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Authors: Stuart Moore

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John Carter

BOOK: John Carter
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John Carter: The Movie Novelization

Copyright © 2012 Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved.

A Princess of Mars

Copyright © 2012 Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc. All rights reserved.

Trademarks “JOHN CARTER,” JCM Design, “BARSOOM” and “PRINCESS OF MARS” owned by Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc. and used by permission.

Published by Disney Editions, an imprint of Disney Book Group. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without written permission from the publisher. For information, address Disney Editions, 114 Fifth Avenue, New York, New York, 10011-5690.

A Princess of Mars
was originally published under the title “Under the Moon of Mars” by Norman Bean (pseudonym) in
All-Story Magazine
as a six-part serial, February through July 1912.
It was first published as a book under the title
A Princess of Mars
by
The Ballantine Publishing Group, copyright © 1912 Frank A. Munsey
Company. All rights reserved under International and Pan-American
Copyright Conventions. This authorized edition is published by Disney Editions in arrangement with Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc.

ISBN 978-1-4231-7029-7

Visit
www.disneybooks.com

www.disney.com/johncarter

T
O THE
R
EADER OF THIS
W
ORK
:

In submitting Captain Carter's strange manuscript to you in book form, I believe that a few words relative to this remarkable personality will be of interest.

My first recollection of Captain Carter is of the few months he spent at my father's home in Virginia, just prior to the opening of the Civil War. I was then a child of but five years, yet I well remember the tall, dark, smooth-faced, athletic man whom I called Uncle Jack.

He seemed always to be laughing; and he entered into the sports of the children with the same hearty good fellowship he displayed toward those pastimes in which the men and women of his own age indulged; or he would sit for an hour at a time entertaining my old grandmother with stories of his strange, wild life in all parts of the world. We all loved him, and our slaves fairly worshipped the ground he trod.

He was a splendid specimen of manhood, standing a good two inches over six feet, broad of shoulder and narrow of hip, with the carriage of the trained fighting man. His features were regular and clear cut, his hair black and closely cropped, while his eyes were of a steel gray, reflecting a strong and loyal character, filled with fire and initiative. His manners were perfect, and his courtliness was that of a typical southern gentleman of the highest type.

His horsemanship, especially after hounds, was a marvel and delight even in that country of magnificent horsemen. I have often heard my father caution him against his wild recklessness, but he would only laugh, and say that the tumble that killed him would be from the back of a horse yet unfoaled.

When the war broke out he left us, nor did I see him again for some fifteen or sixteen years. When he returned it was without warning, and I was much surprised to note that he had not aged apparently a moment, nor had he changed in any other outward way. He was, when others were with him, the same genial, happy fellow we had known of old, but when he thought himself alone I have seen him sit for hours gazing off into space, his face set in a look of wistful longing and hopeless misery; and at night he would sit thus looking up into the heavens, at what I did not know until I read his manuscript years afterwards.

He told us that he had been prospecting and mining in Arizona part of the time since the war; and that he had been very successful was evidenced by the unlimited amount of money with which he was supplied. As to the details of his life during these years he was very reticent, in fact he would not talk of them at all.

He remained with us for about a year and then went to New York, where he purchased a little place on the Hudson, where I visited him once a year on the occasions of my trips to the New York market—my father and I owning and operating a string of general stores throughout Virginia at that time. Captain Carter had a small but beautiful cottage, situated on a bluff overlooking the river, and during one of my last visits, in the winter of 1885, I observed he was much occupied in writing, I presume now, upon this manuscript.

He told me at this time that if anything should happen to him he wished me to take charge of his estate, and he gave me a key to a compartment in the safe which stood in his study, telling me I would find his will there and some personal instructions which he had me pledge myself to carry out with absolute fidelity.

After I had retired for the night I have seen him from my window standing in the moonlight on the brink of the bluff overlooking the Hudson with his arms stretched out to the heavens as though in appeal. I thought at the time that he was praying, although I never had understood that he was in the strict sense of the term a religious man.

Several months after I had returned home from my last visit, the first of March, 1886, I think, I received a telegram from him asking me to come to him at once. I had always been his favorite among the younger generation of Carters and so I hastened to comply with his demand.

I arrived at the little station, about a mile from his grounds, on the morning of March 4, 1886, and when I asked the livery man to drive me out to Captain Carter's he replied that if I was a friend of the Captain's he had some very bad news for me; the Captain had been found dead shortly after daylight that very morning by the watchman attached to an adjoining property.

