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Chapter 21 An Air Scout for Zodanga

  • As I proceeded on my journey toward Zodanga many strange and interestin_ights arrested my attention, and at the several farm houses where I stopped _earned a number of new and instructive things concerning the methods an_anners of Barsoom.
  • The water which supplies the farms of Mars is collected in immense undergroun_eservoirs at either pole from the melting ice caps, and pumped through lon_onduits to the various populated centers. Along either side of thes_onduits, and extending their entire length, lie the cultivated districts.
  • These are divided into tracts of about the same size, each tract being unde_he supervision of one or more government officers.
  • Instead of flooding the surface of the fields, and thus wasting immens_uantities of water by evaporation, the precious liquid is carried undergroun_hrough a vast network of small pipes directly to the roots of the vegetation.
  • The crops upon Mars are always uniform, for there are no droughts, no rains, no high winds, and no insects, or destroying birds.
  • On this trip I tasted the first meat I had eaten since leaving Earth—large, juicy steaks and chops from the well-fed domestic animals of the farms. Also _njoyed luscious fruits and vegetables, but not a single article of food whic_as exactly similar to anything on Earth. Every plant and flower and vegetabl_nd animal has been so refined by ages of careful, scientific cultivation an_reeding that the like of them on Earth dwindled into pale, gray, characterless nothingness by comparison.
  • At a second stop I met some highly cultivated people of the noble class an_hile in conversation we chanced to speak of Helium. One of the older men ha_een there on a diplomatic mission several years before and spoke with regre_f the conditions which seemed destined ever to keep these two countries a_ar.
  • "Helium," he said, "rightly boasts the most beautiful women of Barsoom, and o_ll her treasures the wondrous daughter of Mors Kajak, Dejah Thoris, is th_ost exquisite flower.
  • "Why," he added, "the people really worship the ground she walks upon an_ince her loss on that ill-starred expedition all Helium has been draped i_ourning.
  • "That our ruler should have attacked the disabled fleet as it was returning t_elium was but another of his awful blunders which I fear will sooner or late_ompel Zodanga to elevate a wiser man to his place."
  • "Even now, though our victorious armies are surrounding Helium, the people o_odanga are voicing their displeasure, for the war is not a popular one, sinc_t is not based on right or justice. Our forces took advantage of the absenc_f the principal fleet of Helium on their search for the princess, and so w_ave been able easily to reduce the city to a sorry plight. it is said sh_ill fall within the next few passages of the further moon."
  • "And what, think you, may have been the fate of the princess, Dejah Thoris?" _sked as casually as possible.
  • "She is dead," he answered. "This much was learned from a green warrio_ecently captured by our forces in the south. She escaped from the hordes o_hark with a strange creature of another world, only to fall into the hands o_he Warhoons. Their thoats were found wandering upon the sea bottom an_vidences of a bloody conflict were discovered nearby."
  • While this information was in no way reassuring, neither was it at al_onclusive proof of the death of Dejah Thoris, and so I determined to mak_very effort possible to reach Helium as quickly as I could and carry t_ardos Mors such news of his granddaughter's possible whereabouts as lay in m_ower.
  • Ten days after leaving the three Ptor brothers I arrived at Zodanga. From th_oment that I had come in contact with the red inhabitants of Mars I ha_oticed that Woola drew a great amount of unwelcome attention to me, since th_uge brute belonged to a species which is never domesticated by the red men.
  • Were one to stroll down Broadway with a Numidian lion at his heels the effec_ould be somewhat similar to that which I should have produced had I entere_odanga with Woola.
  • The very thought of parting with the faithful fellow caused me so great regre_nd genuine sorrow that I put it off until just before we arrived at th_ity's gates; but then, finally, it became imperative that we separate. Ha_othing further than my own safety or pleasure been at stake no argument coul_ave prevailed upon me to turn away the one creature upon Barsoom that ha_ever failed in a demonstration of affection and loyalty; but as I woul_illingly have offered my life in the service of her in search of whom I wa_bout to challenge the unknown dangers of this, to me, mysterious city, _ould not permit even Woola's life to threaten the success of my venture, muc_ess his momentary happiness, for I doubted not he soon would forget me. An_o I bade the poor beast an affectionate farewell, promising him, however, that if I came through my adventure in safety that in some way I should fin_he means to search him out.
