Billy Dunn walked around his beloved multipurpose fighter. The Blue Tracer gleamed in the morning sun, everything looking ready to go. “Ready, Bomber?” he asked his navigator.
“Just as soon as our special passenger arrives,” said Bomber Jones.
“I’m here,” said a voice from the hangar’s door. It was a handsome, red-haired man in a suit who seemed impossibly young for a man born during World War I. “Happy Terrill. I’m the one getting the special ferry to England.”
“Aren’t you supposed to be dead?” said Dunn, joking. After the man only shrugged in response, he continued, “I’m Captain Billy Dunn, and this is Captain Bomber Jones. The quarters are cramped, but we hooked on a living compartment for more room. If you’re ready, we are also.”
“Let’s go,” said Terrill, his face becoming grim. “I have some unfinished business that needs taking care of as soon as I can.”
Dunn took off from Reagan Air Force Base and headed east over the Atlantic. The Blue Tracer was cramped quarters for three. At least Terrill was a quiet passenger.
“Radar contact,” said Bomber Jones over the radio. “Looks like a Nazi destroyer.”
“Climbing,” said Dunn. “Anything else out here?”
“Not as far as I can see,” said Jones. “A lone destroyer is out of place out here.”
“Tell me about it,” said Dunn. “Keep an eye on it. Fighters might try to swamp us.”
“Right, Billy,” said Jones.
“You are suspecting a Nazi convoy, I take it?” shouted Terrill over the noise.
“Right,” Dunn yelled back. “Usually a carrier goes with anything like that to provide fighter cover.”
“Oh, joy,” said Terrill.
“Multiples, Billy,” Bomber Jones said calmly. “Three miles and closing fast.”
“How long until we reach our ceiling?” Dunn asked, already knowing the answer. His digital altimeter spun rapidly as the Tracer climbed to its maximum operating altitude.
“One minute to contact,” said Jones. “Ceiling in three.”
“Deploy mix,” said Dunn, attaching the oxygen mask to his helmet.
Jones and Terrill donned their own oxygen masks as Dunn spotted the enemy fighters climbing after the Tracer.
“ECM on,” reported Jones. “Primary weapons locked and loaded.”
“Get ready to dump the reserve tanks,” said Dunn.
The Tracer normally did not carry enough fuel to make a transoceanic trip. Two tanks had been fitted to her wings to hold extra fuel for the multipurpose craft. The plan was to eject them when they were empty to get rid of the extra weight. They could be dumped at any time necessary.
Billy Dunn waited until he had reached the safest altitude he could fly his unique craft. The enemy closed fast from behind. Jones sat, his thumb over the cutoff switch. “Dump them,” said Dunn. Jones pressed the switch.
The Tracer soared higher as the reserve tanks were blown clear from its wings. One fell clear of the coming battle, while the other flew into the lead Nazi fighter, reducing it to a fireball. The other fighters veered away from the falling debris.
“The ride is really going to get rough now,” Dunn said to himself as the Tracer flew higher than he had ever taken it before.
“How high are we going?” Terrill asked, seeing the clouds vanish below the unique craft.
“As high as we can,” said Dunn. “What do the instruments say, Bomber?”
“They’re saying we are going to die,” said Jones. “Contact has broken off. We are way above our safe altitude. Fuel is burning off like crazy. At this rate, we’ll run out before we touch down.”
“Shut everything down,” said Dunn.
“Everything?” said Jones.
“Yes,” said Dunn. “We’re gliding in.”
The Blue Tracer flew silently at the edge of the world. Its passengers waited as Dunn made course adjustments to keep the metamorphosing plane aloft by instinctive use of heat thermals. Sealed up as they were, the signature of the Tracer was nonexistent. Only a direct line of sight would spot the craft now.
Dunn hoped when he descended to flying level, the fighters he had shook weren’t waiting. It would be a short dogfight, with the Tracer as the loser.
Watching his altimeter closely as his plane descended, Dunn called a restart at the maximum ceiling. The engines coughed to life, and the pilot controlled the sudden lurch as the Tracer roared to life.
“What do you think, Bomber?” he asked his navigator.
“In the clear, heading right for Ireland,” said Jones.
