The disappearance of Doc Brass and the rest of the Seven went unremarked upon and unnoticed by the rest of the world; in the confusion of 1945, most people had much more important things to think about than the sudden and unexplained absence of seven crime fighters, especially seven who had not, to be honest, been much in the public eye for several years. Life went on, and people, good and bad, hatched plans. One of those plans, hatched by important scientists and politicians and members of the United States and British governments and militaries, was to have long-lasting effects.
The plan actually began in 1917, with the ascension to power in the Soviet Union of the Communist Party. Most people and governments in the West reacted to this with fear and loathing, seeing Communism as, variously, a threat to world peace, an anti-Christian movement, an anti-American movement, and an enemy to all things good and pure. Highly placed men and women in the West communicated and met in 1918 and began to lay plans to defeat Communism. They worked throughout the 1920s and into the 1930s, plotting and creating plans and technology and weapons to use against the Communists. They called themselves “the Black Chamber,” after the American War Department’s cryptanalysis bureau; the name stuck until 1947, when the group relocated from its Washington, DC home to Spindrift Island, when it became known as the “Spindrift Coalition” or the “Spindrift Group.”
From the first the group was fixated on defeating Communism on Earth by conquering the stars; the idea of confining the battle (or their efforts) to Earth seems never to have been contemplated. There were a few reasons for this. The first was the fear, fueled by decades of bad science fiction, that aliens would find Communism somehow more attractive than Capitalism and Christianity (for these men and women the two were the same). The notion that aliens might not want to convert to an Earth-bound ideology, or that the aliens might want to ally peacefully with all of humanity, and not just one sect, or that the aliens might independently arrive at a different ideology never occurred to the thinkers and doers on this group.
The second reason for this desire to conquer space was because of the aliens themselves. The men and women of the Black Chamber were not, during these years, operating from a position of psychological superiority, as their successors on Spindrift Island would. The America of the Black Chamber was not the most powerful country in the world and the foremost power for Truth, Justice, and the American way. The America of the Black Chamber was still uncertain of its own power, still laboring under the weight of provincialism, ignorance, and isolationism, and still anti-Communist as much from general ignorance about what Communism actually was as devotion to Capitalist tenets. (The Spindrift Island scientists would know all too well what Soviet Communism could and would do) There was, on some level, a certain amount of insecurity to these men and women. They hated Communism because they feared it.
Their fear of aliens was that much worse. They were all well-connected within the American and British governments (the French were neither trusted by the Black Chamber nor consulted on this program), and so were aware that aliens had been on Earth from at least 1873. They were aware that a warring pair of alien races had used humans as proxies until the 1870s. They well-remembered the events of August 1898, when the Martians had caused such destruction on a global scale. They were aware that a criminal organization existed whose members had been diligently working, since the turn of the century, to convince the public that there was no such thing as aliens and that the August 1898 invasion had been a hoax. Although they did not know the masters of this organization, they suspected that the organization had ulterior motives for wanting humanity to disbelieve in aliens–possibly to lay the groundwork for another invasion. They learned of the findings of the Ironcastle expedition of 1920-1921, and what that expedition found, as soon as the explorers returned to civilization. In short, the Black Chamber knew as much as it was possible to know, during these years, about aliens and their involvement with Earth, and were afraid, not just for America but for humanity itself. The Black Chamber was driven by the knowledge that humanity would be quite vulnerable and nearly helpless if an alien race should choose to try to conquer Earth. And the Black Chamber could not stand that idea.
So the Black Chamber concentrated on taking the fight against Communism to the stars, to vanquish the evil of Communism on Earth and to prove to any watching aliens that humans could not be conquered easily.
