John Carter and the Giant of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs

John Carter and the Giant of Mars

subjects: Science Fiction

Description

John Carter and the Giant of Mars, is a juvenile story penned by Burrough’s son John ‘Jack’ Coleman Burroughs, and claimed to have been revised by Burroughs. It was written for a Whitman Big Little Book, illustrated by Jack Burroughs that was published in 1940 and then republished in Amazing Stories the next year. This story is the first part of the collection, John Carter of Mars.

Excerpt

Within three hours, John Carter was standing on the roof of the Royal Airdrome giving last-minute instructions to a fleet of twenty-four fast, one-man scouts.

“Cover all the territory in your district thoroughly. If you discover anything, don’t attempt to handle it by yourself. Notify Kantos Kan immediately.” Carter surveyed the grim faces before him and knew that they would obey him.

“Let’s go.” Carter jerked a thumb over his shoulder to the ships.

The men scattered and soon their planes were speeding away from Helium.

Carter stayed on the roof long enough to check with Kantos Kan. He adjusted the earphones around his head and then signalled on 2000 kilocycles. The dots and dashes of Kantos Kan’s reply began coming in immediately.

“Your signal comes in perfectly. Tars Tarkas is just leaving the city. The air fleet is mobilizing. The entire air force will stand by to come to your aid. Kantos Kan signing off.”

Night found Carter cruising about five hundred miles from Helium. He was very tired. The search of several ruined cities and canals had been fruitless. The buzzing of the microset aroused him again.

“Kantos Kan reporting. Tars Tarkas has organized a complete ground search east to south; other air scouts west to south report nothing. Will acquaint you with any news that might come in. Awaiting orders. Will stand by. Signing off.”

“No orders. No news. Carter signing off.”

Wearily he let the ship drift. No need to look further until the moons came up. The earthman fell into a fitful sleep.

It was midnight when the speaker sounded, jerking Carter to wakefulness. Kantos Kan was signalling again, excitedly.

“Tars Tarkas has found Dejah Thoris. She is held in a deserted city on the banks of the dead sea at Korvas.” Kantos Kan gave the exact latitude and longitude of the spot.

“Further instructions from Tars Tarkas request the greatest secrecy in your movements. He will be at the main bridge leading into the city. Kantos Kan signing, off. Come in, John Carter.”

John Carter signed off with Kantos Kan, urging him to stand by constantly to be ready with the Helium Air Fleet. Now he set his gyro-compass, a device that would automatically steer him to his destination.

Several hours later, the earthman flew over a low range of hills and saw below him an ancient city on the banks of the Dead Sea. He circled his plane and dropped to the bridge where he had been instructed to meet Tars Tarkas. Long, black shadows filled a dry gully below him.

Carter climbed out of his plane, keeping to the shadows, and made his way to the towering ruins of the city. It was so quiet that a lonely bat swooping from a tower sounded like a falling airship.

Where was Tars Tarkas? The green man should have appeared at the bridge.

At the entrance to the city, Carter stepped into the black shadow of a wall and waited. No sound broke the stillness of the quiet night. The city was like a tomb. Diemos and Phobos, the two fast-moving moons of Mars, whirled across the heavens.

Carter stopped breathing to listen. To his keen ears came the faint sound of steps–strange, shuffling steps dragging closer.

Something was coming along the wall. The earthman tensed, ready to spring away to his ship. Now he could hear other steps all around him. Inside the ruins something dragged against the fallen rocks.

Then a great, heavy body dropped on John Carter from the wall above. Hot, fetid breath burned his neck. Huge, shaggy arms smothered him in their fierce embrace.

The thing hurled him to the rough cobblestones. Huge hands clutched at his throat. Carter turned his head and saw above him the face of a great, white ape.

Three of the creature’s fellows were circling around Carter, striving to tie his feet with a piece of rope while the other choked him into insensibility with his four mighty hands.

Carter wriggled his feet under the belly of the ape with whom he was grappling. One mighty heave sent the creature into the air to fall, groaning and helpless, to the ground.

Like a cornered banth, Carter was on his feet, crouched against the wall, awaiting the attacking trio, with drawn sword.

They were mighty beasts, fully eight feet tall with long, white hair covering their great bodies. Each was equipped with four muscular arms that ended in tremendous hands armed with sharp, hooked claws. They were baring their fangs and growling viciously as they came toward the earthman.

Carter crouched low; and as the beasts sprang in, his earthly muscles sent him leaping high into the air over their heads. The earthman’s heavy blade, backed by all the power of his muscles, smacked down upon one ape’s head, splitting the skull wide open.

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