Lights glowed brightly in the large, bare tower room which was the
headquarters of the Gerka, secret police organization of Rubania. It was
midnight and a meeting of the supreme council of the Gerka at that hour
could mean only the most urgent business.
Residents of Kratz, the capital of Rubania, who happened to be in the
streets that night and who saw the lights in the tower of the government
palace shook their heads and hurried on their way with fear in their
hearts for the Gerka was the most dangerous organization in all Rubania
and for that matter one of the most powerful groups of secret police in
the whole world.
The creation of the new Europe which had followed the World War had
resulted in the formation of Rubania, a rich, fertile land east of
Prussia. It had been made a free state but Alex Reikoff, an unscrupulous
dictator with a lust for world power, had risen to supreme command of
the government, crushing out all opposition. He had built up the armed
forces of his country until Rubania was recognized as a world power,
feared for the might of its armada of submarines and the power of its
fleets of airplanes, for Reikoff believed in the power of aircraft as an
instrument of war.
That the midnight meeting of the Gerka was of unusual importance was
borne out when Reikoff himself strode into the room and took his place
at the head of the table around which a half dozen men were seated. They
looked expectantly at him. Reikoff, short and dark with closely cropped
hair, stroked his bristly mustache. He looked intently at the men before
him. One after another met his gaze until his eyes looked into those of
Serge Larko, in the uniform of a lieutenant of the air force.
“Ah, Serge,” said Reikoff, “I’m glad that you could leave your beloved
flying machines long enough to answer my call.”
“Yes, Excellency,” smiled Serge. “I came at once but there is much that
remains to be done on the new XO5 before it will be ready for the long
flights for which it has been designed.”
“The XO5 must be ready for a six thousand mile non-stop trip by the day
after tomorrow,” replied Reikoff, his words short and sharp. “I shall
inform the commander of your field that you are to be given every
possible assistance. An emergency has come up which makes it imperative
that you go soon on a special mission.”
Serge, who was one of the newest members of the secret police, gasped at
the news that he was to be assigned to special work. He had been trained
in Germany at Friedrichshafen for service in the lighter-than-air
division of the Rubanian air force and only recently had been shifted
unexpectedly and without explanation to the airplane division where he
had been given an intensive course in the handling of long-distance
planes. For the last month he had been supervising the construction of
the XO5, the latest type in Rubanian super air cruisers. Surprised
though he was at the news that he had been selected for a special
mission. Serge felt that he was ready for whatever task might be
The dictator of Rubania spoke again, his words cracking through the
midnight stillness of the room.
“You are all well aware,” he said, “that the United States is our only
rival in the building of dirigibles. Their Los Angeles is antiquated now
but their new Akron is superior to anything in the world. It is even a
mightier fighting craft than the new Blenkko which we will launch next
month. This must not be. We must be supreme in the air!”
Reikoff hammered the table with his fists to emphasize his determination
and his face reddened at the thought that some nation might have men
with more brains and skill than his own engineers.
“And now,” he continued, “comes more bad news. The National Airways,
Inc., largest passenger aviation company in the United States, has
turned to dirigibles. They have been granted a large subsidy by the
federal government and now have under construction an airship that will
dwarf anything the world has ever known. It is intended primarily for
passenger carrying, between the Atlantic and Pacific coasts, but, it is
so designed that it can be turned into a powerful fighting craft, a
floating mother ship in the sky that will be capable of housing a large
number of fighting planes. If this dirigible, which has been named the
Goliath, is completed and flies, America will remain supreme in the air
for at least four more years. It would take us that long to build such a
craft as their Goliath in our Blenkko aircraft plant. For America to
continue supreme in the air is not in line with my plans. I do not
intend that the Goliath shall rule the air.”
Serge heard the last words with a sinking heart. He sensed what his
mission would be. He knew now why they had rushed the XO5 to completion.
Reikoff was talking again.
“Lieutenant Larko,” he said, “your mission will take you on a non-stop
flight to the United States in the new XO5. Complete details will be
given you later but this you must remember. On reaching the United
States it is essential that you crash your plane in some manner so that
identification will be impossible. You will then proceed to Bellevue
where the Goliath is under construction and join the staff of the
When the dictator paused, Serge rose to ask a question.
“But won’t they question my appearance at Bellevue?”
“That will be arranged,” promised Reikoff. “Before you leave Rubania you
will be supplied with the credentials of a dirigible expert from the
Friedrichshafen works in Germany. I warn you, however, that your mission
will be dangerous. The American secret service knows that I will let
nothing stand in the way of Rubania’s supremacy in the air and they have
been guarding this new dirigible with the greatest secrecy. Our agents
in the United States have known for some months that the National
Airways was building a ship to enter the transcontinental passenger
service but it was only two days ago that they learned the details of
the plans. Boris Dubra, one of our cleverest agents in America, has
secured employment at the main assembly plant under the name of Cliff
Bolton. You will work with him in the accomplishment of your mission.
