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My ears had become adjusted to the constant roar of the huge engine as it powered the massive drill set in the nose of the strange conveyance . The cabin trembled and vibrated as it made its was through the earth. The dim light and constant moan of the engine almost put me to sleep. I wondered how my father could have stood this, fearing that his journey would end in a fiery death. He didn't know that he would finish his trip in the inner world of Pellucidar where he and his friend Abner Perry transformed everything when they entered the world of my birth.
The Iron Mole
The machine is called “The Iron Mole” and it was powered by a unique engine that enabled it to drill through the crust of the earth. Their arrival was a great day for Pellucidar for the knowledge and order they brought unified the tribes and ended the rule of the Mahar lizard creatures. Today all Pellucidar sings of his victories. It was in the inner world that he met my mother, Diana, the princess of Sari and founded the Empire of Pellucidar. Not long ago she was mauled by a thag, the deadly predator of the Inner World. She lies near death in the great stone palace built by the grateful people of Sari.
Abner Perry used all of his medical knowledge and skills but it seemed for naught. She would die of her injuries. Perry had kept in contact with the outer world with the Gridley Wave, invented by my godfather Jason Gridley. From his communications he learned of the many medical advances made with so called “wonder drugs”. It was suggested the Iron Mole be used to return to the outer world to purchase them and with these it was hoped he could save my mother.
My father wanted to go himself and it was only the combined efforts of Perry, Ja of Anoroc and myself that he was forced to admit that he was too important to spare. Without him, the Empire might fall into pieces and all the good work it had accomplished be lost. With him gone the treaties of peace might be seen by his enemies as invalid and inter-tribal war once again rage within the inner world.
I volunteered at once for the dangerous mission. At first my grieving father refused my request, fearing he might lose me, his only son, as well as his mate. I convinced him that it was the only logical plan that I should be the one to pilot the metal vehicle. I had helped Perry restore it, I had helped rebuild the mighty engine and make the kerosene it burned as well as the chemicals it used to manufacture the oxygen needed for the trip. I was the son of a man from the outer world yet I had never seen that world with my own eyes. I had never seen a moonlit night or even a thing called a horizon for in the inner world all things curve upward into the clouds as in a huge bowl. I had learned the complex and odd tongue of the outer world -- called English. I could write it as well as read it. Yes, Abner Perry had taught me well.
At long last he reluctantly agreed and I started to prepare for for my journey up from Pellucidar! Abner Perry designed for me the tight fitting garments worn by the outer world, in the land of my father, called America. I was armed with a knife and my revolver. I had a map of the United States made by Abner Perry from memory and a knapsack filled with a load of shiny bars of a soft metal called gold.
It was much treasured by the people of the outer world, I was told. Why was beyond me, it seemed to soft to be used for tools or weapons, it was heavy and seemed a rather silly metal to me. I did have to admit it was shiny and pretty to the eye. With it I could purchase the wonder drugs need for my mother. I was to find a doctor, and tell them her condition, then acquire the medicines and return to the Iron Mole and make my way back to Pellucidar.
I was skeptical that the little metal bars would be enough to trade for the drugs. We in the inner world have no idea or need for the thing Perry called “money”. Once he tried an experiment with such an idea by having small round disks made of silver. They were stamped with the likeness of my father on one side and a bird on the other. He called them “dollars”. Sometimes he refereed to them as “cartwheels” though they were much too small for any cart anyone had ever seen.
Well, Perry, the old dear, tried to have people use them as tokens of exchange and they were received with great joy. Not as things to trade but as jewelry. A hole would be put in them for necklaces and rumor spread they were amulets for good luck. Some were melted down for rings and bracelets and the like.
The ingots of gold I had with me seemed odd thing to use for trade - to me silver would have been better. Still, Abner Perry insisted that they would be enough to buy a great many drugs, he even gave me a long list I should try to acquire. To me a good gun, or ax blade would be better items to use in barter. But Perry told me men would kill to get the thing called gold and I should keep it hidden until I made the transaction for the needed medications.
