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Flight From Tomorrow

Chapter 4
Almost at once, there was a new sound—a multiple throbbing, at a quick, snarling
tempo that hinted at enormous power, growing louder each second. Hradzka stiffened and
drew his blaster; as he did, five more aircraft swooped over the crest of the mountain and
came rushing down toward him; not aimlessly, but as though they knew exactly where he
was. As they approached, the leading edges of their wings sparkled with light, branches
began flying from the trees about him, and there was a loud hammering noise.
He aimed a little in front of them and began blasting. A wing flew from one of the
aircraft, and it plunged downward. Another came apart in the air; a third burst into
flames. The other two zoomed upward quickly. Hradzka swung his blaster after them,
blasting again and again. He hit a fourth with a blast of energy, knocking it to pieces, and
then the fifth was out of range. He blasted at it twice, but without effect; a hand-blaster
was only good for a thousand yards at the most.
Holstering his weapon, he hurried away, following the stream and keeping under cover of
trees. The last of the attacking aircraft had gone away, but the little scout-plane was still
circling about, well out of blaster-range.
Once or twice, Hradzka was compelled to stay hidden for some time, not knowing the
nature of the pilot's ability to detect him. It was during one of these waits that the next
phase of the attack developed.
It began, like the last one, with a distant roar that swelled in volume until it seemed to fill
the whole world. Then, fifteen or twenty thousand feet out of blaster-range, the new
attackers swept into sight.
There must have been fifty of them, huge tapering things with wide-spread wings, flying
in close formation, wave after V-shaped wave. He stood and stared at them, amazed; he
had never imagined that such aircraft existed in the First Century. Then a high-pitched
screaming sound cut through the roar of the propellers, and for an instant he saw
countless small specks in the sky, falling downward.
The first bomb-salvo landed in the young pines, where he had fought against the first air
attack. Great gouts of flame shot upward, and smoke, and flying earth and debris.
Hradzka turned and started to run. Another salvo fell in front of him; he veered to the left
and plunged on through the undergrowth. Now the bombs were falling all about him,
deafening him with their thunder, shaking him with concussion. He dodged, frightened,
as the trunk of a tree came crashing down beside him. Then something hit him across the
back, knocking him flat. For a moment, he lay stunned, then tried to rise. As he did, a
searing light filled his eyes and a wave of intolerable heat swept over him. Then
darkness....
 
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