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Title: Armageddon 2419 AD
Author: Philip Francis Nowlan
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Title: Armageddon 2419 AD
Author: Philip Francis Nowlan




PROLOGUE

Elsewhere I have set down, for whatever interest they have in this,
the 25th Century, my personal recollections of the 20th Century.

Now it occurs to me that my memories of the 25th Century may have an
equal interest 500 years from now--particularly in view of that unique
perspective from which I have seen the 25th Century, entering it as I
did, in one leap across a gap of 492 years.

This statement requires elucidation. There are still many in the world
who are not familiar with my unique experience. I should state
therefore, that I, Anthony Rogers, am, so far as I know the only man
alive whose normal span of life has been spread over a period of 573
years. To be precise, I lived the first twenty-nine years of my life
between 1898 and 1927; the rest since 2419. The gap between these two,
a period of nearly a five hundred years, I spent in a state of
suspended animation, free from the ravages of catabolic processes, and
without any apparent effect on my physical or mental faculties.

When I began my long sleep, man had just begun his real conquest of
the air in a sudden series of transoceanic flights in airplanes driven
by internal combustion motors. He had barely begun to speculate on the
possibilities of harnessing sub-atomic forces, and had made no further
practical penetration into the field of ethereal pulsations than the
primitive radio and television of that day. The United States of
America was the most powerful nation in the world, its political,
financial, industrial and scientific influence being supreme.

I awoke to find the America I knew a total wreck--to find Americans a
hunted race in their own land, hiding in the dense forests that
covered the shattered and leveled ruins of their once magnificent
cities, desperately preserving, and struggling to develop in their
secret retreats, the remnants of their culture and science and their
independence.

World domination was in the hands of Mongolians, and the center of
world power lay in inland China, with Americans one of the few races
of mankind unsubdued--and it must be admitted in fairness to the
truth, not worth the trouble of subduing in the eyes of the Han
Airlords who ruled North America as titular tributaries of the Most
Magnificent.

For they needed not the forests in which the Americans lived, nor the
resources of the vast territories these forests covered. With the
perfection to which they had reduced the synthetic production of
necessities and luxuries, their development of scientific processes
and mechanical accomplishments of work, they had no economic need for
the forests, and no economic desire for the enslaved labor of an
unruly race.

They had all they needed for their magnificently luxurious scheme of
civilization within the walls of the fifteen cities of sparkling glass
they had flung skyward on the sites of ancient American centers, into
the bowels of the earth underneath them, and with relatively small
surrounding areas of agriculture.

Complete domination of the air rendered communication between these
centers a matter of ease and safety. Occasional destructive raids on
the wastelands were considered all that was necessary to keep the
"wild" Americans on the run within the shelter of their forests, and
prevent their becoming a menace to the Han civilization.

But nearly three hundred years of easily maintained security, the last
century of which had been nearly sterile in scientific, social and
economic progress, had softened them.

It had likewise developed, beneath the protecting foliage of the
forest, the growth of a vigorous new American civilization, remarkable
in the mobility and flexibility of its organization, in its conquest
of almost insuperable obstacles, and in the development and guarding
of its industrial and scientific resources. All this was in
anticipation of that "Day of Hope" to which Americans had been looking
forward for generations, when they would be strong enough to burst
from the green chrysalis of the forests, soar into the upper air lanes
and destroy the Hans.

At the time I awoke, the "Day of Hope" was almost at hand. I shall not
attempt to set forth a detailed history of the Second War of
Independence, for that has been recorded already by better historians
that I am. Instead I shall confine myself largely to the part I was
fortunate enough to play in this struggle and in the events leading up
to it.

It all resulted from my interest in radioactive gases. During the
latter part of 1927 my company, the American Radioactive Gas
Corporation, had been keeping me busy investigating reports of unusual
phenomena observed in certain abandoned coal mines near the Wyoming
Valley, in Pennsylvania.

With two assistants and a complete equipment of scientific
instruments, I began the exploration of a deserted working in a
mountainous district, where several weeks before, a number of mining
engineers had reported traces of carnotite (A hydrovanadate of
uranium, and other metals; then used as a source of radium compounds.
ED.) and what they believed to be radioactive gases. Their report was
not without foundation, it was apparent from the outset, for in our
examination of the upper levels of the mine, our instruments indicated
a vigorous radioactivity.

On the morning of December 15th, we descended to one of the lowest
levels. To our surprise, we found no water there. Obviously it had
drained off through some break in the strata. We noticed too that the
rock in the side walls of the shaft was soft, evidently due to the
radioactivity, and pieces crumbled underfoot rather easily. We made
our way cautiously down the shaft, when suddenly the rotted timbers
above us gave way.

I jumped ahead, barely escaping the avalanche of coal and soft rock;
my companions, who were several paces behind me, were buried under it,
and undoubtedly met instant death.

I was trapped. Return was impossible. With my electric torch I
explored the shaft to its end, but could find no other way out. The
air became increasingly difficult to breathe, probably from the rapid
accumulation of the radioactive gas. In a little while my senses
reeled and I lost consciousness.

When I awoke, there was a cool and refreshing circulation of air in
the shaft. I had not thought that I had been unconscious more than a
few hours, although it seems that the radioactive gas had kept me in a
state of suspended animation for something like 500 years. My
awakening, I figured out later, had been due to some shifting of the
strata which reopened the shaft and cleared the atmosphere in the
working. This must have been the case, for I was able to struggle back
up the shaft over a pile of debris, and stagger up the long incline to
the mouth of the mine, where an entirely different world, overgrown
with a vast forest and no visible sign of human habitation, met my
eyes.

I shall pass over the days of mental agony that followed in my attempt
to grasp the meaning of it all. There were times when I felt that I
was on the verge of insanity. I roamed the unfamiliar forest like a
lost soul. Had it not been for the necessity of improvising traps and
crude clubs with which to slay my food, I believe I should have gone
mad.

Suffice it to say, however, that I survived this psychic crisis. I
shall begin my narrative proper with my first contact with Americans
of the year 2419 A.D.

FLOATING MEN

My first glimpse of a human being of the 25th Century was obtained
through a portion of woodland where the trees were thinly scattered,
with a dense forest beyond.

I had been wandering along aimlessly, and hopelessly, musing over my
strange fate, when I noticed a figure that cautiously backed out of
the dense growth across the glade. I was about to call out joyfully,
but there was something furtive about the figure that prevented me.
The boy's attention (for it seemed to be a lad of fifteen or sixteen)
was centered tensely on the heavy growth of the trees from which he
had just emerged.

He was clad in rather tight-fitting garments entirely of green, and
wore a helmet-like cap of the same color. High around his waist he
wore a broad thick belt, which bulked up in the back across the
shoulders into something of the proportions of a knapsack.

As I was taking in these details, there came a vivid flash and heavy
detonation, like that of a hand grenade, not far to the left of him.
He threw up an arm and staggered a bit in a queer, gliding way; then
he recovered himself and slipped cautiously away from the place of the
explosion, crouching slightly, and still facing the denser part of the
forest. Every few steps he would raise his arm, and point into the
forest with something he held in his hand. Wherever he pointed there
was a terrible explosion, deeper in among the trees. It came to me
then that he was shooting with some form of pistol, though there was
neither flash nor detonation from the muzzle of the weapon itself.

After firing several times, he seemed to come to a sudden resolution,
and turning in my general direction, leaped--to my amazement sailing
through the air between the sparsely scattered trees in such a jump as
I had never in my life seen before. That leap must have carried him a
full fifty feet, although at the height of his arc, he was not more
than ten or twelve feet from the ground.

When he alighted, his foot caught in a projecting root, and he
sprawled gently forward. I say "gently" for he did not crash down as I
expected him to do. The only thing I could compare it with was a
slow-motion cinema, although I have never seen one in which horizontal
motions were registered at normal speed and only the vertical
movements were slowed down.

Due to my surprise, I suppose my brain did not function with its
normal quickness, for I gazed at the prone figure for several seconds
before I saw the blood that oozed out from under the tight green cap.
Regaining my power of action, I dragged him out of sight back of the
big tree. For a few moments I busied myself in an attempt to staunch
the flow of blood. The wound was not a deep one. My companion was more
dazed than hurt. But what of the pursuers?

I took the weapon from his grasp and examined it hurriedly. It was not
unlike the automatic pistol to which I was accustomed, except that it
apparently fired with a button instead of a trigger. I inserted
several fresh rounds of ammunition into its magazine from my
companion's belt as rapidly as I could, for I soon heard near us, the
suppressed conversation of his pursuers.

There followed a series of explosions round about us, but none very
close. They evidently had not spotted our hiding place, and were
firing at random.

I waited tensely, balancing the gun in my hand, to accustom myself to
its weight and probable throw.

Then I saw a movement in the green foliage of a tree not far away, and
the head and face of a man appeared. Like my companion, he was clad
entirely in green, which made his figure difficult to distinguish. But
his face could be seen clearly, and had murder in it.

That decided me, I raised the gun and fired. My aim was bad, for there
was no kick in the gun, as I had expected. I hit the trunk of the tree
several feet below him. It blew him from his perch like a crumpled bit
of paper, and he floated down to the ground, like some limp, dead
thing, gently lowered by an invisible hand. The tree, its trunk blown
apart by the explosion, crashed down.

There followed another series of explosions around us. These guns we
were using made no sound in the firing, and my opponents were
evidently as much at sea as to my position as I was to theirs. So I
made no attempt to reply to their fire, contenting myself with keeping
a sharp lookout in their general direction. And patience had its
reward.

Very soon I saw a cautious movement in the top of another tree.
Exposing myself as little as possible, I aimed carefully at the tree
trunk and fired again. A shriek followed the explosion. I heard the
tree crash down, then a groan.

There was silence for a while. Then I heard a faint sound of boughs
swishing. I shot three times in its direction, pressing the button as
rapidly as I could. Branches crashed down where my shells had
exploded, but there was no body.

Now I saw one of them. He was starting one of those amazing leaps from
the bough of one tree to another about forty feet away.

I threw up my gun impulsively and fired. By now I had gotten the feel
of the weapon, and my aim was good. I hit him. The "bullet" must have
penetrated his body and exploded, for one moment I saw him flying
through the air; then the explosion, and he had vanished. He never
finished his leap.

How many more of them there were I don't know, but this must have been
too much for them. They used a final round of shells on us, all of
which exploded harmlessly, and shortly after I heard them swishing and
crashing away from us through the tree tops. Not one of them descended
to earth.

Now I had time to give some attention to my companion. She was, I
found, a girl, and not a boy. Despite her bulky appearance, due to the
peculiar belt strapped around her body high up under the arms, she was
very slender, and very pretty.

There was a stream not far away, from which I brought water and bathed
her face and wound.

Apparently the mystery of these long leaps, the monkey-like ability to
jump from bough to bough, and of the bodies that floated gently down
instead of falling, lay in the belt. The thing was some sort of
anti-gravity belt that almost balanced the weight of the wearer, thereby
tremendously multiplying the propulsive power of the leg muscles, and
the lifting power of the arms.

When the girl came to, she regarded me as curiously as I did her, and
promptly began to quiz me. Her accent and intonation puzzled me a lot,
but nevertheless we were able to understand each other fairly well,
except for certain words and phrases. I explained what had happened
while she lay unconscious, and she thanked me simply for saving her
life.

"'You are a strange exchange," she said, eying my clothing
quizzically. Evidently she found it mirth-provoking by contrast with
her own neatly efficient garb. "Don't you understand what I mean by
exchange?' I mean--ah--let me see--a stranger, somebody from some
other gang. What gang do you belong to?" (She pronounced it "gan,"
with only a suspicion of a nasal sound.)

I laughed. "I'm not a gangster," I said. But she evidently did not
understand this word. "I don't belong to any gang," I explained, "and
never did. Does everybody belong to a gang nowadays?"

"Naturally," she said, frowning. "If you don't belong to a gang, where
and how do you live? Why have you not found and joined a gang? How do
you eat? Where do you get your clothing?"

"I've been eating wild game for the past two weeks," I explained, "and
this clothing I--er--ah--" I paused, wondering how I could explain
that it must be many hundred years old.

In the end I saw I would have to tell my story as well as I could,
piecing it together with my assumptions as to what had happened. She
listened patiently; incredulously at first, but less so as I went on.
When I had finished, she sat thinking for a long time.

"That's hard to believe," she said, "but I believe it." She looked me
over with frank interest.

"Were you married when you slipped into unconsciousness down in that
mine?" she asked me suddenly. I assured her I had never married.
"Well, that simplifies matters," she continued. "You see, if you were
technically classed as a family man; I could take you back only as an
invited exchange and I, being unmarried, and no relation of yours,
couldn't do the inviting."

THE FOREST GANGS

She gave me a brief outline of the very peculiar social and economic
system under which her people lived. At least it seemed very peculiar
from my 20th Century view-point.

I learned with amazement that exactly 492 years had passed over my
head as I lay unconscious in the mine.

Wilma Deering, for that was her name, did not profess to be a
historian, and so could give me only a sketchy outline of the wars
that had been fought, and the manner in which such radical changes had
come about. It seemed that another war had followed the First World
War, in which nearly all the European nations had banded together to
break the financial and industrial power of America. They succeeded in
their purpose, though they were beaten, for the war was a terrific
one, and left America, like themselves, gasping, bleeding and
disorganized, with only the hollow shell of a victory.

This opportunity had been seized by the Russian Soviets, who had made
a coalition with the Chinese to sweep over all Europe and reduce it to
a state of chaos.

America, industrially geared to world production and the world trade,
collapsed economically, and there ensued a long period of stagnation
and desperate attempts at economic reconstruction. But it was
impossible to stave off war with the Mongolians, who by now had
subjugated the Russians, and were aiming at a world empire.

In about 2109, it seems the conflict was finally precipitated. The
Mongolians, with overwhelming fleets of great airships, and a science
that far outstripped that of crippled America, swept in over the
Pacific and Atlantic Coasts, and down from Canada, annihilating
American aircraft, armies and cities with their terrific disintegrator
ray. These rays were projected from a machine not unlike a searchlight
in appearance, the reflector of which, however, was not material
substance, but a complicated balance of interacting electronic forces.
This resulted in a terribly destructive beam. Under its influence,
material substance melted into "nothingness"; i.e., into electronic
vibrations. It destroyed all then known substances, from air to the
most dense metals and stone.

They settled down to the establishment of what became known as the Han
dynasty in America, as a sort of province in their World Empire.

Those were terrible days for the Americans. They were hunted like wild
beasts. Only those survived who finally found refuge in mountains,
canyons and forests. Government was at an end among them. Anarchy
prevailed for several generations. Most would have been eager to
submit to the Hans, even if it meant slavery. But the Hans did not
want them, for they themselves had marvelous machinery and scientific
process by which all difficult labor was accomplished.

Ultimately they stopped their active search for, and annihilation of
the widely scattered groups of now savage Americans. So long as
Americans remained hidden in their forests, and did not venture near
the great cities the Hans had built, little attention was paid to
them.

