RESCUE IN PELLUCIDAR
Fiona travels to Pellucidar to rescue her long-lost children.
By Rick Johnson
The Hind flew north, repeating the original course of the ski-plane rented by Barry. Diane quickly adjusted to the Russian spoken by the pilot and was easily able to converse with the crew.
Then as they crossed into the search range, they were tailed by a number of Air Force jets who didn't like seeing a Russian military combat helicopter in Canada. The Russian reported a ‘radar-lock’ and discussed how long the unarmed Hind could survive an attack by the Americans and wishing they had a few missiles to even the fight. Jason simply got on the radio to the Canadians and shortly after the American aircraft broke off and returned to the search. The Russians calmed down only a bit for just because Russia and America were no longer enemies, that didn't make them friends and both sides had been raised and trained to fight the other in total war.
Occasionally a Canadian or American pilot would approach, the Canadians alongside with the pilots waving and smiling, the Americans above and behind in attack position then alongside to wave as if to say ‘bang, I got you’ then they'd leave.
“Tovarich <Comrade>,” the pilot commented, “We're not used to this magnetic deviation so close to the magnetic pole. I'm afraid we may get lost or turned around.”
“Diane,” Jason called. When she came forward, he added, “Which way?”
Diane closed her eyes, tried to center then pointed, “Tot poot <that way!>”
“Follow her as a guide. She can be trusted but whatever downed those other aircraft may try with us so be careful.”
“Da <yes!>” the pilot replied as he adjusted course. The civilians in the hold opened bags and checked over their weapons as the pilot laughed, “Spetsnaz! Incognito. We aren't supposed to be armed here but…” He shrugged. Diane laughed a bit nervously but a glance at Jason forced her to relax. These guys were the best soldiers Russia had and she hoped that they had orders to follow Jason over anyone else.
“Jason,” in English, “Why Soviet troops and not American or British or Canadian soldiers?”
“London and I are not on the best of terms, Ireland has no decent military and I cannot trust the American or Canadians to follow orders. These guys will because they need me to get them out of Canada alive.”
Diane nodded and took a bottle of vodka from one of the soldiers, said, “Cpaciba <thank you>” took a drink and lost the bottle to the pilot.
For a moment, the two groups stared at each other, then Fiona told her children, “Sweeties, find a tree and climb high, mommy has some business to attend to.” One of the brutes moved to stop the kids which caused Fiona to move her sharpened stick to ready and snap out, “NO!”
The ape-man laughed and grabbed Cynthia who was nearest and Barry didn't know who hit the ape-man first, Jimmy yelling “Leave my sister alone” or Fiona who hit the ape-man’s arm with the spear so hard he heard the bone crack. Regardless, the deed was done and battle joined. Barry fired a flare into the chest of the closest attacker and the burning device became stuck in his fur, burning and causing the man to scream and run around aggravating the situation. He broke the gun, ejected the spent cartridge, replaced it with another flare, closed and aimed to fire a second time. Although he spent mere seconds still the ape-man was upon him and then the long hours of combat training he had been forced to take paid off and he grabbed and rolled, forcing his foot deep into the other's belly and he threw him overhead to land hard, stunning the ape-man. Barry rolled back to get his flare-gun and saw Fiona using her spear as a staff, holding off three and finally stabbing one in the throat to face the remaining two then Barry screamed and fired his next flare into the face of one of her attackers. That scream was followed by the scream of the man with the flare buried in his beard and the sight of the weapon shooting fire broke the ape-men who quickly vanished.
Breathing heavily, for Barry had never in his 23 years of military service, actually killed anyone, panted, “We need to get away before they regroup. I'm down to eight flares and want to save a few for our rescuers.”
The Ape-men had run off for now but they had left behind a group of a half-dozen captives, four men and two women, all human, all beaten and suffering from their masters. Diane walked to them and called, “Barry, I need your knife again.” Then she cut the people free, picked up her bloody spear and calling her children, headed sunward with Barry alongside.
Jimmy was scared again but said, “when I see mommy and daddy again she'll think I am lying about the dinosaurs. She always thinks I'm lying.”
Fiona stopped, her heart breaking, knelt and taking her son's hands in hers, asked, “Sweetie, I know that daddy's new wife has been like a mommy to you since… since daddy left. But it breaks my heart to hear you call her ‘mommy’. Can you please try to remember that I am your mommy and she is your step-mommy? Please, for me?”
“I'll try,” the child finally said with the distaste of a child who knows that he had better pretend to agree with an adult even when they were wrong. Fiona hugged her son, kissed him then wiped her lipstick from his cheek and continued on, handing her spear to Barry as she took her children's hands. “See, this is like a picnic at the zoo, only there aren't any cages to keep the bad animals in so we have to be very careful and very quiet. But as long as mommy is here, nothing will ever hurt you. I promise.”
Cynthia broke and forced herself to speak, “Like you promised you'd always be there for us and then you weren't.”
Crying Fiona tried to explain, “Ok, sweetie, but remember two things, Daddy took you way and forgot to tell me your new address and second, I came back. I came back when you needed me the most. Wasn't I there when the bad raptors jumped over the fence? And wasn't I there when the bad men tried to hurt you? Mommy loves you so much she did whatever it took to find you and she'll do whatever it takes to keep you safe.” She squeezed her children's hands to tell then that she loved them while the group of former captives followed.
“Fiona, we're being followed.”
“I know. Maybe they are grateful for us rescuing them. Maybe they have no place to go. So long as they seem harmless, let them be.”
“Its not like we have any way to stop them. My flare gun and pocket-knife and your wooden-spear aren't much right now.”
Soon enough a creature approached, it was more than a dozen feet long and Barry snapped, “Down” which they did with Fiona keeping her children quiet. Then they heard the former captives shouting and looking up, the men had surrounded the giant and one was pulling at Fiona’s spear which Barry gave easily. Soon enough, the cave-men had dispatched the beast and when she examined the carcass, commented, “Look at those claws, also it walked on its knuckles. Its a sloth of some sort. Some large ground sloth but not the Megatherium of South America.”
“You don't know what it is?” Barry commented as he handed his pocket knife to one of the people who was amazed at the blade but immediately started to skin the beast.
“I only hosted a few dinosaur specials. And besides, we don't know a hundredth of the animals that lived in the past. Also evolution is constant so whatever lived on Earth and came here would continue to evolve and create new forms.”
The cave people began to argue as the beast was butchered, some pointing to it and calling it a ‘dyryth’ and pointing to its claws, others calling it something else and motioning to its size and still others to it's pelt. ‘Goddess! They sound like any scientist back home arguing over a new bone.”
