Captain North was suspicious. This in itself wasn’t unusual for
he was a suspicious man which made him perfect for his job of project security.
Unfortunately, he tended to jump to conclusions which is why he was at
this dead-end project instead of at the Pentagon where his talents would
be better appreciated.
It wasn’t that he deliberately caused trouble, it was that he believed
that all Americans should be unquestioningly loyal and until he proved
that, they were on his list as potential traitors and saboteurs.
But this was different. The guy probably wasn’t even American.
Well, he wasn’t native born that is and there were too many foreigners
coming in, getting their Naturalization without adequate background checks.
In this case, the guy claimed to be sent by the Ways and Means Committee
to check up on how their money was being spent. But still, he had
an accent. Sometimes you didn’t hear it but then, when he slipped,
it came through and despite his name, that accent wasn’t completely Irish,
more like someone who hadn’t been speaking it for years because he lived
in another country that wasn’t Ireland or America.. So what was an
American Citizen with an Irish name but an unknown accent doing in a top
secret government project?
It would do no good to talk to the Major for he had checked the man’s
credentials twice and they always came through A-OK. There had to
be something else so North took to following Obrien. Obrien!
Shouldn’t that be O’Brien? There were dozens of O’Briens and O’Neils
and O’Connors but never an Obrien. It was almost as if he chose a
name but didn’t understand how it worked. Like how the Chinese and
Japanese put their last name first which made it hard to find anyone in
the telephone book.
North found Obrien in the break room heating up a cup of tea.
Again, tea? Why not coffee? And didn’t the English and Irish put
milk or cream into their tea? Obrien took it straight, not even adding
sugar. It just wasn’t natural.
After Obrien left, North dug his tea-bag from the trash, careful to
touch the string and not the tag. Then he rushed the thing to Security
and woke Airman Kahn from his daydreaming. The man was always daydreaming
which is why he would never make Sergeant. “Kahn!” North snapped.
“Run the prints on this tea bag and tell me what you find. ASAP!
MOVE IT AIRMAN!”
Kahn snapped to attention, took the bag, carefully and said, ‘Yes Sir’
as he turned away. Despite his tendency to drift off, Kahn was a
good man who understood the value of following orders. Well, the
job wouldn’t get done any faster if he hovered so North left to make his
rounds. He had men to do that but frankly, he liked to keep his eye
on things himself. Too many of the enlisted were just doing time
to get a paycheck and so overlooked important details.
There he was, taking to Dr Jennings again. He couldn’t blame the
man, Jennings was beautiful, blonde and built. Unfortunately, she
didn’t appreciate a good man and pretended to ignore him and every other
man on the project. There! Obrien was looking at the project,
not down Jennings blouse. That meant he was gay or …. Obrien
left to talk to Dr Stroud so North considered visiting Jennings and asking
her to dinner again. The woman must be gay too. North knew
he was good looking, built, and hung. Hell! He spent an hour a day
in the Gym to keep his abs looking like a washboard and all the other men
were jealous at what they saw in the shower. So why did that blonde
doctor treat him like a leper?
North returned to his office to find Kahn going through his files.
“Kahn! What the f---!”
Kahn didn’t apologize, he handed North a file and kept looking, “Sir,
you were right! We got him! Where’s Obrien’s file? Here
it is. Look sir! The file Congress sent us is perfect.
Jason Obrien, Ways and Means Committee. Born in Boston in 1975.
The whole thing but sir! The prints I took from the tea bag don’t
His anger forgotten, North was interested, “Don’t match? Then
who is Obrien?”
“IRA, sir!” Kahn offered. “Jason Obrien, Born in Innis,
Ireland in 1945 but even that may be faked and there is evidence that he’s
much older than that and the 1945 birth certificate was fake. Moved
to Belfast where he got involved with the IRA in 1952, wanted for questioning
then vanished around 1968. He supposedly went to Africa to hunt treasure
and over the next few years, money and gold began to flow into his family
accounts in Innis but he vanished! Hasn’t been heard from since.”
North took both files, smiled for the first time that day. Finally,
after all those false leads, wrongful accusations, he had a genuine terrorist.
The money and gold probably came from some rich African Arab who wanted
to use Ireland as a base to overthrow England. Didn’t the IRA train
in Libya? “Not one word about this but grab Wilks, get armed and
meet me at the lab. If he gets away, I’ll have your ass for dinner!”
Then North literally ran to the Major’s office.
Bursting in, he slammed the files on the desk and then remembered to
snap to attention and salute. “Sir, Captain North Reports!”
“At ease, Captain, and what is so important that you ignored protocol
like this!” The major was angry but held it in until he got the story.
His men respected him for that but North saw it as weakness.
“Sir, the Obrien fellow from Congress! He’s a fraud. Yes
sir, I know he checks out but I saw him toss a tea bag and I had those
prints run separately. This is from the FBI.”
North remained at ease while the Major read both files. Finally,
“It doesn’t make sense North. Are you certain they didn’t mess the
“No sir, you have what they sent us. We’ve got him! He’s an IRA
terrorist here to sabotage the project!”
“Not necessarily, Captain. IF this is Jason Obrien from Ireland,
then he must be easily sixty years old. I’ve met the man. He
looks like he’s barely late twenties. Also, it says here he is ‘suspected
of IRA connections’. It doesn’t say he IS IRA. That’s like
me suspecting you of Ku Klux Klan membership because you lived in Alabama.
Every Catholic in Ireland had IRA connections. If you weren’t, you
were English. And, let me finish, Captain, IF he really were IRA,
why does this file state that neither Interpol nor Scotland Yard are interested
in him? If he were a terrorist, wouldn’t the Yard want him? And if
he was IRA, that was when he was a child. You can’t blame a 10 year
old kid for joining a gang. Also, what would the IRA want with this
project? Even the Irish hate the IRA now so much they can’t raise
enough cash to buy a firecracker.
“No captain, there are too many holes here. A man vanishes at…
oh thirteen years on a trip to Africa then returns almost forty years later
but looking almost as young as when he vanished? Unless this guy
found the fountain of youth in Africa and hibernated for forty years, the
FBI screwed up again with his file.”
“Sir, I’m certain of it this time.”
The Major interrupted, “North! You were certain the last four
times and frankly I’m tired of covering your ass on these wrongful accusation
suits. If this guy is who he says he is, then you piss him off and
he’ll make one call to that Senator and ALL of our asses will be on a platter.”
He leaned back and thought. “Captain, have you ever done any real
“My father was a New York City Detective. Sometimes he’d let a
drug pusher go so he could be followed to the big dealer. I’m not
going to pull you but I’m not going to let you go either. Follow
him, watch him BUT, you had better damn well have something tangible or
your next assignment will be running security checks on penguins in the
Antarctic! Do I make myself clear!”
“Yes sir!” This time North snapped to attention and saluted, holding
it until it was returned, then he did an about face and marched from the
North met his men and listened to Wilks, “Sir, Obrien’s been fiddling
with the power transformer. The tech was explaining something then
left and Obrien did something when he thought he was alone.”
“Good work. Anyone else in there?”
“Drs Stroud and Jennings and that techie. They are about to run
another experiment so we’d better hurry.”