Then began the building of the new American civilization. Families and
individuals gathered together in clans or "gangs" for mutual
protection. For nearly a century they lived a nomadic and primitive
life, moving from place to place, in desperate fear of the casual and
occasional Han air raids, and the terrible disintegrator ray. As the
frequency of these raids decreased, they began to stay permanently in
given localities, organizing upon lines which in many respects were
similar to those of the military households of the Norman feudal
barons. However, instead of gathering together in castles, American
defense tactics necessitated a certain scattering of living quarters
for families and individuals. They lived virtually in the open air, in
the forests, in green tents, resorting to camouflage tactics that
would conceal their presence from air observers. They dug underground
factories and laboratories that they might better be shielded from the
electronic detectors of the Hans. They tapped the radio communication
lines of the Hans, with crude instruments at first, better ones later
on. They bent every effort toward the redevelopment of science. For
many generations they labored as unseen, unknown scholars of the Hans,
picking up their knowledge piecemeal.

During the earlier part of this period, there were many deadly wars
fought between the various gangs, and occasional courageous but
childishly futile attacks upon the Hans, followed by terribly punitive
raids.

But as knowledge progressed, the sense of American brotherhood
redeveloped. Reciprocal arrangements were made among the gangs over
constantly increasing areas. Trade developed to a certain extent,
between one gang and another; but the interchange of knowledge became
more important than that of goods as skill in the handling of
synthetic processes developed.

Within the gang, an economy was developed that was a compromise
between individual liberty and a military socialism. The right of
private property was limited practically to personal possessions, but
private privileges were many, and sacredly regarded. Stimulation to
achievement lay chiefly in the winning of various kinds of leadership
and prerogatives. There could be only a very limited degree of owning
anything that might be classified as "wealth," and nothing that might
be classified as "resources." Resources of every description, for
military safety and efficiency, belonged as a matter of public
interest to the community as a whole.

In the meantime, through these many generations, the Hans had
developed a luxury economy. The Americans were regarded as "wild men
of the woods." And since the Hans neither needed nor wanted the woods
or the wild men, they treated Americans as beasts, and were conscious
of no human brotherhood with them. As time went on, and synthetic
processes of producing foods and materials were further developed,
less and less ground was needed by the Hans for the purposes of
agriculture; finally, even the working of mines was abandoned when it
became cheaper to build up metal from electronic vibrations than to
dig them out of the ground.

The Han race, devitalized by its vices and luxuries with machinery and
scientific processes to satisfy its every want, with virtually no
necessity of labor, began to assume a defensive attitude toward the
Americans.

And quite naturally, the Americans regarded the Hans with a deep, grim
hatred; they longed desperately for the day when they should be
powerful enough to rise and annihilate the Mongolian Blight that lay
over the continent.

At the time of my awakening, the gangs were rather loosely organized,
but were considering the establishment of a special military force,
whose special business it would be to harry the Hans and bring down
their air ships whenever possible, without causing general alarm among
the Mongolians.

Wilma told me she was a member of the Wyoming Gang, which claimed the
entire Wyoming Valley as its territory, under the leadership of Boss
Hart. Her mother and father were dead, and she was unmarried, so she
was not a "family member." She lived in a little group of tents known
as Camp 17, under a woman Camp Boss, with seven other girls.

Her duties alternated between military or police scouting and factory
work. For the two-week period which would end the next day, she had
been on "air patrol" This did not mean, as I first imagined, that she
was flying, but rather that she was on the lookout for Han ships over
this outlying section of the Wyoming territory, and had spent most of
her time perched in the tree tops scanning the skies. Had she seen one
she would have fired a "drop flare" several miles off to one side,
which would ignite when it was floating vertically toward the earth,
so that the direction or point from which it had been fired might not
be guessed by the airship and bring a blasting play of the
disintegrator ray in her vicinity. Other members of the air patrol
would send up rockets on seeing hers, until finally a scout equipped
with an ultrophone, which, unlike the ancient radio, operated on the
ultronic ethereal vibrations, would pass the warning simultaneously to
the headquarters of the Wyoming Gang and other communities within a
radius of several hundred miles. This would also alert the few
American rocketships that might be in the air, which instantly would
duck to cover either through forest clearings or by flattening down to
earth in green fields where their coloring would probably protect them
from observation.

The favorite American method of propulsion was known as "rocketing."
The rocket is what I would describe, from my 20th Century
comprehension of the matter, as an extremely powerful gas blast,
atomically produced through the stimulation of chemical action.
Scientists of today regard it as a childishly simple reaction, but by
that very virtue, most economical and efficient.

But tomorrow, Wilma explained, she would go back to work in the cloth
plant, where she would take charge of one of the synthetic processes
by which those wonderful substitutes for woven fabrics of wool, cotton
and silk are produced. At the end of another two weeks, she would be
back on military duty again, perhaps at the same work, or maybe as a
"contact guard," on duty where the territory of the Wyomings merged
with that of the Delawares, or the "Susquannas" or one of the half
dozen other "gangs" in that section of the country which I knew as
Pennsylvania and New York States.

Wilma cleared up for me the mystery of those flying leaps which she
and her assailants had made, and explained in the following manner the
inertron belt balances weight: "jumpers" were in common use at the
time I "awoke," though they were costly, for at that time inertron had
not been produced in very great quantity. They were very useful in the
forest. They were belts, strapped high under the arms, containing an
amount of inertron adjusted to the wearer's weight and purposes: In
effect they made a man weigh as little as he desired; two pounds if he
liked.

"Floaters" are a later development of "jumpers"--rocket motors encased
in inertron blocks and strapped to the back in such a way that the
wearer floats, when drifting, facing slightly downward. With his motor
in operation, he moves like a diver, head foremost, controlling his
direction by twisting his body and by movements of his outstretched
arms and hands. Ballast weights locked in the front of the belt adjust
weight and lift. Some men prefer a few ounces of weight in floating,
using a slight motor thrust to overcome this. Others prefer a buoyancy
balance of a few ounces. The inadvertent dropping of weight is not a
serious matter. The motor thrust always can be used to descend. But as
an extra precaution, in case the motor should fail, for any reason,
there are built into every belt a number of detachable sections, one
more of which can be discarded to balance off any loss in weight.

"But who were your assailants," I asked, "and why were you attacked?"

Her assailants, she told me, were members of an outlaw gang, referred
to as "Bad Bloods," a group which for several generations had been
under the domination of leaders who tried to advance the interests of
their clan by tactics which their neighbors had come to regard as
unfair, and who in consequence had been virtually boycotted. Their
purpose had been to slay Wilma near Delaware frontier, making it
appear that the crime had been committed by Delaware scouts and thus
embroil the Delawares and Wyomings in acts of reprisal against each
other, or at least cause suspicions.

Fortunately they had not succeeded in surprising her, and she had been
successful in dodging them for some two hours before the shooting
began, at the moment when I arrived on the scene.

"But we must not stay here talking," Wilma concluded. "I have to take
you in, and besides I must report this attack right away. I think we
had better slip over to the other side of the mountain. Whoever is on
that post will have a phone, and I can make a direct report. But
you'll have to have a belt. Mine alone won't help much against our
combined weights, and there's little to be gained by jumping heavy.
It's almost as bad as walking."

After a little search, we found one of the men I had killed, who had
floated down among the trees some distance away and whose belt was not
badly damaged. In detaching it from his body, it nearly got away from
me and shot up in the air. Wilma caught it, however, and though it
reinforced the lift of her own belt so that she had to hook her knee
around a branch to hold herself down, she saved it. I climbed the
tree, and with my weight added to hers, we floated down easily.

LIFE IN THE 25TH CENTURY

We were delayed in starting for quite a while since I had to acquire a
few crude ideas about the technique of using these belts. I had been
sitting down, for instance, with the belt strapped about me, enjoying
an ease similar to that of a comfortable armchair; when I stood up
with a natural exertion of muscular effort, I shot ten feet into the
air, with a wild instinctive thrashing of arms and legs that amused
Wilma greatly.

But after some practice, I began to get the trick of gauging muscular
effort to a minimum of vertical and a maximum of horizontal. The
correct form, I found, was a measure comparable to that of skating. I
found, also, that in forest work the arms and hands could be used to
great advantage in swinging along from branch to branch, so prolonging
leaps almost indefinitely at times.

In going up the side of the mountain, I found that my 20th Century
muscles did have an advantage, in spite of lack of skill with the
belt; and since the slopes were very sharp, and most of our leaps were
upward, I could have outdistanced Wilma, but when we crossed the ridge
and descended, she outstripped me with her superior technique.
Choosing the steepest slopes, she would crouch in the top of a tree,
and propel herself outward, literally diving until, with the loss of
horizontal momentum, she would assume a more upright position and
float downward. In this manner she would sometimes cover as much as a
quarter of a mile in a single leap, while I leaped and scrambled
clumsily behind, thoroughly enjoying the sensation.

Halfway down the mountain, we saw another green-clad figure leap out
above the tree tops toward us. The three of us perched on an
outcropping of rock from which a view for many miles around could be
had, while Wilma hastily explained her adventure and my presence to
her fellow guard, whose name was Alan. I learned later that this was
the modern form of Helen.

"You want to report by phone then, don't you?" Alan took a compact
packet about six inches square from a holster attached to her belt and
handed it to Wilma. So far as I could see, it had no special receiver
for the ear. Wilma merely threw back a lid, as though she were opening
a book, and began to talk. The voice that came back from the machine
was as audible as her own.

She was queried closely as to the attack upon her, and at considerable
length as to myself, and I could tell from the tone of that voice that
its owner was not prepared to take me at my face value as readily as
Wilma had. For that matter, neither was the other girl. I could
realize it from the suspicious glances she threw my way, when she
thought my attention was elsewhere, and, the manner in which her hand
hovered constantly near her gun holster.

Wilma was ordered to bring me in at once, and informed that another
scout would take her place on the other side of the mountain. She
closed down the lid of the phone and handed it back to Alan, who
seemed relieved to see us departing over the tree tops in the
direction of the camps.

We had covered perhaps ten miles, in what still seemed to me a
surprisingly easy fashion, when Wilma explained, that from here on we
would have to keep to the ground. We were nearing the camps, she said,
and there was always the possibility that some small Han scoutship,
invisibly high in the sky, might catch sight of us through a
projectoscope and thus find the general location of the camps.

Wilma took me to the Scout office, which proved to be a small building
of irregular shape, conforming to the trees around it, and
substantially constructed of green sheet-like material.

I was received by the assistant Scout Boss, who reported my arrival at
once to the historical office, and to officials he called the Psycho
Boss and the History Boss, who came in a few minutes later. The
attitude of all three men was at first polite but skeptical, and
Wilma's ardent advocacy seemed to amuse them.

For the next two hours, I talked, explained and answered questions. I
had to explain, in detail, the manner of my life in the 20th Century
and my understanding of customs, habits, business, science and the
history of that period, and about developments in the centuries that
had elapsed. Had I been in a classroom, I would have come through the
examination with a very poor mark, for I was unable to give any answer
to fully half of their questions. But before long I realized that the
majority of these questions were designed as traps. Objects, of whose
purpose I knew nothing, were casually handed to me, and I was watched
keenly as I handled them.

In the end I could see both amazement and belief begin to show in the
faces of my inquisitors, and at last the Historical and Psycho Bosses
agreed openly that they could find no flaw in my story or reactions,
and that my story must be accepted as genuine.

They took me at once to Big Boss Hart. He was a portly man with a
"poker face." He would probably have been the successful politician
even in the 20th Century.

They gave him a brief outline of my story and a report of their
examination of me. He made no comment other than to nod his acceptance
of it; Then he turned to me. "How does it feel?" he asked. "Do we look
funny to you?"

"A bit strange," I admitted. "But I'm beginning to lose that dazed
feeling, though I can see I have an awful lot to learn."

"Maybe we can learn some things from you, too," he said. "So you
fought in the First World War? Do you know, we have very little left
in the way of records of the details of that war, that is, the precise
conditions under which it was fought, and the tactics employed. We
forgot many things during the Han terror, and--well... I think you
might have a lot of ideas worth thinking over for our raid masters. By
the way, now that you're here, and can't go back to your own century,
so to speak, what do you want to do? You're welcome to become one of
us. Or perhaps you'd just like to visit with us for a while, and then
look around among the other gangs. Maybe you'd like some of the others
better. Don't make up your mind now. We'll put you down as an exchange
for a while. Let's see. You and Bill Hearn ought to get along well
together. He's Camp Boss of Number 34 when he isn't acting as Raid
Boss or Scout Boss. There's a vacancy in his camp. Stay with him and
think things over as long as you want to. As soon as you make up your
mind to anything, let me know."

We all shook hands, for that was one custom that had not died out in
five hundred years, and I set out with Hearn.

Bill, like all the others, was clad in green. He was a big man. That
is, he was about my own height, five feet eleven. This was
considerably above the average now, for the race had lost something in
stature, it seemed, through the vicissitudes of five centuries. Most
of the women were a bit below five feet, and the men only a trifle
above this height.

For a period of two weeks Bill was to confine himself to camp duties,
so I had a good chance to familiarize myself with the community life.
It was not easy. There were so many marvels to absorb. I never ceased
to wonder at the strange combination of rustic social life and
feverish industrial activity. At least, it was strange to me. For in
my experience, industrial development meant crowded cities, tenements,
paved streets, profusion of vehicles, noise, hurrying men and women
with strained or dull faces, vast structures and ornate public works.

Here, however, was rustic simplicity, apparently isolated families and
groups, living in the heart of the forest, with a quarter of a mile or
more between households. There was a total absence of crowds, no means
of conveyance other than the belts called jumpers, almost constantly
worn by everybody, and an occasional rocket-ship--used only for longer
journeys--and underground plants or factories that were to my mind
more like laboratories and engine rooms. Many of them were excavations
as deep as mines, with well furnished, lighted and comfortable
interiors. These people were adept at camouflage against air
observation. Not only would their activity have been unsuspected by an
airship passing over the center of the community, but even by an enemy
who might happen to drop through the screen of the upper branches to
the floor of the forest. The camps, or household structures, were all
irregular in shape and of colors that blended with the great trees
among which they were hidden.

There were 724 dwellings or camps among the Wyomings, located within
an area of about fifteen square miles. The total population was 8,688,
every man, woman and child, whether member or "exchange," being
listed. The plants were widely scattered through the territory also.
Nowhere was anything like congestion permitted. So far as possible,
families and individuals were assigned to living quarters, not too far
from the plants or offices in which their work lay.

All able-bodied men and women alternated in two week periods between
military and industrial service, except those who were needed for
household work. Since working conditions in the plants and offices
were ideal, and everybody thus had plenty of healthy outdoor activity.
In addition, the population was sturdy and active. Laziness was
regarded as nearly the greatest of social offences.

Hard work and general merit were variously rewarded with extra
privileges, advancement to positions of authority, and with various
items of personal equipment for convenience and luxury.

In leisure moments, I got great enjoyment from sitting outside the
dwelling in which I was quartered with Bill Hearn and ten other men,
watching the occasional passers-by, as with leisurely, but swift
movements, they swung up and down the forest trail, rising from the
ground in long almost-horizontal leaps, occasionally swinging from one
convenient branch over head to another, "sliding" back to the ground
farther on. Normal traveling pace, where these trails were straight
enough, was about twenty miles an hour. Such things as automobiles and
railroad trains (the memory of them not more than a month old in my
mind) seemed inexpressibly silly and futile compared with such
convenience as these belts or jumpers offered.

