: The Airlords Of Han
The news which caused me to change my plans was grave enough. As I have
explained, the American lines lay roughly to the east and the south of
the city in the mountains. My own Gang held the northern flank of the
east line. To the south of us was the Colorado Union, a force of 5,000
men and about 2,000 girls recruited from about fifteen Gangs. They were
a splendid organization, well disciplined and equipped. Their posts,
rather widely distributed, occupied the mountain tops and other points
of advantage to a distance of about a hundred and fifty miles to the
south. There the line turned east, and was held by the Gangs which had
come up from the south. Now, simultaneously with the reports from my
scouts that a large Han land force was working its way down on us from
the north, and threatening to outflank us, came word from Jim Hallwell,
Big Boss of the Colorado Union and the commander in chief of our army,
that another large Han force was to the southwest of our western flank.
And in addition, it seemed, most of the Han military forces at Lo-Tan
had been moved out of the city and advanced toward our lines before our
The situation would not have been in the least alarming if the Hans had
had no better arms to fight with than their disintegrator rays, which
naturally revealed the locations of their generators the second the
visible beams went into play, and their airships, which we had learned
how to bring down, first from the air, and now from the ground, through
But the Hans had learned their lesson from us by this time. Their
electrono-chemists had devised atomic projectiles, rocket-propelled,
very much like our own, which could be launched in a terrific barrage
without revealing the locations of their batteries, and they had
equipped their infantry with rocket guns not dissimilar to ours. This
division of their army had been expanded by general conscription. So far
as ordnance was concerned, we had little advantage over them; although
tactically we were still far superior, for our jumping belts enabled our
men and girls to scale otherwise inaccessible heights, conceal
themselves readily in the upper branches of the giant trees, and gave
them a general all around mobility, the enemy could not hope to equal.
We had the advantage too, in our ultronophones and scopes, in a field of
energy which the Hans could not penetrate, while we could cut in on
their electrono or (as I would have called it in the Twentieth Century)
* * * * *
Later reports showed that there were no less than 10,000 Hans in the
force to our north, which evidently was equipped with a portable power
broadcast, sufficient for communication purposes and the local operation
of small scoutships, painted a green which made them difficult to
distinguish against the mountain and forest backgrounds. These ships
just skimmed the surface of the terrain, hardly ever outlining
themselves against the sky. Moreover, the Han commanders wisely had
refrained from massing their forces. They had developed over a very wide
and deep front, in small units, well scattered, which were driving down
the parallel valleys and canyons like spearheads. Their communications
were working well too, for our scouts reported their advance as well
restrained, and maintaining a perfect front as between valley and
valley, with a secondary line of heavy batteries, moved by small
airships from peak to peak, following along the ridges somewhat behind
the valley forces.
Hallwell had determined to withdraw our southern wing, pivoting it back
to face the outflanking Han force on that side, which had already worked
its way well down in back of our line.
In the ultronophone council which we held at once, each Boss tuning in
on Hallwell's band, though remaining with his unit, Wilma and I pleaded
for a vigorous attack rather than a defensive maneuver. Our suggestion
was to divide the American forces into three divisions, with all the
swoopers forming a special reserve, and to advance with a rush on the
three Han forces behind a rolling barrage.
But the best we could do was to secure permission to make such an attack
with our Wyomings, if we wished, to serve as a diversion while the lines
were reforming. And two of the southern Gangs on the west flank, which
were eager to get at the enemy, received the same permission.
The rest of the army fumed at the caution of the council, but it spoke
well for their discipline that they did not take things in their own
hands, for in the eyes of those forest men who had been hounded for
centuries, the chance to spring at the throats of the Hans outweighed
all other considerations.
So, as the council signed off, Wilma and I turned to the eager faces
that surrounded us, and issued our orders.
* * * * *
In a moment the air was filled with leaping figures as the men and girls
shot away over the tree tops and up the mountain sides in the deployment
A group of our engineers threw themselves headlong toward a cave across
the valley, where they had rigged out a powerful electrono plant
operating from atomic energy. And a few moments later the little
portable receiver, the Intelligence Boss used to pick up the enemy
messages, began to emit such ear-splitting squeals and howls that he
shut it off. Our heterodyne or "radio-scrambling" broadcast had gone
into operation, emitting impulses of constantly varying wave-length over
the full broadcast range and heterodyning the Han communications into
In a little while our scouts came leaping down the valley from the
north, and our air balls now were hovering above the Han lines,
operators at the control boards near-by painstakingly picking up the
pictures of the Han squads struggling down the valleys with their
comparatively clumsy weapons.
As fast as the air-ball scopes picked out these squads, their operators,
each of whom was in ultronophone communication with a girl long-gunner
at some spot in our line, would inform her of the location of the enemy
unit, and the latter, after a bit of mathematical calculation, would
send a rocket into the air which would come roaring down on, or very
near that unit, and wipe it out.
But for all of that, the number of the Han squads were too much for us.
And for every squad we destroyed, fifty advanced.
And though the lines were still several miles apart, in most places, and
in some cases with mountain ridges intervening, the Han fire control
began to sense the general location of our posts, and things became more
serious as their rockets too began to hiss down and explode here and
there in our lines, not infrequently killing or maiming one or more of
The men, our bayonet-gunners, had not as yet suffered, for they were
well in advance of the girls, under strict orders to shoot no rockets
nor in any way reveal their positions; so the Han rockets were going
over their heads.
* * * * *
The Hans in the valleys now were shooting diagonal barrages up the
slopes toward the ridges, where they suspected we would be most strongly
posted, thus making a cross-fire up the two sides of a ridge, while
their heavy batteries, somewhat in the rear, shot straight along the
tops of the ridges. But their valley forces were getting out of
alignment a bit by now, owing to our heterodyne operations.
I ordered our swoopers, of which we had five, to sweep along above these
ridges and destroy the Han batteries.
Up in the higher levels where they were located, the Hans had little
cover. A few of their small rep-ray ships rose to meet our swoopers, but
were battered down. One swooper they brought to earth with a
disintegrator ray beam, by creating a vacuum beneath it, but they did it
no serious damage, for its fall was a light one. Subsequently it did
tremendous damage, cleaning off an entire ridge.
Another swooper ran into a catastrophe that had one chance in a million
of occurring. It hit a heavy Han rocket nose to nose. Inertron sheathing
and all, it was blown into powder.
But the others accomplished their jobs excellently. Small, two-man
ships, streaking straight at the Hans at between 600 and 700 miles an
hour, they could not be hit except by sheer amazing luck, and they
showered their tiny but powerful bombs everywhere as they went.
At the same instant I ordered the girls to cease sharp-shooting, and lay
their barrages down in the valleys, with their long-guns set for maximum
automatic advance, and to feed the reservoirs as fast as possible, while
the bayonet-gunners leaped along close behind this barrage.
Then, with a Twentieth Century urge to see with my own eyes rather than
through a viewplate, and to take part in the action, I turned command
over to Wilma and leaped away, fifty feet a jump, up the valley, toward
the distant flashes and rolling thunder.