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Volume 0895
Presents

FAN FICTION

Dancing the Night Away
by Jean Elliott

The time had come, just like it comes to all young men.  It was time to join society.  Before that, however, young Tarhan had to learn the national Dance of Gathol and the Dance of Barsoom.  Neither of which appealed to him.

Tarhan was ready to take arms up against any foe that John Carter might ask him to face, but DANCE!  A shudder ran down his spine.  What good was knowing how to dance when you were faced by a powerful enemy?  What did they think he was going to do?  Dance with a warhoon instead of doing it in?

Tara of Helium, now married to Gahan and living in Gathol, put down her book and checked the liquid crystal display time piece on the far wall.  She had gotten too engrossed in the latest Burroughs book that John Carter had managed to bring back from Jasoom on one of his infrequent visits to his home planet.  She marked her place with a ribbon of silk and set the book down.

 “Tarhan,” she called.  “Are you ready? You know that your teacher doesn’t like for you to be late.  She said that you were late last week and missed learning the pas de trios.  How can you learn our national dance if you keep showing up late?”

“But, mother,” Tarhan said as he strode into the room. “She always makes me dance with Luranne.”

“What’s the matter with that?  She’s a lovely girl.”

Pulling on his size 12 dance slippers with the rubberized soles and the broad textured strap which allowed the shoes to fit perfectly on the feet, Tarhan sighed.  His mother said that about every girl he’d ever mentioned.  He tried to think of something to say, but he knew that nothing would change his mother’s mind.

Mother and son walked out to the landing strip, where Gahan was tinkering with the family flier.  Although he was considered a mechanical genius, he had produced the original working model of the destination compass, his family  thought otherwise.

The family runabout had been disabled for weeks.  At every meal, Gahan dominated the conversation with detailed descriptions of his latest work on their flier and how great it was going to be when finished.  Tara always smiled as he droned on about molecular enablers, phase scramblers, and poly coated, heat reflective oscillating blades within the dimensional something or the other.  Why couldn’t the man just say he screwed two pieces of metal together and let it go at that?

This morning, he was out on the landing strip up to his arms covered with various liquids and grime.  He smiled at her weakly and got to his feet.

“What are you doing to it now?  Last night you told me that it was finished!” Her eyes flashed.

“Well, dear, it was, but this morning I got to thinking about her speed.  Right now she had the quad-turbo Thoris engine with the ported thalamus exhausts at a ratio of 1.65…” Tara stopped listening and waited until he ran down “clutch with the elliptical framulator.”

She smiled at him sweetly, barely controlling her urge to framulate his quad-turbos.

“Gahan. I’ve got to take our son to his dance lessons.  It’s a 50 haad trip and we are two xats late as it is.  Will our flier work?”

Gahan put on a brave smile.  “If you can just wait a little longer it will be.  I don’t have the right tools for the interportal link to the framulator.  You know that I had to order them from Helium and there was that strike in the postal system.”

“I suppose that you'd rather our son not join society later this year.  You want him to be an outcast, never marry that beautiful young princess in the warlord’s following?  Never…?”

 “Yes, but, I thought he was in love with Luranne?”  Gahan said as he put down the 15mm intrepid tool with the seven separate cutting edges made from a durable poly alloy.

“Father!”  Tarhan interjected. “She’s just a friend…”

“Stop it, both of you!” Tara raised her voice and both father and son knew it was time to listen. “We MUST get to the dance class.  What about that other vehicle you’ve been working on?”

“The experimental flier?   It’s by no means ready.”

“Can it fly?” Tara asked both hands on her hips.

“Well, yes, but….”

“No buts, just give me the keys.  We have to go NOW!”  She held out her right hand for the keys.

Gahan handed her the keys and instantly regretted his action.  There was so much about the controls she didn’t know.

Tara did not stay for further instructions, but grabbed her son by the wrist and took him to the experimental flier.

The Experimental Flier

The vehicle was painted bright red, which annoyed Tara immediately.  Gahan should have devoted his efforts to the family flier, which was in dire need of sanding and painting.

“Wow!  This is great!  Just look at those large chromium  induction vents on the front.  Neat!  I bet that they are bored and stroked and…..”Tara closed her eyes and waited for Tarhan to finish.  He had learned much from his father while they had worked on the craft together.

“Tarhan!   We’re late!  Let’s get out of here and then you can tell me about tri-lambic dukee model 87 perambulators.”  Tarhan frowned.  He’d rather sleep in a grease pit for a month for go DANCING!  Sensing his mother’s frustration, he slipped into the small cockpit and began warming up the seven krystron engines.

