Escape on Venus

Chapter XXXIV

Edgar Rice Burroughs

WELL, Vik-yor kept coming to the museum every day; and now we all tried to be decent to him. His devotion to Duare was almost doglike, and she quite startled me by encouraging him. It didn’t seem possible that Duare of Vepaja, the daughter of a thousand jongs, who had been brought up to consider herself as near a goddess as the Vepajans know, could try to arouse the love of such a creature as Vik-yor.

I joked about it. “If I were only an amoeba,” I said, “you would not have scorned my love for so long as you did; you would have sought after me and made love to me yourself.”

“Don’t be horrid,” said Duare; “to win our freedom, I would make love to a Myposan.”

“Do you think you are going to win our freedom?” I asked.

“I am going to try,” she said.

“But what good would freedom do three people paralyzed from the neck down?”

“There is freedom in death,” she said.

“You mean you are going to try to get Vik-yor to kill us?” I demanded.

“As a last resort,” she replied; “wouldn’t that be better than life here?—the man from Amlot has been here a hundred years!”

“But Vik-yor would never kill you,” said Ero Shan.

“He wouldn’t know he was killing me.”

“How do you plan on doing it?” I asked.

“I am going to teach Vik-yor how to use your r-ray pistol,” she explained, “and tell him that if he will put it against our hearts and squeeze the trigger, we’ll all join him outside and run away, as that will liberate our other selves from the flesh that now holds them.”

“What makes you think he wants to run away with you?” I demanded.

“I have learned much about men since I left my father’s palace in Vepaja.”

“But Vik-yor is not a man,” I argued.

“He’s getting there,” said Duare with a twinkle in her eye.

“He’s just a damn rhizopod,” I growled; “and I don’t like him.”

The next day, when he came around, Duare really went to work on him. “I should think you would be bored to death here in Voo-ad,” she said; “you are so different from all the others.”

Vik-yor really smiled. “Do you think I am?” he asked.

“Certainly I do,” cooed Duare. “You should be out in the world where there are things to see and things to do—where there are life and action and beautiful women,”

“The most beautiful woman in the world is here,” said Vik-yor, getting bold. “Oh, Duare, you are the most beautiful thing I ever saw!”

“And paralyzed from the neck down,” said Duare. “Now, if I were not paralyzed and we were set free, we could all go out into the world in our anotar and have a wonderful time.”

“Do you mean that you would take me?” he asked.

“Of course,” said Duare.

“Could I be with you always?” he demanded. It was a good thing for Vik-yor that I was paralyzed.

“You could be with me as much as possible,” said Duare.

Vik-yor looked at her for a long time—one of those devouring, possessive looks that send husbands to the upper dresser drawer looking for the family gun.

Vik-yor came close to Duare. “I can free you,” he whispered, but I heard him.

“How?” demanded the practical Duare.

“There is an antidote for the poison that paralyzed you,” explained Vik-yor. “It is necessary that this be kept on hand; for sometimes, when they have drunk too much wine, our own people make a mistake and drink the poison intended for a potential exhibit. A single drop on the tongue, neutralizes the poison in the nerve centers.”

“When will you bring it?” asked Duare, “and how can you give it to us and free us without the guards knowing?”

“I shall come at night and bring poisoned wine to the guards,” explained Vik-yor; “then I can free you, and we can escape from the city.”

“We shall be very grateful,” said Duare, “and we will take you with us.”

“I shall free only you,” said Vik-yor; “these others mean nothing to me; and I do not wish your mate along, anyway.”

For an amoeba, Vik-yor seemed to be doing quite well along evolutionary lines; he was by now at least a louse. What the future held for him, I could not predict—unless I became rid of my paralysis; then, I was sure, my prophetic powers would approach the miraculous. So it didn’t want me along!

To that proposition of Vik-yor, Duare shook her head. “I will not go without Carson of Venus and Ero Shan,” she said.

