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I was surprised to see someone other than the guards enter. There was a man all dressed in Khaki with a revolver in his hands. He was clean shaven and light skinned. He was followed by other men including Gaspar, with his glasses and Maria, now holding a pistol herself.
“You must be Jason,” he said. “We have never been formally introduced. I am a friend of your father, David I, Emperor of Pellucidar. I am Jason Gridley.”
“My Godfather!” I blurted, “What has happened? Where are the guards?”
Maria came to my side and embraced me.
“I have lost contact with the inner world until the Ambassador contacted me. I knew it was you and came as quickly as I could with all the resources I could beg, borrow or steal. I met with the Rebels and joined them to help free you and the legally elected leaders of San Mateo. I happy to announce that the false president in now in custody and Captain Ortega has fled the capital. The Vice President has been sworn in as president as we speak.”
“Mr. Gridley provided the help we needed to capture El Moro,” Maria said.
“What about this cockroach?” asked Gaspar looking over Carlos.
“He was forced to work with Ortega -- He is harmless,” I told him. “He made a poor spy --- I suspect he will support the new president with the same zeal he gave to the last. Isn't that right, Carlos?”
The prisoner just shook his head and smiling at us all.
“Via La Revolution!” is all he said. At that Gaspar hit him across the face.
“Now we must get you back to Pellucidar as quickly as possible,” added Jason Gridley. “I have secured for you the medical supplies and some books that Abner Perry will enjoy.”
“I will need kerosene as well for the trip.” I informed him. “I only hope I am not too late.”
“I have secured the fuel you need for the Iron Mole.”
“In your books, did you include something on how to make an automobile?” I asked.
“Yes, several,” he answered with a smile. “but, I don't know if Sari is ready for 'Tin Lizzies' just yet. It maybe more a curse than a blessing.”
“Maria, can you show me where I was captured? I left a clear trail back to my -- my vehicle.”
“Yes, I will lead you back –you are a hero in San Mateo!” she said, snuggling close to me in a way that made me uncomfortable.
“Good, I have secured a mobile crane to turn the Iron Mole around for a return trip,” said Jason Gridley. “The sooner we can get you home, the better things will be. I can only hope we will be in time.”
“I will make sure the new President and head of the Supreme Court will be on hand to give you a great send off.” said Gaspar. “Now I am glad I didn't shoot you, Yankee.”
“We are not all bad eggs,” added Gridley.
“What is this 'Iron Mole' thing of which you speak?” asked Maria. “Is it some sort of a car or aircraft?”
“I will give you a tour -- it is one of the most unique inventions ever made,” I told her.
In less than two hours I had feasted and drank, Flags were on every building, big and small. A caravan escorted us out of the city. I made many mental notes on how Sari could be improved upon at my return.
In the caravan was the strangest machine I had ever seen, a gigantic metal crane on the back of a huge truck. There was even another truck with a metal tank that carried Kerosene and others that had oil and things needed to replenish the Oxygen making equipment on the craft. Gridley had thought of everything. But, he also carried the medicines, and books that would bring great changes to the inner world. He even included works on modern guns, and foods for the trip home.
“I have something for you,” said Maria. She produced my backpack with the gold ingots still inside! “We found them in Captain Ortega's office at the presidential palace. He escaped out the back door but he is being hunted as we speak. He will become a new resident of El Moro!”
“I hope they find him soon. A guy like that will do everything in his power to regain a position of dominance.” I answered her. I was in a fancy car as we bounced along, far more comfortable than the first time I took this same road. She leaned over and kissed me full on the lips.
“What is that for?” I asked.
“Well, for helping my country, for bringing in Mr. Gridley, and for saving my life.” she then kissed me again. This time I returned the kiss with a passion that blanked out the world.
When we got to the place where I was first loaded into a truck, I had to back track to the site of the gun battle between the troops of El Presidente and the rebels. It was an easy task and one that was child's play for anyone born in Pellucidar where tracking is a needed survival skill. I had to walk this time, with the trucks and caravan following, they made a road though the jungle with a tractor they secured from a village not far away. When I got to the place where I marked the trees and trail it was even easier! It wasn't long before I saw the gleaming silver metal of the Iron Mole, her massive drill sticking up, pointing toward the sky. Once at the site, the mobile crane was employed to lift it up (using rings made into the hull for this very purpose by Abner Perry) and re-point the thing down towards home, the inner world.
“So this is your Iron Mole,” cried Maria. “It travels underground! Can you use this to go back to the United States?”
“No, my real home is the inner world of Pellucidar. You see the earth is hollow and there is another world beneath our feet!” Her eyes registered complete disbelief.
“I am a university trained teacher!” she told him. “There is nothing beneath us but hot molten rock.”
“You were a teacher?” I asked.
“Before the revolution. I was fired when I didn't support the tyrant.”
“Then you will be fascinated with what I have inside the Mole,” I told her. “I even have a map of Pellucidar, though much is still unexplored. It is a real place -- I assure you.”
Gridley's men were refueling the thing as others oiled the great engine and massive drill. The door was open to the cab and I showed her the simple controls. The wheel that was to turn the nose but never worked that way, the engine controls, lights air, etc...”
“Its like Captain Nemo's submarine Nautilus,” she mused looking over the thing. “There are two seats in the thing.”
“Captain who?” I asked. I had never heard of the works of Jules Vern at that time. Jason Gridley was packing books into the mole as well as the medicines and other gifts for Abner Perry, including a small steam engine and a machine gun. I knew he would like the later.
Gaspar looked in, fascinated, “The president is here, he wants to present you with a medal Mr. Jason Innes.”
“Is the Iron Mole ready?” I asked seeing my godfather glancing in.
“She is right as rain, Everything packed away. If I didn't have six companies to run I might be tempted to jump in and return to the inner world myself.”
I heard a band playing some melodious tune. The national song of San Mateo.
“The president must be here,” said Maria as she adjusted her tan dress. “Do I look all right?”
“You look beautiful!” I told her. We stepped out of the thick metal door of the mole and as we did a crowd started to clap and cheer. Over a hundred people were gathered around the mole. I could see the band playing, all in uniforms and a man in a fancy black outfit -- I took him to be the former vice president, now full president. I waved to the people, it seemed like the thing to do, and they cheered more.
“I can't delay, the medicines must reach my mother,” I told her having to speak loudly over the cheers.
“I understand,” she said. She then kissed me again, that sent shouts of approval from the assembled people. I returned her kiss thinking it might be the last time I ever saw the young woman.
Just then a shot was fired, going over my head and hitting the thick metal hull of the Iron Mole. Then another and another was aimed at me. I saw guards had pulled down the president and that two of his men were down, blood flowing from their uniforms.
“It must be Captain Ortega!” cried Maria. I pulled her back inside the safety of the Iron Mole, closing the thick door behind me. I locked it as I head bullets smack on the metal plates.
“We are safe in here!” I told her.
“We must get away,” she cried. “He may have heavy weapons.” At that she raced to the controls and pulled the lever that started the huge engine.
“No!” I yelled over the roar of the motor. She yanked another iron lever that set the drill to moving, burrowing into the earth. No more bullets hit the craft as we were soon under the surface. The craft shook and moved. I quickly pulled her to a seat and pushed her in. I got into the other and snapped the seat belt closed. Seeing me she did the same.
“Now that we are safe, we can return to the surface, using the wheel.” she said smugly. “My quick action saved our lives.”
“No, no no, you don't understand,” told her. “The wheel doesn't work -- our next stop is Pellucidar itself.” A look of surprise and fear crossed her face.
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