The Chessmen of Mars

By Edgar Rice Burroughs

Page 21

power, and each must
sever completely and instantly three strands of heavy cable that no
loose end fouling a block bring immediate disaster upon the Vanator.

Boom! The voice of the signal gun rolled down through the screaming
wind to the twelve warriors upon the roof. Boom! Twelve swords were
raised above twelve brawny shoulders. Boom! Twelve keen edges severed
twelve complaining moorings, clean and as one.

The Vanator, her propellors whirling, shot forward with the storm. The
tempest struck her in the stern as with a mailed fist and stood the
great ship upon her nose, and then it caught her and spun her as a
child's top spins; and upon the palace roof the twelve men looked on in
silent helplessness and prayed for the souls of the brave warriors who
were going to their death. And others saw, from Helium's lofty landing
stages and from a thousand hangars upon a thousand roofs; but only for
an instant did the preparations stop that would send other brave men
into the frightful maelstrom of that apparently hopeless search, for
such is the courage of the warriors of Barsoom.

But the Vanator did not fall to the ground, within sight of the city at
least, though as long as the watchers could see her never for an
instant did she rest upon an even keel. Sometimes she lay upon one side
or the other, or again she hurtled along keel up, or rolled over and
over, or stood upon her nose or her tail at the caprice of the great
force that carried her along. And the watchers saw that this great ship
was merely being blown away with the other bits of debris great and
small that filled the sky. Never in the memory of man or the annals of
recorded history had such a storm raged across the face of Barsoom.

And in another instant was the Vanator forgotten as the lofty, scarlet
tower that had marked Lesser Helium for ages crashed to ground,
carrying death and demolition upon the city beneath. Panic reigned. A
fire broke out in the ruins. The city's every force seemed crippled,
and it was then that The Warlord ordered the men that were about to set
forth in search of Tara of Helium to devote their energies to the
salvation of the city, for he too had witnessed the start of the
Vanator and realized the futility of wasting men who were needed sorely
if Lesser Helium was to be saved from utter destruction.

Shortly after noon of the second day the storm commenced to abate, and
before

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