"A GRIM SURPRISE"
Novelization of the JCB strip by Dale R. Broadhurst
The flagship of the Helium expedition crossed the
planet's invisible equatorial line early on the seventh day of the mission.
The entire fleet of airships now encircled the Haldar, glistening in the
morning sun's rays like a flock of great silvery birds, gliding effortlessly
in their migration to some distant destination. Princess Dejah Thoris stood
gripping the guard rail at the elevated bow of the huge warship. She shivered
in the the steady wind, practically naked and unadorned, save for a few
hairclips and the radiant gems that decorated her hand-crafted leather
sandals. Stretching around her waist, under her unclad breasts and up about
her shoulders and neck were the belts and buckles of a common airman's
leather harness, one strap of which she had secured to the rail. This sparse
apparel offered no protection from the blasts of frigid air but the princess
withstood the chill without complaint, her heart warmed by the exhileration
of flying so high, so fast, and above regions of Barsoom she had never
before set eyes upon. For the first time in weeks she was totally happy
and without a care in the world
Springing to his feet Captain Carter was surprised
to learn that his every movement was magnified in the low gravity of Mars.
A flick of the wrist sent his arm outward its full length. What would have
been a three foot stride on Earth took him three yards or more in his new
environment. He would have to learn to walk all over again, as the muscular
exertion which carried him easily and safely upon his home planet played
strange antics with him upon Mars. Yes, it must be Mars -- no other explanation
The Earthman spent a considerable amount of time
exploring his new situation. Sooner or later he knew he must find water
and food. Clothing, weapons, and shelter might also be useful additions
to his current set of possessions -- quick consisted of absolutely nothing.
In his search he happened upon a low, walled enclosure about four feet
in height, made of stones and some kind of cement. It had obviously been
constructed by intelligent beings in the not too distant past, but the
only possible commodity it might supply to meet his current needs was what
appeared to be a nest of very large eggs. And, before he could examine
this marvel very closely, John Carter met with the first of the many perils
Mars. A score of sinister looking Martians almost took him unawares from
behind. Coming, as they did, over the soft and soundless moss, they might
easily have captured him, but their intentions were far more hostile. The
rattling of the accouterments of the foremost warrior warned the traveler's
ears and he spun around to meet the unexpected threat.
For an instant the soldier from another world could
scarcely comprehend the scene; it looked as if armed giants with a dozen
limbs each were bearing down upon him. His mind quickly sorted out the
details: they were huge, six-limbed creatures mounted upon even larger
eight-legged steeds. They presented the picture rather like a dozen gorillas,
each riding a rhinoceros and thrusting forward a great metal shod spear.
At his first sight of these charging Martians, John Carter's muscles reacted
instinctively. He leaped up to the top of the egg-filled enclosure. The
full extent of his powerful jump did not end there, however. In the lesser
gravity of Mars Captain Carter was able to vault entirely over the wide
enclosure. This marvelous display stunned the savage green-skinned riders.
They eyed him warily and exchanged strange sounds that Captain Carter guessed
to be language. He was just about to continue his leaping escape when the
Earthman noticed that several of the giants were pointing their long-barreled
firearms directly at him. Running away no longer seemed to be a very good
fter the giants had conversed for a short time, one
of their number dismounted, threw down his spear and firearm, and came
around the end of the egg enclosure toward the Virginian, entirely unarmed
and naked, except for a few ornamented straps which crossed his upper and
lower torso. When he was within a few feet of John Carter the tall green
creature performed a remarkable bodily transformation, going down upon
four limbs and holding out his remaining two arms, palm first, as if to
show that he carried no weapons. In Captain Carter's mind the monster looked
very much like misconstrued centaur, drawn from a madman's retelling of
Earth's mythological past. He accepted a metal armlet that the creature
had unclasped from its own forearm and offered to him, but all the Earthman
could give in return was a nod of acknowledgment and mimicry of the alien's
That seemed to be just what the giant wished to see.
He stood back up on his two rear limbs, voiced something like a gurgling
laugh, and motioned to the white man that he should take a seat behind
him on the glossy back of his mount. There the Virginian hung on as best
he could to the Martian warrior's leather body harness and the entire troop
galloped away toward the range of hills in the distance.
Crossing over the hills the riders came down onto
a low table land upon which the Earthman beheld an enormous ruined city.
The savage caravan soon entered into this extensive collection of buildings
and John Carter beheld, for the first time, evidence that the green giants
might not be the only inhabitants of his new home. The riders were much
too large for the doors, windows and alleyways of the ruined metropolis;
all of which appeared to have been built by some other, smaller race.
"Could other humans be on Mars -- my size?" questioned
the Earthman. But the only intelligible sounds he could discern among the
green man's grunts and roars were syllables that sounded something like
"Tars Tarkas!" And that meant nothing to Captain Carter.
As they entered the a plaza near the center of the
city, hundreds of the twelve-foot creatures gathered around the riders,
eyeing the white man suspiciously. By this time the Earthman had heard
the sounds "Tars Tarkas" so often that he supposed it must be the name
or title of his friendly captor. After the party had dismounted, this same
green leader indicated by crude pantomime that the white man should give
the giants a demonstration of his remarkable jumping abilities. This request
Captain Carter complied with, giving some obvious satisfaction to the green
leader and his people.
After skipping around like some monstrous grasshopper
for a while, the captive tired of the sport and ceased his frenetic activity.
This did not suit the pleasure of one towering green man who stepped out
of the crowd, yelling incoherent sounds like "sak, "drogar," and "gorthan-jur!"
The meddler pushed forward, tripped the white man, and then proceeded to
bang him about, all the while laughing boisterously at his superb joke.
In a flash the Earthman sprang into the air, swinging a potent right fist
squarely into the brutal fellow's jaw and he went down like a felled ox.
The downed brute did not move a hair and Captain Carter thought it entirely
possible that he had slain the giant antagonist with a single blow.
This continued display of agility and conflict brought
wild peals of laughter and applause from the giants and John Carter was
left to wonder what sort of mad creatures he had fallen with. Surely they
were a totally unpredictable and incredibly dangerous pack of monsters.