Der Luftpirat und sein Lenkbares Luftschiff #157
"The Journey into Destruction"
Translated by Justin Gilbert
The Distress Call From The Sea
The whole world seemed to be covered in fog, land and sea had disappeared under the lead-colored mass. This was one of the peculiarities of the coast of California, where these masses of fog always appeared at certain times of the year. But even when it was impossible to see anything, you could still hear. Deep below the ocean was roaring, and at one place human sounds could be heard. As the fog began to be dissipated up by the wind, large, dark masses started to appear here and there. They were rocks, and as the fog lifted even more, it became clear that these rock formed a large ring. Within and without this ring the fog was still thick, and all around there was the roaring of the ocean. The waves, moved by no wind, splashed gently against the rocks. Then other objects began to appear, gigantic iron masts with copper wires hanging down from them, and small stone buildings, which sometimes extended into the rocky chasms. Under protective hangars there were strange machines which bore a remote resemblance to rocket launchers. Their shiny barrels were carefully protected against the damp of the fog.
Now the figures of the humans began to be visible in the fog, men who seemed to be chilled by the cold fog that came over from the coast. They had put on waterproof coats over their white clothing, and pulled hoods over their turban-covered heads. The brown faces and the large, brown, almond shaped eyes betrayed their Indian descent at the first glance. But there was also a European speaking to these men, and he was wearing a plain, blue uniform. Further below the figure of a second European seemed to appear out of the fog. This strange place was known to many throughout the world, and it was also feared by many. It was the residence of the air-pirate. Here lived Captain Mors, the man with the mask. At an earlier time he had had a large number of craft at his command, he had had a maneuverable airship of marvelous perfection, a giant flying machine, and a spacecraft. The spacecraft was still there and was useable, but Captain Mors had lost all the other craft in a short period of time, except for one very small flying machine.
Captain Mors must have had a very devious and dangerous enemy for this to happen, and this was indeed the case. One man, through his perseverance, his energy and daring had robbed Captain Mors of most of his craft. The famous secret policeman had tried to efface the very memory of this strange man. (Compare numbers 154-156) Only the energy of the daring man and a few other strange events prevented the loss of the last and most wonderful vehicle of Captain Mors. But at this point he still possessed the space craft, and this secured for him the rule over the air. This colossus would have to be destroyed before it was over with the pirate of the air, and he was determined to defend this vehicle to the utmost.
The men on the crater island, which could not be attacked from the ocean, had not been idle. Mors wanted to make up his losses, and below, in one of the large hangars, there was already the frame of what would be a large airship. Improvements were to be made on this, but the unusual construction of the marvelous work would take some time to complete, and in the meantime Mors had to rely on his last possession, the spacecraft.
The man who was ascending through the fog just now, and whose features were covered by a black mask, was the pirate of the air himself. He stopped for a moment to listen to the words that were being spoken up above on the rocky crag; a moment later he was standing next to the stone guard house.
"Has our peace been disturbed during the night?" he inquired, turning to the Indian guards.
"No, Captain," was the answer, "everything was quiet, and even the ocean was unusually calm. Only once, around midnight, we thought the wind was getting stronger, we heard a rushing sound. But then the wind seemed to let up again, just as is usually the case when there is such a fog. Now the wind is getting stronger again, and it will drive the fog out to the sea. The sun should help as well."
It was a magnificent spectacle, which followed now, as the morning wind, and the sun united in a battle against the huge veil of fog. And soon the gray fog moved like a mountainous mass toward the west, toward the South Sea. Now the crater island was visible again. Toward the outside it was surrounded by an almost perpendicular wall of rock, just like a giant natural fortress. On the inside there was a virtual paradise, groves of palm trees, fields, springs and brooks, and here and there the houses of the followers of the pirate of the air. For a moment Mors gazed upon the wonderful view of the interior of the island, but then he thought of the fact that people had been trying to destroy him and his paradise for some time now. The attacks by his enemy had been swift and sure, and Mors had to admit that this dangerous adversary was always able to avoid any attempt at capture.
Now the customary inspection of the shore took place. From up above it was possible to observe the cliffs where they met the ocean. These were inspected every morning for parts of ships or other objects that might have drifted ashore, for there were several ocean currents that passed directly by the island. The guards on top of the cliffs would make their rounds and then report their observations. Suddenly Mors saw a signal being given from the guardhouse high up on the northern edge of the island. Something must have been observed, and Mors hurried over there.
"What is it?" he shouted at the men who, with their excellent telescopes, were observing the cliffs below.
"Something strange, Captain," was the answer. "Something is floating down there, it looks like a very small buoy. And on top of it there is a little red flag, we could see it quite clearly. It must undoubtedly have drifted here from the north, and now it is floating between the cliffs."
"Lower the metal boat!" ordered Captain Mors. "I want to take a look at this object myself."
"But be careful!" one of the European engineers, the faithful Star, said. "You know, how often trickery and deceit have been used and in the fight against the unknown enemy, in which we are engaged right now, the utmost caution must be used."
Mors nodded in agreement, entered the guardhouse, and after a short while returned with some new copper wires and an electric battery.
