Project Gutenberg Australia
a treasure-trove of literature
treasure found hidden with no evidence of ownership

Title: The Airlords of Han
Author: Philip Francis Nowlan
* A Project Gutenberg of Australia eBook *
eBook No.: 0606931.txt
Language: English
Date first posted: September 2006
Date most recently updated: August 2007

This eBook was produced by: Richard Scott

Project Gutenberg of Australia eBooks are created from printed editions
which are in the public domain in Australia, unless a copyright notice
is included. We do NOT keep any eBooks in compliance with a particular
paper edition.

Copyright laws are changing all over the world. Be sure to check the
copyright laws for your country before downloading or redistributing this

This eBook is made available at no cost and with almost no restrictions
whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms
of the Project Gutenberg of Australia License which may be viewed online at

To contact Project Gutenberg of Australia go to

The Airlords of Han
Philip Francis Nowlan

CHAPTER I. The Airlords Besieged

In a previous record of my adventures in the early part of the Second
War of Independence I explained how I, Anthony Rogers, was overcome by
radioactive gases in an abandoned mine near Scranton in the year 1927,
where I existed in a state of suspended animation for nearly five
hundred years; and awakened to find that the America I knew had been
crushed under the cruel tyranny of the Airlords of Han, fierce
Mongolians, who, as scientists now contend, had in their blood a taint
not of this earth, and who with science and resources far in advance
of those of a United States, economically prostrate at the end of a
long series of wars with a Bolshevik Europe, in the year 2270 A.D.,
had swept down from the skies in their great airships that rode
"repeller rays" as a ball rides the stream of a fountain, and with
their terrible "disintegrator rays" had destroyed more than
four-fifths of the American race, and driven the other fifth to cover
in the vast forests which grew up over the remains of the once mighty
civilization of the United States.

I explained the part I played in the fall of the year 2419, when the
rugged Americans, with science secretly developed to terrific
efficiency in their forest fastness, turned fiercely and assumed the
aggressive against a now effete Han population, which for generations
had shut itself up in the fifteen great Mongolian cities of America,
having abandoned cultivation of the soil and the operation of mines;
for these Hans produced all they needed in the way of food, clothing,
shelter and machinery through electrono-synthetic processes.

I explained how I was adopted into the Wyoming Gang, or clan,
descendants of the original populations of Wilkes-Barre, Scranton and
the Wyoming Valley in Pennsylvania; how quite by accident I stumbled
upon a method of destroying Han aircraft by shooting explosive
rockets, not directly at the heavily armored ships, but at the
repeller ray columns, which automatically drew the rockets upward
where they exploded in the generators of the aircraft; how the
Wyomings threw the first thrill of terror into the Airlords by
bringing an entire squadron crashing to earth; how a handful of us in
a rocketship successfully raided the Han city of Nu-Yok; and how by
the application of military principles, I remembered from the First
World War, I was able to lead the Wyomings to victory over the
Sinsings, a Hudson River tribe which had formed a traitorous alliance
with the hereditary enemies and oppressors of the White Race in

* * * *

By the Spring of 2420 A.D., a short six months after these events, the
positions of the Yellow and the White Races in America had been
reversed. The hunted were now the hunters. The Hans desperately were
increasing the defenses of their fifteen cities, around each of which
the American Gangs had drawn a widely deployed line of long-gunners.
Nervous air convoys, closely bunched behind their protective screen of
disintegrator beams, kept up sporadic and costly systems of
transportation between the cities.

During this period our own campaign against the Hans of Nu-Yok was
fairly typical of the development of the war throughout the country.
Our force was composed of contingents from most of the Gangs of
Pennsylvania, Jersey and New England. We encircled the city on a wide
radius, our line running roughly from Staten Island to the forested
site of the Ancient City of Elizabeth, to First and Second Mountains
just west of the ruins of Newark, Bloomfield and Montclair, thence
northeasterly across the Hudson, and down to the Sound. On Long Island
our line was pushed forward to the first slopes of the hills.

We had no more than four long-gunners to the square mile in our first
line, but each of these was equal to a battery of heavy artillery such
as I had known in the First World War. And when their fire was first
concentrated on the Han City, they blew its outer walls and roof
levels into a chaotic mass of wreckage before the nervous Mongolian
engineers could turn on the ring of generators which surrounded the
city with a vertical film of dis rays. Our explosive rockets could not
penetrate this film, for it disintegrated them instantly and
harmlessly, as it did all other material substance with the sole
exception of inertron.

The continuous operation of the disintegrators destroyed the air and
maintained a constant vacuum wherever they played, into which the
surrounding air continuously rushed, naturally creating atmospheric
disturbances after a time, which resulted in a local storm. This,
however, ceased after a number of hours, when the flow of air toward
the city became steady.

The Hans suffered severely from atmospheric conditions inside their
city at first, but later rearranged their disintegrator ring in a
system of overlapping films that left diagonal openings, through which
the air rushed to them, and through which their ships emerged to scout
our positions.

We shot down seven of their cruisers before they realized the folly of
floating individually over our invisible line. Their beams traced
paths of destruction like scars across the countryside, but caught
less than half a dozen of our gunners all told, for it takes a lot of
time to sweep every square foot of a square mile with a beam whose
cross section is not more than twenty or twenty-five feet in diameter.
Our gunners, completely concealed beneath the foliage of the forest,
with weapons which did not reveal their position, as did the flashes
and detonation of the Twentieth Century artillery, hit their repeller
rays with comparative ease.

The "drop ships," which the Hans next sent out, were harder to handle.
Rising to immense heights behind the city's disintegrator wall, these
tiny, projectile-like craft slipped through the rifts in the cylinders
of destruction, and then turning off their repeller rays, dropped at
terrific speed until their small vanes were sufficient to support them
as they volplaned in great circles, shooting back into the city
defenses at a lower level.

The great speed of these craft made it almost impossible to register a
direct hit against them with rocket guns, and they had no repeller
rays at which we might shoot while they were over our lines.

But by the same token they were able to do little damage to us. So
great was the speed of a drop ship, that the only way in which it
could use a disintegrator ray was from a fixed generator in the nose
of the structure as it dropped in a straight line toward its target.
But since they could not sight the widely deployed individual gunners
in our line, their scouting was just as ineffective as our attempts
were to shoot them down.

For more than a month the situation remained a deadlock, with the Hans
locked up in their cities, while we mobilized gunners and supplies.

Had our stock of inertron been sufficiently great at this period, we
could have ended the war quickly, with aircraft impervious to the dis
ray. But the production of inertron is a painfully slow process,
involving the building up of this weightless element from ultronic
vibrations through the subelectronic, electronic and atomic states
into molecular form. Our laboratories had barely begun production on a
quantity basis, for we had just learned how to protect them from Han
air raids, and it would be many months more before the supply they had
just started to manufacture would be finished. In the meantime we had
enough for a few aircraft, for jumping belts and a small amount of

We Wyomings possessed one swooper completely sheathed with inertron
and counterweighted with ultron. The Altoonas and the Lycomings also
had one apiece. But a shielded swooper, while impervious to the dis
ray, was helpless against squadrons of Han aircraft, for the Hans
developed a technique of playing their beams underneath the swooper in
such fashion as to suck it down flutteringly into the vacuum so
created, until they brought it more or less violently to earth.

Ultimately the Hans broke our blockade to a certain extent, when they
resumed traffic between their cities in great convoys, protected by
squadrons of cruisers in vertical formation, playing a continuous
crossfire of disintegrator beams ahead of them and down on the sides
in a most effective screen; it was very difficult for us to get a
rocket through to the rep rays.

But we lined the scar paths beneath their air routes for miles at a
stretch with concealed gunners, some of whom would sooner or later
register hits, and it was seldom that a convoy made the trip between
Nu-Yok and Boss-Tan, Bah-Flo, Si-kaga or Ahlanah without losing
several of its ships.

Hans who reached the ground alive were never taken prisoner. Not even
the splendid discipline of the Americans could curb the wild hate
developed through centuries of oppression, and the Hans were
mercilessly slaughtered, when they did not save us the trouble by
committing suicide.

Several times the Hans drove "air wedges" over our lines in this
vertical or "cloud bank" formation, ploughing a scar path a mile or
more wide through our positions. But at worst, to us, this did not
mean the loss of more than a dozen men and girls, and generally their
raids cost them one or more ships. They cut paths of destruction
across the map, but they could not cover the entire area; when they
had ploughed out over our lines, there was nothing left for them to do
but to turn around and plough back to Nu-Yok. Our lines closed up
again after each raid, and we continued to take heavy toll from
convoys and raiding fleets. Finally they abandoned these tactics.

So at the time of which I speak, the Spring of 2420 A.D., the
Americans and the Hans were temporarily at pretty much of a deadlock.
But the Hans were as desperate as we were sanguine, for we had time on
our side.

It was at this period that we first learned of the Airlords'
determinations--very unpopular one with their conscripted
populations--to carry the fight to us on the ground. The time had
passed when command of the air meant victory. We had no visible cities
nor massed bodies of men for them to destroy, nothing but vast
stretches of silent forests and hills, where our forces lurked,
invisible from the air.

CHAPTER II. The Ground Ships Threaten

One of our Wyoming girls, on contact guard near Pocono, blundered into
a hunting camp of the Bad Bloods, which occupied the Blue Mountain
section North of Delaware Water Gap. We had not invited their
cooperation in this campaign, for they were under some suspicion of
having trafficked with the Hans in past years, but they had offered no
objection to our passage through their territory in our advance on

Fortunately our contact guard had been able to leap into the upper
branches of a tree without being discovered by the Bad Bloods, for
their discipline was lax and their guard careless. She overheard
enough of the conversation of their Bosses around the campfire beneath
her to indicate the nature of the Han plans.

After several hours she was able to leap away unobserved through the
topmost branches of the trees, and after putting several miles between
herself and their camp, she ultrophoned a full report to her Contact
Boss back in the Wyoming Valley. My own Ultrophone Field Boss picked
up the message and brought the graph record of it to me at once.

Her report was likewise picked up by the Bosses of the various Gang
units in our line, and we had called a council to discuss our plans by
word of mouth.

We were gathered in a sheltered glade on the eastern slope of First
Mountain on a balmy night in May. Far to the east, across the forested
slopes of the lowlands, the flat stretches of open meadow and the
rocky ridge that once had been Jersey City, the iridescent glow of
Nu-Yok's protecting film, of annihilation shot upward, gradually fading
into a starry sky.

In the faint glow of our ultronolamps, I made out the great figure and
rugged features of Boss Casaman, commander of the Mifflin unit, and
the gray uniform of Boss Warn, who led the Sandsnipers of the Barnegat
Beaches, and who had swooped over from his headquarters on Sandy Hook.
By his side stood Boss Koban of the Winslows, a Gang from Central
Jersey. In the group also were the leaders of the Altoonas, the
Camerons, the Lycomings, Susquannas, Harshbargs, Hagerduns, Chesters,
Reddings, Delawares, Elmirans, Kiugas, Hudsons and Connedigas.

Most of them were clad in forest-green uniforms that showed black at
night, but each had some distinctive badge or item of uniform or
equipment that distinguished his Gang.

Both the Mifflin and Altoona bosses, for instance, wore heavy-looking
boots with jointed knees. They came from sections that were not only
mountains, but rocky, where "leaping" involves many a slip and bruised
limb, unless some protection of this sort is worn. But these boots
were not as heavy as they looked, being counter-balanced somewhat with

The headgear of the Winslows was quite different from the
close-fitting helmet of the Wyomings, being large and busy-looking, for in
the Winslow territory, there were many stretches of nearly bare land,
with occasional scrubby pines. A Winslow caught in the open, on the
approach of a Han airship, would twist himself into a motionless
imitation of a scrubby plant, that passed very successfully for the
real thing, when viewed from several thousand feet in the air.

The Susquarmas had a unit that was equipped with inertron shields,
that were of the same shape as those of the ancient Romans, but much
larger, and capable of concealing their bearers from head to foot when
they crouched slightly. These shields, of course, were colored forest
green, and were irregularly shaded; they were balanced with inertron,
so that their effective weight was only a few ounces. They were
curious too, in that they had handles for both hands, and two small
reservoir rocket guns built into them as integral parts.

In going into action, the Susquarmas crouched slightly, holding the
shields before them with both hands, looking through a narrow vision
slit, and working both rocket guns. The shields, however, were a great
handicap in leaping, and in advancing through heavy forest growth.

The field unit of the Delawares was also heavily armored. It was one
of the most efficient bodies of shock troops in our entire line. They
carried circular shields, about three feet in diameter, with a vision
slit and a small rocket gun. These shields were held at arm's length
in the left hand on going into action. In the right hand was carried
an axe-gun, an affair not unlike the battleaxe of the Middle Ages. It
was about three feet long. The shaft consisted of a rocket gun, with
an axe-blade near the muzzle, and a spike at the other end. It was a
terrible weapon. Jointed leg-guards protected the axe-gunner below the
rim of his shield, and a hemispherical helmet, the front section of
which was of transparent ultron reaching down to the chin, completed
his equipment.

The Susquannas also had a long-gun unit in the field.

One company of my Wyomings I had equipped with a weapon which I
designed myself. It was a long-gun which I had adapted for bayonet
tactics such as American troops used in the First World War, in the
Twentieth Century. It was about the length of the ancient rifle, and
was fitted with a short knife bayonet. The stock, however, was
replaced by a narrow axe-blade and a spike. It had two hand-guards
also. It was fired from the waist position.

In hand-to-hand work one lunged with the bayonet in a vicious,
swinging up-thrust, following through with an up-thrust of the
axe-blade as one rushed in on one's opponent, and then a down-thrust of
the butt-spike, developing into a down-slice of the bayonet, and a
final upward jerk of the bayonet at the throat and chin with a
shortened grip on the barrel, which had been allowed to slide through
the hands at the completion of the down-slice.

I almost regretted that we would not find ourselves opposed to the
Delaware axe-men in this campaign, so curious was I to compare the
efficiency of the two bodies.

But both the Delawares and my own men were elated at the news that the
Hans intended to fight it out on the ground at last, and the prospect
that we might in consequence come to close quarters with them.

Many of the Gang Bosses were dubious about our Wyoming policy of
providing our fighters with no inertron armor as protection against
the disintegrator ray of the Hans. Some of them even questioned the
value of all weapons intended for hand-to-hand fighting.

As Warn of the Sandsnipers put it: "You should be in a better position
that anyone, Rogers, with your memories of the Twentieth Century, to
appreciate that between the super-deadliness of the rocket gun and of
the dis ray there will never be any opportunity for hand-to-hand work.
Long before the opposing forces could come to grips, one or the other
will be wiped out."

But I only smiled, for I remembered how much of this same talk there
was five centuries ago, and that it was even predicted in 1914 that no
war could last more than six months.

That there would be hand-to-hand work before we were through, and in
plenty, I was convinced; so every able-bodied youth I could muster was
enrolled in my infantry battalion and spent most of his time in
vigorous bayonet practice. And for the same reason I had discarded the
idea of armor. I felt it would be clumsy, and questioned its value.
True, it was an absolute bar against the dis ray, but of what use
would that be if a Han ray found a crevice between overlapping plates,
or if the ray was used to annihilate the very earth beneath the
wearer's feet?

The only protective equipment that I thought was worth a whoop was a
very peculiar device with which a contingent of five hundred Altoonas
was supplied. They called it the "umbra-shield." It was a bell-shaped
affair of inertron, counterweighted with ultron, about eight feet
high. The gunner, who walked inside it, carried it easily with two
shoulder straps. There were handles inside too, by which the gunner
might more easily balance it when running, or lift it to clear any
obstructions on the ground.

In the apex of the affair, above his head, was a small turret
containing an automatic rocket gun. The periscopic gunsight and the
controls were on a level with the operator's eyes. In going into
action he could, after taking up his position, simply stoop until the
rim of the umbra-shield rested on the ground, or else slip off the
shoulder straps, and stand there, quite safe from the dis ray, and
work his gun.

But again, I could not see what was to prevent the Hans from slicing
underneath it, instead of directly at it, with their rays.

As I saw it, any American who was unfortunate enough to get in the
direct path of a dis ray, was almost certain to "go out," unless he
was locked up tight in a complete shell of inertron, as for instance,
in an inertron swooper. It seemed to me better to concentrate all our
efforts on tactics of attack, trusting to our ability to get the Hans
before they got us.

I had one other main unit besides my bayonet battalion--a long-gun
contingent composed entirely of girls, as were my scout units and most
of my auxiliary contingents. These youngsters had been devoting
themselves to target practice for months, and had developed a fine
technique of range finding and the various other tactics of Twentieth
Century massed artillery, to which was added the scientific perfection
of the rocket guns and an average mental alertness that would have put
the artilleryman of the First World War to shame.

From the information our contact guard had obtained, it appeared that
the Hans had developed a type of "groundship" completely protected by
dis ray "canopy" that was operated from a short mast, and spread down
around it as a cone.

