnell to silence. The pilot was speaking again.
“They speak back. They speak . . . They don't make sense ...”
“Tell us what they say.”
“They say . . . they say, ‘Pardon,
your prince ascend leashed sword and muse of fire. Your thoughts gently to hear . . .’”
“What?” We piece out your—th’accomplishment of your scene, kingdom. Into a thousand parts divide—you.” “What do you mean?”
“Ah. We mean, we may cram your invention, of your vasty fields of—your history, within the girdles of these walls.”
“You want to find out about me?” “Turning many years into an hour-
glass. Admit we to your thoughts.” “But why?”
“To find out.”
“Who are you, what are you?”
“We carry here and there ¡'perilous heaven.”
“Ah. Space. We want to find out what you are, why you are hostile.”
"Why I am hostile? What do you want me to do?”
“Let us work on your parts, not on your . . . ” Rafe’s voice faded, then
came through strongly again.
“Piece out our imperfections with your thoughts. Gently, kindly, think.” “You'll pick up my thoughts?”
“Your thoughts. Not words, but imaginary puissance.”
“Interpret my feelings?”
“If you will.”
And then there was silence. Allen said quickly, “Rafe, how long are they taking to—to receive your thoughts?”
The magnetic tape wound onward but Rafe did not reply for many minutes. Until:
“Rafe, how long have you—?”
“I’m diving . . . only after several seconds the altimeter begins to register. Seventy, sixty, fifty ... I am pulling out . . .”
“Bluerange 9 zero 6. 15 north west, 3000 VLR. landing instructions. Over . . . What’s the matter with them . . . what’s the matter with them, what's the matter ... ?”
THE silence was electric as the tape recorder was switched off and resealed. Glancing around incredulously,
the prosecutor saw that the story Minnell had presented through his witnesses had made a profound impression. It was all too evident in the deep breathless si lence that prevailed, in the thought and concentration that shone from every face. As he walked toward the last witness he already saw his glory beginning to tarnish in the fantastic sunlight of an extraordinarily well-presented defense. He stared at the psychologist with redrimmed eyes.
“Can you, a doctor and a scientist, sit there and tell this court that you honestly believe that rigmarole?”
“I can honestly say that within the limits of the science of psychology, th;:that recording is an approximate picture of what happened,” Allen said.
The prosecutor laughed and looked around at the row of members. But th laughter died away in spite of himself. He said furiously, “I refuse to waste the time of this court in questioning further a witness who, using a science that he himself admits is far from perfect . . .' He turned to the members with arms outflung: “Are we expected to endorse a mass-hysteria phenomenon, or accept a visitation of shapes or things from outer space as . .
The president was hammering. “You will have an opportunity to make a speech tomorrow,” he snapped. “Have you finished with the cross-examination?”
The president had not even left the hall before the court-martial dissolved in pandemonium.
IT WAS obvious to Rafe and Minnell, even before the prosecuting counsel had finished his speech the next morning, that they had lost the case. The verdict had to be either guilty or not guilty; and to give the latter verdict would have laid the members open to a charge almost of upholding witchcraft against common sense, of giving credence to hallucination, of maintaining a fantasy. It was not that the members were in the process of denying the evidence of the defense; indeed, the sum total of the defense had made an impression on everyone who heard it. While it was in progress they had believed. But in the cold light of everyday experience and of political necessity, to continue their belief to its logical conclusion might be disastrous—especially to their own reputations. They turned their faces to the defense, and their faces were cold.
“One witness,” the prosecutor was saying, “has tried to explain the loss of weight of the jet with the theory that it came into contact with some kind of anti-gravity field, and the defending.officer made great play with this idea, suggesting that the white ring imparted this weight-alteration to the jet. I leave you to put what credence you can in this fantastic assertion.”
But it was the weight loss that had made the deepest impression on the tech-
nically minded members. They had heard how not a single linkage, panel, power control or anything else had been interfered with physically — no component had been removed, no seal broken—and yet the jet had suffered a thirty-one-anda-quarter-percent weight loss.
The members stared at the green cloth on the table below the president, and looked away again, quickly, as if fearing that this exhibit might by itself rearrange the tumblers of their earth standards, and unlock the door to a humiliating verdict. One of them, in a thought that flashed in microseconds through his consciousness, wished that something might happen to save him the duty of destroying the life of a man whose guilt was by no means proved, that the ground might open up, perhaps, and swallow up the unfortunate pilot.
And that is what happened—not the ground opening, but space.
It came as the prosecutor brought his speech to a close. There was a sudden compression in the atmosphere. Several persons exclaimed and put their hands to their ears. The court reporter gave a cry. A crackling sound flaked and spattered about the hall. And then there was music. Only it was music unlike anything that had been heard before— almost like a tuning to international A by a vast orchestra, a highJy organized tuning with a hint, the faintest suggestion of something that might have been rhythm behind it. But if it was an orchestra, it was composed of very strange instruments.
