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white The Barsoom series
  branch John Carter and the Giant of Mars
Previous page Next page navigation 5/14 branch Chapter 5.   Chamber of horrors
Next paragraph     Far below, in the pit, John Carter could see forms moving in and about the bodies of the dead red men.
Next paragraph     They were rats; and as he watched the earthman could see them dragging bodies off into adjoining tunnels. These tunnels probably entered the main one which ran into the rats' underground city.
Next paragraph     So this was where the beasts got the skulls and bones with which they constructed their odorous, underground dwellings!
Next paragraph     Carter's eyes scanned the laboratory. He noted the operating tables, the encased instruments above, the anesthetics. Everything pointed to some grisly experiment, conducted by some insane scientist.
Next paragraph     Within a glass case were many books. One ponderous volume was inscribed in gold letters: PEW MOGEL, HIS LIFE AND WONDERFUL WORKS.
Next paragraph     The earthman frowned. What was the explanation? Why this well-equipped laboratory buried in an ancient lost city, a city apparently deserted except for apes, rats, and a giant man?
Next paragraph     Why the cases about the wall containing the mute, motionless bodies of apes with bandaged heads? And the red men in the pit-why were their skulls cut in half, their brains removed?
Next paragraph     From whence came the giant, the monstrous creature whose likeness had existed only in the Barsoomian folklore?
Next paragraph     One of the books in a case before Carter bore the name "Pew Mogel ". What connection had Pew Mogel with all this and who was the man?
Next paragraph     But more important, where was Dejah Thoris, the Princess of Helium?
Next paragraph     John Carter reached for Pew Mogel's book. Suddenly the room fell silent. The generators that had been humming out their power, stopped.
Next paragraph     "Touch not that book, John Carter," came the words echoing through the laboratory.
Next paragraph     Carter's hand dropped to his sword. There was a moment's pause; then the hidden voice continued.
Next paragraph     "Give yourself up, John Carter, or your princess dies." The words were apparently coming from a concealed loudspeaker somewhere in the room.
Next paragraph     "Through the door to your right, earthman, the door to your right."
Next paragraph     Carter immediately sensed a trap. He crossed to the door. Warily, he pushed it open with his foot.
Next paragraph     Upon a gorgeous throne at the far end of a huge dome-shaped chamber sat a hideous, misshapen man. A tiny, bullet head squatted upon massive shoulders.
Next paragraph     Everything about the creature seemed distorted. His torso was crooked, his arms were not equal in length; one foot was larger than the other.
Next paragraph     The face in the diminutive head leered at John Carter. A thick tongue hung partly out over yellowed teeth.
Next paragraph     The hulking body was encased in gorgeous trappings of platinum and diamonds. One claw-like hand stroked the bare bead.
Next paragraph     From head to foot there was apparently not a hair on his body.
Next paragraph     At the man's feet crouched a great, four-armed shaggy brute-another white ape. Its little red eyes were fixed steadily upon the earthman as he stood at the far end of the chamber. The man on the throne idly fingered the microphone with which he had summoned Carter to the room.
Next paragraph     "I have trapped you at last, John Carter!" Beady, cocked eyes glared with hatred. "You cannot cope with the great brain of Pew Mogel!"
Next paragraph     Pew Mogel turned to a television screen studded with dials and lights of various colors.
Next paragraph     His face twisted into a smile. "You honor my humble city, John Carter. It is with the greatest interest I have watched your progress through the many chambers of the palace with my television machine." Pew Mogel patted the machine.
Next paragraph     "This little invention of my good teacher, Ras Thavas," continued Pew Mogel, "which I acquired from him, has been an invaluable aid to me in learning of your intended search for my unworthy person. It was unfortunate that you should suspect the honorable intentions of my agent that afternoon in the Jeddak's chambers.
Next paragraph     "Fortunately, however, he had already completed his mission; and through an extension upon this television set, concealed cleverly behind a mirror in the Jeddak's private throne room, I was able to see and hear the entire proceedings."
Next paragraph     Pew Mogel laughed vacantly, his little unblinking eyes staring steadily at Carter who remained motionless at the other end of the room.
Next paragraph     The earthman could see nothing in the chamber that indicated a trap. The walls and floor were all of grey, polished ersite slabs. Carter stood at one end of a long aisle leading to Pew Mogel's throne.
Next paragraph     Slowly he advanced toward Pew Mogel, his hand grasping his sword, the muscles of his arm etched bands of steel.
Next paragraph     Halfway down the aisle, the earthman halted. "Where is Dejah Thoris?" His words cut the air.
Next paragraph     The microcephalic head* of Pew Mogel cocked to one side. Carter waited for him to speak.