The Black Chamber, though an informal organization, recruited widely. Some of their early members included the reclusive, eccentric genius Dr. Abraham Hackensaw; the noted German scientist Professor Alfred Gibberne; the explorer and inventor Sandy Highflier, popularly known as “Admiral Fudge,” noted for his explorations of the more remote corners of the world and his trips into space moon in the first decade of the century; Dr. Richard Wonmug, a controversial theorist whose ideas on the possibility of time travel remain a subject of academic dispute; Dr. Amanda Alden, whose brilliance and assertive attitude enabled her to overcome the sexism that stopped so many other women from achieving in the field of science; the German inventor and patriot Alsop Osterman, whose hatred for the British was eclipsed by his loathing for the Communism he saw threatening his beloved Germany; and Dr. Xenophon Zapt, another recluse who, though discredited in the public eye, was well-respected by his scientific peers.
The Black Chamber schemed behind the scenes, colluding with the American and British governments, creating ways to safely travel to the Moon and other planets and colonize them. There had been many trips into space before the 1930s, of course, beginning with Hercule Savinien Cyrano de Bergerac’s trip in the 17th century and seeming to become almost common by the 1930s, but these trips were all the acts of individuals, rather than governments, and the Black Chamber was interested in an organized, concerted, government-backed effort that would result in a victory over Communism and “evil” aliens, rather than the results of a lone inventor. The intent of the Black Chamber was to create space vessels that would have military applications as well as being colony vessels, that would be capable of conquering alien worlds and defeating alien space ships in battle, and whose use could be demonstrated to members of Congress and Parliament and thereby earn above-the-board and legitimate funding for further experiments. The majority of the Black Chamber’s funding and backing came from so-called “black budgets” within the American and English governments’ budgets.
Although the Black Chamber had some limited successes in the 1920s and 1930s, most of their output was used to fight Communism on Earth, and they were prevented from effecting their truly imaginative plans by a lack of sufficient funding and from the available technology. Starting in 1939 they were too preoccupied with defeating Germany and Japan, and acting as a deterrent to the Axis’ efforts to colonize the moon. It was only in 1947 that the Black Chamber finally had the time, money, and effort available to fully concentrate on their original goal: the conquest of space.
In 1946, with the agreement of the CIA and the Dr. Hartson William Brant, the Black Chamber moved to Spindrift Island, a large island off the coast of New Jersey. Dr. Brant, the son of the famous adventurer and inventor “Electric Bob” Driscoll, had purchased the island in 1925 and had moved there, building his labs and moving some of his friends and colleagues there, as well as his father. Brant’s purpose was to push back the boundaries of scientific knowledge. They had success with a variety of projects and experiments, but by 1939 their main focus, building a rocket capable of landing on the moon, was eluding them. In 1940 Brant and his friends were approached by the Black Chamber, and, being good patriots, agreed to join forces with them. After the War ended the Black Chamber relocated to Spindrift Island and changed its informal, operating name to the “Spindrift Coalition.”
World War Two and the years immediately following it proved to be busy and successful ones for the Spindrift Coalition. The war years had seen a great increase in membership, and 1946 and 1947 brought more new members. Rick Brant, after finishing his actions as an Axis-fighter during the war (see my article “The All-Aces Squad” for more information on this), joined his father on Spindrift Island. Tom Swift, Jr., who had inherited all of his father’s scientific and inventive genius, joined the team, determined to avenge his father’s death (he was convinced that his father’s disappearance in 1945 was due to a Soviet plot). Dr. Terence O’Neil, noted in the American military for his revolutionary “invisibility ray,” was seconded to the Spindrift Coalition after the O.S.S. disbanded, in October 1945. The Four, who are covered in more detail below, in The Four section. Jack Armstrong, the “All-American Boy” who gained attention during the 1930s for his globe-trotting adventures, came to the Spindrift Group as its director and security consultant. Armstrong was assisted by Colin Haig, the adventurer and scientist who had fought for world peace in the 1930s against the Southeast Asian madwoman Madame Vanderdonk. A controversial selection for the group, but one accepted in the increasingly anti-Communist, ends-justifying-the-means environment of the Spindrift Group after WW2 ended, was a figure whose real name was never recorded in the files I’ve been able to access. He was known to the public and to certain heroic vigilantes of the 1930s as either the “Octopus” or the “Scorpion.” (For ease of use I will refer to him as the Octopus from this point forward) During the late 1930s he had crossed swords with the vigilante “Skull Killer,” who had foiled the Octopus’ attempt to take over the U.S., crushed the Octopus’ cult, the “Purple Eyes,” and eventually captured the Octopus. In 1942 certain elements within the United States government’s intelligence community, feeling some doubt about the outcome of the war, had the Octopus paroled and made the creature of the O.S.S. The Octopus was made to know that his freedom was dependent on his working for the O.S.S. and the U.S. government (in that order), to help in the fight against the Axis. The Octopus, for whatever reason, agreed to this arrangement, and used his talents to help the war effort. After the war ended he was seconded to the Spindrift Group, under the same terms. While some of the Spindrift scientists were not welcoming of him, most were willing to give him a second chance as long as he helped beat the Communists. As far as I’ve been able to find he did not misbehave while at Spindrift Island, but was a productive member of the Coalition.