These ships were merely adaptations of their airships, and were
designed to travel but a few feet above the ground. Their rep rays
were relatively weak, just strong enough to lift them about ten or
twelve feet from the surface. Hence they would draw but lightly upon
the power broadcast from the city, and great numbers of them could be
used. A special ray at the stem propelled them, and an extralift ray
in the bow enabled them to nose up over ground obstacles. Their most
formidable feature was the cone-shaped "canopy" of short range dis
rays designed to spread down around them from a circular generator at
the tip of a twenty-foot mast amidships. This would annihilate any
projectile shot at it, for nothing could reach the ship without
passing through the cone of rays.

It was instantly obvious that the groundships would prove to be the
"tanks" of the Twenty-fifth Century. They were protected with a
sheathing of annihilating rays instead of with steel, and would have
about the same handicaps and advantages as tanks, except that since
they would float lightly on short rep rays, they could hardly resort
to the destructive crushing tactics of the tanks of the First World

As soon as our first supplies of inertron-sheathed rockets came
through, their invulnerability would be at an end, as indeed would be
that of the Han cities themselves. But these projectiles were not yet
out of the factories.

In the meantime, however, the groundships would be hard to handle.
Each of them we understood would be equipped with a thin long-range
dis ray, mounted in a turret at the base of the mast.

We had no information as to the probable tactics of the Hans in the
use of these ships. One sure method of destroying them would be to
bury mines in their path, too deep for the penetration of their
protecting canopy, which would not, our engineers estimated, cut
deeper than about three feet a second. But we couldn't ring Nu-Yok
with a continuous mine on a radius of from five to fifteen or twenty
miles. Nor could we be certain beforehand of the direction of their

In the end, after several hours' discussion, we agreed on a flexible
defense. Rather than risk many lives, we would withdraw before them,
test their effectiveness and familiarize ourselves with the tactics
they adopted. If possible, we would send engineers in, behind them
from the Ranks, to lay mines in the probable path of their return,
providing their first attack proved to be a raid rather than an
advance to consolidate new positions.

CHAPTER III. We "Sink" the Ground Ships

Boss Koban of the Winslows, a giant of a man, a two-fisted fighter and
a leader of great sagacity, had been selected by the council as our
Boss Protein, and having given the scatter signal to the Council he
retired to our general headquarters which we had established on Second
Mountain, a few miles in the rear of the fighting front in a deep

There, in quarters cut far below the surface, he would observe every
detail of the battle on the wonderful system of viewplates our ultrono
engineers had constructed through a series of relays from ultroscope
observation posts and individual cameramen.

Two hours before dawn our long distance scopemen reported a squadron
of groundships leaving the enemy's disintegrator wall, and heading
rapidly somewhat to the south of us, toward the site of the ancient
city of Newark. The ultroscopes could detect no canopy operation. This
in itself was not significant, for they were penetrating hills in
their lines of vision, most of them, which of course blurred their
pictures to a slight extent. But by now we had a well-equipped
electronoscope division, with instruments nearly equal to those of the
Hans themselves; and these could detect no evidence of rays in

Koban appreciated our opportunity instantly, for no sooner had the
import of the message on the Bosses' channel become clear than we
heard his personal command snapped out over the long-gunners' general

Nine hundred and seventy long-gunners on the south and west sides of
the city, concealed in the dark fastnesses of the forests and
hillsides, leaped to their guns, switched on their dial lights, and
flipped the little lever combinations on their pieces that
automatically registered them on the predetermined position of map
section HM-243-839 setting their magazines for twenty shots, and
pressing their fire buttons.

For what seemed an interminable instant nothing happened.

Then several miles to the southeast, an entire section of the country
literally blew up, in a fiery eruption that shot a mile into the air.
The concussion, when it reached me, was terrific. The light was

And our scopemen reported the instant annihilation of the squadron.

What happened, of course, was this: the Hans knew nothing of our
ability to see at night through our ultroscopes. Regarding itself as
invisible in the darkness, and believing our instruments would not
pick up its location until its dis rays went into operation, the
squadron made the fatal error of not turning on its canopies.

To say that consternation overwhelmed the Han high command would be
putting it mildly. Despite their use of code and other protective
expedients, we picked up enough of their messages to know that the
incident badly demoralized them.

Their next attempt was made in daylight. I was aloft in my swooper at
the time, hanging motionless about a mile up. Below, the groundships
looked like a number of oval lozenges gliding across a map, each
surrounded by a circular halo of luminescence that was its dis ray

They had nosed up over the spiny ridge of what once had been Jersey
City, and were moving across the meadowlands. There were twenty of

Coming to the darker green that marked the forest on the "Map" below
me, they adopted a wedge formation, and by playing their pencil rays
ahead of them, they began to beam a path for themselves through the
forest. In my ears sounded the ultrophone instructions of my
executives to the long-gunners in the forest, and one by one I heard
the girls report their rapid retirement with their guns and other
inertron-lightened equipment, I located several of them with my
scopes, with which I could, of course, focus through the leafy screen
above them, and noted with satisfaction the unhurried speed of their

On ploughed the Han wedge, while my girls separated before it and
retired to the sides. With a rapidity much greater than that of the
ships themselves, the beams penetrated deeper and deeper into the
forest, playing continuously in the same direction, literally melting
their way through, as a stream of hot water might melt its way through
a snow bank.

Then a curious thing happened. One of the ships near one wing of the
wedge must have passed over unusually soft ground, or perhaps some
irregularity in the control of its canopy generator made it dig deeper
into the earth ahead of it. It gave a sudden downward lurch, and on
coming up out of it, swerved a bit to one side, its offense beam
slicing full into the ship echeloned to the left ahead of it. That
ship--all but a few plates on one side--instantly vanished from sight.
But the squadron could not stop. As soon as a ship stood still, its
canopy ray playing continuously in one spot, the ground around it was
annihilated to a continuously increasing depth. A couple of them
tried, but within a space of seconds, they had dug such deep holes
around themselves that they had difficulty in climbing out. Their
commanders, however, had the foresight to switch off their offense
rays, and so damaged no more of their comrades.

I switched in with my ultrophone on Boss Koban's channel, intending to
report my observation, but found that one of our swooper scouts, who,
like myself, was hanging above the Hans, was ahead of me. Moreover, he
was reporting a suddenly-developed idea.

"Those ships can't climb out of deep holes, Boss," he was saying
excitedly. "Lay a big barrage against them, not on them--in front of
them--always in front of them. Pull it back as they come on. But churn
hell out of the ground in front of them! Get the rocketmen to make a
penetrative time rocket. Shoot it into the ground in front of them,
deep enough to be below their canopy ray, see, and detonate under them
as they go over it!"

I heard Koban's roar of exultation as I switched off again to order a
barrage from my Wyoming girls. Then I threw my rocket motor to full
speed and shot off a mile to one side, and higher, for I knew that
soon there would be a boiling eruption below.

No smoke interfered with my view of it, for our atomic explosive was
smokeless in its action. A line of blinding, flashing fire appeared in
front of the groundship wedge. The ships ploughed with calm
determination toward it, but it withdrew before them, not steadily,
but jerkily intermittent, so that the ground became a series of
gigantic lumps, ridges and shell holes. Into these the Han ships
wallowed, plunging ponderously, yet not daring to stop while their
protective canopy rays played, not daring to shut off these active

One overturned. Our observers reported it. The result was a hail of
rocket shells directly on the squadron. These could not penetrate the
canopies of the other ships, but the one which had turned turtle was
blown to fragments.

The squadron attempted to change its course and dodge the barrier in
front of it. But a new barrier of blazing detonations and churned
earth appeared on its flanks. In a matter of minutes it was ringed
around, thanks to the skill of our fire control.

One by one the wallowing ships plunged into holes from which they
could not extricate themselves. One by one their canopy rays were shut
off, or the ships somersaulted off the knolls on which they perched,
as their canopies melted the ground away from around them. So one by
one they were destroyed.

Thus the second ground sortie of the Hans was annihilated.

CHAPTER IV. Han Electrono-Ray Science

At this period the Hans of Nu-Yok had only one airship equipped with
their new armored rep ray, their latest defense against our tactics of
shooting rockets into the repeller rays and letting the latter hurl
them up against the ships. They had developed a new steel alloy of
tremendous strength, which passed their rep ray with ease, but was
virtually impervious to our most powerful explosives. Their supplies
of this alloy were limited, for it could be produced only in the
Lo-Tan shops; it was only there that they could develop the degree of
electronic power necessary for its manufacture.

This ship shot out toward our lines just as the last of the
groundships turned turtle and was blown to pieces. As it approached,
the rockets of our invisible and widely scattered gunners in the
forest below began to explode beneath its rep ray plates. The
explosions made the great ship plunge and roll mightily, but otherwise
did it no serious harm that I could see, for it was very heavily

Occasionally rockets fired directly at the ship would find their mark
and tear gashes in its side and bottom plates, but these hits were
few. The ship was high in the air, and a far more difficult target
than were its rep ray columns. To hit the latter, our gunners had only
to gauge their aim vertically. Range could be practically ignored,
since the rep ray at any point above two-thirds the distance from the
earth to the ship, would automatically hurl the rocket upward against
the rep ray plate.

As the ship sped toward us, rocking, plunging, and recovering, it
began to beam the forest below. It was equipped with a superbeam, too,
which cut a swathe nearly a hundred feet wide wherever it played.

With visions of many a life snuffed out below me, I surrendered to the
impulse to stage a single-handed attack on this ship, feeling quite
secure in my floating shell of inertron. I nosed up vertically, and
rocketed for a position above the ship. Then as I climbed upward, as
yet unobserved in my tiny craft that was scarcely larger than myself,
I trained my ultroscope on the Han ship, focusing through to a view of
its interior.

Much as I had imbibed of this generation's hatred for the Hans, I was
forced to admire them for the completeness and efficiency of this
marvelous craft of theirs.

Constantly twirling the controls of my scope to hold the focus, I
examined its interior from nose to stern.

* * * *

It may be of interest at this point to give the reader a layman's
explanation of the electronic or ionic machinery of these ships, and
of their general construction. The reader who is not interested in
technical details can skip this chapter.

Back in the Twentieth Century I had, like literally millions of
others, dabbled a bit in "radio" as we called it then, the science of
the Hans was simply the super-development of "electricity," "radio,"
and "broadcasting."

It must be understood that this explanation of mine is not technically
accurate, but only what might be termed an illustrative approximation.

The Hans' power-stations used to broadcast three distinct "powers"
simultaneously. Our engineers called them the "starter," the "pullee"
and the "sub-disintegrator." The last named had nothing to do with the
operation of the ships, but was exclusively the powerizer of the
disintegrator generators.

The "starter" was not unlike the "radio" broadcasts of the Twentieth
Century. It went out at a frequency of about 1,000 kilocycles, had an
amperage of approximately zero, but a voltage of two billion. Properly
amplified by the use of inducto-static batteries (a development of the
principle underlying the earth induction compass applied to the
control of static) this current energized the "A" ionomagnetic coils
on the airships--large and sturdy affairs, which operated the
Attractoreflex Receivers, which in turn "pulled in" the second
broadcast power known as the "pullee"--absorbing it from every
direction, literally exhausting it from surrounding space. The
"pullee" came in at about a half-billion volts, but in very heavy
amperage, proportional to the capacity of the receiver, and on a long
wave--at audio frequency in fact. About half of this power reception
ultimately actuated the repeller ray generators. The other half was
used to energize the "B" ionomagnetic coils, peculiarly wound affairs,
whose magnetic fields constituted the only means of insulating and
controlling the circuits of the three powers.

The rep ray generators, operating on this current, and in conjunction
with "twin synchronizers" in the power broadcast plant, developed two
rhythmically variable ether-ground circuits of opposite polarity. In
the "Y" circuit, the negative was grounded along an ultraviolet beam
from the ship's rep ray generator. The positive connection was through
the ether to the "Y" synchronizer in the power plant, whose opposite
pole was grounded. The "Y" circuit traveled the same course, but in
the opposite direction.

The rhythmic variables of these two opposing circuits, as nearly as I
can understand it, in heterodyning, created a powerful material "push"
from the earth, up along the violet ray beam against the rep ray
generator and against the two synchronizers at the power plant.

This push developed molecularly from the earth-mass--resultant to the
generator and at the same fractional distance from the rep ray
generator to the power plant. The force exerted upward against the
ship was, of course, highly concentrated, being confined to the path
of the ultraviolet beam. Air or any other material substance, coming
within the indicated section of the beam, was thrown violently upward.
The ships actually rode on columns of air thus forcefully up thrown.
Their "home berths" and "Stations" were constructed with air pits
beneath. When they rose from ordinary ground in open country, there
was a vast upheaval of earth beneath their generators at the instant
of take-off; this, of course, ceased as they got well above ground

Equal pressure to the lifting power of the generator was exerted
against the synchronizers at the power plant, but this force, not
being concentrated directionally along an ultraviolet beam, involved a
practical problem only at points relatively close to the

Of course the synchronizers were automatically controlled by the
operation of the generators, and only the two were needed for any
number of ships drawing power from the station, providing their
protection was rugged enough to stand the strain.

Actually, they were isolated in vast spherical steel chambers with
thick walls, so that nothing but air pressure would be hurled against
them; and this, of course, would be self-neutralizing, coming as it
did from all directions.

The "sub-disintegrator power" reached the ships as an ordinary
broadcast reception at a negligible amperage, but from one to 500
"quints" (quintillions) voltage, controllable only by the fields of
the "B" ionomagnetic coils. It had wavelength of about ten meters. In
the dis ray generator, this wavelength was broken up into an almost
unbelievably high frequency and became a directionally controlled wave
of an infinitesimal fraction of an inch. This wave length, actually
identical with the diameter of an electron--that is to say, being
accurately "tuned" to an electron--disrupted the orbital paths and
balanced pulsations of the electrons within the atom, so
desynchronizing them as to destroy polarity balance of the atom and
causing it to cease to exist as an atom. It was in this way that the
ray reduced matter to "nothingness."

This destruction of the atom, and a limited power for its
reconstruction under certain conditions, marked the utmost progress of
the Han science.

CHAPTER V. American Ultra-Sonic Science

Our own engineers, working in shielded laboratories far underground,
had established such control over the "de-atomized" electrons as to
dissect them in their turn into sub-electrons. Moreover, they had
carried through the study of this "order" to the point where they
finally "dissected" the sub-electron into its component ultrons, for
the fundamental laws underlying these successive orders are not
radically dissimilar. And as they progressed, they developed
constructive as well as destructive practice. Hence the great triumphs
of ultron and inertron, our two wonderful synthetic elements, built up
from super-balanced and sub-balanced ultronic whorls, through the
sub-electronic order into the atomic and molecular.

Hence, also, come our relatively simple and beautifully efficient
ultrophones and ultroscopes, which in their phonic and visual
operation penetrate obstacles of material, electronic and
sub-electronic nature without let or hindrance, and with the consumption
of but infinitesimal power.

Static disturbance, I should explain, is negligible in the sub-electronic
order, and non-existent in the ultronic.

The pioneer expeditions of our engineers into the ultronic order, I am
told, necessitated the use of most elaborate, complicated and delicate
apparatus, as well as the expenditure of most costly power; but once
established there, all necessary power is developed very simply from
tiny batteries composed of thin plates of metultron and katultron.
These two stances, developed synthetically in much the same manner as
ordinary ultron, exhibit dual phenomena which for sake of illustration
I may compare with certain of the phenomena of radioactivity. As
radium is constantly giving off electronic emanations and changing its
atomic structure thereby, so katultron is constantly giving off
ultronic emanations, and so changing its sub-electronic form.
Metultron, its complement, is constantly attracting and absorbing
ultronic values, and so changing its sub-electronic nature in the
opposite direction. Thin plates of these two substances, when placed
properly in juxtaposition, with insulating plates of inertron between,
constitute a battery which generates an ultronic current.

And it is a curious parallel that just as there were many mysteries
connected with the nature of electricity in the Twentieth Century
(mysteries which, I might mention, never have been solved,
notwithstanding our penetration into the "sub-" orders) so there are
certain mysteries about the ultronic current. It will flow, for
instance, through an ultron wire, from the katultron to the metultron
plate, as electricity will flow through a copper wire. It will short
circuit between the two plates if the inertron insulation is
imperfect. When the insulation is perfect, however, and no ultron
metallic circuit is complete, the "current" (apparently the same that
would flow through the metallic circuit) is projected into space in an
absolutely straight line from the katultron plate, and received from
space by the metultron plate on the same line. This line is the
theoretical straight line passing through the mass-center of each
plate. The shapes and angles of the plates have nothing to do with it,
except that the perpendicular distance of the plate edges from the
mass-center line determines the thickness of the beam of parallel

Thus, a simple battery may be used either as a sender or receiver of
current. Two batteries adjusted to the same center line become
connected in series just as if they were connected by ultron wires.

