“If we deserted here,” he replied, “we would immediately be picked up by the Gatholians and killed; after this campaign is over, we will not make a landing until we reach Panar; and from Panar there is no escape. Hin Abtol’s ships never stop at a friendly city, where one might find an opportunity to escape; for there are no cities friendly to Hin Abtol. He attacks every city that he believes he can take, sacks it, and flies away with all the loot he can gather and with as many prisoners as his ships will carry—mostly men; they say he has a million now, and that he plans eventually to conquer Helium and then all of Barsoom. He took me prisoner when he sacked Raxar on his way down from Panar to Gathol; I was serving there in the army of the jed.”
“You would like to return to Jahar?” I asked.
“Certainly,” he replied. “My mate is there, if she still lives; I have been gone twenty years.”
“You feel no loyalty toward Hin Abtol?”
“Absolutely none,” he replied; “why?”
“I think I can tell you. I have the same power that all Barsoomians have of being able to read the mind of another when he happens to be off guard; and a couple of times, Fo-nar, your subconscious mind has dropped its guard and permitted me to read your thoughts; I have learned several things about you. One is that you are constantly wondering about me—who I am and whether I am to be trusted. For another thing, I have learned that you despise the Panars. I also discovered that you were no common warrior in Jahar, but a dwar in the jeddak’s service—you were thinking about that when you first saw me in the metal and harness of a dwar.”
Fo-nar smiled. “You read well,” he said; “I must be more careful. You read much better than I do, or else you guard your thoughts more jealously than I; for I have not been able to obtain even the slightest inkling of what is passing in your mind.”
“No man has ever been able to read my mind,” I said, and that is very strange, too, and quite inexplicable. The Martians have developed mind reading to a point where it is a fine art, but none has ever been able to read my mind. Perhaps that is because it is the mind of an Earth man, and may account for the fact that telepathy has not advanced far on our planet.
“You are fortunate,” said Fo-nar; “but please go on and tell me what you started to.”
“Well,” I said, “in the first place, I have repaired the engine—the Dusar can now fly.”
“Good!” exclaimed Fo-nar. “I said you were no Panar; they are the stupidest people in the world. No Panar could ever have repaired it; all they can do is let things go to wrack and ruin. Go on.”
“Now we need a crew. Can we find from fifteen to twenty-five men whom we can trust and who can fight—men who will follow me anywhere I lead them to win their freedom from Hin Abtol?”
“I can find you all the men you need,” replied Fo-nar.
“Get busy then,” I said; “you are now First Padwar of the Dusar.”
“I am getting up in the world again,” said Fo-nar, laughing. “I’ll start out immediately, but don’t expect a miracle—it may take a little time to find the right men.”
“Have them report to the ship after dark, and tell them to be sure that no one sees them. What can we do about that sentry at the foot of the ladder?”
“The one who was on duty when you came aboard is all right,” said Fo-nar; “he’ll come with us. He’s on from the eighth to the ninth zodes, and I’ll tell the men to come at that time.”
“Good luck, padwar!” I said, as he went overside.
The remainder of the day dragged slowly. I spent some time in my cabin looking through the ship’s papers. Barsoomian ships keep a log just as Earth ships do, and I occupied several hours looking through the log of the Dusar. The ship had been captured four years before while on a scientific expedition to the Arctic, since then, under Panar commanders, the log had been very poorly kept. Some times there were no entries for a week, and those that were made were unprofessional and sloppy; the more I learned about the Panars the less I liked them—and to think that the creature who ruled them aspired to conquer a world!
About the end of the seventh zode Fo-nar returned. “I had much better luck than I anticipated,” he said; “every man I approached knew three or four he could vouch for; so it didn’t take long to get twenty-five. I think, too, that I have just the man for Second Padwar. He was a padwar in the army of Helium, and has served on many of her ships.”
“What is his name?” I asked. “I have known many men from Helium.”
“He is Tan Hadron of Hastor,” replied Fo-nar.
Tan Hadron of Hastor! Why, he was one of my finest officers. What ill luck could have brought him to the navy of Hin Abtol?
“Tan Hadron of Hastor,” I said aloud; “the name sounds a little familiar; it is possible that I knew him.” I did not wish anyone to know that I was John Carter, Prince of Helium; for if it became known, and I was captured, Hin Abtol could have wrested an enormous ransom from Tardos Mors, Jeddak of Helium and grandfather of my mate, Dejah Thoris.
Immediately after the eighth zode, warriors commenced to come aboard the Dusar.
I had instructed Fo-nar to immediately send them below to their quarters, for I feared that too much life on the deck of the Dusar might attract attention; I had also told him to send Tan Hadron to my cabin as soon as he came aboard.
About half after the eighth zode someone scratched on my door; and when I bade him enter, Tan Hadron stepped into the cabin. My red skin and Panar harness deceived him, and he did not recognize me.
“I am Tan Hadron of Hastor,” he said; “Padwar Fo-nar instructed me to report to you.”
“You are not a Panar?” I asked.
He stiffened. “I am a Heliumite from the city of Hastor,” he said, proudly.
“Where is Hastor?” I asked.
He looked surprised at such ignorance. “It lies directly south of Greater Helium sir; about five hundred haads. You will pardon me,” he added, “but I understood from Padwar Fo-nar that you knew many men from Helium, and so I imagined that you had visited the empire; in fact he gave me to understand that you had served in our navy.”
“That is neither here nor there,” I said. “Fo-nar has recommended you for the post of Second Padwar aboard the Dusar. You will have to serve me faithfully and follow where ever I lead; your reward will consist of your freedom from Hin Abtol.”
I could see that he was a little bit skeptical about the whole proposition now that he had met me—a man who had never heard of Hastor couldn’t amount to much; but he touched the hilt of his sword and said that he would follow me loyally.
“Is that all, sir?” he asked.
“Yes,” I said; “for the time being. After the men are all aboard I shall have them mustered below deck, and at that time I shall name the officers; please be there.”
He saluted, and turned to go.
“Oh, by the way,” I called to him, “how is Tavia?”
At that he wheeled about as though he had been shot, and his eyes went wide.
“What do you know of Tavia, sir?” he demanded. Tavia is his mate.
“I know that she is a very lovely girl, and that I can’t understand why you are not back in Hastor with her; or are you stationed in Helium now?”
He came a little closer, and looked at me intently. As a matter of fact, the light was not very good in my cabin, or he would have recognized me sooner.
Finally his jaw dropped, and then he unbuckled his sword and threw it at my feet. “John Carter!” he exclaimed.
“Not so loud, Hadron,” I cautioned; “no one here knows who I am; and no one must, but you.”
“You had a good time with me, didn’t you, sir?” he laughed.
“It has been some time since I have had anything to laugh about,” I said; “so I hope you will forgive me; now tell me about yourself and how you got into this predicament.”
“Perhaps half the navy of Helium is looking for Llana of Gathol and you,” he said. “Rumors of the whereabouts of one or the other of you have come from all parts of Barsoom. Like many another officer I was scouting for you or Llana in a one man flier. I had bad luck, sir; and here I am. One of Hin Abtol’s ships shot me down, and then landed and captured me.”
“Llana of Gathol and I, with two companions, were also shot down by one of Hin Abtol’s ships,” I told him. “While I was searching for food, they were captured, presumably by some of Hin Abtol’s warriors, as we landed behind their lines. We must try to ascertain, if possible, where Llana is; then we can plan intelligently. Possibly some of our recruits may have information; see what you can find out.”
He saluted and left my cabin. It was good to know that I had such a man as Tan Hadron of Hastor as one of my lieutenants.