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
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 from Helium.
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 of Eo.
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 intelligent beings.
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
"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?"