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Last episode taken from The Wizard No. 1564 - February 4th 1956.

The signal to fight for freedom rings round the world—from the Hopebridge school bell!

It was a bad moment for John Maitland, the teacher at Hopebridge, a village in the Midlands, when the walkie-talkie wireless set he had hidden in a satchel made itself heard in the classroom.


He must have knocked the switch over when he was putting it away and now a muffled voice, using the timetable code of the British Resistance Movement which was operating against the Kushantis, made itself heard. The incident took place early in 1969, the year after the Kushanti hordes from the East completed their conquest of the West and occupied Great Britain, except for a mountainous bit of Scotland. Mr Kade, the Kushanti official known as the Inquirer, was in the school, the first school to be re-opened after the war, and he heard the voice from the satchel. The satchel hung from a peg. His eyes gleaming with suspicion behind his enormous glasses, his false teeth protruding prominently, Mr Kade stalked towards the satchel. The walkie-talkie set had been issued to Maitland by the Fifth Resistance Regiment, which operated in the Midlands and to which he belonged. During the war against the Kushantis, Maitland had been a sergeant in the First Battalion Royal Warwickshire Regiment, of which he believed he was the only survivor. The armies of the West had been overpowered by sheer numbers in a war in which atomic weapons had not been employed. Maitland had recently learned the crafty Kushantis, before starting the war, had kidnapped or killed the scientists who could work the weapons. Now the Resistance Movement had trained men in their use and the weapons, which had been hidden, might soon be brought into action. Mr Kade, who wore a pistol holster, stabbed a finger at the satchel which belonged to young Eric Maitland, the teacher’s brother. “There is a radio in the bag!” Kade hissed and then added the sinister words, “It is ordered by a dictate of the Imperial Kushanti Oligarchy that the possession of an illegal radio is punishable by the immediate death of the culprit. I shall escort you to headquarters for execution.” With that Mr Kade reached into the satchel and started to withdraw the walkie-talkie. “Thank you very much,” answered Maitland cynically. “It is extremely good of you—but I’m not coming!” Mr Kade pulled out his gun, but with a punch that started from the hip, the teacher swept up his fist under the Inquirer’s chin. A shower of false teeth fell from Mr Kade’s mouth and he dropped as if he had been shot. His spectacles broke. He sprawled insensible.


Maitland stepped back into the room and silenced the excited chatter of the children, some of whom had been able to see what happened. “Get on quietly with your lessons,” he said, “and when you get out of school be sure you don’t chatter. You understand, don’t you?” John dared not say more for there were microphones hidden in the walls and connected up with the Kushanti headquarters so that anything said in the classroom could be overheard by the Conquerors. However, his words could be interpreted as the usual warning he gave to the children at the end of lessons. But to make sure that the children understood that what he really wanted was for them to keep quiet about what had just happened, he gave a meaning glance and nodded to where Mr Kade sprawled unconscious. The children caught on. “Yes, we understand, teacher,” they chorused. Moving back into the porch, John beckoned to Eric. The teacher’s first action was to switch off the walkie-talkie. Eric raised a grin. “You handed him a wallop,” he whispered. “I had to flatten him,” answered Maitland, who had been a good boxer. Eric’s smile faded quickly away. “What are you going to do?” he asked worriedly. “The Kushies would kill you for hitting him.” “we’re going to make it look like an accident,” said Maitland crisply, and told Eric his plan. “We shall have to wait till some Kushanti is near enough to see Mr Kade fall.” “Mr Kade might regain consciousness first,” Eric answered. “I don’t think he will,” Maitland retorted, “but if he does I’ll hit him again!” Eric picked up the halves of the Inquirer’s broken spectacles. They were included in the plan.


Fang Is Fooled


About twenty minutes had passed when Captain Fang, the commander of the local garrison, strutted out of the headquarters house over which flew the black flag of the Kushantis with the emblem of the Yellow Sword.


