Rule 1) Blades were made to be sharp and minds to be used.
Dejah Thoris idly traced the glyph for Jarsoom over the bruise on her neck that her husband had left there. Her husband. Husband. Wife. She stretched and smiled to feel the slight loose soreness deep within her that spoke of the way she and John Carter had honored both of Barsoom's lovers, Cluros and Thuria.
She drifted into sleep on the contemplation of how they might next honor the vigorous joining of Jarsoom and Barsoom. Those thoughts softly braided with a contemplation on how she might improve the mighty pistons that pumped water from the deep underground river under Helium.
From there she floated into a shifting dream of the desert and the crackle of stiff and dusty clothes. She tasted the salt of tears on her tongue as she woke. She reached across the silk and furs, but she felt nothing but cool.
She opened her eyes, but she did not see John Carter brooding in the room. Nor was he brooding on the balcony. Contemplatively, she picked up the sword of her grandmother from beside the bed and tested its edge. It was sharp, as a blade should be. She put on some clothes.
She summoned one of the night guards. "Could you go find my husband, John Carter? I think he may have become lost." She put a little dimple in her smile. "He has a poor sense of direction."
He nodded briskly. "Yes, princess." His leaving was a swirl of efficiency.
There was nothing more that she could do that a search party could not. That was the rational thing to do. The rational reasonable thing would have been to go back to bed. It would be reasonable to sleep. The irrational thing would have been to search for John Carter herself.
Dejah Thoris would be rational.
She filled page after page of notes on what she had seen in the stronghold of the Therns. She drew diagrams of the various devices that she had seen.
She wrote and notated while the hours of her wedding night slipped away into memory. The sun rose over the red sands of Barsoom. It climbed into the sky. Her pen scratched equations as she speculated on the mathematics of using the Ninth ray to transmit a copy of a person between worlds. As she calculated the traces that would leave behind.
Someone brought her food and drink. No one brought her John Carter. She scratched and flew her pen over pages. She spilled ink. It didn't matter. She had to finish before John Carter of Virginia came back and made a mockery of her fears.
Sunset brought her father, who took her hands in his larger ones. He said a great many things, "No trace." "Searched everywhere." "I'm so sorry." He held her tightly. But there was always the letting go. She wasn't a little girl. She nodded and promised to get some rest.
She sent a thankful prayer to Issus, who had once shared her scientific blessings with all the people of Barsoom, to see Thuvia, her chief researcher, at the door not five tal's after her father left her rooms.
Thuvia's face still had the grayish pallor of illness. Dejah Thoris said, "You look like something coughed up by my grandmother's sorak."
Thuvia grimaced. "Princess, I feel like something coughed up by your grandmother's sorak. The black eyed one that used to hiss at the ambassador from Gathol." She clutched her steaming cup. "I'd have stayed in bed, but I realized that while I was busy vomiting up everything that I have ever, ever eaten, you became engaged to the Jeddak of Zodanga, were captured by Tharks, discovered Therns are real and trying to kill us all, and married a Jarsoomian, who is now missing." She inhaled the steam that wreathed from her cup. "I thought that if I did not drag myself from my bed you would be kidnapped by space pirates and taken to Thuria by their love maddened jeddak."
Dejah Thoris sighed. It was a fear not entirely without merit.
They smiled briefly at each other and went to do what women did when there was a problem.
They went to the Hall of Science to invent a device that could detect the presence of Ninth rays. Well, not that specific invention, but the longing toward science was the most feminine of qualities. As the saying went, "From Issus forward, science is the solace of the feminine realm." Even among the Tharks, it was the women who blended the radium powder for their green bullets.
Why it was said that Dejah Thoris' seven times great grandmother had discovered the Eighth ray of propulsion used in the radium drives of their airships after quarrelling with her lover, a padwar of Manator over a game of Jetan. So, it was only natural that science always soothed Dejah Thoris' heart.
Guards periodically appeared to tell her what she already knew. Her father once to say that he'd sent men to search the city below and the deserts beyond. She blinked at him. She was connecting a copper monofilament to the resonant transformer circuit, which was delicate work. If the slightest ray of natural light touched the carborundum aluminium, there would be a highly unfortunate incident. Thuvia spoke to her father. He went away.
There was not a highly unfortunate incident.
Tars Tarkas came. He said only, "Where is Dotar Sojak?"
She looked at him for long tals of time. She stopped what she was doing and pointed to the sky. He nodded sharply and left.
Eventually, the annoying distractions stopped.
It was only then that she noticed Sola sitting by the door. The green woman was rubbing some sort of oil into poor Woola's skin. Dejah Thoris looked at Sola through the amber coloring of her face shield. Their eyes met. Sola nodded. They did not speak.
Dejah Thoris appreciated that lack of words more than she would have a hundred thousand burning magnesium platitudes.
She had Thuvia document what they had done.