Professor Winston Wade, whose “optical disk-lens” was capable of vaporizing steel and which had been stolen in 1919, posing a threat to New York City, joined the Group in 1946. Professor Randolph Elliot, who had saved the skies of America from the threat of Dr. Santro in 1920, came out of retirement once he was contacted about the Coalition’s efforts by Hartson Brant. Richard Seaton, the so-called “Skylark of Space,” was similarly recruited by Hartson Brant. Seaton had gained fame among the scientific and adventurers communities in the mid-1920s for his discovery of the antigravity element Metal X and then for his trip to several far-distant alien systems, but after returning to Earth had failed despite years of attempts to follow up his discovery of Metal X with either newer elements or to produce more than minuscule amounts of Metal X. Speed Spaulding was brought onboard the Group at the request of Jack Armstrong, who had heard of Spaulding’s efforts to avert catastrophe during the “Rogue Planet” affair and believed, rightly, that Spaulding would add to Spindrift Island’s security. Spaulding brought with him the Group of Seven, seven scientists led by Professor Howard Bronton who had worked to prevent world-wide chaos during the “Rogue Planet” affair. Ward Barnett, an inventor who had helped overthrow a crooked political machine in 1934, was brought over from the faculty at Harvard. Peter Marchmont, a talented scientist and inventor who was framed by his wife and her lover and had used his invisibility ray and other inventions to fight against them in the early 1920s, was released from jail and brought to the Island under the same terms as the Octopus, as was Dr. Alexei Zorka, another criminal scientist much like the Octopus. And, finally, Dr. Jason Kinney and his colleagues Smith, Van Emmon, and Jackson, who had traveled into space in 1918 and visited several planets around an alien sun, were made aware of the Spindrift Group’s efforts and eagerly volunteered.
And, finally and most unpleasantly, all of the German scientists who were a part of the German effort to land on the moon by 1955 and send arks to Mars by 1968 were brought to the US and incorporated into the Spindrift Coalition. Like the Octopus and Alexei Zorka, these men, far more intelligent than Werner von Braun and the scientists of the German mittelwerk, were offered freedom in exchange for their whole-hearted cooperation with the Spindrift Coalition. They quickly fit in, being seen in some cases as men who’d done nothing wrong except support the wrong political party, and contributed to the Coalition’s efforts.
These and other men and women were a part of the Spindrift Island group as its second phase began, in 1947. In January of 1947 the Spindrift Coalition succeeded in launching an unmanned, heavily-armed satellite, an event that was heavily fictionalized and altered by Rick Brant’s pseudo-biographer in the first “chapter” of Brant’s pseudo-biography, The Rocket’s Shadow. The Coalition stepped up plans to produce numbers of these satellites, seemingly with the plan of assembling and launching a fleet of satellites, armed with nuclear weapons, which could bombard and destroy the Soviet Union (which, it must be remembered, did not possess the secret of the atomic bomb at this point). However, events later in the year changed matters and forced the Coalition on to new path.