Then he and engineer Star as well as several Indians went to the spot, where a very strange object had been installed. For here, in a hollow in the edge of the crater, there was large collapsible boat, made from metal plates, that could withstand even rough seas. By means of a special mechanical apparatus this boat could be lowered from the cliff into the sea. The pirate of the air, the engineer, and three of the Indians took their seats in this boat, while the other Indians operated the mechanism. Electricity was the force, which was transformed into motion here, and gently, like a large bird, the metal boat with its passengers was lowered into the ocean far below. Now it was floating, the connection was severed, the electric motor that powered the boat was started, and now the power of its engine was moving the boat swiftly toward the northern coast of the island. They were right, there was the small buoy. On top of it was a metal rod, and attached to it a bright red enamel flag made from thin sheet metal.
"I have seen buoys like this before," the pirate of the air observed. "Ships that went far from the heavily traveled routes used to carry them. If something happens to them, then these small buoys, into which messages can be placed, are thrown into the ocean. They remain afloat for a long time, even in stormy weather."
"But this could also be some devilish trickery," the worried engineer said. "Captain, be careful, we have no proof!"
Mors nodded in agreement and reached for the copper wires. Then he carefully guided the boat as close as possible to the buoy, and then he skillfully threw one of the copper wires, which had a loop at its end, so that it touched the upper part of the floating container. A few moments later the wire was connected to the electric battery, and immediately afterwards blue sparks could be seen. The boat was behind a large rock that was sticking out from the bottom of the sea, and in this way the boat was protected against any possible catastrophe. The people on Mors' island had learned to be careful. But nothing at all happened.
"You see, your suspicions turned out to be unfounded," the captain said to the engineer. "There is no devilish subterfuge at work here, otherwise there would have been an explosion. Now I want to pick up this small buoy and see, if there is anything interesting inside. Quickly, we have nothing to fear!"
The boat started to move, and tow minutes later Captain Mors calmly pulled the small buoy into the craft. It was bolted together, but the pirate of the air opened it fairly easily.
"Just as I thought," he said, "it contains a message, and it is closed so tightly, that the paper has remained completely dry. Now let us see, what is written on this document. Aha, this is one of those forms such as are used in international commerce."
Captain Mors had unfolded the paper. In the middle of it there was the following request: Whoever finds this paper is urgently requested to send some kind of help to those who are in distress. This request was printed in at least seven or eight languages. But around the edge of the printed text there were words written by hand. Captain Mors read the following:
"During our scientific expedition to the still unexplored Kelleit Islands north of north-western America we have been plagued by bad luck. Our ship was crushed by the ice, and most of our crew was killed. Myself and a few others have been able to reach the east coast of Wrangel Island. My companions are close to death. We implore your help! Our camp is at 72 degrees northern latitude on the small Herald Island."This is a distress call," Mors said, "and I am not the least bit surprised that we have found this buoy on our island. Up north, above the small ocean channel that separates the mainland of Asia from North America, there is a strong current that flows this way. This has brought the small buoy with it, and it landed here on our island."
"But there is no date," Star observed, looking over the paper.
"That is correct," Mors replied, "but this buoy is not very old. Wait, there is something else written here."
The lowest portion of the paper had been folded over, and when Mors unfolded it completely, he read the following words in the English language:
"I ask you, if at all possible, to inform Miss Lizzie Waters, who is living in the small Hacienda Flores, of my fate. She will be able to give you more detailed information about myself and my companions, for our expedition was undertaken in secret. W. G."
"This person must be very close to the shipwrecked man," Mors said as he was looking over the paper, deep in thought. "Well, Los Angeles is not very far from us, it is just over there at the coast of California. There are many Haciendas that belong to the quiet town and that dot the picturesque landscape. I will take our small flying machine, which is designed for just a few people, and I think we will soon find the Hacienda Flores, where I hope we will be able to find out more. Star, you will accompany me with one of the Indians, that should he enough. At nightfall, when the fogs return, we will fly over to the coast of California."
Always willing to help and noble as Mors was he didn't even consider
that behind all these things might be nothing but cunning and deceit. Didn't
he realize that his doom might be lurking even here?
The Secret of the Hacienda
Even engineer Star had no objections to the decision of his captain. He really believed that they were just dealing with the rescue of some shipwrecked explorers. And Star would have been the last one to keep his captain from such a rescue effort. Of course they took the buoy with them, and an hour later they were once again at the top of the cliffs. Now Mors got to work trying to discover the location of the Hacienda Flores. This was not very difficult, for among his large store of maps and charts he had an excellent map of the quiet California coastal town of Los Angeles. This also showed all the large and small haciendas that were located in the area surrounding the town which had once been a possession of Mexico. Next to each of these haciendas there was a name, usually the name of a flower, which the former owners had given to their property. Mors didn't have to search long at all, and he had found the hacienda named Flores. It was remotely situated, far away from the other haciendas, near a canyon.
"This will be helpful," Mors said to his faithful followers. "Under cover of the fog we can reach the sierra with on of the small flying machines, and then we can approach the building from the mountain. Then we will find out soon enough, whether Miss Lizzie Walters is still in this house, whether it belongs to her or if we can learn anything else from her."
