CHAPTER 25: "GENIUS OR MADMAN?"
Novelization of the JCB strip by Dale R. Broadhurst
Vovo turned off the television screen and joined John Carter at the
table where Dejah Thoris had been laid out upon her back, like an overturned
statue. Just then Oman returned and the three of them inspected the unfortunate
"I care not how much Helium pays you, Vovo, but a princess of stone
will bring you no ransom at all," Carter said sternly. "So revive her,
ere it is too late!"
"All in due course, Jasoomian, all in due course. First it would be
best for me to test the procedure, don't you agree? I have done this sort
of thing before, but the results vary. If I am not careful I might remove
the calcification successfully, but she still might not regain consciousness.
Or she might die in the process. Let us first test my healing powers on
your own arms and hands. You will soon lose them -- you know that -- if
I do not treat them now. What say you, impatient warrior?"
John Carter agreed that Vovo's plan was the best way to proceed and
he consented to climb upon a second slab, which Oman pushed up beside the
table bearing Dejah Thoris. Vovo explained the procedure. With John Carter
lying flat on his back, the wizard would inject a certain medicine into
each arm and then subject them to the glowing beam from a strange machine.
If all worked well, the Earthman's hands would return to normal in a matter
"Let's get this over with," remarked the Virginian. "The night is far
spent and so far I have heard nothing from you but talk,"
But before he could say another word the drug began to take effect.
As though in a dream John Carter watched the green dwarf and his mechanical
assistant train the warm rays upon first one of his arms and then the other.
A few minutes passed. He struggled to remain conscious. Before long he
felt the strength returning to his wrists and fingers. He tried to raise
his head but a cold dizziness held him back. So he raised his arms instead.
The color was beginning to return to them. His fingers moved easily now.
Vovo's eyes feasted on the beauty of the stricken girl -- her face was
like a frozen mask of ersite. But the wizard seemed certain now that he
could revive the sleeping beauty. He and Oman moved the ray machine over
to her slab.
"I am tempted to keep her and forget the ransom," Vovo muttered. "She
is really well suited for another of my greatest experiments!"
"You'll keep your promise, little man." Captain Carter cried out. "Ransom
or no, work the same magic upon her that you did upon me. No experiments!
No tricks!. Bring her back to life and be quick about it!"
John Carter had recovered fully. The only side effect he felt was the
cold dizziness, but he fought off the dreamy feeling and urged Vovo to
proceed. When the dwarf did not speed up his movements, the Earthman drew
his long-sword and nudged Vovo's ribs with its sharp point.
"Your genius will be short-lived, little green man, unless you revive
this afflicted girl, and do it quickly!" Carter snapped.
"Why, you ungrateful wretch!" shouted the little man. "You dare pull
your sword on me, in my own home! Lower your blade or I'll have both you
and your princess ground to dust and scattered to the winds!"
Vovo spoke a word into his microphone and Oman came forth, pointing
a loaded pistol at Captain Carter. At the same moment a dozen more armed
mechanical men appeared, as if out of thin air. Carter did not lower his
sword, but neither did he thrust it into the one person who might save
the Princess of Helium. He, the dwarf, Oman and the throng of robots all
stood watching each other, with none of them moving a muscle.
It was Vovo who spoke first.
"You call yourself, Dotar Sojat, don't you, Jasoomian? It is a fine
Thark name and you are, no doubt, a fine warrior. You have commanded men;
that I can tell. I admire your courage. You draw your sword against overwhelming
odds and not a glimmer of fear enters your eyes. I like that in a man.
Why do you think that the experiment I spoke of would be of any harm? It
is not in my best interests to hurt either one of you. The procedure to
revive the girl can begin just as soon as you put down that blade."
The Earthman listened, but did not move his weapon.
"Call me whatever name suits you. I know treachery when I hear it. So
long as this sword is in your ribs you stand at death's door, no matter
how many radium guns your tin men may point at me. Give me your word that
you will revive the princess and allow her speedy and safe return to Helium.
Only then will I consider letting you live!"
"Spoken like a true soldier!" Vovo laughed. "Why of course you have
my promise. In fact, I will make you a better one, Dotar Sojat. Once the
girl has recovered and is on her way home, remain here with me. I will
soon finish assembling another 10,000 mechanical men. With sufficient payment
and resources from Helium, I can make 20,000 of the flying thoats within
two years. I shall need a second odwar to lead the new cavalry division.
Take a place in my army equal to Oman and enjoy a long life in your chosen
profession, fighting man. I know these Heliumite ingrates. Once they have
their daughter back they will throw you into a prison cell and you will
rot there. Some dandy of a prince will marry her and she will forget you
ever existed. Think it over, Dotar Sojat -- it is the opportunity of a
John Carter was having difficulty maintaining his balance. The room
seemed to be turning in circles around him. Where once had seen a dozen
armed robots, now there were but six. Oman had put away the pistol and
held only a short sword. The Virginian felt that at any moment he might
close his eyes, never to open them again, but still he did not lower his
"Perhaps what you say is true, Wizard of Eo," he replied. "Perhaps the
royal family of Helium will treat me with disdain and the princess may
forget my name. None of that matters. I have made promises, both to her
and to the green girl who accompanies us. It is a matter of honor and I
do not intend to break my promises. However, if both girls leave Eo in
safety and I see that they reach Helium without any further trouble from
you, I will then consider your second promise. But not until all I have
spoken has been accomplished."
"Then it is agreed, Jasoomian," chuckled the wizard. "Oman and I will
perform the task. Ere this night is over the Princess of Helium and her
Thark maid will be taken to her home by my flying device and you may return
to enter my service when it suits you. Put away your weapon!"