It was simple. A massive device for something so simple. Sola lifted it easily with four hands.
People got in the way. Her people. She'd have married a monster to keep them safe. She'd have sailed up the river Iss. She'd have... She blinked the crust of sleep from her eyes. She realized that it had been a very long time since she slept. Her back ached and not with the remnants of pleasure. For all that there was only a bruise on her neck to remind her that she was in fact not married to a monster. Low in the heavens, Jarsoom twinkled cooly blue at her. There was the star her father had promised her. Although, perhaps her star was Basoom twinkling in another sky.
They were only a short distance outside of her rooms when the machine beeped, as she knew it would. She said the words because she needed to make it real. "The Therns sent him back to Jarsoom."
Thuvia said the words that also had to be said, "Dejah Thoris, what now?"
Sola snorted. The machine settled with a clunk on the stone.
It was obvious. Still they had to go through steps of the dance. "We will figure out how to get him back. The Therns cannot be the only ones to travel between worlds."
Dejah Thoris was not so foolish as to go to her father then and there. She was exhausted into incoherence. Incoherence never won over any Jeddak. Even one as doting as her father.
She went to her bed. Their bed. She fell asleep as soon as her feet found their way between the silks.
Rule 2) Follow your dreams, and try to get a printout of your REM sleep brain wave activity.
In dreams, she walked once more in a yellow desert. She saw John Carter chipping minerals from a stone wall with angry intensity. She spoke to him and he turned. He stared at her with hungry eyes. She marveled that after such a brief union, their telepathic joining should be so strong. That the sense of touch should translate with such intensity over such a great distance. In sleep, she wrote the equation on the floor for John Carter to see. Only to realize it was gibberish when she woke. The arithmetic of sleep was never effective.
Still, she woke smiling. John Carter lived. While they still lived, there was hope.
They went to the Royal Academy of Science to fashion a presentation. There were charts and graphs. Sola paced the great hall as they worked.
Dejah Thoris rubbed her forehead. "Stop that. You are distracting me."
Sola crossed both sets of arms. "We should be doing something."
"Princess Dejah Thoris is doing something." Thuvia pulled herself up to her full height. A slight advantage next to Sola.
Sola glared down for a moment, before she laughed. She slapped Thuvia on her shoulder, which almost had her stumbling. "I like you." She looked at Dejah Thoris. "I will go tell the pilots that I want to help with the search for John Carter."
Thuvia rubbed her shoulder. "But he's not on this world."
Sola shrugged. "It will do no good. But I will learn to fly. Then one of us will be doing something."
Sols passed. Men and women looked at Dejah Thoris pityingly as they passed in the corridors. Her father came to her before she was ready, but Dejah Thoris knew that she would never be ready. Merely fearful that she was not yet persuasive enough for all she practiced with Thuvia.
Her father stood in front of her wearing the face of a Jeddak. Behind him spilled all the court into the Hall of Science. Even restless Tars Tarkas came, wearing the furs of a Jeddak once more, followed by a double handful of Tharks.
Her father with his Jeddak's face said, "Princess. I have offered a reward, but no trace of John Carter has been found."
She bowed and unrolled her presentation with its pictures of planets as they circled the sun. "My Jeddak, I believe that the Therns have sent John Carter back to Jarsoom." She held up the a diagram of the readings from the Ninth ray detector, which really needed a better name, from both the balcony and the Temple of Reward in comparison with the control readings from areas of Helium where there had been no Ninth ray activity.
She also admitted to seeing John Carter in her dreams through the bond of their wedded connection. She had psychometric graphs for that too. Although, she had been careful that night to only sit with John Carter in his far away desert and speak of finding him. She did not need her father, her Jeddak, the court of Helium, the members of the science academy reviewing the readings of her lonely playfulness.
When even Tars Tarkas had frowned at the pages, she unrolled a map of the River Iss. "As you know, the Therns have constructed a Hall of Science at the delta where the River Iss flows down into the lost sea of Korus beneath the rocks. We must go there to take what discoveries we can from it." She met the eyes of the court. She held each of them in turn. Even, especially, Tars Tarkas. "And if we cannot take their knowledge, we must prevent the Therns from having access to it."
Her father put his hands on her shoulders. "Princess, you are filled with grief. This is a harsh life that separates a chieftan from his princess, and yet leaves them both alive."
Dejah Thoris suppressed the desire to speak very sharply, because that would not achieve her goals.
Her father was not the one she needed to convince. Behind her father loomed Sola next to her own newly acknowledged father.
Tars Tarkas boomed a laugh. "I know that you call us savages at best, noble savages if we are fortunate. But the Tharks were and are a great race. We built cities, the remnants of which have endured ten thousand years. We will be great again. Something new has been brought into the world, and we will grasp it." Tars Tarkas crossed his upper arms, and threw an arm around Sola. "My daughter Sola, who has always been among the most skilled of the women mixing of radium powders that we use in our bullets, will head the new Academy of Science of the Tharks."