The day passed, and in the afternoon the fog once again came from the direction of the coast. In just a short while everything was once again covered in gray clouds. So Mors could start on his trip for the coast without any worries. Engineer Terror, who remained behind, was given command and was instructed to observe the utmost caution. Ever since the mysterious events had started that had caused Mors so much trouble there had been several attacks on the island, but all of them had been repulsed. But Mors was not too worried with the weather what it was. Moreover, the unknown enemy had not been active in quite a while. It might just be that he had been destroyed during the last adventure.
So Mors, along with Engineer Star and one of the reliable Indians mounted the craft, which, of course, could only be used close to the coast. The flying machine ascended from the edge of the crater and rose vertically for a while before it started to head for the coast. The fog was thick, but Mors knew that the peaks of the mountains always rose above the fog. He could use these to orient himself, for the pirate of the air knew each of these peaks.
It was six o'clock when Mors noticed several curiously shaped mountain tops. So he had to have passed over Los Angeles already, and the Hacienda Flores had to be at the foot of these mountains. At first the flying machine descended in spirals, and then it flew along the side of the mountain. It ooked as if it were diving into the ocean, for the masses of fog looked like slowly moving water.
"All right, we'll land here," said Mors when he discovered a small canyon
between the mountains. "I would estimate that we are barely ten minutes
from the Hacienda. Star, you will remain here, I'll take the Indian with
me. Don’t worry, I'll be extremely careful. With the weapons that I am
carrying we have nothing to fear."
With these last words Mors was referring to the electric handguns, which he had brought to such a state of perfection that they had an absolutely terrible effect. But he was not expecting to be ambushed anyway, for no one knew that they'd be coming here. Mors had no idea, that he was dealing with a devilish plan that had been most carefully thought out, and that he was faced with a devious trick that defied description.
They soon reached the small hacienda. It was one of those small country villas such as are found in the area about Los Angeles. A dog started to bark as they approached, but it was just a small animal and was probably chained. Immediately afterwards an old black woman made her appearance and calmed the dog down and took it away into the fog. Mors motioned for the Indian to remain behind, and then he took off his mask in order not to startle the old woman. Then he quickly walked over to the small picket fence that surrounded the house and yard. Now he looked almost like an American ships captain, and there were many of these in and around Los Angeles, for this city had a busy harbor. HE waved at the old woman, and she seemed to be a little uneasy at first, but then she approached the captain and asked the respectable looking stranger what he needed.
“Does a certain Lizzie Waters live in this little hacienda?” Captain Mors asked, wasting no time in getting to the point.
“Yes, Sir!” the black woman replied, “I am her servant. The young lady lives here all by herself. She has rented the hacienda for the summer and fall may even stay through this winter.”
“Who else lives here in the hacienda?”
“Well, there’s an old black man who takes care of the house.” Was the answer which seemed to be given in good faith.
“Well,” Captain Mors said after a moment’s thought, “then lead the way and tell the young woman, that there is someone here who has news regarding a certain William Grant.”
“What, is this possible?” the black woman exclaimed, seemingly very surprised. “That is the name of the fiancé of my young mistress. She is always talking of him, she always thinks that something must have happened to him. I will let her know right away.”
How was Captain Mors to know, that all this was the most despicable, ruin-bringing farce. The old black woman walked in front of him, and Mors followed her, but he was careful, his right hand remained on the handle of his weapon the whole time. He had been treated badly many times, so he was prepared for anything. As the old woman disappeared through a door he quickly donned his mask again. Then he heard a few words spoken within, heard a low gasp, the door was opened and Mors was facing a young woman. She looked like she was at most eighteen years old, and she was extremely slender. She had a thin face, and the mass off her hair seemed to be pulling her backwards. Her eyes were large and forceful, but since this young woman kept bringing a handkerchief to her eyes it seemed that she must recently have been crying.
The old woman left, while the young woman stared at the masked man, half afraid, half imploring.
“Sir, you are wearing a mask,” she finally exclaimed, and is appeared as if she were extremely frightened.
Who could have suspected that even this slender girl was playing her part in the most despicable farce.
“I have my reasons for this,” Captain Mors replied sternly. “By the way, you have nothing at all to fear from me. I have news of a certain William Grant. Of course this is a quite common name, but it appears that this man was the leader of an expedition into a completely unexplored polar region.”
“Yes, that is indeed the case,” said the young girl, who was by now crying into a handkerchief. “William is my fiancé, he is very ambitious. On all the maps of the northern polar region, near the north-western point of this land-mass, there is a coastline that is only dotted in. Some people claim to have seen this land from a distance many years ago. William, who wants to make a name for himself in the sciences, secretly set out for this land in a small ship. He told me in confidence, that another expedition was in preparation as well, and he wanted to be the first one to set foot on this coast. Since then I have not heard from him, I am completely desperate.”
Mors pulled out the paper that had been found in the red buoy and handed it to the distraught woman.
“After everything that I have seen of you I get the impression that you have a lot of energy,” he said. “Read this, then I will talk to you some more.”
The young woman seemed to shudder slightly, and it seemed as if she was casting a furtive, questioning glance at the pirate of the air.
Then she started to cry into her handkerchief again.
“Oh, then he is surely lost.” She suddenly groaned.