In actual practice, however, two types of batteries are used: foco
batteries and broadcast batteries.

Foco batteries are thin batteries, arranged to shoot a positive and a
negative beam in the same direction. When these beams are made
intermittent at light frequencies (though they are not light waves,
nor of the same order as light waves) and are brought together, or
focused, at a given spot, the space in which they cross radiates
alternating ultronic current in every direction. This radiated
ultralight acts like true light so long as the crossing beams vibrate
at light frequencies, except in three respects: first, it is not
visible to the eye; second, its "color" is exclusively dependent on
the frequency of the foco beams, which determine the frequency of the
alternating radiation. Material surfaces, it would appear, reflect
them all in equal value, and the color of the resultant picture
depends on the color of the foco frequencies. By alternating these, a
reddish, yellowish, or bluish picture may be seen. In actual practice
in orthochromatic mixture of frequencies is used to give a black, gray
and white picture. The third difference is this: rays pulsating in
line toward any ultron object connected with the rear plates of the
twin batteries through rectifiers cannot be reflected by material
objects. It appears they are subject to a kind of "pull" which draws
them straight through material objects, which in a sense are
"magnetized" and while in this state offer no resistance.

Ultron, when so connected with battery terminals, glows with true
light under the impact of ultra-light, and if in the form of a lens or
set of lenses, may be made to deliver a picture in any telescopic
degree desired.

The essential parts of an ultroscope, then, are twin batteries with
focal control and frequency control; an ultron shield, battery
connected and adjustable, to intercept the direct rays from the
glow-spot, with an ordinary light-shield between it and the lens; and the
lens itself, battery connected and with more or less telescopic

To look through a substance at an object, one has only to focus the
glow-spot beyond the substance but on the near side of the object and
slightly above it.

A complete apparatus may be set for "penetrative," "distance" and the
"normal vision."

In the first which one would use to look through the forest screen
from the air, or in examining the interior of a Han ship or any opaque
structure, the "glow-spot" is brought low, at only a tiny angle above
the vision line, and the shield, of course, must be very carefully

"Distance" setting would be used, for instance, in surveying a valley
beyond a hill or mountain; the glow-spot is thrown high to illuminate
the entire scene.

In the normal setting the foco rays are brought together close
overhead, and illuminate the scene just as a lamp of super brilliancy
would in the same position.

For phonic communication a spherical sending battery is a ball of
metultron, surrounded by an insulating shell of inertron, and this in
turn by a spherical shell of katultron; from this the current radiates
in every direction, tuning being accomplished by frequency of
intermissions, with audio-frequency modulation. The receiving battery
has a core pole of katultron and an outer shell of metultron. The
receiving battery, of course, picks up all frequencies, the undesired
ones being tuned out in detection.

Tuning, however, is only a convenience for privacy and elimination of
interference in ultrophonic communication. It is not involved as a
necessity, for untuned currents may be broadcast at voice controlled
frequencies, directly and without any carrier wave.

To use plate batteries or single center-line batteries for phonic
communication would require absolutely accurate directional aligning
of sender and receivers--very great practical difficulty, except when
sender and receiver are relatively close and mutually visible.

This, however, is the regular system used in the Inter-Gang network
for official communication. The senders and receivers used in this
system are set only with the greatest difficulty, and by the aid of
the finest laboratory apparatus. But once set, they are permanently
locked in position at the stations, and barring earthquakes or
insecure foundations, need no subsequent adjustment. Accuracy of
alignment permits beam paths no thicker than the old lead pencils I
used to use in the Twentieth Century.

The non-interference of such communication lines, and the difficulty of
cutting in on them from any point except immediately adjacent to the
sender or receiver, is strikingly apparent when it is realized that
every square inch of an imaginary plane bisecting the unlocated beam
would have to be explored with a receiving battery in order to locate
the beam itself.

A practical compromise between the spherical or universal broadcast
senders and receivers on the one hand and the single line batteries on
the other is the multi facet battery. Another, and more practical
device particularly for distance work, is the window-spherical. It is
merely an ordinary spherical battery with a shielding shell with an
opening of any desired size, from which directionally controlled beam
may be emitted in different forms--usually that simply of an expanding
cone with an angle of expansion sufficient to cover the desired
territory at the desired point of reception.

CHAPTER VI. An Unequal Duel

The ship I was examining was not unlike the great dirigibles of the
Twentieth Century in shape, except that it had no suspended control
car nor gondolas; no propellers and no rudders--aside from a
permanently fixed double fishtail stabilizer at the rear, and a number
of "keels" arranged so as to make the most of the repeller ray air-lift

Its width was probably twice as great as its depth, and its length
about twice its width. That is to say, it was about 100 feet from the
main keel to the top deck at their maximum distance from each other;
about 200 feet wide amidships; and between 400 and 500 feet long. It
had in addition to the top deck, three interior decks. In its general
curvature the ship was a compromise between a true streamline design
and a flattened cylinder.

For a distance of probably 75 to 100 feet back of the nose there were
no decks except that formed by the bottom of the hull. But from this
point back the decks ran to within a few feet of the stern.

At various spots on the hull curvature in this great "hollow nose"
were platforms from which the crews of the dis ray generators and the
electronoscope and electronophone devices manipulated their apparatus.

Into this space from the forward end of the center deck, projected the
control room. The walls, ceiling and floor of this compartment were
simply the surfaces of viewplates. There were no windows or other

The operation officers within the control room, so far as their vision
was concerned, might have imagined themselves suspended in space,
except for the transmitters, levers and other signaling devices around

Five officers, I understand, had their posts in the control room: the
captain, and the chiefs of scopes, phones, dis rays and navigation.
Each of these was in continuous interphone communication with his
subordinates in other posts throughout the ship. Each viewplate had
its phone connecting with its eye machines on the hull, the crews of
which would switch from telescopic to normal view at command.

There were, of course, many other viewplates at executive posts
throughout the ship.

The Hans followed a peculiar system in the command of their ships.
Each ship had a double complement of officers: Active Officers and
Base Officers. The former were in actual, active charge of the ship
and its apparatus. The latter remained at the ship base, at desks
equipped with viewplates, and phones, in constant communication with
their "correspondents," on the ship. They acted continuously as
consultants, observers, recorders and advisors during the flight or
action. Although not primarily accountable for the operation of the
ship, they were senior to, and in a sense responsible for the training
and efficiency of the Active Officers.

The ionomagnetic coils, which served as the casings, "plates" and
insulators of the gigantic condensers, were all located amidships on a
center line, reaching clear through from the top to the bottom of the
hull, and reaching from the forward to the rear rep ray generators--that
is, from points about 110 feet from bow and stern. The crew's
quarters were arranged on both sides of the coils. To the outside of
these, where the several decks touched the hull, were located the
various pieces of phone, scope and dis ray apparatus.

The ship into which I was gazing with my ultroscope (at a telescopic
and penetrative setting) carried a crew of perhaps 150 men all told. I
might have been tempted to believe I was looking on some Twenty-fifth
Century pleasure excursion, for there was no running around nor
appearance of activity.

The Hans loved their ease. Despite the fact that this was a warship,
every machine and apparatus in it was equipped with a complement of
seats and specially designed couches, in which officers and men
reclined as they gazed at their viewplates, and manipulated the little
sets of controls placed convenient to their hands.

The picture was a comic one to me, and I laughed, wondering how such
creatures had held Americans in complete subjection for centuries. But
my laugh died as my mind grasped at the obvious explanation. These
Hans were only soft physically. Mentally they were hard and hellishly

Impulsively I nosed my swooper down toward the ship and shot toward it
at full rocket power. I had acted so swiftly that I had covered nearly
half the distance toward the ship before my mind slowly drifted out of
the daze of my emotion. This proved my undoing. Their scopeman saw me
too quickly, for in heading directly at them I became easily visible,
appearing as a steady, expanding point. Looking through their hull, I
saw the crew of a dis ray generator come suddenly to attention. A
second later their beam engulfed me.

For an instant my heart stood still. But the inertron shell of my
swooper was impervious to the disintegrator ray. I was out of luck,
however, so far as my control over my tiny ship was concerned. I had
been hurtling in a direct line toward the ship when the beam found me.
Now, when I tried to swerve out of the beam, the swooper responded but
sluggishly to the shift I made in the rocket angle. I was, of course,
traveling straight down a beam of vacuum. As my craft slowly nosed to
the edge of the beam, the air rushing into this vacuum from all sides
threw it back in again.

Had I shot my ship across one of those beams at right angles, my
momentum would have carried me through with no difficulty. But I had
no momentum now, except in the line of the beam; and this being a
vacuum now, my momentum, under full rocket power, was vastly
increased. This realization gave me a second and more acute shock.
Would I be able to check my little craft in time--or would I, helpless
as a bullet itself, crash through the shell of the Han ship to my own

I shut off my rocket motor, but noticed no practical diminution of

It was the fear of the Hans themselves that saved me. Through my
ultroscope I saw sudden alarm on their faces, hesitation, a frantic
officer in the control room jabbering into his phone. Then shakily the
crew flipped their beam off to the side. The jar on my craft was
terrific. Its nose caught the rushing tumble of air first, of course,
and my tail sailing in a vacuum, swung around with a sickening wrench.
My swooper might as well have been a barrel in the tumult of waters at
the foot of Niagara. What was worse, the Hans kept me in that
condition. Three of their beams were now playing in my direction, but
not directly on me except for split seconds. Their technique was to
play their beams around me more than on me, jerking them this way and
that, so as to form vacuum pockets into which the air slapped and
roared as the beams shifted, tossing me around like a chip.

Desperately I tried to bring my craft under control, to point its nose
toward the Han ship and discharge an explosive rocket. Bitterly I
cursed my self-confidence, and my impulsive action. An experienced
pilot of the present age would have known better than to be caught
shooting straight down a dis ray beam. He would have kept his ship
shooting constantly at some angle to it, so that his momentum would
carry him across it if he hit it. Too late I realized that there was
more to the business of air fighting than instinctive skill in guiding
a swooper.

At last, when for a fraction of a second my nose pointed toward the
Hans, I pressed the button of my rocket gun. I registered a hit, but
not an accurate one; my projectile grazed an upper section of the
ship's hull. At that it did terrific damage. The explosion battered a
section about fifty feet in diameter, partially destroying the top

At the same instant I had shot my rocket, I had, in a desperate
attempt to escape that turmoil of tumbling air, released a catch and
dropped all that it was possible to drop of my ultron ballast. My
swooper shot upward, like a bubble streaking for the surface of water.

I was free of the trap in which I had been caught, but unable to take
advantage of the confusion which reigned on the Han ship.

I was as helpless to maneuver my ship now, in its up rush, as when I
had been tumbling in the air pockets. Moreover I was badly battered
from plunging around in my shell like a pellet in a box, and partially

I was miles in the air when I recovered myself. The swooper was steady
enough now but still rising, my instruments told me, and traveling in
a general westward direction at full speed. Far below me was a sea of
clouds, stretching from horizon to horizon and through occasional
breaks in its surface I could see still other seas of clouds at lower

CHAPTER VII. Captured!

Certainly my situation was no less desperate. Unless I could find some
method of compensating for my lost ballast, the inverse gravity of my
inertron ship would hurl me continuously upward until I shot forth
from the last air layer into space. I thought of jumping, and floating
down on my inertron belt, but I was already too high for this. The air
was too rarefied to permit breathing outside, though my little air
compressors were automatically maintaining the proper density within
the shell. If I could compress a sufficiently large quantity of air
inside the craft, I would add to its weight. But there seemed little
chance that I myself would be able to withstand sufficient

I thought of releasing my inertron belt, but doubted whether this
would be enough. Besides I might need the belt badly if I did find
some method of bringing the little ship down, and it came too fast.

At last a plan came into my half-numbed brain that had some promise of
success. Cutting one of the hose pipes on my air compressor, and
grasping it between my lips, I set to work to saw off the heads of the
rivets that held the entire nose section of the swooper. (Inertron
plates had to be grooved and riveted together, since the substance was
impervious to heat and could not be welded.) Desperately I sawed,
hammered and chiseled, until at last with a wrench and a snap, the
plate broke away.

The released nose of the ship shot upward; the rest began to drop with
me. How fast I dropped I do not know, for my instruments went with the
nose. Half fainting, I grimly clenched the rubber hose between my
teeth, while the little compressor carried on nobly--despite the
wrecked condition of the ship--giving me just enough air to keep my
lungs from collapsing.

At last I shot through a cloud layer, and a long time afterward, it
seemed, another. From the way in which they flashed up to meet me and
to appear away above me, I must have been dropping like a stone.

At last I tried the rocket motor, very gently, to check my fall. The
swooper was, of course, dropping tail first, and I had to be careful
lest it turn over with a sharp blast from the motor, and dump me out.

Passing beneath the third layer of clouds, I saw the earth beneath me.
Then I jumped, pulling myself up through the jagged opening and
leaping upward while the remains of my ship shot away below me.

On approaching the ground, I opened my chute-cape to further check my
fall, and landed lightly, with no further mishap. I promptly threw
myself down and slept. It was not until the next morning that I awoke
and gazed about me. I had come down in mountainous country. My
intention was to get my bearing by tuning headquarters with my
ultrophone. But to my dismay found that the little battery disks had
been torn from the earflaps of my helmet, though my chest-disk
transmitter was still in place, and so far as I could see, in working
order. I could report my experience, but could receive no reply.

I spent a half hour repeating my story and explanation on the
headquarters channel, then once more surveyed my surroundings, trying
to determine in which direction I had better leap. Then there came a
stab of pain on the top of my head, and I dropped unconscious.

I regained consciousness to find myself, much to my surprise, a
prisoner in the hands of a foot detachment of some thirty Hans. My
surprise was a double one: first that they had not killed me
instantly; second, that a detachment of them should be roaming this
wild country afoot, obviously far from any of their cities, and with
no ship hanging in the sky above them.

As I sat up, their officer grunted with satisfaction and growled a
guttural command. I was seized and pulled roughly to my feet by four
soldiers, and hustled along with the party into a wooded ravine,
through which we climbed sharply upward. I surmised--correctly as it
turned out--that some projectile had grazed my head, and I was in such
shape that if it had not been for the fact that my inertron belt bore
most of my weight, they would have had to carry me. But as it was I
made out well, and at the end of an hour's climb was beginning to feel
like myself again. The Han soldiers around me were puffing and
drooping as men will, no matter how healthy, when they are totally
unaccustomed to physical effort.

At length the party halted for a rest. I observed them curiously.
Except for a few brief exciting moments, I had seen no living
specimens of the enemy at close quarters.

They looked little like the Mongolians of the Twentieth Century. The
characteristic of the high cheek bones appeared to have been bred out
of them, and their skins were whiter than those of our own
weather-tanned forest men. They were well formed, but rather undersized and
soft looking, small muscled and smooth-skinned, like young girls.
Their features were finely chiseled, eyes beady, and nose slightly

They were uniformed, not in close-fitting green or other shade of
protective clothing, such as the unobtrusive gray of the Jersey
Beaches or the deadened russet of the autumn uniforms of our people.
Instead they wore loose fitting jackets of some silky material, and
loose knee pants. This particular command had been equipped with
form-moulded boots of some soft material that reached above the knee under
their pants. They wore circular hats with small crowns and wide rims.
Their loose jackets were belted at the waist, and each man carried a
knife, a short double-edged sword and what I took to be a form of
magazine rocket gun. It was a rather bulky affair, short barreled, and
with a pistol grip. It was obviously intended to be fired either from
the waist position or from some sort of support, like the old machine
guns. It looked, in fact, like a rather small edition of the Twentieth
Century arm.

And have I mentioned the color of their uniforms? Their circular hats
and pants were a bright yellow; their coats a flaming scarlet. What
targets they were!

I must have chuckled audibly at the thought, for their commander who
was seated on a folding stool one of his men had placed for him,
glanced in my direction. At his gesture of command I was prodded to my
feet; and, with my hands still bound--as they had been from the moment
I recovered consciousness--I was dragged before him.

The commander was smiling tauntingly at me. When he spoke, it was in
my own language.

"So! You beasts have learned to laugh. You have gotten out of control
in the last year or so, but that shall be remedied. In the meantime, a
simply little surgical operation would make your smile a permanent
one, reaching from ear to ear. But my orders are to deliver you and
your equipment, all we have of it, intact. The Heaven Born has had a

"And who," I asked, "is this Heaven Born?"

"San-Lan," he replied, "misbegotten spawn of the late High Priestess
Nlui-Mok, and now Most Glorious Air Lord of All the Hans." He rolled
out these titles with a bow of exaggerated respect toward the West,
and in a tone of mockery. Those of his men who were near enough to
hear, snickered and giggled.