Sola looked startled and pleased and frightened and overjoyed. It was a complicated expression. "I did not know that you knew of my skills there."
"Your mother was the most skilled of her age, too. You are all that is left of her greatness." Tars Tarkas saluted her. "My daughter and I will go. The Tharks will go into the Warhoon territory even if you are afraid. It has been too long since our blades grew wet with their thin blue blood." He grinned. "Then the Tharks will have the knowledge of the Therns and we will grow great once more."
That had several of the court looking uneasy. The Tharks might now be allies to Helium, but it was a new alliance. The paint was fresh on the metal of it.
Already, she could see her father shifted in his orbit. But as it was said, worlds do not swiftly tilt.
That night at the banquet in honor of the visit of Xaxa, the Jeddara of Phundahl, in her newest synthetic body, Dejah Thoris endured not one, but three poems about her epic romance with the lost Jarsoomian. She could have done without the one that had her kidnapped three times, and rescued five times by John Carter.
Still, Dejah Thoris knew this game. She smiled at the jeds and padwars and didn't flinch at the poetry. The men of Helium did love their poems. She played the game. She envied Sola flying low by moonlight. She envied Thuvia busy calibrating a smaller version of the device to identify the presence of the Ninth ray and by extension Therns.
She envied, but she had not been the Regent of the Helium Royal Academy of Science for all these years for nothing. Even if many felt that role would have gone to another woman were she not the princess of Helium.
By the end of the feast, her father announced that the pride of the fleet of Helium would set sail for the stronghold of the Therns with their allies the Tharks. The eyes of the court on her, she smiled and ignored the whispers about a father's whim for his daughter.
Rule 3) Sometimes you have to test outside of laboratory conditions.
The night before they left, she dreamed with John Carter. She stood with him in a desert so like her own, and he held her in his arms. His lips met hers in tender kisses. His fingers made a fine work at drawing equations of desire into her skin. She'd long since had the lines of them painted on the skin of her light bound self.
She looked down at him with her hair making a tangled boma to hold back the worlds. Both of them. All the things that kept them apart.
She woke alone throbbing with release to the rather unwelcome sight of a man's head crawling on spider legs across her ceiling.
She did what was sensible. She shot at it with the gun that she kept under her pillow.
Her walls were thick with the creatures. She shot. She fired. She screamed, because that's what lungs were for. Screaming for help.
It came in the form of Sola with four arms whirling. It came in the form of Thuvia with a modified version of the Ninth ray generator that pulsed blue. Soon the spider heads scattered before the crackling waves.
Dejah Thoris said, "I thought we agreed not to test weapons functions outside of laboratory conditions."
Thuvia smile was as thin as a padwar's blade. "I think the Therns gave me food poisoning." She touched an old acid splash scar on her shoulder. "Anyway, I've always been attracted to dangerous science. I bear its mark gladly."
Sola nodded. "As I bear the marks of my differences from my people." She brushed her hand over the device almost brushing Thuvia's hand. "It would seem that my father would have me study science to better understand those differences."
Dejah Thoris looked away from them. She looked away from their non-touching hands and their too touching eyes. "This seems to be a sign we're doing something the Therns don't like. Let's keep doing it." She hunted for her armor. The release of sleep was clearly a lost cause. Another thing to blame upon the Therns.
They spent the remaining hours of the night doing calibrations to their new weapon. When the sun's light was high enough to give lift to their wings, their airship lifted gently over the city. Then they reviewed the personnel with the Ninth ray identification system.
It was quite effective.
The Thern that jumped over the edge sadly didn't fall to his death, but at least the ship was free of them. For now.
Rule 4) It's important to live a balanced life, or least try not to lose your body.
It was almost a pleasure cruise.
Dejah Thoris had gathered copies of every book that had anything to say about the Therns and absorbed them. She piled them in her bed and slept with them around her. She dreamed of matching skin to skin and drew the lines of it onto her body on her waking.
Each night, she would sleep and seek to meet John Carter in their dreams. Sometimes, he was not sleeping, and so she merely dreamed. As he criss-crossed his world seeking a way back to her, he needed to rest more. On the nights when they could meet in dreams, he'd say, "I'll find a way back to you."
She'd hold his face in her hands and whisper, "Across all the karads of empty space, I will come to you." Because she would come for him. She made him write a glossary of the voice of Jarsoom for her. Learning another language in dreams was not easy, but Dejah Thoris had a disciplined mind. She would find a way to Jarsoom.
It was very much almost not entirely a pleasure cruise.
One evening, when Thuria had just set and Cluros had yet to rise, Dejah Thoris indulged herself by looking through ship's telescope at Jarsoom. She could not see John Carter. She saw oceans and clouds as there were on Barsoom long ago. So it was that she was thinking of rain when she heard the soft pitter pattering sound. She had barely looked away when dozens of the spider headed creatures from before swarmed over her.
