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Previous page Next page navigation 12/25 branch Chapter 11.   In the house of Gar Nal
Next paragraph     Ignorance and stupidity occasionally reveal advantages that raise them to the dignity of virtues. The ignorant and stupid are seldom sufficiently imaginative to be intelligently curious.
Next paragraph     The hangar man had seen me depart in a one-man flier and alone. Now he saw me return in a two-man flier, with a companion. Yet, he evidenced no embarrassing curiosity on the subject.
Next paragraph     Storing our craft in a hangar and instructing the hangar man that he was to permit either one of us to take it out when we chose, I conducted Jat Or to the public house in the same building; and after introducing him to the proprietor, I left him, as the investigation that I now purposed conducting could be carried on to better advantage by one man than two.
Next paragraph     My first objective was to learn if Gar Nal's ship had left Zodanga.
Next paragraph     Unfortunately, I did not know the location of the hangar in which Gar Nal had built. his ship. I was quite sure that I could not get this information from Rapas, as he was already suspicious of me, and so my only hope lay in Fal Sivas.
Next paragraph     I was quite sure that he must know, as from remarks that he had dropped, I was convinced that the two inventors had constantly spied upon one another; and so I set out in the direction of the house of Fal Sivas, after instructing Jat Or to remain at the public house where I could find him without delay should I require his services.
Next paragraph     It was still not very late in the evening when I reached the house of the old inventor. At my signal, Hamas admitted me. He appeared a little surprised and not overly pleased when he recognized me.
Next paragraph     "We thought that Ur Jan had finally done away with you," he said.
Next paragraph     "No such luck, Hamas," I replied. "Where is Fal Sivas?"
Next paragraph     "He is in his laboratory on the level above," replied the major-domo. "I do not know that he will want to be disturbed, though I believe that he will be anxious to see you."
Next paragraph     He added this last with a nasty inflection that I did not like.
Next paragraph     "I will go up to his quarters, at once," I said.
Next paragraph     "No," said Hamas; "you will wait here. I will go to the master and ask his pleasure."
Next paragraph     I brushed past him into the corridor. "You may come with me, if you will, Hamas," I said; "but whether you come or not, I must see Fal Sivas at once."
Next paragraph     He grumbled at this disregard of his authority and hastened along the corridor a pace or two ahead of me.
Next paragraph     As I passed my former quarters, I noticed that the door was open; but though I saw nothing of Zanda within, I gave the matter no thought.
Next paragraph     We passed on up the ramp to the level above, and there Hamas, knocked on the door of Fal Sivas's apartment.
Next paragraph     For a moment there was no answer; and I was about to enter the room when I heard Fal Sivas's voice demand querulously, "Who's there?"
Next paragraph     "It is Hamas," replied the major-domo, "and the man, Vandor, who has returned."
Next paragraph     "Send him in, send him in," directed Fal Sivas.
Next paragraph     As Hamas opened the door, I brushed past him and, turning, pushed him out into the corridor. "He said, 'Send him in,'" I said. Then I closed the door in his face.
Next paragraph     Fal Sivas had evidently come out of one of the other rooms of his suite in answer to our knock, for he stood now facing me with his hand still on the latch of a door in the opposite wall of the room, an angry frown contracting his brows.
Next paragraph     "Where have you been?" he demanded.
Next paragraph     Naturally, I have not been accustomed to being spoken to in the manner that Fal Sivas had adopted; and I did not relish it. I am a fighting man, not an actor; and, for a moment, I had a little difficulty in remembering that I was playing a part.
Next paragraph     I did even go so far as to take a couple of steps toward Fal Sivas with the intention of taking him by the scruff of the neck and shaking some manners into him, but I caught myself in time; and as I paused, I could not but smile.
Next paragraph     "Why don't you answer me?" cried Fal Sivas, "You are laughing; do you dare to laugh at me?"
Next paragraph     "Why shouldn't I laugh at my own stupidity?" I demanded.