Next paragraph     * A microcephalic head is one possessing a very small brain capacity. It is the opposite of megacephalic, which means a large brain capacity. Generally microcephalia is a sign of idiocy, although in the case of Pew Mogel, the condition did not mean idiocy, but extreme craftiness, and madness, which might indicate that, since Pew Mogel was an artificial, synthetic product of Ras Thavas, one of Mars's most famous scientists, his microcephalia was either caused by a disease, or by inability of the brain to adapt itself to a foreign ill-fitting cranial cavity. Pew Mogel's head was obviously too small for his body, or for his brain. Ed.
Next paragraph     In spite of having the features of a man, Pew Mogel did not look quite human. There was something indescribably repulsive about him, the thin lips, the hollow cheeks, the close-set eyes.
Next paragraph     The Carter realized that those eyes were unblinking. There were no eyelids. The man's eyes could never close. Pew Mogel spoke coldly. "I am greatly indebted to you for this visit. I was fortunate enough to be able to entertain your princess and your best friend; but I hardly dared to hope you would honor me, too."
Next paragraph     Carter's face was expressionless. Slowly he repeated, "Where is Dejah Thoris?"
Next paragraph     Pew Mogel leered mockingly.
Next paragraph     The earthman advanced toward the throne. The white ape at Pew Mogel's feet growled, the hairs on its neck bristling upright as Pew Mogel flinched slightly.
Next paragraph     Again the twisted smile passed over his face as he raised his hand toward John Carter and drawled.
Next paragraph     "Have patience, John Carter, and I will show you your princess; but first, perhaps you will be interested in seeing the man who, last night, told you to meet him at the main bridge outside the city."
Next paragraph     Pew Mogel's left eye suddenly popped out of its socket and dangled on his cheek. He took no notice of it, but continued to speak, glancing first at Carter and then at Tars Tarkas with the other eye.
Next paragraph     "You have both met Joog," stated Pew Mogel. "One hundred and thirty feet tall, he is all muscle, a product of science, the result of my great brain."
Next paragraph     Pew Mogel hooked one of his fingers over a lever projecting from the golden arm of his throne and slipped it toward himself. A pillar to the left of his throne, half set in the wall, began to revolve slowly.
Next paragraph     A giant green man appeared, chained to the pillar. His four mighty arms were strapped securely; and for Pew Mogel's additional safety, several steel chains were wrapped around his body and cinched with massive padlocks. His neck and ankles were also secured with bands of steel, also padlocked.
Next paragraph     "Tars Tarkas!" Carter exclaimed.
Next paragraph     "Kaor, John Carter," there was a grim smile on Tars Tarkas' face as he replied. "I see our friend here trapped us both the same way; but it took a giant fifteen times my size to hold me while they trussed me in these chains."
Next paragraph     "The message you sent me last night " In a flash, Carter realized the truth. Pew Mogel had faked the messages from Kantos Kan and Tars Tarkas, trapping them both in the city the night before.
Next paragraph     "Yes, I sent you both identical messages," said Pew Mogel, "each message apparently from the other. The proper broad-casting length I ascertained from listening to the concealed microphone I had planted in the Jeddak's throne room. Clever. With my own hands I created him from living flesh, the greatest fighting monster that Barsoom has ever seen. I modeled him from the organs, tissues, and bones of ten thousand red men and white apes."
Next paragraph     Pew Mogel, becoming aware of his left eye, quickly shoved it back into place.
Next paragraph     Tars Tarkas laughed one of his rare laughs. "Pew Mogel," he said, "you are falling apart. As you claim to have created your giant, so you yourself have been made.
Next paragraph     "Unless I miss my guess, John Carter," continued Tars Tarkas, "this freak before us who calls himself a king has, himself, crawled out of a tissue vat!"
Next paragraph     Pew Mogel's pallid countenance turned even paler as he leaped to his feet. He struck Tars Tarkas a vicious blow on the face.
Next paragraph     "Silence, green man!" he shrieked.
Next paragraph     Tars Tarkas only smiled at this insult, ignoring the pain. John Carter's face was a frozen mask. One more blow at his defenseless friend would have sent him at Pew Mogel's throat.
Next paragraph     Better to bide his time, he knew, until he learned where Dejah Thoris was hidden.
Next paragraph     Pew Mogel sank back upon his throne. The white ape, who had risen, once more squatted down at his master's feet.
Next paragraph     Presently Pew Mogel smiled again. "So sorry," he drawled, "that I lost my temper. Sometimes I forget that my present appearance reveals the nature of my origin.
Next paragraph     "You see, soon I shall have trained one of my apes in the intricate procedure of transferring my marvelous brain into a suitable, handsome body; then no one will guess that I am not like any other normal man on Barsoom."
      John Carter smiled grimly at Pew Mogel's words. "Then you are one of Ras Thavas' synthetic men?"