John Carter of Mars (Barsoom #11)

Page 8

Now, if he were to come out alive himself, he must slow down his hurtling craft. That impact must occur at exactly the right speed.

If he made the crash too fast, he might succeed only in killing himself, with no assurance that Pew Mogel had died with him.

On the other hand, if the speed of his ship were too slow it would never crash through the tough glass that covered the opening. In that case, his crippled plane would bounce harmlessly off the howdah and carry Carter to his death on the battlefield below.

One hundred feet over the window!

He shut off the motor, a quick glance at the speedometer—too fast for the impact!

His hands flew over the instrument panel. He jerked back on three levers. Three little parachutes whipped out behind the craft. There was a tug on the plane as its speed slowed down.

Then the ship’s nose crashed against the little window! There was a crunch of steel, a splinter of wood, as the ship’s nose collapsed; then a clatter of glass that ended in a dull, trembling thud as the craft bore through the window and lodged part way in the floor of Pew Mogel’s compartment.

The tail of the craft was protruding out of the top of the howdah, but the craft’s door was inside the compartment.

John Carter sprang from his ship, his blade gleaming in his hand.

Pew Mogel was still spinning around crazily in his revolving chair from the tremendous impact. His earphones and attached microphone, with which he had directed Joog’s actions as well as his troop formations, had been knocked off his head and lay on the floor at his feet.

When his foolish spin finally stopped, Pew Mogel remained seated. He stared incredulously at the earthman.

His small, lidless eyes bulged. He opened his crooked mouth several times to speak. Now his twisted fingers worked spasmodically.

“Draw your sword, Pew Mogel!” spoke the earthman so low that Pew Mogel could hardly hear the words. The synthetic man made no move to obey.

“You’re dead!” he finally croaked. It was like the man was trying to convince himself that what he saw confronting him with naked sword was only an ill-begotten hallucination. So hard, in fact, did Pew Mogel continue to stare that his left eye behaved as Carter had seen it do once before in Korvas when the creature was excited.

It popped out of its socket and hung down on his cheek. “Quickly, Pew Mogel, draw your weapon—I have no time to waste!”

Carter could feel the giant below him growing restless, shifting uneasily on his enormous feet. Apparently he did not yet suspect the change of masters in the howdah strapped to his helmet; yet he had jumped perceptibly when Carter’s craft had torn into his master’s sanctuary.

Carter reached down and picked up the microphone on the floor.

“Raise your arm,” he shouted into the mouthpiece.

There was a pause; then the giant raised the right arm high over his head.

“Lower arm,” Carter commanded again. The giant obeyed. Twice more, Carter gave the same command and the giant obeyed each time. The earthman half smiled. He knew Kantos Kan had seen the signal and would follow the orders he had given him earlier.

Now Pew Mogel’s hand suddenly shot down to his side. It started back up with a radium gun.

There was a blinding flash as he pulled the trigger; then the gun flew miraculously from his hand.

Carter had leaped to one side. His sword had crashed against the weapon knocking it from Pew Mogel’s grasp. Now the man was forced to draw his sword.

There, on top of the giant’s head, fighting furiously with a synthetic man of Mars, John Carter found himself in one of the weirdest predicaments of his adventurous life.

Pew Mogel was no mean swordsman. In fact, so furious was his first attack that he had the earthman backing around the room hard-pressed to parry the swift torrent of blows that were aimed indiscriminately at every inch of his body from head to toe.

It was a ghastly sensation, fighting with a man whose eye hung down the side of his face. Pew Mogel had forgotten that it had popped out. The synthetic man could see equally well with either eye.

Now Pew Mogel had worked the earthman over to the window. Just for an instant he glanced out. An exclamation of surprise escaped his lips.

 

13.PANIC

John Carter’s eyes followed those of Pew Mogel. What he saw made him smile, renewed hope surging over him.

“Look, Pew Mogel,” he cried. “Your flying army is disbanding!”

The thousands of malagors that had littered the sky with their hairy riders were croaking hoarsely as they scattered in all directions. The apes astride their backs were unable to control their wild fright. The birds were pitching off their riders in wholesale lots, as their great wings flapped furiously to escape that which had suddenly appeared in the sky among them.

The cause of their wild flight was immediately apparent. The air was filled with parachutes, and dangling from each falling parachute was a three-legged Martian rat—every Martian bird’s hereditary foe!

In the quick glance that he took, Carter could see the creatures tumbling out of the troop ship into which he had loaded them during his absence of the last twenty-four hours.

His orders were being followed implicitly.

The rats would soon be landing among Pew Mogel’s entrenched troops.

Now, however, John Carter’s attention returned to his own immediate peril.

Pew Mogel swung viciously at the earthman. The blade nicked his shoulder, the blood flowed down his bronzed arm.

Carter stole another glance down. Those rats would need support when they landed in the trenches.

Good! Tars Tarkas’s green warriors were again racing out of the hills, unhindered now by scathing fire from an enemy above.

True, the rats when they landed would attack anything in their path; but the green Tharks were mounted on fleet thoats, the apes had no mounts. No malagor would stay within sight of its most hated enemy.