For some reason this news did not surprise me, but I hurried out to his place as quickly as possible, so that I could take charge of the body and of his affairs.

I found the watchman who had discovered him, together with the local police chief and several townspeople, assembled in his little study. The watchman related the few details connected with the finding of the body, which he said had been still warm when he came upon it. It lay, he said, stretched full length in the snow with the arms outstretched above the head toward the edge of the bluff, and when he showed me the spot it flashed upon me that it was the identical one where I had seen him on those other nights, with his arms raised in supplication to the skies.

There were no marks of violence on the body, and with the aid of a local physician the coroner's jury quickly reached a decision of death from heart failure. Left alone in the study, I opened the safe and withdrew the contents of the drawer in which he had told me I would find my instructions. They were in part peculiar indeed, but I have followed them to each last detail as faithfully as I was able.

He directed that I remove his body to Virginia without embalming, and that he be laid in an open coffin within a tomb which he previously had had constructed and which, as I later learned, was well ventilated. The instructions impressed upon me that I must personally see that this was carried out just as he directed, even in secrecy if necessary.

His property was left in such a way that I was to receive the entire income for twenty-five years, when the principal was to become mine. His further instructions related to this manuscript which I was to retain sealed and unread, just as I found it, for eleven years; nor was I to divulge its contents until twenty-one years after his death.

A strange feature about the tomb, where his body still lies, is that the massive door is equipped with a single, huge gold-plated spring lock which can be opened only from the inside.

Yours very sincerely,

EDGAR RICE BURROUGHS.

“L
IGHT
,” S
AB
T
HAN
yelled, leaning forward into the swirling dust of the airship's bridge. “I need
clean light
!”

The men hunched forward over their controls, struggling to steer the ship upward into the dust cloud. Sand blew in through the open portals of the semi-enclosed bridge. One crewman, an old man who'd served Sab's father, coughed harshly.

“I said clean light,” Sab continued. “Full loft!”

“Full loft, aye!” the man repeated.

Sab Than, ruler of the predator city of Zodanga, grabbed hold of the waist-high bridge walls and staggered out onto the open deck, waving the deadly sand away with a swipe of his mailed gauntlet. The ship lurched, nosed upward. Outside, teams of airmen worked furiously to deploy the ship's solar vanes…the long, waferlike metal constructs that made air travel possible on the red planet of Barsoom—otherwise known as Mars.

Sab gazed upward, past the waving red flag of Zodanga, into the looming cloud. Then he turned to peer behind the ship. He couldn't see the pursuers through the blinding dust, but he knew they were still on his tail. Two ships of Helium, the only kingdom that still dared to defy Zodanga's supremacy. And now they had the ruler of Zodanga cornered in a sandstorm.

Despite the danger, Sab's blood thrilled to the challenge. His thoughts flickered to the proudest, most powerful moment of his life: the day he'd first assumed Zodanga's throne. Zodanga, the devourer—the moving city, trampling the sands of Barsoom beneath its hundreds of legs, draining this world of all energy and life. To rule Zodanga was to wield true power such as no other man had ever known.

As the ship climbed higher into the storm, the dust grew thick and dark. All around Sab Than, airmen coughed and sputtered despite their masks. Sab stood firm, blinking only slightly as he stared into the furious Martian sky.

Then the ship tilted to the left, angling around in a sharp curve. The air began to lighten. The sandstorm receded below the ship…and was replaced by the blinding light of the sun.

Sunlight struck the ship's deck, wing tiles, and solar vanes. The airmen cheered, working their ropes to aim the tiles toward the light.

Flush with triumph, Sab strode back inside just as sunlight flooded into the bridge. The crew jumped into action, dashing from wheel to wheel, instrument to instrument.

Light danced along the multilensed controls of the ship's Light Master. “Intensity full!” he cried.

“Ten points ascending,” the Navigator said.

The Plotter's hands were a blur on the controls. “Facing new plot—”

“No time,” Sab said. “Hard turn.
Now
!”

The Plotter grimaced, then nodded and obeyed. Sab held tight to a half-wall as the ship banked hard, doubling back over the exact spot where they'd emerged from the dust storm.

Sab ran back out to the deck just as the gunmen were taking their places at weapons stations. They grabbed hold of the big mounted guns, swiveling them up, down, and around. They couldn't yet see their targets.

