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Edgar Rice Burroughs' John Carter®of Mars
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9. "CONTINUED" -- Feb. 1, '42
"Plummeting from the Ledge"
(read novelization

P1: Sorrowfully, Sola waited for John Carter's body to hurtle down when the guard's pistol spoke. 

P2: But oddly, it was the guard himself who lurched forward, a round hole through his chest. 

P3: A strange feeling of friendship for the Earthman prompted Tars Tarkas to fire at one of his own race. 

P4: With a shriek of pain, Tars Tarkas' victim tumbled out of the window and plummeted toward the girl. 

P5: Horrified, Dejah Thoris watched the body whirling toward her as Woola reached the end of the narrow ledge. 

P6: John Carter, dispatching another foe, wheeled for an instant to witness the girl's peril. 

P7: The Earthman sprang toward Dejah Thoris, to fling her fromt he path of the falling Thark. 

P8: He whisked the princess from Woola's back, but the momentum hurled them off the ledge. 
 

Notes:

1. As in the preceding strip, all of the events in strip #9 are unique to the JCB version of the story. They must somehow be retained in the novelization, without doing too much literary damage to ERB's orginal story. 
 

 

CHAPTER  9: "Plummeting from the Ledge"
Novelization of the JCB strip by Dale R. Broadhurst

The only deity that Sola knew of was Issus, and that was simply a meaningless name to her -- some indescribable "thing" that would meet her at the end of her days. But if the green girl had known something more of the gods and their ways, she might have been swearing and cursing like a Capetown sailor! High above, and totally out of reach to her eager hands, the two humans were standing practically motionless on the side of the palace wall -- doing nothing. She had assumed that the man would jump down into the courtyard. There was a long rope in her thoat's saddlebag. He could take it, then leap back up to the ledge and use the line to help the red woman down to the ground. It was such a simple solution! But she dare not call out to them for fear of putting the thoats in danger. Already one of their number was lost. She could not risk losing another. Again and again the girl hurled her mental message to the little people. Why did they ignore her? Could Woola alone hear her thoughts? "Issus take them!" 

Then there were the gunshots. Any one of them might have killed her or one of the mounts. It did not seem that the guards had yet seen them, and she knew that the human had, so the daughter of Tars Tarkas moved the beasts a short distance, into the deeper shadows, and continued to wait. Without warning a body toppled out of the window and came crashing into the courtyard, practically at her feet. 

"What is this?" she asked rhetorically. "I've seen him before." 

The green girl leaned over the side and peered down into the gloom. The lesser moon was just rising but there were clouds in the sky and the light in the place where she waited with the animals was scanty. 

"Gormar," she said -- almost sighed. "He sat with me at the Great Games last year. Then he killed the Thurds -- what name? Oh, yes, 'Gormar Jal.' When a man takes me for his woman, a man like Gormar Jal would be as good as any. And now he is gathered to his fathers." 

So it was that the green girl passed the time. Perhaps two minutes had already gone by since she had watched Dejah Thoris emerge from the window -- it was an eternity to the watcher. 

"I know who shot Gormar Jal, but I cannot tell. Perhaps I shall never return to Thark. Perhaps I too will die before the little moon finishes it's way across the sky. This is a night unlike any other. What am I to do?" 

Beyond the courtyard, beyond the place where the nearest two avenues met, in pitch black darkness, a lone rider watched the events transpiring along the palace walls with discerning attention. In his hands was a warm radium pistol. 

"Your muscles can take you to the ground, John?" The girl asked. On Mars only family members call another by his first name, if he has more than one. But the Jasoomian's people observed different customs. It seem all right, given the fact they might die any moment. 

"Yes, of course. If there were just a little more light, I think I could land in the tall red grass without breaking any bones --"

There was no time to continue the sentence. A reckless Thark made a successful leap along the ledge and towered over John Carter with two swords extended. There simply wasn't room enough for the Earthman to vault up to the green man's full height. Instead, the bronzed man slashed out with his long-sword, deflecting one thrust from above, and then another. Behind the attacker two more guards approached, bellowing like mad bulls -- sounding the highest level alarm. In the distance, both inside and outside of the palace, similar calls were being given, seemingly everywhere. 

A well made Martian radium pistol, in the hands of an expert marksman, can hurl its cartridges accurately up to a range of half a mile, as distances are measured on Earth. Equipped with an automatic sighting device, the same gun in the hands of the same gunman, could blast fruit the size of apples in a leafy tree, five shots out of ten, at twice the distance. The pistol in Tars Tarkas' practiced upper right hand had no such sight, but he could aim his missiles just as closely and just as silently as if he were holding the finest Eoan cathode rifle. In fact, he had to be even more accurate, because there was insufficient light for his cartridges to explode upon impact. To be certain of a kill he had to hit the inside quarter of a green man's eyeball, and through that narrow space pierce the brain. With a shriek of pain, Tars Tarkas' third victim tumbled off the ledge and plummeted toward the courtyard below. Then he killed a fourth warrior in the window and watched him go whirling down, narrowly missing Dejah Thoris as he fell past the ledge. 

As the giant guards pressed forward along the stone ledge, John Carter had been constantly working his way backwards to the spot where Dejah Thoris and the calot were waiting. Still the green men came. Carter's elbows were already touching Woola. All three retreated again, but their movements were brief ones. The three bodies had reached the end of the ornamental beam. There was no place left to go but downward. 

To the front of them there was one more guard, and then an open space behind him of fifty feet -- and beyond that, probably warriors with firearms. The shouting in the distance was coming closer with every blink of the eye. 

The nearest green swordsman was ten feet away. The calot growled viciously, but Carter purposely held him back. The Earthman glanced downward and his eye caught a glimpse of something -- something he must inspect more closely. But first the new attacker must be dealt with. Taking his long-sword in his hand with his thumb upon the pommel knob, Captain Carter hurled the weapon through the air and up into the warrior's heart. The guard fell upon the ledge and remained there gripping the stonework as the lifeblood spurted out of him in gushes, each one smaller than the last. 

"Woola, jump down!" Dejah Thoris, clasp your arms around my neck -- from my back -- under the harness strap! Now, lock your feet together -- no, here, in the front of the groin." 

Captain Carter looked again at the ornamental stone protrusions forty feet below the spot where the walkway ended at a turn in the wall. He removed his empty long-sword scabbard and formed the heavy sword-belt into a large leather loop. He looked down one more time to be certain where the calot had landed. Then he and the girl dropped over the edge, like a stone.


 
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