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Title: Armageddon—2419 A.D.
Author: Nowlan, Philip Francis, 1888-1940
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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ARMAGEDDON--2419 A.D.

_By Philip Francis Nowlan_


    _Here, once more, is a real scientifiction story plus. It is a story
    which will make the heart of many readers leap with joy._

    _We have rarely printed a story in this magazine that for scientific
    interest, as well as suspense, could hold its own with this
    particular story. We prophesy that this story will become more
    valuable as the years go by. It certainly holds a number of
    interesting prophecies, of which no doubt, many will come true. For
    wealth of science, it will be hard to beat for some time to come. It
    is one of those rare stories that will bear reading and re-reading
    many times._

    _This story has impressed us so favorably, that we hope the author
    may be induced to write a sequel to it soon._



Foreword


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

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

This statement requires elucidation. There are still many in the world
who are not familiar with my unique experience. Five centuries from now
there may be many more, especially if civilization is fated to endure
any worse convulsions than those which have occurred between 1975 A.D.
and the present time.

I should state therefore, that I, Anthony Rogers, am, so far as I know,
the only man alive whose normal span of eighty-one years of life has
been spread over a period of 573 years. To be precise, I lived the first
twenty-nine years of my life between 1898 and 1927; the other fifty-two
since 2419. The gap between these two, a period of nearly five hundred
years, I spent in a state of suspended animation, free from the ravages
of katabolic processes, and without any apparent effect on my physical
or mental faculties.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

With two assistants and a complete equipment of scientific instruments,
I began the exploration of a deserted working in a mountainous district,
where several weeks before, a number of mining engineers had reported
traces of carnotite[1] and what they believed to be radioactive gases.
Their report was not without foundation, it was apparent from the
outset, for in our examination of the upper levels of the mine, our
instruments indicated a vigorous radioactivity.

    [1] A hydrovanadate of uranium, and other metals; used as a source
    of radium compounds.

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

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

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

When I awoke, there was a cool and refreshing circulation of air in the
shaft. I had no thought that I had been unconscious more than a few
hours, although it seems that the radioactive gas had kept me in a state
of suspended animation for something like 500 years. My awakening, I
figured out later, had been due to some shifting of the strata which
reopened the shaft and cleared the atmosphere in the working. This must
have been the case, for I was able to struggle back up the shaft over a
pile of debris, and stagger up the long incline to the mouth of the
mine, where an entirely different world, overgrown with a vast forest
and no visible sign of human habitation, met my eyes.

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

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



CHAPTER I

Floating Men


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



CHAPTER II

The Forest Gangs


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And quite naturally, the Americans regarded the Hans with a deep, grim
hatred. Conscious of individual superiority as men, knowing that
latterly they were outstripping the Hans in science and civilization,
they longed desperately for the day when they should be powerful enough
to rise and annihilate the Yellow Blight that lay over the continent.

At the time of my awakening, the gangs were rather loosely organized,
but were considering the establishment of a special military force,
whose special business it would be to harry the Hans and bring down
their air ships whenever possible without causing general alarm among
the Mongolians. This force was destined to become the nucleus of the
national force, when the Day of Retribution arrived. But that, however,
did not happen for ten years, and is another story.

[Illustration: On the left of the illustration is a Han girl, and on the
right is an American girl, who, like all of her race, is equipped with
an inertron belt and a rocket gun.]

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

Her duties alternated between military or police scouting and factory
work. For the two-week period which would end the next day, she had been
on "air patrol." This did not mean, as I first imagined, that she was
flying, but rather that she was on the lookout for Han ships over this
outlying section of the Wyoming territory, and had spent most of her
time perched in the tree tops scanning the skies. Had she seen one she
would have fired a "drop flare" several miles off to one side, which
would ignite when it was floating vertically toward the earth, so that
the direction or point from which if had been fired might not be guessed
by the airship and bring a blasting play of the disintegrator ray in her
vicinity. Other members of the air patrol would send up rockets on
seeing hers, until finally a scout equipped with an ultrophone, which,
unlike the ancient radio, operated on the ultronic ethereal vibrations,
would pass the warning simultaneously to the headquarters of the Wyoming
Gang and other communities within a radius of several hundred miles, not
to mention the few American rocket ships that might be in the air, and
which instantly would duck to cover either through forest clearings or
by flattening down to earth in green fields where their coloring would
probably protect them from observation. The favorite American method of
propulsion was known as "_rocketing_." The _rocket_ is what I would
describe, from my 20th Century comprehension of the matter, as an
extremely powerful gas blast, atomically produced through the
stimulation of chemical action. Scientists of today regard it as a
childishly simple reaction, but by that very virtue, most economical and
efficient.