Next paragraph     "Your own stupidity? I do not understand. What do you mean?"
Next paragraph     "I took you for an intelligent man, Fal Sivas; and now I find that I was mistaken. It makes me smile."
Next paragraph     I thought he was going to explode, but he managed to control himself. "Just what do you mean by that?" he demanded angrily.
Next paragraph     "I mean that no intelligent man would speak to a lieutenant in the tone of voice in which you have just addressed me, no matter what he suspected, until he had thoroughly investigated. You have probably been listening to Hamas during my absence; so I am naturally condemned without a hearing."
Next paragraph     He blinked at me for a moment and then said in a slightly more civil voice, "Well, go ahead, explain where you have been and what you have been doing."
Next paragraph     "I have been investigating some of Ur Jan's activities," I replied, "but I have no time now to go into an explanation of that. The important thing for me to do now is to go to Gar Nal's hangar, and I do not know where it is. I have come here to you for that information."
Next paragraph     "Why do you want to go to Gar Nal's hangar?" he demanded.
Next paragraph     "Because I have word that Gar Nal's ship has left Zodanga on a mission in which both he And Ur Jan are connected."
Next paragraph     This information threw Fal Sivas into a state of excitement bordering on apoplexy. "The calot!" he exclaimed, "the thief, the scoundrel; he has stolen all my ideas and now he has launched his ship ahead of mine."
Next paragraph     "Calm yourself, Fal Sivas," I urged him. "We do not know yet that Gar Nal's ship has sailed. Tell me where he was building it, and I will go and investigate."
Next paragraph     "Yes, yes," he exclaimed, "at once; but Vandor, do you know where Gar Nal was going? Did you find that out?"
Next paragraph     "To Thuria, I believe," I replied.
Next paragraph     Now, indeed, was Fal Sivas convulsed with rage. By comparison with this, his first outburst appeared almost like enthusiastic approval of his competitor for inventive laurels. He called Gar Nal every foul thing he could lay his tongue to and all his ancestors back to the original tree of life from which all animate things on Mars are supposed to have sprung.
Next paragraph     "He is going to Thuria after the treasure!" he screamed in conclusion. "He has even stolen that idea from me."
Next paragraph     "This is no time for lamentation, Fal Sivas," I snapped. "We are getting no place. Tell me where Gar Nal's hangar is, so that we may know definitely whether or not he has sailed."
Next paragraph     With an effort, he gained control of himself; and then he gave me minute directions for finding Gar Nal's hangar, and even told me how I might gain entrance to it, revealing a familiarity with his enemy's stronghold which indicated that his own spies had not been idle.
Next paragraph     As Fal Sivas concluded his directions, I thought that I heard sounds coming from the room behind him muffled sounds a gasp, a sob, perhaps. I could not tell.
Next paragraph     The sounds were faint; they might have been almost anything; and now Fal Sivas crossed the room toward me and ushered me out into the corridor, a little hurriedly, I thought; but that may have been my imagination. I wondered if he, too, had heard the sounds.
Next paragraph     "You had better go, now," he said; "and when you have discovered the truth, return at once and report to me."
Next paragraph     On my way from the quarters of Fal Sivas, I stopped at my own to speak to Zanda; but she was not there, and I continued on to the little doorway through which I came and went from the house of Fal Sivas.
Next paragraph     Hamas was there in the anteroom. He looked disappointed when he saw me. "You are going out?" he asked.
Next paragraph     "Yes," I replied.
Next paragraph     "Are you returning again tonight?"
Next paragraph     "I expect to," I replied; "and by the way, Hamas, where is Zanda? She was not in my quarters when I stopped in."
Next paragraph     "We thought you were not returning," explained the major-domo, "and Fal Sivas found other duties for Zanda. Tomorrow I shall have Phystal give you another slave."
Next paragraph     "I want Zanda again," I said. "She performs her duties satisfactorily, and I prefer her."