Bill suggested that I wander around for several days, from plant to
plant, to observe and study what I could. The entire community had
been apprised of my coming, my rating as an "exchange" reaching every
building and post in the community, by means of ultronic broadcast
Everywhere I was welcomed in an interested and helpful spirit.

I visited the plants where ultronic vibrations were isolated from the
ether and through slow processes built up into subelectronic,
electronic and atomic forms into the two great synthetic elements,
ultron and inertron. I learned something, superficially at least, of
the processes of combined chemical and mechanical action through which
were produced the various forms of synthetic cloth. I watched the
manufacture of the machines which were used at locations of
construction to produce the various forms of building materials. But I
was particularly interested in the munitions plants and the rocket
ship shops.

Ultron is a solid of great molecular density and moderate elasticity,
which has the property of being 100 percent conductive to those
pulsations known as light, electricity and heat. Since it is
completely permeable to light vibrations, it is therefore absolutely
invisible and non-reflective. Its magnetic response is almost, but not
quite, 100 percent also. It is therefore very heavy under normal
conditions but extremely responsive to the repellor anti-gravity rays,
such as the Hans use as "legs" for their airships.

Inertron is the second great triumph of American research and
experimentation with ultronic forces. It was developed just a few
years before my awakening in the abandoned mine. It is a synthetic
element, built up, through a complicated heterodyning of ultronic
pulsations, from "infra balanced" subionic forms. It is completely
inert to both electric and magnetic forces in all the orders above the
ultronic; that is to say, the sub-electronic, the electronic, the
atomic and the molecular. In consequence it has a number of amazing
and valuable properties. One of these is the total lack of weight.
Another is a total lack of heat. It has no molecular vibration
whatever. It reflects 100 percent of the heat and light impinging upon
it. It does not feel cold to the touch, of course, since it will not
absorb the heat of the hand. It is a solid, very dense in molecular
structure despite its lack of weight, of great strength and
considerable elasticity. It is a perfect shield against the
disintegrator rays.

Rocket guns are very simple contrivances so far as the mechanism of
launching the bullet is concerned. They are simple light tubes, closed
at the rear end with a trigger-actuated pin for piercing the thin skin
at the base of the cartridge. This piercing of the skin starts the
chemical and atomic reaction. The entire cartridge leaves the tube
under its own power, at a very easy initial velocity, just enough to
insure accuracy of aim; so the tube does not have to be of heavy
construction. The bullet increases in velocity as it goes. It may be
solid or explosive. It may explode on contact or on time, or a
combination of these two.

Bill and I talked mostly of weapons, military tactics and strategy.
Strangely enough he had no idea whatever of the possibilities of the
barrage, though the tremendous effect of a "curtain of fire" with such
high-explosive projectiles as these modern rocket guns used was
obvious to me. But the barrage idea, it seemed, had been lost track of
completely in the air wars that followed the First World War, and in
the peculiar guerrilla tactics developed by Americans in the later
period of operations from the ground against Han airships, and in the
gang wars which until a few generations ago, I learned, had been
almost continuous.

"I wonder," said Bill one day, "if we couldn't work up some form of
barrage to spring on the Bad Bloods. The Big Boss told me today that
he's been in communication with the other gangs, and all are agreed
that the Bad Bloods might as well be wiped out for good. That attempt
on Wilma Deering's life and their evident desire to make trouble among
the gangs, has stirred up every community east of the Alleghanies. The
Boss says that none of the others will object if we go after them. Now
show me again how you worked that business in the Argonne forest. The
conditions ought to be pretty much the same."

I went over it with him in detail, and gradually we worked out a
modified plan that would be better adapted to our more powerful
weapons, and the use of jumpers.

"It will be easy," Bill exulted. "I'll slide down and talk it over
with the Boss tomorrow."

During the first two weeks of my stay with the Wyomings, Wilma Deering
and I saw a great deal of each other. I naturally felt a little closer
friendship for her, in view of the fact that she was the first human
being I saw after waking from my long sleep.

It was natural enough too, that she should feel an unusual interest in
me. In the first place, I was her personal discovery, and I had saved
her life. In the second, she was a girl of studious and reflective
turn of mind. She never got tired of my stories and descriptions of
the 20th Century.

The others of the community, however, seemed to find our friendship a
bit amusing. It seemed that Wilma had a reputation for being cold
toward the opposite sex, and so others misinterpreted her attitude,
much to their own delight. Wilma and I, however, ignored this as much
as we could.

A HAN AIR RAID

There was a girl in Wilma's camp named Gerdi Mann, with whom Bill
Hearn was desperately in love, and the four of us used to go around a
lot together. Gerdi was a distinct type. Whereas Wilma had the usual
dark brown hair and hazel eyes that marked nearly every member of the
country, Gerdi had red hair, blue eyes and very fair skin. She was a
throwback in physical appearance to a certain 20th Century type which
I have found very rare among modern Americans. The four of us were
engaged one day in a discussion of this very point, when I obtained my
first experience of a Han air raid.

We were sitting high on the side of a hill overlooking the valley that
teemed with human activity, invisible beneath its blanket of foliage.

The other three, who knew of the Irish but vaguely and indefinitely,
as a race on the other side of the globe, which, like ourselves, had
succeeded in maintaining a precarious and fugitive existence in
rebellion against the Mongolian domination of the earth, were
listening with interest to my theory that Gerdi's ancestors of several
hundred years ago must have been Irish. I explained that Gerdi was an
Irish type, and that her surname might well have been McMann, or
MeMahan, and still more anciently "mac Mathghamhain." They were
interested too in my surmise that "Gerdi" was the same name as that
which had been "Gerty" or "Gertrude" in the 20th Century.

In the middle of our discussion, we were startled by an alarm rocket
that burst high in the air, far to the north, spreading a pall of red
smoke that drifted like a cloud. It was followed by others at
scattered points in the northern sky.

"A Han raid!" Bill exclaimed in amazement. "The first in seven years!"

"Maybe it's just one of their ships off its course," I ventured.

"No," said Wilma in some agitation. "That would be green rockets. Red
means only one thing, Tony. They're sweeping the countryside with
their dis beams. Can you see anything, Bill?"

"We had better get under cover," Gerdi said nervously. "The four of us
are bunched here in the open. For all we know they may be twelve miles
up, out of sight, yet looking at us with a projector."

Bill had been sweeping the horizon hastily with his glass, but
apparently saw nothing.

"We had better scatter, at that," he said finally. "It's orders, you
know. See!" He pointed to the valley.

Here and there a tiny human figure shot for a moment above the foliage
of the treetops.

"That's bad," Wilma commented, as she counted the jumpers. "No less
than fifteen people visible, and all clearly radiating from a central
point. Do they want to give away our location?"

The standard orders covering air raids were that the population was to
scatter individually. There should be no grouping, or even pairing, in
view of the destructiveness of the disintegrator rays. Experience of
generations had proved that if this were done, and everybody remained
hidden beneath the tree screens, the Hans would have to sweep mile
after mile of territory, foot by foot, to catch more than a small
percentage of the community.

Gerdi, however, refused to leave Bill, and Wilma developed an equal
obstinacy against quitting my side. I was inexperienced at this sort
of thing, she explained, quite ignoring the fact that she was too; she
was only thirteen or fourteen years old at the time of the last air
raid.

However, since I could not argue her out of it, we leaped together
about a quarter of a mile to the right, while Bill and Gerdi
disappeared down the hillside among the trees.

Wilma and I both wanted a point of vantage from which we might
overlook the valley and the sky to the north, and we found it near the
top of the ridge, where, protected from visibility by thick branches,
we could look out between the tree trunks, and get a good view of the
valley.

No more rockets went up. Except for a few of those waning red clouds,
drifting lazily in a blue sky, there was no visible indication of
man's past or present existence anywhere in the sky or on the ground.

Then Wilma gripped my arm and pointed. I saw it; away off in the
distance; looking like a phantom dirigible in its coat of
low-visibility paint.

"Seven thousand feet up," Wilma whispered, crouching close to me.
"Watch."

The ship was about the same shape as the great dirigibles of the 20th
Century that I had seen, but without the suspended control car,
engines, propellers; rudders or elevating planes. As it loomed rapidly
nearer, I saw that it was wider and somewhat flatter than I had
supposed.

Now I could see the repellor rays that held the ship aloft, like
searchlight beams faintly visible in the bright daylight (and still
faintly visible to the human eye at night). Actually, I had been
informed by my instructors, there were two rays. The visible one was
generated by the ship's apparatus, and directed toward the ground as a
beam of "carrier" impulses. The true repellor ray, the complement of
the other in one sense, induced by the action of the "carrier" reacted
in a concentrating upward direction from the mass of the earth. It
became successively electronic, atomic and finally molecular, in its
nature, according to various ratios of distance between earth mass and
"carrier" source, until, in the last analysis, the ship itself
actually was supported on an upward rushing column of air, much like a
ball continuously supported on a fountain jet.

The raider neared with incredible speed. Its rays were both slanted
astern at a sharp angle, so that it slid forward with tremendous
momentum.

The ship was operating two disintegrator rays, though only in a
casual, intermittent fashion. But whenever they flashed downward with
blinding brilliancy, forest, rocks and ground melted instantaneously
into nothing where they played upon them.

When later I inspected the scars left by these rays I found them some
five feet deep and thirty feet wide, the exposed surfaces being
lava-like in texture, but of a pale, iridescent, greenish hue.

No systematic use of the rays was made by the ship, however, until it
reached a point over the center of the valley--the center of the
community's activities. There it came to a sudden stop by shooting
its repellor beams sharply forward and easing them back gradually to
the vertical, holding the ship floating and motionless. Then the work
of destruction began systematically.

Back and forth traveled the destroying rays, ploughing parallel
furrows from hillside to hillside. We gasped in dismay. Wilma and I,
as time after time we saw it plough through sections where we knew
camps or plants were located.

"This is awful," she moaned, a terrified question in her eyes. "How
could they know the location so exactly, Tony? Did you see? They were
never in doubt. They stalled at a predetermined spot--and--and it was
exactly the right spot."

We did not talk of what might happen if the rays were turned in our
direction. We both knew. We would simply disintegrate in a split
second into mere scattered electronic vibrations. Strangely enough, it
was this self-reliant girl of the 25th Century, who clung to me--a
relatively primitive man of the 20th, less familiar than she with the
thought of this terrifying possibility--for moral support.

We knew that many of our companions must have been whisked into
absolute non-existence before our eyes in these few moments. The whole
thing paralyzed us into mental and physical immobility for I do not
know how long.

It couldn't have been long, however, for the rays had not ploughed
more than thirty of their twenty-foot furrows or so across the valley,
when I regained control of myself, and brought Wilma to herself by
shaking her roughly.

"How far will this rocket gun shoot, Wilma?" I demanded, drawing my
pistol.

"It depends on your rocket, Tony. It will take even the longest range
rocket, but you could shoot more accurately from a longer tube. But
why? You couldn't penetrate the shell of that ship with rocket force,
even if you could reach it."

I fumbled clumsily with my rocket pouch, for I was excited. I had an
idea I wanted to try. With Wilma's help, I selected the longest range
explosive rocket in my pouch, and fitted it to my pistol.

"It won't carry seven thousand feet, Tony," Wilma objected. But I took
aim carefully. It was another thought that I had in my mind. The
supporting repellor ray, I had been told, became molecular in
character at what was called a logarithmic level of five (below that
it was a purely electronic "flow" or pulsation between the source of
the "carrier" and the average mass of the earth).

Below that level, if I could project my explosive bullet into this
stream where it began to carry material substance upward, might it not
rise with the air column, gathering speed and hitting the ship with
enough impact to carry it through the shell? It was worth trying
anyhow. Wilma became greatly excited, too, when she grasped the nature
of my inspiration.

Feverishly I looked around for some formation of branches against
which I could rest the pistol, for I had to aim most carefully. At
last I found one. Patiently I sighted on the hulk of the ship far
above us, aiming at the far side of it, at such an angle as would, so
far as I could estimate, bring my bullet path through the forward
repellor beam. At last the sights wavered across the point I sought
and I pressed the button gently.

For a moment we gazed breathlessly.

Suddenly the ship swung bow down, as on a pivot, and swayed like a
pendulum. Wilma screamed in her excitement.

"Oh Tony, you hit it! You hit it! Do it again; bring it down!"

We had only one more rocket of extreme range between us, and we
dropped it three times in our excitement in inserting it in my gun.
Then, forcing myself to be calm by sheer will power, while Wilma
stuffed her little fist into her mouth to keep from shrieking, I
sighted carefully again and fired.

The elapsed time of the rocket's invisible flight seemed an age.

Then we saw the ship falling. It seemed to plunge lazily, but actually
it fell with terrific acceleration, turning end over end, its
disintegrator rays, out of control, describing vast, wild arcs, and
once cutting a gash through the forest less than two hundred feet from
where we stood.

The crash with which the heavy craft hit the ground reverberated from
the hills--the momentum of eighteen or twenty thousand tons, in a
sheer drop of seven thousand feet. A mangled mass of metal, it buried
itself in the ground, with poetic justice, in the middle of the
smoking, semi-molten field of destruction it had been so deliberately
ploughing.

The silence, the vacuity of the landscape was oppressive as the last
echoes died away.

Then far down the hillside, a single figure leaped exultantly above
the foliage screen. And in the distance another, and another.

In a moment the sky was punctured by signal rockets. One after another
the little red puffs became drifting clouds.

"Scatter! Scatter!" Wilma exclaimed. "In half an hour there'll be an
entire Han fleet here from Nu-Yok, and another from Bah-Flo. They'll
get this instantly on their recordographs and location finders.
They'll blast the whole valley and the country for miles beyond. Come,
Tony. There's no time for the gang to rally. See the signals. We've
got to jump. Oh, I'm so proud of you!"

Over the ridge we went, in long leaps towards the east, the country of
the Delawares.

From time to time signal rockets puffed in the sky. Most of them were
the "red warnings," the "scatter" signals. But from certain of the
others, which Wilma identified as Wyoming rockets, she gathered that
whoever was in command (we did not know whether the Boss was alive or
not) was ordering an ultimate rally toward the south, and so we
changed our course.

It was a great pity. I thought, that the clan had not been equipped
throughout its membership with ultrophones, but Wilma explained to me
that not enough of these had been built for distribution as yet,
although general distribution had been contemplated within a couple of
months.

We traveled far before nightfall overtook us, trying only to put as
much distance as possible between ourselves and the valley.

When gathering dusk made jumping too dangerous, we sought a
comfortable spot beneath the trees and consumed part of our emergency
rations. It was the first time I had tasted the stuff--a highly
nutritive synthetic substance called "concentro," which was, however,
a bit bitter and unpalatable. But as only a mouthful or so was needed,
it did not matter.

Neither of us had a cloak, but we were both thoroughly tired and
happy, so we curled up together for warmth. I remember Wilma making
some sleepy remark about our mating, as she cuddled up, as though the
matter were all settled, and my surprise at my own instant acceptance
of the idea, for I had not consciously thought of her that way before.
But we both fell asleep at once.

