A SPECIAL TALE FOR CHRISTMAS
Above: From the June 22, 1952 issue of the Salt Lake City, Utah, Tribune.
- THE WARNING -
THE GENERAL halted his restless pacing to stare out of the window. Dusk was settling stealthily over the Pentagon. Across the river, above the lights of Washington, the flood-lit dome of the Capitol stood out boldly against the sky.
The General lit another cigarette. He was a stocky, bull-shouldered man with a furrowed face and steel-wool hair. On the wall behind his desk was a photograph showing him standing beside an early model B-17. He had led the first American heavy bomber raid against the Germans in 1942. Only a decade ago. He rubbed his hand wearily across his eyes. That was war. This was nightmare.
The inter-office phone spoke sharply. "Colonel Courtney's here, sir!"
The General turned quickly. "Send him in."
The door opened and Courtney appeared, a slender fair-haired man wearing a leather flying jacket. His face was lined with fatigue, but his eyes were alert and his shirt was sharp.
The General ignored it. "Never mind the formalities, Court. My God, I thought you'd never get here!"
"Sorry, sir. Head winds most of the way."
"I know. You must be bushed." The General kicked a chair forward. "Sit down, man. The Secretary's waiting to see us, but I want a word with you first. Cigarette?"
"Thanks," Courtney took one, lit it, inhaled deeply. He looked up at the older man.
"Does the Secretary know anything about this yet?"
"Not yet." The General was pacing again. "I just didn't have the guts to tell him until you got here. I kept hoping you'd bring back word that the man was insane."
Courtney's mouth tightened. "I wish I thought so."
"Did you talk to him again?"
"Yes. For as long as the doctors would let me, which wasn't very long."
"Couldn't budge his story?"
"Not an inch."
"What's he like?"
"Oh, typical, I'd say. Tough, unimaginative -- fanatically loyal, of course. In pretty bad shape, physically. But not stupid. And not delirious. And not insane."
THE GENERAL slammed his hand down on the desk. "Dammit, Court, I just won't believe it!"
The younger man shrugged faintly. "The Japs probably didn't believe we had a certain bomb, either, until it fell on Hiroshima."
The General stared at him without speaking for perhaps ten seconds. Then he picked up a folder from the desk. "Come on." he said. "Let's go."
They went through the maze of corridors, past offices empty now and dimly lit. Their heels rang sharply in the silence. "Was it cold up there?" the General asked irrelevantly.
"Not very, sir," the Colonel said. "Damp, though."
They came to the suite of offices with the neat blue-and-white lettering beside the door: Secretary of the Air force. The pretty civilian receptionist smiled at them.
"Go right in. gentlemen," she said.
THE MAN behind the desk stood up as they entered. He had a strong face, disciplined, calm. He held out his hand to the General.
"Well, Bob, what's on your mind?"
The General turned slightly. "This is Colonel Courtney, sir, one of our better men in A-2. I know you'll excuse his rumpled appearance. He just flew non-stop from Alaska."
"I've heard good reports of Colonel Courtney," said the Secretary pleasantly. "Learned to speak fluent Russian, haven't you. Colonel? Among other interesting things."
"Yes, sir," Courtney said.
The Secretary indicated two chairs. "Sit down, gentlemen." He spoke into a concealed microphone. "No interruptions, please, unless it's something very urgent." He clicked it off.
The General looked down at the folder in his hands. The words Top Secret were stamped across it in red. "Damned if I know how to begin."
"Why not at the beginning?" the Secretary suggested mildly.
"All right," the General said. "At the beginning."
He stood up and began to pace again, hands jammed into his pocket.
"Remember the day last week when three of our F-86's disappeared somewhere in the Aleutians?"
The Secretary looked grave. "I do indeed."
"Well," said the General, "that's apparently when it began. Although of course we didn't know at the time..." He frowned and was silent.
"Didn't know what?" the Secretary asked at length.
"What had happened to them. We still don't, really. You had my report. The possibility that they had strayed over Russian territory and got themselves shot down was eliminated because they never broke radio silence. They'd have screamed bloody murder if somebody had started shooting at them. We figured they must have smacked into a mountain in a fog. But we never spotted any wreckage, and we flew all the sorties that lousy weather would permit..." His voice trailed off again.
"You're still looking, aren't you?"
"What? Oh, yes, we're still looking, but..." The General wheeled into position in front of the desk, lowering his head like a bull. Courtney sat motionless, watching him. Here it comes, he thought.
