“’What does he want of me?’ I demanded.
“’His navigator does not understand this ship or the instruments,’ the fellow explained. ‘He would ask you some questions.’
“I thought quickly. Perhaps I might frustrate Hin Abtol’s plans if I could have a few minutes with the controls and the instruments, which I knew as well as we know the face of a loved one; so I followed the warrior above.
“Hin Abtol was in the control room with three of his officers. His face was a black scowl as I entered. ‘We are off our course,’ he snapped, ‘and during the night we have lost touch with our own ship. You will instruct my officers as to these silly instruments that have confused them.’ With that, he left the control room.
“I looked around the horizon in every direction. The other ship was nowhere in sight. My plan was instantly formed. Had the other ship been able to see us, it could not have succeeded. I knew that if this ship on which I was prisoner ever reached Panar I would have to take my own life to escape a fate worse than death. On the ground I might also meet death, but I would have a better chance to escape.
“‘What is wrong?’ I asked one of the officers.
“‘Everything,’ he replied. ‘What is this?’
“‘A directional compass,’ I explained; ‘but what have you done to it? It is a wreck.’
“‘Hin Abtol could not understand what it was for, which made him very angry; so he started taking it apart to see what was inside.’
“‘He did a good job,’ I said, ‘—of taking it apart. Now he, or another of you, should put it together again.’
“‘We don’t know how,’ said the fellow. ‘Do you?’
“‘Of course not.”
“‘Then what are we to do?’
“‘Here is an ordinary compass,’ I told him. ‘Fly north by this, but first let me see what other harm has been done.’
“I pretended to examine all the other instruments and controls, and while I was doing so, I opened the buoyancy tank valves; and then jammed them so that they couldn’t be closed.
“‘Everything is all right now,’ I said. ‘Just keep on north by this compass. You won’t need the directional compass.’ I might have added that in a very short time they wouldn’t need any compass as far as navigating this ship was concerned. Then I went down to my cabin.
“I knew that something would happen pretty soon, and sure enough it did. I could see from my porthole that we were losing altitude—just dropping slowly lower and lower—and directly another warrior came to my cabin and said that I was wanted in the control room again.
“Once more Hin Abtol was there. ‘We are sinking,’ he told me—a fact that was too obvious to need mention. ‘I have noticed that for some time,’ I said.
“‘Well, do something about it!’ he snapped. ‘You know all about this ship.’
“’I should think that a man who is thinking of conquering all of Barsoom ought to be able to fly a ship without the help of a woman,’ I said.
“He flushed at that, and then he drew his sword. ‘You will tell us what is wrong,’ he growled, ‘Or I’ll split you open from your crown to your belly.’
“‘Always the chivalrous gentleman,’ I sneered; ‘but, even without your threat, I’ll tell you what is wrong.’
“‘Well, what is it?’ he demanded.
“In fiddling around with these controls, either you or some equally stupid brute has opened the buoyancy tank valves. All you have to do is close them. We won’t sink any lower then, but we’ll never go any higher, either. I hope there are no mountains or very high hills between here and Panar.’
“‘Where are the valves?’ he asked.
“I showed him.
“They tried to close them; but I had made such a good job of jamming them that they couldn’t, and we kept right on dropping down toward the ocher vegetation of a dead sea bottom.
“Hin Abtol was frantic. So were his officers. Here they were, thousands of haads from home—twenty-five men who had spent the greater parts of their lives in the glazed, hothouse cities of the North Polar lands, with no knowledge, or very little, of the outside world or what nature of men, beasts, or other menaces might dispute their way toward home. I could scarcely refrain from laughing.
“As we lost altitude, I saw the towers of a city in the distance to the north of us; so did Hin Abtol. ‘A city,’ he said. ‘We are fortunate. There we can find mechanics to repair our ship.’
“‘Yes,’ I thought; ‘if you had come a million years ago, you would have found mechanics. They would have known nothing about repairing a flier, for fliers had not been invented then; but they could have built you a stanch ship wherein you could have sailed the five seas of ancient Barsoom,’ but I said nothing. I would let Hin Abtol find out for himself.
“I had never been to Horz; but I knew that those towers rising in the distance could mark only that long dead city, and I wished the pleasure of witnessing Hin Abtol’s disappointment after he had made the long and useless trek.”
“You are a vindictive little rascal,” I said.
“I’m afraid I am,” admitted Llana of Gathol; “but, in this instance, can you blame me?”
I had to admit that I could not. “Go on,” I urged. “Tell me what happened next.”
“Will we never reach the end of these abominable pits!” exclaimed Kam Han Tor.
“You should know,” said Pan Dan Chee; “you have said that they were built according to your plans.”
“You are insolent,” snapped Kam Han Tor. “You shall be punished.”
“You have been dead a million years,” said Pan Dan Chee. “You should lie down.”
Kam Han Tor laid a hand upon the hilt of his longsword. He was very angry; and I could not blame him, but this was no time to indulge in the pleasure of a duel.
“Hold!” I said. “We have more important things to think of now than personal quarrels, Pan Dan Chee is in the wrong. He will apologize.”
Pan Dan Chee looked at me in surprise and disapproval, but he pushed his sword back into its scabbard. “What John Carter, Prince of Helium, Warlord of Barsoom, commands me to do, I do,” he said. “To Kam Han Tor I offer my apology.”
Well, Kam Han Tor graciously accepted it, and I urged Llana of Gathol to go on with her story.
“The ship dropped gently to the ground without incurring further damage,” she continued, “Hin Abtol was undecided at first as whether to take all his men with him to the city or leave some to guard the ship. Finally he concluded that it might be better for them all to remain together in the event they should meet with a hostile reception at the gates of the city. You would have thought, from the way he spoke, that twenty-five Panars could take any city on Barsoom.
“‘I shall wait for you here,’ I said. ‘There is no reason why I should accompany you to the city.’
“‘And when I came back, you would be gone,’ he said. ‘You are a shrewd wench, but I am just a little bit shrewder. You will come with us.’
“So I had to tramp all the way to Horz with them, and it was a very long and tiresome tramp. As we approached the city, Hin Abtol remarked that it was surprising that we saw no signs of life—no smoke, no movement along the avenue which we could see paralleling the plain upon which the city faced, the plain that had once been a mighty ocean.
“It was not until we had entered the city that he realized that it was dead and deserted—but not entirely deserted, as we were soon to discover.
“We had advanced but a short distance up the main avenue when a dozen green warriors emerged from a building and fell upon the Panars. It might have been a good battle, John Carter, had you and two of the warriors of your guard been pitted against the green men; but these Panars are no warriors unless the odds are all on their side. Of course they outnumbered the green men, but the great size and strength and the savage ferocity of the latter gave them the advantage over such weak foemen.
“I saw but little of the light. The contestants paid no attention to me. They were too engrossed with one another; and as I saw the head of a ramp close by, I dodged into it. The last I saw of the engagement revealed Hin Abtol running at the top of his speed back toward the plain with his men trailing behind him and the green men bringing up the rear. For the sublimation of speed, I accord all honors to the Panars. They may not be able to fight, but they can run.”