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Previous page Next page navigation 3/10 branch Chapter 2.   U Dan
       
Next paragraph     For some time I sat in silence, gazing out in the inky black void of space, a Stygian backdrop against which stars and planets shone with intense brilliancy, steady and untwinkling. To port or starboard, above, below, the heavens stared at me with unblinking eyes-millions of white hot, penetrating eyes. Many questions harrassed my mind. Had I been especially signalled out for capture? If so, why? How had this large ship been able to enter Helium and settle upon my landing stage in broad daylight? Who was this sad-faced, apologetic man who had led me into such a trap? He could have nothing against me personally. Never, before he had stepped into my garden, had I seen him.
Next paragraph     It was he who broke the silence. It was as though he had read my thoughts. "You wonder why you are here, John Carter," he said. "If you will bear with me, I shall tell you. In the first place, let me introduce myself. I am U Dan, formerly a padwar in the guard of Zu Tith, the Jed of Zor who was killed in battle when Helium overthrew his tyrannical reign and annexed the city."
Next paragraph     "My sympathies were all upon the side of Helium, and I saw a brilliant and happy future for my beloved city once she was a part of the great Heliumetic empire. I fought against Helium; because it was my sworn duty to defend the jed I loathed-a monster of tyranny and cruelty-but when the war was over, I gladly swore allegiance to Tardos Mors, Jeddak of Helium.
Next paragraph     "I had been raised in the palace of the jed in utmost intimacy with the members of the royal family. I knew them all well, especially Multis Par, the prince, who; in the natural course of events, would have succeeded to the throne. He was of a kind with his father, Zu Tith -arrogant, cruel, tyrannical by nature. After the fall of Zor, he sought to foment discord and arouse the people to revolt. When he failed, he disappeared. That was about five years ago.
Next paragraph     "Another member of the royal family whom I knew well was as unlike Zu Tith and Multis Par as day is unlike night Her name is Vaja. She is a cousin of Multis Par. I loved her and she loved me. We were to have been married, when, about two years after the disappearance of Multis Par, Vaja mysteriously disappeared."
Next paragraph     I did not understand why he was telling me all this. I was certainly not interested in his love affairs. I was not interested in him. I was still less interested, if possible, in Multis Par; but I listened.
Next paragraph     "I searched," he continued. "The governor of Zor gave me every assistance within his power, but all to no avail. Then, one night, Multis Par entered my quarters when I was alone. He wasted no time. He came directly to the point.
Next paragraph     "I suppose," he said, "that you are wondering what has become of Vaja."
Next paragraph     I knew then that he had been instrumental in her abduction; and I feared the worst, for I knew the type of man he was. I whipped out my sword.
Next paragraph     "Where is she?" I demanded. "Tell me, if you care to live."
Next paragraph     He only laughed at me. "Don't be a fool," he said. "If you kill me you will never see her again. You will never even know where she is. Work with me, and you may have her back. But you will have to work fast, as I am becoming very fond of her. It is odd," he added reminiscently, "that I could have lived for years in the same palace with her and have been blind to her many charms, both mental and physical especially physical."
Next paragraph     "Where is she?" I demanded. "If you have harmed her, you beast."
Next paragraph     "Don't call names, U Dan," he said. "If you annoy me too greatly I may keep her for myself and enlist the services of some one other than you to assist me with the plan I had come to explain to you. I thought you would be more sensible. You used to be a very sensible man; but then, of course, love plays strange tricks upon one's mental processes. I am commencing to find that out in my own case." He gave a nasty little laugh. "But don't worry," he continued. "She is quite safe so far. How much longer she will be safe depends wholly upon you.
Next paragraph     "Where is she?" I demanded.
Next paragraph     "Where you can never get her without my help," he replied. "If she is anywhere upon all Barsoom, I shall find her," I said.
Next paragraph     "She is not on Barsoom. She is on Sasoom."
Next paragraph     "You lie, Multis Par," I said.
Next paragraph     He shrugged, indifferently. "Perhaps you will believe her," he said, and handed me a letter. It was indeed from Vaja. I recall its message word for word:
Next paragraph     "Incredible as it may seem to you, I am a prisoner on Sasoom. Multis Par has promised to bring you here to me if you will perform what he calls a small favor for him. I do not know what he is going to ask of you; but unless it can be honorably done, do not do it. I am safe and unharmed."
Next paragraph     "What is it you wish me to do?" I asked.
Next paragraph     I shall not attempt to quote his exact words; but this, in effect, is what he told me: Multis Par's disappearance from Zor was caused by his capture by men from Sasoom. For some time they had been coming to this planet, reconnoitering, having in mind the eventual conquest of Barsoom.
Next paragraph     I asked him for what reason, and he explained that it was simply because they were a warlike race. Their every thought was of war, as it had been for ages until the warlike spirit was as compelling as the urge for self-preservation. They had conquered all other peoples upon Sasoom and sought a new world to conquer.
Next paragraph     They had captured him to learn what they could of the armaments and military effectiveness of various Barsoomian nations, and had decided that as Helium was the most powerful, it would be Helium upon which they would descend.
