Escape on Venus

Chapter XXXVII

Edgar Rice Burroughs

VIK-YOR and Duare had not reached the exit when Vik-vik-vik and the banquet guests burst into the museum. “Quick! Hide!” whispered Vik-yor, dragging Duare back behind the body of the gantor. “The drunken fools!” muttered Vik-yor. “They have upset all my plans; now we may not get away at all.”

“They have passed,” said Duare, presently; “now we may go on.” Vik-yor hesitated. “They may come back,” he said.

“If they discover that I am gone, they’ll make a search,” said Duare; “then you will be caught.”

“And killed,” said Vik-yor, trembling. “But l won’t be killed! I won’t be here; they’ll just find you; they won’t know that I had anything to do with setting you free. You stay here; I’m going to join them and pretend that I was at the banquet, too.”

“You’re going to do nothing of the sort,” snapped Duare; “you’re going out into the plaza and help me fix the anotar; you’re going through with this thing.”

“I am not,” insisted Vik-yor. “Vik-vik-vik would have me killed if he knew I had set you free.”

“If you don’t come along with me,” warned Duare, “he will know.”

“How will he know?”

“I’ll tell him!”

“No, you won’t,” snarled Vik-yor, and drew a dagger.

Duare whipped out the r-ray pistol. “Put that dagger back, or I’ll kill you,” she threatened.

Vik-yor hesitated. It knew nothing about an r-ray pistol, but it was an arrant coward, and Duare’s tone of voice alone would have been enough to frighten it. It started to return the dagger to its sheath.

“No!” said Duare; “give it to me—and your sword, too; you’re not to be trusted.”

Reluctantly, Vik-yor handed over the weapons. “Suppose they attack us now?” it asked.

“You can hide behind me,” said Duare. “Come, now! We’re going to the plaza.” She had to poke the muzzle of the pistol in the middle of the thing’s back in order to force it toward the exit. A moment later they were in the plaza. It was deserted at this time of night, and they crossed to the anotar in safety.

The propeller lay beneath it, and a hasty examination showed that it was undamaged; then she examined the flange, shrunk to the end of the crankshaft, to which it had been bolted. The bolts were there and undamaged—the nuts must have vibrated off almost simultaneously; Kandar had evidently neglected to use either lock washers or cotter keys.

These Duare found among the spare parts in the cockpit of the anotar, together with the necessary nuts. Climbing forward on the wing, she told Vik-yor to hand up the propeller and then to come up himself and give her a hand. Together, they fitted the propeller over the bolts; and Duare started the nuts by hand; then she applied the wrench, a heavy tool that she had difficulty in handling in the awkward position in which she had to work.

She had two nuts securely set and cottered when the guests came rushing from the museum in search of her. “There she is!” cried one, discovering her almost immediately; and then they all came running toward the anotar. Vik-yor scrambled into the cockpit and hid. Duare switched the wrench to her left hand and drew her pistol.

“Keep away!” she called, “or I’ll let you have it.”

Perhaps they didn’t know what she was going to let them have; so they came on. The r-rays hummed from the muzzle of the weapon, and the leaders crumpled to the pavement. That stopped the others, at least for the time; and Duare continued to tighten the remaining nuts.

Vik-yor peeked from the cockpit; it saw the dead and heard the screams of the wounded. Things looked pretty safe to it; so it crept out and came to Duare’s side. Duare was working feverishly. She had thought everything out far in advance of either Carson or Ero Shan. Perhaps discovery by these Vooyorgans would make it more difficult than she had hoped, but she was still determined to go on with it—and flying away from Voo-ad without Carson and Ero Shan was no part of it.

The thing that she had planned on doing, after she and Vik-yor had repaired the anotar, was to force him to give up the vial of antidote, even if she had to kill him to get it, and then to go back into the museum and free Carson and Ero Shan. Discovery by the Vooyorgans had greatly complicated matters, but it had not compelled Duare to give up the plan.

More creatures were now rushing into the plaza, and the anotar was surrounded. Again Duare was forced to stop her work and turn a stream of r-rays upon those who menaced her most closely, and again the others fell back. This time Vik-yor did not hide. Feeling safe under the protection of Duare, it remained and watched her using the pistol on its people. The thing intrigued it greatly and gave it ideas, one of which it put into practice almost immediately after Duare returned the pistol to its holster and went to work on the last remaining nut. While the girl’s attention was centered on her work, Vik-yor stole up behind her and stealthily removed the pistol from its holster.

