First and Only Weekly Online Fanzine Devoted to the Life & Works of Edgar Rice Burroughs
Since 1996 ~ Over 10,000 Web Pages in Archive
Volume 2169
By Rick Johnson

AUTHORS NOTE:  The classic film Rashomon by Akira Kurosawa shows us that for every story, there are three versions, mine, yours and the truth.    Lost on Barsoom is the story of a number of Earth scientists who are accidently sent to Mars, as seen through the eyes of Jason Obrien of the Spy story.
But, if North were such an incompetent jerk, how could he have become an Air Force officer?
North to Barsoom is his viewpoint of Lost on Barsoom.


Captain North was suspicious.  This in itself wasn’t unusual for he was a suspicious man which made him perfect for his job of project security.  Unfortunately, he tended to jump to conclusions which is why he was at this dead-end project instead of at the Pentagon where his talents would be better appreciated.

It wasn’t that he deliberately caused trouble, it was that he believed that all Americans should be unquestioningly loyal and until he proved that, they were on his list as potential traitors and saboteurs.

But this was different.  The guy probably wasn’t even American.  Well, he wasn’t native born that is and there were too many foreigners coming in, getting their Naturalization without adequate background checks.  In this case, the guy claimed to be sent by the Ways and Means Committee to check up on how their money was being spent.  But still, he had an accent.  Sometimes you didn’t hear it but then, when he slipped, it came through and despite his name, that accent wasn’t completely Irish, more like someone who hadn’t been speaking it for years because he lived in another country that wasn’t Ireland or America..  So what was an American Citizen with an Irish name but an unknown accent doing in a top secret government project?

It would do no good to talk to the Major for he had checked the man’s credentials twice and they always came through A-OK.  There had to be something else so North took to following Obrien.  Obrien!  Shouldn’t that be O’Brien?  There were dozens of O’Briens and O’Neils and O’Connors but never an Obrien.  It was almost as if he chose a name but didn’t understand how it worked.  Like how the Chinese and Japanese put their last name first which made it hard to find anyone in the telephone book.

North found Obrien in the break room heating up a cup of tea.  Again, tea? Why not coffee?  And didn’t the English and Irish put milk or cream into their tea?  Obrien took it straight, not even adding sugar.  It just wasn’t natural.

After Obrien left, North dug his tea-bag from the trash, careful to touch the string and not the tag.  Then he rushed the thing to Security and woke Airman Kahn from his daydreaming.  The man was always daydreaming which is why he would never make Sergeant.  “Kahn!” North snapped.  “Run the prints on this tea bag and tell me what you find.  ASAP!  MOVE IT AIRMAN!”

Kahn snapped to attention, took the bag, carefully and said, ‘Yes Sir’ as he turned away.  Despite his tendency to drift off, Kahn was a good man who understood the value of following orders.  Well, the job wouldn’t get done any faster if he hovered so North left to make his rounds.  He had men to do that but frankly, he liked to keep his eye on things himself.  Too many of the enlisted were just doing time to get a paycheck and so overlooked important details.

There he was, taking to Dr Jennings again.  He couldn’t blame the man, Jennings was beautiful, blonde and built.  Unfortunately, she didn’t appreciate a good man and pretended to ignore him and every other man on the project.  There!  Obrien was looking at the project, not down Jennings blouse.  That meant he was gay or ….  Obrien left to talk to Dr Stroud so North considered visiting Jennings and asking her to dinner again.  The woman must be gay too.  North knew he was good looking, built, and hung.  Hell! He spent an hour a day in the Gym to keep his abs looking like a washboard and all the other men were jealous at what they saw in the shower.  So why did that blonde doctor treat him like a leper?

North returned to his office to find Kahn going through his files.  “Kahn!  What the f---!”

Kahn didn’t apologize, he handed North a file and kept looking, “Sir, you were right!  We got him!  Where’s Obrien’s file?  Here it is.  Look sir!  The file Congress sent us is perfect.  Jason Obrien, Ways and Means Committee.  Born in Boston in 1975.  The whole thing but sir!  The prints I took from the tea bag don’t match!”

His anger forgotten, North was interested, “Don’t match?  Then who is Obrien?”

“IRA, sir!”  Kahn offered.  “Jason Obrien, Born in Innis, Ireland in 1945 but even that may be faked and there is evidence that he’s much older than that and the 1945 birth certificate was fake.  Moved to Belfast where he got involved with the IRA in 1952, wanted for questioning then vanished around 1968.  He supposedly went to Africa to hunt treasure and over the next few years, money and gold began to flow into his family accounts in Innis but he vanished!  Hasn’t been heard from since.”

North took both files, smiled for the first time that day.  Finally, after all those false leads, wrongful accusations, he had a genuine terrorist.  The money and gold probably came from some rich African Arab who wanted to use Ireland as a base to overthrow England.  Didn’t the IRA train in Libya?  “Not one word about this but grab Wilks, get armed and meet me at the lab. If he gets away, I’ll have your ass for dinner!”  Then North literally ran to the Major’s office.

Bursting in, he slammed the files on the desk and then remembered to snap to attention and salute.  “Sir, Captain North Reports!”

“At ease, Captain, and what is so important that you ignored protocol like this!”  The major was angry but held it in until he got the story.  His men respected him for that but North saw it as weakness.

“Sir, the Obrien fellow from Congress!  He’s a fraud.  Yes sir, I know he checks out but I saw him toss a tea bag and I had those prints run separately.  This is from the FBI.”

North remained at ease while the Major read both files.  Finally, “It doesn’t make sense North.  Are you certain they didn’t mess the files up?”

“No sir, you have what they sent us.  We’ve got him! He’s an IRA terrorist here to sabotage the project!”

“Not necessarily, Captain.  IF this is Jason Obrien from Ireland, then he must be easily sixty years old.  I’ve met the man.  He looks like he’s barely late twenties.  Also, it says here he is ‘suspected of IRA connections’.  It doesn’t say he IS IRA.  That’s like me suspecting you of Ku Klux Klan membership because you lived in Alabama.  Every Catholic in Ireland had IRA connections.  If you weren’t, you were English.  And, let me finish, Captain, IF he really were IRA, why does this file state that neither Interpol nor Scotland Yard are interested in him?  If he were a terrorist, wouldn’t the Yard want him? And if he was IRA, that was when he was a child.  You can’t blame a 10 year old kid for joining a gang.  Also, what would the IRA want with this project?  Even the Irish hate the IRA now so much they can’t raise enough cash to buy a firecracker.

“No captain, there are too many holes here.  A man vanishes at… oh thirteen years on a trip to Africa then returns almost forty years later but looking almost as young as when he vanished?  Unless this guy found the fountain of youth in Africa and hibernated for forty years, the FBI screwed up again with his file.”

“Sir, I’m certain of it this time.”

The Major interrupted, “North!  You were certain the last four times and frankly I’m tired of covering your ass on these wrongful accusation suits.  If this guy is who he says he is, then you piss him off and he’ll make one call to that Senator and ALL of our asses will be on a platter.”

He leaned back and thought.  “Captain, have you ever done any real police work?”

“No sir.”

“My father was a New York City Detective.  Sometimes he’d let a drug pusher go so he could be followed to the big dealer.  I’m not going to pull you but I’m not going to let you go either.  Follow him, watch him BUT, you had better damn well have something tangible or your next assignment will be running security checks on penguins in the Antarctic!  Do I make myself clear!”

“Yes sir!”  This time North snapped to attention and saluted, holding it until it was returned, then he did an about face and marched from the room. 

