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


Chapter Ten
Several Views
I
The Mastermind

Ras Thavas was as close to panic as his analytical mind would allow him to get. His flyer sped through the Barsoomian night as fast as he could go, for he knew that an army of jomads were close behind him. He had mere hours to reach Greater Helium to warn John Carter of the peril which stood unseen at his doorstep. It boggled even his great mind when he considered the immensity which was faced by the entire solar system.

In the distance, the jomads hurled insults and curses after him as they slowly closed the gap between them. The Mastermind of Mars was armed with nothing more than his wits, but wits such as those possessed by Ras Thavas were mightier than a thousand swords.

He turned the flyer upward after setting a rather complex program into the directional compass. That program would deliver him to Helium on a course which would describe a high arc through the upper atmosphere. In short order, the Mastermind lost consciousness, although he did so with a slightly smug smile on his face. The jomads, unused to the type of atmospheres behavior on the surface, did not expect to grow short of breath as they rose to follow and one by one, passed out and started to plummet toward the surface.

Later, the flyer was dipping down as it approached Helium when Ras Thavas regained awareness, none the worse for the experience save for a small headache.


II
Pellucidar

The sun was at zenith over Greenwich. Only had it been otherwise would that have been unusual, for Pellucidar never experienced night. Given that basic fact of Pellucidarian life, the panic that every person who was on the streets at the time felt when the sun suddenly went out, was understandable. Luckily, or so it seemed, the darkness only lasted a few short seconds.

The sun came back to life as quickly as it had been extinguished. The population looked toward the sky in relief. That relief turned quickly to a new form of panic as a horde of winged creatures descended out of the renewed sunlight. At first, a few voices cried out "Mahars! They have returned to enslave us!" but the owners of those voices soon saw that it was a less familiar evil that they faced. The streets of Greenwich were soon crowded with jomads who actually, for the most part, ignored the fleeing residents. Only those who attempted to get in their way found themselves cut down by their strange ceramic swords. It took them only a short time to control the two key positions that they needed. The first was the underground rail entrance that was the gateway to Earth and the second was the Gridley wave transmission station so that they could delay news of their arrival from spreading too quickly.


III
Crisis Management

The jemdar and the president both sat in the house of parliament that day and listened to one impassioned speech after another. A representitive from the country of Brazil had the floor.

"Your Majesty, Mr. President. For two hundred days, our prince has been gone without any real explanation. The Barsoomian "Warlord" has continued to insist that a situation over which he has no control persists and that having heard from this "Ras Thavas" person, we should trust and have faith that all shall be resolved.

"I ask you, what manner of hogwash is this that we are asked to believe? Ras Thavas is nothing more than the court wizard to a man who rules a medieval system that is out of step with our modern world in almost every particular. This John Carter was born on this world but enjoys living a fantasy life on Mars! How much longer must we endure having to deal with this man? Furthermore, he has claimed that some unknown personage named "Savjoda" is the real villain in this shocking abduction without any evidence save for the word of Ras Thavas!"

The parliamentarian's tirade was interrupted by a messenger entering the chamber and running to the place where the president was seated. The president looked over the scrap of paper briefly and then stood up and struck the podium with his gavel.

"Gentlemen! I must call an end to this session at this time. There seems to be a disturbance at the underground station that requires my attention. A riot perhaps, but the military has been summoned and I must lend some guidance."

The president strode from the chamber with a sense of purpose in his step. Several ministers escorted the jemdar out, while the members of parliament fell into hushed discussions.

It was a rather shocking when the windows of the legislative chamber burst inward to admit a hundred sword wielding jomads. They drove the representatives from the chamber and herded them into a basement office where they were locked in. None resisted the strange winged creatures. The president was captured by jomads who constantly harangued him, but in a language he could not understand. Julian 67th, hereditary jemdar of Earth's hegemony, was arrested and confined to the residence of the palace. The center of Earth's government had fallen in a matter of minutes.


IV
The Walls of Greater Helium

It was near sunset. Cluros and Thuria hurtled overhead oblivious to the disaster that approached from the horizon.

Three men stood on the wall of a Barsoom capital city. Two were red men, one, a handsome youth in the spring of young manhood, another a withered veteran. Between them stood a square-jawed, gray-eyed Earthman. The youth was Ras Thavas the two thousand year old Mastermind of Mars in his seventh new body since he had mastered the art of brain transplantation. The Earthman was John Carter, Warlord of Mars, even older than Ras Thavas, but by how much, he knew not. The ancient one was Carthoris, son of John Carter and at the age of nine-hundred and ninety years had been contemplating retiring as jeddak of Helium.

