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*** START OF THIS PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK DOOMSDAY EVE *** Produced by Greg Weeks, Mary Meehan and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team at http://www.pgdp.net
Doomsday Eve

by ROBERT MOORE WILLIAMS

ACE BOOKS
A Division of A. A. Wyn, Inc.
23 West 47th Street, New York 36, N. Y.

DOOMSDAY EVE

Copyright 1957, by A. A. Wyn, Inc.

All Rights Reserved

Printed in U. S. A.

[Transcriber's Note: Extensive research did not uncover any evidence
that the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed.]

SPLIT-SECOND RACE WITH WORLD'S END!

In the midst of the war—that terrible conflict that threatened humanity's total destruction—the "new people" suddenly appeared. Quietly performing incredible deeds, vanishing at will, they were an enigma to both sides. Kurt Zen was an American intelligence officer among the many sent to root them out.

He found them. Taken captive in their hidden lair, he waited as the enemy prepared to launch the super missile, the bomb to end all bombs—and all life.

If only he could find the source of the new people's power, Kurt alone might be able to prevent obliteration of the Earth....

CAST OF CHARACTERS

KURT ZEN

His loyalty was greater than his love.

NEDRA

She might be a "new" person—but she had old emotions.

CUSO

He pitted Oriental cunning against Western ingenuity.

SAM WEST

He wouldn't use his strange powers to help his friends or hurt his enemies.

JAL JONNER

He was either a legend or a lunatic.

GRANT

His rescue was a miracle—though they called it a myth.

Contents

I II III IV V VI VII VIII IX X XI XII XIII XIV I

The legends clustering around the new people began before the war, while the man who started the group, old Jal Jonnor, was alive, but they received their greatest circulation during the conflict.

If the war is long and the fighting is bitter, with neither side able to achieve victory or even a substantial advantage, soldiers eventually begin to tell strange stories of sights seen when death is near, of miraculous deliveries from destruction, of impossible ships seen above the Earth, and even of non-human allies fighting on their side. Psychologists, given to believing only what they can see, feel, hear, or measure, generally have credited these stories to hallucinations resulting from long-sustained stress, or, in the case of the non-human allies, to plain, wishful thinking rising out of a deep feeling of insecurity. What psychologist was ever willing to believe that an angel suddenly took over the controls of a falling fighting plane, righting the ship and bringing it down to Earth in a crash landing that enabled the wounded pilot to crawl away, then curing the wound the pilot had sustained?

Red-Dog Jimmie Thurman swore this happened to him. He had tangled with an Asian fighter group escorting a hot, high level bomber over the north pole. This was in the early days of the war when such bombers still slipped through the defenses occasionally. Red-Dog Jimmie Thurman had got one of the fighters with a single burst from his guns and was pushing his jet straight up at the soft belly of the bomber far overhead when a shell, from an Asian fighter that he had not seen, knocked off half of his right wing. A fragment of the exploding shell hit him in the right shoulder, mangling the flesh and the bone.

Spinning like a leaf being whirled over and over in a hurricane, the plane started the long plunge downward toward the polar ice cap below. Jimmie couldn't work the seat ejection mechanism because of his broken arm.

Just before the ship crashed, he realized that someone else was in the cockpit with him, fighting to take over the controls. Since Jimmie was still in the seat, this was not easy, but somehow the other one had managed, not only to take over the controls, but had been able to bring the ship down in a crash landing. The other one pulled Jimmie out of the burning wreck. Then, discovering Jimmie's broken, mangled shoulder, "it" had cured it.

At least this was the story Red-Dog Jimmie Thurman had told after a helicopter had picked him up and had taken him back to his base. He was very stubborn about it, defiantly insisting that someone else had brought the plane down. The only conclusion Jimmie had been able to reach about the other one in the cockpit with him—he did not know whether it was male or female—was that it had been one of the new people.

When the psychos had asked him how another human being could have gotten into a falling plane while it was still thousands of feet in the air, Jimmie had had no answer, except to point out that since the new people were apparently able to accomplish feats beyond the power of an ordinary mortal, they were probably not human.

This comment had marked him as permanently unfit for flight duty. Jimmie began to grieve his heart out at this, for he had really loved flying. Then he began to wonder why the new people—presuming they existed—would save his life at the cost of his sanity. He went over the hill a year later.

With Spike Larson it was different. Larson was the commander of an atomic-powered submarine operating in the Persian Gulf. He was lying doggo on the bottom waiting for a fat convoy that should be hugging the shore when three destroyers smelled him out. Larson never knew quite how they had spotted him, but he was in shallow water and, when the first depth charges went off, he knew he had to head for the depths.

With charges on the port side making his plates creak, he headed for the channel. The scanning beam reported rocks dead ahead. Swiftly checking his charts, he discovered that no such rocks existed.