With his curved sword swinging, Fang paced along. A Kushanti sentry brought up his rifle in salute. Fifty yards or so away was the school, which had a wall round the playground. Fang was returning the salute when he casually noticed Mr Kade coming out of the school porch. Because Fang could only see Mr Kade’s head and shoulders over the wall, the Captain did not suspect that the Inquirer was being supported by Maitland and Eric. Keeping low, careful not to be seen over the wall, the Maitlands carried Mr Kade the short distance to the gate. The teacher had pushed an arm up inside the Inquirer’s tunic to prop his sagging body upright. “Let him go now,” whispered Maitland by the gate. When they released their grasp Mr Kade toppled out of the gateway and lay face downwards on the footpath. Eric scuttled back into school. Maitland arranged one of the Inquirer’s feet so that his toe was behind the step, making it appear he had tripped, and then crept back after his brother. They waited a few tense moments in the porch and then Eric dashed out dramatically. “Mr Kade’s fallen over!” he shouted. After a short pause Maitland strode out of the school. “Help him up, Eric!” he exclaimed. “I think he’s bashed his head!” Eric answered. “Perhaps he tripped because he couldn’t see.” Captain Fang did not hurry. He sauntered to the scene as if the fall of the civilian official was of no personal concern to him. Maitland pointed to Mr Kade’s limply-closed hand which held the pieces of his spectacles. “Mr Kade dropped his glasses in school and they broke,” he said to Captain Fang. “I suppose he is very short-sighted without them.” “He is too short-sighted to be a soldier,” snapped Fang contemptuously. “He has taken a nasty knock,” said Maitland. “Have I your permission to take him to the doctor?” Captain Fang gave a disinterested nod and turned to watch the approach of a long convoy.


At the head of the convoy was an open car with a wireless aerial at the side of the front seat. A Major sat beside the driver. Behind them, with a hand on a rail, stood a trooper with a yellow “bat.” The car stopped and Fang brought up his hand in salute. The Major spoke to him in Kushanti and appeared to be asking the way. The language was just a jabber to Maitland, but he picked up two words. “Waaick Kessel.” Maitland believed this to be the Kushantis’ attempt at saying “Warwick Castle.” Fang turned towards the crossroads and pointed to the left. The car went ahead and the signaler held out his bat to indicate the turn. Six of the lorries were occupied by troops. Not only were they bigger men than the average Kushanti soldier, their uniforms were of better quality and had brass instead of cloth buttons. On the helmet of each soldier the Yellow Sword was enclosed in a triangle. A number of covered vehicles followed and then bellowings were heard and a cattle truck passed by. An armoured car brought up the rear. Fang still took no interest in Mr Kade. He spoke arrogantly to Maitland. “You saw the soldiers,” he bragged. “They belong to the Imperial Kushanti Guards, the finest regiment in the world.” Meanwhile, Eric had fetched two more of the bigger boys out of school. They lifted the gate off its hinges, pulled Mr Kade on it and used it as a stretcher. This they carried to the house where old Doctor Lewis lived. Dr Lewis was at his window and came away to open the front door agitatedly. “My word, he’s had a nasty accident,” he said, looking down at the Inquirer. “What hit him?” “My fist,” replied Maitland. Dr Lewis’s wrinkled face showed how startled and concerned he was. “You’ll be in danger, John,” he said hoarsely. “Can you keep him unconscious?” Maitland asked. “Can you stop him talking for the next few days?” The worry went and the doctor’s eyes twinkled. “Bring him in,” he said.


Behind The Picture


After school Maitland walked down the street. He carried the bag his mother had used when she went shopping in the old days. In the bag was the walkie-talkie. Sergeant Ake, the senior non-commissioned officer of the local Kushanti garrison, stepped out from the Village Institute, not the Kushanti barracks.


