Ace of Space: 1944: Prelude to a Storm, Prologue: Origin of the Ace of Space

by Drivtaan, adapted from Ace of Space story in Feature Comics #38 by H. Weston Taylor and Harry Campbell

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Upstate New York, July, 1940:

Franklin “Ace” Egan enjoyed the benefits of being born into a life of privilege. He was a man of many hobbies, and he had the means to indulge them all. From the sleek red Alfa Romeo that he ran in last year’s Grand Prix de Paris to the thoroughbreds that were a yearly threat at the Kentucky Derby, Ace spared no expense when it came to having fun. And his latest indulgence was no exception.

It had set him back a pretty penny, but after spending the last three years making big promises and introductions to dozens of very available, very attractive socialites, he had finally convinced his friend to build him a plane. Ever since Howard Hughes had set a new transcontinental speed record from Los Angeles to New York in his H-1 Racer, Ace had been after him. He wasn’t certain how fast the man’s personal plane would go, but he knew his own had been built so that the record would not be broken. It was this light-hearted rivalry that had made Ace and the jovial Mr. Hughes such good friends, and it was this friendship that prevented anyone else from taking Howard’s place as Ace’s teacher when he was ready to learn to fly. Ace had been a quick learner and had little problems gaining his pilot’s license.

Since he had no intention of racing off to California, Ace had spent the day flying over New England. Remembering Howard’s first flight in his H-1 Racer, he kept an eye on his gas gauge. As he was returning to his country estate before he ended up flying on fumes, he saw something that took him by complete surprise — a spaceship, if there was such a thing, was landing in one of his fields.

Bringing his plane around, Ace lowered the landing gear and touched down in an adjoining field. After shutting down the Pratt & Whitney R-1535 twin-row fourteen-cylinder radial engine, he climbed from the cockpit and approached the ship, still not sure he could believe what his eyes were seeing. As he drew nearer, a panel slid open, and the man found himself facing a nine-foot-tall alien. Had the creature not looked so unstable, Ace might have been scared; as it was, however, he couldn’t help but feel sorry for the alien.

“What’s the trouble, old timer?” Ace asked, not really considering whether or not the alien would understand him.

Three unblinking eyes, set in a peaked triangle pattern above a long, narrow nose, stared at the human for a moment. As Ace returned the alien’s gaze, he realized that the yellow-skinned creature had no visible mouth.

“Greetings, Earthman! Attend me closely, as my — what you call death — is but moments away! Listen closely…”

Ace was taken by complete surprise. “He isn’t talking!” the man whispered. “I’m reading his mind!”

The alien was focused on his mission and chose not to correct the human. There was a difference between reading one’s mind and having their thoughts sent into your brain. Knowing that time was short, it continued.

“The Slogoms — evil beings from another solar system — come to conquer your Earth. I could defeat them, but I cannot live in your air.” As if to emphasize its point, the alien staggered back against the spaceship’s hull.

Ace moved to help the alien as it slid down the hull until it was sitting on the ground. As it slid, the alien’s eight-fingered hand removed a black belt from around its waist. “Take this… belt and its… power… Wear… it.”

“Why, he’s shrunk three feet,” Ace said aloud to himself, as if in a dream, as he reached to accept the belt. “Old timer, can I help you?”

“Cut stream of power… Cut…” There were no more telepathic words as the alien slumped, unconscious, onto the ground.

Now what do I do?” Ace asked himself. “He said that there were powers connected with the belt… that might help me.”

Donning the belt, Ace suddenly grew nine feet all. And as he glanced down at the alien, he realized what he had to do. “Why, it’s simple!” he said. “Get him to a hospital… carry him there…” He stopped in mid-sentence as he realized what had just happened to him. “Great guns! I’ve grown! And I seem to know the answers to all problems.”

Ace picked up the alien, holding him as easily as if he were holding a baby. He began to run toward the city. As he ran, Ace approached a broad ditch; without giving it much thought, he gave a mighty leap. And when he landed, he cried, “Great guns! I’m covering a quarter of a mile at a jump!

With his newfound ability, Ace soon found himself landing in front of the hospital. The scream of a startled onlooker brought unwanted attention to Ace, and he rushed through the emergency room doors.

Inside, the nine-foot-tall man found the equally startled hospital staff. “Doctor!” Ace shouted, spurring the people to action.

Whowhat?” the doctor asked, his mind trying to process what his eyes were seeing.

Ace gently placed the alien on the tile floor. “Take him and do what you can for him.”