North met his men and listened to Wilks, “Sir, Obrien’s been fiddling with the power transformer.  The tech was explaining something then left and Obrien did something when he thought he was alone.”

“Good work.  Anyone else in there?”

“Drs Stroud and Jennings and that techie.  They are about to run another experiment so we’d better hurry.”

“Good!  Kahn, take the other side.  Wilks with me.  Do NOT harm any of the civilians and I want Obrien alive!”  Being a good military man, North understood that the safety of his civilian charges was job one with capturing the criminal secondary.

When North received Wilks’ signal, they all burst in with drawn weapons and North yelled, “Freeze!” as he and his men drew on Obrien.  Obrien froze, a sure sign of a guilty man for the civilians started to yell at him, demanding answers.  “This man is a…”  North began then his weapon was pulled from his hand and flew to the super-magnets along with the weapons of his men. Obrien turned to run, then as the handguns struck the magnets, there was a deafening explosion and North could only wish he were someplace where a man of action was appreciated!


North stood amidst the wreckage of the lab, “shit!” he thought, noticing that he was naked and then seeing the stars overhead.  Strange, the lab was underground!  How could the explosion have torn through dozens of feet of concrete and steel and rock?  Then as he focused on one red star that he knew, somehow, was Mars, he felt a tug and relaxed enough to feel himself pulled upward…  He suffered an instant of cold and darkness then.. nothing.



North woke up, both freezing and roasting at the same time.  When he opened his eyes, she saw Kahn next to him, naked and unconscious.  North carefully looked around, seeing Wilks in the distance then Steve the tech and Doctors Stroud and Jennings, all naked.  For some reason, North took a thrill to confirm that Jennings was a natural blonde.  But he could stare later, now he had matters to do.  There was an alien standing on a nearby rock.  He knew the man was an alien because it had a long tail, maybe three feet long, stuck to its ass.  He also saw the alien possessed ape feet and its hands were backwards.  No, not backwards, it had two thumbs, the second where the smallest finger should be.  It was looking away from them and seemed to be deaf despite the glance at what looked like pointed ears.  Ever since Roddenberry put pointed ears on Spock, every alien in the movies had to have them like it was a fashion statement.

North nudged Kahn awake, then shushing him, motioned him to go and wake Wilks.  Kahn low-crawled to the other airman, all knowing that their main priority was to keep the civilians alive and safe, then force the alien to return them home to Earth.  Earth!  That’s it, North saw the sun as being too small and the moon in the distance wasn’t the one around Earth.  Somehow that alien had abducted them.

The rest were waking up now, North spared a glance to Dr Jennings who gasped then huddled, vainly trying to cover her nakedness with too few arms.  Steve was awake and staring at Jennings as if he had never seen a naked woman before.  The guy was a computer geek and was probably still a virgin.  Well, let him stare, women like Dr Jennings didn’t know he was alive.  Dr Stroud was the last to awaken, then as he saw both men awake and ready, the alien turned around.

It was Obrien, but not the same Obrien.  Rather if you glued pointed ears and moth antenna and stuck cat’s-eye contacts lenses it would be Obrien.  It was as if the explosion that destroyed their clothing also destroyed Obrien’s disguise.  North didn’t know what the project was and didn’t want to know but apparently it was important enough for some alien race to destroy it.  North, Major North, for he was certain to get a promotion for capturing the first interplanetary terrorist, readied himself as he slowly stood.

Obrien looked at North’s genitals, the Pride of the Outfit for North was easily more man than any two or three combined, then the alien squatted and covered his own in embarrassment.  Good, any advantage was worth exploiting.

“I suppose you are wondering why I brought you here?”  Obrien started, then North and his men jumped him.

North felt himself falling and then Obrien, small as he was, grabbed him by the neck and threw him aside as if he were a child.  Flailing about, North saw he was easily ten feet in the air and tried to land without breaking anything but the jar still shook him.  He rolled, jumped to his feet, fell over and landed hard again, seeing both his men groaning as Obrien sat back again.  For a runt who would have to stand on his toes to make six feet, the alien was horribly strong.

North tried to move closer as Obrien talked, describing each of them.

“I am Jason Obrien, Lord Innis, Baron Drakonis.” He said.  Well, thought North, if you faked your ID, it was easier to remember your own name.  Obrien continued, “You may call me ‘My Lord’ or ‘Your Grace’.  As you can see I am not really human.  I was sent to Earth to stop your experiment only to find that you succeeded where I failed.  Please, Captain, hold off or I’ll kill you all as easily as you can a child.  All will be made clear in time.”

“What did you do to us!”  screamed Jennings, nearly hysterical.

“I did nothing.  This is all your own fault.  During the Second World War, the US Navy tried to develop a radar deflecting device.  The Philadelphia Experiment failed with drastic consequences.  The battleship they used vanished, reappeared hundreds of miles away within seconds, crewmen went crazy and some even vanished.  The project was cancelled and the men certified as insane because of the magnetic fields generated.  You, Dr. Stroud, thought it would make you famous if you could solve the problem and develop a cloaking-device.  So you called a few friends in Congress and got some funding, a lab and a few incompetent assistants.  In fact, with the exception of Dr Jennings here who saved your project, your experiments were noted for their failure rates.

“So with the assistance of Dr Jennings and that tech and the paranoia of Captain North, you accidentally created a means to teleport across the galaxy.  And you, Dr Stroud, didn’t even understand what you were doing. So, you blundered around until you caught our attention.

“Your race isn’t intelligent or mature enough for such a device.  Thus I was sent here to sabotage the thing.  Unfortunately, Captain North discovered me and interrupted me as I was finishing the device that would destroy your experiment for all time.  My congratulations, Captain.  I underestimated you to my loss.”

At least the man gave credit where it was due. “Why did you bring us here?”  asked Steve Wadding?  Waddel?  North didn’t remember for he made it a habit of calling military people by their last name and rank and civilians by their first names. 

“I did not bring you here.  YOU brought us here.  Your cloaking device was really a teleporter and IT, not me, brought us to this planet.”  Obrien explained.

“Planet?”  Jennings spoke up.  “We are on another planet?”

“Of course.  Notice the pink sky, two moons, smaller sun and low gravity.  This world is definitely not Earth.”  The woman was showing her blonde. North knew they weren’t on Earth within a minute of waking up.

Dr. Stroud then asked “Isn’t this your planet?”  How did that man get to his position?  At least Dr Jennings could sleep her way up the ladder of success.

“No.  I spent some time here a couple centuries ago, but that was in the marshes and not this desert so I don’t know anything about this place other than what I have read.

“As for you all, I hadn’t intended you to die but it does solve my problem.  I was sent to stop your work.  So my priorities are survival, return home and ensure that your project fails.  Your deaths here will stop the project and my chances of returning home are better alone.”  Then he said something in some foreign language and started to leave when someone protested.

Turning Obrien explained, “Yes I am leaving you here alone to die.  I thought that I had made that clear.  It’s hard but necessary.”

“We need to stick together to survive!” Capt North spoke up.  “Our chances as a group are better than alone.”  North could arrest the man later but now, as he said, priorities were survival and return home and this alien could do both.

“We do not,” Obrien said.  Strange how he never said ‘yes’ or ‘no’ but always repeated the sentence as a negative.  It must be some alien thing which would be useful to catch more of them when he returned to Earth.