“If he is still alive, then I can rescue him,” the pirate of the air replied.
“It will be impossible,” the young woman said. “It is already late in the year, no ship can make it up there, and this Winter he will be doomed to perish.”
“My craft won’t be stopped by the treacherous polar seas,” the pirate of the air calmly replied. “I will reach this land through the skies.”
The young woman uttered a scream, but the next moment she fell to her knees before the masked man.
“Now I know who you are,” she uttered in heartrending tones. “You are Captain Mors, the same man, who has already helped many unfortunate ones. Save William, and all my possessions shall be yours. And one more request, take me with you, so that I will know if he is still alive. Otherwise I will die here if grief. I implore you on my knees. I will brave every danger, every hardship, every discomfort.”
How could Captain Mors suspect, that behind this high, pure forehead there were the most dangerous thoughts. He was always ready and willing to help.
“Well then,” he said after a few moments’ reflecting. “I will do it. Leave all your staff of servants here and come with me. But I have one condition. You will have to trust me completely.”
“I, that I will willingly do,” the young woman exclaimed. “I will trust in your noble spirit of which I have heard so much. I would have died if I had been forced to remain behind. Oh, I thank you! I will always remain in your debt.”
“Then we must not waste an instant,” said the pirate of the air. “The harshest time of the year has already started up there. Can you leave with me right now, this instant?”
“Yes,” she exclaimed, while at the same time her glowed with a strange fire. “I just want to gather up a few necessary things that I will need, some clothes, a dress and a coat. Will you give me a few minutes time, you noblest of men?”
Mors nodded his head as a sign of agreement. But Miss Lizzie Waters ran out of the room, and soon he could hear closets and boxes being opened in the next room. The old black woman seemed to be there as well, and Mors could hear the young mistress giving orders to her servant. She was telling the surprised woman that she would be leaving the hacienda that very evening, and that the servant would have to await the return of her mistress. Then it was quiet for a moment. The young woman seemed to have gone into another room.
The beautiful Lizzie had indeed gone into another room, but she did not remain there for very long. In wild haste she slipped through a small door and opened another one that was hidden in the wall.
“Tom,” she hissed. “Do you hear? He is here! The pirate of the air has fallen into our trap. You could destroy him right now.”
“Without the destruction of the last craft this would be pointless,” was the answer given by a male voice in subdued tones. “Another could still take his place. I have to complete my task, only thus will I earn the millions. We will stick to our agreement. Is he taking you with him?”
The young woman answered in the affirmative.
“All the better,” someone said. “You know what to do, we have discussed everything. Tomorrow night I will come and hide in the vicinity of the space craft. Then you will have to keep your eyes open, we will have to take our chances then. He who dares, wins. Then the hour of decision will have come.”
The voices fell silent. Lizzie Waters hurried back, her face had changed, it appeared to be marked by the deepest sorrow.
Yes, this was the despicable comedy which was being played in order
to destroy the pirate of the air. The little Hacienda Flores contained
a strange, dark secret.
Half an hour later Miss Lizzie Waters, who had only taken very little luggage with her, was on board the flying machine. She had agreed to endure any hardship and had implored the pirate of the air on her knees to save her fiancé, who, as Mors firmly believed, was marooned on a deserted island in the polar sea. There was no need to blindfold the young girl, for the fog was so dense that she could not possibly observe anything. The two black servants who were to remain behind in the little hacienda had promised their mistress to take good care of the building and to tell anybody who asked about her that their mistress was travelling for a while. All this seemed to natural, that Mors did not have the least suspicion and actually believed that he would once again be a helper and savior. Thy youthful woman in his charge had only put on a thick, warm coat and had then taken her place next to him in the flying machine. This rose into the sky, and then they were on their way toward the rocky island.
They had to be quick if they wanted to help those who were in the most desperate situation. So Mors decided to leave island the following night and to use the last vehicle still left to him, the “Meteor.” With this he would be able to travel toward the Polar Sea at the greatest velocity and save the surviving polar explorers. After her arrival on the mysterious island Miss Lizzie Waters was taken to the house of engineer Star where she was received with hospitality by the wife of the engineer.
It was Mors’ custom to make his departure in his flying vehicles an hour or two past midnight. Any attack made on the island had always taken place before this. But an hour or two past midnight there was nothing to fear, nor would anyone be able to see that the colossus was leaving. At dawn it was still very foggy, and the mist remained during most of the day. Even at noon the sun appeared to Star like a pale, faintly luminous disk, surrounded by a gray veil of haze. Toward evening Mors guided Miss Lizzie Waters from the settlement through the canyon to the giant hangar where the space craft was kept. They beautiful young woman never tired of thanking the pirate of the air and praising his goodness, even though Mors rejected all such praise. But he would have been surprised if he could have looked into her eyes, for in them there was from time to time a strange fire. While Lizzie seemed completely consumed by grief and sorrow, she was really observing everything most closely. She noticed the doors, the hallways, and a look of satisfaction could be seen about her mouth when she heard that the journey would not start until a couple of hours past midnight. Preparations were still being made, the Indians came and went, they brought provisions and clothes, sleeping bags and other things that would be needed in the polar regions. A couple of sleds were brought on board as well.