"Four days ago," the General said, "a report filtered through to the commanding officer at Base 42 up there. The gist of it was that a parachutist had come down on Kodiak island, had been picked up -- injured -- by natives, and was being cared for in one of their more inaccessible villages. The C.O. assumed, of course, that it was one of our missing boys and got a helicopter in there right away. The story was true -- it was a parachutist, all right. But he didn't belong to us. He was a Russian fighter pilot."
The Secretary's eyes flicked briefly to the great wall map at the end of the room.
"Kodiak? Why wasn't he picked up by our radar screen?"
The General ran a harassed hand through his hair. "I think, sir. I had better finish the story. Then, if you ..."
The Secretary nodded. "Sorry. Go on."
"This Russian was in very bad shape. He had three smashed ribs -- evidently the result of a rough landing -- and they had perforated his lung. He also had a compound fracture of one ankle and a badly frostbitten face. He was conscious, but he couldn't speak a word of English, and the rescue team didn't know Russian. Nobody did, at Base 42."
The General took a cigarette from a crumpled pack and lit it.
"They flew him back to their hospital and notified us. We didn't like the sound of it, and sent Courtney up there right away. He got his first interrogation report back to us via a B-36 training flight that was scheduled anyway."
The General opened the folder and took out two typewritten sheets.
"I have it here in the form of a statement. It's not long. May I read it to you?"
The Secretary leaned back in his chair.
The General tamped out his cigarette and began to read in a flat, unemotional voice:
" 'I, Vladimir Suvurov, Captain in the Air Forces of the U.S.S.R., do solemnly swear that the following statement is true in every particular. On May 5, at approximately 1430 hours, I was leading one half of my fighter squadron, two flights of three planes each, on a routine training run between Khabarovsk and Vladivostok, a distance of some 600 kilometers.' "
"MIGs?" asked the Secretary sharply.
"He wouldn't say, sir," Courtney replied. "He's ultra security-minded. But they were probably the new Russian jet job. They have three Groups in the Vladivostok area. None has been seen south of the Yalu river -- yet."
AGAIN THE Secretary glanced at the map. "How far from Vladivostok to Kodiak?"
"Over three thousand miles, sir," Courtney murmured.
The Secretary whistled almost soundlessly.
"They have any sort of carriers out there?"
"Not according to our Naval intelligence, sir."
The Secretary said, "Go on, please. Bob."
The General went on reading:
" 'We were flying at 6,000 meters when I observed, higher than our line of flight, but directly ahead, an unfamiliar type of aircraft. It had no wings, but was shaped like a thick coin. It seemed at first to be stationary, but as we approached it drew away at a high rate of speed. I judged it to be two or three times the size of our larger bomber.' "
The General glanced up grimly.
"Sounds familiar, doesn't it?"
The Secretary was leaning forward. "Go on."
" 'I immediately notified my control tower at Vladivostok and requested permission to pursue the object. This was granted, and I was instructed to force it to land, or if necessary to shoot it down. I asked for confirmation of this last part of the order, but my radio ceased to function and I lost contact with my base.' "
The General wet his lips and turned a page. It made an audible rustle in the silence.
" 'The object withdrew toward the east. I led my two flights in pursuit at maximum speed. We gained slowly. As we drew nearer I could see that the object seemed to consist of two discs, one on top of the other. Both discs were rotating at very high speed. I could not tell whether they were counter-rotating or not. Between the discs was a darker area that seemed to be stationary.' "
The Secretary said harshly, "Rotating discs?"
THE GENERAL nodded. "Some sort of gyroscopic principle, evidently." He went on reading:
" 'The object remained just out of cannon range. We pursued it eastward until I knew we must be over the Sea of Japan. Our fuel supply was limited, but I was sure my comrades would follow me, even past the point of no return. Since I could not communicate by radio, I glanced at them frequently in my rear-view mirror. I was watching when they began to explode. There was no smoke, no fire. They disintegrated.' "
The General took out a handkerchief and passed it across his forehead. His dry voice continued:
" 'I think my wing-man escaped. He went down suddenly in a steep dive, but under control. When I last saw him, he was heading west...' "
"Lost his nerve," said Courtney drily. "Can't say I blame him!"
"Well," said the General, "this Suvurov had plenty of guts. Listen to this:
" 'I was determined to close with the object. I fired my cannon, with no apparent result. We were now at 11,000 meters and climbing. The object suddenly changed course. It flew back and hovered directly over me.
