Chapter XIII. The Capture
 

Tom Swift was something like a fireman. He had lived so long in an atmosphere of constant alarms and danger, that he was always ready for almost any emergency. His room was equipped with the end in view that he could act promptly and effectively.

So, when he heard Eradicate's alarm, though he wondered what the old colored man was doing out of bed at that hour, Tom did not stop to reason out that puzzle. He acted quickly.

His first care was to throw on the main switch, connected with a big storage battery, and to which were attached the wires of the lighting system. This at once illuminated every shop in the plant, and also the grounds themselves. Tom wanted to see what was going on. The use of a storage battery eliminated the running of the dynamo all night.

And once he had done this, Tom began pulling on some clothes and a pair of shoes. At the same time he reached out with one hand and pressed a button that sounded an alarm in the sleeping quarters of Koku, the giant, and in the rooms of some of the older and most trusted men.

All this while Eradicate was shouting away, down in the yard.

"Massa Tom! Massa Tom!" he called. "Hurry! Hurry! Dey is killin' Koku!"

"Killing Koku!" exclaimed Tom, as he finished his hasty dressing. "Then my giant must already be in the fracas. I wonder what it's all about, anyhow."

"What's up, Tom?" came Ned's voice from the adjoining room. "I thought I heard a noise."

"Your thoughts do you credit, Ned!" Tom answered. "If you listen right close, you'll hear several noises."

"By Jove! You're right, old man!"

Tom could hear his chum bound out of bed to the floor, and, at the same time, from the big shed where Tom was building his aerial warship came a series of yells and shouts.

"That's Koku's voice!" Tom exclaimed, as he recognized the tones of the giant.

"I'm coming, Tom!" Ned informed his chum. "Wait a minute."

"No time to wait," Tom replied, buttoning his coat as he sped down the hall.

"Oh, Tom, what is it?" asked Mrs. Baggert, the housekeeper, looking from her room.

"I don't know. But don't let dad get excited, no matter what happens. Just put him off until I come back. I think it isn't anything serious."

Mr. Damon, who roomed next to Ned, came out of his own apartment partially dressed.

"Bless my suspenders!" he cried to Tom, those articles just then dangling over his hips. "What is it? What has happened? Bless my steam gauge, don't tell me it's a fire!"

"I think it isn't that," Tom answered. "No alarm has rung. Koku seems to be in trouble."

"Well, he's big enough to look after himself, that's one consolation," chuckled Mr. Damon. "I'll be right with you."

By this time Ned had run out into the hall, and, together, he and Tom sped down the corridor. They could not hear the shouts of Eradicate so plainly now, as he was on the other side of the house.

But when the two young men reached the front porch, they could hear the yells given with redoubled vigor. And, in the glare of the electric lights, Tom saw Eradicate leading along Boomerang, the old mule.

"What is it, Rad? What is it?" demanded the young inventor breathlessly.

"Trouble, Massa Tom! Dat's what it am! Trouble!"

"I know that--but what kind?"

"De worstest kind, I 'spects, Massa Tom. Listen to it!"

From the interior of the big shed, not far from the house, Tom and Ned heard a confused jumble of shouts, cries and pleadings, mingled with the rattle of pieces of metal, and the banging of bits of wood. And, above all that, like the bellowing of a bull, was noted the rumbling voice of Koku, the giant.

"Come on, Ned!" Tom cried.

"It's suah trouble, all right," went on Eradicate. "Mah mule, Boomerang, had a touch ob de colic, an' I got up t' gib him some hot drops an' walk him around, when I heard de mostest terrific racket-sound, and den I 'spected trouble was comm."

"It isn't coming--it's here!" called Tom, as he sped toward the big shop. Ned was but a step behind him. The big workshop where the aerial warship was being built was, like the other buildings, brilliantly illuminated by the lights Tom had switched on. The young inventor also saw several of his employees speeding toward the same point.

Torn was the first to reach the small door of the shed. This was built in one of the two large main doors, which could be swung open when it was desired to slide the Mars in from the ground, and not admit it through the roof.

"Look!" cried Tom, pointing.

Ned looked over his chum's shoulder and saw the giant, Koku, struggling with four men--powerful men they were, too, and they seemed bent on mischief.

For they came at Koku from four sides, seeking to hold his hands and feet so that he could not fight them back. On the floor near where the struggle was taking place was a coil of rope, and it was evident that it had been the intention of the men to overcome Koku and truss him up, so that he would not interfere with what they intended to do. But Koku was a match for even the four men, powerful as they were.

"We're here, Koku!" cried Tom. "Watch for an opening, Ned!" he called to his chum.

The sound of Tom's voice disconcerted at least two of the attackers, for they looked around quickly, and this was fatal to their chances.

Though such a big man, Koku was exceptionally quick, and no sooner did he see his advantage, as two of the men turned their gaze away from him, than he seized it.

Suddenly tearing loose his hands from the grip of the two men who had looked around, Koku shot out his right and left fists, and secured good hold on the necks of two of his enemies. The other two, at his back, were endeavoring to pull him over, but the giant's sturdy legs still held.

So big was Koku's hands that they almost encircled the necks of his antagonists. Then happened a curious thing.

With a shout that might have done credit to some ancient cave- dweller of the stone age, Koku spread out his mighty arms, and held apart the two men he had grasped. In vain they struggled to free themselves from that terrible grip. Their faces turned purple, and their eyes bulged out.

"He's choking them to death!" shouted Ned.

But Koku was not needlessly cruel.

A moment later, with a quick and sudden motion he bent his arms, bringing toward each other the two men he held as captives. Their heads came together with a dull thud, and a second later Koku allowed two limp bodies to slip from his grip to the floor.

"He's done for them!" Tom cried. "Knocked them unconscious. Good for you, Koku!"

The giant grunted, and then, with a quick motion, slung himself around, hoping to bring the enemies at his back within reach of his powerful arms. But there was no need of this.

As soon as the other two ruffians had seen their companions fall to the floor of the shop they turned and fled, leaping from an open window.

"There they go!" cried Ned.

"Some of the other men can chase them," said the young inventor. "We'll tie up the two Koku has captured."

As he approached nearer to the unconscious captives Tom uttered a cry of surprise, for he recognized them as two of the new men he had employed.

"What can this mean?" he asked wonderingly.

He glanced toward the window through which the two men had jumped to escape, and he was just in time to see one of them run past the open door. The face of this one was under a powerful electric light, and Tom at once recognized the man as Feldman, the worker who had had so much trouble with the trip-hammer.

"This sure is a puzzle," marveled Tom. "My own men in the plot! But why did they attack Koku?"

The giant, bending over the men he had knocked unconscious by beating their heads together, seemed little worse for the attack.

"We tie 'em up," he said grimly, as he brought over the rope that had been intended for himself.