"They are like a swarm of bees," said John Carter.

"You have told me about bees, father, but I thought they were smaller," replied Carthoris.

"They are, son. These creatures, whatever they are, are far more dangerous."

Ras Thavas had only managed to stay ahead of the horde by about an hour. To his disappointment, most of them had regained consciousness before they had struck the ground and had renewed their advance on the city.

The ancient scientist addressed the warlord. "These creatures are based on my own work in creating the hormads and unfortunately, although their bodies are more symmetrical and they can reproduce themselves, their minds are just as simple. Savjoda created them as a work force to help him in his grand project of reclaiming the works of nature that had been weakened by humanity. He sought to make the almost dead world of Dhaimira into a preserve for wildlife that was barely holding on to its own existence.

"When the Kalkars invaded Earth seeking any meat they could find, Savjoda, like a later day Noah of Jasoomian legend, preserved them, each after their own kind. He hid them in Pellucidar out of sight or mind of the Kalkars. It was at that time that the doyaks, the one-time dominant race of Dhaimira, saw in Savjoda the key to their own salvation."

John Carter wrinkled his brow. "And now he has extended his wildlife preserve to the surface of Barsoom?"

"I don't think so, John Carter. The jomads, being the rather simple-minded creatures they are, have taken every idle word spoken by Savjoda as if it were the most urgent order. He once expressed concern about the continued rule of other human governments and they determined that he would conquer all of mankind. He expressed the loneliness of his mission and they contrived to kidnap a suitable bride for him. He expressed fatigue over the magnitude of his undertaking and they determined to take it over for him. At the moment, he is a prisoner in a gilded cage, waited on hand and foot, but unable to act on his own at all. I was able to contrive a way to escape and warn the outside world, but Savjoda insisted on staying behind in the hope he might be able to exercise at least some control."

"I only hope", said Carter, "that your warning was enough. We must arm every available man and use every available flyer. These jomads must not take Helium."


V
In the Sun's Embrace

Only twenty million miles from the Sun was the darkest place in the Solar System.

Kivu was the world within the planet Mercury. An age ago, on the day that that the sun of Otala exploded, some visitors from that world had been in Kivu. They activated the machinery to open a road to their home world only to step out into vacuum and cold darkness. Kivu s life giving link with the Sun was left severed. Since that day, Kivu had been a world of darkness. Its natives took to burrowing into the ground to be warmed by the heat of the sun that seeped up through the ground. In time they became colorless and blind with a remarkably keen sense of smell. Over a thousand centuries, they had developed a tradition of epic verse and storytelling that was based only on the senses of smell, hearing and touch. Their oral literature had a rare beauty. The Kivuans figure not at all in this story, however, because they never ventured out to the inner surface of Kivu at all. Because of this the jomads were unaware of their presence, in fact their existence was known only to a few doyak scientists.

The jomads were interested in using Kivu as a jomad home world and attempted to contrive a way to re-ignite its sun. Having only the most basic grasp on how the dimensional roads worked, they made a crucial error. Instead of placing the source for the inner world's sun near the Sun's surface, they placed it directly at the core of the Sun. The adjustment was made from Dhaimira, so it would be several minutes before the mistake became apparent. To the team of jomads actually within Kivu at the moment of ignition, there was so little delay in the result that they never had time to even understand that anything was amiss.


VII
Borneo

In one of the last places on the surface of the Earth that was far enough away from city lights to be useful, stood a small observatory. External light, however, was not an issue today, for the astronomer was making solar observations. Through a dense smoked filter, an astronomer was observing and counting sunspots. The observatory was his refuge, particularly when the news of events on Earth was so disturbing. The jemdar and president under arrest and strange winged creatures running amok in the capital was bad enough news to drive him into the isolation of his cosmic observations.

As he viewed the solar disk, he found himself baffled by what appeared to be a second, smaller Sun bursting into existence beside it. His puzzlement turned to horror when he checked an ephemeris. The bright splotch was in the exact location of the planet Mercury.

The second asteroid belt that was born that day would come to be known as the "Jomad s Children."

 

BACK TO CONTENTS PAGE

To be continued in next week's ERBzine 0521
Chapter 12
Meeting Savjoda

Seth Kallen Deitch
Seth Kallen Deitch
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Volume 0520

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