“IT SEEMS that I am forever destined to administer to your delirium, Mr. Bantam.”

Bantam’s eyes adjusted to the lovely Rachelle Archenstone, bent over him and checking his pulse.  A hint of a smile played across her face

“Where …?”

“We are on board a Mary Blaine,” she explained, eyes twinkling.  “Well, an AetherLev, anyway.  I am forced to confess that we smuggled you out of the Base.  That is, Mr. Cleveland, Doctor Hardin and I.”

With a start, Bantam noticed that they were moving.  He and Rachelle were in an ornate wooden compartment — a train compartment, it seemed.  The lace-curtained window was curved, like he was on the inside of a cylinder.  And indeed, he saw that, whatever he was inside of, was itself inside of a transparent tube.  Their conveyance sped along at blinding speeds as the countryside whizzed by outside. 

“How …?”

“Simple.  I administered a tincture that simulated death when I was asked to examine you,” Rachelle explained.  When Bantam looked at her quizzically, she said: “Have you not read Romeo and Juliet?  I had thought you an aficionado of literature.  Anyway, the tincture stopped your breathing and all but stopped your heart.  General Veerspike believed that he had tortured you to death — and I daresay he would have, had we not intervened.”

“But then …?”

“Your ‘corpse’ was removed.  Once it was in the morgue, Doctor Hardin was able to ship you onboard, whereupon Mr. Cleveland and I extricated you from your coffin.”

Bantam thought about this for a moment and then said, “Sooner or later, Veerspike will figure out what Hardin did.”

"He already has," Rachelle said, eyes averted.  "Hardin had spirit several keys away from General Veerspike, concealing them within his false arm in order to effect your transit from the morgue.  But the ruse was doomed to discovery from the very start."

Bantam tried to sit up.  "Why did he do that?  I never asked him to --"

Rest,” Rachelle insisted, and injected him with something that made him …

… WAKE WITH a J!O!L!T! several hours later as the AetherLev turned a sharp corner, rattling everything in the compartment.

By degrees, it came back to him.

… Smuggled you out of the base …

Oh no.  Hardin.

The door burst open and a man with a black beard entered, quickly closing the door behind him.

Bantam surged to his feet, adrenaline slamming through his belly.  But the sheets were still wound tightly around him and he fell.  The man pounced.

“Bantam!  It’s me!”  he said.  The man pulled his beard down — it was Cliff Cleveland in disguise.  “I’m famous, remember?  I have to wear this when I go out!”

“Frack,” Bantam panted.  Then getting to his feet: “You nearly gave me a heart attack.”

“You appear quite satisfactory for one who has accumulated several days in a morgue.  It seems death becomes you.”

“Is that how long it’s been?  Days?  So what’s going on?”

“Well, ever since the explosion, the papers are blaring headlines about how the American Space Program is kaput.  President Cobb is despondent.  Germany is a shoe-in to win the Great Race now.  Chancellor Hitler is ecstatic, of course.”

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