“Good! Kahn, take the other side. Wilks with me. Do
NOT harm any of the civilians and I want Obrien alive!” Being a good
military man, North understood that the safety of his civilian charges
was job one with capturing the criminal secondary.
When North received Wilks’ signal, they all burst in with drawn weapons
and North yelled, “Freeze!” as he and his men drew on Obrien. Obrien
froze, a sure sign of a guilty man for the civilians started to yell at
him, demanding answers. “This man is a…” North began then his
weapon was pulled from his hand and flew to the super-magnets along with
the weapons of his men. Obrien turned to run, then as the handguns struck
the magnets, there was a deafening explosion and North could only wish
he were someplace where a man of action was appreciated!
North stood amidst the wreckage of the lab, “shit!” he thought, noticing
that he was naked and then seeing the stars overhead. Strange, the
lab was underground! How could the explosion have torn through dozens
of feet of concrete and steel and rock? Then as he focused on one
red star that he knew, somehow, was Mars, he felt a tug and relaxed enough
to feel himself pulled upward… He suffered an instant of cold and
darkness then.. nothing.
North woke up, both freezing and roasting at the same time. When
he opened his eyes, she saw Kahn next to him, naked and unconscious.
North carefully looked around, seeing Wilks in the distance then Steve
the tech and Doctors Stroud and Jennings, all naked. For some reason,
North took a thrill to confirm that Jennings was a natural blonde.
But he could stare later, now he had matters to do. There was an
alien standing on a nearby rock. He knew the man was an alien because
it had a long tail, maybe three feet long, stuck to its ass. He also
saw the alien possessed ape feet and its hands were backwards. No,
not backwards, it had two thumbs, the second where the smallest finger
should be. It was looking away from them and seemed to be deaf despite
the glance at what looked like pointed ears. Ever since Roddenberry
put pointed ears on Spock, every alien in the movies had to have them like
it was a fashion statement.
North nudged Kahn awake, then shushing him, motioned him to go and wake
Wilks. Kahn low-crawled to the other airman, all knowing that their
main priority was to keep the civilians alive and safe, then force the
alien to return them home to Earth. Earth! That’s it, North
saw the sun as being too small and the moon in the distance wasn’t the
one around Earth. Somehow that alien had abducted them.
The rest were waking up now, North spared a glance to Dr Jennings who
gasped then huddled, vainly trying to cover her nakedness with too few
arms. Steve was awake and staring at Jennings as if he had never
seen a naked woman before. The guy was a computer geek and was probably
still a virgin. Well, let him stare, women like Dr Jennings didn’t
know he was alive. Dr Stroud was the last to awaken, then as he saw
both men awake and ready, the alien turned around.
It was Obrien, but not the same Obrien. Rather if you glued pointed
ears and moth antenna and stuck cat’s-eye contacts lenses it would be Obrien.
It was as if the explosion that destroyed their clothing also destroyed
Obrien’s disguise. North didn’t know what the project was and didn’t
want to know but apparently it was important enough for some alien race
to destroy it. North, Major North, for he was certain to get a promotion
for capturing the first interplanetary terrorist, readied himself as he
Obrien looked at North’s genitals, the Pride of the Outfit for North
was easily more man than any two or three combined, then the alien squatted
and covered his own in embarrassment. Good, any advantage was worth
“I suppose you are wondering why I brought you here?” Obrien started,
then North and his men jumped him.
North felt himself falling and then Obrien, small as he was, grabbed
him by the neck and threw him aside as if he were a child. Flailing
about, North saw he was easily ten feet in the air and tried to land without
breaking anything but the jar still shook him. He rolled, jumped
to his feet, fell over and landed hard again, seeing both his men groaning
as Obrien sat back again. For a runt who would have to stand on his
toes to make six feet, the alien was horribly strong.
North tried to move closer as Obrien talked, describing each of them.
“I am Jason Obrien, Lord Innis, Baron Drakonis.” He said. Well,
thought North, if you faked your ID, it was easier to remember your own
name. Obrien continued, “You may call me ‘My Lord’ or ‘Your Grace’.
As you can see I am not really human. I was sent to Earth to stop
your experiment only to find that you succeeded where I failed. Please,
Captain, hold off or I’ll kill you all as easily as you can a child.
All will be made clear in time.”
“What did you do to us!” screamed Jennings, nearly hysterical.
“I did nothing. This is all your own fault. During the Second
World War, the US Navy tried to develop a radar deflecting device.
The Philadelphia Experiment failed with drastic consequences. The
battleship they used vanished, reappeared hundreds of miles away within
seconds, crewmen went crazy and some even vanished. The project was
cancelled and the men certified as insane because of the magnetic fields
generated. You, Dr. Stroud, thought it would make you famous if you
could solve the problem and develop a cloaking-device. So you called
a few friends in Congress and got some funding, a lab and a few incompetent
assistants. In fact, with the exception of Dr Jennings here who saved
your project, your experiments were noted for their failure rates.
“So with the assistance of Dr Jennings and that tech and the paranoia
of Captain North, you accidentally created a means to teleport across the
galaxy. And you, Dr Stroud, didn’t even understand what you were
doing. So, you blundered around until you caught our attention.
“Your race isn’t intelligent or mature enough for such a device.
Thus I was sent here to sabotage the thing. Unfortunately, Captain
North discovered me and interrupted me as I was finishing the device that
would destroy your experiment for all time. My congratulations, Captain.
I underestimated you to my loss.”
At least the man gave credit where it was due. “Why did you bring us
here?” asked Steve Wadding? Waddel? North didn’t remember
for he made it a habit of calling military people by their last name and
rank and civilians by their first names.
“I did not bring you here. YOU brought us here. Your cloaking
device was really a teleporter and IT, not me, brought us to this planet.”
“Planet?” Jennings spoke up. “We are on another planet?”
“Of course. Notice the pink sky, two moons, smaller sun and low
gravity. This world is definitely not Earth.” The woman was
showing her blonde. North knew they weren’t on Earth within a minute of
Dr. Stroud then asked “Isn’t this your planet?” How did that man
get to his position? At least Dr Jennings could sleep her way up
the ladder of success.
“No. I spent some time here a couple centuries ago, but that was
in the marshes and not this desert so I don’t know anything about this
place other than what I have read.
“As for you all, I hadn’t intended you to die but it does solve my problem.
I was sent to stop your work. So my priorities are survival, return
home and ensure that your project fails. Your deaths here will stop
the project and my chances of returning home are better alone.” Then
he said something in some foreign language and started to leave when someone
Turning Obrien explained, “Yes I am leaving you here alone to die.
I thought that I had made that clear. It’s hard but necessary.”
“We need to stick together to survive!” Capt North spoke up. “Our
chances as a group are better than alone.” North could arrest the
man later but now, as he said, priorities were survival and return home
and this alien could do both.
“We do not,” Obrien said. Strange how he never said ‘yes’ or ‘no’
but always repeated the sentence as a negative. It must be some alien
thing which would be useful to catch more of them when he returned to Earth.
“I know something of this world and trying to find food and water and
survive the predators will be difficult enough for me, naked and unarmed
as I am. Dragging you along decreases my chances for survival and
frankly, none of you possess any skills of value with the possible exception
of Dr Jennings, who is sitting upon her only useful assets.”
