CHAPTER 23: "THE FORBIDDEN PLATEAU"
Novelization of the JCB strip by Dale R. Broadhurst
Sola watched in anguish as the mechanical mount leaped into the air.
Once again John Carter had left her behind while he made a desperate attempt
to save the star-crossed princess. The parting was a sad one for Sola and
she was worried that she might never see either of the humans again. It
had been her idea to seek help in this mysterious place, but nothing was
working out the way she had expected. She could only hope for the best,
while her better judgment feared the worst.
On the short trip to the wizard's tower Oman answered some of the Earthman's
questions about the flying thoat. It was a recent invention from Vovo's
laboratory and it marked the end of the little green man's life-long quest
to master the force of gravity. But John Carter was a fighting man and
he had little interest in such things as radium degravitators. All he wanted
to know was how soon Dejah Thoris might be cured of the terrible ailment
she now suffered.
Years later the Earthman discovered an account of Vovo's life, written
among the notes in a manuscript book, entitled "Pew Mogel, His Life and
Wonderful Works." The author knew of Vovo's mentor and that red man's scientific
research, which Pew Mogel belittled and dismissed with great contempt.
But in that sarcastic review he discloses some interesting facts.
Vovo was hatched in a Tharkian incubator, about fifteen hundred years
before Captain Carter came to Mars. His egg cracked during incubation,
robbing the green infant of much needed nourishment. When the hatchlings
were taken away, to join the adult Tharks, the disfigured runt was left
to die. However he was found and raised by an outlaw green warrior. This
Thark pariah had gathered a meager retinue of fellow outcasts about him
and the band lived in one of the smaller ruined cities on the northern
fringe of the Tharkian domain. Too small and weak to fight with the males,
the runt was raised with the female hatchlings and trained with them in
the art of assembling weapons and ammunition. He proved to be a great genius
in that trade and it was the boy's improvements in their radium rifles
that gave the outlaw warriors advantage enough to survive the attacks of
their enemies for several years.
The outcasts were finally hunted down by the Jeddak of Thark. Only the
young dwarf was not massacred. His bent little body and highly intelligent
mind made him an object of amusement among the jeddak's troops. The young
prodigy soon escaped them and made his way to Zodanga, where he was captured
and placed in a zoo. The zoo subsequently disposed of its surplus animals,
selling them to a scientist for laboratory experiments. So it was that
the unwanted green genius at last came under the tutelage of the man who
named him. This was the theorist and inventor Vo Dor, himself an exile
In the course of time one jeddak died and another came to power over
the Heliumite Empire, and Vo Dor returned to his homeland, taking his green
ward Vovo with him. There Vo Dor set up a new experimental lab and perfected
certain innovative weapons, one of which came to the attention of an organized
band of assassins. The scientist soon became involved in their plot against
the new Jed of Greater Helium, who in those days was a prince named Tardos
Mors. When the conspiracy was uncovered, Vo Dor fled his homeland for a
second time to Zodanga. For some unknown reason he and Vovo did not complete
that journey and they were never seen again. The imperial government of
Helium seized Vo Dor's laboratory and inventions, many of which were put
to effective use by the military. The account compiled by Pew Mogel ends
at that point in time, adding only that most of the inventions credited
to Vo Dor were really the creations of his assistant, VoVo the dwarf.
John Carter, however, knew none of this biography when he was at Eo.
All Vovo disclosed was that his superior intelligence "resulted in banishment
by my own people, who are highly superstitious." Had the Earthman then
known about the little green man's constant preoccupation with revenge
and deception, he might have not fallen into the trap Vovo was setting.
And, had he known that the so-called wizard had once been on the periphery
of a conspiracy to kill the grandfather of Dejah Thoris, Captan Carter
might have better guessed Vovo's hidden motives. As things turned out,
it was not until years later that the bold Virginian put together all of
the incriminating pieces of the puzzle that made up Vovo, the last Wizard
Atop the plateau loomed a great mass of dense vegetation. In the light
of the two moons the seemingly endless expanse of foliage appeared to be
a wild jungle. In the brighter illumination of day, upon closer inspection,
John Carter's eyes would have revealed what his sense of reason was then
telling him -- that such a jungle could not have sprung up and thrived
in the dry desert of southeastern Mars without the protective care of numerous
Both Sola and the green dwarf had spoken of the Plateau of Eo as a place
of advanced science and technology, but where was the urban area over which
Vovo ruled? Carter discerned no civilization, no laboratories, no factories
-- just unbroken forest, as far as the eye could see.
"Oman," asked the Earthman, seizing upon a sudden inspiration, "your
master called you an 'odwar' did he not?"
"I am Odwar of the mechano-men of Eo," the robot replied.
"How many do you have command over and where do they live?"
"I have responsibility for ten thousand mechano-men. They are divided
into ten companies, nine of which live within the caverns of Eo and one
of which guards and maintains the city of Eo. The city occupies one square
haad of cleared space in the center of the plateau. The garden and the
ruins occupy the remainder."
The Earthman guessed that what Oman called "the garden" was the vast
jungle that covered the mesa from one side to the other. He did not think
to ask what "the ruins" might be.
Woola watched as his master disappeared into the night sky. He whined
nervously; all was not well; even a brute with limited intelligence could
understand that much. As she had done each night since their escape from
Thark, Sola posted him to serve as watchdog while she got what little sleep
she could under difficult circumstances. Woola, however, felt the call
of a higher loyalty. He could not follow the strange thoat that had carried
his master away into the sky, but the calot's sharp eyes saw the thing's
path of descent and he realized that John Carter must be somewhere on the
top of the vast flat mountain. That was enough for him to know; the wardog
started up the trail to the forbidden realm of Eo.
The green wizard laid the girl's body upon a narrow table, the top of
which was surmounted by an ersite slab. Even in her rigidity the naked
maiden was the very picture of regal elegance. He examined her eyes through
a magnifying glass. The calicifying layers were thin and transparent; below
them Vovo noticed the slow ebbing and flowing of blood in the tiny vessels
of both eyes.
"Ah-ha! Granddaughter of Tardos Mors! You are still alive under that
stony skin, aren't you! How much Helium owes my genius -- can you even
imagine? How much are you worth, red princess?"