Escape on Venus

Chapter XL

Edgar Rice Burroughs

DUARE cruised about near the forest, waiting for either the warriors or Vik-yor to come out; she would not abandon the pistol. Had she known what was going on in the wood, her hopes would have been crushed.

Vik-yor, trembling and almost too weak to stand, was surrounded by its captors, who were discussing it. “We have just eaten,” said one; “we can take this back to the women and children.” He pinched Vik-yor. “It is tender; perhaps we can find something else for the women and children. I am sure that I could eat some of this tonight.”

“Why not eat it here?” demanded another. “The women and children will make a loud noise if we don’t give them some.”

“It is mine,” said the warrior who had climbed the tree after Vik-yor. “I am going to take it back to the village.” He tied a leather thong about Vik-yor’s neck, and dragged the creature along behind him. The other warriors followed.

When they came out into the open, Duare saw them and flew closer. There was Vik-yor! How was she ever to recover the pistol now? The warriors looked up at the anotar and discussed it. Some of them thought that they should go back into the forest; but when Duare circled high above them and gave no indication that she was going to swoop down on them, they lost their fear: and kept on toward their village.

The village lay on the bank of a river not far from where; Vik-yor had been captured. It was not a village easily seen from the air, as it consisted of a few poor, grass shelters scarcely three feet high, the village blending into the tall grasses among which it was built.

Before they reached the village, Duare circled very low above the little party and begged Vik-yor to drop the pistol, thinking that she could dive and frighten the warriors away from it before they could recover it; but Vik-yor, with the stubbornness of the ignorant, refused.

At last they reached the village, where a couple of dozen filthy women and children ran out to meet them. They tried to lay hands on Vik-yor, as they screamed for meat; and Duare, circling low again, heard them and realized that Vik-yor might soon be lost to her and the pistol along with him.

Banking low above them, she called out, “Look out! I’m coming down to kill you!” Then she dove for them. She knew that she was taking long chances, for they were sure to hurl their spears; and one lucky hit might cause her to crash—but she must have that pistol!

In a shower of spears, she came down on them, her landing gear lowered with which to rake them. It was too much for them; they turned and ran; so did Vik-yor, whose life was endangered as much as were the lives of the others. Fortunately, Vik-yor ran in the opposite direction from that taken by the savages; and Duare landed beside him.

“Get in!” she cried. “Hurry! Here they come!”

Sure enough, they were coming after their meat—a half dozen women in the lead—but they were too slow. Duare easily outdistanced them, and a moment later the anotar rose into the air and flew away.

“If I had had that pistol,” said Duare, “none of these things would have happened. Now give it to me, so that we won’t have to go through things like that again.”

“No,” said Vik-yor sullenly.

“I suppose you’d rather be killed by a wild beast or eaten by savages than give me that pistol so that I can protect us.”

“I shall not be eaten by savages nor killed by wild beasts,” said Vik-yor. “I am going back to Voo-ad; nothing that Vik-vik-vik can do to me would be as bad as what I’ve gone through. Take me back to Voo-ad at once.”

“And be hung up on a wall again! Do you think I’m crazy? But I’ll tell you what I will do: If you’ll give me the pistol and vial, I’ll take you back; and I’ll get word to Vik-vik-vik that I made you take me away.”

The Vooyorgan shook its head. “No,” it said. “With the pistol that kills so easily, I might be able to make Vik-vik-vik see reason. If I go back without it, I shall be killed. I have been watching you fly this thing; I can fly it. If you will not take me back to Voo-ad, I shall kill you and fly back by myself. Perhaps that be the better way after all. Think what an impression I would make if I flew into Voo-ad all alone. I think that then I might kill Vik-vik-vik and become jong. The more I think of it, the better I like the idea; what do you think of it?”

“I can’t say that it appeals to me to any great extent,” replied Duare. “In the first place I don’t like the idea of being killed; in the second place, you couldn’t fly the anotar. You might get it off the ground, but you’d be sure to crack up. Of course you’d kill yourself, but that wouldn’t compensate for the loss of the anotar.”

“You are trying to discourage me,” said Vik-yor, “but you can’t fool me.” It stuck the muzzle of the pistol against the girl’s side. “Take the thing down to the ground,” it ordered.

Duare was certain that the creature intended to kill her as soon as the anotar landed and then try to fly it itself. The only way in which she might thwart this plan was to keep the anotar in the air.

“I told you to take it down,” snapped Vik-yor when it became apparent that the plane was losing no altitude.

“If I do you’ll kill me,” said Duare.

“If you don’t, I’ll kill you,” returned Vik-yor. “I have these other things you call controls; I just shoot you and then commence flying it myself. The reason I told you to take me down was so I could let you out, and then practice a little while by myself. Then, if I should find that I do not like it, I would take you in again.”

“There will be nothing for me to get into, after you have practiced for a couple of minutes.”

“You needn’t try to make me change my mind by frightening me,” said Vik-yor. “I have made up my mind, and once my mind is made up—”

“Yes,” said Duare; “I have noticed that. Very well,” she added, “take that pistol out of my ribs and I will take you down.”

Vik-yor replaced the pistol in one of its pocket pouches, and watched every move that Duare made as she brought the anotar to a landing. “Now get out,” it said.

“You are headed into the wind,” said Duare; “keep going straight ahead, and don’t try to climb too fast;” then she stepped to the wing, and dropped to the ground.

Vik-yor opened the throttle wide; and the anotar leaped forward, swerving to the right. Duare held her breath, as the ship bounced and leaped erratically; she gasped as one wing grazed the ground; then the anotar leaped into the air. Duare could hear Vik-yor’ s screams of terror—they were almost worth the loss of the anotar.

The creature had managed to level off, but the ship was rolling first on one side and then on the other; it described circles; it started into a dive; and then the nose was suddenly jerked up, and it zoomed aloft. Finally it rolled completely over; and Vik-yor was flying upside down, its screams filling the welkin with horrific noise.

Each moment, Duare expected to see the ship crash; that would not have surprised her; but when Vik-yor completed a half loop and leveled off barely a few feet from the ground, she was surprised. The ship was headed for the river, near which it had taken off. In its terror, the Vooyorgan was clawing at everything on the instrument board, including the ignition switch—and the motor stopped.

The ship sailed gracefully up the river a few feet above the water, until, losing momentum, it pancaked to a safe landing, its pilot hanging half conscious in its safety belt. Duare could scarcely believe that that mad flight had not ended in tragedy, that the anotar was still whole; yet there it was, floating serenely down the river as though it had not just been through as harrowing an experience as may come to a well behaved aeroplane in a lifetime.

The girl ran to the river bank, praying that the current would bring the anotar to shore—it seemed to be drifting closer in. Finding that it had not been killed, Vik-yor was on the verge of hysterics with relief. It yammered and gibbered with delight.

“Didn’t I tell you I could fly it?” it shrieked.

A shift in the current was now drifting the anotar toward the center of the river; soon it would be past Duare. She looked into the deep flowing water. What ravenous monsters might lurk beneath that placid surface! To lose the anotar, was to forfeit her life and Carson’s as well. It was that last thought that sent her into the midst of the hidden dangers of the flood. Striking out boldly, she swam strongly toward the anotar. A slimy body brushed against her leg. She expected great jaws to close upon her next, but nothing happened. She closed in on the anotar; she seized a pontoon and climbed to the wing; she was safe!

Vik-yor had found her store of nuts, and was devouring them greedily. She did not care; all she cared about was that the anotar was unharmed and that she was aboard it.

Escape on Venus - Contents    |     Chapter XLI

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