  • He seemed to understand me fully, and when I pointed back in the direction o_hark he turned sorrowfully away, nor could I bear to watch him go; bu_esolutely set my face toward Zodanga and with a touch of heartsicknes_pproached her frowning walls.
  • The letter I bore from them gained me immediate entrance to the vast, walle_ity. It was still very early in the morning and the streets were practicall_eserted. The residences, raised high upon their metal columns, resembled hug_ookeries, while the uprights themselves presented the appearance of stee_ree trunks. The shops as a rule were not raised from the ground nor wer_heir doors bolted or barred, since thievery is practically unknown upo_arsoom. Assassination is the ever-present fear of all Barsoomians, and fo_his reason alone their homes are raised high above the ground at night, or i_imes of danger.
  • The Ptor brothers had given me explicit directions for reaching the point o_he city where I could find living accommodations and be near the offices o_he government agents to whom they had given me letters. My way led to th_entral square or plaza, which is a characteristic of all Martian cities.
  • The plaza of Zodanga covers a square mile and is bounded by the palaces of th_eddak, the jeds, and other members of the royalty and nobility of Zodanga, a_ell as by the principal public buildings, cafes, and shops.
  • As I was crossing the great square lost in wonder and admiration of th_agnificent architecture and the gorgeous scarlet vegetation which carpete_he broad lawns I discovered a red Martian walking briskly toward me from on_f the avenues. He paid not the slightest attention to me, but as he cam_breast I recognized him, and turning I placed my hand upon his shoulder, calling out:
  • "Kaor, Kantos Kan!"
  • Like lightning he wheeled and before I could so much as lower my hand th_oint of his long-sword was at my breast.
  • "Who are you?" he growled, and then as a backward leap carried me fifty fee_rom his sword he dropped the point to the ground and exclaimed, laughing,
  • "I do not need a better reply, there is but one man upon all Barsoom who ca_ounce about like a rubber ball. By the mother of the further moon, Joh_arter, how came you here, and have you become a Darseen that you can chang_our color at will?"
  • "You gave me a bad half minute my friend," he continued, after I had briefl_utlined my adventures since parting with him in the arena at Warhoon. "Wer_y name and city known to the Zodangans I would shortly be sitting on th_anks of the lost sea of Korus with my revered and departed ancestors. I a_ere in the interest of Tardos Mors, Jeddak of Helium, to discover th_hereabouts of Dejah Thoris, our princess. Sab Than, prince of Zodanga, ha_er hidden in the city and has fallen madly in love with her. His father, Tha_osis, Jeddak of Zodanga, has made her voluntary marriage to his son the pric_f peace between our countries, but Tardos Mors will not accede to the demand_nd has sent word that he and his people would rather look upon the dead fac_f their princess than see her wed to any than her own choice, and tha_ersonally he would prefer being engulfed in the ashes of a lost and burnin_elium to joining the metal of his house with that of Than Kosis. His repl_as the deadliest affront he could have put upon Than Kosis and the Zodangans, but his people love him the more for it and his strength in Helium is greate_oday than ever.
  • "I have been here three days," continued Kantos Kan, "but I have not yet foun_here Dejah Thoris is imprisoned. Today I join the Zodangan navy as an ai_cout and I hope in this way to win the confidence of Sab Than, the prince, who is commander of this division of the navy, and thus learn the whereabout_f Dejah Thoris. I am glad that you are here, John Carter, for I know you_oyalty to my princess and two of us working together should be able t_ccomplish much."
  • The plaza was now commencing to fill with people going and coming upon th_aily activities of their duties. The shops were opening and the cafes fillin_ith early morning patrons. Kantos Kan led me to one of these gorgeous eatin_laces where we were served entirely by mechanical apparatus. No hand touche_he food from the time it entered the building in its raw state until i_merged hot and delicious upon the tables before the guests, in response t_he touching of tiny buttons to indicate their desires.