At once the ship began to shake beneath Tara’s feet.  She yelled at her son to help her keep her balance.  Tarhan pulled her down into the seat next to him and helped her attach her harness to the yellow and black stripped strange framing that surrounded the seat.  When he opened his mouth to explain what the framing was, she waved him quiet and motioned that they should get on with their journey.

Tarhan pulled back gently on the steering yoke and watching with pleasure as the craft’s nose began to rise.  He started to tell his mother that this was due to the special linkages hooked to the bow’s central plate of especially treatment steel, but thought better.  This was definitely not the time.  Grasping a large throttle which was linked to the seven Watt and Pritney engines beneath them, he increased their speed.  All at once the flier lept away into the ether.  Tarhan adjusted the trim tabs, adjusted the turbo-thrusters, and checked on the directional compass and the Blanton model 1865 sextant.  In a cloud of dust and oil fumes, they were gone.

Luranne

Luranne looked in the mirror for, well, she forgot how many times.  She checked her make-up and decided that her nipple colour should match her lip colour.  She had read about this in Sophisticated Girl magazine.  It was a magazine read by almost every girl on the planet.  It was the who, what, where, when, and how to keep your mate interested for life magazine.

Although the editor of Sophisticated Girl was listed as Ellen Ghirley Tan, it was actually put together by a very ancient man from Helium who had a rather bizarre sense of humour.  His late wife had always considered herself a very knowledgeable fashion plate and followed all the rages and fads.  He could never tell her how she really looked, which to him was extremely funny.  So, when there was an opening on the staff of Sophisticated Girl, he jumped at the chance.  He worked extraordinarily hard and finally became editor.

He planned to highlight one issue with the truth about fashion trends, but his wife developed a grave illness.  He could not bear to see her so ill and in so much pain.  He consulted with the greatest physicians in Barsoom.  They all agreed that there was no hope, but there were some treatments to follow that might prolong her life as long as possible.  At once he set to work on a series of articles about the benefit of these treatments and added the white lie that they brought forth beauty, sex appeal, and a way to lose unsightly pounds.

When the next issue of Sophisticated Girl came out, he hurriedly brought it home from the newsstand.  His wife became immediately engrossed in what she read.  She implored him to visit the chemist and obtain these miracle drugs, which he did immediately.

At first, her health improved.  She would often call her husband to her bedside and scold him on making fun of the magazine.  The effects of the medicines were only temporary.  The man was heart broken.  Although he was quite wealthy, he remained the editor of Sophisticated Girl, and started writing articles that he thought Barsoom women would read.  From time to time his strange sense of humour led him to write fashion articles.  No matter how ridiculous it seemed to him, women all over the planet followed his trends.

So it was that on this particular morning, with the magazine spread out before her, Luranne was trying (as were all the other young girls on Barsoom who read Sophisticated Girl) to get the colour of her lips and nipples to match.  All for the benefit of the young man in her dance class that she very much wanted to take notice of her.  She had already tried six different colours and was ready to try a seventh when her mother’s voice rang up the stairs.

“I’m ready to leave without you!”

Luranne giggled to herself, I wish you would!

As if her mother could read her mind, she replied:  “Get your little butt down here!  You know how difficult our national dance is and the Dance of Barsoom is even more intricate.”  Luranne threw her size 6, ultra modern, silicone injected, red and gold Sophisticated Girl dance shoes into her bag of durable poly pletted pseudo thoatskin.  She sighed and then danced down the stairs two at a time.

“I’m ready, mother,” she said as she brushed back her blonde and white hair over her shoulders.   Her long tresses fell below the curve of her buttocks.  She had thought she would have to bind up her locks, but the dancemaster would hear none of it.  Having long hair, she told her, would add a special visual appeal to the dances.

So it was that Petaine and her daughter Luranne climb aboard their trusty old flier and headed for dance instruction class.

Along the Way

Tarhan adjusted the glimepiride and protamine fuel mix gradually.  His father had warned him that an excess of the one over the other could have drastic consequences.  To offset this, a mixture of neutralized chlorate of latrogenetic  phosphoride was added.  This helped dilute the fuel and made it easier to go through the complex propellant system.

With little more to do until they were near their descent point, Tarhan rested his fingers on the control yoke and started thinking about his life thus far and the absurdity of learning the two dances.  From beside him, Tara started in on just how important it was to learn the dances and become part of society.