She would have moved to pull the sword of her grandmother from its sheath, but found herself wrapped in some sort of sticky silk that held her tightly wrapped as a babe, but newly hatched from its egg.
They wove strange sails then of their light silk, and all of them jumped from the airship to float to the ground. Dejah Thoris was very familiar with the principles of aerodynamics, but she had never done anything of the like before. She'd have enjoyed it more if she hadn't been in the midst of being kidnapped.
They landed in a valley filled with sparse thin trees around a high tower. There more of the creatures waiting. They sat perched on the shoulders of what had all the appearance of red Barsoomians, but with no head. The creatures inserted several of their legs into the necks of their mounts. It was very disconcerting. Dejah Thoris wished they had also kidnapped Haja, the expedition's naturalist, because she was very curious as to how that sort of thing might work. But her expertise tended more to transformism rather than the natural sciences.
One of their number said in a high squeak of a voice, "Regent, welcome to the valley of the Kaldanes. We're honored to meet a scientist of your calibre."
Dejah Thoris narrowed her eyes at them and mumbled through the silk web gag.
They paid no notice. The Kaldanes directed their mounts to pick her up and from there into the tower. But rather than going up, they wound down. They went down 1006 steps, which by her calculations was approximately 94.58 ads in depth.
Finally, they left the stairwell to enter a great chamber and saw a Kaldane, whose head/body was at least six safad's larger even any of the others she had seen. It also had a very distinctive blue coloring with bands of white and red around its mouth and eyes. There was a clicking noise, and it said in a high voice, "Why is our guest still in wrappings?"
Someone sprayed something sweet smelling on her and her bonds melted away. Dejah Thoris licked her lips and winced at the taste. She smiled as one might smile at the beginning of a conference. "Jeddak," this seemed safe enough, "why have I been brought here? What manner of place is this?"
"The mark of a true scientist. Already, you ask questions." The Kaldane's body mount waved its arms. "I am no Jeddak, for we are past such concepts here. I am Luud, the lead scientist of this Kaldane tower." It picked up several rather familiar looking books from a pile next to it. "I have recently had the pleasure of reading your work, which is some of the mostly clearly thought out theses that I have ever read." There were several squeaks of agreement behind her. Dejah Thoris felt herself flush. There were some, who thought that she had been appointed Regent based on her family connections and history. It felt strangely pleasant to get this level of approbation. Even if she had been kidnapped.
"The Kaldane would like to make you an offer unique in our history. We have long been stockpiling food and supplies at the center of Barsoom. So that long after the atmosphere and water has left the surface what is important may survive," more waving of arms, "the pure brain!" There was another wave of squeaks. "We would like to offer you a place among us once we've removed your unnecessary body."
There was the downside of approbation. Dejah Thoris thought very carefully. "Unfortunately, I cannot agree to a philosophy of pure intellect that denies a balanced integration with the physical. Plus I was in the middle of a scientific expedition, which I need to return to."
"Oh," there was a wispy sigh that went around the room, "I must admit to being disappointed. But of course, scientific research must come first! Will you send us copies of your papers when you publish? And possibly we could get some of your genetic material with which we can engineer a bodiless version of you. It would surely become Lead scientist in its time."
Dejah Thoris paused. "I would be happy to send you my papers."
More wispy sighs. "I would be honored if you would sign copies of your work."
She signed copies of her papers, including one of her early papers on a solar galvanometer that had not been very well distributed. When she saw that, she sighed and gave Luud a blood sample. She said very sternly, "I'll want a full work up on it's genetics."
"Of course, Regent." Luud clapped several limbs gleefully and did a short dance on the shoulders of the body it was riding.
Dejah Thoris made the long climb up alone. She reached the top of the stairs as the rest of her expedition arrived to rescue her.
Rule 5) Embrace your parapsychometric powers.
Shortly after her return, Therns attempted to infiltrate the crew. Using the Ninth ray detector, they were identified fairly quickly. Each of them said a great many things about the inevitable doom of the Barsoomian people. Tars Tarkas shot one. Thuvia stabbed another. The expedition scientists glumly paid their bets to Sola.
They were attacked once by the Warhoon horde. Their green bullets exploded on the surface of the airship, but the Tharks responded with such ferocity that the Warhoons fell back.
Still, it was a pleasant trip with much time for research and short naps.
They arrived at the Hall of the Therns, which they opened using the Ninth ray generator.
The scientists and padwars entered the door that she had made, swords drawn.
This was where things went somewhat wrong. In that they heard the echoing laughter of the Therns, who released wild Banths into the chambers with them. Janai, a transformist from Amhor, screamed and almost dropped her sword. "We're going to die."
Thuvia sighed and said in a very glum sort of way, "We're not going to die." She pointed at the largest of the pride of Banths. "Stop that." The black maned Banth stopped in its tracks and immediately started to groom itself as if it had never entertained the idea of attacking them.
