"So, who's the old fogey?"
Gridley was speaking. I could have throttled him for his flagrant
failure to recognize the living legend standing before us, but I stifled
the impulse, deciding instead to take the "object-lesson" approach.
"Beats me," I replied, playing dumb. "Let's go find out."
And I started forward towards the knot of men at the center of the roof.
"Buenas dias, Caudillo mio," I said, trusting my Spanish more than
my Apache. Gridley began to pay attention, as the old chieftain's
eyes lit up.
"Ay! Senor Buroz," rang out a flint-like voice to match the
flint-like visage, as our hands clasped. "Muchas buenas dias!
Encantado de concerle! But we may speak in English, if you like."
"Gracias ... Bueno," I replied, glancing sidewise at Gridley. "Very
well ... if only for the sake of my young ignoramus here!" And before
the young ignoramus could object, I hastened to make formal introductions.
"Chief, allow me to introduce Lieutenant Ulysses S. Gridley, United
States Army Air Corps. Lieutenant, meet The Honorable Go-Yat-Thlay,
erstwhile Warchief of the Chiracauha Apaches, better known as ... simply
Gridley's eyes did not pop open quite as wide as I thought they would.
(He must have been getting accustomed to the weirdness of the place.)
He did, however, stammer and stutter the few remarks he was able to make
as he shook the old chief's proffered hand. Geronimo, for his part,
was smooth as silk.
"You have a warrior's hand, Ulysses. Your tongue should be
as firm. You can learn much from Senor Buroz, if you will listen."
That shut up the young lout for a while, so we could all get down
to business. General Mugambi had already given orders to his guards
and they began rounding us up and herding the rest of us back downstairs
while Geronimo and Mugambi hobnobbed. Then the two warlords -- the
red and the black -- saluted each other and parted, the red one mounting
up again and rejoining his troops on the ground, the black one catching
up with us at the top of the stairway-shed.
"The Old One will accompany us out to the airfield, Major Burroughs,"
said Mugambi, smiling. "His de-briefing can wait -- it will be quite extensive.
And he has waited a long time to meet you."
"I'm quite gratified, General," I replied, "if a bit confused ....
How in the world did you people get 'The Old One' away from a Federal facility
like Fort Sill, Oklahoma?"
"Trade secret!" exclaimed the General, proudly. "Where there's
a will, there's a way. And please try to restrain your curiosity
on such matters while you have the chief's ear. His time with you
will be extremely short, so make the most of it." Sound advice, I
thought. I had many more important questions to ask 'The Old One'!
We returned to the dining hall and wolfed down our coffee and pastry
(we dared not consume more, remembering our former intestinal trauma),
then were herded out towards the same troop truck in which we had arrived
the day before.
At the rear of the truck, once again, were the two Generals -- Groves
and Mugambi. This time, however, Groves motioned me around towards
the front of the truck, saying, "They's an ol' Injun up thar, waitin' to
have a few words with ye, Jack." We both smiled, and Mugambi nodded.
Leaving the "Walking Wounded" in their care, I found the chief leaning
against the front bumper, smoking happily on a clay pipe.
"Ah, there you are!" I said, excited as a schoolboy. He grunted,
and patted the open space left on the bumper. I parked my kiester
and produced a pack of cigarettes from one of the innumerable pockets in
my flight jacket. "So,Caudillo Mio," I essayed as I lit up a smoke, "What
do you think of this 'Brave New World'?"
"A world without white men?" he said. "I can get used to it."
"I don't doubt it," I said, smiling. "I wonder if I could."
"What would your Huxley and your Darwin say?"
"That I would adapt, or perish."
"I have walked the path of perishing. I do not recommend it."
"But you were a great leader--"
"I was a fool," the 'Old One' said, and spat into the dust.
"A great leader does not lead his people to ... Florida!"
"Outnumbered ... outgunned ... what else could you do?"
"I could have learned to read," he said. "I could have learned
my enemy's ways more deeply."
"When I was ten years old," I said, "I used to read accounts of your
campaigns in the newspaper. I drew a picture of you, mounted on an
elephant, facing a cavalryman on his horse -- like Hannibal against the
Romans. I thought it would help. Such are the thoughts of a
"I know," he said, reaching into a pouch hanging from his waist-belt.
"I have it here." And to my wondering eyes appeared the primitive
black-and-white caricature I had not seen in over a century.
"General Groves was kind enough to procure it for me on one of his
missions for Mugambi. Your grandson was loath to part with it, but
he was desperate for money -- something about needing to stop a 'hostile
takeover' of your corporation by someone called 'Disney' ... I still do
"Whew!" I whistled. "That's a stretch, even for me.
May I see it?"
"I was hoping you would sign it," he said, smiling.
"Gladly," I said, fishing in my jacket for a pen. Spreading
out the drawing on the hood of the truck, I scrawled "To Geronimo
-- Caudillo Mio -- Gracias, amigo -- E.R. Burroughs -- August 7, 2045."
"What do I owe you?" the old war-chief asked, matter-of-factly, as
I handed the drawing back to him. Then, noting my puzzlement, he
hastened to explain. "I used to charge a dollar every time I signed
my autograph for anyone -- in the days of my captivity. I left a
sizable fortune for my family."
