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Volume 0436
Jasoom - Tarzana - Africa - Pellucidar
BarsoomSasoomVanah - LunaAmtor - Cosoom
The Many Worlds of
Edgar Rice Burroughs Signature
"The master of imaginative fantasy adventure...
...the creator of Tarzan and...
...the 'grandfather of science-fiction'"

Chapter 5:
"Time & Tide"
Frank X. Blisard

Jack of Time: E.R. Burroughs

"So, who's the old fogey?"

Gridley was speaking.  I could have throttled him for his flagrant failure to recognize the living legend standing before us, but I stifled the impulse, deciding instead to take the "object-lesson" approach.

"Beats me," I replied, playing dumb.  "Let's go find out."  And I started forward towards the knot of men at the center of the roof.

"Buenas dias, Caudillo mio," I said, trusting my Spanish more than my Apache.  Gridley began to pay attention, as the old chieftain's eyes lit up.

"Ay!  Senor Buroz," rang out a flint-like voice to match the flint-like visage, as our hands clasped.  "Muchas buenas dias!  Encantado de concerle! But we may speak in English, if you like."

"Gracias ... Bueno," I replied, glancing sidewise at Gridley. "Very well ... if only for the sake of my young ignoramus here!"  And before the young ignoramus could object, I hastened to make formal introductions.

"Chief, allow me to introduce Lieutenant Ulysses S. Gridley, United States Army Air Corps.  Lieutenant, meet The Honorable Go-Yat-Thlay, erstwhile Warchief of the Chiracauha Apaches, better known as ... simply ... Geronimo."

Gridley's eyes did not pop open quite as wide as I thought they would.  (He must have been getting accustomed to the weirdness of the place.)  He did, however, stammer and stutter the few remarks he was able to make as he shook the old chief's proffered hand.  Geronimo, for his part, was smooth as silk.

"You have a warrior's hand, Ulysses.  Your tongue should be as firm.  You can learn much from Senor Buroz, if you will listen."

That shut up the young lout for a while, so we could all get down to business.  General Mugambi had already given orders to his guards and they began rounding us up and herding the rest of us back downstairs while Geronimo and Mugambi hobnobbed.  Then the two warlords -- the red and the black -- saluted each other and parted, the red one mounting up again and rejoining his troops on the ground, the black one catching up with us at the top of the stairway-shed.

"The Old One will accompany us out to the airfield, Major Burroughs," said Mugambi, smiling. "His de-briefing can wait -- it will be quite extensive. And he has waited a long time to meet you."

"I'm quite gratified, General," I replied, "if a bit confused ....  How in the world did you people get 'The Old One' away from a Federal facility like Fort Sill, Oklahoma?"

"Trade secret!" exclaimed the General, proudly.  "Where there's a will, there's a way.  And  please try to restrain your curiosity on such matters while you have the chief's ear.  His time with you will be extremely short, so make the most of it."  Sound advice, I thought.  I had many more important questions to ask 'The Old One'!

We returned to the dining hall and wolfed down our coffee and pastry (we dared not consume more, remembering our former intestinal trauma), then were herded out towards the same troop truck in which we had arrived the day before.

At the rear of the truck, once again, were the two Generals -- Groves and Mugambi.  This time, however, Groves motioned me around towards the front of the truck, saying, "They's an ol' Injun up thar, waitin' to have a few words with ye, Jack."  We both smiled, and Mugambi nodded.  Leaving the "Walking Wounded" in their care, I found the chief leaning against the front bumper, smoking happily on a clay pipe.

"Ah, there you are!" I said, excited as a schoolboy.  He grunted, and patted the open space left on the bumper.  I parked my kiester and produced a pack of cigarettes from one of the innumerable pockets in my flight jacket. "So,Caudillo Mio," I essayed as I lit up a smoke, "What do you think of this 'Brave New World'?"

"A world without white men?" he said.  "I can get used to it."

"I don't doubt it," I said, smiling.  "I wonder if I could."

"What would your Huxley and your Darwin say?"

"That I would adapt, or perish."

