It must have been night outside, but nothing could be darker than the deep guts of this ancient defense base. The black seemed to press in upon them as though possessed of actual weight. The miner's lamps were darting shafts through ink.
It can't have gotten darker down there since morning, so why take the time to wax poetic about it now?
The explorers find a massive cavern strewn with heaps of metal that used to be helicopters (yet a truck in a surface cave is still mostly intact after the same amount of time), with huge doors in the wall as an alternative entrance/exit. Angus and the "lamp boys" start to work on those, while Jonnie notices an insignia on a ruined chopper reading "President of the United States." After the historian explains who that was, Jonnie does some more searching and finds a stairwell leading to another complex.
This place is all air-sealed, so the corpses are mummified. I could ask why this place got the special treatment as opposed to just sealing the whole stupid base, but I don't care any more. The furnishings are nicer, the artifacts much more intact, and the note under the mummy-President's hand is dated two days later than the paperwork in the rest of the base. Jonnie concludes that "the ventilation systems didn't join: when gas hit the main base, the system was turned off here. And they had not dared turn it back on." So the President and his entourage all suffocated.
You'd think that the designers of an underground fortress built to survive anything its enemies could throw at it would take something like this into account. That's outsourcing for ya.
Jonnie is nice and respectful as he flips through the stack of reports and updates, piecing together the last hours of the old world. A UFO appeared from nowhere over London at an altitude of thirty thousand feet, dropped a single canister, and minutes later the southern half of England was all dead.
That must have been a huge canister. I mean, we went bonkers with the gas shelling during World War One and managed not to kill everyone on Europe. Just how much gas was that single bomb carrying if it was able to spread over a hundred thousand square kilometers of English soil?
Then the UFO flew east at 302.6 miles per hour (I'm sure Hubbard has a good reason for telling us the exact details of the gas drone's course) and was engaged by Norwegian fighters to no effect; the thing didn't even fight back.
There's that cunningly-wrought Psychlo armor at work, making missiles traveling at Mach 2 bounce off harmlessly. Of course the human pilots aren't using proximity fuses or cannons, no.
Further crisis was averted thanks to those little red phones, so the only nukes used were over Germany (sorry Germany), which had no effect on the dinky little aircraft either. Jonnie puts its survival down to not containing any explosive breathe-gas, and its "very heavy motors."
That's... stupid. Just stupid. It might have worked if L. Ron was clever enough to resort to force-fields, but no, that's all the justification we're given, that those cunning angles on the armor somehow deflected a nuclear blast.
So the drone continued a leisurely tour of the world's major population centers (must've been carrying a lot of humongous gas canisters), gassing the base Jonnie's in entirely by accident. By the time the drone started on the Southern Hemisphere, word started coming in of weird tanks teleporting into other parts of the world and attacking the survivors, while incredibly fast planes came out of nowhere to strike at defensive installations across the globe. There were scattered reports of the invaders' vehicles exploding for unexplained reasons, though we all know it must have been radiation hitting the piloted crafts' breathe-gas.
No mention of nuclear weapons being used on the second wave. Words fail me.
The last battle involved those cadets at the Air Force Academy in Colorado, who were apparently the best fighters on the whole stupid planet. And after that, communications were cut by Psychlo bombers.
Jonnie put the papers respectfully in a protective mine bag.
Feeling a bit strange for speaking, he said to the corpse, "I'm sorry no help came. We're something over a thousand years later." He felt very bad.
But not for long, because Dunneldeen soon chimes in on the radio.
"Jonnie, laddie!" said Dunneldeen. "You can stop worrying yourself about scraping uranium out of the dirt! There's a full nuclear arsenal, complete with assorted bombs, intact, just thirty miles north of here! We found the map and a plane just checked it out! Now all we've got to worry about is blowing off our innocent little heads and exploding this whole planet in the bargain!"
Yep. Just like that, Jonnie suddenly has a nuclear stockpile, conveniently untouched and perfectly-preserved. Pages and pages of searching and worrying about this goal have reached an abrupt and anticlimactic conclusion. We don't even see what Jonnie's reaction to the news is, the paragraph above is the last.
And no, we don't visit the nukes next chapter, we're going back to The Lode. Get your priorities straight!
Back to Chapter Three