In spite of the fact that the jomads had their
own agenda, when Savjoda ordered a road to be opened, they obeyed.
Tamla, Savjoda and I stood atop the palace as the sun
went dark. We were dazzled as it again jumped to its former light. It took
another several minutes until we saw the flyer as a dot against the sky.
That dot swelled in size rapidly.
Savjoda said, "Fomas-67 has the power off until he
is less than a mile above the ground. If it were anyone else, I'd call
it a foolish risk. There is truly no more skilled pilot than that doyak."
The flyer finally started to slow down and sank gently
to the roof. Onboard were Ras Thavas and John Carter.
The Warlord looked concerned, although he was relieved
to see that Tamla was alive and well. The mastermind appeared detached,
as was his usual demeanor.
John Carter was somewhat impatient. With every step
he took, and he took many for he was pacing nervously, his metal clattered
cacophonously. "We must act as soon as humanly possible." He said, "We
kept Helium from being taken for now, but Zodanga, Korad and Ptarth have
fallen to the jomads and their region of control is expanding. The fact
is," he said with a sour expression, "that the way of the sword is lost
to most Barsoomians these days. We are no longer a militaristic culture."
"The life of the warrior is still in the heart of all
Barsoomians!" exclaimed Tamla.
The warlord smiled lovingly at the girl who, to his
mind, had inherited more of his own personality than any of his recent
Savjoda and I listened bemusedly to this very Barsoomian
exchange. Brute force from either Earth's or Mars' largely de-militarized
empires would be unlikely to do the job. The jomads were already spread
too widely in the Solar System.
Two of the Waziri scholars were consulting with Gosmasokamankgo
and Ras Thavas at the other side of the great library.
Gosmasokamankgo broke free of the huddle and walked
over to Savjoda and John Carter. He spoke to Savjoda in his peculiar language."
They have an interesting thought," said Savjoda.
Two flyers sat on the roof of the palace. There were
a few jomads around, but they were only instructed to protect Savjoda and
to not let him leave, but not to interfere with his other activities. If
one of the flyers had Savjoda on board when it set off, the jomads would
give chase, but they would not dare question him before hand.
Fomas-67 took the controls of one of the aircraft and
Ras Thavas the other. Into the first craft came myself, Gosmasokamankgo
and two Waziri named respectively Dallo Mâ€™Tumba and the other
simply Joseph. Gosmasokamankgo had with him the device he had used to alter
Tamla's size although it was now incorporated into another machine that
had a more Barsoomian look.
The second craft took aboard Tamla and John Carter
while Savjoda waited beside it.
Our craft took off with only passing notice of the
jomads. Fomas-67 took us up above the road-making device and quickly gestured
toward Gosmasokamankgo. The Minunian lifted the peculiar mechanism into
a position which allowed him to point a lens at the front of it at the
immense machine. At the same time the huge device began to diminish rapidly
in size and float up toward the flyer. With deft manipulation of the controls
Gosmasokamankgo directed the movement of the machine until it was now only
three feet high and rested on the floor of the flyer. To my bemusement,
there was a multitude of minutely shrunken Minunians scrambling about in
the diminished machine. Their size was only that of insects and they were
in a state of panic.
Fomas-67said, "We must make haste now! The effect on
inanimate objects lasts for only a very short time!", and wasted no a second
as he turned the flyer toward the open sea and pushed the airship to full
Every jomad in the city flew toward the site that the
machine once occupied to see what had happened and Savjoda used that moment
of distraction to leap aboard the second flyer and direct Ras Thavas to
Both flyers were left unmolested for only a few short
moments before the jomads fully realized what had happened and gave chase.
In our own flyer, I was asking Gosmasokamankgo and
Fomas-67 a thousand questions as quickly as I could formulate them. "How
in Heaven's name did you do that!?!"
Gosmasokamankgo answered in his peculiar tongue which
I had no understanding of whatsoever. Fomas-67 was somewhat more helpful.
