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Volume 1713
Presents
Art by Jeff Doten
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A MAIDEN ON BARSOOM
By 
Rick Johnson


I: ADVENT

Where does one start a story?  Especially when the people for whom you are writing may never read the manuscript and those who may, have no frame of understanding?

Perhaps a bit about myself first will help.  My name is Ayiesha Maria Ruth Mahmoud Villmer bint Penaut, of Clan Penaut, though for simplicity I go by Ayiesha Penaut.  My mother was a Bedouin Arab, my father a German-French expatriate… or rather, all were expatriates for my grandparents had been taken from Terra, which they called Dirt or Earth, while still young and placed on Gaea, the world I call home.  They were told that their children or grandchildren would no longer be human but faced with existence, or rather their expected misery on Terra as compared to a good life on a world so far away that it couldn’t be seen with a telescope, they chose to immigrate.  Not that they had much of a choice.  One grandparent was a German Jew who was on the way to a Concentration Camp during one of Terra’s many wars.  Another an African slave girl owned by an abusive Arab master, still another a homeless Parisian dying of cancer… these are the people Colonial sought.  People with potential but with no hope in an uncaring world, and so willing to cross the galaxy to fulfill the needs of the Barony and the Commonwealth if it meant health and home and regular meals and safety for them and their children.

I, myself am but a bare 20 Years of age, having recently celebrated that birthday in the caverns of Sothis during a firefight with the Shitai.  Not yet am I a fully mature adult woman, for we Weir are slow to mature, I having another five years before I am fully an adult at 25.  Despite this I have served Star Fleet these last two years in direct opposition to the will of my grandparents who felt that a virgin girl’s duty was to marry well and young and serve her husband, not her nation. My mother allowed my service for, I believe, she resented her own life of marriage and failed dreams and her own mother, by my age, had been married to a man she neither knew or loved and had born 3 kids with another on the way.  My mother was luckier.  She married a man she loved but gave up her own dreams of being a dancer for a family, giving birth to me at 21, my older brothers at 17 and 19 and almost dieing with my birth and nursing for human women aren’t designed to bear so many Weir children.  And as for me, while my friends were practicing with make-up and clothes, preparing for parties and choosing the best-looking boys to date, I was on a warship chasing pirates across the frontier.  I traded the dull but safe life of a peasant farm-girl for the harsh realities of an adult and the dreams of rising to Warrior Class.  And thus I grew up too fast leaving my school-friends behind and never experiencing the joys of my forgotten adolescence though they never watched friends blown apart on a far-away planet as did I.  Obviously, they were more fortunate for their dreams are of love and friendship wheras mine are often of the horrors I have seen and endured.

How I arrived here I know not.  I recall only going to bed in my parent’s house while I recovered from the war injuries I had sustained on Sothis.

I fell asleep under the physical warmth of a down comforter and the emotional warmth of my parents in the next room, still arguing over my choice of profession and wishing that I could escape somewhere, anywhere.  Yet knowing that my own emotional stresses of being a good daughter on a world that treasures family respect and my need for space travel was causing my damaged heart to flutter and ache as if a rundi were sitting on my chest.  Then my next recollections were the knowledge that I was freezing cold and that there was a rock pressing into my left breast as I lay face down upon the sward.

Star Fleet taught me that when you don’t know what is happening, do nothing until you evaluate your situation.  So… while pretending to be unconscious I took note that my back was freezing but that I was laying upon something soft… except for that rock… and I had a strong desire to sneeze.

There were no sounds at all to indicate jailers or danger so I opened my eyes and saw that I was staring into reddish moss.  I sneezed and decided that if anyone was around, they now knew that I was awake so I rolled over and looked around.  Obviously I had been teleported somewhere.

The sky was pinkish, the ground covered with moss, the sun barely over the hills and I was still freezing my tail off.  I also was sitting in a depression that was kilometers wide and ringed with low hills.  OK, I was obviously NOT on Gaea or any other planet I had visited or read about.  So how did I get here?  Wherever here was.  And, most importantly, how do I get home before my parents realize that I was gone?  They may have finally accepted my joining the Fleet at 18 but learning that their baby girl had been wounded in combat a dozen parsecs from home wasn’t what they imagined and loosing her again when she was so close would be unbearable to them.

I stood up carefully just in case I was drugged or injured and took inventory.  Races that abduct people and drop them on strange worlds have an unsettling tendency to do strange things to their victims like stick their brains into a robot body or anal probe them like those bald-runty Alphas always like to do to the humans they borrow on Terra.  Breathing was hard in the thin air so I switched to belly breathing which normally would get me stoned on oxygen but now just barely kept my lungs full.  But the pain in my chest was gone and touching my wound revealed that it was healed.  I would have the scars forever but I seemed to have my lung and ribs back so whatever brought me here, healed the worst of my wounds.  How long would that have taken?  Had I been kept in a bio-tank for the days or weeks it would take to regenerate my lost ribs and organs or was my healing a side-effect of the transportation process I suffered?

I was, of course, naked.  When you sleep under a down comforter, you wear naught but a light cotton nightgown.  But somehow, that gown was gone.  As was my comforter, bed, parents house and farm.  I was just a naked girl standing on some reddish moss in the middle of nowhere.

OK, anatomy first:
2 hands, each with 3 fingers and two thumbs.  Though looking at my palms I wondered if this explains that break in my life-line?  When our smallest finger was changed into a second thumb, it wreaked havoc on Palmistry, a situation the Fortune Tellers are still trying to understand.
Feet- 3 toes and a tarsal thumb.
Skin- very light brownish from a month on the frontier without adequate sunlight followed by a week under a northern winter sky.
Hair- long and blue and even my pubes had their normally thick and bluish curls.  Unlike some of my human girl-friends, I never shaved down there and we Weir don’t grow hair on our legs, armpits or anyplace but our heads and pubes.
Breasts- feeling strange. Lighter than normal.  I jiggled a bit and they felt smaller, firmer like when I was 17 and still a c-cup.  I grasped them and they felt normal-sized, only … tighter and the weight on my chest and back was much less than I was used to.
I curled my tail around and saw that it also looked normal even to the ‘finger’ print on the distal phalange.
I still had that plasma burn scar on my left arm and side from the Shitai so whatever happened to me, didn’t seem to have changed me… I hoped.  I’d need a mirror to see my face though and finish my inventory though my ears still felt pointed and I could tell my antennae remained.

Looking around again I saw that the sun was much smaller than was Lucifer and a solo star instead of our own Binary.  Less than a degree of angle so whether this star was smaller than mine or this world was further out than Gaea I couldn’t decide.  It did have a pinkish sky, then I sneezed again.  Wiping, I saw that my snot was red!  Blood?  No, dust.  The ground was red dirt so that coloured the sky pink.  I hoped that the dust would settle in the calm atmosphere.  I also saw much more ultra-violet in the sky which indicated potential problems.

Stretching my arms wide I wasn’t able to feel any magnetic field, which meant that either the planetary core had cooled or there wasn’t a ferrous core at all.  Without a molten ferrous core, no magnetic field could be generated and thus no Van Allen Belt to stop the UV.  And THAT means sunburn until my Arab genes could produce enough melanin to darken my skin and protect me.  “Couldn’t you, at least have left me some clothes and a lipstick?” I yelled at the sky but received no answer.

I looked around and saw what I thought might be an artificial feature on the ‘horizon’ some 50 klicks away so I chose that as my destination.  Unfortunately, my first step lifted me off the ground and flat on my face.

Low gravity!  The Demons had engineered my race for space travel, giving us tarsal feet and prehensile tail for climbing around a starship in zero-g so walking in low grav shouldn’t be too hard to accomplish.

I was wrong.

After a dozen failed paces I tried to crawl as a baby but made no real progress so I stood and resorted to a martial arts stride.  Keeping my knees bent so I could glide across the moss, I made progress for about kilometer until I realized that my hips and tail were swaying and that was making me wet.  “Damn!” Whatever that meant.  Father used profanity he had learned from his father but none of us really knew what the words meant.  Walking like this was fooling my body into thinking that I’m hunting a man.  I knew I should have gone to that party last night, I had been celebate too long and the Lanai with whom I serve in the Fleet see sex as a waste of time.   So I returned to a normal stride which caused my breasts to jiggle (my father would NOT approve) but eventually I learned to walk in the low gravity of this world and made good time.

Unfortunately, by the time I knew that my destination was a city, I was pink from sunburn.  My lips and nipples were burned, dried and cracking (I again wished I had a lipstick to cover and moisturize both) and I could feel my skin burning.  I now understood why my Arab grandparents wore those long robes in the Saudi desert.  At least my long hair was covering the back of my neck to keep the sun from boiling my blood and thence my brain and my bangs protected my antennae.  Small consolation when compared to the sunstroke and dehydration I felt coming on.
 


INTERMISSION

While walking I recalled my last conversation with my family.  As often these last two years, we fought for I was still a child by Weir biology and my human parents resented their baby girl, the last child mother would ever bear, going off to fight and possibly die on some alien world a dozen light-years from home.  Each time I took leave after a war or battle, the arguments would begin with both parents and grandparents insisting that I give up being a Warrior and settle down, get married and bear children before I died.  Before Sothis, I could argue that I was perfectly safe contained in body armour, shields and surrounded by Lanai Warriors who had been bred to fight.  But this time was different.

Trapped underground on Sothis, drinking my own urine mixed with whatever water we could find, eating bugs, fighting with rocks as our beamers ran out of power and vastly outnumbered by Shitai, I was wounded, badly.  A Shitai laser bored it’s way through arm, ribs and lung before damaging my heart.  Had my armour not de-polorized and reflected most of the beam, I’d be dead now.  And so I was home, regrowing my lost parts and listening to my mother cry over her injured daughter all the while my grandparents and parents and all my relatives argued with me to resign and return to the farm.

Sitting in the kitchen with my mother as a dutiful daughter while my father and brothers conversed in the family room, I tried to help with dinner but it hurt to breathe and my left arm was still almost useless until I could regrow the lost muscle.

“Ayiesha,” mother was crying.  She cried a lot since the war and I wish the Historians had never time-scanned the caverns to show everyone what we did.  “You were always my baby.  After you I could never have another child and your fighting like this is killing me.  Can’t you resign from the Fleet for just a few decades until your father and I are gone?  Let me hold your baby just once.  I’m so terrified that you’ll be killed even before you can have children.”

“Momma, what I do is important.  I am an adult and I made my decision.  I’m sorry I am hurting you like this but the Clan supports me and I am very careful.”

“Careful!”  She added screaming to her tears. The men stopped talking so they could hear but they’d not embarrass themselves by interfering with a woman’s argument. “Look at you!  You were almost killed!  You lost a lung, three ribs and part of your arm and heart.  You’ll be scarred for life and what damage did that plasma-laser do to your breast?  Will you be able to nurse children?  What if it had been a centi-watt stronger?  You’d be dead now!  Ayiesha…”

She ran from the room and my brother Eric entered.  Eric took after our father, inheriting daddy’s light skin and sandy hair while I had the darker brown of my mother.  Eric was mainly Jew out of respect for father so he didn’t feel embarrassed entering the kitchen like this as would father or our brother Fransua who probably had no idea of where the cold-sink was.

“Ayiesha,” he started as he poured me some Rundi Milk, added a raw egg and the medicines I was taking.  As I drank, he undid my blouse to check my wound and see if I needed any more synthetics added to aid the regeneration.  For such a large man, Eric was notoriously gentle.  “I know you feel you must do this and I am trying to understand.”  My breasts were bare for the wound prevented me from wearing a bra, something else that father disliked for he never accepted me growing breasts and mine were larger than even mother’s at their best.  But Eric had seen me naked so many times as I grew up that he probably never noticed they were there.

“But Eric, you have a life!  In a few decades father will turn the farm over to you and you’ll be Family Head with a dozen women seeking for your hand in marriage.  Then what of us?  Fransua will either serf-work for you for the next five-hundred years, and what decent woman will marry him that way, or he’ll move to the frontier to homestead another farm light years away.  But me!  I’m a girl!  And an Islam-Jew at that!  Pagan women are equal to men but with us if I stay, I have to wait for grandfather to marry me off to someone with a couple other wives and I’ll be like grandmother, married to a man I never met or run away like mother did!  Eric, I hear the stars call to me!  The Demons created us to travel between the stars.  Don’t you feel the pull?”

He sat next to me, holding me like he did when I was a baby and he still my big brother though my military training now made me his superior in combat, a fact I carefully hid to avoid embarrassing the man.  “Ayiesha, not all of us are like that.  When we feel the Call, the Demons take us away.  I’m fortunate that I don’t hear what you hear because that means I can stay here, marry, farm and raise children.  And with a Weir wife, I can have dozens of children, not the two or three humans like mother can safely bear.” He sighed then continued, “Little sister, sometimes, when I hold you like this, I hear the song of the stars and understand a little.  But still, you ARE my baby sister. I used to change your diapers and keep you from under the rundi hooves and beat up the boys who teased you.  Mom and Dad don’t understand that you are growing up under Gaean culture, not as an Arab or Jew.  But you don’t understand that you are still a child.  You won’t be a real adult for another five years. So to me, you are still my baby sister and to mom and dad you are still their baby child.”

Later, dinner was eaten in silence but I loved meals at home.  Lanai don’t care much for dining and eat only to survive.  But mother was an excellent cook and being a farmer’s wife, we always had lots of fresh food though I used my tail to help eat, something my human and tailless parents normally forbade. Finally, father spoke up, “Muffin, you are still my little girl and I’m terrified to death that you may not survive the next war.”

“Daddy, that’s the second time you called me ‘muffin’ since I started puberty. I wish I were your little girl still but I’m a woman now, well, almost, and what I do is important.  The Shitai are pushing more and more.  We stopped them this time but in ten years when the next invasion happens, it’ll be worse and we may loose a couple frontier worlds unless we are very careful.  I HAVE to stop them.  I want babies too and I want to play with my nieces and nephews and to do that, I must remain with the Fleet to protect us all.”

We argued more but both momma and daddy were raised to believe that men fought, women cooked.  Lanai were all female but not real women being vat-born and not having parents or womb so they didn’t count.  And Drakonis was Pagan, not Jew or Islam or Christian so equality between races and sexes here was absolute so I could enlist if I wished by Law and Custom despite Clan and Family desires.  Even my best friend Caroline, human as she was, didn’t understand how I could be so submissive to a man, but she was raised Pagan and Merchant and saw my enlistment only as a means to Caste-jump for higher status.  Even she didn’t understand me.

Goddess! I wanted to escape so badly!  Anyplace would be better than watching the pain I caused my family and knowing that I had to return to the Fleet for Caroline was right, the Barony needed to be defended and despite the horror of war, the pain of my wounds and the emotions of my family, the Demons had engineered me for the stars and the stars called to me.  I could no more return to being a farm-girl than I could return to being a virgin.

So with my chest hurting from the pressure and my left arm number than before, I let mother take me to bed.  She helped me undress and covered me with the down comforter and tucked me in just like when I was small.  Then she kissed me and the last words I heard, were her whispering in my ear, “I will always love you my dearest baby child.”

END INTERMISSION


I (continued)

Getting closer I saw that I was approaching what could only be described as a wharf.  Or rather the ruins of a wharf.  I rested in the shade and nibbled some of the moss then immediately spat it out as too acrid.  I needed food and water and I needed them fast.  I must have sweated out at least 2 liters during that hike and needed it replaced.  Between the thin air, heat and dryness and the march I had just accomplished, I was totally on the edge of collapse.  The only thing that didn’t hurt were my feet for years aboard a starship in soft boots stole my callouses and only the soft and thick moss saved me frem blisters.

Catching my breath I moved uphill, trying to keep to the shadows but saw nothing but ruins.  An abandoned city.  But who built it and when?  Why it was abandoned was obvious.  A ruined boat dock that crept down the hillside indicated that the depression was actually the bottom of a dried lake or dead sea.  The inhabitants followed the receding shoreline until they finally gave up and left.

I saw a statue of some animal that I couldn’t identify but it did have eight legs, a head and a broken off tail.  I could make out two eyes, a mouth and nostrils but the statue was so worn that I couldn’t tell if it was an 8-legged lion or a dog.  “How many centuries or millennia of dust erosion would wear you down that much?” I asked.  But the stone refused to answer.

As I got closer to the main city I saw more vegetation of variety and then I smelled water.  There were reeds, grasses and bamboos, or rather plants that resembled these in the same way that that statue resembled a ravine or rundi.  I saw another larger statue ahead, on a much taller pedestal with ornate carvings so taking advantage of the lower gravity, I jumped some 6 meters up and grabbed the carvings near the top of the pedestal.  I then crawled under the statue and lay in the shade letting the cool stone soothe my burned skin as I observed the fountain below.

All that vegetation needed something to eat it and whatever ate the grass must be eaten by another animal which would be eaten by another predator.  The secret was to figure out the food chain and make certain that you weren’t on it.

I suffered more and more, with water just below, and was about to climb down and take my chances when I saw a six-legged rat-thing run out to the water.  Its jaws were exposed bone and I wondered if it was diseased or injured until I realized that like a vulture or other scavenger, it was bald to prevent blood from caking its fur or feathers.

The rat began to drink and I was wondering how to kill it and if I could eat it when it vanished!  One second it was there then it was gone. I reran the memory and thought I saw it streak to some nearby rocks faster than I could see.

Nothing there.  Then as I gazed away I thought I saw some heat waves radiating off the rocks.  I gazed away again and let my peripheral vision seek out patterns and there it was!  Well disguised but there.  A closer look revealed an animal simply resting there in the sun watching the pool of water.  As far as I could see it had about two meters of body, plus a head and tail and maybe eight or ten legs and it was the colour and pattern of the rocks upon which it rested.

“OK,” I thought.  “A three meter chameleon.  Big enough to consider me as food so how do I get to the water and fill my stomach without entering its stomach?”

The water being so close was maddening and I needed that cool liquid to soothe my burns but the chameleon was too dangerous to ignore.  Finally I decided that a couple of spears from the bamboo may be enough to kill it so I crawled back down and found a suitably sharp rock which I used to cut a couple poles.  Star Fleet has a belief that someday you will run out of ammunition or your batteries will die or your computer will crash so learn how to survive and fight with low-tech materials.  Trapped underground against the Shitai, we had run out of power and ammo the second day and had to fight for another five days with what we could make and steal from the dead.  Building a spear, a trap and a fire here would be easy compared to that battle.

Climbing back to my perch with my spears I located the chameleon again.  Like most ambush hunters this one simply lay there and waited because ambush hunters, like web spiders and pit snakes, are very good at not moving.

I tossed a rock at the creature and yelled at it.  Then another rock as I jumped and waved like a naked lunatic.  My mother would have locked me in my room had she seen this sight but it worked.  The chameleon moved towards me slowly seeking a better strike zone.  All I had to do was to try to judge the tongue length, maybe 4 meters, and kill it before it got that close.

It reached the base of my fortress, stopped and began to stare at me.  Still almost invisible but its position and lack of movement indicated that I was now close enough for it to kill me.  So I wrapped my tail around one of the statues legs for support, grasped a projection with my feet and drove a spear with all my might down into the beast.

Weir are stronger than humans, we’re engineered to be, and with two older brothers with whom I constantly fought and Star Fleet training, my muscles were honed to their best, thus on this world of lighter gravity, my simple shaft penetrated completely through the animal to shatter on the rocks beneath.  I tossed another one then it screamed and climbed the pedestal with amazing speed.  I drove another into its throat as its tongue shot out and wrapped around my leg and it fell down almost dragging me with it.  Only the grasp of my tail and feet kept me safe.  Had I been a human with walking feet and no tail, I’d be inside the thing.  It finally lay there on the ground, its tongue stuck to my body and stretching to a disgusting length, then it rolled over onto its back and without thought, I grabbed my final spear and holding it with feet and hands and tail, I jumped down and used the weight of my body to drive it into the thing’s body, pinning it to the ground beneath.

I jumped clear and picked up a large rock which I quickly used to bash its skull to jelly.  Then I frantically pulled the tongue off my leg and sat down and thought about absolutely nothing for I was drained of energy and thought.

Growing up on a farm I was used to death and fighting pirates and the Shitai made me able to kill anything without thought or worry but I was exhausted, dehydrated, sunburned, hungry, lonely and scared.

Eventually I got up and approached the fountain.  The opening was larger than the water needed, evidence of centuries of erosion.  There were plants, fish and crustaceans in the pond and I wasn’t willing to drink from that pool and risk some alien dysentery.  But the water from the spout seemed clear.

