Der Luftpirat und sein Lenkbares Luftschiff #156
"Adrift in Outer Space"
Translated by Justin Gilbert
Lying in Ambush
"He will definitely come back here, because this is the country where he hires his troops. This is where the tough mountain people live who look upon the mysterious one with an admiration bordering on superstition. Our task is to break the power of this man and to take his weapons from him one by one. Much has already been done, and I have been able to destroy all but one of his vehicles. But the last one, the most wonderful one—if he loses that, his days will be numbered!"
These words were spoken in a majestically beautiful mountain landscape, at a spot where it is possible that the sound of a human voice had never been heard before. The view presented here was marvelous, there was no place for the eye to rest; here was a temple of nature, this was the majesty of creation at its most sublime. Mighty mountains rose upward, high mountaintops that seemed to touch the very sky; deep below the clouds floated by, and the sun was glinting off the massive glaciers. The ice was sparkling and fluorescing, sometimes blue, then green, in the most wonderful display of color. These were the highest mountains on earth, never visited by man, and perhaps destined never to be visited till the end of time. Further to the south another picturesque, but much lower mountainscape presented itself to the view. Ice and snow were plentiful even there, but in the valleys there were, here and there, green areas, mountain meadows, in which the mountain people were letting their herds graze.
The men who were up here in this wilderness seemed to have prepared themselves well for this trip. They wore warm clothes and snow-goggles and had native sherpas with them who were carrying their gear and food supplies. At first one might be lead to think that this was a scientific expedition which was crossing through this mountain world, or that these men intended to climb one of the peaks; but the words which had just been spoken indicated another purpose, and the view of these men was directed not toward the north, toward the world of ice, but southward. The man who had just spoken displayed finely chiseled features which indicated a steely determination. Without a doubt he possessed great authority among his comrades, who themselves seemed rather determined and confident.
No, these could not be scientists who were camping here and who, from their tents, which they had pitched in the shelter of a canyon, observed the southern regions with their high power binoculars. The man who was in command here was the famous secret policeman who, under the orders of certain high-ranking, but unknown persons was bent on the complete destruction of the air-pirate. At first people had only tried to learn the secrets of Captain Mors, but now they wanted to destroy him utterly. His maneuverable airship had been reduced to a useless wreck, his large flying machine was lying at the bottom of the ocean, and since Morse had suffered other losses at the hands of the secret policeman as well, he now had only his spaceship left to him.
Until now the secret policeman had waged his war against the air-pirate in different parts of the world, in the Indian Ocean, on the coast of California, even on the mysterious island of the Captain, but now Tom Grant, for this was his name, intended to deliver a decisive blow against Captain Mors.
One of the men seemed to be on closer terms with the famous secret policeman, and it was to this man that Tom Grant had been speaking.
"You had already achieved your goal, Tom," this man now said, "You would have already accomplished your goal, if your sister had not doublecrossed you at the last moment. Isn’t that what happened?"
Tom Grant cast a fierce glance around him.
"Yes, that's the way it always is with women," he muttered sullenly. "I have reproached Nelly in the most bitter terms. But I have not been able to learn anything definite from her, for as soon as I start to ask her about Captain Mors, she refuses to answer. But I am convinced that at the very moment when I was already considering the Air-Pirate a doomed man she was reminded of the incident which occurred on the Sulu Islands. He did indeed save her there. But womenfolk, my friend, they are a mystery, no one understands them, not even us secret policemen. This is why in spite of her begging and pleading I left Nelly at home." (You should here refer to the two previous numbers, which describe the first battles of the secret policeman with the air-pirate.)
"Give me your sister as my wife," said the other with a strange smile. "I have longed for this for a long time. Be your own man, for what do you need her help?"
"In some cases she is very important," Tom Grant replied thoughtfully. "What men cannot do, a clever, intriguing woman will often accomplish. I know the world and I know people, you can depend on that. Passion and desire for revenge, things most often found in the female heart, these have often been my best and most reliable allies."
With this the conversation was over. The sun was slowly sinking and its rays were turning the ice-covered tips of the mountains into gold. There was something like a northern light, which displayed a whole rainbow of colors, from a bright red to a deep blue. It was a magical spectacle, but the men who were camping here had other things to think about.
Once it was dark a guard was posted. Every hour the guard on duty was relieved; this was necessary, because at night it was bitter cold in these mountainous regions. The man on guard was standing underneath an overhanging cliff which protected him against the fierce wind. A warm suit covered his limbs, and his hands were protected by woolen mittens. But in his hands he was holding a short, wide pair of binoculars, with which he was constantly searching the sky. At one o'clock Tom Grant was to relieve this man, but he was aroused before that. It was just a few minutes after midnight when one of the men started shaking and shaking him in his sleeping bag. The secret policeman woke up instantly and under the pale light of the stars he looked into the face of his friend who was on guard duty.
"Quickly, Tom," he shouted. "I'll be damned if I don't see him coming. That can't be a natural phenomenon, quickly, quickly, look at it yourself."
A few seconds were enough for the secret policeman to get up and search the starlit sky himself with the mysterious binoculars. At first he saw nothing, but after a few moments he looked in the direction in which the hand of his friend was pointing. A mysterious shimmering light was moving along there, disappearing at one moment, then reappearing, and through the binoculars Tom Grant could clearly make out that this shimmering light emanated from a long, black body.
In a majestic semi-circle this black body moved around the mountain landscape and then descended into the lower promontories. Once again the white, ghostly light illuminated the mountains, and Grand could clearly see the black colossus gently being lowered onto the green pastures.
"It's him," he said. "We've got him. My expectations were right. I knew that he would come here. He needs lots of troops, because he intends to build new vehicles. And for that he likes these mountain dwellers for their skill. But now I will do my best to take away the last remaining vehicle that he still has. I will prepare five, even six attacks, one of them will have to succeed."
A quarter of an hour later the small expedition was on the move again. The native sherpas were from Nepal, they were dull, indifferent fellows who cared for nothing and were surprised at nothing; they were only interested in earning money by carrying their loads. Still they seemed to be happy when they realized that the expedition was moving back down into lower regions. Superstitious as they were they feared this ice-world at night, where the thundering of crashing ice masses and the rumbling of avalanches would often awaken echoes in the wilderness. The small silk tents were taken down, the sherpas shouldered their loads, and now, under the leadership of a native guide, the group quickly made its way downward through the canyons.