All argued with the alien but his mind was made up when Dr Jennings
said, quietly, “I’ll sleep with you.”
“What?” they all asked in unison.
“I said I’ll sleep with you.” She yelled. “I don’t want to die
and you said that’s my only asset so if that is what it takes to make you
to save me, I’ll do it.”
North had wondered about her but when the chips were down, she reverted
to type and relied on her body to get her ahead. He was now certain
that she had slept her way to her PhD. And now she was lowering herself
to bending over for this monkey-man.
“You humans like to make promises you will not keep. You claim
that you were coerced or you redefine the terms. So why should I
believe you?” it asked.
“Because my life is in your hands. So long as I make you happy,
you keep me alive. So I give you sex, anytime and any way and as
often as you want. But you keep ALL of us alive, not just me, my
body is worth all our lives. And second, you return us all to Earth.
I’ll make certain the project fails so you don’t have to report to your
superiors that you screwed up.”
Obrien looked at her but North saw the alien was the only one who wasn’t
becoming hard with the thought of doing Jennings. Maybe the alien
didn’t like human women? If so, why was he agreeing?
“Agreed! But I am in charge. This is a dangerous world and
failure to obey my orders will be disastrous. So anyone who hesitates
to obey or who argues, will be beaten into submission by myself.
Have you any arguments?”
None of them could argue, knowing that their lives were in his hands
so he had them practice walking in the low gravity as he explained where
they were. “We are on Barsoom, a world that has been dying for a
half million years. Everything here is intelligent and everything
here kills something else. There are humans here but they’ll see
you as either potential slaves or as competition for food or as potential
enemies. If they choose the first, you will live as a slave in chains,
if the other two options, you’ll die. It’s that simple.”
Everyone grumbled and Dr Jennings kept trying to hide her body as she
walked, knowing that all the men were staring at her. North approached,
his interest obvious and hissed, “How could you be willing to do that!
He’s not even human. It’d be like screwing a monkey, for god’s sakes.”
She didn’t look at him but turned red and hissed back, “If you don’t
like the deal I made, then go off on your own. He took you and both
your men out, he knows about this world and being an alien he understands
space travel and he knows where we are and where Earth is. Right
now he is our only hope for survival! So I am doing what I must no
matter how unpleasant it is. You’d do the same.”
“No, I wouldn’t. I’d die before stooping that low.”
“Then why are you willing to benefit from my whoredom?”
North couldn’t answer that. Sometimes the woman was infuriating.
Any further conversation was interrupted by Obrien hissing ‘down’ and
falling to the ground himself. Dr Stroud ignored the command as did
North, the former from stupidity, the latter from a need to know what was
happening. North never took anyone’s word on anything, he always
double checked himself. In this case, Obrien knocked them both down
then wrapped his tail around Dr Stroud’s neck to prevent an outcry.
North was smart enough to shut up when he saw the horse-things.
They were shaped vaguely like a good horse but these were about ten
feet at the shoulder, monsters in their own right with eight legs.
It seemed to be hairless though at that distance he couldn’t be certain,
only that it was a dark slate color with a white belly and yellow feet.
Its tail was larger at the tip than at the base and it held its tail straight
out as it ran but North could hear no sound of hooves on rocks. The
creatures did run as if in panic and soon the cause of their flight appeared.
Two lion-like beasts were in chase, both having ten legs, a mane and green
eyes. Obrien was cautious but not terrified though who knew what
powers these aliens had. But all were scared enough to remain silent
until long after the beasts had crossed the ridge of hills.
Steve, the techie was staring in wonder at the parade then said as if
in a dream, ‘Thoats and banths! We are on Barsoom! I never
dreamed… but it’s all true!”
“What the hell are you talking!” about North demanded.
“Almost a hundred years ago Edgar Rice Burroughs wrote a series of novels
about Mars, he called it Barsoom.” Explained Steve. “His hero was
John Carter, a Confederate soldier who died on Earth and was transported
to Mars and had amazing adventures. Burroughs always said he made
it all up but it’s true! Burroughs was covering for his uncle.”
“You’re insane,” North insisted. “I’m no astronomer but even I
know that nothing can live on Mars. The Voyager probes proved that.”
Both argued with the techie insisting that this must be Mars because it
fit the description by that author and the officer insisting that it cannot
be because science said so. North didn’t understand science so he
had an unfailing faith in those, like Dr Stroud, who understood the field.
Finally Dr. Jennings called to the Alien and asked him, “What the truth
The alien insisted that he be called ‘Lord’ or ‘Baron’ because ‘mister’
was a title he didn’t possess then he explained, “Yes, we are on Barsoom.
But they are still arguing as to if Mars and Barsoom are the same planet.
As for Burroughs, the writer did exactly what he said he did, people told
him stories and he rewrote them to be more interesting and published them.
So far as I know, John Carter may have been an uncle or he may have been
a family friend they just called ‘uncle’. Not having met either I
“However, although the stories were mostly true, he did make mistakes
or changes because he had to pay the rent. The pink sky for one.
It turns blue when the dust settles but that almost never happens.
“On earth, all land animals evolved from that same fish so all land
animals have four limbs. Here, there were multiple lines of evolution
from different fish with different numbers of limbs. Here, if it
has four limbs like you, it’s probably an immigrant like you.
“But now we need to find food, water and shelter because the night is
about to get really cold.”
Obrien led them off and North insisted on asking, “why are we going
this way? What’s so special in this direction?”
He responded without thought, “Because the banths went that way.
I don’t want to meet them when they return to their lair. They are normally
solitary night-hunters but these are an exception. They’re probably
a mated pair woken by the thoats. Banths rule the night, Calots rule
the day and White-Apes rule the dead cities. Even if we were armed,
they’d easily kill us all.”
Obrien led them for hours until every breath racked their lungs.
At least, thought North, Dr Jennings wasn’t hiding any-more though with
this low gravity they didn’t bounce much. Finally Obrien pointed,
“Lets try that ridge there. It may be low enough to provide food
Obrien crawled to the ridge with North following. The man was
an alien and terrorist and saboteur but he did know how to move in dangerous
country. They scanned the floor and hills and finally Obrien saw
something, “There!” he pointed.
“What?” North asked. He was having trouble breathing. It
reminded him of when he visited Denver while on leave from the Air Force
Academy. The mile-high city sucked the air from his lungs.
“That shadow, it’s too regular as if it were built. Also look
at that dark splotch that looks like vegetation near those rocks.
They could be mantilla seeking warmth by reflected heat.”
Steve asked then, “If we are so far from the sun, why is it so hot during
the day and so cold at night?”
Obrien commented as they approached the structure. “For the same
reason you can bake a cake in your car. Ultra-Violet penetrates the
atmosphere and excites the rocks into producing infra-red heat which heats
the planet. Once the sun sets, there’s no more UV so the rocks rapidly
give off their IR. After the sun sets, the temp drops to near freezing
so we need shelter.
Once at the bottom, North saw two old wooden wagons, one knocked off
its wheels and all with holes as if they had taken explosive rounds or
missiles. “What caused these holes? They look like explosives
but no demolition team would put them here.”