I took a handful and looked at it carefully.  Nothing that I could see.  So I let it run free and waited a minute to see if I felt anything on my skin.  Again nothing so another handful of water and I tasted it then spat.  After a moment of no ill affects save a taste of minerals I decided that the worst I would suffer were kidney stones so I drank from the spout until I was full.  I then splashed my body with the cool water and taking two handfuls of water, I bent over and dipped my burned nipples into my hands allowing the cold water to soothe their aches.

Now for the chameleon.  Dead it had ten legs and was a dusty red-brown colour.  I tasted the blood with my tongue then spat again and waited.  Again no ill effects so I cupped a handful of its salty blood and drank then set out to build a fire as I waited to be poisoned by the alien proteins.

The problem with Class-M worlds is that half of them use right-hand molecules which are useless to our left-hand anatomy.  And when you find the proper orientation, the proteins are often wrong and you either are poisoned or get no nutrition.  But it wasn’t as if I had any choice.  The Demons engineered us with a lifespan of centuries and the ability to survive on many worlds but that doesn’t do much good when opposed by simple stupidity.

The carcass wasn’t tasty but it was filling and might keep me alive until I could do better.  So I cut most of it into strips and smoke-dried it to jerky as I ate my fill.  I tried to eat the grass and bamboo to avoid protean poisoning for like my human ancestors Weir can only tolerate 20-25% meat in our diet,  but I couldn’t find anything worth eating so with a stomach full of alien protean and no vegetables or starch, I dissected the reptile.  I found lungs and a four-chambered heart and something that might have been a liver but the stomach was what I wanted.

After cleaning the dead rat from the inside, I washed and scrubbed the stomach until I had a good bladder.  The rat I tossed aside as too rancid even for my hunger to tolerate.  I then rinsed the stomach as I ate and then tied off the intestine end with a figure-eight knot and forced into the other opening a hollow tube of thick bamboo tied with a grass cord.  I then made a grass rope, a wood plug and filled my newly-made canteen with water and carrying my newest spear, went exploring as my jerky dried.

I imagine I looked a sight and almost wished my boy-friend were here for I’d love to have him sketch me like this.  I was naked, my too-pale skin sun-burned and contrasting with my blue hair. Breasts large and firm with a bladder-canteen over one shoulder and a bamboo spear in hand.  I just needed a breeze to ruffle my hair as some of the art the Pagans do of the Maiden Goddess.  I repressed the thought of him alone, on Gaea worrying about me and started to explore my now home.

The city was small with no building larger than two stories.  The doors could have easily been made for a human or Weir but there wasn’t anything in any building other than sand and moss.  The city had been stripped centuries ago.  I was hoping for something I could use for clothing, a robe or hat, a bra, even a cape, but the place was empty.

Then I heard voices!

I leapt to the roof of a nearby house and crawled forward until I could see what was talking and Lo! I saw three humans talking in the street.  They were almost naked save for a harness designed to hold their weapons and a g-pouch for their family jewels.  “Nice asses” I thought as I observed their naked cheeks and wished that I could see the rest of them as easily.  Before you judge me, remember that even on a strange planet, I was still a woman and the thoughts of young girls often turn to boys.  Besides, promiscuity was common on my world and we see nothing wrong with servicing a friend in need or casual sex and it had been a long time since my last encounter.

Each person had a coppery-red skin, black hair and held the reigns of an eight-legged horse.  At least the thing resembled a horse more than a rabbuck.  They also carried a long sword, a short-sword and a heavy revolver. They were also arguing and pointing down the sea-bed or across the desert or into the buildings.  Although I couldn’t understand their words, I could read much of their meanings from their thoughts.  These people appeared to have some telepathic abilities and I could hear their words and estann their general meanings as they spoke.

I kept getting images of some kind of damaged aircraft with two people, a man and a woman, that these three were chasing.  I also got images of chains and brutality.  Well, so much for my thoughts of a really fun groupie this evening.  These people seemed to be slavers or worse and I didn’t do pirates or slavers.

They eventually led their horses into a building which they blocked off and then they began to explore the town.  I watched them for awhile until the pain in my back indicated that I was just making my sunburn worse so I moved to the shade and drank some water as I thought of my next move.

Obviously, there were humans here but native or planted?  And were they potential friends or enemies?  I had no idea if their prey were escaped fugitives or victims.  For all I knew, these three could be a police force seeking a kidnapper and victim.  I was still musing this over when I heard shouting.  One of them had discovered my camp and had called the others over.

I jumped from roof to roof for the Fleet taught me that humans evolved from a forest ape to a veldt existence and as we evolved from primate to human, danger and safety and food switched from trees to grasslands.  Danger came from the grass, safety was hiding in the grass so humans are genetically disposed to search down.  Thus if you are being tracked, get above eye level and they probably won’t look up to see you.  I hoped these Red Men were the same.

When I reached the fountain, the trio was eating my dinner and arguing again.  “How impolite,” I thought.  “At least they could ask first.”  My desire for a meeting was rapidly fading.  All three then pulled swords and began to search around my camp.  Definitely aggressive and potentially dangerous to me.  Were I to reveal myself, I could run the risk of gang-rape and slavery.   I who only a short time before had been entertaining fantasies of three at once or sequentially was now worried about being forced to do that which I wanted to do willingly.

I followed them as they searched the city, building by building.  Their tactics spoke of professionalism for one would remain hidden as two approached the building.  Then they would flank the doorway and one would enter and move aside to leave the opening clear.  A moment later he’d call out and his companion would enter as the first approached and stood outside the doorway.   And so, they continued building by building as I watched from above.  Once I returned to the fountain and collected as much meat as I could and refilled my stomach and canteen then returned to observe my potential companions.  The sun finally began to set and the three ended their search and returned to their horses where they covered themselves with thick furs and blankets and two slept while the third stood watch.

With the setting of the sun, the lights went out immediately.  There was not enough atmosphere to reflect light into twilight and with the darkness, came the cold for the thin air retained no heat.  The UV from the distant sun would warm the ground and induce Infra-Red heat which warmed the planet during the day but the ground quickly lost its stored heat at night.   I could see in the dark easily as my pupils opened but the cold was another matter.  Being hairless and naked was a disadvantage here so I sought a building with a small closet, and pulling up moss, I tried to make myself as comfortable and warm as possible.

The trio, I noticed, carried themselves like Warriors.  They kept their weapons close but didn’t fondle them as would someone less secure or fearful of attack.  These men knew that they were warriors and could handle themselves so why worry.  I was the one who was in danger.  Naked, unarmed, hungry and freezing and with no idea of where I was or how to get home, my options were limited to starving to death, trying to survive an unknown world or surrendering to these men and hoping for the best.  With these unpleasant thoughts, I shivered myself to sleep.

The next morning I awoke, frozen and starving and moved to a corner where I squatted to empty my bladder.  It was in such an embarrassing position, spraying urine onto the moss when one of the men found me.

“OK, what now?” I thought and decided to finish my ablutions.  Nudity didn’t bother me for we Weir tend to take these things in stride.  Especially when you are aboard a small military starship with limited privacy.  So I finished, wiped with some moss (please let me NOT be allergic) and smiled at the man holding the sword as he walked towards me.

“#Hello,” I said hoping for friendship.

The Red Man kept his sword pointed at me and looked me over carefully.  He spent time staring at my breasts and tail and feet but his sword-point never wavered.  Then he barked something I didn’t understand but I got an image of being tied up.  Now like many women I had fantasized at BD/SM games but those were games and this was serious.  But he was armed and I wasn’t.  He drew his short sword, then sheathed his long sword and pulled some leather straps and came at me.  He grabbed me by the shoulder and spun me around and I got images of brutal bondage so true to my training, I continued to spin until I knocked his wrist aside with one hand and back-fisted him on his temple with the other.  It was a classic Martial Arts move but effective.

The man dropped like a rock and then I realized that I had killed him.  A body adapted to a low gravity world wasn’t capable of surviving a full blow by my Weir strength backed by muscles adapted for a greater gravity.  And using full force as the Dojo taught me pulped his skull like a melon.

I knelt there wondering what to do next for I had probably eliminated any chance for peaceful co-existence when the remaining two entered.

I was about to either jump them or try to leap out the window when they pulled their handguns and leveled them at me.  As good as I probably was, I couldn’t stop a bullet so I stood slowly with my hands up and tried to explain myself.

One of them turned me around and kicked my knees to force me down.  Then with a pistol at my head, he tied my hands behind me and then my feet together.  My tail gave him some trouble and he pulled a knife intending to simply remove it when the other snapped something at him.  I got images of me being more valuable intact so he tied some leather to my tail end, pulled it between my legs and tied my tail to my neck so if I pulled, I’d choke myself.  Then he kicked me to my side and they examined their dead companion.

One, the smaller, touched the dead mans skull, whistled and pointed at my fist, still bloody as he talked to his companion.  They obviously now had some respect for my unarmed fighting skills and strength and that made them nervous.  Unfortunately nervous people tend to simplify their lives by killing whatever complicates matters and right now, I tried to be as uncomplicated as I could possibly be.  Shit!  I’d give them whatever they wanted if it meant staying alive.

Then we heard a growl and one went down under something that looked like a huge lion with ten legs.  He was dead in an instant but the remaining man backed away and proceeded to shoot the animal repeatedly.  What I took for a primitive revolver (for why carry a sword when you have an effective firearm) was, in fact, a lethal engine of destruction comparable to our beamers.  He must have fired a dozen explosive rounds into the lion, each round destroying a part of the lion the size of a decent Hurling ball and still the lion came on.  Two of its legs were gone, blown away as was its face and much of one side.  I could see fountains of blood spurt from large holes with every beat of its massive heart and still it came on.  Injuries that would have felled a Gaean dragon were as pinpricks to this lion and then it was over.  The lion crushed the last man with its jaws then shuddered and died.

Frantically, I managed to move to the man I had killed and sought his sword to free myself.  I was able to grab it with my feet and turned it to cut my hands free for my tarsials could easily act as hands and thumb, clumsy as they were.  Then my tail and ankles and as soon as I was free, I grabbed a revolver and leapt to the ceiling beam for fear another beast would enter.  I was so scared that the only thing that stopped me from peeing down my legs was that I had already one that.

You may ask why I, a decorated war hero who had survived two wars and numerous battles was scared.  If the truth be told, It’s easy to be brave when wearing a cloaking device, armour and force-shield and carrying a beamer while inside a battle cruiser surrounded by a hundred Lanai, each of whom had been bred into a super-soldier.  But here, I was just a lonely girl, years away from full adulthood, lost, naked and unarmed and despite my military experience and training, I really wanted my mother to be here to hold me and to tell me that my daddy would make things better.  Or failing that, have a squad of armed Lanai to back me up for nothing makes a Draconan feel safer than knowing that there are Lanai of the Warrior Caste nearby to handle danger.

When nothing else came into the room, I decided that the lion was a solitary predator so I dropped to the ground and stripped the bodies as quickly as I could and grabbed my own canteen and meat.  I then left and ran for the horses where I took stock of my new-found gear while keeping watch for another lion or worse.

Three each of pistols, long swords, short swords, knives and gear bags.  One of the swords was curved like a saber, the other two straight.  My grandfather told me that in Arabia he used a curved scimitar because it slashed better on horseback but ground fighters used straight bladed for stabbing and striking.   I opened the gear bags and found food and a first aid kit.  Inside one canister was an ointment that I smeared on a patch of sunburned skin and almost immediately the pain vanished and the skin softened up.  A healing balm, so I smeared some on my bleeding lips and nipples and as these began to heal, I used the rest on my burned skin.  Then I found the food to be some starchy material similar to a tuber so I ate that to prevent protein poisoning from an exclusive meat diet.  I also found a small chess set but with a hundred squares instead of our sixty-four.  Like all Weir, I enjoyed the game and hoped to find someone who could teach me the local version.  I also found the usual trinkets that find their way into a man’s pocket or a woman’s purse.

The saddles contained silks and furs and cloth blankets plus short rifles of a larger caliber than the revolvers.  The horses, however weren’t happy with my alien scent and snapped at me with sharp teeth.  I never liked horses anyway, even these eight-legged ones, as rabbucks gave a smoother ride but I did know how to tame one.  I returned to the pool and found some grass that looked appetizing and bundled it under my arm-pits.  By the time I got back to the make-shift stable, my sweat had permeated the grass and as I fed it to them, all the while broadcasting thoughts of peace and calmness, I hoped that they would associate my scent with food.

I also took some of the silk bedding and cut it into strips, fashioning a bra and loincloth/skirt.  These were more for protection than support for Weir remain firm almost forever.  My Human mother, after nursing three Weir children had breasts that looked like sand in stretched out wrinkled socks and was always jealous of our Weir neighbor who at 50 with 6 kids had a DD chest that was firmer than most human teens of a much smaller size.

Then I adjusted the men’s harness to fit my smaller size and differing curves and once dressed, such as it were, felt immensely better.  Clothed and armed, now I felt more confident and picked up their g-pouches.  They were soft leather and plain and totally unsuited for my anatomy but they did smell of man-musk.  Curious as to how an alien could smell as nice as a Weir or human, I lost myself in the sensations and thoughts that their sweat produced.

“Damn!  Now I’m horny again.”  Well, we Weir have a saying, “A woman with a tail can survive easier than a woman without one.”  This perpetual sexuality we endure was one of the side-effects the Demons didn’t understand when they changed us.  They enhanced all of our senses and strengths and also, without meaning to, our hormones as well.  I tossed the g-pouches away to remove temptation and prepared to leave the city before any more danger arrived.

I ate some more of their rations and saddled the horses then led them to the fountain where they filled their bellies from the pond.  I didn’t know if they were immune to the creatures living there or not but they were natives so I trusted their instincts to survive.  I also wove some grass into a conical hat for protection, then filling all the water bladders I could, I mounted one of the horses and leading the others, started out in the direction where the two pursued had been pointed out.  I figured that although these three were not good men, perhaps those they sought were.  At least I may be able to count on the woman’s generosity and nurturing nature… I hoped.   As an afterthought, I returned to the stable and picked up the pouches.  It was going to be cold and lonely on the desert.


II: OASIS

I made good time that first day.  My horses seemed tireless and like a camel, able to live without much water.  I ate and drank in the saddle and used the silk as a cape to keep the sun off me.  The healing balm I took from the bodies was doing its job and my skin was rapidly darkening.  In another couple days my skin should be as brown as my mother’s and almost impervious to the UV that sought to cook this world.

As the sun approached the western horizon (I assumed that it was west) I began to look for a safe place to sleep, something away from the lions and chameleons and whatever else lived in this bareness.  I saw some plants in the distance and made for them hoping to find more water.  I didn’t, but the rocks around which they grew would retain the day’s heat and protect me from predators.   So I hobbled the horses, made a small fire and fell asleep exhausted.

I was woken by a bright light and grabbed for my nearby revolver but relaxed when I saw that it was simply one of the two moons crossing the sky.  She, as I named the larger and slower of the moons was beautiful in her own way for we Draconans see in the moon the Goddess and I saw no reason to change that belief just because it was a different moon.  He, the smaller and faster would orbit about three times a day wheras She orbited so slowly that she seemed to cross from West to East or reverse the normal direction.

I made genuflection and spoke to Her, “Greetings Lady of the Moon.  I appreciate Thy light on this cold evening and would ask that Thou tell thy Sisters of my plight that my family may be comforted by my presence once again.” I heard that on Terra, atheists deny the existence of any god, lunar, solar or other, but frankly, I needed the comfort of my faith.  I had been named after holy persons of three of the religions of my grandparents as an offering of peace but after listening to my grandparents argue with each other that their own faith was the truth and the others were wrong, I ignored them all and followed the State Religion of Drakonis despite my being legally a Jew and Moslem.  So I settled down among the furs and watched Her dance across the sky.  A part of me noticed that she traveled in a more northerly orbit than should be normal but then, astronomers are always being proven wrong about every one of their cherished theories.

I lay there in the silks and furs and absolute silence and became aware that the furs smelt of sweat.  Man sweat.  Well, it had been a very long time so I reached for the g-pouches and reveled in the fantasy of what might have been had things been different.  Then with fingers and tail I self-pleasured until I was, again, sleepy.  But this time I smiled as I rolled over and dreamed the dreams of the satisfied.

When I awoke, I found the horses huddled together in a crevasse for warmth.  I understood how a desert could be so hot during the day and so cold at night but that knowledge didn’t make me feel any better.  So I dug a hole for my bodily wastes, had breakfast and was about to saddle my mounts when I estanned life nearby.  I crouched down, checked to see that the horses were still concealed and swept the desert with my gaze.

What I saw was unnerving.  A half dozen horses similar to mine but giants.  Were my mounts were the size of a Mustang, these could have put a Clydesdale to shame.  Even a rundi would come off poorly by comparison and rundis were giants to us.  But it was they who rode that shocked me.  Green Pirates!  They lived a thousand c-years from Drakonis on one small planet and spent their time raiding their neighbors.  They were tolerated only because they never conquered, only raided so we killed those who raided hoping to eventually remove those genes from their race.   But these were different.  Five meters tall, green skin with two arms, two legs and an intermediate set of limbs that could be either, they were a formidable enemy.  Plus they had tusks growing from their lower jaws and their eyes were set on the sides of their heads and able to rotate and see in any direction.  These were thinner in nature, adapted to a low gravity and carrying lances a dozen meters long with swords at their sides that were longer than I was tall.  Green Pirates would never carry such primitive weapons so either these had been abducted and dumped here as was I or the pirates I knew originated here and had been abducted and drooped in our sector.  And that meant that this planet was probably visited as frequently as was Terra, which implied a chance for a ride home.

Regardless, of this, the cruelty of the Green Pirates was infamous and the one encounter I had with them during the Pirate Wars caused me to loose my dinner after looking into their hold. Even the Lanai were upset at the remains of their prisoners.  With this in mind, I carefully pulled my revolver and pretended to be a rock as I shivered in terror.

Luck was with me as they continued in their silent travels until they were over the nearby horizon.  Even then I remained calm and unmoving for a half-hour just in case.  If I was scared of the lion in the dead city, these terrified me to immobility.  Once again I wished for a decent cloak and shield and perhaps a mobile pulse-phaser.

Eventually I felt safe enough to raise and saddle my mounts and continue on.  But now I kept all senses open and sharp for this world was far more dangerous than my own and the thought of suffering at the hands or claws of the locals made me sick to my stomach.

Around noon I came across a glint in the distance.  As I approached closer I saw that it was a boat.  But how did a boat appear in this desert where the nearest water was a fountain 200 kilometers behind me?  Then I saw the prop, a propeller that was made for air, not water.  A closer examination revealed that the air-craft had taken repeated arms fire and that the hull had been pierced in a half dozen places by explosive rounds.  I took a torch from my pack, courtesy of my erstwhile fantasy-mates (Goddess!  At this rate in a few days I’ll convince myself that we four were happily married) and looked inside the holes.

I could find no residue of water or fuel nor evidence of the same.  But each hole had penetrated a different tank.  I couldn’t see evidence of repulsors or gravity-panels so whatever caused this thing to fly was a technology I couldn’t yet understand.  Whomever did this damage knew exactly how to bring this craft down and was an excellent shot.  The interior of the craft was a very small cabin and pilot chairs, all stripped of weapons, food or water.  Whomever flew this craft had survived the crash, taken anything useful and left to attempt to cross the desert on foot.  The mental images of the trio in the dead city centered around a man and woman in an aircraft so perhaps this was their conveyance?   One thing that brightened my day was the fact that despite the dead city and the primitive swords used by the locals, they did have advanced aircraft and technology so even if I couldn’t build a sub-space transceiver, perhaps they could for me?

I searched around the craft but the moss carpet would retain no prints, but after some searching I was able to find some moss that had been kicked from its roots and that gave me a direction to travel.  So remounting, I raced across the desert hoping to find the duo before either the Green Pirates or any more slavers could find the trail.

Evening was a repeat of the one before.  I found another grove of plants and evidence that it had been used the night before.  So after hobbling my mounts who still seemed to need no water, I ate some more of my trail rations, drank from my rapidly dwindling water, curled up into my furs between the rocks and this time, took my time pleasuring myself.  Why not?  The nights were long, I only needed four hours of sleep and couldn’t read or do anything else in the dark so this was a pleasant way to spend a few hours.  I only wished I had someone to help me out.


It was shortly after noon when I saw a reflection in the distance.   Perhaps the sun shining off a rock or the metal of a man’s harness, but it was in essentially the direction I was traveling so I adjusted my course and raced onward.

