Prisoner in a bottle
“We have made special plans to hold you, John Carter, False
God of Barsoom,” the ruler shrieked. “I hope you will enjoy your
stay with us because it will be for the rest of your life!”
At that he started to laugh and was joined in his mad
guffaw by others in the chamber.
“Take him away to his room!” ordered the ruler and the
guards pulled me away. They had a full twenty men pulled me out--
leaving Kantos Kan behind. I was ushered down a long hall that seemed to
go deep into the palace. Metal doors parted before us. And
the section seemed to take on the feeling of a prison. At last
we went into a large room---that was dominated by a huge glass structure
that stood in the center of the chamber. There was a glass
bench in the oversized bottle and a door that opened in the side.
I saw the glass was nearly a foot thick and fire hardened.
I was pushed in and my straps removed and a thick pair of glass shackles
presented for me to wear. Before they could snap them on me,
I jumped and tried to pull one of the guards swords. With a sword in my
hand, nothing could stop me. They piled on me before I could use the weapon.
One large guard struck me with the pommel of his dagger causing me to see
stars. I felt the heavy glass manacles placed on my wrists. Then
I was forced into the glass cylinder and the door secured with several
locks. The guards stepped back and took positions watching
me. One left –I presumed he was going to give a report on my
escape attempt. In about an hour the Captain of
the Guard, a big man with a scar on his cheek, came into the room with
Lee. He had a long leather whip.
“So called John Carter,” the man started, “When
you try anything—your grandson will be punished!” He began to beat
poor Lee, until the lash drew welts on the boy's back and he cried out
in pain. I yelled for him to stop but he kept on beating the child
until he tired of the sport and the other guards took Lee away. There were
tears in my eyes at this demonstration. I was, for the first
time in many years, powerless to help a member of my family.
“I hope you have learned your lesson,” the guard smiled,
and left the room. The chamber was escape proof, and
while under the eyes of six guards, I could do little to even attempt an
escape. The time proceeded slowly as I kicked myself
for falling into such a trap. I had been warned too. Once the Jeddak
of the West came to mock me but I didn't respond to his rude comments.
The food was a terrible mixture of meats and vegetables made into a tasteless
stew. It was served twice a day though a small door in the glass
bottle. Water came in a small glass mug —that came though the same
door. It was enough to keep me alive but not much more.
They wanted to keep me weak. After a time I received a visitor, a Tenth
Cycle Thern, who came to preach the word of Issus. He read from his thick
holy book and asked me to repent my sins and once again join the folds
of the order—I knew if I did they would quickly dispatch me in some very
painful way. I listened respectfully wishing I could get my hand
on his throat. The same Thern came over and over again—I
guess I was his special case and he was resolved to convert me.
For fun I sometimes debated him on some of the fine points of his religion---like
the fact that the true Issus was a cannibalistic old hag.
“That was the false Issus,” he stuttered. “ The
true Issus is beautiful, just, she gives meaning to our lives.”
“I know,” I teased him, “I married her, Dejah Thoris.”
This made him mad –he even tossed his holy book on the stone floor. He
said some impolite things I didn't think Therns even knew and stormed out.
It would be the last time I saw the fellow. I noticed even
some of the guards were smiling at his departure.
There were no windows in the chamber and I had no way
of knowing when it was day and night. Only the changing of the guards offered
me some way to judge my confinement. They never spoke to me—even
the one that brought the food.
I looked up from a nap and saw another Thern enter. It
was a new fellow who looked strangely familiar—he had the holy book held
close to his chest and a smile on his face. I recognized him—but kept any
hint of it from my face least it aroused the guards who were constantly
watching. It was Matai Shani wearing the devise of the Tenth
Cycle around his neck.
“Let me tell you of the truth of Issus,” he started, much
as the other fellow did. “Do you wish to give me your confession
of sins?” With the other Thern I just ignored him but this
time I wanted to talk. I said yes, and he opened up the small door
where the food was placed in my glass cell and whispered to me.
“Come forth divine John Carter, I know you work in mysterious
ways but we can not fathom why your would permit yourself and your grandson
to be captives.”
“I wonder this myself,” I whispered so low the guards
were unable to hear my 'confession'.