“I know something of this world and trying to find food and water and survive the predators will be difficult enough for me, naked and unarmed as I am.  Dragging you along decreases my chances for survival and frankly, none of you possess any skills of value with the possible exception of Dr Jennings, who is sitting upon her only useful assets.”

All argued with the alien but his mind was made up when Dr Jennings said, quietly, “I’ll sleep with you.”

“What?”  they all asked in unison.

“I said I’ll sleep with you.” She yelled.  “I don’t want to die and you said that’s my only asset so if that is what it takes to make you to save me, I’ll do it.”

North had wondered about her but when the chips were down, she reverted to type and relied on her body to get her ahead.  He was now certain that she had slept her way to her PhD.  And now she was lowering herself to bending over for this monkey-man.

“You humans like to make promises you will not keep.  You claim that you were coerced or you redefine the terms.  So why should I believe you?” it asked.

“Because my life is in your hands.  So long as I make you happy, you keep me alive.  So I give you sex, anytime and any way and as often as you want.  But you keep ALL of us alive, not just me, my body is worth all our lives.  And second, you return us all to Earth.  I’ll make certain the project fails so you don’t have to report to your superiors that you screwed up.”

Obrien looked at her but North saw the alien was the only one who wasn’t becoming hard with the thought of doing Jennings.  Maybe the alien didn’t like human women?  If so, why was he agreeing?

“Agreed!  But I am in charge.  This is a dangerous world and failure to obey my orders will be disastrous.  So anyone who hesitates to obey or who argues, will be beaten into submission by myself.  Have you any arguments?”

None of them could argue, knowing that their lives were in his hands so he had them practice walking in the low gravity as he explained where they were.  “We are on Barsoom, a world that has been dying for a half million years.  Everything here is intelligent and everything here kills something else.  There are humans here but they’ll see you as either potential slaves or as competition for food or as potential enemies. If they choose the first, you will live as a slave in chains, if the other two options, you’ll die. It’s that simple.” 

Everyone grumbled and Dr Jennings kept trying to hide her body as she walked, knowing that all the men were staring at her.  North approached, his interest obvious and hissed, “How could you be willing to do that!  He’s not even human. It’d be like screwing a monkey, for god’s sakes.”

She didn’t look at him but turned red and hissed back, “If you don’t like the deal I made, then go off on your own.  He took you and both your men out, he knows about this world and being an alien he understands space travel and he knows where we are and where Earth is.  Right now he is our only hope for survival!  So I am doing what I must no matter how unpleasant it is.  You’d do the same.”

“No, I wouldn’t.  I’d die before stooping that low.”

“Then why are you willing to benefit from my whoredom?”

North couldn’t answer that.  Sometimes the woman was infuriating.

Any further conversation was interrupted by Obrien hissing ‘down’ and falling to the ground himself.  Dr Stroud ignored the command as did North, the former from stupidity, the latter from a need to know what was happening.  North never took anyone’s word on anything, he always double checked himself.  In this case, Obrien knocked them both down then wrapped his tail around Dr Stroud’s neck to prevent an outcry.  North was smart enough to shut up when he saw the horse-things.

They were shaped vaguely like a good horse but these were about ten feet at the shoulder, monsters in their own right with eight legs.  It seemed to be hairless though at that distance he couldn’t be certain, only that it was a dark slate color with a white belly and yellow feet.  Its tail was larger at the tip than at the base and it held its tail straight out as it ran but North could hear no sound of hooves on rocks.  The creatures did run as if in panic and soon the cause of their flight appeared.  Two lion-like beasts were in chase, both having ten legs, a mane and green eyes.  Obrien was cautious but not terrified though who knew what powers these aliens had.  But all were scared enough to remain silent until long after the beasts had crossed the ridge of hills.

Steve, the techie was staring in wonder at the parade then said as if in a dream, ‘Thoats and banths!  We are on Barsoom!  I never dreamed… but it’s all true!”

“What the hell are you talking!” about North demanded.

“Almost a hundred years ago Edgar Rice Burroughs wrote a series of novels about Mars, he called it Barsoom.” Explained Steve.  “His hero was John Carter, a Confederate soldier who died on Earth and was transported to Mars and had amazing adventures.  Burroughs always said he made it all up but it’s true!  Burroughs was covering for his uncle.”

“You’re insane,” North insisted.  “I’m no astronomer but even I know that nothing can live on Mars.  The Voyager probes proved that.”  Both argued with the techie insisting that this must be Mars because it fit the description by that author and the officer insisting that it cannot be because science said so.  North didn’t understand science so he had an unfailing faith in those, like Dr Stroud, who understood the field.  Finally Dr. Jennings called to the Alien and asked him, “What the truth Mr. Obrien?”

The alien insisted that he be called ‘Lord’ or ‘Baron’ because ‘mister’ was a title he didn’t possess then he explained, “Yes, we are on Barsoom.  But they are still arguing as to if Mars and Barsoom are the same planet.  As for Burroughs, the writer did exactly what he said he did, people told him stories and he rewrote them to be more interesting and published them.  So far as I know, John Carter may have been an uncle or he may have been a family friend they just called ‘uncle’.  Not having met either I don’t know.

“However, although the stories were mostly true, he did make mistakes or changes because he had to pay the rent.  The pink sky for one.  It turns blue when the dust settles but that almost never happens.

“On earth, all land animals evolved from that same fish so all land animals have four limbs.  Here, there were multiple lines of evolution from different fish with different numbers of limbs.  Here, if it has four limbs like you, it’s probably an immigrant like you.

“But now we need to find food, water and shelter because the night is about to get really cold.”

Obrien led them off and North insisted on asking, “why are we going this way?  What’s so special in this direction?”

He responded without thought, “Because the banths went that way.  I don’t want to meet them when they return to their lair. They are normally solitary night-hunters but these are an exception.  They’re probably a mated pair woken by the thoats.  Banths rule the night, Calots rule the day and White-Apes rule the dead cities.  Even if we were armed, they’d easily kill us all.”

Obrien led them for hours until every breath racked their lungs.  At least, thought North, Dr Jennings wasn’t hiding any-more though with this low gravity they didn’t bounce much.  Finally Obrien pointed, “Lets try that ridge there.  It may be low enough to provide food and shelter.”

Obrien crawled to the ridge with North following.  The man was an alien and terrorist and saboteur but he did know how to move in dangerous country.  They scanned the floor and hills and finally Obrien saw something, “There!” he pointed.

“What?” North asked.  He was having trouble breathing.  It reminded him of when he visited Denver while on leave from the Air Force Academy.  The mile-high city sucked the air from his lungs.

“That shadow, it’s too regular as if it were built.  Also look at that dark splotch that looks like vegetation near those rocks.  They could be mantilla seeking warmth by reflected heat.”

Steve asked then, “If we are so far from the sun, why is it so hot during the day and so cold at night?”

Obrien commented as they approached the structure.  “For the same reason you can bake a cake in your car.  Ultra-Violet penetrates the atmosphere and excites the rocks into producing infra-red heat which heats the planet.  Once the sun sets, there’s no more UV so the rocks rapidly give off their IR.  After the sun sets, the temp drops to near freezing so we need shelter.

Once at the bottom, North saw two old wooden wagons, one knocked off its wheels and all with holes as if they had taken explosive rounds or missiles.  “What caused these holes?  They look like explosives but no demolition team would put them here.”

“Rifle fire.  The locals use thermo-nuclear rounds for their firearms.  This was a caravan attacked by raiders, possibly Green Men who were… over there behind those rocks.  These two were abandoned as the remainder tried to escape.  Maybe they did.  Here, help me flip this one over.”  Obrien had found an axle or that long piece that’s they used to tie to horses.  North had seen them on TV but never cared enough to ask what they were called. 

