The Four (they were never formally given a name, but I will refer to them in this way for ease of use) were the crew of the Artemis. They were feted and treated like conquering heroes. That worship may have contributed to the negative ways that their personalities developed, but there must be more to the changes of the Four to that, for they were all heroes, for however short a time, before they gave up their morals and used any means, however horrible, to pursue their ends.
Terry Sloan is or was (it’s still not clear which term best applies) a complex man. Twice his life turned in unexpected fashion, and each time the end result was unlikely. For some years he was a hero and a man much to be admired. It can safely be said, though, that after World War Two he became a villain of the darkest stripe.
The van Sloans of New York are an old family, with several branches, both senior and cadet. The senior branch were the Sloans of Fifth Avenue, old money even in the 19th century. In 1835 John Sloan and his wife Irma gave birth to two children, Henry (1835-1912) and Francis (1835-1921). Unfortunately, when Henry and Francis reached their majority Henry began quarreling with Francis over their inheritance. This shocking display of bad manners led to permanently cool relations between Henry and Francis and ultimately between Henry and John, and Henry was disinherited by John, left only with pocket money and the family name, Henry left New York and moved to St. Louis, while John stayed in New York City and inherited the family fortune. John’s granddaughter Anita (1910?-?) gained some notoriety in the 1930s and 1940s for her association with the notorious vigilante The Spider.
Henry, meanwhile, shortened his surname to “Sloan” (John was always proud of his German heritage) and tried to make a life for himself as a salesman. He was unsuccessful, however, and his family were forced to endure a lower-class existence. His son Scott (1875-1910) had no better luck at business, and his family endured further poverty.
Scott’s only son, Terence, was born in 1910. Terence, or “Terry,” was a child prodigy, demonstrating his manifold talents from a very early agent. In his own words, he had a knack for having knacks for things. His adult title, the “man of a thousand talents,” was well-earned, and if anything sold his abilities short. It might be wondered, in fact, if Terry’s extraordinary talents were genetically-derived, and if Terry was a descendant of the eighteen who witnessed the fall of the Wold Newton meteor. I have been so far unable to establish any direct link between the Wold Newton Eighteen and the van Sloans, however. One alternative might be the Cardiff meteorite, for more information on which seen Dr. Power’s article on “Rocks and Trees." Although the van Sloans were of Germanic descent, there has of course been a historic mixing between the German and English peoples. Another alternative might be the Steinheimer Becken meteor.
Terry demonstrated a number of skills from a very young age, becoming a master of martial arts, athletics, and engineering as a boy. He entered college at the age of twelve and graduated in a year’s time. He then devoted himself to athletics, breaking a number of world records in track and field and associated sports. He grew bored with athletics and turned his attention to business, in which field he rapidly became successful and wealthy. By the time he was eighteen he was rich, successful in athletics and business, and filled with anomie. Sloan was so filled with boredom and depression, and felt so unchallenged by life, that he decided to kill himself. As he was driving home from work, however, he noticed a woman standing on a bridge over the Mississippi River. She threw herself into the river. Sloan dove in after her and rescued her. He discovered that she was depressed over her younger brother, who had joined a criminal gang. Sloan put together a mask and costume and humiliated the gang leader in front of the gang, humiliating the gang leader and persuading the rest of the gang that there were alternatives to juvenile delinquency.
Sloan found this very fulfilling and decided that his new purpose in life would be to fight crime and help people, like the mysterious heroes the Ringer and the Saint. He set up the “Fair Play Club,” a local organization that gave urban children at risk a place to exercise and find shelter from negative and dangerous influences. This was somewhat successful, but he had greater success as a masked vigilante, roaming the streets of St. Louis and its suburbs and fighting crime and corruption wherever he found it.
However, the advent of America’s Depression at the end of the following year robbed his new enterprise of much of its innocence and charm. St. Louis, like much of America, became a desperate and grim place, and remained so for much of the following decade. The “Fair Play Club” became stuffed with poor children and single mothers and widows. Crime in St. Louis and environs ballooned, and although Sloan’s fortune remained untouched–he’d seen the Crash coming and removed his money from the banks weeks before the Stock Market destroyed itself–he found himself almost overwhelmed by the amount of crime and helplessness facing him.
Nonetheless, he did his best, and for a decade kept St. Louis and the towns around it from becoming much worse than they could have been. He gained relatively little attention, for he avoided publicity and concentrated on helping people and stopping crimes rather than building his own fame and reputation, and for many in St. Louis he remained something of an urban legend. But the criminals of St. Louis knew that he was all too real.