"I have walked the path of perishing.  I do not recommend it."

"But you were a great leader--"

"I was a fool," the 'Old One' said, and spat into the dust.  "A great leader does not lead his people to ... Florida!"

"Outnumbered ... outgunned ... what else could you do?"

"I could have learned to read," he said.  "I could have learned my enemy's ways more deeply."

"When I was ten years old," I said, "I used to read accounts of your campaigns in the newspaper.  I drew a picture of you, mounted on an elephant, facing a cavalryman on his horse -- like Hannibal against the Romans.  I thought it would help.  Such are the thoughts of a child."

"I know," he said, reaching into a pouch hanging from his waist-belt.  "I have it here."  And to my wondering eyes appeared the primitive black-and-white caricature I had not seen in over a century.

"General Groves was kind enough to procure it for me on one of his missions for Mugambi.  Your grandson was loath to part with it, but he was desperate for money -- something about needing to stop a 'hostile takeover' of your corporation by someone called 'Disney' ... I still do not understand."

"Whew!"  I whistled.  "That's a stretch, even for me.  May I see it?"

"I was hoping you would sign it," he said, smiling.

"Gladly," I said, fishing in my jacket for a pen.  Spreading out the drawing on the hood of the truck, I scrawled "To  Geronimo -- Caudillo Mio -- Gracias, amigo -- E.R. Burroughs -- August 7, 2045."

"What do I owe you?" the old war-chief asked, matter-of-factly, as I handed the drawing back to him.  Then, noting my puzzlement, he hastened to explain.  "I used to charge a dollar every time I signed my autograph for anyone -- in the days of my captivity.  I left a sizable fortune for my family."

"Yes, I seem to recall," I smiled sadly.  "Well, let's see -- have you any jewelry?  Something in lapis lazuli, perhaps?"

"Ah!" he exclaimed.  "I have just the thing."  And he drew forth from his pouch a tiny blue ornament.  Holding it up for my inspection, he said, proudly, "It is a scarab from an ancient land called Egypt.  From Orinmala's collection.  She said it once belonged to a famous queen ... Cleo -- Cleops --"

"Cleopatra!" I exclaimed.  "Yes, she was -- quite famous.  Another great leader."

"Such a strange world, this Africa -- where women can lead entire peoples!"

"Yes, when we men fail to lead....  It is a mystery, this business of leading.  I fear I never mastered it, either."

"You do not know your own worth, then, my friend," said the old Apache, handing me the scarab. "May be you will, like me, receive a second chance."

"Fat chance," I jested, turning the blue beetle over and over in my hand. "The General seems hell bent on sending me back where I belong."

"And where do you belong, my friend?  Chicago?  California?  Hawaii?  Guam?"

"Barsoom would be my preference," I chuckled.

 A thunderous thumping on the fender announced the conclusion of our all-too-brief interview, as General Mugambi appeared around the corner of the truck.  "All aboard!" he cried.  "The Honolulu Express departs at 0900 sharp!"

Geronimo and I exchanged one final handclasp, then he stepped back and reached into his pouch again.  This time his hand was tightly clenched and what he had withdrawn I did not realize until his hand unclenched to release a fine, gray powder that settled on me like dew.  "Cleopatra's ashes," he said.  "May Usen guide you on your way."

Then General Groves pulled up in a jeep, and the Chief got in.  Groves called out to me, "Better get on with it Jack.  Don't wanna miss yer date with Destiny, do ya?"  I waved at them both from the running board of the truck, and looked around to see young Gridley shaking hands with Professor DuBois at the rear of the truck.  Mugambi fired up the engine and Gridley raced to get on board as I sidled over on the bench.  He slammed the door shut behind him just as the truck lurched forward.

"All present and accounted for back there?"  I shouted over the whine of the truck engine, jerking my thumb over my shoulder.  Gridley merely gave me the thumb's-up signal and an inexplicable dirty look, then turned away to look out the window.  I was curious as hell to know what had transpired between him and DuBois, but there were more pressing, practical matters to attend to.  I looked at my watch.  0730.  Turning towards Mugambi, I shouted, "What's next, General?  Any special instructions for getting this show on the road?"  That caught Gridley's interest.  Mugambi leaned over the steering wheel to make eye contact with us both.