Sola breathed out, "Great Issus, how are you doing that?"
Thuvia looked very embarrassed as she always did when this came up. "I, um, I'm,"
"Thuvia is a Banth parapsychometric. Which you need to stop feeling embarrassed about." Dejah Thoris pointed at the Banths, who were giving Thuvia please pet me now looks. "This is quite convenient."
Thuvia looked away. "But it means that I will never be able to telepathically bond when I marry."
Sola studied her feet. "Tharks do not marry, nor do we have telepathic bonds." All four arms managed to do something awkward and embarrassed.
They looked into each other's eyes. Thuvia said, "Maybe." While Sola said, "Perhaps." Evil laughter cut short this scene. The walls shifted around them via the strange mechanisms of the Ninth ray machinery.
They went deeper and deeper into the shifting structure. The walls separated the expedition until only Dejah Thoris, Thuvia and Sola remained together.
They came around a corner and there was Matai Shang. He said very dramatically, "Fools. You have come where we wanted you. These are the chambers of the sun, and they only open once a year." He took a step back and a sliding door ground shut. His voice drifted to them by some mechanism. "By the time these doors open again, you'll be long dead."
Dejah Thoris looked at Thuvia. She looked at Sola. She looked around. The walls were lit with panels and blue light. She manipulated one of the symbols and lights shimmered over the walls. She said, "Did they just lock the people best able to use these machines in the room with the machines?"
"That is indeed what they did. Too bad we're going to die of hunger," said Thuvia.
"That is foolish talk." Sola looked around the room. "We will die of dehydration first." She took Thuvia's hands in hers. "We should stop with our foolish delays before our time is done."
Dejah Thoris sighed. "We should learn what we can before your father starts blowing holes in the walls with radium powder."
Sola considered this. She crossed her arms while retaining hold of Thuvia's hands. "Yes. That is true."
There was the sound of a distant boom. Thuvia smiled up. "Let me show you dangerous science." They went to a wall and read symbols.
They studied what they could. They copied glyphs.
There were more booms. This went on for more sols than was comfortable for three women locked in a room. Especially when two had decided on a course of playfulness.
Fortunately, Thuvia had brought a supply of ration bars and water. Unfortunately, they tasted as Sola put it, "like the excrement of calots." She glared at the bars. "Very ill calots."
They were discussing the Ninth ray's applications for hygiene when the far wall shook with a great boom and crumbled. After the smoke cleared, Tars Tarkas yelled through the opening. "I have made a tunnel."
The building shuddered. Dejah Thoris looked at the walls. "I think you made too many tunnels." They ran as quickly as they could, which was very fast.
They made it out just as the entire edifice collapsed. The Tharks laughed and slapped each other on the back.
Dejah Thoris could not join in. She had learned much, but she had not learned a way to take her between the worlds or to bring John Carter back to this one. The Therns had won. They would roam freely on Jarsoom able to rebuild and begin again.
That night she met with John Carter in the midst of a city that looked like nothing she had ever seen. As always for their meetings in their minds, there could be no other people. Still this did not look like the long dead cities of the green and red Barsoomians. She opened her mouth to tell John Carter what had happened, but could not. Instead they walked a long time through empty streets and spoke of silly things.
Neither one promised the other that they would find them soon.
She woke to find herself alone. She breathed in and resolved to find other avenues of research.
Rule 6) It is a mistake to neglect the naturalist sciences.
Halfway down the length of the Iss, they were attacked by space pirates. It was briefly exhilarating watching Sola swoop around in her light flyer waving swords at them. She was actually quite a good pilot. Her grasp of mathematics and spatial relationships was amazing.
However, Dejah Thoris’ enjoyment was cut short when to her eternal embarrassment, she was kidnapped. By space pirates. Actual space pirates. With an absolutely fascinating craft capable of flying through the empty space between worlds.
The captain of the ship, Fal Sivas, who looked to all appearances like a red Martian except for his startling obsidian colored skin, sneered at her as she attempted to surreptitiously examine the controls. "You will not be able to operate them. Only one of the First Born's blood may do so and even then the technology behind this ship's synthetic brain would be beyond you." He twirled his long blue mustache, which was really just too much.
"Why have you kidnapped me?" Dejah Thoris did not let herself cross her arms. She kept them loose at her side, the better to reach the concealed knife of her mother.
He looked at her incredulously. "You are the head of the Royal Helium Academy of Science and as backward as your people are, you are the leading expert on the Ninth ray. You are going to help us develop our own application of that technology, and then we will finally defeat the Therns and take our place as the true First Born. Instead of surviving on raids that are beneath our genius."
"Ah," said Dejah Thoris. She really couldn't think of anything else to say. She really should have been prepared for a scientific rivalry, but somehow had not been.