Next paragraph     Helium once disposed of the rest of Barsoom would, they assumed, be easy to conquer.
Next paragraph     "And where do I come in in this scheme of theirs?" I asked. "I am coming to that," said U Dan. "The Morgors are a thorough-going and efficient people. They neglect no littlest detail which might effect the success or failure of a campaign. They already have excellent maps of Barsoom and considerable data relative to the fleets and armament of the principal nations. They now wish to check this data and obtain full information as to the war technique of the Heliumites. This they expect to get from you. This they will get from you."
Next paragraph     I smiled. "Neither they nor you rate the honor and loyalty of a Heliumite very highly."
Next paragraph     A sad smile crossed his lips. "I know how you feel," he said. "I felt the same way-until they captured Vaja and her life became the price of my acquiescence. Only to save her did I agree to act as a decoy to aid in your capture. The Morgors are adepts in individual and mass psychology as well as in the art of war."
Next paragraph     "These things are Morgors?" I asked, nodding in the direction of some of the repulsive creatures. U Dan nodded. "I can appreciate the position in which you have been placed," I said, "but the Morgors have no such hold on me."
Next paragraph     "Wait," said U Dan.
Next paragraph     "What do you mean?" I demanded.
Next paragraph     "Just wait. They will find a way. They are fiends. No one could have convinced me before Multis Par came to me with his proposition that I could have been forced to betray a man whom I, with all decent men, admire as I have admired you, John Carter. Perhaps I was wrong, but when I learned that Vaja would be tortured and mutilated after Multis Par had had his way with her and even then not be allowed to die but kept for future torture, I weakened and gave in. I do not expect you to forgive, but I hope that you will understand."
Next paragraph     "I do understand," I said. "Perhaps, under like circumstances, I should have done the same thing." I could see how terribly the man's conscience tortured him. I could see that he was essentially a man of honor. I could forgive him for the thing that he had done for an innocent creature whom he loved, but could he expect me to betray my country, betray my whole world, to save a woman I had never seen. Still, I was bothered. Frankly, I did not know what I should do when faced with the final decision. "At least," I said, "should I ever be situated as you were, I could appear to comply while secretly working to defeat their ends."
Next paragraph     "It was thus that I thought," he said. "It is still the final shred by which I cling to my self-respect. Perhaps, before it is too Late, I may still be able to save both Vaja and yourself."
Next paragraph     "Perhaps we can work together to that end and to the salvation of Helium," I said; "though I am really not greatly worried about Helium. I think she can take care of herself."
Next paragraph     He shook his head. "Not if a part, even, of what Multis Par has told me is true. They will come in thousands of these ships, invisible to the inhabitants of Barsoom. Perhaps two million of them will invade Helium and overrun her two principal cities before a single inhabitant is aware that a single enemy threatens their security. They will come with lethal weapons of which Barsoomians know nothing and which they cannot, therefore, combat."
Next paragraph     "Invisible ships!" I exclaimed. "Why I saw this one plainly after I was captured."
Next paragraph     "Yes," he said. "It was not invisible then, but it was invisible when it came in broad daylight under the bows of your patrol ships and landed in one of the most prominent places in all Lesser Helium. It was not invisible when you first saw it; because it had cast off its invisibility, or, rather, the Morgors had cast it off so that they might find it again themselves, for otherwise it would have been as invisible to them as to us."
Next paragraph     "Do you know how they achieve this invisibility?" I asked.
Next paragraph     "Multis Par has explained it to me," relied U Dan. "Let me see; I am not much of a scientist, but I think that I recall more or less correctly what he told me. It seems that on some of the ocean beaches on Sasoom there is a submicroscopic, magnetic sand composed of prismatic crystals. When the Morgors desire invisibility for a ship, they magnetize the hull; and then from countless tiny apertures in the hull, they coat the whole exterior of the ship with these prismatic crystals. They simply spray them out, and they settle in a cloud upon the hull, causing light rays to bend around the ship. The instant that the hull is demagnetized, these tiny particles, light as air, fall or are blown off; and instantly the ship is visible again."
Next paragraph     Here, a Morgor approached and interrupted our conversation. His manner was arrogant and rude. I could not understand his words, as he spoke his own language in the hollow, graveyard tones I had previously noticed. U Dan replied in the same language but in a less lugubrious tone of voice; then he turned to me.
Next paragraph     "Your education is to commence at once," he said, with a wry smile.
Next paragraph     "What do you mean?" I asked.
Next paragraph     "During this voyage you are to learn the language of the Morgors," he explained.
Next paragraph     "How long is the voyage going to last?" I asked. "It takes about three months to learn a Language well enough to understand and make yourself understood."
Next paragraph     "The voyage will take about eighteen days, as we shall have to make a detour of some million miles to avoid the Asteroids. They happen to lie directly in our way."
Next paragraph     "I am supposed to learn their Language in eighteen days?" I asked.
      "You are not only supposed to, but you will," replied U Dan.
       
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