In the morning we found little time for love making. The practical
problem facing us was too great. Wilma felt that the Wyoming plan must
be to rally in the Susquanna territory, but she had her doubts about
the wisdom of this plan. In my elation at my success in bringing down
the Han ship, and my newly-found interest in my charming companion, I
had forgotten the ominous fact that the Han ship I had destroyed must
have known the exact location of the Wyoming Works.

This meant, to Wilma's mind, either that the Hans had perfected new
instruments as yet unknown to us, or that somewhere, among the
Wyomings or some other nearby gang, there were traitors. In either
contingency, she argued, other Han raids would follow, and since the
Susquannas had a highly developed organization and more than usually
productive plants, the next raid might be expected to strike them.

But at any rate it was clearly our business to get in touch with the
other fugitives as quickly as possible, so in spite of muscles that
were sore from the excessive leaping of the day before, we continued
on our way.

We traveled for only a couple of hours when we saw a multi-colored
rocket in the sky, some ten miles ahead of us.

"Bear to the left, Tony," Wilma said, "and listen for the whistle."

"Why?" I asked.

"Haven't they given you the rocket code yet?" she replied. "That's
what the green, followed by yellow and purple means: to concentrate
five miles east of the rocket position. You know the rocket position
itself might draw a play of dis rays."

It did not take us long to reach the neighborhood of the indicated
rallying, though we were now traveling beneath the trees, with but an
occasional leap to a top branch to see if any more rocket smoke was
floating above. And soon we heard a distant whistle.

We found about half the gang already there, in a spot where the trees
met high above a little stream. The Big Boss and Raid Bosses were busy
reorganizing the remnants.

"You two stick close to me," he said, adding grimly, "I'm going back
to the valley at once with a hundred picked men, and I'll need you."

SETTING THE TRAP

Inside of fifteen minutes we were on our way. A certain amount of
caution was sacrificed for the sake of speed, and the men leaped away
either across the forest top, or over open spaces of ground, but
concentration was forbidden. The Big Boss named the spot on the
hillside as the rallying point.

"We'll have to take a chance on being seen, so long as we don't
group," he declared, "at least until within five miles of the rallying
spot. From then on I want every man to disappear from sight and to
travel under cover. And keep your ultrophones open, and turned on
ten-four-seven-six."

Wilma and I had received our battle equipment from the Gear Boss. It
consisted of a long-gun, a hand-gun, with a special case of ammunition
constructed of inertron, which made the load weigh but a few ounces,
and a short sword. This gear we strapped over each other's shoulders,
on top of our jumping belts. In addition, we each received an
ultrophone, and a light inertron blanket rolled into a cylinder about
six inches long by two or three in diameter. This fabric was
exceedingly thin and but it had considerable warmth, because of the
mixture of inertron in its composition.

"This looks like business," Wilma remarked to me with sparkling eyes.
(And I might mention a curious thing here. The word "business" had
survived from the 20th Century American vocabulary, but not with any
meaning of "industry" or "trade," for such things being purely
community activities were spoken of as "work" and "clearing." Business
simply meant fighting, and that was all.)

"Did you bring all this equipment from the valley?" I asked the Gear
Boss.

"No," he said. "There was no time to gather anything. All this stuff
we cleared from the Susquannas a few hours ago. I was with the Boss on
the way down, and he had me jump on ahead and arrange it. But you two
had better be moving. He's beckoning you now."

Hart was about to call us on our phones when we looked up. As soon as
we did so, he leaped away, waving us to follow closely.

He was a powerful man, and he darted ahead in long, swift, low leaps
up the banks of the stream, which followed a fairly straight course at
this point. By extending ourselves, however, Wilma and I were able to
catch up to him.

As we gradually synchronized our leaps with his, he outlined to us,
between the grunts that accompanied each leap, his plan of action.

"We have to start the big business--unh--sooner or later," he said.
"And if--unh--the Hans have found any way of locating our
positions--unh--it's time to start now, although the Council of
Bosses--unh--had intended waiting a few years until enough rocket-ships
have been--unh--built. But no matter what the sacrifice--unh--we can't
afford to let them get us on the run--unh--We'll set a trap for the yellow
devils in the--unh--valley if they come back for their wreckage--unh--and
if they don't, we'll go rocketing for some of their liners--unh--on the
Nu-yok, Glee-lan, Sikaga course. We can use--unh--that idea of
yours of shooting up the repellor--unh--beams. Want you to give us a
demonstration."

With further admonition to follow him closely, he increased his pace,
and Wilma and I were taxed to our utmost to keep up with him. It was
only in ascending the slopes that my tougher muscles over-balanced his
greater skill, and I was able to set the pace for him, as I had for
Wilma.

We slept in greater comfort that night, under our inertron blankets,
and were off with the dawn, leaping cautiously to the top of the ridge
overlooking the valley which Wilma and I had left.

The Boss scanned the sky with his ultroscope, patiently taking some
fifteen minutes to the task, and then swung his phone into use,
calling the roll and giving the men their instructions.

His first order was for us all to slip our ear and chest discs into
permanent position.

These ultrophones were quite different from the one used by Wilma's
companion scout the day I saved her from the attack of the bandit
Gang. That one was contained entirely in a small pocket case These,
with which we were now equipped, consisted of a pair of ear discs,
each a separate and self-contained receiving set They slipped into
little pockets over our ears in the fabric helmets we wore, and shut
out virtually all extraneous sounds. The chest discs were likewise
self-contained sending sets, strapped to the chest a few inches below
the neck and actuated by the vibrations from the vocal cords through
the body tissues. The total range of these sets was about eighteen
miles. Reception was remarkably clear, quite free from the static of
20th Century radios, and of a strength in direct proportion to the
distance of the speaker.

The Boss' set was triple powered, so that his orders would cut in on
any local conversations, which were indulged in, however, with great
restraint, and only for the purpose of maintaining contacts.

I marveled at the efficiency of this modern method of battle
communication in contrast to the clumsy signaling devices of more
ancient times; and also at other military contrasts in which the 20th
and 25th Century methods were the reverse of each other in efficiency.
These modern Americans, for instance, knew little of hand-to-hand
fighting, and nothing, naturally, of trench warfare. And until my
recent flash of inspiration, no one among them, apparently, had ever
thought of the scheme of shooting a rocket into a repellor beam and
letting the beam itself hurl it upward into the most vital part of the
Han ship.

Hart patiently placed his men, first giving his instructions to the
campmasters, and then remaining silent, while they placed the
individuals.

In the end, the hundred men were ringed about the valley, on the
hillsides and tops, each in a position from which he had a good view
of the wreckage of the Han ship. But not a man had come in view, so
far as I could see, in the whole process.

The Boss explained to me that it was his idea that he, Wilma and I
should investigate the wreck. If Han ships should appear in the sky,
we would leap for the hillsides.

I suggested to him to have the men set up their long-guns trained on
an imaginary circle surrounding the wreck. He busied himself with this
after the three of us leaped down to the Han ship, serving as a target
himself, while he called on the men individually to aim their pieces
and lock them in position.

In the meantime Wilma and I climbed into the wreckage, but did not
find much. Practically all of the instruments and machinery had been
twisted out of an recognizable shape, or utterly destroyed by the
ship's disintegrator rays which apparently had continued to operate in
the midst of its warped remains for some moments after the crash.

It was unpleasant work searching the mangled bodies of the crew. But
it had to be done. The Han clothing, I observed, was quite different
from that of the Americans, and more like the garb to which I had been
accustomed in the earlier part of my life. It was made of synthetic
fabrics like silks, loose and comfortable trousers of knee length, and
sleeveless shirts.

No protection, except that against drafts, was needed, Wilma explained
to me, for the Han cities were entirely enclosed, with splendid
arrangements for ventilation and heating. These arrangements of course
were equally adequate in their airships. The Hans, indeed, had quite a
distaste for unshaded daylight, since their lighting apparatus
diffused a controlled amount of ultraviolet rays, making the
unmodified sunlight unnecessary for health, and undesirable for
comfort. Since the Hans did not have the secret of inertron, none of
them wore anti-gravity belts. Yet in spite of the fact that they had
to bear their own full weight at all times, they were physically far
inferior to the Americans. They lived lives of physical inertia,
having machinery of every description for the performance of all
labor, and convenient conveyances for any movement of more than a few
steps.

Even from the twisted wreckage of this ship I could see that seats,
chairs and couches played an extremely important part in their scheme
of existence.

But none of the bodies were overweight. They seemed have been the
bodies of men in good health, but muscularly much underdeveloped.
Wilma explained to me that they had mastered the science of gland
control, and of course dietetics, to the point where men and women
among them not uncommonly reached the age of a hundred years with
arteries and general health in splendid condition.

I did not have time to study the ship and its contents as carefully as
I would have liked, however. Time pressed, and it was our business to
discover some clue to the deadly accuracy with which the ship had
spotted the Wyoming Works.

The Boss had hardly finished his arrangements for the ring barrage,
when one of the scouts on an eminence to the north, announced the
approach of seven Han ships spread out in a great semicircle.

Hart leaped for the hillside, calling to us to do likewise, but Wilma
and I had raised the flaps of our helmets and switched off our
"speakers" for conversation between ourselves, and by the time we
discovered what had happened, the ships were clearly visible, so fast
were they approaching.

"Jump!" we heard the Boss order, "Deering to the north. Rogers to the
east."

But Wilma looked at me meaningly and pointed to where the twisted
plates of the ship, projecting from the ground, offered a shelter.

"Too late, Boss," she said. "They'd see us. Besides I think there's
something here we ought to look at. It's probably their magnetic
graph."

"You're signing your death warrant," Hart warned.

"We'll risk it," said Wilma and I together.

"Good for you," replied the Boss. "Take command then, Rogers, for the
present. Do you all know his voice, boys?"

A chorus of assent rang in our ears, and I began to do some fast
thinking as the girl and I ducked into the twisted mass of metal.

"Wilma, hunt for that record," I said, knowing that by the simple
process of talking I could keep the entire command continuously
informed as to the situation. "On the hillsides, keep your guns
trained on the circles and stand by. On the hilltops, how many of you
are there. Speak in rotation from Bald Knob around to the east, north,
west."

In turn the men called their names. There were twenty of them.

I assigned them by name to cover the various Han ships, numbering the
latter from left to right.

"'Train our rockets on their repellor rays about three quarters of the
way up, between ships and ground. Aim is more important than
elevation. Follow those rays with your aim continuously. Shoot when I
tell you, not before. Deering has the record. The Hans probably have
not seen us, or at least think there are but two of us in the valley,
since they're settling without opening up disintegrators. Any
opinions?"

My ear discs remained silent.

"Deering and I will remain here until they land and debark. Stand by
and keep alert."

Rapidly and easily, the largest of the Han ships settled to the earth.
Three scouted sharply to the south, rising to a higher level. The
others floated motionless about thousand feet above.

Peeping through a small fissure between two plates, we saw the vast
hulk of the ship come to rest full on the line of our prospective ring
barrage. A door clanged open a couple of feet from the ground, and one
by one the crew emerged.

THE "WYOMING MASSACRE"

"They're coming out of the ship." I spoke quietly with my hand over my mouth,
for fear they might hear me. "One-two-three-four-five-six-seven-eight-nine.
That seems to be all. Who knows how many men a ship like that is likely
to carry?"

"About ten, if there are no passengers," replied one of my men,
probably one of those on the hillside.

"How are they armed?" I asked.

"Just knives," came the reply. "They never permit hand rays on the
ship. Afraid of accidents. Have a ruling against it."


"Leave them to us then," I said, for I had a plan in mind. "You, on
the hillsides, take the ships above. Abandon the ring target. Divide
up in training on those repellor rays. You on the hilltops, all train
on the repellors of the ships to the south. Shoot at the word, but not
before.

"Wilma, crawl over to your left where you can make a straight leap for
the door in that ship. These men are all walking around the wreck in a
bunch. When they're on the far side, I'll give the word and you leap
through that door in one bound. I'll follow. Maybe we won't be seen.
We'll overpower the guard inside, but don't shoot. We may escape being
seen by both this crew and the ships above. They can't see over this
wreck."

It was so easy that it seemed too good to be true. The Hans who had
emerged from the ship walked round the wreckage lazily, talking in
guttural tones, keenly interested in the wreck, but quite
unsuspicious.

At last they were on the far side. In a moment they would be picking
their way into the wreck.

"Wilma, leap!" I almost whispered the order.

The distance between Wilma's hiding place and the door in the side of
the Han ship was not more than fifteen feet. She was already crouched
with her feet braced against a metal beam. Taking the lift of the
inertron belt into her calculation, she dove head foremost, like a
projectile, through the door. I followed in a split second, more
clumsily, but no less speedily, bruising my shoulder painfully as I
ricocheted from the edge of the opening and brought up sliding against
the unconscious girl; for she evidently had hit her head against the
partition within the ship into which she had crashed.

We had made some noise within the ship. Shuffling footsteps were
approaching down a well-lit gangway.

"Any signs we have been observed?" I asked my men on the hillsides.

"Not yet," I heard the Boss reply. "Ships overhead still standing. No
beams have been broken out. Men on ground absorbed in wreck. Most of
them have crawled into it out of sight."

"Good," I said quickly. "Deering hit her head. Knocked out. One or
more members of the crew approaching. We're not discovered yet. I'll
take care of them. Stand a bit longer, but be ready."

I think my last words must have been heard by the man who was
approaching, for he stopped suddenly.

I crouched at the far side of the compartment, motionless. I would not
draw my sword if there were only one of them.

Apparently reassured at the absence of any further sound, a man came
around a sort of bulkhead--and I leaped.

I swung my legs up in front of me as I did so, catching him full in
the stomach and knocked him cold.

I ran forward along the keel gangway, searching for the control room.
I found it well up in the nose of the ship. And it was deserted. What
could I do to jam the controls of the ship that would not register on
the recording instruments of the other ships? I gazed at the mass of
controls. Levers and wheels galore. In the center of the compartment,
on a massively braced universal joint mounting, was what I took for
the repellor generator. A dial on it glowed and a faint hum came from
within its shielding metallic case. But I had no time to study it.

Above all else, I was afraid that some automatic apparatus existed in
the room, through which I might be heard on the other ships. The risk
of trying to jam the controls was too great. I abandoned the idea and
withdrew softly. I would have to take a chance that there was no other
member of the crew aboard.

I ran back to the entrance compartment. Wilma still lay where she had
slumped down. I heard the voices of the Hans approaching. It was time
to act. The next few seconds would tell whether the ships in the air
would try or be able to melt us into nothingness.

"Are you boys all ready?" I asked, creeping to a position opposite the
door and drawing my handgun.

Again there was a chorus of assent.

"Then on the count of three, shoot up those rep rays--all of them--and
for God's sake, don't miss." I was beginning to think in the terms the
others used generally--"dis" for disintegrator, "rep" for repellor.
And I counted.

I think my "three" was a bit weak. I know it took all the courage I
had to utter it.

For an agonizing instant nothing happened, except that the landing
party from the ship strolled into my range of vision.

