CHAPTER 3: "THE FAIR CAPTIVE"
Novelization of the JCB strip by Dale R. Broadhurst
The small fleet of Heliumite airships had already
conducted much research in the upper atmosphere of the northern hemisphere.
The expedition gathered thousands of containers filled with air samples,
as well as stacks of completed notebooks, numerous temperature and pressure
recordings and new charts of the Barsoomian air currents, all of which
were of priceless value to the scientists and navy of the empire. But an
equal number of samples and readings had to taken at much lower altitudes.
Dejah Thoris listened attentively as the commanding admiral addressed an
assembly aboard the flagship on this very subject.
"We will begin our low level survey at a point between
the cities of Ptarth and Zodanga. As we come closer to Zodanga I expect
the utmost vigilance of all personnel, for the likelihood of war is undeniable.
The fleet will rendezvous for a transfer of supplies and equipment over
the ruins of Korad. Scouts tell us that the place is deserted and entirely
Captain John Carter is a mysterious man of many lifetimes.
This is not the place to recite his memories of centuries gone by, but
that fact explans why he is also a man of many languages. He very quickly
learned enough of the common language on Mars to suffice for his daily
needs. Shortly after his initial contact with the green men the Virginian
found that nearly always could guess the correct Martian terms for objects
and sometimes also for personal names, titles and actions. It eventually
struck him that he was sensing the very thoughts of the green giants. Although
every Martian is hatched with telepathic abilities, the Earthman had to
discover and develop the talent entirely on his own. In the process he
also learned how to keep his personal throughts secret -- an exceptionally
rare mental gift on the red planet.
He learned that "sak" means jump; that a "drogar"
is a crack marksman and "gorthan-jur!" is a warning of impending murder.
Put together, the words translated to something like "Jump, or this gunslinger
will ring your neck!" Having figured out that Dotar Laj the drogar had
truly threatened his life in the plaza, Carter next learned that the ruffian
died from the blow to his chin.
"Why?" John Carter asked, when Tars Tarkas handed
him two bundles, which proved to be the arms, ornaments, and the full accouterments
of a green warrior.
"Dotar" and "dead" were the only intelligible words
in Tars Tarkas' fast flowing reply, but from that the captive realized
that he had inherited the dead drogar's leather body harness, woolen cape,
swords, pistol and sandals, as well as a scanty wisp of an animal hair
loinclout. Tars Tarkas had the cape cut into three warm mantles for Carter's
used during the freezing Martian nights. The same tailoress, a young green
female attached to the retinue of the green leaders, also remodeled the
dead man's other trappings to fit the white man's lesser proportions.
Much happened to John Carter at Korad, the place
of his first residence on Mars. What can be said in summary is that Sola,
the girl sent by Tars Tarkas, instructed him in the language and customs
of her people, the semi-nomadic Tharks of Barsoom's southern deserts. Besides
learning the every day vocabulary of the Tharks, he also questioned his
teacher and others in order to pick up the more complex Martian figures
of speech. Sola revealed that the ruined city of Korad had been built by
small, highly evolved beings, but not until he stumbled upon a few ancient
reams of illustrated text did Carter know for certain that Korad was once
inhabitated by beings who looked very much like himself.
One day a green rider drove his mount furiously into
the ruins, yelling at the top of his voice and gesticulating wildly at
the sky. The effect upon the giant nomads encamping among the buildings
was phenomenal. In a few moments the entire company of Tharks was nowhere
to be seen. Only a dozen or so of the lowest ranking giants remained in
the streets. And once they had hidden all the group's animals, extinguished
its fires, and covered every trace of recent habitaton, they too disappeared
Sola directed John Carter seek shelter with her behind
a pile of fallen stones on a roof top. From that hidden vantage point they
watched and waited. Sola pointed at the northern sky. A huge silver craft,
flying low, appeared from below the horizon. Following it came several
more, until twenty of the vessels sailed slowly and majestically over the
broken walls of ancient Korad.
John Carter watched as the strange vessels lingered,
almost motionless, over the northern quarter of the ruins. A few of the
smallest craft began flitting back and forth among the larger ships. As
best the Earthman could determine, the small flyers were shuttling man
and material back and forth between the other ships. Then without warning
the green Martian warriors fired a terrific rifle volley from the windows
of buildings facing the preoccupied crewmen. Some of the firearms thus
employed were double the size of a normal rifle. The withering hail of
missles from these big guns punched gaping holes in several of the airships
and they began to spin down out of control. The broken craft did not plummet
from the skies like stones; rather, they lost bouyancy over a space of
several seconds and then took a full minute to reach the ground, crash
and burn. In the meanwhile, the precision fire from the ground never diminished.
One by one, however, a handful of the crippled ships
managed to dip back below the horizon, until only one barely moving craft
was left sight. This had received the brunt of the Thark fire and was drifting
to the ground, seemingly unmanned. It soon became evident that she would
strike the base of a building not far south of John Carter's position,
and as he watched the progress of the ship's descent, he saw a number of
green riders gallop out to meet the falling hulk.
As the great injured craft settled in at the bottom
of the building, the Tharks threw out grappling hooks, pulled it to the
ground and swarmed on board. The Earthman watched them examining the dead
crew, and presently a party of the green appeared from below the deck,
dragging a little figure among them. The creature was considerably less
than half as tall as the green Martian warriors, and Captain Carter saw
that it walked erect upon two legs.
While these events were transpiring the remainder
of the Tharks were pouring into the streets to witness the looting of the
fallen airships. Tons of salvaged material had been hauled into the plaza
when the Virginian got there. Most of it consisted of hunks of twisted
metal and other useless junk. But then he saw a wagon full of corpses being
unloaded and stripped. He ventured forth for a closer look.
"They are like Earth people!" John Carter exclaimed
At that moment one of the supposedly dead bodies
lifted its eyeless head a little and let out a ghastly groan: The Princess
-- save -- her -- from -- barbarians!"
The astonshed outlander had no chance to question
the poor red-skinned fellow. He was not at all sure he'd heard the expiring
stranger's word's correctly, and even if he had, they might have been nothing
more than that suffering soul's dying delusion.