Ras Thavas was as close to panic as his analytical
mind would allow him to get. His flyer sped through the Barsoomian night
as fast as he could go, for he knew that an army of jomads were close behind
him. He had mere hours to reach Greater Helium to warn John Carter of the
peril which stood unseen at his doorstep. It boggled even his great mind
when he considered the immensity which was faced by the entire solar system.
In the distance, the jomads hurled insults and curses
after him as they slowly closed the gap between them. The Mastermind of
Mars was armed with nothing more than his wits, but wits such as those
possessed by Ras Thavas were mightier than a thousand swords.
He turned the flyer upward after setting a rather complex
program into the directional compass. That program would deliver him to
Helium on a course which would describe a high arc through the upper atmosphere.
In short order, the Mastermind lost consciousness, although he did so with
a slightly smug smile on his face. The jomads, unused to the type of atmospheres
behavior on the surface, did not expect to grow short of breath as they
rose to follow and one by one, passed out and started to plummet toward
Later, the flyer was dipping down as it approached
Helium when Ras Thavas regained awareness, none the worse for the experience
save for a small headache.
The sun was at zenith over Greenwich. Only had it been
otherwise would that have been unusual, for Pellucidar never experienced
night. Given that basic fact of Pellucidarian life, the panic that every
person who was on the streets at the time felt when the sun suddenly went
out, was understandable. Luckily, or so it seemed, the darkness only lasted
a few short seconds.
The sun came back to life as quickly as it had been
extinguished. The population looked toward the sky in relief. That relief
turned quickly to a new form of panic as a horde of winged creatures descended
out of the renewed sunlight. At first, a few voices cried out "Mahars!
They have returned to enslave us!" but the owners of those voices soon
saw that it was a less familiar evil that they faced. The streets of Greenwich
were soon crowded with jomads who actually, for the most part, ignored
the fleeing residents. Only those who attempted to get in their way found
themselves cut down by their strange ceramic swords. It took them only
a short time to control the two key positions that they needed. The first
was the underground rail entrance that was the gateway to Earth and the
second was the Gridley wave transmission station so that they could delay
news of their arrival from spreading too quickly.
The jemdar and the president both sat in the house
of parliament that day and listened to one impassioned speech after another.
A representitive from the country of Brazil had the floor.
"Your Majesty, Mr. President. For two hundred days,
our prince has been gone without any real explanation. The Barsoomian "Warlord"
has continued to insist that a situation over which he has no control persists
and that having heard from this "Ras Thavas" person, we should trust and
have faith that all shall be resolved.
"I ask you, what manner of hogwash is this that we
are asked to believe? Ras Thavas is nothing more than the court wizard
to a man who rules a medieval system that is out of step with our modern
world in almost every particular. This John Carter was born on this world
but enjoys living a fantasy life on Mars! How much longer must we endure
having to deal with this man? Furthermore, he has claimed that some unknown
personage named "Savjoda" is the real villain in this shocking abduction
without any evidence save for the word of Ras Thavas!"
The parliamentarian's tirade was interrupted by a messenger
entering the chamber and running to the place where the president was seated.
The president looked over the scrap of paper briefly and then stood up
and struck the podium with his gavel.
"Gentlemen! I must call an end to this session at this
time. There seems to be a disturbance at the underground station that requires
my attention. A riot perhaps, but the military has been summoned and I
must lend some guidance."
The president strode from the chamber with a sense
of purpose in his step. Several ministers escorted the jemdar out, while
the members of parliament fell into hushed discussions.
It was a rather shocking when the windows of the legislative
chamber burst inward to admit a hundred sword wielding jomads. They drove
the representatives from the chamber and herded them into a basement office
where they were locked in. None resisted the strange winged creatures.
The president was captured by jomads who constantly harangued him, but
in a language he could not understand. Julian 67th, hereditary jemdar of
Earth's hegemony, was arrested and confined to the residence of the palace.
The center of Earth's government had fallen in a matter of minutes.
The Walls of Greater Helium
It was near sunset. Cluros and Thuria hurtled overhead
oblivious to the disaster that approached from the horizon.
Three men stood on the wall of a Barsoom capital city.
Two were red men, one, a handsome youth in the spring of young manhood,
another a withered veteran. Between them stood a square-jawed, gray-eyed
Earthman. The youth was Ras Thavas the two thousand year old Mastermind
of Mars in his seventh new body since he had mastered the art of brain
transplantation. The Earthman was John Carter, Warlord of Mars, even older
than Ras Thavas, but by how much, he knew not. The ancient one was Carthoris,
son of John Carter and at the age of nine-hundred and ninety years had
been contemplating retiring as jeddak of Helium.