Tom Grant had proceeded with the utmost caution. The highlands had only served him as an observation post, here he had been able to lie in ambush, unseen and unsuspected. But now this daring man knew that the air-pirate had arrived, that he would go to the mountain villages from which he was wont to hire his troops. It was to be expected that he would spend some time, maybe a week, in this mountain world, and one week was a long time, time in which a lot might happen. Tom Grant had a guide who knew the country inhabited by these mountain people like the back of his hand. Before they left their camp, Tom Grant pointed out to this man the canyon in which the black colossus had landed. The guide nodded and moved to the head of the group, and Tom Grant and his companions followed. For six hours they marched without interruption, the sun had risen again when they finally stopped. Tom Grant spoke a few words to the guide and then he approached his companions, men who had obviously been hired for the purpose of destroying the air-pirate.
"We can't go any further now," the secret policeman said to his colleagues. "Otherwise we might run into one of the herdsmen. We are still at least two hours distant from the spot where I suspect the strange craft is right now, but that doesn't matter. First I have to reconnoiter the situation. You come with me, the rest of you, remain here! Just in case, we'll take any necessary instruments and supplies with us. You know, what I mean, I have instructed you."
Now the two men themselves carried heavy backpacks. Grant reminded the men who remained behind and who were already starting to set up camp to always observe the utmost caution and to always mount a guard. Then he and his friend set out for the place where he expected to find his adversary. But he did not descend into the valleys. Instead he remained on the higher slopes, in barren, desolate areas, for this way he was sure to encounter neither herds nor herdsmen.
Now the two men had crossed through a hollow, and as they started to ascend the other side, the secret policeman put down his heavy ruck, and his companion instantly followed his example. Bent over they ascended the slope and, once arrived at the top, they fell down flat on their stomachs. Behind the cover of boulders they slowly slid forward until they were able to look down below. The first thing they saw was a number of stone houses. These were about half an hour away and were stuck to the sides of the mountain like swallows' nests. This was one of the main villages of this free and independent mountain people, from which Captain Mors enlisted his troops. The two eavesdroppers just cast a quick glance on the mountain settlement, then they slid forward a little further and from behind safe cover they looked below them. There, just in the center of the canyon the position of which Tom Grant had committed to memory, below the green pastures, there was a black, gigantic monster. At first sight it might be mistaken for some fabulous monster from prehistoric times which had survived in these mountains, but on closer inspection it turned out to clearly be the work of man. It was fashioned from metal; it was the last vehicle which was still left to Captain Mors after his different adventures with his dangerous enemy. Here was the mysterious craft that had undertaken so many journeys into the world of the stars, the spacecraft of the air-pirate. People could clearly be seen moving about in the vicinity of the craft. Tom Grant cast a sinister glance downward.
"That's him," he mumbled so that only his friend could hear him. "That's where the man is whose destruction will turn me into one of the richest men on earth. Oh, if only I had the strength of a giant, so that I could pick up one of these gigantic rocks and hurl it below. Then my country would have nothing to fear anymore from the interference of this air-pirate. But these are useless fantasies, pointless wishing—even without a giant's strength I have sufficient means to condemn Mors's last vehicle to destruction. During my last adventure Nelly prevented it, but this time nobody will come between him and myself. He doesn’t suspect that destruction awaits him here in these mountains."
"Let's just hope that he remains here for a while," the other man remarked.
"There is no doubt of that," Grant replied confidently. "I know this
for sure. He always stays with these mountain dwellers for a week or two,
he needs men, and because of the peculiar customs of these people he has
to stay a while, out of respect for them. We have plenty of time to carry
out our attacks. For right now we will stay up here, until evening; then
we will go down, and then Captain Mors had better watch out. I think the
hour of decision has come."
The Air-Pirate and his Men
The spacecraft had indeed landed in the canyon, and the air-pirate had already made contact with the inhabitants of the large settlement. The mountain dwellers knew exactly what losses Mors had sustained during his last adventure, but far from losing their confidence in him, they stuck even more loyally to this man who had been plagued by such misfortune. The air-pirate still maintained his iron composure, even though the destruction of his other craft caused him the most serious concern. Many months might pass before he was able to replace the destroyed airships and flying machines, and during this time he would be completely dependent on the last creation of his genius, his spaceship. Most of all he needed men whom he could put to work on these new machines under his guidance on his mysterious island off the coast of California. A maneuverable airship was what he needed first, that was the most important, the flying machines could wait until later. Among his crew there were also many whom he was returning to their home, the injured and those who longed to be back with their families.
Mors had received the friendliest reception from the elders of the mountain settlement, and he was quite happy about the loyalty of these men, who did not desert him even in this most difficult time. He could count on being able to recruit new, reliable men in a relatively short period of time. But still, some time would pass before these men would arrive, for at this time of year almost all of the men of this free mountain people were scattered far and wide with their herds, which constituted the main wealth of this people. Messengers were dispatched to announce the return of the air-pirate, and at the same time word was passed on that Mors wished to augment his crew.
Mors had no doubt that he was dealing with a most dangerous adversary, and this adversary was surely still among the living. Mors had to expect new attacks, new adventures, and so it came as no surprise that he ordered his men to be especially vigilant.
Grant and his companion were aware of this when evening approached and they carefully descended from the heights. Everywhere there were guards, but there was something else that made it impossible for them to approach closely to the spacecraft.
The large searchlight of the huge craft was in operation and illuminated the canyon in which the colossus lay anchored. Mors had had the searchlight mounted up on top, on the platform of his miraculous creation, and here it was rotating without interruption. The blinding light illuminated the entire canyon, so that the smallest rock and each individual blade of grass could be seen.
It was true that Tom Grant and his companions were in possession of the most terrible weapons of destruction which they carried with them in their backpacks; but these were of no use to them, because they were unable to approach the spacecraft. The bright light even prevented them from approaching close enough to aim a destructive missile at the craft, not that such an attempt would probably have been successful anyway. All night long they were on the prowl, but with the approaching dawn they found themselves forced to re-ascend to their observation post without having accomplished anything.
"You know," remarked the friend of the secret policeman. "The air-pirate is shrewd, all the losses he has sustained have made him sharp. We can't get close to him. This time the trip and all our preparations have been in vain. We knew we couldn't get close during the day, and now we have seen what things are like at night. The air-pirate has ruined our plans."
Grant was staring morosely at the ground in front of him. He had been bragging that he had prepared five or six different attacks, each of which could destroy the air-pirate, but through his vigilance his plans had been brought to naught. There was nothing he could do right now except wait and hope that some carelessness of the air-pirate would present him with an opportunity to make a decisive strike. Maybe his luck would be better the next night. The two men discovered a cave which hid them from view and sheltered them from the wind and weather. But the following evening they found the situation to be unchanged. The searchlight that illuminated the entire canyon bright as day was still in operation.
"This is great," Grant grumbled when he was forced to return after a few hours of fruitless waiting. "I hadn't counted on this. I really thought that he would consider himself safe here, but now he seems to be suspicion itself. What can I do? I must reach my goal at any cost, at any cost!"