With the start of World War Two Sloan found himself taking on new responsibilities, fighting against Fifth Columnists and Axis spies in America’s heartland. This took him much farther afield than St. Louis, and he was active as far south as New Orleans and as far north as Milwaukee. But, again, he kept to the shadows and actively avoided the limelight, and so the press never heard much about him. He was, though, very successful.
I surmise that it was during this period that Terry Sloan’s beliefs changed. In the beginning he had been concerned with helping ordinary men and women, and giving them a fighting chance to help themselves. His motto was “Fair Play,” and that was the phrase by which he lived. But at some point during the late 1930s or during World War Two he became less concerned with “fair play” helping the poor, the downtrodden, and the oppressed, and more concerned with fighting Communism. Perhaps he had always felt that Communism was a greater threat than Fascism, or perhaps he was opposed to Hitler’s Germany but came to feel that the Soviet Union was, in the long run, more dangerous. Or perhaps he underwent some experience that converted him. We will never know for sure, but it is an established fact that by 1945 Sloan was, if anything, a far more committed anti-Communist than he was an opponent of Nazism.
Sloan joined the Spindrift Coalition in 1946, having been recruited by Jack Armstrong. Sloan became one of the leaders of the Coalition, his polymathic intelligence and experience proving a great help. He brain stormed and directed many of the experiments, including those at the Science Cities, where he was the chief scientist. In 1961, as the most talented of the Coalition scientists and agents, Sloan was the natural choice as the leader of the Artemis expedition. However, his many talents did not prevent its ultimate fate....
The second member of the Four was chosen for his skill as a pilot. He lacked the distinguished pedigree of the other members of the Four, but his personal history was as glory-filled as the others’, and as a pilot he took a back seat to nobody.
Ted Scott was born in 1915 to the “Scotts,” a couple about whom nothing is known apart from their names. (My personal belief is that they were, in fact, a somewhat more famous couple, but I have no solid evidence to support this conclusion) The Scotts died (or disappeared) when Ted was two, and he was left on the doorstep of the Wilsons, a poor but honest Ohioan couple. The Wilsons found Ted’s real name embroidered on the back collar of his shirt, and decided to continue calling him by the name of his biological father. They raised him to be honest and true, but they died when he was ten, forcing Ted into an orphanage. There he was found by Eben and Charity Browning, who welcomed him into their home. Eben and Charity kept a hotel in Bromville, Ohio, but where the hotel had once been great it was now rundown and by the time Ted was fourteen the Brownings were being forced out of business by a local criminal. Ted, seeing that his foster parents needed money, left school and got a job at a local airplane plant. Ted’s inborn skill at mechanics and his general work ethic got him noticed, and he advanced rapidly through the company. On seeing a local circus he was inspired to learn how to fly, and with the help of two wealthy friends he made it through flying school. He then enlisted in an airmail service. He built his own monoplane, the Hapworth, and after a grueling trip won a contest for the fastest nonstop flight from New York to Paris. He then returned to Bromville and helped his adopted parents redeem their hotel.
After that Ted began adventuring. He worked for the Red Cross, helped rescue flood victims in Arkansas, won the Trans-Pacific Race from San Francisco to Honolulu, set a speed record for the flight to Australia, met Presidents and Kings, and become known and beloved around the world as the "Lone Eagle." (He was not the first to bear that name–see below). His actions during World War Two remain Classified, but there is evidence that he flew secret flights against the Axis in the European and Asian theaters.
Scott’s involvement with the Spindrift Coalition is a mystery. I have been unable to discover when it began or his motivation for joining this group. But it is a fact that Scott was a part of the Four, and was on the ill-fated Artemis expedition.
The third member of the Four comes from an extremely distinguished family. The Smiths have not, to my knowledge, been written about, and that may be their will. But it seems a pity that none of the scholars of the fantastic and the unknown have devoted any space to exploring the Flying Smiths.
The story of the Flying Smiths begins with Ronald Smith (1867-1918). Smith was an inventor and a patriot, and produced for the American government a number of useful weapons, including, in 1903, a repeating naval cannon with a potential range of twenty-five miles. The Russians were at this time uneasy about very uneasy about their position in the world due to the signing, in January 1902, of the Anglo-Japanese Alliance, as well as the recurrent domestic unrest, and so sought a way to improve their military position. They kidnaped Smith, in late 1903, from the sidewalk outside the American embassy in Moscow. Smith, strong in his patriotism and hating the Russians, refused to divulge the secret of his cannon, and so languished in a Russian prison for several months, the subject of increasingly brutal torture. The American government, on discovering this, sent Yorke Norroy to free him. Norroy used a group of showgirls to entice and drug a Colonel of the Russian Engineers. This Colonel had access to the prison in which Smith was trapped. Norroy disguised himself as the Colonel, made his way to the prison, and took Smith’s place. Once Smith was free of Russia, Norroy revealed himself, and the Russians, fearing an American reprisal if Norroy was harmed, allowed Norroy to go free. (This story was lightly fictionalized the following year by Norroy’s pseudo-biographer in the story “A Tilt with the Muscovite.”)