“Rifle fire. The locals use thermo-nuclear rounds for their firearms.
This was a caravan attacked by raiders, possibly Green Men who were… over
there behind those rocks. These two were abandoned as the remainder
tried to escape. Maybe they did. Here, help me flip this one
over.” Obrien had found an axle or that long piece that’s they used
to tie to horses. North had seen them on TV but never cared enough
to ask what they were called.
With all helping, they managed to flip the wagon over to provide a shelter
of sorts. Then they levered a corner up and Obrien shoved a couple
large rocks to give an entrance. Finally he broke some boards from
the other wagon with a few karate kicks and shoved them inside for a floor.
North was impressed with those kicks for the boards were easily an inch
thick and seemed to be harder than oak.
He then led them to the grove, picking up a rock and chipping it into
a sort of primitive axe as he explained, “These are mantilla plants. They
produce a milky sap which will keep you alive for years. It can be
made into cheese or a dozen other things or simply drunk straight.
It’s quite bland but nutritious.”
Looking at the thing, North saw a giant reddish-brown pineapple easily
a yard high with evidence that larger ones had been broken off and eaten.
All the broad leaves faced the setting sun so North figured that they turned
to catch as much light as possible.
Obrien carefully cut away one of the scales and made a number of v-cuts
as if he were tapping a molasses tree. “Catch the milk in your hands
or a cup and drink it. It’s all we’ll have tonight and for a very
long time. Dr Jennings followed his example and commented, “It’s
like thick cream,” as she licked her fingers. Obrien repeated the
procedure with other trees and soon they were all full. Then he cut
free some of the younger leaves and sliced them to reveal a mushy interior.
Scooping it free, he mashed it into a paste and rubbed it on his arms and
shoulders, “This stuff is like Aloe Vera and will sooth our sunburn.
But don’t drink the sap, it for external use only. And clean your
hands before you rub your eyes or eat anything more or you’ll get sick.”
Once done, he replaced the scale which quickly glued itself back onto the
As he led them to the wagon he continued, “It’ll get dark soon and very
cold so we cannot do outside watches. Do your toilet now and take
turns on watch inside as the rest sleep.”
‘Toilet’ thought North, another strange word to use. Why not say,
‘hit the latrine’ or ‘take a leak’. North kept very good mental notes
because if there were more of these aliens on Earth, this might be the
way to find them.
It was while North was standing against one of the wagons, emptying
his bladder, that he saw Dr Jennings go to Obrien. There wasn’t much
to void and in the cold and with his sunburn, it took time so he watched
and listened to them. Dr Jennings was obviously trying to get up
the guts to do something she disliked doing. He’d had that same look
and attitude whenever he had to apologize and kiss-ass to the brass so
he knew it well. Then she stood up, closed her eyes, stuck her shoulders
back and walked to the alien. She put her arms around his neck and
kissed him but North saw she was careful to make no other body contact.
North had seen more passion during a football game so it was obvious she
was forcing herself. North got ready to interfere and save the woman
even though the smaller alien was stronger and faster. Still, he
had to try. She was a blonde bimbo and was whoring herself but she
was human and an American and he was still in charge of her safety.
She said to Obrien, “I’m ready to pay my part of our bargain now.” But
he removed her arms and replied, “It’s too cold out here now and as much
as I want to, I hate public sex inside so take the night off.”
North was thinking about this. Obrien still intended to force
the woman and it was only because he was cold, probably too cold to get
it up(?) that was stopping him. But Dr Jennings looked relieved
and happy. She may be a whore but she didn’t like being one, North
thought. That was a point in her favor.
She then stiffened again and forced herself to say, “My Lord, can you
build a fire tonight?” North would have had just as hard a time calling
the alien ‘my lord’ as did she so it was clear she said it only to convince
him to agree. ‘We fought a war to avoid bowing and kissing ass to
royalty who got their throne only because they had a bigger sword and army.
These aliens probably never had the advantages of Democracy.’ Another mental
note to file away.
Obrien sighed and confessed that, “I’ve been testing rocks and can’t
find any that will make sparks. And I can’t find anything to make
a bow-drill either so we’ll suffer tonight.” North understood that
one, for he had taken enough survival courses with the Air Force and had
been looking for materials to make weapons and tools and even he couldn’t
find anything here. All this miserable planet had was moss and rocks
and you can’t make rope from moss which as too wet to burn.
Obrien then approached North and asked, “We need to set a watch.
So please make a schedule and choose who watches when. I’ll take
the early watch since I fall asleep early and wake up early. The
rest I will leave in your adequate hands. But the watch must remain
inside in case those banths follow us here.”
At least the man could delegate and recognize ability. So North
called the men together and decided on who he could trust for which watch.
It wouldn’t be easy without a watch but watching the stars move across
the ridge between two rocks would make some kind of time-frame. Wilks
and Kahn could be trusted. Even Obrien was trustworthy in this area
since he didn’t want to be eaten any more than the others though an early
watch could give him a chance to run away while the rest were sleeping.
No, he probably would take Dr Jennings with him and she’d not leave the
rest behind so he’d take the man at his word for now, but sleep lightly.
Dr Stroud was useless and Steve, the techie was unknown so he set Steve
for first and himself for second then determined to wake up occasionally
to check on the watch.
The night was unbearably cold and only their combined body heat contained
inside the wagon kept them alive. When North asked Obrien, “Is it
always like this?” he got the reply, “It’s always cold at night
and hot during the day. But this cold means that we must be near
the poles. The sun and moons are too low to the horizon so I think
we are maybe sixty degrees north or south. Let’s hope north.”
“This planet is mostly desert. When the seas dried up a half million
years ago, the Orovars built a series of waterways from the north polar
ice-caps to water each city. Most of the north hemisphere is covered
with these and we can find one every day’s march or so. The south
is mostly desert with few cities and fewer waterways so we can go a month
without seeing anyone or anything.”
Steve jumped in, “Can’t you tell from the constellations? On Earth
if the Big Dipper is in the sky I know I am in the northern hemisphere
but the Southern Cross would show that I am in the southern.”
“Normally you can, but the air here is so thin you see more stars and
so the patterns aren’t as clear as on Earth. You see maybe seven
thousand stars in the sky away from the city on Earth. A tenth that
near a city and then only the brightest which make the constellations.
Here you see a dozen thousand easily and they obscure the patterns.
Besides, it’s been two hundred years since I was here so I’ve forgotten
the patterns I learned back then.”
“You’re that old?” Dr Jennings asked? “You look younger than me
and I’m only thirty-two.”
“My kind live five hundred years easily and we don’t age until the last
fifty. I was in my early twenties when I was here last. Just
another stupid kid who didn’t know anything. Now I have life experience
and position back home and frankly, although I like camping, this is taking
‘roughing it’ too far.”
“And are you married back home?” but this query was met with snoring.
God the man snored. If he were in the field, every enemy within a
mile would hear and lock into their position. So North pushed him
with his feet until Obrien was on his side and quieted down.