Eventually the thing was butchered and wrapped in portions of the hide and slung over the backs of the men, the two women having done nothing during the hunt. Then they motioned to Fiona and Barry to the hills and the group continued on. “We have an entourage, it seems,” Barry laughed.
“Or maybe the beginnings of a new tribe. Did you get your knife back?”
Once at the hills, they found an overhang and while some collected firewood, others began to pile rocks around the front of the overhang and fill it with gravel and dirt to level the floor. Barry amazed the cave-men with his lighter and soon the carcass was cooking slowly by the women who had finally taken some hard work for themselves. Finally, one came to Barry and pointing to himself said “Barto” then to one of the women whose hand he held, “Amara”. Barry smiled back and said, “Barry” then to Fiona, “Fee-ona”, then “Jimmy” and “Cyn- theea”. The others then introduced themselves as “Galbo”, “Toro” and “Zurok” with the other woman being “Ohna”. Zurok made some move towards Amara then instantly Barto stood and considerable yelling took place until Zurok backed down and approached Ohna who refused to even look at the man.
“Fiona, I think Barto and Amara are married and Zurok tried to hit on her. Then when forced off, approached Ohna.”
“Typical male. I've seen it in the bars a hundred times. Men are dogs!”
“I gather you don't like men?”
“No, I love men. I think they are the greatest invention since waterproof mascara. Its that male attitude that makes you sniff the ass of any pretty face or chest you see that I hate. Treat me like a person and you'll get a lot farther.”
Barry thought that no matter what he did, it wouldn't do any good for Fiona had no desire or eyes for anything but her children. The most desirable man in the world could walk past and Fiona would simply ask him to get out of her kid's sunlight. Not that he could blame her. Loosing them in a divorce then spending years and a fortune to find them and finally, here they were, in some hollowed out planet that science said was impossible. Fiona probably didn't even care if they were rescued so long as she had her kids nearby. Barry was divorced himself and never saw his own children as often as he wished but he wasn't like this, he enjoyed his visitation and lived on until the next weekend. He'd have to watch her or she'd become over-protective and crush any independence they had.
Time passed slowly. In fact the only way Barry had any sense of time was by measuring his growing beard. The giliks, as the cave-people called themselves, taught Barry and Fiona to chip flint into knives and spears and arrow heads. They learned the names of the animals that infested Pellucidar, the world that was now their home: Dyryth, the Giant Ground Sloth; Ta-ho, the cave lion; Tarag, the saber-tooth cat which wasn't a tiger at all which surprised Barry but was known by Fiona (another aspect of her narrating the nature specials); Thipdar, the giant pteranodon that downed their plane and others. Slowly they learned the language and built a stone and wood wall around the overhang.. Walls were made from sticks and branches with Barto and Amara taking one room, Ohna another, Fiona and the children a third and the men a fourth, though they stared at Barry when he moved his woven mat in with the men. “No, we are not married,” he snapped at them and they laughed at him for that. Every time he approached Fiona, she'd say, “I'm not in the mood” until he gave up. Then each of the other men would court Fiona, laying the heads of some animal they had hunted outside her door. She ignored them all, telling Barry, “I think if I accepted it, they'd think I was receptive. I don't know. I like sex, I just don't want it as much as men do. And lately, I don't want it at all. I guess I am just too focused on my children to think about anyone else.”
Barry did find he needed to prove himself to the other men for no other reason than to keep them from pushing him around. Although he was in decent shape, he was no match for these who had spent a lifetime in violent exercise so he asked Fiona to teach him Karate, Judo and Aikido. She agreed willingly and started lessons for Barry and her children away from the giliks for Barry wanted something in reserve just in case. Then when he used his newly-learned judo skills on Toro over something to do with them both wanting the same meat, Barry finally earned the respect of the giliks and Fiona just shook her head at male arrogance.
Each ‘day’, as judged when they were awake, the men would sit around and repair their weapons while the women farmed the small garden that they were beginning to grow. “Barry, I don't see any real growing season here. Look around, the plants grow, flower and seed when they want to. In the wild, all flowers appear within months of each other but spread out over the entire growing season, almost. Here, with no seasons or sunset, that spreads to the entire year so we have seeds and flowers and fruit and age in the same field.”
“Another one of your nature specials,” he asked as he helped remove another rock from the garden. None of the other men would farm, claiming that men hunted, women farmed.
“My aunt had a farm in Illinois south of Chicago. I spent Summers there and learned to ride. I even won a few awards for my horsewomanship, though once I really developed,” she glanced at her chest, “I slowed down the jumping a bit.” She laughed, “The pounding hurt when I landed. Had to give up jogging too.” Then to prove something, or to tease him, she took a grip on a fence pole, pulled herself up, wrapped her thighs around it at chest height and gripping the pole with thigh pressure alone, lay back and proceeded to do sit-ups, her chest moving with her exertions until Barry said, “I have to go and be alone for awhile.” Fiona lay back then released and flipping her legs overhead, did a cartwheel to stand without her head or hands touching the ground. She called after him, “I'm a dancer, remember! I have to stay limber. I can even put both ankles behind my ears.” Barry just ran faster, images flooding his mind. Images that made him want to turn, throw her to the ground and … well do her. But she'd probably break him in two if he tried.
Ohna began to take an interest in Barry for some reason for she ignored all the men who had been laying heads before her cave when they gave up on Fiona. It didn't seem to bother her that she was their last resort and that they were settling for her. She just shrugged and said, “men are men,” as if that explained it all. Both Fiona and Amara laughed to the confusion of the men. The woman was young, small-breasted but firm and had the broad hips that denoted a woman who could pop a baby out and return to the fields the next day. But she began to pay attention to Barry who never seemed to notice.
Once Fiona found them laying bamboo pipe from the stream and spring to the caves. He had made string from woven grass and stretched it along the chosen path, then leveled it with a pan of water to a regular and constant incline. Then he spent a great deal of time shaping hollow bamboo ends to fit, making fur and tree sap into sealing and lining and leveling the pipes. He was there when she found him. He had tied two sections together, placed a large rock under the joint and was carefully driving stones under the rock to raise and level the joint to match his level-line.
“Where did you learn that?” Fiona asked.
“My father owns a construction company. I worked for him through High School and College. Then after I got my B.A., I spent a couple years in the Peace Corps doing pretty much this stuff in North Africa,” he commented absently as he checked his line. Ohna just looked at him with doe-eyes. She was definitely smitten with the man.
“The more I learn about you, the more I like and respect you,” she commented as she walked off, making certain he didn't hear her.