“But Uncle Gantan learned the dances and he’s a thoat trainer for Stephen Blanton.  Lot of good learning the dances did for him!”  He knew that he was wrong to bring up his mother’s brother, but the words escaped his lips before he could contain them.

“Your uncle has nothing to do with your learning the dances.  I don’t want you to grow up and sweep out thoat poop!   I want you to be a proper member of society.  Besides, you might just meet the right lady when you are presented at court.  A good marriage will do wonders for you.  If you were to announcement your engagement to Luranne at the initial dance……”

Tarhan tried to close his ears to his mother’s speech.  He’d heard it a million times before.  He wasn’t interested in anything more than riding with Blanton.

Just then his mother shrieked and excitedly waved her arm and hand to a dark spot that was approaching them fast and expanding in size as it did.  It was a group of male turboduckies making their annual flight to their nesting grounds around Gathol.   The turboduckies were about the size of earthly swans and hell-bent on reaching the awaiting females.  Their beautiful plumage was sure to attract the randy females below.

“Mother, quickly!  You’ll have to help me!  If one of those crazy turbos gets sucked into our engines, we’ll crash for sure.  Adjust the triangulation of the ….”  Too late.  One of the hormone crazed animals flew straight into the inductor blades.  There was a horrible grinding sound and then the craft begin to falter and shake.

Tarhan glanced over at his mother and saw that the rocking of the vessel had caused her to hit her head hard on the rim of the cockpit.  She was unconscious.  He began adjusting fuel mixes, dampening the thrusters with the experimental devices that his father had invented, and inverting the forward chromium tubes.  Nothing worked.  The craft’s noise wobbled, pointed down and then the craft began to spin.

Fortunately, they were high enough that Tarhan could employ the rocket assisted ejection seats.  When he pulled the yellow and black striped ring above his head, the two were instantly encased in a crystalline sphere that rocketed upwards and away from the disabled craft at a tremendous speed.  When the sphere began to fall, a series of parachutes were deployed and the sphere was lowered safely to the ground below.

Preparing for Rescue

Targan shrugged free of his seat belt and pulled the lever that opened the crystalline sphere.  With the aid of some emergency water rations located in the sphere, he was able to revive her.  No matter what she would say about his father – and he would be blamed for this – Gahan had been thoughtful enough to stock the sphere with water and food for several day’s time.  The sphere also provided a place to sleep when it became colder after sunset.  The seats reclined into the horizontal to serve as beds.

Tara came round to see that they were NOT at the home of the dancemaster.  Instantly her complexion reddened.  “If your father hadn’t…”  Realizing that she was her old self again, Tarhan left his mother’s side and  returned to the sphere.  He remembered all the times he and his father worked on the experimental vehicle.  Now, all that knowledge would be put to use.

Walking away from the sphere, he set up bright chromium disks around the landing site.  Their reflective light would catch the eye of any passing land or air vehicle, especially since his father had incorporated the tiny blue flashing light in the center of each disk.

Tarhan gathered up the orange and white parachutes and brought them back to the sphere.  He connected the small rings of the wing to the top of the sphere and then spread the silken cloth in a semi circle.  This improvised awning would keep them from out of the desert sun.

Finally Tarhan reached inside the sphere and turned on the XG-9 homing device that he father had recently developed.  This would send out a signal that could be picked up some distance away.  Gahan had distributed the devices to his friends so that a listening post could be set up for anyone who had vehicular  problems.

Having done everything he could, Tarhan returned to his mother’s side, where she was still running down Gahan for making them take the experimental flier.  He tried his best to calm her down, but she was rambling on about a special meeting with Dejah Thoris and her daughter Kerah.

Tarhan looked to the western sky and noticed two things.  The first was a flier and the second was one of Barsoom’s awesome sandstorms in the distance.  If the flier didn’t land soon, it would be torn apart by the storm.  He hurriedly grabbed one of the chromium disks with blue flashing lights and began waving it about.  If those aboard the flier saw it, there was a chance they could escape the storm relatively unscathed.

The Sandstorm

“Mother,” Luranne shouted, pointing towards the flashing light, “that’s a rescue beacon.  We’ve got to land at once!”  To Luranne’s astonishment, her mother did nothing to change the direction of the flier.

“We are late,” said Petaine “and there is a storm brewing.  If we stop then we place ourselves in jeopardy.”  She adjusted the framulator and then pulled back on the throttle.  The small craft leaped forward as the new combination of polyhydrogenated fuels raced through the lines.  Together with the intensified power of the 8th ray, the tiny craft was able to double its speed.