It took less than a half hour to catch them, a man and woman, both almost naked.  His harness was essentially the same as that of the trio from the dead city, at least to my untrained eye they seemed the same.  Her harness was slightly different but with softer leather that exposed her small breasts.  At first I thought that she was a child.  Although some human women are as small-chested as was she, most humans that small were only beginning to develop.  Weir, being late developers, don’t begin to grow breasts or pubic hair until we reach 15 or later.  So what I at first thought was the body of a young girl, a child, possibly with her father, changed as I looked at her face more closely.  She was definitely a woman there.  I raised my hand to cover her body and see only her head and face and her beauty was breath-taking.  I wished that I looked that good and I am not considered to be unattractive.  But when I covered her head and looked at her body, I saw the rounded curves of hip and waist of a woman with a chest of a girl.

The man was handsome and decently built.  Muscled as would be a fencer but I could see that he was no walker as both were tired and the distance that they had covered was short by infantry standards.  Perhaps they had spent too much time flying and not enough walking.

“#Hello” I said, first in Spanglic, then Arabic, German and French for we Drakonans value the multi-linguistic.  On the off chance that they had contact with the Five-Races, I also tried Demon but no luck.

“Koar!” said the man, smiling as he raised his right hand.

I smiled and replied “Koar.”  Then dismounted as a sign of friendship.

He then started to talk but I had to stop them, “#I don’t understand your language#.” Which caused them to speak to each other until the man pointed to my horse and said something that sounded like “#####  ### ### thoat ####?”  and when he said the word ‘thoat’ I got a mental image of the beast I was riding.  So the word for these creatures was ‘thoat’.  I’d remember that and so my language lessons began.

I saw that they only had one canteen so I offered them one of mine and some trail rations, both of which they consumed eagerly.  As they did so, I pointed to myself and said “Ayiesha Penaut!”  then I looked at them and waited.  The woman smiled, pointed to herself and said “Taria Kolos” then to the man and said “Tor Tal” and so we made informal introductions.  As we rested, I would point to a rock or sword or body part and they would tell me their word in Barsoomian, which was the language of this world of Barsoom.  Somehow knowing the name of this planet made it seem less strange.

Then they mounted the extra thoats and we all rode across the desert seeking someplace chosen by Tor Tal.  As we rode I continued to learn and by the time we stopped for the night, I had a vocabulary of several hundred words, most of which I was able to remember.  They also showed me plants that we could eat and one, the mantalia, was my salvation.  It was a plant that grew almost everywhere and would give up to nine liters of a milky liquid a day.  I had passed these plants a dozen times and could have slaked my thirst at any time had I known.  Plus the sap from the younger leaves was a healing balm for my sun burned skin, another fact I wish I had known earlier.

It was when we stripped for the night’s sleep that I got a good look at my companions and they at me.  Considering the sparsity of their harness, about all that was hidden were their genitals and the casualness with which they stripped naked indicated that clothing among the Barsoomian was practical and had nothing to do with modesty.

Taria, naked, was as beautiful as she was clothed save her pubic hair was vary sparse.  Not shaved sparse but simply a lack of growth unlike mine which was a forest.  Tor, on the other hand, dropped his g-pouch and the sight took my breath away.  Maybe it was the last month of celibacy because I’ve seen better but there was something about him that just made my mind and body want that man.  He was like Weir in that he had no foreskin but I couldn’t tell if it was because, like my grandfathers’ it had been removed at birth or age 13 or, if like Weir, he was born without one.  I just knew that he was well formed and that I wanted him.

Had they been Weir, I’d just ask and Taria’d loan him to me or even join in but humans are funny about fidelity and sex.   I recall my grandfather telling me how in Mecca they would toss a woman to her death as an adulterer simply for being alone with a man who wasn’t her husband even if nothing sexual happened.  Also I had no ideas as to their views on lesbianism for though most Weir are bi-sexual, my Arab grandparents encouraged my brothers homosexual experiments while condemning my own lesbian desires though, strangely enough, my Jewish grandparents were the opposite, pretending that my affairs with women didn’t happen but soundly berating my brothers when they were caught with another boy.  And since I didn’t know what the Barsoomian customs were (or if they were married, lovers, friends, or brother and sister), I thought that I’d better wait and suffer.

What they thought of my body and attitudes, I didn’t learn until later.

The next morning we awoke, had breakfast and continued on our journey for to me any place was as good as any.  We continued with our lessons, a task made easy by the Barsoomian telepathic ability that caused a flash of image with almost every word and by evening that day I could converse with them in simple sentences.

As was usual, we stripped naked for sleep to allow our harness to air dry and the two would stare at my body and whisper together. This time I was rubbing my limbs and breasts trying to warm up when I noticed them staring.  “Have you ever seen a person like myself?” I asked hoping that the Fleet had a Stargate or spaceport here. Of course, our conversation wasn’t that complex but more like me pointing and saying, “You see me me me here there?” but I’m fleshing it out for easier understanding.  It would be days before I could actually speak their language fluently and that only because the language was so simple and because both Weir and Barsoomian had some telepathic ability, especially when we touched.

“No, Ayiesha Penaut,” responded Tor Tal, for it was their way to use all names.  I was glad I didn’t tell them my entire legal name or we’d never manage to find time to talk.

“Upon the face of Barsoom, we have a number of races but none like yours.  Your skin is brown but all the races on Barsoom are black, white or yellow and we Red Men which are a mixture of all three.  Your hair is blue but all red, yellow and black men have black hair.  Only the white Orovars and Therns have yellow or auburn hair.  But no race has a tail or feet or hands like yours, nor do we know of any race with pointed ears, eyes with slits and those antennae which grow upon your forehead.  Also, I wonder, and please forgive me if I offend, but your breasts are so huge and you cover them so, are you ill or such?”

“Huge?  Ill?  I don’t understand?  I always thought that I was average size but I don’t think that this low gravity makes them look much bigger.”  I tried to stare down at my chest but without a mirror I couldn’t see anything other than the tops and my eternally cold-erect nipples.

“Are all the people of your race like you?” asked Tor Tal.

“Pretty much,” I replied.  “Some taller but few shorter.  We do range from white to brown to black skin with all shades between. And our hair can be blonde, red, brown, black, green and blue though the darker the skin, the darker the hair usually.

Taria jumped in and said, “But Ayiesha Penaut, the way you keep rubbing your breasts and you keep them covered and hidden and their size makes me wonder if there is something wrong like a tumor or disease.  We have excellent doctors in Ptarth….”

I could tell that she was worried about something but couldn’t understand what. “I’m completely lost here,” I said.  “The only thing wrong with my breasts is that they’re cold and my nipples ache.  I come from a warmer climate and my people wear clothes to keep warmer.  Don’t some of your people have larger chests?”

“Uh, no,” she said, embarrassed.  “Why would anyone need them larger?”

“To #nurse your #babies?” I hazarded…. “#Babies?  #Young?  #Infants?  They come from your #womb?”  I tried to pantomime holding a baby and a pregnant belly and nursing as I had to use Spanglic words.  But all I got were blank looks.

OK, I thought, Humans are live bearers but Demons are egg bearers, Lanai clone and Shitai hive so just because these Barsoomians appear to be human, doesn’t mean that they are the same in all areas.  I tried again, “Then, if I’m not being too personal, how does your race reproduce?

Tavia responded, “Like all forms of life on Barsoom, we lay an egg which is placed in an incubator and after five years of growth, the egg hatches to release an almost adult person.  Is there any other way?”

I couldn’t help but laugh at this.  Despite their external similarity to humans, internally, Barsoomians were different.  They lay eggs which hatch into adolescents.  Of course they wouldn’t nurse so breasts are little more than gender dimorphism.  I wondered if they derived any physical pleasure from them.  The thought of experimenting with Tor Tal made my own breasts flush with warmth.

“My people are different.” I said.  “We retain our #young within our #wombs for 4 months as it grows.  Then when we give birth, the #baby is tiny and totally helpless for three years and must be protected, fed and cared for.  The only food the #baby receives is milk that is produced by these.” I held my breasts for them to see.  “The #baby suckles #milk from the breasts for three years until they grow teeth and are #weaned to solid food.  Then they begin to grow rapidly and learn and we help to teach them to be good people.  This is why we Weir need larger breasts than humans or you Barsoomians, our #babies are so helpless they need to #nurse almost constantly.”

Their blank looks turned to shock, “like #animals!” she cried.  I got an image of something similar to a small rat that lives on garbage in the sewers of the cities.  This was not going well so I tried to make it a joke to diffuse the tension, “At least it’s better than my grandmother.  She was #pregnant for almost ten months and it took almost 3 days for her to birth my mother who had a head the size of a #melon, and she nursed her last child for five years, even with teeth.”

From the looks on their faces, I guess that they didn’t get the humor.  Well, I now knew that no other human or Weir had visited this planet.  I was effectively marooned unless I could find the technology to build a sub-space transceiver or a star-ship.  And I wasn’t an engineer but a peasant farm girl turned soldier.  From their reactions, I didn’t think I should discuss sex so I bade them good night and crawled into my furs and thought about where I was until sleep overtook me.

The next morning we ate in silence, neither of them looking at me.  I then realized that they were never really alone together.  They slept on opposite sides of the fire, never held hands and although the looks they gave were intimate and I could feel their attraction for each other, neither showed it outwardly.

I hazarded a statement that I knew would cause trouble but I had to know.  “Pardon me for asking but are you.. uh, what is your relationship?”

Tor Tal replied “I am her protector.” And dropped the matter.  I knew that there was more to that statement but decided that he was hands-off and I shouldn’t push the matter.  If they were potential lovers in that sensitive stage, any outside interference could ruin their future.

It was while on the trail that Taria asked me her first really personal question.  “Do you have … lovers back on your world?”  I had earlier talked about my home planet and how I found myself here so they knew that I was an alien though it turned out that her word ‘lover’ had a different meaning than mine.  Regardless, I enjoyed the conversation and even the long explanations for certain words helped me to learn their language.

“Oh, some I suppose.”  I replied.  “Not as many as most girls my age but that’s because I am in the military so the last two years while my friends are experimenting with sex, I was aboard a warship fighting pirates and fending off invasions.  I’m still only twenty and only became sexually active a few years ago so there’s still time.”

She looked shocked again.  I guess I was getting used to this.  But better I inadvertently cause trouble here than in a city.

“And #children?  Have you many with all these lovers?”  She was even more embarrassed now.

I laughed at this.  “I’m far too young to become pregnant.  My people may become sexually active at 15 but we cannot become fertile until twenty-five. And then we need to be almost exclusive with one person to be fertile for our promiscuity hinders fertility.”  Her look caused me to try to explain how we were the products of Demon engineering.

“A thousand years ago the Demons abducted a bunch of humans from Terra.  At first they only cured and healed them and allowed them to run free.  Then the Kentaurans found that they couldn’t live on a desert world with no iron so the Demons changed them to green copper-based blood, dark skin and a few other adaptations that allowed them to survive their new home.

“Then the Kris wars started 500 years ago.  Both Demons and humans were almost exterminated so the Demons changed themselves from small plant-eating pacifists into large, meat-eating warriors.  Then they changed the humans into the Mon, giant three-meter tall soldiers and between the two, they pushed the Kris back and won the war by simply exterminating the Kris religion and race.

“By the time they started to collect my people, the war was almost over so with no more need for soldiers they changed us into starship crew.  Our feet and tail are to grasp projections on a ship in zero-gravity and to act as extra hands.  Our ears and eyes were enhanced with greater perception.  We were made with small enough bodies to crawl through access tubes.  They did make one big mistake though.  Demons don’t understand human needs or emotions so they also accidently enhanced our sexuality and passions.  Whatever we do, we do with our entire being.

“But the Baron didn’t want Mon soldiers defending the Barony so he created the Lanai to protect us.  And occasionally, some of us, human or Weir, enlist and become soldiers ourselves.  That’s what I did.  My mother’s people are Peasant Caste and believe that a girl should marry and be a good wife.  I saw my mother follow that way and I decided that I’d be different.  So I enlisted at 18 and became a Warrior to rule my own life and raise myself to Warrior Caste.

“But I was wounded during the Shitai invasion, lost a lung, some ribs and part of my arm and heart,” I showed her my plasma scars and continued, “and while recovering at my parent’s home I went to sleep and woke up here.  Naked, alone and lost.  What I’m trying to do is to find out where I am and try to go home.”

She was very sympathetic to me though she understood little of what I said.  The ideas of a woman being sexually active and a soldier was stranger to her than the idea of being pregnant and nursing a baby. Then something occurred to me.

“Who were those three men who were following you?”

Tor Tal pulled his Thoat to a halt and turned to me, “What men?”  He demanded.

I explained about the dead city and the trio that had been chasing them then explained they had died.  When I was finished he was silent

Tor Tal explained, “Taria Kolos and I met when I was a padwar in her father’s guards.  We fell in love but my station wasn’t high enough for her father and he decreed that we never see each other again.  But our love was stronger than he realized and I took a post with another noble hoping to better myself and become rich enough to impress even Kol Fias.  But it was while I was guarding my employers’ son that I was called away and while gone, a gorthan entered and killed my charge.  I was disgraced and condemned to death but Kol Fias arraigned for my escape and said to me that I could leave in a small flyer and know that I’d never be allowed to return to Ptarth nor see his daughter and that would be an eternal torture.

“But he didn’t count on the love of his daughter and when I entered the flyer and left Ptarth under cover of darkness, I discovered Taria Kolos hidden away within.  She had chosen a life of exile with me over a life of ease in Ptarth such was her love.

“The Flyer that we used couldn’t be controlled and was taking us to an unknown destination but aparantly Kol Fias hired those three panthans to hunt me down and such was his wealth that he also managed to somehow hire six Green Men as well.  It was while flying across the dead sea bottom that the Green Men struck, their radium bullets destroyed my buoyancy tanks causing my flyer to crash.   But I managed to change course and nurse the flyer so that it came down in a direction other than expected and we two then ran for the hills until you found us.”

That was so romantic, like a novel or tri-d and I could only hug Taria.  These were my only friends upon Barsoom and I loved them for their sacrifices.  I knew that somehow I’d help them live the life they deserved.   I thought for a while, told them about the Green Men I saw and then said, “I want you to teach me to fight with a sword.”

He was shocked so I had to explain that I wasn’t like a Barsoomian woman.  Although still only a teen even by my own people’s standards, our ways were different.

“I come from peasant stock.  My mother’s people are Bedouin Arabs who search the desert herding #sheep and occasionally robbing #pilgrims until they were driven into the Rub al Kali, the emptiest desert in Arabia.  Dying, the Draconan Colonial Service found them and offered them life on Gaea, an offer that they took.  But Arabs believe that a woman is little more than chattel, to be sold for alliance and even then only #virgins were valuable.  They believed thusly even on Gaea but my mother loved another, a man of another race and religion but with no wealth other than a small farm he inherited from his father.  She was forbidden to see him but they ran away together and married and eventually I was born.  It was years before my grandparents would talk to her again, such was the anger they felt.

“My father’s family were German Jews who were being killed by their own countrymen for being different when they were rescued by Colonial and came to Gaea.  With them were some Parisian homeless and together was my father born.  I don’t think that my father’s parents were married but they loved each other anyway.  For he was a Jew and she a Catholic and such could not marry by the laws of either religion.  But the laws of Drakonis said that anyone may marry and that women were free to live their own lives and what could my grandparents do but eventually accept the reality.

“Then was my brother born.  It was one thing to be told that your children or grandchildren would be Weir and another to birth a child that wasn’t human.  But a mother’s love was stronger than her disgust and even my father grew to accept and love his Weir son.  By the time I was born, Weir births were normal but my Arabian grandparents saw in me a chance to marry me to another family to increase their own position.

“The problem with my grandfather’s plan was that I must be a #bloody-sheet virgin and Weir have no #maidenheads to give.  Nor do we wait until marriage to sample the joys of sex.

“I see you don’t understand.  Humans have a flap of skin over their genitals.  In men it’s a #foreskin that covers the head of the penis and in women it is a #maidenhead that covers the opening to the vagina.  When a man first enters a woman, that #maidenhead tears apart and she bleeds to prove that she knew no other man.  So important was this that a woman could be killed on Terra if this #maidenhead was missing.  So important was this that Arab men have their #foreskin removed at 13 years to share in the woman’s deflowerment.  My mother told me that on her wedding night it ‘hurt like hell and she bled like a pig’.  But we Weir have neither #foreskin nor #maidenhead and when I was 16 and my breasts and pubes began to grow, I decided to be different.  So a number of my friends, human and Weir gathered our money and hired a couple of #whores, a man and woman to show and teach us about sex.

“At first it was embarrassing but we quickly learned and by the end of the evening none of us were virgins in any manner.  When my father found out he was so angry!  I think that his anger at that was the one thing that made my mother’s family befriend him but my mother took me aside and asked only if I enjoyed the experience.  When I said that I did very much, she simply said ‘I’m glad’ and never mentioned it again.

“I saw my mother tied to her house by Arab culture and bearing Weir children and one day when I was 18 she told me to follow my own dreams. So I went to the Baron and enlisted in the military to see something that was forbidden me by class and ancestry.  For although we Draconans grant equality for all, men and women, human, Weir and Lanai, we are a class people and peasants like my family were lower than all.  So I saw this as a chance to become Warrior Caste and raise my status and pride for my family.

“For two years I fought for my Barony.  I gathered honours and awards and even the Baron himself told my family that they should be proud of me.  Then came the battle at Sothis.  The Shitai had invaded our lands again and so we drove them away again.  We chased the Shitai into the caverns of Sothis and 20 of us were trapped with the Baron underground.  We ran out of power and ammunition the second day and had to fight over a hundred Shitai with what weapons we could make and steal.  For a week we were trapped underground but the Baron kept us alive and fighting until rescue arrived.

“After the battle, I returned home to recover, to re-grow my lung and repair my arm and heart.  This scar on my arm is the external marking of that battle.  But my parents cried that I was too young to die for I am too young to even give them grandchildren and if I died, it would be my brothers who would carry the family name.

“So one night I fell asleep in my bed in my parent’s home and woke up here.  Perhaps I died in bed and this is Allah or Jehovah’s joke of a Paradise or punishment.  The rest you know.  I have no idea of how I got here or why, but my main goal is to return home for I see that my lifestyle isn’t suitable for your world and I miss my family and friends so.

“But if the Green men are chasing you and if your father hires more panthans to hunt you, two swords are better than one and I am already a soldier by my nation’s laws and my own history.  So, again, I ask you to teach me to fight with a sword.  There may come a time when you will need me with that skill.”

Tor Tal tried to argue because women on Barsoom don’t fight but eventually I won him over and in addition to language lessons, came fencing.   I was an apt learner as the sword isn’t unknown on Drakonis and many are the soldiers who come to us from Terra with blade-experience such as Marcus, our greatest hero, who had been a Roman Legionary before Colonizing.  Martial Arts training included the sword but we don’t use swords in war, we reserve them for ceremony and duels but peasants like myself rarely even own a blade larger than a carving knife.


It was a couple of days later that we found a small oasis.  This had real water for bathing, trees and was a paradise in the desert.  I could well believe the joys my grandparents felt when they found the one in the Rub al Kali that led them to Gaea and I gave my thanks to all the Goddesses of Islam, Judiasm and Drakonis.

And so for three days we bathed, and rested and enjoyed our respite.  Even my companions began to hold hands before me for they realized that I wouldn’t be shocked at this display.  I suspect that their mutual attraction never went further than a brief kiss or her laying in his arms as they talked though I didn’t understand why he didn’t just throw her to the ground and enjoy each other but Barsoomian custom was their law.  “Goddess! I HAVE to find a way home where I can get a decent hot shower, a hot meal and even hotter man.”

As I lay there, cranky and irritable from some unimportant thing that made me angry, I tried to calm down by watching the motionless trees and the blue sky for the dust had settled and the sky changed colour, we heard the squeal of thoats.

I grabbed my weapons and met Tor Tal who said, “visitors” and pointed to the east.  Taria brought the thoats and we prepared to run or fight as the situation warranted when four men rode into our oasis.  At first we just stared at each other when one demanded, “What do you with the Oasis of Ted Halor, Jed?”

Tor Tal explained that we were lost and trying to return home when they interrupted.  “All who enter our lands do so as slaves or corpses, which are you?”  and they laughed at his wit.  Tor Tal was about to jump them when one of the men said, “Dwar, these people aren’t enemies, just wanderers.  Perhaps we should show them courtesy as a guest and help them on their way.”

This was seen as weakness by his fellows who then demanded our surrender.  “We are four and you but one warrior and a deformed animal who thinks she is a man.” He said as he looked at my weapons and tail.

Although we Draconans are a polite race (you must be when an insult could result in a duel to the death), I tried to remain calm even though I wanted to rip his tongue out.  He was right, we were outnumbered and peaceful talks are always the first step.  But Tor Tal laughed and said, “If you want us, take us!” and he drew his long sword.