As they approached the tiny moon of Thuria, Fal Sivas pushed a series of buttons on a multiphasic electromagnetic device, which shrank the ship several times in size. This explained why the domed cities of the First Born on Thuria were unknown to Helium. They were simply too small to be seen by the astrocartographers of Helium. It was fascinating, if somewhat annoying. Dejah Thoris would dearly have loved to have more information on the amount of their change in size, but without something to compare to, it was all relativistic.
When they landed in a white wide room, another of the First Born with wildly curling blue hair greeted them, but his words were not in welcome. "Fal Sivas, you know perfectly well that you need to get the approval of the scientific council before you use equipment in a raid. You did not even fill out a requisition form from the SIO x9.100-187 standard, which is clearly indicated as a requirement."
"Gar Nal, you are perfectly aware that only council lackeys such as yourself follow the SIO X9.100-187, which did not deliver on the much needed flexibility for scientific inquiry. I follow the x9.37 standard, which allows for individual customization on the standard as needed."
Gar Nal pointed at the ship, "You know very well that the x9.37 standard was never intended as a permanent standard. Also, the First Born certainly do not need a scientist from," he sniffed, "one of the later races."
Dejah Thoris looked at them moving closer and closer to each other as they argued and sighed. She examined the ship from its exterior until Fal Sivas finally dragged her to their labs to make science.
They had books full of diagrams that she itched to understand. She made science.
Fal Sivas came to her labs each sol to explain how the First Born pirates represented the forces of Chaos, which created life, while the Therns represented order, which created death.
Gar Nal yanked on his wild blue hair. "No, no, no, you have the philosophy all wrong. Intellect is everything. The First Born seek to ascend to a higher life form that will not even need food or drink. While the Therns," he spat on the ground, "those fools use their Ninth ray technology to generate simulacrum of food and drink and weapons." He glared at Fal Sivas. "This is a waste of our time."
It was clear to her that the problem with the First Born was that there were no women. Not that Dejah Thoris had ever believed that a man could not be a scientist, but still to have no women seemed a dreadful mistake.
Although, in terms of reproducing their race, the First Born grew all their children in vats. They seemed to have forgotten about playfulness. Fal Sivas was eager to explain the superiority of this method.
When Fal Sivas took her on a tour of the facilities where they grew their vat bred children, Gar Nal sneered. "Far superior to the naturalistic method."
Fal Sivas laughed. "You are just showing your pathetic lack of scientific rigor. The vats are naturalistic. We should have progressed beyond them." He glared at Gar Nal. "At least it spares us the shame of physical contact."
Gar Nal glared back, stepping closer, "Exactly. Disgusting."
Fal Sivas breathed out rapidly. "Disgusting."
Dejah Thoris rolled her eyes. "Issus save me."
The thing about both Fal Sivas and Gar Nal, and the First Born in general, was that for all their knowledge, they really didn't have a very practical understanding of the naturalistic sciences. Dejah Thoris had spent her life surrounded by scientists, often brilliant women, but without the ability to buckle their own swords. She understood how practicality might be beyond them.
It was all very well and good to key the controls of every weapon and system to a specific biology, but it was not exactly foolproof.
After months of study, and some real progress with her Ninth ray generator, which sadly she had to unprogress each night, she was ready.
When the time was right, she subdued her scientist pirates while they were arguing. She tied Fal Sivas and Gar Nal together naked, which might give them a chance to work out their differences while they tried to get untied. She winked at them. "I haven't had a chance to explain my own philosophy of science."
She went to the docks and once on board, she covered herself in the materials that she'd acquired from the vats where they grew the First People.
She was very happy to discover that in practical application the process of reduction was reversible. The ship's synthetic brain, which operated on a base level of the basic mathematical principles of zero and one, was actually fairly simple to operate. She navigated the ship back to Helium where a rescue fleet was gathering. Although, where they thought they'd rescue her from she did not know.
Her father embraced her and wept openly at her return. She held him tight and said, "I'm fine, Father."
Then, of course, while she had work to do, there was a feast.
The great poet, Anatok, stood up at the feast in her honor and read his new poem, "The Princess and the Space Pirates." It was about her kidnapping by the Jeddak of Zondanga driven mad by love for her, her lost Jarsoomian love, kidnapping by spider king, kidnapping by the space pirate king, all driven mad with desire for her.
As he began, Thuvia passed her a pen, which made no sense . Thuvia whispered, "Congratulations on your epic poem."
She grinned at Dejah Thoris' glare, and moved to sit next to Sola. They sat very close to one another throughout the various readings. When Anatok reached the point where Dejah Thoris' grown son, Carthoris, rescued her, Dejah Thoris could no longer contain herself. She wrote on the back of the cloth napkin an ordered list of the unlikeliness of a oviparous mammal and a placental viviparous mammal producing a child without scientific assistance. She handed the list to Thuvia.
It was thus that they spent the rest of the feast trading notes on more and more unlikely surfaces on more and more unlikely theories. It was a hardly a useful list. Sola joined in. It was certainly amusing.