I was to learn that this amazing attitude of his was typical rather
than exceptional. Strange as it may seem, no Han rendered any respect
to another, nor expected it in return--that is, not genuine respect.
The most elaborate courtesies were demanded and accorded among equals
and from inferiors to superiors, but every one of them recognized
these courtesies for what they were. They took pleasure in forcing one
another to go through with them, each trying to outdo the other in
cynical, sardonic thrusts, clothed in the most meticulously
ceremonious courtesy. As a matter of act, my captor, by this reference
to the origin of his ruler, was merely proving himself a crude fellow,
guilty of vulgarity rather than of a treasonable or disrespectful
remark. An officer of higher rank and better breeding would have
managed a clever innuendo.

I was about to ask him what part of the country we were in and where I
was to be taken, when one of his men came running to him with a little
portable electronophone, which he placed before him, with much bowing
and scraping.

He conversed through this for a while, and then condescended to give
me the information that a ship would soon be above us, and that I was
to be transferred to it. In telling me this, he managed to convey,
with crude attempts at mock-courtesy, that he and his men would feel
relieved to be rid of me as a menace to health and sanitation, and
would take exquisite joy in inflicting me upon the crew of the ship.

CHAPTER VIII. Hypnotic Torture

Some twenty minutes later the ship arrived. It settled down slowly
into the ravine on its rep rays until it was but a few feet above the
treetops. There it was stopped, and floated steadily, while a little
cage was let down on a wire. Into this I was hustled and locked,
whereupon the cage rose swiftly again to a hole in the bottom of the
hull, into which it fitted snugly, and I stepped into the interior of
a craft not unlike the one with which I had had my fateful encounter,
the cage being unlocked.

The cabin in which I was confined was not an outside compartment, but
was equipped with a number of viewplates.

The ship rose to a great height, and headed westward at such a speed
that the hum of the air past its smooth plates rose to a shrill,
almost inaudible moan. After a lapse of some hours we came in sight of
an impressive mountain range, which I correctly guessed to be the
Rockies. Swerving slightly, we headed down toward one of the topmost
pinnacles of the range, and there unfolded in one of the viewplates in
my cabin, a glorious view of Lo-Tan, the Magnificent, a fairy city of
glistening glass spires and iridescent colors, piled up on sheer walls
of brilliant blue, on the very top of this peak.

Nor was there any sheen of shimmering dis rays surrounding it, to
interfere with the sparkling sight. So far-flung were the defenses of
Lo-Tan, I found, that it was considered impossible for an American
rocket gunner to get within effective range. So numerous were the dis
ray batteries on the mountain peaks and in the ravines, in this
encircling line of defenses--drawn on a radius of no less than 100
miles--that even the largest of our inertron-sheathed aircraft, in the
opinion of the Hans, could easily be brought to earth through
air-pocketing tactics. And this, I was the more ready to believe after my
own recent experience.

I spent two months as a prisoner in Lo-Tan. I can honestly say that
during that entire time every attention was paid to my physical
comfort. Luxuries were showered upon me. But I was almost continuously
subjected to some form of mental torture or moral assault. Most
elaborately stage attempts at seduction were made upon me with drugs,
with women. Hypnotism was resorted to. Viewplates were faked to
picture to the complete rout of American forces all over the
continent. With incredible patience--and laboring under great
handicaps, in view of the vigor of the American offensive--the Han
intelligence department dug up the fact that somewhere in the forces
surrounding Nu-Yok, I had left behind me my bride of less than a year.
In some manner, I never could tell how, they discovered some likeness
of her, and faked an electronoscopic picture of her in the hands of
torturers in Nu-Yok. She was shown holding out her hands piteously
toward me, as though begging me to save her by surrender.

Surrender of what? Strangely enough, they never indicated that to me
directly; and to this day I do not know precisely what they expected
or hoped to get out of me. I surmise that it was information regarding
the American sciences.

There was, however, something about the picture of a woman in the
hands of the torturers that did not seem real to me, and my mind still
resisted. I remember gazing--staring eyes--at that picture, the sweat
pouring down my face, searching eagerly for some visible evidence of
fraud and being unable to find it. It was the identical likeness of
Wilma. Perhaps had my love for her been less great, I would have
succumbed. But all the while I knew subconsciously that this was not

But these were things that not even the most skilled of the Han
hypnotists and psychoanalysts could drag from me. Their intelligence
division also failed to pick up the fact that I was the product of the
Twentieth Century, and not the Twenty-fifth. Had they done so, it
might have made a difference. I have no doubt that some of their most
subtle mental assaults missed fire because of my own Twentieth Century
"denseness." Their hypnotists inflicted many horrifying nightmares on
me, and made me do and say many things that I would not have done in
my right senses. But even in the Twentieth Century we had learned that
hypnotism cannot make a person violate his fundamental concepts of
morality against his will, and steadfastly I steeled my will against

I have since thought that I was greatly aided by my newness to this
age. I have never, as a matter of fact, become entirely attuned to it.
And at the period of which I speak, I was less attuned than now to the
modern world. Real as my life was, and my love for my wife, there was
much about it all that was like a dream. In the midst of my tortures
by the Hans, this complex--this habit of many months--helped me to
tell myself that this, too, was all a dream, that I must not succumb,
for I would wake up in a moment.

And so they failed.

More than that, I think I won something nearer to genuine respect from
those around me than any other Hans of that generation accorded to

Among these was San-Lan himself, the ruler. In the end it was he who
ordered the cessation of these tortures, and quite frankly admitted to
me his conviction that they had been futile and that I was in many
senses a superman. Instead of having me executed, he continued to
shower luxuries and attentions on me, and frequently commanded my
attendance upon him.

Another was his favorite concubine, Ngo-Lan, a creature of the most
alluring beauty; young, graceful and most delicately seductive, whose
skill in the arts and sciences put many of their doctors to shame.
This creature, his most prized possession, San-Lan ordered to seduce
me. Had I not seen the horror of her soul, that she let creep into her
eyes for just one unguarded instant, and had it not been for my
conviction of Wilma's faith in me, I do not know what--but suffice it
to say that I resisted this assault also.

Had San-Lan only known it, he might have had a better chance of
breaking down my resistance through another bit of femininity in his
household, the little nine-year-old Princess Lu-an, his daughter.

I think San-Lan held something of real affection for this sprightly
little mite, who was the nearest thing to innocence I found in Lo-Tan.
But he did not realize this, and could not; San-Lan could not
understand the nature of my pity for this poor child, nor the fact
that it might have proved a weak spot in my armor. But had he done so,
I truly believe he would have been ready to inflict degradation,
torture and even death upon her, to make me surrender the information
he wanted.

Yet this man, product of a degraded race, had about him something of
true dignity, something of sincerity. There were times when he seemed
to sense vaguely, gropingly, wonderingly, that he might have a soul.

The Han philosophy for centuries had not admitted the existence of
souls. Its conception embraced nothing but electrons, protons and
molecules, and still was struggling desperately for some shred of
evidence that thoughts, will power and consciousness of self were
nothing but chemical reactions. However, it had gotten no farther than
the negative knowledge we had in the Twentieth Century--that a sick
body dulls consciousness of the material world, and that knowledge--which
all mankind has had from the beginning of time--that a dead body
means a departed consciousness. They had succeeded in producing, by
synthesis, what appeared to be living tissues, and even animals of
moderately complex structure and rudimentary brains; but they could
not give these creatures the full complement of life's characteristics,
nor raise the brains to more than mechanical control of muscular

It was my own opinion that they never could succeed in doing so. This
opinion impressed San-Lan greatly. I had expected him to snort his
disgust, as the extreme school of evolutionists would have done in the
Twentieth Century. But the idea was as new to him and the scientists
of his court as Darwinism was to the late Nineteenth and early
Twentieth Centuries, so it was received with much respect. Painfully
and with enforced mental readjustments, they began a philosophical
search for excuses and justifications for the idea.

All of this amused me greatly, for of course neither the newness nor
the orthodoxy of a hypothesis will make it true if it is not true, nor
untrue if it is true. Nor could the luck or willpower, with which I
had resisted their hypnotists and psychoanalysts, make what might or
might not be a universal fact one with more or less of a fact that it
really was. But the prestige I had gained among them, and the novelty
of my expressed opinion carried much weight with them.

Yet, did not even brilliant scientists frequently exhibit the same
lack of logic back in the Twentieth Century? Did not the historians,
the philosophers of ancient Greece and Rome show themselves to be the
same shrewd masters of the logical and slaves of the illogical?

After all, I reflected, man makes little progress within himself.
Through succeeding generations he piles up those resources which he
possesses outside of himself, the tools of his hands, and the
warehouses of knowledge for his brain, whether they be parchment
manuscripts, printed books, or electronorecordographs. For the rest he
is born today, as in ancient Greece, with a blank brain, and struggles
through to his grave, with a more or less beclouded understanding, and
with distinct limitations to what we used to call his "think tank."

This particular reflection of mine proved unpopular with them, for it
stabbed their vanity, and neither my prestige nor the novelty of the
idea was sufficient salve.

These Hans for centuries had believed and taught their children that
they were a super-race, a race of destiny. Destined to Whom, for What,
was not so clear to them; but nevertheless destined to "elevate"
humanity to some sort of superplane. Yet through these same centuries
they had been busily engaged in the extermination of "weaklings" whom,
by their very persecutions, they had turned into "supermen," now
rising in mighty wrath to destroy them, and in reducing themselves to
the depths of softening vice and flabby moral fiber. Is it strange
that they looked at me in amazed wonder when I laughed outright in the
midst of some of their most serious speculations?

CHAPTER IX. The Fall of Nu-Yok

My position among the Hans, in this period, was a peculiar one. I was
at once a closely guarded prisoner and an honored guest. San-Lan told
me frankly that I would remain the latter only so long as I remained
an object of serious study or mental diversion to himself or his
court. I made bold to ask him what would be done with me when I ceased
to be such.

"Naturally," he said, "you will be eliminated. What else? It takes the
services of fifteen men, altogether to guard you--and men, you
understand, cannot be produced and developed in less than eighteen
years." He meditated frowningly for a moment. "That, by the way, is
something I must take up with the Birth and Educational Bureau. They
must develop some method of speeding growth, even at the cost of
mental development. With your wild forest men getting out of hand this
way, we are going to need greater resources of population, and need
them badly.

"But," he continued more lightly, "there seems to be no need for you
to disturb yourself over the prospect at present. It is true you have
been able to resist our psychoanalysts and hypnotists, and so have no
value to us from the viewpoint of military information--but as a
philosopher, you have proved interesting indeed."

He broke off to give his attention to a gorgeously uniformed official
who suddenly appeared on the large viewplate that formed one wall of
the apartment. So perfectly did this mechanism operate, that the man
might have been in the room with us. He made a low obeisance, then
rose to his full height and looked at his ruler with malicious

"Heaven-Born," he said, "I have the exquisite pain of reporting bad

San-Lan gave him a scathing look. "It will be less unpleasant,
perhaps, if I am not distracted by the sight of you while you report."

At this the man disappeared, and the viewplate once more presented its
normal picture of the Mountains North of Lo-Tan; but the voice
continued: "Heaven Born, the Nu-Yok fleet has been destroyed, the city
is in ruins, and the newly formed ground brigades, reduced to 10,000
men, have taken refuge in the hills of Ron-Dak where they are being
pressed hard by the tribesmen, who have surrounded them."

For an instant San-Lan sat as though paralyzed. Then he leaped to his
feet, facing the viewplate.

"Let me see you!" Instantly the mountain view disappeared and the
Intelligence Officer appeared again, this time looking a little

"Where is Lui-Lok? Cut him in on my North plate. The commander who
loses his city dies by torture. Cut him in. Cut him in!"

"Heaven-Born, Lui-Lok committed suicide. He leaped into a ray when
rockets of the tribesmen began to penetrate the ray-wall. Lip-Hung is
in command of the survivors. We have just had a message from him. We
could not understand all of it. Reception was very weak because he is
operating with emergency apparatus on Bah-Flo power. The Nu-Yok power
broadcast plant has been blown up. Lip-Hung begs for a rescue fleet."

San-Lan now was striding up and down the room, while the poor wretch
in the viewplate, thoroughly frightened at last, stood trembling.

"What! He begs a rescue? A rescue of what? Of 10,000 beaten men and
nothing better than makeshift apparatus? No fleet? No city? I give him
and his 10,000 to the tribesmen! They are of no use to us now! Get
out! Vanish! No, wait! Have any of the beasts' rockets penetrated the
ray-walls of other cities?"

"No, Heaven-Born, no. It is only at Nu-Yok that the tribesmen used
rockets sheathed in the same mysterious substance they use on their
little aircraft and which cannot be disintegrated by the ray." (He
meant inertron, of course.)

San-Lan waved his hand in dismissal. The officer dissolved from view,
and the mountains once more appeared, as though the whole side of the
room were of glass.

More slowly he paced back and forth. He was the caged tiger now, his
face seamed with hate and the desperation of foreshadowed doom.

"Driven out into the hills," he muttered to himself. "Not more than
10,000 of them left. Hunted like beasts--and by the very beasts we
ourselves have hunted for centuries. Cursed be our ancestors for
letting a single one of the spawn live!" He shook his clenched hands
above his head. Then, suddenly remembering me, he turned and glared.

"Forest man, what have you to say?" he demanded.

Thus confronted, there stole over me that same detached feeling that
possessed me the day I had been made Boss of the Wyomings.

"It is the end of the Air Lords of Han," I said quietly. "For five
centuries, command of the air has meant victory. But this is no
longer. For more than three centuries your great, gleaming cities have
been impregnable in all their arrogant visibility. But that day is
done also. Victory returns once more to the ground, to men invisible
in the vast expanse of the forest which covers the ruins of the
civilization destroyed by your ancestors. Ye have sown destruction. Ye
shall reap it!

"Your ancestors thought they had made mere beasts of the Americans.
Physically you did reduce them to the state of beasts. But men do have
souls, San-Lan, and in their souls the Americans still cherished the
spark of manhood, of honor, of independence. While the Hans have
degenerated into a race of sleek, pampered beasts themselves, they
have unwittingly bred a race of supermen out of those they sought to
make animals. You have bred your own destruction. Your cities shall be
blasted from their foundations. Your air fleets shall be brought
crashing to earth. You have your choice of dying in the wreckage, or
of fleeing to the forests, there to be hunted down and killed as you
have sought to destroy us!"

And the ruler of all the Hans shrank back from my outstretched finger
as though it had been in truth the finger of doom.

But only for a moment. Suddenly he snarled and crouched as though to
spring at me with his bare hands. By a mighty convulsion of the will
he regained control of himself, however, and assumed a manner of quiet
dignity. He even smiled--a slow, crooked smile.

"No," he said, answering his own thought. "I will not have you killed
now. You shall live on, my honored guest, to see with your own eyes
how we shall exterminate your animal-brethren in their forests. With
your own ears you shall hear their dying shrieks. The cold science of
Han is superior to your spurious knowledge. We have been careless. To
our cost we have let you develop brains of a sort, but we are still
superior. We shall go down into the forests and meet you. We shall
beat you in your own element. Then, when you have seen and heard this
happen, my Council shall devise for you a death by scientific torture
such as no man in the history of the world has been honored with."

* * * *

I must digress here a bit from my own personal adventures to explain
briefly how the fall of Nu-Yok came about, as I learned it afterward.

Upon my capture by the Hans, my wife, Wilma, had assumed command of my
Gang, the Wyomings.

Boss Koban of the Winslows, who was directing the American forces
investing Nu-Yok, contented himself for several weeks with maintaining
our lines while waiting for the completion of the first supply of
inertron-jacketed rockets. At last they arrived with a limited
quantity of very high-powered atomic shells, a trifle over a hundred
of them to be exact. But this number, it was estimated, would be
enough to reduce the city to ruins. The rockets were distributed, and
the day for the final bombardment was set.

The Hans, however, upset Koban's plans by launching a ground
expedition up the west bank of the Hudson. Under cover of an air raid
to the southwest, in which the bulk of their ships took part, this
ground expedition shot northward in low-flying ships.

The raiding air fleet ploughed deep into our lines in their famous
"cloud-bank" formation, with down-playing dis rays so concentrated as
to form a virtual curtain of destruction. It seared a scar path a mile
and a half wide fifteen miles into our territory.

Every one of our rocket gunners caught in this section was
annihilated. Altogether we lost several hundred men and girls.

Gunners to each side of the raiding ships kept up a continuous fire on
them. Most of the rockets were disintegrated, for Koban would not
permit the use of the inertron rockets against the ships. But now and
then one found it way through the playing beams, hit a rep ray and was
hurled up against a Han ship, bringing it crashing down.

The orders that Koban barked into his ultrophone were, of course,
heard by every long-gunner in the ring of American forces around the
city, and nearly all of them turned their fire on the Han air fleet,
with the exception of those equipped with the inertron rockets.

These latter held to the original target and promptly cut loose on the
city with a shower of destruction which the dis ray walls could not
stop. The results staggered imagination, and produced awe even in our
own ranks.