The four charged him so I said, “Damn!” drew my own sword and rushed to his aid.

The one who asked for mercy held back a moment then joined his fellows.  I think it was more loyalty than anything else that did this but Tor Tal quickly killed his first opponent and faced the remaining three when I entered the fray.  I killed one immediately, more by accident than by design and then we each faced a single opponent.  Tor Tal dispatched his after a fight that left him bleeding from a half-dozen cuts.  But I tried a different tact.  I couldn’t hope to match his skill so I simply used my superior strength to beat his blade down then punched him with my free fist.  He went down unconscious but still alive.

As Taria rushed to care for her lover, I bound the unconscious man and stripped the rest of their possessions then dragged the bodies away from the oasis and into a crevasse where the scavengers would find them or we could bury them, according to the wishes of my companions.  I wasn’t certain about our prisoner as we Draconans generally don’t take prisoners during war.  When we do, we prefer to run their brains through a blender to extract information and toss the rest into the garbage.  But I didn’t know enough about Barsoomian chivalry to know if they would kill or enslave or release our prisoner.

Tor Tal's injuries were slight and in a matter of moments he was up and walking.  He stared at our prisoner then shook his head and drew his dagger.  “I’m sorry, but you understand,” he told the bound man.

“At least do it quickly and with little pain,” the man replied.

As I said, I saw nothing wrong with such a casual murder of a helpless man but suddenly I had an idea. “Hold, Tor Tal!  A word if you please.”

He took this request graciously as no one enjoys murdering the helpless, necessary as it must be and we walked away with Taria.  “Let me have him, please,” I asked.

“What for?” Taria asked.  “He’s an enemy and tried to kill us for no crime other than trespassing.  Free him and he’ll bring his fellows to kill or enslave us.  His death, though unpleasant, is necessary.”

I tried to explain, “If he is to die, will you not grant him a last joy?”  They wore blank looks so I tried again.  “Among my Terran ancestors, a condemned man is given a last meal and sometimes a woman.  They felt that if a man must die, he should die happy.  Can we not do the same?”

Again, blank looks.  “Our food and water is too limited to waste on a man who will be dead soon enough.”

“OK then, I need him!” I cried.  “Surely you’ve noticed how angry I become lately over stupid things.  I’m cranky, I cannot sleep, I sneak away to self-pleasure a dozen times a day, I NEED a man or I’ll die!  If not him, I need you to service me.”  I was crying now.

They were horrified of course as what I was advocating was that they assist me in raping then killing that man.  Murder they could do, but rape was as alien to them as unmarried consensual sex.  But I pleaded and finally promised that I wouldn’t force him and if he still refused me, I’d accept it and suffer.  I also promised that I would be the one to kill him saving Tor Tal the stigma of murder.

They finally and grudgingly agreed and strode away so they wouldn’t have to see the deed done.  I didn’t blame them as Draconan law was cruel and swift to rapists.  With prostitution legal and respected and sexual freedom the norm, we had no word for forced sex so what I was planning was illegal and immoral by even my own nations law and custom.

But I was desperate.  And I hated myself.

I knelt before him and saw that he was awake.  I suppose I was learning to pull my punches.  I smiled, moistened some of my silks with water and wiped the blood from his face.  “You know what we have to do.”  It was a statement, not a question and so he was silent.

What do you say to a person that you are about to violate then murder?

“You can see I’m not from this world.”  He registered no surprise as did Tor Tal and Taria which was curious.  “My ways are not yours. And among the people of my homeworld, we grant the condemned a last request.  Usually it’s a meal but other things have been given.”

“Why,” he sneered, “to try to eliminate the guilt you feel?”

“Probably,” I smiled again.  “But in your case, I am willing to offer you something special as your last memory, … me.”

His look showed that he had no idea of what I was saying.  “Sex!” I tried again. “I understand that your people are often virgins but among my people sex is normal. I’m offering myself to you so you can die smiling.”  I started to remove the silk covering my breasts but realized that this wouldn’t be the sexual signal we used so stopped.

He was to say the least, unconvinced.  I suppose that no one had ever made this offer to him.

“Are all you aliens that way?’ he asked with resignation.

“All?  You mean that there are others here?”

“Of course, John Carter and Vad Varo and others from Jasoom.  I hear that occasionally someone from other worlds visits. What of it!”

I almost lost sight of my goal with this new information and wanted to shake Tor Tal’s teeth out for withholding this information.  I now knew that I had to save this man and had an idea of how.

“Listen to me carefully.  I have an offer and if you agree, I will not only #fuck your brains out, but I’ll release you alive when we leave.”  Of course he didn’t know the words but the images I sent of us rolling in a couple were very graphic.

He was shocked and filled with disbelief so I explained carefully.  “My people have a great need for sex.  I’ve been celibate for almost two months now and I am in misery for the want of a man.  If I don’t get sex soon, I’ll die a horrible death.  You can solve that immediate problem by #fucking me.  I ask nothing other than your body and can promise that you will enjoy the act as much as I do.  In addition, you have information that I need about these other alien visitors that may help me return to my home.  Plus, I and my companions will swear by whatever oath you choose that we are not here to harm your Jed or nation and we will leave your nation in peace by any route that you say.  I offer you this because I need you but mostly because from your actions in trying to stop your people and leave us in peace, I can see that you are an honourable man.   What say you?”

“And why should I believe you?”

“Because you have no choice.  If you agree, instead of killing you, I will see that you are released unharmed.  Think of it, your life to continue serve your Jed, our promise to leave your nation and peace between us.”

He thought about it for awhile and then agreed, “Release me and I will agree to your terms.”

There is no need to describe what we did then other than to say that he was a willing pupil in the arts of lust and an hour later I felt much better and he couldn’t have lifted a sword against us if he wanted to.  I lay there next to him playing with a leaf I had found thinking of…. Well, I really wasn’t thinking at all.  I just felt really relaxed and lay under the light of both moons as they crossed orbits.

Later when I saw Taria Kolos and Tor Tal with Tulan in tow (he had eventually told me his name), Tor Tal drew his sword again.  “Hold!” I cried, “We have a deal to make.”

Taria didn’t look at me at all.  I guess thoughts of rutting animals were flowing through her mind so I talked to Tor Tal who I hoped would be easier to convince.  “I found a way to avoid murder and make everyone happy.  We swear that we are not here to harm either his Jed or nation and promise to leave as soon as possible.  In return, Tulan here will escort us to the nearest friendly nation and we let him live.  Everyone wins!”

I could see that they were wavering for no sane man loves murder and this would save all lives.  Finally with little more argument, we all drew our blades, Taria sharing Tor Tal's, and swore to the terms of the deal, adding that we would not harm each other and would protect each other until we reached another friendly city.  That done, all relaxed for the Barsoomian takes such an oath with great severity and dignity.  Taria was even willing to pretend to ignore my escapades so happy was she with the agreement we made.  We then returned to Tulan the possessions of his companions and we four buried the dead according to the customs of their nation.

Tulan and Tor Tal drew a map of the area in the dirt and discussed their goals.  It was unfortunate that the rifles of the Green Men had driven his flyer off course and forced him to unintentionally cross this nation.  But Tulan showed us a nearby city where he felt that we would be received in friendship and even hire a flyer to take us to Tor Tal’s original goal.  Taria and I kept out of these discussions.  She because it is in the nature of Red Women to allow their men to guide and protect them, I because I had no goal other than to leave this world.  And thus, we allowed the men to rule our lives.

We, or rather they, made plans to gather water and food and use the extra thoats as pack animals so we could leave on the morrow and he showed us which oasis plants were edible so we managed to collect enough food to last a month if need be.

As we prepared for sleep that last night, I approached Tulan and asked him to share my furs for I was most anxious to repeat this afternoon’s joys.  He was taken aback by my suggestion but agreed with some embarrassment, for what man would reject such pleasure after partaking of a woman’s honey, and such was how I spent my last night in that pleasant place.


III: CAPTURE

The next morning, neither Tor Tal nor Taria would look at either of us and I figured it was because I tend to be noisy and thus reminded them of my rutting ways.  But then, when I saw them smile at each other I knew that finally they had taken my example and broken that last barrier.  A Weir would have rushed over and asked for details but I knew she was embarrassed enough and so gave her time though I was dying to tell her about Tulan’s growing skills and to learn about Tor Tal’s ability.

I also wanted to find out about the other visitors to this world.  John Carter was a Terran name but Vad Varo was not so my initial thought that Jasoom may be Terra seemed to be wrong.  There was time to find out.

During our first lunch break I approached Tor Tal and asked “Tell me about John Carter!”

He looked up and said easily, “John Carter is the Prince of Helium. He came to Barsoom some decades ago from Jasoom and married the Princess of Helium.   His fame spread across the world for among his feats was the uniting of a number of nations into one whole, making peace with the Tharken Hoard and the overthrow of the false Goddess Issus.  Vad Varo was another from Jasoom who traveled the void to Barsoom.  Why do you ask?”

“Why didn’t you tell me about them when I asked you if there were others like me here?” I demanded.

Taria chimed in, “Because there are none like you on Barsoom.  Neither John Carter nor Vad Varo resemble you, nor have I heard of anyone from your planet Gaea upon the face of Barsoom.”

“But I told you that my grandparents came from #Terra,” I was almost yelling at this time.

“Yes, Terra, John Carter doesn’t come from Terra, he comes from Jasoom.” Said Tor Tal with infinite calmness.

The situation was so pitiful that it was funny and I fell to the moss laughing my fool head off.  All this time I had been using the Spanglic word for ‘Earth’ which was ‘Terra’ and they were using the Barsoomian word which was ‘Jasoom’ and it never occurred to me to confirm or translate the names.  And when I mentioned my parents, I never described them as resembling more the Barsoomian than the Weir.

“I’m sorry,” I said because they were looking at me as if I were insane.  “All this time I described my parents and grandparents as #human but didn’t tell you what a #human looked like or what #Terra meant.  It’s all my fault and could have been fixed if only I had thought a bit.

“Where do these people reside?  I need to talk to them and find out how to get to Jasoom.  I’m certain that Star Fleet has a Stargate on #Terra ... Jasoom, maybe a dozen which I can use to get home to Gaea.”

They told me that John Carter lives in Helium and Vad Varo in Amhor and that we could send a message to both easily once we settled down safely.  Now I had even more reason to help my friends and a solution to my own problem was right there in front of my face.  All we had to do was survive the desert, predatory carnivours, Green Men, gorthans, panthans, starvation, thirst and hostile nations.  All that couldn’t be harder than telling my family that I had enlisted and was going to war but it would be much easier than explaining to my father that I was no longer a virgin.

Fortunately, with two men present, my fencing lessons improved dramatically.  Each had a different style and I learned that one had an offense that would penetrate the other’s defense and both outdid themselves to compete in my lessons.

The next two days were fairly repetitious.  We would travel by day, rest and eat at noon where I would continue with my fencing and language lessons.  After which we would travel some more then just before dark, locate a place to sleep, eat our meal, fence more, then Tulan and I would find a place where we would be alone and a few hours later to fall asleep exhausted.

It was after one of our nicer sessions that I lay there under the furs, for I still found the Barsoomian nights to be unbearably cold, that Tulan began to stroke my breasts.  Although my body reacted pleasurably to his attention, I couldn’t help but wonder why?  He always had to force himself to touch my breasts for in his mind they were ‘deformities’.

“My lover,” I asked avoiding religiously the word ‘chieftain’ which to the Red Men was an indication of eternal love or an engagement while in reality, Tulan was just something to do at night, “What are you doing?”

“Playing.  Don’t you like it?”

“Hmmmm, very much.  But you’ve never liked them before no matter how much I begged.  Why now?”

“Because you are stronger and faster than me.  I’m still a better fencer but for no other reason than I have centuries of experience.  In a year or less you’ll be better than me at that too.  So, this is the only area where I can control you or be better than you.  So,…” again his stroke caused me to loose focus, “remember that here, at least, I am in control.”

I don’t remember anything else that he may have said as he quickly demonstrated a skill that I didn’t know he had.  Unfortunately, as I said before, I am quite noisy when .. enjoying myself and there were more people out there listening than Taria Kolos and Tor Tal.

I was THAT close when Tulan was pulled off me.  My immediate reaction was to scream, “Not now, oh Goddess I need you now!!” But what happened was the peal of guttural laughter struck my ears.  I looked up and saw Tulan being held in the grip of two Green Men and both Taria and Tor Tal swearing as another couple Green Men held them prisoner.

I started to jump up to fight when I felt the barrel of a radium rifle press against my head.

We were quickly bound with absolutely no gentleness as would be expected of the Green Race, be they Green Men on Barsoom or Green Pirate in space.  Tulan made some demand and the nearest Green Man struck him a blow that laid him on the ground then peal of laughter broke the night.

That night was a nightmare. We four were bound naked and left in the open to freeze or not.  As we huddled there together seeking the warmth of our combined bodies though the Red Man seemed to tolerate the cold easier than did I, the Green Men went through our belongings, tossing some, keeping others.  Eventually they fell asleep leaving a guard that regularly checked our bonds thus making escape impossible.

After a sleepless night that left me feeling sick from the cold, we were dragged up and tossed onto our thoats sans breakfast. Then the Green Men hurried us across the desert at a breakneck speed that slowed only when one of our thoats stumbled and fell, breaking one of his eight legs.  The Green Men stopped and took that time to torture the poor animal near to death then remounted and left the suffering beast to die in agony.  The Green Men forced us to watch their cruelty and I had a flashback to the time we captured that Green Pirate ship and saw what was in the hold.  The thought that they’d do that to us terrified me so much I felt pee running down my legs.  By the time night fell, we were back at the original dead city and I was coughing up green slime.  The cold, lack of food or drink and exhaustion had given me pneumonia.

The Green Men simply laughed at me, then tossed us all into a deep pit and left us in the darkness to await whatever fate they chose.

How long I lay there I don’t remember.  I was feverous and couldn’t breathe and coughed constantly.  Finally I was able to tell my friends how to pound on my back to free the phlegm, a task that they did almost constantly as they took turns.

I know that I lost weight as when they finally dragged us from that pit, I could barely stand and needed help to do even that.  We were all filthy and our only grace was that we hadn’t been tortured, only starved.  But now, we thought that the torture would come, but we were wrong.

We were dragged before a man who Taria recognized as her father, Kol Fias.  These then, must be the Green Men that he had somehow hired.

“Well, well, well,” gloated Kol Fias.  “Daughter, I would have given you everything but instead you ran away with this… thing that doesn’t deserve a second name. And what is this .. creature?” he said pointing to me.

Another coughing session ensued with me spewing more green slime down my face and chest.

Kol Fias stepped back in disgust saying, “Take it away and do with it as you wish.  I thought I could sell it but the thing dies and is useless to me.” And so I was dragged away leaving my friends to the not so tender mercies of a madman.

The Green Men shoved a tube down my throat and forced some liquid into my lungs and stomach, an action that caused me to nearly die from drowning.  Then they threw me into an empty room and left me alone.  When the sun rose, I was feeling much better, the liquid had cured my infection but I was weak, hungry and thirsty but otherwise healthy.

I hoped that they did that out of mercy but when two of them returned after sunrise, they said  “Are you well?  Good!  Your agonies will be more pleasing if you are healthy enough to last more than a zode.”  Then one grabbed my arm and started to drag me from the room.  I am a couple hand-spans under two meters tall and the Green Man was three meters taller than I, but his crotch was at my head height and exposed so I collapsed and before he could see what I was doing, I stood up quickly with fists balled and drove my clenched fists into his testicles with all the strength I could muster.

I didn’t kill him, weakened as I was, but I did cripple him for life and as he dropped screaming in agony (all men are sensitive there), I pulled his revolver from its holster and shot the second Green Man repeatedly until he collapsed.  The Fleet would have sent me cleaning the bilges for wasting ammunition for we believe “one enemy, one bullet” and I used maybe a half-dozen just then but I didn’t care.

I grabbed his canteen and leapt, or rather climbed and leapt for the roof beams and hid as their companions entered.  On a world of no trees, the Green Men acted as a human would have and never looked up.  It wouldn’t have been difficult as the beams were only a few centimeters above their heads and they could easily have found me had they tilted their eyes a bit.  But they looked around the floor then making comments about my escaping the building, one ran to report to Kol Fias while the other one searched the outside of the building.

I rested there for a bit drinking the water until I felt well enough to move.  Funny, a couple weeks ago I was naked, starving and hiding from three Red men and today, I am naked, starving and hiding from four Green Men in the same city.  Does this not prove that the Horned God has a really perverse sense of humor? I almost laughed but my chest hurt too much to do more than breathe.

The Green Men killed their injured companion and left the bodies where they were but both had been stripped so all I had was a half-empty canteen of mantilia milk and a revolver with an unknown number of rounds.  Grasping a projection with tail and feet, I swung upside down and looked out the barred window.  The effort made me dizzy but I saw that the area was deserted so I dropped to the mossy floor and peeked out the door then windows.  Satisfied that I was alone, I crept from the room and sought the safety of the roofs.  At least this time my skin was brown and I no longer feared sunburn.

I couldn’t remember where Kol Fias was staying but I figured that if this city had anything resembling a palace, he would be there.  So assuming that any government would be near the center of the city for safety and efficiency, I headed in that direction via the rooftops.  Eventually I found the largest building there and once upon a nearby roof, I saw two of the Green Men standing guard.  I tossed a pebble and as one came to investigate, I dropped onto his shoulders and with all my remaining strength, twisted his head until the neck snapped.  His companion saw what happened and ran to stop me but I was holding the radium pistol in my tail and, switching it to my hand, shot him dead.

Now I had killed four Green Men with two left to hunt.

I quickly, took a part of their harness and made a belt from which I hung a holster and short sword and dagger.  At least the Green Man Short sword was the length of a long sword and the dagger a short sword.  Fortunately for me, unlike the Green Pirates, these were so emaciatedly thin that their handles matched my hands easily. Perhaps the Green Men had adapted to the low gravity so well that they had no need for large musculature as did the Green Pirates who lived on a larger planet and so must be larger and stronger to survive.

Regardless, I took whatever rations I could find and ran off before my gunfire could bring assistance and hid upon another roof.

Resting there, I ate my fill of dried cheese and mantalia milk and planned my next move.  With two more Green Men to hunt, the numbers were approaching my favour but these remaining would be on alert so killing them would be much harder.  Plus, I had an unknown number of Red Men in the employ of Kol Fias with which to deal.

That was when I saw a large flyer lift off and fly away.  Knowing that my friends were aboard, I opened fire with my pistol and emptied the chambers towards the aircraft hoping to damage it enough to force it down.  Unfortunately, the two remaining Green Men had located me and returned fire. Fortunately for me, the roof edge protected me and their fire destroyed the artwork near my head but missed me by millimeters and my only injury were minor cuts from rock shrapnel.  I ducked and crawled for safety before they could reach a level that would reveal me to their rifles.

Now I had an empty pistol and was being pursued by two of the cruelest race in the galaxy and I had no place to hide.  I considered making a bolas with my blades but using that would expose me to their fire.  So I jumped to the ground and ran for cover to the edge of the city.

I was lucky that the Green Man never walked when he could ride and so their chase was slower than would be a Red Mans’.  I easily outdistanced them with my stronger muscles and even leapt across open spaces that were some four meters wide.  Eventually I was far enough ahead to change my course.  If the Green Men followed me, they would still be chasing me to the edge of the city when I was really circling around and returning to the center.

It wasn’t too long before I was able to locate the palace again but a quick search revealed naught.  I didn’t think that I would find my friends but I was hoping for some useful gear.  Almost by chance I stumbled across the pit in which we had been imprisoned and on impulse I tapped on the cover.  Almost immediately I heard voices so I dragged the lid off and found both Tor Tal and Tulan within.

Reaching down I was able to pull them to safety and warned them of the Green Men.  Tor Tal took my long sword and Tulan my short Sword leaving me unarmed again but I didn’t mind for I was exhausted.  Then we hunted.  Tulan’s plan was for me to lead the Green Men down a narrow alley where he could be ambushed by the Red men.  Tor Tal didn’t like this as it exposed me to danger but I saw the wisdom of him plan for the Green Men thought me alone and the Red men being hidden would be to our advantage.  Hopefully I could lead them one at a time.

So I crept out to seek the Green Men and when I saw one, I pretended to stumble and ran away.  He, of course followed and I was able to lead him to my friends who immediately hamstrung their opponent then stabbed him to death before he could recover.

Now we had another revolver and more swords so we spread out and shortly, the last Green Man lay dead in the street.

We then returned to the palace and searched it until we found our harness and gear and my companions filled me in with what had happened while I was away.
 

