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Volume 0521
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At the Core of Mars
By 
Seth Kallen Deitch
Copyright 1999 S.K. Deitch


Chapter Eleven
Meeting Savjoda
 
I was fascinated by the Minunians. They were amazing natural mathematicians and engineers. They were able to fix the flyer because they had good metal tools and because they could crawl inside the works.

The leader of the rescue team, Kanadotokiahago, saw to it that we were able to get into the air in a matter of hours.

It seemed like it was not too long before we were on our way again to Savjoda's headquarters. The entire contingent of seven Minunians and their mounts fit in the flyer quite comfortably with Fomas-67 and I.

The coast of the continent of Geprodna sharpened in clarity as we approached and the towers of a city built for beings who could fly came slowly into focus. Jomads flapped from high tower to rooftop doorways over a network of catwalks and bridges that served as streets. It was obvious that this city did not grow and evolve to meet the changing needs of a growing people. It was the vision of a single planner, constructed from the ground up as a whole concept. The industry, residences and transport network surrounded a core that was almost all gleaming metal, more metal than could be found in all of the rest of this world. Even from the air, the machine's astounding complexity was apparent. It looked like a system of gimbals, pivots and levers that controlled with minute precision the position of a gigantic lens-shaped mass of gold colored metal. I could just make out the hundreds of Minunian engineers whose job it was to constantly make whatever adjustments were needed.

Fomas-67 brought our flyer to rest atop a wide tower made of polished stone. The tower was directly adjacent to the machine itself. "This is Savjoda s city home." Said Fomas-67.

Kanadotokiahago said, "His only home at the moment. The jomads are protecting him. He cannot leave."

"Savjoda is being held under house arrest by his own servants?" I asked.

"He should explain that himself." said Kanadotokiamuskas.

Fomas-67 and Kanadotokiahago led me into a great hall that was dominated by an inlay map of all Dhaimira on the floor. The map greatly resembled the first map made by Tamla and I on the Keltrolna coast differing only in that this one was centered at this city. The walls were filled from floor to ceiling with books of all types and from all worlds written in every known language. The library of the jemdar's palace in San Francisco did not contain as many volumes or as varied a selection. In various places around the hall were some very black-skinned men who were hard at work filing away or referring to several of the books. They conversed softly in an obscure African tongue that Fomas-67 called Waziri. These gentlemen all wore very formal clothing and had the bearing of college professors.

There he stood upon the representation of the continent of Bavkerna. He was a man of my own race who looked to be in very fit middle age. His hair was worn brushed straight back and worn just short of shoulder length. His expression was serious and his attitude conveyed the image of great wisdom. The only other man who I had ever seen with this type of demeanor was John Carter himself. He wore a suit of very ordinary cut, but very rich fabric. The style seemed to be about a century out of date, but in no way did it have the look of a costume. This was how the man was used to dressing. Overall, he did not have the look of miscreant. He had a simple nobility that took me a little off guard.

"Your Highness", he said, "I only wish that it was more pleasant circumstances under which I were greeting you." He stepped forward and extended his hand.

I ignored the proffered hand. "Where is Tamla of Helium?" I asked.

"Sadly, I do not know. She escaped from her captors."

"You are her captor, you swine!"

For only an instant, anger clouded Savjoda s noble features, but with a deep breath, he restored himself to equanimity. Calmly he responded, "I understand how distressed you must feel, but despite appearances, I am only indirectly responsible for the tribulations that the princess has suffered.

"I admit that I am the author of a situation which is no longer under my control, and for that I beg the forgiveness of all concerned. It is my greatest regret that all concerned are a number that grows with each passing hour.

"Too much responsibility was placed in the hands of the jomads, I understand that now. They are too simple-minded, too literal. This is their city, I rule it, but it is more theirs than mine. I am more their God than their head of government."

"I'm not sure I understand." I was skeptical, but willing to let him have his say. Besides, I needed to learn as much as I could about Savjoda.

"Of course, how could you? The jomads decided that I should have my every wish. They have also taken an unwarranted concern for my safety."

As the man spoke, he paced over the map crossing seas and islands. He moved with uncommon grace and assuredness. There was an economy in his gestures that reflected long practice. Very long practice. Savjoda had been around a long time.

"Are you telling me that you did not kidnap Tamla?"

"Yes. I say in earshot of the jomads that I experience loneliness, and they see to it that I have a suitable bride. I mention that the planet would be better off with me in charge, and they invade the surface. I say that Kivu has been in darkness too long and they destroy a world."

"What are you talking about?!?"

"Kivu, the world within the planet Mercury. Two hours ago, the jomads incinerated it by mishandling the dimensional doorway. Millions died in a sudden flash. The jomads have controlled the machine for creating the roads for many days now. They are on Barsoom, they are in Pellucidar and they are on Amtor, Vah-nah and Earth."

Mercury destroyed? There had been a living world within it? I was taken aback by the new information. To have a new world revealed on its death day was strange and sad. All the human worlds menaced by the jomads?

"How did you come to gain and then lose control of that kind of power?"

