SCENE 2 — DEJAH THORIS’S CHAMBERS, THE ROYAL PALACE, HELIUM
(Dejah Thoris is discovered reclining on a divan, a small table groaning with refreshments and assorted papers beside it, and a bucket of scrolls, close at hand. She is raven-maned, red-skinned, daintily perfect and mostly naked. She is attended by Sola, a towering Green Woman, hairless, stalk-eared, pop-eyed, noseless, tusk-mouthed and four armed, but otherwise quite lovely, also mostly naked, as is the Barsoomian custom. Her stature, extraneous limbs, and other inhuman characteristics have obviously, however, presented Problems for the Costumer that only the movie version is likely to fully ameliorate. The Playwright suggests the use of prosthetic puppetry, a la the stage version of "The Lion King." Neither woman appears to sport a navel, although it is evident that each is mammalian. To the audience’s presumable disappointment, both are athletic in build, in the manner of a J. Allen St. John illustration, rather than voluptuous and wasp-waisted as in a Frank Frazetta painting. In what follows, Dejah occasionally helps herself to an odd-looking fruit or frothy drink from the table, while Sola punctuates her conversation by stalking about.)
Dejah (plainly continuing a conversation): And what word, Sola, from your august father Jeddak Tars Tarkas?
Sola: Naught, my mistress, since your husband hid himself Zodanga way. He, too, fears the worst.
Dejah: Aye, the sausage made in that ill-starred city IS one of the culinary inglories of Barsoom. Though I wonder at your sire's distaste. I had long understood the green race to turn up their olfactory organs at nothing edible.
Sola (with emphasis): Nothing EDIBLE, mistress. But you mistake my meaning. I merely sought to convey that he feels death might finally have overtaken the renowned Dotar Sojat.
Dejah: Death? Oh, fie, Sola! John Carter disappears all the time, betimes even to that little blue dewdrop world of his nativity. The death has not been devised that can doom my chieftain! How oft have I heard him utter those thrilling words: "I still live!" I have yet to hear him unutter them.
Sola: Aye, but have you heard him utter them lately?
Dejah: That relevates not. He was gone long years after his heroism at the Atmosphere Plant, in which he saved our whole world, and yet returned. Never has he failed me!
Sola: And yet, there's always a first time.
Dejah: Oh, you Tharks have such a gloomy outlook!
Sola: Your pardon, my mistress. Eons of unrelieved warfare ’gainst every creature on the planet save one's own tribe and livestock will do that for you. 'Tis not as if we are able to wallow in leisure, as do you soft creatures of Helium.
Dejah: No, I suppose not. You should try it sometime. Relieved warfare adds a definite spice to the warfare itself, by its mere absence if naught else.
Sola: I AM attempting it, in my service with you, O princess. The primary effect I note is tedium, laced with a vein of ennui, salted by the moss of stoicism, and made the more piquant by the suspicion that I am getting out of practice in my gunnery. Did not my august sire command me learn the ways of civilization and return them to my people I would wax madder than an ulsio in the light of the two moons.
Dejah (interested): HAVE you been learning, then? What, pray tell? Busying myself in lounging languishingly about, I regret I have not been privy to your studies.
Sola: I have learnt toleration of the presence of you sunburnt, limb-deficient softlings, to the extent I no longer itch to cleave you in twain en masse at your every jaded utterance. I have successfully steeled myself 'gainst your insane practice of raising your dwellings on poles each night, despite the precipitous drop to the privy. I have been practicing this thing your lord calls "playing" with his calot Woola, even while suspecting what it would best respond to a good kick in the ham hocks. I have even come to appreciate the value of laundering one's sleeping silks and furs more oft than once yearly, albeit I miss the nutrition formerly accorded by the missing vermin, previously ready-to-hand.
Dejah (clapping): O accomplished Sola! Truly, you are a prodigy among green women! Aught else?
Sola (a trifle defensively): I have been learning to read the scripts of Helium, and of your Dotar Sojat's Jasoom.
Dejah (with a note of worry): Indeed? Oh dear. There should be no difficulty about my John's English, childishly alphabetic though it may be. But the script of Helium, grounded as are all Barsoomian scripts in military coding, is guarded as a state secret. Not even our slaves are confided this knowledge, let alone temporary allies of convenience. However have you managed it?
Sola: Why, I am a quick study. Moreover, no one bothers to whisk writings therein out from under my eyes when they detect my presence, my mistress, deeming me illiterate.
Dejah (glancing in concern at the papers on the table): And be you not so, seeing as you are a Thark? (She sweeps them from the table into the bucket of scrolls.)
Sola (offended): Tharks are warriors! Share you then the general prejudice that Green folk lack the warrior's art of coding, simply on account of our lack of settled habitation?
Dejah (tossing it off with a shrug): Live and learn, I suppose. As it appears you have done somewhat too well. Bother! Now we shall have to change our written language, and the third time this millennium, too! In the meantime, do attempt to henceforth confine yourself to Jasoomian scripts, that we need make no more of this act of indiplomacy.