The sun rose again, and the two despondent men remained on the high spot. The vigilance of the air-pirate was thwarting their attacks, and they were losing precious time.
"He must not return to his island!" Grant exclaimed. "At least I want to destroy his spacecraft. Then the men remaining on the island will be helpless, then I can conquer his fortress, and then my name will be famous for all time. As the conqueror of the air-pirate I will be immortal. Oh, just one opportunity—but where to find it?"
Again Tom Grant was lost in somber thoughts. He was coming up with plans upon plans, but all of them were impossible to carry out because of the vigilance of the air-pirate.
Mors did indeed observe the utmost vigilance, even though he did not know of the nearness of his bitter enemy. After the heavy blows he had been dealt by fate he had resolved that everywhere, even in this wilderness, he would be careful, because this new enemy was not to be underestimated, and Mors knew that the loss of his spacecraft would spell ruin for him.
In the meantime he was busy hiring as many men as possible. These men were to help with the construction of a new airship on the island off the coast of California. Some of the crew were rewarded with valuable presents and let go, especially the wounded and those weary from long service. Among these men was a splendid young Indian, a member of the freedom loving mountain people. He was a veritable giant who had rendered many an important service to Captain Mors during his last dangerous adventure. Mors had rewarded him richly for this, especially as his closest relatives had also served the air-pirate. These were the two sisters of the young giant—they looked after the needs of the crew, prepared their meals after the special custom of these people, took care of their clothing and bedding. But young Hadja had one flaw—a burning, overriding ambition. He believed that his services had qualified him for one of the positions of leadership on the spacecraft, even though Captain Mors considered only older and more experienced men for such posts. But Hadja had been counting on such a position, a position which he thought he deserved for his strength and his services, and when his expectations were not fulfilled, on the second day he went up to Mors and actually demanded the promotion.
Mors calmly regarded at the gigantic young man who stood a head higher than himself.
The eyes of the air-pirate shot sparks from out of his mask, but the voice of the mysterious one sounded completely calm.
"You have done your duty, Hadja," he said. "I am satisfied with you. And for this reason you have received more valuable presents than the others. But you are too young and too inexperienced to take over the position of Lindo or other tried and tested men. If you continue to remain as faithful to me as before, then maybe your wish will be granted, but right now I can't even think of it. Besides, you are demanding such a promotion much too defiantly. So for now, learn some self-control, then we'll talk about it."
Now Hadja would have done well to take to heart the words of the captain, but instead he got angry and demanded that his services be recognized and that he be given a promotion. The two sisters of the young man came running over and started to talk to him, and to softly reproach him for his behavior, but Hadja shouted at them angrily,
"This is none of your concern. Mind your own business and stay out of the affairs of men."
The two sisters left, very sad, they gave in like all Indian women, since they regard man as a higher being. They also loved their ambitious brother dearly. But Hadja continued to insist on his right to a promotion, until Mors had had enough.
"I don't want to hear any more of this," he said to the excited Hadja. "This is enough. I will tell you something. You will leave the spacecraft now and you will not return until you have apologized. I will not tolerate it that men resist my will. And if you do not return and ask my forgiveness for your heated words, then you will not take part in any future journeys. Remember this. Think about this and repent. Otherwise you will stay here. I will tolerate no opposition. You will not accomplish the least with me by getting angry. Go, get out of my sight!"
Hadja just stood rooted to the spot, he had not been expecting this. But now he was careful not to lose his temper again and make the captain even more angry. He would have preferred to fall at the captain's right now. Mors waved him away, and humbled he left the spacecraft. He stepped outside into the open, but he did not go toward the settlement; instead he turned his steps toward the canyons where the secret policeman and his companion were lying in ambush.
Mors did not want to lose this hardworking man, and therefore he followed him. He caught up with him just as he was starting to ascend the hills. In true Indian fashion he was sullenly staring at the ground in front of him. Again the captain pointed out to him his defiant behavior and his unreasonable demands and explained to him that only if he expressed himself truly sorry and apologized would he be able to return to the spacecraft.
This conversation had been overheard. It is true that Grant and his companion were still three or four hundred steps away, and they remained still, especially as there were several Indians about, but in the thin, clear mountain air they heard every word which the wind carried up to them. They watched as the air-pirate turned around and returned to the spacecraft. After a few moments two female figures appeared there, young, beautiful Indian women, who seemed to be interested in the man who had been turned away. The two girls ran towards the air-pirate and began to plead for Hadja.
"He has always been overly ambitious, but he is very devoted to you, Captain," said the older one, a pretty, dark-haired girl. "Forgive him for his insubordination, and he will come back filled with remorse."
"If he will ask my forgiveness later, I will grant it," Mors replied sternly. "But insubordination cannot be tolerated here, under any circumstances. What would become of us? After the recent events, the strictest discipline is required, and I cannot tolerate the least opposition."
"We will check on him tonight," the younger sister shouted. "We know our brother. For right now he will be gloomy and sullen and wander around in the wilderness and think about his rash acts. But even before dark he will fall at your knees and ask your forgiveness."
After these words all three of them left and returned to the spacecraft while Hadja, still upset, turned toward the canyons. But Tom Grant, who lay concealed behind a boulder above, grabbed his friend by the arm so hard that he almost screamed out loud.
"What is it?" he said, surprised. "What is wrong with you?"
"I know what to do now." whispered the secret policeman, his eyes bright
with glee. "Now I know. Now I will accomplish my purpose. The vigilance
of the air-pirate has ruined all my other plans, but now I have a different
way of destroying him. Not another word, the rest will be clear soon. Just
wait—when Captain Mors treated the insubordinate Indian so harshly he dug
his own grave."
It was in the afternoon when the guide, whom Tom Grand had hired for himself and his men, arrived where he and his companion were concealed. He brought some foodstuffs and also came to take a report back to camp. But as he turned to go, Grant kept him back.
"Let me borrow your saber," he said, pointing at the weapon that the guide, like all inhabitants of Nepal, carried at his side.
"I can't do that, sir," replied the man. "With this weapon I have to defend myself against snow leopards and bears, and these animals are quite common here in these mountains."
"I will give you one of our revolvers for that," replied Grant. "That will be even better protection that the saber. Here, take it, when you return I will give your weapon back to you."
The trade was completed, and Grant received the curious saber which, except for a few minor details, resembled in every respect the weapon used by the mountain inhabitants.
"What do you want with that thing?" asked the companion of the secret policeman when he returned with the weapon.
"This weapon will enable me to render Captain Mors harmless for all time and also to destroy his last vehicle," was the stern reply. "Don't ask any more questions, you will see for yourself."
The other man just shook his head, for he could not make any sense of what he was hearing here.