With all helping, they managed to flip the wagon over to provide a shelter of sorts.  Then they levered a corner up and Obrien shoved a couple large rocks to give an entrance.  Finally he broke some boards from the other wagon with a few karate kicks and shoved them inside for a floor.  North was impressed with those kicks for the boards were easily an inch thick and seemed to be harder than oak.

He then led them to the grove, picking up a rock and chipping it into a sort of primitive axe as he explained, “These are mantilla plants. They produce a milky sap which will keep you alive for years.  It can be made into cheese or a dozen other things or simply drunk straight.  It’s quite bland but nutritious.” 

Looking at the thing, North saw a giant reddish-brown pineapple easily a yard high with evidence that larger ones had been broken off and eaten.  All the broad leaves faced the setting sun so North figured that they turned to catch as much light as possible.

Obrien carefully cut away one of the scales and made a number of v-cuts as if he were tapping a molasses tree.  “Catch the milk in your hands or a cup and drink it.  It’s all we’ll have tonight and for a very long time.  Dr Jennings followed his example and commented, “It’s like thick cream,” as she licked her fingers.  Obrien repeated the procedure with other trees and soon they were all full.  Then he cut free some of the younger leaves and sliced them to reveal a mushy interior.  Scooping it free, he mashed it into a paste and rubbed it on his arms and shoulders, “This stuff is like Aloe Vera and will sooth our sunburn.  But don’t drink the sap, it for external use only.  And clean your hands before you rub your eyes or eat anything more or you’ll get sick.” Once done, he replaced the scale which quickly glued itself back onto the plant.

As he led them to the wagon he continued, “It’ll get dark soon and very cold so we cannot do outside watches.  Do your toilet now and take turns on watch inside as the rest sleep.”

‘Toilet’ thought North, another strange word to use.  Why not say, ‘hit the latrine’ or ‘take a leak’.  North kept very good mental notes because if there were more of these aliens on Earth, this might be the way to find them.

It was while North was standing against one of the wagons, emptying his bladder, that he saw Dr Jennings go to Obrien.  There wasn’t much to void and in the cold and with his sunburn, it took time so he watched and listened to them.  Dr Jennings was obviously trying to get up the guts to do something she disliked doing.  He’d had that same look and attitude whenever he had to apologize and kiss-ass to the brass so he knew it well.  Then she stood up, closed her eyes, stuck her shoulders back and walked to the alien.  She put her arms around his neck and kissed him but North saw she was careful to make no other body contact.  North had seen more passion during a football game so it was obvious she was forcing herself.  North got ready to interfere and save the woman even though the smaller alien was stronger and faster.  Still, he had to try.  She was a blonde bimbo and was whoring herself but she was human and an American and he was still in charge of her safety.

She said to Obrien, “I’m ready to pay my part of our bargain now.” But he removed her arms and replied, “It’s too cold out here now and as much as I want to, I hate public sex inside so take the night off.”

North was thinking about this.  Obrien still intended to force the woman and it was only because he was cold, probably too cold to get it up(?) that was stopping him.   But Dr Jennings looked relieved and happy.  She may be a whore but she didn’t like being one, North thought.  That was a point in her favor.

She then stiffened again and forced herself to say, “My Lord, can you build a fire tonight?”  North would have had just as hard a time calling the alien ‘my lord’ as did she so it was clear she said it only to convince him to agree.  ‘We fought a war to avoid bowing and kissing ass to royalty who got their throne only because they had a bigger sword and army. These aliens probably never had the advantages of Democracy.’ Another mental note to file away.

Obrien sighed and confessed that, “I’ve been testing rocks and can’t find any that will make sparks.  And I can’t find anything to make a bow-drill either so we’ll suffer tonight.”  North understood that one, for he had taken enough survival courses with the Air Force and had been looking for materials to make weapons and tools and even he couldn’t find anything here.  All this miserable planet had was moss and rocks and you can’t make rope from moss which as too wet to burn.

Obrien then approached North and asked, “We need to set a watch.  So please make a schedule and choose who watches when.  I’ll take the early watch since I fall asleep early and wake up early.  The rest I will leave in your adequate hands.  But the watch must remain inside in case those banths follow us here.”

At least the man could delegate and recognize ability.  So North called the men together and decided on who he could trust for which watch.  It wouldn’t be easy without a watch but watching the stars move across the ridge between two rocks would make some kind of time-frame.  Wilks and Kahn could be trusted.  Even Obrien was trustworthy in this area since he didn’t want to be eaten any more than the others though an early watch could give him a chance to run away while the rest were sleeping.  No, he probably would take Dr Jennings with him and she’d not leave the rest behind so he’d take the man at his word for now, but sleep lightly.  Dr Stroud was useless and Steve, the techie was unknown so he set Steve for first and himself for second then determined to wake up occasionally to check on the watch.

The night was unbearably cold and only their combined body heat contained inside the wagon kept them alive.  When North asked Obrien, “Is it always like this?”   he got the reply, “It’s always cold at night and hot during the day.  But this cold means that we must be near the poles.  The sun and moons are too low to the horizon so I think we are maybe sixty degrees north or south.  Let’s hope north.”


“This planet is mostly desert.  When the seas dried up a half million years ago, the Orovars built a series of waterways from the north polar ice-caps to water each city.  Most of the north hemisphere is covered with these and we can find one every day’s march or so.  The south is mostly desert with few cities and fewer waterways so we can go a month without seeing anyone or anything.”

Steve jumped in, “Can’t you tell from the constellations?  On Earth if the Big Dipper is in the sky I know I am in the northern hemisphere but the Southern Cross would show that I am in the southern.”

“Normally you can, but the air here is so thin you see more stars and so the patterns aren’t as clear as on Earth.  You see maybe seven thousand stars in the sky away from the city on Earth.  A tenth that near a city and then only the brightest which make the constellations.  Here you see a dozen thousand easily and they obscure the patterns.  Besides, it’s been two hundred years since I was here so I’ve forgotten the patterns I learned back then.”

“You’re that old?” Dr Jennings asked?  “You look younger than me and I’m only thirty-two.”

“My kind live five hundred years easily and we don’t age until the last fifty.  I was in my early twenties when I was here last.  Just another stupid kid who didn’t know anything.  Now I have life experience and position back home and frankly, although I like camping, this is taking ‘roughing it’ too far.”

“And are you married back home?”  but this query was met with snoring.  God the man snored.  If he were in the field, every enemy within a mile would hear and lock into their position.  So North pushed him with his feet until Obrien was on his side and quieted down.

It was dark almost instantly, as if when the sun set, someone had turned off a light switch.  So North lay there in the dark thinking about what he had learned so far.  There were aliens in the galaxy and they were spying on Earth to keep us from reaching the stars.  Well, that explained why after only a few manned missions to the Moon, America stopped going.  The aliens probably were sabotaging a lot of the manned flights to keep us earth-bound.  The aliens didn’t seem to use ‘yes’ and ‘no’ but answered simple questions by repeating the question.  They lived 500 years which would give them a different view on life.  North was living for retirement which was only ten years away, Obrien was around when America was still fighting the Revolutionary War and he was looking at another three hundred years before he could retire.  What did people think and what plans did they do with a lifespan that long?  If you owned a company, your kids would have to wait five centuries before they could inherit it.  And a dead end job would last forever.  A king, for Obrien was obsessed with his title, wouldn’t rule for twenty years but for centuries.  King George II who ruled England and America centuries ago would still be in power today, still making the same decisions, still fighting to keep his empire intact.  Stagnation! That’s what longer lifespans would do. 