One day while shaping a bow she was demonstrating for the group, she mentioned to him, “In Syria, we met Tears of the Moon. She was an Amazon, a real Amazon from Russia and was looking for someone to father her children. She chose Jason but didn't realize that he was sterile.” She laughed at that. “But the woman was an incredible horse woman and archer and as good as I was, she made me better. I just wish she had taught me how to make those Mongol and Turkish bows we used. Do you know that I can go from standing beside a horse to full gallop and put an arrow in a dozen melons within a couple dozen yards? I actually did that one day. I was an extra on a set and the director told me I needed a lower bodice so I told him ‘no’. I said that I was better than a chest and he laughed and told me to prove it. So I went to a horse, mounted at a gallop and used my Turkish bow at full gallop to put an arrow in every post on the fence around the paddock. Then I told him I could speak French, Arabic, Russian, Turkish and Farsi AND had a black belt in Judo and Aikido, and he just sniffed and walked off. A week later I was offered the role of an Amazon Princess in a TV series. Damn thing only lasted six episodes on the SF Channel because I refused to do a nude scene in every show. Dammit! I have an IQ of 112, speak more languages than anyone I know and am an Olympic class archer and fencer and horsewoman with a Masters Degree in Theater and all Hollywood sees are my tits!”
“Well, they are kinda noticeable.”
She balled her fist and then laughed and punched him in his arm saying, “Be careful, I just might start to like you.”
One day Fiona was shaving her legs with Barry's pocket-knife to the amusement of the other women who saw being hairy as feminine when Jimmy ran to her crying, “Mommy! Look at this!” He handed her a stone he had found, one flecked with mica to catch the solar rays.
“Yes sweetie, it's beautiful. No, mommy's not sad, she's crying from happiness. This is the first time you called me ‘mommy’. I love you so much.” And she hugged her son until he pounded on her crying, “can't breathe”.
Finally, Barry could stand it no longer and approached Ohna. “Ohna, I've seen you reject the other men, why?”
“I can do better. I am a Princess of Loak. Many men have pursued me and none have found my favor. Galbo and Toro lay the heads of their kills at my door and I reject them all. Zurok even, as great a hunter as he is I reject though I don't know why. With him as a husband, my children would never go hungry.”
“Is a great hunter the only thing you look for in a man?”
“No, handsome is nice but what good is looks when your children are hungry? I want more. I deserve more.”
“Ok, I guess. My people are different. We see love as important.”
“Love is nice but it won't put food in your belly. You Barry, you only trap small game to eat but never bring to Fiona the head of a Tarag to prove your courage or the pelt of a Tua to show your skills as a hunter. That's why she rejects you, though with her skinny hips she could barely give you two or at most three sons. I don't know why you chase after her so when mine could bear a dozen. She could feed a village with those dugs but she is obsessed with her own babies and refuses to have more.”
“Well, Ohna, you've ever seen her in a leather bustier and spike heels and carrying a whip.”
“I don't understand those words.”
“I don't doubt it. You are such an innocent child.”
“Child!” she stood before him, hips on her broad hands and snapped, “I've seen seven hands and a fingers of woman's blood so am far from a child! The sooner you see that, the better you will be!” Then she stormed off.
Amidst the laughter of the other men, Barry looked up Fiona and asked, “How do I ever get myself in these matters? I know Ohna likes me but she's so young I could get court marshaled for touching her.”
“You could go to prison for some of the things you and I did. How old do you think she is?”
“How the hell should I know! This sun never sets, there isn't any way to tell the seasons. We could be here for a year or a month for all I know.”
“We've been here six weeks.” Fiona said.
He looked at her and asked, “How do you know?”
“My biological clock. I started my period just before we landed here and just finished my second one.”
“Then,” he thought, “When she said she had seven hands and a fingers of woman's blood she meant…?”
“Figure she started her periods at thirteen in this climate, twelve a year, seven hands is thirty-five plus one so thirty six months divided by twelve is….”
“She's only sixteen! Dammit!”
“Barry, in America eighteen is legal. In Syria and Iraq and Jordan women married at thirteen or fourteen and had children at fourteen and fifteen. Ohna is an Old Maid! She should have been married years ago.”
“Fiona, I may be a pervert but I do have some standards. I like whips and chains and being beaten and having .. well you know what I like but there are some things I draw the line at and sixteen is definitely one of them.”
“Too bad. Because she likes you despite your being old enough to be her father and if you'd lay a mouse's head by her door, she'd invite you in.”
He touched her arm and said in all honesty, “Fiona, I like you a lot. You are the sexiest woman I ever met and you understand what I like and do it to me. I want you! Not some child. And I'm dying for your touch!”
“Barry, you are dying for my whip. But I don't have one and if I did, I only did that for you. I know you don't understand but I like my sex soft and gentle and normal and maybe twice a month or so. And lately I don't want it at all. I'm sorry, but I like you but I don't love you. Go to Ohna, I won't tell anyone when we get home. Just don't expect kink from her!”
Fiona watched them but he never approached her. “Damn, the little perv really does have morals!” she thought. “Too bad she wants him so much.”
Fiona was sitting with her kids, as usual, showing them how to make rattles from gourds. Strangely enough, he had always thought that cave-men spent most of their lives hunting and just trying to stay alive but he soon discovered that hunting and what Fiona called ‘dibble-stick farming’ took up so little time that the people had more than enough free time for art. When he mentioned this to Fiona, she laughed back, “Have you ever seen the cave paintings in France? Those aren't a child's work, they use the contours of the stone to enhance their paintings. Some are equal to any modern master.”
The giliks made pottery, decorated their tools and weapons, made stone arrowheads that were a work of art and could tan a hide to the softness of silk with the strength of Kevlar. Toro was even carving a lump of clay into a shape that caused Fiona to ask, “Is that someone special? We have carvings like that at home that some people believe are Goddesses.”
“A goddess?” he replied. “No, this is my wife. We were separated when the Sagoths captured me on a hunt. Its only a beginning but soon will be a good likeness of her.”
“I can see she is a wonderfully fertile woman.” Privately Fiona thought she was grossly fat but you never told a man that about his wife.
“Yes she was. When we married, she was tiny like Ohna but after six sons and four daughters, she fleshed out properly. You cannot tell yet but when done, you'll see how beautiful my mate is.”
“I'm sure she is. But why remain here with us when your wife is someplace else?”
“I'm not ready to leave yet. The trip back to Sari is long and dangerous and I need better weapons and travel gear. But soon. And then I'll be with her again.”
“Then why,” Fiona pushed, “If you love her so much, you are chasing after me and Ohna?”
He shrugged as he carved, “A man has needs.”
“Men are pigs,” she thought as she returned to her children and began to teach them to play their instruments. Barto approached and handed her a beautifully carved bamboo flute, “For saving us from the Sagoths.” And he walked away embarrassed at his emotions. Fiona tried and the sound was equal to any she owned in the Mid-East and to many she bought in Chicago. Then as she played a tune, her children trying to join in with their rattles, the others appeared with their own musical instruments and Barry sat and listened to their impromptu and totally primitive jam-session. From then on, Fiona learned the gilik music and songs and dances and taught them her own and often dinners would end with a concert.
