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Volume 0523
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Presents

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


Chapter 13
Escape on Dhaimira
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 descendants.

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 M’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 speed.

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 take off.

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 feat."

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 jomad blood.

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.

BACK TO CONTENTS PAGE

To be continued in next week's ERBzine 0524
Chapter Fourteen
The Tube

Seth Kallen Deitch
Seth Kallen Deitch
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Volume 0523

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