CHAPTER 24: "THE JUNGLE'S SECRET"
Novelization of the JCB strip by Dale R. Broadhurst
The Virginian was positive that the degravitated, mechanical mount must
be flying over the center of the great mesa, but when he looked down he
could still see no city. He looked again, and at a level not far below
the crowns of the tall trees, John Carter could pick out the flat roofs
of several buildings. Each roof was covered with its own patch of vegetation,
so it was difficult for him to tell how many of them there were. He counted
fifty and guessed there might be ten times that many, most of which blended
so well into the surrounding jungle as to be practically invisible from
The flying thoat slowed and hovered above the scarcely discernible city
of Eo. From the midst of the roofs a tall slender tower of silver hue began
to rise. The Earthman knew of Barsoom's ascending and descending buildings
from his conversations with Dejah Thoris, but this was the first example
he had encountered. When the metal shaft had risen a hundred sofads [100
feet] into the night sky it ceased to ascend. A large window opened near
its top. It was to this window that the flying mechanical mount now made
Hasten, Oman!" urged John Carter impatiently, "while there is yet time
to restore life to the princess!"
The Earthman expected some minimal welcome or a diagnosis of the stony
state his princess had fallen into, but Vovo's first words were ones of
"Did you see, Jasoomian?" he cried out, "With my brains alone guiding
the hands of my mechanical men, I have built my own city! Here I reign
as royal wizard and jedwar of my own metallic army."
"Where is Dejah Thoris?" was Carter's only answer.
"Oh yes, the Princess of Helium. Come down from the flying device and
I shall show you. My lab is close at hand. The Princess of Helium in my
tower! Can you believe it, Oman?"
"Vovo is great! Vovo is mighty!" was the reply, in monotonous repetition
from the mouth of Oman, the mechanical man.
"Do you know, Jasoomian, that they exiled me for my radical ideas,"
Vovo cackled. "That my intellect far surpassed theirs is evident by my
advanced architectural designs. It is time that Helium paid me proper respect,
don't you think?"
After Captain dismounted, Vovo led the him to his laboratory, while
Oman tended to the mechanical mount.
"We shall look in on the princess in due course, man of another world.
But first of all, there is something you should see."
Within his grand laboratory, Vovo directed the Earthman's attention
to a large view-screen. It was like nothing John Carter had seen before.
In front of his eyes was a moving image, all in color. It was ten times
more fascinating than the magic lantern show he and Lieutenant Powell had
once attended in St. Louis.
"What is this, Vovo, a sorcerer's mirror?"
"The city you see in the moving pictures is Helium -- over a thousand
miles away. I forget at the moment what communications devices you have
on Jasoom. You have no moving pictures machines do you?"
"I have operated telegraph apparatus," answered Carter. "I know that
instructions on how to draw a picture can be sent by code, over a wire.
You have a device that draws the pictures very quickly? Or are they many
photographs put together?"
"You have the basic idea, Jasoomian. But forget the wire. These moving
pictures were recorded by one of my mechanical birds. Then the bird, which
has a camera in it, flew part way back to Eo and sent me the moving pictures
without any need for a telegraphic wire. Watch, I will play the same recording
a second time."
John Carter watched the televised scenes with a certain amount of respect
and wonder. It was a wonderful invention, no doubt, but he did not see
how it could help the frozen princess.
"So that is Helium, eh? The images are remarkable. Such a means of communication
would have been very useful to the generals of the last army I served in.
But what good is it to you, to sit here and watch a distant city in this
"Oh it is of great use," laughed the wizard. "I can spot any invader
-- any enemy -- before he ever arrives at my door. I watch Helium's airships
leave every dawn in search of Dejah Thoris, their princess. They search
for her mostly in the northern hemisphere these days, with hundreds of
naval fliers. Great amounts of treasure are expended every day by the Jeddak
of Helium and he has nothing to show for it. And now I have his granddaughter
as my guest. This is a very useful development, don't you think!"
"I have heard you say you want the reward that will be given upon her
return. If you can save her life and send her back to her family in safety,
then I'm sure the reward will be yours."
Vovo looked up from the view-screen and his big eyes searched John Carter's
muscular frame carefully. Yes, the Jasoomian was a fighting man. Too bad
that he had no usable hands to wield his swords. But, for the moment, that
too suited Vovo's purposes.
"No, Jasoomian," you mistake my purpose here. I will do my best to save
the princess. I will not ask for the reward. I shall demand 100 times the
value of any reward Helium has to offer, for I shall hold their healed
princess, until they pay my asking price, for a great ransom!"
John Carter said nothing. So long as Dejah Thoris was revived and returned
to her people in good health, it did not matter to him what price Helium
paid, nor whether the payment was called "reward" or "ransom." But he had
played the little man's game long enough. It was time for action.
"You have made your point, Vovo. Show me Dejah Thoris now. Show me what
you can do for her. My patience with you and all your talk is wearing thin!"
"Then look behind you, beyond the shelves of medical equipment." Vovo
gloated. "There lies your precious princess. And only I can save her now!"