"It took a long time and luck, both good and bad, played a role.

"I was born just over one thousand years ago on Earth of a family from a place called England. I was lucky enough to be born into the privileged class and unlucky enough to be orphaned from it at a very early age in a strange land.

"I was adopted and raised by a family of what you would consider beasts and I grew to manhood unaware of my own humanity. I had books but no human companionship. I could read and write before I could speak. As a result of that upbringing, I have much of the savage within me. Although I was highborn in what was then Earth's greatest empire, in my heart I was lord of something greater, and at the same time more intimate, the deep and wild jungle. Not until I had attained manhood was I acquainted with the niceties of civilization, and never did I become wholly comfortable with them."

Savjoda paced back and forth nervously as he spoke.

"Although I was born with a name and a title, my adopted family called me white skin, in the doyak language it is rendered as savjoda . For the greater part of my life, it has been the only name I have been known by.

"As I grew more experienced, I discovered that there was little to envy in my own race. We were a people who sought to dominate rather than cooperate with nature. In the fullness of time, which included love, loss, riches and the attainment of power, it became apparent that I was not aging as others of my kind do. I had heard of one other such man, John Carter the Earth-man who had become Warlord of Barsoom.

"When the Kalkars came, I discovered a new mission in my life, that of saving Earth's noblest creatures from their abattoirs.

"Their conquest of Earth was swift and complete, but my home was in a remote location. It was several months before I saw my first Kalkar. I fought them with every thing I had within me and calling upon every resource at my command, but it was a forgone conclusion that they must eventually win."

"What did you do?" I asked.

"I started transporting animals into Pellucidar. I had obtained a machine which could drill a tunnel all the way into the inner world. With the help of that device and other like minded people, I was able to preserve some of Earth'c grandest creatures."

The Kalkars, thankfully, never discovered the existence of Pellucidar. For most humans after the Kalkar conquest, it became little more than a myth. It was a hundred years after they were driven from power that Pellucidar was rediscovered, but, by then I was already in Dhaimira."

The Waziri scholars had abandoned their books to listen. Apparently, Savjoda did not relate this story frequently.

"I was piloting an airplane on the day the sun went out in Pellucidar for the first time. The road led me to the city of the doyaks in Dhaimira."

Savjoda gestured toward Fomas-67. "Their world was in trouble. The internal worlds don't hold together environmentally as well as the external ones. The numbers of the doyaks were thinning and resources were diminishing. They had developed an amazing science and industry in spite of the fact that they had little metal. Almost all that they had, had been obtained by trading with a race from the surface of Barsoom known as the Kaldanes. They saw that my work at saving what I could of my own world was actually working to some degree and they sought my help.

"It wasn't the first time. It was the doyaks who brought John Carter to Barsoom. They caused the peculiar accidents that brought Carson Napier to Amtor and Julian 5th to Vah-nah. The doyaks are the master planners. They are the ones who knew what was needed where and at what time. Their methods have not always been painless. It was also the doyaks who indirectly caused the death of my human parents.

The man seemed to have lost awareness that there was even anybody listening to his tale.

"I needed help and they made available to me the notebooks of Ras Thavas as well as some addenda of their own. I took quite some time, but I finally was able to design and create the first jomads based on the Mastermind's hormads but able to reproduce themselves and combining characteristics of Terrestrial and Martian life. They have served me with extraordinary devotion. They built this city and followed the instructions of the doyaks to the letter in order to construct this transport machine. My every random thought, they treat as holy writ.

"It is true that I said that the worlds of the Solar System would be better off if I were in charge. It is true that I have felt borne down with the loneliness of my life, but I did not instruct the jomads to abduct Tamla of Helium to become my wife although I do find her to be a feisty and engaging young woman. I did not instruct the jomads to invade other worlds."

Savjoda s voice took on an ironic tone. "The jomads, in their wisdom, have sought to free me of the burden of day to day decision making. They also decided that I would be safer if I did not leave my residence."

He indicated the Waziri scholars and Kanadotokiahago. "The Waziri and the Minunians , and of course, the doyaks have all been working on a way to free me without agitating the jomads too much. They are already out of control, if they were to think that I had abandoned them, any semblance of control would be lost."

I stood there close to despair. The man I thought was my enemy, the penitent author of the greatest menace mankind had ever faces, was also the only person who could help bring it to an end. We needed more help and we needed it very soon.

Looking Savjoda in the eye, it was easy to see that his desire to end this situation was desperate. This man who was once lord of the jungle, now lord of a world met my gaze evenly. I said, "I know who you are and who you were. There is no situation that you cannot make better. Only your loss of faith in yourself can prevent it. Savjoda, I must find and free Tamla of Helium. To do that, I require your cooperation."

All present nodded their heads in agreement save for Fomas-67 who performed a peculiar gesture which may or may not have meant the same thing.

BACK TO CONTENTS PAGE

To be continued in next week's ERBzine 0522
Chapter 12
A Portable Princess

Seth Kallen Deitch
Seth Kallen Deitch
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Volume 0521

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