Lizzie Waters had been taken to one of the rooms that were situated in the lower part of the craft. This is where the giant crystal plates were which allowed the crew to observe their surroundings, only with this difference, that they were elongated and square, and also much more narrow than those in the middle rooms of the giant craft.
But theses windows were still large enough that a human being could fit through one of the opened panes. As soon as Lizzie was alone, she began to examine the mechanism. From Her pocket she pulled a piece of paper that was covered with technical drawings and instructions. This certainly contained directions for the opening of this window, and Lizzie began to fumble with the mechanism. It took a while before she figured it out, but at last she was able to operate the latch. A metal plate, which protected the glass, could be rotated to the side. And when, after some effort, she managed to open the crystal plate itself, she was satisfied for the time being. She left the metal plate to the side and window shut but not latched, and then she listened to the sounds created by all the activity that was still going on outside the craft.
“There is still too much going on out there,” she whispered while looking outside through the crystal plate. “It is very foggy out there, and I think that Tom must already be on the island. But it is better to be careful, because if anyone at all should see us, then everything would have been in vain, and our fate would be sealed. The giant craft is not scheduled to ascend until two hours past midnight, so there is still plenty of time. I can wait.”
Then Lizzie Waters checked the small gold watch she had on her belt. It was just midnight. After another quarter of an hour the noise outside began to subside, and at the same time the fog became even more dense. The roof had been taken of the hall already, and the fog started to fill it. It looked as if the colossus were partly submerged in a lake.
“I could risk it now,” the young woman whispered. I’ll give it a try, everything is quiet here near my window. I’ll give the signal.”
She turned the mechanism, and the metal plate moved completely out of the way. Then she opened the thick metal plate, and then, three times, there was a low hissing sound as of a snake. After the third sound there was a similar one in response. Now Lizzie quickly turned the knob of an electric lamp which had been illuminating the small room, and after that it was completely dark.
After this she could not be observed from the outside. Immediately afterward it seemed as if a dark shape glided in through the opened window. Lizzie moved quickly and shut the crystal plate and started to turn the metal cover. It moved silently over the opening. No doubt, now there were two people in the room, and low whispering and hissing sounds could be heard.
“I can hide you here for the time being.” Lizzie whispered. “but not permanently. At the first opportunity I will have to find another hiding place for you, in the store rooms that are near here. We are really risking much. It would have been easier if we had just blown up the craft with everyone on board.”
“I have already considered that,” the other voice, without doubt that of a man, replied. “But that would not have been a sure thing. The craft it extremely resistant, and it is possible that the blast would not do much damage. Then the villain would have been forewarned. No, it will be better if I complete the successful task in which I am engaged with a magnificent finale. I will force the crippled craft to make an emergency landing on the soil of the United States. Then it will be over with the pirate of the air. But now lets be quiet, we have talked enough, now I will hide.”
There were some low scratching and shuffling noises, and then it was quiet; after a while the electric light came on again, and when, an hour later, one of the Indian women who was coming along on this trip entered the room, nobody would have suspected that in the immediate vicinity there was a person who had no right to be on the craft. The beautiful Lizzie Waters acted as if she had been absorbed by her grief the whole time. No one could suspect that she was part of a devilish plan that would bring the pirate of the air into one of the most dangerous situations of his life. Even Mors suspected nothing of the nocturnal doings, for he thought that he had been called upon to act the part of helper and rescuer once again. He had no way of knowing that something was being planned here that might even bring his wonderful and adventurous life to an end.
Work was still being done on the space craft, and this strange nocturnal intruder had come just in time. If he ad arrived a little later, then the Indians, who were now making their rounds about the craft with their electric lamps, would surely have discovered him. But now everything seemed to be in the best order, all joints, rivets and bolts were tight, and the space craft could just as well have taken off into outer space as to the Polar Sea. Half an hour before their departure Captain Mors went to see the young lady once again. He found here to be calm and composed; he couldn’t suspect that behind these seemingly gentle eyes something completely different was hiding, that she was playing a treacherous comedy for him.
Two hours past midnight Captain Mors gave the signal to depart. Everything was in order on the island; those remaining behind would be able to defend themselves against any attack. With the colossal speed of the space craft the distance between the coast of California and the sea of ice would be covered in a relatively short time. But Mors was not rushing anything, for he knew exactly, what demands he had made on the craft during last adventurous events. He wanted to test everything first and make sure that there were no problems. But everything seemed to be in perfect order. The steering mechanism that had been destroyed back then by the two Indian women who had been incited to vengeful rage by the unknown enemy, but now it was working flawlessly. The space craft obeyed the commands of its creator as if it were a living, breathing creature.
Mors immediately ascended to immense heights, until he was floating three or four thousand meters above the earth. By now, of course, he was far above the sea of fog and could look down at the gray mass below. But he saw nothing suspicious, and only in the east he saw the shadowy tops of mountains sticking out of the mist. There was no danger for his islands, and after a sort delay Mors steered his mighty craft north.