Smith returned to the United States and took no small satisfaction in the destruction of the Russian fleet by the Japanese in the Battle of Tsushima, in May 1905; had Smith given the Russians the secret to the repeating naval cannon, the battle might well have gone the other way, and the Russians become the winners of the Russo-Japanese War.
Smith lived a calm and happy life after his Russian experience, becoming wealthy from his inventions and dying of a heart attack in his sleep in his home in New York City in 1918. He was particularly proud of his older son, John (1889-1960?). John led the life of an average scion of the upper class, but had too much wanderlust to stay in New York City, and so in 1910 joined the French Foreign Legion. He served with the Legion for seven years, including three long years in the trenches of France, but in 1918 left the Legion for the American Expeditionary Force. John Smith fought with the AEF for the three months that the Americans were a part of the war, fought in the Argonne Forest, earning his Captainship, and became one of General Black Jack Pershing’s best espionage officers. On returning home from the war he learned that his father had died and that he had inherited all of the Smith fortune. He was at loose ends, and like many veterans felt disconnected from society. He was at this point commissioned by a friend of the family to hunt down a group of emeralds which had been stolen from an Indian Nadir; towards this end Smith became an operative of the Secret Service. He also, as much for his own amusement as to help find the emeralds, set up the identity of the Scarlet Fox, the “Prince of Robin Hoods,” the criminal who gave money to and helped, in every way possible, every poor criminal he knew, doing everything he could to set them straight. The money he gave to the poor was usually stolen from the rich, who could (in theory) afford it. Smith only went to jail once, and that was because another crook, who had committed the crime, could not afford to go to jail, and so Smith took his place, thus earning him the admiration and affection of the New York underworld. But once the emeralds were recovered, he set aside the identity of the Scarlet Fox and concentrated on being a husband and father.
Ronald Smith was not as proud of his second son, Joseph (1890-?), and in fact cut him out of his will. Joseph lacked his brother John’s drive and intelligence, and never finished high school, greatly disappointing Ronald. Joseph’s main interest, his obsession, was flying, and by his twenty-first birthday Joseph owned his own plane and was regularly flying. He earned the nickname “Cyclone” from other pilots for the time he flew into the heart of a windstorm in order to deliver a package. Joseph was content to remain apart from the rest of his family, seeing his plane and fellow pilots and his students as his real family. Joseph’s main claim to fame was as the mentor to the famous boy pilot Barney Baxter. Although there is no evidence, I believe that John Smith shared his father’s distaste for Joseph and saw him as something of an embarrassment, which would explain why John never helped Joseph or gave him any of the Smith family money.
Ronald’s third son, Rick (1905-?), was conceived shortly after Ronald’s return from the Russian prison, but despite his arrival relatively late in Ronald’s life Rick was never given as much attention as John, the apple of Ronald’s eye. The sad truth is that Rick grew up relatively neglected by Ronald and his mother, and following the deaths of Ronald and shortly thereafter his mother, in 1918, Rick was cared for and raised by his nanny, John being more concerned with his own life than with taking care of a younger brother he barely knew. (Remember that John left home for the French Foreign Legion when Rick was five and did not return to the United States until after Ronald’s death) Rick, perhaps understandably, developed a distaste for school and for structured family life, and left home at age 14, looking to become a pilot. He was quite successful at this, gaining lasting fame as “Scorchy” Smith, the internationally-known adventurer and pilot. Scorchy never spoke of his family or brother, and was closest to his friends Arno Lugoff and Mickey Lafarge. (For more on Lugoff and Lafarge, see my article on Turkish members of the Wold Newton Family).
Ronald’s third son was Billy (1911-?), who I will deal with momentarily. Ronald’s fourth son was Albert (1912-?), and it was Albert who was the worst of the Flying Smiths. Albert, like his brothers, developed an obsession with flying, and like his brothers was one of the best pilots of the day. But as the youngest of Ronald’s sons he was particularly hard hit by the loss of his parents at age six, and his moral development was impaired by the loss of the mother he so adored. He was a wild child as a teenager, running with a bad crowd and neglecting his schooling to learn from local pilots. At age 16 he ran away and apprenticed himself to a local pilot, but unlike his older brother Rick Albert’s real life schooling did not give him a pleasant personality, solid morals, or a sense of patriotism for America. (Some have speculated that one of Albert’s teachers was Stahlmaske, the Prussian madman who fought the air ace G-8 during World War One, but there is no evidence that the Prussian survived the war)
Albert became an ace pilot, widely known as one of the best “tough weather pilots” around, but he also became cranky, devious, and disagreeable. The young pilot Howie Wing, who gained some note for his adventures in the years before World War Two, often suspected Albert, or “Zero” as he was known in the late 1930s, of working for the Germans. Albert’s fate is unknown, and it may be that he fought and died for the Germans during World War Two.