“Keep an eye out for the defensive screen,” said Dunn. “London Control will be looking for us.”
“Right,” said Jones. “Dive Target is coming up in two zero minutes, Billy.”
“Got it,” said Dunn. “Give me a count at the five-minute mark, and then at the two.”
“Check,” said Jones.
Dunn skimmed the surface of the Irish Sea as he headed for the touchdown point. Twin waves followed the Tracer as the pilot held it steady.
“Five minutes,” said Jones. “Ready for submerging.”
Dunn saw an imaginary strip in front of the cockpit as he prepared to belly the plane in the water.
“Two minutes,” said Jones. “We have a radar contact. Looks like a destroyer of some kind.”
“Get ready,” said Dunn. “Hopefully they won’t realize what the Tracer can really do.”
“Incoming,” reported Jones.
“Submerging,” said Dunn. “Release the decoy and oil.”
“Decoy released,” said Jones. “Buttoning up.”
“You guys do this a lot?” Terrill asked as the Tracer sank beneath the waves.
“Nope,” said Jones.
“Sometimes we actually get hit,” said Dunn, directing the converted vehicle deeper in the Atlantic, aware that the next thing he might be feeling was a depth charge exploding against the hull.
“How much longer until landfall?” asked Terrill.
“An hour on the outside,” said Jones.
The Blue Tracer glided to the bottom of the ocean, and Jones kept power to the engines at a minimum. Despite the fact the Tracer could absorb or deflect most electromagnetic detectors, one wrong move could place the destroyer back on alert.
Gliding the submersible toward the Scottish coast, Dunn looked for a promising spot. Once he dropped off Happy Terrill, he expected to refill his engines and fly back to the States. Of course, he also knew that plans did not survive contact with the enemy.
Billy Dunn sailed down a river and into something called a loch. He extended the wheels for land running and rolled out of the water.
“Primaries locked and loaded,” reported Jones.
“Let’s meet our contact and finish the mission,” said Dunn. “Then we can refuel and get back to base.”
“I’m for that,” said Terrill.
The Tracer arrived at the meeting place a minute or two later. A man waited in the road for them to stop for him.
Wilhelm Schultz, alias 711, drove a truck through the streets of Nazi-Occupied London at breakneck speed. He took a corner on two wheels and headed to where he was supposed to drop the lorry.
Sirens called him to halt in the name of the German Army, and one of the passengers fired a pistol at the fleeing truck. The bullet flew into the bumper with a spark. Looking in the mirror, Willie only saw one police car and jammed on the brakes. He skidded a little, but the lighter car hit his truck and crumpled on impact.
Willie hit the gas and pulled away from the wreck with a squeal of metal on metal. The man called 711 had a truck to deliver.
Driving like a madman through the streets of London, he knew he had shaken pursuit at the moment but still had a deadline to meet. The truck had to be delivered to a chop shop before he was caught again on the streets.
He grimaced at the sudden obstacle coming to a glowing halt in front of the truck with raised hands, and he hit the gas as he ducked below the dashboard. The ride was going to be really rough now, he thought as the truck’s window melted from twin beams of heat.
The truck endured the sizzling heat as Willie tried to plow over the Ray of the SS Ubermenschen at full speed. He missed and with a skid turned the corner on three wheels. It was time to cut and run.
Watching the Ray fly up behind the truck in the side-view mirror, Willie hit the brakes with a rubber-burning skid. The Ray veered to the passenger side to miss the great bulk of the truck.
Willie kicked the passenger door open as hard as he could, and his foe hit the door with a satisfying bug crunch. The yellow-garbed man crumpled to the ground.
Hastily leaning out of the cab of the truck, Willie hoped he wasn’t making a big mistake as he lashed the Ray to his seat with seat belts. He began to drive away from the scene before anyone else started chasing him.
Happy Terrill was driven across the northern part of Britain toward the English border. His contact man, Marsden, was a laconic conversationalist at best. They arrived at a building in a small village north of London. There, Happy was handed over, with a nod from Marsden, to two other men waiting at the empty place. Rough customers, Happy decided as he eyed them.