“What is in the bag?” he demanded. Maitland faced him calmly. “I am going to get some potatoes,” he answered. “You will go and get the potatoes,” barked Ake. “When you come back we shall take half!” Maitland gave a nod and resumed his walk. He turned up a rutted track and came to the patch of ground where Noddy Jones, who was thought to be simple-minded, had his hovel, a ramshackle hut that somehow continued to survive the winter gales. Noddy, wearing the top hat and rusty tailcoat that were his dress as assistant to an undertaker, came out of the hovel. He was a good gardener. “You’ve come for the taters, teacher,” he said. “Ay, I’ve got plenty hidden away. I’ve diddled them Kushies,” he chortled. “I’ve got one small tater clamp that they can see and a big ‘un that they’ve never found.” “Noddy, while you’re getting the potatoes I want to use a wireless set I’ve brought along,” stated Maitland. “I’m going to talk to the man with the scar on his face who helped us to rescue the rector.” “Ha, ha, we diddled the Kushies that night,” cackled Noddy. “When I’ve finished speaking I want you to hide the set here,” said the teacher. “I’ll hide it where it won’t be found,” declared Noddy. Maitland took the walkie-talkie out of the bag, which he passed to Noddy. Then he went into the hovel. In a battered picture frame was a highly tinted paper picture of Marshal Ku, the Kushanti Dictator, the President of the Oligarchy, the ruthless criminal who had conquered the West. The secret British Resistance Movement had intercepted and decoded Kushanti signals to the effect that Marshal Ku was coming to Britain. Maitland guessed that Noddy had put up the picture to impress the Kushantis if they came snooping around.


The teacher tuned in the walkie-talkie set and adjusted the headphones. The aerial was a coiled spring. As soon as he gave his code sign he received an answer. The message that he put through in code was—“Convoy with over one hundred Imperial Guards passed through village and way was asked to Warwick Castle.” Maitland realised that the speaker at Resistance headquarters was Major Chesney, the leader. “Are you sure about the destination?” Chesney asked. “It’s what it sounded like,” said Maitland. “Yes, I’d bet on it.” “Good enough,” rapped Chesney. That ended the talking. Maitland had the aerial clipped down and the phones replaced when Noddy shuffled in. Noddy put the bag of potatoes on the table and then made a face in the direction of Marshal Ku’s picture. “That’s how I always salute the fat pig,” he said. “Why hang up the picture?” Maitland inquired. Noddy winked craftily. “I’ll show you, teacher,” he cackled, and pulled the picture aside to reveal a cupboard well stocked with food. “That’s where your walkie-talkie will go.” He picked up the set and put it in the cupboard. “I’ve had the Kushies searching round here from time to time, but they never touch the fat pig’s picture. Naw, they bends in the middle and bows to it, Dafties!” He pulled the picture straight. Maitland was smiling as he walked away. In some ways Noddy was far from being simple. He had certainly picked on the Kushantis adulation of Marshal Ku to bluff them.


A Message For Maitland


Maitland was still at home in the morning, about a quarter to nine, when there was a bang on the door. He found that the caller was Sergeant Ake. “You will come with me,” Ake commanded.


It was to the headquarters house that Ake took Maitland at a quick pace. A van stood outside. Troopers were carrying packages from the vehicle into the building. The teacher had started by wondering if his activities with the walkie-talkie had been discovered or if the fact that he had biffed Mr Kade had leaked out. Now he ceased to fear for himself and grew curious. A soldier fetched out a bundle of a dozen large flagpoles with ornate tops from the van. A package broke open and a string of yellow and black bunting dropped out. Ake escorted Maitland to a room where Captain Fang stood by the table. Upon it was a cardboard box that the Captain pushed towards the teacher. The lid was off the box and Maitland saw it contained many small Kushanti flags, about a foot square and already attached to their sticks. “Take these flags,” rapped Fang. “There are two for each child at your school. You will immediately instruct the scholars in brandishing the flags with enthusiasm. At three o’clock you will march the children out of the school premises for a rehearsal.” Maitland assumed surprise. “What’s the rehearsal for?” he asked. “It is your duty to obey orders and not to ask questions,” retorted Fang harshly. “It is stipulated that each scholar will wave two flags.” Maitland carried the box away from the headquarters and, with his knowledge that Marshal Ku was expected in Britain, the reason for these preparations seemed to be clear. “It looks to me as if Ku is going to stay at Warwick Castle,” he muttered, “and that he will pass through Hopebridge on the way.” On getting into school he found that many of the children had already arrived and he was a minute or two late in ringing the bell. The children showed no desire to take the flags when he started to distribute them. One of the sons of Len Horne, the poacher, wiped his nose on the Yellow Sword of his flag. “I think somebody important is going to visit Hopebridge,” Maitland told his pupils, “and though you may not want to wave to him, its necessary that you do as you are told.” During the morning, every house in Hopebridge received a large Kushanti flag to be flown. The sound of engines grew louder and over the green flew a helicopter. It landed and numerous Kushantis got out. They were not soldiers, but high ranking officials, together with cameramen and broadcasters.