Kol Fias had become angry with me and ordered me taken away and given to the pleasures of the Green Men.  Tulan had tried to attack them but they beat him down and tossed him back into the pit while Kol Fias gloated over Tor Tal.

“You fool,” he cried.  “Think that such as you could oppose me!  It as I who set you free and it was I who tracked you down.  Had it not been for that deformed she-animal, I would have recaptured you earlier but no matter, you are here and I will have my revenge.”

At that time Taria broke free from his guards and embraced her lover declaring that no matter what, she would love only him.  When Kol Fias had her dragged back, she told him that she had loved Tor Tal in the ways of a wife and that caused Kol Fias to again loose his temper.  He struck her and when she fell, he kicked her repeatedly.  Tor Tal tried to break free but he ordered him to be tossed into the pit as well to be a plaything of the Green Men.

Long did Kol Fias rant and scream until exhaustion took him.  Then in the morning he had the pit uncovered and he gloated again.  “Know that you will suffer agonies under the tender mercies of the Green Men that would give even me nightmares were I to remain to watch.  But I have business elsewhere and Taria and I leave you with the knowledge that she will quickly forget your miserable existence.  Farewell!”  And with those words, he had the pit resealed and that is all they knew until I found them.

I told them of my attempts to damage his flyer and we all swore to travel to the ends of the world to find and save Taria from her father. A vow that none of us would break.

So together, we cleaned ourselves, replaced our harness and clothing and after eating a simple meal, prepared to race in the direction of the flyer knowing not if we would find the flyer crashed in the desert or have to chase it back to his home.
 


IV: REVELATION

While the men prepared for the trip, gathering food and water and as much gear and weapons as they could find on the Green Man bodies, I took a few of the mirrors from their pouches and set them in a wall.  I then stripped and didn’t like what I saw.  Weir are not Human.  We don’t get very fat nor do we menstruate so the only sign of pregnancy is usually when we eat constantly and put on hip fat.  And that never occurs before full maturity at 25.  What little fat I did have had quickly been toned down by the Fleet and that week on Sothis eating only survival rations and what we could catch in the caves had used up the remainder.  My mother tried to over-feed me when I returned home to recuperate but most of what she forced me to eat went to regenerating my ribs and lung with little left over to make fat.  Now the weeks of travel and hunger on Barsoom, plus the improper proteins I was eating were taking their toll.

My cheeks were shallow, I could see my ribs and hips.  Even my feminine curves were now solid muscles with none of the softening that is common in women.

Even my breasts were shrinking and sagging, a sure sign of starvation for unlike human women whose milk glands are attached to their blood system, Weir milk glands are tied to our breast fat which is different, more intensive and nutritious, from body fat.  This is why our breasts are so large and firm as compared to humans.  They have to be for it takes more than five years to manufacture enough breast fat to support the milk glands that feed a Weir baby.  The fact that my body was desperate enough to cannibalize fat reserved for nursing showed how badly I was suffering.

My ovaries and womb had probably shut down from starvation too and would take years to recover.  “Damn!  If this doesn’t change soon, I’ll be a teen until I’m 30.”  My mother won’t like my reproductive maturity stopping, “Why me?” she’ll whine.  “It’s bad enough you Weir can’t have babies until 25, now because of that stupid soldiering you insisted on, you can’t give me grandchildren before 30!  I’ll never live long enough to play with my own grandchildren…”  My mother can be a pain in the tail-joint sometimes.

If this continued, I’d be dead of malnutrition within another month.  Well, that would save me listening to mother complain.  The men had to know what was happening to me even if it affected our plans to rescue Taria.

Again dressed in silks and harness, though now I wore them to hide the ravages of my body, I found Tor Tal and Tulan already packed and ready to go.  Although they tried to rush me to mount the thoat, I took a moment to investigate the supplies that they had packed.

“Hurry Ayiesha Penaut,” encouraged Tor Tal.  “We have to catch up with Kol Fias and Taria Kolos!”  Even his thoat was picking up his impatience and that made the beast nervous .

“No!” I said.  “Not yet.  We need more supplies.”

Tulan interrupted, “We travel light to travel fast.”

I just stared at them.  How could I tell these, my friends and lover on this world that I would die if we left now?  How could I place that burden on people who had abandoned their homes and lives for Taria?  How could I ask them to choose between us?

“I’m not Barsoomian.  The Demons created my race for space travel, not deserts such as this.  I need twice your food and thrice your water just to survive.  The cold nights are freezing to me and the only reason I can continue is the low gravity which is weakening my bones.

“Yes!  We need to rescue Taria but she is safe for now.  Despite his anger, her father won’t allow her to die.  So she is either on the way home where she will be safe and can be rescued at our leisure or she is on the sea bed surrounded by his personal guard.  Either way, she’s safer than we are and he won’t harm her or allow her to be harmed!  A father’s love for his daughter is one of the strongest forces in the universe.  I know because my own father has that love despite his anger at me for the choices I made and that love would make him die for me and my happiness.  Despite Kol Fias’ anger, I saw that same father’s love in his eyes.  He will punish her, imprison her, insult her but HE WILL NOT HARM HER nor will he allow her to come to harm!

“If we are to take her from his clutches, we need to arrive strong and healthy and rushing across the desert eating and sleeping in the saddle will weaken us to the point where we will be captured again.

“I suggest that we overload on food and drink and take our time so that when we take her back, we do so with full strength.  Tulan, where is the nearest city where we can get a flyer?  That should be our destination.”

They were taken aback for it isn’t the custom for a Red Woman to disagree with her protectors and despite my strength and martial skill, their nature was still to protect me because of my gender.  They argued of course, but finally saw the wisdom of my words and grudgingly, they repacked more food and water while I stuffed myself with all that I could find to eat.  I even found a nest of Darseen eggs, that chameleon reptile I had earlier killed, and using one of the Green Man’s mirrors as a pan, fried and ate them all.  By the time the men were ready to leave, I was stuffed and asleep and they argued a moment about if they should wake me or let me sleep.  I guess that the wait faction must have won and as I rested they searched the city for anything else that could be useful, reloaded the revolvers and rifles, slaughtered one of the Green Men’s thoat and dried and smoked the meat for the trip.

I must have been more exhausted than I thought for it was dark when I awoke.

Tor Tal said to me, “It’s too late to leave now so we will go at first light.. IF her majesty feels so inclined.”  His sarcasm wasn’t lost to me.

I smiled and told him, “I’m sorry that you are angry with me but please do not think that I care not for Taria.  In my own way I love her as much as you do.  Here, she is my sister and I am more than willing to die to help her. But I am not as bound by passion as are you so can think easier as to the best way to accomplish our goals.”

He softened at my words and allowed me to hug him but his gender wouldn’t allow him to cry so I cried over Taria for him.  And that is how Tulan found us, me in his arms crying.  Without a word, Tulan turned and stalked off unnoticed by either of us.

I ate my fill again then sought my furs for more sleep but Tulan wasn’t there.  I assumed that he was on watch but my condition was such that I was glad for a night of solitary sleep.

The next morning, we ate as the sun rose and left for Dusar which was, they felt the closest safe city, a four day ride by thoat.  There, Tor Tal felt that we could somehow buy a small flyer, return to the dead city and follow the course of Kol Fias’ flyer in case my pistol fire had forced it to land before it reached Ptarth.  If we couldn’t find the flyer, we’d continue to Ptarth and plan the rescue/abduction of Taria Kolos there.  As Tor Tal had been a padwar in the service of Kol Fias, he was intimate with the buildings and grounds and had friends within who he was certain would help us.  It wasn’t the desired plan of Tor Tal but considering the situation, it seemed to be the safest and one with the best chance for success.

Nothing was said on the ride the first day, we each being lost in our own thoughts.  But during the lunch stop, I insisted that my fencing lessons continue which was unfortunate as in demonstrating a move, Tulan drew blood from Tor Tal which caused him considerable glee for some reason.

We continued and that night as I prepared my bedding between some rocks to bask in their daytime warmth, Tulan sat and asked,” Tell me about your world, Ayiesha Penaut.  You are so different from us, both in physical design but also mentally.  No woman of Barsoom would follow your actions.  None would be as .. sexual (here was he embarrassed) as you are nor would they choose to be warriors.”

I smiled at this for I could see he was very uncomfortable.  So as I stripped and crawled into my furs, I explained.  “Drakonis is a Barony on the frontier of the Commonwealth.  We protect them from the Shitai but are not yet a member of the Commonwealth.  We are large by many standards for the Barony covers slightly more than four dozen star systems and it takes light more than a century to cross our borders.  But we are under populated for the frontier was uninhabited before the Baron forged our nation from the void.  So the Colonial Service was formed by the Devil who rules the political arm of our government as the Baron rules the military and the Speaker rules the legal arm.

“Colonial haunts Jasoom seeking people who will fit in with our society, people who can survive hardships and people who are willing to leave Jasoom for a new life.  So they haunt the byways of the various nations seeking colonists.  My grandfather was rescued from a death camp where he was condemned for praying to a different god and not being “Arian” enough for his nation.  Another grandmother was rescued from slavers who were about to sell her and so on.  Each is given a description of the Barony and offered a chance to immigrate.  Those who say ‘nay’ are left to their own fate.  Those who agree are taken to a Ram-ship that is cloaked and orbiting the moon of Jasoom.  There they spend a year in transit learning our language, culture, religion and are prepared for their new life.

“Once there, they are encouraged to inter-mix and inter-breed, which is hard for some as they must now live next to people who were their enemies or slaves on Jasoom but it works.  While the mixing of your races produced the Red Man, the mixing of ours is producing the Brown (I held up my now darkly tanned arm to show this).  Also, the first to Drakonis had been abducted and engineered by the Demon Race to work in their star ships and this was continued with us.  A human colonist may bear human children but those Gaean-born children will bear Weir like myself.  Thus at any time about one third of our population is Jasoomian-born humans who moved to Drakonis, one third are humans born on Gaea or another of the Draconan worlds and one third are Weir.  Plus we have constant visitors who are Mon, Kentauran, Demon, Dragon and a dozen other races.  So with all these races intermingling, equality by law must be enforced.

“My father is German-French and on Jasoom would have been forbidden to marry my mother who was Arabian with African ancestry and so is not ‘white’.  Upon Drakonis this marriage was accepted as the best way and so was I born.  But this equality also crosses not only race but gender as well so women are expected to achieve the same as men.  Although the Baron and First Speaker are Male and Weir, the Devil is a woman of Jasoom for such is our way to allow women to achieve their dreams.  And so although my mother’s family expected to marry me off young and virginal to ally themselves with another family, I chose another path.

“But my options were limited.  I could remain Peasant Class, marry another peasant and spend the next few hundred years working on a farm or ranch popping out a baby every five years.  Or I could try for Merchant Class and have headaches seeking more wealth.  Or the Priesthood and pray most of the time or the Warrior Class.  You know the choice I made.  I, a peasant girl, can walk down any street in my Star Fleet jacket with my combat stripes and people bow to me!  Even the Devil herself once gave me her seat in a restaurant and thanked me for defending her nation.  As a Warrior, I am respected and admired and honoured.  True, my life is harder and shorter than expected.  As a peasant I could easily live 500 years, a dozen times longer than my human parents could imagine but as a Warrior, I’ll be lucky to live past a century.  But what a Century!”

“And lovers, Ayiesha, you take many of them?”  he asked quietly.

Strange, although we had been lovers since we met, this was the first time he used only my first name.  “When the Demons engineered my race, they enhanced all of our skills and senses. But Demons are reptiles and never understood human passions.  So these were enhanced as well condemning the Weir to a life of sexual need.   Humans can ignore their sex drive though they enjoy the act as much as we do.  But Weir cannot.  We NEED sex or we suffer.  When a Weir looses their desire to seek physical passion, we know we are dangerously ill.  But neither do we see any reason to deny our charms and bodies to one person for life.  Some do but most of us take our lovers as we wish.  And marriage among us can be complicated by many husbands and wives and lovers for we enjoy the passions of both men and women.  Although we enjoy the passions of many partners, we do reserve our children to our husbands alone.  It’s a complicated situation that I’ll explain another day.

“Does it bother you overly much that you were not my first lover nor will you be my last?”  I asked.  I knew that humans are possessive towards women who they consider to be property but here, our physical relations were a simple business deal and no romance existed between us.

Tulan made no comment other then he bade me a good night and left for his own furs.  I found this strange as he had shared mine since that first night but was too tired to pursue the subject.  And so I passed the night alone and in deep sleep until they awoke me at sunrise.

It was late the next day while I was riding next to Tor Tal that Tulan told us he was leaving.  When we asked why, he replied, ”My home lies that way.  Taria is in no danger so you don’t need me.” Then he looked at me and spat out, “Our ‘business deal’ is done!” and turned away.

I caught up with him, grabbed his reigns with my tail and demanded to know what was wrong!  He pulled away, so I tackled him and pulled him form his thoat.  “Tell me what’s wrong?  It isn’t right for you to leave us like this.” Our thoats had taken off and I saw from the corner of my eye Tor Tal rushing off the catch them.

Again Tulan pulled away, “Taria is gone, you have Tor Tal, you don’t need me obviously!”

“What the hell are you talking about?”  I actually had to trip him and toss myself onto his body, holding his arms with my hands and grasping his legs with my tarsal feet to stop his struggles.  Even though I was much stronger than he, he continued to fight, “I know you love Tor Tal!  I saw you together in the city!”

I almost laughed at this revelation but forced myself to stop.  Men are sensitive creatures at times, sometimes more sensitive than are women.

“Of course I love Tor Tal.  He’s my brother and Taria is my sister.  How could I not love my brother?  Think you there is anything more there?  Tor Tal loves Taria so much he cannot see me as a woman.”

He stopped struggling then and asked, “truth?”

“Of course it is my lover.”  I started to caress his cheek with my tail.  He always found this gesture uncomfortable but with us it was a gesture of compassion and caring.  “They are my brother and sister.  We have fought together, traveled together, suffered together.  Can any bonds of blood be closer than this?”

I couldn’t help it and began to cry then, “My mother almost died birthing and nursing three Weir children.  She’ll never give me a sister.  My true brothers are 10,000 light years away from here and gone forever.  Your planet is killing me with the cold and malnutrition!  I’ll die here soon and never see my family again.  All I have is you and them, my lover and my brother and sister.  I can’t loose you too.”

He then wrapped his arms around me and comforted me as best he could.  I guess that then he realized that what he had seen in the city was no different from this.  Eventually I stopped crying and sat up, wiping my eyes with my silks.  “Don’t look at me, I’m all puffy and red and must look a fright.  Good thing I’m not wearing mascara or I’d look like a #raccoon.”  He kissed me then, not at all like a lover but just the kind of kiss my father and brothers used to give me.

A sound caused us to look up and Tor Tal sat there on his thoat holding the others.  “Have you been there long?” asked Tulan.

“Long enough.  We can take time to rest if you wish.”  Tor Tal then dismounted.

Tulan stood and embraced Tor Tal.  “I’ve wronged you and Taria and Ayiesha so much these past few days. My actions are unforgivable and all I can say is that I was wrong.  Please forgive my actions and know that my life is yours and Tarias’ and I will serve you two even above my own Jed if need be.”  And with those words, he unbuckled his sword and cast it to the feet of Tor Tal, an action that I understand was the greatest honour a man of Barsoom can give.

Tor Tal returned the sword buckling it to Tulan’s harness saying, “I know not to which you are alluding but on behalf of Taria Kolos and myself, I accept your sword and swear to use it only for good.”  That said they embraced again for the Red Men of Barsoom are not bound by the constraints of Terran Human males.
 

From then on our relationship changed.  Tulan was more attentive to me and my needs and Tor Tal treated me with much deference and never ceased to make my life easier.  I noticed that they always gave me the best of our food and were always refilling my canteen whenever they judged it empty which was often.  Was this love?  I believe so.  Tor Tal understood that I saw in him a brother I needed but no longer had and responded in kind, loving me as his sister who needed his protection.  Tulan, … I couldn’t figure him out.  I knew that marriage was out of the question.  I was Weir and he Barsoomian so the odds were that we could never have children and I understood that on this dying planet, men need children for whom to fight their enemies, the greatest of which was the death of their world.  With no one to pass their name and land to, why should they strive so?   I understood this for my older brother knew that he would inherit the farm and family Clan position.  Father worked even harder than need be to give Eric a better life and farm than he had inherited from his father.  Men cannot birth babies so they compensate by giving a better life to their children. But without children, what could I give to Tulan that would satisfy this need?  Passion?  Someday I’d find another man who raised those feelings and would have to choose between my needs and desires and hurting Tulan.  No, he couldn’t love me as my father loves my mother.  There was something else and I needed to know what that was.  In the meantime, I had no problems with his physical attentiveness for he was becoming a very accomplished and caring lover.
 


V: DUSAR

The ride to Dusar was generally uneventful.  We saw a herd of wild thoats cross our path, silent with their padded feet on the mossy desert.  Another time a banth moaned in the distance and we spent a couple hours with rifles at the ready but we never saw the beast.

Evenings and meals were spent with my brother and lover increasing my sword skills and I, in turn, teaching them what I could of the unarmed martial arts of Jasoom and Drakonis for they were impressed at how easily a smaller opponent could use a larger man’s leverage against them to throw or disarm them.  Although not a Black Belt, I did have much dojo time for the Fleet requires constant unarmed combat skills for all as exercise and a final fight when weapons are exhausted.

And of course, the nights were spent in the arms of Tulan who often would hold me until I fell asleep.  I often wondered at this attention but enjoyed it too much to risk with questions.

On the fourth day we saw Dusar in the distance.  A walled city with aircraft here and there it was still hours away and I was anxious to see a real living city after the ruins of my former imprisonment.  Halfway there we saw a man grazing a herd of thoats and the sight reminded me so much of my uncle Mohammad grazing his rundis that I almost cried with loneliness.  Despite their opinions on a woman’s place, my grandparents and uncles and aunts did love me and many were the hours when I’d sit with my cousins watching the sheep and rundis in the fields or the dragonets playing about the skies.

Tulan saw my tears and approached to hold my hand.  So tender was his gesture that I kissed his palm, folded his fingers together and pressed his hand against my cheek.  The herder stopped and watched our approach.  I could see that his revolver was loosened in its holster but otherwise he was relaxed for Red Men do not take their women to war.

“Koar!”  called out Tor Tal.  “We are travelers seeking to sell our thoats and buy passage to Ptarth.  Can you help us?”

The herder stared at me for a moment (I was almost getting used to this) then noted how Tulan and I were holding hands and turned his attention to our thoats.  He rode around them and inspected each casually, both the ones we rode and the ones carrying our supplies then commented, ”Rode long, needs fattening and rest.  No, I’m not interested but perhaps Darthis on the Avenue of the Red Moon may be interested.  You won’t get much for them though.  Not in this condition.  Take the main gate, third right and follow your nose.”  And with another look at me, he turned and returned to his herd.

Some kilometers before we reached the city, a squad of armed guards approached us, demanding our business and origins.  After explaining that we were travelers and giving our names and cities (the guards eyes never seemed to leave me) we were escorted into the city and taken to the Dwar in charge who bade us leave our weapons on a table and sit.  Offering us drink he questioned us for what seemed like hours as to our names, cities, destination, reasons for being in Dusar and such.  When he asked these questions of me and I told him that I was a visitor from another world and how I arrived on Barsoom, he simply commented, “Another one.  If this keeps up there will be more aliens on Barsoom than Red Men.”

He then asked where we were staying and when Tor Tal said that we had no idea and asked for an inexpensive hostel, the Dwar recommended one nearby and informed us that if we moved, we needed to inform him so he could update his records.  Then, satisfied that we weren’t an army seeking to conquer his city, he bade us take our weapons and leave.

I wasn’t happy with this treatment as on Gaea no police would treat a guest in that manner but Tulan and Tor Tal said that this was normal for all cities on Barsoom.  Spies and warfare being common, the military took no chances.  Understanding, but still not happy I grudgingly accepted their explanation though no Draconan would be suffered as was we.  At home I’d demand he be fired or piked for ‘wearing his badge on his dick’ as we say of overly exuberant civil servants.  But, I wasn’t on Gaea and my first experience with Barsoomian civilization wasn’t as I hoped.

The city, however, was fascinating and unlike anything I had seen before.  Draconan cities tend to be small to ease crowding and sanitation.  In fact, Caer Cyprian, the Capital of the Barony and largest city in the Barony was less than 5000 people and half of those tourists or business transients.  Caer Bridget, the city near my father’s farm was only 500 people with another thousand supporting farmers and ranchers surrounding it.  But Dusar… This city was amazingly huge.  There must have been over a million people here, buildings that rose a hundred stories high, air craft zipping between the buildings and ground cars and thoats all over the place.  And all crowded between walls that were made for defense against Green Men on thoat-back or foreign aircraft.  No Draconan city is walled nor do we have soldiers on duty walking the streets as they do here for it is my job in the Fleet to keep any enemies as many light years as is possible from the Barony.  I’m afraid that I was so fascinated by the city and it’s sights that I never noticed that I was a sight myself.  I think I must have said “I’m sorry please excuse me,” to a hundred people that day for accidentally bumping them as I looked at some sight or another.