The journey took them over the ocean, until after a short time the passed the narrowest part of the so-called Bering Strait. Here they saw, at the same time, the easternmost tip of Asia, and the most north-westerly part of the New World. But way up north they dimly perceived the strange, shimmering glow that is known to polar travelers as the Northern Light. About eighteen or twenty hours had passed at this time, and Lizzie Waters had made good use of this time. The mysterious stranger, who, with the aid of the girl, had come into the space ship, was no longer in the same room that belonged to the alleged bride of the unfortunate polar explorer. Lizzie Waters, who was possessed of an uncanny intelligence and had already explored the layout of the craft, had managed to move her companion into one of the store rooms in which there were a large number of boxes, crates, barrels and sacks. Here the strange man, of whom no one but Lizzie knew anything, had hidden himself.
It was evening again when they reached the Polar Sea. But for the time being Mors remained at the same great altitude. It was Fall, and it was darkness had already fallen over this desert of ice, and night lasted seventeen or eighteen hours. Since there was no moon Mors had to wait, until the short polar day began. Then he could use the few hours of daylight for his search.
Lizzie Waters still acted the part of the sorrowing and grieving bride. But the young Indian women who were taking care of the needs of the captain and his fair guest secretly wondered at the healthy appetite she had developed. Lizzie claimed that she was still not full, and demanded another helping, which was brought to her right away. But she did not use this food for herself; instead she managed to take it to the store room after just a little while. Now it is true that the man who was hidden there could have easily procured food from the things that were stored here. But apparently he did not want to do this, because then he would have had to open crates and barrels, and this might have aroused suspicion. So he made do with what his young, clever accomplice was able to bring him.
There was no doubt that this was a dangerous enemy of the pirate of
the air who had managed to stow away on board, the same enemy, who had
already destroyed many of his craft, and that this enemy was now posed
to strike the final, decisive blow against the pirate of the air.
At last the long night was drawing to a close, and the sun appeared as a red ball of fire that hardly seemed to have any warmth left in it. This star of the day illuminated a landscape in which death seemed to be the ruler. But it was a magnificent vista which presented itself to them, especially from the height at which the space craft was hovering.
Way to the north there was ice, nothing but ice, it was the Polar Sea, completely covered with ice, with only here and there a piece of land sticking out of it. Further to the west there were the mighty mountain ranges of the so-called Wrangel Land that had only been explored a few years earlier. To the east they could see a few small islands, among which there had to be the Herald Island mentioned in the document. Mors also looked to the north-east, for in that direction was supposed to the legendary Kellett-Land; indeed he thought that at a great distance, although not very clearly, he could see the outlines of this still unexplored land. But now he was looking for the Herald-Island, and it should be almost directly underneath him. This is where the unfortunate suffering polar explorers had to be.
Orders were given, and now the colossus began to descend onto the island which was totally covered with snow and ice, the island that was marked on the charts as the Herald-Island. A few straggling birds took a noisy departure, and a grumbling Polar Bear wandered off into the distance. Here and there they saw boards and other pieces of wood, without a doubt pieces of wrecked ships. But it did not look at all as if a ship had wrecked here in recent times. All the wreckage looked more like it had been deposited here by the current during the previous summer.
The Herald-Island was several square kilometers in size, but they could easily observe the whole of it. Nowhere was there any sign of human habitation; there was no hut, no tent, not even a fissure in the ice that could have sheltered someone. Everywhere there was only the majesty of death. Lizzie Waters was dressed in a warm fur coat that had been brought out of the space craft and given to her, and she was looking around. Mors, who had already searched the island most carefully as they were descending, and who was now having his men give loud signals, stepped toward her.
“There is no trace of the missing men here,” he said to the young girl. “The island is very small, and with the loud signals we are giving the unfortunate polar explorers would have shown themselves by now. Nor is there any indication that marooned people have been here recently. But still, this place is the Herald Island.”
Lizzie Waters acted as if she were in the grip of profound despair. But this was just a comedy, for she knew full well that the pirate of the air wouldn’t find anyone here. Everything was lies and deception; no ship had wrecked here.
“Perhaps my unfortunate fiancé was mistaken,” she said. “Perhaps he thought he was on the Herald Island, when he had in fact reached some other land. There are many islands here that are similar to this one.”
“I have had that same thought,” Mors replied, nodding. “Of course I will leave nothing undone and will comb these other islands most carefully.”
Lizzie was profuse in her thanks and acted as if she were most deeply touched by the generosity of the pirate of the air. But she was secretly gloating about her triumph over this man whose goodness she was so cleverly taking advantage of.
“He is more easily deceived than I would have thought,” she whispered.
“I had expected him to be more dangerous. But the most important thing is that we should gain time until I have checked out everything. Tom will be there to assist me at the deciding moment. We will take over the room that contains the steering mechanism, and then we will bring the pirate of the air and his craft back to the United States in triumph! Oh, we will reap fame, honor and riches.”
So this was the devious attack that the two were planning, and the man hidden onboard the space craft was no other than Tom Grant, the daring secret policeman, who was now sure to achieve his goal. He no longer trusted his sister, for he believed that she had fallen in love with the pirate of the air, so he left her out of his plans. But instead he was using hid lover, a young, beautiful woman from California, in whose veins there also flowed much Spanish blood. She was energetic, bold, daring to the point of being reckless, and he could rely on this girl. Lizzie Waters had made only one condition, namely that the famous secret policeman marry her if their undertaking was successful. But in return she had promised to risk everything in order to bring about the destruction of the pirate of the air. So far her plan was succeeding perfectly.