So Obrien probably thought of Dr Jennings as a child barely legal and he’d use her and toss her away because she’d get old while he was still young.  He’d think of humans as disposable and believe that we were children because we died of old age before we could mature by his standards.  But stagnation also meant conservative and so they’d have the idea, what’s good for my grandfather is good for me but grandfather was alive during the Roman Empire so their technology would advance very slowly.

That was our advantage, North thought.  We are young and vigorous and that scares the aliens.  So, satisfied, he fell asleep dreaming about revealing the alien menace and being the one to spread man to the stars.  Manifest Destiny, only America wouldn’t stop at the Pacific, we’d push to the edge of the Galaxy!  And woe to anyone who got in our way.  The Indians learned that lesson and so would any alien who got in America’s way!  Maybe Barsoom would be the 51st state?  If not, they’d better be willing to stay out of our way.  Or else!

North was woken up by having his feet kicked as he heard, “North, wake-up!  We had visitors last night!”

Awake instantly, North swore and pushed the arms around him away.  He could live with the man trying to stay warm in the cold but that morning woody in his back was just too gay!

Obrien was outside staring at the ground before the opening.  The moss and even the ground had been clawed up as if some animal had tried to dig its way inside.  North spread his fingers and still the claw marks were greater than his own span.  That thing must have been a monster.   “A banth tried to dig its way in last night.  Then for some reason went away.  Did you see or hear anything on your watch?” Obrien was asking.

“If I had I’d have awakened you.” North replied falling easily into the position of second-in-command.  “Didn’t Airman Kahn say anything when he woke you?”

“I awoke by myself when the sun peeked through the opening.  I don’t know if he’s asleep or what.”

North was angry instantly.  Falling asleep or abandoning post while on duty was a court martial offense and while on this planet, they were under combat rules.  It was only by pure luck that the banth left before it got inside.  “KAHN!  GET YOUR SORRY ASS OUT HERE NOW!!” North yelled through the opening.  Then making dire threats he grabbed everyone who exited, even Dr Jennings and screamed into their face, “Have you seen Kahn?” releasing them only when he received a negative.  Obrien may be in charge because of his experience but Kahn was his man and so North was responsible for his actions.

When the last exited, North crawled back inside, the cold forgotten then exited a moment later.  “Wilks!  Kahn is gone.  Did you wake him up like I told you?”

Wilks snapped to attention, ridiculous in his nudity and reported, “Yes sir.  Everything was normal when I went to sleep, sir!”

Sweeping the men with his gaze, including Steve as well, hell, the man was now drafted into the Air Force, North slammed into them, “All right Ladies! Kahn is missing!  Do a sweep around the area but DO NOT leave sight of the compound.  NOW GO!”

Despite what Obrien privately thought, North was not stupid.  Stupid people are never commissioned into the Air Force.  That’s what the Army and Marines are for.  Hell, he may not be a genius with a PhD like Drs Stroud and Jennings but he did have a Bachelors in Business administration and a Masters in Military Strategy so was far more than the country bumpkin that the alien thought he was.

Shortly, Wilks called out, “Captain North, Baron Obrien, over here sirs.”  North wasn’t happy with Wilks calling Obrien ‘baron’ but at least he called for North first.

What they saw was a wet spot against the side of a wagon.  The reddish moss was already sending runners up the wood to collect the precious moisture.  It was obvious what happened but North touched the spot which was easily knee-high and smelled his fingers before wiping them on the moss.  “Urine.  Kahn violated orders and left the shelter to take a leak.  So where is he?”

Steve was looking around and called out, “Your Grace, I found blood!” 

The blood stains were already dry and brown, the moss sucking every drop of moisture from the spots.  Then Wilks found more, “Sirs, he was bleeding bad and came this way where the moss is torn up.”

Obrien looked at the blood and then to the hills and explained with an unexpected sadness to his voice.  “Now we know what probably happened.  Kahn was on watch and came outside to relieve his bladder.  The banth arrived and was sniffing and digging its way into our shelter and then stopped when it discovered Kahn.  So it killed Kahn and dragged him away.”  Obrien swore in his own language then added, “Captain, feed the men please and search the area for anything useful.  Tools, weapons, anything we can use to make either.”

As Obrien left, North called out, “Where are you going?” then seeing that look, added ‘lord.’

“I am going to find Kahn or his body.  If the banth returns, you are best qualified to protect the others.  Food, weapons, gear if you please.”

North ran after him, “Kahn is dead.  If that animal we saw got him, hell, it had claw prints a foot across.  We can’t divide our forces. We need you here.” 

“The man is my responsibility per my agreement with Jennings.  I cannot rest until I am certain.  Take command Captain.” And he left at a jog and was soon over the rim.

North looked at his ‘command’ and commanded, “Ok, let’s do a thorough search of this area.  Maybe the raiders who hit these wagons missed something or maybe they dropped something.  So look for anything useful.  Check under unusual shapes of moss growth for buried objects.  We don’t know what is useful so anything is valuable until proven otherwise.”

North notice that Dr Jennings was watching Obrien trot away with a strange look so he came over to her and asked, “Is there something wrong?”

“He hates us,” She said.  “He said his life would be easier if we were all dead and he was about to leave us behind to die here until I made my... deal.  Yet, instead of being happy about poor Kahn, he’s going off alone to find him and try to save him.  I don’t understand that man at all.”

“You’ve never been a soldier and been responsible for other lives.  Sometimes you have to send men to die and that’s never easy.  So if there’s a chance to save them, you take it.  He may not like us but he considers himself to be our leader and that means he will die for us.” North understood but she never would.  He didn’t like Obrien, didn’t trust him but he did respect the man.

Hours later Obrien returned with an armful of something and a hat made from a leaf on his head.  Dropping his bundle which appeared to be gourds he said simply, “Kahn is dead.  I found the body.  No we have to get out of here fast.”

Dr Jennings broke down crying as North asked, “Why leave so suddenly and leave food and shelter behind for who knows what?  We should remain here until we can make weapons and clothing.”

Obrien began to cut openings into the gourds with a piece of sharp stone as he explained, “The banths know we are here so they’ll return in the dark to dig us out.  Without adequate weapons, we are helpless.  And a banth can take a full magazine from a M-16 and not flinch.  That’s why the locals use explosive rounds.

“Get some sticks and scrape the inside of these clean.  Then fill them with Mantilla milk for canteens.  We’ll save the softer ones for food.”

Jennings looks at Obrien’s hat and asked, “You look foolish with that leaf on your head.  Why wear it?”

“Sunstroke!  You live longer with shade.  Also, everyone, cover your bodies with the mantilla leaf sap.  It’ll slow sunburn, heal yesterday’s damage and hopefully disguise our scent from the banths.”

When they were done and leaving, Dr Jennings asked Obrien why he went after Kahn when he wanted them all dead.  She didn’t fully understand what North had told her so wanted it from his mouth.

“I lead a complicated life,”  he explained.  “800 years ago, my country was conquered by a foreign nation.  We constantly revolted, trying to free ourselves.  They called us terrorists, rebels, savages, anything to turn people against us and hold our nation in slavery.  500 years ago they got so tired of our fighting back, they sold one fifth of our nation into slavery over the ocean.  Children were taken from the streets and loaded aboard the slave ships in chains as their mothers cried in vain.  Fathers returned home to starving children because their mother was taken by the oppressors and sold as a whore in the New World.

