"THE YOUNGSTERS' DESSERT!"
Novelization of the JCB strip by Dale R. Broadhurst
The ascending ramp wound around a large open shaft
in the center of one the extensive building's many wings. At the beginning
of each new storey along the way, the ramp rose up through a tunnel a few
yards long. In the next of these tunnels the swordsman entered he found
his path blocked by hundreds of hissing, gurgling reptiles, every one of
them a carnivorous monster with many rows of dagger-sharp fangs. Pausing,
and then taking several steps back, the Earthman looked back over his shoulder
and saw quite a few more of the big reptiles, silently trailing him and
closing fast with each passing heartbeat.
If the daughter of Mors Kajak had been a true daughter
of the cult of Issus, she might have then been saying her final prayers
at that moment. But, instead, a thought came to her -- as if from far away
-- "Courage, Dejah Thoris!"
For some inexplicable reason the mother durkoos just
then soared off, leaving the maid of Mars in the nest alongside its screeching
young. The blind little monsters did not attack her directly, but one made
a lucky thrust of its pointy beak into a tender spot on the girl's bosom
and she determined that she would at least die in relative dignity, outside
of the tumultuous nest. Her limbs felt as though they were made of lead,
but she edged very slowly out of the bed of bones and rubbish. Her skin
was already ashen gray and very soon would be stony hard. The deadly purple
vapors she had encountered earlier had nearly finished doing their noxious
work upon her.
John Carter eyed the rows of flashing teeth with
a grim smile of determination; he had not come so far to be turned away
by these packs of hideous reptilian things. There must be a way around
them and the exit to the roof could not be far off. He calculated his chances
in jumping over them, but in the dark narrow confines of either the tunnel
ahead of him or the one he had just come up from, that was impossible.
The open space around which the ramp twined presented a vast blackness
on his left which the dim light of his torch could not penetrate. The wall
on his left was solid carborundum, ten feet thick.
He was vaguely familiar with the tree-haunting, rock-infesting
arboks of equatorial Mars, having inspected a couple of Tharkian harness
pouches made of their durable hides. He knew that such reptiles could leap
as far and fast as his own mighty muscles could take him, if their blood
and brains were sufficiently warmed by the sun. But these were creatures
of the shadows; that fact was demonstrated by their reluctance to approach
any closer than the corona of his torch light. They would wait until his
little light died out and then would attack him by the dozens -- in utter
Dejah Thoris had slowly and painfully worked her
way back to the edge of the roof, this time on her increasingly inflexible
hands and knees. In the distance she saw the mother durkoos, circling a
spot on the ground like a huge vulture, just looking for the most opportune
time to strike. It would soon take a new victim, she knew -- and then the
feathered monster would return. Her chieftain was nowhere in sight. She
tried with all her might to call for him.
"John -- Dotar Sojat! Oh please answer me; where
The girl's raspy voice was little more than a whisper
now. Her soft inarticulate words could not reach him, were he standing
a hundred paces away. All was lost. She wondered if she had strength enough
to hurl her adamantine body into the plaza, so very very far below?
The Virginia Captain agonized on what path to take
next. The reptile pack behind him was the smaller of the two. He might
be able to slaughter a host of them and then jump to the safety of the
descending ramp. Another level down there was an open exit door he remembered
having passed. He had just about settled on this option when, out of the
forward company of hissing monsters a large, vigorous hizzah attacked.
If the repulsive reptile can be described in earthly
terms at all, it might be said to look something like the fabled Chinese
dragon. Its lengthy, sinuous body is covered in a mass of impenetrable
scales, practically as resistant as diamonds. The front arms end in long
sharp claws, equally hard, while the back limbs are but the atrophied wings
of its prehistoric, flying progenitors. The Barsoomian hizzah propels itself
with an extremely powerful tail, much like the sidewinder rattlesnake does
on the blue planet. And, unlike its shadow-loving fellow reptiles, the
hizzah will attack in the light as well as the dark.
With his right hand John Carter thrust out the excellent
long-sword of ancient Mars, while his left reached for the short sword
at his side. His smoldering torch went tumbling to the floor of the ramp.
"Feed on this!" shouted the Earthman, pointing the
short sword directly into the open jaws of the dragon.
At the same time his powerful right hand plunged
the longer blade into the belly of the beast. By a great stroke of luck
the honed tip of the Orovarian blade slipped between the less compactly
arrayed under-scales at the same time the other sword ripped into the dragon's
throat. The thing writhed about for a few moments and then fell to the
ramp dead. John Carter barely had time enough to recover the flickering
firebrand before the arboks closed in from two sides.
A sudden inspiration came to the Earthman. He pulled
the second, unlit torch from the confining straps of his harness and set
it ablaze from the flame of the fallen one. Then, holding fire in both
hands, he alternately forced the light into both of the creeping hordes.
The arboks fell back on either side, leaving an open space to the front
and back of John Carter and his fresh kill. Then the swordsman worked feverishly
to slit open the hizzah and remove its internal organs. Each time the arboks
made the slightest move toward him the reptiles got another taste of fire.
When the dragon was gutted, John Carter crawled inside
the bloody covering. With straps pulled from his warrior's harness he tied
himself in, so that nothing but the diamond scales might meet the jaws
of an attacker. Replacing his swords in his belt, and holding a torch in
each hand, John Carter moved forward. The first attack came from behind,
but he withstood the onslaught. The clawing bodies were all over his back,
but the hizzah's tough scales protected the Earthman. Each time he waved
a torch the reptiles in the rear backed off and those in front leaped one
direction or another, opening a way for him. Twice he was knocked to his
knees and once an attacker managed to slither in between his knees for
an anxious moment, but the Earthman pressed on. Finally past most of the
pack, he let go the heavy carcass and one of the torches. Then with a judicious
application of the long-sword he made his way free of the hideous beasts.
A sliver of light broke the darkness ahead, then
another and another, forming a hollow rectangle. John Carter pushed forward
with a kick of his foot and the age-old wooden door shattered into pieces.
Carter stepped into the light. He had reached the roof at last!
"John -- Dotar Sojat! Oh please answer me! Where
are you?" a faint voice called out.