BRITISH COMICS

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THE REVENGE OF THE DOOMED

TEN THOUSAND

First episode, taken from Adventure issue: 1278 July 16th 1949.

Peril in the Pacific from weird under-water warriors!

STRANGE SABOTAGE!

The two men paused beside the clump of palms which stood on the knoll overlooking the lagoon and the small landing stage. The clamour which had attracted their attention came from the boathouse, around the door of which a dozen white men and Kanakas had collected. Jim Jason, the diver, could be seen waving his arms excitedly. “Guess there’s trouble again!” murmured Professor Levine, the tall, lean, grey-haired American who was in charge of the scientists now collected on Sawara Island. “What can it be this time?” “We’d better find out,” said the man beside him, a sturdy, ruddy faced British naval officer. “They’re upset about something. Jason doesn’t usually lose control of himself like that.” They headed down the slope, land crabs scuttling away from their feet. The island was no more than a mile in diameter, and around it for hundreds of miles stretched the glittering Pacific. It was one of the loneliest spots in the Pacific, and for that reason had been chosen a year before as the scene of an atomic bomb experiment. One of the latest type A-bombs had been dropped five miles off shore, the island having been cleared of all living creatures for the occasion. Several empty ships had been anchored in the lagoon and in deep water beyond the reef so that the effects of the explosion could be observed later. For six months radio activity had prevented anyone approaching the island, but ever since March this small colony of British and American scientists had been established there. They were studying the results obtained, and preparing for another and even larger A-bomb test which was soon due to take place. Professor Levine was in charge of the scientists, and the new concrete building in the centre of the island was his laboratory. Lieutenant-Commander Dave Dobson, R.N., was there with a detachment of divers who were dealing with the sunken ships. It was a combined Anglo-American operation. The pair crossed the corner of the dazzling white beach and approached the anchorage where half a dozen small vessels were moored. The boathouse was a new erection, and sheltered the specially equipped motor launch used for deep sea operations and for taking the divers to their work. Heads turned as the newcomers arrived. Jim Jason, red in the face, was plainly both angry and frightened. “No one can say I’m a coward!” he roared, and swung round on Dobson. “You wouldn’t call me a coward, sir, would you?” “Certainly not!” snapped the Commander. “What’s the trouble? Why haven’t you left for your work?” “I refuse to go down, sir!” exclaimed the diver. “It may be mutiny—you can call it what you like—but I’m not going down again. It was bad enough when Jackie Lee vanished, and Tom Wilkins was brought up with his suit cut to ribbons, but look at what they’ve done to my suit in the night, sir!” He led the way inside. The big cabin launch almost filled the boathouse. There was only a ledge wide enough for a man to walk on either side. Jason jumped into the cockpit, and hauled at a heavy, deep water diving dress. It was one of the up-to-date kind equipped with oxygen bottles which made it self-contained. There was no need for an air pipe or a pump on the surface to supply the wearer with air. “When I left this dress last night, sir, it was overhauled and ready for use this morning. New oxygen bottles were fitted and the pressure tested. Everything was in perfect condition. “I don’t know what made me take another look at it before we started off just now, but I found that the oxygen bottles had been almost emptied. Look at this valve, sir! It’s been wedged open with a tiny piece of coral so that water would gradually leak in. Someone’s tried to make sure I never came up from the wreck again.” Commander Dobson frowned as he verified what the diver had said. He turned to glare at the crowd collected in the doorway. “Where’s Petty Officer Gordon? Gordon, wasn’t the boathouse locked as usual last night?” “Yes, sir, and the key never left my possession. The doors were still locked this morning. Whoever entered during the night must have swum in under the doors and gone out the same way.” Professor Levine had come along the narrow ledge. He was a studious man, a man who had spent most of his life in the seclusion of his laboratory, and this sort of thing both horrified and scared him. “But why—why, Commander? Who wants to sabotage our work? What are they to gain by it? If this were the only incident of its kind—” “I know!” growled Dave Dobson. “But it isn’t. We’ve had stores and apparatus stolen by night. Then there was that fire in the petrol store. The last time the supply plane came down here one of its floats was damaged during the night. There is organised sabotage going on, and if I knew who was responsible—”