Eventually Tulan managed to locate a store that bought used weapons and such and we sold most of our gear and the weapons we took from the bodies of the Green Men.  Kol Fias had taken what money we possessed and whatever pay he gave the Green Men in his employ wasn’t cash so the only money (the Barsoomians called it pi which were oval coins) we had was from the sale of our gear which wasn’t much.  Then we found Darthis by literally following our noses for the Street of the Red Moon was in a poorer section of the city and sanitation wasn’t up to normal Barsoomian or Gaean standards.

Tor Tal argued with Darthis about the thoats and their value while I looked over his stock.  Being a farm girl, I wanted to be able to tell my father about this and besides, you can take the girl from the farm but you can’t take the farm out of the girl.  I had no idea of how to judge thoats for we raised rabbucks and rundis and sheep and my only experience with horses was an uncle who raised Arabians and camels so thoats were an unknown matter.  Tulan helped me out by pointing out what to look for, which thoats were better than others and how the colouring could indicate dietary problems.  He also pointed out that although thoats were primarily grazers who lived off the moss that covered the planet, they did occasionally need meat and were capable of catching and eating small animals.  “You can see that these are not the best quality thoats so we won’t get much for ours.  Darthus must cater to the poorer classes who cannot afford a decent mount so he can’t afford to give us what ours are worth.” Explained Tulan.

Eventually Tal Tor approached in an angry mood and took us away.  “The man is a thief!” he complained which was a strong insult because theft is almost unknown on Barsoom.  “If we had time, I’d bury him in a pile of thoat dung and seek a better dealer.”

By then it was getting late and carrying what gear we didn’t sell, we proceeded to the recommended hostel which, it seemed, catered mainly to foreign visitors.  I suppose that the army wanted all potential trouble-makers in one place.  Tor Tal was settled in a dormitory with a dozen other beds and guarded by an armed guard to prevent assassination or fights.  He simply tossed his personal belongings onto the bed and walked out with no fear of theft.  But as they thought Tulan and I were married (I convinced him to allow them to believe what they would) we were given a small private room on another floor with another armed guard in the hall.  This fear the Barsoomians had for assassins concerned me and I resolved to sleep with a revolver under my pillow and very lightly.  Then we sought the cafeteria on the main floor and had my first real meal since I arrived on this planet.

The meal was roasted thoat basted in some sauce that I found acrid and almost uneatable but by scraping most of it from the meat, I was able to eat the steak.  There were also some vegetables in cheese sauce that I found tasty and a dark bread that was covered with fruit jam that I loved.  We also had a bottle of sweet wine and water with a pastry for dessert.  I ate until I couldn’t move and Tulan laughed “Another meal like that will break us financially.”

Then I was shown the baths which were segregated by gender but common for women and I bathed in hot water for the first time in what seemed like years.  While relaxing in the hot water, I was surrounded by the other women who stared at my naked body and talked quietly among themselves.  Finally, opening my eyes, I observed they who observed me.  All were like Taria in that they were copper-skinned with long wavy black hair.  All were very attractive but none had breasts larger than a small b-cup and most were smaller.  All appeared to be around my age but that was because Barsoomians mature at 40 but look much younger and cease to age until almost 900 years old when the time they deferred catches up and they age rapidly.  Thus I could not tell if my observers were 20 or 200 or 900 years old.  Come to think of it, didn’t Tulan once mention that he was 500 years old?  Hmmm, quite spry for such an old guy.  I relaxed again wishing that he were here to share my bath with some chocolate covered strawberries.

Eventually I called a greeting to my other bath-mates and said, ”I understand your curiosity so come over and ask what you will and let us be friends.”

They gathered around and began to toss questions and comments faster than I could answer:  “Such beautiful blue hair, is it natural or do you colour it?  Your breasts are so huge, is that normal or are you diseased?  Where are you from?  Are you married?  Is your husband like you?  I’ve never seen such a skin colour.  You have eyes like a sorak, can you see in the dark?  How did you get that burn scar on your arm and ribcage?  You are a soldier?  How can that be?  Can you use your feet as hands?  Does your tail drag on the ground?  Why do you have antenna?  You were a farmer’s daughter, do you miss your family?  Why did you come to Barsoom?  Why are you in Dusar?  You are only 12 (Barsoomian) years old and are a soldier and married?  Does your husband worry for your safety?”  and so on.  Eventually someone brought in a number of wine bottles and dinner so the night wasn’t a total loss.

But finally I was shrinking like a prune and was stuffed again and half drunk and begged off, saying that I’d return in the morning for another bath (I really didn’t want to leave the hot water) but my husband was waiting for me.  And so I dressed in freshly cleaned silks and harness and returned to my room to find Tulan almost asleep.  “I had the most wonderful bath just now and could have died happily in that tub. So how are you this fine evening?” I asked as I crawled under the furs and snuggled next to my lover.

He replied that Tor Tal had an idea on how to get to Ptarth on our limited budget and was making plans to rescue Taria, plans he’d tell us in the morning and then he kissed me gently.

Laying next to Tulan thus, I decided to try something new.  After all, this was our very first time in a bed.   I took his hand in mine and showed him the pads of the distal phalanges.  “See these?  All of these little whorls on your finger-tips are to allow extra nerves to make your fingers extra sensitive.  That’s how you can touch a wall and find a crack invisible to the eye. But they have other uses too.”  I softly licked his finger pad with the tip of my tongue and he shuddered.  “Their sensitivity makes them very sensual too,” then I slowly slid my lips around his finger and gently sucked his finger into my mouth, all the time keeping eye contact for the eyes are the window to the soul and speak volumes.  As I slowly slid my lips up and down his finger, I continued to tease the pad with my tongue.  When I was done and he was weak from the pleasure, I moved to the next finger and repeated my soft, slow ministrations.

I never made it to the third for he moaned, threw me down and raped me.  It was fast and violent and didn’t last more than a couple minutes but it left me exhausted and oh so satisfied.

We lay there with him on top of me, still within me and I stroked his back with my hands and his cheek with my tail as lovers will sometimes do.  This relationship was getting far too serious and needed to be stopped before I hurt him.  I still planned on leaving Barsoom for home and he was feeling for me that which he should reserve for his future wife.  But he smiled at me and took my tail in his hand and did to my tail what I had done to his fingers.  I moaned a bit and he smiled some more.  Human het-boys rarely were comfortable doing that.  Something about a tail resembling a penis… but Tulan seemed to not mind.  He licked my tail tip softly… gently… then he softly kissed the tip with wet lips… licking the…  Shit!  This time I raped him.  It lasted a bit longer with me on top but it was just as fantastic as before.

Laying there, next to my lover, gently caressing his stomach muscles, I wondered if this would be as wonderful in the future as it was now and if we did have a future.  Somehow the thought of leaving scared me so I held him tight, wrapped his arms around me and fell asleep listening to his heart beating.

The next morning Tor Tal woke us and told us that he had sent a message to some friends in Ptarth for money.  With all we could sell, we were still far too short of funds to rent transport to Ptarth so unless one of us had an idea…  I thought of all the ways a ways a woman could make a lot of money fast and rejected them all.  I really didn’t want to be chased from Dusar by a police flyer so we went to breakfast.  I noticed that I wasn’t gaining weight but neither was I loosing any more.

During our meal, Tor Tal gave us his plan and in the absence of anything better, we bowed to his superior knowledge of Ptarth and the grounds of Kol Fias.  I did see one big problem with the plan though. If any of us killed Kol Fias, Taria would hate us forever for murdering her father regardless of the reason.  Yet, if we left him alive, he would chase us down forever.  There didn’t seem to be any answer.

I insisted that I wanted another bath saying, “I could die here in a hot bath, a full stomach and my love next to me and be happy.”  They didn’t want to wait but frankly, never get between a woman and a hot bath so they decided to refine their plans, check on the status of their money and transportation and left me to my devices.

When I was again immersed in hot water, I was surrounded by more women asking more questions.  They were fascinated by a world where oceans of water covered one half the surface, trees were as tall as their highest buildings, cities without walls, a nation that had spread to the stars and women who had the same power as men.  I spent a pleasant hour bathing and talking girl-talk when I noticed one woman applying cosmetics.  “I’d kill for a decent lipstick!  Two years in a battle cruiser chasing pirates and fighting Shitai makes a girl forget that she’s a woman.” I said which immediately caused the production of cases of make-up of all kinds.  From then on I was in paradise.  We tried various combinations until I found one I liked, simple, subtle and discrete.  The Barsoomian women who go practically naked don’t cover their entire faces as do Terran people for if they did, they’d have to apply make-up to their entire body.  Thus Barsoomian cosmetics are to cover blemishes and accent the important parts like their eyes, lips, nails and surprisingly enough, nipples.  They also thrust upon me jewelry for my ears, neck, arms, wrists, ankles and harness.  Although Weir cannot pierce our bodies or tattoo (we heal too fast) we do enjoy glued or clipped jewelry and decorate our hair with glitter, flowers and sometimes living flutterbys, though the latter are usually party enhancements.  What they could not do is decorate my tail for anything they hung upon it would simply fall off.

Also one of the women called for two slaves with needle and thread and almost before I knew it, my worn silks had been replaced by a very comfortable and incredibly attractive bra and skirt.  By the time they were done, I felt like a real woman for the first time in years.

I walked out of the baths to find Tor Tal and Tulan waiting for me.  Of course, their jaws dropped and my new image so I turned about, curtseyed and said with a demure smile, “You like?”

Tulan gasped and said, “You are the most beautiful woman in the universe!”

Well, I knew that it wasn’t true but I appreciated the thought anyway.

Since we had to wait for the funds to arrive from Ptarth, we went sight-seeing and eventually Tor Tal turned into a building he had been seeking.  “Here, Ayiesha, may be your salvation.”

Salvation?  A Stargate?  Or someone from Terra or Gaea who knew how to get me home?  But it was neither.  What we found was a doctor’s office.  “What’s this?” I asked of my brother.

“You said that you were dying and your appearance shows the truth of your words, yet you were willing to spend your last months of life not seeking rescue or life but assisting me to rescue Taria.  What love could be stronger of more noble.  So I thought about your problem and spent last night searching for an answer.  Perhaps this doctor can help.  He is the best in the city and agreed to take your case for the knowledge it would bring.”

What could I do but to hug and kiss him for his efforts.  He was desperate to find his lover and reunite with her yet he was willing to take time to try to help me out.  If it were possible, I loved him all the more at this minute.

The doctor, like all Red Men looked 30 but could have been 800.  He bade me enter his office and strip then sit down upon the table.  As I did so, his attention was drawn to my breasts, which had sunk far from their earlier glory.  Despite my tail, feet and antennae, all Red Men and Women were fascinated by my chest.  I think that it is because in a world of flat-chested women, anything more than a mouthful was considered overly excessive.  I tried to put myself in their place.  What if my father had suddenly possessed cloven hoofs, antlers, spines along his back and purple skin.  I would be curious but these were just additions to a body.  BUT, expand his eyes to the size of a platter.  Would I even notice the rest of his body or would my attention be drawn to those obscenely huge eyeballs?  Once again I wondered how Tulan could bear to touch me.

The doctor had me explain to him my anatomy, biology and evolutionary history as he did what doctors do best.  He poked and prodded, took samples of my blood and lymph fluids.  Had me pee in one cup and spit in another.  He measured my heart beat, temperature and brain waves. He spent time investigating my tail and feet, its muscles and joints and having me pick up small objects and testing its grip.  He was also endlessly fascinated by my eyes, shining a flashlight into them and watching the vertical slits open and close according to the light he projected.  He cut some hair from my head and scraped some skin from my arm and tongue then told me to return in a few hours so he could look over the results.  All in all, the only places he didn’t poke were my vagina and anus, for which I was profoundly grateful.

When I exited the office, I found Tulan and Tor Tal pacing in nervousness.  I’d seen fathers awaiting the birth of a first child more relaxed.  “How are you feeling?”  “What did he do?” “Are you going to be well?” were the questions fired at me.  I tried to answer but what could I say?  Time will tell so we returned to our room to make certain that we had our plans well rehearsed.

It was after dinner that I returned to the doctor and this time he brought all three of us in to talk.  “Fascinating case.  Even Ras Thavas will be jealous of me when he reads my monograph on you.  You have an incredible body and you say it was created by another alien people from the Jasoomian race?  Fascinating!”

“As I can see you only have two problems.  First you are suffering from malnutrition because your body needs certain nutrients that don’t exist in our food.  Second you are being poisoned by enzymes in our food that your body cannot tolerate.  For the first, I will give you #vitamins to take and a list of special foods to eat to replace those missing nutrients.  For the second, I want to flush your liver of the toxins and restrict your diet to prevent toxic food shock. Even then, you’ll need your liver flushed every month or so.  After this, you should be fine and even gain back some of that lost weight.”

I was weak with relief.  This morning I was going to die in a month, now I would live!  All that would make this day perfect would be seeing Taria on the street.  I was so happy I grabbed the doctor and kissed him full on the mouth.  He was startled but understood that the reaction of a person who had been given a new life.
 


VI: ON TO PTARTH

We all were so happy, now that my problem was solved, we could focus all our attention on rescuing Taria.  But when we visited the Merchant’s Guild for Tor Tals’ money we were told that Kol Fias had managed to freeze his account and no money could be rendered until the problem was fixed.

Tor Tal was crushed. So close and yet so far.  And we all knew that Kol Fias would be sending gorthans to assassinate us immediately.  For all we knew they were already in Dusar.  We then decided to do the unthinkable.  We would gather our few possessions and proceed to the rooftop where we planned to steal a flyer and to hell with the Dusar navy!

We were crossing the lobby when Tor Tal whispered to Tulan, “See him?”

Tulan whispered back, “The one in black harness by the door!  Kol Fias hasn’t been idle.  We take him in the hall upstairs.”

I knew that if we killed his assassin, Kol Fias would simply send another so as we reached the elevator with the gorthan in tow, I screamed, fell to the floor and grabbed my ankle.  Immediately we were surrounded by guests and employees who showed great concern for my ‘twisted’ ankle.  “Slaves, carry her to her room!” ordered the manager and we moved upstairs under a blanket of numbers.  The gorthan, of course, faded away for murder is an occupation best done alone in secrecy.

In our room, I whispered to Tor Tal and Tulan, “I’m ok, but if we kill this one, we could be injured and Kol Fias would simply send another.  But if we appear helpless and remain here, the gorthan will wait around for us and that will buy is time.  Tor Tal, return to your room and take only what you need, leave the rest to appear as if we are remaining in this place.  Tulan, you do the same with our gear then both pretend to take me to the doctor but instead we will rush to the hanger and leave Dusar in a stolen flyer.”

“You little #minx,” whispered Tulan, “Are all Weir as devious as you?”

“Only the women, my love, hurry!”

“Then the universe is doomed,” he smiled, then to Tor Tal he said loudly, “Go to your room and fetch bandages.  We’ll carry her to the doctor upon your return.”

I and Tulan carefully collected our important gear and waited for Tor Tal.  When he did, he wrapped my ankle and we had two of the employees help carry me from the building and to the doctor.  Tulan whispered “Is he following?” to which Tor Tal replied, “No, he is sitting in the lobby watching the door. I think we are safe for now.”

When we reached the doctor, Tor Tal released the helpers telling them that they two would carry me inside.  Once we were alone, we quickly ran around the building and down the alley seeking a building with a hanger on top.  We took the elevator to the roof and Tor Tal and Tulan began to look over the flyers commenting on the best size and design to achieve our goal.  Finally they chose one near the dock and were preparing to attack the man cleaning the flyer and steal the craft when I stepped forward and called out, “Excuse me, noble sir?  Is this your flyer?”

He looked me over before he responded, “Yes, why do you ask?”

I glanced to see Tor Tal and Tulan shocked and speechless and lost as to my actions.  “As you can see, I’m not a native of this world.  But I’ve heard that both John Carter of Helium and Vad Varo of Toonol are from Jasoom which is where my grandparents are from.  So I thought that if I could talk to either of them, they could help me get back home.  And I was wondering if you would be willing to sell this flyer to me?  That is,” I smiled again, “If it will reach either place?”

He was indignant.  “This is the best flyer in Dusar.  Do you have any idea of how well I’ve maintained this craft?”  He then went into a very technical description of the flyer and what it could do, a description that I found to be completely unintelligible.  But ask a man about his work, his vehicle or his sex life and he’ll talk your ears off.  So I smiled at him, pretended to understand and followed him around and when he ran out of words, I asked him how much?

He gave me a number that I couldn’t tell was high or low but when I glanced at Tor Tal past him, I saw him shake his head ‘no’.

“I’m sorry, but that seems a bit high.  Of course she is a beautiful craft and you’ve taken excellent care of her but can’t you drop the price a bit?” Had he been human, I would have leaned over and given him a detailed glance of my breasts but instead I removed the comb from my hair and shook loose my tresses.  His eyes popped and he made another offer, to which Tor Tal nodded ‘yes’.

“That sounds fair but there is one problem… I have no money.”  Before he could respond I rushed on, “But I am willing to trade if you are willing?”  I removed the heavy gold arm band that covered my plasma scar, a gift of one of the ladies in the bath.  Then seeing Tor Tal motion for more, I added the comb and a bracelet.

The man looked at them both, examined them closely and said, “Lady, I am sympathetic to your needs but my flyer is worth a bit more than these.”

I sighed and asked, “I miss my family so very much, what do I have that I can offer in trade?”  I could see Tulan becoming angry and fingering his short sword.  I needed to finish this now before someone got killed.

He looked, me over with a greedy look and staring at my chest, pointed and said, “Those three jeweled broaches on your harness will do.”

I didn’t even look at Tor Tal but smiled, removed the jewelry and handed them to him. As beautiful as they were, their value to me was minor so I gladly sacrificed them.  I then took him by the arm and led him to the roof edge and asked, “So, can you tell me which way to Helium and Toonol and which is closer.”  I hoped that Tor Tal and Tulan would have enough sense to climb aboard the flyer and hide as I distracted the former owner.

After getting directions, I asked him to tow the flyer to the edge of the roof and then climbed aboard and sat in the pilots chair and pretended to look over the controls as Tor Tal, who was laying on the deck out of sight, actually started the engine and prepared it for flight.  Then as the slaves released the tow-bar, Tor Tal lifted the flyer and once we were high enough, took over the controls.

“Aim for Toonol and when we are out of sight of Dusar and are certain that we aren’t being followed, turn for Ptarth.”  I smiled then kissed him on the cheek.  Then I sat next to Tulan, took his hand in mine and observed the ground rushing below.

While thus pleasantly passing time, Tulan asked, “Why did you do that?”

I looked at him and replied, “Because, my lover, had you stolen this flyer, you would have had to kill or injure that man.  If the former, the navy would be chasing anything in the air.  If the latter, he would describe this flyer and the Dusar navy would be after us along with that assassin.  My way, if anyone finds out, they will assume that we split apart with me going to Toonol and you two still in Dusar.  Now we have a flyer, no one is hurt and we have a head start on the gorthan.  Did I do wrong?”

Tor Tal laughed and said, “Perhaps we should let Ayiesha plan our abduction of Taria Kolos.  So far her plans have worked better than ours.”

A few hours later Tor Tal slowed the flyer and prepared to land.  “What’s happening?” asked Tulan?

“There is a caravan having lunch below.  Perhaps we could purchase some replacement gear from them, not to mention lunch… IF, my lady would care to donate some more of her jewels to the cause?”  Tor Tal smiled as he said this and this time I wasn’t able to detect any hint of sarcasm in his voice, only respect.

“All that I have has but one goal, the rescue of my sister, your love. Take them all with my blessings.”  And I began to remove the jewels from my harness, then my necklace which I looked at fondly, then my rings and bracelets and ear rings until I had a pile of gold and jewels for the men.  Tor Tal took the collection, kissed me on my cheek and landing, asked me to remain in the flyer while they made their deals.  After they left, I loosened my revolver and long sword in their sheaths and, leaning against the rail of the flyer, lay my chin upon my folded arms and watched this caravan.  It was mostly composed of multiple large wagons being pulled by elephantine zitidars.  There was also a troop of panthan cavalry keeping watch.  What wonders existed on this world of contradictions.  Aircraft and explosive firearms mix with swords and thoats.  High medical technology and slavery.  An entire world at war with itself and with nature and no one making an effort to unite the nations in peace to save the planet.  Had they turned their science to space travel, they could move ice from the outer planets into low orbit which would create rain and fill the seas once again.  Instead they wasted valuable resources and men on wars for reasons I could not understand.

