7 -- Reality Check
It was time to leave Mars.
John Carter -- the real John Carter -- had returned from his
secret mission to Zodanga. He had sent 17 Zodangan assassins to the bosom
of the River Iss (figuratively speaking) and had now turned the mop-up
job over to a squad of his most elite warriors.
"I want to thank you for standing in for me," he said, as Dejah
clung to his arm. He looked at her and smiled, "And Dejah tells me you've
been a perfect gentleman."
"I'm a southerner," I replied. "How could I be anything else?"
Smiling in response, the deathless Virginian said, "Well, do
you want to stick around for a few days, see some more sights, soak up
some rays, or do you need to get back?"
I looked at my watch. It was one of those fancy ones that shows
the date as well as the time.
"I really need to be getting home," I said. "I need to take care
of my vast estate and make sure the servants have been keeping things in
top shape in the stables. And Uncle Charlie's horse will be agonizing about
me in my absence, and wondering why I haven't been there with a cube of
sugar for him every day."
"I understand," said John Carter.
We flew to a high plateau where we had a clear view of the heavens
and, in the far distance, was a blue-green orb, the colors of which were
clearly visible across millions of miles of space, because the thin atmosphere
of Mars did not obscure the view as much as the thicker atmosphere would
have done on Earth. We were also at one of the points where Mars comes
closest to earth -- 48 million miles.
John Carter told me the secret of interplanetary travel. The
way he explained it was easy for me to understand, although he swore me
to secrecy since he doesn't want a bunch of rifraff popping up on the Red
Dejah gave me a hug and I saluted John Carter, and turned and
did exactly what he told me.
There was a moment of extreme cold and utter darkness.
Then, I found myself standing once again on the Earth. I could
tell it was the Earth because, not only did it look like the Earth, but
I could instantly feel the pull of the stronger gravity. I had only been
on Mars a few weeks, but I had gotten used to the freedom of movement there.
Now, it felt as if I were walking around with a bunch of body weights strapped
to my frame. It would probably take a few days to get used to it.
Then, I was knocked flat onto my stomach. It felt like someone
had rammed me with both feet. What kind of a welcome was that?
I rolled over and grabbed my assailant, only to feel soft, human
tissue interrupted here and there by what I knew to be a Martian harness.
It was Hanna.
"What the heck?" I said. "How did you get here?"
"Surprised?" she smiled. "After you left for Earth, John Carter
brought me out of the flyer compartment I was hiding in and told me the
secret, too. He knew you and I could not help but fall in love, being in
such close proximity, and, of course, the minute I saw you, I tried extra
hard to make it happen."
''Well why didn't you just say so?" I asked, but I was smiling
as I said it.
"I really needed you to fight for me before I could call you
'My Chieftan'," said Hanna.
"Well, yeah, I fought off Bul Durm, but honestly Hanna, I was
really fighting for myself."
"And me," she added. "He would have tried to claim me as his
slave had he been able to kill you."
"Well, why didn't you just call me your Chieftan right then?"
"I wanted to, but John Carter had warned me that you were too
much of a gentleman to commit yourself to me when you knew that you would
be heading back to Jasoom in a few days. And he also knew that you would
fret about the effect your more powerful Earth gravity might have on me
were I to accompany you."
"But...here you are," I said. "Does Earth make you feel heavier?"
"I feel like I weigh about 400 pounds," she said. "But your oxygen-rich
air gives me a little energy and John Carter told me you have things called
gyms where I can go and build up some more strength."
"Yes, there's a couple of fitness centers in town," I said. "Well,
I'm happy to be your chieftain, but we're on Earth so we'll have to do
things the Earth way and get a marriage license and a proper ceremony.
But it only takes about an hour to get a license and there's a Justice
of the Peace who lives just down the road."
"I am pleased, My Chieftan," Hanna responded. "Then do we get
to go on a Honeymoon? John Carter has told me of such things."
"Certainly," I said. "But first we'll need to stop by Wal-Mart
to pick up some DVDs."
"We're going to watch movies on our honeymoon?" she asked, slightly
"Well, not all of the time," I said in a reassuring voice. "Even
Earth people sometimes go out to a movie, or dinner, or something like
a carnival on their honeymoons."
"What movies are you going to get?" she asked.
"Only one actual movie," I said. "I thought you'd get a kick
out of seeing the Disney John Carter. You'll find a lot of hilarious things
in it, but there are some things they got right, too."
"Oh goodie," grinned Hanna. "I think I'll enjoy a romantic comedy."
"And then," I added, "I'll need to get a couple of science films."
"Science? About what?" she asked.
"Well, we'll need one that teaches something about proper egg
incubation," I said, "and another one on do-it-yourself obstetrics. I don't
think that Earth doctors will know quite what to do with an oviparous Martian
lady, once you become pregnant, and I'll be darned if I'm going to take
you to see a veterinarian.
"I'm too much of a gentleman to do that."