There was uproar. Court officials ran about, seeking the cause or source of the noise, the president gaveled unmercifully, and the observers shouted to each other at the tops of their voices. The president continued to hammer angrily as if trying to compete with the strange interruption, and it almost seemed as if he had succeeded by sheer force of will. The sound began to subside. The compression lifted slightly, and almost shamefacedly the spectators glanced tit each other, silenced, wondering if they •tad suddenly been infected with an unaccountable madness. And yet there was a change in the air.
The gavel continued to crash even when silence was regained.
"What is the meaning of this?” the president stormed. “If this is an attempt to interfere with the court-martial ... !” He was glaring at Minnell.
But Minnell was staring at the green cloth.
“Sir, the sound came from the cloth.”
“This place will be searched!” the president cried in a passion. “And if the perpetrator of this gross interruption is discovered. I will see to it he receives—”
One of the members, an air commodore, said, “Sir, it did come from the cloth.”
Everyone stared. And from the cloth a voice spoke.
“Do not search the place; you will find nothing.”
The prosecutor dashed forward. "There’s a loudspeaker there!” He turned to the president. “This is obviously an attempt by the defense to interfere with the course of justice.” He snatched up the cloth. There was a flash and the prosecutor cried out in alarm and dropped it. It fell back on the table.
"Justice is something you know nothing of,” the voice spoke again. It was a sad gentle voice, and although it seemed to come from the cloth in some inexplicable way it also seemed to emanate from all p.:rts of the dark hall.
“It can hear us!” Minnell cried.
“We hear. We interceded on behalf of
the man on trial here, Rafe Madison.”
“It's a trick.” cried the prosecutor. He turned to Minnell in a fury. “You’ll be held in contempt of court for this, Minnell!”
“Wait.” The president was adjusting with his usual precision his plain metal glasses. (But his thoughts were not precise. He was utterly bewildered.) “And yet,” he said wonderingly. "the sound does seem to come from this cloth . . . Minnell?”
“I swear — I swear 1 know nothing about this.”
"We are of another world than yours.” “Prove it!” shouted the prosecutor, then stopped, furiously. He could have kicked himself.
“Must you always have proof?” the voice said, sadly. "Just as your prophets always have to prove, before you believe. Well, what would you have us do?” There was silence. Everyone looked at his neighbor. The voice waited patiently, crackling. At last one of the members, the flight-lieutenant, said, “Lift something —levitate something.”
After another pause the flight-lieutenant said in a strange voice, “Lift that— the shorthand machine.”
"Well," the voice said. Everyone looked toward the court reporter. Except the air commodore. He pointed.
High above the court a misty ring was suspended. And before the shock-glazed eyes of the court the shorthand machine began to rise, slowly. In dead silence they watched as it continued to ascend. As if it were no stronger than a line of thread the cable connecting it to the elec-
trie outlet parted soundlessly, and the shorthand machine reached the ring and disappeared. And then the ring, too, disappeared.
The president half rose to his feet, then sat abruptly.
“And in the same way,” the voice said, “so was Madison taken in.”
Rafe jumped to his feet. “Why?” he cried. “Why?”
“We wanted to find out what man was. Not to learn his secrets, but his mind. And although we found you to be a good man, with much love for others, and a lightness of spirit, we also found what we see is common to all men, a dark place in the secrecy of the heart. We saw this darkness in you, the man named Madison, and we were afraid. For if it existed in you, how much more does it exist in other men? The very fact that this court-martial is being held is a sign of the depth of suspicion and fear that is in you.” The voice paused and then said more faintly, "And so now we retreat.”
“Who are you? What did you do to me?” Rafe said, his face white.
“We did nothing harmful; you are unaltered. As for us, we are forms, but on a different plane. Microcosmic and infinite, dimensionless. We have no machines, no passions other than those that prompted us to intervene in the effects we caused. We exist in time, but it is not your time. You were with us, Madison, for five and one half months of your time; but to us it was the time it takes to tilt and circle above the undeniable beauty of your planet.
“And now we ask that our interference be forgiven, and the man Madison go free; and that our intercession be forgiven.”
"What if we do not?” the prosecutor said.
But there was no answer.
YOU know, one thing in particular about the court-martial intrigued me,” Allen said slowly. This was the first time he and Minnell had met since their enforced separation shortly after the end of the court-martial.
Allen scratched his head. “Well, you know, of course, that the green cloth disappeared?”
“I heard something: it was in the lab, locked in the safe, and some thief managed to get it."
“That’s the story.”
“And then the tapes of Madison’s experience were found to be blank—completely blank and silent.”
“Some clot must have erased them. By accident. Both of them,” Minnell murmured.
The friends looked at each other, and laughed. Allen stared at his glass, revolving it in his hand. “What about the other occurrence?”
“What other?” Minnell sat up suddenly. “You mean something else disappeared?”
“Of course. You saw it with your own eyes.”
There was a pause.
“The shorthand machine!”
“Yes. Don’t you think it was funny— one of the members suggesting that the voice display its power on, of all things, the court records?” Jç
Under the title, Breakthrough, Donald Jack's novelette will be presented in CBC’s General Motors Presents, on Oct. 5 at 9.30 p.rtt. It will be produced by Ron Weyman.