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Volume 0518
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Presents

At the Core of Mars
By 
Seth Kallen Deitch
Copyright 1999 S.K. Deitch


Chapter 8
Things I didn't Know were Happening
 
In Helium, tensions were high.

John Carter, who was still distraught over the loss of his beloved wife, had also to contend with decaying relations between Earth and Barsoom.

Julian 67th, jemdar of Earth was, in the words of the diplomats, "highly concerned" regarding the disappearance of his son. The feelings of the Terran President were more ominous. The longtime era of peaceful relations between Earth and Mars was threatened.

The jeddak had also to contend with the loss of Tamla, a favorite, but troubled descendant. Her mother, Delah Kodal, who was the great, great grand daughter of his own daughter Tara, appeared at court each day to remind him that her daughter was still missing and his failure to find her. Tensions were also growing within his family.

Carter had sent missions out covering the entire planet, personally leading many of them until exhaustion threatened to claim him. To complicate things, he had gotten word that Ras Thavas, the so-called "mastermind" of Barsoom had vanished at the moment that he needed him most. Ras Thavas, the ever-elusive, two-thousand year old scientist had been sought to consult on the kidnapping of Tamla of Helium and the associated disappearance of Julian 68th the prince jemdar of Earth only for it to be discovered that he himself had vanished.

John Carter now sat alone in his apartments at the palace in Greater Helium, his grey eyes reflecting an infinite sadness. His beloved princess taken from him by age, his closest friends, Kantos Kan and Tars Tarkas and even his own son, Carthoris, elderly and no doubt soon to follow her and all the adventure having been slowly bled from his life, John Carter was faced with an unfamiliar emotion, that of feeling sorry for himself. In truth, any kind of introspection was more or less alien to his nature. Carter was far from unintelligent, but he was, in a way, uncomplicated. All he had ever asked from life was that he would be able to fight, laugh and love. His current life had no enemies to fight, no woman to love and little to laugh about. Curling his lip sardonically, he muttered, "I still live."

On Earth, The Jemdarate itself was in crisis. The President had now twice appeared before the parliament to argue against the continued royal succession. Never before had the heir to the throne been victim of such a crime as it now appeared had come to pass. While peace had been the rule between the two great empires, there had been some ongoing points of contention. Both planets claimed mining rights on Mercury. Barsoom had placed a colony on the surface of Earth's moon against the wishes of the Jemdarate. John Carter had stated that the Jemdarate only had claim to Vah-Nah, while the dead surface of the Moon was unclaimed. Also there was public discontent within the Jemdarate regarding the Barsoomian failure to abolish slavery. There was much made of the fact that the jeddak's previous allegiance, although over one thousand years ago, had been to a government which had revolted to preserve that very questionable institution. To now have an Earthly prince who was supposedly a guest of the Barsoomian government, vanish only added to existing tensions.

The Grand Council of Jeddaks met to discuss the rising tensions with Earth. They started plans for evacuating the Lunar colony and heavily armed ships were placed in orbit of Barsoom.

Earth openly sent an expeditionary force to Mars to "render aid" in the search for the princess Tamla and the prince Julian 68th. The Speaker of the Grand Council, Carthoris, jeddak of Helium declared that Barsoomian authorities required no help in the search and politely refused permission for the earth ships to come into Barsoomian orbit or to land on the surface. The President of the Jemdarate responded that their government would take a dim view of Barsoomian efforts to thwart Earth's attempt to recover the prince. John Carter was alarmed. Earth and Barsoom were rapidly heading into a dangerous situation which could easily escalate into war. This would not be the kind of war that was fought bravely hand to hand as a true warrior fights, but a war fought mostly at great distances with bombs and rockets that would claim the lives of many innocents and do nothing to test the metal of those involved. How easy it would be to lay low these two great civilizations! John Carter knew that he must prevent it, yet he had no means of doing so.

The expeditionary force of the Jemdarate fell into orbit around Mars challenged only by words, for John Carter and the Council had ordered that the first shot fired would not come from a Barsoomian. A single small vessel descended to the surface just outside of the gates of Greater Helium. From that vessel emerged seven men, one of them a diplomat in formal attire, six of them heavily armed soldiers. As they approached the city gate, a second, larger ship descended from the sky to alight about a haad away from the city. It was a troop carrier.

There was some dickering, but finally the diplomat with only two of his "honor guard" were admitted into Helium and into the chamber of the Grand Council of Jeddaks.

The diplomat, Jayman Zandrik by name, made what started out to be an impassioned appeal for the safe return of the prince, but also contained several references to a number of perceived slights against the Jemdarate. He informed the Council, and John Carter, for he had entered the chamber when he heard that Zandrik had arrived, that their efforts at finding the prince were woefully inadequate and their government felt it was best to take over the search themselves. Then he came out and said flatly that any attempt at interference by the Barsoomians would be treated as an act of war.

There was an explosion of voices within the council and in some cases, more than voices. Had not the jeddak of Warhoon been restrained (no easy job, it took fifteen red men to hold back that single green man), he would have instantly beheaded Jayman Zandrik for his temerity.

John Carter stood up, his face white with rage. This was not an emotion frequently seen in the normally cool-headed warlord. "Jayman Zandrik," he began, "as you are empowered to speak for your government, so I am for mine. If it is your intention to end centuries of peace by bringing armed men to this world, you will not find us unready. While my people have lived in peace for a very long time, our national character was forged in warfare and knows it well. Engage us at your own great peril! This meeting has concluded." With those words, he stalked from the room followed by all the jeddaks. For a minute or so, Zandrik and his guards stood in the chamber alone. They had to return to the city gate on their own where they were escorted back to their ship. They were offered no hospitality in the city.

As that day passed into night, word was gotten to the armies of Barsoom to get themselves to a state of maximum readiness. John Carter ordered that if anyone emerged from the larger ship it should be fired upon.

Just before dawn broke, John Carter was awakened. A message carried on a Gridley wave had been detected. The source could not be determined, but the content of the message was that Tamla and Julian were safe.

The jeddak was taken to the communications office in the palace and a recording of the message was played for him. The voice was that of a man. Clear and educated, it conveyed a sense of great assurance and purpose. "I hope that this communication may reach the ears of John Carter, warlord of Barsoom. I am Savjoda, of Earth, now lord of Dhaimira and I wish to inform you that princess Tamla of Helium and prince jemdar Julian 68th are well and healthy in my care. Do not fear for their safety."

A second voice then came on. "John Carter, I shall not have to identify myself as I am sure you know my voice well." Indeed he did, it was the voice of Ras Thavas, the so-called "mastermind" of Barsoom. While generally good-intentioned, Ras Thavas put learning above all things and did not always worry about how individuals might be effected by his actions. "I cannot describe to you the astonishing things which have come to light, but rest assured that the greatest discovery in the history of Barsoom has been made! We shall contact you again very soon."

That morning, Jayman Zandrik was summoned into a private audience with John Carter. He was expecting to receive either permission to deploy his troops or a declaration of hostilities. He certainly was not expecting to be played a sound recording from a strange personage named "Savjoda" claming to be an Earthman now living in a place called "Dhaimira". Although greatly perplexed, he took a copy of the message and departed. That afternoon, both ships left the surface of Barsoom.

BACK TO CONTENTS PAGE

To be continued in next week's ERBzine 0519
Chapter 9
The Troubled Sky

Seth Kallen Deitch
Seth Kallen Deitch
Writers & Editors always appreciate feedback:
SETH
JoN & ERBzine


Volume 0518

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