It was dark almost instantly, as if when the sun set, someone had turned
off a light switch. So North lay there in the dark thinking about
what he had learned so far. There were aliens in the galaxy and they
were spying on Earth to keep us from reaching the stars. Well, that
explained why after only a few manned missions to the Moon, America stopped
going. The aliens probably were sabotaging a lot of the manned flights
to keep us earth-bound. The aliens didn’t seem to use ‘yes’ and ‘no’
but answered simple questions by repeating the question. They lived
500 years which would give them a different view on life. North was
living for retirement which was only ten years away, Obrien was around
when America was still fighting the Revolutionary War and he was looking
at another three hundred years before he could retire. What did people
think and what plans did they do with a lifespan that long? If you
owned a company, your kids would have to wait five centuries before they
could inherit it. And a dead end job would last forever. A
king, for Obrien was obsessed with his title, wouldn’t rule for twenty
years but for centuries. King George II who ruled England and America
centuries ago would still be in power today, still making the same decisions,
still fighting to keep his empire intact. Stagnation! That’s what
longer lifespans would do.
So Obrien probably thought of Dr Jennings as a child barely legal and
he’d use her and toss her away because she’d get old while he was still
young. He’d think of humans as disposable and believe that we were
children because we died of old age before we could mature by his standards.
But stagnation also meant conservative and so they’d have the idea, what’s
good for my grandfather is good for me but grandfather was alive during
the Roman Empire so their technology would advance very slowly.
That was our advantage, North thought. We are young and vigorous
and that scares the aliens. So, satisfied, he fell asleep dreaming
about revealing the alien menace and being the one to spread man to the
stars. Manifest Destiny, only America wouldn’t stop at the Pacific,
we’d push to the edge of the Galaxy! And woe to anyone who got in
our way. The Indians learned that lesson and so would any alien who
got in America’s way! Maybe Barsoom would be the 51st state?
If not, they’d better be willing to stay out of our way. Or else!
North was woken up by having his feet kicked as he heard, “North, wake-up!
We had visitors last night!”
Awake instantly, North swore and pushed the arms around him away.
He could live with the man trying to stay warm in the cold but that morning
woody in his back was just too gay!
Obrien was outside staring at the ground before the opening. The
moss and even the ground had been clawed up as if some animal had tried
to dig its way inside. North spread his fingers and still the claw
marks were greater than his own span. That thing must have been a
monster. “A banth tried to dig its way in last night.
Then for some reason went away. Did you see or hear anything on your
watch?” Obrien was asking.
“If I had I’d have awakened you.” North replied falling easily into
the position of second-in-command. “Didn’t Airman Kahn say anything
when he woke you?”
“I awoke by myself when the sun peeked through the opening. I
don’t know if he’s asleep or what.”
North was angry instantly. Falling asleep or abandoning post while
on duty was a court martial offense and while on this planet, they were
under combat rules. It was only by pure luck that the banth left
before it got inside. “KAHN! GET YOUR SORRY ASS OUT HERE NOW!!”
North yelled through the opening. Then making dire threats he grabbed
everyone who exited, even Dr Jennings and screamed into their face, “Have
you seen Kahn?” releasing them only when he received a negative.
Obrien may be in charge because of his experience but Kahn was his man
and so North was responsible for his actions.
When the last exited, North crawled back inside, the cold forgotten
then exited a moment later. “Wilks! Kahn is gone. Did
you wake him up like I told you?”
Wilks snapped to attention, ridiculous in his nudity and reported, “Yes
sir. Everything was normal when I went to sleep, sir!”
Sweeping the men with his gaze, including Steve as well, hell, the man
was now drafted into the Air Force, North slammed into them, “All right
Ladies! Kahn is missing! Do a sweep around the area but DO NOT leave
sight of the compound. NOW GO!”
Despite what Obrien privately thought, North was not stupid. Stupid
people are never commissioned into the Air Force. That’s what the
Army and Marines are for. Hell, he may not be a genius with a PhD
like Drs Stroud and Jennings but he did have a Bachelors in Business administration
and a Masters in Military Strategy so was far more than the country bumpkin
that the alien thought he was.
Shortly, Wilks called out, “Captain North, Baron Obrien, over here sirs.”
North wasn’t happy with Wilks calling Obrien ‘baron’ but at least he called
for North first.
What they saw was a wet spot against the side of a wagon. The
reddish moss was already sending runners up the wood to collect the precious
moisture. It was obvious what happened but North touched the spot
which was easily knee-high and smelled his fingers before wiping them on
the moss. “Urine. Kahn violated orders and left the shelter
to take a leak. So where is he?”
Steve was looking around and called out, “Your Grace, I found blood!”
The blood stains were already dry and brown, the moss sucking every
drop of moisture from the spots. Then Wilks found more, “Sirs, he
was bleeding bad and came this way where the moss is torn up.”
Obrien looked at the blood and then to the hills and explained with
an unexpected sadness to his voice. “Now we know what probably happened.
Kahn was on watch and came outside to relieve his bladder. The banth
arrived and was sniffing and digging its way into our shelter and then
stopped when it discovered Kahn. So it killed Kahn and dragged him
away.” Obrien swore in his own language then added, “Captain, feed
the men please and search the area for anything useful. Tools, weapons,
anything we can use to make either.”
As Obrien left, North called out, “Where are you going?” then seeing
that look, added ‘lord.’
“I am going to find Kahn or his body. If the banth returns, you
are best qualified to protect the others. Food, weapons, gear if
North ran after him, “Kahn is dead. If that animal we saw got
him, hell, it had claw prints a foot across. We can’t divide our
forces. We need you here.”
“The man is my responsibility per my agreement with Jennings.
I cannot rest until I am certain. Take command Captain.” And he left
at a jog and was soon over the rim.
North looked at his ‘command’ and commanded, “Ok, let’s do a thorough
search of this area. Maybe the raiders who hit these wagons missed
something or maybe they dropped something. So look for anything useful.
Check under unusual shapes of moss growth for buried objects. We
don’t know what is useful so anything is valuable until proven otherwise.”
North notice that Dr Jennings was watching Obrien trot away with a strange
look so he came over to her and asked, “Is there something wrong?”
“He hates us,” She said. “He said his life would be easier if
we were all dead and he was about to leave us behind to die here until
I made my... deal. Yet, instead of being happy about poor Kahn, he’s
going off alone to find him and try to save him. I don’t understand
that man at all.”
“You’ve never been a soldier and been responsible for other lives.
Sometimes you have to send men to die and that’s never easy. So if
there’s a chance to save them, you take it. He may not like us but
he considers himself to be our leader and that means he will die for us.”
North understood but she never would. He didn’t like Obrien, didn’t
trust him but he did respect the man.
Hours later Obrien returned with an armful of something and a hat made
from a leaf on his head. Dropping his bundle which appeared to be
gourds he said simply, “Kahn is dead. I found the body. No
we have to get out of here fast.”
Dr Jennings broke down crying as North asked, “Why leave so suddenly
and leave food and shelter behind for who knows what? We should remain
here until we can make weapons and clothing.”
Obrien began to cut openings into the gourds with a piece of sharp stone
as he explained, “The banths know we are here so they’ll return in the
dark to dig us out. Without adequate weapons, we are helpless.
And a banth can take a full magazine from a M-16 and not flinch.
That’s why the locals use explosive rounds.