"Ras Thavas and I educated him as to the nature of
the more exotic rays of the Barsoomian spectrum. He was able to use the
Eighth Ray in conjunction with the size control apparatus to perform this
The jomads were gaining ground on the craft which held
Ras Thavas, Tamla, Savjoda and John Carter. Ras Thavas set the directional
compass and stood up with John Carter and Tamla with swords drawn. Along
side them was Savjoda with a knife in one hand and a pistol in the other.
Twenty jomads swooped down on their flyer and in seconds
twelve of them were falling dead to the sea. The remaining eight stood
on the deck of the flyer locked in desperate combat while another group
of them gained steadily on our flyer.
Gosmasokamankgo pointed down toward the water and exclaimed
something in his native tongue. On the surface of the ocean was a circle
of light. At that moment Fomas-67 did something alarming, he pointed the
nose of the flyer directly at the surface of the sea and started to accelerate.
In the flyer behind, Ras Thavas broke free of the fray
and did likewise with their craft. The last of the jomads on the second
flyer were dispatched and the group who were pursuing us turned back in
order to get to Savjoda.
Out of the ring of light on the surface of the water
floated a huge bubble just in time for both flyers to penetrate its side.
It remained unbroken and instantly dropped again beneath the waves with
both flyers safe within.
We were below the surface of the ocean, but surrounded
with enough air to breath comfortably for quite some time.
Gosmasokamankgo again made some remark in his native
language. and pointed at the road making device. It was now bigger than
it was a minute ago and expanding. The reduced Minunians, however, were
not. Apparently the effect lasted longer on living things than it did on
mere objects. It was clear that the flyer would soon be overtaxed by the
increasing mass of the mechanism.
We started to see the outline of a depression on the
seafloor as we sank downward. The machine was now seven feet on a side
and swelling at a remarkable speed. The flyer broke into two pieces just
as we settled to the bottom, depositing all of us to the bottom of the
bubble. Its surface was slimy and resilient, like wet, semi-liquid rubber.
Directly outside of the bubble were a band of darmayoks
who motioned us to approach them. They were somehow forming a second bubble,
like a bud from the surface of the one we were in and all of us scrambled
toward it trying to out race the expansion of the machine. The last person
into the bud was John Carter whose sword arm was soaked to the elbow in
The bud pinched closed and broke free of the larger
bubble and bounced along the sea floor, jostling us considerably, but causing
no great harm.
Although the transparency of the bubbles was limited,
we could see that the machine had attained its full size once more. I can
only guess how the, now ant-sized Minunian engineers reacted to see its
great mass expand around them to a size much larger than they could have
expected. According to Fomas-67, it would be several days before they regained
their normal size if Gosmasokamankgo didn't intervene before then.
The trip from the palace had taken only a short time
but we had gained both control of the machine and Savjoda's freedom.
Our bubble was carried by several darmayoks to a structure
that looked rather like an enormous tree. The uppermost branches reached
right to the surface.
"That," said Fomas-67, "is a darmayok city. We will
be able to live and work here in relative comfort for a short time at least."
The bubble was attached to a branch and something resembling
a mouth, or some sort of animal orifice in any case, opened into it. Fomas-67
waived us through it and we obediently went.
Inside was a wet tube that had a peculiar and unpleasant
smell and looked more like it had been grown than built. I later discovered
that this was in fact the case. The darmayok cities and buildings are structures
created by specially bred creatures not unlike the corals of Earth. The
bubble that transported us to the city was a creature rather similar to
the coelenterates of my home world. Although they used neither metal nor
fire, the darmayoks were far from unsophisticated.
A darmayok walked up the corridor toward us. It was
the first time I had ever seen one of these creatures make its way on foot.
Its feet splayed outward when it walked and it had a peculiar rolling motion
to its stride. It spoke to Fomas-67 in its own language and the two conversed
for a few moments. Finally we were conducted to a room that was somewhat
less wet and smelly.
There we sat to plan our next move.