Pew Mogel hooked one of his fingers over a lever projecting from the golden arm of his throne and slipped it toward himself. A pillar to the left of his throne, half set in the wall, began to revolve slowly.
A giant green man appeared, chained to the pillar. His four mighty arms were strapped securely; and for Pew Mogel’s additional safety, several steel chains were wrapped around his body and cinched with massive padlocks. His neck and ankles were also secured with bands of steel, also padlocked.
“Tars Tarkas!” Carter exclaimed.
“Kaor, John Carter,” there was a grim smile on Tars Tarkas’ face as he replied. “I see our friend here trapped us both the same way; but it took a giant fifteen times my size to hold me while they trussed me in these chains.”
“The message you sent me last night—” In a flash, Carter realized the truth. Pew Mogel had faked the messages from Kantos Kan and Tars Tarkas, trapping them both in the city the night before.
“Yes, I sent you both identical messages,” said Pew Mogel, “each message apparently from the other. The proper broadcasting length I ascertained from listening to the concealed microphone I had planted in the Jeddak’s throne room. Clever. With my own hands I created him from living flesh, the greatest fighting monster that Barsoom has ever seen. I modeled him from the organs, tissues, and bones of ten thousand red men and white apes.”
Pew Mogel, becoming aware of his left eye, quickly shoved it back into place.
Tars Tarkas laughed one of his rare laughs. “Pew Mogel,” he said, “you are falling apart. As you claim to have created your giant, so you yourself have been made.
“Unless I miss my guess, John Carter,” continued Tars Tarkas, “this freak before us who calls himself a king has, himself, crawled out of a tissue vat!”
Pew Mogel’s pallid countenance turned even paler as he leaped to his feet. He struck Tars Tarkas a vicious blow on the face.
“Silence, green man!” he shrieked.
Tars Tarkas only smiled at this insult, ignoring the pain. John Carter’s face was a frozen mask. One more blow at his defenseless friend would have sent him at Pew Mogel’s throat.
Better to bide his time, he knew, until he learned where Dejah Thoris was hidden.
Pew Mogel sank back upon his throne. The white ape, who had risen, once more squatted down at his master’s feet.
Presently Pew Mogel smiled again. “So sorry,” he drawled, “that I lost my temper. Sometimes I forget that my present appearance reveals the nature of my origin.
“You see, soon I shall have trained one of my apes in the intricate procedure of transferring my marvelous brain into a suitable, handsome body; then no one will guess that I am not like any other normal man on Barsoom.”
John Carter smiled grimly at Pew Mogel’s words. “Then you are one of Ras Thavas’ synthetic men?”
“Yes, I am a synthetic man,” answered Pew Mogel slowly. “My brain was the greatest achievement of all The Master Mind’s creations.
“For years I was a devoted pupil of Ras Thavas in his laboratories at Morbus. I learned all that the Master could teach me of the secrets of creating living tissue. When I learned from him all that I thought necessary to pursue my plans, I left Morbus. With a hundred synthetic men I escaped over the Great Toonolian Marshes on the backs of malagors, the birds of transport.
“I brought with me all the intricate equipment that I could steal from his laboratories. The rest, I have fashioned here in this ancient deserted city where we finally landed.”
John Carter was studying Pew Mogel intently.
“I was tired of being a slave,” continued Pew Mogel. “I wanted to rule; and by Issus, I have ruled; and some day I shall rule all Barsoom!”
Pew Mogel’s eyes gleamed.
“It was not long before red men gathered in our city, escaped and exiled criminals. Since their faces would only lead them to capture and execution in other civilized cities on Barsoom, I persuaded them to allow me to transfer their brains into the bodies of the stupid white apes that overran this city.
“I promised to later restore their brains into the bodies of other red men, provided they would help me in my conquests.”
Carter recalled the apes with the bandaged heads in the adjoining laboratory, and the red men with their skulls sliced off in the chamber of the rats. He began to understand a little; then he remembered Joog. “But the giant?” asked John Carter. “Whence came he?”
Pew Mogel was silent for a minute; then he spoke.
“Joog I have built, piece by piece, during several years, from the bones, tissues and organs of a thousand red men and white apes who came voluntarily to me or whom I captured.
“Even his brain is the synthesis of the brains of ten thousand red men and white apes. Into Joog’s veins I have pumped a serum that makes all tissues self-repairing.
“My giant is practically indestructible. No bullet or cannon-shot made can stop him!”
Pew Mogel smiled and stroked his hairless chin. “Think how powerful my ape soldiers will be,” he purred, “each one armed with the great strength of an ape. With their four arms they can hold twice as many weapons as ordinary men, and inside their skulls will function the cunning brains of human beings.
“With Joog and my army of white apes, I can go forth and become master of all Barsoom.” Pew Mogel paused and then added, “provided I acquire more iron for even greater weapons than I already have.”
Now Pew Mogel had risen from his throne in his great excitement.
“I preferred to conquer peacefully by first acquiring the Helium iron works as payment for Dejah Thoris’s safe return. But the Jeddak and John Carter force me into other alternatives. However, I’ll give you one more chance to settle peacefully,” he said.
Pew Mogel’s hand moved toward the right arm of his throne, as he pulled a duplicate lever. A beautiful woman swung into view.