Cursing, Larson flung the charts across the room. Either they were wrong or the bottom here had shifted. A boom ahead told him it made no difference. His escape had been cut off by a destroyer in the channel.

"We'll take her up and fight it out on the surface," he told the lieutenant with him.

The officer's face went white at the order. But he was a navy man. "Aye, sir," he said.

"I would recommend otherwise, commander," another voice spoke.

Larson and the lieutenant froze. There was no one else in the control room. When Larson finally managed to turn his head, he found he was wrong in his belief that no one else was in the control room.

Telling the story later, to a naval board of inquiry, he said. "She was standing right there beside me, all in shining white, the most beautiful woman I have ever seen. I was too dazed to act, too bewildered to think. A woman on my ship! And what a woman! While I stood there like a dummy, she stepped forward to the controls. 'With your permission, commander, there is a new channel close inshore that does not show on the charts. The bottom here has shifted quite a lot since this area was last mapped. The destroyers will not dare follow us into the new channel, even if they know of its existence, because of the danger from rocks on one side and from sand banks on the other. If you will give me permission to con the ship—'"

"All I could do was nod," Larson reported to the board of inquiry. "As it turned out, this was the last command I ever gave in all my life. She turned the nose of the sub seventy degrees, pulled in the scope, shut off the depth finders and the sonar, and sent us up until we were almost breaking the surface. While she was doing all this, she also dodged two depth charges that should have got us. She scraped paint off our port bow on a set of rocks that should have snatched the guts out of us; she dodged a sandy bottom on our starboard where we ought to have hung up like sitting ducks under the guns of the destroyers, but she took us out of that hole and into deep water. Then she turned the controls back to Lieutenant Thompson, and said, 'Thank you, commander. I'm sure you can handle the situation very competently from now on.'"

The members of the board of inquiry were leaning forward in their chairs so as not to miss a word of Larson's report. When he had finished, the senior member, an admiral, asked breathlessly, "And then what happened to her, commander?"

"She vanished," Larson said.

The admiral collapsed like a punctured balloon.

"Lieutenant Thompson will back up every word I have said," Larson continued. He shook his head to indicate that he still couldn't understand it, though he had thought of little else since the day it had happened.

"Who do you think she was, commander?" a member of the board asked.

"I think she was one of the new people," Larson answered. His voice was firm but he was still shaking his head when he walked out of the room where the board had met.

They gave him shore duty. The psychos did all they could for him, but something seemed to have snapped inside his brain. Eight months later he deserted.

Then there was the story of Colonel Edward Grant, USAF. Grant was the only man aboard the new Earth satellite station. He was the only man aboard because at that time no way had been found to build and to launch a satellite that would carry more than one passenger. In fact, no way had been found to do more than launch such a station and get it into its orbit. It could not return because it could not carry enough fuel for the return journey. A spaceship was being built which would carry additional fuel and food supplies to it, but this vessel was not yet completed when the satellite was launched.

Grant, who had flown everything with wings, volunteered to ride with the station and put it in its orbit, knowing that when the power was exhausted he might be marooned in space forever.

However, neither he nor anyone else had anticipated that he would be marooned. This eventuality had only occurred when the production demands of the new war forced a halt on the construction of his rescue ship.

Colonel Grant became the loneliest man in the history of Earth. The stars were his companions. Only the moon kept him company. He would remain a lonely Flying Dutchman of the sky, until the end of the war permitted finishing the ship that would bring him relief. Or forever—whichever came first.

It was inevitable that the Asians would get the idea that he was spying on them as he passed in his regular orbit far above their heads. In reality, this was sheer nonsense; he was much too high to make out any military details of any importance whatsoever. Also, they were taking full advantage of his broadcasts of scientific information, which could be obtained by tuning in to the bands he used.

In an effort to remove this imagined menace from the sky above them, the Asians fired a rocket torpedo at his satellite.

Colonel Grant, reporting later on what had happened, said, "That torpedo must have been on its way, when the little man appeared on my satellite. He told me about the rocket that was coming my way. I told him this was very interesting but that I didn't see what the hell I could do about it. The station had no power and couldn't be moved. I didn't even have a chute, and even if I had had one I couldn't have used it. Anybody who jumped from that height would have frozen to death long before he reached enough air to sustain life. Describe the little man for you? Sure, general. He looked like a miniature Moses, white beard, glittering eyes and everything else. No, general, I never saw Moses. Clothes? A loin cloth, general. No, sir I am not making light of the dignity of this court, I am telling in the words at my command what I saw happen with my own eyes."

At this point, the colonel's voice became a little stiff. The general shut up. A man who had done what Grant had done might snap a general's head off and get away with it.

"What happened next? The miniature Moses told me he was going to land the satellite. He said that even if they missed with this torpedo they would be sure to try again, for no reason except to give the morale of their own people a big boost."

"Land the satellite, colonel?" the general asked again. "But

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