John Carter was a blast — but you might be waiting a long, long time for the next movie in the series, sadly. But you can help fill the gaping hole in your life by reading a new Burroughs-inspired novel, Jane Carver of Waar by Nathan Long. We've got an exclusive excerpt, in which Jane Carver tangles with a big purple guy who has too many damn limbs.
Here's the official blurb for Jane Carver of Waar:
Jane Carver is nobody's idea of a space princess.
A hard-ridin', hard-lovin' biker chick and ex-Airborne Ranger, Jane is as surprised as anyone else when, on the run from the law, she ducks into the wrong cave at the wrong time-and wakes up butt-naked on an exotic alien planet light-years away from everything she's ever known.
Waar is a savage world of four-armed tiger-men, sky-pirates, slaves, gladiators, and purple-skinned warriors in thrall to a bloodthirsty code of honor and chivalry. Caught up in a disgraced nobleman's quest to win back the hand of a sexy alien princess, Jane encounters bizarre wonders and dangers unlike anything she ever ran into back home.
Then again, Waar has never seen anyone like Jane before . . . .
Both a loving tribute and scathing parody of the swashbuckling space fantasies of yore, Jane Carver of Waar introduces an unforgettable new science fiction heroine.
And here's an excerpt so you can get a taste of the alien-brawling action:
Sai helped Kitten and Queenie strap me into a purple-guy fighting harness, complete with arm and shin guards. Not that he was much help. He was still shaking like a leaf about my gambit. It made him all thumbs.
"You should not have risked so much, Mistress Jae-En. You might have lost your head had the Chief been of another mind."
"I still got plenty of chances to lose my head. Sometimes you've got to take a chance to get a chance."
Sai looked across to where One-Eye was preparing. "Is there a chance?"
I shrugged. "I'm alive. I've got all my arms and legs, and they all work."
"'Tis still two fewer than your nemesis." Good old Sai. Always the encouraging word.
"So, any tips on fighting these guys?"
"Be where his blades are not."
I sighed. "Thanks for the ancient wisdom, Master Po. When was the last time you were in a fight?"
Sai put his nose in the air and got all defensive. "I've studied under the finest weapons masters in Ora."
I knew what that meant. He'd never been in a real scrap in his life. "Great."
By now the crowd around the roped off square was ten deep. A fight between a warrior of the Aarurrh and a pink insect drew a crowd just like those guys down in Florida who wrestle alligators. It was geek show stuff.
I don't know where Queenie and Kitten dug up my armor. Probably from some Aarurrh warrior's trophy case. There weren't any human-size swords around, though. The Aarurrh are nomads. They don't do their own mining. Not when there are civilized pushovers to steal from. That meant that any purple-guy swords that came into the camp were immediately melted down to forge Aarurrh weapons. So Aarurrh weapons were what I had to choose from. This was a problem.
I could see One-Eye laughing as I tried out various giant weapons. He knew he had it in the bag right there. His own weapons fit him like extensions of his four arms. I was like a pee-wee leaguer trying to swing Mark McGuire's bat. The spears and axes were just ridiculous. Twelve foot monsters with balance points higher than I could reach. I nearly chopped Queenie's head off trying to get the feel for one.
The sword was a surprise though. It was huge — I was eye to eye with the pommel when I stuck the point in the ground — and built to size. The blade was wider across than my palm, and curved a little at the tip. The grip was a foot and a half long and way too thick. But it was balanced like a miser's checkbook, and the weight of it, which would have had Sai gasping and weaving after two swings, felt just right to my Earth muscles; like a sawed off pool cue. I'd found my weapon.
I tried to hide how comfy I was with it. I made sure One-Eye saw me take a few clumsy, off-balance swings. They weren't too hard to fake. First off, I'd never fought with a sword before. Second, the grip had to be fixed. It was like gripping a can of spray paint. One hit from One-Eye's sword and mine was going flying.
Handsome noticed this and quickly cut the leather binding that wound around the grip. Under that was a thick wooden dowel. With a few quick scrapes of his knife, Handsome whittled the grip down to fit a human hand. Not perfect, but there wasn't time for anything else. The crowd was getting antsy. One-Eye complained to the chief and the guards came over and told me I was ready. Now.