Next paragraph     "That is something you will have to discuss with Fal Sivas," he replied.
Next paragraph     I passed out then into the night and gave the matter no further thought, my mind being occupied with far more important considerations.
Next paragraph     My way led past the public house where I had left Jat Or and on into another quarter of the city. Here, without difficulty, I located the building that Fal Sivas had described.
Next paragraph     At one side of it was a dark narrow alley. I entered this and groped my way to the far end, where I found a low wall, as Fal Sivas had explained that I would.
Next paragraph     I paused there a moment and listened intently, but no sound came from the interior of the building. Then I vaulted easily to the top of the wall, and from there to the roof of a low annex. Across this roof appeared the end of the hangar in which Gar Nal had built his ship. I recognized it for what it was by the great doors set in the wall.
Next paragraph     Fal Sivas had told me that through the crack between the two doors, I could see the interior of the hangar and quickly determine if the ship were still there.
Next paragraph     But there was no light within; the hangar was completely dark, and I could see nothing as I glued an eye to the crack.
Next paragraph     I attempted to move the doors, but they were securely locked. Then I moved cautiously along the wall in search of another opening.
Next paragraph     About forty feet to the right of the doors, I discovered a small window some ten feet above the roof upon which I was standing. I sprang up to it and grasped the sill with my fingers and drew myself up in the hope that I might be able to see something from this vantage point.
Next paragraph     To my surprise and delight, I found the window open. All was quiet inside the hangar quiet and as dark as Erebus.
Next paragraph     Sitting on the sill, I swung my legs through the window, turned over on my belly, and lowered myself into the interior of the hangar; then I let go of the sill and dropped.
Next paragraph     Such a maneuver, naturally, is fraught with danger, as one never knows upon what he may alight.
Next paragraph     I alighted upon a moveable bench, loaded with metal parts and tools. My weight upset it, and it crashed to the floor with a terrific din.
Next paragraph     Scrambling to my feet, I stood there in the darkness waiting, listening. If there were anyone anywhere in the building, large as it appeared to be, it seemed unlikely that the racket I had made could pass unnoticed, nor did it.
Next paragraph     Presently I heard footsteps. They seemed at a considerable distance, but they approached rapidly at first and then more slowly. Whoever was coming appeared to grow more cautious as he neared the hangar.
Next paragraph     Presently a door at the far end was thrown open, and I saw two armed men silhouetted against the light of the room beyond.
Next paragraph     It was not a very brilliant light that came from the adjoining chamber, but it was sufficient to partially dispel the gloom of the cavernous interior of the hangar and reveal the fact that there was no ship here. Gar Nal had sailed!
Next paragraph     I had evidently been hoping against hope, for the discovery stunned me. Gar Nal was gone; and, unquestionably, Dejah Thoris was with him.
Next paragraph     The two men were advancing cautiously into the hangar. "Do you see anyone?" I heard the man in the rear demand.
Next paragraph     "No," replied the leader, and then, in a loud voice, "who is here?"
Next paragraph     The floor of the hangar had a most untidy appearance. Barrels, crates, carboys, tools, parts a thousand and one things were scattered indiscriminately about it. Perhaps this was fortunate for me; as, among so many things, it would be difficult to discover me as long as I did not move, unless the men stumbled directly upon me.
Next paragraph     I was kneeling in the shadow of a large box, planning upon my next move in the event that I was discovered.
Next paragraph     The two men came slowly along the center of the room. They came opposite my hiding-place. They passed me. I glanced at the open door through which they had come. There seemed to be no one there. Evidently these two men had been on guard; and they, alone, had heard the noise that I had made.
Next paragraph     Suddenly a plan flashed to my mind. I stepped out of my hiding-place and stood between them and the open door through which they had entered.
Next paragraph     I had moved quietly, and they had not heard me. Then I spoke.
Next paragraph     "Do not move," I said, "and you will be safe."
Next paragraph     They stopped as though they had been shot, and wheeled about.