After awhile the men returned and Tor Tal lifted off to continue our journey to the woman he loved.  Tulan handed me a basket within which was a bottle of wine and “Lunch!  You are so wonderful!” I cried, but that was nothing compared to what he did next.  He opened his purse and removed some jewelry.  “My favorite pieces!” I cried.  And there were my necklace, earrings and favorite ring and bracelets.  I stared,  “You were supposed to use these to buy our gear for the rescue of Tavia!”

Tulan replied smiling, “We bought everything we needed and more and still were able to save these for you.  Your friends in the bath were overly generous.  We appreciate your willingness to give what you have even though it will leave you penniless on a strange world.  So we did what we could to save you, at least, something that you like and something that is more beautiful and valuable for having touched your skin.”

I think I would have married him right there had he asked.  Damn!  Leaving him is going to kill me.  But as much as I loved him, as much as I believed that Tulan loved me, I was scared for our future for I could not give him children and eventually he would expect me to remain a housewife as he went to war which was unbearable, so I just went into his arms and let him hold me.

I was asleep in the small cabin when the flyer once again came to a stop.  I could hear the men being hailed and from the responses of Tor Tal and Tulan to the questions I assumed that we had been stopped by the Navy of Ptarth. Leaving my weapons, jewelry, bra and skirt behind, I crawled out into the open wearing nothing but the harness of a Barsoomian woman.  There was a line attached to our ship and I could see that were the Navy Cruiser to simply move ahead, they could roll our flyer and toss us to the ground below.  One of the Ptarthan officers who was about to board our flyer stopped and stared at me.  Then he completed his boarding and questioned me, “And you, lady, your story?”

I lowered my eyes to his feet, clasped my hands before my belly and replied, “Noble Captain, I am a visitor to your world, lost and alone save for my protectors here.  I am seeking knowledge from those others who have come to your world and may help me return to mine.  Your great city is a stop upon that journey.”

“What of your papers?  None of you have anything to support your story.”  He demanded.

“Great sir,” I tried to be as helpless as I could. “I am but a maiden of… (I did some quick mental conversions) 11 Barsoomian years who arrived upon your cruel world but weeks ago, naked and alone.  Days of hardship and hunger later I was saved by my protectors here (I smiled in their direction) who have ever striven to keep me safe and return me to my mothers’ loving arms and my fathers’ protection.  During that time, we have been attacked by darseen and banth, captured by bandits and assassins, tortured by Green Men so any papers my protectors had were probably destroyed long ago by those who sought our lives.  All that I possess (I spread my hands helplessly) has been given to me but yesterday by the generosity of your Barsoomian women who took pity on a helpless child.  I apologize for my condition and hope that your noble self will take pity on a lost maiden and allow her protectors to continue to return her to her mother’s bosom.”

The Captain smiled at that speech for it is the nature of the Red Men to ever protect a woman regardless of her race.  And the plight of one so young and helpless (in his eyes) brought out the best of the Red man’s nobility.

“Wait here a moment,” and the Captain then called for paper and pen and wrote something on a tablet.  Removing the papers. He handed some to each of us saying, ”Here are temporary passes and identity papers for you.  They will get you into the city but I will expect you to have this problem fixed at the earliest opportunity and before you leave Ptarth.”  And with that he kissed my hand and prepared to leave.  I curtseyed to him with thanks and he unbuckled our flyer from his, returned to his craft and flew off.

Tulan grabbed and kissed me and cried, “By whatever gods there are, you could charm a Green Man into giving up his sword.  Mayhaps we should just send you alone to ask Kol Fias for his daughter’s hand.  I am beginning to think that you could.”

I turned to them both and replied, “My lover and my brother, Star Fleet teaches that it is easy to go from talking to violence but with the first punch, violence escalates and it is hard to return to peace, so we try to use our brain and tongue first and our swords as a last resort. But come, Taria is close and I cannot bear to be separated from my sister any longer.”

And with that, Tor Tal kissed me upon the cheek and turned our flyer to Ptarth.

Tulan took me aside and said to me, holding my hands, “Ayiesha, I fear that I have wronged you.  You are but a child and I have taken advantage of your age and...”

I burst our laughing at this. “You!  Took advantage of me?  Do you forget that it was I who was about to rape you at sword point at the oasis.  No my love, it is I who took advantage of you.  Why would you think anything else?”

“Your age,” he said.  “You told me that you were 20 years old which is young but old enough for the Red Race hatches almost adult but matures at 40.  Now I find that you are but a child of 11 which is far too young for what I have done to you.”

He was genuinely concerned and apologetic.  That was so sweet I couldn’t help but to love him more for his fears.  “My dearest lover, our calendars are different.  Your day feels longer than mine, your year is longer than mine.  When I told you that I was 20, I meant 20 Gaean Years of 370 days each, by your calendar I am 11 years of 670 days.  It’s all relative to the world on which you live so the Commonwealth created Standard Days and Standard Years to make interplanetary talks easier.”

“As for my young age, fear not.  My grandmother from Jasoom matured at 12 and was married at 13 with her first child at 14 and this was the usual for her race and world.  By your reckoning, it means that she was married and pregnant at around 7 of your years.  We Weir become sexually mature later at 15 or 8 years your time, then we are legal adults at 18 which is 10 of your years and we reach full maturity and can have babies at 25 which is 14 of your years.  Although I am years away from full maturity, I am, by the laws of my world, a legal adult with all rights and obligations and so am free to do as I please and allowed to take lovers as early as 16 of our years.”

“So, my dearest and most caring love, rest your fears.  I may not yet be a fully mature adult but I am far from the child you think me to be.”

He as still concerned, so I said, “My lover, try to think of me as a Weir, not as a Barsoomian.  We are different with different life stages.  You are not molesting a child of Barsoom, you are making a Woman of the Weir (and at this I lightly stroked his genitals with my tail-tip) very happy and satisfied and healthy.”  I then kissed him and wished that we all were Weir for there was no privacy in the flyer for what I wanted and although my kind have no concerns for public sex, Barsoomians are embarrassed at the word so I could do nothing.

“Ayiesha,” called Tor Tal, “Ptarth approaches and I would have you see my home.”  And so, reluctantly, I took Tulan’s hand and we went forward to see Ptarth.  How can I describe the grandeur of that walled city.  It was to Dusar as a rundi is to a rabbuck.  Wheras Dusar had a few million people, Ptarth had tens of millions and was one of the most powerful nations on the planet.  There were towers that must have stretched near a kilometer high.  And everywhere the inhabitants had decorated their city to make it a jewel in the desert.  We had nothing like this in Drakonis and even Tulan was awestruck at the sight.

“We will rest our flyer in a hanger owned by a close and trusted friend of mine.  From there we can collect information and adjust our plans accordingly.”  And the flyer seemed to go on forever seeking its’ nest among the complexity of the city.  I wondered how Tor Tal avoided getting lost but trusted his abilities.
 


VII: PREPARATION

We eventually landed at a public hanger in the building where Tor Tal’s friend lived.  Being a farm girl from a large house surrounded by leagues of open land and pasture, I found the Barsoomian ideas of packing people into such large buildings so close together to be claustrophobic.  I thought being aboard a starship was confining but this was almost unbearable.  So many people in so little space.  How did they survive?  Humans on Terra who were packed this close usually resorted to crime, murder, rape and other anti-social actions until the population exploded into an orgy of violence.   How different were the Red Men to thrive on this.

I began to dress but Tor Tal asked me to not.  “Ayiesha, we are in a major city and you will attract enough attention as you are, wearing those extra harness and the weapons of a man will simply attract more.  It is best if we remain as inconspicuous as we can.”

I wasn’t too happy with this but saw the wisdom of his words so wrapped my bra and skirt into a bundle with my swords and revolver and after replacing my jewelry and touching up my make-up, we left the flyer and took the elevator to the floor where Tor Tal’s friend lived. Fortunately, there was so much brick and rock in the city that they absorbed the sunlight and radiated heat so I wasn’t as cold as usual and could wear a simple cloak about my shoulders.

We exited the elevator and stopped at a door where Tor Tal knocked until a Red Man answered.  He was, as usual, attractive, young looking and armed with a short sword for the Red Men hang their long swords and revolvers on the wall but carry their shorter weapons at all times in case of attempted assassination.  The man’s eyes went wide at the sight of Tor Tal, then wider still with my presence, dressed as a Red Woman but obviously not one. As always, his eyes were drawn to my naked breasts (I wished I could eat enough to return them to normal, not these sagging bags) then to my eyes.  Tulan barely received a glance.

“Greetings, Tithan,” said Tor Tal as he placed his right hand on our hosts shoulder in the manner of Barsoomian Greetings.

Tithan repeated the gesture and greeting then asked us to enter.  After closing the door, Tor Tal continued, “May I present my charge, Ayiesha Penaut of Gaea, an unwilling guest upon Barsoom,”  I curtsied to him and said, “I am pleased to meet the friend of my brother.” To which he stared at Tor Tal.  “And, “ continued Tor Tal, “Tulan, our closest friend and companion.  You may trust them both as you do me.”

Tithan bade us sit and refresh ourselves and both Tor Tal and Tulan removed their weapons, save their short swords, and placed them on the rack near the door reserved for the harness of a guest.  Tulan then took my cloak and hung it as well, revealing to our host my full body at which he tried not to stare so I could only stand, embrace our host and say, “I know that my appearance is strange to you so please, look and ask as you will that we may be friends.”  For despite our public words, a woman enjoys the admiration and attention of a man, else why spend all that time and effort to be more beautiful?

He asked me how I came to this world and I gave him a shortened version of my story, omitting much of the danger, “I am a soldier upon my own world and while recovering from wounds received in battle, I fell asleep and woke up on your world, naked and alone.  I managed to eventually find Tor Tal and later Tulan and they have protected and cared for me since.  One of our goals is to find a way for me to return to my family. But please, our travels have tired me and I’d like for Tor Tal to continue in my place.”  And with that, I sat back (Tulan was conspicuous in NOT touching me) and listened for I had no idea of how much Tor Tal had told or would tell Tithan.  I had to force my tail around my ankle for I was twitching the tip in nervousness.

Tor Tal explained, “When Kol Fias discharged me for loving his daughter, Taria Kolos, I took service with another hoping to win fame and fortune enough to be allowed to court Taria Kolos.  But Kol Fias had other plans for he arraigned for me to be called away on some pretext and while I was gone, a gorthan entered and assassinated my charge.  Disgraced, I was imprisoned pending investigation but someone approached and unlocked my cell escorting me to safety.  I was told only that a ‘friend’ had made these arrangements and that I must leave the city immediately.  I was given a small flyer and told that I’d be contacted when it was safe but I must hurry for a gorthan was seeking my life.

“I flew away but not before asking that a message be given to Taria Kolos from me and so I left Ptarth under cover of darkness.

“I was some hundreds of Haads (their linear measurement, about 1/8 th of a league or almost 650 meters) away when Taria Kolas emerged from under the tarp holding my supplies.  She had heard her father planning my disgrace and rushed to warn me but was too late.  She then returned to her home hoping to gather enough wealth to bribe the guards when she discovered her father talking to the gorthan who had disgraced me.  The gorthan was not to kill me but to rescue me and give me a certain flyer which I would use to ‘escape’ but would fly into the jaws of more danger.  Then he laughed and Taria Kolos took what she could carry and hurried to the designated flyer where she hid.

“When I arrived and flew away, she revealed herself and the plans she had heard and we decided to fly to Helium where we could marry and start a new life.  Unfortunately, the flyer refused to change course, Kol Fias had adjusted it to a certain and unknown destination.  It was while I was attempting to dismantle his device when we passed over some Green Men who opened fire and damaged the flyer.  I managed to change its’ descent course so that when we crashed, it would be at an angle and hopefully, the Green Men wouldn’t find us.

“We survived the crash and on the second day, Ayiesha Penaut found us. She had food and water but no knowledge of Barsoom or it’s language so she accompanied us until we found an oasis where we rested.

“It was there when we were found by Tulan here who eventually (he smiled at this) agreed to help us find safety.  But on the trail, we were captured by six Green Men, the same who had damaged our flyer and who were somehow in the employ of Kol Fias.  They took us to a dead city to meet with Kol Fias who tortured and imprisoned us until Ayiesha Penaut escaped, killing four of the Green Men herself.  She then released us from our cell and between we three, killed the remaining Green Men but by that time Kol Fias had left.

“We have been chasing him since.  Know you what has been happening with Kol Fias and Taria Kolos?  I mean to rescue her and marry her at the earliest opportunity.”

Tithan thought for a moment then said, “My friend, this will not be as easy as you think.  Kol Fias has much power in Ptarth.  But his power comes from his wealth, not his position or personal honour.  Unfortunately there are those who will sell their honour for a purse of pi and it is these we must deal with.  Remain here and I will ask around for I have not forgotten when you carried me 10 haads to safety upon your back when I was wounded by those Green Men while on patrol.  My life, my honour and my sword I swore to you then and this is something I shall never forget.”

And with these words, he showed us to our rooms, Tor Tal and Tulan in one, myself in another and bade us refresh ourselves while he searched for information.  So, Tor Tal was a hero himself.  Typical of him to not mention this selfless act of courage but it surprised me not.  What I wondered was how the new information Tithan would bring would affect our plans, where the bath and kitchen were and how much time I would have alone with Tulan before Tithan returned.  It was obvious that our ruse of being ‘married’ would not work here and Tithan, being a proper Barsoomian, would not stand for a maiden under his roof to be ravished by a man not her husband.  Damn, I need to take Tulan home to Gaea.  Father will grant him guest right and quarters and will lavish all the gratitude he had on the man who saved my life, but father won’t allow me to sleep with him in his house.  Fortunately, I have many friends who would gladly loan me their bedrooms for our pleasure and there were the fields and woods with the birds singing and scent of the flowers that we Gaeans love so upon and around our beds.

After settling into my room, I kissed Tulan and Tor Tal (funny how I still use both his names even now) adieu as I sought the baths.  Tithan wasn’t wealthy enough to own a private bath so I sought the woman’s bath upon the next floor.  While relaxing in the hot water, I was, again surrounded by the Red Women and repeated my answers to their many questions.  Again, was repeated a meal and again they impressed upon me jewelry and cosmetics and silks so that when I returned to Tithan’s apartment, I had the appearance of a wealthy woman of Ptarth.

All three men stood as I entered and Tulan said, “If this continues, you shall be the cleanest and wealthiest woman on Barsoom.”  He then joked, “Perhaps we should just hire an army and storm the palace of Kol Fias.”

I replied to this with, “Your Barsoomian women are overly generous.  But all that I have I owe to you two my loves.”  This last was unfortunate as Tulan immediately became embarrassed forcing to drop my eyes and interject, “I apologize, noble host but I am still new upon your world and your customs are strange and unknown to me.  Upon my world, a woman speaks her mind and wears her heart upon her harness for all to see.  So I feel no fear in declaring my love for Tor Tal, my brother and Taria Kolos, my sister.  Nor am I reserved in my love of Tulan who has been nothing but caring and loving, he has placed my own safety and comfort above his own so how could I not love him.  I am sorry that my words and actions have caused offence for I meant none.”

Tithan approached at these words and embracing me said, “If you are the sister of Tor Tal, then doubly so are you welcome into my home and I swear that I shall aid and protect you as would he.  Think nothing of your words for sometimes I wish that we Red Men of Barsoom could be as open in our heart’s words.  Live here as you would in the home of your own father.”

I thanked him kindly, curtseying and shedding a tear for even upon the world of my grandparents, would I receive as much love and respect?  Tulan saw my tears and mistook them for sorrow and held me and sought to kiss them away.  “My dearest love, fear not for these are tears of joy and happiness.  Who could have dreamed that I, a maiden lost upon a cruel world, would find so much happiness among strangers who have opened their hearts to me.  Were only Taria present would my joy be complete.”

Damn! Damn! Damn! Leaving these people was going to be hard.  Their unselfish caring and assistance to a stranger, their bringing me into their family, their willingness to sacrifice everything for the happiness and safety of another would be the source of epic poetry on Drakonis.  And someday I’d have to leave them, leave Tulan.  Could I actually leave?  Could I live here?  I had to put that aside and focus on the rescue of Taria.

Settling down once again, Tithan explained that he had visited people who knew of Kol Fias and had learned that Taria was safe but imprisoned in her father’s home.  They had arrived days ago in a damaged flyer but otherwise safe.  She was guarded by men loyal to Kol Fias whenever she left her own apartments and by trusted slaves when she was in her bed or bath.  She was never alone.  “Further, Kol Fias has been spending much time attempting to assassinate your reputation, Tor Tal.  Fortunately, those of us who know you have been countering his slander but no one can answer why you left the city instead of responding to the problem of your charge’s assassination.  Your flight works against you and I fear that were you to reveal yourself now, you would be killed or arrested before you could have your say.  And were you to rescue Taria Kolos, all would think that you had kidnapped her again and seek your destruction.”

It was getting late so after a light meal (I was glad that the women in the bath had fed me) all retired for the night.  Tulan escorted me to my room but did not enter. “My love, as much as I want to, I cannot, for under the roof of Tithan, it would be an insult.”

“I understand, my dearest lover,” I replied.  “Were we at my father’s house, the same rules would apply.  Though he would know of our escapades, he would pretend ignorance for there are some things a man and father wish to not know.  Can we then, at least, visit the roof and be together for awhile?”

Tulan agreed and arming himself and wrapping my cloak about me for warmth, we left for the elevator.  I did have some few moments to kiss him while we were alone in the lift and I could feel his desire for me, a desire to which I eagerly responded.  But before I could ask if this device had a ‘stop’ button, we arrived and the door opened to people who needed our conveyance.

Thus, for some time did we sit on the rooftop, watching the flyers arrive and depart, holding hands and making small talk as do lovers.  I sneezed again and as Tulan wiped my nose and I looked up to the beauty of the two moons crossing the sky, Thuria racing to his destination and Cluros majestically looking down for I believed that the moon, being a Goddess, would look favorably upon we two lovers.  Both moons were red and I took that as a bad omen until I sneezed again and realized that those few stars I could see in the sky were also red.  The winds had raised more dust into the atmosphere.  The Red Men didn’t notice but my nostrils were more sensitive to the Barsoomian dust than were theirs.

I didn’t want to leave so I crawled under my cloak and allowed Tulan to hold me as I suffered my occasional sneezing fit.  “Your feet are so cold, Ayiesha is something wrong?” he asked as I pressed my feet against his thighs.

“My feet are always cold, my love.  As are my ears, breasts and hands.  Your world is so much colder than is mine.  This summer day is like my winter and at home, I would be bundled in layers of clothing and fur.  But being next to you warms my heart and that is all that matters.”

He never made any reply for suddenly he went limp and before I could react, a leather bag was thrown over me and I was helpless.
 


VIII: KOL FIAS

I kicked!  I screamed!  I thrashed about but all for naught. The leather bag was too thick and muffled both my sounds and actions and as I was unarmed in deference to Tor Tal’s wishes, I couldn’t cut my way free.  As I began to pass out from lack of air (breathing was always a struggle for me on this world) and I resolved to always, in the future, carry a small knife on my person just in case.  Then the blackness of the bag over my head was followed by the blackness of unconsciousness.


Eventually I awoke.

I was chained by hand and feet and even one ingenuous manacle held my tail to my ankles.  I still wore my harness and jewels but nothing I had could free me.   I tried to take account of my situation but a voice said, “She’s awake, but she pretends otherwise.”  So I tried to sit up… ouch, and dizzy and headachy from carbon dioxide poisoning I almost fell again.

“Let the animal lay there.  I must admit that had I known she would clean up so well, I wouldn’t have given her to the Green Men.”

Kol Fias!  I was beginning to regret arguing against his death.  I looked around and was alone.  “Where is Tulan?” I asked.  Only a fool threatens while chained and helpless.

“Your ‘lover’” he spat the word in disgust, “is well treated in my private prison.  He currently is chained to a wall awaiting my pleasure.”

I almost made a comment about his pleasure being buggering a helpless man but I didn’t want to give him any ideas.   “And me?” I asked.  Rape is unknown on Drakonis but my grandmother described the act to me so I understood that I may be thrown to his men or worse.  These weeks of love-making with Tulan had spoiled me in favour of the more gentler acts.   I managed to sit, still dizzy, then snapped my manacles apart.  No luck and no one even moved.  A Lanai couldn’t have broken these so I gave up, seeking another way.