Then, startled, they turned their eyes upward. For an instant they
stood frozen with horror at whatever they saw.

One hurled his knife at me. It grazed my cheek. Then a couple of them
made a break for the doorway. The rest followed. But I fired
pointblank with my hand-gun, pressing the button as fast as I could
and aiming at their feet to make sure my explosive rockets would make
contact and do their work.

The detonations of my rockets were deafening. The spot on which the
Hans stood flashed into a blinding glare. Then there was nothing there
except their torn and mutilated corpses. They had been fairly bunched
and I got them all.

I ran to the door, expecting any instant to be hurled into infinity by
the sweep of a dis ray.

Some eighth of a mile away I saw one of the ships crash to the earth.
A dis ray came into my line of vision, wavered uncertainly for a
moment and then began to sweep directly toward the ship in which I
stood. But it never reached it. Suddenly, like a light switched off,
it shot to one side, and a moment later another vast hulk crashed to
earth. I looked out, then stepped out on the ground.

The only Han ships in the sky were two of the scouts to the south
which were hanging perpendicularly, and sagging slowly down. The
others must have crashed down while I was deafened by the sound of the
explosion of my own rockets.

Somebody hit the other rep ray of one of the two remaining ships and
it fell out of sight beyond a hilltop. The other, farther away,
drifted down diagonally, its dis ray playing viciously over the ground
below it.

I shouted with exultation and relief.

"Take back the command, Boss!" I yelled.

His commands, sending out jumpers in pursuit of the descending ship,
rang in my ears, but I paid no attention to them. I leaped back into
the compartment of the Han ship and knelt beside my Wilma. Her padded
helmet had absorbed much of the blow, I thought; otherwise, her skull
might have been fractured.

"Oh, my head!" she groaned, coming to as I lifted her gently in my
arms and strode out in the open with her. "We must have won, dearest,
did we?"

"We most certainly did," I reassured her. "All but one crashed and that
one is drifting down toward the south. We've captured this one we're
in intact. There was only one member of the crew aboard when we dove
in."

Less than an hour afterward the Big Boss ordered the outfit to tune in
ultrophones on three-twenty-three to pick up a translated broadcast of
the Han intelligence office in Nu-Yok from the Susquanna station. It
was in the form of a public warning and news item.

"This is Public Intelligence Office, Nu-Yok, broadcasting warning to
navigators of private ships, and news public interest. The squadron of
seven ships which left Nu-Yok this morning to investigate the recent
destruction of the GK-984 in the Wyoming Valley, has been destroyed by
a series of mysterious explosions similar to those which wrecked the
GK-984."

"The phones, viewplates, and all other signaling devices of five of
the seven ships ceased operating suddenly at approximately the same
moment, about seven-four-nine." (According to the Han system of
reckoning time, seven and forty-nine one hundredths after midnight.)
"After violent disturbances, the location finders went out of
operation. Electroactivity registers applied to the territory of the
Wyoming Valley remain dead."

"The Intelligence Office has no indication of the kind of disaster
which overtook the squadron except certain evidences of the explosive
phenomena similar to those in he case of the GK-984, which recently
went dead while beaming the valley in a systematic effort to wipe out
the works and camps of the tribesmen. The Office considers, as obvious,
the deduction that the tribesmen have developed a new, and as yet
undetermined, technique of attack on airships, and has recommended to
the Heaven-Born that immediate and unlimited authority to be given the
Navigation Intelligence Division to make a investigation of this
technique and develop a defense against it.

"In the meantime it urges that private navigators avoid this territory
in particular, and in general hold as closely as possible to the
official inter-city routes, which now are being patrolled by the
entire force of the Military Office, which is beaming the routes
generously to width of ten miles. The Military office reports that it
is at present considering no retaliatory raids against the tribesmen.
With the Navigation Intelligence Division, it holds that unless
further evidence of the nature of the disaster is developed in the
near future, the public interest will be better served, and at smaller
cost of life by a scientific research than by attempts at retaliation
which may bring destruction on all ships engaging therein. So unless
further evidence is developed, or the Heaven-Born orders to the
contrary, the Military will hold to a defensive policy.

"Unofficial intimations from Lo-Tan are to the effect that the
Heaven-Council has the matter under consideration.

"The Navigation Intelligence Office permits the broadcast of the
following condensation of its detailed observations.

"The squadron proceeded to a position above the Wyoming Valley where
the wreck of the GK-984 was known to be, from the record of its
location finder before it went dead recently. There the bottom
projectoscope relays of all ships registered the wreck of the GK-984
Teleprojectoscope views of the wreck and the bowl of the valley showed
no evidence of the presence of tribesmen. Neither ship registers nor
base registers showed any indication of electroactivity except from
the squadron itself. On orders from the Base Squadron Commander, the
LD-218, LK-745 and LG25 scouted southward at 8,000 feet. The GK-43,
GK-981 and GK-220 stood above at 2,500 feet, and the GK-18 landed to
permit personal inspection of the wreck by the science committee. The
party debarked, leaving one man on board in the control cabin. He set
all projectoscopes at universal focus except RB43," (this meant the
third projectoscope from the bow of the ship, on the right hand side
of the lower deck) "with which he followed the landing group as it
walked around the wreck.

"The first abnormal phenomenon recorded by any of the instruments at
Base was that relayed automatically from projectoscope RB-4 of the
GK-18, which as the party disappeared from view in back of the wreck
recorded two green missiles of roughly Cylindrical shape, projected
from the wreckage into the landing compartment of the ship. At such
close range these were not clearly defined, owing to the universal
focus at which the projectoscope was set. The Base Captain of GK-18 at
once ordered the man in the control room to investigate, and saw him
leave the control room in compliance with this order. An instant later
confused sounds reached the control-room electrophone, such as might
be made by a man falling heavily, and footsteps approached the control
room, a figure entering and leaving the control room hurriedly. The
Base Captain now believes, and the stills of the photorecord support
his belief, that this was not the crew member who had been left in the
control room. Before the Base Captain could speak to him he left the
room, nor was any response given to the attention signal the Captain
flashed throughout the ship.

"At this point projectoscope RB-3 of the ship, now out of focus
control, dimly showed the landing party walking back toward the ship.
RBA showed it more clearly. Then on both these instruments, a number
of blinding explosives in rapid succession were seen and the
electrophone relays registered terrific concussions; the ship's
electronic apparatus and projectoscopes apparatus went dead.

"Reports of the other ships' Base Observers and Executives, backed by
the photorecords, show the explosions as taking place in the midst of
the landing party as it returned, evidently unsuspicious, to the ship.
Then in rapid succession they indicate that terrific explosions
occurred inside and outside the three ships standing above close to
their rep ray generators, and all signals from these ships thereupon
went dead.

"Of the three ships scouting to the south, the LD-248 suffered an
identical fate, at the same moment. Its records add little to the
knowledge of the disaster. But with LX-745 and the LG-25, it was
different.

"The relay instruments of the LK-745 indicated the destruction by an
explosion of the rear rep ray generator, and that the ship hung stern
down for a short space, swinging like a pendulum. The forward
viewplates and indicators did not cease functioning, but their records
are chaotic, except for one projectoscope still, which shows the bowl
of the valley, and the GK-981 falling, but no visible evidence of
tribesmen. The control-room viewplate is also a chaotic record of the
ship's crew tumbling and falling to the rear wall. Then the forward
rep ray generator exploded, and all signals went dead.

"The fate of the LG-25 was somewhat similar, except that this ship
hung nose down, and drifted on the wind southward as it slowly
descended out of control."

"As its control room was shattered, verbal report from its Action
Captain was precluded. The record of the interior rear viewplates
shows members of the crew climbing toward the rear rep ray generator
in an attempt to establish manual control of it, and increase the
lift. The projectoscope relays, swinging in wide arcs, recorded little
of value except at the ends of their swings. One of these, from a
machine which happened to be set in telescopic focus, shows several
views of great value, picturing the falls of the other ships, and all
of the rear projectoscope records enable the reconstruction in detail
of the pendulum and torsional movements of the ship, and its sag
toward the earth. But none of the views showing the forest below
contain any indication of tribesmen's presence. A final explosion put
this ship out of commission at a height of 1,000 feet, and at a point
four miles S. by E. of the center of the valley."

The message ended with a repetition of the warning to other airmen to
avoid the valley.

INCREDIBLE TREASON

After receiving this report, and reassurances of support from the Big
Bosses of the neighboring gangs, Hart determined to reestablish the
Wyoming Valley community.

A careful survey of the territory showed that it was only the northern
sections and slopes that had been "beamed" by the first Han ship.

The synthetic fabrics plant had been partially wiped out, though the
lower levels underground had not been reached by the dis ray. The
forest screen above, however, had been annihilated, and it was
determined to abandon it after removing all usable machinery and
evidences of the processes that might be of interest to the Han
scientists, should they return to the valley in the future.

The ammunition plant, and the rocket-ship plant, which had just been
about to start operation at the time of the raid, were intact, as were
the other important plants.

Hart brought the Big Camboss up from the Swquanna Works, and laid out
new camp locations, scattering them farther to the south, and avoiding
ground which had been seared by the Han beams and the immediate
locations of the Han wrecks.

During this period, a sharp check was kept upon Han messages, for the
phone plant had been one of the first to be put in operation, and when
it became evident that the Hans did not intend any immediate
reprisals, the entire membership of the community was summoned back,
and normal life was resumed.

Wilma and I had been married the day after the destruction of the
ships, and spent this intervening period in a delightful honeymoon,
camping high in the mountains. On our return, we had a camp of our
own, of course. We were assigned to location 1017. And as might be
expected, we had a great deal of banter over which one of us was Camp
Boss. The title stood after my name on the Big Boss' records, and
those of the Big Camboss, of course, but Wilma airily held that this
meant nothing at all--and generally succeeded in making me admit it
whenever she chose.

I found myself a full-fledged member of the gang now, for I had
elected to search no farther for a permanent alliance, much as I would
have liked to familiarize myself with this 25th Century life in other
sections of the country.

The Wyomings had a high morale, and had prospered under the rule of
Big Boss Hart for many years. But many of the gangs, I found, were
badly organized, lacked strong hands in authority, and were rife with
intrigue. Oh the whole, I thought I would be wise to stay with a group
which had already proved its friendliness, and in which I seemed to
have prospects of advancement. Under these modern social and economic
conditions, the kind of individual freedom to which I had been
accustomed in the 20th Century was impossible. This entire modern
life, it appeared to me, judging from my ancient viewpoint, was
organized along what I called "political" lines. And in this
connection, it amused me to notice how universal had become the use of
the word "Boss." There was as little formality in his relations with
his followers as there was in the case of the 20th Century political
boss, and the same high respect paid him by his followers as well as
the same high consideration by him of their interest. He was just as
much of an autocrat, and just as much dependent upon the general
popularity of his actions for the ability to maintain his autocracy.

The sub-boss who could not command the loyalty of his followers was as
quickly deposed, either by them or by his superiors, as the ancient
ward leader of the 20th Century who lost control of his votes.

As society was organized in the 20th Century, I did not believe the
system could work in anything but politics. I tremble to think what
would have happened, had the attempt been made to handle the A.E.F.
during the First World War, instead of by that rigid military
discipline and complete assumption of the individual as a mere
standardized cog in the machine.

But owing to the centuries of desperate suffering the people had
endured at the hands of the Hans, there developed a spirit of
self-sacrifice and consideration for the common good that made the scheme
applicable and efficient in all forms of human co-operation.

I have a little heresy about all this, however. My associates regard
the thought with as much horror as many worthy people of the 20th
Century felt in regard to any heretical suggestion that the original
outline of government as laid down in the First Constitution did not
apply as well to 20th Century conditions as to those of the early
19th.

In later years I felt that there was a certain softening of moral
fiber among the people, since the Hans had been finally destroyed with
all their works; and Americans have developed a new luxury economy. I
have seen signs of the reawakening of greed, of selfishness. The
eternal cycle seems to be at work. I fear that slowly, though surely,
private wealth is reappearing, codes of inflexibility are developing;
they will be followed by corruption, degradation; and in the end some
cataclysmic event will end this era and usher in a new one.

All this, however, is wandering afar from my story, which concerns our
early battles against the Hans, and not our more modern problems of
self-control.

Our victory over the seven Han ships had set the country ablaze. The
secret had been carefully communicated to the other gangs, and the
country was agog from one end to the other. There was feverish
activity in the ammunition plants, and the hunting of stray Han ships
became an enthusiastic sport. The results were disastrous to our
hereditary enemies.

From the Pacific Coast came the report of a great Transpacific liner
of 75,000 tons' lift being brought to earth from a position of
invisibility above the clouds. A dozen Sacramentos had caught the hazy
outlines of its rep rays approaching them, head-on, in the twilight,
like ghostly pillars reaching into the sky. They had fired rockets
into it with ease, whereas they would have had difficulty in hitting
it if it had been moving at right angles to their position. They got
one rep ray. The other was not strong enough to hold it up. It floated
to earth, nose down, and since it was unarmed and unarmored, they had
no difficulty in shooting it to pieces and massacring its crew and
passengers.

From the Jersey Beaches we received news of the destruction of a
Nu-Yok-A-lan-a liner. The sand-snipers, practically invisible in their
sand colored clothing, and half buried along the beaches, lay in wait
for days, risking the play of dis beams along the route, and finally
registering four hits within a week. The Hans discontinued their
service along this route, and as evidence that they were badly shaken
by our success, sent no raiders down the Beaches.

It was a few weeks later that Big Boss Hart sent for me.

"Tony," he said, "there are two things I want to talk to you about.
One of them will become public property in a few days, I think. We
aren't going to get any more Han ships by shooting up their rep rays
unless we use much larger rockets. They are wise to us now. They're
putting armor of great thickness in the hulls of their ships below the
rep ray machines. Near Bah-Flo this morning a party of Eries shot one
without success. The explosions staggered her, but did not penetrate.
As near as we can gather from their reports, their laboratories have
developed a new alloy of great tensile strength and elasticity which
nevertheless lets the rep rays through like a sieve. Our reports
indicate that the Eries' rockets bounced off harmlessly. Most of the
party was wiped out as the dis rays went into action on them.

"This is going to mean real business for all of the gangs before long.
The Big Bosses have just held a national ultrophone council. It was
decided that America must organize on a national basis. The first move
is to develop sectional organization by Zones. I have been made
Superboss of the Midatlantic Zone.
"We're in for it now. The Hans are sure to launch reprisal
expeditions, and we've got to keep them away from our camps and
plants. I'm thinking of developing a permanent field force, along the
lines of the regular armies of the 20th Century you told me about. Its
business will be twofold: to carry the warfare as much as possible to
the Hans and to serve as a decoy, to keep their attention from our
plants. I'm going to need your help in this.

"The other thing I wanted to talk to you about is this:

"Amazing and impossible as it seems, there is a group, or perhaps an
entire gang, somewhere among us, that is betraying us to the Hans. It
may be the Bad Bloods, or it may be one of those gangs who live near
one of the Han cities. You know, a hundred and fifteen or twenty years
ago there were certain of these people's ancestors who mated with the
Hans, sometimes serving them as slaves, in the days before they
brought all their service machinery to perfection.