Luranne watched in horror as they pulled away from the chromium disk and flashing blue light.  Instantly, she reached for the flier’s controls.  Her mother yelled at her to stop, but the determined girl  grabbed the steering yoke and tried to turn the nose of the craft around.

Within the engine, superheated parts began to crack and then break.  The framulator malfunctioned and began to pour fuels together in a very different ration than the designer intended.  Heat built up and the delicate piece of machinery exploded, sending shards of metal through the hull of the vessel.

The tiny craft began bucking like a wild thoat.  The two women were buffeted about the deck cockpit.  Petaine grabbed the controls, but the damage had been done.  The flier was going down.

There was no escape pod on this vessel.  The two women were doomed.

The Rescue

Tarhan heard the explosion and looked up to see the flier  nose over and begin its descent to the ground.  The occupants’ only hopes were that they crashed into the deep red sward beneath them.  Even then, they might be seriously injured.

By some quirk of fate, the craft righted itself and went into a gentle glide that brought it to a standstill not far from he stood.  Calling to his mother for assistance, Tarhan ran to the broken craft and pulled the two women to safety.  He instantly recognized Luranne.  He saw that Petaine was unconscious, but without any serious wounds.  He left her in the care of his mother.  He then picked up Luranne and carried her over to the crystalline sphere.

He splashed it on her face until she came to.  Her first reaction was totally unexpected.

“Get your hands off me!  You would take advantage of an unconscious girl?”

Tarhan glanced at the nearly naked girl who was adjusting her dance costume.  It consisted of a triangular piece cloth that fit snuggly against her pubic area.  On the two ends were thin elastic straps that came up and over her shoulders down her back and converged onto another small triangle below her sacral dimples.  A narrow strip of cloth between her hips joined the two triangles together.  A velvet band was around her trim waist.

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Tarhan asked sourly.  That’s gratitude for you.

Luranne looked up and then smiled broadly: “You’re Tarhan from the dance class.  How did you get here?”

As he explained, Luranne let her eyes drift over his masculine form.  She was impressed by what she saw.  She heard him stop speaking and then nodded her head.  She loved the sound of his voice!  His manly physique!  His……

The Storm Strikes

Tara and Petaine walked back to the crystalline sphere.  Petaine rushed to her daughter and pulled her away from Tarhan.

“This is why you must learn the our national dance and the Dance of Barsoom.  You don’t want to end up with the likes of him!”  Petaine pointed disdainfully at Tarhan, let the sun flash off her expertly cut diamond ring with the rare Osmandalian facets.

“LIKES OF HIM?” Tara grabbed the woman by the arm.  “What are you talking about?  My husband is a personal friend of the Warlord of Barsoom.  He helped rescue the Warlord’s daughter.  Tarhan will be an excellent member of our society.”

Just when Petaine was turning a deep shade of red, Tarhan grabbed both of them and pointed at the approaching storm.

“There’s no time for fighting now.  Get into the sphere.  Its 2mm thick nolryn skin will protect you from the storm.”

“What will you and Luranne do?”  Both mothers asked at once.

Tarhan pointed in the opposite direction of the storm.  “We will hold up in a cave not far from you.  I took a couple of blankets, some food and water, and the Dock and Bleckor heater.  We will be okay.  I’m sure that it will blow over soon.”  Tarhan quickly got the two women inside.  Before closing the persplex hatch, he yelled at them to both leave the controls alone.  He then ran towards Luranne.

Tarhan grabbed her hand and rushed inside the cave.  The blankets and supplies were already there and the heater was glowing.

“We may be here a while.” Luranne said, putting her arm around his waist.  “Ever since I first saw you in dance class, I’ve had the most sensual dreams about you.  Please tell me that you are not spoken for.”

He looked at Luranne and smiled.  “I’ve never had time for girls before.  My father was always taking me places to hunt or to visit with his friends.  We spent a lot of time working on our experimental flier.”

Luranne smiled.  She took his hand in hers and squeezed it lightly.

Suddenly the outside light was completely cut off.  Swirls of sand flew into the cave’s opening.  Tarhan grabbed the supplies and Luranne picked up the heater.  The two ran deeper into the cave.  When they were some distance from the cave’s opening, they stopped and made camp.  Their previous conversation was forgotten.  Now they sat on the cave’s floor and kept themselves warm by the heater.