The noble Captain Mors trusted the sighs and sorrow of the clever girl, and the space craft began to ascend again. The nearest island was searched, especially since it resembled Herald Island in many ways. Again they found the wreckage of ships, even traces of an expedition that must have been here years ago, but there were no traces of the polar explorers they were looking for. This took up much time, and before Mors was able to give his attention to a third island it was dark again. The night was long, and there was nothing he could accomplish in the dark. But the two conspirators made good use of the dark. As soon as Lizzie realized that it was quiet on the ship, she left her room in which everyone supposed her to be asleep and crept toward the store room, slipped inside and met with the secret policeman.
“You are a clever girl,” Tom Grant said with admiration, when she had finished her report of the situation. “Of course I will keep my word and make you my bride. What you have found out so far is very important, but you will have to do even more. We have to manage to lock ourselves in the room that contains the steering mechanism and then we will have to barricade the door so that Mors won’t be able to reach us. Otherwise he would settle the score with us very quickly. Once we are in control of this room we will be in control of the ship and take it wherever we want. That will be a scene when we land the colossus in the vicinity of San Francisco. Then our game will be won, then there will be an end once and for all to the deeds and adventures of the pirate of the air.”
There followed a quick conversation, and then the two separated. The mysterious man went back to his hiding place between the piled up stores and Lizzie crept back to her room. Nobody noticed anything, and the pirate of the air did not even suspect that he was carrying the seeds of his own destruction with him on his ship.
Of course people on the space craft did not sleep eighteen hours, and Mors allowed himself no more rest than was absolutely necessary. He steered his craft himself, even though the storms that were terrible in this region would not be able to harm the colossus in the least. The searchlight of the space craft was kept on at all times. A few of the Indians had been ordered to look down onto the ice world at all times and look for any light signals that might be given. In this way they hoped to discover the whereabouts of the polar explorers.
But maybe they were dead already! Maybe they had taken a terrible end? This was always a possibility.
Of course Lizzie Waters knew better, she knew the whole secret. Now, in spite of the sorrow that she was still pretending to feel, she displayed a marked curiosity. She was continually asking questions, and usually it was the captain she turned to for information. But since Mors was usually in the room with the steering apparatus, the young woman would follow him there. Lizzie always stayed there with him as long as possible and asked him many questions about the missing men. At the same time she always kept her eyes open and looked around, albeit furtively. She especially tried to memorize all the different levers, wheels and cranks that Mors was using to direct the ship. The lover of the secret policeman was very smart, and almost the equal of Tom Grant. She was possessed of an excellent memory and remembered everything she saw. After the second or third visit she was already sure that she’d be able to operate the controls. But just to be absolutely sure she wrote everything down once she got back to her room, and she even made a small diagram of the control room. After a little while she was totally sure of herself, and now it was time to make a daring attempt. The last, decisive blow would have to be struck soon.
Again there was a short period of daylight, and again the search for the missing polar explorers was continued. The craft flew from island to island, but this time they did not even come across the remnants of any ships, only polar bears, walruses and birds, which were already getting ready for their migration south. The eighteen-hour night started for the third time, and again, once everything was quiet, Lizzie made her way to the store room. The secret policeman appeared at once to hear the report of his beautiful lover. He seemed very happy, and several times he had to suppress an expression of delight.
“Really, you have surpassed my wildest hopes,” he whispered. “Triumph, now we can act. But it might be best if you try to find out when Captain Mors will be out of the control room. As far as I know he has a most dangerous weapon.”
“You are talking about the electric revolver,” Lizzie replied. “You are right. These weapons are capable of fearful destruction. But Mors is only human, he has to rest from time to time, and then one of the Indians takes his place. We will take care of him quickly. Then I will take over the controls, and you will make sure that nobody can surprise us. In the control rooms there are iron rods, and a lot of scrap metal. With this the door can be blocked and barricaded so that no one will be able to open it. Then we can head south and land in the vicinity of San Francisco. We step out of the control room, and our job will be done. Then the colossus will never rise again.”
Tom Grant was extremely pleased with the cleverness and cunning of hid lover, and they made their final plans. On the following day the pirate of the air wanted to search a few more islands further to the north since he did not want to leave anything untried, but in the night after that they wanted to make their decisive strike against him.
How many times had Captain Mors escaped from danger, how often had he
been rescued from desperate situations. But this time it looked like the
daring man of action would succumb to the treachery of the secret policeman
the to female wiles.
In the Control Room of the Space Craft
Again one of the short dreary polar days had passed. Mors had not relaxed in his zeal and had searched the islands further to the north, but here also he had found no trace of the shipwrecked men. Mors did not even suspect that his generosity was being repaid so poorly. He did everything to find these shipwrecked men who did not even exist. And so this short day passed as well, and there were only two islands left that were situated to the north-east. But Mors was going to wait till the following day to search these. He had allowed himself very little rest recently, and he intended to make up for that. An old Indian was ordered to keep watch in the control room, for there was little to be done there. During the hours of darkness the craft just had to be kept in the same location, a task that required only little effort. Lizzie Waters was aware of this, for she was always watching and eavesdropping, and she had seen and heard everything. She knew exactly that the captain would rest at least five or six hours, and she had to make use of this time. Everyone was very quiet in the “Meteor,” since they had put so much effort into searching the islands during the day. The Indians had crawled into many cracks and crevices in the hope of finding survivors. So most of the crew of the “Meteor” was quite exhausted. The air was extremely cold, and there was a bitter wind from the north. How could anyone have guessed that danger was lurking on board the ship. Nobody would have thought this possible, not even Captain Mors who always observed the utmost caution.
