CHAPTER 24: "THE JUNGLE'S SECRET"
Novelization of the JCB strip by Dale R. Broadhurst
The Virginian was positive that the degravitated, mechanical
mount must be flying over the center of the great mesa, but when he looked
down he could still see no city. He looked again, and at a level not far
below the crowns of the tall trees, John Carter could pick out the flat
roofs of several buildings. Each roof was covered with its own patch of
vegetation, so it was difficult for him to tell how many of them there
were. He counted fifty and guessed there might be ten times that many,
most of which blended so well into the surrounding jungle as to be practically
invisible from the air.
The flying thoat slowed and hovered above the scarcely
discernible city of Eo. From the midst of the roofs a tall slender tower
of silver hue began to rise. The Earthman knew of Barsoom's ascending and
descending buildings from his conversations with Dejah Thoris, but this
was the first example he had encountered. When the metal shaft had risen
a hundred sofads [100 feet] into the night sky it ceased to ascend. A large
window opened near its top. It was to this window that the flying mechanical
mount now made its way.
Hasten, Oman!" urged John Carter impatiently, "while there
is yet time to restore life to the princess!"
The Earthman expected some minimal welcome or a diagnosis
of the stony state his princess had fallen into, but Vovo's first words
were ones of self praise.
"Did you see, Jasoomian?" he cried out, "With my brains
alone guiding the hands of my mechanical men, I have built my own city!
Here I reign as royal wizard and jedwar of my own metallic army."
"Where is Dejah Thoris?" was Carter's only answer.
"Oh yes, the Princess of Helium. Come down from the flying
device and I shall show you. My lab is close at hand. The Princess of Helium
in my tower! Can you believe it, Oman?"
"Vovo is great! Vovo is mighty!" was the reply, in monotonous
repetition from the mouth of Oman, the mechanical man.
"Do you know, Jasoomian, that they exiled me for my radical
ideas," Vovo cackled. "That my intellect far surpassed theirs is evident
by my advanced architectural designs. It is time that Helium paid me proper
respect, don't you think?"
After Captain dismounted, Vovo led the him to his laboratory,
while Oman tended to the mechanical mount.
"We shall look in on the princess in due course, man of
another world. But first of all, there is something you should see."
Within his grand laboratory, Vovo directed the Earthman's
attention to a large view-screen. It was like nothing John Carter had seen
before. In front of his eyes was a moving image, all in color. It was ten
times more fascinating than the magic lantern show he and Lieutenant Powell
had once attended in St. Louis.
"What is this, Vovo, a sorcerer's mirror?"
"The city you see in the moving pictures is Helium --
over a thousand miles away. I forget at the moment what communications
devices you have on Jasoom. You have no moving pictures machines do you?"
"I have operated telegraph apparatus," answered Carter.
"I know that instructions on how to draw a picture can be sent by code,
over a wire. You have a device that draws the pictures very quickly? Or
are they many photographs put together?"
"You have the basic idea, Jasoomian. But forget the wire.
These moving pictures were recorded by one of my mechanical birds. Then
the bird, which has a camera in it, flew part way back to Eo and sent me
the moving pictures without any need for a telegraphic wire. Watch, I will
play the same recording a second time."
John Carter watched the televised scenes with a certain
amount of respect and wonder. It was a wonderful invention, no doubt, but
he did not see how it could help the frozen princess.
"So that is Helium, eh? The images are remarkable. Such
a means of communication would have been very useful to the generals of
the last army I served in. But what good is it to you, to sit here and
watch a distant city in this way?"
"Oh it is of great use," laughed the wizard. "I can spot
any invader -- any enemy -- before he ever arrives at my door. I watch
Helium's airships leave every dawn in search of Dejah Thoris, their princess.
They search for her mostly in the northern hemisphere these days, with
hundreds of naval fliers. Great amounts of treasure are expended every
day by the Jeddak of Helium and he has nothing to show for it. And now
I have his granddaughter as my guest. This is a very useful development,
don't you think!"
"I have heard you say you want the reward that will be
given upon her return. If you can save her life and send her back to her
family in safety, then I'm sure the reward will be yours."
Vovo looked up from the view-screen and his big eyes searched
John Carter's muscular frame carefully. Yes, the Jasoomian was a fighting
man. Too bad that he had no usable hands to wield his swords. But, for
the moment, that too suited Vovo's purposes.
"No, Jasoomian," you mistake my purpose here. I will do
my best to save the princess. I will not ask for the reward. I shall demand
100 times the value of any reward Helium has to offer, for I shall hold
their healed princess, until they pay my asking price, for a great ransom!"
John Carter said nothing. So long as Dejah Thoris was
revived and returned to her people in good health, it did not matter to
him what price Helium paid, nor whether the payment was called "reward"
or "ransom." But he had played the little man's game long enough. It was
time for action.
"You have made your point, Vovo. Show me Dejah Thoris
now. Show me what you can do for her. My patience with you and all your
talk is wearing thin!"
"Then look behind you, beyond the shelves of medical equipment."
Vovo gloated. "There lies your precious princess. And only I can save her