The Counter-attack

: 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

air-ball attack.

The situation would not have been in the least alarming if the Hans had

had no better arms to fight with than their 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

ultrono-controlled projectiles.

But the Hans had learned their lesson from us by this time. Their

electrono-chemists had devised atomic projectiles, rocket-propelled,

very much like our own, which could be launched in a terrific barrage

without revealing the locations of their batteries, and they had

equipped their infantry with rocket guns not dissimilar to ours. 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)

radio broadcasts.

* * * * *

Later reports showed that there were no less than 10,000 Hans in the

force to our north, which evidently was equipped with a portable power

broadcast, sufficient for communication purposes and the local operation

of small scoutships, painted a green which made them difficult to

distinguish against the mountain and forest backgrounds. These ships

just skimmed the surface of the terrain, hardly ever outlining

themselves against the sky. Moreover, the Han commanders wisely had

refrained from massing their forces. They had 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

our girls.

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.