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

Wilma cleared up for me the mystery of those flying leaps which she and
her assailants had made, and explained in the following manner, how the
inertron belt balances weight:

"_Jumpers_" were in common use at the time I "awoke," though they were
costly, for at that time _inertron_ had not been produced in very great
quantity. They were very useful in the forest. They were belts,
strapped high under the arms, containing an amount of inertron adjusted
to the wearer's weight and purposes. In effect they made a man weigh as
little as he desired; two pounds if he liked.

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

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

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

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

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

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



CHAPTER III

Life in the 25th Century


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

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

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

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

"You want to report by phone then, don't you?" Alan took a compact
packet about six inches square from a holster attached to her belt and
handed it to Wilma.

So far as I could see, it had no special receiver for the ear. Wilma
merely threw back a lid, as though she were opening a book, and began to
talk. The voice that came back from the machine was as audible as her
own.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

They gave him a brief outline of my story and a report of their
examination of me. He made no comment other than to nod his acceptance
of it. Then he turned to me.

"How does it feel?" he asked. "Do we look funny to you?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

There were 724 dwellings or "camps" among the Wyomings, located within
an area of about fifteen square miles. The total population was 8,688,
every man, woman and child, whether member or "exchange," being listed.

The plants were widely scattered through the territory also. Nowhere was
anything like congestion permitted. So far as possible, families and
individuals were assigned to living quarters, not too far from the
plants or offices in which their work lay.

All able-bodied men and women alternated in two-week periods between
military and industrial service, except those who were needed for
household work. Since working conditions in the plants and offices were
ideal, and everybody thus had plenty of healthy outdoor activity in
addition, the population was sturdy and active. Laziness was regarded as
nearly the greatest of social offenses. Hard work and general merit were
variously rewarded with extra privileges, advancement to positions of
authority, and with various items of personal equipment for convenience
and luxury.

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

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

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

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

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

[Illustration: Setting his rocket gun for a long-distance shot.]

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

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

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

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

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

During the first two weeks of my stay with the Wyomings, Wilma Deering
and I saw a great deal of each other. I naturally felt a little closer
friendship for her, in view of the fact that she was the first human
being I saw after waking from my long sleep; her appreciation of my
saving her life, though I could not have done otherwise than I did in
that matter, and most of all my own appreciation of the fact that she
had not found it as difficult as the others to believe my story,
operated in the same direction. I could easily imagine my story must
have sounded incredible.

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

The others of the community, however, seemed to find our friendship a
bit amusing. It seemed that Wilma had a reputation for being cold toward
the opposite sex, and so others, not being able to appreciate some of
her fine qualities as I did, misinterpreted her attitude, much to their
own delight. Wilma and I, however, ignored this as much as we could.



CHAPTER IV

A Han Air Raid


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I fumbled clumsily with my rocket pouch, for I was excited. I had an
idea I wanted to try; a "hunch" I called it, forgetting that Wilma could
not understand my ancient slang. But finally, with her help, I selected
the longest range explosive rocket in my pouch, and fitted it to my
pistol.

"It won't carry seven thousand feet, Tony," Wilma objected. But I took
aim carefully. It was another thought that I had in my mind. The
supporting repellor ray, I had been told, became molecular in character
at what was called a logarithmic level of five (below that it was a
purely electronic "flow" or pulsation between the source of the
"carrier" and the average mass of the earth). Below that level if I
could project my explosive bullet into this stream where it began to
carry material substance upward, might it not rise with the air column,
gathering speed and hitting the ship with enough impact to carry it
through the shell? It was worth trying anyhow. Wilma became greatly
excited, too, when she grasped the nature of my inspiration.

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

For a moment we gazed breathlessly.