"They are like a swarm of bees," said John Carter.
"You have told me about bees, father, but I thought
they were smaller," replied Carthoris.
"They are, son. These creatures, whatever they are,
are far more dangerous."
Ras Thavas had only managed to stay ahead of the horde
by about an hour. To his disappointment, most of them had regained consciousness
before they had struck the ground and had renewed their advance on the
The ancient scientist addressed the warlord. "These
creatures are based on my own work in creating the hormads and unfortunately,
although their bodies are more symmetrical and they can reproduce themselves,
their minds are just as simple. Savjoda created them as a work force to
help him in his grand project of reclaiming the works of nature that had
been weakened by humanity. He sought to make the almost dead world of Dhaimira
into a preserve for wildlife that was barely holding on to its own existence.
"When the Kalkars invaded Earth seeking any meat they
could find, Savjoda, like a later day Noah of Jasoomian legend, preserved
them, each after their own kind. He hid them in Pellucidar out of sight
or mind of the Kalkars. It was at that time that the doyaks, the one-time
dominant race of Dhaimira, saw in Savjoda the key to their own salvation."
John Carter wrinkled his brow. "And now he has extended
his wildlife preserve to the surface of Barsoom?"
"I don't think so, John Carter. The jomads, being the
rather simple-minded creatures they are, have taken every idle word spoken
by Savjoda as if it were the most urgent order. He once expressed concern
about the continued rule of other human governments and they determined
that he would conquer all of mankind. He expressed the loneliness of his
mission and they contrived to kidnap a suitable bride for him. He expressed
fatigue over the magnitude of his undertaking and they determined to take
it over for him. At the moment, he is a prisoner in a gilded cage, waited
on hand and foot, but unable to act on his own at all. I was able to contrive
a way to escape and warn the outside world, but Savjoda insisted on staying
behind in the hope he might be able to exercise at least some control."
"I only hope", said Carter, "that your warning was
enough. We must arm every available man and use every available flyer.
These jomads must not take Helium."
In the Sun's Embrace
Only twenty million miles from the Sun was the darkest
place in the Solar System.
Kivu was the world within the planet Mercury. An age
ago, on the day that that the sun of Otala exploded, some visitors from
that world had been in Kivu. They activated the machinery to open a road
to their home world only to step out into vacuum and cold darkness. Kivu
s life giving link with the Sun was left severed. Since that day, Kivu
had been a world of darkness. Its natives took to burrowing into the ground
to be warmed by the heat of the sun that seeped up through the ground.
In time they became colorless and blind with a remarkably keen sense of
smell. Over a thousand centuries, they had developed a tradition of epic
verse and storytelling that was based only on the senses of smell, hearing
and touch. Their oral literature had a rare beauty. The Kivuans figure
not at all in this story, however, because they never ventured out to the
inner surface of Kivu at all. Because of this the jomads were unaware of
their presence, in fact their existence was known only to a few doyak scientists.
The jomads were interested in using Kivu as a jomad
home world and attempted to contrive a way to re-ignite its sun. Having
only the most basic grasp on how the dimensional roads worked, they made
a crucial error. Instead of placing the source for the inner world's sun
near the Sun's surface, they placed it directly at the core of the Sun.
The adjustment was made from Dhaimira, so it would be several minutes before
the mistake became apparent. To the team of jomads actually within Kivu
at the moment of ignition, there was so little delay in the result that
they never had time to even understand that anything was amiss.
In one of the last places on the surface of the Earth
that was far enough away from city lights to be useful, stood a small observatory.
External light, however, was not an issue today, for the astronomer was
making solar observations. Through a dense smoked filter, an astronomer
was observing and counting sunspots. The observatory was his refuge, particularly
when the news of events on Earth was so disturbing. The jemdar and president
under arrest and strange winged creatures running amok in the capital was
bad enough news to drive him into the isolation of his cosmic observations.
As he viewed the solar disk, he found himself baffled
by what appeared to be a second, smaller Sun bursting into existence beside
it. His puzzlement turned to horror when he checked an ephemeris. The bright
splotch was in the exact location of the planet Mercury.
The second asteroid belt that was born that day would
come to be known as the "Jomad s Children."