Once ‘day’ for with the eternal sun shining in the south there was no way to tell time, the hunters were seen running back to the shelter as fast as they could, their cries alarming the rest. Fiona pulled her bow and said, “Run inside my loves, mommy has business to attend.” They always left at least one male behind to protect the women and this time it was Zurok who grabbed his spear and readied himself for whatever would befall. Fiona didn't like or trust the man but she had no doubts of his courage so standing next, she asked, “Why do you think it is?”
“Tarag. See the grass behind. It isn't hunting them but following to find their lair. It just wants them to think they are being hunted.”
“Why follow and not kill them?”
If it kills them, it eats once. If it follows to our lair, it eats often.”
“I didn't think they were that smart.”
“The Tarag is smarter than most believe. See how it can easily catch them but holds back. Once it smells or sees us, it will attack, kill the last man then leave and return later when it is hungry, possibly with its mate and kittens. I'll miss who it kills but few can match a Tarag in the open field.”
“Not if I can help it. Its almost in range. Let me know when you think it will spring.” She lay her arrows out and waited. Then when Zurok said, “Almost, see how he moves up?” she placed the string to her cheek, pushed the heavy bow to full draw, aimed and released. The arrow arched overhead and struck the great cat in its flank, causing it to scream in pain and rage, but also to turn to face the imaginary thing that had attacked it from behind. Another arrow and another arced and struck and she barely noticed that Zurok had left and was running to the saber-tooth with his spear raised. The others stopped then turned and joined in and then Fiona had to stop shooting for fear of striking her friends. The battle was fierce for wounded as it was, the great cat was no easy prey so the hunters, Barry included, surrounded the beast poking at it with their spears. When it faced one man, the others behind ran in and thrust and retreated as it turned and so the great cat, surrounded by man, turned and fought and bled and finally, it was Toro who rushed in to give it the killing blow.
Fiona watched the men dance and yell around the dead cat seeing Barry as the same differing only by his clothing, then they tied the feet to some spears and the group hauled the cat back into the forest, to return later with only the head and pelt. Amara explained to her, “The Tarag may have marked its trail as it followed. And anyway, no one wants to butcher a carcass like that so close to our home lest the smell of blood attract other flesh-eaters.”
The men returned and danced a victory dance, bragging about their courage which Amara and Ohna listened to with rapt attention. Fiona just thought it was stupid male bravado. Later when they were exhausted, Barry opened some of the beer that they had been brewing for he had learned the art of converting fruit juice to alcohol when stationed in Arabia during Desert Storm, and as they toasted their kill, he sat next to Fiona and said to her, “Damn shame we lost the elk we killed. Eight foot at the shoulder and antlers twelve feet across. I measured them. They called it a Tua. That head would look nice on my wall at home.”
“You're welcome,” she snapped.
“Nothing to it I guess.”
“I mean ‘you are welcome’ for thanking me for saving your sorry asses by shooting the cat just as it was about to eat you jerks!” Then she stood and walked off with her own mug of beer.
“Thank you!” he called to her back but it was already too late. “Damn, I can never win with that woman.”
After they awoke, the men and even the women wandered back along the trail, sniffing the bushes and peeing over the cat-smell to mask its passage and to mark their own territory. Ohna, bent over and sprayed backwards like a cat but Amara stood, pointed her hips forward and using her fingers to help, peed like any man. Later the men held a pissing contest which Amara joined in to the disgust of both Fiona and Ohna but she forced herself to walk away and not complain when the men taught Jimmy how to pee for distance and accuracy. “Men are pigs!” Fiona said and for once Ohna agreed with her.
Later, Barry handed her a leather thong from which he had hung a number of the teeth from the Tarag. As she lifted her hair for him to tie it around her neck, he said, “I'm sorry and thank you for saving my sorry ass.”
She smiled and kissed his hand until he added, “care to spank my sorry ass?” at which time she bit the hand she had just kissed.
The fog began to close in and so the Hind landed, discharged a number of the Russian troops who set a pole into the ice, anchored it with lines to t-bars buried in the snow and sealed with water that quickly froze then when receiving the ‘ok’ from the pilot, the troops reloaded and the Hind lifted off. “We cannot see up here so we place radio beacons to guide us back. Every hundred kilometers, we will plant one.”
Jason nodded in acceptance as the fog closed in.
Hours later, the fog thinned. They had planted a half dozen of the beacons, some closer than others then as they broke through the fog, guided only by Diane's sense that Fiona was ‘ahead’, the Hind struck something large. Instantly the Hind shook as impact after impact struck the gunship. Diane and Jason who had been sleeping on the cargo strapped to the deck and saw the soldiers holding on to straps and anything else they could, laughing in readiness for war, Kalishnikovs in hand as the pilot tried to clear the blood and fur and flesh from his windscreen. “We have to land,” he shouted back. “They are clogging the intakes and overheating the engines.”
The Hind struck hard, knocking Diane to the deck but instantly the doors were open and the Russians were outside, weapons firing into the flock of what looked like giant Pteranodons. Furred reptiles that swooped and died as they struck the rotors then the engine shut down, the weapons fire ceased and amidst the carnage, the pilot climbed to the top of the craft and called down, “They clogged the intakes, We might have to strip the engines to get it all out. I don't know if the rotors are bent either. Melt snow and start cleaning the windscreen.”
“How long?” Jason called up.
“How long for what?”
“Before we can lift off!”
“Maybe two hours or more. Then I'll know IF we can lift off. We may be stuck here forever,” the pilot said with typical Russian fatalism as the soldiers began to establish a defensive perimeter.
Jason looked around, holding Diane's hands and said, “So this is Pellucidar. I always wondered if it existed. Those giant Pteranodons must be fiercely territorial and attack anything in the sky. No wonder no one ever came back.”
In the distance, a pack of Dire Wolves approached, nervous at the intruder and excited by the scent of blood.
It was maybe two months in according to Fiona’s biological clock that Barto and Amara announced that they needed to leave. It seemed that her own biological clock had stopped and they wanted to return to their own tribe while she was still able to run and climb a tree. When they announced their decision, Toro added, “Do you mind if I go along for a wile? Sari lays in the same direction and company will be good.”
So they ensured that the trio had all the jerky and dried fruit they needed plus a bag of extra arrowheads and bow strings and even a couple extra spear-heads and obsidian knives then Fiona hugged them all, crying at the loss of Amara and soon the three were lost in the distance. Ohna remained because she was still hoping Barry would realize that she was the better woman. Galbo remained as he wanted Ohna and Zurok remained because he had no tribe to return to though he refused to explain why. Barry set little pebbles on the dirt and commented, “This is Galbo and he wants Ohna. This is Ohna and she wants me. I want Fiona who only wants her children and Zurok wants any woman he can get. And I thought my family was strange.” Then he collected the stones before anyone saw.