“Is it your will to test us—to help you and your grandson
“Yes, but tell me of my crew on the battleship?” I asked.
“The flying men escaped when they were attacked. The others
from Helium are being held in a separate prison camp—a few of the officers
may well be used as hostages like you.”
“What of Lee, my grandson?”
“he is held in the palace in comfortable rooms
with the Family of other hostages. Fandora visits him.”
“What of escape from this glass prison.” I asked.
“The Seventh Cycle may well be able to effect this—we
have been planning such a thing for some time. A gas could
overcome the guards and spare you in the bottle. We could supply
you with arms and attack the quarters where your grandson is held.”
“Can you get me a ship to escape from this city?”
“I fear not, you would be run to ground not long after
you break free. We have another way to effect an escape ---a special
system we of the Seventh Cycle use to communicate with the underground
sea. Its a pneumatic tube.”
I noticed one of the guards inching closer to listen in.
I indicated this to Matai Shani with a glance—and spoke in an elevated
and penitent voice.
“Forgive me for doubting!” I said. The Thern
“You will find the peace of Issus in the pages of this,
her holy book,” he answered passing the volume though the glass wall. “There
is a key for your maniacal bonds in the book. “
I took the work, it was so thick it almost didn't fit
through the slot.
“That's enough time,” the guard barked at the Thern,”
you better leave the prisoner.”
“I would speak better to a holy man if I were you!
You may well be embraced by Issus herself soon, and face her in Valley
Dor to answer for your actions in life.”
I had a feeling his words would be prophetic indeed. He
smiled as he was rudely escorted out of the room.
I pretended to read the thick book of poetry, fear, fancy
and revelation. I had endeavored to read it once before but always fell
asleep before I had gotten very far. I found their was a chapter
on hope and salvation where a glass key was wedged. I slipped it
into my pocket pouch—ready when the attack started. I found no more
messages or items in the book.
I rested on the couch, conserving my energy, until the
big break out attempt. It seemed like many hours until I heard
the clatter of a sword falling on the marble floor. I opened
my eyes and all six guards were on the floor. One managed to draw his sword
before he was overcome and dropped the weapon. In a few moments,
I had the glass handcuffs off, using the key. Then I saw five men
enter –They were seventh cycle therns, they wore a copy of my own simple
harness, One dispatched the guards on the floor with a quick thrust
to the heart. The others searched them until they found the key to
my odd cell. It was Matai Shani who personally released me.
As I got out, I was handed swords and a radium pistol.
Once more I felt alive.
“Lead me to where Lee is being held!” I demanded. They
bowed and lead me out of the room and down the hall. We encounter
no one—I later learned the attack came on the middle of the Martian
night. We made out way through a maze of halls until the Thern
lead to a hidden door, That lead to a spiral ramp that went directly
to the living quarters in the palace. We stepped out and saw
a door ahead with two guards. Matai Shani stopped me, he was
still wearing the robes of his order and a medallion of the tenth cycle.
He smiled and whispered for me to wait. He boldly walked
out into the light and right up to the two guards.
“Brothers in Issus,” he said with a sort of bow. “I have
come to impart a revelation to you.”
“Halt, Thern,” ordered the guard. “These are restricted
“The truth of Issus is beyond any restrictions,” he answered
continuing his walk. “The truth is that Issus lives and her
messenger is John Carter.” With those words he drew a hidden
short sword and quickly dispatched one man with a thrust and turned to
plunge his blade into the other man. It was over in two seconds.
As they fell, the Thern motioned for us to advance. We opened the
door and entered. I saw Lee, in a small apartment. He was asleep.
I took him into my arms. There was no one else in the room.
“Grandpa!” he cried and hugged me around the neck hard.
“We have to make tracks, Lee,” I told him. “We can't
be safe until we are out of Tubax.”
I pulled him out of the room and out the door.
“We do not have far to go,” whispered the Thern.
“We must go back to the basements.”
“The guards may be swarming over the place by now.” I
“I believe you are right—there will be fighting. But with
the great John Carter on our side, how can we lose?”
“Lead the way Matai Shani—I am in your debt.”
Once again we went down the ramp into the basement. Surprisingly,
we didn't encounter any opposition. I was thinking the gods were on our
side when a company of Guards tramped down the corridor.