It was Dejah Thoris!
At the sight of his princess chained to the other pillar before him John Carter grew very pale. He sprang forward to free her.
His earthly muscles could have easily covered the distance in one leap; but halfway there in his spring, Dejah Thoris and Tars Tarkas saw the earthman sprawl in mid-air as though he had struck full force against some invisible barrier. Half-stunned, he crumpled to the floor.
Dejah Thoris gave a little cry. Tars Tarkas strained at his bonds. Slowly, the earthman rose to his feet, shaking his body like some majestic animal. With his sword he reached down and felt the barrier that stood between him and the throne. Pew Mogel laughed harshly.
“You are trapped, John Carter. The invisible glass partition that you struck is another invention of the great Ras Thavas that I acquired. It is invulnerable.
“From there, you may watch the torture of your princess, unless she sees fit to sign a note to her father demanding the surrender of Helium to me.”
The earthman looked at his princess not ten feet from him. Dejah Thoris held her head proudly high, which was answer enough to Pew Mogel’s demands that she betray her people.
Pew Mogel saw, and angrily issued a command to the ape. The white brute rose and ambled over to Dejah Thoris. Grabbing her hair with one paw, he forced her head back until he could see her face. His hideous grinning face was not two inches from hers.
“Demand Helium’s surrender,” hissed Pew Mogel, “and you shall have your freedom!”
“Never!” the word shot back at him.
Pew Mogel flung another command to the ape.
The creature planted his great, pendulous lips on those of the princess. Dejah Thoris went limp in his embrace, while Tars Tarkas surged vainly at the steel chains. The girl had fainted.
The earthman again hurled himself futilely against the barrier that he could not see.
“Fool,” yelled Pew Mogel, “I gave you your chance to retain your princess by turning over to me the Helium iron works; but you and the Jeddak thought you could thwart me and regain Dejah Thoris without paying me the price I asked for her safe return. For that mistake, you all die.”
Pew Mogel again reached over to the instrument board beside his throne. He began to turn several dials, and Carter heard a strange, droning noise that increased steadily in volume.
Suddenly the earthman turned and raced for the door through which he came.
But before he had covered fifteen feet, another barrier had closed down. Escape through the door was impossible.
There was a window over on the wall to his right. He leaped for it. He struck another glass barrier.
There was another window on the left side of the room. He had nearly reached it when he was met by another wall of invisible glass.
In a flash he became acutely conscious of his predicament. The walls were moving in upon him. He could see now that the glass barriers had moved out from cleverly concealed slits in the adjoining walls.
The two side barriers, however, were fastened to horizontal pistons in the ceiling. These pistons were moving together, bringing the glass walls toward each other, and would eventually crush the earthman between them. Upon John Carter’s finger was a jeweled ring. Set in the center of the ring was a large diamond. Diamonds can cut glass!
Here was a new type of glass, but the chances were it was not as hard as the diamond on Carter’s finger!
The earthman clenched his fist, pressed the diamond ring against the barrier in front of him and quickly made a large circular scratch in the glass surface.
Then he crashed his body with all his strength against the area of glass enclosed by the scratch.
The section broke out neatly at the blow, and the earthman found himself face to face with Pew Mogel.
Dejah Thoris had regained consciousness, a set, intent expression on her beautiful face. A grim smile had settled over Tars Tarkas’s lips when he saw that his friend was no longer impeded by the invisible barriers.
Pew Mogel shrank back on his throne and gasped in a cracked voice.
“Seize him, Gore, seize him!” Little beads of sweat stood forth on his brow.
Gore, the white ape, released his hold on Dejah Thoris and, turning, saw the earthman advancing toward them. Gore snarled viciously, revealing jagged, mighty fangs. He crouched low, so that his four massive fists supported his weight on the floor. His little, beady, blood-shot eyes gleamed hatred, for Gore hated all men save Pew Mogel.
7.THE FLYING TERROR
As Gore, the great white ape with a man’s brain, crouched to meet John Carter, he was fully confident of overcoming his puny man opponent.
But to make assurance doubly sure, Gore drew the great blade at his side and rushed madly at his foe, hacking and cutting viciously.
The momentum of the brute’s attack forced Carter backward a few steps as he deftly warded off the mighty blows.
But the earthman saw his chance. Quickly, surely, his blade streaked. There was a sudden twist and Gore’s sword went hurtling across the room. Gore, however, reacted with lightning speed. With his four huge hands he grasped the naked steel of the earthman’s sword.
Violently he jerked the blade from Carter’s grasp and, raising it overhead, snapped the strong steel in two as if it had been a splinter of wood.
Now, with a low growl, Gore closed in; and Carter crouched.
Suddenly the man leaped over the ape’s head; but again with uncanny speed the monster shot out a hairy hand and grasped the earthman’s ankle.
Gore held John Carter in his four hands, drawing the man closer and closer to the drooling jowls and gleaming fangs.
But with a surge of his mighty muscles, the earthman jerked free his arm and sent a terrific blow crashing full into Gore’s face.
The ape recoiled, dropping John Carter, and staggered back toward the huge window on the right wall by Pew Mogel’s throne.
Here the beast tottered; and the earthman, seeing his chance, once again leaped into the air, but this time flew feet foremost toward the ape.