“Barry,” Fiona called one ‘day’. “I need a bath. Would you please watch the children for me? I love them more than life itself but sometimes, I need some me time.”
“Sure, I'm certain Ohna will help. She's always trying to convince me what a good mother she would be. Be careful though since the other men are out hunting, I won't be there to save you if you get into trouble.”
“You wish!” she laughed. “Its just over the rise, nothing goes there because the water is too hot and has too many minerals to drink so don't worry about me.”
Soon she was there, the hot springs Barry had discovered and piped to the village so they'd have hot water. True the bamboo pipes had to be replaced often but that was a minor inconvenience compared to a real hot shower or hot water for washing. Barry had done the same for a nearby stream so they had running water and even a flush toilet of a sort. The man was ingenious. In another life, she might even consider actually dating him, though marriage was totally out of the question. Still, he had his good points, wasn't overly macho, didn't push too hard for sex and understood that a dinner was more than an elk that would rot before they managed to eat it all so he focused on smaller game and even had a garden growing. Ohna seemed to be smart enough to realize that marriage to Barry would guarantee food and comfort for her children even if she lost face in the ‘stupid macho’ department. At least, Barry was smart enough to NOT face a maddened Cave Lion with a stone spear to prove his courage and so while the other women would be widowed young, Ohna would be guaranteed a long marriage to a living husband. The man WAS amazing, almost as good in his own way as Jason. An Air Force officer and proven combat pilot but who preferred Search and Rescue. Rich because of his investments, yet accepting everyone as equal and from the things he did around the caves, an engineer too though he said that was because he had worked as a youth in construction to pay for his college. Still, any woman would be hard put to find a better husband.
She removed her clothing, then naked, rinsed them and then washed them in the soap Jason had taught her to make from campfire ashes and water. Then she lay them to dry, massaged her breasts which had worn that same bra for two months. Fortunately, she paid well for a good bra so it had managed to survive this long only through much care. Then, naked she slid into the hot water, closed her eyes and relaxed as the water eased the weight on her chest and the heat loosened her muscles. A few candles, some soft music and some bubble-bath and this would be heaven. Although legally in her 60s, she was barely thirty and still had a body that men and women would die for. Some had even killed for a chance to possess but few had succeeded. Still firm and tight despite two children thanks both to her fanatical exercise program and the regeneratives that they had purchased from that Sufi magickain in Syria, her only real flaw was a scar along her side and belly from that time when she had been tossed into an arena in Turkey. She and Di had spent three days as gladiators, killing everyone and everything that rejected Sultan had sent after them until Jason had rescued them. He had tortured half the Ottoman Empire to locate them, killed the other half to rescue them and all they had to do was stay alive until he arrived. That was why she wasn't worried. She may be trapped here but she was far better at survival than almost anyone else she knew. And life here wasn't that bad. Music, dance, hot water and friends with plenty to eat and fresh air to breathe. Life couldn't be much better.
How long she lay there she never knew. Time was strange here. She could be here for five minutes and find hours had passed at the cave. Often, she would be cooking something as the hunters left and they'd return before the meal was done, explaining that they had been gone for days. According to Einstein, time was a function of velocity and mass. That much she remembered from High School Physics. But here, time seemed to be a function of activity. The more energy you expended doing something, the faster time in your area moved. So she could lay here for a month and only minutes would have passed back at the cave home. She liked that idea. Take a long bath and not worry about … shit, that meant that time slowed here but sped up there so her five minutes here could be days there. Well, nothing to do but relax and not think about it. If they needed her, they all knew where to find her.
She awoke as she was pulled from the water, her hands that had been over her head as she stretched were instantly tied and a piece of something was pushed into her mouth. Before she could see, she was thrown to her belly and a weight landed on her back. “Fuck! I'm going to be raped back-door!” she thought as she tried to struggle. Fiona was strong. Being a dancer put her in a condition few could match but even she couldn't rise or roll over or fight with near two-hundred pounds on her back. She tried to spit out the stuff in her mouth and scream but a cord looped over her mouth kept the stuff snug and stifled her sounds. Then her arms were freed and forced behind to be tied again. Finally a rope was tied to her neck and the weight lifted with the leash being pulled. She expected it to be Barry in one of his sex-game scenarios he paid whores to perform but it was Zurok who pulled her to her feet.
She tried to kick him but he jerked the leash and slapped her so hard she saw stars as she fell. Then he knelt to her and whispered, “try that again and I'll cut your nose off.” Then he looked around and kicked her clothes into a crevasse so they wouldn't be seen, pulled her to her feet and led her off so fast she was poorly put to avoid falling down.
Jason had often told her, “When rape is inevitable, relax and enjoy it. Then take revenge later.” He told her a lot of stuff, most of it she didn't want to hear but relaxing under Zurok was one she had no intention of doing. She didn't think he'd actually cut her nose off. But she believed he would beat her half to death, rape her and beat and starve her into submission. And every step they took was another step farther from rescue. Right now he was anxious to get as far away from the others as he could. So she put most of her energy into staying upright and trying to plan an escape before Zurok decided that a rest stop for food and rape would be safe.
So with the hot sun on her naked body, she staggered on after her captor.
Jason and Diane were packing. The wolves had been driven off with surprisingly little bloodshed. The Russians had simply fired a few flares at the pack which had turned and sought easier prey elsewhere. With most of the troops on guard duty, the rest were helping strip and clean the Hind.
“Captain Pilot,’ Jason called up. “We are leaving now. Our tracking device seems to be working and with no horizon, you should have a line-of-sight forever.”
“Da <yes>,” the pilot laughed, his arms bloody to the elbows as he pulled more bone from the turbines. “But, Comrade O'Brien, Nothing else has gone right this trip so be careful and do not depend on technology.”
“Cpaciba <thank you>,” Jason replied then the co-pilot came over. “Damn this lack of horizon. There are no real landmarks. But before we went down, I think I might have seen a downed aircraft that way. Keep the sun ten degrees to your left and you will find it in maybe ten kilometers. You have food, ammunition, radio and flares?”
“Then Da pozhe <until later.>.”
The two walked south or sunward, packs on their backs and AKS assault rifles in their hands. Diane looked around constantly but was relaxed with her ex at her side. The man may be an arrogant ass and thought he knew everything but she knew that he did know almost everything and she was safer next to this man than anywhere else in the world. Still, “So, what are our chances?”