Sai clasped my hand as they dragged me off. "Good fortune, mistress. I pray to the Seven for your victory."
"Tell 'em to send along a Smith and Wesson."
It wasn't until I was facing One-Eye across the packed earth, with a couple hundred rowdy monsters howling behind the ropes and sword-posts, that I realized how scared I was. I've been in bad spots before, but this was crazy. This wasn't, "Oh shit, I fucked up. I'm going to jail." If I fucked up here I was going to die, and not in one piece.
My stomach seemed to be pushing up against my lungs. I couldn't take a breath. The damn sword was squirming around in my sweaty palms like a wet bar of soap. I realized with a rising wave of panic that I should have put the leather wrapping back on the grip. I wanted to call king's X, time out.
I wanted to do that on this whole fucking adventure. Hit the reset button. Start over. I wanted to go back and not kill that poor guy in Panorama City. Shit, right about now I would have gladly thanked him for squeezing my ass. The chief clapped his four hands. The crowd roared. One-Eye charged out of his corner on his back legs, three flashing swords in his four hands.
I back-pedaled like crazy trying to keep track of all that steel. He had a big sword in his top two hands, and two smaller ones in his bottom two, which he waved in front of him like an umpire calling safe. I jumped over them easy, then saw the big sword coming at me like a girder with a guillotine edge.
On pure flinch instinct I got my sword up, wrong way around, and took the hit on the flat of the blade. I've taken softer hits in bike wrecks. The impact knocked my blade into my face, smacking me on the temple, and sent me flying fifteen feet to land on my neck in the third row.
The Aarurrh laughed like yowling tigers and picked me up. My head was ringing like a time-keepers' bell at a boxing match. Everything was too bright and out of focus. They passed me forward with good-natured backslaps and dumped me back over the rope. Swell.
Before I could pull myself together again, One-Eye's three swords came at me like something out of a cheap 3-D movie. My legs were still all jumbled up. At the last second I got my left foot — my off foot — under me and launched. Not exactly a thing of beauty, that leap. I flew off sideways, out of control, and one of my ears popped as his big blade whistled by it, sucking air like a Concorde.
I landed on my tits across the square, inhaling a mouthful of dirt and pebbles as I skidded to a stop. The impact knocked the wind out of me, but at least the breastplate kept me from getting roadrash on my nipples. The tigers gasped at my leap, the first one they'd had a good look at. They started murmuring like the crowd in a courtroom just before the judge bangs his gavel.
I got to my feet. My head was clearing, but not fast enough. One-Eye was closing fast, and looking annoyed that I was making him walk so far to kill me. Well, he was going to be even more annoyed before I was through. Until the wind chimes in my head stopped I wasn't about to go toe to toe with him. I leaped again, and kept leaping. My equilibrium was still outta whack. I kept landing funny, but at least I was staying ahead of him.
One-Eye growled. "Stand still, insect."
The crowd didn't like it either. They started making a high "keee keee keee" sound; the noise their pig/sheep/goat things made when they were scared.
I let 'em razz me. I wasn't fighting until I was good and ready. Leaping around was helping in two ways. My head was slowly clearing, and I was getting some practice testing my limits. All this time I'd had to pretend I couldn't jump higher or lift more than a regular old purple guy, so I hadn't had a chance to see what I could do, and it felt good to let go and use my muscles. I felt like a balloon that had slipped out of some kid's fist at a birthday party.
I was getting used to the sword too, adjusting for its weight, using its mass to sling my body around in the air. But I couldn't stall forever. I saw the chief squirming on his couch and realized that if he didn't like the show he could cancel it — and me — without a word. There were guards with spears and bolos and battle axes all around the square, just waiting for him to yawn. Time to make my move.
One-Eye had continued to try and close with me, hoping, I guess, to wear me out. Fat chance. Even when I smoked I had decent endurance. On this planet, with its clean air and the field hand exercise and the gravity deal, I felt like I could run a hundred miles and not get tired. I sprang again, straight at him this time. He'd got so used to me running away it took him by surprise.