“I will not free them,” replied Vik-yor; “I do not like him;” he nodded in my direction. “He does not like me. I think he would like to kill me, and I am afraid of him.”

“Would you kill Vik-yor, if you were free, Carson?”

“Not if he behaves himself,” I replied.

“You see!” said Duare; “Carson says that he will not kill you if you behave yourself.”

“I will not free him,” replied Vik-yor, stubbornly. Evidently he didn’t intend to behave himself.

“Very well,” said Duare, “there is nothing more to be said on the subject; but if you will not do that much for me, you needn’t come and talk to me any more. Please go away.”

Vik-yor hung around for a while trying to get Duare to talk to him; but she wouldn’t say a word, and finally he walked away and left the building.

“That is that,” I said; “our little scheme has failed; the triangle is disrupted; your boy friend has gone off in a huff, and you will not see him again.”

“You don’t know your amoebae,” retorted Duare; “it will be back.”

“I have a plan, Duare,” I said. “It would be better for one of us to escape, than for all of us to remain here forever. You have that opportunity, and there is no reason why Ero Shan and I should keep you from taking advantage of it.”

“Never!” said Duare. “I will never go without you and Ero Shan.”

“Listen,” I said; “let Vik-yor free you; then take my r-ray pistol. I think you know enough about the construction of the anotar to replace the propeller with Vik-yor’s help. If you can’t get away without him, you can always use the pistol on him if you find it necessary. Fly to Sanara; I am positive it lies almost due south of us. Once there, I am sure that Taman will send an expedition to rescue Ero Shan and me.”

“That is the best plan yet,” said Ero Shan.

“I don’t like the idea of going off and leaving you two,” demurred Duare.

“It is our only chance,” I told her; “but if Vik-yor doesn’t come back, we’ll not have even this chance.”

“Vik-yor will come back,” said Duare. It’s amazing how well women know males—even male amoebae—for Vik-yor did come back. It was a couple of days before he came—two days of agonizing uncertainty. I could almost have hugged him when I saw him sidling in our direction. He was pretending to be deeply interested in some other exhibits. I don’t know why I keep calling it he; but I suppose that when you know something has fallen in love with your wife, you just naturally don’t think of it as it.

Anyway, it finally reached us. Paying no attention to Ero Shan or me, it hesitated before Duare. “Oh, you’re back, Vik-yor!” she exclaimed; “I am so glad to see you. You’ve changed your mind, haven’t you? You’re going to let us all go away with you, out into that beautiful world I have told you about.”

“No,” said Vik-yor. “I will take you, but not the others; and if you will not come willingly, I intend to poison these two at the same time that I poison the guards; then you’ll have to come with me alone, or be killed; for when Vik-vik-vik discovers that the effects of the poison have worn off, he will have you destroyed.”

“Go with him, Duare,” I said; “never mind us.”

Vik-yor looked at me in surprise. “Maybe I have been mistaken in you,” it said.

“You certainly have,” Duare assured it. “Carson is a very nice person, and we really should have him along in case we get into trouble; he’s an excellent swordsman.”

“No!” snapped Vik-yor. “I know why you want him along; you like him better than you do me. That is why I was going to poison him anyway before we left, but now I may change my mind.”

“You’d better,” exclaimed Duare, vehemently, “for if you harm him in any way, I’ll kill you! Do you understand that? I’ll go with you, but only on condition that no harm comes to Carson of Venus or Ero Shan.”

“Very well,” agreed Vik-yor. “I want you to like me; so I’ll do all that I can to please you—except take these two with us.”

“Is the anotar all right?” she asked him. “Have the people damaged it in any way?”

“It is all right,” replied Vik-yor; “it stands in the plaza just where you left it.”

“And the part that fell off—do you know where that is?”

“Yes, and I can get it any time I wish; all I have to do is take poisoned wine to the home of the one who found it.”

“When will you come for me?” asked Duare.

“Tonight,” replied Vik-yor.

Escape on Venus - Contents    |     Chapter XXXV

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