The most important of the officials to arrive—Maitland was to find out—was known as the Deputy Supreme Master of State Ceremonies and Public Rejoicings. This man’s name was Mr Excellency Busho and he strongly resembled Mr Kade, except that he was plumper. He carried a rolled up black and yellow umbrella. There was really a great deal to watch, for there was constant traffic on the road and towards noon an infantry battalion two thousand strong, marched through the village and pitched camp nearby. Opposite the school a platform was erected for the cameramen. Maitland heard later that an official of the Chief Inquirer’s Bureau paid a visit to Dr Lewis’s house and demanded to see Mr Kade. The visiting official was perfectly satisfied that the local Inquirer was being accorded proper medical treatment on seeing him in bed with a bandage round his head and “resting” peacefully! At three o’clock Maitland took the children outside. Mr Busho came strutting from headquarters and addressed the teacher in a squeaky voice. “The children are to form a happy group,” he said. “When the car that is taking part in the rehearsal approaches, they will wave the flags with all the symptoms of vast excitement and delight. Any child who does not exhibit these symptoms is to be punished. “I understand,” said Maitland. “We will proceed with the rehearsal,” rapped Mr Busho. He waddled away and got into an open car which was driven away a few hundred yards and then turned. At the gate of each house stood villagers, who had also been given flags to wave. On the platform, the cameramen took the opportunity to make their arrangements. The car came slowly along with Mr Busho raising his podgy hand in salute. The cameramen followed him with their telescopic lens. The broadcasters, on the balcony of the inn, rehearsed their commentaries. The reluctant people of Hopebridge waved flags and shouted. Noddy Jones raised his top hat. At a sign from Maitland the children fluttered their flags and tried to look happy. Noddy shambled across the road. He pushed a scrap of paper into Maitland’s hand. “It was given to me by the man with the scar,” he said. Maitland took a quick glance at the paper. Chesney had scribbled—“Will see you as soon as possible. Coax Kushies into letting you ring school bell when Marshal Ku comes through.” Mr Busho descended from the car and waddled back towards the school. “The enthusiasm was not enough and must be increased,” he blustered. “I have a lowly suggestion to make,” said Maitland. “In Britain, in the past, occasions of rejoicing have been marked by bell ringing. Would it not add to the spirit of enthusiasm if I rang the school bell?” “The suggestion is approved,” answered Mr Busho. “We will place a microphone to pick up the clang of the bell.” “When is the great occasion to be?” Maitland asked. “That question is not permitted,” snapped Mr Busho. Late that evening, Maitland heard several quick taps on the back door of the schoolhouse. He opened it swiftly and Chesney edged in. “What have you done about the bell?” Chesney asked at once. “The suggestion is approved,” Maitland said. Chesney’s eyes gleamed with satisfaction. “That’s what we wanted!” he exclaimed. “We needed a signal, a signal that will be heard over the wireless not only in this country, but in Europe and America. Everything is ready for Zero Hour, John, and Zero Hour will strike when the bell of Hopebridge School rings out!”


The Last Fight


Three days afterwards all work was stopped in Britain. The order was that everyone should listen in. “This was London, now Sub Capital Three,” announced the soapy voice of the Kushanti announcer. “A supreme honour has been conferred upon the Occupied Land of Britain. An hour ago the Most Illustrious and All Powerful Marshal Ku arrived by air and is now on his way by road to a castle in the occupied Midlands, which will form his headquarters during his stay. Everywhere Marshal Ku is being received with joy and gratitude and you will hear eye-witness accounts of his triumphal progress through the country.”