I swung my sword like a baseball bat, the only way I knew how, right at his head. He ducked to one side, smooth as silk, and parried the blow with the big sword, then turned like a ballerina, all one thousand pounds of him, and snaked out one of his small swords after me. It caught me on the shin guard and spun me around. Luckily my head was clear now, and I had my balance back, so I landed on my feet. Okay. So I dropped to my knees pretty quick, but waddaya want? My leg hurt like I'd kicked a fire hydrant.
I looked down. The shin guard had a dent in it the size of a cereal bowl and was cutting into my leg something fierce. Blood was running down my leg and mixing with the dirt on my toes.
One-Eye inhaled and licked his lips. "Hrmmmm. Blood. Smell good."
Okay, now that pissed me off. He was going to eat me after he killed me?
That was just plain rude. I got mad enough to forget I was scared.
One-Eye swung down at me. This time I noticed something. I'd been so panicked before by all that sharp steel that I'd just jumped. Anywhere. Now that I was a little calmer, I could see where all those swords were going to go, with just enough time to go somewhere else. Fucking Sai and his, "Be where his blades are not." Maybe he was right after all.
I jumped forward and right, getting my legs up just as his left blade cut underneath them, and dove between his upper and lower right arms, so close to his body that his fur brushed my legs.
I swung backhanded as I passed him. The fucking grip twisted in my hand and I didn't hit him edge on, but I did some damage. The tip of the blade was trailing red drops like rubies hanging in the air. One-Eye roared.
I hit the ground and launched again like a Super Ball with a brain, another frontal assault. But even wounded and disoriented, One-Eye didn't lose his balance. My blade shrieked off two of his and I had to twist like a contortionist to dodge another of his backhands.
It was his tail! That's why I could never catch him leaning. The most stable structure in the universe is a tripod — I remembered that from junior high science class — and the Aarurrh, when they reared up on their hind legs, were walking tripods. I was no swordsman, or swordswoman, or whatever. I didn't know a parry from a periwinkle or any of that Three Musketeers crap, and against a guy with three swords? With balance like that? If it wasn't for my jackrabbit routine I'd have been in five easy pieces by now. I had to even the odds, fast. Already I saw One-Eye tightening up his guard. He hadn't expected me to be able to tag him. He wasn't going to make the same mistake twice. I'd just have to find another mistake for him to make.
He came at me, more cautious this time, like a dog catcher edging up on a rabid Chihuahua. The sun was right over his head, stabbing me in the eyes. A blade came out of the glare and nearly sheared off my right arm. I jumped left, barely in time, but came away with an idea. Crazy, but — I started circling him until the sun was on my neck, then backed up into a corner, acting scared. One-Eye took the bait. He came after me. My back touched the rope. One of the sword-posts was at my right shoulder. If this didn't work I'd just trapped myself. One-Eye would be tearing chunks off of a Jane kebab in an hour.
I jumped. Most of my leaps so far had been long and low, trying to keep plenty of distance between me an ol' One-Eye. Now I hopped straight up and kicked off the sword post, pushing for as much height as I could. One-Eye was a good twelve feet tall on his hind legs. At the top of the jump my toes hung over him by about three feet. He looked up, following me, right into the sun, and cringed, blinded.
Even then, if I'd come straight down I would have been dead meat. One- Eye was like Andre Aggassi waiting for the ball to drop so he could ace another serve. He didn't need to see me to know where I was. But what if I was someplace else? While One-Eye was still blinded, I swung my sword, not down, where his big blade was waiting to block, but straight out, hard as I could, letting the weight jerk me sideways in the air, over One-Eye's head.
I slid down his back like a kid on a water slide. One-Eye flailed with his swords nowhere near me. He started to turn. Too late. I brought my sword down like a cleaver and chopped through his tail like it was a three hundred pound salami.
Poor One-Eye went from tomcat to Manx in one swell foop. The crowd shrieked. So did One-Eye. He lost his balance and fell, bleeding like Niagara and dropping his two small swords to try to catch himself.
I didn't let him. I jumped on his back, drove my sword through his ribs and pinned him to the ground.