“I've been in worse situations. Pretty good from my viewpoint.” The thing was that surrounded by giant wolves and giant flying dinosaurs, with who knows what ahead, maybe even a pack of T-Rexs, the man probably HAD been in worse situations. She didn't ask but listened to him talk about the flowers, the mammoths, wolves and comment on how impossible this planet was and how stupid scientist were for condemning a situation without even looking at the evidence. And he took pictures always. Even telling her to ‘freeze’ which she thought was a warning but he only wanted a picture of her framed by the flowers she was smelling.
Once he whispered, ‘down’ and the did, to see a pack of a half dozen allosaurs chase a herd of mammoths, giving up only when the snow got too deep for their clawed feet. Then they fought the snow back to the marsh and searched to the right for easier prey. Jason took pictures of the event as Diane filmed and when they were gone, he commented, “Interesting. I always thought they were tropical therapods. But being hot-blooded, I suppose they can hunt almost anywhere.”
Jason was like that. He picked her a bouquet of buttercups just before the wolves hit and considered this a walk in the park. Yet he was able to bribe or threaten or cajole three governments to help him in his private search. “Jason, there's more to the Russians than you said.”
“There is. I had an idea from the recordings Fiona sent you that this place existed. If I brought Canadian or American or British with me, they'd be able to return and strip-mine this world. The Russians would refuse to admit to the West they were here or where it was to keep it a secret for themselves and I'll ensure that the beacons they planted lead us out but give conflicting recordings so they'll never find the opening. You Yanks won't know it exists, the Rus won't share their info and no one will be able to find it again.”
“You always have plans on top of plans don't you?”
“I do. That, my love, is why we are still alive.”
A couple hours later he dropped his pack on a dry area and said, “Let's eat.”
Diane looked around and it seemed like they were on an island of clover surrounded by a sea of buttercups. “Its beautiful!” she commented.
“You make it so.”
“I thought you were hungry?”
“I am! Then he pulled her to him and as she fought him off, said, “What if the allosaurs or wolves hear us?”
“Then, my love, I die happy in your arms.”
Damn the man, she sighed and gave in. He could be such an ass then suddenly be so romantic. And as they made love on the clover, she watched the Pteranodons circle overhead as she held him to her. “This is so perfect. We should have stayed married,” as the flock circled lower.
Fiona tried digging her feet in but he only choked her. She tried sitting but he dragged her by her neck until she got up. She even thought about kicking him in the ass or kidney but a raised hand ended that thought so she went along if only to keep her skin and face together. At least Zurok had removed the moss so she could speak though that was mainly because she was choking on a piece. So she tried to swear but knew no Pellucidaran words so she swore at him in English, French, Arabic and then he commented after a time, “You are repeating yourself. I don't know what those strange words mean but you are using them over and over again.” So she fumed and walked and whined. “My feet hurt!”
“Grow tougher skin.”
“Eat when I feed you.”
“Flies are biting me.”
“They think you taste good. I'll see if they are right when we rest.” That shut her up.
Finally after what seemed like forever, she saw it in the grass. Brown, wavy, she banged into it and screamed as she fell, “Snake! A snake bit me! I'm dying!”
That forced Zurok to stop and turn around to see the blood on her leg. He dropped the cord and knelt to say, “Its only a stick you..” From a fetal position she snapped out with all her strength, her heels catching him in the face. She had one chance and put all her anger into that blow. Then as he fell, she rolled, got to her feet and kicked him in the crotch as hard as she could. Zurok vomited and curled and Fiona ran around to his back. Fearing his grasp she kicked him as hard as she could in his kidney. Again and again she k
licked the organ as he retched and screamed in agony then she ran! She wanted to kick his throat in but that would put her within his reach and he'd literally kill her for what she did, so she ran.
Weaving through the trees, she remembered why she gave us jogging in Chicago. Jogging with her chest ached. Now, after a couple children had increased her bust-line a couple inches, running with twenty pounds of weight on her chest hurt. Running without a bra hurt a lot! Running without a bra, naked, barefoot and through a forest hurt even more. And add to that her hands were still tied behind her and she was trailing her leash, she was asking for trouble. So she forced herself to stop and turned until she could find the leash with her bound hands then ran on again. Her only advantage was that years of dance had given her a nearly unmatched stamina, leg strength and balance so she rarely tripped and when she did, her Judo training allowed her to roll and rise and keep on running until she collapsed behind a tree, her breasts aching from the pounding, her lungs desperate for air and even her mighty legs cramping.
She was free, almost. So still gasping for breath, she found a conifer with rough bark and leaning against it, began to long process of rubbing the leather from her wrists. While she did that, she listened for the sounds of pursuit for the damage she had done to him might not kill him immediately but eventually when he got tired of pissing blood from his damaged kidneys (hopefully ruined) and damaged balls, he'd die. Hopefully sooner than later.
Eventually, her wrists covered with blood, bark and flies, she was free. Having no choice, she spread her legs bent over and used her own urine to wash the cuts and abrasions, wincing at the pain and fighting down her disgust. Jason had whipped it out and pissed on Diane's wound in Petra because they had been attacked by… well she didn't want to think of what she had woken in that Jordanian cemetery but it worked. As disgusting as it was, urine prevented infection until she could get decent medical treatment. At least here in the forest she wouldn't have to drink her own urine like they did that time in the Arabian Desert.
Then she tied the longest thong, her leash, into another sling and the rest into a double thong and began to look for rocks.
She tried to remember the way back to the cliffs but that was impossible. Jason had told her time and time again, ‘when you travel, turn around often to see what the landmarks look like from the other side’ and she had forgotten to do that. But Zurok was walking sunward which made sense if they were on the edge of a polar opening and the rest of the planet was hollow with the sun in the middle, but the sun was a bit on her right so she started back with the sun behind and on her left, seeking anything that looked familiar. Jason had said, ‘To survive comfortably, you need only something to cut with and something to make fire with.’ Well, let him be naked in an impossibly hollow world surrounded by dinosaurs and being chased by an injured and very angry cave-man and see if he's willing to amend that statement.
Occasionally she climbed a tree to look around but none of the rock formations looked familiar. Maybe from the north they would but now she had no idea of which to head for. And after a time she got so tired of bruising her inner thighs climbing she gave even that up. Eventually, if she kept the sun behind, she'd reach the tree-line near the snow drifts and then she could choose right or left and go on until she found the wreckage of the aircraft and go on from there. If she found Barry's plane, she'd even have clothes. Until then she walked, her arms crossed under her breasts to provide some relief to their aches. She had often been asked to have a reduction but as an exercise freak, they never bothered her the way a desk-bound woman's would and besides, she had a belief that the Goddess made her this way and why question Her wisdom? If she did, then what's next? She already had tribal tattoos on her lower back and left bicep and a ring through her labia and those only because she kept getting drunk which is why she finally quit getting drunk.