"Stay here and wait for me," Grant continued. "Don’t worry if I don't return for a while. It is quite possible that I won't be back till after dark."
The companion of the secret policeman just shrugged his shoulders, and Grant took off across the uneven terrain. He had made a mental note of the place to which the sullen Hadja had gone. Since he knew the habits of the Indian mountain inhabitants who, with all their loyalty and devotion have a tendency to sometimes rebel or act insulted, he was sure that he would find the Indian rejected by Mors in the solitude of the mountains. And he was right, after a short while he found Hadja, illuminated by the evening sun, sitting on a boulder and staring in front of him. He was talking to himself, just as is the custom of these people who reside in this mountain solitude. Maybe he was angry with himself, maybe he was angry that Mors hadn't promoted him. But there was no doubt that by nightfall he would be contrite and return to the spacecraft to apologize.
The secret policeman moved about him in a wide arc, and like a panther he crept toward the unsuspecting man. The saber of the Nepalese guide was in his right hand. Now he was just behind Hadja. Just then he dislodged a small rock. Immediately the Indian jumped up, but it was too late. Grant had jumped up at the same instant, there was a dull thud, a gurgling sound, and the giant body of the Indian fell forward onto the rocks. But this body no longer had a head—this, separated from the trunk, was rolling down the slope, until it came to rest several feet away among some rocks.
What was Grant's purpose? Why had he committed this outrage? Oh, he knew exactly what he wanted; this deed was to cause the destruction of the air-pirate.
With apparent satisfaction he noticed after a while that there was a group of Indians further down—they might have been looking for Hadji, but now they were returning to the spacecraft. Mors also appeared after a while and ascended the heights as if expecting the return of the man he had sent away. But Hadji was lying in a very desolate spot, off the beaten track, and therefore no one saw the murdered man, near whose body the secret policeman was lying in wait. He had hidden the saber with which he had committed the dead behind some rocks, and now he was patiently waiting for the unfolding of events. He knew the character of the Indian people and knew that the sisters of the stubborn man would surely come looking for their brother.
Grant was not mistaken. Nightfall was coming over the hills, when he noticed two lithe figures who were hurrying up the slopes. Grant was one of those men who felt at home anywhere in the world, and he had already spent some time studying the Indian language, and by now he had mastered it passably. The two girls were looking here and there and at last they shouted out the name of their brother. Of course Hadja was unable to answer, for he was lying without his head on the bare rocks. The secret policeman on the other hand allowed himself to be seen for a few brief moments, but so that only his shadow was visible. Hadja's sisters thought this was the man they were looking for, they rushed forward, and found themselves face to face with Tom Grant. The two Indian women were surprised when they saw the stranger, and it seemed as if they would turn away, but immediately Tom Grant shouted at them in their native language,
"You must be looking for someone? Well, don't be afraid, I am a harmless traveler whose companions are camping further up in the mountains. We were looking for a pass through the highest mountain ranges. I had come down here in order to look for one of our sherpas when I saw something terrible.
"What did you see?" asked the older sister, who seemed to be possessed of some of the same energy as her brother.
"At first I saw a giant man wandering about over here," said the clever secret policeman. "He seemed filled with despair, from time to time he would raise his hands up to heaven and talk to himself. Then he sat down on a rock and seemed to be lost in thought. I wasn't going to pay any more attention to him, when I saw a strange monster down below in the canyon which frightened me. That's when I thought it best to wait a while, and that's when I saw other strange things. A man in a blue uniform with his face covered by a black domino mask was approaching through the canyon and with him some Indians who were receiving orders from him. I could clearly hear the words he was speaking. It was a dreadful order. He ordered the Indians to look for the lone man. And then he said the following, 'This man has been stubborn, and his stubbornness and his insubordination are a threat for me. Carry out my command, but don't let anyone know of this.' "
The two young Indian women stood riveted to the spot by the words of the supposed traveler.
"The man in the blue uniform left again, and the Indians hurried up here. I hid, and after a short while I saw them reach the lone, gigantic man. Two stepped up to him and spoke to him, but suddenly they grabbed his hands and held him tight. But the third man, who had carefully crept up from behind, suddenly raised a saber. I heard a dull blow, and then the head of the man was separated from the trunk."
A hollow groan escaped from the lips of the two sisters. Grant, however, rushed forward and showed them the man he had killed. Then he reached for the separated head and held it high while Hadja's sisters covered their faces with their garments.
"This has been done at the command of the man in the blue uniform," Grant cleverly added. "But I don't feel comfortable here anymore, let me return to my companions. We want to leave this area as fast as possible."
Grant had played his part perfectly, right to the end, and he could be sure that the two Indian women would now carry out their vendetta. Yes, the age-old traditions of their tribe compelled them to avenge the man they believed to have been executed at the command of the air-pirate. Grant expected that the two women would ask him to stay, and they did. When he acted as if he were about to depart the two women grabbed his arm and questioned him again about what he had seen, and again Grant told them about the scene of horror he had witnessed.
"I don't want to have anything to do with this man," he cleverly added. "I know exactly who he is, half the world is talking about him. This is the man they call the air-pirate. That black thing down there has to be one of his infernal vehicles. No, it is too dangerous here, we could be in danger here."
"We must avenge our brother," said the older one of the sisters. "If the Captain had our brother executed, then we, as his closest relatives, are required to give peace to his spirit which is crying out for revenge. This can only be accomplished by our destroying the man who repaid his service with such treachery. Of course this will cost us our lives, but we are not concerned with that. We are only thinking of our revenge."
Grant wanted to jump for joy when he heard these words. Now he was getting close to his goal. He knew that the Indians held a grudge, but he was still not satisfied.
"I am very sorry," he said after a while. "I was horrified by this terrible scene I witnessed. The air-pirate is the terror of the world, he destroys human lives without compunction. And since I became a witness to this secret assassination, I want to give you some good advice. You can use what I tell you for your revenge, but you are sworn to silence, don't let anyone suspect anything, otherwise you will share your brother's fate."
"We have to avenge our brother," the older sister said gloomily. "We are now his avengers, we will hide our sorrows until the hour is at hand where we can put the spirit of our brother at peace."
"In that case I will help you to bury the murdered man, so that wild animals cannot get to him," replied the detective who was eager to gain the trust of the two sisters. "Here's is hollow space between the rocks, let's put him in there and cover him with stones. While we are doing this I will give you some advice."
A quarter of an hour later the man murdered by Grant was lying in the fissure, a mound of stones and rocks had been piled up above his cool grave. But the two sisters, filled with desire for revenge, were standing by the supposed scientific traveler and eagerly listening to his words. They weren't even thinking of mistrusting him, they really believed that Mors had rid himself of the insubordinate man in the manner described by Grant.