Afterwards, as they examined the spaceship, Sola could bring them both laughing to tears if she said, "Method sixteen."
Rule 7) Set aside time for study.
Sadly when they finally emerged from useless celebration, they calculated that Jarsoom was at it's closest point to Barsoom. Only 57.7 million karads of empty space as both worlds made their way around Sol. If they left that moment, Jarsoom would already have raced away from them on its shorter orbit. They'd be chasing a world in a tiny ship in space.
Dejah Thoris wanted to hit her head against a wall or possibly drink a great deal of distilled glorestra. Instead, she went to bed.
Their bed, unfamiliar after so long apart from it.
It had been four long years. Two thousand seven hundred and three Barsoomian sols. Two thousand seven hundred and three nights. She did a quick calculation and how odd it seemed to know it been so many more years for John Carter. Seven point five one six eight five three nine three two five eight four two nine, she fell into sleep as she divided.
That night, she met John Carter upon a beach and watched waves of water. Great waves that crashed onto the sand beneath her bare feet and pulled away only to crash again. She said what she always said, "I'm coming for you." This time she said, "I have a ship that can sail between worlds. You just have to wait for me."
He laughed and pointed to a vessel that sailed the dark Jarsoomian sea. Its white sails glowed in the moonlight as it raced across the water. "Look."
In the way of dreams, they were on the ship. There was no one there with them. There never was. It wasn't a real place, these places they went. There was no tugging each other down to lie upon the hardwood as the ship pushed through the waters, waves slapping on its sides. They simply were lying together upon the deck. Wrapped up in each other, surrounded by a sea of water. She said over and over, "I'm coming for you. Wait for me."
As they lay together, he whispered, "You always say that, but you are never here."
She woke as she whispered back, "I would cross worlds for you, John Carter."
As always, when she woke, she reached out, but he was not there. He was far away on a world at its closest point.
It was time for some serious math. They got to it using the synthetic brain in the ship. It's calculations were accurate to a wonderful degree. They grew used to the slow clicking sound it made as its gears ran through numbers.
When they were done, they did what needed to be done. They gave a presentation to the gathered scientists and, of course, Dejah Thoris' father. They held the demonstration in the astrocartography wing of the Academy of Science, as they wanted to use the great copper planetary model.
Sola grinned as she operated the gears that moved worlds.
Dejah Thoris father said, "I have indulged you as far as I can. It cannot be. There can be no benefit to this journey and much danger."
Tars Tarkas said, "Tharks do not fly, but we will fly to another world, if it will help us reclaim our birthright from the Therns. And if there I can be reunited with the one who taught me the meaning of friendship, then yes. We must go!"
Dejah Thoris wondered for a moment if Tars Tarkas might not have certain feelings for her husband, but dismissed it as irrelevant. Her father was weakening. She moved in for the kill, as Sola operated a recent addition to the model.
She pointed, "On our way back, I mean to use the Ninth ray to capture the Lover's Tear comet. We will have plucked water from the ether and Mars will have seas once more." Actually, this would result in more of a lake, as she could see some of the scientists in the back calculating, but that was the difficulty of a mixed science and political audience.
Her father did not say yes then. She prepared anyway. It would be many long sols before Jarsoom and Barsoom were in the proper position.
She gathered the scientists of the Academy for presentations on the various discoveries resulting from her adventures.
As women young and old will when presented with new technology, they spent an enjoyable hour or so miniaturizing common objects. Swords. Guns. Torches. Then they got down to the business of application. They had learned so much already. They would learn more.
Afterwards, she dealt with requests for new projects based on the discoveries. For the first time, the scientists of the academy called her Regent rather than Princess.
She set about selecting the scientists who would join the historic journey between the worlds.
In the end, there was little to approve or disapprove. She had a ship and Academy resources. They went.
In the end, they neither ran out of food or water on the journey across space. She somewhat thought that Tars Tarkas and Kantor Kan would kill each other upon the journey. Or possibly destroy the ship as they practiced for battle. But they weren't even attacked by Therns.
They simply flew through space. She welcomed the nights that she dreamed of John Carter. She told him, "Wait for me," but as always, he said, "You always say that." She made him practice grammars with her anyway.
Finally, they reached the world that they were to call Earth. Even gradually raising the gravity on the ship all the long journey, it was still hard to move. It felt as if she were walking in heavy sand.
They landed in a lush green countryside. Dejah Thoris hobbled out and said to the woman next to a large beast of burden, "Do you know of John Carter?" for surely the fame of the man who had crossed worlds would have spread across Jarsoom.
"Merde!" The woman screamed and then babbled in a language, which seemed to have some base root similarity to the language John Carter had taught her, but was unknown to her.
Dejah Thoris exchanged an astonished look with Thuvia. "The Jarsoomian's speak more than one language."