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

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

We had only one more rocket of extreme range between us, and we dropped
it three times in our excitement in inserting it in my gun. Then,
forcing myself to be calm by sheer will power, while Wilma stuffed her
little fist into her mouth to keep from shrieking, I sighted carefully
again and fired. In a flash, Wilma had grasped the hope that this
discovery of mine might lead to the end of the Han domination.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Why?" I asked.

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

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

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

We reported to Boss Hart at once. He was silent, but interested, when he
heard our story.

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



CHAPTER V

Setting the Trap


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

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

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

[Illustration: The Han raider neared with incredible speed. Its rays
were both slanted astern at a sharp angle, so that it slid forward with
tremendous momentum.... Whenever the disintegrator rays flashed downward
with blinding brilliancy, forest, rocks and ground melted
instantaneously into nothing, where they played upon them.]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My ear discs remained silent.

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

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

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



CHAPTER VI

The "Wyoming Massacre"


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

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

"How are they armed?" I asked.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I crouched at the far side of the compartment, motionless. I would not
draw my sword if there were only one of them. He would be a weakling, I
figured, and I should easily overcome him with my bare hands.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Again there was a chorus of assent.

"Then on the count of three, shoot up those repellor rays--all of
them--and for God's sake, don't miss." And I counted.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I shouted with exultation and relief.

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

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

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

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

[Illustration: As the American leaped, he swung his legs up in front of
him, catching the Han full in the stomach.]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"The squadron proceeded to a position above the Wyoming Valley where
the wreck of the GK-984 was known to be, from the record of its location
finder before it went dead recently. There the bottom projectoscope
relays of all ships registered the wreck of the GK-984. Teleprojectoscope
views of the wreck and the bowl of the valley showed no evidence of the
presence of tribesmen. Neither ship registers nor base registers showed
any indication of electroactivity except from the squadron itself. On
orders from the Base Squadron Commander, the LD-248, LK-745 and LG-25
scouted southward at 3,000 feet. The GK-43, GK-981 and GK-220 stood
above at 2,500 feet, and the GK-18 landed to permit personal inspection
of the wreck by the science committee. The party debarked, leaving one
man on board in the control cabin. He set all projectoscopes at
universal focus except RB-3," (this meant the third projectoscope from
the bow of the ship, on the right-hand side of the lower deck) "with
which he followed the landing group as it walked around the wreck.

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

"At this point projectoscope RB-3 of the ship now out of focus control,
dimly showed the landing party walking back toward the ship. RB-4 showed
it more clearly. Then on both these instruments, a number of blinding
explosives in rapid succession were seen and the electrophone relays
registered terrific concussions; the ship's electronic apparatus and
projectoscopes apparatus went dead.

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

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

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

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

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

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



CHAPTER VII

Incredible Treason


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I found myself a full-fledged member of the Gang now, for I had elected
to search no farther for a permanent alliance, much as I would have
liked to familiarize myself with this 25th Century life in other
sections of the country. The Wyomings had a high morale, and had
prospered under the rule of Big Boss Hart for many years. But many of
the gangs, I found, were badly organized, lacked strong hands in
authority, and were rife with intrigue. On the whole, I thought I would
be wise to stay with a group which had already proved its friendliness,
and in which I seemed to have prospects of advancement. Under these
modern social and economic conditions, the kind of individual freedom to
which I had been accustomed in the 20th Century was impossible. I would
have been as much of a nonentity in every phase of human relationship by
attempting to avoid alliances, as any man of the 20th Century would have
been politically, who aligned himself with no political party.

This entire modern life, it appeared to me, judging from my ancient
viewpoint, was organized along what I called "political" lines. And in
this connection, it amused me to notice how universal had become the use
of the word "boss." The leader, the person in charge or authority over
anything, was a "boss." There was as little formality in his relations
with his followers as there was in the case of the 20th Century
political boss, and the same high respect paid him by his followers as
well as the same high consideration by him of their interests. He was
just as much of an autocrat, and just as much dependent upon the general
popularity of his actions for the ability to maintain his autocracy.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"This is going to mean real business for all of the gangs before long.
The Big Bosses have just held a national ultrophone council. It was
decided that America must organize on a national basis. The first move
is to develop sectional organization by Zones. I have been made
Superboss of the Mid-Atlantic Zone.