"I feel terrible about your fate," the clever man added at the end. "And since I have a good supply of arms with me, I will give you one of them. Here, take this revolver and these rounds, maybe they will be of use to you. Remember what I have told you. Avenge your brother who was secretly assassinated in front of my own eyes."
The two sisters uttered a few words of thanks, the younger one concealed the revolver beneath her garments, then the two women hurried through the darkness to the canyon below and toward the place where the spacecraft lay anchored.
"Triumph," muttered Grant who now set out on his return journey and
rubbed his hands together with joy. "Now I have reached my long desired
goal. The two sisters of the giant Indian will accomplish what I could
not do myself. I know these creatures, I am convinced that they will accomplish
their purpose. Now the last of the air-pirate's vehicles, and with it the
air-pirate himself, are doomed, and there will only be one thing left for
me to do. Now I will storm the mysterious island off the coast of California."
Grant had not been mistaken about the two Indian women, for they were members of the free mountain people, and all they could think of was the vendetta. Not a single word passed their lips, they revealed nothing of what they had seen and heard. They returned to the spacecraft and went back to their usual duties.
Of course by the next morning Hadja had still not returned, for the murdered man was in his rocky grave. Mors was surprised at his stubbornness, it was incomprehensible to him. But since Hadja was very useful, he sent a few of his men to look for the stubborn man and talk to him. But after a long absence the men returned and reported that they had been unable to find any trace of Hadja.
"Well, let him suit himself," Mors replied, a little angrily. "But now I will punish him by leaving him here in the mountains while I go on my next few trips. Stubbornness and insubordination are things I cannot tolerate in my crewmembers under any circumstance."
Time passed, a week had gone by; Mors had completed his new crew, but Hadja was and remained missing.
"He has remained stubborn, his feelings must be hurt," remarked the Indians who were veterans on Mors' crew. "Maybe he crossed the mountains to look for work in Nepal. Let him be, Captain, he was too ambitious. The next time we come here we will find him contrite and ready to come back."
After eight days the spacecraft with its crew ascended to the heavens. Since he no longer had any other craft left to him, Mors was now forced to use the "Meteor," but he longed for the day when he would once again be in command of a maneuverable airship or a large flying machine.
The spacecraft was too massive and in many ways much less practical than the maneuverable airship. This is why Mors was planning to return to his desert island as soon as possible and to construct a new maneuverable airship with the help of the skilled Indians.
He had no idea that a new danger was in store for him, he did not suspect that the two sisters of the unfortunate Hadja were only waiting for the right moment to carry out their vendetta.
Normally the spacecraft moved as fast as lightning, but this was only the case when it was on its way to some distant planet. For trips within the earth's atmosphere Mors had constructed a special mechanism so that the craft was moving with the speed of the maneuverable airship.
At nightfall Mors, as was his habit, ascended in order to reach a great altitude. An old Indian was at the steering mechanism that controlled the giant magnet of the spacecraft. With this magnet the velocity and especially the direction of the colossus could be controlled. Not suspecting a thing the old Indian was standing at his post, his back turned toward the door, while the "Metoer" ascended higher and higher. Mors wanted to take the craft beyond the gaze of curious human observers. An electric lamp illuminated the room, most of which was filled with curious instruments. The door was quietly opened, but the Indian at the steering mechanism didn't hear this, the sound of the machinery drowned out any sound the door made. A youthful figure glided into the room, the older sister of the murdered Hadja. In her small, but strong hands she was holding a short iron rod, and before the Indian noticed anything she was standing behind him. Her dark eyes burned with an uncanny light, then the avenger raised the iron rod and brought it down with all her might on the head of the Indian. He just uttered a short, hoarse gasp and fell between the machines. At the same time the younger sister of Hadja could be seen in the open door, and her eyes as well glowed with the same uncanny fire of revenge. She looked at everything and gave a satisfied nod. But the older sister turned around and rushed toward the younger sister.
"Stand behind the door and keep a good lookout," she ordered with a soft, but determined voice. "In the meantime I will follow the advice that the friendly stranger has given us. I will destroy the machines."
In an instant the younger sister disappeared again in the connecting hallway, while the older sister started her work of destruction. Tom Grant had given detailed instructions, and the girl had memorized these instructions well. Quickly the youthful avenger grabbed a large pair of pliers, which she found in a corner and which seemed perfectly suited to her work of destruction.
A few moments later grating and crashing sounds could be heard, and the wonderfully formed, in many cases very complicated pieces of machinery were falling, broken, to the ground. Valves, connectors, spigots, everything was destroyed by the beautiful avenger who now displayed the strength of a man. The large pliers turned out to be very useful for this, and the miraculous creation of Captain Mors was damaged more and more. Linkages, screws, cogs, everything was torn apart by the maniac woman. The work of destruction became worse and worse. Suddenly there was a sound at the door; but the avenger paid no attention to it, or maybe she thought it was her sister. She was just about to destroy a cog that was fashioned out of metal and held together by screws. There was the sound of the metal breaking, and then the pieces could be heard falling down. But in the same instant a shout of surprise and indignation could be heard behind this woman who was insane with anger. Like a ghost Captain Mors, the pirate of the air, had suddenly appeared in the room. He had looked at the instruments and realized that the spacecraft was unstable and that it was ascending quickly. He was surprised, for he knew the man at the helm to be completely reliable. This was when Captain Mors rushed forward from the stern of the ship, and now he was looking at the work of destruction with his own eyes. At the same time the figure of the younger sister appeared in the door, and in her hand she was holding the revolver that Tom Grant had given her. She aimed the dangerous weapon at the back of the air-pirate's head, and the little hand which was holding the revolver did not shake in the least. She was standing just one short step behind him, and there was no way her shot could miss at such a short distance. The woman, hungry for revenge, pulled the trigger, the hammer rose and fell; there was a clicking sound—but that was all.
It was the same old story, even the cleverest and most intelligent make a mistake every now and then, and this is what had happened when Tom Grant had instructed the girls. He had explained the weapon to the two girls, who were unfamiliar with European weapons, but as he handed the weapon to them, he had put on the safety. The younger sister of Hadja had not taken the weapon off safe when she aimed it at Captain Mors, and so the deadly shot had not gone off. The woman realized right away that something had gone wrong here; she examined the weapon, found the little lever, depressed it and fired another shot at the captain. But he had just thrown himself at the older sister, who was so involved with her work of destruction that she was oblivious to all that had happened. This movement forward saved Captain Mors' life, for the bullet passed just above his head and pierced his blue cap, hurling it into a corner of the room. Quickly Mors turned around and saw the sister aim the weapon at him for a third time. But this time he was quicker than her, he grasped the wrist of the maniac woman, squeezed it hard and took the weapon from her. Immediately afterward he turned around and gave his attention to the older sister, for she was now about to attack the man she thought the murderer of the brother. Beside herself with rage she raised the large pliers and was about to bring them down on the head of the captain. But quickly Mors jumped aside, so that the pliers came down on nothing but air. The momentum of the blow threw the girl off balance and caused her to fall forward. Mors took advantage of this opportunity and grasped the arms of the girls and held them in an iron grip. But he had no intention of harming the two girls, let alone killing them, even though they both had tried to take his life.