“The conquerors had a policy of taking whatever they wanted and what they wanted was our national treasures.  I was assigned to move them to a place of safety.  I wasn’t chosen because I was holier or braver or more noble than anyone else, I was chosen because they knew I’d get the task done.

“They followed us and I knew there was an ambush ahead but I had no choice.  I sent men to trip the ambush, men I sent to die to save the rest of us.  We got through only to meet the rest of their army on the other side.  I was shot twice and remember nothing else until I awoke with the ravens and dogs chewing on me.  The victors were taking my men, alive, dead, wounded and untouched, tying ropes around their necks and pulling them to a branch to choke to death.  It takes three minutes of torture to pass unconscious from choking.  Another three minutes after that to die.

“I still had my mission to do so I left my men to die so I could steal the treasure back and take it to safety.  My men trusted me and I left them to die.  I’ll not do that again.

“When I returned home, still injured,” I continued, “I found that their Army, the Police, had been there first.  They barred my door and burned my house to the ground with my wife and children inside.  I loved them more than life itself and took my revenge on the country that murdered them.

“Whatever people you call ‘terrorist’ is just someone so frustrated by being a conquered slave that they fight back with whatever weapon they have.  Want to end terrorism?  Stop invading and screwing over other countries.”

Obrien, angry, left them then to move on ahead.  North understood the basic history, being a soldier who had fought in Bosnia and Desert Storm but still, there had to be a better way than planting bombs.

They spent the night, huddled freezing among some rocks but the banths didn’t follow.  As they began to fall asleep, Obrien asked Dr Jennings, “Who is Eddie?”

“My boyfriend back on Earth.  He’s probably worried to death about me, why did you ask?”

“You called his name this morning.  Do you love him?”

“That’s kind of personal.  Would it matter is we were?”


“We date and sleep together but are not living together.  I’m trying to not think about him until we get home.  What about you, are you married?”

“Not now.  I was.  I believe in serial monogamy.  Were you living with him, I would consider you married and let you go but since you aren’t…”

“Oh, I guess I should have lied.  Why aren’t you married now?”

“They die or leave.  It takes a special woman to live in my world.  Many try for the benefits of wealth, position and power and as you Americans say, ‘I clean up well’, but ultimately, my main focus must be the Barony and any woman I marry must accept a secondary position.  Few women in love can do that and the ones who can are usually selling themselves for wealth.  My children are expected to do the same.  Would you marry a man who is always off fighting some war, knowing that all of your children will be forced to do the same?  Love is for commoners like you, we Nobles have to settle for friendship. 


The next day Wilks stopped suddenly, sneezed and said, “I smell water.”

“Where?” Obrien asked.  North was happy to see something he couldn’t do better than they.

Wilks sucked his finger to get it wet and sensitive and pointed, “there!”

Soon all reached a split in the ground where, a couple yards below, ran a river, colored reddish from the dust, but still water.  Obrien scanned the area and asked, “Can anyone see a way down and up?  If we climb or jump here, we’ll never be able to get back.”

It was while all were searching when Dr Jennings screamed in terror.  Approaching were two more thoats but each carried a rider that was something out of a nightmare.  The things were huge, insect-like in that they had six limbs and green skin.  Their faces had eyes on the sides of their heads and huge tusks from their mouth to where their eyes should be and slits for a nose.  Both were charging, carrying lances that must be forty feet long, all in silence and it was only because Dr Jennings chanced to glance behind that we were warned.

Obrien immediately jumped over the lance of one, struck the thing and snapped its neck with no effort.  The rest were paralyzed with fear at the sight.  It’s one thing to watch a monster movie on TV, another to face the things in real life, naked and unarmed.  Had they been Russian or Arabs soldiers, North and Wilks would have reacted easily but this…

North saw Obrien take a dagger from the one he killed and threw it at the second monster, luckily striking it in the back for throwing a knife rarely results in the desired goal.  Usually you lose your weapon and leave the enemy bruised, angry and unharmed.

As the thing fell dead, its mount squealed and turned, knocking Wilks into the river and almost trampling the rest of the group.  As Wilks was washed downstream by the current, fortunately not too fast, so North took off the save him.  Obrien yelled at him to stop but North, his man at risk and unwilling to loose another, yelled back, “The hell with you!”

“No you idiot,” he replied,  “Take this!” and tossed to North a knife with a blade that was easily eighteen inches long.  “Now take the tech with you and we’ll catch up.”

Steve, pulled a sword from the dead monster, laughed and yelled as he ran after North, “My name is Bar Komas”

For hours the two followed Wilks, sometimes, in the beginning, catching sight of him or hearing his voice but mostly just running along the banks hoping for a beach or low area.  Eventually they reached a small stone house with a pier that jetted into the river so both increased their pace to reach it before Wilks.  On the pier, both scanned the water in all directions but saw nothing but water.  “He couldn’t have come this far. We were running faster than he.”  Cried North.

Steve started to say, “Maybe we’re too late and he…” only to be cut off by North’s look.  “Steve, check the building for rope or a boat or food or anything.  I’ll keep watch here.”

Moments later he returned, “Nothing.  A few empty rooms with two beds hanging from chains and a fireplace.  But no wood, water or food at all. It’s like a cabin that you only use on vacation so why supply it.”

“Let’s go on,” North commanded and they ran on.

Another couple hours and still no luck though they hid from another band of Green Men following the river downstream.  “Curious, no firearms at all but Obrien said they used nuclear warheads in their bullets.”

Later, near dark, the Techie pointed, “there! I see a body.”

Both looked over and Steve asked, “Is it Wilks?”

North looked and answered, “Not unless he got dressed in the river.  That guy has belts and weapons all over.  Wait here, I’m climbing down.”

So while Steve watched for danger, North climbed down the cliff.  It wasn’t far, maybe eight feet and very rocky but no different from the cliffs he had to scale in Special Ops school and within a minute was next to the body.  He rolled it over and called back, “It’s human and white.  Looks like he drowned.  Well he won’t need these.” And North stripped the body and climbed back to the bank.

“Another long sword, short sword and dagger, too bad they don’t require fencing at the Academy.  Belts, loin-cloth, some silk in the hip-pack, maybe food here?  Yes, it’s bland but edible so have some.  I don’t know what this is but it smells terrible.  And almost no jewelry or decorations.  The leather is water-logged but seems undamaged.  Here!”  And North handed the dagger, silk and some of the belts to Steve who cut himself a breech-cloth and sword belt.  Soon, both were clothed to an extent, both naked from the waist up but wearing a belt for their blades and finally covering their privates.  Although North’s kept working free, for he was much more endowed than the corpse, still he felt better without the thing flapping around in the breeze.  Unlike the girls he met in bars, Dr Jennings seemed to be turned off by his manhood.  Well, maybe she was a dyke.  Her willingness to bed that alien monkey-man and the obvious distaste she felt doing so may be a sign of that.

“The sun is going down, find something to burn and I’ll find a place to stay.”  North commanded and soon they had a small fire giving limited warmth in a rocky crevasse.  North could have started one with the knife and a rock but the fire-starter in the hip-pack made the job easier. So sharing the last of the food from the pack, they discussed the future. 

“What now Captain?”  The tech was practicing fencing moves that showed that he had training but long ago and hadn’t kept it up.

“Well Steve,”

“Bar Komas.  Call me that please.” 