"We're in for it now. The Hans are sure to launch reprisal expeditions.
If we're to save the race we must keep them away from our camps and
plants. I'm thinking of developing a permanent field force, along the
lines of the regular armies of the 20th Century you told me about. Its
business will be twofold: to carry the warfare as much as possible to
the Hans, and to serve as a decoy, to beep their attention from our
plants. I'm going to need your help in this.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



CHAPTER VIII

The Han City


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

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

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

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

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

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

She just gave me an unfathomable look, in which there seemed to be a bit
of pride, and asked eagerly for the details. I confess I was somewhat
disappointed that she could so courageously risk my loss, even though I
was amazed at her fortitude. But later I was to learn how little I knew
her then.

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

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

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

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

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

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

The others, it seemed, had all been in on the secret, and now they would
have kidded me unmercifully, except that Wilma's eyes blazed
dangerously.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Were you ever here before?" I asked.

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



CHAPTER IX

The Fight in the Tower


So far we had not laid eyes on a Han. The tower seemed deserted. Blash
and Gaunt, however, assured me that there would be at least one man on
"duty" in the military offices, though he would probably be asleep, and
two or three in the library proper and the projectoscope plant.

"We've got to put them out of commission," I said. "Did you bring the
'dope' cans, Wilma?"

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

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

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

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

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

I apprised my companions of the situation.

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

Wilma reported an officer in the military office sound asleep.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The soft, gliding sound ceased.

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

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

In the middle of my leap my ultrophone registered her gasp of alarm. The
next instant I glided to a stop at the intersection to see Wilma backing
toward the door of the military office, her sword red with blood, and an
inert form on the corridor floor. Two other Hans were circling to either
side of her with wicked-looking knives, while a third evidently a high
officer, judging by the resplendence of his garb tugged desperately to
get an electrophone instrument out of a bulky pocket. If he ever gave
the alarm, there was no telling what might happen to us.

I was at least seventy feet away, but I crouched low and sprang with
every bit of strength in my legs. It would be more correct to say that I
dived, for I reached the fellow head on, with no attempt to draw my legs
beneath me.

Some instinct must have warned him, for he turned suddenly as I hurtled
close to him. But by this time I had sunk close to the floor, and had
stiffened myself rigidly, lest a dragging knee or foot might just
prevent my reaching him. I brought my blade upward and over. It was a
vicious slash that laid him open, bisecting him from groin to chin, and
his dead body toppled down on me, as I slid to a tangled stop.

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Where are you, Barker?" I called.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



CHAPTER X

The Walls of Hell


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



CHAPTER XI

The New Boss


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

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

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

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

"Every man and maid who can be spared," he replied. "That gives us seven
hundred married and unmarried men, and three hundred girls, more than
the entire Bad Blood Gang. Every one is equipped with belts,
ultrophones, rocket guns and swords, and all fighting mad."

I meditated how I might put the matter to these determined men, and was
vaguely conscious that they were awaiting my words.

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

As I concluded, a great calm came over me, as of one detached. I had
felt much the same way during several crises in the First World War. I
gazed from face to face, striving to read their expressions, and in a
mood to make good my threat without any further heroics, if the decision
was against me.

But it was Hart who sensed the temper of the Council more quickly than I
did, and looked beyond it into the future.

He arose from the tree trunk on which he had been sitting.

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

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

The roar of approval that went up from the Council members left me
dazed. Somebody ultrophoned the news to the rest of the Gang, and even
though the earflaps of my helmet were turned up, I could hear the cheers
with which my invisible followers greeted me, from near and distant
hillsides, camps and plants.

My first move was to make sure that the Phone Boss, in communicating
this news to the members of the Gang, had not re-broadcast my talk nor
mentioned my plan of shifting the attack from the Bad Bloods to the
Sinsings. I was relieved by his assurance that he had not, for it would
have wrecked the whole plan. Everything depended upon our ability to
surprise the Sinsings.

So I pledged the Council and my companions to secrecy, and allowed it to
be believed that we were about to take to the air and the trees against
the Bad Bloods.

That outfit must have been badly scared, the way they were "burning" the
ether with ultrophone alibis and propaganda for the benefit of the more
distant gangs. It was their old game, and the only method by which they
had avoided extermination long ago from their immediate neighbors--these
appeals to the spirit of American brotherhood, addressed to gangs too
far away to have had the sort of experience with them that had fallen to
our lot.