Ronald’s third son, as mentioned, was Billy. Billy, like Albert, was born late in the lives of Ronald and his wife, and like Albert was a child when his parents died and was raised by a nanny. And, like Albert, Billy ignored his schoolwork and left home at an early age to become a pilot. But unlike Albert Billy was made of stern moral stuff, and even though he became an independent and successful pilot as a teenager Billy never gave in to temptation. Billy became known as the “Great Ace” and gained international renown for his adventures in the mid to late 1920s and early 1930s, working for the American Secret Service, exploring New Guinea and South America, hunting for gold in Alaska, and fighting pirates in Malaysia.
By the start of World War Two Billy was one of the Secret Service’s greatest pilots and agents. He had developed a skill for aircraft design, producing some surprisingly advanced and exotic models. He was also a committed and devout anti-Communist. His adventures during the 1930s had shown him just how badly Stalin was running the Soviet Union, and Billy genuinely feared an international, Communist-backed revolution. Billy fought the Axis during the war, but apparently felt all along that America should let the Germans exhaust themselves on the Soviets before taking action. When the war ended and Billy was approached by Terry Sloan and Jack Armstrong to join the Spindrift Coalition, Billy eagerly accepted. He worked with the Spindrift Group for over a decade in a variety of positions and circumstances and was rewarded for his efforts by being chosen to be a part of the crew of the Artemis.
Although most of the scholarly attention has been given to the pilots who fought for the Allies during World Wars One and Two, the Germans did not lack for quality pilots during either war, and in fact some of their pilots were nearly as good as the best of the Allies.
One of these pilots was the mystery woman known as “R-47.” Little is known about her; in fact, even the files of the German military from World War One that are still Classified hold next to no information about R-47. All that is known is based on the accounts of her enemy, John Masters, the “Lone Eagle,” one of the Allies’ best pilots during World Wars One and Two. Masters fought a cunning and skilled German woman in the skies over France and Germany and on the ground during WW1. She was an ace pilot and a dangerous spy, and all that Masters knew of her was her codename: R-47. She and Masters had a long-running flirtation, and if not for their differing nationalities they might have become lovers, but such was not to be, and instead they dueled across the breadth of Europe and the years of World War One.
However, I believe I have discovered the real name of “R-47:” Isolde von Hammer. Isolde was the cousin of Hans von Hammer, the notorious “Enemy Ace,” and she had something of his piloting talent.
A generation later Masters was recalled to duty and fought the Germans again, during World War Two. And again he fought a woman calling herself “R-47.” This woman was actually the daughter of the Isolde, the first R-47, and like her mother was a skilled pilot. After the war she was brought to America along with many of the German scientists and brought onboard the Spindrift Coalition, where she worked in the service of anti-Communism. Because of her skill as a pilot and her ground-breaking theoretical physics, R-47, at this time going by the name “Kim Süskind,” was made a member of the Four, and shared their fate.
After the Launch
Exactly what happened during the flight, what went wrong, is not known. Initially all systems were nominal, but as the Artemis cleared into translunar space they discovered something waiting for them. (Or perhaps they coincidentally encountered something, but that seems to stretch the bounds of chance beyond the reasonable) After initial, very garbled reports all communication from the Artemis ceased, and attempts at speaking with Sloan and the others failed. Five days later, after rounding the moon, the Artemis returned to Earth, the escape pod landing in the Pacific. After several hours the pod was recovered by a Coalition-controlled ship. The Four were not in the pod.
The events immediately following the return of the Artemis are also something of a mystery. No records were kept (that I found, anyhow) and attempts to investigate four decades afterwards revealed the expected evidence: none. But after (very) extensive research, I was able to establish that many of the scientists associated with the Spindrift Coalition, including Doctors Brant and O’Neil and the Octopus, died under mysterious circumstances within a month of the Artemis’ return. The Coalition headquarters were removed from Spindrift Island, which was allowed to return to the wilds (I have seen this for myself), and the Coalition was reformed under a different aegis. This group, which is still active, was led by The Four–but a very different Four. These Four were more physically powerful than ordinary humans and were if anything more bloodthirsty and cruel than Sloan and the others. These Four, whose real identities I believe I have uncovered (more on this below), led the Voyagers (their preferred term for themselves and their organization) for the next four decades.
Next: The Modern Age
The Modern Age
Some Unknown Members of the Wold Newton Family Tree