North laughed, “Why?  No matter.  We do what we started, follow the river looking for Wilks or his body.  Maybe he reached that pier, climbed out and we missed him as he returned upstream.  Maybe he is on a beach or ledge a little way downstream. I’m not leaving without knowing.”  North felt guilty about abandoning Kahn so easily and resented Obrien searching for him, a job that North should have done himself.


The next morning, they continued on and after an hour or so, literally ran into a group of people.  There were a half dozen, well built but not as muscled as was North but all were human, white-skinned and auburn-haired.  North was looking them over and noticed the prisoners in chains at the same time the six pulled swords on them.  North and Bar Komas tried to draw but were too slow and instantly were disarmed and placed in chains with the rest of the prisoners.  North tried to demand his rights but it was clear that neither understood the other so the captors let them rant for awhile.

They were walking upstream and North took stock of his fellows.  All wore the simple belts that they found on the body but each was designed differently, probably a fashion thing or maybe different national costumes.  One was black, ebony black and not the brown that he was used to with American Negroes.  And unlike those he knew, this black man had black hair which appeared to be naturally straight.  The others were red-skinned and had wavy black hair but their skin was more a copper color and not the brownish-red of the Hispanic or American Indian.  One of the reds was a woman, topless and small breasted but beautiful in the extreme despite this.  Since all efforts to communicate with their captors and prisoners failed, North asked his fellow Earthman, “Steve, ok, Bar Komas, you said earlier that this place was from a novel?  Tell me about it.”

The tech took a deep breath and started, “It’s been years and I might get some of it wrong but Edgar Rice Burroughs was a writer in the early 20th century.  He wrote a lot of stuff but my favorites were his Mars series where a Confederate Army Captain named John Carter died in Arizona, I think, and found his soul or astral body or something standing near his body.  He looked up, saw Mars and was transported here.”

North remembered that he had been certain that the explosion had killed him and he also remembered seeing Mars in the sky before awaking here.  There were to many parallels to  fathom, other than this Carter was a Confederate Army Captain and North was an American Air Force Captain.

“John Carter had a number of adventures dealing with Green Men like the ones that attacked us, Red Men like our fellow captives, banths and thoats and calots and all sorts of adventures.  These white men, though, are supposed to be extinct.  Hundreds of thousands of years ago, the White, Black and Yellow races mixed to form the Red.  But Carter kept finding Black and Yellow Men in isolated areas so maybe the White still hides out here too.”

“So what happens to us now?”

“Well, if the Green Men had captured us, they’d torture us to death. But with these guys, probably slavery, fighting to death in the arena, who knows.  The fact that Burroughs never described them shows that the Red Men think they are extinct but when Carter discovered the Black and Yellow races, they had remained hidden by never letting a captive go.”

“Can you communicate with them?”

“Only a few words like ‘sak’ means jump, ‘koar’ means hello and the names of a few animals.  Lord Obrien probably speaks the language fluently since he was here a couple centuries ago.”

“Why do you keep calling him ‘lord’?”

“Because he is.  On Barsoom, royal families rule.  Democracy doesn’t exist.  And they are very proud of their Lineage.  I think that using their titles out of respect will make our lives easier.  Dwar!  That’s it.  ‘Dwar’ means Captain.”

“Sort of like the ‘when in Rome, do as the Romans do’ thing.  Good work.”  Turning to his fellow prisoners North said “Koar!  I am Dwar Mark North.  This is Steve.. no, This is Bar Komas.”

The others smiled back and replied “Koar!” then introduced themselves as Sojar, the Black, Kara, the woman and Hanno and Vos Kar, the Red Men.  Then the conversation ended so North returned to his Earthly companion and began to quiz him as to everything he knew about Mars or Barsoom. The fact that he didn’t believe he was on Mars bothered him not at all.  Wherever he was, he’d have to accept that he was somewhere and the place was probably just mistaken for Mars.  But he’d better get used to the place anyway until he could escape.

The group had stopped for dinner and North told Steve, “I think I can break these chains.  If these people are adapted to a weak gravity, they wouldn’t need anything very strong.  Get ready to run and we should be able to out-race them.”

But before he could do anything, Obrien appeared, wearing belts from the dead Green Men and wearing swords.  The fool alien walked right up to the Orovars and said, “Koar” then continued in what North took to be the native language.  The three he faced just laughed and looked him over as three others snuck up from behind.  North was about to shout a warning when Obrien drew his sword back-handed and stabbed the man behind him without looking.  He then drew his shorter blade and killed another in a second, then jumped over the next, cleaving his skull as he passed overhead.  Landing, Obrien turned and opened the spine of the next and waited in an on guard position. 

His two opponents then looked at him, each other and turned and ran away leaving everyone dumbfounded.  Obrien then shrugged and searched the bodies for keys as Dr Jennings came forward with Dr Stroud, worship in her eyes.  When Obrien looked up she said, “You were incredible!” and North saw the hero worship in her eyes.  Well, there goes any chance I have for her, he thought.

Obrien looked at her with total uncomprehending eyes and said, “Oh. Can you help me free the prisoners?” and she ran to help him like a school-girl. 

North saw that she was wearing a silk sarong and Dr Stroud was wearing a toga and carrying as many swords and knives as he could carry.  North saw that as a sign of insecurity, like how some cops were always touching their handguns as if their dick would fall off if they let their weapon stray more than an inch away.

Obrien laughed and tossed North some silk saying, “You might be more comfortable wearing this.”  Looking down, North saw that he was, again, hanging from his cod-piece.  North always did have trouble finding ways to pack himself in but listening to Dr Jennings stare and giggle just made him embarrassed.

The techie was explaining to Obrien what they had done, the pier and their capture ending with, “How did you learn to fight like that?”

“It’s my job and after a few centuries, you either get good or you die.  What about Wilks?”

North answered that one, “No sir, I think we should keep looking.”

Obrien nodded and offered, “We kept a watch on the river as we followed you but saw nothing.  So he either freed himself from the river, is still downstream or drowned.  We’ll keep looking.” Then spoke to the other prisoners in Barsoomian.  They held a conversation for a few minutes with each pointing and gesturing so North figured that they were giving explanations

While this was going on, Steve, Bar Komas was testing the swords and choosing a light curved sword for himself.  The other prisoners were recovering their own weapons and goods and then the Black Man and one of the Red left for different destinations as the remaining Red Man and woman decided to follow the Earth group.  North did notice that the woman, Kara, stared at Dr Jennings more than she did at Obrien though he couldn’t tell if it was because she wore a dress or because aliens like Obrien were common here.  Regardless, Kara remained next to her companion who it turned out, was her brother and they were on some religious pilgrimage that forbade firearms.  North considered himself to be religious though like most Americans he rarely attended church but he did know that foreigners tended to take their beliefs strongly so he avoided the subject.

The troop, now strengthened with the addition of Kara and her brother, traveled south for some miles until the path became too rocky to easily travel.  With Drs Jennings and Stroud complaining that their feet hurt, for the sandals they took from the dead didn’t protect their toes, Obrien called the group together.  “I’m having trouble seeing the river this way and what I do see indicates that we will have miles of sheer cliffs which no one could climb or provide a hand-hold for a swimmer.  Since it’s been a couple days, no one, no matter how good a swimmer he was, could remain afloat this long so he is drowned or made it to shore upstream.  Thus, we search back the way we came and hope he is waiting for us.”