I chuckled. Here was another good reason for the shift in my plans. Were
we actually to undertake the exterminations of the Bad Bloods at once,
it would have been a hard job to convince some of the gangs that we had
not been precipitate and unjustified. Jealousies and prejudices existed.
There were gangs which would give the benefit of the doubt to the Bad
Bloods, rather than to ourselves, and the issue was now hopelessly
beclouded with the clever lies that were being broadcast in an unceasing
stream.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There would be nothing tiring about this, because the strain would be no
greater than that of carrying a one or two pound weight in the hand,
except for air friction at high speeds. But to make doubly sure that we
should lose none of our personnel, I gave strict orders that the belts
and tow lines should be equipped with rings and hooks.

So great was the efficiency of the fundamental organization and
discipline of the Gang, that we got under way at nightfall.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



CHAPTER XII

The Finger of Doom


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

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

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

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

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

He spoke into his ultrophone, and three of the ships began to glide in a
wide ring around the enemy territory. Every few seconds, at the word
from his Unit Boss, a gunner would drop off the wire, and slipping the
clasp of his chute cape, drift down into the darkness below.

Bill formed two lines, parallel to and facing the river, and enclosing
the entire territory of the enemy between them. Above and below,
straddling the river, were two defensive lines. These latter were merely
to hold their positions. The others were to close in toward each other,
pushing a high-explosive barrage five miles ahead of them. When the two
barrages met, both lines were to switch to short-vision-range barrage
and continue to close in on any of the enemy who might have drifted
through the previous curtain of fire.

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

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

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

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

The White Division Boss reported the utmost confusion in the Sinsing
organization. They were, as might be expected, an inefficient, loosely
disciplined gang, and repeated broadcasts for help to neighboring gangs.
Ignoring the fact that the Mongolians had not used explosives for many
generations, they nevertheless jumped at the conclusion that they were
being raided by the Hans. Their frantic broadcasts persisted in this
thought, despite the nervous electrophonic inquiries of the Hans
themselves, to whom the sound of the battle was evidently audible, and
who were trying to locate the trouble.

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

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

I queried Garlin on this, but he assured me Yellow Intelligence reported
no indications of Han ships nearer than 800 miles. This would probably
give us a free hand for a while, since most of their instruments
recorded only imperfectly or not at all, through the death wall.

Requisitioning one of the viewplates of the headquarters ship, and the
services of an expert operator, I instructed him to focus on our lines
below. I wanted a close-up of the men in action.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I queried the Control Boss sharply on the futility of this attempt of
theirs, and learned that the Hans, apparently in doubt as to what was
going on, had continued to "play safe," and broken off their power
broadcast, after ordering all their own ships east of the Alleghenies to
the ground, for fear these ships they had traded to the Sinsings might
be used against them.

Again I turned to my viewplate, which was still focussed on the central
section of the Sinsing works. The confusion of the traitors was entirely
that of fear, for our barrage had not yet reached them.

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

Their ultrophone men, of whom they did not have many, stood around in
tense attitudes, their helmet phones strapped around their ears,
nervously fingering the tuning controls at their belts. Unquestionably
they must have located some of our frequencies, and overheard many of
our reports and orders. But they were confused and disorganized. If they
had an Ultrophone Boss they evidently were not reporting to him in an
organized way.

They were beginning to draw back now before our advancing fire. With
intermittent desperation, they began to shoot over our barrage again,
and the explosions of their rockets flashed at widely scattered points
beyond. A few took distance "pot shots."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As I pointed out to Wilma:

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

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

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

"I tremble though, Tony dear, when I think of the horrors that are ahead
of us. The Hans are clever. They will develop defenses against our new
tactics. And they are sure to mass against us not only the full force of
their power in America, but the united forces of the World Empire. They
are a cowardly race in one sense, but clever as the very Devils in Hell,
and inheritors of a calm, ruthless, vicious persistency."

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


THE END.



Transcriber's Note:

    This etext was produced from _Amazing Stories_ August 1928.
    Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that the U.S.
    copyright on this publication was renewed. Minor spelling and
    typographical errors have been corrected without note.





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