SCENE 5 — THE SAME ZODANGAN DUNGEON
(John Carter is discovered pontificating while the other prisoners attend. Even the ulsios still distributed about the periphery of the cell appear interested. Carter’s hair is longer, and he has the beginnings of a beard. The jailer snores.)
Carter (expansively): Friends! For so I call you, for in our time together in durance vile we have become friends—even Ledin Nogin, once he had challenged me and I hit him over the head with a two-by-four to knock sense into him; even Mun Yunet, who whines so incessantly but is possibly a good egg at heart, and I’m sure mostly harmless; and yes, even you, Slidhi Tov, for all that you would have been my enemy and at present deceased had we chanced to meet on the street—where was I?
Tov (prompting): Friends.
Carter: Oh yes. Friends! We shall overcome our present circumstances, for we still live, and where there is life there is—
Tov: Heard that part, I fancy. Can we just cut to the chase?
Carter (sourly): I shall lead you to victory.
Ledin: That anywhere near Out?
Carter: Could it possibly be otherwise?
Mun (hollowly): There is no way out.
Carter and Tov (in chorus): Shut UP!!
Mun (offended): My name is not Dolly Dorcas.
(All regard Mun oddly for a moment. Then sounds, as from a person descending a rampcase, are heard.)
Ledin (quick on the uptake in regard to this, if nothing else): FOOD!
(Enter Toog, an unassuming cretin roughly seven feet tall, bullet-headed and bulked up like a White Ape on steroids in the waning days of its athletic career. He is carrying a long, narrow receptacle, within which sloshes a malodorous, dubious-looking sludge.)
Ledin (repetitively): FOOD!
Tov (sniffing): If you’d call it that.
Mun (with a preoccupied air): You are spared for yet another day, O morsels.
(Toog pushes the receptacle through the bars and withdraws; the jailer snores through the entire operation. Ledin and Mun greedily fall to; Tov, not without wrinkling his nose, does likewise. Slavering ulsios gather in the corners of the cell. Carter nonchalantly reaches behind himself, throttles one, and daintily tears into it with his strong white teeth. The rest scurry away, squeaking and hissing.)
Ledin (coming up for air): Hey, where’dja get that?
Carter (loftily): All things come to those who wait.
Tov: Any good?
Carter: Better than slops. Here, my friend. You may partake of the tail end. (He rips the ulsio in half and presents Tov with the nether portion. For perhaps twenty seconds of stage time they eat in silence, while their companions eat in noise, though the repast, in every instance, is equally noisome.)
Carter (drawing his forearm across his mouth): So much for breakfast. Would one’s toilet were so easily attended to.
Ledin: We have a hole in the floor for that.
Carter: Not that, Ledin Nogin, I merely meant—
Tov: Save it, O Warlord, the finer sentiments are wasted on that one. I quite take your meaning. I, too, am accustomed to beginning my day decently cleansed, perfumed, and coiffed. While here we have but a single comb to share between us— (Withdraws it from a pouch in his harness and regards it distastefully.) — and hardly of the finest quality.
Carter (nodding and scratching): The small crawling things thereupon do leave much to be desired.
Ledin (digging one out of his scalp and crushing it between his teeth): They’re good, though.
Carter (wrinkling his nose and studiously ignoring Ledin Nogin): For my own part, I am wont to go about with my hair closely cropped. It is not mete that one’s hair should flop into one’s eyes during the course of battle. ’Tis as clichéd as placing one's foot on a dry twig in the forest—
Ledin: What’s a forest?
Carter: Hush! — or being unable to suppress the inevitable sneeze while spying on one’s enemies, or having to reassure one’s lady-love that every life-threatening wound out which one’s life’s blood floods is but a scratch. If we would be prepared when chance accords us the opportunity to make our move, we must— um, must. . .
Ledin (with an air of enlightenment): Be . . . prepared!
Carter (jabs a finger at Ledin): Exactly! But how to accomplish it? There is naught with which to effect a trim.
Tov: Well, don’t look at me. It is true that an Assassin is naked without a blade, but as you can see— (He spreads his chained hands in a helpless gesture.)
Ledin (catching on again, with a pleased expression): You’re naked!