Every twenty yards along the roads was placed a Kushanti trooper. In Hopebridge a sentry, back turned to the street, stood outside every gate, watching the people. Flags fluttered everywhere. Outside the school the children were massed. On the opposite side of the roadway Captain Fang commanded a guard of honour. Aircraft started to roar overhead in great numbers. Then armed motor cyclists raced through the village. Mr Busho bustled about in a growing state of agitation and the row of wireless commentators began to chatter into their microphones. The story of Marshal Ku’s triumphant progress was going out across the world, to Europe, to America, to Kushanti. Then into sight came the head of the procession. Gleaming armoured cars formed the vanguard. The bayonets of the Imperial Guards standing in troop carriers, glinted in the bleak sunshine. Anti-aircraft guns reared upwards on their transporters. Seven cars glided along. In each car sat one member of the Oligarchy, some in uniform, some in silk hats and frock coats. In the seventh car lolled Marshal Ku. His jeweled hand rested on the encrusted diamonds in his sword hilt. He was enormously fat, but his beady eyes had an indescribable cunning. The cameras whirred. Mr Busho waved his umbrella at the children who waved their little flags and yelled shrilly. A keen ear might have detected sounds of derision in the din. Inside the school, Maitland tugged at the rope and the bell clanged in a wild turbulent jangle that over the wireless, was heard across the world. The procession left Hopebridge behind. The vehicles turned into the straight mile, where the road passed between trees. The engines of a Kushanti plane streaking overhead banged and stopped. The nose of the plane dropped. With a scream, the aircraft plunged to the ground and exploded, not half a mile from the road. Marshal Ku and his escorts stared up in bewilderment, and in increasing consternation, as plane after plane fell out of the skies and hurtled to the ground. Men flitted through the trees. Metal masks covered their faces and metal gloves their hands. They carried strange looking weapons with long, tapering barrels and a tiny bore. They were atomic weapons.


Their leader fired at a Kushanti armoured car. The bullet pinged against the steel plates of the vehicle and, in an instant, the vehicle melted in a searing blast of flame. Car after car crumpled into nothingness as the atomic bullets struck them. The Kushanti Imperial Guards perished like reeds caught in the holocaust of a forest fire. The seven members of the Oligarchy stood with ropes round their necks, ready to be led away. Marshal Ku, whose ruthlessness had filled a million graves, stood quaking and slobbering like a mass of blubber. His captor took off his mask. Ku saw no mercy in the eyes of Major Chesney, the scar faced man who held him prisoner. At the ringing of the school bell, across the Western World every military and naval base of the Asiatics, every camp, every aerodrome, was seared out of existence by the new British atomic weapons that men had trained to control. Off Portland, five Kushanti aircraft carriers melted and sank within a minute when caught in an atomic ray aimed from the Dorset hills. This was one small incident in the war that raged for one afternoon. All over Britain, tense and incredulous, people waited in front of their wireless sets. All over Britain there were tears and astounded cheers when at six o’clock, Big Ben chimed and struck the hour. “This is London!” came the announcement. “It has just been announced by the Commander-in-Chief of the British Resistance Army that the occupation of Britain by the Kushantis has ended. Victory total and complete, has been attained. Her Majesty the Queen is on her way from her unconquered Scottish fortress to London. Marshal Ku is a prisoner in our hands. God Save The Queen.” Over the air boomed the sound of the National Anthem. In Hopebridge, Captain Fang put an end to his troubles by falling on his sword. Bereft of leadership, the troopers hung about like stupefied louts till they were disarmed and led off to prison camps. Soon, from America and the Continent, came the news that the use of atomic weapons in those lands had met with equal success. The school bell at Hopebridge had tolled for the doom of the Kushanti regime and the return of freedom to the world. Next day the children had a holiday and Maitland was walking down the street when Mr Kade, who had a few hours ago recovered consciousness, strutted out of the doctor’s house. Fury blazed in Kade’s eyes. “I arrest you for assault upon my person,” he hissed balefully. Maitland yelled with laughter. “Look up there, Mr Kade!” he roared and pointed at the church tower. The Inquirer’s eyes bulged as he saw the Union Jack streamed out in the fresh breeze. “It is forbidden to fly any flag other than that of the Yellow Sword,” he spluttered. “You’d better bring yourself up to date, Inquirer!” guffawed Maitland. “You were on the losing side!” Leaving Mr Kade gawping at the Union Jack, Maitland strode away with vigorous steps, a man with a new purpose in life. Britain had grievous wounds to heal, but the night was over and a bright new day had dawned.



The Yellow Sword 15 episodes appeared in The Wizard issues 1550 - 1564 (1955 - 1956)

© D. C. Thomson & Co Ltd

Vic Whittle 2007