Where an instant before had stood the high-flung masses and towers of
Nu-Yok, gleaming red, blue and gold in the brilliant sunlight, and
shimmering through the iridescence of the ray "wall," there was a
seething turmoil of gigantic explosions.

Surging billows of debris were hurled skyward on gigantic pulsations
of blinding light, to the accompaniment of thunderous detonations that
shook men from their feet in many sections of the American line seven
and eight miles away.

As I have said, there were only some hundred of the inertron rockets
among the Americans, long and slender, to fit the ordinary guns; but
the atomic laboratories hidden beneath the forests, had outdone
themselves in their construction. Their release of atomic force was
nearly 100 percent, and each one of them was equal to many hundred
tons of trinitrotoluol, which I had known in the First World War, five
hundred years before, as "TNT."

It was all over in a few seconds. Nu-Yok had ceased to exist, and the
waters of the bay and the rivers were pouring into the vast hold where
a moment before had been the rocky strata beneath lower Manhattan.

Naturally, with the destruction of the city's power broadcasting plant
the Han air fleet had plunged to earth.

But the ships of the ground expedition up the river, hugging the treetops
closely, had run the gauntlet of the American long-gunners who
were busily shooting at the other Han fleet, high in the air to the
southwest, and about half of them had landed before their ships were
robbed of power. The other half crashed, taking some 10,000 or 12,000
Han troops to destruction with them. But from those which had landed
safely, emerged the 10,000 who now were the sole survivors of the
city, and who took refuge in wooded fastnesses of the Adirondacks.

The Americans with their immensely greater mobility, due to their
jumping belts and their familiarity with the forest, had them ringed
in within twenty-four hours.

But owing to the speed of the maneuvers, the lines were not as tightly
drawn as they might have been, and there was considerable scattering
of both American and Han units. The Hans could make only the weakest
short range use of their newly developed dis ray field units, since
they had only distant sources of power-broadcast on which to draw. On
the other hand, the Americans could use their explosive rockets only
sparingly for fear of hitting one another.

So the battle was finished in a series of desperate hand-to-hand
encounters in the ravines and mountain slopes of the district.

The Mifflins and Altoonas, themselves from rocky mountainous sections,
gave a splendid account of themselves in this fighting, leaping to the
craggy slopes above the Hans, and driving them down into the ravines,
where they could safely concentrate on them the first of depressed
rocket guns.

The Susquannas, with their great inertron shields, which served them
well against the weak rays of the Hans, pressed forward irresistibly
every time they made a contact with a Han unit, their short-range
rocket guns sending a hail of explosive destruction before them.

But the Delawares, with their smaller shields, inertron leg-guards and
helmets, and their axe-guns, made faster work of it. They would rush
the Hans, shooting from their shields as they closed in, and finish
the business with their axe-blades and the small rocket guns that
formed the handles of their axes.

It was my own unit of Wyomings, equipped with bayonet guns not unlike
the rifles of the First World War, that took the most terrible toll
from the Hans.

They advanced at the double, laying a continuous barrage before them
as they ran, closing with the enemy in great leaps, cutting, thrusting
and slicing with those terrible double-ended weapons in a vicious
efficiency against which the Hans with their swords, knives and spears
were utterly helpless.

And so my prediction that the war would develop hand-to-hand fighting
was verified at the outset.

None of the details of this battle of the Ron-Daks were ever known in
Lo-Tan. Not more than the barest outlines of the destruction of the
survivors of Nu-Yok were ever received by San-Lan and his Council.
And, of course, at the time I knew no more about it than they did.

CHAPTER X. Life in Lo-Tan, the Magnificent

San-Lan's attitude toward me underwent a change. He did not seek my
company as he had done before, and so those long discussions and
mental duels in which we pitted our philosophies against each other
came to an end. I was, I suspected, an unpleasant reminder to him of
things he would rather forget, and my presence was an omen of
impending doom. That he did not order my execution forthwith was due,
I believe, to a sort of fascination in me, as the personification of
this (to him) strange and mysterious race of supermen who had so
magically developed overnight from "beasts" of the forest.

But though I saw little of him after this, I remained a member of his
household, if one may speak of a "household" where there is no
semblance of house.

The imperial apartments were located at the very summit of the
Imperial Tower, the topmost pinnacle of the city, itself clinging to
the sides and peak of the highest mountain in that section of the
Rockies. There were days when the city seemed to be built on a rugged
island in the midst of a sea of fleecy whiteness, for frequently the
cloud level was below the peak. And on such days the only visual
communication with the world below was through the viewplates which
formed nearly all the interior walls of the thousands of apartments
(for the city was, in fact, one vast building) and upon which the
tenants could tune in almost any views they wished from an elaborate
system of public television and projectoscope broadcasts.

Every Han city had many public-view broadcasting stations, operating
on tuning ranges which did not interfere with other communication
systems. For slight additional fees a citizen in Lo-Tan might, if he
felt so inclined, "visit" the seashore, or the lakes or the forests of
any part of the country, for when such scene was thrown on the walls
of an apartment, the effect was precisely the same as if one were
gazing through a vast window at the scene itself.

It was possible too, for a slightly higher fee, to make a mutual
connection between apartments in the same or different cities, so that
a family in Lo-Tan, for instance, might "visit" friends in Fis-Ko
taking their apartment, so to speak, along with them; being to all
intents and purposes separated from their "hosts" only by a big glass
wall which interfered neither with vision or conversation.

These public view and visitation projectoscopes explain that utter
depth of laziness into which the Hans had been dragged by their
civilization. There was no incentive for anyone to leave his apartment
unless he was in the military or air service, or a member of one of
the repair services which from time to time had to scoot through the
corridors and shafts of the city, somewhat like the ancient fire
departments, to make some emergency repair to the machinery of the
city or its electrical devices.

Why should he leave his house? Food, wonderful synthetic concoctions
of any desired flavor and consistency (and for additional fee
conforming to the individual's dietary prescription) came to him
through a shaft, from which his tray slid automatically on to a
convenient shelf or table.

At will he could tune in a theatrical performance of talking pictures.
He could visit and talk with his friends. He breathed the freshest of
filtered air right in his own apartment, at any temperature he
desired, fragrant with the scent of flowers, the aromatic smell of the
pine forests or the salt tang of the sea, as he might prefer. He could
"visit" his friends at will; and though his apartment actually might
be buried many thousand feet from the outside wall of the city, it was
none the less an "outside" one, by virtue of its viewplate walls.
There was even a tube system, with trunk, branch and local lines and
an automagnetic switching system, by which articles within certain
size limits could be dispatched from any apartment to any other one in
the city.

The women actually moved about through the city more than the men, for
they had no fixed duties. No work was required of them, and though
nominally free, their dependence upon the government pension for their
necessities and on their "husbands" (of the moment) for their
luxuries, reduced them virtually to the condition of slaves.

Each had her own apartment in the Lower City, with but a single small
viewplate, very limited "visitations" facilities, and a minimum credit
for food and clothing. This apartment was assigned to her on
graduation from the State School, in which she had been placed as an
infant, and it remained hers so long as she lived, regardless of
whether she occupied it or not. At the conclusion of her various
"marriages" she would return there, pending her endeavors to make a
new match. Naturally, as her years increased, her returns became more
frequent and her stay of longer duration, until finally, abandoning
hope of making another match, she finished out her days there, usually
in drunkenness and whatever other form of cheap dissipation she could
afford on her dole, starving herself.

Men also received the same State pension, sufficient for the
necessities but not for the luxuries of life. They got it only as an
old-age pension, and on application.

When boys graduated from the State School they generally were
"adopted" by their fathers and taken into the latters' household,
where they enjoyed luxuries far in excess of their own earning power.
It was not that their fathers wasted any affection on them, for love
and affection, as we Americans knew them, were unexperienced or
suppressed emotions with them. They were replaced by lust and pride of
possession. So long as it pleased a father's vanity, and he did not
miss the cost, he would keep a son with him--but no longer.

Young men, of course, started to work at the minimum wage, which was
somewhat higher than the pension. There was work for everybody in
positions of minor responsibility, but very little hard work.

Upon receiving his appointment from one or another of the big
corporations which handled the production and distribution of the vast
community (the shares of which were pooled and held by the
government--that is, by San-Lan himself--in trust for all the workers,
according to their positions) he would be assigned to an apartment-office,
or an apartment adjoining the group of offices in which he was
to have his desk. Most of the work was done in single apartment-offices.

The young man, for instance, might recline at his ease in his
apartment near the top of the city, and for three or four hours a day
inspect, through his viewplate and certain specially installed
apparatus, the output of a certain process in one of the vast
automatically controlled food factories buried far underground beneath
the base of the mountain, where the moan of its whirring and throbbing
machinery would not disturb the peace and quiet of the citizens on the
mountain top. Or he might be required simply to watch the operation of
an account machine in an automatic store.

There is no denying that the economic system of the Hans was
marvelous. A suit of clothes, for instance, might be delivered in a
man's apartment without a human hand having ever touched it.

Having decided that he wished a suit of a given general style, he
would simply tune in a visual broadcast of the display of various
selections, and when he had made his choice, dial the number of the
item and press the order button. Simultaneously the charge would be
automatically made against his account number, and credited as a sale
on the automatic records of that particular factory in the account
house. And his account plate, hidden behind a little wall door, would
register his new credit balance. An automatically packaged suit that
had been made to style and size-standard by automatic machinery from
synthetically produced material, would slip into the delivery chute,
magnetically addressed, and in anywhere from a few seconds to thirty
minutes or so, according to the volume of business in the chutes, drop
into the delivery basket in his room.

Daily his wages were credited to his account, and monthly his share of
the dividends likewise (according to his position) from the Imperial
Investment Trust, after deduction of taxes (through the automatic
bookkeeping machines) for the support of the city's pensioners and
whatever sum San-Lan himself had chosen to deduct for personal
expenses and gratuities.

A man could not bequeath his ownership interest in industry to his
son, for that interest ceased with his death; but his credit
accumulation, on which interest was paid, was credited to his eldest
recorded son as a matter of law.

Since many of these credit fortunes were so big that they drew
interest in excess of the utmost luxury costs of a single individual,
there was a class of idle rich consisting of eldest sons, passing on
these credit fortunes from generation to generation. But younger sons
and women had no share in these fortunes, except by the whims and
favor of the "Man-Dins," as their inheritors were known.

These Man-Dins formed a distinct class of the population, and numbered
about five per cent of it. It was distinct from the "Ku-Li" or common
people, and from the "Ki-Ling" or aristocracy composed of those more
energetic men (at least mentally more energetic) who were the active
or retired executive heads of the various industrial, education,
military or political administrations.

A man might, if he so chose, transfer part of his credit to a female
favorite, which then remained hers for life or until she used it up;
and of course the prime object of most women--whether as wives, or
favorites--was to beguile a settlement of this sort out of some
wealthy man.

When successful in this, and upon reassuming her freedom, a woman
ranked socially and economically with the Man-Dins. But on her death,
whatever remained of her credit was transferred to the Imperial fund.

When one considers that the Hans, from the days of their exodus from
Mongolia and their conquest of America, had never held any ideal of
monogamy; and the fact that marriage was but a temporary formality
which could be terminated on official notice by either party; and that
after all it gave a woman no real rights or prerogatives that could
not be terminated at the whim of her husband, and established her as
nothing but the favorite of his harem, if he had an income large
enough to keep one, as the most definitely acknowledged of his
favorites if he hadn't--it is easy to see that no such thing as a real
family life existed among them.

Free women roamed the corridors of the city, pathetically importuning
marriage, and wives spent most of the time they were not under their
husbands' watchful eyes in flirtatious attempts to provide themselves
with better prospects for their next marriages.

Naturally the biggest problem of the community was that of stimulating
the birth rate. The system of special credits to mothers had begun
centuries before, but had not been very efficacious until women had
been deprived of all other earning power; and even at the time of
which I write it was only partially successful, in spite of the heavy
bounties sufficiently attractive to lure the women from their more
remunerative light flirtations. Eugenic standards also were a

As a matter of fact, San-Lan had under consideration a revolutionary
change in economic and moral standards, when the revolt of the forest
men upset his delicately laid plans, for, as he had explained to me,
it was no easy thing to upset the customs of centuries in what he was
pleased to call the "morals" of his race.

He had another reason, too. The physically active men of the community
were beginning to acquire a rather dangerous domination. These
included men in the army, in the airships, and in those relatively few
civilian activities in which machines could not do the routine work
and thinking. Already common soldiers and air crews demanded and
received higher remuneration than all except the highest of the
Ki-Lung--the industrial and scientific leaders--while mechanics and
repairmen who could, and would, work hard physically, commanded higher
incomes than Princes of the Blood. Though constituting only a fraction
of one per cent of the population they actually dominated the city.
San-Lan dared take no important step in the development of the
industrial and military system without consulting their council or

Socially the Han cities were in a chaotic condition at this time,
between morals that were not morals, families that were not families,
marriages that were not marriages, children who knew no homes, work
that was not work, and eugenics that didn't work. Ku-Lis envied the
richer classes but were too lazy to reach out for the rewards freely
offered for individual initiative. The intellectually active and
physically lazy Ki-Lings despised Ku-Li lethargy; the Man-Din drones
regarded both classes with supercilious toleration. Then there were
the Princes of the Blood, arrogant in their assumption of a heritage
from a Heaven in which they did not believe; and finally the three
castes of the army, air and industrial repair services, equally
arrogant and with more reason in their consciousness of physical

The army exercised a cruelly careless and impartial police power over
all classes, including the airmen, when the latter were in port. But
it did not dare to touch the repairmen, who, so far as I could ever
make out, roamed the corridors of the city at will during their hours
off duty, wreaking their wills on whomever they met, without let or

Even a Prince of the Blood would withdraw into a side corridor with
his escort of a score of men, to let one of these labor "kings" pass,
rather than risk an altercation. Such might result in trouble for the
government with the Yun-Yun, regardless of the rights and wrongs of
the case, unless a heavy credit transference was made from the balance
of the Prince to that of the worker. The machinery of the city could
not continue in operation a fortnight before some accident requiring
delicate repair work would put it partially out of commission, and the
Yun-Yun was quick to resent anything it could construe as a slight on
one of its members.

In the last analysis it was these Yun-Yun men, numerically the
smallest of the classes, who ruled the Han civilization, because for
all practical purposes they controlled the machinery on which that
civilization depended for its existence.

Politically, San-Lan could balance the organizations of the army and
the air fleets against each other, but he could not break the grip of
the repairmen on the machinery of the cities and the power broadcast

CHAPTER XI. The Forest Men Attack

Many times during the months I remained prisoner among the Hans I had
tried to develop a plan of escape, but could conceive of nothing which
seemed to have any reasonable chance of success.

While I was allowed almost complete freedom within the confines of the
city, and sometimes was permitted to visit even the military outposts
and dis ray batteries in the surrounding mountains, I was never
without a guard of at least five men under the command of an officer.
These men were picked soldiers, and they were armed with powerful
though short-range dis ray pistols, capable of annihilating anything
within a hundred feet. Their vigilance never relaxed. The officer on
duty kept constantly at my side, or a couple of paces behind me, while
certain of the others were under strict orders never to approach
within my reach, nor to get more than forty feet away from me. The
thought occurred to me once to seize the officer at my side and use
him as a shield, until I found that the guards were under orders to
destroy both of us in such a case.

So in this fashion I roamed the city corridors, wherever I wished. I
visited the great factories at the bottom of the shafts that led to
the base of the mountain, where, unattended by any mechanics, great
turbines whirred and moaned, and giant pistons plunged back and forth.
Immense systems of chemical vats, piping and converters, automatically
performed their functions with the assistance of no human hand, but
under the minute television inspection of many perfumed dandies
reclining at their ease before viewplates in their apartment offices
in the city that clung to the mountain peak far above.

There were just two restrictions on my freedom of movement. I was
allowed nowhere near the power broadcasting station on the peak, nor
the complement of it which was buried three miles below the base of
the mountain. And I was never allowed to approach within a hundred
feet of any dis ray machine when I visited the military outposts in
the surrounding mountains.

I first noticed "escape tunnels" one day when I had descended to the
lowest level of all, the location of the Electronic Plant, where
machines, known as "reverse disintegrators," fed with earth and
crushed rock by automatic conveyors, subjected this material to the
dis ray, held the released electrons captive within their magnetic
fields and slowly refashioned them into supplies of metals and other
desired elements.

My attention was attracted to these tunnels by the fact that men were
busily entering and leaving them. Almost the entire repair force
seemed to be concentrated here.

Stocky, muscular men they were, with the same modified Oriental
countenances as the rest of the Hans, but with a certain ruggedness
about them that was lacking in the rest of the indolent population.
They sweated as they labored over the construction of magnetic cars
evidently designed to travel down these tunnels, automatically laying
pipe lines for ventilation and temperature control. The tunnels
themselves appeared to have been carved out with dis rays, which could
bore rapidly through the solid rock, forming glassy iridescent walls
as they bored, and involving no problem of debris removal.