“I haven’t decided yet.”  Kol Fias walked to me and, placing his hand under my chin, raised my face to see me better.  “You are so exotic with your eyes and ears and antennae and blue hair.  I wonder if I could trust you or even be safe with you.  How did you escape my Green Men?”

“They were clumsy and incompetent.  You should pay more to buy better servants.  How did you find us?”  It occurred to me that as a merchant, Kol Fias paid the absolute minimum he could to hire manpower.  That means that somewhere in this building someone could be bribed.

“It’s not difficult to learn what you wish to know.  Information is wealth and so I made certain that I was informed if Tor Tal or someone like you had arrived in Ptarth.  I must say that you managed to distract that other man, Tulan, well enough for us to capture you.  Now to send a message to Tor Tal.”  He took his dagger and lightly running the tip from my belly, around my breasts and then to my face, he cut a lock of my hair and handed it to a servant,  “Take this to the home of Tithan and give it to Tor Tal with these words.  “Meet me within the zode at my palace, unarmed and alone, or I send the tail of the alien girl with my next demand.”

As the runner left, it occurred to me that Kol Fias had only seen me twice, once when I was naked and dying of pneumonia, and now, chained and helpless.  He had no idea of my strength or abilities.  If information were wealth, I was richer than he for this.

Kol Fias sat in what appeared to be a very comfortable chair and observed me closely.  I looked around to find but two armed guards, both standing casually by the door. Too far to punch and all I had to throw was some jewelry.  This room was a splendour of wealth and was designed to impress and I was very impressed.  Peasants like myself couldn’t dream of a hundredth of the wealth he displayed.

“Sit!” he snapped.

“I am,” I replied. But he motioned and a guard came forward behind me to lift me and forced me to my knees so that I knelt with my buttocks on my ankles.  He then pulled my hair so my back was straight and my breasts pushing forward then he forced my head down so I could no longer see anything but the floor.  I decided that I was being trained as a slave.  Hopefully a pleasure one for their lives would be easier than that of a sewage cleaner.  I allowed this as the more complacent I appeared, the better for me as they relaxed their guard.

His feet appeared to my sight and he laughed, “You learn fast.  Perhaps I will keep you as you are.”  I was tempted to punch him in the crotch but with my wrist manacles chained to my ankles and those behind me, I could barely reach my own breasts and he was well out of my range. I almost hoped that he’d demand I service him with my mouth so I could bite it off.  Though if so, I doubt that I’d live long enough to see him die.

There was a commotion and someone burst in screaming, “Father, what are you doing to her?”  I looked up to see Taria rushing to me.  She never made it as her two guards managed to grab her before she could reach me.

“Hello sister,” I said.  “As you can see, Tulan and I have come to rescue you and reunite you with Tor Tal.”

Kol Fias raised his hand and would have struck me senseless for my words but stopped and laughed.  “You!  Rescue my daughter?  You are but a plaything, chained before us all.  What I command, you obey!”  Then turning to Taria he demanded, “What do you here!  I didn’t send for you!  Return to your apartments immediately.”

Taria shook her captors off and screamed, “Ayiesha is my sister as is Tor Tal my lover!  How dare you treat her this way.  Release her immediately or suffer the consequences!”

Kol Fias just laughed and motioned to his men who grabbed her again and forced her to a chair next to his own.  “See you, daughter, how complacent is your ‘sister’.  Like any sorak, she does as I wish.  And this is what you would choose over me?  Take her away!”  and he motioned to me at that.

Anything else that passed between them was lost to me as I was lifted to my feet and taken away.  I couldn’t walk as my ankle manacles were too short so I had to shuffle between them as we left.  I wasn’t afraid for Taria or for me but for Tulan in his clutches and Tor Tal who soon would be.

Fortunately, I wasn’t taken to a cell or pit this time but to a room covered with silks and furs.  There were a number of women present, all naked save for a collar and manacles similar to my own, all of which were golden which I assumed was gilded steel for gold would be too soft to hold anyone.  Slave quarters.  I guess I was to be trained some more.  The guards unlocked the chains and left me with bracelets and anklets but no collar yet as the slaves surrounded me.

I must have looked a sight, wearing the bejeweled harness of a Barsoomian woman and the manacles of a slave.  They poked and prodded me and stared at my tail and breasts and antenna and asked the same questions I had been asked before.  Not wishing to anger these women who may be useful to me, I cheerfully answered their questions and walked to the window which was barred and easily 50 meters above the ground.  I considered the possibility of jumping if I could force the bars but then saw some animals the size of ponies and possessing ten legs rush to the wall.  Guard dogs!  They looked fast so could I outrun or out jump them?

I managed to ask the slaves about Kol Fias and what I heard wasn’t good.  As a master of slaves, he was neither better nor worse than most.  He was obsessed about money and making more.  He had sought marriage into noble houses to gain a title but was turned down always which made him bitter.  He loved his daughter but was very stern with her, more so since her rescue from her kidnapper, Tor Tal.

I smiled and explained first that my own lover, Tulan, was a prisoner in this place and I dearly wished him safe.  Then when they were impressed with my love and the trials we had suffered, I brought up the subject of Taria and Tor Tal.  By the time I was finished, they were willing to help me as they could so I sent a message to Tor Tal by one kitchen slave that he should expect rescue soon and to not give up hope.  Another promised to say the same to Taria and so I relaxed and planned my next move.  “Is there any chance I can get a bath and a good meal while I am here?  That bag they held me in stank.”

I was washed and perfumed and made up and even my harness and jewels were returned to me though if this was because as an ‘exotic’, Kol Fias wanted me as I was or if Barsoomians don’t steal even from slaves, I could not guess.  One of the girls informed me that eventually, I would be given to Kol Fias for his pleasure and my continued health demanded that he ‘be’ pleasured.  I wasn’t worried about this at all since I was so much stronger than any man on this world.  Any Weir woman could easily break any human man and the Barsoomian was weaker still so any attempt to force me was asking for trouble.

I did ask one of the friendlier slave girls about Kol Fias’ guards and who could be bribed to look away in the event of someone climbing over the walls and how much it would cost me.   When I received a few names, I removed some of my jewels and giving one to the slave for her own personal use, I directed that the rest be passed to the guards who were for sale and given instructions that if they saw us leaving or another entering by a certain way, to please be conveniently elsewhere.  Then I relaxed and talked to the slave girls to learn as much as I could from them about Barsoomian slavery for Draconis never tolerated the practice and those slaves who were recruited by Colonial were freed immediately upon crossing our borders.  Thus, other than my grandmother who had been a slave to an Arabian prince, I had no way to understand the practice.
 


VIII: FINALE

I had just settled in when I was summoned.  My wrist chains were replaced and as the guards were convenient and armed with rifles, I submitted.  Then I was taken back to Kol Fias where I saw Tulan waiting, also chained.  I ran to him crying out for his safety but aside from a bruise on his head, he was otherwise unharmed.  Taria was also there with her armed escort, sullen and quiet.  I hoped that my message had gotten to her.  I noted that as I was only manacled at the wrists and they before my body but Tulan was manacled at wrist and ankles and the former behind his back, I knew who they considered to be dangerous.

“I am still here, my love,” said Tulan.  Then Kol Fias interrupted sneering, “Such is the quality of those who would cast me to ruin.  A nameless panthan, a mere girl from another world and a disgraced warrior who even now is being escorted to me in chains.  Daughter, see thy who would be your ‘friends’ and note how easily my power and wealth crushes them as it will all who stand in the way of my plans.”

“And what are your plans?  To conquer and be Jeddak?” Tulan asked with as much sarcasm as he could.

Kol Fias almost kicked him but stopped.  “Jeddak? Why be a target for gorthans when I can be the power behind the throne.  Wealth is power and by marrying Taria to the right family, my wealth and power will increase.

“But now, it’s necessary to teach her a lesson.  A lesson on power and impotency for I am the former and you the latter.  Listen well Taria, and remember what true power is, then forget these.”

Tulan was about to snap a retort but I stopped him with a kiss.  “Steady my love, it is not yet time to act.”  I didn’t want him injured.

Immediately, the guards opened the door and brought in another prisoner wearing a hood and with hands bound by leather.  Kol Fias glanced and said, “Now the group is complete.  My daughter, the disgraced panthan, the alien and her #####.”  I didn’t know the word but the image he sent implied bestiality.  I fantasized a moment about tying him back-side up in the path of a breeding Skree.  Maybe a few eggs glued to his back would teach him some manners.

The guards brought their prisoner forward.  They forced him to kneel and forced his head to the floor before they removed his hood.  I couldn’t see his face but I knew who it was.

“Kol Fias,” I asked, “Why did you order the charge of Tor Tal killed.  Surely you could have removed him another way?”

“Because he dared to love above his station.  Because I needed to make an example of him.  Because I wished to destroy him as his dreams of marriage would have destroyed my daughters’ life.”

“And the Green Men you hired to torture and kill us in the dead city, could you have just left us alone, me and Tulan.  Tor Tal would have come after you alone.”

“Alone!” he yelled, “A Red Man is never alone.  Somehow he bought your friendship and so you suffer with him. I only regret that I had to leave.  Had I remained to watch your miserable deaths, you WOULD be dead now.  But that is of no consequence.  Here you are and here you will die.”

“I have heard enough,” said the bound man, rising.

Kol Fias stared at the man and screamed, “Who is this!” to which one guard replied, “It’s Tor Tal, he who you told us would be at the door.”

The man, standing said with a strong voice, “I am Ras Tho, magistrate for this district.  I’m surprised you don’t recognize me, Kol Fias or perhaps I am of too ‘low a class’ for you to notice?”  He was enjoying this very well.  “Kol Fias, you are under arrest as are all who side with you.  Release me!” and he held his hands out.

One of the guards cut his bonds before Kol Fias could respond but he then ordered, “No matter, I will keep you here until I am done.  Guards, take him!” and such was the power of his wealth and voice that they obeyed instantly.

“Hold, Kol Fias!” cried Tor Tal as he burst into the room accompanied by Tithan, both with drawn swords.  I guessed that I had bribed the proper guards.

Kol Fias was struck dumb for a moment then recovered, “Surrender of die!  Guards, a thousand Pi to each one who cuts down a prisoner!”  And with that he drew his own sword and stepped back to watch.

Taria tripped one of her own guards who rushed to become wealthy and as he fell before us, I kicked him in the head and took his sword.  “Now my love,” I cried and swung with all my might.  Had I touched Tulan, I would have clove him in two instantly but my blade passed mere millimeters from his back and, passing through his chains, broke on the stone floor.  But despite this, the fine Barsoomian steel had severed his bonds and Tulan was free.  His immediate action was to take the short sword from the dead man at his feet and engage a guard.

Tor Tal tossed his own short sword to the magistrate who also engaged a guard.  Although hampered by the short length of his weapon, his position did discourage his attacker a bit.  And as for me, I charged a Red man who was unwilling to stab a women but fortunately I had no such scruples.  I rolled then came to my feet next to him and before he could step back or shorten his grip, I punched his chest with both fists, crushing his rib cage instantly.  I then grabbed his sword and engaged another guard who I beat down then drove my blade completely through his chest.

By then it was over.  The remaining guards threw their blades to the floor and surrendered for killing two or three unnamed panthans was easy, facing a magistrate, three armed warriors and an alien who was stronger and faster then they another matter entirely.  I looked around and saw that Tulan had killed two and Tor Tal had killed the three who stood between him and Taria.  The only armed man left was Kol Fias.

The magistrate calmly walked to him, removed his blade from his hands and said, “Kol Fias, once again I arrest you for murder and conspiracy.  Come calmly and face justice.”  Beaten, Kol Fias turned to Taria and said, “Daughter, all that I did was for your own good.  If you believe nothing else, believe that.”  Then he went calmly. Tithan helped bind the guards who hadn’t fled and assisted the magistrate leaving we four alone.

Tolan found the keys to his manacles and removed them as I ran to and hugged Taria.  Life was so happy now, my sister and brother and lover all together and none of us had to kill Kol Fias.  “Please remain in my home for as long as you will.” She begged.  “I’ll need help to replace those loyal to my father and to ensure that his darker business deals end.”  What could I do but to agree happily.

Tulan interrupted and said, “May I talk to you alone, Ayiesha?”

I looked at him then clicked my manacles together a few times, “Aren’t you forgetting something?”

He looked at me, smiled and took hold of the chain saying, “No, I think not.” And pulled me after him.  I glanced to Tor Tal and Taria but they were busy with each other so I turned my attention back to Tulan.  “Hmmm,” I thought, “Slave girl and Pasha.  I’ve never played that game before.  Could be fun.”  And I eagerly followed him saying, “Yes, master.”
 
 

It was in the afternoon when he finally released me.  I wasn’t certain that I wanted that but I had to eat something…. Lunch that is.  So we dressed and sought our hosts who we found sharing a tub.  “Hmm,” I smiled, room for two more?”

Tor Tal got embarrassed and left instantly as did Tulan so I simply dropped into the vacated space and said, “Well, tell me all about it,” as I hugged her warmly.  She got embarrassed but smiled and said that her experience was wonderful, “And you must stay for our wedding next week!”

“Wedding? As in married?”  I admit that I kissed her then and not at all as a sister.  “Of course I’ll stay, I am so happy for you.  What can I do? Do Barsoomian women have bridal showers?”  A thousand questions raced through my head and I was so happy for her and wanted everything to be perfect but I didn’t know how. “We have to start now!  So much to do and so little time.”  I was panicking now.

“Ayiesha, calm down.  Everything will be fine.  We’ll discuss it later after lunch but for now..” She motioned and a slave came forward and began to massage my shoulders.  “Oh Goddess that feels good.”  And I melted right there.  Later she moved to my feet while another slave washed my hair.  Maybe there was something to this merchant class thing.

Later, Taria asked me about the magistrate and I told her the plan, “We originally planned to find a sympathetic magistrate and bribe some guards to allow us over the wall to the building.  Then we would hide the magistrate and when ‘cornered’ by your father, goad him into confessing his crimes.  Although that plan seemed ruined when Tulan and I were kidnapped, Tor Tal simply had the magistrate pretend to be him and walk into the building while he and Tithan followed the original plan to climb the walls.  All I had to do was to bribe the guards and make certain that Tor Tal knew it was safe to enter.”
 


IX: HOMECOMING

We remained there all that week and it was a wonderful vacation between the excellent food, rest, hot baths and fantastic sex with Tulan.  And when the wedding day arrived, Tulan and I stood there in the Temple of Righteousness and watched them place the golden manacles upon the wrists of Tor Tal and Taria to bind them together.  I was so happy for them I cried throughout the entire ceremony.

The wedding was marred only by the trial of Kol Fias.  Barsoom, like Gaea, has no lawyers to hinder the process of justice so the witnesses were brought before the magistrate to give testimony (unlike Gaeans, Barsoomians are honest enough to not require the truth drugs we give our witnesses) and then Tor Tal was exonerated of all his charges and Kol Fias was sentenced.  I admit that I didn’t understand his sentence at all and could not describe it here but suffice to say, he was allowed to live though much of his property was confiscated and given to the victims of his crimes, chief among them were Tulian, Tor Tal and myself.

Well, what can I say, we stayed a month and during that time I fleshed out and even my breasts started to recover.  One day I was standing naked before a mirror checking myself out.  Not bad!  Wavy hair that shone in the light, subtle but attractive cosmetics, firm chest, flat belly and tight ass.  I arched my lower back and checked my belly.  Hmmm, needs improvement so I tied some silk around myself and looked again.  Then I stuffed a pillow underneath the silk and fluffed my breasts to make them look larger and arched my back more.  And that is how Taria found me.  Embarrassed I tossed the silk and pillow aside and asked what she wanted.

I don’t understand why I was embarrassed at all but Taria was kind enough to ignore this and told me that they had heard back from Helium and that John Carter was anxious to meet with us.  The idea that his former world was being used to colonize other worlds was something he was curious about.  He also said that perhaps he could help me return to Jasoom, a statement that somehow made me unaccountably depressed.

The next day we prepared to leave for Helium.  Our flyer was stocked and I kissed Tor Tal and Taria goodbye wishing them well and crying at my loss, then Tulan and I lifted off and set course for the twin cities.  I know that I should have been happy but for some reason I wanted to take my revolver and empty it into the controls of the flyer.  Finally I asked him to land the craft.

“Why Ayiesha?  We are so close to you returning to your home..”  I struck him then, not hard but filled with frustration.  “Do you hate me so that you’d send me away so easily?  What have I done to make you not want me anymore?  I know I cannot give you children but…” I broke down crying and couldn’t stop so he just held me trying to sooth my feelings without much success.”

“Please make love to me again?” I begged him.  I don’t know why but I wanted him to hold me closer.  I didn’t enjoy the act overly much but I needed him so much I never wanted it to end.  But all things end someday.
 

What can I say.  We eventually reached Helium and I tried to hold a conversation with John Carter but really, I am not from Terra and neither am I human so what do we have in common?  Conversation ended politely and he was able to help me return to my home.  How I don’t know.  I simply woke up in my bed wearing my nightgown and under my comforter.  I went downstairs to see my parents and they cried to see me, demanding to know where I was these last months, why I left and how I returned home.

I tried to explain about Barsoom but when I mentioned Tulan, I burst out crying and couldn’t stop.  Mother held me until I ran out of tears and could continue but for some reason I kept breaking down and crying every time I mentioned his name.  I don’t know why because I knew that there could be nothing between us and all we had was sex and friendship but I missed him so much I wanted to die.

Well, I was healed and aside from a minor case of malnutrition and the residual pneumonia that was easily cured, I returned to the Fleet and threw myself into my work.  But what could a soldier do but train? And train some more for the Shitai were holding back and there were no wars to fight.  I tried to take other lovers but nothing was helping.  Finally I went to my Ship Captain and cried in her ready room.  She sat there unmoving as Lanai do not love and she didn’t understand my feelings.  Lanai don’t even understand sex but they do understand loyalty and friendship and war-buddies and they held these things dear so she made a suggestion that was completely out of character for someone whose entire life and race was dedicated to war.
 


X: EPILOG

Tulan was on patrol again.  He was lucky to be here at all after all that time missing from duty but he really didn’t care much.  She was alien and would never fit into his life but he still loved her and not a day went by that he didn’t miss that woman.

Then he saw the craft land at the oasis. It was huge, the size of a block in a city and far larger than any battleship but designed differently.  It was roundish and had two wings that curved down and was completely silent and it had no propellers at all so he rode to the oasis loosening his weapons in their sheaths just in case, not knowing what to expect but it wasn’t what he could have dreamed.

She stood there, wearing fabrics that covered her entire body and behind her were three other women dressed and designed the same, but taller.  All were armed with a tube hanging at their sides that he somehow knew were weapons but it was the first one that attracted his attention.  She smiled at him and he was off his thoat and struck her to the ground almost without thought.

Ayiesha lay on the moss under Tulan and asked, “I assume that this means that you are happy to see me?”

“How did you find me?  What… who,,,”  Tulan couldn’t find the words so he kissed her long and hard.

Eventually, when they could breathe again, she told him, “I couldn’t eat or sleep or work so my Ship Captain had me describe Barsoom in detail and they found the planet in their records.  She then brought me here to get you.  Want to see my world now?”

Tulan looked up to see the Battle Cruiser floating there silent and dangerous.  The three Lanai still stood there watching but unconcerned with him, her or the fate of the universe.  They were simply there.  He somehow knew that if they wanted, these three could probably conquer his entire city and this ship his world.

“By the way,” she said, “we can cloak the ship so it cannot be seen and I was thinking of a visit to Ptarth to see if Tor Tal and Taria would like a vacation from their merchant duties.  I’d love to show you all my world but,” and she looked at him sternly, “hands off my girlfriends.  I know it’s wrong but I feel very possessive towards you for some reason.  Also the Devil sent a representative to talk to John Carter about opening relations between your world and Gaea what with the Morgors invading Drakonis a few years ago.  He was originally from John Carter’s home so they should get along well.  I’m ordered to help get them together.” She kept rattling off like that, changing subject from topic to topic but he was content to simply hold her and to hear her voice.

As the Lanai led his thoat into the ship she said one final thing,  “By the way, we tossed an ice asteroid towards Barsoom and mounted an inductor on it so by the time it reaches your atmosphere, it’ll melt and you should have a really heavy rain for a few days.  Not enough to fill the sea beds but enough to water the desert and fill the reservoirs.  You should even have a few lakes when the rains stop.  Did I tell you that I love you?” and she kissed him again.

END

Barsoom logo art by Jeff Doten
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Rick Johnson Feature Articles and Fiction in ERBzine
ERBzine 1645: Johnson: ERB Fan Profile



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