The Surprise in the Cave

The fury of the sandstorm did not abate as Tarhan had hoped.  If anything, it was more intense than any storm he has encountered.  The cave opening was half closed by the steady stream of sand.

For a long time they sat together.  Finally, Tarhan spread out the blankets and they lay down to sleep.

When they awoke the next morning, the mouth of the cave was completely sealed.  Tarhan tried shoveling away the sands with his hands, but to no avail.  He returned to Luranne and told her the news.  He explained that they should eat and then try to explore the cave for other openings to the outside.  Luranne agreed and they breakfasted and made small talk.

Tarhan rose and pulled Luranne to her feet.  Holding the heater in one hand, with the side reflector panels closed so as not to burn his skin, they walked deeper into the cave.

Suddenly they heard an ear-piercing shriek.  Something was in the cave with them.  The young man and woman stopped cold in their tracks.  They had no weapons, as they had all been left behind prior to going to the dance class.  Tarhan knew that inside the sphere were the Rowbee 9mm pistol with the 18 shot clip and the Gallow Mark 42 gas pistol that fired a toxic pellet that killed most creatures on contact.  They might as well be in Tax-ass on Jasoom because he could not reach them.

The terrible cry repeated itself and there was a flapping of leathery wings in the distance.

“What is it?” Luranne asked, pressing herself close to him.

“Some sort of bat, probably a ramphartarian wolferie.  I remember reading about them in school.”

“Dangerous?”

“…and very hungry with lots of long, pointed, sharp teeth.  We’ll have to go back.  Dig our way out.”  He took her hand and then moved backward, pressed against the wall.  There was another hideous cry and then they could see the bat approaching from the other end of the cave.

Ramphartarian wolferie

Tarhan pushed Luranne behind him.  He would be her shield against the ramphartarian wolferie.  He told her to press herself flat against the wall and to be very still.  He looked about and noticed that there were several large rocks close to his feet that he could throw at the bat.  He descended slowly, picked up a large rock, then resumed his position in front of Luranne.

“Don’t move,” he cautioned her.

“I’m not a weakling.” Luranne said as she picked up another rock.  “If you miss, I might be able to hit it.   Once it’s on the ground, we can beat it to death.”

There was no time for Tarhan to answer.  The bat was upon them.

Tarhan braced himself and then hurled the rock at the oncoming creature.  He missed but Luranne did not.  The rock fell on the creature’s back and instantly brought it down.  Then there came the sound of flapping wings and another hideous cry.  It was the mate of the dead bat.  There was absolutely no time to react.

An Unsettling Mystery

The bat struck them with its head down, pushing Tarhan into Luranne and Luranne into the wall.  But death did not take them.  A portion of the wall collapsed under the impact.  The two youngsters fell into a shallow trench filled with running water and the collapsing rocks buried the bat.

They were free of danger, but the passage back to the outside was buried between large boulders and rocks.  They hugged and kissed and then looked around.  They were in a large chamber with a high ceiling.  From overhead, the sun streamed inside.   They had stumbled upon the remains of another of Barsoom’s forgotten places.

The two left the trench and walked to where the sunlight was the brightest.   The floor was a pattern of red and black squares inlaid with strange designs in silver and gold.  It was covered with the dust of ages.  All around them were giant pillars of chiseled stone, not native to this part of Barsoom, that reached up to support the ceiling.   The walls were decorated in bas relief with the figures of four-armed men.  Some appeared to be warriors, while others were obviously tradesmen.  The largest figure of them was a woman wearing the trappings of a warrior.  She was surrounded by other warriors, who were kneeling at her feet.  Neither Luranne nor Tarhan could guess at who they were.

They touched the carvings in one of the engraved stones and wondered what they meant.  Not knowing, they moved slowly around the perimeter of the chamber.  It took some time to make their way back to their starting point.  Everywhere were things that intrigued them.  Each time they stopped, Luranne would say that her archeology teacher should see this.

On every wall hung ancient tapestries.  When Luranne touched one, it simply disintegrated into dust.  Suddenly she stopped.  “I recognize this.  It’s Lantinium.”  I had to learn it in school, but Issus knows that it’s not used anymore.  Even the pharmacists stopped using it because it was so complicated.  It had something to do with the split infinitive prejunctive famulation of the past-present indicative of the…”

Tarhan looked at her in an odd manner and shook his head.  He had avoided Lantinium and studied tharkian instead.  “What does it say?”