The two avengers screamed and fought like madwomen trying to escape the iron grasp of the captain. Mors was looking at the Indian who had been steering the ship. Now he was lying on the ground, to all appearances dead. Mors called out with his mighty voice to get the attention of some of his crew. But no one heard him, so he dragged the two desperately struggling women over toward one of the electric bells. He managed to pull one of the levers and to set off the alarm. Then he held on to the girls even more firmly.
"We want to avenge our brother, murderer!" shouted the older sister in a hoarse voice.
"Hadja's soul must find peace," the younger one added.
"We will not rest until we have avenged the murdered man!"
"Are you out of your minds?" replied Mors. "Where do you get these ideas? Where do you get the idea that I could have harmed Hadja, who disappeared without a trace? Well, I will find out. Hey, Terror!"
The last words were meant for one of the engineers of the pirate of the air, who, followed by a number of Indians, was rushing into the navigation chamber. For a moment Terror stood rooted to the spot, looking at the destroyed machines, the lifeless Indian lying on the floor, and at the captain, still holding the two sisters. No doubt, something extraordinary must have happened here, and Terror wanted to know what it was.
"Here, take these two and hold them tight," Mors said. "Then we'll see what needs to be done next. Either these two girls have gone insane, or we have to deal with a fateful, a horrible misunderstanding."
The Indians took hold of the girls. But these struggled to terribly, they scratched and kicked so much, that at last the Indians asked for permission to bind them.
"All right, you have my permission," Mors replied, "but make sure you do not cause them any pain. Don't use ropes or chains, use bands of silk, they will hold them just as well."
Even now, when an attempt on his life had been made, Mors displayed that nobility of spirit which had always set him apart from other men, and which made him so considerate toward members of the opposite sex. But it was quite a while before the Indians were able to overpower the raving women. In the meantime Mors examined the almost completely demolished machine. He had ordered a few Indians to lift up the man on the ground and to try to revive him. He was not dead, only stunned, the thick cloth which he wore on his head had absorbed some of the force of the blow.
"What's it look like, captain?" Terror asked as he stepped forward. "Is the damage great?"
"Worse than I thought," was the answer, which was given in a serious tone. "By now we are undoubtedly outside the atmosphere of the earth. We have drifted into space, and we are without a rudder, without any way of steering the spaceship, we are the play-thing of chance. We are adrift in space without a rudder."
A Terrifying Journey
At last the two sisters had been rendered harmless, and now Terror began to question them. Mors had told him what had occurred in a few words and of course Terror was quite upset about this. The looks which he was casting upon the two sisters seemed quite threatening, but Hadja's sisters did not appear concerned. Instead they were trying their utmost to break their bonds so that they could once more throw themselves upon the pirate of the air. But they were not successful in this, and they were also being held by a few of the Indians, while the angry Terror was directing questions at the mad women.
"We want to avenge our brother," they both shouted as if out of their minds. "The captain had him executed in secret. The strange traveler saw it himself and showed us the head of the executed man. We want revenge, we want our vendetta."
Mors suddenly turned around.
"Who was this strange traveler?" he asked with great concern.
The older sister just angrily reiterated her accusation against Mors, and even though at that moment he was most concerned with the safety of the craft he still heard what the angry woman was saying.
"So all our precautions were for naught," he shouted at Terror. "I am convinced that here we are dealing with the work of our secret enemy. This is the man who has been persecuting me for some time with the most bitter determination and who has destroyed all my craft except the "Meteor." Our vigilance must have kept him from attacking us directly; instead he came up with a different plan. I am sure that it was this stranger who killed Hadja and then framed me for it. Most likely he observed us from some safe hiding place and saw an opportunity to incite the hot-blooded girls against me. His despicable plan came within and inch of succeeding."
The two enraged sisters calmed down when they heard the words of the captain. Doubt started to arise in their souls. They did not say another word as they were dragged out by the angry Indians.
Mors had no reason to punish the two girls, for he could understand their feelings and motivations. They wanted a vendetta, and undoubtedly they thought him to be the one who had killed their brother. He wanted to forgive them for that, for they had been misled, they had been incited against him. No, Mors was not the kind of man to take revenge for something like this. In the meantime he had other, more important things to do than to pay attention to the two sisters, for they had caused severe damage in their quest for revenge. He just had to cast one glance at the damaged machinery to convince himself that the danger was not yet over, that it was only just beginning, and that the spacecraft was most likely rushing toward its destruction. The apparatus that controlled the giant magnet, the only means of controlling the movement of the craft, had been destroyed and this had opened the door for disaster to strike. Now the spacecraft could be pulled by the attractive forces of the nearest heavenly body where it would be shattered. It might collide with meteors or with fire balls, and any collision would destroy it.
How was Mors to restore the machinery, it seemed impossible. This would have been possible back on earth in some safe place, but not here in space where the icy cold of death reigned, where there wasn't even breathable air, and where the giant magnet, without guidance, was swinging from side to side. The craft was moving about in the strangest way and from time to time it seemed to be turned upside down, a circumstance that made the position of the crew absolutely desperate.
The Indians were beside themselves when they were finally informed of all that had happened, and of course their anger was directed at the two women. The lives of women did not seem to be of much value to them anyway, and so the angry men demanded that Mors hand over the two women to them. But Mors had the two women, who were now calm and silent, moved into one of the safe rooms of the sleeping quarters and had them guarded by two of the most trustworthy veterans. At the same time he gave orders that no harm was to be done to the women.
The man who had been struck down by the older sister had recovered by now, but he could not report anything. As soon as he was struck he had lost consciousness. But there was no time to question him anyway, for the most important task right now was to see to it that the spacecraft was not cast into space, the unguided play-thing of the elements. And there was only one way of accomplishing this, they had to regain control over the movements of the giant magnet. But in order to do this someone had to work outside, and this was impossible.