Sola (crossing four sets of fingers behind her back): I hearken and comply.
Dejah: Out of curiosity, what find you attractive in the script of Jasoom?
Sola (shrugging two sets of shoulders): This thing called "fiction," largely, since it is what your lord has seen most fit to import from his natal orb. Our own literatures being so little concerned with such it has a certain novelty, deficient though it may be in military application.
Dejah (clapping again in delight): Truly? Oh, I too, Sola! Our treasured offspring aside, these diversions he brings me are choicest among the fruits of my union with my chieftain. Which enthrall you the most, the Silhouette Romances or the straight Harlequins?
Sola (stolidly): The science fiction, my mistress.
Dejah (pouting): What, those silly screeds of John's nephew, relating merely what has been? I've yet to understand how they qualify as fiction of any sort, being but true histories of what has passed, however couched in the language of romance.
Sola: Nay, I speak not of such frivolities, in which female and male swoon over each other and go on to misunderstand, anger, forgive and mate with each other amid sundry episodes of separation and complications brought about by enemies slain in the end. Should my bent run thusly, give me a tale like "Rogue Queen" by . . . someone, I remember not the name. It postulates a race of female warriors, in valor Tharklike, albeit of your form and settled proclivities. Their sole flaw, to my mind, is that their society denies to all but a few the right of procreation, though this demerit is happily resolved in the course of the telling by means of an alteration in diet.
Dejah (interested): How so?
Sola: I will find you the book, it merits more than mere summary. But truly, it ventures but little beyond existence as we know it, leaving one ahunger for more. For my part, 'tis the true flights of fancy I find of interest, the opening up of star systems beyond our own -- the engines, the star drives, the solving of technical impossibilities with mathematical mentation.
Dejah: Fanciful indeed. At least young Edgar confined himself to the realm of probability, even in his wilder flights, as in those set in Hollywood or Oakdale. I prefer the prosaic, even set in such fantastical locales as vasty masses of water and regions choked in vegetation. Though admittedly I have oft pondered how it should be that most lost cities on Jasoom are confined to but the single ferny moated realm of Africa.
Sola: Efficiency, perhaps. 'Twould hardly do to have them cluttering the forgot and bypassed pockets of their empires, as so frequently happens here.
Dejah: Heresy! How but by suppressing such cankers might one tidy up one's imperium, and remain in fettle for the more momentous conflicts 'twixt the great states?
Sola: One state can always kidnap another's princess, as in the late affair with Ptarth.
Dejah (hotly): Firstly, 'twas not Carthoris did that at all! Secondly, even had, he, 'twas but healthy after such an interval of dulsome peace between us. And thirdly, was not all happily resolved ere both polities were entirely extirpated?
Sola: Oh, did I touch a nerve? Your pardon, mistress, I meant not to be critical, merely point up the usual method, of more utility than laboriously searching out undiscovered statelets amid the vast and untracked wastes claimed by you dwellers along the canals. You know, you might even broaden the practice. Why not make war over the vanishment of princes as well as that of princesses?
Dejah (shrugging delicately): Princes, being more active in adventure, vanish all the time. 'Tis at the top of the job description. To take serious note of such would result in wars of such myriads as to be untenable, even on a planet devoted to such.
Sola (slyly): So there is no cause for concern over the vanishment of your Dotar Sojat, then.
Dejah (looking a bit worried): Of course not. Have I not said as much? Only I DO hope he manages to find himself ere his upcoming hunting expedition with Kantos Kan. I look forward to some time together.
Sola: Shall I dust off the incubator, then?
Dejah (sharply): Sola! We do share interests other than that, you know!
Sola: Aye, but find you time for them?
Dejah (smiling dreamily): Betimes, when we emerge from the silks for air . . .
Sola (knowingly): Now THAT look I know. Shall I discretely enquire as to volunteers for the search party, then?
Dejah (coming to herself): Of course not, Sola! That's men's work! And 'tis not urgent yet; I'll not have it be said I denied my chieftain his adventure. But . . . draw up a list of expendables, that I may drop a word or two with my sire or grandsire to set matters in motion. Should John not return within an appropriate interval, you understand.
Sola (with a tusky grin): Certainly, mistress. I understand perfectly. And there just so happens to be a surfeit of other Jasoomians on Barsoom at present.
Dejah: Perfect! Why waste our own warriors? Besides, Jasoomians are entirely too disruptive and innovative. Dost remember stairs?
Sola (thoughtfully): Though to be fair, 'twas your own chieftain devised that bit of lunacy.
Dejah: Enough! My point was, not all are domesticatable. And MORE to the point, there's just ONE Jasoomian I want around . . .
Sola (discretely): So I surmised.
(Exit Sola. Fade the lights around Dejah Thoris as she lazily starts to consume another fruit. Only after Sola leaves does she show her real concern, just before the lighting dims completely.)
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