Whawhat is it?” the doctor asked as he glanced at the alien with studying eyes.

“That’s for you to find out!” Ace said before taking his leave.

Following the giant out the door, the doctor watched him leap into the air. “So long, Doctor!” he heard the tall man say as he vanished over a nearby building.

Now that the alien was being taken care of, Ace decided to return to the spaceship and see what he could do about hiding it. “Don’t know how I know this, but it can be made invisible!

After landing beside the craft, Ace stepped just inside the door and pushed a button. By the time he stepped back out, the ship had vanished.

Ace let out a sigh. He heard the sound of feet pounding across the field and realized that he couldn’t be seen in his current condition. “Wonder what happens when I take off this belt?” Doing so, he let out a gasp. “Well, I’ll be…! I’m back to my normal size!

And it was not a moment too soon. Ace turned to see his butler coming around the front of his airplane.

“Oh, Mr. Ace, sir,” the man said, drawing near. “I saw a strange ship, like a… a spaceship, sir. And a giant, sir.”

Ace tried to calm his butler down, but in his own excitement, the words came out harsher than he intended. “Forget it, Jennings! And keep away from here!

Ever the gentleman’s gentleman, Jennings bowed at the waist.

“I’m going to take the plane to the hangar,” Ace said, “then I’ll meet you back at the house.”

“Very good, sir,” Jennings said.

***

An hour later, and Ace was home. He had just entered his study and turned on the radio when he heard a surprising bulletin.

“Here’s a special bulletin! The strange creature that a giant brought to the city hospital this morning just died.”

Ace couldn’t help but wonder what thoughts were running through the minds of his neighbors upon hearing such unbelievable news. Were it not for the fact that he was the giant in question, he would have thought the announcer had been drinking.

“And here’s another bulletin,” the radio announcer continued. “Howell Observatory just reports that they have sighted a number of what may be spaceships nearing the Earth! This is unbelievable! A message just received from what purports to be those spaceships demands the surrender of our planet!”

By gosh,” Ace said, jumping to his feet, “they’re not fooling, either. I’d better get busy and put on my thinking belt!

***

Beyond the farthest edge of Earth’s atmosphere, dozens of spherical crimson objects waited for a response from the leaders of the planet below. Within one of the strange crafts, a pair of amorphous green creatures stared at each other through their single eyes.

“The fools refuse!” one said telepathically.

“We must show our power!” the other replied.

Their bodies undulated for a moment, and then a tentacle emerged from their shapeless forms and grasped a lever. With a slight tug, they slid the lever downward.

The astronomers who had been keeping an eye on the aliens could do nothing but tremble as a pencil-thin beam of light burst forth from one of the ships and sped toward Earth. In an instant, a one-square mile of Long Island in New York burst into flame.

***

At the unexpected show of force, many of Earth’s leaders began to rethink their plans of resistance. Panic was erupting all over the planet.

Ace Egan, however, had other plans.

Wearing the alien belt, he left his house and headed for the field where the invisible spaceship stood waiting. It only took him three leaps to reach his destination. Glancing skyward, he was amazed at the range of what he could now see with his vision.

“Why, I can see those spaceships with my naked eyes!” He used his super-vision to watch them for a few seconds more. “And what are those thin lines behind them? Stream of power! He said to cut it!”

Reaching inside the invisible ship, Ace found the button and tapped it. In the blink of an eye, the ship reappeared. “Better get going!” he said, and went inside. Moments later, the spaceship was shooting skyward toward the enemy.

Within minutes, Ace had engaged the Slogoms. Guided by the powers of the belt, he followed his instincts and flew his own spaceship through the lines of energy that trailed the alien vessels.

Like puppets whose strings have been cut, the alien spheres began to plummet toward Earth. Once the last of the Slogom ships crashed, Ace headed home.

Jennings met his master at the door, fearful that the world was coming to an end. While trying to calm his man down, Ace went to his study and turned on the radio.

“The danger is over,” the announcer said. “Some ace of space attacked and destroyed our enemy.”

“Hear that?” Ace asked his butler.

“I feel so relieved, sir,” Jennings replied.

***

Later that evening, while at his club, Ace listened as many of his friends discussed the events of the day. Jokingly, they accused him of being the mysterious Ace of Space, as the mysterious giant had been nicknamed. All it took was a single denial on his part for them to turn their conversation to the question of what they would do if they were the giant.

As he listened, Ace realized that he could actually do what his friends were only dreaming of. He allowed himself a smile as he thought of how exciting his future had just become.

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