The three anthropological scientists from their expedition tried to communicate that they would like some liquid that would let them hear the voice of Jarsoom, but they only received red liquid in a bottle.
Sola had to forcibly throw the three anthropological scientists back on the ship.
Dejah Thoris conferred with Thuvia. "We'll have to head for a larger city. Perhaps, they will know of John Carter there." They used the ships holographic telescopes to identify the closest city. This was how they ended up in a great city called Paris, where some spoke John Carter's language, but insisted on throwing a banquet in their honor.
It was remarkably like a banquet at home, but with dancing and a great deal of overly close hands. They kept calling Sola, "Une belle giraffe vert. La princess de Mars." They didn't know the meaning of the marks on her. They exclaimed over Sola and Tars Tarkas. Dejah Thoris introduced herself as the Regent of the Royal Helium Academy of Science and that is who they took her to be. It seemed a more remarkable thing to them that she was a scientist than that she was from Barsoom.
Which was simply ridiculous. "But men are too emotional to be scientists. It's a," she struggled with her meagre words, "science truth."
A woman in a long blue dress that seemed very uncomfortable laughed. "A truth that crosses worlds." The rest of the crowd laughed with her.
There was one moment of some tension when Sola picked up a man in a uniform covered in metal, who fortunately turned back into a Thern. Everyone gasped and the party was over. So, that was good.
Dejah Thoris eventually was able to get a map.
Virginia was in an entirely separate country, which was itself a populous place. When she finally, finally, finally found the place where John Carter lived, it was to be greeted by a boy little over a child, his nephew.
"He, he, found a way back. Last night. He's in there." Edgar pointed at a tomb. Dejah Thoris momentarily lost the power of speech.
Sola said, "You did tell him we were coming."
"Yes," gritted out Dejah Thoris.
Tars Tarkas sighed. "He is a good friend. But was never was very good at listening." Sola nodded. Dejah Thoris smiled and kept her temper.
There was some disagreement over whether they should take John Carter's body back to him, but Dejah Thoris said, "I'm not leaving half of him here."
That night in her dreams, she did not embrace John Carter. She glared at him and said, "I'm on Jarsoom."
He was holding some sort of torn piece of cloth that fluttered from the balcony by their room. "When I got here, you weren't here." He let go of the cloth. "They weren't dreams. All those years."
He looked so lost, she sighed. "Yes, my love." She considered explaining the science of it, as she had all that time ago, but settled with saying, "Stay there until I return."
So it was they waited the months that it would take for Jarsoom and Barsoom to be in proper position. They traveled Jarsoom, which was wondrous. She had visited so many places there already in her dreams. It was startling to see it full of people in so many shades and hues.
It was wonderous and the waves crashed on seas. She shared knowledge with the people of Earth. They shared knowledge with her.
It was not home.
Rule 8) Remember, we still live.
Loaded with the gifts of an abundant world, they set off for home.
Home. Mars. Barsoom.
In dreams, she and John Carter were together. Home in each other.
The returning ship succeeded in capturing the Lover's Tear comet. They dragged it from its lonely path through empty space.
Barsoom grew larger and larger on the synthetic brain's holographic monitors until it fairly lit the command deck to a familiar red glow. Each sol they lowered the ship's gravity to Jarsoom normal.
It would a lie to say that was why Dejah Thoris' heart grew lighter the closer they came to her world.
Jarsoom was a world of great riches, but Barsoom was her heart.
It was also apparently under attack by a fleet of ships unlike the ships of the First Born. These ships came from the direction of the great gas giant of Sassoom.
Sola peered at the images on the holographic monitors. "Are those skeleton men?"
"Hmm, interesting transparent musculature. It must be an effect of living in the gas rich environment of Sassoom," said Dejah Thoris. Then her breath caught in her throat. For there on the monitor was John Carter leaping about the battlefield.
Dejah Thoris pursed her lips and thought about the situation. He seemed to be alone. A man with strong bones from a dense world battling airy creatures from a world of ether. She smiled and did the only sensible thing.
She aimed the Lover's Tear straight through the Sassoomian ships and at the battlefield below. She whispered to herself, "Look up, my love. Look up." Blessing of Issus, he did.
She saw him leap away as the icy comet fell through the thin atmosphere of Barsoom and struck the soil in a shock wave. It was remarkably effective.
She hadn't intended on putting a lake quite there, but a warrior must put their sword where their metal leads them.
They landed the ship near where John Carter had leapt away. It was raining. Water was falling from the sky. Cold icy water, which she hoped wasn't too toxic.
It rained and John Carter jumped into her arms and she held on. He was a hard man to get hold of. There jumping and flying through the rain, she swore to Issus that she'd not lose him again. As they landed upon their balcony in greater Helium, she put her head against his and they kissed beneath the moons of Barsoom.
In the morning, when she woke, she reached out and found the warmth of him next to her. Pleating his fingers through hers, she curled into him the better to whisper plans of what might come next.