"Yes, I seem to recall," I smiled sadly. "Well, let's see --
have you any jewelry? Something in lapis lazuli, perhaps?"
"Ah!" he exclaimed. "I have just the thing." And he drew
forth from his pouch a tiny blue ornament. Holding it up for my inspection,
he said, proudly, "It is a scarab from an ancient land called Egypt.
From Orinmala's collection. She said it once belonged to a famous
queen ... Cleo -- Cleops --"
"Cleopatra!" I exclaimed. "Yes, she was -- quite famous.
Another great leader."
"Such a strange world, this Africa -- where women can lead entire
"Yes, when we men fail to lead.... It is a mystery, this business
of leading. I fear I never mastered it, either."
"You do not know your own worth, then, my friend," said the old Apache,
handing me the scarab. "May be you will, like me, receive a second chance."
"Fat chance," I jested, turning the blue beetle over and over in
my hand. "The General seems hell bent on sending me back where I belong."
"And where do you belong, my friend? Chicago? California?
"Barsoom would be my preference," I chuckled.
A thunderous thumping on the fender announced the conclusion
of our all-too-brief interview, as General Mugambi appeared around the
corner of the truck. "All aboard!" he cried. "The Honolulu
Express departs at 0900 sharp!"
Geronimo and I exchanged one final handclasp, then he stepped back
and reached into his pouch again. This time his hand was tightly
clenched and what he had withdrawn I did not realize until his hand unclenched
to release a fine, gray powder that settled on me like dew. "Cleopatra's
ashes," he said. "May Usen guide you on your way."
Then General Groves pulled up in a jeep, and the Chief got in.
Groves called out to me, "Better get on with it Jack. Don't wanna
miss yer date with Destiny, do ya?" I waved at them both from the
running board of the truck, and looked around to see young Gridley shaking
hands with Professor DuBois at the rear of the truck. Mugambi fired
up the engine and Gridley raced to get on board as I sidled over on the
bench. He slammed the door shut behind him just as the truck lurched
"All present and accounted for back there?" I shouted over
the whine of the truck engine, jerking my thumb over my shoulder.
Gridley merely gave me the thumb's-up signal and an inexplicable dirty
look, then turned away to look out the window. I was curious as hell
to know what had transpired between him and DuBois, but there were more
pressing, practical matters to attend to. I looked at my watch.
0730. Turning towards Mugambi, I shouted, "What's next, General?
Any special instructions for getting this show on the road?" That
caught Gridley's interest. Mugambi leaned over the steering wheel
to make eye contact with us both.
"Just fly due east," he shouted, "and leave the rest to us.
We have everything under control."
He punctuated this last statement with a grin, obviously meant to
inspire confidence, and I, far from confident, grinned back. Groves'
caveat kept running through my mind -- They mean well, but they're always
screwing up! Was that just his prejudices talking, or did he have some
basis for the opinion in his apparently vast experience as one of Mugambi's
operatives? And what of my own prejudices? From my own observation,
I judged Mugambi's people and systems to be very professional. And
Geronimo seemed perfectly at ease in their company. So why not trust
life and limb to Mugambi's crew on the other end of that neuro-atomic doohickey
that Groves had described to us last night? What was Gridley's impression,
"Thar she blows!" exclaimed himself as we came in view of the B-24.
"Man, is it good to see her still in one piece! I was afraid that--"
I cut the lad short with a jab of my elbow to his ribcage, then exclaimed
myself, "Me too, Lad! I can't believe she withstood all that punishment
getting us here. Hope your crew gave her a good going-over, Gen'ral
-- I'd hate to get stuck halfway between today and yesterday."
Mugambi laughed. "Not a chance, Major!" he roared. "Our
systems are state-of-the-art and, besides, we've taken every precaution
to ensure you all have a calm and peaceful flight." That smile again
... no, wait ... two smiles, one orbiting the other.... What the
hell was going on here? Stupidly, I turned towards Gridley, only to find
his face similarly orbiting his own face, only he -- God bless 'im! --
wasn't smiling. "Major?" he said, with a quizzical look on both his
faces. "M-a-a-a-a-jo-o-o-o-or!" Then the lights went out.
The lights came back on slowly, accompanied by a killer headache
that faintly resembled my worst hangover. It was still daylight,
but which day's light it was was anyone's guess. I was, once again,
flat on my back. A dull, round blur that kept appearing and re-appearing
in the center of my field of vision gradually resolved itself into Gridley's
welcoming but worried face. With recognition of those familiar features
came another realization.
"Drug me," I slurred, attempting unsuccessfully to rise and
barely rolling over. "Sumbisch drug me!"
"Whoa, Major, whoa there," said Gridley firmly, gripping my shoulders.
"Take it easy, man ... that's it ... just lean up against this dufflebag
for a minute."
I looked around, still groggy, but my visual acuity now restored.
We were in the passenger compartment of the B24, early morning sunlight
was streaming in through the open hatchway, and the mingled sounds of busy
woodland birds and muffled human chatter filled the air. No engines.
Warm and humid as a summer's day. We clearly were not in Kenya any
"Hunny-Loo-Loo?" I asked, tentatively.
Shaking his head slowly from side to side, and with a grim smile
on his lips, the young Negro pilot simply said, "Virginia."
"What year?" I asked, hoarsely.