“It’s a series of stories.  Each tapestry is a separate one.  This one says:

 In time gone by, the red men came to realize that there could be no peace between the races.  Resources had been used up and there was fierce competition for what remained.  There was precious little metal available.  The investigation into new weaponry had to be abandoned.  The sword became the weapon of choice because it was durable and its cutting edge remained deadly.

They stopped before another tapestry.

 The chaos of each man having a vote and the deceit of the candidates who had no intention to carry out their promises gave way to the matriarchy of Clea the first.  She imposed rules and regulations and society came to order at her bidding.  She embraced the arts and it was she who created the Dance of Barsoom so that each member of society would retain some measure of grace and style.

“I guess that explains why we have to learn that dumb dance,” Tarhan sighed.

“You don’t like it either?”  Luranne asked with a broad smile on her face.  “I hate it.  It’s too difficult and some parts are just plain silly.”  She raised her arms and did a graceful pirouette that turned into a somewhat awkward tour en l’air.  “I hate that part.  I keep missing that step into the jump.”

The two laughed and then starting discussing their mutual dislike of the dance.  They told identical stories of how their mothers were forced to drag them to class, of how they how avoided classes or managed to slip away under their parent’s noses.  When they discussed the dancemaster, they both had to hold their sides from laughing so hard.

Then they came across the most baffling thing in the entire room.  Upon one of the stone slabs was a skeletal form of a man draped with fine silks and jewels.  Two long swords and lay next to him.  When Luranne touched the silks, they disintegrated into dust, with the jewels falling into the skeletal rib cage.

“Tarhan!  Look at that.” Luranne pointed at the figure on the figure before them.  Covered with the silks, it had appeared to be a man of large size.  With the silk gone, they gazed upon the skeleton of a man with four arms.  The skull was clearly that of a Barsoomian male and not that of a thark.

“What do make of this?” Tarhan asked Luranne asked he stepped up to the skeletal figure.

“I thought the four-armed red man was just a myth.  Something that that guy Burroughs would have made up.   I never thought that it might be real.”  She touched the skeleton’s extra right arm and then wondered if it might be some kind of elaborate hoax.

“I don’t think it’s a hoax.  The bones are really attached to the body.  What we need to do now is contact John Carter’s archeologist.  He’ll know what to make of all this.”  With that said, Tarhan took one of the long swords for protection.

“We’d better find a way out of here,” Luranne said.  “Our mothers are probably worried sick about us.”  Tarhan agreed and together they made their way back to the surface.  It took a great deal of searching, but they found a passageway to the outside.

They walked some distance until they found the sphere, nearly buried by the sands.  The two mothers were surrounded by John Carter and a group of his warriors.  He and his men were clearly on the losing side.  The mothers were pointing fingers and yelling at the astonished men.

“We’d better go save them,” Tarhan said.  Hand in hand the two youngsters ran to their mothers.  In less than a blink of an eye the anger turned from John Carter’s band to the two youngsters.  It looked as if the ranting and raving would go on for some time.  John Carter was grateful that he was no longer the center of their attention.  He left two men behind to take the youngsters and their mother’s to their respective homes.  Then with a sigh, he boarded his flier and returned to Helium.  Moments later, the others left.

When the fliers had vanished from the skies, a very ancient man from Helium, who had a rather bizarre sense of humour, looked out from the mouth of the cave and smiled.  The editor of Sophisticated Girl then turned round and marched back into the cave.  He retrieved  the realistic looking mechanical bat and tossed it into a large sack.  He picked up the fallen rocks and retrieved the second mechanical bat.  Stepping over the trench, he entered the large chamber.  Again he smiled and shook his head of white hair.  He walked over to the slab with the skeleton of the four-armed red man.  He checked quickly to make sure it needed no repairs.   From beneath the slab he brought out a machine that spread artificial dust.  He liberally sprayed the skeleton and then his own tracks.  He put the machine back in its hiding place and slipped through another panel beneath the slab.

The editor of Sophisticated Girl walked to where his own flier was parked.

“Thanks for helping me do this,” he said as he climbed into the cockpit and extended his hand to the man sitting next to him.

“My pleasure,” Gahan smiled.  “Tara, Petaine and I wanted to ensure that our children formed a bond together.  I think they’re off to a good start now.”

“You know,” said the editor, “the next issue of Sophisticated Girl is all about ancient Barsoomian wedding and honeymoon traditions that I made up this morning.”  The editor and the warrior laughed heartily and then settled back in their seats as the craft lifted off the ground

The End



Volume 0895

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