Synthetic Men of Mars (Barsoom #9)

Chapter XXXI. Adventure’s End

I opened my eyes. Ras Thavas was leaning over me. Beside me lay the body of the hormad, Tor-dur-bar. I know that then the tears came to my eyes, tears of such relief and happiness and joy as I had never experienced before in my life, not so much because I had regained my own body but because now I might lay it at the feet of Janai.

“Come, my son,” said Ras Thavas. “We have been here a long time. The mass is writhing and screaming in the corridor beyond the door. Let us hope that it has not succeeded in recovering the ground that it lost at the other end of the tunnel.”

“Very well,” I said, “let us return at once.” I stepped from the table and stood again erect upon my own feet. I was just a little stiff, and Ras Thavas noticed it.

“That will pass in a moment,” he said. “You have been dead a long time.” And he smiled.

I stood for a moment looking down upon the uncouth body of Tor-dur-bar. “It served you well,” said Ras Thavas.

“Yes,” I assented, “and the best reward that I can offer it is eternal oblivion. We shall leave it here, buried forever in the pits beneath the building where it first felt life. I leave it, Ras Thavas, without a pang of regret.”

“It had great strength, and, from what I understand, a good sword arm,” commented the Master Mind of Mars.

“Yet I still think that I can endure life without it,” I said.

“Vanity, vanity!” exclaimed Ras Thavas. “You, a warrior, would give up enormous strength and an incomparable sword arm for a handsome face.”

I saw that he was laughing at me; but the whole world might laugh if it wished, just as long as I had my own body back again.

We hastened back through the tunnel, and when we finally emerged onto the islet again, warriors were still fighting back the insistent growth. Four times the detachment had been relieved since we had descended from the Ruzaar. It had been early morning when we arrived, and now the sun was just about to dip below the far horizon, yet to me it seemed but the matter of a few moments since I had descended from the Ruzaar.

We were quickly hoisted aboard again where we were fairly smothered with congratulations.

John Carter placed a hand upon my shoulder. “I could not have been more concerned over the fate of a son of mine than I have been over yours,” he said.

That was all that he said, but it meant more to me than volumes spoken by another. Presently he noted my eyes wandering about the deck, and a smile touched his lips. “Where is she?” I asked.

“She could not stand the strain of waiting,” he said, “and she has gone to her cabin to lie down. You had better go and tell her yourself.”

“Thank you, sir,” I said; and a few moments later I was knocking at the door of Janai’s cabin.

“Who knocks?” she asked.

“Vor Daj,” I replied, and then without waiting for an invitation I pushed open the door and entered.

She rose and came toward me, her eyes wide with questioning. “It is really you?” she asked.

“It is I,” I assured her, and I crossed toward her. I wanted to take her in my arms and tell her that I loved her; but she seemed to anticipate what I had in mind, for she stopped me with a gesture.

“Wait,” she said. “Do you realize that I scarcely know Vor Daj?”

I had not thought of that, but it was true. She knew Tor-dur-bar far better.

“Answer me one question.”

“What is it?” I asked.

“How did Teeaytan-ov die?” she demanded.

It was a strange question. What had that to do with Janai or with me? “Why, he died in the corridor leading to 3-17, struck down by one of the hormad warriors while we were escaping from the Laboratory Building,” I replied.

Her white teeth flashed in a sudden smile. “Now what were you going to say to me when I stopped you?”

“I was going to tell you that I loved you,” I replied, “and ask you if there was any hope that you might return my love.”

“I scarcely knew Vor Daj,” she said; “it was Tor-dur-bar that I learned to love; but now I know the truth that for some time I have guessed, and I realize the sacrifice that you were willing to make for me.” She came and put her dear arms about my neck, and for the first time I felt the lips of the woman I loved on mine.

* * * * *

For ten days the great fleet cruised high above Morbus, dropping bombs upon the city and the island and the great mass that had started to spread out in all directions to engulf a world; nor would John Carter leave until the last vestige of the horror had been entirely exterminated. At last the bows of the great battleships were turned toward Helium; and with only a brief stop at Phundahl to return Pandar to his native city we cruised on toward home, and for Janai and me, a happiness that we had passed together through horrors to achieve.

As the great towers of the twin cities appeared in the distance, Janai and I were standing together in the bow of the Ruzaar. “I wish you would tell me,” I said, “why you asked me that time how Teeaytan-ov died. You knew as well as I.”

“Stupid!” she exclaimed, laughing. “Tor-dur-bar, Pandar, and I were the only survivors of that fight who were with the fleet when we returned to Morbus. Of these three, you could have seen only Tor-dur-bar before you saw me. Therefore, when you answered me correctly, I knew that Tor-dur-bar’s brain had been transferred to your skull. That was all that I wanted to know, for it was the brain that gave the character and fineness to Tor-dur-bar that I had learned to love; and I do not care, Vor Daj, whose brain it was originally.”

If you do not care to tell me, I shall never ask; but I suspect that was your own and that you had it transferred to the head of Tor-dur-bar so that you might better protect me from Ay-mad.”

“It is my own brain,” I said.

“Was, you mean,” she laughed; “it is mine now.”