Tov: Quite. Mun Yunet?
Mun (portentously): Yingvi is a louse.
(All regard Mun oddly for a moment.)
Carter: Well then. Nothing for it. Oh, jailer. . .
Kajez (coming to with a snort): Yeah? Whaddaya want?
Carter: Could you kindly loan me some sharp object with which to ameliorate the increasing length of my burgeoning mane, and perchance as well forestall the full emergence of the incipient lawn seeded across the lower region of my face?
Kajez (rising and approaching the bars): Oh yeah, right, and why don’t I just present you with a few swords or a radium rifle while I’m at it?
Ledin (to Tov): Would he do that?
Kajez: Shaddap an’ eat your slops, ya lousy mug!
Ledin (petulantly): Well, crap!
Kajez (grinning evilly): There’s a handy little hole in the floor of your cell for that. . .
Carter (suddenly sly): Where?
Kajez (pointing, and incidentally bringing his arm through the bars into the cell): Over—
(Carter abruptly leaps to his feet, chains notwithstanding, and yanks the arm, dragging him against the bars.)
Carter (to Tov): Grab the keys!
Tov: Got ‘em!
(Slidhi Tov quickly unlocks his shackles, then those of Ledin Nogin and Mun Yunet, while Carter holds the thrashing jailer against the bars with his superior Earthly strength. During the struggle Carter inadvertently pulls his chains free of the wall. Everyone, even Kajez, freezes, gaping.)
Kajez (awed): By Tur!
Mun (non-sepulchral, for a change): Whoa!
Tov (under his breath): NOW he thinks of that . . .
Ledin (in a stage murmur): What’s that thing you like to do again? With the knees?
Carter (absently): Exercise.
Ledin: There’s really something to it, isn’t there?
Carter (still abstracted, and looking rather abashed): I suppose there is.
Ledin (with an air of decision): I gotta try that!
Tov (muttering): Issus-damned freaky Jasoomian musculature.
(Tov unlocks Carter’s dangling shackles and then the gate, while Ledin silences Kajez’s belatedly resumed struggles by means of a blow to the head with a handy two-by-four, previously mentioned. He then hands it to Carter, who swishes it about like a sword, and nods. Mun drags the jailer into the cell, wets a finger, draws it along the man’s forehead, sticks it in his mouth in a contemplative fashion, and makes a sour face. He turns pointedly away from the snoring victim. The others pull him from the cell, which Tov then relocks against the once more recumbent Kajez. Mun glances about with dawning realization.)
Mun (with less conviction than usual): We’re all doomed?
Tov (slapping him on the back): Doomed if you do and doomed if you don’t. Or maybe not. Why don’t you trying doing, for a change?
Mun (experimentally): Doom . . . to . . . Ur Jan.
Carter: That’s the spirit!
(Heavy footsteps are heard on the rampcase, and Toog appears.)
Toog: Wot’s all this, then?
Mun (face falling): Doom.
Carter (ignoring Mun): Nothing that need concern you, my good man. We have freed ourselves, that’s all. Why not join us?
Toog (processing): Already got job. S’posed to keep you in.
Tov: And SUCH a satisfying position it is, I’m sure. Has it ever occurred to you that the Warlord can give you a better one? Assuming you turn your harness, of course.
Toog (raising a fist uncertainly): Toog’s job is—
Carter: Come on, Toog, you owe me. Have I once insulted your obviously impaired intelligence during our sojourn as guests in your fine establishment?
Toog (dropping arm): Well. . .
Carter (wheedling, adding the clincher): What about that thorn I pulled out of your paw?
Toog (face clearing): It’s all right, then?
Carter: Absolutely, O much-esteemed conveyor of slops.
Mun (with more enthusiasm): Doom to Ur Jan!
Ledin and Toog (picking up the chorus): Doom to Ur Jan!
(Exit Mun, Ledin and Toog up the rampcase, in a rush.)
Tov (turning to Carter): What’s a thorn?
Carter: It’s traditional. Don’t worry about it. Doom to Ur Jan!
Tov: Doom to Ur Jan!
(Exeunt, after the others.)
TO THEATRE LOBBY
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