Mors ordered his men to start repairing all the destroyed parts which the older sister had broken with the giant pliers. This was done with the spare materials that were always carried on the ship in large quantities. But this did not repair the connection to the giant magnet, and they could hear the mighty, polished disk hitting the metal sides of the spacecraft. At the same time the mad journey into space continued, and there was no doubt that the spacecraft was already being drawn toward some large body. It was the plaything of chance, and chance had decreed that it was rushing away from earth. Now the odds were ten to one that the large craft would be dashed against the surface of the next large object that came near it. If this happened it would be a catastrophe; because then there would be no trace left of the spacecraft, it would be smashed into atoms, and the secret policeman would have achieved his goal. If this happened then the secret island, which would no longer have any means of defense, would fall into the hands of this energetic man. Then Mors, who on many occasions had withstood hundreds of enemies, would have succumbed to the intrigue and treachery of one adversary. And it really seemed as if it were all over for the air pirate, as if Mors and his men would come to a wretched end in space. For when Mors took a look into the instrument room and glanced at the instruments on the walls, he saw how quickly he was rushing to his destruction. There could be no doubt, this adventurous journey had to end in a collision. Through the thick, crystal observation windows he could see how the spacecraft was moving further and further away from earth, how it was tossed about like a toy. Sometimes it just spun around, but it was already clear that it was drawn by some strange attractive force.
Professor von Halen, who usually accompanied the pirate of the air, was not on board at this time, but Mors could read the astronomic charts and signs well enough to see where he was headed. So he pulled out the charts and looked for the present location of the craft. He accomplished this in just a little while, and Mors saw that the "Meteor" was rushing at great speed toward a region of the sky where a large number of meteors and fire balls were always pursuing their course. So it was from this area that the strange attraction originated that would bring destruction to the spacecraft. Mors had no way of protecting himself against this, for even though these celestial objects were relatively small, they were still large enough to smash the spacecraft to atoms in a collision. In his mind Mors could already see himself and his wonderful craft with all the people in it crashing into one of these objects, and he knew that nothing but atoms would be left of him and his creation, atoms that would be floating through the endless reaches of space. This, it seemed, would be the end of his adventurous and wonderful existence.
But at the same time that Mors was having these thoughts he was once again overcome by that same reckless daring that had allowed him, on so many occasions, to defy death. He called Terror, who was also looking at the instruments with strange feelings.
"A glass helmet! An oxygen apparatus!" the captain ordered. "I also need one of those suits that we sometimes use in Arctic regions. You know these garments, they are made from seal skin and lined with eiderdown. Dressed in one of those I will be able to resist the cold of space."
"What do you want, captain?" Terror asked, he seemed not to have heard right.
"Bring me everything," replied the pirate of the air. "I can't deny it, we are faced with a catastrophe. One way or the other, death is waiting for us on every side. That is why I must go outside, the glass helmet and the oxygen apparatus will provide me with sufficient air, and the suit will protect me from the cold. Steel cables will give me the necessary support, so that I can work on the giant magnet. I must reattach it to the steering mechanism and I must try to save my "Meteor" and everyone in it."
Of course Terror was not convinced that this daring undertaking would be successful, he thought this was absolutely impossible, and he only asked Mors for permission to help.
"You will not go outside with me," replied the pirate of the air. "You would not be able to help me much, and you would soon freeze. But you can stay behind the first door that leads outside, behind the double door and see to it that the steel cables and the other apparatus provide me with sufficient support. I will be responsible for everything else, only one man will be able to work out there."
The news of this new plan of the air pirate spread like wildfire through the spacecraft. The Indians came to look upon their captain with the utmost admiration, but none of them dared utter a word.
They all thought they were looking at the daring man for the last time.
In the meantime Terror had brought all the items Mors needed; the strange suit, of which several were kept on board, and which had been made especially for great cold; also the glass helmet and the oxygen apparatus had been brought and now Mors started to prepare himself for his reckless undertaking. A quarter of an hour later he was in the double chamber between the two doors. Several loops were created from steel cable, and the pirate of the air put his arms and legs through these so that he would not drift off into space. With grim determination Mors opened the outer door. With a loud hissing sound the air escaped and the icy cold of space could now be felt. But, contemptuous of death, Mors climbed from the platform of the spacecraft over the metal hull to the place where the metal rods and linkages of the steering mechanism of the craft were. Of course these had been damaged from below, and now the task was to repair the wires, chains and rods and to reconnect them to the steering mechanism.
It was a terrible, difficult task because the giant magnet was swinging
now to one side, then to the other. This magnet was of great size and weight,
and with the least carelessness it might hurl Captain Mors into space.
The situation was desperate, and it was with mixed emotions that Terror
watched the actions of his master from his post. Many times he thought
Captain Mors would be killed, sometimes it looked as if Mors would be thrown
into space, but he always managed to grab onto something at the last moment.
Then he always went to work again on the damaged chains and rods, in spite
of the cold. He was trying to reattach them with the materials that were
handed out to him through small hatches in order to restore the steering
mechanism of the craft. But the outcome was most uncertain, and Terror
had lost all hope. The worst thing was that they were getting closer to
the place where annihilation was waiting for them. That's where the meteors
and fire balls were flying through space in mighty swarms, and that was
where the craft, whose heroic leader was fighting for his existence, would
be smashed to atoms.
In the greatest distress
In the Quiet Ocean, not far from the southern coast of California, the strange rocky fortress of the pirate of the air was sticking out of the waves. In the past the men there had had sufficient means to protect themselves against any surprises, and even now they still had some means of defense, namely the machines of destruction. But the main means of defending the island in the past, the flying machines, were now gone. A small flying mechanism that could carry only two or three people was all that was left of he aerial flotilla which Mors had once owned. The activity of the secret policeman had destroyed all these vehicles. But still the men on the island were not afraid, for they had the means of communicating with the pirate of the air. The wonderful wireless telegraph that he had perfected, with which they could send messages to the distant India. And now the spacecraft was the only flying defense mechanism that could still protect the island.
Engineer Star, along with professor van Halen and the faithful Lindo, was in command on the island.
But Star was uneasy, for he had not heard from the "Meteor" for three days. Messages had been sent, but they had remained unanswered. Nor was there any sign at all that their transmissions had been received. But Star was careful not to talk about his concerns and to alarm the inhabitants of the island. The only ones with whom he discussed this were Professor van Halen and the faithful Lindo. Of course these two were just as worried as the engineer, but they thought that possibly their telegraph was malfunctioning. But Star disagreed and allowed the two men to operate the telegraph themselves, he showed them everything in detail and proved to them that the apparatus was working properly. But still there was no answer, they did not hear from Mors. The men grew more and more uneasy and they had no idea what to think of the lack of communication. The pirate of the air had promised to return as soon as he had hired new men and to start with the construction of a new flying machine, and on his return trip his responses should have arrived even sooner than when he was in the distant land. So why was there no answer?
