CHAPTER 32: "A GRIM EXPERIMENT"
Novelization of the JCB strip by Dale R. Broadhurst
Suddenly Vovo was standing over her, glaring down with
his great red eyes. Dejah Thoris knew then that the little journey was
over. Whatever was going to happen to her would soon begin. She saw the
wizard was on a raised platform surrounded on three sides by strange equipment,
control panels and viewing screens. The robots had placed her on a long
stone bench below the platform and the girl sat there, trying to ward off
the night chill under the folds of the thick cloak the mechano-man had
"What do you see around you?" demanded the little wizard
of his captive.
"It looks much like the part of your laboratory in the
tower where you removed the stony paralysis from my body -- only larger,
with much more equipment and machinery. Overhead, beyond your platform,
is what appears to be a vast glass enclosure. What is it that you want
me to say? that I admire your collection bizarre inventions and contraptions?"
"Excellent! Excellent!" she heard him shout. "You have
described the scene quiet nicely. And, yes, these are all my inventions.
We are in the decaying remnants of Barsoom's first Atmosphere Plant --
the very spot where advanced science and technology were first implemented
on our planet. The ruins you see around you were constructed when the five
ocean basins yet held a little water and the air production equipment was
put into operation before your ancestors completed the first long waterway
linking the polar ice to the fertile spots of Barsoom. It is only fitting
that this important spot of antiquity now serve as the scene of my greatest
achievement. My manipulation of gravity is indeed a wonder, but my mastery
over mind and matter will lay an entire world at my feet!"
One of the robots approached her without warning and tore
away her robe. The princess shivered in the frigid air and prepared for
Oman returned with the transport device. It did not seem
that he had been away for very long. At his feet trotted the wary calot.
The time for action had come.
"Oman, if this be trickery at your master's bidding,"
declared John Carter, "my sword will shape thy carcass into scrap metal!"
"Listen carefully to my words, Jasoomian, and you will
know that I play no tricks," replied Oman. "My brain now functions independently
of Vovo's. There is more in me than mechanical parts. I also have my human
side and that part of me hates Vovo just as much as you do. We will now
make our move and surprise the wizard. Whatever fantastic scenes you may
experience, hold firm to my direction. I will guide you and the calot through
Vovo's web of delusion."
"I must believe you now," spoke Carter, "and I trust you
to lead me to Dejah Thoris ere Vovo harms her!"
Their passage to the robot mount was a hazy journey for
the Earthman. A quiet, dreamlike atmosphere pervaded the now deserted streets.
Carter had leaped upon the strange creature's back in another of the slow
motion experiences he was now becoming used to. Accompanied by Woola, he
and Oman had raced off to intercept the Wizard of Eo. But once again the
speedy motion seemed to slow to a crawl. The robot mount half-ran and half-flew
through alleyways, streets and jungle but their progress was strangely
uneven. Time itself appeared to be out of joint.
"I know we are moving quickly," said John Carter, "but
we never seem to get anywhere!"
"Patience, Dotar Sojat! We are very near the red princess.
Your perceptions are not exactly true ones now. Trust my words and prepare
to do battle!"
Whether it took seconds or hours to reach the old ruins
that night, the Virginian could never determine. However long it took --
and it must have been a very short time -- the interval upon the transport
device gave the Earthman an opportunity to hear more of Oman's recollections.
When Mars was yet young the Isle of Eo was the final home
of the six-limbed green creatures of her once great forests. The primitive
green species had ruled primordial Mars before the evolution of true human
beings, but in the planet's middle eons the green race dwindled to near
extinction. On Eo, however, they lived on, during the times when the ships
of men plied the waters of the five oceans. During the time of great changes,
when the seas began to disappear, the wizards came to the island. There
they built the first atmosphere factory to assist a threatened world. The
immense factory pumped the gas composed of oxygen and carbon into the air,
warming the atmosphere and stimulating the vegetation of Mars; those billions
of plants, in turn, helped replenish the oxygen so necessary for animal
As the ages wore on, the oceans shrank into salt marshes
and the mashes dried into barren deserts. The seas' plant life disappeared
and the desert moss did not produce even a fraction of the oxygen the dying
planet so desperately needed. In those days the red race built a great
factory to pump oxygen and nitrogen into the skies. The Wizards of Eo helped,
then they allowed their outmoded equipment to fall into disuse and disrepair.
In time the first Atmosphere Plant became a forgotten part of the planet's
long lost past.
Nobody knows where the Wizards of Eo came from, or even
what they looked like before they fabricated their age-old mechanical bodies.
Oman called them the "Cosoomians," but that was merely a term he came up
with when he first encountered the strange beings. As he had done before
them, they took up residence among the green creatures of the uncharted
island. Like John Carter Oman did not know from whence he came or how old
he really was. His first mental impressions were of a sailor's life and
occasional residence in Go-La-Ra, but he had no distinct memories of those
days of great antiquity. He had once lived a solitary life among the green
creatures on the island -- that much he was sure of. Then the Wizards came.
Even before they began construction of the first atmosphere
plant, the Wizards of Eo had taken a great interest in the green Martians.
For ages they worked among them, guiding their breeding and development.
It was only due to the continual assistance and stimulation of these creatures,
from the Wizards of Eo, that they ever advanced to the point that they
might be called "green men." When the wizards first found them, near extinction,
in their last refuge on Eo, the green creatures could not reason, nor form
societies, nor speak any sort of language.
During the time of great changes, the green men expanded
in all directions from Eo, filling the salt marshes of Mars and becoming
the planet's second most powerful intelligent life form. In those times
they confined themselves to the vast swamps and seldom interacted with
the human beings of the red planet. But when most of the wetlands had dried
and turned to barren wastes, the green men began their unending war with
the red men of Mars. So it came to pass, that the modern Tharks, Thurds,
Torquasians, Warhoons and other green hordes remained the unknowing foster
children of the Wizards of Eo, down to the days of Vo Dor and Vovo, the
impostor, successor wizards whom Oman had served for a thousand years.