“Get some sticks and scrape the inside of these clean. Then fill
them with Mantilla milk for canteens. We’ll save the softer ones
Jennings looks at Obrien’s hat and asked, “You look foolish with that
leaf on your head. Why wear it?”
“Sunstroke! You live longer with shade. Also, everyone,
cover your bodies with the mantilla leaf sap. It’ll slow sunburn,
heal yesterday’s damage and hopefully disguise our scent from the banths.”
When they were done and leaving, Dr Jennings asked Obrien why he went
after Kahn when he wanted them all dead. She didn’t fully understand
what North had told her so wanted it from his mouth.
“I lead a complicated life,” he explained. “800 years ago,
my country was conquered by a foreign nation. We constantly revolted,
trying to free ourselves. They called us terrorists, rebels, savages,
anything to turn people against us and hold our nation in slavery.
500 years ago they got so tired of our fighting back, they sold one fifth
of our nation into slavery over the ocean. Children were taken from
the streets and loaded aboard the slave ships in chains as their mothers
cried in vain. Fathers returned home to starving children because
their mother was taken by the oppressors and sold as a whore in the New
“The conquerors had a policy of taking whatever they wanted and what
they wanted was our national treasures. I was assigned to move them
to a place of safety. I wasn’t chosen because I was holier or braver
or more noble than anyone else, I was chosen because they knew I’d get
the task done.
“They followed us and I knew there was an ambush ahead but I had no
choice. I sent men to trip the ambush, men I sent to die to save
the rest of us. We got through only to meet the rest of their army
on the other side. I was shot twice and remember nothing else until
I awoke with the ravens and dogs chewing on me. The victors were
taking my men, alive, dead, wounded and untouched, tying ropes around their
necks and pulling them to a branch to choke to death. It takes three
minutes of torture to pass unconscious from choking. Another three
minutes after that to die.
“I still had my mission to do so I left my men to die so I could steal
the treasure back and take it to safety. My men trusted me and I
left them to die. I’ll not do that again.
“When I returned home, still injured,” I continued, “I found that their
Army, the Police, had been there first. They barred my door and burned
my house to the ground with my wife and children inside. I loved
them more than life itself and took my revenge on the country that murdered
“Whatever people you call ‘terrorist’ is just someone so frustrated
by being a conquered slave that they fight back with whatever weapon they
have. Want to end terrorism? Stop invading and screwing over
Obrien, angry, left them then to move on ahead. North understood
the basic history, being a soldier who had fought in Bosnia and Desert
Storm but still, there had to be a better way than planting bombs.
They spent the night, huddled freezing among some rocks but the banths
didn’t follow. As they began to fall asleep, Obrien asked Dr Jennings,
“Who is Eddie?”
“My boyfriend back on Earth. He’s probably worried to death about
me, why did you ask?”
“You called his name this morning. Do you love him?”
“That’s kind of personal. Would it matter is we were?”
“We date and sleep together but are not living together. I’m trying
to not think about him until we get home. What about you, are you
“Not now. I was. I believe in serial monogamy. Were
you living with him, I would consider you married and let you go but since
“Oh, I guess I should have lied. Why aren’t you married now?”
“They die or leave. It takes a special woman to live in my world.
Many try for the benefits of wealth, position and power and as you Americans
say, ‘I clean up well’, but ultimately, my main focus must be the Barony
and any woman I marry must accept a secondary position. Few women
in love can do that and the ones who can are usually selling themselves
for wealth. My children are expected to do the same. Would
you marry a man who is always off fighting some war, knowing that all of
your children will be forced to do the same? Love is for commoners
like you, we Nobles have to settle for friendship.
The next day Wilks stopped suddenly, sneezed and said, “I smell water.”
“Where?” Obrien asked. North was happy to see something he couldn’t
do better than they.
Wilks sucked his finger to get it wet and sensitive and pointed, “there!”
Soon all reached a split in the ground where, a couple yards below,
ran a river, colored reddish from the dust, but still water. Obrien
scanned the area and asked, “Can anyone see a way down and up? If
we climb or jump here, we’ll never be able to get back.”
It was while all were searching when Dr Jennings screamed in terror.
Approaching were two more thoats but each carried a rider that was something
out of a nightmare. The things were huge, insect-like in that they
had six limbs and green skin. Their faces had eyes on the sides of
their heads and huge tusks from their mouth to where their eyes should
be and slits for a nose. Both were charging, carrying lances that
must be forty feet long, all in silence and it was only because Dr Jennings
chanced to glance behind that we were warned.
Obrien immediately jumped over the lance of one, struck the thing and
snapped its neck with no effort. The rest were paralyzed with fear
at the sight. It’s one thing to watch a monster movie on TV, another
to face the things in real life, naked and unarmed. Had they been
Russian or Arabs soldiers, North and Wilks would have reacted easily but
North saw Obrien take a dagger from the one he killed and threw it at
the second monster, luckily striking it in the back for throwing a knife
rarely results in the desired goal. Usually you lose your weapon
and leave the enemy bruised, angry and unharmed.
As the thing fell dead, its mount squealed and turned, knocking Wilks
into the river and almost trampling the rest of the group. As Wilks
was washed downstream by the current, fortunately not too fast, so North
took off the save him. Obrien yelled at him to stop but North, his
man at risk and unwilling to loose another, yelled back, “The hell with
“No you idiot,” he replied, “Take this!” and tossed to North a
knife with a blade that was easily eighteen inches long. “Now take
the tech with you and we’ll catch up.”
Steve, pulled a sword from the dead monster, laughed and yelled as he
ran after North, “My name is Bar Komas”
For hours the two followed Wilks, sometimes, in the beginning, catching
sight of him or hearing his voice but mostly just running along the banks
hoping for a beach or low area. Eventually they reached a small stone
house with a pier that jetted into the river so both increased their pace
to reach it before Wilks. On the pier, both scanned the water in
all directions but saw nothing but water. “He couldn’t have come
this far. We were running faster than he.” Cried North.
Steve started to say, “Maybe we’re too late and he…” only to be cut
off by North’s look. “Steve, check the building for rope or a boat
or food or anything. I’ll keep watch here.”
Moments later he returned, “Nothing. A few empty rooms with two
beds hanging from chains and a fireplace. But no wood, water or food
at all. It’s like a cabin that you only use on vacation so why supply it.”
“Let’s go on,” North commanded and they ran on.
Another couple hours and still no luck though they hid from another
band of Green Men following the river downstream. “Curious, no firearms
at all but Obrien said they used nuclear warheads in their bullets.”
Later, near dark, the Techie pointed, “there! I see a body.”
Both looked over and Steve asked, “Is it Wilks?”
North looked and answered, “Not unless he got dressed in the river.
That guy has belts and weapons all over. Wait here, I’m climbing
So while Steve watched for danger, North climbed down the cliff.
It wasn’t far, maybe eight feet and very rocky but no different from the
cliffs he had to scale in Special Ops school and within a minute was next
to the body. He rolled it over and called back, “It’s human and white.
Looks like he drowned. Well he won’t need these.” And North stripped
the body and climbed back to the bank.
“Another long sword, short sword and dagger, too bad they don’t require
fencing at the Academy. Belts, loin-cloth, some silk in the hip-pack,
maybe food here? Yes, it’s bland but edible so have some. I
don’t know what this is but it smells terrible. And almost no jewelry
or decorations. The leather is water-logged but seems undamaged.