“My name is Quiller,” said one, hands in the pocket of a trenchcoat, looking weary and beaten by the world. “We have a small plan that we could use your help with.”
Quiller led Happy into the other room. The other man stood at the door, silently watching a man in a yellow body suit sat tied to a chair. His head was slumped forward as if he were asleep, and fresh bruises marked the man’s face, which looked like Happy’s own.
“Mr. Terrill,” said Quiller, gesturing to the seated man. “Meet the Ray.”
“How did you arrange this?” Happy asked. This unconscious man was the reason he had faked his death in March and traveled to England in the first place. But he had always assumed that he would have to subdue him himself, which would probably be a long and drawn-out battle. Instead, the faux Ray had been handed to him on a silver platter. He couldn’t help but feel somewhat disappointed at not capturing his doppelgänger himself.
“Mr. Schultz handled that,” said Quiller, indicating the other freedom fighter. “Will you help us?”
“What do you want?” asked Happy, already thinking he knew what was going to be requested.
“We want you to replace our friend here in the SS Ubermenschen,” said the man, hunched in his trenchcoat. “We feel this will serve as a way to feed the Nazis disinformation.”
“You don’t ask for much, do you?” said Happy. “Sure, I’ll do it. This was the very reason Uncle Sam asked for me to fake my death, anyway, although I never expected it would be this easy. What information can you give me?”
Later, the Ray and Willie Schultz rode into London in a Land Rover. Happy Terrill looked out the window, watching the scenery go by. “How long have you been in the Resistance?” he asked finally.
“Not long,” Schultz said.
“How long is that?” asked Happy, the reporter in him emerging because of the enigma.
“Long enough to get shot at, blown up, and chased by a living light bulb,” said Schultz. “Twice.”
“That long, huh?” said Happy.
“Yes,” said Willie. “I am hoping to retire in another fifty years. How about you?”
“I don’t think I’ll ever retire,” said Happy. “Maybe I should have stayed with my son.”
“Didn’t know you had a son,” Willie said.
“I left him behind when I came here to help the war effort again,” said the hero. “He probably won’t want to see me again after this.”
“That’s life,” said Willie.
When the two had reached their destination and exited the truck, Willie critically examined the Ray’s outfit once more. “You’ll do,” he said finally. “Remember — you’re a violent-tempered megalomaniac. Anything happens that you think will blow your cover, you get out as fast as possible. Hopefully the recordings we made from the real Ray will help you get by.”
“I am the real Ray,” Happy Terrill said, glowing as bright as a spotlight for a second.
Willie nodded. “Take a shot next time,” he said. “Remember — violent temper.”
“Right,” said Happy.
“What do you do if you need to pass something on?” Willie asked.
“I dial a number, then give number 711 as the message box, then a time and place,” said Happy. “Anything else is a trap.”
“Right,” said Willie. “Watch yourself. I’ll try to keep an eye on you, but don’t worry if you don’t see me.”
“Thanks,” Happy said, pulling his hood forward over his face. He took to the air in a beam of light.
Moments later, the Ray was walking slowly through the hallways of a building used by the Occupation toward his quarters. People who saw him got out of his way quickly and silently. He looked like he had been in a huge battle and was ready to take his frustration out on someone.
Happy Terrill stepped into his doppelgänger’s quarters and shut the door behind him. He wanted a moment to get used to being the man before facing the man’s peers. He was not entirely happy about what he was stepping into here. Any moment his cover could be blown and he would all alone, even if Schultz were close at hand to assist.
Still, it was a chance to help destabilize the English Occupation. Any information he was able to gather would certainly help that effort in various ways. It was all as Uncle Sam had planned. And since the real Ray was supposed to be dead, the Nazis hopefully wouldn’t suspect such a ruse.
Willie Schultz had found a place to keep Parliament under watch, wanting to be close if he was needed. A small crossbow and a large pistol was on his person. His wooden arrow was for a confrontation with Magno. Hopefully bullets would take care of the rest.
He didn’t like the fact it would be the Ray and 711 versus all of the German superhumans if things hit the fan. The Nazi Ray had been bad enough to fight. Willie had lucked out twice, but he couldn’t depend on luck for the rest of the war. He wondered how this would play out as he waited.