"Strange, strange," Star muttered, for he could not think of any explanation for this. "There is only one possible explanation, the receiving mechanism for the wireless messages must have been damaged in some way. But I have no idea how this might have happened. It also surprises me that they would not have repaired it right away. They must be expecting transmissions from us. Well, for the time being we have no reason to think that anything bad happened."
But a very strange surprise was in store for the inhabitants of the island, and this surprise would put the faithful followers of the captain in the most desperate plight.
It was the time of the darkest nights, and also the time of year where the sky was almost always covered with clouds. But worst of all were the dense fogs that drifted over from the mainland and covered the ocean. These fogs were very thick and could not be penetrated even with the searchlights that normally illuminated the surrounding area and even the sky. Star often thought of the attack that had already caused such great damage, but he thought that Mors had taken care that another such attack could not be made. But he was about to be disappointed in this. It was just about midnight when Star, who was allowing himself to get a little rest in one of the guard shacks, was aroused by a loud noise and a terrible crashing. He immediately suspected an attack and so he set of the alarm signals in order to warn the inhabitants of the island who were below in the crater. As soon as these alarm signals were heard everyone who was in the settlement had to leave the buildings and to seek refuge in the caves of the crater. Here they were safe even from the most terrible missiles. Once Star had taken care of this he left the stone guard shack, taking a few Indians with him, in order to operate the machines of destruction. The searchlights were turned on, but they did little good. The thick fog that surrounded the island made the searchlights, which normally illuminated everything, useless. But high above them there were flashes and loud reports, then hissing and screeching objects came out of the clouds, then there was a loud crashing below in the crater. Star immediately gave the order to use the machines of destruction, and this order was transmitted via telephone to the other guard shacks on the rim of the crater. The Indians did not hesitate to answer with their own missiles. But these seemed to do little or no damage. At the same time the attackers, who were hovering way up above the fog, seemed to have a hard time directing their missiles at the crater island, but they still had an easier task than the defenders, who were shooting at random.
It was an uncanny battle that was raging here in the fog, and Star was concerned over the outcome. The unknown enemy up there was not letting up, and the crashing and rumbling of exploding missiles could be heard without interruption. Star thought that at any moment one of these missiles would hit one of the guard shacks or even throw one of the machines of destruction with its crew into the crater below. The Indians did everything in their power to make life difficult for the enemy. Without interruption they sent their grenades into the air, and these exploded now high, now low, spreading destruction around them. But it seemed as if all this power and ammunition were expended on a harmless firework. From time to time a humming or roaring could be heard above in the air, as if vehicles were moving about with incredible speed. No doubt, the enemies were constantly in motion so that they would not offer a good target. At the same time they were busy hurling missiles at those below. These were exploding everywhere, on the edge of the crater, on the rocks, but most of them below inside the crater. Suffocating gases were beginning to spread, and the fog was pressing these into the crater. The situation of those in the caves was starting to get desperate. Some of the houses had already been destroyed, and the balloon hangar had been damaged. This appeared to be a terrible catastrophe.
There were indeed several flying machines at work there in the air. In one of these flying machines there were men who were under the command of the secret policeman. He himself was not there, but nevertheless it was this mysterious enemy of Captain Mors who was behind this attack. Firmly convinced that the spacecraft was no longer to be feared, he had sent messages to California and ordered this attack on the island of the pirate of the air. This night of fog seemed especially favorable for the attack, and the enemies were triumphant. It really seemed as if this were the end of the pirate of the air and his followers. Everything, everything seemed lost.
The ones above now increased the frequency with which they were sending their missiles onto the island below. They could make out the location of the island fairly well, for the fog just covered the island but not the surrounding ocean, and so it provided them with a good target. The situation was getting more desperate every moment, and it seemed as if nothing but ruins and corpses would be left on Mors's mysterious island.
The attackers were already beginning to cheer, they thought that they had put an end to the activity of Captain Mors, when suddenly everything became bright around them. But this light was coming from above, and the surprised attacker looked up and saw that this light came from a powerful searchlight. At the same time they became aware of a giant black mass that was descending at an incredible speed.
"The pirate of the air!" the men in the flying machines shouted. "The spacecraft! Tom Grant was mistaken, the spacecraft was not destroyed. The pirate of the air is still among the living. Now we are attacked by the spacecraft."
The men were not mistaken. The incredible had happened. Mors had been successful with his reckless, daring attempt. He had managed to reconnect the giant magnet with the steering mechanism. Just before the imminent collision with the meteor swarm he had saved his craft, and now he was returning just in time to save the inhabitants of his island. Mors also had machines of destruction with him, but he could not use them because they would have endangered his followers on the island. So he used his craft itself as a weapon and flew among his adversaries like the very devil himself. One of the flying machines was hit, destroyed utterly, and it fell into the foaming waves, taking its crew to their death. The other flying machines turned around and fled at top speed to the mainland. Because of the fog they were able to escape quickly. This is why they were able to avoid being destroyed. Mors was content to send some of his rocket missiles after them, for he was not among those who derive pleasure from the taking of human life. Besides, he was eager to find out what had happened to his men and their families on the island. So he ordered the signals to be sent announcing his return to the island.
It was high time that this strange cannonade in the air was stopped, for the missiles had already wreaked much havoc. The fog was keeping the gases on the island, and the women and children in the caves were close to suffocating. They could barely breathe anymore, and Mors had come at the last moment. From up above they could hear the dull, screeching sound of the electric siren, and from below this was answered by the cheers of the Indians who now realized that Captain Mors was returning. They were saved, but they still had no explanation for his long absence.
Slowly the spacecraft was descending from the sky. Again this searchlight came on, and it penetrated the fog. The black giant sank into the crater and landed in the hangar designed for it. Mors was the first to step off the craft, but he had barely left the hangar when he was hit by the suffocating gas. Then he heard the steps of approaching men. Star had climbed down from the rocks and appeared in front of Mors, his face and hands were black—proof that he himself had manned one of the machines of destruction.
Almost out of breath he made his report to the captain and informed him of what had happened.
"We kept sending wireless transmissions," he added, "but we received no answer. We did not know what to make of this and we were very worried. Why didn't you answer out wireless transmissions, captain?"
"Because we were helpless, adrift in space without a rudder, destined for destruction," the pirate of the air answered. "It was the devious plan of my enemy, the man who wants to destroy me at any cost. He is trying everything, he does not quit, and he almost succeeded, but at the last moment I was able to restore the spacecraft. I returned to earth, just in time to join the battle. You will learn about everything else later, my faithful one."
"And what is going to happen now?" Star asked, worried.
"Now we have to be prepared for further battles and dangers." Mors replied. "I know my adversary, he will not rest until he has brought about our destruction. He will attack us again and again. But I will defend myself to the end. Let him come, the mysterious one, he will find me a vigilant adversary, ready to do battle."
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