Completion of the Goliath will mean domination of the skies for America.
It must not be.”
There was a chorus of agreement from the members of the supreme council
of the Gerka grouped around the table.
“The National Airways have ambitious plans for the Goliath,” went on
“Capt. John Harkins, probably the best dirigible commander in the world,
will be in charge of the big ship,” he said, fingering the yellow sheets
of flimsy, the wireless reports from the American branch of the Gerka
which had brought news of the Goliath and its menace to Rubania’s air
“Construction at Bellevue is under the direction of Charles High, vice
president in charge of operations, and his son, Andy, who is reported to
be an unusually resourceful young scientist and who will be Captain
Harkins’ first assistant.”
“Your duty,” went on Reikoff, addressing himself directly to Serge,
“will be to win the confidence of Andy High. In America you will be
known as Herman Blatz. Once you have done that you should be in a
position to bring about the destruction of the Goliath. You must learn
its every secret. If necessary that the ship be allowed to fly in order
to accomplish that goal, do not interfere until you have mastered every
secret of these American aircraft builders. When you have done that,
destroy the Goliath!”
Serge nodded slowly. So this was why he had been drafted into the secret
police. He was to destroy the new king of the skies. Serge loved the
great, gracefully looking airships on which he had been trained at
Friedrichshafen and the thought of destroying one of them sickened him.
But he was a Rubanian, a member of the great army which lived as Alex
Reikoff dictated and he finally forced himself to accept the mission.
The meeting of the supreme council adjourned at two o’clock and Serge
drove hastily through the deserted streets of the capital until he
reached the flying field where he was supervising the final work on the
XO5, the new distance plane.
Mechanics were routed from their beds and set to work preparing the big
monoplane for its long flight across the Atlantic. For eighteen hours
Serge worked feverishly over the craft, making test flights over the
field and checking every detail of the preparations. Satisfied that his
craft was ready, he rolled into a bed at the field and slept for twelve
hours. Awakened at dawn the second day following the secret meeting of
the supreme council, he found Reikoff at the field to see him off.
Last minute instructions followed, a checking of weather maps,
acceptance of the secret papers which would put him in touch with the
American headquarters of the Gerka and the last words from Reikoff.
“Learn the secrets of the Goliath; then destroy that air monster.”
With those words ringing in his ears. Serge climbed into the cockpit of
the dull-gray low-winged monoplane, opened the throttle, shot his squat
looking craft down the field and into the air. He circled the field once
while gaining altitude. Then the young lieutenant of the Rubania air
force headed his ship westward. He had started his 6,000 mile flight to
America, a mission of destruction which was to involve the Goliath, its
builders and especially Andy High, young assistant pilot.
Before Andy High and the construction experts of the National Airways
had arrived to supervise the building of the Goliath, Uncle Sam’s newest
bid for supremacy in the skies, Bellevue had been a sleepy little
village in the heart of the bluegrass section of Kentucky. It had been
selected as the construction site for several reasons. One of the most
important was its location between two long rows of hills which insured
it of protection from high winds. Another was its comparative isolation.
There were no main highways leading into the bluegrass town and only
one branch line railroad, which, however, was sufficient to handle the
shipments of supplies.
The secrecy which shrouded the building of the Goliath was another
factor in the selection of Bellevue, for the isolated little village was
hard to get to without being seen and it was a comparatively easy thing
to guard all entrances to the valley.
Construction headquarters had been set up almost two years before the
spring in which the Goliath was scheduled for trial tests. First had
come freight trains heavily laden with building materials. A little
village of construction houses had gone up alongside the railroad to
shelter the workmen whose task it was to build the great hangar which
was to house the Goliath.
As mighty as the hangar of the Akron was, that of the Goliath was even
larger. It measured 1,400 feet from one of its “orange peel” doors to
the other and was broad enough for the Goliath, when completed, to nest
comfortably alongside the Los Angeles, when that dirigible hopped over
from Lakehurst for a friendly call.
Andy High, son of the vice president of operations of National Airways,
had arrived with the first of the construction crews and had hardly left
the village during the two intervening years. His father, Charles High,
and Capt. John Harkins, who was to be in command of the new sky king,
had shuttled back and forth between the assembly plant at Bellevue and
the various factories in other cities which were supplying materials
which went into the construction. It had been Andy’s duty to stay on the
job at Bellevue and see that every part of the carefully organized
construction machine kept to its schedule for every day represented
thousands of dollars to the National Airways and they made each working
The hangar had been completed and parts of the dirigible, much of which
had been fabricated at the Zeppelin plant at Akron, arrived by the
train-load to be assembled in the big dome-shaped shed just outside
On this particular spring morning, Andy was in his office just outside
the hangar, pouring over the set of blueprints for the big gondola which
was being assembled for the forward end of the dirigible. He was
engrossed in the blueprints and failed to hear Bert Benson, who was to
be chief radio operator on the Goliath, enter the room.