“Aim below,” Sab yelled against the wind, just as the two Helium airships burst into view, breaking upward out of the dust cloud. The gunmen prepared to fire—

“Shadow!”

It was the worst possible warning call on an airship.

Shocked, Sab whipped his head upward to see a
third
Helium ship hovering above, blocking the light to the Zodangans' sails. Sab felt the ship beneath him slow, the hum of its mighty engines fade as their precious sun power was abruptly cut off.

Everything happened quickly then. The first two Helium ships wafted upward, opening fire as they drifted into place alongside Sab's vessel. Cannon bursts rained down on the Zodangan deck. The third ship began to drop boarding parties down on long ropes.

Sab Than's warriors needed no orders, no command from their leader. They drew swords and engaged the invaders in open combat on the lurching, chaotic deck of the airship. Cannon fire fell deafeningly all around. Sab's gunmen struggled to return fire, but the deck soon became a blur of Zodangans in red and Heliumites in their cursed blue capes. Some fell to the deck as they died while others tumbled over the side, dropping to the Martian sands below.

Sab gritted his teeth, unsheathed his sword, and immediately drew blood. One, two, three blue-garbed soldiers. But he knew it wouldn't be enough. He could stand against a single Helium ship, perhaps two. But these three had him boxed in without sufficient power to escape. Already the Helium soldiers were storming the bridge.

Sab Than's rule, he knew, was over. Along with his life.

And then something happened. Something that changed the destiny of the planet Barsoom.

As Sab staggered back momentarily against a rail, a strange blue light caught his eye. It emanated from the nearest Helium ship, hovering mere yards away across open sky. The ship seemed engulfed in blue flame, an eerie cold fire unlike anything Sab had ever seen. As he watched, the flame burned bright, encircling the Helium ship—which then winked out of existence.

Gone.

Sab turned his gaze upward just in time to see the same flame touch the ship hovering above. That vessel too vanished, disappearing in a bright blue flash and revealing the blinding sun above. All around Sab, the warriors—Zodangan and Helium alike—pointed and stared, shocked and afraid, as the third Helium ship suffered the same fate, dissolving into a wisp of blue ash.

But the blue flame didn't die out. It moved nearer, closing in from all sides. Shockingly, it left Sab's deck plates and instruments untouched. But as the ruler watched, stunned, it incinerated one warrior after another, each one vanishing in a flash of deadly fire. Zondangans and Heliumites, gunmen and navigators—no one was spared.

Finally only Sab Than remained.

Still the flame grew closer. Gritting his teeth, Sab raised his sword—a futile gesture, he knew. But to his surprise, the fire stopped at the tip of the sword and dissolved in a shimmer of blue.

A burst of sunlight struck Sab full on, blinding him momentarily. He shaded his eyes, peered up at the sun. Three robed figures dropped smoothly down out of the glaring light, coming easily to rest on the open deck—where no trace remained now of neither Sab Than's crew nor of the Helium invaders.

The figures were tall and hairless, their pale robes patterned with intricate, ancient designs. The leader held a strange weapon, a combination of gauntlet and gun that enveloped his hand in a web of blue lace. As Sab Than watched, the leader approached and handed him the device.

Sab stared down at the weapon for a long moment. In the months to come, he would learn the word
nanotechnology
as well as the leader's name, Matai Shang, and the name of his race: the Therns. But right now—

Sab aimed at Matai Shang and fired.

The blast struck an energy field and dissipated harmlessly. Matai raised a hand and waved casually, knocking Sab off his feet with some invisible force. The gun struck the deck with a surprisingly soft thud.

“Being a fool is a great luxury, Sab Than,” Matai said in a deep, ancient voice. “Get up.”

Sab staggered to his feet. “Who—what are you?”

“We serve the Goddess,” Matai said. “And she has chosen you to receive this weapon.”

He waved his hand again and the weapon levitated off the deck, returning to Sab's hands.

Sab ran his hands over the gun, its odd texture firm but soft beneath his touch. And suddenly he felt the old power, that sense of imminent conquest—just as he had on the day he'd first taken the throne.

His life, he now knew, was not over. It was only just beginning.

“Do as we command,” Matai continued, “and you will rule all Barsoom. With none to defy you and nothing to stand in your way.”

Alone on the deck of his airship, with but three godlike Therns as his judge, Sab Than nodded and prepared to embrace his destiny.

BOOK: John Carter
4.93Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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