I asked San-Lan about it the next time I saw him, and the supreme
ruler of the Hans smiled mockingly.

"There is no reason why you should not know their purpose," he said,
"for you will never be able to stop our use of them. These tunnels
constitute the road to a new Han era. Your forest men have turned our
cities into traps, but they have not trapped our minds and our powers
over Nature. We are masters still--masters of the world, and of the
forest men.

"You have revolutionized the tactics of warfare with your explosive
rockets and your strategy of fighting from concealed positions, miles
away, where we cannot find you with our beams. You have driven our
ships from the air, and you may destroy our cities. But we shall be

"Down these tunnels we shall depart to our new cities, deep under
ground, scatter far and wide through the mountains. They are nearly
completed now.

"You will never blast us out of these, even with your most powerful
explosives. They will be more difficult for you to find than it is for
us to locate a forest gunner somewhere beneath his leafy screen of
miles of trees, and they will be too far underground."

"But," I objected, "man cannot live and flourish like a mole
continually removed from the light of day, without the health-giving
rays of the sun, which man needs."

"No? Wild tribesmen might not be able to, but we are a civilization.
We shall make our own sunlight to order in the bowels of the earth. If
necessary, we can manufacture our air synthetically--not the
germ-laden air of Nature, but absolutely pure air. Our underground cities
will be heated or refrigerated artificially as conditions may require.
Why should we not live underground if we desire? We produce all our
needs synthetically.

"Nor will you be able to locate our cities with electronic indicators.

"You see, Rogers, I know what is in your mind. Our scientists have
planned carefully. All our machinery and processes will be shielded so
that no electronic disturbances will exist at the surface.

"And then, from our underground cities we will emerge at leisure to
wage merciless war on your wild men of the forest, until we have at
last done what our forefathers should have done, exterminated them to
the last beast."

He thrust his face close to mine. "Have you any answer to that?"

My impulse was to plant my fist in his face, but I forced a hearty
laugh, to irritate him.

"It is a fine plan," I admitted, "but you will not have time to carry
it through. Long before you can complete your new cities you will have
been destroyed."

"They will be completed within the week," he replied triumphantly. "We
have not been asleep, and our mechanical and scientific resources make
us masters of time as well as the earth. You shall see."

Naturally, I was worried. I would have given much if I could have
passed this information on to our chiefs.

But two days later a mighty exultation arose within me, when from far
to the east and also to the south there came the rolling and
continuous thunder of rocket fire. I was in my own apartment. The Han
captain of my guard was with me, as usual, and two guards stood just
within the door. The others were in the corridor outside. And as soon
as I heard it, I questioned my jailer. He nodded assent, and I did
what probably every other disengaged person in Lo-Tan did at the same
moment, tuned in on the local broadcast of the Military Headquarters
View and Control Room.

It was as though the side wall of my apartment had dissolved, and we
looked into a large room or office which had no walls or ceiling,
these being replaced by the interior surface of a hemisphere, which
was in fact a vast viewplate on which those in the room could see in
every direction. Some 200 staff officers had their desks in this room.
Each desk was equipped with a system of small viewplates of its own;
each officer was responsible for a given directional section of the
"map," and busied himself with teleprojectoscope examination of it,
quite independently of the general view thrown on the dome plate.

At a raised circular desk in the center, which was composed entirely
of viewplates, sat the Executive Marshal, scanning the hemisphere,
calling occasionally for telescopic views of one section or another on
his desk plates, and noting the little pale green signal lights that
flashed up as Sector Observers called for his attention.

Members of Strategy Board, Base Commanders of military units, and
San-Lan himself, I understood, sat at similar desks in their private
offices, on which all these views were duplicated, and in constant
verbal and visual communication with one another.

The particular view which appeared on my own wall fortunately showed
the east side of the dome viewplate, and in one corner of my picture
appeared the Executive Marshal himself.

Although I was getting a viewplate picture of a viewplate picture, I
could see the broad, rugged valley to the east plainly, and the
relatively low ridge beyond, which must have been some thirty miles

It was beyond this--evidently far beyond it--that the scene of the
action was located, for nothing showed on the plate but a misty haze
permeated by indefinite and continuous pulsations of light, and
against which the low mountain ridge stood out in bold relief.

Somewhere on the floor of the Observation Room, of course, was a
Sector Observer who was looking beyond the ridge, probably through a
projectoscope station in the second or third "circle," located perhaps
on that ridge or beyond it.

At the very moment I was wishing for his facilities the Executive
Marshal leaned over to a microphone and gave an order in a low tone.
The hemispherical view dissolved, and another took its place, from the
third circle. And the view was now that which would be seen by a man
standing on the low distant ridge.

There was another broad valley, a wide and deep canyon, in fact, and
beyond this still another ridge, the outlines of which were already
beginning to fade into the on-creeping haze of the barrage. The
flashes of the great detonating rockets were momentarily becoming more

"That's the Gok-Man Ridge," mused the Han officer beside me in the
apartment, "and the Forest Men must be more than fifty miles beyond

"How do you figure that?" I asked curiously.

"Because obviously they have not penetrated our scout lines. See that
line of observers nearest the dome itself? They're all busy with their
desk plates. They're in communication with the scout line. The scout
line broadcast is still in operation. It looks as though the line is
still unpierced, but the tribesmen's rockets are sailing over and
falling this side of it."

All through the night the barrage continued. At times it seemed to
creep closer and then recede again. Finally it withdrew, pulling back
to the American lines, to alternately advance and recede. At last I
went to sleep. The Han officer seemed to be a relatively good-natured
fellow, and he promised to awake me if anything further of interest
took place.

He didn't though. When I awoke in the morning, he gave me a brief
outline of what had happened, pieced together from his own
observations and the public news broadcast.

CHAPTER XII. The Mysterious "Air Balls"

The American barrage had been a long-distance bombardment, designed,
apparently, to draw the Han dis ray batteries into operation and so
reveal their positions on the mountain tops and slopes. After the
destruction of Nu-Yok, the Hans had learned that concealment of their
positions was a better protection than a surrounding wall of dis rays
shooting up into the sky.

The Hans, however, had failed to reply with dis rays. This arm, which
formerly they had believed invincible, was being restricted to a
limited number of their military units, and their factories were busy
turning out explosive rockets not dissimilar to those of the Americans
in their motive power and atomic detonation. They had replied with
these, shooting them from unrevealed positions, and at the estimated
positions of the Americans.

Since the Americans, not knowing the exact location of the Han outer
line, had shot their barrage over it, and the Hans had fired at
unknown American positions, this first exchange of fire had done
little more than to churn up vast areas of mountain and valley.

The Hans appeared to be elated, to feel that they had driven off an
American attack. I knew better. The next American move, I felt would
be the occupation of the air, from which they had driven the Hans, and
from swoopers to direct the rocket fire at the city itself. Then, when
they had destroyed this, they would sweep in and hunt down the Hans,
man-to-man, in the surrounding mountains. Command of the air was still
important military strategy, but command of the air rested no longer
in the air, but on the ground.

The Hans themselves attempted to scout the American positions from the
air, under cover of a massed attack of ships in "cloud bank" or
beaming formation, but with very little success. Most of their ships
were shot down, and the remainder slid back to the city on sharply
inclined rep rays. One of them had had its generators badly damaged
while still fifty miles out. It collapsed over the city, before it
could reach its berth at the airport, and crashed down through the
glass roof of the city, doing great damage.

Then followed the "air balls," an unforeseen and ingenious
resurrection by the Americans of an old principle of air and submarine
tactics, through a modern application of the principle of remote

The air balls took heavy toll of the morale of the Hans before they
were clearly understood by them, and even afterward for that matter.

Their first appearance was quite mysterious. One uneasy night, while
the pulsating growl of the distant barrage kept the nerves of the
city's inhabitants on edge, there was an explosion near the top of a
pinnacle not far from the Imperial Tower. It occurred at the 732nd
level, and made the structure above it lean and sag, though it did not

Repairmen who shot up the shafts a few minutes later--to bring new
broadcast lamps to replace those which had been shattered--reported
what seemed to be a sphere of metal, about three feet in diameter,
with a four-inch lens in it, floating slowly down the shaft, as though
it were some living creature making a careful examination. It paused
now and then as its lens swung about like a great single eye. The
moment this "eye" turned upon them, they said, the ball "rushed" down
on them, crushing several to death in its gyrations, and jamming the
mechanism of the elevator, though failing to crash through it. Then,
said the wounded survivors, it floated back up the shaft, watchfully
"eyeing" them, and slipped off to the side at the wrecked level.

The next night several of these "air balls" were seen, following
explosions in various towers and sections of the city roof and walls.
In each case repair gangs were "rushed" by them, and suffered many
casualties. On the third night a few of the air balls were destroyed
by the repairmen and guards, who now were equipped with dis pistols.

This, however, was pretty costly business, for in each case the ray
bored into the corridor and shaft walls beyond its target, wrecking
much machinery, injuring the structural members of that section,
penetrating apartments and taking a number of lives. Moreover, the
"air balls," being destroyed, could not be subjected to scientific

After this the explosions ceased. But for many days the sudden
appearances of these "air balls" in the corridors and shafts of the
city caused the greatest confusion and many times they were the cause
of death and panic.

At times they released poison gases, and not infrequently themselves
burst, instead of withdrawing, in a veritable explosion of disease
germs, requiring absolute quarantine by the Han medical department.

There was an utter heartlessness about the defense of the Han
authorities, who considered nothing but the good of the community as a
whole. When they established these quarantines, they did not hesitate
to seal up thousands of the city's inhabitants behind hermetic
barriers enclosing entire sections of different levels, where deprived
of food and ventilation, the wretched inhabitants died miserably, long
before the disease germs developed in their systems.

At the end of two weeks the entire population of the city was in a
mood of panicky revolt. News service to the public had been suspended,
and the use of all viewplates and phones in the city was restricted
to official communications. The city administration had issued orders
that all citizens not on duty should keep to their apartments, but the
order was openly flouted. Small mobs wandered through the corridors,
ascending and descending from one level to another, seeking they knew
not what, fleeing the air balls, which might appear anywhere, and
being driven back from the innermost and deepest sections of the city
by the military guard.

I now made up my mind that the time was ripe for me to attempt my
escape. In all this confusion I might have an even break, in spite of
the danger. I might myself run from the air balls, and the almost
insuperable difficulties of making my way to the outside of the city
and down the precipitous walls of the mountain to which the city clung
like a cap. I would have given much for my inertron belt, with which I
might simply have leaped outward from the edge of the roof some dark
night and floated gently down. I longed for my ultrophone equipment,
with which I might have established communication with the
beleaguering American forces.

My greatest difficulty, I knew, would be that of escaping my guard.
Once free of them, I realized it would be the business of nobody in
particular, in that badly disorganized city, to recapture me. The
knives of the ordinary citizens I did not fear, and very few of the
military guard were armed with dis pistols.

I was sitting in my apartment busying my mind with various plans, when
there occurred a commotion in the city corridor outside my door. The
Captain of my guard jumped nervously from the couch on which he had
been reclining, and ordered the excited guards to open the door.

In the broad corridor, the remainder of the guard lay about, dead or
groaning, where they had been bowled over by one of these air balls,
the first I had ever seen.

The metal sphere floated hesitantly above its victims, turning this
way and that to bring its "eye" on various objects around. It stopped
dead on sighting the door the guard had thrown open, hesitated a
moment, and then shot suddenly into the apartment with a hissing
sound, flinging into a far corner one of the guards who had not been
quick enough to duck. As the Captain drew his dis pistol, the sphere
launched itself at him with a vicious hiss. He bounded back from the
impact, his chest crushed in, while his pistol, which fortunately had
fallen with its muzzle pointed away from me, shot a continuous beam
that melted its way instantly through the wall of the apartment.

The sphere then turned on the other guard, who had thrown himself into
a corner where he crouched in fear. Deliberately it seemed to gauge
the distance and direction. Then it hurled itself at him with another
hiss, which I now saw came from a little rocket motor, crushing him to
death where he lay.

It swung slowly around until the lens faced me again, and floated
gently into position level with my face, seeming to scan me with its
blank, four-inch eye. Then it spoke, with a metallic voice.

"If you are an American," it said, "answer with your name, gang and

"I am Anthony Rogers," I replied, still half bewildered, "Boss of the
Wyomings. I was captured by the Hans after my swooper was disabled in
a fight with a Han airship and had drifted many hundred miles
westward. These Hans you have killed were my guard."

"Good!" ejaculated the metal ball. "We have been hunting for you with
these remote control rockets for two weeks. We knew you had been
captured. A Han message was picked up. Close the door of your room,
and hide this ball somewhere. I have turned off the rocket power. Put
it on your couch. Throw some pillows over it. Get out of sight. We'll
speak softly, so no Hans can hear, and we'll speak only when you speak
to us."

The ball, I found, was floating freely in the air. So perfectly was it
balanced with ultron and inertron that it had about the weight of a
spider web. Ultimately, I suppose, it would have settled to the floor.
But I had no time for such an idle experiment. I quickly pushed it to
my couch, where I threw a couple of pillows and some of the bed
clothes over it. Then I threw myself back on the couch with my head
near it. If the dead guards outside attracted attention, and the Han
patrol entered, I could report the attack by the "air ball" and claim
that I had been knocked unconscious by it.

"One moment," said the ball, after I reported myself ready to talk.
"Here is someone who wants to speak to you." And I nearly leaped from
the couch with joy when, despite the metallic tone of the instrument,
I recognized the voice of Wilma.


We had little time, however, to waste in endearments, and still less
to devote to informing me as to the American plans. The essential
thing was that I report the Han plans and resources to the fullest of
my ability. And for an hour or two I talked steadily, giving an
outline of all I had learned from San-Lan and his Councilors, and
particularly of the arrangements for drawing off the population of the
city to new cities concealed underground, through the system of
tunnels radiating from the base of the mountain. As a result, the
Americans determined to speed up their attack.

There were, as a matter of fact, only two relatively small commands
facing the city, Wilma told me, but both of them were picked troops of
the new Federal Council. Those to the south were a division of
veterans who a few weeks before had destroyed the Han city of Sa-Lus.
On the east were a number of the Colorado Gangs and an expeditionary
force of our own Wyomings. The attack on Lo-Tan was intended chiefly
as an attack on the morale of the Hans of the other twelve cities. If
there seemed to be a chance of victory, the operation was to be pushed
through. Otherwise the object would be to do as much damage as
possible, and fade away into the forests if the Hans developed any
real pressure with their new infantry and field batteries of rocket
gun and dis rays.

The "air balls" were simply miniature swoopers of spherical shape,
ultronically controlled by operators control boards miles away, and
who saw on their view plates whatever picture the ultronic television
lens in the sphere itself picked up at the predetermined focus. The
main propulsive rocket motor was diametrically opposite the lens, so
that the sphere could be steered simply by keeping the picture of its
objective centered on the crossed hairlines of the viewplates. The
outer shell moved magnetically as desired with respect to the core,
which was gyroscopically stabilized. Auxiliary rocket motors enabled
the operator to make a sphere move sidewise, backward or vertically.

Some of these spheres were equipped with devices which enabled their
operators to hear as well as see through their ultronic broadcasts,
and most of those which had invaded the interior of Lo-Tan were
equipped with "speakers," in the hope of finding me and establishing
communication. Still others were equipped for two stage control. That
is, the operator control led the vision sphere, and through it watched
and steered an air torpedo that traveled ahead of it.

The Han airship or any other target selected by the operator of such a
combination was doomed. There was no escape. The spheres and torpedoes
were too small to be hit. They could travel with the speed of bullets.
They could trail a ship indefinitely, hover a safe distance from their
mark, and strike at will. Finally, neither darkness nor smoke screens
were any bar to their ultronic vision. The spheres, which had
penetrated and explored Lo-Tan in their search for me, had floated
through breaches in the walls and roofs made by their advance

Wilma had just finished explaining all this to me when I heard a noise
outside my door. With a whispered warning I flung myself back on the
couch and simulated unconsciousness. When I did not answer the
soundings and calls to open, a police detail broke in and shook me

"The air ball," I moaned, pretending to regain consciousness slowly.
"It came in from the corridor. Look, what it did to the guard. It must
have grazed my head."

"Where is it?"

"Gone," muttered the under-officer, looking fearfully around. "Yes,
undoubtedly gone. These men have been dead some time. And this pistol.
The ball got him before be had a chance to use it. See, it has beamed
through the wall only here, where he dropped it. Who are you? You look
like a tribesman. Oh, yes, you're the Heaven Born's special prisoner.
Maybe I ought to beam you right now. Good thing. Everyone would call
it an accident. By the Grand Dragon, I will!"

While he was talking, I had staggered to the other side of the room,
to draw his attention away from the couch where the ball was

Now suddenly the pillows burst apart, and a blanket with which I had
covered the thing streaked from the couch, hitting the man in the
small of the back. I could hear his spine snap under the impact. Then
it shot through the air toward the group of soldiers in the doorway,
bowling them over and sending them shrieking right and left along the
corridor. Relentlessly and with amazing speed it launched itself at
each turn, until the corpses lay grotesquely strewn about, and not one
had escaped.