  • After our meal, Kantos Kan took me with him to the headquarters of the air- scout squadron and introducing me to his superior asked that I be enrolled a_ member of the corps. In accordance with custom an examination was necessary, but Kantos Kan had told me to have no fear on this score as he would attend t_hat part of the matter. He accomplished this by taking my order fo_xamination to the examining officer and representing himself as John Carter.
  • "This ruse will be discovered later," he cheerfully explained, "when the_heck up my weights, measurements, and other personal identification data, bu_t will be several months before this is done and our mission should b_ccomplished or have failed long before that time."
  • The next few days were spent by Kantos Kan in teaching me the intricacies o_lying and of repairing the dainty little contrivances which the Martians us_or this purpose. The body of the one-man air craft is about sixteen fee_ong, two feet wide and three inches thick, tapering to a point at each end.
  • The driver sits on top of this plane upon a seat constructed over the small, noiseless radium engine which propels it. The medium of buoyancy is containe_ithin the thin metal walls of the body and consists of the eighth Barsoomia_ay, or ray of propulsion, as it may be termed in view of its properties.
  • This ray, like the ninth ray, is unknown on Earth, but the Martians hav_iscovered that it is an inherent property of all light no matter from wha_ource it emanates. They have learned that it is the solar eighth ray whic_ropels the light of the sun to the various planets, and that it is th_ndividual eighth ray of each planet which "reflects," or propels the ligh_hus obtained out into space once more. The solar eighth ray would be absorbe_y the surface of Barsoom, but the Barsoomian eighth ray, which tends t_ropel light from Mars into space, is constantly streaming out from the plane_onstituting a force of repulsion of gravity which when confined is able t_ife enormous weights from the surface of the ground.
  • It is this ray which has enabled them to so perfect aviation that battle ship_ar outweighing anything known upon Earth sail as gracefully and lightl_hrough the thin air of Barsoom as a toy balloon in the heavy atmosphere o_arth.
  • During the early years of the discovery of this ray many strange accident_ccurred before the Martians learned to measure and control the wonderfu_ower they had found. In one instance, some nine hundred years before, th_irst great battle ship to be built with eighth ray reservoirs was stored wit_oo great a quantity of the rays and she had sailed up from Helium with fiv_undred officers and men, never to return.
  • Her power of repulsion for the planet was so great that it had carried her fa_nto space, where she can be seen today, by the aid of powerful telescopes, hurtling through the heavens ten thousand miles from Mars; a tiny satellit_hat will thus encircle Barsoom to the end of time.
  • The fourth day after my arrival at Zodanga I made my first flight, and as _esult of it I won a promotion which included quarters in the palace of Tha_osis.
  • As I rose above the city I circled several times, as I had seen Kantos Kan do, and then throwing my engine into top speed I raced at terrific velocity towar_he south, following one of the great waterways which enter Zodanga from tha_irection.
  • I had traversed perhaps two hundred miles in a little less than an hour when _escried far below me a party of three green warriors racing madly toward _mall figure on foot which seemed to be trying to reach the confines of one o_he walled fields.
  • Dropping my machine rapidly toward them, and circling to the rear of th_arriors, I soon saw that the object of their pursuit was a red Martia_earing the metal of the scout squadron to which I was attached. A shor_istance away lay his tiny flier, surrounded by the tools with which he ha_vidently been occupied in repairing some damage when surprised by the gree_arriors.
  • They were now almost upon him; their flying mounts charging down on th_elatively puny figure at terrific speed, while the warriors leaned low to th_ight, with their great metal-shod spears. Each seemed striving to be th_irst to impale the poor Zodangan and in another moment his fate would hav_een sealed had it not been for my timely arrival.
  • Driving my fleet air craft at high speed directly behind the warriors I soo_vertook them and without diminishing my speed I rammed the prow of my littl_lier between the shoulders of the nearest. The impact sufficient to have tor_hrough inches of solid steel, hurled the fellow's headless body into the ai_ver the head of his thoat, where it fell sprawling upon the moss. The mount_f the other two warriors turned squealing in terror, and bolted in opposit_irections.
  • Reducing my speed I circled and came to the ground at the feet of th_stonished Zodangan. He was warm in his thanks for my timely aid and promise_hat my day's work would bring the reward it merited, for it was none othe_han a cousin of the jeddak of Zodanga whose life I had saved.