Here!” And North handed the dagger, silk and some of the belts to
Steve who cut himself a breech-cloth and sword belt. Soon, both were
clothed to an extent, both naked from the waist up but wearing a belt for
their blades and finally covering their privates. Although North’s
kept working free, for he was much more endowed than the corpse, still
he felt better without the thing flapping around in the breeze. Unlike
the girls he met in bars, Dr Jennings seemed to be turned off by his manhood.
Well, maybe she was a dyke. Her willingness to bed that alien monkey-man
and the obvious distaste she felt doing so may be a sign of that.
“The sun is going down, find something to burn and I’ll find a place
to stay.” North commanded and soon they had a small fire giving limited
warmth in a rocky crevasse. North could have started one with the
knife and a rock but the fire-starter in the hip-pack made the job easier.
So sharing the last of the food from the pack, they discussed the future.
“What now Captain?” The tech was practicing fencing moves that
showed that he had training but long ago and hadn’t kept it up.
“Bar Komas. Call me that please.”
North laughed, “Why? No matter. We do what we started, follow
the river looking for Wilks or his body. Maybe he reached that pier,
climbed out and we missed him as he returned upstream. Maybe he is
on a beach or ledge a little way downstream. I’m not leaving without knowing.”
North felt guilty about abandoning Kahn so easily and resented Obrien searching
for him, a job that North should have done himself.
The next morning, they continued on and after an hour or so, literally
ran into a group of people. There were a half dozen, well built but
not as muscled as was North but all were human, white-skinned and auburn-haired.
North was looking them over and noticed the prisoners in chains at the
same time the six pulled swords on them. North and Bar Komas tried
to draw but were too slow and instantly were disarmed and placed in chains
with the rest of the prisoners. North tried to demand his rights
but it was clear that neither understood the other so the captors let them
rant for awhile.
They were walking upstream and North took stock of his fellows.
All wore the simple belts that they found on the body but each was designed
differently, probably a fashion thing or maybe different national costumes.
One was black, ebony black and not the brown that he was used to with American
Negroes. And unlike those he knew, this black man had black hair
which appeared to be naturally straight. The others were red-skinned
and had wavy black hair but their skin was more a copper color and not
the brownish-red of the Hispanic or American Indian. One of the reds
was a woman, topless and small breasted but beautiful in the extreme despite
this. Since all efforts to communicate with their captors and prisoners
failed, North asked his fellow Earthman, “Steve, ok, Bar Komas, you said
earlier that this place was from a novel? Tell me about it.”
The tech took a deep breath and started, “It’s been years and I might
get some of it wrong but Edgar Rice Burroughs was a writer in the early
20th century. He wrote a lot of stuff but my favorites were his Mars
series where a Confederate Army Captain named John Carter died in Arizona,
I think, and found his soul or astral body or something standing near his
body. He looked up, saw Mars and was transported here.”
North remembered that he had been certain that the explosion had killed
him and he also remembered seeing Mars in the sky before awaking here.
There were to many parallels to fathom, other than this Carter was
a Confederate Army Captain and North was an American Air Force Captain.
“John Carter had a number of adventures dealing with Green Men like
the ones that attacked us, Red Men like our fellow captives, banths and
thoats and calots and all sorts of adventures. These white men, though,
are supposed to be extinct. Hundreds of thousands of years ago, the
White, Black and Yellow races mixed to form the Red. But Carter kept
finding Black and Yellow Men in isolated areas so maybe the White still
hides out here too.”
“So what happens to us now?”
“Well, if the Green Men had captured us, they’d torture us to death.
But with these guys, probably slavery, fighting to death in the arena,
who knows. The fact that Burroughs never described them shows that
the Red Men think they are extinct but when Carter discovered the Black
and Yellow races, they had remained hidden by never letting a captive go.”
“Can you communicate with them?”
“Only a few words like ‘sak’ means jump, ‘koar’ means hello and the
names of a few animals. Lord Obrien probably speaks the language
fluently since he was here a couple centuries ago.”
“Why do you keep calling him ‘lord’?”
“Because he is. On Barsoom, royal families rule. Democracy
doesn’t exist. And they are very proud of their Lineage. I
think that using their titles out of respect will make our lives easier.
Dwar! That’s it. ‘Dwar’ means Captain.”
“Sort of like the ‘when in Rome, do as the Romans do’ thing. Good
work.” Turning to his fellow prisoners North said “Koar! I
am Dwar Mark North. This is Steve.. no, This is Bar Komas.”
The others smiled back and replied “Koar!” then introduced themselves
as Sojar, the Black, Kara, the woman and Hanno and Vos Kar, the Red Men.
Then the conversation ended so North returned to his Earthly companion
and began to quiz him as to everything he knew about Mars or Barsoom. The
fact that he didn’t believe he was on Mars bothered him not at all.
Wherever he was, he’d have to accept that he was somewhere and the place
was probably just mistaken for Mars. But he’d better get used to
the place anyway until he could escape.
The group had stopped for dinner and North told Steve, “I think I can
break these chains. If these people are adapted to a weak gravity,
they wouldn’t need anything very strong. Get ready to run and we
should be able to out-race them.”
But before he could do anything, Obrien appeared, wearing belts from
the dead Green Men and wearing swords. The fool alien walked right
up to the Orovars and said, “Koar” then continued in what North took to
be the native language. The three he faced just laughed and looked
him over as three others snuck up from behind. North was about to
shout a warning when Obrien drew his sword back-handed and stabbed the
man behind him without looking. He then drew his shorter blade and
killed another in a second, then jumped over the next, cleaving his skull
as he passed overhead. Landing, Obrien turned and opened the spine
of the next and waited in an on guard position.
His two opponents then looked at him, each other and turned and ran
away leaving everyone dumbfounded. Obrien then shrugged and searched
the bodies for keys as Dr Jennings came forward with Dr Stroud, worship
in her eyes. When Obrien looked up she said, “You were incredible!”
and North saw the hero worship in her eyes. Well, there goes any
chance I have for her, he thought.
Obrien looked at her with total uncomprehending eyes and said, “Oh.
Can you help me free the prisoners?” and she ran to help him like a school-girl.
North saw that she was wearing a silk sarong and Dr Stroud was wearing
a toga and carrying as many swords and knives as he could carry.
North saw that as a sign of insecurity, like how some cops were always
touching their handguns as if their dick would fall off if they let their
weapon stray more than an inch away.
Obrien laughed and tossed North some silk saying, “You might be more
comfortable wearing this.” Looking down, North saw that he was, again,
hanging from his cod-piece. North always did have trouble finding
ways to pack himself in but listening to Dr Jennings stare and giggle just
made him embarrassed.
The techie was explaining to Obrien what they had done, the pier and
their capture ending with, “How did you learn to fight like that?”
“It’s my job and after a few centuries, you either get good or you die.
What about Wilks?”
North answered that one, “No sir, I think we should keep looking.”