It returned to me for all the world like an old-fashioned ghost, the
blanket still draped over it (and not interfering with its ultronic
vision in the least) and "stood" before me.

"The devils were going to kill you, Tony," I heard Wilma's voice
saying. "You've got to get out of there, Tony, before you are killed.
Besides, we need you at the control boards, where you can make real
use of your knowledge of the city. Have you your jumping belt,
ultrophone and rocket gun?"

"No," I replied. "They are all gone."

"It would be no good for you to try to make your way to one of the
breaches in the wall, nor to the roof," she mused.

"No. They are too well guarded,", I replied, "and even if you made a
new one at a predetermined spot I'm afraid the repairmen and the
patrol would go to it ahead of me."

"Yes, and they would beam you before you could climb inside a

"I'll tell you what I can do, Wilma," I suggested. "I know my way
about the city pretty well. Suppose I go down one of the shafts to the
base of the mountain. I think I can get out. It is dark in the valley,
so the Hans cannot see me, and I will stand out in the open, where
your ultroscopes can pick me up. Then a swooper can drop quickly down
and get me."

"Good!" Wilma said. "But take that Han's dis pistol with you. And go
right away, Tony. But wrap this ball in something and carry it with
you. Just toss it from you if you are attacked. I'll stay at the
control board and operate it in case of emergency."

So I picked up ball and pistol, and thrust the hand in which I held
the pistol into the loose Han blouse I wore. I wrapped the ball in a
piece of sheeting, and stepped out in the corridor, hurrying toward
the nearest magnetic car station, a couple of hundred feet down the
corridor, for I had to cross nearly the entire width of the city to
reach the shaft that went to the base of the mountain.

I thanked Providence for the perfection of the Han mechanical devices
when I reached the station. The automatic checking system of these
cars made station attendants unnecessary. I had only to slip the key I
had taken from the dead Han officer into the account-charging machine
at the station to release a car.

Pressing the proper combinations of main and branch line buttons, I
seated myself, holding the pistol ready but concealed beneath my
blouse. The car shot with rapid acceleration down the narrow tunnel.

The tubes in which these magnetic cars (which slid along a few inches
above the floor of the tunnel by localized rep rays) ran were very
narrow, just the width of the car. My only danger would come if on
catching up to another car its driver should turn around and look in
my face. If I kept my face to the front, and bunched over so as to
conceal my size, no driver of a following car would suspect that I was
not a Han like himself.

The tube dipped under traffic as it came to a trunk line, and my car
magnetically lagged, until an opening in the traffic permitted it to
swing swiftly into the main line tunnel. At the automatic distance of
ten feet it followed a car in which rode a scantily clad girl, her
flimsy silks fluttering in the rush of air. I cursed my luck. She
would be far more likely to turn around than a man, to see if a man
were in the car behind, and if he were personable--for not even the
impending doom of the city and the public demoralization caused by the
"air balls" had dulled the proclivities of the Han women for brazen
flirtation. And turn around she did.

Before I could lower my head she had seen my face, and knew I was no
Han. I saw her eyebrows arch in surprise. But she seemed puzzled
rather than scared. Before she could make up her mind about me,
however, her car had swung out of the main tunnel on its predetermined
course, and my own automatically was closing up the gap to the car
ahead. The passenger in this one wore the uniform of a medical
officer, but he did not turn around before I swung out of main traffic
to the little station at the head of the shaft.

This particular shaft was intended to serve the very lowest levels
exclusively, and since its single car carried nothing but express
traffic, it was used only by repairman and other specialists who
occasionally had to descend to those levels.

There were only three people on the little platform, which reminded me
much of the subway stations of the Twentieth Century. Two men and a
girl stood facing the gate of the shaft, waiting for the car to return
from below. One of these was a soldier, apparently off duty, for
though he wore the scarlet military coat he carried no weapons other
than his knife. The other man wore nothing but sandals and a pair of
loose short pants of some heavy and serviceable material. I did not
need to look at the compact tool kit and the ray machines attached to
his heavy belt, nor the gorgeously jeweled armlet and diadem that he
wore to know him for a repairman.

The girl was quite scantily clad, but wore a mask, which was not
unusual among the Han women when they went forth on their flirtatious
expeditions. But there was something about the sinuous grace of her
movements that seemed familiar to me. She was making desperate love to
the repairman, whose attitude toward her was that of pleased but lofty
tolerance. The soldier, who was seeking no trouble, occupied himself
strictly with his own thoughts.

I stepped from my car, still carrying my bundle in which the "air
ball" was concealed, and the car shot away as I threw the release
lever over. Not so successful as the soldier in simulating lack of
interest in the amorous girl and her companion, I drew from the latter
a stare of haughty challenge, and the girl herself turned to look at
me through her mask.

She gasped as she did so, and shrank back in alarm. And I knew her
then, in spite of her mask; she was the favorite of the Heaven-Born

"Ngo-Lan!" I exclaimed before I could catch myself.


At the mention of her name, the soldier's head jerked up quickly, and
the girl herself gave a little cry of terror, shrinking against her
burly companion. This would mean death for her if it reached the ears
of her lord.

And her companion, arrogant in his immunity as a repairman, hesitated
not a second. His arm shot out toward the soldier, who was nearer to
him than I. There was the flash of the knife blade, and the soldier
sagged on his feet, then tumbled over like a sack of potatoes; and
before my mind had grasped the danger, he was springing at me.

That I lived for a moment was due to the devotion of my wife. Wilma,
somewhere in the mountains to the east, was standing loyally before
the control board of the air ball I carried.

For even as the Han leaped at me, the bundle containing the air ball,
which I had placed at my feet, shot diagonally upward, catching the
fellow in the middle of his leap, hurling him back against the grilled
gate of the elevator shaft, and pinning his lifeless body there.

An instant the girl gazed in speechless horror at what had been her
secret lover, then she threw herself at my feet, writhing and
shrieking in terror.

At this moment the elevator shot to a sudden stop behind the grille,
and prepared for the worst, I faced it, dis pistol raised.

But I lowered the pistol at once, with a sigh of relief. The elevator
was empty. For a moment I considered. I dared not leave either of
these bodies nor the girl behind in descending the shaft. At any
moment other passengers might glide out of the tunnel to take the
elevator, and give an alarm.

So I played the beam of the pistol for an instant on the two dead
bodies. They vanished, of course, into nothingness, as did part of the
station platform. The damage to the platform, however, would not
necessarily be interpreted as evidence of a prisoner escaping.

Then I threw open the elevator gate, dragging Ngo-Lan into the car
and, stifling her hysterical shrieks, pressed the button that made it
shoot downward. In a few moments I dragged my prisoner out, several
thousand feet below, into a shaft that ran toward one of the Valley

The pistol again became serviceable--this time for the destruction of
the elevator--thus blocking any possible pursuit, yet without
revealing my flight.

Ngo-Lan fought like a cat, but despite her writhing, scratching and
biting, I bound and gagged her with her own clothing, and left her
lying in the tunnel while I stepped in a car and shot toward the gate.

As the car glided swiftly along the brilliantly lit but deserted
tunnel I conversed again with Wilma through the metallic speaker of
the air ball.

"The only obstacle now," I told her, "is the massive gate at the end
of the tunnel. The gate-guard, I think, is posted both outside and
inside the gate."

"In that case, Tony," she replied, "I will shoot the ball ahead, and
blow out the gate. When you hear it bump against the gate, throw
yourself flat in the car, for an instant later I will explode it. Then
you can rush through the gate into the night. Scout ships are now
hovering above, and they will see you with their ultroscopes, though
the darkness will leave you invisible to the Hans."

With this the ball shot out of the car and flashed away, down the
tunnel ahead of me. I heard a distant metallic thump, and crouched low
in the speeding car, clapping my hands to my ears. The heavy
detonation which followed struck me like a blow and left me gasping
for breath. The car staggered like a living thing that had been
struck, then gathered speed again and shot forward toward the gaping
black hole where the gate had been.

I brought it to a stop at the pile of debris, and climbed through this
to freedom and the night. Stumblingly I made my way out into the open,
and waited.

Behind, and far above me on the mountain peak, the lights of the city
gleamed and flashed, while the iridescent beams of countless
disintegrator ray batteries on surrounding mountain peaks played
continuously and nervously, crisscrossing in the sky above it.

Then with a swish, a line dropped out of the sky, and a little seat
rested on the ground beside me. I climbed into it, and without further
ado was whisked up into the swooper that floated a few hundred feet
above me.

A half an hour later I was deposited in a little forest glade where
the headquarters of the Wyoming Gang were located, and was greeted
with a frantic disregard for decorum by the Deputy Boss of the
Wyomings, who rushed upon me like a whirlwind, laughing, crying and
whispering endearments all in the same breath, while I squeezed her,
Wilma, my wife, until at last she gasped for mercy.

CHAPTER XIV. The Destruction of Lo-Tan

"How did you know I had been taken to Lo-Tan as a prisoner?" I asked
the little group of Wyoming Bosses who had assembled in Wilma's tent
to greet me. "And how does it happen that our gang is away out here in
the Rocky Mountains? I had expected, after the fall of Nu-Yok, that
you would join the forest ring around Bah-Flo or the forces
beleaguering Bos-Tan."

They explained that my encounter with the Han airship had been followed
carefully by several scopemen. They had seen my swooper shoot skyward
out of control, and had followed it with their telultronoscopes until it
had been caught in a gale at a high level, and wafted swiftly westward.
Ultronophone warnings had been broadcast, asking Western Gangs to rescue
me if possible. Few of the gangs west of the Alleghenies, however, had
any swoopers, and though I was frequently reported, no attempts could be
made to rescue me. Scopemen had reported my capture by the Han ground
post, and my probable incarceration in Lo-Tan.

The Rocky Mountain Gangs, in planning their campaign against Lo-Tan,
had appealed to the East for help, and Wilma had led the Wyoming
veterans westward, though the other Eastern Gang had divided their aid
between the armies before Bah-Flo and Bos-Tan.

The heavy bombardment which I had heard from Lo-Tan, they told me, was
merely a test of the enemy's tactics and strength. It accomplished
little other than to ascertain that the Hans had the mountains and
peaks thickly planted with rocket gunners of their own. It was almost
impossible to locate these gun posts, for they were well camouflaged
from air observation, and widely scattered; nor did they reveal their
positions when they went into action as did their ray batteries.

The Hans apparently were abandoning their rays except for air defense.
I told what I knew of the Han plans for abandoning the city and their
escape tunnels. On the strength of this, a general Council of Gang
Bosses was called. This Council agreed that immediate action was
necessary, for my escape from the city probably would be suspected,
and San-Lan would be inclined to start the exodus from the city at

As a matter of fact, the destruction of the city presented no real
problem to us at all. Explosive air balls could be sent against any
target under a control that could not be better were their operators
riding within them, and with no risk to the operators. When a ball was
exploded on its target by the fact to the supply division, and a fresh
one was placed on operator, or destroyed by accident, he simply
reported the jump-off, tuned to his controls.

To my own Gang, the Wyomings, the Council delegated the destruction of
the escape tunnels of the enemy. We had a comfortably located camp in
a wooded canyon, some hundred and thirty miles northeast of the city,
with about 500 men--most of whom were bayonet-gunners; 350 girls as
long-gunners and control-board operators; 91 control boards, and about
250 five-foot, inertron-protected air balls, of which 200 were of the
explosive variety.

I ordered all control boards manned, taking Number One myself, and
instructed the others to follow my lead in single file, at the minimum
interval of safety, with their projectiles set for signal rather than
contact detonation.

In my mind I paid humble tribute to the ingenuity of our engineers as
I gently twisted the lever that shot my projectile vertically into the
air from the jump-off clearing some half mile away.

The control board before me was a compact contrivance about five feet
square. The center of it contained a four-foot viewplate. Whatever
view was picked up by the ultronoscope "eye" of the air ball was
automatically broadcast on an accurate tuning channel to this
viewplate by the automatic mechanism of the projectile. In turn my
control board broadcast the signals which automatically controlled the
movements of the ball.

Above and below the viewplate were the pointers and the swinging
needles which indicated the speed and angle of vertical movement, the
altimeter, the directional compass, and the horizontal speed and
distance indicators.

At my left hand was the lever by which I could set the "eye" for
penetrative, normal or varying degrees of telescopic vision, and at my
right the universally jointed stick (much like the "joy stick" of the
ancient airplanes) with its speed control button on the top with which
the ball was directionally "pointed" and controlled.

The manipulation of these levers I had found, with a very little
practice, most instinctive and simple.

So, as I have said, I pointed my projectile straight up and let it
shoot to the height of two miles. Then I leveled it off, and shot it
at full speed (about 500 miles an hour with no allowance for air
currents) in a general south-westerly direction, while I eased my
controls until brought in the telescopic view of Lo-Tan. I centered
the picture of the city on the crossed hairlines in the middle of my
viewpoint, and watched its image grow.

In about fifteen minutes the "string" of air balls was before the
city, and speaking in my ultrophone I gave the order to halt, while I
swung the scope control to the penetrative setting and let my "eye"
rove slowly back and forth through the walls of the city, hunting for
spot from which I might get my bearings. At last, after many
penetrations, I managed to bring in a view of the head of the shaft at
the bottom of which I knew the tunnels were located, and saw that we
were none too soon for all the corridors leading toward this shaft
were packed with Hans waiting their turn to descend.

Slowly I let my "eye" retreat down one of these corridors until I
"pulled it out" through the outer wall of the city. There I held the
spot on the crossed hairlines and ordered Number Two Operator to my
control board where I pointed out to her the exact spot where I desired
a breach in the wall. Returning to her own board she withdrew her ball
from the "string," and focusing this spot in the wall, eased her
projectile into contact with it and detonated.

The atomic force of the explosion shattered a vast section of the
wall, and for the moment I feared I had balked my own game by not
having provided a less powerful projectile.

After some fumbling, however, I was able to maneuver my ball through a
gap in the debris and find the corridor I was seeking. Down this
corridor I sped like a Twentieth Century bullet, (that is to say, at
about half speed) to spare myself the sight of the slaughter as it cut
a swath down the closely packed column of the enemy. If there were any
it did not kill, I knew they would be taken care of by the other balls
in the string which would follow.

I had to slow it up, however, near the head of the shaft to take my
bearings; and a sea of faces, contorted with livid terror, looked at
me from my viewplate. But not even the terror could conceal the hate
in those faces, so I steeled myself, and drove the ball again and
again into them, until I had cleared the station platform of any
living enemy, and sent the survivors crashing their way madly along
the corridors away from it. There was a blinding flash or two on my
viewplate as some Han officer tried his dis pistol on my projectile,
but that was all--except that he must have disintegrated many of his
fellows. The air balls were sheathed in inertron, and suffered no
damage themselves.

Cautioning my unit to follow carefully, I pushed my control level all
the way forward until my "eye" pointed down, and there appeared on my
viewplate the smooth cylindrical interior of the shaft, fading down
toward the base of the mountain, and like a tiny speck, far, far down,
was the car, descending with its last load.

I dropped my ball on it, battering it down to the bottom of the shaft,
and with hammer-like blows flattening the wreckage, that I might
squeeze the ball out of the shaft at the lower station.

It emerged into the great vaulted excavation, capable of holding a
thousand or more persons, from which the various escape tunnels
radiated. Down these tunnels the last remnants of a crowd of fugitives
were disappearing, while red-coated soldiers guided the traffic and
suppressed disorder with the threat of their spears, and the
occasional flourish of a dis pistol.

As I floated my ball out into the middle of the artificial cavern I
could see them stagger back in terror. Again the blinding flashes of a
few dis pistols, and instantaneous borings of the rays into the walls.
The red coats nearest the escape tunnels fled down them in panic.
Those whose escape I blocked dropped their weapons and shrank back
against the smooth, iridescent green walls.

I marshaled the rest of my string carefully into the cavern, and
counted the tunnel entrances, slowly swinging my "eye" around the
semicircle of them. There were 26 corridors diverging to the north and
west. I decided to send three balls down each, leave 12 in the cavern,
then detonate them all at once.

Assigning my operators to their corridors, I ordered intervals of five
miles between them, and taking the lead down the first corridor, I
ordered "go."

Soon my ball overtook the stream of fugitives, smashing them down
despite dis pistols and even rockets that were shot against it. On and
on I drove it, time and again battering it through detachments of
fleeing Hans, while the distance register on my board climbed to ten,
twenty, fifty miles.

Then I called a halt, and suspended my previous orders, I had had no
idea that the Hans had bored these tunnels for such distances as this.
It would be necessary to trace them to their ends and locate their new
underground cities in which they expected to establish themselves, and
in which many had established themselves by now, no doubt.