The crash of an alien spaceship at Roswell, New Mexico, in July 1947, and the subsequent crash of a second spaceship, piloted by “Greys,” sent shockwaves through the intelligence community. Governments around the world were put on notice about their technological inferiority compared to the aliens. While certain governments took steps to deal with the Greys and to conceal the reality of aliens from the public, the Spindrift Group, the self-appointed “front line soldiers in the scientific war against Communism,” was forced to confront an unpleasant reality: that, for all their successes, they were still far, far behind the aliens in weapons technology. Jack Armstrong and Speed Spaulding had inspected the wreckage at Roswell and realized what they were dealing with, and reported back to a gloomy and depressed Spindrift Group.
The Group met with a group of international politicians and figures newly-assembled to deal with the Greys. This group, known in some circles as “the Consortium,” had immediately begun working on a vaccine against the alien threat while seeming to strike a deal with the Greys, to act as their human servants and prepare the Earth for a Grey invasion. The Consortium agreed to provide further, covert assistance to the Spindrift Coalition, while the Coalition agreed to accelerate their efforts to create more effective weapons against the Greys. The Coalition would also use these new weapons against the Soviet Union and to help establish the rule of capitalism and America in space, of course–but most of the Coalition suspected that the Greys, on some level, were communists, and so the two threats seemed to actually be one.
This began the darkest and final chapter in the history of the Spindrift Coalition. Faced with the threat of the Greys and of world- (and perhaps universal-) communism, the Spindrift Group began a series of horrible experiments designed to produce weapons, living, organic, and inorganic. The ends were seen as justifying the means, so any and all means were used.
In 1945, following the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, strange phenomena was seen on Danjo-To, a small island northwest of Hokkaido. Nearby villages on Rebun-To and Rishiri-To, the two islands closest to Danjo-To, saw a very bright light over Danjo-To and reported a fierce storm centered over the island. The American and Soviet militaries intercepted radio messages reporting these events, but they were quickly forgotten in the press of events. The men and women of the Black Chamber did not forget about them, however, and as soon as Japan officially surrendered agents of the Chamber were sent to Danjo-To. They found a group of strange creatures, seemingly newborn. The Black Chamber, unsure of how to proceed, set guards around Danjo-To and let the island alone. In 1947, following the reorganization of the Black Chamber into the Spindrift Coalition and the change in the group’s purpose, the creatures on Danjo-To were revisited. They were found to have grown at a natural rate and to be misshapen but essentially normal animals. The Coalition scientists on site decided to begin a series of experiments on the animals, to see if they could be turned into biological weapons.
Three years later the experiments were deemed complete, and the surviving creatures set free. The animals were allowed to roam Danjo-To and do what they wanted. Danjo-To was by this time dubbed “Island Zero” and kept under round-the-clock armed guard by Spindrift Group guards. The Group made sure that no mention of Island Zero ever appeared in the press, and inquiries by the Russians, whose occupation of the nearby Kurile Islands was too close for the Spindrift Coalition’s comfort, were politely but firmly stonewalled.
The results of the experiments were mixed; the subject animals gained strange powers and abilities, but also gained strange and sometimes inimical personalities as a result of the experiments. One of the creatures, a lizard capable (after the experiments) of walking on two legs and of breathing radioactive ionized plasma, gained near-human intelligence and grew to an enormous size, somehow surviving a violation of the cube-root law. In 1954 this creature, later named “Gojira” by the Japanese and “Godzilla” by the Americans, left Island Zero and attacked Tokyo, killing nearly 200,000 and laying waste to the heart of the city. Gojira then returned to Island Zero and stayed there for the next 44 years, re-emerging in 1998 to again attack the modern world. (A corpse found on Island Zero in early 1999 bore a close resemblance to Gojira, so it may be that Gojira died following the events of May and June 1998) Gojira, however, was the most destructive of the Island Zero experimental creatures, and the only one to leave Island Zero.