The first intimation Duare had that the weapon had been taken from her was the sudden b-r-r-r of r-rays. She wheeled about in astonishment to see Vik-yor pumping r-rays indiscriminately into the crowd surrounding the anotar. Many of the creatures were falling, dead and wounded; and the others were fleeing for the safety of near-by buildings.

“Give me that!” snapped Duare.

Vik-yor turned it on her. “Finish the work!” it said. “I want to get out of here.”

“You fool!” cried Duare. “Turn that thing the other way; if you kill me, you’ll never get away. Give it back to me!”

“No,” said Vik-yor, sullenly. “I shall keep it. Your only chance of getting away yourself is to do as I say. Do you think I’ll give this thing back to you, so that you can kill me? I am not such a fool.”

Duare returned to her work; she could wait. She gave the last nut its final turn and hammered in the cotter key; then she turned back to Vik-yor. “Get into the cockpit,” she said; “we are ready to go.”

Vik-yor climbed into the cockpit, and Duare took her place at the controls. The engine started; the propeller spun; the anotar moved. Duare taxied down wind to the far end of the plaza; then she came about into the wind. Hundreds of pairs of eyes watched her from windows and doorways, but no one ventured out to detain her—Vik-yor had been too unrestrained in firing practice.

The anotar gained speed; it rose gracefully into the air; and, turning south, disappeared into the night.

Vik-yor was terrified; it trembled and yammered in a frenzy of fear. “We shall fall!” it jibbered. “We shall fall!”

“Be quiet!” snapped the girl.

“Take me down! Let me out!”

Duare would have gladly done so had she had possession of the vial of antidote and her pistol. She did not reply, but elevated the nose of the anotar and rose higher. Vik-yor was cowering beside her, covering its eyes with its hands.

“Are you coming down?” it asked.

“Just a moment,” said Duare; “don’t look now.” She climbed to five thousand feet. Wisps of cloud from the inner envelope whipped against the windshield; in the weird light of the Amtorian night, the ground was barely visible—it appeared much farther away than it really was.

Duare cut the engine and glided. “You may get out now,” she said.

Vik-yor uncovered its eyes and looked over the side of the cockpit; and then, with a scream, it shrank back. It was trembling so that it could scarcely speak. It glanced up and saw the clouds close above, and it screamed again. “Quit screaming!” ordered Duare.

“You would have killed me,” Vik-yor managed to say at last; “you would have let me get out way up here.”

“Give me the antidote and my pistol, and I’ll take you down and let you get out,” offered Duare.

The creature looked over the side again; this time for much longer. “We do not fall,” it said. Finding that the anotar remained aloft, it slowly regained a little composure, if not courage.

“Well,” said Duare, “if you want to go down and get out, give me the vial and the pistol,”

“You’ll take me down, and I’ll keep them both,” said Vikyor.

“What makes you think so?” demanded Duare.

“This,” said Vik-yor, shoving the pistol against the girl’s side; “take me down, or I’ll kill you!”

Duare laughed at him. “And then what would happen to you?” she demanded. “Do you think this anotar flies itself? If I left these controls for a minute, the ship would dive nose first to the ground so fast that it would bury itself and you.”

“You are lying,” said Vik-yor. “It would come down by itself.”

“That’s just what I told you—it would come down by itself all right, but there would be nothing left of the anotar or us. Don’t you believe me?”

“No; you are lying.”

“All right; I’ll show you;” and with that, Duare put the ship into a spin.

Above the roar of the wind, rose the shrieks of Vik-yor. Duare levelled off at five hundred feet. “Now, do you think I was lying?” she asked. Her voice was firm and level, betraying no slightest indication of the terror that had gripped her for the last two thousand feet of that long dive. Only twice before had she brought the anotar out of a spin, and then Carson had been beside her at the other controls. This time, up to the last moment, she had thought that she was not going to bring it out.

“Don’t ever do that again!” wailed Vik-yor. “We might have been killed.”

“Will you give me the vial and the pistol now?” asked Duare.

“No,” replied Vik-yor.

Escape on Venus - Contents    |     Chapter XXXVIII

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