CHAPTER 3: "THE FAIR CAPTIVE"
Novelization of the JCB strip by Dale R. Broadhurst
The small fleet of Heliumite airships
had already conducted much research in the upper atmosphere of the northern
hemisphere. The expedition gathered thousands of containers filled with
air samples, as well as stacks of completed notebooks, numerous temperature
and pressure recordings and new charts of the Barsoomian air currents,
all of which were of priceless value to the scientists and navy of the
empire. But an equal number of samples and readings had to taken at much
lower altitudes. Dejah Thoris listened attentively as the commanding admiral
addressed an assembly aboard the flagship on this very subject.
"We will begin our low level survey
at a point between the cities of Ptarth and Zodanga. As we come closer
to Zodanga I expect the utmost vigilance of all personnel, for the likelihood
of war is undeniable. The fleet will rendezvous for a transfer of supplies
and equipment over the ruins of Korad. Scouts tell us that the place is
deserted and entirely safe..."
Captain John Carter is a mysterious
man of many lifetimes. This is not the place to recite his memories of
centuries gone by, but that fact explans why he is also a man of many languages.
He very quickly learned enough of the common language on Mars to suffice
for his daily needs. Shortly after his initial contact with the green men
the Virginian found that nearly always could guess the correct Martian
terms for objects and sometimes also for personal names, titles and actions.
It eventually struck him that he was sensing the very thoughts of the green
giants. Although every Martian is hatched with telepathic abilities, the
Earthman had to discover and develop the talent entirely on his own. In
the process he also learned how to keep his personal throughts secret --
an exceptionally rare mental gift on the red planet.
He learned that "sak" means jump; that
a "drogar" is a crack marksman and "gorthan-jur!" is a warning of impending
murder. Put together, the words translated to something like "Jump, or
this gunslinger will ring your neck!" Having figured out that Dotar Laj
the drogar had truly threatened his life in the plaza, Carter next learned
that the ruffian died from the blow to his chin.
"Why?" John Carter asked, when Tars
Tarkas handed him two bundles, which proved to be the arms, ornaments,
and the full accouterments of a green warrior.
"Dotar" and "dead" were the only intelligible
words in Tars Tarkas' fast flowing reply, but from that the captive realized
that he had inherited the dead drogar's leather body harness, woolen cape,
swords, pistol and sandals, as well as a scanty wisp of an animal hair
loinclout. Tars Tarkas had the cape cut into three warm mantles for Carter's
used during the freezing Martian nights. The same tailoress, a young green
female attached to the retinue of the green leaders, also remodeled the
dead man's other trappings to fit the white man's lesser proportions.
Much happened to John Carter at Korad,
the place of his first residence on Mars. What can be said in summary is
that Sola, the girl sent by Tars Tarkas, instructed him in the language
and customs of her people, the semi-nomadic Tharks of Barsoom's southern
deserts. Besides learning the every day vocabulary of the Tharks, he also
questioned his teacher and others in order to pick up the more complex
Martian figures of speech. Sola revealed that the ruined city of Korad
had been built by small, highly evolved beings, but not until he stumbled
upon a few ancient reams of illustrated text did Carter know for certain
that Korad was once inhabitated by beings who looked very much like himself.
One day a green rider drove his mount
furiously into the ruins, yelling at the top of his voice and gesticulating
wildly at the sky. The effect upon the giant nomads encamping among the
buildings was phenomenal. In a few moments the entire company of Tharks
was nowhere to be seen. Only a dozen or so of the lowest ranking giants
remained in the streets. And once they had hidden all the group's animals,
extinguished its fires, and covered every trace of recent habitaton, they
too disappeared from view.
Sola directed John Carter seek shelter
with her behind a pile of fallen stones on a roof top. From that hidden
vantage point they watched and waited. Sola pointed at the northern sky.
A huge silver craft, flying low, appeared from below the horizon. Following
it came several more, until twenty of the vessels sailed slowly and majestically
over the broken walls of ancient Korad.
John Carter watched as the strange
vessels lingered, almost motionless, over the northern quarter of the ruins.
A few of the smallest craft began flitting back and forth among the larger
ships. As best the Earthman could determine, the small flyers were shuttling
man and material back and forth between the other ships. Then without warning
the green Martian warriors fired a terrific rifle volley from the windows
of buildings facing the preoccupied crewmen. Some of the firearms thus
employed were double the size of a normal rifle. The withering hail of
missles from these big guns punched gaping holes in several of the airships
and they began to spin down out of control. The broken craft did not plummet
from the skies like stones; rather, they lost bouyancy over a space of
several seconds and then took a full minute to reach the ground, crash
and burn. In the meanwhile, the precision fire from the ground never diminished.
One by one, however, a handful of the
crippled ships managed to dip back below the horizon, until only one barely
moving craft was left sight. This had received the brunt of the Thark fire
and was drifting to the ground, seemingly unmanned. It soon became evident
that she would strike the base of a building not far south of John Carter's
position, and as he watched the progress of the ship's descent, he saw
a number of green riders gallop out to meet the falling hulk.
As the great injured craft settled
in at the bottom of the building, the Tharks threw out grappling hooks,
pulled it to the ground and swarmed on board. The Earthman watched them
examining the dead crew, and presently a party of the green appeared from
below the deck, dragging a little figure among them. The creature was considerably
less than half as tall as the green Martian warriors, and Captain Carter
saw that it walked erect upon two legs.
While these events were transpiring
the remainder of the Tharks were pouring into the streets to witness the
looting of the fallen airships. Tons of salvaged material had been hauled
into the plaza when the Virginian got there. Most of it consisted of hunks
of twisted metal and other useless junk. But then he saw a wagon full of
corpses being unloaded and stripped. He ventured forth for a closer look.
"They are like Earth people!" John
Carter exclaimed in English.
At that moment one of the supposedly
dead bodies lifted its eyeless head a little and let out a ghastly groan:
The Princess -- save -- her -- from -- barbarians!"
The astonshed outlander had no chance
to question the poor red-skinned fellow. He was not at all sure he'd heard
the expiring stranger's word's correctly, and even if he had, they might
have been nothing more than that suffering soul's dying delusion.