David Bruce Bozarth
Copyright © 2000
John Carter paced across the polished ersite floor of the Warlord's private chambers at a frantic rate that irritated Dejah Thoris. They were alone, no slaves present, which accounted for the sharp tone in the princess' voice. "John Carter, be still!"
The big man paused, a callused hand gripping the hilt of his long sword. He faced his beautiful wife. "How can I, dear? Are all the Jeddaks of Barsoom idiots?"
The red woman rose, a motion so innocently graceful that the Virginian's heart seized yet again to look upon his wife's incomparable figure. He did not move, could not, as the daughter of 10,000 Jeddaks approached.
Dejah Thoris, princess of Helium and consort of the Warlord of Barsoom laid her delicate hand upon her husband's face. "Be patient, my love. My father and grandfather have not seen what we have seen. They have not experienced what we endured—and if they, who love us, are undecided how can we expect our allies to accept the warning?"
"Tars Tarkas believes, but I could expect no less from him. Too much have we endured together for there to be other than complete and utter reliance between us. Our son believes, but he has little say in the affairs of Ptarth while Thuvan Dihn rules—and long may that worthy rule."
"As you say, my chieftain, Carthoris is active in his wife's homeland, yet there is ever the sway of loyalty between Helium and Ptarth for our son. Thuvia, dear girl, is also torn in her loyalties—and for that I am most sad."
John Carter's grim visage softened as Dejah Thoris' voice grew melancholy. "How difficult it must be for those two! I confess that I, too, am torn. The warning we bring is timely. If we can unite Barsoom before the Morgor invasion we shall triumph, for these people of our world are warriors and survivors of the best sort. After all, Mother Barsoom has been trying to kill the human race for millions of years."
"Yet, I am afraid if I should speak too stridently there are those who will think me insane and therefore discount the warning as the ravings of a madman."
Dejah Thoris entered the sun-bronzed arms of her mate, laying her fair cheek upon his breast. "We have the Morgor ship. Surely that is proof enough."
Carter crushed the pliant figure tightly, leaning down to brush tender lips upon the woman's forehead. "You would think that would be enough," he breathed, "but Kantos Kan has just brought doubtful reports from the scientific group examining the ship at Hastor. In their collective opinion the ship is no more advanced than current Barsoomian technology, other than the cloaking sands of invisibility. Space ships are nothing new, they say—we have a regular trade between Barsoom and Ladan."
Carter kissed his wife then put her at arms length as he struggled with his frustration. "'A distant part of Barsoom' or 'A rebel Okarian ship-designer' they say. The Okarians are the most advanced in electromagnetic technology on Barsoom, that is a given, but our friend Talu of Kadabra has tried to explain to these so-called masters of science that Okar has nothing like the electromagnetic technology found on that ship. THEY SAY!" he cried. "Idiots!"
Carter threw his hands into the air. He was a warrior and sometimes statesman, but he was not a molly coddler or overly patient man when faced with the stubborn refusal of many to believe when the facts were patently in evidence.
The princess of Helium remarked: "Talu, then, agrees with you though he has not yet embraced the warning of an invasion. I suspect in his heart he knows the truth but is reluctant to be the lone voice joining yours in an alert." Dejah Thoris scowled, fully agreeing with her husband's frustration. "There is a way to get their attention," she said in firm tones.
The woman stood near the window of their tenth floor apartment in the royal palace. The black-haired woman looked upon the busy square below, watching a population which had no idea of what horrors she had experienced on Sasoom that were soon to visit her world. She raised her eyes to look at the gathering dust of a sand storm predicted to engulf the twin cities of Helium overnight. The dark pall in the atmosphere mirrored the dark desperation her husband so keenly felt.
Carter joined his wife at the window, ignoring the sand storm which seemed inconsequential to the present dilemma he faced. "Any suggestion you have to offer is most deeply appreciated. How may I get them to understand the urgency?"
Dejah Thoris looked up, a faint smile upon her lovely face. "In the old days—the days long before my grandfather became Jeddak—the rulers of Helium traditionally obtained the answers desired by killing the messengers until the message arrived as expected."
For two heartbeats John Carter gaped at his wife, then suddenly laughed. "On my world we have a saying that one should not kill the messenger, it is not their fault the message they carry."
The red woman smiled impishly. "We eventually learned the same lesson. What I am suggesting, dear heart, is that perhaps the questions asked are incorrect. Instead of insisting that these scientists evaluate the ship as alien technology perhaps a better course would be to challenge them to duplicate it."
Dejah Thoris walked away from the window to the central table in the main room. She seated herself and daintily peeled a ripe sompas fruit taken from an iridescent bowl. "I suspect," she continued, licking a finger coated in sweet juice, "that all of these scientists and engineers would soon come to the conclusion that the cloaking sand on the hull of the Morgor ship cannot be found on Barsoom. I also believe they will grudgingly admit that the lifting properties of that vessel are unlike anything our world has created, or is ever likely to create."
The princess of Helium sat with the sectioned sompas between her fine-boned hands on a plate of pure white porcelin cast by the finest potters in the nation. She arched a brow toward her mate. "There are times of direct action and there are times of indirect action. Think back upon our own life together and you will see what I mean."
Carter rapidly crossed the room and knelt beside his wife. He lifted her hand to his lips, head bowed. "I do not have to think too hard, my princess. I remember that I said the wrong thing first and pushed you away from me before I learned what it was I had to say—and how to say it. I thank all the gods of all the worlds that you were patient enough to give me time to learn what I must do to win your heart."
Her eyes misted as the princess seized his hand. "You always had my heart from the first day I saw you a prisoner among the Tharks, John Carter." Dejah Thoris kissed the Warlord with a passion undiminished since their first kiss years ago.
"You had my heart from that day, but not my understanding or permission until proper form had been achieved."
Placing trembling hands on both sides of the Warlord's face, she leaned close, looking directly into his eyes. "This is the same battle, my lord. Woo these scientists and disbeliveers as ardently as you once wooed me. Do this with the same determination and they will come to believe as I learned to believe your true affection for me.
"I have no doubt that your love for me is eternal as I have two fine children and a fulsome life with a man I admire more than any other. I also have no doubt that the people of Barsoom do not yet understand that you love this world with the same passion that you love me. I know you love Barsoom. Make them understand your love for Barsoom as you once made me understand. I know you can do this—you have done it before." She happily kissed him. "And you did it very well!"