" 'My fighter ceased to answer its controls. I felt a tremendous upward pressure, as if my plane were being dragged into the stratosphere. My ears began to pain me badly, and my oxygen supply seemed inadequate. When my altimeter needle touched 14,000 meters I became unconscious. I remember nothing more until my parachute opened approximately 1,000 meters above the ground.' "
THE GENERAL looked up again. "He still doesn't know where he is -- thinks he came down somewhere in northern Japan." He hesitated, "there's one more short paragraph:
" 'I thank the military forces of the United States for their kindness and medical treatment and urgently request that I be returned as soon as possible to my command.' "
He tossed the typewritten sheets onto the Secretary's desk and sat down. Nobody spoke. The Secretary picked up a paperweight made to resemble a B-47. He put it down. He said, with exaggerated calm, "I don't blame you for being upset by this story, Bob. But I think I see a few flaws in it. For example, if he was unconscious, how did he pull his rip-cord?"
Courtney coughed. "I think I can explain that, sir. I asked him the same question. He hedged a bit, but I gather they've developed a barometric gadget for high altitude parachute jumps. If the flier blacks out, the 'chute opens automatically at about 3,000 feet." He glanced at the General. "I'll pass that along to Wright Field, of course."
"But if his plane disintegrated," the Secretary demanded, "why didn't he disintegrate, too?"
"He doesn't think his plane disintegrated, sir. He thinks they got it."
"Whoever-whatever was in the disc, he thinks they had no use for him, so they just threw him out -- not knowing about his chute. But they kept his plane."
Courtney shifted his feet and stared at the carpet. "If that's true, then they've probably got one of our F-86's, too."
THE SECRETARY braced his arms against the desk as if he were forcing something away from him. "It must be a hoax! Some kind of fantastic Oriental hoax!"
The General opened the cardboard folder again. "You've already seen these, sir. Here's that photo taken some time ago by one of our photo-recon boys 35,000 feet over Labrador. You can see the dark round object quite clearly. Of course, our photo interpreters decided it was just a Navy weather balloon wandering around in the stratosphere.
"Then here are the reports from those two B-29 crews flying night missions in Korea. You remember the planes were in widely separated areas, and yet three members of each crew reported seeing near midnight a circular object that flew along with them emitting blue flames."
"But, dammit, man, those objects were described as being very small!"
"You can't always judge size at night in the air," the General said. "Anyway, if you concede the existence of small ones, you may as well grant the possibility of a big one!"
"I noticed," said Courtney drily, "that we didn't concede anything in our statements to the press. We said, in effect, that we saw them, but we didn't believe them."
The General glared at him suddenly. "What the hell else could we say?"
"TAKE IT easy, Bob," the Secretary said. He bit his lip. "Let's think this through.
"If Suvurov's story is true, he was carried three thousand miles in about three hours -- perhaps less."
Courtney nodded. "Probably much less; otherwise he'd have been suffocated, or frozen."
The Secretary got up, walked to the end of the room, stared at the map for a moment. He turned around slowly. "I think it's important not to get too excited. Excitement doesn't exactly help clear thinking. For the moment let's assume the impossible. Let's assume there is some -- some mechanism loose in the sky which can fly at supersonic speeds, which can create its own magnetic field, blanket radio transmission when it wants to, even destroy pursuing fighters by concentrated sound waves or some other method. Who created such a thing? Where did ii come from?"
The two officers stared at the floor. They said nothing.
"IF SUVOROV'S story is true," the Secretary said, "we can't suspect the Russians. It must have been a hell of a jolt for the C.O. at Vladivostok."
"Must have caused an even worse shock in the Kremlin." the General said. "Six new jet fighters tangle with a -- with a something. One comes back. My God, they must be scared stiff!"
"And since they don't know who's responsible," the Secretary said, "they must blame us."
"Us?" The General sounded startled.
"Who else would be suspected of putting a secret weapon over Siberia? After all, we hold Japan."
"But they'd have protested!" the General objected. "They'd have raised merry hell with us in the UN!"
"Not the Russians, General," Courtney said. "They'd figure we were talking to them in the one language they understand. Force!"
"But they haven't done a thing! They haven't reacted in any way!"
'They've hardly had time," the Secretary said grimly. "After all, they had to fly a badly frightened pilot back to Moscow. Had to interrogate him, had to evaluate this fantastic thing... "
A phone buzzed on his desk. He picked it up. "Yes?" He held it out toward the General. "For you."
The General took the instrument, listened, put it down slowly. "Message from Base 42," he said slowly. "Suvurov is dead. Pneumonia, plus complications."
Courtney stood up and moved over to the window, "That's too bad. He was a brave man."