He looked grimly at the score of faces now visible in the sunlight beyond the low doorway. “But it could hardly be one of us—or of the Kanakas—who caused Lee to vanish when he was diving off the reef, or who killed Wilkins and cut his diving dress to ribbons in that ghastly fashion,” put in a tall, calm looking young man in spotless white. “These appear to have been done by some outside influence.” The speaker was Evan Harwood, a fisheries expert, and one of the youngest of the American party. Professor Levine looked at him thoughtfully. “You’re right, Harwood. These things could not have been done by one of us. Everyone was carefully investigated and ‘screened’ before he was engaged for the work. The natives were handpicked, yet we have had nothing but opposition and trouble ever since we’ve been here. There was also the matter of that mysterious man—the man whom you chased one night, Commander. “And who dived off the hundred foot cliff into the sea,” finished Dave Dobson. “It’s all very mysterious. I’m beginning to think that some Foreign Power is employing agents to upset our work and prevent the new tests from taking place. Yet where do they have their headquarters? Where do they live? Certainly not on Sawara—and there’s no other island within hundreds of miles!” He considered the matter for a few moments, then went on—“Well, we’ll hold up further diving until Big Pete Rigby arrives. He’s the best and most experienced diver in the Navy, and they’re flying him over from Australia. He’ll be here this afternoon or tomorrow morning. If anyone can solve the mystery of what happened to those other two it will be Big Pete.” The other Naval men present nodded in agreement. Jim Jason was heard to mutter something under his breath about “not being afraid.” The Commander slapped him on his back. “Of course you’re not afraid, Jason! Nobody has said you are. I’ll admit it—I wouldn’t go down myself after this. It’s the uncanniness of it that’s getting on our nerves. Here we are—a small, self contained unit in the middle of the Pacific, yet strange things are happening.” He gave orders that the diving suit was to be made seaworthy and fit for immediate use.

THE UNDER-WATER ATTACK

Big Pete Rigby arrived by flying boat that afternoon. When he had heard everything they had to tell him, he declared he would make a descent to the sunken cruiser the following morning. This was the craft which Jason would have visited but for the damage to his diving dress. Rigby was only a petty officer, but had earned for himself the reputation of being the most skilful and most fearless diver in the Royal Navy. They called him Big Pete, and he was big in every way, well over six feet, weighed all of fourteen stone, had shoulders like an ox, and hands and feet to match. His strength was phenomenal, and more than once he had escaped what had appeared to be certain death because of it. Big Pete spent the rest of the afternoon exploring the island and the waters round about. He rowed out to the various buoys which marked the sunken ships. There was certain apparatus aboard these which recorded radio-activity in the wrecks, and the divers task was to recover these and replace them with freshly sealed instruments. The cruiser had turned on her side after sinking, and that made things more difficult. The following morning, Lieutenant Commander Dobson insisted upon going out in the cabin launch to the diving site. Big Pete had thoroughly examined the suit he was to use, and expressed himself satisfied. It was a hot, sunny day, and the water was as clear as crystal. Only the great depth to which she had sunk prevented them from seeing the cruiser from above. Big Pete was duly encased in the armoured dress and lowered over the side. There was a lifeline attached to him, by means of which he was let down, and a built in telephone enabled him to talk to those on the surface. He had warned them that he might cast off both the line and the telephone cable if they hampered him. It was no new experience for him to be dropping into the green-blue depths through shoals of brightly-coloured fish. He had made descents in most parts of the world, and a great many in the Pacific since the end of the war. The island and the reef were of coral formation, and he had been told by Jason that the cruiser lay in a garden of coral flowers. The light became dimmer as Big Pete went farther and farther into the depths, but there was no need for him to switch on his powerful headlamp when his feet touched bottom. He could see the cruiser easily enough. No gaping hole had been ripped in her by the explosion of the distant A-bomb, but many of her plates had been sprung, and she had filled almost as quickly as though her bottom had been ripped open. “Arrived okay!” Big Pete said through the phone. “I’m going to move round under the stern to the other side. Allow me plenty of slack.” This was done, and he walked around the sunken vessel until he found himself face to face with her vertical deck rising like a wall before him.