The hours passed slowly and I began to worry that Abner Perry's calculations might be off. What would happen if I surfaced under a mighty ocean or lake? Sweat started to form on my forehead at the thought. The temperature in the cabin was growing stuff and hot. Perry had assured me he set the controls to have me come up in the center center of the United States of America. He said I would most likely arrive somewhere in a territory called “Ohio”. I tried to remember all my father told me of the outer world. I guess he was proud of his American heritage and he made it sound like a wonderful land, peaceful, without monsters, united under a democratic government with cities and schools. A happy civilized people. I almost expected a land of demi-gods. Then I remembered how many of Perry's experiments had gone wrong. If I should come up under a river or anyplace underwater, I wouldn't be able to get out of the Iron Mole in time to keep from drowning. Even if I did, I would be stuck in the outer world for life without means of returning to Pellucidar. Maybe I could find my godfather out in California, Jason Gridley, but he would be my only friend in a friendless world. Now as the worry seized me I started to feel what my father must have felt on his trip toward the center of the earth. Time passed slowly, it seemed to last forever. I slept twice and ate my provisions of dried meat and roots. My water ration was getting low now so I limited myself to three sips each time I opened the canteen.
At long last I felt the nose of the mighty Iron Mole break the surface and spin in open air! I had arrived! I quickly switched off the engine. I went to the metal door and pried it open. I almost pulled the door from its hinges so anxious was I to view the outer world. I was greeted by darkness! For a moment I thought I had gone blind. Then I recalled the strange phenomena called “night” that doesn't exist in Pellucidar.
It was cool and the air was sweet with fragrant smells from a dozen different blooming flowers. I found it warm and fresh not all that different from my home in the mountains of Sari. I looked up and for the first time in my life I saw stars glittering in a velvety jet sky. They made me feel small indeed.
I was filled with awe and stood there looking for a long moment at the magnificent vision of night. I wanted to jump down from the metal craft and explore this new world but then I recalled that my father did warn me of savage beasts that did wander some parts of the outer world. I wisely returned to the cab and bolted the door closed.
I was excited but went to sleep. I do not know how long I napped but when I woke up and opened the door I was stunned by the sight of huge trees and vines, blooms and ferns. For a moment I believed I had somehow returned to the inner world. The Jungle outside of the Iron Mole was much like the land of my birth. All it took was one glance up at the rich blue sky to confirm that this was the world of my father. The sun was not at zenith, but low on the sky. I was overjoyed!
I took my supplies and map, my knapsack of gold bars, my rifle and pistol and scampered down the side of the metal machine. I locked the door of the Mole with my key, and started walking in the great jungle before me. This wasn't what I expected Ohio to look like. Well, I expected Perry to make some minor errors in his calculations. The forest and lush vegetation seemed to me more like the territory called Florida. As I went, I marked the trees so I could find my way back to the Iron Mole. If I should lose the trail it would doom my mother to death.
The sun marched its way fantastically across the sky but before long I began to realize that it was growing dark. A sudden fear seized me for a moment, an unreasonable fear of being trapped out in the open in the dark. I had hear my father speak of being scared of the dark and now I fully understood what he meant. I was trying to think of a place to sleep when I smelt fire. I had spent much of my life on the trial and I could detect a cook fire a mile away. I quickened my pace as I felt my stomach felt empty and began to make noise. Now I could smell strange foods being cooked over a fire.
I was sure I would be well received. I had hear my father tell me of southern hospitality. I burst into a clearing in the center of witch several men sat around a large campfire. They seemed surprised to see me. They wore beards and had dark complexions. They wore matching green garments of a simple cut and carried what seemed to me to be combination pistols and rifles. I would later learn they were deadly machine guns.
They leaped to their feet and pointed their weapons at me. I quickly sensed a lack of hospitality and raised my hands.
“I smelled your meal.” I said in stumbling English. I noticed one of the men wore glasses, Perry had told me of this. He had a rather large nose as well. He walked closer, after lowering his weapon. I got the impression that this man, the smallest of the group, was their chief.
“Gringo,” he said with a sneer. “Americano, Si?”
I didn't understand him but I recognized the word American.
“My father is an American, David Innes,” I answered him. “My name is Jason, Jason Innes.”
The man looked me over and answered in hardly recognizable English.
“You are an American!” he said. “ How did you get here? Even the government can't find us! El Presidente can't find us! How can you, a Gringo find us?”
“I don't think you will believe me,” I answered, trying to smile. “What part of Florida is this place?”
The man in the glasses only shook his head no.
“I am sure it is not Ohio, Mississippi perhaps?” I asked.
“This is the Republic of San Mateo, in Central America,” he said loudly. “The United States of America is thousands of miles north of us.”
I now realized that Abner Perry had indeed made an error, a major error.
Continued next week: Chapter 2
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