"There is such a gang, called the Nagras, up near Bah-flo, and another
in Mid-Jersey that men call the Pineys. But I hardly suspect the
Pineys. There is little intelligence among them. They wouldn't have
the information to give the Hans, nor would they be capable of
imparting it. They're absolute savages."

"Just what evidence is there that anybody has been clearing
information to the Hans?" I asked.

"Well," he replied, "first of all there was that raid upon us. That
first Han ship knew the location of our plants exactly. You remember
it floated directly into position above the valley and began a
systematic beaming. Then, the Hans quite obviously have learned that
we are picking up their electrophone waves, for they've gone back to
their old, but extremely accurate, system of directional control. But
we've been getting them for the past week by installing automatic
rebroadcast units along the scar paths. This is what we call those
strips of country directly under the regular ship routes of the Hans,
who as a matter of precaution frequently blast them with their dis
beams to prevent the growth of foliage which might give shelter to us.
But they've been beaming those paths so hard, it looks as though they
even had information of this strategy. And in addition, they've been
using code. Finally, we've picked up three of their messages in which
they discuss, with some nervousness, the existence of our 'mysterious'
ultrophone."

"But they still have no knowledge of the nature and control of
ultronic activity?" I asked.

"No," said the Big Boss thoughtfully, "they don't seem to have a bit
of information about it."

"Then it's quite clear," I ventured, "that whoever is 'clearing' us to
them is doing it piecemeal. It sounds like a bit of occasional barter,
rather than an out and out alliance. They're holding back as much
information as possible for future bartering, perhaps."

"Yes," Hart said, "and it isn't information the Hans are giving in
return, but some form of goods, or privilege. The trick would be to
locate the goods. I guess I'll have to make a personal trip around
among the Big Bosses."

THE HAN CITY

This conversation set me thinking. All of the Han electrophone
inter-communication had been an open record to the Americans for a good many
years, and the Hans were just finding it out. For centuries they had
not regarded us as any sort of a menace. Unquestionably it had never
occurred to them to secrete their own records. Somewhere in Nu-Yok or
Bah-Flo, or possibly in Lo-Tan itself, the record of this traitorous
transaction would be more or less openly filed. If we could only get
at it! I wondered if a raid might not be possible.

David Hearn and I talked it over with our Han-affairs Boss and his
experts. There ensued several days of research, in which the Han
records of the entire decade were scanned and analyzed. In the end
they picked out a mass of detail, and fitted it together into a very
definite picture of the great central filing office of the Hans
in Nu-Yok, where the entire mass of official records was kept, constantly
available for instant projectoscoping to any of the city's offices,
and of the system by which the information was filed.

The attempt began to look feasible, though Hart instantly turned the
idea down when I first presented it to him. It was unthinkable, he
said. Sheer suicide. But in the end I persuaded him.

"I will need," I said, "Blash, who is thoroughly familiar with the Han
library system; Bert Gaunt, who for years has specialized on their
military offices; Bill Barker, the ray specialist, and the best
swooper pilot we have." Swoopers are one-man and two-man ships,
developed by the Americans, with skeleton backbones of inertron
(during the war painted green for invisibility against the green
forests below) and "bellies" of clear ultron.

"That will be Mort Gibbons," said Hart; "We've only got three swoopers
left, Tony, but I'll risk one of them if you and the others will
voluntarily risk your existences. But mind, I won't urge or order one
of you to go. I'll spread the word to every Plant Boss at once to give
you anything and everything you need in the way of equipment."

When I told Wilma of the plan, I expected her to raise violent and
tearful objections, but she didn't. She was made of far sterner stuff
than the women of the 20th Century. Not that she couldn't weep as
copiously or be just as whimsical on occasion; but she wouldn't weep
for the same reasons.

She just gave me an unfathomable look, in which there seemed to be a
bit of pride, and asked eagerly for the details. I confess I was
somewhat disappointed that she could so courageously risk my loss.

We were ready to slide off at dawn the next morning. I had kissed
Wilma goodbye at our camp, and after a final conference over our
plans, we boarded our craft and gently glided away over the treetops
on a course, which, after crossing three routes of the Han ships,
would take us out over the Atlantic, off the Jersey coast, whence we
would come up on Nu-Yok from the ocean.

Twice we had to nose down and lie motionless on the ground near a
route while Han ships passed. Those were tense moments. Had the green
back of our ship been observed, we would have been disintegrated in a
second. But it wasn't.

Once over the water, however, we climbed in a great spiral, ten miles
in diameter, until our altimeter registered ten miles. Here Gibbons
shut off his rocket motor, and we floated far above the level of the
Atlantic liners, whose course was well to the north of us anyhow, and
waited for nightfall.

Then Gibbons turned from his control long enough to grin at me.

"I have a surprise for you, Tony," he said throwing back the lid of
what I had supposed was a big supply case. And with a sigh of relief,
Wilma stepped out of the case.

"If you go into zero" (a common expression of the day for being
annihilated by the disintegrator ray), "you don't think I'm going to
let you go alone, do you, Tony? I couldn't believe my ears last night
when you spoke of going without me, until I realized that you are
still five hundred years behind the times in lots of ways. Don't you
know, dear heart, that you offered me the greatest insult a husband
could give a wife? You didn't, of course."

The others, it seemed, had all been in on the secret. At nightfall, we
maneuvered to a position directly above the city. This took some time
and calculation on the part of Bill Barker, who explained to me that
he had to determine our point by ultronic bearings. The slightest
resort to an electronic instrument, he feared, might be detected by
our enemies' locators. In fact, we did not dare bring our swooper any
lower than five miles for fear that its capacity might be reflected in
their instruments.

Finally, however, he succeeded in locating above the central tower of
the city.

"If my calculations are as much as ten feet off," he remarked with
confidence, "I'll eat the tower. Now the rest is up to you, Mort. See
what you can do to hold her steady. No--here, watch this indicator--the
red beam, not the green one. See--if you keep it exactly centered
on the needle, you're O.K. The width of the beam represents seventeen
feet. The tower platform is fifty feet square, so we've got a good
margin to work on."

For several moments we watched as Gibbons bent over his levers,
constantly adjusting them with deft touches of his fingers. After a
bit of wavering, the beam remained centered on the needle.

"Now," I said, "let's drop."

I opened the trap and looked down, but quickly shut it again when I
felt the air rushing out of the ship into the rarefied atmosphere in a
torrent. Gibbons literally yelled a protest from his instrument board.

"I forgot," I mumbled. "Silly of me. Of course, we'll have to drop out
of compartment."

The compartment to which I referred, was similar to those in some of
the 20th Century submarines. We all entered it There was barely room
for us to stand shoulder to shoulder. With some struggles, we got into
our special air helmets and adjusted the pressure. At our signal,
Gibbons exhausted the air in the compartment, pumping it into the body
of the ship, and as the little signal light flashed, Wilma threw open
the hatch.

Setting the ultron wire reel, I climbed through, and began to slide
down gently.

We all had our belts on, of course, adjusted to a weight balance of
but a few ounces. And the five-mile reel of ultron wire that was to be
our guide was of gossamer fineness, though, anyway, I believe it would
have lifted the full weight of the five of us, so strong and tough was
this invisible metal. As an extra precaution, since the wire was of
the purest metal, and therefore totally invisible, even in daylight,
we all had our belts hooked on small rings that slid down the wire.

I went down with the end of the wire. Wilma followed a few feet above
me, then Barker, Blash, and Gaunt. Gibbons, of course, stayed behind
to hold the ship in position and control the paying out of the line.
We all had our ultrophones in place inside our air helmets, and so
could converse with one another and with Gibbons. But at Wilma's
suggestion, although we would have liked to let the Big Boss listen
in, we kept them adjusted to short-range work, for fear that those who
had been clearing with the Hans, and against whom we were on a raid
for evidence, might also pick up our conversation. We had no fear that
the Hans would hear us. In fact, we had the added advantage that, even
after we landed, we could converse freely without danger of their
hearing our voices through our air helmets.

For a while I could see nothing below but utter darkness. Then I
realized, from the feel of the air as much as from anything, that we
were sinking through a cloud layer. We passed through two more cloud
layers before anything was visible to us.

Then there came under my gaze, about two miles below, one of the most
beautiful sights I have even seen: the soft, yet brilliant, radiance
of the great Han city of Nu-Yok. Every foot of its structural members
seemed to glow with a wonderful incandescence, tower piled upon tower,
and all built on the vast base-mass of the city, which, so I had been
told, sheered upward from the surface of the rivers to a height of 728
levels.

The city, I noticed with some surprise, did not cover anything like
the same area as the New York of the 20th Century. It occupied, as a
matter of fact, only the lower half of Manhattan Island, with one
section straddling the East River and spreading out sufficiently over
what once had been Brooklyn, to provide berths for the great liners
and other aircraft.

Straight beneath my feet was a tiny dark patch. It seemed the only
spot in the entire city that was not aflame with radiance. This was
the central tower, in the top floors of which were housed the vast
library of record files and the main projectoscope plant.

"You can shoot the wire now," I ultrophoned Gibbons, and let go the
little weighted knob. It dropped like a plummet, and we followed with
considerable speed, but braking our descent with gloved hands
sufficiently to see whether the knob, on which a faint light glowed as
a signal for ourselves, might be observed by any Han guard or night
prowler. Apparently it was not, and we again shot down with
accelerated speed.

We landed on the roof of the tower without any mishap, and fortunately
for our plan, in darkness. Since there was nothing above it on which
it would have been worth while to shed illumination, or from which
there was any need to observe it, the Hans had neglected to light the
tower roof, or indeed to occupy it at all. This was the reason we had
selected it as our landing place.

As soon as Gibbons had our word, he extinguished the knob light, and
the knob, as well as the wire, became totally invisible. At our
ultrophoned word, he would light it again.

"No gun play now," I warned. "Swords only, and then only if absolutely
necessary."

Closely bunched, and treading as lightly as only inertron-belted
people could, we made our way cautiously through a door and down an
inclined plane to the floor below, where Gaunt and Blash assured us
the military offices were located.

Twice Barker cautioned us to stop as we were about to pass in front of
mirror-like "windows" in the passage wall, and flattening ourselves to
the floor, we crawled past them.

"Projectoscopes," he said. "Probably on auto record only, at this time
of night. Still, we don't want leave any records for them to study
after we're gone."

"Were you ever here before?" I asked.

"No," he replied, "But I haven't been studying their electrophone
communications for seven years without being able to recognize these
machines when I run across them."

THE FIGHT IN THE TOWER

So far we had not laid eyes on a Han. The tower seemed deserted. Blash
and Gaunt, however, assured me that there would be at least one man on
"duty" in the military offices, though he would probably be asleep,
and two or three in the library proper and the projectoscope plant.
"We've got to put them out of commission," I said. "Did you bring the
'dope' cans, Wilma?"

"Yes," she said, "two for each. Here," and she distributed them.

We were now two levels below the roof, and at the point where we were
to separate.

I did not want to let Wilma out of my sight, but it was necessary.

According to our plan, Barker was to make his way to the projectoscope
plant, Blash and I to the library, and Wilma and Gaunt to the military
office.

Blash and I traversed a long corridor, and I paused at the great
arched doorway of the library. Cautiously peered in. Seated at three
great switchboards were library operatives. Occasionally one of them
would reach lazily for a lever, or sleepily push a button, as little
numbered lights winked on and off. They were answering calls for
electrograph and viewplate records on all sorts of subjects from all
sections of the city.

I apprised my companions of the situation.

"Better wait a bit," Blash added. "The calls will lessen shortly."

Wilma reported an officer in the military office sound asleep.

"Give him the can, then," I said.

Barker was to do nothing more than keep watch in the projectoscope
plant, and a few moments later he reported himself well concealed,
with a splendid view of the floor.

"I think we can take a chance now," Blash said to me, and at my nod,
he opened the lid of his dope can. Of course, the fumes did not affect
us through our helmets. They were absolutely without odor or
visibility, and in a few seconds the librarians were unconscious. We
stepped into the room.

There ensued considerable cautious observation and experiment on the
part of Gaunt, working from the military office, and Blash in the
library; while Wilma and I, with drawn swords and sharply attuned
microphones, stood guard, and occasionally patrolled nearby corridors.

"I hear something approaching," Wilma said after a bit, with
excitement in her voice. "It's a soft, gliding sound."

"'That's an elevator somewhere," Barker cut in from the projectoscope
floor. "Can you locate it? I can't hear it."

"It's to the east of me," she replied.

"And to my west," said I, faintly catching it. "It's between us,
Wilma, and nearer you than me. Be careful. Have you got any
information yet, Blash--Gaunt?"

"Getting it now," one of them replied. "Give us two minutes more."

"Keep at it then," I said. "We'll guard."

The soft, gliding sound ceased.

"I think it's very close to me," Wilma almost whispered. "Come closer,
Tony. I have a feeling something is going to happen. I've never known
my nerves to get taut like this without reason."

In some alarm, I launched myself down the corridor in great leap
toward the intersection whence I knew I could see her.

In the middle of my leap my ultrophone registered her gasp of alarm.
The next instant I glided to a stop at the intersection to see Wilma
backing toward the door of the military office, her sword red with
blood, and an inert form on the corridor floor. Two other Hans were
circling to either side of her with wicked-looking knives, while a
third, evidently a high officer judging by the resplendence of his
garb, tugged desperately to get an electrophone instrument out of a
bulky pocket. If he ever gave the alarm, there was no telling what
might happen to us. I was at least seventy feet away, but I crouched
low and sprang with every bit of strength in my legs. It would be more
correct to say that I dived, for I reached the fellow head on, with no
attempt to draw my legs beneath me.

Some instinct must have warned him, for he turned suddenly as I
hurtled close to him. But by this time I had sunk close to the floor,
and had stiffened myself rigidly, lest a dragging knee or foot might
just prevent my reaching him. I brought my blade upward and over.

It was a vicious slash that laid him open, bisecting him from groin to
chin, and his body toppled down on me as I slid to a tangled stop.

The other two, startled, turned. Wilma leaped at once and struck him
down with a side slash. I looked up at this instant, and the dazed
fear on his face at the length of her leap, registered vividly. The
Hans knew nothing of our inertron belts, it seemed, and these leaps
and dives of ours filled them with terror.

As I rose to my feet, a gory mess, Wilma, with a poise and speed which
I found time to admire even in this crisis, again leaped. This time
she dove head first as I had done, and with a beautifully executed
thrust, ran the last Han through the throat.

Uncertainly, she scrambled to her feet, staggered queerly, and then
sank gently prone on the corridor. She had fainted.

At this juncture, Blash and Gaunt reported with elation that they had
the record we wanted.

"Back to the room, everybody!" I ordered, as I picked Wilma up in my
arms. With her inertron belt, she felt light as a feather.

Gaunt joined me at once from the military office and at the
intersection of the corridor, we came upon Blash waiting for us.
Barker, however, was not in evidence.

"Where are you, Barker?" I called.

"Go ahead," he replied. "I'll be with you on the roof at once."