Fifty miles of air in these corridors, I thought, ought to prove a
pretty good cushion against the shock of detonation in the cavern. So
I ordered detonation of the twelve balls we had left behind. As I
expected, there was little effect from it so far out in the tunnels.

But from our scopemen who were covering the city from outside, I
learned that the effects of the explosion on the mountain were
terrific; far more than I had dared to hope for.

The mountain itself burst asunder in several spots, throwing out
thousands of tons of earth and rock. Half of the city itself tore
loose and slid downward, lost in the debris of the avalanche of which
it was a part. The remainder, wrenched and convulsed like a living
thing in agony, cracked, crumbled and split, towers tumbling down and
great fissures appearing in its walls. Its power plant and electron
machinery went out of commission. Fifteen of its scout ships hovering
in the air directly above, robbed of the power broadcast and their
repeller beams disappearing, crashed down into the ruins.

But out in the escape tunnels, we continued our explorations, now sure
that no warnings could be broadcast to the tunnel exits, and mowed
down contingent after contingent of the hated Mongolians.

My register showed seventy-five miles before I came to the end of the
tunnel, and drove my ball out into a vast underground city of great,
brilliantly illuminated corridors, some of them hundreds of feet high
and wide. The architectural scheme was one of lace-like structures of
indescribable beauty.

Word had reached us now of the destruction of the city itself, so that
no necessity existed for destroying the escape tunnels. In
consequence, I ordered the two operators, who were following me, to
send their air balls out into this underground city, seeking the shaft
which the Hans were sure to have as a secret exit to the surface of
the earth above.

But at this juncture events of transcending importance interrupted my
plans for a thorough exploration of these new subterranean cities of
the Hans. I detonated my projectile at once and ordered all of the
operators to do so, and to tune in instantly on new ones. That we
wrecked most of these new cities I now know, but at the time we were
in the dark as to how much damage we caused, since our viewplates
naturally went dead when we detonated our projectiles.

CHAPTER XVI. The Counter Attack

The news which made me change my plans was grave enough. As I have
explained, the American lines lay roughly to the east and the south of
the city in the mountains. My own Gang held the northern flank of the
east line. To the south of us was the Colorado Union, a force of 5,000
men and about 2,000 girls recruited from about fifteen Gangs. They
were a splendid organization, well disciplined and equipped, Their
posts, rather widely distributed, occupied the mountain tops and other
points of advantage to a distance of about a hundred and fifty miles
to the south. There the line turned east, and was held by the Gangs
which had come up from the south. Now, simultaneously with the reports
from my scouts that a large Han land force was working its way down on
us from the north, and threatening to outflank us, came word from Jim
Marshall, Big Boss of the Colorado Union and the commander in chief of
our army, that another large Han force was to the southwest of our
western flank. And in addition, it seemed, most of the Han military
forces at Lo-Tan had been moved out of the city and advanced toward
our lines before our air-ball attack.

The situation would not have been in the least alarming if the Hans
had had no better arms to fight with than their dis rays, which
naturally revealed the locations of their generators the second the
visible beams went into play, and their airships, which we had learned
how to bring down, first from the air, and now from the ground,
through ultrono-controlled projectiles.

But the Hans had learned their lesson from us by this time. Their
electrono-chemists had devised atomic projectiles, rocket-propelled,
very much like our own, which could be launched in a terrific barrage
without revealing the locations of their batteries; and they had
equipped their infantry with rocket guns not dissimilar to ours. The
division of their army had been expanded by general conscription. So
far as ordnance was concerned, we had little advantage over them.
Tactically we were still far superior, for our jumping belts enabled
our men and girls to scale otherwise inaccessible heights, conceal
themselves readily in the upper branches of the giant trees, and gave
them a general all-around mobility the enemy could not hope to equal.

We had the advantage too, in our ultronophones and scopes, in a field
of energy which the Hans could not penetrate, while we could cut in on
their electrons, or (as I would have called it in the Twentieth
Century) radio broadcasts.

Later reports showed that there were no less than 10,000 Hans in the
force to our north, which evidently was equipped with a portable power
broadcast, sufficient for communication purposes and the local
operation of small scoutships, painted a green which made them
difficult to distinguish against the mountain and forest backgrounds.
These ships just skimmed the surface of the terrain, hardly ever
outlining themselves against the sky. Moreover, the Han commanders
wisely had refrained from massing their forces. They had deployed over
a very wide and deep front, in small units, well scattered, which were
driving down the parallel valleys and canyons like spearheads. Their
communications were working well too, for our scouts reported their
advance as well restrained, and maintaining a perfect front as between
valley and valley, with a secondary line of heavy batteries, moved by
small airships from peak to peak, following along the ridges somewhat
behind the valley forces.

Marshall had determined to withdraw our southern wing, pivoting it
back to face the outflanking Han force on that side, which had already
worked its way well down in back of our line.

In the ultronophone Council which we held at once, each Boss tuning in
on Marshall's band, though remaining with his unit, Wilma and I
pleaded for a vigorous attack rather than a defensive maneuver. Our
suggestion was to divide the American forces into three divisions,
with all the swoopers forming a special reserve, and to advance with a
rush on the three Han forces behind a rolling barrage.

But the best we could do was to secure permission to make such an
attack with our Wyomings, if we wished to serve as a diversion while
the lines were re-forming. And two of the southern Gangs on the west
flank, which were eager to get at the enemy, received the same

The rest of the army fumed at the caution of the Council, but it spoke
well for their discipline that they did not take things in their own
hands, for in the eyes of these forest men who had been hounded for
centuries, the chance to spring at the throats of the Hans outweighed
all other considerations.

So, as the Council signed off, Wilma and I turned to the eager faces
that surrounded us, and issued our orders.

* * * *

In a moment the air was filled with leaping figures as the men and
girls shot away over the treetops and up the mountainsides in the
deployment movement.

A group of our engineers threw themselves headlong toward a cave
across the valley, where they had rigged out a powerful electrons
plant operating from atomic energy. And a few moments later the little
portable receiver the Intelligence Boss used to pick up the enemy
messages, began to emit such earsplitting squeals and howls that he
shut it off. Our heterodyne or "radio-scrambling" broadcast had gone
into operation, emitting impulses of constantly varying wavelength
over the full broadcast range and heterodyning the Han communications
into futility.

In a little while our scouts came leaping down the valley from the
north, and our air balls now were hovering above the Han lines,
operators at the control boards nearby painstakingly picking up the
pictures of the Han squads struggling down the valleys with their
comparatively clumsy weapons.

As fast as the air ball scopes picked out these squads, their
operators, each of whom was in ultronophone communication with a girl
long-gunner at some spot in our line, would inform her of the location
of the enemy unit. Then the gunner, after a bit of mathematical
calculation, would send a rocket into the air which would come roaring
down on, or very near that unit, and wipe it out.

But for all of that, the number of the Han squads was too much for us.
And for every squad we destroyed, fifty others continued their

And though the lines were still several miles apart, in most places,
and in some cases with mountain ridges intervening, the Han fire
control began to sense the general location of our posts, and things
became more serious as their rockets began to hiss down and explode
here and there in our lines, not infrequently killing or maiming one
or more of our girls.

The men, our bayonet-gunners, had not as yet suffered. They were well
in advance of the girls, under strict orders to shoot no rockets nor
in any way reveal their positions; so the Han rockets were going over
their heads.

The Hans in the valleys now were shooting diagonal barrages up the
slopes toward the ridges, where they suspected we would be most
strongly posted, thus making a cross-fire up the two sides of a ridge,
while their heavy batteries, somewhat in the rear, shot straight along
the tops of the ridges. But their valley forces were getting out of
alignment a bit by now, owing to our heterodyne operations.

I ordered our swoopers, of which we had five, to sweep along above
these ridges and destroy the Han batteries.

Up in the higher levels where they were located, the Hans had little
cover. A few of their small rep ray ships rose to meet our swoopers,
but were battered down. One swooper they brought to earth with a dis
ray beam by creating a vacuum beneath it, but they did it no serious
damage, for its fall was a light one. Subsequently it did tremendous
damage, cleaning off an entire ridge.

Another swooper ran into a catastrophe that had one chance in a
million of occurring. It hit a heavy Han rocket nose-to-nose. Inertron
sheathing and all, it was blown into powder.

But the others accomplished their jobs excellently.

Small, two-man ships, streaking straight at the Hans at between 600
and 700 miles an hour, they could not be hit except by luck, and they
showered their tiny but powerful bombs everywhere as they went.

At the same instant I ordered the girls to cease sharp shooting, and
lay their barrages down in the valleys, with their long-guns set for
maximum automatic advance, and to feed the reservoirs as fast as
possible, while the bayonet gunners leaped along close behind this

Then, with a Twentieth Century urge to see with my own eyes rather
than through a viewplate, and to take part in the action, I turned
command over to Wilma and leaped away, fifty feet at a jump, up the
valley, toward the distant flashes and rolling thunder.


I had gone five miles, and had paused for a moment, halfway up the
slope of the valley to get my bearings, when a figure came hurtling
through the air from behind, and landed lightly at my side. It was

"I put Dave Berg in command and followed, Tony. I won't let you go
into that alone. If you die, I do, too. Now don't argue, dear. I'm

So together we leaped northward again toward the battle. And after a
bit we pulled up close behind the barrage.

Great, blinding flashes, like a continuous wall of gigantic fireworks,
receded up the valley ahead of us, sweeping ahead of it a seething,
tossing mass of debris that seemed composed of all nature, tons of
earth, rocks and trees. Ever and anon vast sections of the
mountainsides would loosen and slide into the valley.

And, leaping close behind this barrage, with a reckless skill and
courage that amazed me, our bayonet gunners appeared in a continuous
serious of flashing pictures outlined in midleap against the wall of

I would not have believed it possible for such a barrage to pass over
any of the enemy and leave them unscathed. But it did. For the Hans,
operating small disintegrator beams from local or field broadcasts
frantically bored deep, slanting holes in the earth as the fiery tides
of explosions rolled up the valleys toward them; and into these
probably half of their units were able to throw themselves and escape

But dazed and staggering they came forth again on to meet death from
the terrible, ripping, slashing, cleaving weapons in the hands of our
leaping bayonet gunners.

Thrust! Cut! Crunch! Slice! Thrust! Up and down with vicious,
tireless, flashing speed swung the bayonets an axe-bladed butts of the
American gunners as they leaped and dodged, ever forward, toward new

Weakly and ineffectually the red-coated Han soldiers thrust at them
with spears, failing with their short swords and knives, or whipping
about their dis pistols. The Forest Men were too powerful, too fast in
their remorselessly efficient movement.

With a shout of unholy joy, I gripped a bayonet-gun from the hands of
a gunner whose leg had been whisked out of existence beneath him by a
pistol ray, and leaped forward into the fight, launching myself at a
red-coated officer who was just stepping out of a "worm hole."

Like a shriek of the Valkyrie, Wilma's battle cry ran in my ear as
she, too, shot herself like a rocket at a red-coated figure.

I thrust with every ounce of my strength. The Han officer, grinning
wickedly as he tried to raise the muzzle of his pistol, threw himself
backward as my bayonet ripped the air under his nose. But his grin
turned instantly to sickened surprise as the up-cleaving axe-blade on
the butt of my weapon caught him in the groin, half bisecting him.

And from the corner of my eye I saw Wilma bury her bayonet in her
opponent, screaming in ecstatic joy.

And so, in a matter of seconds, we found ourselves in the front rank,
thrusting, cutting, dodging, leaping along behind that blinding and
deafening barrage in a veritable whirlwind of fury, until it seemed to
me that we were exulting in a consciousness of excelling even that
tide of destruction in our merciless efficiency.

At last we became aware, in but a vague sort of way at first, that no
more red-coats were rising up out of the ground to go down again
before our whirling, swinging weapons. Gradually we paused, looking
about in wonder. Then the barrage ceased, and the sudden absence of
the deafening roll, and the wall of light, in themselves, deafened and
blinded us.

I leaped weakly toward the spot where hazily I spied Wilma, now
drooping and swaying on her feet, supported as she was by her jumping
belt, and caught her in my arms, just as she was sinking gently to the

All around us the weary warriors, crimsoned now with the blood of the
enemy, were sinking to the ground in exhaustion. And as I, too, sank
down, clutching in my arms the unconscious form of my warrior wife, I
began to hear, through my helmet phones, the exultant report of

Our attack had swept straight through the enemy's sector, completely
annihilating everything except a few hundred of his troops on either
flank. And these, in panic and terror, had scattered wildly in flight.
We had wiped out a force more than ten times our own number. The right
flank of the American army was saved. And already the Colorado Union,
from behind us, was leaping around in a great circling movement,
closing in on the Han force that was advancing from the ruins of

Far away, to the southwest, the Southern Gangs, reinforced in the end
by the bulk of our left wing, had struck straight at the enveloping
Han force shattering it like a thunderbolt, and at present were busily
hunting down and destroying its scattered remnants.

But before the Colorado Union could complete the destruction of the
central division of the enemy, the despairing Hans saved them the
trouble. Company after company of them, knowing no escape was
possible, lined up in the forest glades and valleys, while their
officers swept them out of existence by the hundreds with their dis
pistols, which they then turned on themselves.

And so the fall of Lo-Tan was accomplished. Somewhere in the seething
activities of those few days, San-Lan, the "Heaven-Born" Emperor of
the Hans in America, perished, for he was heard of never again. The
unified action of the Hans vanished with him, though it was several
years before, one by one, their remaining cities were destroyed and
their population hunted down, thus completing the reclamation of
America and inaugurating the most glorious and noble era of scientific
civilization in the history of the American race.

* * * *

As I look back on those emotional and violent years from my present
vantage point of declining existence in an age of peace and good will
toward all mankind, they do seem savage and repellent.

Then there flashes into my memory the picture of Wilma as, screaming
in an utter abandon of merciless fury, she threw herself recklessly,
exultantly into the thick of that wild, relentless slaughter; and my
mind can find nothing savage nor repellent about her.

If I was so completely carried away by the fury of that war, which was
intensified by centuries of unspeakable cruelty on the part of men who
were mentally gods and morally beasts, shall I be shocked at the
"bloodthirstiness" of a mate who was, after all, but a normal girl of
that day?

Had the Hans been raging tigers, or reptiles, would we have spared
them? And when in their centuries of degradation they had destroyed
the souls within themselves, were they in any way superior to tigers
or snakes? To have extended mercy would have been suicide.

In the years that followed, Wilma and I traveled nearly every nation
on the earth which had succeeded in throwing off the Han domination,
spurred on by our success in America. I never knew her to show to the
men or women of any race anything but the utmost of sympathetic
courtesy and consideration, whether they were the noble brown-skinned
Caucasians of India, the sturdy Balkanites of Southern Europe, or the
simple, spiritual Blacks of Africa, today one of the leading races of
the world--although in the Twentieth Century we regarded them as
inferior. This charity and gentleness of hers did not fail even in our
contacts with the non-Han Mongolians of Japan and the coast provinces
of China.

But that monstrosity among the races of men which originated as a
hybrid somewhere in the dark fastnesses of interior Asia, and spread
itself like an inhuman blight over the face of the globe--for that
race, like all of us, she felt nothing but horror and the irresistible
urge to extermination.

Latterly, our historians and anthropologists find much support for the
theory that the Hans sprang from a genus of human-like creatures that
may have arrived on this earth with a small planet (or large meteor)
which is known to have crashed in interior Asia late in the Twentieth
Century, causing certain permanent changes in the earth's orbit and

Geological convulsions blocked this section off from the rest of the
world for many years. And it is a historical fact that Chinese
scientists, driving their explorations into it at a somewhat later
period, met the first wave of the on-coming Hans.

The theory is that these creatures (and certain queer skeletons have
been found in the "Asiatic Bowl") with a mental super-development, but
a vacuum in place of that intangible something we call a soul, mated
forcibly with the Tibetans, thereby strengthening their physical
structure to almost the human normal, adapting themselves to earthly
speech and habits, and in some strange manner intensifying even
further their mental powers.

However, through the centuries that followed, as the Hans spread over
the face of the earth, this unearthly strain in them not only became
more dilute, but lost its potency. In the end, the poison of it
submerged the power of it, and earth's mankind came again into
possession of its inheritance.

How all this may be, I do not know. It is merely a hypothesis over
which the learned men of today dispute.

But I do know that there was something inhuman about these Hans. I had
many months of intimate contact with them, and with their Emperor in
America. I can vouch for the fact that even in his most friendly and
human moments, there was an inhumanity, or perhaps "unhumanity" about
him that aroused in me that urge to kill.

But whether or not there was in these people strains from outside this
planet, the fact remains that they have been exterminated, that a
truly human civilization reigns once more--and that I am now a very
tired old man, waiting with no regrets for the call which will take me
to another existence.

There, it is my hope and my conviction that my courageous mate of
those bloody days waits for me with loving arms.


This site is full of FREE ebooks - Project Gutenberg Australia