“This way, John Carter!” cried the Thern and lead Lee
and I back down another hall as the guards called out for us to stop.
Before they caught up to us a hidden door slid open and
we went into the hidden passage as the guards cried out and the thick door
slid closed. The door was so thick it shut out their cries.
There was a ramp that went down and in the dim lights
we rushed down the spiral ramp as it went deeper underground. It
ended in a hall that terminated at a dead end. The Thern pushed an
odd shaped key into a round hole in the wall and a new hidden door slid
silently open. Before us was a large room where a strange conveyance
waited. It looked like an old Miniball from the War Between the States.
Pointed on one end with a door. I could see several of them end to
end pointing to a round tunnel. Each one could hold two or three
“The pneumatic transport will take you to the Inner Sea
and the palace fortress of the Jed,” explained Matai Shanti, “It is safe
and will quickly take you to safety—but, as the Jeddak is about to launch
an attack, it may not be safe for long.”
“Anything will be an improvement for us,” I told him as
we entered the huge bullet.
“Put on the seat belts,” the Thern warned them.
“When you are ready pull the lever and the door will be sealed and your
trip will begin. I have used this system many times.”
“That's good enough for me,” I said. “Thank you for helping
Lee and I escape—I will remember you!”
“We live to serve,” he answered with a bow.
I strapped Lee in and myself then pulled the lever down. The door lowered
and sealed with a hiss. In less than a minute the vehicle started
to move slowly forward, into the round tunnel that just fit the odd car.
Then, there was a loud hiss and we shot forward at an ever increasing speed
that sent us back in our padded seats. There was a vibration that
was unnerving and I felt my ears pop. We were as powerless as if
we were riding in a cannon ball. Lee seemed to enjoy the ride,
I saw him smiling at me. I wondered how we would stop our mad journey.
In moments the strange vehicle started to slow down, as if it had run out
of momentum. Then we felt as if the vehicle was floating in water.
Then, with a jerk the thing came to a sudden halt. The whole trip
was less than five minutes.
The door open automatically, and Nutan, the winged Dwar,
was waiting to help me out.
“We told you not to trust the Jeddak,” he said.
“Live and learn,” I said. “Has he started the attack
“Not at this time, John Carter!” said the odd man.
“It is expected soon.”
“Take me to the Jed,” I asked. Notan just nodded
and lead us out of the chamber and up a ramp. The thick walled fortress
was filled with warriors and when we reached the roof the young jed was
next to the crew of a Radium cannon.
“John Carter!” He said grimly, “We gave up our only
shield when you took Fandora home. Where is your mighty fleet now?” There
was a look of worry across his face.
“I will admit, you were right about Tubax,” I answered.
“ I didn't know that there was a traitor in my ranks. But, I stand with
you to ward off the attack that is coming.”
“Two Tubaxian Ships have made their way into the Inner
Sea. Both were knocked down by radium cannons, but they were just scouts.
The main fleet has just set sail and will be here within the hour.
If you have a plan to thwart the Skeel Legion I would like to hear it now.”
“Yes, I have a plan,” I told him. “I will need a
fast ship or a way to transmit a message to Helium.”
“I can provide you with both, but will they believe you?”
“Let me worry about that.” I answered him.
I was escorted to a wireless room in the fortress-- It
connected to a tower outside the inner sea. I could see the disgust
on the face of the young ruler—I had let him down.
I quickly sent a coded message to Helium to The Jeddak,
my son Carthoris and my wife.
I explained how the traitor was none other than Thurgan
This seems to have caught them by surprise.
“We received a coded message to return the fleet—with
your own code.” explained Tardos Mors. We will send the Grand
Fleet at once!” I told them to come directly to the Bloodseas where they
would be welcomed—and that a battle would be on. I informed
Carthoris that Lee was safe but in the battle zone. And he
vowed to come with warships as well. I asked of Thuvia and was pleased
to learn she was better but still weak. Dejah Thoris answered saying
I should order at least part of the fleet to attack Tubax itself.
I agreed and passed that recommendation on the the Jeddak-- warning him
that they enemy had hostages they might threaten. Before I signed
off I was told the fleet had set sail at high speed.
Just then I head a loud explosion.
“The battle is on!” Cried a warrior who rushed in.