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Skeleton Men of Jupiter is intended as the first in a series of novelettes to be later collected in book form, in the fashion of Llana of Gathol, it ends with the plot unresolved, and the intended sequels were never written. Several other writers have written pastiche endings for the story. This story is the second part of the collection, John Carter of Mars.
88 pages, with a reading time of ~1.5 hours (22,231 words), and first published in 1942. This DRM-Free edition published by epubBooks, 2014.
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I am no scientist. I am a fighting man. My most beloved weapon is the sword, and during a long life I have seen no reason to alter my theories as to its proper application to the many problems with which I have been faced. This is not true of the scientists. They are constantly abandoning one theory for another one. The law of gravitation is about the only theory that has held throughout my lifetime–and if the earth should suddenly start rotating seventeen times faster than it now does, even the law of gravitation would fail us and we would all go sailing off into space.
Theories come and theories go–scientific theories. I recall that there was once a theory that Time and Space moved forward constantly in a straight line. There was also a theory that neither Time nor Space existed–it was all in your mind’s eye. Then came the theory that Time and Space curved in upon themselves. Tomorrow, some scientist may show us reams and reams of paper and hundreds of square feet of blackboard covered with equations, formulae, signs, symbols, and diagrams to prove that Time and Space curve out away from themselves. Then our theoretic universe will come tumbling about our ears, and we shall have to start all over again from scratch.
Like many fighting men, I am inclined to be credulous concerning matters outside my vocation; or at least I used to be. I believed whatever the scientists said. Long ago, I believed with Flammarion that Mars was habitable and inhabited; then a newer and more reputable school of scientists convinced me that it was neither. Without losing hope, I was yet forced to believe them until I came to Mars to live. They still insist that Mars is neither habitable or inhabited, but I live here. Fact and theory seem to be opposed. Unquestionably, the scientists appear to be correct in theory. Equally incontrovertible is it that I am correct in fact.
In the adventure that I am about to narrate, fact and theory will again cross swords. I hate to do this to my long-suffering scientific friends; but if they would only consult me first rather than dogmatically postulating theories which do not meet with popular acclaim, they would save themselves much embarrassment.
Dejah Thoris, my incomparable princess, and I were sitting upon a carved ersite bench in one of the gardens of our palace in Lesser Helium when an officer in the leather of Tardos Mors, Jeddak of Helium, approached and saluted.
“From Tardos Mors to John Carter, Kaor!” he said. “The jeddak requests your immediate presence in the Hall of Jeddaks in the imperial palace in Greater Helium.”
“At once,” I replied.
“May I fly you over, sir?” he asked. “I came in a two-seater.”
“Thanks,” I replied. “I’ll join you at the hangar in a moment.” He saluted and left us.
“Who was he?” asked Dejah Thoris. “I don’t recall ever having seen him before.”
“Probably one of the new officers from Zor, whom Tardos Mors has commissioned in the Jeddak’s Guard. It was a gesture of his, made to assure Zor that he has the utmost confidence in the loyalty of that city and as a measure for healing old wounds.”
Zor, which lies about three hundred eighty miles southeast of Helium, is one of the most recent conquests of Helium and had given us a great deal of trouble in the past because of treasonable acts instigated by a branch of its royal family led by one Multis Par, a prince. About five years before the events I am about to narrate occurred, this Multis Par had disappeared; and since then Zor had given us no trouble. No one knew what had become of the man, and it was supposed that he had either taken the last, long voyage down the river Iss to the Lost Sea of Korus in the Valley Dor or had been captured and murdered by members of some horde of savage Green men. Nor did anyone appear to care-just so he never returned to Zor, where he was thoroughly hated for his arrogance and cruelty.
“I hope that my revered grandfather does not keep you long,” said Dejah Thoris. “We are having a few guests for dinner tonight, and I do not wish you to be late.”
“A few!” I said. “How many? Two hundred or three hundred?”
“Don’t be impossible,” she said, laughing, “Really, only a few.”
“A thousand, if it pleases you, my dear,” I assured her as I kissed her. “And now, good-by! I’ll doubtless be back within the hour.” That was a year ago!
As I ran up the ramp toward the hangar on the palace roof, I had, for some then unaccountable reason, a sense of impending ill; but I attributed it to the fact that my tête-à-tête with my princess had been so quickly interrupted.