by Rod Hunsicker
Fray stood on the mossy ground and watched the Thark ride toward him.
The green man handled the thoat with harsh resentment and came to a reluctant
stop several yards in front of Fray. He was a fifteen-foot giant armed
with radium rifle, pistol and longsword. There was no mirth or friendship
in his glare as he waited for the hooded man to speak.
Fray wore his harness over a plain brown robe. His features were concealed
by this robe, but the green man knew who he was. For the last year in Thark
there had been rumors of a man lurking about their territory. There had
been a few isolated incidents, and the Tharks had come out the losers.
The stranger was rumored to possess a marvelous technology that always
guaranteed him victory. His swordsmanship was said to be equal to John
Carter's. The green man knew it to be true for he had met the stranger
before. And the stranger had asked for Gator Nel to come and meet him personally.
Gator Nel had come for he was a little bit more intelligent and thus
more curious than his fellows. This strange man had haunted him since the
day Gator had backed down from the human in a fair fight, deciding to live
and fight another day. Now he waited for the man to speak.
"Kaor, Gator Nel," said the human. He spoke pleasantly, without mirth
or malice. "I am pleased that you have come."
"Am I a slave to run at your call, human? Your message said you have
important business with me. Let's get to it," growled the green giant.
"If you were a slave, I would have no interest in you. I want to know
who is that greatest green warrior on Barsoom," said Fray.
Gator Nel flipped his leg over the thoat and slid to the ground. Towering
over Fray he speculated on the human's small size and large audacity. Then
he laughed, a huge, mirthless laugh that mocked the man.
"And what would a little man like you want with such a warrior?" he
asked, placing his hands on his hips. Although Gator Nel had seen Fray
slay two green men with ease, it was his conclusion that it had been done
with some sort of scientific trick rather than swordplay.
"The savagery and fighting heart of the green man of Barsoom is well
known. I would like to test my mettle against one of their best," said
Fray. He took a few steps closer to Gator Nel. "This is no joke."
The green man put his hand on the hilt of his long sword. Though few
of his breed were cowards, Gator Nel was a little brighter than most of
his brothers , and he knew there was something dangerous about this strange
man. He wasn't sure if it was a technological advantage or a martial one.
He had come to this meeting with Fray in the hope of discovering what the
hooded man's advantage was and if he could use it for his own good. What
interested Gator Nel particularly was Fray's ability to stop a bullet from
hitting him. The last time Gator Nel had fought Fray this is exactly what
happened. If there was a way that the green men could become invulnerable
to rifle fire, this would greatly enhance their ability to make war on
the red men. Of course Tars Tarkas was at peace with Helium, since the
coming of John Carter, but there were other red men to fight. The green
men must live by plunder on a world swept clean of resources.
"Few red men can fight one of us man-to-man," said Gator Nel slowly.
"We are too large and skillful for them. Could you meet one of us naked
except for your sword? Is this the way you want to test your mettle?"
"What could you offer a champion to fight you? I see no riches behind
you. No herd of thoats, no harem of women. I see no booty that a champion
can claim once you are slain. What do you have to offer, faceless one?"
the greenman taunted.
"The answer is in your own mind, green man," said Fray evenly.
Gator Nel reviewed what he had last thought. Obviously the man was reading
his mind, but Gator Nel couldn't do the same to Fray. When he tried it
was as though Fray wasn't there. In fact, the effort of trying made the
green man's head swim so badly it took a severe mental effort to remain
"You refer to the time our bullets failed to reach you?" snarled the
green warrior. He resented the difficulty he suffered when dealing with
this puny human. Like most greenmen Gator Nel did not fear death. If anything
he sought it in the glorious pursuit of battle. What discomforted Gator
Nel about Fray was the impression that the human could slay him at any
time, regardless of Gator Nel's own formidable combat skills.The green
warrior took some comfort in the rationalization that it was Fray's technology
that granted him superiority. Man-to-man, naked in the dirt, Gator Nel
thought he had a chance against anyone or anything.
Fray restrained a smile. The green man's thoughts were easy to follow.
His warrior-mind was fascinating to touch. Like most of his kind, Gator
Nel structured his mind along a martial pattern against which all other
concerns were almost trivial. This creature lived to fight. Love, and even
sex was dimmed by his desire to be the best fighter and greatest chieftain.
Barsoom was so miserly poor in resources that the only way these people
could survive was to take what they wanted by brute force. So they developed
a social structure that advocated that brutality. They selected their progeny
according to these criteria. There was something different about Gator
Nel, though. This was a mind that could think beyond the brutal subject
matter that dominated most green men. There was a trace of depth to Gator
Nel's mind, and Fray wondered if that depth reached down to an ancient
time when the green men were a healthier race in a healthy world.