“Hello, Andy,” said Bert quietly.
The unexpected greeting startled the young aircraft engineer and he
jumped involuntarily. When he saw that his visitor was Bert he grinned
“Sorry I jumped like that,” he said, “but we’ve been having so many
mishaps in the last two weeks my nerves are on edge.”
“I know it,” replied Bert gravely. “It’s been just one thing after
another. First something goes wrong here and then something turns up in
another part of the plant. Seems as though there was a hoodoo on this
“I wouldn’t exactly call it a hoodoo,” said Andy, “but we’ve certainly
been having our share of tough breaks. I’ll be glad when Dad and Captain
Harkins get back from Akron. Then we’ll be able to give more of our time
to closer supervision of the plant and these accidents may be stopped.”
The words were barely out of Andy’s mouth when Bert, who had been
looking toward the far end of the hangar, gripped the young engineer
“Look, Andy,” he cried, “one of the doors at the other end of the hangar
Andy looked in the direction Bert pointed. There was no mistake. One of
the huge “orange peel” doors which sealed the ends of the hangar was
swinging back on the railroad track on which it was mounted.
“Something’s gone wrong down there,” said Andy sharply. “A crew is
working on top of that door this morning. They may be brushed off if
that door isn’t stopped at once.”
Bert realized the danger to men working on the top of the 225 foot, 600
ton door, and he nodded grimly. There was something decidedly wrong, for
specific orders had been issued that the doors were never to be opened
unless Andy or Capt. Harkins were at the controls of the motors which
moved the giant doors.
“Come on,” cried Andy. “We’ve got to stop that door.”
They left the office and jumped into Andy’s roadster which was parked
nearby. With a clashing of hastily shifted gears, they roared along the
outside of the hangar. While they dashed toward the end, the door
continued its slow, relentless movement. At the top they could see a
half dozen men clinging to the girders. The control room for the doors
was on the other side and Andy whipped his roadster around the end of
the hangar. He was out of the machine before it stopped and raced toward
the motor room with Bert at his heels.
There was no one at the control board and the powerful motors were
humming softly. With one swift movement Andy shut off the power and the
great door stopped.
“Run outside and tell that crew on top of the door to hang on for
another five minutes,” Andy told Bert. “Warn them to hold on tight when
I start rolling the door in.”
The radio operator departed on the run and Andy, looking through a
window, saw Bert megaphone with his hands and shout the warning to the
desperate crew clinging on top of the door.
Andy threw over the controls and turned on the motors. He let the clutch
which operated the door mechanism in easily and the great “orange peel”
moved slowly back into place.
While the motors sang at their task, Andy’s mind was busy over this near
tragedy. It could not have been an accident by the furthest stretch of
the imagination for motors do not start all by themselves and clutches
do not jump into place without a guiding hand. In the last two weeks
there had been one minor accident after another. It had been maddening.
The Goliath was scheduled to make its trial flights in two more months
and there wast much remaining to be done. Each little delay meant
valuable time lost and Andy had about come to the conclusion that a
deliberate attempt was being made to delay the construction of the great
ship. He promised himself that there would be a thorough investigation
of this latest incident.
The door finally rolled into place and the half dozen men who had been
in danger of their lives quickly climbed down to a place of safety.
Andy disengaged the clutch and shut off the motors. Bert returned and
they made a thorough inspection of the little room but found nothing
which would identify the man who had started the motors.
“Now I’ll tell you why I came into your office,” Bert told Andy after
they had securely locked the control room. “Last night someone tampered
with my radio equipment and broke up a lot of it.”
Andy’s lips snapped into a thin, straight line.
“How much damage was done?” he asked.
“Not as much as I first feared,” replied Bert. “As luck would have it
whoever used the hammer destroyed experimental equipment and the
installation for the Goliath is almost intact. He must have been an
amateur at the job or he would have singled out the set for the Goliath
and smashed it.”
“What you’ve told me and what’s just happened,” said Andy grimly, “makes
me positive that there is a well-defined plot under way to injure the
Goliath in every way possible. I thought we had a hand-picked crew that
couldn’t be bribed but it looks like I was wrong.”