Pew Mogel was backing up now once more near the window. Out of the corner of his eye, Carter caught sight of Kantos Kan’s air fleet zooming down towards Pew Mogel’s ape legions far below.

Pew Mogel suddenly reached down with his free hand.

His fingers clutched the microphone that Cater had dropped when Pew Mogel had first rushed at him.

Now the creature held it to his lips and before the earthman could prevent it he shouted into it.

“Joog!” He cried, “Kill! Kill! Kill!”

The next second, John Carter’s blade has severed Pew Mogel’s head from his shoulders.

The earthman dived for the microphone as it fell from the creature’s hands; but he was met by Pew Mogel’s headless body as it lunged blindly round the room still wielding its gleaming weapons.

Pew Mogel’s head rolled about the floor, shrieking wildly as Joog charged forward to obey his master’s last command to kill!

Joog’s head jerked back and forth with each enormous stride. John Carter was hurled roughly about the narrow compartment with each step.

Pew Mogel’s headless body floundered across the floor still striking out madly with the sword in it’s hand.

“You can’t kill me. You can’t kill me,” shrieked Pew Mogel’s head, as it bounced about “I am Ras Thavas’s synthetic man. I never die. I never die!”

The narrow entrance door to the howdah had flopped open as some flying object hit against its bolt.

Pew Mogel’s body walked vacantly through the opening and went hurtling down to the ground far below.

Pew Mogel’s head saw and shrieked in dismay; then Carter managed to grab it by the ear and hurl the head out after the body.

He could hear the thing shrieking all the way down; then its cries ceased suddenly.

Joog was now fighting furiously with the weapon he had just uprooted.

“I kill! I kill!” he bellowed as he smacked the huge club against the Helium planes as they drove down over the trenches.

Although the howdah was rocking violently, Carter clung to the window. He could see the rats landing now by the scores, hurling themselves viciously at the apes in the trenches.

And Tars Tarkas’s green warriors were there now, also. They were fighting gloriously beside their great, four-armed leader.

Hut Joog’s mighty club was mowing down a hundred fighters at a time as he swept it close above the ground. Joog had to be stopped somehow!

John Carter dove for the microphone that was sliding around the floor. He missed it, dove again. This time his fingers held it.

“Joog—stop! Stop!” Carter shouted into the microphone. Panting and growling, the great creature ceased his ruthless slaughter. He stood hunched over, the sullen, glaring hatred slowly dying away in his eyes, as the battle continued to rage at his feet.

The apes were now completely disbanded. They broke over the trenches and ran toward the mountains, pursued by the vicious, snarling rats and the green warriors of Tars Tarkas.

John Carter could see Kantos Kan’s flagship hovering near Joog’s head.

Fearing that Joog might aim an irritated blow at the craft with its precious cargo, the earthman signalled the ship to remain aloft.

Then his command once again rang into the microphone. “Joog, lie down. Lie down!”

Like some tired beast of prey, Joog settled down on the ground amid the bodies of those he had killed.

John Carter leaped out of the howdah onto the ground. He still retained hold of the microphone that was tuned to the shortwave receiving set in Joog’s ear.

“Joog!” shouted Carter again. “Go to Korvas. Go to Korvas.”

The monster glared at the earthman, not ten feet from his face, and snarled.

 

14.ADVENTURE’S END

Once again the earthman repeated his command to Joog the giant. Now the snarl faded from his lips and from the brute’s chest came a sound not unlike a sigh as he rose to his feet once again.

Turning slowly, Joog ambled off across the plain toward Korvas.

It was not until ten minutes later after the Heliumite soldiers had stormed from their city and surrounded the earthman and their princess that John Carter, holding Dejah Thoris tightly in his arms, saw Joog’s head disappear over the mountains in the distance.

“Why did you let him go, John Carter?” asked Tars Tarkas, as he wiped the blood from his blade on the hide of his sweating thoat.

“Yes, why,” repeated Kantos Kan, “when you had him in your power?”

John Carter turned and surveyed the battlefield. “All the death and destruction that has been caused here today was due not to Joog but to Pew Mogel,” replied John Carter.

“Joog is harmless, now that his evil master is dead. Why add his death to all those others, even if we could have killed him—which I doubt?”

Kantos Kan was watching the rats disappear into the far mountains in pursuit of the great, lumbering apes.

“Tell me, John Carter,” finally he said, a queer expression on his face, “how did you manage to capture those vicious rats, load them into those troop ships and even strap parachutes on them?”

John Carter smiled. “It was really simple,” he said. “I had noticed in Korvas, when I was a prisoner in their underground city, that there was only one means of entrance to the cavern in which the rats live—a single tunnel that continued back for some distance before it branched, although there were openings in the ceiling far above; but they were out of reach.

“I led my men down into that tunnel and we built a huge smoke fire with debris from the ground above. The natural draft carried the smoke into the cavern.

“The place became so filled with smoke that the rats passed out by the scores from lack of oxygen, for they couldn’t get by the fire in the tunnel —their only means of escape. Later, we simply went in and dragged out as many as we needed to load into our troop ships.”