"I refer to the thing you want. What all green men want. An advantage
over the red men. Or at least an equalizer. While your gunsmiths can make
and repair rifles and pistols, you are not technologically equipped to
compete with the red men on a grander scale. That day, one year ago, when
we faced each other it wasn't fear that stopped you from attacking me it
was curiosity and greed. You saw a military advantage and wanted it for
yourself. Or at least for the green warriors of Barsoom. The other two
green men who died that day were limited to their lust to kill, while you
showed true courage
and a knowledge of warfare by stalling your lusts until you obtained
the greater prize. This is why I have called you, today, Gator Nel."
Gator Nel laughed harshly. His large hand closed on the pommel of his
long sword. "Are you saying I am easier to manipulate than my brothers?"
"In a way. A good way. You are more intelligent. Thus you see options
beyond the cleverness of a shrewd warrior Whether you are manipulated is
for you to decide."
Gator Nel wanted to kill this human. But he wanted his power more. His
wide mouth split in a vicious grin. "How will you deliver the prize to
us if you are killed? And you surely will be."
Fray pointed to a spot behind Gator Nel. The green warrior turned and
saw a two-man flier hovering about twenty yards away at a height of 70
"That is mine. In it is all my knowledge and secrets. When I die, if
I die, it will deliver itself to you to do with as you will. Is this sufficient?"
asked the robed man.
"I am unsure. How will we unravel your secrets?"
Fray smiled in the shadow of his cowl. "I can't do everything for you,
green man. The prize will be yours. All your man has to do is kill me.
What do you have to lose?"
Gator Nel lifted his massive fist and shook it at Fray. "You will die,
human. Our fighter will be Quater Dot, if he agrees. Most of our tribe
believes he could kill Tars Tarkas himself in fair combat. You will die,
"We shall see," replied Fray, keeping his doubts about that bold claim
The duel was confirmed and the date set. Gator Nel's tribe of Tharks
was a small one but it boasted one of the best fighters in Thark. This
was Quater Dot, a dominating male who welcomed the chance to kill a boasting
human. The duel was to take place on a vast open plain. Here the tribe
gathered and awaited Fray's arrival. They formed a great circle around
an open area, and in the center of this primitive fighting arena, waited
Fray arrived in his flier a few minutes early. It had taken him ten
years to find a downed flier, collect the parts from here and there, and
transform a piece of junk into the technological marvel that he now owned.
Ten long years of labor to reconstruct a war machine common to those found
on his own world. He had arrived naked on Barsoom, like all arrivals, armed
with only his magnificent body and advanced technological skills. This
advent was ten years in the waiting. He leaped from his flier onto the
mossy arena floor. He was naked, except for his long sword. His red hair
blazed in the sun as he walked slowly to the center of the circle where
his opponent waited.
Quater Dot was a atavism among green warriors. He stood 17-feet tall,
truly a giant among giants. His intermediate set of limbs were set in a
way that provided him with greater ability to go on all fours. Fray believed
that the green men were once centaurian in form and function. For some
reason they had selected in the past half million years to become more
and more bipedal. That may be because of the domestication of the thoat.
Their dependency on their great mounts changed their society and form,
though it was possible, in Fray's mind, that the green men were subconsciously
trying to become more like the red men of Barsoom, who obviously dominated
But this warrior before him was a pure green Barsoomian war machine.
As Fray approached Quater Dot rolled his jaw until his great tusks pointed
at the human with a menacing intent. The green giant laughed and roared
and mocked his much smaller opponent and glared at him with protruding
eyes. Quater relied on primitive posturing, and the waving of his eight
foot long sword, to intimidate his foe. He didn't talk or shout like other
green men would.
As he got within the green monster's range, Fray felt a knifing of fear.
Reaching out with his telepathic abilities he discovered that Quater Dot
was qualitatively different from the other green men he had fought. With
the others, Fray had been able to read their intentions in combat, and
thus knew what they were going to do just a instant before they had done
it. His own swift sword had been enough to use that moment to his successful
But Quater Dot was different. His mind was totally immersed in his actions
to the degree that thought and action happened at the same time. Fray would
have no telepathic advantage here.
Gator Nel stepped out of the circle of green men and addressed Fray.
"You have what you wanted, human. And when you die, we will have what we
With the experience of a veteran, Fray never looked at Gator Nel. It
was a ploy to distract his attention from the enemy in front of him. Nothing
must distract him from his opponent or he would surely die.
Quater Dot attacked as soon as Fray was in good range. His long back
humped over in an arch as he down slashed at his much shorter opponent.