She found a nice rock and tied the remaining thongs to it to give her a weapon. It wasn't much but a fist-sized rock swung at the end of a rope could easily crush a skull as it approached. And with sling and mace she searched for one of the eternal streams that made the conifer forest a near marsh. The storms of the outer-world forced snow inside which created the winter conditions beloved by the mammoths. Then as the snow melted, it ran by countless streams into and through the forest then into the inner seas that she could barely see in the distance, though looking up to see the ocean made her nauseous. Fiona then supposed that the inner sun evaporated the seas and forced the clouds out the polar opening to form fog and snow to repeat the cycle and keep the inner world from being flooded. Maybe she should have taken that job on the Weather Channel to learn more meteorology.
Soon enough, whatever soon meant in this miserable world, she found a stream at which she drank and washed the wrists she had damaged getting free, then she followed it upstream seeking shelter. The water was too cold to walk in and even in the shade, she was getting cold. Then she came across an open glade. From the tree-stumps here, something had come through and destroyed a good acre or more of forest. With no sign of fire, it could have been anything but she favored the theory that some sauropods had come through here and had been attacked by a pack of T-Rex or some other magnificent carnosaur. The resulting battle had leveled the trees and there… She found some bones. Most of them were scattered but the head was easily six feet long, and the distance to the spine was easily another thirty feet, though the vertebrae were scattered so the head could have been dragged that far. Whatever this skeleton was, and she'd need to see it mounted to be certain, it was as large as a Diplodocus and as massive as a Brachiosaurus. Such a beast could easily level the forest as it turned to fight off a predator, yet to no end other than it died.
The ground shook and she took cover by the skull to find a solitary Brachiosaurus, twenty feet at the shoulder, its head an equal height above that. It pushed its way through the forest, taking and eating the tender growth at the tops of the trees. Shortly after three more entered, smaller but the same species and Fiona saw what she believed to be a mother and her young. Some paleontologists had surmised that the sauropods were herd animals with close family ties and this proved the latter for as one of the smaller beasts honked, the larger moved to a tree, rose upon its hind legs, braced its forelimbs against the trunk and pushed, to uproot the tree which came crashing down nearby. Had the ground been less wet, the tree would have snapped, possibly impaling the mother. But here, the young approached the tree and began to stuff themselves from the tender upper fronds.
The mother saw her and for a moment both froze, Fiona in fear of being trampled, then the beast decided that alone, though she looking like a pale raptor, she was too small to harm her or her children and then returned to her feeding. Fiona moved back and watched the family eat then move on, constantly eating and keeping the forest down in much the same way elephants kept the African forests to a limited area.
Fiona began following the stream Outwards, for they had created their own directions: Sunward meant towards the sun, Outward meant away from the sun towards the polar opening, Rightward is right when facing the Sun and Leftward is left when facing the Sun. To the native Giliks, they knew ‘home’ and ‘fingers’. Each native of Pellucidar could point with unerring accuracy to their home. Then they would splay their hands with thumbs pointing to their home and the smallest finger at a right angle. They would then say “two fingers right hand” which was, to them, accurate enough.
Near the edge of the clearing, where the sun shone she found a pile of boulders near the water. With a little work, she could have a cave large enough to crawl into but too large for most predators, including Zurok. Knowing that until she knew exactly where to go, she was doomed to wander around forever and this hurt too much to think about. She had born, nursed and raised her children to then have them vanish. She did things to find them that most people would not consider and when she did, and found them and loved them again, one vile man-thing striped her of her happiness. But what she had recovered once, she could again. Only this time she knew they were within a dozen miles of her. But which way? And being naked and virtually unarmed in a place as dangerous as this Inner World, unarmed meant being dinner so as much as she wanted to set out, she forced herself to wait and prepare.
There were plants along the water that looked like cattails and a little experimentation showed that she could weave the leaves. Thus a pterosaur flying overhead saw a sight unique to Pellucidar. A naked auburn haired-woman of spectacular build sitting on a large rock, absorbing the warmth of the sun as she hummed to herself and wove cattail leaves into a small basket. Soon, whatever that meant, she was done and began on a second which went faster then a belt and finally a thick mat. One bag she filled with the rocks she had collected for her sling and then she began to experiment with stones until she found some that when struck, produced sparks. Flint and some iron ore! Now she had the means to make fire. The fluff from the cattails would make tender and the dead wood from the earlier fight that had destroyed this section would give her fire. Now she needed something to cut with.
Fortunately, she had spent a great deal of time watching the other men teach Barry how to chip flint into knives, spears and arrow-heads. She wasn't nearly good enough for the delicate arrowheads that looked like a work of art but she could probably manage a knife, spearhead and mostly a hand-axe. The latter she began to work on first.
It was simple, she only had to chip the edge until she had something that could cut. Then she sought a sapling that was growing, trying to reclaim the glade and she whittled the base until the sapling broke off. From there, she removed the branches, bark and measured then cut the end. She had to rechip the edge a dozen times before she was done but she had the bare bones of her new spear long before she was sleepy. Of course, she had stopped work to build a fire and again to kill a large mammal-like reptile that looked like a pig, almost, so with full stomach she crawled into her cove, faced her headless spear outward and fell asleep between two mats and with the coals of her fire inside for warmth.
When she awoke, she crawled out to find the remains of her meal gone and some large three-toed tracks around as if a chicken the size of an ostrich had visited her camp. Fortunately for her, it had been content with her former dinner and not sought her. So she checked the fish-trap she had made and catching a fish that could have been a bass but with very strong fins that were on the way to becoming legs, she had breakfast and began to chip a spear-blade and knife.
Fiona rushed and more than once had to dip her bruised fingers into the stream to cool an injury but eventually forced herself to slow down and do a better job only because rushing ruined the stone and without decent weapons, she could not survive to find her children.
She ate four times and slept once before she was ready. Then Zurok found her.
Diane lay there, the scent of clover in her nostrils, the weight of her ex on her body, his gentle snores in her ears. This was one of the many things she loved about Jason, how he could be so romantic and even hold her afterwards, that is if he didn't fall asleep. This time he must have been exhausted with the preparations, bribing nations to get what he needed to save Fi because she felt him swell then erupt then he sighed and fell asleep almost instantly, still within and upon her. As old as he was, he still looked good. He looked damn good and she had no problem breathing despite his weight.
She explored his back with her fingers, remembering every muscle, every bone, every scar. Those were good times. This was a good time. Then slowly the clover beneath sucked the warmth from her back and she began to think that it was time to push him off, lay on him, in his arms for awhile when something from the back of her mind came forward. A vision from Jordan and Iraq and Arabia.