Later Obrien was sitting by the water, splashing his feet when Dr Jennings approached.  He had earlier mentioned that to the locals, this was the River Iss and was a sacred pilgrimage to their heaven, a heaven that was more hell than anything else so if Wilks made it past the cliffs, even by boat, he’d be killed when he reached the Lost Sea of Korus.

Dr Jennings sat next to him, still not touching him and stared at his tail which was twitching like a cat watching a bird.  “I know you want to give up but you’re afraid that if you do, he could be around the next bend and you still won’t be able to climb down to get him.  Your tail twitches when you are nervous and it’s going a mile a minute now.”

Obrien sighed and said to her, “I think he drowned but so long as there is a chance, I don’t like giving up.”

They argued for a few minutes, him wanting to go on and she commenting that even if he could survive two days in freezing water and still remain afloat, it would be impossible to get to the river and so he should accept it.

Obrien then smiled at her and said, “That is what I find attractive in you, you have a brilliant mind that can see and accept the obvious.  It’s time to go back.”

She gave Obrien the same look of hero worship that she gave him when he rescued the slavers and he still didn’t notice.  So he called everyone and explained to the group, “Gather around, please.  Jennings and I have come to the same conclusion about Wilks.”  North noticed that he called her Jennings, not Ellen or Doctor Jennings, just Jennings.  “If he drifted this far, he drowned or froze last night.  If he enters this canyon, we won’t find him until he reached the Valley Dor and then he will be killed by Plant Man or White Apes.  So considering our inability to follow any further, I am returning upriver to search the banks for evidence that he made it to shore and is waiting for us between here and where he fell into the river.” 

Then he turned to the Red Men and spoke to them in their language until North exploded in anger.  “We can’t give up!  He could be waiting for us just downstream!  You’re just a coward and a letch, screwing Jennings like a some animal doing his bitch and wishing we all were dead so you can have her all to yourself before she discovers the truth.  Turn back if you want but the rest are going on with me!  Jennings, come here!”

Jennings saw Obrien stifle his rage with effort, his tail twitching as if it would explode.  Then he took a deep breath and was about to do something when Dr Jennings asked, “And how, Captain North, do you intend to get back to Earth alone?”

He stared at her, maybe seeing her for the first time and stated, “That’s up to you and Dr Stroud.  I’ll keep you alive and you get us home.”

“I don’t know if I can.  I don’t know if this planet has the technology to even start on that.  And I don’t even know how we got here.  No, Captain, I’m going with Obrien.  I know when I’m better off.”

North wanted to force her to come along, partly because he still had desire for her, partly because he didn’t like to see her mongrelizing with an alien monkey-man, partly because he thought two scientists were better than one.  But he was a good observer and he had seen Obrien kill those Green Giants, one with his bare hands and he saw the alien kill four men in as many seconds with a sword and he knew that if confronted, Obrien would kill him without thought or sweat.  So he turned to the techie,  “Are you coming with me or them?”

Bar Komas was staring at the Red Woman, her beauty breathtaking and evoking within himself the desire to do great things in her service.  The Earthman knew that the Red Woman and her brother would either go alone or with the alien so he decided to quit following do what he wanted for once in his life.  “No, Captain.  Frankly, I think you’re making a mistake.  I’ve taken fencing in college and am still like a child compared to the Red Men so going with Lord Obrien is my best chance for survival.  You really should reconsider and come with us.”

“Without Dr Stroud, you can only hope that the alien doesn’t get tired of .. Dr Jennings and cast you both away to die.”  North complained then turned to the one he named, “Can you get us home?” 

Stroud replied, softly, “I believe so.  Dr Jennings made a good cup of coffee but her work wasn’t up to standard and I only kept her around for her cute ass.  I’ve seen the technology these people have and it’s more advanced that Obrien led us to believe.  Give me a good lab and some assistants and I’ll rebuild the machine.” 

Steve, still pretending to be Bar Komas, the adventurer, laughed, “Dr Jennings was the genius behind the machine.  All I did was build what she told me to build.  Dr Stroud was just an administrator who thought to the end that we were building a radar deflector and he still doesn’t understand the math she used.  If you two go off, you’ll die here.”

North was angry and looked at Dr Stroud, still wearing his silk toga and carrying so many weapons that were he on Earth, he’d fall over.  But he had to make a decision and North never backed down unless ordered to by superior authority so his pride forced his next words, “I think you’re wrong.  The Government wouldn’t have put Dr Stroud in charge and given him a lab and assistants and a budget unless he knew what he was doing.  Go off then, we’ll head south looking for Wilks.  Maybe you can catch up with us when you come to your senses.”

It was clear that North didn’t like the current trend, still believing that he was the best trained to lead but in the face of Obrien and his allies, he’d never be able to force or even convince Steve and Dr Jennings to go with him so he had to wash his hands of them.  Too bad, she was a nice looking piece of ass.  Too bad she was into animals.

Jennings turned to the alien, “Can’t you stop them?  They’ll die without you.”

He shrugged and said, “Do as you will.  I cannot nor will not force a man to live my Path. You are all free to stay, go on or return with me.  If you leave me, I cease to be responsible for you.”   He then turned and started north along the bank, still searching for a man all knew was dead.

Captain North and Dr Jennings watched them go then North said, “We’d better keep on.  Damn I wish I had some of those atomic-handguns they told us about.  But, once we find Wilks, we can get better weapons and you a lab.”

They turned south towards Dor as a banth moaned in the distance.


Slaves: 1 black (Sojar), 2 red men (Hanno & Vos Kar), 1 red woman (Kara)
Bar Komas- name taken by the tech steve
Wilks & kahn- soldiers.  Kahn was eaten by a banth.  Wilks drowned in the Iss
Eddie-  Ellen’s boyfriend
Dr Ellen Jennings PhD
Captain Mark North
Dr. Carl Stroud

Rick Johnson's Barsoom Fiction

Eibhlin Story 
Crossover Stories
Jason Story
Panthan on Mars =>
Lost on Barsoom
Meeting of the Panthans I
<= North to Barsoom
 Meeting of the Panthans II
Battle at U-Gor <=>
ERBzine Refs
Rick Johnson Feature Articles and Fiction in ERBzine
Worlds of ERB
ERBzine 1645: Johnson: ERB Fan Profile
ERBzine 1522: Sociology of the Wieroo
ERBzine 1527: Maltheusian Decimation in Pal-Ul-Don
ERBzine 1547: Opar
ERBzine 1710: Conflict!
ERBzine 1965: Rescue In Pellucidar
ERBzine 1974: Anatomy of an Alien

ERBzine 2304: Prelude to Weir-Lu of Caspak

ERBzine 2388: Bright-Eyed Flower of Pal-ul-don

ERBzine 2394: Dinosaur Survival On Earth

ERBzine 1578: Barsoom Questions
ERBzine 1370: Mapping Barsoom I: Can It Be Done?
ERBzine 1562: Mapping Barsoom II: Compromises
ERBzine 1565: Mapping Barsoom III: The Past
ERBzine 1633: Valley Dor
ERBzine 1634: Swords On Mars
ERBzine 1711: A Panthan of Mars
ERBzine 1712: Spy: Arrival On Mars
ERBzine 2165: Battle at U-Gor
ERBzine 2166: Lost On Barsoom
ERBzine 2167: Meeting of the Panthans: Pt. I
ERBzine 2168: Meeting of the Panthans: Pt. II
ERBzine 2169: North to Barsoom
ERBzine 2196: Jahar
ERBzine 2303: Return to Barsoom I: Letters

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