We came out in the open without any further mishap and I instructed
Gibbons in the ship to light the knob on the end of the ultron wire.
It flashed dully a few feet away from us. Just how he had maneuvered
the ship to keep our end of the line in position, without its swinging
in a tremendous arc, I have never been able to understand. Had not the
night been an unusually still one, he could not have checked the
initial pendulum-like movements. As it was, there was considerable air
current at certain of the levels, and in different directions too, But
Gibbons was an expert of rare ability and sensitivity in the handling
of a rocket-ship, and he managed, with the aid of his delicate
instruments, to sense the drifts almost before they affected the fine
ultron wire, and to neutralize them with little shifts in the position
of the ship.

Blash and Gaunt fastened their rings to the wire, and I hooked my own
and Wilma's on, too. But on looking around, I found that Barker was
still missing.

"Barker, come!" I called. "We're waiting."

"Coming!" he replied, and indeed, at that instant, his figure appeared
up the ramp. He chuckled as he fastened his ring to the wire and said
something about a little surprise he had left for the Hans.

"Don't reel in the wire more than a few hundred feet," I instructed
Gibbons. "It will take too long to wind it in. We'll float up, and
when we're aboard, we can drop it."

In order to float up, we had to dispense with a pound or two of weight
apiece. We hurled our swords from us, and kicked off our shoes as
Gibbons reeled up the line a bit, and then letting go of the wire,
began to hum upward on our rings with increasing velocity.

The rush of air brought Wilma to, and I hastily explained to her that
we had been successful. Receding far below us now, I could see our
dully shining knob swinging to and fro in an ever-widening arc, as it
crossed and recrossed the black square of the tower roof. As an extra
precaution, I ordered Gibbons to shut off the light, and to show one
from the belly of the ship, for so great was our speed now, that I
began to fear we would have difficulty in checking ourselves. We were
literally falling upward, and with terrific acceleration.

Fortunately, we had several minutes in which to solve this difficulty,
which none of us, strangely enough, had foreseen. It was Gibbons who
found the answer.

"You'll be all right if all of you grab the wire tight when I give the
word," he said. "First I'll start reeling it in at full speed. You
won't get much of a jar, and then I'll decrease its speed again
gradually, and its weight will hold you back. Are you ready?
One-two-three!"

We all grabbed tightly with our gloved hands as he gave the word. We
must have been rising a good bit faster than he figured, however, for
it wrenched our arms considerably, and the maneuver set up a sickening
pendulum motion.

For a while all we could do was swing there in an arc that may have
been a quarter of a mile across, about three and a half miles above
the city, and still more than a mile from our ship.

Gibbons skillfully took up the slack as our momentum pulled up the
line. Then at last we had ourselves under control again, and continued
our upward journey, checking our speed somewhat with our gloves.

There was not one of us who did not breathe a big sigh of relief when
we scrambled through the hatch safely into the ship again, cast off
the ultron line and slammed the trap shut.

Little realizing that we had a still more terrible experience to go
through, we discussed the information that Blash and Gaunt had between
them extracted from the Han records, and the advisability of
ultrophoning Hart at once.

THE WALLS OF HELL

The traitors were, it seemed, a gang located a few miles north of
Nu-Yok on the wooded banks of the Hudson, the Sinsings. They had
exchanged scraps of information to the Hans in return for several old
rep ray machines, and the privilege of tuning in on the Han electronic
power broadcast for their operation, provided their ships agreed to
subject themselves to the orders of the Han traffic office, while
aloft.

The rest wanted to ultrophone their news at once, since there was
always danger that we might never get back to the gang with it.

I objected, however. The Sinsings would be likely to pick up our
message. Even if we used the directional projector, they might have
scouts out to the west and south in the big inter-gang stretches of
country. They would flee to Nu-Yok and escape the punishment they
merited. It seemed to be vitally important that that should not, for
the sake of example to other weak groups among the gangs, as well as
to prevent a crisis in they might clear more vital information to the
enemy.

"Out to sea again," I ordered Gibbons. "They'll be less likely to look
for us in that direction."

"Easy, Boss, easy," he replied. "Wait until we get up a mile or two
more. They must have discovered evidence of our raid by now, and their
dis ray wall may go in operation any moment."

Even as he spoke, the ship lurched downward and to one side.

"There it is!" he shouted. "Hang on, everybody, We're going to nose
straight up!" And he flipped the rocket motor control wide open.

Looking through one of the rear ports, I could see a nebulous,
luminous ring, and on all sides the atmosphere took on a faint
iridescence.

We were almost over the destructive range of the dis ray wall, a
hollow cylinder of annihilation shooting upward from a solid ring of
generators surrounding the city. It was the main defense system of the
Hans, which had never been used except in periodic tests. They may or
may not have suspected that an American rocket-ship was within the
cylinder; probably they had turned on their generators more as a
precaution to prevent any reaching a position above the city.

But even at our present great height, we were in great danger. It was
a question how much we might have been harmed by the rays themselves,
for their effective range was not much more than seven or eight miles.
The greater danger lay in the terrific downward rush of air within the
cylinder to replace that which was being burned into nothingness by
the continual play of the disintegrators. The air fell into the
cylinder with the force of a gale. It would be rushing toward the wall
from the outside with terrific force also, but naturally, the effect
was intensified on the interior.

Our ship vibrated and trembled. We had only one chance of escape--to
fight our way well above the current. To drift down with it meant
ultimately, and inevitably, to be sucked into the annihilating wall at
some lower level.

But very gradually and perkily our upward movement, as shown on the
indicators, began to increase; and after an hour of desperate struggle
we were free of the maelstrom and into the rarefied upper levels. The
terror beneath us was now invisible through several layers of cloud
formations.

Gibbons brought the ship back to an even keel, and drove her eastward
into one of the most brilliantly gorgeous sunrises I have ever seen.

We described a great circle to the south and west, in a long easy
dive, for he had cut out his rocket motors to save them as much as
possible. We had drawn terrifically on their fuel reserves in our
battle with the elements. For the moment, the atmosphere below
cleared, and we could see the Jersey coast far beneath, like a great
map.

"We're not through yet," remarked Gibbons suddenly, pointing at his
periscope, and adjusting it to telescopic focus. "A Han ship, and a
'drop ship' at that--and he's seen us. If he whips that beam of his on
us, we're done."

I gazed, fascinated, at the viewplate. What I saw was a cigar-shaped
ship not dissimilar to our own in design, and from the proportional
size of its ports, of about the same size as our swoopers. We learned
later that they carried crews, for the most part of not more than
three or four men. They had streamlined hulls and tails that embodied
universal-jointed double fish-tail rudders. In operation they rose to
great heights on their powerful rep rays, then gathered speed either
by a straight nose dive, or an inclined dive in which they sometimes
used the rep ray slanted at a sharp angle. He was already above us,
though several miles to the north. He could, of course, try to get on
our tail and spear us with his beam as he dropped at us from a great
height.

Suddenly his beam blazed forth in a blinding flash, whipping downward
slowly to our right. He went through a peculiar corkscrew-like
evolution, evidently maneuvering to bring his beam to bear on us with
a spiral motion.

Gibbons instantly sent our ship into a series of evolutions that must
have looked like those of a frightened hen. Alternately, he used the
forward and the reverse rocket blasts, and in varying degree. We
fluttered, we shot suddenly to right and left, and dropped like a
plummet in uncertain movements. But all the time the Han scout dropped
toward us, determinedly whipping the air around us with his beam. Once
it sliced across beneath us, not more than a hundred feet, and we
dropped with a jar into the pocket formed by the destruction of the
air.

He had dropped to within a mile of us, and was coming with the speed
of a projectile, when the end came. Gibbons always swore it was sheer
luck. Maybe it was, but I like pilots who are lucky that way.

In the midst of a dizzy, fluttering maneuver of our own, with the Han
ship enlarging to our gaze with terrifying rapidity, and its beam
slowly slicing toward us in what looked like certain destruction
within the second, I saw Gibbons' fingers flick at the lever of his
rocket gun and a split second later the Han ship flew apart like a
clay pigeon.

We staggered, fluttered crazily for several moments while Gibbons
struggled to bring our ship into balance, and a section of about four
square feet in the side of the ship near the stern slowly crumbled
like rusted metal. His beam actually had touched us, but our explosive
rocket had got him a thousandth of a second sooner.

Part of our rudder had been annihilated, and our motor damaged. But we
were able to swoop gently back across Jersey, fortunately crossing the
ship lanes without sighting any more Han craft, and finally settling
to rest in the little glade beneath the trees, near Hart's camp.

THE NEW BOSS

We had ultrophoned our arrival and the Big Boss himself, surrounded by
the Council, was on hand to welcome us and learn our news. In turn we
were informed that during the night a band of raiding Bad Bloods,
disguised under the insignia of the Altoonas, a gang some distance to
the west of us--had destroyed several of our camps before our people
had rallied and driven them off. Their purpose, evidently, had been to
embroil us with the Altoonas, but fortunately, one of our exchanges
recognized the Bad Blood leader, who had been slain.

The Big Boss had mobilized the full raiding force of the gang, and was
on the point of heading an expedition for the extermination of the Bad
Bloods.

I looked around the grim circle of the sub-bosses, and realized that
the fate of America, at this moment, lay in their hands. Their temper
demanded the immediate expenditure of our full effort in revenging
ourselves for raid. But the strategic exigencies, to my mind, quite
clearly demanded the instant and absolute extermination of the
Sinsings. It might be only a matter of hours, for all we knew, before
they would barter clues to the America nultronic secrets to the Hans.

"How large a force have we?" I asked Hart.

"Every man and maid who can be spared," he replied.

"That gives us seven hundred married and unmarried men, and three
hundred girls, more than the entire Bad Blood Gang. Everyone is
equipped with belts, ultrophones, rocket guns and swords, and all
fighting mad."

I meditated how I might put the matter to these determined men.

Finally I began to speak. I do not remember to this day just what I
said. I talked calmly, with due regard over the information we had
collected, point by point, building my case logically, and painting a
lurid picture of the danger impending in that half-alliance between
the Sinsings and the Hans of Nu-Yok. I became impassioned,
culminating, I believe, with a vow to proceed single-handed against
the hereditary enemies of our race, "if the Wyomings were blindly set
on placing a gang feud ahead of the hopes of all America."

As I concluded, a great calm came over me, as of one detached. But it
was Hart who sensed the temper of the Council more quickly than I did.
He arose from the tree trunk on which he had been sitting.

"That settles it," he said, looking around the ring. "I have felt this
thing coming on for some time now. I'm sure the Council agrees with me
that there is among us a man more capable than I to boss the Wyoming
gang, despite his having had all too short a time in which to
familiarize himself with our modern ways and facilities. Whatever I
can do to support his effective leadership, at any cost, I pledge
myself to do."

As he concluded, he advanced to where I stood and taking from his head
the green-crested helmet that constituted his badge of office, to my
surprise he placed it in my mechanically extended hand.

The roar of approval that went up from the Council members left me
dazed. Somebody ultrophoned the news to the rest of the gang, and even
though the earflaps of my helmet were turned up, I could hear the
cheers with which my invisible followers greeted me, from near and
distant hillsides, camps and plants. My first move was to make sure
that the Phone Boss, in communicating this news to the members of the
gang, had not re-broadcast my talk nor mentioned my plan of shifting
the attack from the Bad Bloods to the Sinsings. I was relieved by his
assurance that he had not, so I pledged the Council and my companions
to secrecy, and allowed it to be believed that we were about to take
to the air and the trees against the Bad Bloods.

That outfit must have been badly scared, the way they were "burning"
the ether with ultrophone alibis and propaganda for the benefit of the
more distant gangs. It was their old game, these appeals to the spirit
of brotherhood, addressed to gangs too far away to have had the sort
of experience with them that had fallen to our lot.

I chuckled. Here was another good reason for the shift in my plans.
Were we actually to undertake the extermination of the Bad Bloods at
once it would have been a hard job to convince some of the gangs that
we had not been precipitate and unjustified.

But the extermination of the Sinsings would be another thing. In the
first place, there would be no warning of our action until it was all
over, I hoped. In the second place, we would have indisputable proof,
in the form of their rep ray ships and other paraphernalia, of their
traffic with the Hans; and the state of American bias, at the time of
which I write, held trafficking with the Hans a far more heinous thing
than the most vicious gang feud.

I called an executive session of the Council at once. I wanted to
inventory our military resources.

I created a new office on the spot, that of "Control Boss," and
appointed Ned Garlin to the post, turning over his former
responsibility as Plant Boss to his assistant. I needed someone, I
felt, to tie in the records of the various functional activities of
the campaign, and take over from me the task of keeping the records of
them up to the minute.

I received reports from the bosses of the ultrophone unit, and those
of food, transportation, fighting gear, chemistry, electronic activity
and electrophone intelligence, ultroscopes, air patrol and contact
guard.

My ideas for the campaign, of course, were somewhat tinged with my
20th Century experience, and I found myself faced with the task of
working out a staff organization that was a composite of the best and
most easily applied principles of business and military efficiency, as
I knew them from the viewpoint of immediate practicality.

What I wanted was an organization that would be specialized,
functionally, not as that indicated above, but from the angles of
intelligence as to the Sinsing activities; intelligence as to Hans
activities; perfection of communication with my own units;
co-operation of field command; and perfect mobilization of emergency
supplies and resources.

It took several hours of hard work with the Council to map out the
plan. First we assigned functional experts and equipment to each
"Division" in accordance with their needs. Then these in turn were
reassigned by the new Division Bosses to the Field Commands as needed,
or as Independent or Headquarters Units. The two intelligence
divisions were named A and M, "A" indicating that one specialized in
the American enemy and the other in the Mongolians.

The division in charge of our own communications, the assignment of
ultrophone frequencies and strengths, and the maintenance of operators
and equipment, I called "Communications."

I named Bill Hearn to the post of Field Boss, in charge of the main or
undetached fighting units, and to the Resources Division, I assigned
all responsibility for what few aircraft we had; and all
transportation and supply problems, I assigned to "Resources." The
functional bosses stayed with this division.

We finally completed our organization with the assignment of liaison
representatives among the various divisions as needed.

Thus I had a "Headquarters Staff" composed of the Division Bosses who
reported directly to Ned Garlin as Control Boss, or to Wilma as my
personal assistant. And each of the Division Bosses had a small staff
of his own.

In the final summing up of our personnel and resources, I found we had
roughly a thousand "troops," of whom some three hundred and fifty were
in what I called the Service Divisions, the rest being in Bill Hearn's
Field Division. This latter number, however, was cut down somewhat by
the assignment of numerous small units to detached service.
Altogether, the actual available fighting force, I figured, would
number about five hundred by the time we actually went into action.

We had only six small swoopers, but I had a plan in mind, as the
result of our little raid on Nu-Yok, that would make this sufficient,
since the reserves of inertron blocks were larger than I expected to
find them. The Resources Division, by packing its supply cases a bit
tight, or by slipping in extra blocks of inertron, was able to reduce
each to a weight of a few ounces. These easily could be floated and
towed by the swoopers in quantity. Hitched to ultron lines, it would
be a virtually impossibility for them to break loose.

The entire personnel, of course, was supplied with jumpers, and if
each man and girl was careful to adjust balances properly, the entire
number could also be towed along through the air, grasping wires of
ultron, swinging below the swoopers, or stringing out behind them.