Lizzie Waters was very careful and watched everything. The quiet that reigned on the ship told her that the right moment had come, and so she rushed to the store room. The door was opened and the agreed-upon signal was given. All this was the work of a moment. Then the famous secret policeman was at her side.
“This time we will succeed,” the dangerous beauty whispered as she was telling her lover all that he needed to know about the situation. “Now we will enter the control room and then we will be in charge of this ship. Near San Francisco the pirate of the air will meet his fate. Let’s go, this is the hour of decision!”
Tom Grant was not the man to hesitate, he was driven by ambition and he did not want the beautiful woman to have all the glory for herself. Now he wanted to show her what he was capable of. Like two shadows the glided through the hallway toward the stern of the ship and climbed the narrow iron stairs that were there. Here there was a small trap door that led to a little chamber next to the control room. This chamber contained some spare machinery. Tom Grant lifted the trap door, took one last look about, and then he let himself down into the room below. Lizzie followed close on his heels. The two stopped at nothing and were determined to risk everything now. From this room a narrow door led to the main engine room where the Indian was watching the movements of the giant magnet. The secret policeman carefully opened this door, but at the same instant the Indian happened to turn his head. He saw the face of a strange man, he sensed that there was danger, but his retreat was already cut off. The heavy revolver that the secret policeman was holding in his hand made it clear to the Indian that he was indeed faced with a serious threat. The old Indian, seeing no other avenue of escape, suddenly slipped into the small room that was inside the rearmost, pointed part of the ship. Here he hid between some of the supports for the giant diamond, on which the large magnet pivoted. Tom Grant rushed after him immediately and tried to grab him. He almost managed to grab the man by the foot, but he crawled even deeper into the room and hugged the supports in the back.
“That won’t do him any good,” Tom Grant observed, as he was dealing with this with the utmost in calm. “A few bullets that I will send after him will silence him forever.”
“You better not,” Lizzie replied. “For one thing your bullets might damage the apparatus. Moreover, as quiet as it is now, the shots would surely be heard. Just leave him in there, the movement of the machinery will kill him sooner or later. We have won our game, and now we have to block the doors. Barricade them so that no one can disturb us. Move some heavy object against the door, we must not be surprised. Then nobody will be able to get to us, the steel plates that cover the crystal plate cannot be opened from the outside."
The slender, beautiful girl now displayed a determination to equal that of a man, and Tom Grant, who was not usually in the habit of taking orders from anyone, now followed the instructions of his beautiful lover. Lizzie was right, it was best for him to follow her advice. In the meantime she was able to put her knowledge to the test and bring the giant craft into motion.
At the same time the relentless enemy of Captain Mors went to work. His first task was to block the doors, and for this he could use the iron rods and other implements in the room. Grant, who was possessed of prodigious physical strength, began at once to pile up a barricade, nor did he forget the little trap door through which he and his lover had entered. He worked with prodigious zeal, and the sweat was dripping off his forehead. He threw away his hat and worked until he was satisfied that the barricade would hold. It would not be possible to break through it from the outside. In the meantime Lizzie was going to work on the levers, cranks and wheels. She had paid close attention before, and this was helping her now. She had an excellent memory, and after a little while she noticed that the craft was starting to move faster and faster.
One look at the instruments on the wall that told her the craft’s direction and speed, and she was satisfied. She had been successful, the colossus was flying south at a great speed.
The space craft had the peculiar characteristic that those who were on board didn’t even notice its movement, unless they looked at one of the speedometers. All but a few of the crew seemed to be asleep, and those who were awake did not notice that the colossus was moving at full speed. No noise was caused, and it felt just as if the giant was hovering motionless in the air.
Now Tom Grant stuck his head through the connecting door.
“How does it look with the barricade?” Lizzie quickly asked.
“I think we can be satisfied with it,” sounded the answer.
“You can’t be careful enough,” Lizzie replied.
“They will try everything to get in here. You don’t know the pirate of the air like I have gotten to know him recently. He possesses immense physical strength. The barricade is safe, but I will check it one more time.”
“If you wish,” Tom rejoined. “I’ll do you a favor and make the barricade so strong that not even a giant could overcome it. I also secured the trap door most carefully. We are locked in here, but we are in control, and Captain Mors is finally doomed.”
It really seemed as if the hour of decision had arrived for the pirate of the air, for his situation was indeed most desperate. It didn’t seem conceivable that he would be able to escape under such circumstances. In no time the craft would be near San Francisco, where the pirate of the air and his entire crew would be arrested.
And there was no doubt that this captivity would last the rest of his days. There seemed to be no hope for Mors.
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