Obrien nodded and offered, “We kept a watch on the river as we followed
you but saw nothing. So he either freed himself from the river, is
still downstream or drowned. We’ll keep looking.” Then spoke to the
other prisoners in Barsoomian. They held a conversation for a few
minutes with each pointing and gesturing so North figured that they were
While this was going on, Steve, Bar Komas was testing the swords and
choosing a light curved sword for himself. The other prisoners were
recovering their own weapons and goods and then the Black Man and one of
the Red left for different destinations as the remaining Red Man and woman
decided to follow the Earth group. North did notice that the woman,
Kara, stared at Dr Jennings more than she did at Obrien though he couldn’t
tell if it was because she wore a dress or because aliens like Obrien were
common here. Regardless, Kara remained next to her companion who
it turned out, was her brother and they were on some religious pilgrimage
that forbade firearms. North considered himself to be religious though
like most Americans he rarely attended church but he did know that foreigners
tended to take their beliefs strongly so he avoided the subject.
The troop, now strengthened with the addition of Kara and her brother,
traveled south for some miles until the path became too rocky to easily
travel. With Drs Jennings and Stroud complaining that their feet
hurt, for the sandals they took from the dead didn’t protect their toes,
Obrien called the group together. “I’m having trouble seeing the
river this way and what I do see indicates that we will have miles of sheer
cliffs which no one could climb or provide a hand-hold for a swimmer.
Since it’s been a couple days, no one, no matter how good a swimmer he
was, could remain afloat this long so he is drowned or made it to shore
upstream. Thus, we search back the way we came and hope he is waiting
Later Obrien was sitting by the water, splashing his feet when Dr Jennings
approached. He had earlier mentioned that to the locals, this was
the River Iss and was a sacred pilgrimage to their heaven, a heaven that
was more hell than anything else so if Wilks made it past the cliffs, even
by boat, he’d be killed when he reached the Lost Sea of Korus.
Dr Jennings sat next to him, still not touching him and stared at his
tail which was twitching like a cat watching a bird. “I know you
want to give up but you’re afraid that if you do, he could be around the
next bend and you still won’t be able to climb down to get him. Your
tail twitches when you are nervous and it’s going a mile a minute now.”
Obrien sighed and said to her, “I think he drowned but so long as there
is a chance, I don’t like giving up.”
They argued for a few minutes, him wanting to go on and she commenting
that even if he could survive two days in freezing water and still remain
afloat, it would be impossible to get to the river and so he should accept
Obrien then smiled at her and said, “That is what I find attractive
in you, you have a brilliant mind that can see and accept the obvious.
It’s time to go back.”
She gave Obrien the same look of hero worship that she gave him when
he rescued the slavers and he still didn’t notice. So he called everyone
and explained to the group, “Gather around, please. Jennings and
I have come to the same conclusion about Wilks.” North noticed that
he called her Jennings, not Ellen or Doctor Jennings, just Jennings.
“If he drifted this far, he drowned or froze last night. If he enters
this canyon, we won’t find him until he reached the Valley Dor and then
he will be killed by Plant Man or White Apes. So considering our
inability to follow any further, I am returning upriver to search the banks
for evidence that he made it to shore and is waiting for us between here
and where he fell into the river.”
Then he turned to the Red Men and spoke to them in their language until
North exploded in anger. “We can’t give up! He could be waiting
for us just downstream! You’re just a coward and a letch, screwing
Jennings like a some animal doing his bitch and wishing we all were dead
so you can have her all to yourself before she discovers the truth.
Turn back if you want but the rest are going on with me! Jennings,
Jennings saw Obrien stifle his rage with effort, his tail twitching
as if it would explode. Then he took a deep breath and was about
to do something when Dr Jennings asked, “And how, Captain North, do you
intend to get back to Earth alone?”
He stared at her, maybe seeing her for the first time and stated, “That’s
up to you and Dr Stroud. I’ll keep you alive and you get us home.”
“I don’t know if I can. I don’t know if this planet has the technology
to even start on that. And I don’t even know how we got here.
No, Captain, I’m going with Obrien. I know when I’m better off.”
North wanted to force her to come along, partly because he still had
desire for her, partly because he didn’t like to see her mongrelizing with
an alien monkey-man, partly because he thought two scientists were better
than one. But he was a good observer and he had seen Obrien kill
those Green Giants, one with his bare hands and he saw the alien kill four
men in as many seconds with a sword and he knew that if confronted, Obrien
would kill him without thought or sweat. So he turned to the techie,
“Are you coming with me or them?”
Bar Komas was staring at the Red Woman, her beauty breathtaking and
evoking within himself the desire to do great things in her service.
The Earthman knew that the Red Woman and her brother would either go alone
or with the alien so he decided to quit following do what he wanted for
once in his life. “No, Captain. Frankly, I think you’re making
a mistake. I’ve taken fencing in college and am still like a child
compared to the Red Men so going with Lord Obrien is my best chance for
survival. You really should reconsider and come with us.”
“Without Dr Stroud, you can only hope that the alien doesn’t get tired
of .. Dr Jennings and cast you both away to die.” North complained
then turned to the one he named, “Can you get us home?”
Stroud replied, softly, “I believe so. Dr Jennings made a good
cup of coffee but her work wasn’t up to standard and I only kept her around
for her cute ass. I’ve seen the technology these people have and
it’s more advanced that Obrien led us to believe. Give me a good
lab and some assistants and I’ll rebuild the machine.”
Steve, still pretending to be Bar Komas, the adventurer, laughed, “Dr
Jennings was the genius behind the machine. All I did was build what
she told me to build. Dr Stroud was just an administrator who thought
to the end that we were building a radar deflector and he still doesn’t
understand the math she used. If you two go off, you’ll die here.”
North was angry and looked at Dr Stroud, still wearing his silk toga
and carrying so many weapons that were he on Earth, he’d fall over.
But he had to make a decision and North never backed down unless ordered
to by superior authority so his pride forced his next words, “I think you’re
wrong. The Government wouldn’t have put Dr Stroud in charge and given
him a lab and assistants and a budget unless he knew what he was doing.
Go off then, we’ll head south looking for Wilks. Maybe you can catch
up with us when you come to your senses.”
It was clear that North didn’t like the current trend, still believing
that he was the best trained to lead but in the face of Obrien and his
allies, he’d never be able to force or even convince Steve and Dr Jennings
to go with him so he had to wash his hands of them. Too bad, she
was a nice looking piece of ass. Too bad she was into animals.
Jennings turned to the alien, “Can’t you stop them? They’ll die
He shrugged and said, “Do as you will. I cannot nor will not force
a man to live my Path. You are all free to stay, go on or return with me.
If you leave me, I cease to be responsible for you.” He then
turned and started north along the bank, still searching for a man all
knew was dead.
Captain North and Dr Jennings watched them go then North said, “We’d
better keep on. Damn I wish I had some of those atomic-handguns they
told us about. But, once we find Wilks, we can get better weapons
and you a lab.”
They turned south towards Dor as a banth moaned in the distance.
Slaves: 1 black (Sojar), 2 red men (Hanno & Vos Kar), 1 red woman
Bar Komas- name taken by the tech steve
Wilks & kahn- soldiers. Kahn was eaten by a banth.
Wilks drowned in the Iss
Eddie- Ellen’s boyfriend
Dr Ellen Jennings PhD
Captain Mark North
Dr. Carl Stroud