the next. Then he swung the ray round and about and up and down, slashing like a sword.

At the final instant he pushed the nose-jet lever hard over, his ship shot backwards as if kicked out of the hold by a giant. When a ship has its fuel tanks hit by a D-ray, there is an interval of a second or so before it explodes. The scout he had hit first blew up just as Jason finished his backward run. He paid no attention to the chaos of bursting ships he had created, for there remained the fourth Jacko ship just behind him. He slid past underneath and gave it a short stab with the ray in the region of its motors, then he spun his ship round, glanced at his gyro to verify direction, and began to weave his way back among the big ships, accelerating hard.

Behind him, reflected in the mirror, he saw flash after flash as the scouts exploded one after another in their racks. Finally there was a much bigger flash, as if a number of them had exploded simultaneously.

He set a mechanism running in the camera which caused the film to undergo a developing process, and wound out his concealed transmitting aerial.

A sudden awful wave of nausea overwhelmed him. For a moment he could do nothing but dig his fingers into his palms and try to master it.

He switched on his radio and called, “Jason here! Jason here! Stand by! Stand by!”

He was still sweeping in among the big ships. As he passed by the rear end of one of them he shot a long dose of D-ray at the bulge on its stern which he took to be a motor. After he passed something exploded.

Just as he passed out clear of the fleet he was violently sick.

Then he saw that the developing process had been completed and the film was ready for transmission.

“Stand by! Stand by!” he called thickly. “Ready to transmit. Ready to transmit.”

He was feeling sick in a way he had never known in all his life, but he continued to do his job carefully and thoroughly. He checked that his sending aerial was aligned correctly, that the film had engaged it self in the sending mechanism, and that the transmitter was live.

He moved the lever. Things inside the machine clicked and purred.

He laid his head on the cushion and was sick again. When he had recovered a little he tried to look around. He had no radar and so was unable to tell what ships might be con verging upon him, but he reckoned that by this time something must have been organized against him.

In between waves of nausea he kept a watch out rearwards, but at one point when he looked ahead he saw a squadron of jackoes across his path. They were some distance away, and judging by the flare of their jets, were changing course.

The film completed its run-through; he rewound it and set it to run a second time.

“Jason calling,” he transmitted. “Setting film for second run-through. Stand by.”

His stomach heaved dreadfully in an effort to be sick. This time nothing came up but blood.

The Jacko squadron ahead completed its turn-round, but did not appear to have spotted hint He continued on a straight course towards them while the film had its second run-through.

By the time this was completed he was almost among them. No doubt they had already been receiving instructions from some central control, but it was doubtful whether any of the jacko community knew exactly what was occurring. Perhaps they thought that there had been an accidental series of explosions, or more likely, that one of their own scouts had run amok. At any rate, this squadron let him approach without taking any action.

His head was swimming, and his eyes streaming with tears. He passed right among them and chopped the three foremost with quick stabs of the ray. They blew up one after another in rapid succession after he had passed.

Looking behind him again he saw a considerable number of the enemy streaming after him in no particular formation.

At this stage he was out ahead of his pursuers, and so far as he knew there was nothing between him and home except whatever outlying Jacko patrols could be brought onto his line of retreat. There was no reason why he should not make a run for it—except he knew he would never live to reach home now. Except that since he had killed one of his own comrades on the way out he had known he would never return, he had ceased to want to return.

His head cleared momentarily. He fumbled for levers, fired jets, and changed course back towards the Jacko mother ships. While-pursuing scouts were still uncertain abut what was happening, before they could react to this change, Jason was speeding back through their midst. None of them attempted, to hit him, but he hit two more.

Then he was in among the big ships once more. He made no attempt to damage them, for he thought his ray would merely overheat part of their massive structure and cause only local damage. But there was plenty of game for the hunter. Jacko scouts, and other types of ship he had never seen before were wheeling about in every direction. He slid among them. Many paid no attention to him. At every opportunity he chopped one. Every couple of minutes there was the blinding flash of a detonation.

But at every pressure of the button he received another dose of radiation; every instant he became more dreadfully ill. When he tried to spit some of the foulness from his mouth, two of his teeth came out.

The Jackoes identified him at last. They managed to bring their forces into order. Their ships drew off so that for a short while he drifted alone among the big ships.

Jason, whose mind and intelligence was flickering and dying, was still conscious of his duty; he must not allow himself to collapse and die and leave his ship floating for the Jackoes to examine.

He raised his head from the cushions and looked around out of bleary eyes. The dark looming hulls of the big ships were around him. Beneath one he saw an open hatch with light streaming from it. The Jacko scouts had withdrawn, but soon they would be reorganized and ready to deal with him.

He set his ship on a slant, upwards towards the open hatch of the big ship. He pushed the power lever forward to maximum acceleration and placed his finger on a red button marked Detonate. Precisely as the nose of his ship passed inside the hatch, he pressed this button.

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