From the timber-covered hills behind the hangar came the sharp crackle
of rifle fire, which was followed by a tense quiet as every man in the
great hangar stopped work. When the rifle fire was not repeated, the
crews slowly resumed their work and Andy and Bert headed for the hills
on the run.
Since the Goliath had been partially financed by a government
appropriation and its construction embodied secrets valuable to the war
department, a military guard had patrolled the construction site from
the day the hangar had been completed and the actual assembly of the
dirigible started. On a number of occasions they had apprehended men
trying to make their way into Bellevue and without exception the secret
service detail at the hangar had found them to be agents of foreign
governments. They had been quietly sent to military prisons but in the
last few weeks there had been no such arrests and the vigilance of the
guards had been relaxed somewhat.
Andy and Bert were half-way up the slope to the guard line when they met
Merritt Timms, chief of the secret service unit at Bellevue, coming down
“Anybody hurt at the hangar?” asked Timms anxiously.
“No,” replied Andy. “We stopped the door in time. What happened on top
of the hill?”
“The guard had to stop a man who was trying to get away,” explained
Timms. “I’ve been suspecting one of the motor mechanics for some time of
sabotage and only ten minutes ago saw him sneak out of the control room
door. A second later one of the doors started to open and I knew what he
had been up to. I saw you coming to shut off the power and I took after
this fellow. He knew he’d have to make a quick get-away and he tried to
get past the guard line.”
“Did he refuse to stop?” asked Bert.
“Not only that,” replied the secret service chief, “but he attempted to
shoot and the guard fired, but he wasn’t seriously wounded.”
“I can’t feel very sorry for him,” said Andy, “when I think of the
half dozen men, on top of the door, he almost killed. If the door had
run to the end of its track with the power still on it would have ripped
away from its fastenings and perhaps have crushed an end of the hangar.”
“Which is exactly what this chap wanted,” added Timms. “I’ve got a
little leather packet here in which he carried some secret papers. We’ll
have a look at them.”
The name on the leather folder was that of Cliff Bolton, a common enough
American name, but the secret service man and Andy and Bert were in for
a surprise when they examined the contents. Documents there showed the
true name of the spy to have been Boris Dubra, an agent of the dreaded
Rubanian Gerka, whose reputation for unscrupulous methods was known even
“This puts a new angle on the whole case,” said Timms gravely. “Of
course you know that Alex Reikoff, dictator of Rubania, is determined
that his air force shall be the most powerful in the world. Until just
now we hadn’t discovered a single Rubanian agent trying to get through
the lines but it certainly looks as though Reikoff is definitely
interested in the Goliath, all of which means we will have to redouble
“But why should Reikoff have designs against the Goliath?” asked Bert.
“It’s a long story,” replied the secret service chief, “but to boil it
down it means that he plans to make Rubania a world power through the
development of a great air force. When his planes and dirigibles are the
peer of anything else in the world, he will strike out for world power.”
“Which would mean another war,” said Andy quietly.
“Just exactly,” replied Timms, “and when the Goliath is completed and in
the air it will dwarf even the great dirigibles Reikoff has turned out
at his Blenkko plant in Rubania. Now you understand why the Rubanian
secret police, or Gerka as it is better known, is interested in the
Goliath. So far we’ve been pretty successful in checking sabotage and
this mechanic was the only man they could get into the plant.”
“He was enough,” said Andy, “for had his plan succeeded and the door
have crushed an end of the hangar we might have been delayed for
They walked slowly back toward the hangar, discussing further the events
which had just taken place and planning for the tightening of the guard
lines around the plant.
“As soon as this agent of the Gerka is patched up in the hospital I’ll
go over and give him a thorough grilling,” said Timms as they reached
“Let me know when you go,” said Andy. “I’d like to see what he has to
“I’ll do that,” promised the secret service agent as Andy and Bert got
into the young engineer’s roadster.
When they reached the little building which served as Andy’s office,
they found a messenger boy with a telegram for Andy.
“Must be from Dad,” he said as he ripped open the envelope, “and believe
me I’ll be glad to have him back here in charge of things.”
Andy scanned the telegram; then he read it again hardly able to believe
the words which were typed on the yellow sheet.
“What’s the matter?” asked Bert anxiously.
“Nothing wrong,” grinned Andy, “but it’s news, big news!” With eyes
aglow and face reflecting his own enthusiasm he handed the telegram to
“Rush work with all possible speed,” said the message. “Have just
completed plans for Goliath’s first official flight this summer which
will take us to North pole for an exchange of mail with the Submarine
Neptune, which will be commanded by Gilbert Mathews.”
“My gosh,” exclaimed Bert, “a trip to the North pole. Well, that is
“I’ll say,” replied Andy. “Watch us make time from now on for there
won’t be any more accidents with this Rubanian secret agent out of the