The Destruction Of Lo-tan
: The Airlords Of Han
"How did you know I had been taken to Lo-Tan as a prisoner?" I asked the
little group of Wyoming Bosses who had assembled in Wilma's tent to
greet me. "And how does it happen that our gang is away out here in the
Rocky Mountains? I had expected, after the fall of Nu-Yok, that you
would join the forest ring around Bah-Flo (Buffalo I called it in the
Twentieth Century) or the forces beleaguering Bos-Tan."
ey explained that my encounter with the Han airship had been followed
carefully by several scopemen. They had seen my swooper shoot skyward
out of control, and had followed it with their telultronoscopes until it
had been caught in a gale at a high level, and wafted swiftly westward.
Ultronophone warnings had been broadcast, asking western Gangs to rescue
me if possible. Few of the Gangs west of the Alleghanies, however, had
any swoopers, and though I was frequently reported, no attempts could be
made to rescue me. Scopemen had reported my capture by the Han ground
post, and my probable incarceration in Lo-Tan.
The Rocky Mountain Gangs, in planning their campaign against Lo-Tan, had
appealed to the east for help, and Wilma had led the Wyoming veterans
westward, though the other eastern Gang had divided their aid between
the armies before Bah-Flo and Bos-Tan.
The heavy bombardment which I had heard from Lo-Tan, they told me, was
merely a test of the enemy's tactics and strength, but it accomplished
little other than to develop that the Hans had the mountains and peaks
thickly planted with rocket gunners of their own. It was almost
impossible to locate these gun posts, for they were well camouflaged
from air observation, and widely scattered; nor did they reveal their
positions when they went into action as did their ray batteries.
The Hans apparently were abandoning their rays except for air defense. I
told what I knew of the Han plans for abandoning the city, and their
escape tunnels. On the strength of this, a general council of Gang
Bosses was called. This council agreed that immediate action was
necessary, for my escape from the city probably would be suspected, and
San-Lan would be inclined to start an exodus at once.
* * * * *
As a matter of fact, the destruction of the city presented no real
problem to us at all. Explosive air balls could be sent against any
target under a control that could not be better were their operators
riding within them, and with no risk to the operators. When a ball was
exploded on its target by the operator, or destroyed by accident, he
simply reported the fact to the supply division, and a fresh one was
placed on the jump-off, tuned to his controls.
To my own Gang, the Wyomings, the Council delegated the destruction of
the escape tunnels of the enemy. We had a comfortably located camp in a
wooded canyon, some hundred and thirty miles northeast of the city, with
about 500 men, most of whom were bayonet-gunners, 350 girls as
long-gunners and control-board operators, 91 control boards and about
250 five-foot, inertron-protected air balls, of which 200 were of the
I ordered all control boards manned, taking Number One myself, and
instructed the others to follow my lead in single file, at the minimum
interval of safety, with their projectiles set for signal rather than
In my mind I paid humble tribute to the ingenuity of our engineers as I
gently twisted the lever that shot my projectile vertically into the air
from the jump-off clearing some half mile away.
The control board before me was a compact contrivance about five feet
square. The center of it contained a four-foot viewplate. Whatever view
was picked up by the ultronoscope "eye" of the air ball was
automatically broadcast on an accurate tuning channel to this viewplate
by the automatic mechanism of the projectile. In turn my control board
broadcast the signals which automatically controlled the movements of
Above and below the viewplate were the pointers and the swinging needles
which indicated the speed and angle of vertical movement, the altimeter,
the directional compass, and the horizontal speed and distance
At my left hand was the lever by which I could set the "eye" for
penetrative, normal or varying degrees of telescopic vision, and at my
right the universally jointed stick (much like the "joy stick" of the
ancient airplanes) with its speed control button on the top, with which
the ball was directionally "pointed" and controlled.
The manipulation of these levers I had found, with a very little
practice, most instinctive and simple.
So, as I have said, I pointed my projectile straight up and let it shoot
to the height of two miles. Then I levelled it off, and shot it at full
speed (about 500 miles an hour with no allowance for air currents) in a
general southwesterly direction, while I eased my controls until I
brought in the telescopic view of Lo-Tan. I centered the picture of the
city on the crossed hairlines in the middle of my viewpoint, and watched
its image grow.
* * * * *
In about fifteen minutes the "string" of air balls was before the city,
and speaking in my ultrophone I gave the order to halt, while I swung
the scope control to the penetrative setting and let my "eye" rove
slowly back and forth through the walls of the city, hunting for a spot
from which I might get my bearings. At last, after many penetrations, I
managed to bring in a view of the head of the shaft at the bottom of
which I knew the tunnels were located, and saw that we were none too
soon, for all the corridors leading toward this shaft were packed with
Hans waiting their turn to descend.
Slowly I let my "eye" retreat down one of these corridors until I
"pulled it out" through the outer wall of the city. There I held the
spot on the crossed hairlines and ordered Number Two Operator to my
control board, where I pointed out to her the exact spot where I desired
a breach in the wall. Returning to her own board, she withdrew her ball
from the "string," and focussing on this spot in the wall, eased her
projectile into contact with it and detonated.
