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Edgar Rice Burroughs
Volume 0526
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The Many Worlds of
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"The master of imaginative fantasy adventure...
...the creator of Tarzan and...
...the 'grandfather of science-fiction'"

Presents

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


Chapter 16
Punishment
 
Savjoda stood in a large hall in the hive-like city of the doyaks. All was quiet save for the muffled calls of the vagas and horn-dogs from outside.

Several doyaks, including Fomas-67 had gathered this day for the purpose of passing judgement on this man. Also there were several persons from Earth and Barsoom Including John Carter and myself. By that time, I had ascended to the throne of the jemdar. My time reunited with my beloved father had been all too short before old age had taken from me what the jomads hadnít.

"Savjoda", said one of the doyaks, a certain Gotan-14, Director of the city, "you are aware that you can no longer be welcome on any of the established worlds. It would be easy to simply have you executed and be done with it and, at first, the majority of us felt that that would be the best course of action."

I was slightly surprised to find myself breathing a sigh of relief for this man who had caused, if inadvertently, so much chaos. I had learned respect for him and even, in a way, come to like him personally.

Gotan-14 gestured to Fomas-67 who drew back a divider revealing a device of peculiar construction. With a tentacle he touched a small lever and a beam of light illuminated a small screen. An image appeared That was at first difficult to decipher. It resembled a view of Earth from high orbit, but it just went on and on. I could see the scale of the view from the weather patterns and it was huge. I counted twenty continents the size of Africa or Asia and could find no horizon at all.

"What is that?" Asked Savjoda.

Gotan-14 responded, "That is a view of a small portion of Thorandalo, the world within Eurobus. It has always been thought by its inhabitants that the planetís huge gravity was countered by its immense rotational speed, but that is incorrect. The thinness of the planetary shell is such that the gravity is only slightly higher than that of Earth in any given location even though the total mass of the planet is far greater than several hundred Earths.

"This world boasts incredible variety. The distances are so great that live evolved separately in several remote locations and the products of those separate evolutions have only come into fleeting contact recently. There are a million unknowns in Thorandalo and someone must come into this world to explore and develop it. There are several forms of civilized and semi-civilized creatures in this world, many of them hostile beyond imagining. Although the surface world of Eurobus is remarkably geologically active and the oceans so storm ridden that travel upon them is impossible, Thorandalo is much less troubled by these factors. The oceans are, by comparison, peaceful and save for a few regions, volcanoes and earthquakes are rare."

John Carter had a wistful expression in his gray eyes. He could see what lie ahead. Savjoda was to be transported to this unknown and dangerous world. While a rational man might feel otherwise, I could see that his heart was consumed with envy.

Savjoda spoke. "So this is to be my prison?"

"Your home." Said Gotan-14.

Savjoda said, "I accept the judgement of the doyak lords of Dhaimira." His expression was unreadable.

Gotan-14 gestured in a manner that must have been the doyak equivalent of a head nod. He continued to speak. "This world is huge and much of it is unknown. We can offer to send more than one person if one should choose to go there of his own volition."

John Carter was instantly attentive. His expression told all. Could Gotan-14 mean what he thought he had meant?


A flyer lifted from the palace at Greater Helium. It had a pilot and a single passenger. The passenger was the exiled Savjoda who looked toward his future with mixed feelings. Everything he had ever known in his long life was to be left behind forever, but ahead was perhaps something just as interesting.

The pilot was John Carter, the Warlord of Barsoom. He had said that he wished to explore the new world for a few months and the doyaks had granted his wish. He had turned the government over to his son, Carthoris who immediately called for the election of a real parliament and a Prime Minister after the style of Earth. He had not actually said as much, but John Carter was not expected to return. Without the warfare, without the adventure and most of all, without his incomparable princess, Barsoom had little left for him. His "retirement" was as permanent as that of Savjoda.

The sky opened over the flyer revealing a new world, a thousand new lands. The airship flew through the opening without hesitation and without either of its occupants giving a backward glance.
 
 


Afterword

Well, this has been interesting.

Needless to say, as the astute reader might have figured out, I have taken a liberty or two. The big one was giving Vah-Nah a sun, which it didnít have in "The Moon Maid". Originally that world was supposed to be lit and warmed by light entering through randomly placed holes in the crust and some internal phosphorescence. I had to give it a sun to make the internal logic of my story work. Vah-Nah simply couldnít have been warm enough from sunlight shining through randomly placed "hoos" and the physics of my solar system required some consistency. I have, as a result of writing this story, contemplated writing another which would be titled "Einstein at the Earthís Core".

The personalities of both John Carter and "Savjoda" have changed and mellowed with the passing of ten centuries. Ras Thavas remains the same, caught up in his enthusiasms and beyond good or evil.

The teller of the tale, Julian 68th, is not a heroic type. Although descended from heroes, he is more of a sheltered aristocrat. He is not without his own brand of resourcefulness, but, unlike Savjoda or John Carter, is aware of his limitations. He wants adventure, but is pragmatic about how much adventure he thinks he can deal with. In my need to shorten this project, Iím afraid that I never allowed Julian to find his own real voice in this story. He ended up reading like more of a cardboard cut out than any other character.

Tamla of Helium knows in her own mind that she is supposed to be a warrior, but is mostly thwarted in that regard. If she has inherited John Carterís longevity, she will, no doubt, end up in Thorandalo seeking adventure.

I feel bad about Kivu. I needed something spectacular for the jomads to upset, but I couldnít bring myself to cause major harm to any of Burroughsí original worlds. Someday, I may go back and write the story of William Heller of Kivu, knowing full well of its eventual end.

I wanted to deal with the idea of what does an immortal hero do when there is no more heroing to be done. In this case, I stated the issue and then dodged it by sending my heroes to a latter day Valhalla, Thorandalo.

I expect some criticism for this work. In some ways it has violated much of the central premise of ERBís work, that the adventure goes on forever. His worlds did change over time, become better known, better explored, but somehow it was implied that the adventure would always be there, that there was no shortage of evil queens and lost races, but, of course in a real world there eventually has to be. I was hoping to inject some of that sense of finitude into ERBís world and still make it work.

I ended up having to rush this project or be in danger of being unable to finish it at all. If it seems like there is a lot squeezed into the later chapters, that is the reason why. I had planned this as a 50,000 word novel and instead ended up with a 30,000 word novella. Perhaps someday when I have time on my hands I may flesh it out, but lets not hold our breaths.

To anyone who bothered to read this far, you have my thanks for your patience and I would enjoy to hear your reactions.

Seth Kallen Deitch
3/14/99 Cambridge


Seth Kallen Deitch
Seth Kallen Deitch
Writers & Editors always appreciate feedback:
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Volume 0526

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