The hatches had been clamped down before she had been abandoned twelve months earlier, and now they had buckled so much that they could not be opened. Jason had been trying to force one of these, but neither he nor his predecessors had been strong enough. It was absolutely necessary to go inside to reach the instruments which the scientists wished to be salvaged. Big Pete hummed to himself as he surveyed the task before him. Then he drew a deep breath, noted that his air supply was functioning perfectly, and said into the phone—“Here goes! I’m going to get busy. I’ll have no breath for talking for the next few minutes.” “And everything is normal? You see nothing unusual?” inquired Dobson anxiously. “Nothing whatever, sir. Everything’s hunky-dory down here. Don’t you worry!” retorted the diver, and took a crowbar from his belt. He had to climb the almost vertical deck to reach one of the badly buckled hatches. There, finding a footing on an angle iron, he inserted the end of the lever and braced himself. After that it was merely a matter of muscle and weight. Big Pete bore down with all his strength, and sweat poured from his forehead into his eyes. A diving dress was not ideal garb for such work. Twice he changed the position of the crowbar, working closer and closer to the stubborn clamp. Something was giving. The lever was moving. Big Pete summoned all his strength for a supreme effort. The bar actually began to bend, and then—the clamp broke open. After a few moments to recover his breath, Rigby heaved back the rusting hatch, that itself being no mean feat, and looked down into the darkness of the interior. “I’ve done it!” he reported. “In a few moments I’m going inside. Give me more slack.” “Good man!” said Dobson. “Be careful.” The lines went slack, and the diver switched on his powerful light as he swung over the edge and dropped on to what had formerly been the side of the gangway. A piece of his lifeline dropped loosely across his chest, and he saw that it had been cut by a sharp edge of metal. It was almost inevitable. He spoke into the telephone. “I’m inside and all is well. My lifeline’s cut, and the same will happen to the telephone cable so I’m going to detach it now. Don’t worry me for the next hour. Leave the line hanging, and I’ll pick it up when I come out again.” With that, he detached the end of the cable from his helmet, and turned to face the dark passage ahead. The line of bubbles which drifted back from his exhaust valve was suddenly disturbed by a little shape which came swimming through the hatchway. Big Pete Rigby did not see the newcomer. Cased in that armoured dress he had only a very narrow range of vision. The first he knew about the new arrival was when a shattering blow at the base of the neck toppled him forward stiffly. A man’s form knelt on him and fumbled with the exhaust valve, closing it completely.

A PRISONER FROM THE DEEP

Big Pete struggled back to consciousness through a haze of red and white lights, and amidst a wild roaring in his head. The lights existed only in his tortured imagination, and the roaring was made by the pounding of his blood in his veins. He was choking for breath. Then he realised that he was floating close to steel plating. His diving dress was tightly inflated, which meant that the exhaust valve was closed. Mechanically he felt for it, and screwed it open. Bad air and surplus oxygen began to escape, and he felt himself gently sink. His lamp had gone out; he was in darkness, but he saw he was not far from the hatch through which he had entered the cruiser. Of Big Pete’s attacker there was no sign. The diver’s heart was still trying to adjust itself to the altered air conditions. If he had not recovered and opened that valve when he had, he would have suffocated very quickly. He wondered how long he had been in this condition. It could not have been more than ten minutes. The pain in his neck was intense, so he lay where he was and relaxed. It was a full hour before he managed to rise to his feet, but even then he discovered it was utterly impossible for him to climb back to the hatch. The numbing effect of the blow had not worn off. It would take time. Wisely he propped himself in a corner and waited for his strength to return. Time passed endlessly. How long he remained confined in that narrow steel passage he could not tell. It must already be mid afternoon, and he began to fear he would still be a helpless prisoner when night closed down. He had sufficient oxygen for another few hours, but he could not last through the night with it. Somehow he must reach the surface before then. He knew that by this time those on the launch would have decided that something had happened to him. His head was clearer now, and he tried to figure out how he had been attacked. No marine monster could have closed that exhaust valve. Human fingers had done that. Grimly Big Pete watched the light fade, but the outline of the hatch was still visible when he discovered that the muscles of his shoulders would obey him again. He clawed his way to the hatch, secured a grip on the edge, kicked at one of the steel rungs of the ladder with a foot, and shot outside, turning over twice as he went thirty feet to the sea bed below. There he lay for a few moments, gathering his wits. He could see no lifeline, and had not expected to do so. There was no other deep water diving dress on the island, so no attempt could be made to reach him. He would have to rely on his own efforts. By inflating the suit and detaching the lead soles from his boots, he could reach the surface. He was fumbling with the fastenings of those detachable soles when two shapes came at him from behind the wreck. He noticed them at once, and straightened up. In the dim light he saw they were men, not fishes—lean, well built men wearing loin cloths. They were not white, neither were they Polynesian islanders. Their hair was black and sleek to their heads; their features were more pointed than those of the Kanakas. So much Big Pete saw when they came at him from either side, and even as he struck out at them, he marvelled that they could swim so swiftly. They appeared to be as much at home under water as the fishes which scattered before them. They had no weapons, but one bore a coil of rope. It was upon this man’s jaw that Big Pete’s fist landed. The diver had put all his strength into the blow. He had not the slightest doubt that it was either one of these men, or someone connected with them, who had originally attacked him. There was his weight and the weight of his armoured costume behind the punch.