The atomic force of the explosion shattered a vast section of the wall,
and for the moment I feared I had balked my own game by not having
provided a less powerful projectile.
After some fumbling, however, I was able to maneuver my ball through a
gap in the debris and find the corridor I was seeking. Down this
corridor I sent it at the speed of a Twentieth Century bullet, (this is
to say, about half speed) to spare myself the sight of the slaughter as
it cut a swath down the closely packed column of the enemy. If there
were any it did not kill, I knew they would be taken care of by the
other balls in the string which would follow.
I had to slow it up, however, near the head of the shaft to take my
bearings; and a sea of evil faces, contorted with livid terror, looked
at me from my viewplate. But not even the terror could conceal the hate
in those faces, and there arose in my mind the picture of their long
centuries of ruthless cruelty to my race, and the hopelessness of
changing the tigerish nature of these Hans. So I steeled myself, and
drove the ball again and again into that sea of faces, until I had
cleared the station platform of any living enemy, and sent the survivors
crushing their way madly along the corridors away from it. There was
blinding flash or two on my viewplate as some Han officer tried his ray
pistol on my projectile, but that was all, except that he must have
disintegrated many of his fellows, for our balls were sheathed in
inertron, and suffered no damage themselves.
* * * * *
Cautioning my unit to follow carefully, I pushed my control lever all
the way forward until my "eye" pointed down, and there appeared on my
viewplate the smooth cylindrical interior of the shaft, fading down
toward the base of the mountain, and like a tiny speck, far, far down,
was the car, descending with its last load.
I dropped my ball on it, battering it down to the bottom of the shaft,
and with hammer-like blows flattening the wreckage, that I might squeeze
the ball out of the shaft at the lower station.
It emerged into the great vaulted excavation, capable of holding a
thousand or more persons, from which the various escape tunnels
radiated. Down these tunnels the last remnants of a crowd of fugitives
were disappearing, while red-coated soldiers guided the traffic and
suppressed disorder with the threat of their spears, and the occasional
flourish of a ray pistol.
As I floated my ball out into the middle of the artificial cavern I
could see them stagger back in terror. Again the blinding flashes of a
few ray pistols, and instantaneous borings of the rays into the walls.
The red coats nearest the escape tunnels fled down them in panic. Those
whose escape I blocked dropped their weapons and shrank back against the
smooth, iridescent green walls.
I marshalled the rest of my string carefully into the cavern, and
counted the tunnel entrances, slowly swinging my "eye" around the
semicircle of them. There were 26 corridors diverging to the north and
west. I decided to send three balls down each, leave 12 in the cavern,
then detonate them all at once.
Assigning my operators to their corridors, I ordered intervals of five
miles between them, and taking the lead down the first corridor, I
Soon my ball overtook the stream of fugitives, smashing them down
despite ray pistols and even rockets that were shot against it. On and
on I drove it, time and again battering it through detachments of
fleeing Hans, while the distance register on my board climbed to ten,
twenty, fifty miles.
Then I called a halt, and suspended my previous orders. I had had no
idea that the Hans had bored these tunnels for such distances under the
surface of the ground as this. It would be necessary to trace them to
their ends and locate their new underground cities in which they
expected to establish themselves, and in which many had established
themselves by now, no doubt.
Fifty miles of air in these corridors, I thought, ought to prove a
pretty good cushion against the shock of detonation in the cavern. So I
ordered detonation of the twelve balls we had left behind. As I
expected, there was little effect from it so far out in the tunnels.
But from our scopemen who were covering the city from the outside, I
learned that the effects of the explosion on the mountain were terrific;
far more than I had dared to hope for.
* * * * *
The mountain itself burst asunder in several spots, throwing out
thousands of tons of earth and rock. One-half the city itself tore loose
and slid downward, lost in the debris of the avalanche of which it was a
part. The remainder, wrenched and convulsed like a living thing in
agony, cracked, crumbled and split, towers tumbling down and great
fissures appearing in its walls. Its power plant and electro machinery
went out of commission. Fifteen of its scout ships hovering in the air
directly above, robbed of the power broadcast and their repeller beams
disappearing, crashed down into the ruins.
But out in the escape tunnels, we continued our explorations, now sure
that no warnings could be broadcast to the tunnel exits, and mowed down
contingent after contingent of the hated yellow men.
My register showed seventy-five miles before I came to the end of the
tunnel, and drove my ball out into a vast underground city of great,
brilliantly illuminated corridors, some of them hundreds of feet high
and wide. The architectural scheme was one of lace-like structures of
curving lines and of indescribable beauty.
Word had reached us now of the destruction of the city itself, so that
no necessity existed for destroying the escape tunnels. In consequence,
I ordered the two operators, who were following me, to send their balls
out into this underground city, seeking the shaft which the Hans were
sure to have as a secret exit to the surface of the earth above.
But at this juncture events of transcending importance interrupted my
plans for a thorough exploration of these new subterranean cities of the
Hans. I detonated my projectile at once and ordered all of the operators
to do so, and to tune in instantly on new ones. That we wrecked most of
these new cities I now know, but of course at the time we were in the
dark as to how much damage we caused, since our viewplates naturally
went dead when we detonated our projectiles.