Llana of Gathol

Book 3. Escape on Mars
Chapter 6

Edgar Rice Burroughs

THE DECK of the Dusar was weatherbeaten and filthy; everything was in disorder, but what difference did that make if the ship wouldn’t fly?

“How many officers and men comprise her complement?” I asked.

The fellow grinned and pointed to himself. “One,” he said, “or, rather, two, now that you are here.”

I asked him his name, and he said that it was Fo-nar. In the United States he would have been known as an ordinary seaman, but the Martian words for seaman and sailor are now as obsolete as the oceans with which they died, almost from the memory of man. All sailors and soldiers are known as thans, which I have always translated as warriors.

“Well, Fo-nar,” I said; “let’s have a look at our ship. What’s wrong with her? Why won’t she fly?”

“It’s the engine, sir,” he said; “it won’t start any more.”

“I’ll have a look over the ship,” I said, “and then we’ll see if we can’t do something about the engine.”

I took Fo-nar with me and went below. Everything there was filthy and in disorder. “How long has she been out of commission?” I asked.

“About a month.”

“You certainly couldn’t have made all this mess by yourself in a month,” I said.

“No, sir; she was always like this even when she was flying,” he said.

“Who commanded her? Whoever he was, he should be cashiered for permitting a ship to get in this condition.”

“He won’t ever be cashiered, sir,” said Fo-nar.

“Why?” I asked.

“Because he got drunk and fell overboard on our last flight,” Fo-nar explained, with a grin.

I inspected the guns, there were eight of them, four on a side beside smaller bow and stern guns on deck; they all seemed to be in pretty fair condition, and there was plenty of ammunition. The bomb racks in the bilge were full, and there was a bomb trap forward and another aft.

There were quarters for twenty-five men and three officers, a good galley, and plenty of provisions. If I had not seen Odwar Phor San, I could not have understood why all this material—guns, ammunition, provisions, and tackle—should have been left on a ship permanently out of commission. The ship appeared to me to be about ten years old—that is, after a careful inspection; superficially, it looked a hundred.

I told Fo-nar to go back on deck and go to sleep, if he wished to; and then I went into the dwar’s cabin and lay down; I hadn’t had much sleep the night before, and I was tired. It was daylight when I awoke, and I found Fo-nar in the galley getting his breakfast. I told him to prepare mine, and after we had both eaten I went to have a look at the engine.

It hurt me to go through that ship and see the condition its drunken skipper had permitted it to get into. I love these Barsoomian fliers, and I have been in the navy of Helium for so many years that ships have acquired almost human personalities for me. I have designed them; I have superintended their construction; I have developed new ideas in equipment, engines, and armament; and several standard flying and navigating instruments are of my invention. If there is anything I don’t know about a modern Martian flier; then nobody else knows it.

I found tools and practically dismantled the engine, checking every part. While I was doing this, I had Fo-nar start cleaning up the ship. I told him to start with my cabin and then tackle the galley next. It would have taken one man a month or more to put the Dusar in even fair condition, but at least we would make a start.

I hadn’t been working on the engine half an hour before I found what was wrong with it—just dirt! Every feed line was clogged; and that marvellous, concentrated, Martian fuel could not reach the motor.

I was appalled by the evidence of such stupidity and inefficiency, though not entirely surprised; drunken commanders and Barsoomian fliers just don’t go together. In the navy of Helium, no officer drinks while on board ship or on duty; and not one of them drinks to excess at any time.

If an officer were ever drunk on board his ship, the crew would see to it that he was never drunk again; they know that their lives are in the hands of their officers, and they don’t purpose trusting them to a drunken man—they simply push the officer overboard. It is such a well established custom, or used to be before drinking on the part of officers practically ceased, that no action was ever taken against the warrior who took discipline into his own hands, even though the act were witnessed by officers. I rather surmised that this time honored custom had had something to do with the deplorable accident that had robbed the Dusar of her former commander.

The day was practically gone by the time I had cleaned every part of the engine thoroughly and reassembled it; then I started it; and the sweet, almost noiseless and vibrationless, hum of it was music to my ears. I had a ship—a ship that would fly!

One man can operate such a ship, but of course he can’t fight it. Where, however, could I get men? I didn’t want just any men; I wanted good fighting men who would just as lief fight against Hin Abtol as not.

Pondering this problem I went to my cabin to clean up; it looked spick-and-span.

Fo-nar had done a good job; he had also laid out the harness and metal of a dwar—doubtless the property of the late commander. Bathed and properly garbed, I felt like a new man as I stepped out onto the upper deck. Fo-nar snapped to attention and saluted.

“Fo-nar,” I said, “are you a Panar?”

“I should say not,” he replied with some asperity. “I am from Jahar originally, but now I have no country—I am a panthan.”

“You were there during the reign of Tul Axtar?” I asked.

“Yes,” he replied; “it was on his account that I became an exile—I tried to kill him, and I got caught; I just barely escaped with my life. I cannot go back so long as he is alive.”

“You can go back, then,” I said; “Tul Axtar is dead.”

“How do you know, sir?”

“I know the man who killed him.”

“Just my luck!” exclaimed Fo-nar; “now that I might go back, I can’t.”

“Why can’t you?”

“For the same reason, sir, that where ever you are from you’ll never go back, unless you are from Panar, which I doubt.”

“No, I am not from Panar,” I said; “but what makes you think I won’t go back to my own country?”

“Because no one upon whom Hin Abtol gets his hands ever escapes, other than through death.”

Llana of Gathol - Contents    |     Book 3 - Chapter 7

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