"Just fly due east," he shouted, "and leave the rest to us.  We have everything under control."

He punctuated this last statement with a grin, obviously meant to inspire confidence, and I, far from confident, grinned back.  Groves' caveat kept running through my mind -- They mean well, but they're always screwing up! Was that just his prejudices talking, or did he have some basis for the opinion in his apparently vast experience as one of Mugambi's operatives? And what of my own prejudices?  From my own observation, I judged Mugambi's people and systems to be very professional.  And Geronimo seemed perfectly at ease in their company.  So why not trust life and limb to Mugambi's crew on the other end of that neuro-atomic doohickey that Groves had described to us last night?  What was Gridley's impression, I wondered?

"Thar she blows!" exclaimed himself as we came in view of the B-24.  "Man, is it good to see her still in one piece!  I was afraid that--"

I cut the lad short with a jab of my elbow to his ribcage, then exclaimed myself, "Me too, Lad!  I can't believe she withstood all that punishment getting us here.  Hope your crew gave her a good going-over, Gen'ral -- I'd hate to get stuck halfway between today and yesterday."

Mugambi laughed.  "Not a chance, Major!" he roared.  "Our systems are state-of-the-art and, besides, we've taken every precaution to ensure you all have a calm and peaceful flight."  That smile again ... no, wait ... two smiles, one orbiting the other.... What the hell was going on here? Stupidly, I turned towards Gridley, only to find his face similarly orbiting his own face, only he -- God bless 'im! -- wasn't smiling.  "Major?" he said, with a quizzical look on both his faces.  "M-a-a-a-a-jo-o-o-o-or!"  Then the lights went out.

The lights came back on slowly, accompanied by a killer headache that faintly resembled my worst hangover.  It was still daylight, but which day's light it was was anyone's guess.  I was, once again, flat on my back.  A dull, round blur that kept appearing and re-appearing in the center of my field of vision gradually resolved itself into Gridley's welcoming but worried face.  With recognition of those familiar features came another realization.

"Drug me," I slurred, attempting unsuccessfully to rise and barely rolling over.  "Sumbisch drug me!"

"Whoa, Major, whoa there," said Gridley firmly, gripping my shoulders. "Take it easy, man ... that's it ... just lean up against this dufflebag for a minute."

I looked around, still groggy, but my visual acuity now restored.  We were in the passenger compartment of the B24, early morning sunlight was streaming in through the open hatchway, and the mingled sounds of busy woodland birds and muffled human chatter filled the air.  No engines.  Warm and humid as a summer's day.  We clearly were not in Kenya any more.

"Hunny-Loo-Loo?"  I asked, tentatively.

Shaking his head slowly from side to side, and with a grim smile on his lips, the young Negro pilot simply said, "Virginia."

"What year?" I asked, hoarsely.


...continued in Chapter 6

The Contents Chart and links to other Frank Blisard sites is featured at:
JACK OF TIME ~ An ERB Time-Shift Novel ~ by Frank X. Blisard
ERBzine 0280 JACK OF TIME: ERB Novel Intro & Ch. 1 - "After the Fire..."
ERBzine 0330 JACK OF TIME: Chapter 2 "Time Bomb"
ERBzine 0433 JACK OF TIME: Ch. 3 "Time's Fool" - Graphics & Links Laden
ERBzine 0433t JACK OF TIME: Ch. 3 "Time's Fool" - Fast-loading Text Version
ERBzine 0434 JACK OF TIME: Ch. 4 "Time's Tool" - Graphics & Links Laden
ERBzine 0434t JACK OF TIME: Ch. 4 "Time's Tool" - Text Version
ERBzine 0436 JACK OF TIME: Ch. 5 "Time and Tide" - Text Version
ERBzine 0555 JACK OF TIME: Ch. 6 "A Time For War"
ERBzine 0663 JACK OF TIME: Ch. 7 "Othello's Fellows"

Volume 0436

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