CHAPTER 31: "STRANGE FOES"
Novelization of the JCB strip by Dale R. Broadhurst
At first John Carter had no idea of what was going on
in front of him. He perceived noise and motion but the combination of thrashing
limbs, animal roars and clanking metal was more than his drowsy senses
could take in. Then his scattered thoughts came together and John Carter
recognized his faithful old calot, Woola. The creature had leaped upon
Oman, throwing him down. Now the two alien bodies were locked in a desperate
The Earthman sprang through the air toward the two combatants.
In his groggy state of mind the short leap seemed to take a long time.
It seemed as though he hovered over the two wrestling combatants for a
time, before his feet struck the ground. Oman had managed to kick the calot
away long enough to draw his sword.
"Dotar Sojat, your beast is attacking me!" exclaimed the
struggling robot. "Give him your signal to stand down!"
Captain Carter made a second dive and again he felt his
body floating through the heavy, spell-infected atmosphere of Eo. During
that magical period the Earthman projected a strong telepathic command
to the watchdog. Oddly, he alighted astride Woola. The calot began to grapple
with him, but his calm words of reassurance soon quieted the growling beast.
Oman arose unhurt. He was evidently more concerned about
the calot than himself. Once he was assured that the brute was not injured,
he renewed his entreaty to Captain Carter.
"We have no time to waste," he said. "The noise may invite
curious investigators. At any rate, Vovo will soon discover that I am in
secret communication with you. if we do not act now. Join me in saving
your princess from harm."
"What harm has the wizard planned for her?" Carter asked.
"No explanation I could give you here, now, would make
any sense," Oman replied. "Things in this place are not as they appear.
But your calot is truly here with us. I am also truly on your side. Believe
me, Dotar Sojat. I must show you, step by step, or you will not believe
and you will never leave Eo."
"Then lead the way, metal man. You say my sword arm is
restored and that my long-sword has never left my side? that is all I need
to know -- for now."
"Good!" answered the mechano-man. "The first step is to
reunite you with Dejah Thoris before Vovo has carried out the next transformation
he has planned for her. I must fetch the transport device. Can the calot
keep up with you while you ride the mechanical mount?"
"Woola will follow my mental commands, Oman. I have instructed
him to obey you also. Hopefully he will do that."
"Excellent," replied the robot. "I must make the necessary
arrangements and determine exactly where Vovo will be when we confront
him. I fear I cannot bring myself to kill an intelligent being, but you
and the calot may subdue him as you think is best. Stay right where you
are and I shall be with you again very shortly."
The Earthman waited in silence. He had no difficulty in
believing that Vovo was a master of deception and illusion. He wondered
for a moment whether the flying thoat and the television display he had
seen might not be the green man's trickery. But, no; his sense of unreality
only began after the wizard had injected him in the laboratory. And only
after drinking the heady wine had his eyes began playing tricks. No doubt
Vovo was indeed a great inventor, but he was also a great villain and John
Carter did not share Oman's feelings of compunction over the need to run
cold steel through the wizard's evil heart.
Oman prepared to obtain the transport device for the Jasoomian.
He was Odwar of the Army of Eo and none would suspect his motives and actions,
so long Vovo did not know. Now that the wizard had a suitable subject for
his greatest human modification experiment, Oman was determined to stop
any transformation of the red princess before the wizard could behin to
harm her. He realized the pressing need to reunite the two humans as quickly
as possible. The unexpected appearance of the calot might be helpful in
reestablishing that union. The beast was devoted to both of them and it
could help protect the red girl and the Jasoomian once they were together
The remarkable brain inside of Oman's metal skull was
capable of performing several unrelated tasks almost simultaneously. While
he had been conversing with the recovering Earthman and while he had been
struggling with the attacking calot, his sorting out and recataloging of
old memories had continued unabated. As his mental circuitry completed
that complex operation, Oman understood better than ever the methods and
effects involved in Vovo's web of mass delusion. He also realized how much
his own unwitting complicity in the scheme, carried out over hundreds of
years, had helped make Eo the slave state it had become.
Tapping into his restored memory, Oman recalled that the
dwarf had first come to Eo, disguised as a female, in a trading party that
exchanged radium for medicines and machined parts. The masquerading green
boy had given no name, nor did he participate much in the bartering. Ten
years later the same little man reappeared at the plateau, as the servant
of a persecuted scientist whom the Wizards of Eo took in as a refugee and
fellow savant. These wizards inhabited metal bodies much like the one Oman
now possessed. In fact, it was from them that he had obtained his mechano-man
frame and mental circuitry, eons before Vo Dor and Vovo were born.
Vo Dor was the name of the fleeing scientist. What story
of woes he related to the wizards and why they had broken their own rule
of allowing no outsiders to set foot upon the plateau, Oman knew not. For
many years Vo Dor and his little assistant were inconspicuous technicians
who mostly operated out of sight, in the mesa's cavern workshops, repairing
and maintaining the growing number of true robots, dedicated to the wizards'
service. Among all the metal men at Eo, only the wizards and Oman possessed
living brains -- all the rest were artificial creations.
For unknown reasons, Vo Dor was elevated to a position
among the wizards -- the only Barsoomian ever admitted. Shortly after that,
the wizards went into permanent retirement. Oman now realized, in retrospect,
that by some insidious trickery Vovo had taken Vo Dor's place as the last
Wizard of Eo. Vovo had wiped out all traces of Vo Dor and the wizards from
the mechanical brains of the artificial men. They became his obedient slaves.
Only Oman preserved any semblance of independent thought. His more complex
mind was a human brain augmented by the old wizards' technology. Vovo was
not fully successful in controlling him.
All of this realization came together inside of Oman as
he prepared his plan to reunite the two humans -- a plan which must not