The swimmer doubled up and collapsed on the sea bed. The second swimmer turned with the speed of an eel, and threw his arms around the diver from behind, seeking to get a strangle-hold. There he made a big mistake. For one thing, the armoured neck piece prevented the diver’s throat from being compressed, and for another, Big Pete was an expert wrestler. He reached backwards over his shoulders, bent as far as his stiff costume allowed, and dragged his opponent bodily over his head. As the other sought to rise, Big Pete thumped him on the jaw. “Stay put!” he growled, and even as he knew the certainty of his victory he could not deny a peculiar sense of fear at these men who could remain under water without the use of diving helmets. It was growing darker every minute. Big Pete detached the soles from his boots, closed the valves to inflate his suit, and grasped his second opponent in his arms. He was determined to take back at least one of these mermen to see what manner of person he was. Swiftly Pete rose to the surface. Reaching it, he kicked out for the nearby reef, making slow progress with his limp burden. He fought grimly on, sometimes sinking below the surface, but always forcing himself up again by sheer strength. At last he came to the outer coral reef, and clawed a hold. He heaved the prisoner on to a projecting rock, then lifted himself alongside, and sat there for some time, gasping. Then he felt for the fastenings of his massive helmet. It was a relief to lift it clear, and to feel the salt air on his flushed face. Ashore he could clearly see the lights of the little settlement, but it meant a swim of nearby two miles before he could report back to the Commander. He rid himself of the rest of his diving dress, and left it on the highest point of the reef from where it could be recovered later. He used a belt to tie the wrists of the motionless man beside him, and left some slack so that he could tow the prisoner through the water. Finally he slipped into the water on the other side of the reef and started the long swim, thankful there were no sharks so close inshore. It took him the best part of an hour to reach the beach, and even his terrific strength had been tested to the utmost when he reached the shallows and dragged his companion ashore. Once or twice recently Pete had detected jerks and quivers in those muscular limbs. It would not be long before the mystery man recovered. As usual there were lights in the distant laboratory, and lights in the men’s quarters farther along the cliff, but it was to the lone hut on the headland, Lieutenant Commander Dobson’s quarters, that Big Pete looked. If anyone could explain the happenings of the past few hours it would be Dave Dobson. “And maybe he’ll tell me what sort of a creature you are,” murmured the burly diver, as he hoisted the dripping figure across one shoulder. Bare-footed, he followed the beach until he was directly below the Commander’s quarters, then climbed the slope.

The other Naval officer on the island, a young lieutenant, shared these same quarters, but he was not there now. Big Pete could see Dobson, grim faced and haggard, sitting at his table, evidently writing his report. Still holding the mystery man, Big Pete knocked on the door, heard the curt invitation to enter, and pushed the door wide. As he ducked to cross the threshold the Commander leapt to his feet. “By all that’s wonderful—Pete! We thought you were lost! Who have you got there, man?” Pete Rigby grunted with relief as he deposited the swarthy stranger on a bench. “That’s what I’d like you to find out, sir. He’s one of the crew who attacked me at the wreck—and he seems to be able to breathe under water as well as we can on dry land!” Ten yards off-shore, in the lagoon, a dozen heads broke surface. They appeared to be the heads of tall, swarthy men who were walking along the sea bed—walking towards the beach. Their strides quickened as the water became shallower.

THE REVENGE OF THE DOOMED TEN THOUSAND 12 Episodes in Adventure issues 1278 – 1289 (1949)

© D. C. Thomson & Co Ltd 

Vic Whittle 2007