There would be nothing tiring about this, because the strain would be
no greater than that of carrying a one two-pound weight in the hand,
except for air friction at high speeds. But to make doubly sure that
we should lose none of our personnel, I gave strict orders that the
belts and tow lines should be equipped with rings and hooks. So great
was the efficiency of the fundamental organization and discipline of
the gang, that we got under way at nightfall.

One by one the swoopers eased into the air, each followed by its long
train or "kite-tail" of humanity and supply cases hanging lightly from
its tow line. For convenience, the tow lines were made of an alloy of
ultron which, unlike the metal itself, is visible.

At first these "tails" hung downward, but as the ships swung into
formation and headed eastward toward the Bad Blood territory,
gathering speed, they began to string out behind. And swinging low
from each ship on heavily weighted lines, ultroscope, ultrophone, and
straight-vision observers keenly scanned the countryside, while
Intelligence men in the swoopers above bent over their instrument boards
and viewplates.

Leaving Control Boss Ned Garlin temporarily in charge of affairs,
Wilma and I dropped a weighted line from our ship, and slid down about
halfway to the under lookout--that is to say, about a thousand feet.
The sensation of floating swiftly through the air like this, in the
absolute security of one's confidence in the inertron belt, was one of
never-ending delight to me.

We reascended into the swooper as the expedition approached the
territory of the Bad Bloods, and directed the preparations for the
bombardment. It was part of my plan to appear to carry out the attack
as originally planned.

About fifteen miles from their camps, our ships came to a halt and
maintained their positions for a while with the idling blasts of their
rocket motors, to give the ultroscope operators a chance to make a
thorough examination of the territory below us. It was vital that this
next step in our program should be carried out with all secrecy.

At length they reported the ground below us entirely clear of any
appearance of human occupation, and a gun unit of long-range
specialists was lowered with a dozen rocket guns, equipped with
special automatic devices that the Resources Division had developed at
my request a few hours before our departure. These were aiming and
timing devices. After calculating the range, elevation and rocket
charges carefully, the guns were left, concealed in a ravine, and the
men were hauled up into the ship again. At the predetermined hour,
those unmanned rocket guns would begin automatically to bombard the
Bad Bloods' hillsides, shifting their aim and elevation slightly with
each shot, as did many of our artillery pieces in the First World War.

In the meantime, we turned south about twenty miles and grounded,
waiting for the bombardment to begin before we attempted to sneak
across the Han ship lane. I was relying for security on the
distraction that the bombardment might furnish the Han observers.

It was tense work waiting, but the affair went through as planned, our
squadron drifting across the route high enough to enable the ships'
tails of troops and supply cases to clear the ground.

In crossing the second ship route, out along the Beaches of Jersey, we
were not so successful in escaping observation. A Han ship came
speeding along at a very low elevation. We caught it on our electronic
location and direction finders, and also located it with our
ultrascopes, but it came so fast and so low that I thought it best to
remain where we had grounded the second and lie quiet, rather than get
under way and cross in front of it.

The point was this. While the Hans had no such devices as our
ultronoscopes, with which we could see in the dark (within certain
limitations of course), and electronic instruments would be virtually
useless in uncovering our presence, since all but natural electronic
activities were carefully eliminated from our apparatus, (except
electrophone receivers which are not easily spotted) the Hans did have
some very highly sensitive sound devices which operated with great
efficiency in calm weather, so far as sounds emanating from the air
were concerned. But the "ground roar" greatly confused their use of
these instruments in the location of specific sounds floating up from
the surface of the earth.

This ship must have caught some slight noise of ours, however, in its
sensitive instruments, for we heard electronic devices go into play,
and picked up the routine report of the noise to its Base Ship
Commander. But from the nature of the conversation, I judged they had
not identified it, and were, in fact, more curious about the
detonations they were picking up now from the Bad Blood lands some
sixty miles to the west.

Immediately after this ship had shot by, we took to the air again, and
following much the same route that I had taken the previous night,
climbed in a long semi-circle out over the ocean, swung toward the
north and finally the west. We set our course, however, for the
Sinsing land north of Nu-Yok, instead of for the city itself.

THE FINGER OF DOOM

As we crossed the Hudson River, a few miles north of the city, we
dropped several units of the M Intelligence Division, with full
instrumental equipment. Their apparatus cases were nicely balanced at
only a few ounces weight each, and the men used their chute capes to
ease their drops.

We recrossed the river a little distance above and began dropping A
Intelligence units and a few long and short range gun units. Then we
held our position until we began to get reports. Gradually we ringed
the territory of the Sinsings, our observation units working busily
and patiently at their beamers and scopes, both aloft and aground,
until Garlin finally turned to me with the remark:

"The map circle is complete now, Boss. We've got clear locations all
the way around them."

"Let me see it," I replied, and studies the illuminated viewplate map
with its little overlapping circles of light that indicated spots
proved clear of the enemy by ultrascopic observation.

I nodded to Bill Hearn. "Go ahead now, Hearn," I said, "and place your
barrage men."

He spoke into his ultrophone, and three of the ships began to glide in
a wide ring around the enemy territory. Every few seconds, at the word
from his Unit Boss, a gunner would drop off the wire, and slipping the
clasp of his chute cape, drift down into the darkness below. Bill
formed two lines, parallel to and facing the river and enclosing the
entire territory of the enemy between them. Above and below,
straddling the river, were two defensive lines. These latter were
merely to hold their positions. The others were to close in toward
each other, pushing a high-explosive barrage five miles ahead of them.
When the two barrages met, both lines were to switch to short-vision-range
barrage and continue to close in on any of the enemy who might
have drifted through the previous curtain of fire.

In the meantime, Bill kept his reserves, a picked corps of a hundred
men (the same that had accompanied Hart and myself in our fight with
the Han squadron) in the air, divided about equally among the "kite
tails" of four ships.

A final roll call, by units, companies, divisions and functions,
established the fact that all our forces were in position. No Han
activity was reported, and no broadcasts indicated any suspicion of
our expedition. Nor was there any knowledge of the fate in store for
them. The idling of rep ray generators was reported from the center of
their camp, obviously those of the ships the Hans had given them.

Again I gave the word, and Hearn passed on the order to his
subordinates.

Far below us, and several miles to the right and left, two barrage
lines made their appearance. From the great height to which we had
risen; they appeared lines of brilliant, winking lights, and the
detonations were muffled by the distances into a sort of rumbling
distant thunder. Hearn and his assistants were very busy measuring,
calculating, and snapping out ultrophone orders to unit commanders
that resulted in the straightening of lines and the closing of gaps in
the barrage.

The A Division Boss reported the utmost confusion in the Sinsing
organization (they were an inefficient, disciplined gang), and
repeated broadcasts for help to neighboring gangs. Ignoring the fact
that the Mongolians had not used explosives for many generations, they
nevertheless jumped at the conclusion that they were being raided by
the Hans themselves, to whom the sound of the battle was evidently
audible, and who were trying to locate the trouble.

At this point, the swooper I had sent south toward the city went into
action as a diversion, to keep the Hans at home. Its "kite tail"
loaded with long-range gunners, using the most highly explosive
rockets we had hung invisible in the darkness of the sky and bombarded
the city from a distance of about five miles. With an entire city to
shoot at, and the object of creating as much commotion therein as
possible, regardless of actual damage, the gunners had no difficulty
in hitting the mark. I could see the glow of the city and the stabbing
flashes of exploding rockets. In the end, the Hans, uncertain as to
what was going on, fell back on a defensive policy, and shot their
"hell cylinder," or wall of upturned disintegrator rays into
operation. That, of course, ended our bombardment of them. The rays
were a perfect defense, disintegrating our rockets as they were
reached.

If they had not sent out ships before turning on the rays, and if they
had none within sufficient radius already in the air, all would be
well.

I queried Garlin on this, but he assured me M intelligence reported no
indications of Hans ships nearer than 800 miles. This would probably
give us a free hand for a while, since most of their instruments
recorded only imperfectly, or not at all, through the death wall.
Requisitioning one of the viewplates of the headquarters ship, and the
services of an expert operator, I instructed him to focus on our lines
below. I wanted a close-up of the men in action.

He began to manipulate his controls and chaotic shadows moved rapidly
across the plate, fading in and out of focus, until he reached an
adjustment that gave me a picture of the forest floor, apparently 100
feet wide, with the intervening branches and foliage of the trees
appearing like shadows that melted into reality above the ground.

I watched one man setting up his long-gun with skillful speed. His
lips pursed slightly as though he were whistling, as he adjusted the
tall tripod on which the tube was balanced. Swiftly he twirled the
knobs controlling the aim and elevation of his piece. Then, lifting a
belt of ammunition from the big box, which itself looked heavy enough
to break down the spindly tripod, he inserted the end of it in the
lock of his tube and touched the proper combination of buttons.

Then he stepped aside, and occupied himself with peering through the
trees ahead. Not even a tremor shook the tube, but I knew that at
intervals of something less than a second, it was discharging small
projectiles which, traveling under their own continuously reduced
power, were arching into the air, to fall precisely five miles ahead
and explode with the force of eight-inch shells such as we used in the
First World War.

Another gunner, fifty feet to the right of him, waved a hand and
called out something to him. Then, picking up his own tube and tripod,
he gauged the distance between the trees ahead of him, and the height
of their lowest branches, and bending forward a bit, flexed his
muscles and leaped lightly, some twenty-five feet. Another leap took
him another twenty feet or so, where he began to set up his piece.

I ordered my observer then to switch to the barrage itself. He got a
close focus on it, but this showed little except a continuous series
of blinding flashes, which, from the viewplate, lit up the entire
interior of the ship. An eight-hundred-foot focus proved better. I had
thought that some of our French and American artillery of the 20th
Century had achieved the ultimate in mathematical precision of fire,
but I had never seen anything to equal the accuracy of that line of
terrific explosions as it moved steadily forward, mowing down trees as
a scythe cuts grass (or used to 500 years ago), literally churning up
the earth and the splintered, blasted remains of the forest giants, to
a depth of from ten to twenty feet.

By now the two curtains of fire were nearing each other, lines of
vibrant, shimmering, continuous, brilliant destruction, inevitably
squeezing the panic-stricken Sinsing between them.

Even as I watched, a group of them, who had been making a futile
effort to get their three rep ray machines into the air, abandoned
their efforts, and rushed forth into the milling mob.

I queried the Control Boss sharply on the futility of this attempt of
theirs, and learned that the Hans, apparently in doubt as to what was
going on, had continued to "play safe," and broken off their power
broadcast, after ordering all their own ships east of the Alleghenies
to the ground, for fear these ships they had traded to the Sinsings
might be used against them. Again I turned to my viewplate, which was
still focused on the central section of the Sinsing works. The
confusion of the traitors was entirely that of fear, for our barrage
had not yet reached them.

Some of them set up their long-guns and fired at random over the
barrage line, then gave it up. They realized that they had no target
to shoot at, no way of knowing whether our gunners were a few hundred
feet or several miles beyond it.

Their ultrophone men, of whom they did not have many, stood around in
tense attitudes, their helmet phones strapped around their ears,
nervously fingering the tuning controls at their belts. Unquestionably
they must have located some of our frequencies, and overheard many of
our reports and orders. But they were confused and disorganized. If
they had an Ultrophone Boss they evidently were not reporting to him
in an organized way. They were beginning to draw back now before our
advancing fire. With intermittent desperation, they began to shoot
over our barrage again, and the explosions of their rockets flashed at
widely scattered points beyond. A few took distance "pot shots."

Oddly enough it was our own forces that suffered the first casualties
in the battle. Some of these distance shots by chance registered hits,
while our men were under strict orders not to exceed their barrage
distances.

Seen upon the ultroscope viewplate, the battle looked as though it
were being fought in daylight, perhaps on a cloudy day, while the
explosions of the rockets appeared as flashes of extra brilliance.

The two barrage lines were not more than five hundred feet apart when
the Sinsings resorted to tactics we had not foreseen. We noticed first
that they began to lighten themselves by throwing away extra equipment
A few of them in their excitement threw away too much, and shot
suddenly into the air. Then a scattered few floated up gently,
followed by increasing numbers, while still others, preserving a
weight balance, jumped toward the closing barrages and leaped high,
hoping to clear them. Some succeeded. We saw others blown about like
leaves in a windstorm, to crumple and drift slowly down, or else to
fall into the barrage, their belts blown from their bodies.

However, it was not part of our plan to allow a single one of them to
escape and find his way to the Hans. I quickly passed the word to Bill
Hearn to have the alternate men in his line raise their barrages and
heard him bark out a mathematical formula to the Unit Bosses.

We backed off our ships as the explosions climbed into the air in
stagger formation until they reached a height of three miles. I don't
believe any of the Sinsings who tried to float away to freedom
succeeded.

But we did know later, that a few who leaped the barrage got away and
ultimately reached Nu-Yok.

It was those who managed to jump the barrage who gave us the most
trouble. With half of our long-guns turned aloft, I foresaw we would
not have enough to establish successive ground barrages and so ordered
the barrage back two miles, from which positions our "curtains" began
to close in again, this time, however, gauged to explode, not on
contact, but thirty feet in the air. This left little chance for the
Sinsings to leap either over or under it.

Gradually, the two barrages approached each other until they finally
met, and in the gray dawn the battle ended.

Our own casualties amounted to forty-seven men in the ground forces,
eighteen of whom had been slain in hand-to-hand fighting with the few
of the enemy who managed to reach our lines, and sixty-two in the crew
and "kite tail" force of swooper No.4, which had been located by one
of the enemy's ultroscopes and brought down with long-gun fire.

Since nearly every member of the Sinsing Gang had so far as we knew,
been killed, we considered the raid a great success.

It had, however, a far greater significance than this. To all of us
who took part in the expedition, the effectiveness of our barrage
tactics definitely established a confidence in our ability to overcome
the Hans.

As I pointed out to Wilma:

"It has been my belief all along, dear, that the American explosive
rocket is a far more efficient weapon than the dis ray of the Hans,
once we can train all our gang to use it systematically and in
co-ordinated fashion. As a weapon in the hands of a single individual,
shooting at a mark in direct line of vision, the rocket-gun is
inferior in destructive power to the dis ray, except as its range may
be a little greater. The trouble is that to date it has been used only
as we used our rifles and shotguns in the 20th Century. The
possibilities of its use as artillery, in laying barrages that advance
along the ground, or climb into the air, are tremendous.

"The dis ray inevitably reveals its source of emanation. The rocket
gun does not. The dis ray can reach its target only in a straight
line. The rocket may be made to travel in an arc, over intervening
obstacles, to an unseen target.

"Nor must we forget that our ultronists now are promising us a perfect
shield against the dis ray in inertron."

"I tremble though, Tony dear, when I think of the horrors that are
ahead of us. The Hans are clever. They will develop defenses against
our new tactics. And they are sure to mass against us not only the
full force of their power in America, but the united forces of the
World Empire."

"Nevertheless," I prophesied, "the Finger of Doom points squarely at
them today, and unless you and I are killed in the struggle, we shall
live to see America blast the Mongolian Blight from the face of the
Earth."



THE END




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