His attack was furious and blinding. Without telepathic aid, Fray fell
back on his own skills, struggling to defend himself. In the first few
moments of contact, Quater Dot learned that he had no strength advantage
over the human. He had tried to beat down on him from above, while keeping
the shorter man too far away to strike. But Fray managed to catch the green
man's blade each time it came close in a brilliant display of defense.
Quater Dot dropped to fours suddenly, lowering himself to chest on ground,
and slashing accurately at Fray's feet. The human was nearly caught by
this maneuver, but countered by leaping high in the air. Quater Dot pushed
off the ground, as if expecting this defense, and came up with the point
of his sword arching up to skewer the human as he came down. Fray beat
down with his sword, twisted in mid air, but still took a wound on his
left side that sprayed blood into the air. The Thark spectators roared
at first blood. Their weapons clashed together in applause.
Fray scrambled on the mossy ground. Quater Dot's sword touched him again
before he could raise a proper defense. And thus it went on. Quater Dot
on the offensive and Fray on the defensive,. barely staying alive. Ten
minutes later Fray was bleeding from a dozen wounds and the greenmen had
yet to be cut.
Fray used his unearthly agility and leaping power to get behind the
Thark. This was countered by those protruding eyes that caught Fray's attack
and countered. Quater Dot confused the human by changing between a two
legged to a four legged stance. This lengthened and shortened the green
man's range and kept Fray at a disadvantage. The truth was that Fray just
couldn't get past the green man's lengthy guard. The Thark was too good
a swordsman to be fooled with tricks, too fast for the swift human, and
had too long a reach whether up or down in stance.
As time wore on so did Fray. His strenght was leaving with his blood.
There seemed no way to win. Then one way came to him.
He set the Thark up with a series of defensive parries designed to bait
his opponent to thrust. When the Thark finally did, Fray didn't parry,
he gambled, and took the blade in the meaty part of his left breast, just
under the collar bone. The sword passed through, tearing flesh and muscle,
but hitting no vital organs, as Fray virtually impaled himself on its length
to get closer to his foe. With a lightning swift motion, Fray severed Quater
Dot's swordhand and leaped back at nearly the same time. He landed in a
crouch and rocketed forward immediately to attack with his sword. Quater
smashed down with a fist, deflecting the human's attack, but not before
Fray's sword sliced into his abdomen. Quater Dot twisted and fell away
from Fray who also hit the ground on a roll.
Still skewered by his foe's longsword, Fray's mind reeled from the agony
of his wound. He telepathically shut down his own pain centers and forced
his mind to clear. Up on his knees he realized he couldn't remove the sword
by himself. Instead he looked around for the green warrior. Quater Dot
was pushing himself up. He had no mental techniques to control his pain.
He simply ignored it in a primeval effort to rise and destroy his enemy.
He got up on four legs and used his last hand to cup his internal organs
back in his belly. His eyes jerked spasmodically until he located Fray.
His jaw lowered and his tusks pointed at the human. Every muscle in his
body tensed as he poised to attack.
Quater Dot charged, more fury than fight, and ran himself into Fray's
sword. Fray went down under 500 lb. of green warrior, showered by green
The Thark crowd was motionless. Soundless. Rarely had they seen such
a magnificent battle. They were further stunned when Fray wriggled out
from Quater Dot's body. He lifted to his feet and beckoned to Gator Nel.
The green man walked over to him slowly. Quater Dot's weight had made
his wound worse. The red-headed man was swaying and close to fainting from
lack of blood.
"Pull the sword out," he demanded of Gator Nel.
Gator Nel paused. If he should kill the human the booty might be his.
If not the technology of this man will be lost to his people. The man had
fought fairly against their champion, yet Gator Nel had no loyalty to this
"Pull the sword out, Gator Nel," asked Fray.
Gator Nel put his large hand on Quater Dot's sword. Roughly, he withdrew
it from Fray's rigid body. Then he dropped it on the ground in front of
the human. Immediately Fray's flier landed smoothly next to him. It opened
up and Fray put a foot on the ramp.
"Quater Dot was the ultimate green warrior. And he died as such. There
is more to life than that, Gator Nel. Try to learn something from what
"I learned I am a fool," Gator Nel growled.
"I don't think so," said Fray. "And neither do you."
Fray entered his craft and the door closed behind him. It rose and flew
away. Gator Nel looked at the puddle of red blood where the human had stood.
He understood the human. His message was to create, not destroy. Create
relationships, technologies, sciences, and other things to improve the
lives of his people. Gator Nel turned and looked at his brethren. Already
they were returning to their lives. So many will die in violence, with
nothing to show for it. Gator Nel would think about what he might do to
show a difference from his life.