Next paragraph     "Stand where you are," I commanded.
Next paragraph     "Who are you?" asked one of the men.
Next paragraph     "Never mind who I am. Answer my questions, and no harm will befall you."
Next paragraph     Suddenly one of the men laughed. "No harm will befall us," he said. "You are alone, and we are two. Come!" he whispered to his companion; and drawing their swords, the two rushed upon me.
Next paragraph     I backed away from them, my own sword ready to parry their thrusts and cuts.
Next paragraph     "Wait!" I cried. "I do not want to kill you. Listen to me. I only want some information from you, and then I will go."
Next paragraph     "Oh, ho! He does not want to kill us," shouted one of the men. "Come now," he directed his fellow, "get on his left side, and I will take him on the right. So he does not want to kill us, eh?"
Next paragraph     Sometimes I feel that I am entitled to very little credit for my countless successes in mortal combat. Always, it seems to me, and it certainly must appear even more so to my opponents, my flashing blade is a living thing inspired to its marvellous feats by a power beyond that of mortal man. It was so tonight.
Next paragraph     As the two men charged me from opposite sides, my steel flashed so rapidly in parries, cuts, and thrusts that I am confident that the eyes of my opponents could not follow it.
Next paragraph     The first man went down with a cloven skull the instant that he came within reach of my blade, and almost in the same second I ran his companion through the shoulder. Then I stepped back.
Next paragraph     His sword arm was useless; it hung limp at his side. He could not escape. I was between him and the door; and he stood there, waiting for me to run him through the heart.
Next paragraph     "I have no desire to kill you," I told him. "Answer my questions truthfully, and I will let you live."
Next paragraph     "Who are you, and what do you want to know?" he growled.
Next paragraph     "Never mind who I am. Answer my questions, and see that you answer them truthfully. When did Gar Nal's ship sail?"
Next paragraph     "Two nights ago."
Next paragraph     "Who was on board?"
Next paragraph     "Gar Nal and Ur Jan."
Next paragraph     "No one else?" I demanded.
Next paragraph     "No," he replied.
Next paragraph     "Where were they going?"
Next paragraph     "How should I know?"
Next paragraph     "It will be well for you, if you do know. Come now, where were they going; and who were they taking with them?"
Next paragraph     "They were going to meet another ship somewhere near Helium, and there they were going to take aboard someone whose name I never heard mentioned."
Next paragraph     "Were they kidnaping someone for ransom?" I demanded.
Next paragraph     He nodded. "I guess that was it," he said.
Next paragraph     "And you don't know who it was?"
Next paragraph     "No."
Next paragraph     "Where are they going to hide this person they are kidnaping?"
Next paragraph     "Some place where no one will ever find her," he said.
Next paragraph     "Where is that?"
Next paragraph     "I heard Gar Nal say he was going to Thuria."
Next paragraph     I had gained about all the information that this man could give me that would be of any value; so I made him lead me to a small door that opened onto the roof from which I had gained entrance to the hangar. I stepped out and waited until he had closed the door; then I crossed the roof and dropped to the top of the wall below, and from there into the alleyway.
Next paragraph     As I made my way toward the house of Fal Sivas, I planned rapidly. I realized that I must take desperate chances, and that whatever the outcome of my adventure, its success or failure rested wholly upon my own shoulders.
Next paragraph     I stopped at the public house where I had left Jat Or, and found him anxiously awaiting my return.
Next paragraph     The place was now so filled with guests that we could not talk with privacy, and so I took him with me over to the eating-place that Rapas and I had frequented.
Next paragraph     Here we found a table, and I narrated to him all that had occurred since I had left him after our arrival in Zodanga.
      "And now," I said, "tonight I hope that we may start for Thuria. When we separate here, go at once to the hangar and take out the flier. Keep an eye out for patrol boats; and if you succeed in leaving the city, go directly west on the thirtieth parallel for one hundred haads. Wait for me there. If I do not come in two days, you are free to act as you wish."