CHAPTER 26: "LIVE OR DIE!"
Novelization of the JCB strip by Dale R. Broadhurst
Still John Carter held out his sword. In a room full of
strangers and strange things it was the only thing he could trust. Vovo's
promises may or may not be honest ones, but the steel in his hand had an
honesty of its own and upon that known reliability the Earthman trusted.
He now could see where the other handful of mechanical men had gone. While
he had listened to Vovo's artful words they had circled around him. On
every side he saw robots with drawn swords, inching their way toward him.
"Stop them," the Virginian ordered, "ere my sword divides
you in two halves!"
The Earthman's tones struck terror into Vovo's heart.
His smiles and ingratiating talk disappeared at once. The wizard felt the
blade cutting into his rough green hide and he winced in pain.
"Halt! Halt!" the wizard cried into his microphone.
Oman and the other robots halted at their master's order.
Not only did they cease their forward movement, but for the second time
Captain Carter witnessed the bizarre scene of evidently intelligent minds
going blank, like clockworks being shut down. Among all the robots only
Oman's eyes continued to move.
"Vovo's will is our will," Oman chanted in a low monotonous
"Now, wizard, if you wish to continue living," Carter
spoke sternly, "you will revive the Princess Dejah Thoris -- now!"
Then Carter prodded Vovo back to the electronic decalcifying
machine. Above the body of the princess was a glass enclosure. Vovo pointed
to this and spoke.
"In your case I was able to inject the catalyst drug into
your arms. But her skin will not accept an injection. She takes in air
with a slow and shallow breath, so if I fill the glass chamber with the
drug under a moderate pressure, it can be administered that way.
"Then do what you must," the swordsman answered. "But
remember I am watching your every move."
"Your calcification was only a partial one, Dotar Sojat.
Your bodily processes were not greatly interrupted. Her case is much different.
I can remove the paralysis, but I cannot always guarantee perfect success
when changing calcified tissue back to living flesh. Have patience, this
will take some time"
With Dejah Thoris within the air-tight glass case, the
wizard administered the drug in a gaseous form. Then he waited until he
saw certain changes in the frozen girl's eyes. The minutes dragged on and
finally John Carter lowered his antique blade. The only change in the vast
room, so far, was that Oman had ceased his bothersome chant.
Vovo at last aligned the machine and pulled the switch.
The healing rays moved from Dejah Thoris' head, down to her feet, and then
back again. Carter waited breathlessly while the streams of bombarding
electrons pierced the girl's body.
Under the glass enclosure John Carter could see a change
taking place. Where before the maiden's body had been a dull gray, it was
taking on a pinkish hue. At the same time, a thin translucent shell began
to take form around the girl's skin.
"Look, Jasoomian!" Vovo practically screamed. "The petrifaction
is coming out of her. When the enclosing sheath cracks open, your princess
will be relieved of the curse wrought by the purple vapors of Go-La-Ra!"
The fighting man looked on in amazement. Very slowly,
almost imperceptibly at first, the sleeping figure's firm breasts began
to rise and fall. At her nose and mouth signs of moisture began to appear
within the translucent shell. The color of her skin returned to its natural
redness. Dejah Thoris took a deep breath and from her inconspicuous Barsoomian
naval outward the enveloping coating cracked and fell away, like a sand
castle dissolving in an ocean spray.
"Is it over?" questioned Carter. "Will she awaken now?"
"Are all the creatures of your primitive planet so impatient,
Dotar Sojat?" The dwarf responded. "After I lift the glass you may do your
part in the transformation. She cannot be awakened suddenly or her mind
will never again function properly. How clear is the telepathy between
the two of you?"
Vovo removed the air-tight enclosure and once again John
Carter's senses were assailed by the powerful drug. For a moment he reeled
with dizziness, but the gas and its effects upon him soon dissipated and
he was himself again.
"I am still learning how you Martians project your thoughts,
wizard. As you must know by now I can guard mine from your mental probing
well enough. However, the princess and I have only shared small, brief
episodes of thought transfer. It is something I know very little about."
"Then now is a good time to learn, my odwar."
The green man's big eyes took on an ominous, dominant
look. He appeared to cough a little, above his microphone. Then he continued.
"Project your thoughts into her mind, Jasoomian. Although
she sleeps her brain will sense your communication. But you must do more
than just that. Open your mind, concentrate upon the princess only. Let
her thoughts come to you. Do not try to understand them or organize them
into any special pattern. The thoughts of a dreamer are random, they go
where they will. But in a while she will become sensible of your presence
and her dream awareness will begin to center upon you. Do you understand
what I am saying?"
"Yes, I understand. But you have not said what effect
all of this will have. I do not intend to take my eyes off you, Vovo. If
you make one false move, you'll taste the steel of my blade."
"Oh, that would not be good," the little man said with
a start. "But I believe you will trust the mental process when you experience
how it works. Once you have entered into her dream, speak with her, tell
her where she is and what is happening. Her thoughts will then begin to
come together in proper order and she can awaken without the risk of becoming
a madman or an imbecile. You love her; that bond has been more than evident
since I met you out upon the desert. If she loves you in return, then the
mental coupling will be a strong one. Lovers upon Barsoom have shared the
dreams of their sleep for ages. Meet her in her dreams and then lead her
slowly back to wakefulness."