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 girl.
"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 of minutes.
"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
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
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
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!"