  • We wasted no time in talk as we knew that the warriors would surely return a_oon as they had gained control of their mounts. Hastening to his damage_achine we were bending every effort to finish the needed repairs and ha_lmost completed them when we saw the two green monsters returning at to_peed from opposite sides of us. When they had approached within a hundre_ards their thoats again became unmanageable and absolutely refused to advanc_urther toward the air craft which had frightened them.
  • The warriors finally dismounted and hobbling their animals advanced toward u_n foot with drawn long-swords.
  • I advanced to meet the larger, telling the Zodangan to do the best he coul_ith the other. Finishing my man with almost no effort, as had now from muc_ractice become habitual with me, I hastened to return to my new acquaintanc_hom I found indeed in desperate straits.
  • He was wounded and down with the huge foot of his antagonist upon his throa_nd the great long-sword raised to deal the final thrust. With a bound _leared the fifty feet intervening between us, and with outstretched poin_rove my sword completely through the body of the green warrior. His swor_ell, harmless, to the ground and he sank limply upon the prostrate form o_he Zodangan.
  • A cursory examination of the latter revealed no mortal injuries and after _rief rest he asserted that he felt fit to attempt the return voyage. He woul_ave to pilot his own craft, however, as these frail vessels are not intende_o convey but a single person.
  • Quickly completing the repairs we rose together into the still, cloudles_artian sky, and at great speed and without further mishap returned t_odanga.
  • As we neared the city we discovered a mighty concourse of civilians and troop_ssembled upon the plain before the city. The sky was black with naval vessel_nd private and public pleasure craft, flying long streamers of gay-colore_ilks, and banners and flags of odd and picturesque design.
  • My companion signaled that I slow down, and running his machine close besid_ine suggested that we approach and watch the ceremony, which, he said, wa_or the purpose of conferring honors on individual officers and men fo_ravery and other distinguished service. He then unfurled a little ensig_hich denoted that his craft bore a member of the royal family of Zodanga, an_ogether we made our way through the maze of low-lying air vessels until w_ung directly over the jeddak of Zodanga and his staff. All were mounted upo_he small domestic bull thoats of the red Martians, and their trappings an_rnamentation bore such a quantity of gorgeously colored feathers that I coul_ot but be struck with the startling resemblance the concourse bore to a ban_f the red Indians of my own Earth.
  • One of the staff called the attention of Than Kosis to the presence of m_ompanion above them and the ruler motioned for him to descend. As they waite_or the troops to move into position facing the jeddak the two talke_arnestly together, the jeddak and his staff occasionally glancing up at me. _ould not hear their conversation and presently it ceased and all dismounted, as the last body of troops had wheeled into position before their emperor. _ember of the staff advanced toward the troops, and calling the name of _oldier commanded him to advance. The officer then recited the nature of th_eroic act which had won the approval of the jeddak, and the latter advance_nd placed a metal ornament upon the left arm of the lucky man.
  • Ten men had been so decorated when the aide called out,
  • "John Carter, air scout!"
  • Never in my life had I been so surprised, but the habit of military disciplin_s strong within me, and I dropped my little machine lightly to the ground an_dvanced on foot as I had seen the others do. As I halted before the officer, he addressed me in a voice audible to the entire assemblage of troops an_pectators.
  • "In recognition, John Carter," he said, "of your remarkable courage and skil_n defending the person of the cousin of the jeddak Than Kosis and, singlehanded, vanquishing three green warriors, it is the pleasure of ou_eddak to confer on you the mark of his esteem."
  • Than Kosis then advanced toward me and placing an ornament upon me, said:
  • "My cousin has narrated the details of your wonderful achievement, which seem_ittle short of miraculous, and if you can so well defend a cousin of th_eddak how much better could you defend the person of the jeddak himself. Yo_re therefore appointed a padwar of The Guards and will be quartered in m_alace hereafter."
  • I thanked him, and at his direction joined the members of his staff. After th_eremony I returned my machine to its quarters on the roof of the barracks o_he air-scout squadron, and with an orderly from the palace to guide me _eported to the officer in charge of the palace.