The Pteranodons weren't circling to watch, they were circling like vultures. They saw the pair as dead and would soon land. And despite popular thought, a flock of vultures had no problem overwhelming an injured animal. But these weren't vultures, they were flying lizards. The same ones that had downed the Russian helicopter and she woke instantly. “Jason, Jason, JASON WAKE UP!” she screamed into his ear.
“What?” he was still groggy and she rolled him off then herself over to grab her gear.
“Look!” she pointed up.
He glanced, swore in Gaelic then grabbed his own gear and said, “Run!” They ran. Naked, as the pterosaurs swooped. At the last moment he yelled, “Down!” and they struck the ground an instant before the giant reptile's claws took her. She saw it strike the ground, flailing for Jason had drawn and cut, ripping its wing membrane as it passed overhead. Diane would never ask if he did that for revenge for trying to eat her or to provide something for the others to eat while they escaped. Either or both were possible with the man who saw himself as an Irish Nobleman, a freedom fighter and an incurable romantic with an absolute and psychotic obsession about keeping his friends and family safe.
Up again Jason led the pair to a ditch which gave them the cover they needed for now the Pteranodons would need to land to reach them so they passed overhead, low and angry, stabbing downward occasionally with their toothless beaks. Both took the opportunity to dress while Jason laughed.
“What's so funny?” Diane demanded of her ex-husband.
“This! We had one of the most wonderful experiences of our lives and they have to ruin it.”
She reached and touching him offered, “It WAS wonderful, my love, and it wasn't ruined. But then, we were always a better pair in danger than in peace. What next?”
“Next, we wait for them to get tired and leave. Flying is an energy sink and they'll need to eat soon to refuel. And with Pteranodons as large as those which are larger even that Quetzelcoatlus, I don't understand how they can fly, as massive as they are, they'll need to eat soon. Then we continue on.”
“Why not shoot a couple and leave while they eat the dead?”
”Because I want them to find food as far away as they can. Normal Pteranodons are fish-eaters. These giants seem to be active hunters and I'd like to be at that tree-line before they return.”
He settled down, opened his arm and Diane moved in, their parkas preventing any physical closeness but the emotional was there. Something moved down the narrow ravine, it looked like a muskrat but was as large as a big dog and was almost on top of them before it noticed them. It snarled, bared sharp teeth then moved on as they pulled their legs from its path. Finally Diane checked her watch when Jason said, “I think it's ok now” for he never cared about time. In the field, an hour was like a week to him unless he had a mission but he'd not forget Fiona.
Sometime later, Diane forgot to check her watch, they found the downed ski-plane. “Bird-strikes, just like the Hind. Only this one had no armor. See how the crash took out the props and tore up the wings. This will never fly. I wonder how many other aircraft entered but never left?”
“Jason, inside! They came down safe. No blood, the survival kit and first aid are gone. Also look here, everything is still packed away nicely with parachutes. Fi was going to drop these on the crash site but crashed herself. She's alive!”
They packed some more of the food from the ski-plane, resealed the door and examined the ground. “This way. Two people, one man and one woman from the size of their boots. She's the only person I know who wears heels in the field. Here, step next to these. Right! Fiona was a bit larger than you but the depth shows she was carrying a pack too. It looks like they headed straight into the sun.” Jason removed his radio and called for the Russians, reporting all that they had found but discovering that to the Rus, he had only been gone minutes, not the hours he thought they had walked and hid and made love. “Time here is very strange. If we hurry, we might find Fiona and her kids and be back before the Russians are finished.”
“And what if they can't get the chopper working?”
“They will. Another reason for choosing Russians is that they are so used to repairing their crappy technology that they can fix anything. Plus that Hind was designed to fly no matter what combat damage it takes. An American Apache helicopter will crash if you accidentally turn on the headlights while banking and you have to send the entire craft back to the factory to change a fuse.”
“You don't think much of American technology, do you?”
“Diane, My love, I was born and grew up in a grass-thatched house in rural Ireland. I never even saw a telephone or television before I was fourteen. The cell-phone saves thousands of lives a year. Modern aircraft and trucks can prevent famine by transporting foods to people who are starving or introduce others to foods that they never knew existed. The Internet has enabled such communication that knowledge is freely available to everyone. I love American technology, it makes life so much easier. Its not as advanced as the Japanese or Germans but what I hate is your over-reliance on technology. E-mail has destroyed handwriting and the floral letters we once wrote. Video-games have turned children into mindless slugs. Television and cable-TV have dulled the minds of the nations. In Iraq during Desert Storm, I was assigned to help an American Army Company and the Captain lost his compass and got us lost in the desert because he couldn't find North without his beloved technology. And the problem is worse with the over reliance on the GPS system, your batteries go dead and you are totally lost. Look at what we four did in the Mid-East with almost no technology. No, the big problem is that you Americans like buttons and switches and bright lights and rather than learn to repair a broken TV yourselves, you toss it into a pit and buy another. As wonderful as your technology is, you rely on it too much and cannot survive without it nor can you repair it when it fails.”
“Well, I can't argue with you there, we do throw away a lot of good stuff, but when the serviceman charges $50 to just open the case and another $30 an hour to fix it plus parts, it's sometimes cheaper to replace.”
“Which is why no one learns to survive without the stuff. I fix most of my own gear so never worry about that.”
The two argued about this for Diane was an American and proud of her country and defended it always against her Irish ex-husband despite her private thoughts. Jason saw more bad than good in the nation and bemoaned the loss of such potential and before they solved anything, the found the initial wreckage of the other craft. Shortly after, they found the body, broken in two and the graves. Diane noticed the raptors before Jason did as he was examining the graves and so occupied.
Rick Johnson Feature Articles and Fiction in ERBzine
|ERBzine 1645: Johnson:
ERB Fan Profile
ERBzine 1522: Sociology of the Wieroo
ERBzine 1527: Maltheusian Decimation in Pal-Ul-Don
ERBzine 1547: Opar
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ERBzine 1974: Anatomy of an Alien
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ERBzine 1370: Mapping Barsoom I: Can It Be Done?
ERBzine 1562: Mapping Barsoom II: Compromises
ERBzine 1565: Mapping Barsoom III: The Past
ERBzine 1633: Valley Dor
ERBzine 1634: Swords On Mars
ERBzine 1711: A Panthan of Mars
ERBzine 1712: Spy: Arrival On Mars
ERBzine 2165: Battle at U-Gor
ERBzine 2166: Lost On Barsoom
ERBzine 2167: Meeting of the Panthans: Pt. I
ERBzine 2168: Meeting of the Panthans: Pt. II
ERBzine 2169: North to Barsoom
ERBzine 2196: Jahar
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