SILENCE SANG in the room. Seconds ticked into a minute, two minutes. The General kept his eyes fixed on the Secretary. Something in the man's face reminded him of a trapped animal. Courtney stared out of the window. The phone buzzed again.
The Secretary picked it up. "Yes?" he said again. "What?" They saw his expression change. "No! Are you sure?" He raised one clenched fist and shook it in -- a sudden gesture of elation. The jumble of excited words continued for a moment, then was gone. The Secretary put down the phone. He said, hoarsely, "That was the Defense Secretary, gentlemen. He's just come from a conference at the White House. The Russian Ambassador was there, so excited he could hardly talk. It seems he'd just got a call from Moscow. There's been a complete change of policy in the Kremlin. They're lifting the Iron Curtain. This -- this could be the beginning of peace!"
THE THREE men stared at one another. Nobody spoke. At length Courtney raised his leather clad arm and pointed through the window.
"Look," he said in a whisper.
The others joined him.
Red and unwinking, a point of-light hung just above the horizon. More than fifty million miles away, the great planet glowed through the icy chasms of space.
The General wet his lips.
"That's -- that's Mars, isn't it?"
Silence again. Then the Secretary uttered the thought that was in the minds of all of them. "Maybe they sent us a warning -- a warning to stop these murderous wars before it's too late. Maybe." he said, and his voice shook. "Maybe they sent us a messenger of peace!"
- THE END -
The Day Peace Came
By Truman Twill
ON THE DAY peace quit being a hope and became a reality, everything started as usual.
The rosy-fingered dawn shook off the shade of night as the earth spun in its orbit. All living things, including men, stirred to the timeless coming of light and took up their struggle to remain alive one more day.
But suddenly something without precedent happened.
At innumerable points all over the earth, strange craft unlike anything ever seen by earthlings before came buzzing out of space and landed briefly on the earth's surface.
All human attempts to murder the strange occupants of these space ships were futile. As reports of the failures were received from scattered points and pieced together by the Associated Press, it became sickeningly obvious that these creatures, whatever they were, were immune to man-made violence.
Descriptions of the creatures revealed, moreover, that either they were of many different origins or of many different types, with perhaps a common origin. They were highly individualistic. Only one detail appeared in all the scattered reports.
What appeared to be their heads were between their extremities, which resembled identical sets of hands. The creatures could move about on either of these two sets; they could not be said to have their feet on the ground, like earthlings, because they might have another set in the air at the same time. Or they could have both sets on the ground, thereby making them twice as practical as men.
The creatures were vari-colored, about the size of basketball players, and extremely willowy. During the brief interval they spent on the earth, they removed from their space ships and erected tablets of something which was similar to steel in appearance but much lighter and infinitely tougher.
All these tablets bore the same inscription -- at least all of them which have been located and photographed. Whatever the inscription said, the same thing was inscribed on the earth itself by the follow-the-dots arrangement of all the tablets over all the earth's surface. This was pointed out months later in a paper by Dr. Ignate Frootkake before the Institute of Advanced Study at Princeton, N.J.
All the best minds immediately went to work on the inscriptions, getting nowhere. But the very futility of their efforts, combined with the invulnerability of the space-ship creatures to man-made destruction, had a tremendous impact. The creatures of the earth, intent on remaining alive one more day, quit killing one another lest they weaken their common front, in the face of common danger.
No longer were their fears confined to what might happen to them at the hands of their own kind. They now had to be afraid of what might happen to them at the "hands" of unearthly creatures who could put their "feet" on the ground from either end and be twice as practical if they felt like it.
It is estimated that the, visitations lasted 15 minutes -- but they were 15 momentous minutes. When it was over, peace on earth had become a reality. Earthlings quit wishing they had it and got it by common consent.
The whole thing was that simple and that fantastic, on the day that flying saucers became realities and lent wings to men's imagination.
- THE END -
Portsmouth, Ohio Times
August 5, 1952
- HAPPY HOLIDAYS TO ALL -
Whether you need some serious styling for your walls at home or work or are on the lookout to give someone a special gift they'll treasure forever, you support the work of Saturday Night Uforia whenever you shop for great posters from AllPosters.com from any link at this site -- any, each, and every time you start your shopping from here. You still get the same great deal as your friends and family, but a little will be sent back our way as a thank you from AllPosters.com. And you'll have the extra satisfaction of directly supporting the work of Saturday Night Uforia while treating yourself or friends to something special... like any of these great sci-fi movie posters (you can even have them mounted, laminated, or framed). Just click on the pic for a larger version...