The other creatures grew to similarly enormous size and gained human-level intelligence as well as strange powers and the ability to defy the cube-root law. These included an enormous moth, an atavism very similar to a giant pterodactyl, a turtle grown to almost skyscraper size and seemingly atomic-fueled, and a strange, giant three-headed lizard capable of flight and of breathing plasma similar to Gojira’s. Again, while all of these were very intelligent, none left Island Zero, and by 1999 all but Gojira and the pseudo-pterodactyl, dubbed “Radon” or “Rodan” by the guards on Island Zero, were dead.
In 1949 the Spindrift Coalition, with the cooperation of certain highly-placed officers of the American intelligence establishment, set up three installations in the deserts of the American southwest. These installations, called “Science City Zero,” “Science City Alpha,” and “Science City A,” were town-sized bases used by the Coalition scientists to carry out experiments deemed too dangerous or risky for Spindrift Island. The experiments performed in the Science Cities were never recorded on any maps, and all the soldiers and workers in the Science Cities were subjected to deep hypnosis after their terms of service ended, so that their memories of the Science Cities would be “edited” to protect the Coalition’s secrets. The experiments carried out in the Science Cities were horrible. The Science Cities were experimental concentration camps, the experimental subjects being men, women and children that the Coalition deemed “disposable” (non-whites, gays, Jews, drinkers, drug-users, political dissidents). The victims were kidnaped by Coalition agents or transferred from prisons or simply “disappeared” from the streets. What was done to them was everything the Coalition scientists could imagine. Their goal was to produce weaponry, living and inorganic, to fight the Greys and the Communists, and to that end anything was acceptable.
Although all three Science Cities were active and productive, Science City Zero was the most productive, no doubt because of the men and women running it. The chief scientist in charge of Science City (more on whom below, in The Four section) was a genius, and it was his combination of ruthlessness and brilliance that spurred Science City Zero to greater scientific heights and depths. Insects, including ants, were grown to enormous sizes and kept in cages on the outskirts of Science City Zero, and then let loose to build enormous, mile-long catacombs underneath the desert. A disgraced Army officer was turned into a 50' high man, and then shot and dissected to see whether his nerve tissue and brain grew along with his body. (They didn’t) A woman was given the same treatment, slightly altered, to see if the results were any different. (They didn’t) A new form of invisibility was attempted on a convict. (It failed) German shepherds were irradiated to see if they would gain “atomic powers.” (Some did, some didn’t) A man was treated to see if he could somehow gain “x-ray vision.” (He did, but went insane) Other tests even more unspeakable were performed.
All of these experiments were fictionalized with the agreement and cooperation of the American government and the various Hollywood studios. The fictionalizations helped convince the American public that such things were merely the stuff of “science fiction,” so that those few civilians who caught sight of the experiment subjects were convinced that all they were seeing were props or “special effects” for movies.
These experiments, and the Science Cities, were funded by a combination of money taken from the Pentagon’s “Black Budget,” the proceeds from some of the experiments’ byproducts, and with funding from the Hark Corporation, the multinational founded by the daughter of Hark. But the experiments, the Science Cities, and the scientists quickly outstripped their funding, and by 1960 the Science Cities were abandoned, the experimental subjects killed or returned to the civilian population with their memories altered.
In 1961 the Spindrift Coalition felt ready to launch a new rocket, one armed with the best in weaponry and technology that the Coalition’s scientists had been able to create in their years of experiments. The rocket was manned with four of the best and brightest of the Spindrift Group’s agents. Something happened to their rocket, the Artemis, in cislunar space, however, and the crew returned very different from when they left.
Next: The Four
The Modern Age
Some Unknown Members of the Wold Newton Family Tree